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Does the Bible contain hate?

Making the case that the Bible contains hate literature

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What is hate literature?

In the U.S., the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees almost complete freedom of speech and expression, except in the area of human sexuality, or when crying "Fire" in a crowded room, or when advocating the assassination of the President, or in other special situations. Thus, many American human rights codes do not restrict hate speech and writing. They do protect against discrimination in hiring, promoting, firing, accommodation, etc. However, there are always gray areas. For example, an employer might feel justified in firing an employee who made the workplace uncomfortable for their fellow workers. An employee might be terminated for advocating discrimination against a group based on race, gender or sexual orientation, or country of origin, etc. This happened in Boise ID when a conservative Christian employee of Hewlett-Packard posted anti-gay posters in his cubicle. He was fired, and a court found the dismissal to be acceptable, even though the advocacy involved the simple act of placing biblical verses on a series of posters.

Other Western countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, etc. have legislation which actively restricts hate speech. One contemporary example was triggered by an anti-gay newspaper advertisement placed by a conservative Christian in Canada.

In various human rights codes, literature has been defined very broadly as including some or all of the following: newspapers, articles, essays, journals, books, radio and television programs, notices, signs, symbols, emblem, and other representations. 1 "Hate literature" is often defined as including:"

bullet Material which is promotes the restriction of a person's or group's human rights.
bullet Material which promotes ridicule or hatred of a person or group.

Hate literature generally targets individuals or groups on the basis of one or more factors:

bullet Most factors are beyond a person's control, like race, color, gender, disability, age, nationality, ancestry, place of origin.
bullet One factor, language, is partly chosen. 
bullet Others are related to a person's situation: their family status, marital status, and whether they receive public assistance.
bullet Some factors are chosen, like creed and religion.
bullet There is a lack of consensus on the nature of one factor: sexual orientation.
bullet Most religious conservatives consider it to be a choice that a person can change, like religion.
bullet Most human sexuality researchers, therapists, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, religious liberals believe that it is at least partly genetic, is fixed and not chosen.

There are many situations where one can advocate the restriction of a person's or group's human rights and yet not have the text qualify as hate literature. For example:

bullet Petitioning the government to enact stiffer prison sentences for convicted abusive pedophiles.
bullet Advocating the arrest of bigamists or polygamists in those jurisdictions where multiple marriages are illegal.
bullet Recommending that elderly drivers undergo additional competency testing prior to renewal of their driver's license.

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Does the Bible contain hate literature:

A mere statement about discrimination against a protected group does not necessarily constitute hate literature. One can safely write a factual book about the extermination of witches by the courts and Roman Catholic church in Western Europe during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. One can discuss the recent genocide by Serbian Orthodox Christians which victimized Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina without risk of prosecution, even in those countries which have hate literature legislation. What is needed to transform a factual account into hate literature is advocacy that such behavior be repeated today.

There have been efforts to restrict the sale of the Bible on the basis that it contains hate literature. To our knowledge, none have succeeded. However, there have been special instances in which courts have determined that certain verses in the Bible qualify as hate literature. Two recent examples are:

bullet A conservative Christian cited verses from the Bible in a newspaper advertisement which also showed an anti-gay symbol. The passages that appear to be anti-gay in most English translations of the Bible, although not necessarily in the original Hebrew or Greek. A Canadian court determined that the combination of the citations and the symbol constituted hate literature.
bullet An employee quoted the text of anti-gay Bible verses on a poster, and placing it in their office. He was fired, and an American court determined that the dismissal was constitutional.

Note that in both cases, the court did not determine that the Bible verses where in themselves improper. They only decided that under certain circumstances and locations, the verses were "demeaning and degrading." 4

There are many acts in the Bible which most people would considered immoral by contemporary standards if they were repeated today. These include religiously-motivated genocide, stoning non-virgin brides to death, burning some hookers alive, treating women as property, etc. If a person simply regards the Bible as a group of books written thousands of years ago and recording Jewish and Christian history, there is little likelihood that it will be declared hate literature. However, many Jews and Christians regard the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) to be the inerrant Word of God, written by authors that God has directly inspired, and containing injunctions which people should use to govern their behavior today. If people cite or quote passages from the Bible that promote discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, or nationality, etc., and if they advocate that this oppression should continue today, then some courts may define their effort as hate literature. If they do this in the workplace their actions may justify termination.

This essay continues below.

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Examples of hate literature in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament):

The Mosaic Code consists of 613 injunctions, which are found in the book of Leviticus and other books in the Hebrew Scriptures. Some of the Code might be considered hate literature, because it targets people on the basis of their religion, gender, and sexual orientation.

