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God ♥ Genocide

William Lane Craig plays chessThe nation of Israel when it left Egypt was enormous, if the Bible is to be believed. There were 600,000 men—that is, potential soldiers—which suggest close to two million in the entire company (Ex. 12:37).

To get an idea of how many that is, the Sinai peninsula, in which the Israelites spent forty years of exile, is a hundred miles wide. If the Israelites held hands, their human chain could cross the Sinai ten times.

The Exodus and genocide

No archeological evidence has been found for the Exodus. Yes, it happened a long time ago, but deserts preserve things—buried bodies, for example. God declared that all the adults would die in the desert and be denied access to the Promised Land (Num. 14:30). Since the Israelites didn’t cremate their dead, that’s over a million bodies that should be in the Sinai but, despite our searching, aren’t.

We can put this population count to another use. Let’s assume flat population growth so that the Israelites entered Palestine with two million people. Moses says,

When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites [map here], seven nations larger and stronger than you—and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally (Deut. 7:1–2).

Seven nations, each bigger than the two-million-strong Israelites? Seven nations to be destroyed totally? Do the math—that puts the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust in perspective.

Of course, you could do what I do and conclude that the Holocaust is history and the Old Testament stories of the exodus and conquest of Canaan are just stories. That removes the moral cloud, but it turns the Bible into just another book of religious fiction, a buffet at which Christians can take or leave according to their fancy.

What Would William Lane Craig Do?

I always like to get an analysis of a cloudy biblical issue from philosopher William Lane Craig. Here’s what he says about God’s genocide.

I think it’s just dishonest when people like Richard Dawkins portray Yahweh … as this moral monster. These highly singular commands [to commit genocide] need to be read against the background of the whole of the Old Testament, which includes the great moral law that is given by god, which is head and shoulders above other ancient near eastern moral or legal codes like the Code of Hammurabi and so forth. It’s against the backdrop of the prophets, which explain god’s compassion for the poor and the oppressed and the orphans and the widows. (Source: “Richard Dawkins and Driving Out the Canaanites” @ 4:00)

Dishonest? Let’s see who’s dishonest. Consider fun Bible quotes like this one:

So Joshua subdued the whole region. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD had commanded (see Joshua 10:28–40).

The Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, written around 1772 BCE, probably preceded the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Mosaic law by centuries. In fact, many scholars think that the Code inspired some of the Mosaic law. For example, the Bible’s “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” is found there. However, it has nothing like the Bible’s genocide.

Craig will respond that this is cherry picking and that the Old Testament offsets the genocide and slavery with compassionate demands like, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). I agree—looking only at the Bible’s savage side doesn’t give a complete picture—but of course Craig wants to cherry pick in the other direction. A balanced look shows the Bible to be what you’d expect from the blog of an ancient tribe. It reflects the morality of the time. There’s no need to imagine a supernatural source.

And why is a balanced look at the Bible the correct approach when God himself doesn’t do that? One error and God sends you to hell. The godly approach would be to find one moral error in the Bible and reject any claims for supernatural inspiration.

This entire interview with Craig is a rich vein of crazy, but let me give just a few highlights.

These Israeli soldiers would be prosecuted for war crimes if this [Canaanite genocide] were to occur today. (5:40)

Yes they would, and what does that tell you? Are you a moral relativist, where you say that genocide is reprehensible from our standpoint but wasn’t from the different perspective back then? Or are you an objectivist who says that genocide is always wrong? In that case, tell me whether our attitude about genocide is wrong today or Israel’s God-given approach was wrong back then.

Craig tries to minimize the damage

If [this] is a good objection, what does it prove? What it would prove would be that the Bible has an error in it, that biblical inerrancy isn’t right, and that would force us to adjust our doctrine of inspiration, but it wouldn’t prove that God didn’t exist, it wouldn’t prove that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead (7:48).

He’s trying to sacrifice the pawn of biblical inerrancy in this chess game to preserve the queen of God’s existence. Great—let’s take that pawn. But no one thought that the queen was under attack. This is clumsy misdirection on Craig’s part. What’s under attack is the bishop of God being a morally perfect being. Craig’s own book tells us that God orders genocide, which makes clear that he’s not. Let’s take that bishop as well.

About God ordering the death of everyone, including the children, Craig says:

God, as the author and giver of life has the authority to give and take life as he chooses (11:10).

So God has no obligation to the people he created, and he can do with them whatever he wants without moral obligation. A human life is then to God what a sand castle is to us, and each of us can destroy our creations without moral error.

Incredible—this is what religion does to good people. It forces them to justify insanity. Like the defense lawyer for a Mafia boss, Craig spins every bit of evidence to fit his presupposition. He removes himself as a credible critic.

As a thought experiment, imagine that I created a hundred jobs. Could I just eliminate them for no business reason because I created them, putting those employees out on the street, without any moral consideration? Or suppose at every performance review, I flipped a coin to see if that person would keep their job. I’m the giver of the job and have the authority to give or take it as I choose, right?

The elementary moral truth that every child knows but that Craig’s religion has forced him to suppress is that there’s a difference between living things (like people) and nonliving things (like sand castles).

Craig could respond that God’s ways are not our ways. That may be, but first we need to conclude that God exists. Given the information that we have, the God of the Old Testament is, like Dawkins says, a capriciously malevolent bully.

Ladies and gentleman, beware of these scamsters—
especially scamsters in religious garb—
quoting the Bible. I mean, run from them.
They are all over the place.
— Pat Robertson

Photo credit: William Pitcher

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Jason

    “Craig will respond that this is cherry picking and that the Old Testament offsets the genocide and slavery with compassionate demands like, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).”

    Of course for this passage to be particularly compassionate, “neighbor” would have to refer to all human neighbors and not just to Israelite neighbors.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Jason: Good catch! I should’ve put that in.

  • Richard S. Russell

    Bob, I think your thot experiment is flawed. IMO, yes, if you created the jobs, you could eliminate them and put a hundred people out of work, just on a whim. If you’ve got a lick of business sense, of course, you’d only do that if you had a solid economic motivation. But would you be well within your rights to do so? Absolutely!

    But jobs are not people and don’t have the same moral standing as people. For instance, once upon a time one of the most popular jobs in the USA, by count of actual participants, was “slave”. I hear hardly anybody bemoaning the fact that all those jobs were slautered in the great genocide of 1865.

    So I’d advise you to either find a better analogy or drop the analogizing altogether.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Richard: I can imagine petty reasons to drop a hundred people from the payroll. Even if you had good economic reasons, only a sociopath would drop the people without some consideration for alternatives (can we find new jobs for them elsewhere within the company? for example).

      And, that’s why sociopaths can make effective CEOs or generals–they don’t let the personal issues hold them back.

      But I’m not sure what your concern is. Your concerns are usually on target, so help me see your point. What I’m saying is that, since we see a moral error with the attitude “I created the job so I can kill it whenever I feel like it,” we should see error with “I created that person so I can kill it whenever I feel like it.”

      • Richard S. Russell

        My point is that I don’t see any moral error with the attitude “I created the job, so I can kill it whenever I feel like it.”

        Nor do I think most other people would see it as a moral failing, either — insensitive, perhaps; maybe bad business; possibly outright stupid; but neither illegal nor immoral — so it doesn’t help make your case very well.

