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Christianity Can Rot Your Brain

Two men wearing crowns swing swords toward kneeling menThere’s a lot of killing in the Bible—the honest and wholesome kind.  The God-commanded kind.

What are we to make of this violence?  Apologist William Lane Craig takes a stab at justifying “The Slaughter of the Canaanites.”

Craig’s entire project is bizarre—trying to support the sagging claims of God’s goodness despite his passion for genocide—but he gamely has a go.  Craig responds to the question, “But wasn’t it wrong to kill all the innocent children?”

… if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation.  We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy.  Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.

What’s this supposed to mean??  Does it mean that Andrea Yates was actually right that she was saving her five children from the possibility of going to hell by drowning them one by one in the bathtub?  Does it mean that abortion is actually a good thing because those souls “are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy”?  I hope none of Craig’s readers have followed up with this avenue to salvation.

It’s hard to believe that he’s actually justifying the killing of children, but there’s more.  Let’s parse Craig’s next paragraph:

So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites?  Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgment.

I thought that genocide was wrong.  Perhaps I was mistaken.

Not the children, for they inherit eternal life.

Yeah, right.  Killing children is actually a good thing.  (Are we living Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, where “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength”?)

So who is wronged?

Wait for it …

Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves.  Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children?  The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.

Uh, yeah.  That was the big concern in my mind, too.

Can you believe this guy?  My guess is that he is a decent and responsible person, is a good husband and father, works hard, and pays his taxes.  But he’s writing this?  It’s like discovering that your next-door neighbor is a Klansman.

This brings up the Christopher Hitchens’ Challenge (video).  Hitchens challenges anyone to state a moral action taken or a moral sentiment uttered by a believer that couldn’t be taken or uttered by an unbeliever—something that a believer could do but an atheist couldn’t.  In the many public appearances in which Hitchens has made this challenge, he has never heard a valid reply.

But think of the reverse: something terrible that only a believer would do or say.  Now, there are lots of possibilities.  Obviously, anything containing variations on “because God says” or “because the Bible says” could be an example.

  • “The Bible says, ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.’”
  • “Despite the potential benefits to public health, we should avoid embryonic stem cell research because it’s against the Bible.”
  • “God hates fags.”

Or, as in this case, “God supports genocide.”

This reminds me what physicist Steven Weinberg said: “Religion is an insult to human dignity.  With or without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion.

In other words: Christianity can rot your brain.

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Related links:

  • Greta Christina, “One More Reason Religion Is So Messed Up: Respected Theologian Defends Genocide and Infanticide,” AlterNet, 4/25/11.
  • Adam Lee, “Defending Genocide, Redux,” Daylight Atheism, 4/11/11.
  • Richard Dawkins, “Why I refuse to debate with William Lane Craig,” The Guardian, 10/20/11.
  • Tim Stanley, “Richard Dawkins is either a fool or a coward for refusing to debate William Lane Craig,” The Telegraph, 10/21/11.

About Bob Seidensticker
  • http://www.facebook.com/karludy Karl Udy

    Dawkins’ column was in that bastion of left-wing liberalism The Guardian, not the Tory mouthpiece Telegraph.

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      You’re right! I’ve made that correction. Thanks for noting that.

  • http://gravatar.com/jcohen79 Jon COhen

    When God commands us to do something, we can trust him because of his omniscience and intentions. It is similar to when a doctor removes a kidney because of disease versus when someone takes one from you.

    When a murderer kills someone, it is not out of concern for the well-being of the victim. When God commanded that people be killed, it was to protect the people that he had promised to protect, and furthermore God knew that that group of people would simply continue to create misery for everyone involved. Yates has no such knowledge.

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      JC:

      When God commands us to do something, we can trust him because of his omniscience and intentions.

      Perhaps you can. For most of the rest of the world, he’s in the bin with all the other make-believe gods (Zeus, Vishnu, etc.).

