In the past few weeks several letters and articles have appeared in The Californian whose authors decry the lack of morality among our population. They believe that the world would be perfect if we all lived by the moral principles of the Bible. Fundamentalists believe the Bible is inerrant and holds the answer to all the problems of the world. First let me say that morals are indeed relative and that includes the morals of the Bible and other religious texts or doctrine.

The Ten Commandments lists, among other things, "thou shalt not kill." That is a generic version, but the Bible has several. If I'm not mistaken, and I'm not, God ordered the Jews to invade neighboring countries and kill all the men and take the women, especially the young ones, as slaves and concubines (Deut. 20:12-17). He also ordered everyone killed including infants, sucklings and animals (I Sam 15:3-7, Josh 8:1-30, 10:28-40). Forty children were teasing one of God's acolytes so he turned two she-bears on them, killing all (II Kings 2:23-24). And God is not innocent: He killed untold millions of people including his followers and innocents because he was displeased or angry. Remember the flood? (See also, Josh 6, I Sam. 6:19, II Kings 9:8.)

When Roman Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion in the late 4th century Christians began persecuting and killing Pagans and non-believers. Granted, they were persecuted by the Pagans, but killing Pagans was OK anyway because they weren't Christians. When they ran out of non-Christians they turned their attention to other Christians. You know, those who aren't "real Christians." Jesus was no angel either and just as contradictory.

If we were all instilled with Christian values, as suggested by some, what would the outcome be? According to the World Christian Encyclopedia there are more than 6,000 Christian sects and cults in the U.S. and more than 33,000 worldwide, all with competing worldviews. The likeliest outcome would be rampant bigotry and discrimination and a theocratic government to exacerbate things. Mixing church and state has always had that outcome. Not once has it been a good thing.

My moral values tell me it is wrong to discriminate against anyone, period, for any reason. Fundamentalists are fighting for the right to discriminate based on religion or lack thereof. That too is immoral to me.

Marriage as a religious institution has not been around for thousands of years as one writer claimed. It has been with us for just a few hundred, so there is no age-old tradition and there is no moral reason to deny same-sex marriage. Marriage was not considered any business of the church until the Council of Trent (1545-1563). Laws prohibiting secular or other forms of marriage were made and only members of the church could marry, thereby increasing church membership and influence over governments as well as wealth.

Framing the issue from a moral viewpoint is indeed relative here. Those who support same-sex marriage believe, based on reason, that it is immoral to deny anyone the right to marry. If you believe it is morally wrong based on the tenets and beliefs of a religion then you won't support it. Morals on such issues are always relative to the individual's worldview.

The Bible is not the best place to seek moral principals, in my opinion. It's filled with moral quandaries and factual errors. It has been used to support slavery and war, the death penalty and all forms of discrimination and bigotry. It was used to fight inter-racial marriage and is now being used to fight same-sex marriage. All these uses of the Bible are immoral from a reasoned viewpoint.

America's population is 74 percent Christian and has more violent crimes and homicides than the less religious countries of Europe and other parts of the world.

I would encourage everyone to critically read the Bible -- the Old Testament and the New Testament, every word from beginning to end, leaving nothing unread. Read the parts you like as well as the parts you don't, the boring parts and the disturbing parts. Even the unfathomable parts your preacher doesn't want you to read, and the parts he does.

Kenneth Hill is a 19 year resident of Bakersfield. He is a military veteran and former police officer who currently contracts with the federal government. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words. The Californian reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and clarity.