People whose belief systems come from a book, commonly denoted as people of the book by Muslims (a general reference to Jews and Christians), look to a certain written text for moral and spiritual guidance. Books such as the Torah, the Bible and the Quran inform and dictate the beliefs of various groups bound together by faith in the words printed in their particular book.
For some, the messages contained within the pages are allegorical and metaphorical in nature. For others, the text is the absolute literal, irrefutable word of God.
In Sudan, a pregnant woman is facing a death sentence for apostasy. She is, I believe, the victim of a literalist view of religious law. The woman identifies as Christian because her Christian mother raised her. Despite this fact, a Sudanese court found her guilty of apostasy, as well as adultery, because she married a Christian man and because her absentee father is a Muslim.
A long series of lashes followed by execution, of course, is almost always the best way to teach a non-violent offender the error of her ways.
I hope the court reverses its decision, and she gets to live a long and interesting life with her child and husband. Its interesting to compare this case with the softening of the Christian churchs ability to enforce the death penalty. Back in the day, if you didnt believe in God, you would be literal toast. Burn ’em at the stake, and move on. These days, even the Pope has suggested non-believers have a chance of getting into heaven.
The privilege of being able to cherry-pick what you like about a certain religion, while glossing over some of the harsher dictates, is an amazing thing. What if this were true for all law, whether universal or finite? Just imagine how frustrating that would be for the police.
Yes, officer, I just robbed that bank, but I dont really believe in personal property. Ownership is a fallacy.
Oh, if thats the case, youre free to go. Sorry for the mix up.
Or what it this were true for the laws of physics?
I really dont feel like climbing that mountain. Today, I choose not to believe in gravity. Ill just float up to the summit.
Religious law to a literalist is the only law. If you disobey it, you have to pay the predetermined price. If we walk the clock back just a tad and look at a few of the crimes punishable by death in the past and sadly, in some less-than-progressive locations still we can see just how lucky many of us are.
Reasons God Might Want You Dead
If you’re a Jew, you could have been killed for offenses such as sacrificing to other gods, working on the Sabbath (don’t mow your lawn), burning children alive (fair enough), adultery, marrying your baby mamas mama (granny sex) and disobeying your folks.
Take out the trash, or by Torah, Ill murder you with Gods blessing!
If you’re a good Christian, and you want to follow the letter of the law and not get murdered, you should avoid lying about virginity (women), getting raped (women), raping (men), having sex with your stepmother (which would be a serious blow to the premise of a lot of porn films), working on the Sabbath, being Harry Potter (no sorcery), talking back to your folks, not washing before heading off to worship and taking the Lords name in vain.
Admittedly, a lot of Old Testament stuff here, but still, if youre a true believer, its better to be safe than sorry, or you just might get stoned to death.
In Islam, you can get the death penalty for murder, which seems a little more reasonable than some of the other offenses, like gay sex, apostasy from Islam, lewdness and adultery. It should be noted that forgiveness is talked about quite often in the Quran, which means a death sentence is not always certain. Even so, it’s best to steer clear of a group of judging men on the wrong day. If theyre in a bad mood, perhaps because the local cricket team just lost a match, they might decide you deserve death for spreading mischief, when all you did was tag Scooby-Doo graffiti on someones garage door because you really love Hanna-Barbera.
While you should always have the freedom to speak your mind, check up on the local laws when traveling before making wild proclamations about a particular faith or indulging in civic mischief, or you just might have to face off with an angry mob. The fact that they all have stones in their hands means they win, even if rational logic isn’t on their side. Rock always beats scissors and the human skull.
Carl Pettit is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.