The book of Joshua contains numerous examples of genocides ordered by God against the inhabitants of Canaan. These were based on the Canaanites having followed a different religion from the Hebrews. A casual reader of the Bible might conclude that God is teaching that people who do not worship him are sub-human and have no right to exist. Five examples from other books in the King James Version (KJV) of the Hebrew Scriptures include:

bullet Exodus 22:18: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." This calls for the execution of all "witches." English Bibles differ in their translation of the Hebrew word "m'khashepah" in this verse. Some render it as "witch;" others as "sorceress" or "any woman who does evil magic," etc. The vast majority of persons who call themselves Witches in North America are followers of Wicca or other Neopagan religion. Promoting the execution of Witches, or the followers of any other religion, is advocating religious genocide -- one of the most serious forms of hate literature.  More details.
bullet Exodus 22:20: "He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed." The "Lord" in this case refers to Yahweh. Literally interpreted, this verse would only apply to those North Americans who follow religions like Santeria -- who often sacrifice chickens to their Gods and Goddesses -- or to Wiccans -- who have been known to sacrifice an apple or other fruit in a religious ritual. Interpreted more generally, the verse calls for the genocide of followers of all religions other than Judaism and Christianity.
bullet Leviticus 20:13: "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. they must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads." This calls for the execution of men who engage in at least some form of same-sex behavior. Theologians differ greatly over specifically which acts are included in this passage. Some English translations of the Bible imply that any sexually active gay or lesbian should be executed. Some liberal theologians interpret the verse as applying only to two men engaging in ritual sex in a Pagan temple. Since the Lawrence v. Texas ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, consensual sexual activity between two male or two female adults is no longer considered a criminal act anywhere in the U.S. Any literature which advocates the execution of two persons for performing a legal act would seem to promote the restriction of a person's human rights - the right to live. This would appear to qualify as hate literature.
bullet Deuteronomy 13:1-5 "If there arise among you a prophet, ... saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them...And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death...So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee...." This verse is another call for genocide against religious minorities. If applied in North America, it would result in the execution of every non Judeo-Christian clergyperson, and all laity who are engaged in proselytizing.
bullet Psalms 79:6: "Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name." This is a call to God to commit genocide against persons of other faiths who are either unfamiliar with Judaism and Christianity, or who have learned and rejected these religions.

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Examples of hate literature in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament):

bullet Matthew 27:24-25: "When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children." This passage, probably more than any other text in the Christian Scriptures fueled anti-Judaism, and later anti-semitism. Matthew records that a crowd of Jews said a most improbable statement: that they and their children were responsible for Jesus' death. This inspired the church father Origen (circa 185-254 CE) to write: "Therefore the blood of Jesus came not only upon those who lived formerly but also upon all subsequent generations of Jews..." The Christian church taught until recently that all Jews -- past, present and future -- are equally responsible for the death of Christ. 2
bullet John 8:44: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it." In this passage, Jesus is speaking to Jews who, like the majority of the residents of Palestine, rejected his teachings. He says that they are sons of Satan.
bullet 1 Corinthians 10:20-21 "But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils." Here, Paul writes that the Gods and Goddesses of other religions are actually demons. In modern terms, they are Satanists. He taught that Christians are to isolate themselves from non-Christians.
bullet 2 Corinthians 6:14 "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" Paul is recommending that Christians have minimal contact with non-Christians. He compares Christians to light and non-Christians to darkness. This may promote hatred of non-Christians.
bullet 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15: " also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:  Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men." This passage has been used to promote anti-Judaism and anti-semitism up to the present time. In reality, Jesus' death sentence was ordered by Pilate, a Roman official, and was carried out by soldiers in the Roman Army. Only they had the authority to crucify slaves and non-slaves who were considered to be insurrectionists and terrorists by the occupying Roman authorities.
bullet Revelation 2:9: "I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan." Here, Jesus "claims the name of Jews for himself and his church," and is condemning other Jews as followers of Satan. 3

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  1. "The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code," Government of Saskatchewan, Canada, at: You need software to read these PDF files. It can be obtained free from:
  2. Gerd Ludemann, "The unholy in Holy Scripture: The dark side of the Bible," Page 98-99. Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  3. Ibid, Page 115.
  4. Stuart Shepard, "Court Upholds Firing over Bible Verses," Family News in Focus, 2004-JAN-8, at:

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Copyright 2003 & 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-MAY-20
Latest update: 2004-JUL-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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