        • Kellen

          I’m a little unsure about that. I was seeing the moral error Bob was talking about as not caring what happens to the fired employee. You’re correct to say it isn’t illegal to fire them on a whim (or if it is, the laws are probably so full of loopholes as to make no difference), but not immoral? I can’t see it. A guy who arbitrarily fires his employees is inflicting unnecessary suffering on others purely for personal gain.

          So, I guess the “moral error” that I saw wasn’t so much “I created the job, so I can kill it whenever I want.” (Since you’re right, jobs are not human lives. And I get that killing an entire population… or ordering your worshipers to do the dirty work for you… is way more immoral than firing a hundred people.) Rather, the moral error lies in the inferred preamble to that statement: “You’ve done great at your job, but I’m going to let you go now because I don’t feel like paying you anymore. What’s that? You won’t be able to make the rent, or get braces for your kids, or pay your wife’s hospital bills? I miss the part where that’s my problem.”

        • Richard S. Russell

          “You are filling the job of Cashier #3. We now have automated scanning machines that the customers can use to speed their way thru the checkout line, so we no longer need 3 cashiers. Thus, as store manager, I am killing the job of Cashier #3. You personally may qualify for a different position in the store, but the job you’ve held for the last 4 years is dead and gone as of next Monday.”

          Job killed. Great moral failing or ordinary business decision?

          Are employers morally obliged to preserve every job they’ve ever created, just because somebody happens to be occupying it at the moment?

          I think you’ll have a hard time finding takers for that proposition. Hell, I’m pretty close to being a socialist myself, and I don’t buy it. Imagine how much success you’d have peddling it to an old-line Republican free-enterprise type.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          “You are filling the job of Cashier #3. We now have automated scanning machines that the customers can use to speed their way thru the checkout line, so we no longer need 3 cashiers.

          “You are filling the job of Cashier #3. We are firing you for no reason. We have a long list of replacements, and we’ll pick one of those to replace you tomorrow.”

          Job killed. Great moral failing or ordinary business decision?

          Ordinary business decision, but that’s not what I was talking about. I was talking about the moral failing kind.

        • Richard S. Russell

          Well, Bob, that’s just tautologous. “Morally deplorable decisions are morally deplorable.” X = X. Who could argue with that?

          What makes them morally deplorable? You state that simply killing off a job — in particular a job that its killer created in the 1st place — is all it takes. I call shenanigans.

          You paint this imaginary scenario where somebody is fired for no reason at all. Really? No reason at all? How often do you think that ever happens in real life?

          And, even if it happened every day in every city in America, so what? Where is it written that Person X owes a job to Person Y. Maybe Person Z needs the job more than Person Y and the greater good is served by making sure he or she gets it.

          What X owes Y is a fair wage and decent working conditions for the time that Y actually puts in on the job, plus whatever additional benefits that the law requires or that Y or Y’s union has been able to negotiate. That’s it! X does not owe Y lifetime employment or anything at all beyond Y’s termination date. Including any explanation for why Y is being fired or laid off. The economy would be completely fucked up if it was riddled top to bottom with featherbedding jobs no longer needed in a modern workplace.

          You know who thot otherwise? The original saboteurs — the workers who tried to halt the march of progress by hurling their wooden sabots into the works of the machines that had replaced them. Are those really the moral exemplars you choose to align yourself with?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Richard:

          You state that simply killing off a job — in particular a job that its killer created in the 1st place — is all it takes. I call shenanigans.

          Killing a job, knowing that it will cause hurt, for no good business reason sounds like a morally deficient act to me. Your mileage may vary.

          You paint this imaginary scenario where somebody is fired for no reason at all. Really? No reason at all? How often do you think that ever happens in real life?

          Very rarely, but that’s not the point. It’s a thought experiment.

          Finding a good analogy is tough. Consider what we’re starting with: God commands genocide. What more can you say, right? God is obviously an SOB. But jokers like WLC handwave some excuse. So I’m trying to find an analogy in the human domain that they’ll agree is bad.

          I could say: suppose I killed my child. I made her, right? But I didn’t make her like you made your pottery plate.

          I could say: suppose I killed my pet. It’s mine, right? But again, I didn’t make the pet. My ownership isn’t quite the same as God making humans.

          I could say, as you did: suppose I destroy a plate. I made it, right? Problem here is that it’s not alive.

          In the case of a job, I did make it, and destroying it can cause injury to people. I agree with you that there can be business reasons. I support that. I’m imagining the case where there is no such justification–where the job cancellation was capricious or malicious.

          If you have a better analogy, get us off this mad merry-go-round and tell us.

        • Richard S. Russell

          A better analogy would have been no analogy at all.

          If you’re trying to make Point P, and you think Analogy Q will help make that point, you’ve missed the mark if you have to keep going back to P to find points that will make Analogy Q clearer.

          Here’s what you originally wrote:

          As a thought experiment, imagine an equivalent. Imagine that I created a hundred jobs. Could I just eliminate them because I created them, putting those employees out on the street, without any moral consideration? Or suppose at every performance review, I flipped a coin to see if that person would keep their job. I’m the giver of the job and have the authority to give or take it as I choose, right?

          First off, nowhere in there did you say “for no good reason”, nor was it implicit in what you did say.

          Secondly, even if you had, the answer to both of your questions would still have been “yup”.

          Third, I’ll bet a hundred bux that a fairly conducted survey of average Americans would back me up on Point #2, that the job creator had the authority to end the job anytime he or she wanted, and it wouldn’t be morally reprehensible, even if the surveyees were personally uneasy about it, as you are.

          Fourth, and most important, I take serious issue with your imagining the analogy as being “equivalent” (your word) to genocide. Killing a job is not equivalent to killing a person, if for no other reason than that other jobs are likely available, whereas other lives are not.

          So: My recommendation is to discard this analogy as something that dilutes and distracts from your main point, which is that genocide is a bad thing. Really, you don’t need to say any more than that. The point makes itself.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Richard:

          A better analogy would have been no analogy at all.

          If the analogy sucked, I agree that it does more harm than good. I still think it’s on target, however.

          Sounds like you’re saying that the boss can eliminate a job for any reason, even capricious and non-business-related ones, without moral fault. I don’t see it that way.

          Third, I’ll bet a hundred bux that a fairly conducted survey of average Americans would back me up on Point #2, that the job creator had the authority to end the job anytime he or she wanted, and it wouldn’t be morally reprehensible, even if the surveyees were personally uneasy about it, as you are.

          And this is the interesting question. If you’re right, then my analogy wasn’t helpful.

          Fourth, and most important, I take serious issue with your imagining the analogy as being “equivalent” (your word) to genocide.

          I meant “a parallel to the genocide issue in the human domain.” You’re right that that was poorly worded. I’ve changed the post.

          Really, you don’t need to say any more than that. The point makes itself.

          You’d think so, wouldn’t you? And yet here we have WLC, a dude with two doctorates, who sees no problem at all with embracing God and his genocide. Trying to make clear something as obvious as that the sky is blue is what drove me to the analogy.

        • Richard S. Russell

          Trying to make clear something as obvious as that the sky is blue is what drove me to the analogy.

          Of course, between nighttime, heavy cloud cover, and the occasional eclipse, the sky is actually black more of the time than it’s blue. It’s sometimes the unexpected consequences of the analogies that trip them up.

