Relatively recently (when one properly considers the shelf life of a web meme) we've all had a good laugh at this nutball to the left who chose to mutilate his skin with a Bible verse (maybe) prohibiting homosexuality while ignoring (presumably) the verse a bit on down the road about not getting tattoos. Yes, very funny; he's ignorant. I knew that when he put his ink on television. Or when he put on a shirt without sleeves. Or got a tattoo of a Bible verse. Really, the clues are all over.
What I'm unsure of, at the end of the day, is why the rest of you find this funny. Is it just that he's a homophobe and also ignorant, and the two ignorant qualities together prove out your worldview? Is it that he's probably a hypocrite and we're prone to believe hypocrisy runs, generally, in Christians and/or homophobes? Is it the ridiculousness of the Bible itself, with its 2000 year old rules and codes of conduct, often self-contradictory and irrelevant to modern day experiences? As you might have guessed, it's this last one I'm going to laser focus on, making a larger point that you can leave now if you've already heard.
I recently became aware that gay Christians fight with straight Christians (and, I would assume, gay Jews with straight Jews) over the interpretations of the verses in Leviticus dealing with socio-sexual mores, things like homosexuality and fucking sheep. (The next time you wonder, by the way, how homophobes - who do this often in arguments - make the jump from one of those behaviors to the other, look no further than Leviticus - those things are right near one another.) The argument centers around the above verse, Lev. 18:22, and also Lev. 20:13, and whether the pair of them together forbid the practice of homosexuality, or simply restrict homosexual unions under certain circumstances that would have had more relevance to earlier followers of Moses. Not even that is quite accurate, however, as the Book of Leviticus evolved over the course of 1500 years or so, so who knows how these verses may have been toyed with between the time they were supposedly vomited out of the mouth of YHWH in the year Dot and one and half to two millennia later. Regardless, let's break it down.
In the 1769 KJV, linked to above, it's pretty unequivocal - gay male sex is not okay and if you do it and get caught, you ought to be put to death. (Lesbians aren't mentioned, which probably explains why the book isn't more popular.) The previous English translation says pretty much the same thing, just with more vowels in it. The New American Standard gets even more direct, changing "mankind" and "womankind" to simply "male" and "female." Pretty much every other well-selling English version of the Bible does likewise - it's one of the reasons that people who buy the Bible purchase it in the first place, so it kind of needs to be in there. Even my scholarly and relatively reasonable Shocken translation of the Pentateuch has it as "With a male you are not to lie (after the manner of) lying with a woman, it is an abomination!" Not a lot of budge room there.
It's at this point most people do one of two things when arguing this issue; Either contextual and societal arguments come out of their sheathes, edges sharpened with cogent ideas about restrictions on the behaviors of earlier societies and pointed with facts about rituals and daily activities from the time(s) when this book was written, and the argument moves into a point about how what might have been intended by this passage was relevant then and is no longer, or how the thing is being misinterpreted. I, for one, have always found it hard to believe that anyone concerned with society would have intended for folks to work that hard to figure out the rules. The second approach is to point out the ridiculousness of the Book of the Sons of Levi, with its prohibitions on 'Mom' tattoos, shrimp cocktail, 70's clothing and pantsuits, thus rendering the whole book contemptuous and silly, pushing it to the back burner of arguments.
I can never understand why this tactic never goes any further, evolving into the suggestion I'd like to make now: ABANDON THE BOOK. Let it go. It's not important. Really, it's not. Preserved as a historical record of dubious authorship, fine, but as a rule book for living one's life? No reason at all for that, and I'll tell you why.
Most people who believe in a higher power of any kind believe so in a proof vacuum. They don't need proof, because their faith is an emotional response to the events of their life, or the product of the life of their minds. They don't need to prove, they simply know in their hearts that there is a God, a goddess, a factor, a force, a presence, something else beyond them and what they logically prove out. There is nothing to be said about someone else's emotional response - it simply is, and on its own, cannot be said to be inappropriate or not. Most people who have a framework for the important issues of right and wrong arrive at them the same way. "I'm not going to do that because it's not right." You don't need a book of rules and stories to get there. Your relationship with God (or whatever) has nothing to fucking do with the book in the hotel nightstand. If the ritual and the text of it is satisfying to you, fine. If the book puts pretty well a feeling you already had, great - but don't let it push you around, and for fuck's sake don't quote from it to back up arguments. From this point forward, I shall cease to hear arguments from ancient rule books; you're either convinced in your heart that it's right and can elucidate that clearly in your own words, or you shut the hell up. (And no quoting Carlin's "own words" bit at me, either.)
Your belief, no matter how all-encompassing it is to you, does not exist outside of your head & heart, and it's when you attempt to make it exist (as opposed to simply exemplifying it) that we as people run into all manner of troubles. Trying to fit the square pegs of Levitican law into the round holes of 21st century society DOES NOT WORK, which is why a lot of us don't bother. I doubt it worked then, except to make poeple feel bad. You cannot and should not impose your beliefs on other people - we share enough commonality to get by. Have your belief. Live your life by it. Understand though, that faith is a choice and a process, and not everyone has done it like you did it, or needs to or wants to, or will, and that your faith does not grant moral authority, absolute truth, or even the right to have an opinion about someone else's actions, provided that you're not directly affected.
Belief and faith and internally knowing what's right to do ought to be enough. Leading by example is the best way of inspiring others. Having a personal relationship with a creator/god/guide is an emotional necessity for many, and fosters all kinds of behavior, good and bad, making it on par with everything else. Getting bogged down in the rules and laws put forth for restricting freedoms of people that others believed needed to be controlled is intellectual immaturity and mental suicide. It's asking to have problems because instead of listening to your heart and learning to explain in words and deeds what's there, you've co-opted what someone else put down and said, "Yeah, that sounds like a good idea." That's not thinking, that's not caring, that's not trying, and that's not loving - it's not even living.
Ditch the book. It's a crutch. Think and feel for yourself. Doing what's right is the hard part. Trust me, I know. Let's work on that.