      When God commanded that people be killed, it was to protect the people that he had promised to protect

      At that time, God was indeed a partisan God. The Jews of the time would have recognized many gods, but they knew that Yahweh was their “big brother,” while other tribes had their own protector gods. Isn’t it odd that that changed? That Yahweh became the protector of all people? Either he changed his mind or people worshipping him did. The latter sounds like the likelier possibility.

      furthermore God knew that that group of people would simply continue to create misery for everyone involved.

      And is that what you would do if you were a general or a president? You’d just order a genocide to get this troublesome people out of the picture?

      Why can’t the all-loving creator of the universe think up some more innovative solution than genocide? Why not turn the bad people into birds? Why not teleport them to another part of the world? Why not put up a force field to make sure they don’t harass the Jews?

      And why is it that the atheist is the one who remembers that God can do anything?

  • RandomFunction2

    Hi Bob,

    I agree with everything you said but for one thing. Craig’s argument is offensive to the utmost. If monotheism can make you believe that killing children may be permissible, then please discard it at once! Also, it makes no sense to say that ALL the adult Canaanites were corrupt. In no society would that hold true. There is too much variation among people, even in an overall corrupt society, for us to claim that everyone is guilty. Even in Nazi Germany there were some Germans that opposed Hitler. You just cannot reason from the corruption of a society to the corruption of each one there. I don’t believe in collective punishment.

    However, communists (who were officially atheists) showed us that an atheistic ideology can be as brutal as any religion. In USSR, people who dared question the official dogmas of Marx and Lenin were arrested and sent to gulags! Some believers were sent to psychiatric hospitals just because they were believers… And the Soviets nearly threw us into a nuclear war! Besides, have a look at North Korea. My guess is that North Koreans are as wretched and hopeless as people in the most backward Muslim or African societies.
    So your own challenge is met.

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      However, communists (who were officially atheists) showed us that an atheistic ideology can be as brutal as any religion.

      But atheism isn’t an ideology! Sure, communists had one, but it certainly couldn’t be equated with atheism.

      In USSR, people who dared question the official dogmas of Marx and Lenin were arrested and sent to gulags!

      A very bad regime, I’ll grant you, but why? Was atheism at the heart of it, with these horrible policies coming from that? Of course not. The source of the policies were communism or Stalin’s goals or psychoses or dictatorship or whatever.

      Christianity was a challenge to a communist dictatorship, so they shut it down. Indeed, some have argued that communism (at least the Soviet version) was rather like a religion (but that’s a tangent).

      • RandomFunction2

        Hi Bob,

        The truth is that mere atheism does not exist. Atheism always has a context, or to put it differently, atheism is part of a worldview. Bouddha, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Sartre and the New Atheists believe different things though they agree that God does not exist. They had different worldviews, though all atheistic (Bouddha is perhaps best understood as an agnostic, but at any rate he believed that God was irrelevant). So atheism taken abstractly is not, indeed, an ideology, but in the real world atheism is never so taken, but is wrapped in a worldview which may be an ideology.

      • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

        RF2:

        The truth is that mere atheism does not exist.

        Are we simply defining this word differently? Atheism is simply a No answer to the question, “Do you have a god belief?”

        Humanism would have opinions about morality. Atheism wouldn’t. No action of Stalin’s could be tied to atheism except any action that his lack of a belief in God prompted.

        The sentence “Stalin didn’t believe in God, therefore …” couldn’t be logically concluded in an evil way.

        If you’re simply saying that atheism and Humanism (or similar philosophy) are often conflated, that’s true, but this still doesn’t support your point.

  • RandomFunction2

    Hi Bob,

    Still, you cannot deny that believers were persecuted in USSR. Sometimes for no other reason than their religion. Of course atheism alone does not make you into a dictator. But then neither does God belief.

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      Agreed that believers were persecuted. And agreed that atheism doesn’t make you a dictator.

      In the case of Stalin, atheism was a consequence, not a cause.

  • Bob Calvan

    So I have two questions to add to Bob’s latest article

    1) What dose this have to do with Bob’s alleged agenda for his web site? Bob is supposed to be trying to get Christianity to play fair.And butt out of the government with Christians agenda’s like pro-life and prayer in schools, and prayer in congress. But we can all see through this baloney, by Bob’s articles.

