Essay:Pedophile Checkmate

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Essay.svg This essay is an original work by Hentropy.
It does not necessarily reflect the views expressed in RationalWiki's Mission Statement, but we welcome discussion of a broad range of ideas.
Unless otherwise stated, this is original content, released under CC-BY-SA 3.0 or any later version. See RationalWiki:Copyrights.
Feel free to make comments on the talk page, which will probably be far more interesting, and might reflect a broader range of RationalWiki editors' thoughts.

Note: this essay makes frequent allusions to theoretical sex with minors as a rhetorical argument against Biblical morality. There are no explicit descriptions of it. Still, it may bother some and may be NSFW for others.

So you've reached that point. You're debating with a Christian who seems at least half-way decent at defending their position. They are experienced, used to the common arguments of atheists and others looking to discredit Christianity. Most of us have been there, and are familiar with pigeon chess, the Christian able to twist whatever logic you throw at them in order to rearrange it into something that fits their narrative. Obviously it still may be bullshit, but nothing has been gained from the conversation, and not even a little doubt was placed in the believer's head.

There are a number of potent arguments against Christianity, in many different aspects. This particular gambit focuses on the central question of Biblical morality, and whether or not the Bible is a relevant moral guide for modern times. Based on the title of the essay, you may already know where I'm going with this, but my intent is to try to suggest ways to frame the argument in the optimal way, as well as go over some common counter-points. I do this because, in my own personal experience, this is the only argument that has ever caused a Christian to change their mind or cause doubt on this issue, and for some reason I almost never see it get made in mainstream debate circles. You can feel free to try it yourselves and report your results to the talk page. I would love to update this essay with more details from other people who have tried it.

I should note that while this argument is most thought-out and tested in regards to Christians, a very similar argument can be used to criticize Judaism, Islam, and other doctrinal religions at the same time.

The Gambit Itself[edit]

  • Skeptic: Do you believe that the Bible is a complete and/or perfect guide to living one's life in modern times?
  • Christian: Yes (or some other affirmative response).
  • Skeptic: Then where is the Biblical prohibition on marrying a (prepubescent) child?

There are a few important aspects here. Simply bringing up that the Bible never mentions pedophilia without the first question will not be as potent of an argument. If the Christian does not believe the Bible is a complete and/or perfect guide to live one's life, then the gambit will be doomed from the start. Modernity is also an important aspect, if they believe the Bible was a complete guide for the time it was written but not in modern times as some liberal Christians believe, then it will not work. It might be best to go with the phrasing "marrying a child" instead of simply "pedophilia", as sex with an unmarried child is still forbidden under Biblical law. If you need to, you may clarify later that you are talking specifically about prepubescent children, or do it from the outset.

The idea that the Bible is a complete and relevant guide to life in modern times is a rather common belief among many evangelical and conservative Christians (the ones you are most likely to debate with online and elsewhere), and they will likely come with an arsenal of counter-points to defend it on most issues, but probably not this one. It should also be noted that the Christian in question should be someone who is ostensibly opposed to pedophilia, however pedophilia apology is not super common among conservative Christians.

Immediate Reactions and Bible Verses[edit]

If you are debating the Christian in person, this question will undoubtedly cause a pause. As stated earlier this strangely is not a common argument against Christianity or Biblical morality. It is not something even brought up in churches or in Bible studies or even on evangelical websites. You might achieve "checkmate" (being defined as leaving them without a coherent counter-argument) earlier in person than you might online, where people are free to quickly Google things.

But let's face it, most of us are probably debating online. With the Catholic sex abuse scandals, the issue of pedophilia isn't a completely ignored issue within Christianity. Based on my own Google searches, the most potent counterpoint is Matthew 18:6. They will likely use the KJV translation which goes:

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. - Matthew 18:6 KJV

KJV will often be used because it uses the word "offend", which is more vague and could be made to mean anything. The passage is likely most accurately translated from Greek as "to cause to stumble or lead astray" or "to cause to sin". Elaborating on this betrays the Christian's point, as pedophilia and child marriage are not causing a child to sin, they are victimizing the child, at least according to a modern sense of morality. It's best not to get too sidetracked with arguing about translations.