  • Jason

    Richard,
    Why are you comparing losing a job to being freed from slavery? Clearly one is usually a detriment and one a boon. This is a side note to the main issue, but since you are criticizing Bob’s analogy, I thought it important to point out.

    Actually since we are supposedly made by God in his image, a better analogy would be a parent killing a child. So any religious person who says that God has the right to kill his people should also admit that a parent has the right to kill a child (unborn or born). And actually killing an unborn child for health or economic reasons sounds much more reasonable to me that all out genocide against Israel’s enemies.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Jason: Presumably the Christian would say that the parents didn’t actually create the child. That’s why I chose the job as an example.

      • Jason

        You are probably right, but that pretty much rules out human beings being responsible for creating anything. After all, from the religious perspective everything (including jobs) ultimately comes from God, right?

      • Kodie

        Presumably, that line of thought came about to keep parents from killing their own children. I mean, I can imagine at one time that nobody really thought twice, and someone said hey now and they all decided they needed the bogeyman to be the only reason they can think to reason out why you shouldn’t do anything you really want to do, like strangle the life out of your kid. They certainly defend the right to throw their children out of the house, and any Christian gay kid of such parents seems to know where they have to eat until they’re 18. Hating your own kid is ok. Despising them is ok. Harassing them is ok. And beating them when they “need it” is ok. But liiiiiiiiife is precious. GOD MADE LIFE! Also there are laws against homicide. We’re civilized, we always stop short, because god. (And the laws!)

    • Richard S. Russell

      Bob was the one who said that losing your job was an unmitigated downer, and the person who eliminated the job was some kind of moral failure. I simply pointed out that “slave” was a job description, and people who had that job pulled out from under them probably didn’t think that killing that particular job was a bad thing at all.

      • Jason

        Slavery is not an occupation. I’m not sure what else to say about that. My understanding of Bob’s point is that a business owner who recklessly fires people (when there might be other options or it is unnecessary or perhaps just to show off) is doing something hurtful even though he had other choices. The analogy is based on the idea that a business owner, just like a God, has some authority over people and is able to affect their lives for better or worse (and of course firing someone is not inherently hurtful). A god who is all powerful (and thus surely has other choices) would be a pretty cruel god if he chose to recklessly kill whole tribes of people, which in fact the Bible very clearly says God did.

        Also, be clear that analogies are not evidence. Analogies are simply ways of illustrating points. They are never proof in and of themselves and are never perfect. Bob’s original analogy is most flawed in a way that you haven’t addressed. Killing people and/or condemning them to hell is WAY more hurtful than firing people (regardless of the reasons).

        • Richard S. Russell

          “Also, be clear that analogies are not evidence. Analogies are simply ways of illustrating points.”

          Agreed. But a good analogy will illustrate a murky or complicated point with one that is clear and unambiguous. Relating human lives to jobs doesn’t do that.

          Let me give you a different one. Let’s say I take a pottery class. In it I make a plate, which I paint with a simple floral design before firing it. I take it home and eat off of it half a dozen times before deciding that it was a pretty pathetic piece of work that I don’t want hanging around to remind me of what a crappy potter I am. So I throw it away. I’ve destroyed something that I myself created. Great moral failing? Ethical no-no? Am I obliged to keep it around forever because it’s my own handiwork?

          As to slavery not being an occupation, would you go along with me in saying that it qualifies as work?

        • Jason

          “Let’s say I take a pottery class. In it I make a plate…So I throw it away. I’ve destroyed something that I myself created. Great moral failing?”

          Pottery does not feel pain. Morality makes no sense without sentient beings.

          “As to slavery not being an occupation, would you go along with me in saying that it qualifies as work?”
          Sure, slavery is work. But then that misses the point of the original analogy. Analogies are not supposed to be fool proof. In this case, the analogy is that god is like a boss, not a slave master. Firing someone unnecessarily is harmful just like killing them through a supernatural plan necessarily causes pain and loss. Freeing someone from slavery makes no sense in this analogy. But I agree that someone could come up with a very good analogy comparing God to a slave master. :)

        • Kodie

          The reason slavery is not a job description but is labor is because slaves were people who weren’t regarded as people. It was not so much firing all the slaves from their jobs as outlawing and ceasing use of a particular machine. In this case, the machines were human beings and liberated to be free people, who could probably get a job working on the same farm they always worked because the work still needed to be done; however, they’d be paid employees, and only sometime later, fired and replaced by actual machines. I’m not saying that’s exactly what happened, but I assume plantation owners still needed the work done and don’t just say “fuck it all” out of spite. The end of slavery had a potential to create jobs by hiring former slaves, or non-slaves leaving vacancies elsewhere (in an ideal world). It’s not the same as a corporation having 1000 employees on Monday and cutting 500 jobs by Friday, leaving 500 people with no job or income.

          Slaves did work, but let’s say so does a computer. Jobs cut are fairly regularly replaced by a machine (like a computer) that could do the work of paying salary to X number of people. Slaves were technically people but regarded as machines (or, like an ox), so emancipation works the other way around. We’re not firing oxen when a farmer decides to go with a motorized plow. Do you not think the oxen were doing a nice job, hard work, now where will they go? I don’t think it went so well for the oxen exactly. Without slaves, the farmer still needs manual labor and he has to hire it, doesn’t he?

        • Richard S. Russell

          So, Jason, you think it’s infliction of pain that causes the moral problem here. But suppose I suggested that it was wastefulness and destruction that were the culpables. After all, if I take a sledgehammer to your Mercedes, I assure you it feels no pain, but would you then classify it as morally OK?

          I would think that, by now, the length of the path you and I have traveled down this road shows that Bob’s original analogy is riddled with problems. The point of an analogy is to make things clearer, not to provide a distraction by being quibblable over how relevant it is. And this one wasn’t very relevant.

        • Jason

          “So, Jason, you think it’s infliction of pain that causes the moral problem here. But suppose I suggested that it was wastefulness and destruction that were the culpables. After all, if I take a sledgehammer to your Mercedes, I assure you it feels no pain, but would you then classify it as morally OK?”

          Mostly likely it wouldn’t be justified because the person who owns the car would be hurt by the loss of property.

          “I would think that, by now, the length of the path you and I have traveled down this road shows that Bob’s original analogy is riddled with problems. ”

          You were the first to quibble with the analogy. You got sidetracked trying to dissect the analogy instead of responding to the basic point it was making (i.e. that God causes unnecessary harm, if we are to accept the OT.)

        • Richard S. Russell

          I agree that our time would have been better spent discussing the basic point, so trying to illustrate it with a bad analogy took us down a regrettable sidetrack, wouldn’t you say?

          Bear in mind that you and I are the sort of people who are willing to discuss it. Most readers, upon encountering an analogy that they’d simply dismiss out of hand as not comporting with their own experience or worldview, would stop right there and write off the rest of what Bob was trying to say.

  • Marcion

    Have christians ever explained why creating something gives you total authority over it? The closest I can find is Paul’s sociopathic rant in romans 9 about how god can do whatever he wants because he’s more powerful than we are. It seems totally arbitrary to me, and only seems to come up when christians need a way to defend the indefensible.