    Most are about trying to show us Christianity is a false religion copied by other pagan religions. More hypocritical lies about why he says what he is trying to do ( not minding Christians just wanting them to play fair) to what he truly wants, which is no Christianity. Which will never happen

    2) So Bob write’s an article on how God is cruel and loves genocide..Bob ( who is a moral relativist) is complaining on God’s moral character? We have an Atheist who can not account for morality..An Atheist who thinks morality is instinctive to each humans brain activity. We have an Atheist who denies Absolute morality, who is making Absolute moral judgments that God’s genocide is Absolutely wrong? More hypocritical absurdity..As James White says: An inconsistent argument is a failed argument.

    If Bob was consistent he would not even posted this article..If Bob’s worldview of moral relativity were true. Bob’s opinion has no more relevance then God’s.. So ones view on genocide is no better or worse than someone else’s view it is all relative and just our subjective opinion.. Not even worth mentioning..
    But we can see the inconsistency of Bob..He is absolutely sure the genocide is absolutely wrong. And these Absolute Morals come from the mind of and Absolute moral giver, the Triune God of the Bible.

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      Well, you’re in fine voice tonight!

      More hypocritical lies about why he says what he is trying to do

      Where did I promise to limit the subject matter of my comments? The home pages says that this blog is “An energetic but civil critique of Christianity from an atheist viewpoint.”

      Where is the lie?

      We have an Atheist who can not account for morality.

      What’s difficult about accounting for morality? We have a moral instinct, just like other primates. QED

      We have an Atheist who denies Absolute morality, who is making Absolute moral judgments that God’s genocide is Absolutely wrong?

      Did I use the word “absolute” in my post? I’m pretty sure not.

      I see no evidence for absolute morality. (And I think the ball’s still in your court to provide us with evidence for it!)

      • RandomFunction2

        To the Bobs,

        Besides, there is an inconsistency in the Bible. The Bible claims that God created all of us and that he is love, the Bible even says God made a covenant with Noah who stands for all of humankind, but in the first books of the Bible, we see God as a petty tribal god who cannot care less about the well-being of the other peoples.

      • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

        RF2:

        Agreed! Reading the Bible as an anthropologist makes much more sense of it.

  • RandomFunction2

    To Bob the atheist,

    Besides, you should not rely too much on WLC, as if he were the spokesman of all Christians. He only represents one part of Christendom.

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      Quite true. He seems to get the most press, but my perspective on apologists may be skewed. Let me know if you have others that you’d recommend.

      I don’t have much use for heavy philosophical approaches to apologetics, and WLC’s popular approach is one thing that I like.

      • RandomFunction2

        Hi Bob,

        Maybe you would like John Shelby Spong, who represents liberal Christianity. His thought is very remote from fundamentalism. He is an Episcopalian.

      • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

        I’ve heard Spong. Great stuff. Karen Armstrong, too.

        They explain everything in a natural way, so you’re waiting for the conclusion, “And that’s why I’m an atheist.” But it never comes. Curious.

  • RandomFunction2

    I agree with BobC that absolute moral truths come from the supreme being, but I doubt that the Old Testament (and some of the New) represent a correct understanding of that supreme being. Why believe that the Bible is the revelation of God? Because the Bible says so? That would be a circular argument.

  • Bob Calvan

    Point is in your Moral relativistic worldview your comments on Genocide are relative to your subjective opinion..Who cares? Why mention it? There are billions of people ( according to you) bound by there instinctive relativist moral opinions on geneocide. So your has no value, just your opinion. So who cares?

    By your argument if I did not know you better it sounded like you are saying Genocide is absolutly wrong all the time.. But , you couldn’t mean that. LOL

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      Do no one’s opinions count? Do you care for none? If you count everyone’s opinion as valueless then yes, they would have no value. But I’ve never met anyone like this.

      So what sensible question could you possibly be asking?

      Are you saying that genocide is absolutely wrong? If so, then share with us how you know it’s absolutely wrong. Or is this a secret you simply refuse to share with us?

