“Refresh my memory on that one,” I said.
“Well,” my counterpart replied, “Daniel was a righteous bureaucrat who dutifully prayed to God. His fellow administrators hated him, and tricked King Darius into outlawing prayer for a month.”
“How would such a rule be enforced?” I asked.
“By threat of entry into the lion’s den.” My friend replied.
This sounded like the sort of absolute punishment I’ve come accustomed to hearing about in the bible, but evidently, the advocates for this law were pagans, not Jews or Christians, so no dings there.
I asked my friend to go on.
“Daniel, being a good servant of God, ignored the law, and was soon found in violation.”
“Bad news for Daniel,” I said.
“Real bad, considering he was an old man at the time.” He went on, “But after many hours with the lion, it was found that the lion didn’t eat Daniel.”
“Lucky break, I suppose,” I said.
“Daniel said that an angel protected him”.
I responded with the hypothesis that “maybe the lion wasn’t very hungry.”
“Maybe, but the lion certainly had its appetite back when it ate all Daniel’s conspirators”.
“Sounds very biblical,” I replied.
We spent the rest of the evening chatting about completely non-religious things over a couple beers.
I wanted to read more about the lion’s den story, and one thing I found that my friend didn’t share is that, in the bible, it wasn’t just Daniel’s conspirators who were eaten. It was also their wives and children, whose bones were crushed as the lion devoured them.
Isn’t it interesting that all these famous allegories in the bible are completely surrounded by barbaric imagery?
Apologists will say it was a sign of the times, and that it’s unfair to hold the same cultural standards for people who lived 2600 years ago.
But it got me thinking about morality in the bible again, and the notion of the objective morality that Christians (and Jews) claim they’re able to invoke as members of the faith. They manage to make these claims without even the slightest hint of irony, when there was no account of Daniel, or anyone for that matter, appealing for the lives of the innocent women and children, whose only crime was their association with scheming assholes.
Everything worked out great for Daniel, and he appears to have thrived under King Darius’ rule, despite the fact that the blood of those innocent women and children were on his hands.
Here, the bible’s problem isn’t explicit in the same way that God’s advocacy for slavery or murder or rape is in Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, but rather, it’s in the absence of Daniel’s capacity for empathy in the face of an outrageous horror committed by the king. Did Daniel weep for those women and children? Did he pray for them?
The bible doesn’t seem to tell us, but I suspect the persecution complex the bible peddles would have prevented Daniel from giving away too much concern over the matter. This omission is yet another insight into how horrible this book is. The fact that people hold the Daniel character in any sort of reverence is a testament to how tone deaf readers of this bible are.
If there is objective morality, and Daniel were such a moral person, wouldn’t the death of those innocent women and children have created an emotional turbulence for him? If I were him, and a bunch of kids died because their dads tried to get me killed, I would be overwhelmed by guilt.
Could it be that the “objective morality” prescribed by the bible allows people to ignore that guilt?