  • Natalie

    I don’t have any problem with the Hebrew writings — they are just like the writings of a lot of other primitive, superstitious people. A mix of cosmology, when they didn’t have a clue as to what science was, bragging about their tremendous victories in battle (but they didn’t talk much about the ones they lost, except to weep when they were carried off to exile), a probably pretty accurate description of their culture, including their laws, which we have no need to follow today. I’m actually more perturbed by the propaganda in the Christian Bible, because it has a whole lot more power as used by its followers who are trying to get all of us to believe in the equally ridiculous lies it propagates. And don’t forget the Qur’an, which has oversimplified stories derived from the aforementioned 2, and advocates a lot of violence as well. So I submit that the only way to view these books is as myths and legends, and if you SHOULD happen upon a gem here and there, YES, cherry pick it, because you don’t want to have to haul away a load of shit along with your pearl!

    • MNb

      I agree with you as long as we assume that these stories are man-made. In fact I like huge parts of the Bible a lot better based on this very assumption. My favourite is Revelations, which according to believers is so difficult. I think it very funny with all the goofy imagery.
      But I immediately have a serious problem if someone assumes these stories have something to tell us, are still relevant, have eternal value, because of divine inspiration. This applies equally to literalists and fundies as to liberal christians. Taken as metaphors the stories with all those massacres still suck major balls.

      • Natalie

        Well, if Greek and Roman, and Norse and Native American stories are allowed to be mythology, why not Jewish stories? Having been born and raised Jewish, AND having a head on my shoulders (at least most of the time), I tend to feel violated when Christians take those writings literally, and then presume to tell me what I should believe. I mean, yeah, I can agree that the story of Cain and Abel COULD be interpreted to mean don’t kill your brother, but there is a lot of mythological dreck in there too. Even that can be interesting, as a picture into an ancient culture, but I decided a long time ago that I don’t want to LIVE in that culture!! :-)

  • MNb

    “That removes the moral cloud”
    I disagree here. Exactly because the story was conceived as a myth, ie we must to try the metaphorical meaning, I think the story of the conquest of Israel highly disturbing. The only way I can explain it is by comparing with the genocides committed by Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. The difference is exactly nobody in our 21st Century think these men made a relevant point on ethics. But according to all christians – including the liberal ones – this OT stories have still something to tell us.
    AfaIc that’s a huge and dark moral cloud indeed.
    Given the rest I probably understood you wrongly.

    “it wouldn’t prove that God didn’t exist”
    Correct. And I don’t know any atheist who claims this. But it does prove that a 21st Century believer rather should prefer pastafarianism. Still I don’t see Craig to convert, so this remains a problem for him and any other christian.

    “Craig could respond that God’s ways are not our ways.”
    My answer would be that that is a good reason to reject god’s ways.

  • JohnH

    Last I checked the mortality rate for being born was 100%, everyone that lives will die and if God is in control over the universe then when everyone dies is completely up to Him. So all deaths ever are attributable to God in a greater or lesser extent.

    • Kodie

      That’s a really big IF. But I don’t think there are degrees IF god is in total control. If a murderer kills me, god controlled the murderer. If I get run over by a car, god controlled the driver. He controlled me. I walked in the street because my friend suddenly texted me and as I reached for my phone, I stepped off the curb, so god is in control of my friend to time that text to distract me. If god really wants to kill me, he is really stupid at it too. Making up all these ways to die when just suddenly when it’s my turn would suffice.

    • trj

      “They were all going to die eventually anyway” – not the best excuse I’ve heard for genocide.

      • JohnH

        God is responsible for when all people die, Him ordering Israelites to kill people in the land because the Israelites weren’t able to have them around without worshiping idols seems to me to make God no more or less guilty than for the Black Death, Smallpox, Spanish Flu, AIDS, or Ebola.

        • trj

          So God specifically ordering mass murder makes him “no more or less guilty” for people’s deaths? Really? Deliberately cutting a life short – much less the lives of millions, if we are to trust the Bible’s own account – doesn’t reflect on morality in any way?

          Wow. Just wow.

        • Kodie

          To be fair, JohnH seems to be equating the morality of genocide with some of the most terrible epidemic diseases. So “no more or less” moral than the god who would create the most terrible epidemic diseases just means genocide isn’t worse than EBOLA and it’s not better than Smallpox. Whereas earthquakes may be sometimes even worse and sometimes somewhat better (meaning not as many people die in them, not how they die) and cancer isn’t communicable but kills indiscriminately across ages, races, nations, and income, so I don’t know if that’s worse. I mean, finding the worst ways, and so many of them, to plan and control someone to die vs. quick and painless, JohnH seems to make this god no more or less moral than the morally bankrupt torturer. That is a really low bar, but let’s establish that this is how moral JohnH deems god to be.

        • trj

          @Kodie
          I did wonder if JohnH thinks God deliberately inflicts such diseases on us (which is the only way I can make his juxtaposition between disease and deliberate murder make even a little sense). In that case I tend to agree with him; God is an amoral asshole either way.

        • JohnH

          God is guilty, as much as that word makes sense, for all deaths everywhere, assuming death is a bad thing and etc. I disagree with Kodie’s assessment of the strict degree of guilt but in doing so am running contrary to every other Christian denomination not my own and the disagreement is a technicality.

          Death however is not the worst possible outcome, regardless of how painful or when in someones life it happens. Death happens to everyone so we might as well blame God for everyone breathing or eating. What a terribly awful irredeemable thing it is that we all must consume pieces of some previously living thing, even Vegans and Jains, in order to survive! God (a being you don’t think exists) must be an amoral —– because we all must consume O2 and exhale CO2! Yes, the pain and separation from loved ones associated with death is bad and yes, we should not kill others or commit genocide as that is bad, but death is not the end and not the worst possible outcome (as we all die anyways) and God already is responsible for when each of us dies and how.

          Having said that I do have to wonder about the similarities in instances in regards to Catholic history for 1500+ years and Israelite history in the time frame in question. I hope both those committing the actions in question and the scribes writing it down were completely certain that this really was what God wanted. Same was with other current groups and their actions that they claim to be from God.

  • John Kesler

    Consider the Gibeonites. Only because they used trickery and convinced Israel that they lived outside the bounds of Canaan were they allowed to live (Joshua 9). They were put to forced labor and lived peacefully with the Israelites, with no record that they ever betrayed Israel or attempted to turn Israel away from Yahweh worship. In fact, Yahweh sent a three-year famine on Israel (2 Samuel 21) because allegedly King Saul killed Gibeonites, a situation which was only remedied when seven of Saul’s sons were “impaled…on the mountain before Yahweh” (21:9). The point is that if the fear of Israel was this great that the Gibeonites were willing to peacefully submit to Israel, how many other people may have been willing to do the same? Even if one argues that the Gibeonites were an exception to the wicked-Canaanite rule, why didn’t the omniscient Yahweh make an exemption for the Gibeonites from the outset, since he knew that it wouldn’t be necessary to slaughter them and Israel would get the benefit of the labor?

  • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

    Why say genocide when you mean conquest?

    • JohnH

      Because conquest that includes extermination of the conquered is now called genocide.

    • Kodie

      Really, Karl.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Karl:

      WLC tried to play that game as well:

      God’s command was not actually to just go into the land and exterminate everybody. Rather, the command was to drive the people out of the land, to drive the Canaanites out of Canaan and take possession of the land for the Jewish state. There was no command to pursue the Canaanites and hunt them down and kill them.