  • RandomFunction2

    Hi Bob,

    Besides, atheism has probably made your moral sense a bit rotten if you have come to the conclusion that consensual incest is not wrong. But I don’t mean to be offensive. But of course, consensual incest is less repulsive than genocide.

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      IMO, consensual incest is wrong, as I made plain some time ago.

      If you’re saying (by contrast) that consensual incest is absolutely wrong, like Bob C. apparently does, then I make the same demand: show me.

      That we all have instinct that tells us that this is wrong (pretty much) is exactly what you’d expect from evolution. There’s a natural explanation. You can trump that with a supernatural explanation?

      • RandomFunction2

        Hi Bob,

        Ok, thanks for the clarification.

  • Bob Calvan

    RF2

    unless one is like Bob ..Who is a moral relativist then consensual incest or genocide don’t matter..However you brain is wired by you intincts determines if thoses are good or bad.

    And for some that is Ok and for some it is not..THere is no Absolute truth to either of those in Bob’s worldview so who cares.. Neither one is wright or wrong.

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      Bob C:

      Do you read my stuff? Or perhaps you read it, but it’s too sensible to respond to directly so you just make up a strawman because it’s easier to attack?

      Why would you imagine that incest and genocide don’t matter to me?

      If you imagine that there is absolute moral truth (instead of just the approximations to truth that we all make and that do a decent job for us), show me! (Help me out here–I’m getting tired as I keep repeating this challenge to you that you’re unable to meet. Maybe if you’d just admit that “absolute moral truth” is just a slogan to you, not something you have evidence for … ?)

  • Bob Calvan

    My point is I hold to Moral truths ( as you know) and I know you do not ..Which is fine. We agreed you like many others are a moral relativist. But in your worldvies you maoral opinion is nice to hear, but is is irrelevant.. Who cares whether you think incest is moraly wrong or right? That is my point..If there is no absolute standard of morality, and morality is just instinctie in the minds of men, big deal.

    And I have given you an example of a n absolute moral truth..You reject it because of your materialistic presuppositions.
    I can give you a situation where it is absolutly wrong for you to do.. A situation where there is no logical way you can tell me where this truth is O.K. for you to do.

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      My point is I hold to Moral truths ( as you know) and I know you do not .

      I have moral truths, just not absolute moral truths.

      We agreed you like many others are a moral relativist.

      Not in the sense that it’s usually defined. I’m quite happy to attempt to impose my will on others (if necessary) when we differ on a moral issue.

      But in your worldvies you maoral opinion is nice to hear, but is is irrelevant.

      So “don’t murder” is a nice trait for someone to have but basically irrelevant from my standpoint?

      What planet are you from??

      Who cares whether you think incest is moraly wrong or right?

      If I’m a legislator, it doesn’t matter whether you care or not, you abide by the law that I help impose.

      And if I’m just an ordinary citizen, you can listen to my opinion or not. Presumably, you listen to and consider lots of opinions from your family, friends, coworkers, and so on.

      And I have given you an example of a n absolute moral truth.

      You gave me an example of an absolute moral truth? Remind me. And how do we know that it’s an absolute truth?

      I can give you a situation where it is absolutly wrong for you to do.. A situation where there is no logical way you can tell me where this truth is O.K. for you to do.

      Go ahead. Keep in mind, though, that I might well agree with you that that’s a truth that I share, but that doesn’t make it absolute, transcendental, objective, and all that.

  • RandomFunction2

    Hi Bob,

    if some rule is claimed to be objective, but not absolute, it would not be too hard for one to claim to be an exception to the rules in a moral decision. Due perhaps to so-called unusual circumstances. Or to an unusual mental disposition, or whatever. One can always find convenient excuses not to do one’s duty.

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      The qualifiers are tricky. “Objective” is often understood as “such that anyone can be made to agree.” So, for example, “I have a yellow car” is objectively true in that sense (since I, in fact, do). But that’s quite different from absolute or transcendental or “written in a big book in God’s library.”

      Bob C imagines objectively (that is, absolutely) true morals. What about you? If so, can you give some?

