In a discussion on Facebook, a Christian recently said the following two things in subsequent posts in the same thread:
Personally, from a christian perspective, I find “owning somebody else” not much less repulsive than “owning oneself.” They are both travesties of how things ought to be.
From a biblical perspective, God is the sole rightful owner of everything, and we can or should hold it in stewardship on his behalf, including ourselves.
In other words, the idea of owning another human being is “repulsive” unless God is the one doing the owning.
This illustrates a principle Christians rely on from time to time when defending their faith: God, so they claim, is exempt from every rule we ourselves follow. He has no obligations to behave in any particular way, but has complete freedom to do whatever he chooses. (These, mind you, are often the same people who argue, when it is convenient for them, that it is God’s nature to do good – that he simply couldn’t choose any differently.)
The implications of this principle are profound. FIrst and foremost, it excuses God from all the immoral acts reported in the Bible. If God were beholden to the basic moral rules he expects his creation to follow, he would be in really big trouble. It is necessary, then, to give God an exemption. So it goes for ownership also. We are not supposed to own other people – most modern Christians believe slavery to be wrong, even though their holy text does not speak out against it – yet God is allowed to own us. Indeed, some of the New Testament authors use slavery as an analogy for the God-believer relationship.
No person in his right mind would ever grant a political leader the moral carte blanche given to God, and rightly so. Yet believers consider their god to be so completely trustworthy that even when he does the sorts of things that would land a mortal man in the International Criminal Court in the Hague, they actually make excuses for him. Just think about that for a moment: Christians trust that God’s motives are so pure and so dependable, that even in the face of the very things they would hastily condemn in their fellow humans, they insist that some explanation – some excuse – must exist, even though they don’t know what it is. It is quite an astounding, Orwellian feat of psychology.
Unfortunately this psychological trick taints the morality of Christians themselves. I have known some deeply moral, compassionate Christians in my lifetime. These are beautiful people who do wonderful things for others. Yet you look at what is written in the Bibles they carry with them, and it is hard not to recoil with disgust at many of the things written therein. What allows such good, honest people to associate their noble actions with such a jealous, barbaric figure as Yahweh? Perhaps the allure of the more pacifist portrayals of Jesus is what seals the deal. A pity, then, that more people cannot draw inspiration from Jesus without having to commit themselves to defending the rest of the Bible. Ironically, an atheist approach would actually free them to do this.