Does the Bible really say those evil things?

Inquisitive commenter John makes a request:

Please post the verses in the New Testament that command us to “take slaves, burn witches, murder children, perform executions for imagined crimes, and treat women as cattle.”

Sure! That awful stuff is part and parcel of the Bible, and I'm more than happy to preach straight from it.

I'm not going to play favorites with this Testament vs that Testamant, though; it's all the Divine Word of the Almighty, amiright? I'm good with all of the Good Book! (As you might expect, though, it's the Old Testament that really delivers on the slavery and murder and other divinely-commanded horrors. The New Testament tones down the evil, even if it carries forward some of the OT's moral fumbles and even makes up a few of its own.)

So. Here's a quick guide to particular nasties as requested: Readeth thou more

A Bible word a day

Attention, word lovers: the popular A.Word.A.Day mailing list is again focusing on religion-inspired terms, this time vocabulary drawn from the Bible. Sure, any of us would be pleased to be called a Solomon, and you'd probably obligingly flex some bicep if admirers labeled you a Samson... but would you know whether or not to take the epithet Ananias as a compliment?  Readeth thou more

Listen to Him!

We hear again and again from the believers: Listen to the Word of God. Hear the message of the Bible. Know your scriptures. Listen to Him!

The usual atheist response is... to agree wholeheartedly! I'd love people to know the message of the Bible! So here's a handy starter guide; feel free to cut and paste wherever needed. Like this: 

"You say we should all listen to what your God has to say? I totally agree! I've read his Word, and here are some highlights:"

God loves slavery (Leviticus 25:44-46)

What's the harm in snake handling?

What's the Harm is an awesome web site that tracks news stories of the actual death, damage, or other distress caused by belief in the unbelievable – everything from faith healing and ghosts to Scientology and IRS denial. (Should the site suggest that a pet pseudoscience or dogma of yours is harmful, don't fret; you should see dozens of competing claims on that list that we both can agree are just plain wacked.) Readeth thou more

It's not a rock problem either

Here's a guns + scripture billboard from somewhere in the U.S. of A.:

 Gun control billboard

It says:

Cain killed Abel with a rock

It's a HEART problem, not a gun problem.

Jeremiah 17:9

Okay. So Cain killed Abel with a rock.

But in December 2012, Adam Lanza killed 26 people at a school, including 20 kids, with an assault rifle.

Over 4,000 more people in the US have been killed with guns in the 6 months since then.

Over 32,000 people in the US were killed with guns in 2011 alone. Subtracting over 19,000 suicides by gun, over 1,000 accidental or undetermined gun-related deaths, and a scant 600+ "justifiable" homicides by gun, around 11,000 gun deaths in the US in 2011 remain classified as murder.

Every year about 30,000 people, 10 times the death toll from 9/11, are killed with guns in the US. Counting only murders as the problem addressed by the billboard, that's still 11,000 people, or about 3 times the death toll from 9/11, murdered by gun every year in the US.

You're wrong, billboard. It's a gun problem.

(The false equivalency on the billboard is the same as that in this cartoon: pretending that the gun problem in the US is one of "a guy killed a guy." At 11,000 murders a year, the problem in the US is not "a guy killed a guy.")

Readeth thou more

God by the numbers: What's in the 613 Commandments?

The Ten Commandments! They're so famous they got their own movie. And they're justly famous, because they're the most awesome laws ever – so awesome that Georgia Representative Lynn Westmoreland, who wants to mandate the public display of the Commandments in the US, can name as many as three of the Ten

Hmm... you'd think Rep "The 10C 4eva!" Westmoreland could have done a little better with the commandment shout-outs, especially when the Bible conveniently offers multiple versions of the Ten Commandments to choose from. But let's crank the stone tablets up to Eleven (just kidding, Yahweh!) with an all-new law: Thou shalt not go getting all smug just because thou canst nameth most or all of the rules. Ten is a piffle. How well do you think you'd fare against the 613 Commandments?

Oh, I saw that double take you just did! Meet the Mitzvot, the full 613 commandments that make up the "Law of Moses". If the Ten Commandments are the basic rules from God, think of the Mitzvot as the fine print. Among the 613 are all the laws you've heard of that failed to make the Big 10 ("Circumcise the male offspring"), and laws that may be new to you ("Break the neck of a calf by the river valley following an unsolved murder"? Huh. Who knew.). They span the eminently sensible ("Anybody who knows evidence must testify in court") and the... well, less obvious, shall we say ("Not to put frankincense on the meal offerings of wrongdoers"? Great, now you tell me.).

You'll find a list of the Mitzvot at website Judaism 101 and a list with nice overview on Wikipedia. It's a lot to take in, though; even a cursory look at the significance, interpretation, and categorization of the 613 Commandments would – and does – fill books. Given limited time (and no doubt limited reader interest), all I'm going to do here is draw a little inspiration from that great big numeral – the Ten Commandments times 61, plus change! – and point out a few numbers of interest in the Mitzvot. Readeth thou more