  • Bob Calvan

    It is absolutely morally true that there is no situation where it is right (O.K) for you Bob to torture a little baby for your own personal pleasure..That is an absolute moral truth that is universal and invarient.

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      Is that the correct bin to put that in? Or does it make more sense to say that such an act is universally rejected because of a common moral instinct? We are all the same species, after all; it’s not surprising that we react similarly to a given provocation.

      Obviously, the benefit of my explanation is that it’s 100% natural. We understand and accept instinct–including the instincts for fairness, compassion, commiseration, etc. that we see in other primates.

      But a supernatural something-or-other that defines moral truths? Wow–that’s a big claim with no precedent.

      The plausible natural explanation always trumps the supernatural explanation.

  • Bob Calvan

    Notice he never answered the question?

    Bob is there ever a situation where you torturing a baby for your own personal pleasure O.K?
    Is it absolutly wrong for you Bob, to tourture a baby for your own pleasure?

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      Bob is there ever a situation where you torturing a baby for your own personal pleasure O.K?

      In my opinion, no.

      Is it absolutly wrong for you Bob, to tourture a baby for your own pleasure?

      Not that I see! Where is this “absolute” thing coming from??

      Ya gotta show me the evidence before I’m going to believe that there’s a source of these absolute constraints.

      And I hope you see that something can be wrong to me without it being absolutely wrong. Big difference–the former is natural and understandable. As for the latter, where does this come from?

  • Bob Calvan

    If there is NO situation ( as you agreed) where it is OK for you to torture a baby for your own pleasure..That makes it Absolute..If a situation exsisted it would not be Absolute, because another conditon would be viable. But there is no condition or situation..It is Absolutly wrong for you to torture a baby for youe own personal pleasure..

    • RandomFunction2

      to the Bobs,

      I think you two are quibbling on words. For Bob absolute morality just means that morality is not grounded in God. It does not mean that no rule is universal and without exceptions.

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      Universal moral truth? Or universally-held moral instinct? Both explain this passionate insistence that torture is wrong, but one of them demands a supernatural something-or-other to ground the morals. The natural explanation is sufficient.

      If, instead, you imagine a supernatural source of morals, show me the evidence. If you have no evidence, stop claiming that it exists.

  • Guglielmo Marinaro

    If we say that morality depends on the decrees of a supernatural being, the question then arises, why should we pay any attention to the decrees of that supernatural being? – assuming, that is, that we have a means of ascertaining what those decrees are, which itself is debatable. If the answer is, because those decrees are right, the further question then arises, what makes those decrees right?

    • RandomFunction2

      To GM,

      Actually, thomist philosophers, who have strongly influenced the shape of catholic moral theology, claim that God’s will is made manifest in our natural inclinations. Because of course nature is God’s creation, and he created it wisely, with each being aiming at its natural end. People are no exception: they have a natural end, which is to behave reasonably and ethically, to pay their duties to society and to know the truth, especially about the supreme being, who alone can meet their need for happiness. And revelation does not in itself add new content to the rational principles of morality. Rather, it confirms them, strengthens them and gives them meaning.

      • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

        RF2: These Christians say that our moral instincts drive us to act in a godly way; those Christians say that our moral instincts are a hideous reflection of The Fall®, which is only to be expected.

        I applaud what appears to be an optimistic view of things, but it seems to me that the Bible simply reflects the inclinations of the reader (like a mirror).

  • RandomFunction2

    Hi Bob,

    Or maybe the Bible does not give all the answers and theologians need to fill the blanks. Of course what they say must be compatible with what is contained in the Bible.

    • http://galileounchained.com Bob Seidensticker

      OK, but now you’re sounding like an atheist. An atheist will take good wisdom from wherever he finds it–from the Bible, from the Bhagavad Gita, from Socrates. He consults his instincts, he consults history, and he consults his fellow citizens.

      And that’s how we have modern society. No supernatural explanation required.

      • RandomFunction2

        Hi Bob,

        For the Christian, the Bible is the standard for belief and ethics, but the standard is incomplete in itself. That’s why there is room for theological argument. For the atheist, the Bible is at best a literary classic, but by no means a standard.

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