      But you know the hideous verses from the OT as well as any atheist does, I bet–the ones about keeping the virgins for yourself, killing everything that breathes, and all that. Yes, they wanted the land (wasn’t there a commandment against stealing … ?) but they had to kill the owners first.

      Listening to WLC do his song and dance, trying to justify why his omnibenevolent god is justified in demanding genocide, makes my ears bleed.

      • trj

        There was no command to pursue the Canaanites and hunt them down and kill them.

        Man, I’m used to WLC being “creative” in his apologetics, but that’s just bold-faced lying right there.

      • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

        Bob,
        There are a couple of issues here. First is the issue of “genocide” being thrown around rather too loosely for my liking. Were people being killed because of their race? Or for other reasons?

        Secondly, you seem to be reading the accounts both through a modern Western lens, and in a very flat way. This does not help either understanding, or meaningful engagement and discussion about the points which I presume you want to raise.

        • Slow Learner

          Karl, at the very best it is unprovoked conquest and annexation of territory, followed by massacres and ethnic cleansing.
          At worst it is flat-out genocide.
          Why do you want to quibble between the two? Both are far more morally reprehensible than what most humans manage to get up to in their entire lives.

        • Kodie

          What kind of other reasons are there for killing everyone who lives on the land you want to take? I love the excuse that we’re looking at it through a modern Western lens. Romanticizing it and justifying it through the ancient epic righteous religious warriors lens is not great, Karl. Besides which, you don’t get to say “that’s just how it was then” for some things, and then defend stuff like the eye-witness stories because we’re cutting these ancient people for being primitive and less intelligent than we are now that we know better. You are romanticizing an act where people (I don’t see god in this equation at all) used their god to motivate people to commit a hostile and murderous takeover. And what was it these people did that was so bad? Did it say in the bible that they were bad and that’s why it was ok to kill them? That’s what is wrong when you believe everything the bible says.

          You and your god, your god who sends people to hell for being an atheist or being a homosexual or whatever, like, hey, that’s irrational. What could have been so bad about the people genocided in the bible that you feel righteous to defend it as perfectly acceptable? Plus you are trying to squirm out of it on a technicality since you do not see it as a race of people. GEN-ocide means massive murder of PEOPLE. It doesn’t have to be a race of people – and you know race is a social construct, not a biological order, right? Killing a category of people is genocide. Homosexuals are a category of people. Women is a category of people. Jews are a category of people. Lawyers are a category of people. If there is something about a category of people that makes it ok to kill every single one that you find, please explain in detail why your thoughts on the subject without your modern Western lens take precedence.

          Why do you think it’s acceptable to kill people generally, so long as they fit into a category of people who inconveniently occupy the land you want to take from them. How bad could they have been to justify it, and why do you justify it? When you and your god agree that eternal punishment or genocide is a great way to punish people for looking at you funny, then you go and saying “modern Western people” to wave it away, I wonder what the absolute EFF you are thinking.

        • trj

          you seem to be reading the accounts both through a modern Western lens, and in a very flat way.

          So you’re saying that to determine the morality of God’s commands we need to look at factors such as society and time period?

          So much for that whole “objective morality” thing.

          Also, “Western lens” or not, how the f*ck was it moral in any context for the Israelites to assault and wipe out neighbouring peoples and steal their land?

        • Reginald Selkirk

          Secondly, you seem to be reading the accounts both through a modern Western lens, and in a very flat way.

          Don’t you love it when theists plead for relativism?

        • Kodie

          My favorite is when Karl wants to be excepted as reasonable among other Christian extreme of less thoroughly literate and well-thought-out Christians. Honestly, given what I already know of Karl, I was surprised that he is in favor of genocide so long as we call it something else for his comfort. Even Rick didn’t do quite that poorly, merely saying there are worse things on the front burner, and Christians don’t even know everything.

        • MNb

          “Don’t you love it …”
          Yeah, it was the first thing I noticed – what with all the claims of eternal values and divine inspiration?
          Again: from a secular, scientific point of view these stories fully understandable. Genocide was normal back then. The Israelites needed them to make their powerful neighbors (Egypt and Assyria/Babylon) clear how bad ass they were.
          It’s when you argue that they are relevant for us today, literally or metaphorically, because of god, that the problems begin.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          There are a couple of issues here. First is the issue of “genocide” being thrown around rather too loosely for my liking.

          I use it because God orders the killing of (1) everyone in a (2) particular tribe. Isn’t that genocide?

          Were people being killed because of their race? Or for other reasons?

          I’m not sure that the “why?” is relevant. If you don’t like the color of their skin, or their taste in hats is offensive to God, or you just covet their land, does it matter?

          Secondly, you seem to be reading the accounts both through a modern Western lens, and in a very flat way.

          Sure, I have my biases. If you see a specific problem here, point it out.

        • Richard S. Russell

          [The term] “genocide” [is] being thrown around rather too loosely for my liking. Were people being killed because of their race? Or for other reasons?

          Really? Your “liking” for mass murder turns on whether the motives of the mass murderers are acceptable to you or not? Just out of curiosity, what motives for mass murder are acceptable to you?

          Secondly, you seem to be reading the accounts both through a modern Western lens, and in a very flat way.

          Not sure what you mean by “flat way”, Karl, but I’m all for reading things thru a modern Western lens. We’ve had agriculture for about 10,000 years, literacy for perhaps 6,000, and the scientific method for maybe 500. They all represented progress, and they’ve led us to a level of civilization and sophistication undreamed of by the ancients whose lenses (had they even had lenses) you seem to prefer. No, thanks. I’ll view things from the modern perspective that our forebears have worked so hard to enable us to attain.

          Incidentally, just because the topic came up and I’d like to get in a gratuitous kick, none of that progress that led to modern civilization resulted from prayer, revelation, holy books, or miracles. It was 100% the work of our fellow human beings, often having to climb over mountains of roadblocks being thrown in their path by religion. No, I intend to take full advantage of it and move forward, not backward.

        • Kodie

          Well, he seems to be excusing ancient human civilizations in the same way we excuse, say, wolves or bears or bees or tigers. They literally had no better morality or constructive ideas and this is what they resort to without our modern “lens”, while still holding to the idea that mere bacteria are not acting naturally but guided by demons.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          My reasoning for wanting to avoid the word “genocide” is because it is a very emotionally loaded term. As is “mass murder” by the way. And I’m not convinced they are accurate terms. Would anyone here call the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki “genocide”? “Mass murder”?

        • Richard S. Russell

          Genocide should be an emotionally loaded term. So should war, rape, torture, and slavery. Civilized people everywhere should feel visceral disgust and loathing at the mere mention of the practices. That’s why I’ve strongly resisted attaching them to anything less than they deserve. A “wage slave” is not a slave. The “war on Christmas” is not a war. Today was not “torture at the office”. Those terms should never be cheapened by diluting their power thru reference to lesser offenses.

          Were Hiroshima and Nagasaki examples of genocide? I’d say no, because they took out only single cities, not entire nations or peoples. But mass murder? You damn betcha! War crimes? Damn straight! We prosecuted German and Japanese war losers for considerably less than we war winners shrugged off when we committed the crimes ourselves.