The most potent response to this is to have them point out exactly where marrying a child is offending them. At this point it should also be brought up, with relevant verses, how specific the Bible is when it comes to pointing out what is and is not okay to do sexually. Not once did anyone mention, in the Old or New Testament that marrying a child is immoral, sinful, or even to be discouraged. Therefore, marrying them and then having sex with them is not offending them or causing them to stumble or sin, in fact marriage is often held up as the apex of moral institutions.

There are other verses, largely calling on believers not to have "immoral" or "unnatural" fornication with people . If one of these are brought up, you should ask what exactly counts as unnatural, and ask for specific verses to back it up. Remember, the Bible is a perfect and complete guide to living one's life, which includes issues of sexual immorality. The only spelled-out and explicit prohibitions of particular sexual acts is in Leviticus 18, which does not mention the age at which someone is appropriate to marry.

Some might try to claim that Bible says not to marry someone who has not had their period yet. Ask for a Bible verse, they will not be able to provide it because it's not in there.

Historical and Derivative Points and Counterpoints[edit]

When the Christian in question cannot turn to a specific doctrinal prohibition of pedophilia or child marriage, they might try to do a number of things, mostly rooted in more modern philosophy or even legalism. If your opponent is any good at all, they will not fall back on moral relativism as an argument, but they still might. If they try to point out "that was just the way they did things back in" remind them that you are not talking about "back then", as the Bible is meant to be perfectly relevant today. As far as I know, God's law does not change with the times.

If the opponent is truly good, they might bring up the derivative argument that God commands that the man love his wife as much as Jesus loved the church (Ephesians 5:25), and that is impossible with a child. You should not get too sidetracked with misunderstandings of Greek translations of "love", keep the issue focused on child marriages. The concept that an adult man or woman is incapable of loving a child as deeply as they do an adult is not something that is supported by the Bible. Some bold Christians might concede that marrying a child is okay so long as you love them a bunch, which is probably not something they would say in public, and is also basically admitting that the Bible is okay with pedophilia but not homosexuality, and that an ideal Christian set of laws would reflect that (as they did in Jesus' time).

Some might make an argument from legalism, basically if it's illegal in your country according to their cultural or moral makeup, then God wants you to follow that. After all, God does not command that people marry children, it simply doesn't come up at all. Of course, this view takes no issue with pedophilia as a core concept, and is another example of invoking cultural relativism. Remind them that you're talking about the Bible as a code to live one's life, and ask whether or not pedophilia is okay if the "culture" allows it.

Of course, you can always use historical examples to illustrate how real-life Christians had child brides, which was not punished or seen as abnormal. No True Scotsman might be an escape hatch for this, as many modern evangelicals especially do not feel kinship with medieval Catholics or even mainline Protestants from centuries past.

What The Goal Is, and What Not to Do[edit]

Make sure to tailor any responses towards their specific strain of Christianity, they are not all the same, nor do they always feel the need to defend other strains. And for the love of Goat, do not under any circumstances bring up Aisha and Muhammad, and if they bring them up, refocus the discussion back to Christianity. Islam is irrelevant unless you are talking to a Muslim.

It might be tempting to bring up that rape is also not expressly forbidden in the Bible, at least not according to modern standards of consent. However, this argument can easily get sidetracked into a debate about marital rape and consent in general. Try to keep it to keep the issue focused on the potent argument at hand.

Remember what the goal is in any debate about Christianity, it is not about insulting them or calling all Christians pedophile apologists. The point is to get them to question the accepted morality of the Bible, particularly the sections on sexual morality. If the Bible sees no problem with marrying and then having sex with a prepubescent child, but does see a problem with two consenting adults of the same sex having relations, doesn't that seem a little messed up? If nothing else, you could help sway them away from homophobia or absolutist religious concepts. Be respectful, and you might just change a mind or two, or start to change it. I have with this process.