I keep wondering about these “family values ” and the idea that there was a time when families had more or better values than families have today. There seems to be a consensus among the fundamentalists that if we could just get back to those values, all of our problems would be solved. I have heard that as a “Christian nation,” we are in deep trouble because our families are missing certain critical values, i.e., Christian values. I wonder what these Christian values are and where I can acquire them. I look at my family and see a lot of love and respect for each other. I see compassion, honesty, trust, and nurturing. I think of my mother and how she cared for me when I was sick, listened to me when I told her my problems, and loved me even when I didn’t clean my room. All of those things seem to be show that we have good values, but I am an atheist, so I cannot possibly have Christian values. If compassion, love, honesty, trust, respect and nurturing are not Christian values, what are Christian values? My first thought, of course, was to look in the Bible. If we lack Christian values, then the Bible would be the only true source for finding them. After all, the Bible has been used for thousands of years as a “guide for better living.” Before the Christian, sequel – The New Testament – there was the Old Testament. Now, some Christians will argue that you cannot use the Old Testament because Jesus said he came to replace the old laws, however, this is not true because the New Testament states that Jesus himself said he came to uphold the old laws. In addition, if Christians would like to ignore most of the Old Testament, why do so many Christians insist that the Ten Commandments are better than the Bill of Rights? No, there’s just no getting around it, if you are a Christian, you can’t get away from the fact that the Bible includes the Old Testament and you’ve got to start there. A search for the exact phrase “family values” in both the Old and New Testament came up empty. Well, I suppose there was some other word for “value” back then. Something, I am sure, that is equally meaningful to us today. I searched for the word “family.” Even I was surprised when I found the very first instance of the word. “Leviticus 20:5 Then I will set my face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off, and all that go a whoring after him, to commit whoredom with Molech, from among their people.” Now, I do not know exactly what this passage is all about, but I can tell you that it certainly cannot be ethical to turn against a man’s family because that man makes you angry. In fact, it reminds me of a joke: “Our high school football team was so nasty, they would sack the quarterback and then go after his family.” I guess Jehovah was a lot like that. From the first rants in Leviticus to the final madness of Malachi, the Old Testament tells us nothing about nurturing our children or loving our spouses. We can read “honor thy parents,” but how can a child honor the parents that beat him? We can read “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” but what does that mean when a man is allowed as many wives and concubines as he can afford? We can also find instances of the most horrendous treatment of women and children within the Old Testament. We can read a passage that describes in great detail how to handle slaves, how to kill your disobedient child, how to sell your wife or daughter into slavery and how to murder the innocent children of your enemies, but not one word of the Old Testament teaches you how to gently hold a crying child to calm her fears or kiss away tiny tears. Very little in the Old Testament speaks of compassion, of truth or of honesty. Within its pages there is mostly horror, senility, obscenity and destruction. It saddens me to think that people believe we can find anything of value in the Old Testament. Throughout the Old Testament, the word family is mentioned hundreds of times, but in terms that have nothing to do with one family member’s treatment of another family member, nor of love, compassion, trust or honesty among family members. Certainly, the writers of the Old Testament cared a great deal about genealogy, as there are pages and pages devoted to all the begetting that went on, and it was very important who belonged to this family or that family. However, any reference of family is merely to define lineage, not to discuss child rearing. If anything, the treatment of wives and children in the Old Testament would only lead you to believe that women and children are nothing more than chattel, to be disgraced or discarded at will, or to be sold, tortured or murdered as any husband or father saw fit. Are those the family values the fundamentalists keep harping on? You do not even want to know some of the horrors I found when I searched for the words “mother” and “daughter” in the Old Testament. I am clearly convinced that the Old Testament teaches us nothing of value wherein the lives of mothers and daughters are concerned. I fared no better searching for the words “father,” “son,” “children,” or “child.” I looked for a few words that I consider to be important in a loving family: trust, kindness, compassion and honest. Ironically, the very first act of compassion in the Bible comes not from a child of Israel (the “Lord’s people”), but from the Pharaoh’s daughter, who at the risk of her own life, saved the baby Moses from certain death, took him into her home and raised him as her own son. God only shows compassion when there is enough groveling and sacrificing to satisfy him. However, God does not show compassion until enough of his people have suffered. For example, for complaining about the food, 300 Hebrews were consumed with fire, for worshipping a golden idol; all of the Hebrews are placed into slavery. Very, very little kindness and compassion in the Old Testament. Compassion comes at a very high cost. Trust in the Bible, is a joke. It is too ludicrous to be believed. Here we have a divine being that has just burned to death 300 of your kinsmen because they did not like the food, let me ask you, would you trust this God? Would you trust a god that placed you and all your people into slavery because you were all tired of wandering around in the desert and for kicks, made a golden calf? Yeah, I would trust him. As I would trust Charles Manson with my daughter, I would trust him. In the New Testament, we find much the same thing. In fact, many of the references of the word “compassion” and “trust” come directly from the Old Testament, and in Romans where the story of Moses is being retold. The New Testament does warn us that we should not trust in ourselves: Corinthians 1:9 But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead. Possibly the worst example of all regarding family values comes from the New Testament: Matthew 10:34 – 37 “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Imagine sacrificing the love of your parents, your children, your spouse, for the love of an unseen, unknown, unimaginable God! That any God should ask such a horrific sacrifice should make him completely unworthy in the eyes of any human being. Such are the family values of Christianity. You have only to look at the history of the world to realize that religion has not civilized humanity, but humanity has had to civilize a barbaric religion to make it fit into the humanistic sensibilities of today. However, the Bible cannot and will not be made to fit; yet, we do not have the guts to throw it out as bad literature. Yet fortunately, our laws override most of the Biblical laws. We must be grateful that they do, for not so long ago in this country, they did not. Moreover, during those times, we had slavery, we had child labor and we had domestic violence and abuse that will never be told. In our nation, this most noble experiment, we have as our guide, the best and greatest document ever written for government. It can also be amended to fit our changing ideals. Yes, it once used to allow for slavery, yet it was amended to outlaw slavery. The Bible upholds slavery in every way, in the cruelest and most vile ways, it allows it and not one Christian questions the “morals” of the atrocities told within it’s pages. We must not hope to bring back Christian values, we must hope to bring, for once, a true secular society where every child will be wanted, where every parent will teach critical thinking, and where our government will not attempt to dictate morality.