          But, by the flip side of the token whereby we shouldn’t cheapen these terms by using them for less horrific offenses, neither should we quail from calling a spade a spade when it’s justified. And the genocides of the Israelites — which they claimed were either commanded, condoned, or outright committed by their self-important, overbearing, arrogant war god Yahweh — totally qualify for the epithet. As well as the opprobrium which justly accompanies it.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          In the context of “driving out the Canaanites”, how does one explain the sparing of Rahab and her household, and the inclusion of Caleb (a Canaanite) as one of the major players on the Israelite side in the story of the conquest?

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Richard,
          I applaud you commitment to reserving these terms for their proper use. I agree that these terms should be emotionally loaded. My concern is that the term genocide was being used cheaply to get an emotional reaction (and I think the title of this post gives us a clue that that may have been the intention). I think one could quibble about whether the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings qualify as the same or not, but that would be quibbling.

          Many people would make the argument that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were justifiable in terms of saving many more lives by avoiding long-term bombing of Tokyo and other larger Japanese cities, and also a full-scale assault and invasion of Japan. Now I do believe there is a discussion to be had there and points can be made on both sides, but I hope that you can see the point that something that you classify as “mass murder” and “war crimes” could potentially be justifiable. If this is so for this case, then it could also be so for other cases.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          I’d ignore these as red herrings. The point is that God demanded genocide. Whether there were exceptions, whether the genocide was clumsily done and the tribes didn’t die out, whatever–who cares? The “omnibenevolent” creator of everyone is, by his own book, an SOB.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          I’d ignore these as red herrings.

          A perfect example of a “flat” reading. Dismiss anything that doesn’t fit your view as a red herring.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          Dismiss anything that doesn’t fit your view as a red herring.

          Gee–maybe I don’t understand what the term means. It’s providential that we have you to explain it. You tell me how a discussion about genocide–killing everything that breathes, remember?–is not being sidetracked by a question about a bombing that killed a teeny, tiny fraction of one percent of the “tribe” of Japanese.

          Contrast that with what the kind of thing that the Good Book says God orders: “Attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants” (1 Sam. 15:3).

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          My concern is that the term genocide was being used cheaply to get an emotional reaction

          And you see now that the Bible is clearly talking about genocide, right? No cheap anything.

  • Rick

    Bob,

    I accused you of beating the dead horse in another post last week and you claimed it caused you confusion. It seems to me you are doing it again, so let me try again.

    Here is your point as I understand it. Christians don’t have all the answers for all of the bad stuff in the Old Testament, therefore the Bible is all made up and there is no God. Got it. Maybe it’s time to move on to more compelling stuff.

    I’m a retired dumb fighter pilot. I’ve done some work in development as well, but I’m not as smart as an engineer (or you, in all likelihood.) What I care about is what works. Cause and effect. What makes the airplane perform its mission when I put in the proper inputs.

    So I look around me at the effects today of Christianity, and I see hospitals, relief efforts, soup kitchens, orphanages. I also see some charlatan crackpots on the fringe distorting the message for their own personal gain and oppose that as much as you do. They are by far the minority, but they are still wrong to do what they do.

    I look at the effects of atheism and I see genocides (85-100 million for Communism alone in China, USSR, and other Asian failures according to Wikipedia), forced abortions in China, religious persecution and murder in various places.

    I look at radicalized Islam and see Boston 2013, 9/11, the London Subway bombing, etc. On this topic, how many radicalized Islamic attacks have there been just in the last 30 days? Any idea? This source indicates there were 22. That’s 22 countries in which attacks took place. Over 177 separate attacks. Around 765 fatalities. Over 2,000 additional people injured. In the last 30 days. Surprise. Not just 4 in Boston, as bad as that was.

    I suggested there was a charging elephant in the room last week while you were beating the dead horse, and you scoffed, making jokes about it. If you want to deal with a religion that has real issues, look at radicalized Islam or atheism in history. (I know, you only want to beat up on your dead horse, “Christianity is bad.”)

    I’m grateful for folks like Sparkling Moon, who are opposed to violence within Islam. (I haven’t seen him explicitly condemn the violence done by radicalized Islam, but instead he tends to deny it is part of his religion. I’d like to see more condemnation by the moderates, but that is their call.)

    But you are missing the point about religion and violence and are completely out of battle if you are focusing on what happened 2,500+ years ago and ignoring the present day issues. You are in danger of becoming irrelevant with this tangent you so often bring up. Let’s figure out how to make the world in which we live a better place. Christianity, instrumental in the ending of slavery and numerous other evils in our society today is our best hope for that.

    We should be focused on what Jesus did 2,000 years ago to give us the hope of relationship with God, instead of on the most confusing aspects of the Old Testament. That is what I will try to keep reminding you about. Let’s get relevant. Boston was only one of those 177 attacks. And the topics of this blog post, confusing elements and all, occurred thousands of years ago. Let’s look forward and fix problems, not dwell on the past and ignore the hope Christianity provides.

    I don’t have all the answers. This post suggests you don’t either. Welcome to the club.

    • Bender

      So I look around me at the effects today of Christianity, and I see hospitals, relief efforts, soup kitchens, orphanages.

      None of those things is a christian invention. And you forgot other “effects” of christianity: the Crusades, the Inquisition, religious wars, etc.

      I look at the effects of atheism and I see genocides (85-100 million for Communism alone in China, USSR, and other Asian failures according to Wikipedia),

      That’s not atheism, that’s communism. Atheism is the lack of belief in gods. Communism is a polical system in which the state owns all means of production.

      forced abortions in China, religious persecution and murder in various places.

      And do you know who persecutes religious people? Other religious people.

      I look at radicalized Islam and see Boston 2013, 9/11, the London Subway bombing, etc.

      You have to thank secularism for that. 3 centuries ago you could still be killed in Europe for being the wrong kind of christian.

      Christianity, instrumental in the ending of slavery and numerous other evils in our society today is our best hope for that.

      Indeed. Christianity appeared, and only 19 centuries later slavery was gone. Just like that.

      • JohnH

        ” 3 centuries ago you could still be killed in Europe for being the wrong kind of christian.”

        I think it was a good deal more recent then 3 centuries ago. In the US it has only been 37 years since it became illegal to kill a certain religious group in a certain state of the Union

    • Kodie

      Karl Udy just suggested why call them genocide instead of conquests. Look after your own.

      Why call it terrorism? They are just trying to conquer us! What are we afraid of, if the Christian god is real? These violent a-holes come from, what you seem to think, is a wholly violent culture. We bomb the shit out of them every day also. Why call it genocide or terrorism when it’s just how it goes, let’s just see who wins and whose god could then be said to be on whose side?

      On the other hand, I would love to analyze all these issues. You are just waving your hand and passing the blame around. Islam has the greater record of violence nowadays, so let’s shift the focus so I don’t have to answer any more questions with non-answers. Seriously, Rick, Christianity is a huge problem, and furthermore, you point the big false finger at atheism for being the root of other bad regimes. Way to scapegoat. You are a peach, a saint, you haven’t caused any trouble, and you can only see the soup kitchens and hospitals from where you sit! Hospitals that don’t cover human health needs for their employees and dictate what everyone should do, according to them. Lack of freedom is a problem here that you’re not acknowledging. Christians get a lot of things wrong and you’re one of them. Forgive me, but when 9/11 happened, the slogan was “never forget,” so excuse some people for beating a so-called dead horse because you’d rather they never remember, and we don’t know, and we’d prefer to not think about it and hey look over there!

      YOUR GOD. It’s YOUR GOD. You are being like… a child. “But Mom, he hit me first and he’s bigger!” Nobody cares.

    • Richard S. Russell

      I look at the effects of atheism and I see genocides (85-100 million for Communism alone in China, USSR, and other Asian failures according to Wikipedia), forced abortions in China, religious persecution and murder in various places.

      Blaming atheism for the atrocities and tyrannies of the Soviet Union and Red China makes as much sense as blaming the genocides of Hitler and Stalin on their mustaches. What you need to do is look at what motivated them to take their actions, not some odd personal characteristic they may have had in common.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Rick:

      Christians don’t have all the answers for all of the bad stuff in the Old Testament, therefore the Bible is all made up and there is no God. Got it. Maybe it’s time to move on to more compelling stuff.

      You don’t got it.

      Give the Bible the chance to speak for itself and it seems to be the work of ordinary people, not a reflection of the thoughts and wishes of the omniscient creator of the universe. Conclusion: though this doesn’t prove that God doesn’t exist, that’s where the evidence points.

      I’m flattered that you imagine my work complete, but since my writing hasn’t changed much of anything, I guess I’ve got more work to do.

      So I look around me at the effects today of Christianity, and I see hospitals, relief efforts, soup kitchens, orphanages.

      I see that and interpret that as the work of people. Am I missing something? Do people not do good stuff unless they’re Christians?

      And if your point is that Christianity is useful, shouldn’t the most important thing be whether it’s true? If your point is that I’d better watch out for what I wish for, since a post-Christian America would be far worse than the America we have now, I’m not buying it.

      I also see some charlatan crackpots on the fringe distorting the message for their own personal gain and oppose that as much as you do.

      That’s good to hear, but I wonder why I hear so rarely that we’re on the same page. If I attack some nutty $100-million-per-year televangelist, say, let me know that we’re on the same page. Make clear that you’re frustrated that this guy is making the good Christians like you look bad.

      You’ll say that this isn’t at the top of your list of things that keep you up at night. Fine–but isn’t it at least on the list?

      I look at radicalized Islam and see Boston 2013, 9/11, the London Subway bombing, etc.

      (1) Are you saying that Islam is the source of the overwhelming majority of terrorism within America? I think you’ll find lots of Christians in that list as well.

      (2) Are you saying that, from my perspective, Islam-inspired terrorism in America is a worse problem than Christian excesses?

      If you want to deal with a religion that has real issues, look at radicalized Islam or atheism in history.

      Islam bugs you? Then you blog about it. Islam isn’t the problem in America that Christianity is. And show me one person who has been killed in the name of atheism.

      if you are focusing on what happened 2,500+ years ago and ignoring the present day issues.

      I focus on ancient history because apologists claim that it supports their supernatural beliefs. In fact, it doesn’t.

      I talk about present day issues all the time. This William Lane Craig interview was just over a year ago. Remember my series about abortion? Homosexuality? Churches hiding their financial records though they want IRS nonprofit status?

      Christianity, instrumental in the ending of slavery and numerous other evils in our society today is our best hope for that.

      Non-Christians can’t do good? And if they can, are you saying that there’s some sort of magic about Christians that makes them more good?

      We should be focused on what Jesus did 2,000 years ago to give us the hope of relationship with God, instead of on the most confusing aspects of the Old Testament. That is what I will try to keep reminding you about.

      Marcion wanted to discard the OT. For better or worse, it didn’t happen, and modern Christians are stuck with it. It’s a soft target, and I will unashamedly point out how out of touch it is with modern reality whenever convenient.

      Boston was only one of those 177 attacks.

      Who cares about only the Muslim attacks? My focus is damage (not just terrorism) caused by religion in America. Islam isn’t at the top of the list.

      • Richard S. Russell

        And if your point is that Christianity is useful, shouldn’t the most important thing be whether it’s true?

        George Bernard Shaw made a comparable observation: “The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact than a drunken man is happier than a sober one.”

      • Rick

        Bob,

        And show me one person who has been killed in the name of atheism.

        Are you serious? Try Mao, Lenin, and Stalin for starters. Hitler was an occult devotee in all likelihood about whom a biographer stated, “Hitler was a rationalist and materialist, who saw Christianity as a religion “fit for slaves”, and against the natural law of selection and survival of the fittest.” Sounds like an atheist, but the jury is out on him, so he doesn’t count. But lots of his minions were atheists. And in this country, there’s the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and radicals like Bill Ayers, who planted bombs that killed people. Then there’s Pol Pot. That is just a short list. Wikipedia lists all of them as atheists.

        Who cares about only the Muslim attacks?

        Anyone who doesn’t want to be affected by them, I guess. Unless you think 9/11 was just another September day. Or last week in Boston. Or the attacks I cited in the last 30 days. You think Christians are doing more damage than that? What rational thought can justify that assertion?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          Try Mao, Lenin, and Stalin for starters.

          Let me try again: who was killed in the name of atheism?

          Yes, these guys were atheists. As I’m sure you’ve read before, the atheism was a consequence of the dictatorship. They didn’t like the competition from religion, so they basically eliminated it.

          Who cares about only the Muslim attacks?

          Anyone who doesn’t want to be affected by them, I guess.

          Huh? You’re saying that people who don’t like being attacked by Muslims must focus on Muslim attacks only and have no interest in attacks from other sources?

          You think Christians are doing more damage than that? What rational thought can justify that assertion?

          You really can’t answer this question yourself? You don’t already know how I’m going to answer?

        • Richard S. Russell

          PS: Forgot to mention: Key word missed in #2: only

        • Richard S. Russell

          Bob asked a couple of questions:
           • #1: Show me one person who has been killed in the name of atheism.
           • #2: Who cares about only the Muslim attacks?

          Rick either ignorantly misses or intentionally overlooks key words in each of them.

          #1: Are you serious? Try Mao, Lenin, and Stalin for starters. Hitler was an occult devotee in all likelihood about whom a biographer stated, “Hitler was a rationalist and materialist, who saw Christianity as a religion “fit for slaves”, and against the natural law of selection and survival of the fittest.” Sounds like an atheist, but the jury is out on him, so he doesn’t count. But lots of his minions were atheists. And in this country, there’s the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and radicals like Bill Ayers, who planted bombs that killed people. Then there’s Pol Pot. That is just a short list. Wikipedia lists all of them as atheists.

          Key words missed: in the name of. Just because some of these people (notably not including Hitler) happened to be atheists doesn’t mean they were killing in the name of atheism. You can’t just pick out some random characteristic that they happened to have in common and say that all of their actions were attributable to that characteristic. If so, we’d have to be extremely nervous about Geraldo Rivera, Tom Selleck, and Wilford Brimley, because they had mustaches, just like Hitler and Stalin. Also, they all happened to share that dangerous Y chromosome, which should make me nervous about you, by your line of what passes for “reasoning”.

          #2: Anyone who doesn’t want to be affected by them, I guess. Unless you think 9/11 was just another September day. Or last week in Boston. Or the attacks I cited in the last 30 days. You think Christians are doing more damage than that? What rational thought can justify that assertion?

          Well, by example of the same “reasoning” you displayed in #1 above, Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Africa, the Hutu slauter of the Tutsis in Rwanda, and the Bosnian genocide by the Serbs all produced far greater casualty counts by violent means than the ones you cited. However, I think the blue ribbon has to go to the gargantuan toll of corpses piled up silently and insidiously by the Catholic Church’s relentless opposition to the use of condoms, which has resulted in literally millions of deaths in Africa due to AIDS. I will concede that what happened in Rwanda and Bosnia was probably due mainly to ethnic rivalries which only tangentially involved religion, but Kony and the pope were clearly operating purely out of Christian religious motivations.

    • MNb

      “Got it.”
      No, you don’t get it. The conclusion is not that god doesn’t exist, the conclusion is that you should convert to pastafarianism if you took the god is love thing seriously.

      “What I care about is what works.”
      Pastafarianism works. So convert today.

      “Let’s figure out how to make the world in which we live a better place.”
      Excellent idea. Now if only your cobelievers in Europe had begun to implement it from the moment they got their chance, ie when christianity became the state religion in the fourth century. Instead they began smashing each other heads because they called every slight deviation heretics: monophysits, pelagians, arians, nestorians, etc. etc. They continued to do so for some 14 centuries at least.
      Btw saying that atheism is responsible for communism is as dumb as saying that christianity is responsible for nazism – Hitler was also a christian.

      “I don’t have all the answers.”
      Now that’s a good start. Why don’t you begin with telling the 40% fundies in your country?

  • Bob Seidensticker

    relevance?

    • Castilliano

      None.
      He or she has been hitting the atheist blogs with that link.
      Speculation is that he’s Dennis Markuze, a disturbed commentator banned from using the internet under penalty of jail. Deletion is the norm.

  • Pattrsn

    Were people being killed because of their race? Or for other reasons?

    Well since they were killed for not being Isreali then yes. Not sure why you’d think that murdering an entire population for their property and land isn’t an act of genocide.

    • Kodie

      Genocide:
      noun
      the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.

      First is the issue of “genocide” being thrown around rather too loosely for my liking.

      I like how believers don’t like the actual definitions of things and then use the opposite argument when they throw around the word “faith” to mean something that it doesn’t, “love” to mean something that it doesn’t, or “truth” to mean anything other than what can be affirmed to be true. Genocide doesn’t specify race even in the root word. It pertains to the active riddance of a group of people, of which “race” is only one. Where god says “thou shalt not commit murder” and then whenever there are people you don’t like, it’s ok because god told us it was ok, they’re very bad for some reason (like not believing in our god). You don’t have to like everyone, you don’t have to like what they do, but I don’t understand justifying the active riddance of a specific group of people. What happened is that they occupied land and were merely inconvenient. Making a justification of how their culture was unsavory enough to just dispose of them murderously – that is a lot like weeding a plot of land, right, we want to farm that land and we don’t like weeds. Exterminating bugs or mice or moles or wolves, right, who inconveniently get in the way of whatever you want to do, just take the land and get rid of everything and everyone you don’t want there. Perhaps you could send them to live somewhere else, and that would be nice if they cooperated, but they happen to defend their right to occupy that land. It was theirs, they lived there first. It’s not yours. You don’t just take things you want and selfishly kill everyone who gets in the way. Here in the civilized world, we pool our resources and make an offer on the land. If the occupants don’t want to sell it, too bad. By the way, I’m not unaware what early American settlers did to the Native Indians either. It’s no reason to feel good about yourself or justify it with historical context. That’s really easy to do when you are on the winning side. It feels a lot different to occupy land and have some aholes come in and start killing, and Karl, I suspect, knows that too. It’s wrong when people we don’t like do it to us! But it’s right when we do it to them, somehow.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Kodie: The surprising thing about the genocide is that it was unnecessary. With God involved, the Canaanites could’ve been teleported to a nice island or to another planet. Their women could’ve been made sterile 50 years in the past so that they’d all die out. With God, all things are possible.

        It’s odd, then, that God has no broader palette of options than a king of that time.

        • Kodie

          I’ve said as much in response to JohnH – if god is in control and determines not just that everybody dies, but when and how, there are just a lot of ways to die. Too many very painful, uncalled for cruelty, etc., I still can’t believe anyone is not just defending that god has this right, but that it’s moral of god to do, and THAT HE ACTUALLY EXISTS. If we can know that religion is a motivating force, how can we not guess that people who wanted land decided to make it “god’s” instruction instead?

          Hey, guys, we gotta kill all these people to take their land. But I don’t think that sounds right! We’re the chosen people. We have to close off our personal affront, shut down any sentimentality, and even ignore commandments forbidding what we need to do. God told me there’s an exception. Well, ok.

          Another thing that crosses my mind in this situation is how the legends of these people resonate with current Christians. They are willing to accept a wholly different culture as similar to their own, this is their winning side, doing just what god said and obviously prevailing. They don’t often take the same tolerance to culture. This is thousands of years past in a land far away, but it is the timeline of their own descendance of belief, no matter how absurd. They are not willing to translate this kind of tolerance to contemporary Muslims though, or Hindus or anyone else. They bond themselves over these terrible stories in the bible, and atheists are the “other”. Similarly, we may criticize the crimes of the Catholic Church and they would defend it (if Catholic). Their victories are only proof that god is in favor of their people. Their tragedies are only proof to them of persecution that they learned from the bible. None of the big themes really translate. If someone uses Allah as an excuse to attack Americans, and justify killing thousands of nameless people who live here, they do not see that as proof that god prefers or has instructed Muslims to invade. Somehow god is still on their side and hates what the Muslims do! It would be impossible for Muslims to feel as sincerely righteous for similar reasons and attack groups of people they don’t think should be alive. It would be impossible for a god to tell a different group of people to kill groups of people indiscriminately because obviously, they are manipulated by their leaders to believe something that’s not true. Exactly. Now keep turning those wheels.

          Back on the first hand, they are manipulated by the media to go eat at Chick-Fil-A in a defiant act of hatred toward homosexuals and self-righteousness in god’s chosenness to act like assholes among humans. That’s somehow real. Throwing kids out of their homes because they are gay, same. The guy who shot Tiller or the guy who bombed abortion clinics, same. Own up to your own: does god just not go that far anymore, these people aren’t really Christians? If Andrea Yates killed all 5 of her young children in order to please god, how do you know that’s not something god would request? I am running out of patience with these awful people talking about awful things like I’m attacking them and they just sweep these things under the rug.

        • John Kesler

          Bob Seidensticker wrote:
          The surprising thing about the genocide is that it was unnecessary. With God involved, the Canaanites could’ve been teleported to a nice island or to another planet. Their women could’ve been made sterile 50 years in the past so that they’d all die out. With God, all things are possible. It’s odd, then, that God has no broader palette of options than a king of that time.

          Better yet, Yahweh could simply have prevented Ham from boarding the ark or prevented Mrs. Noah from giving birth to him, since Ham was the father of the Canaanites (and another enemy, the Egyptians):
          Genesis 10:
          These are the descendants of Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth; children were born to them after the flood…6 The descendants of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan…15 Canaan became the father of Sidon his firstborn, and Heth, 16and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, 17the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, 18the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterwards the families of the Canaanites spread abroad. 19And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon, in the direction of Gerar, as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha.

          Yahweh knew the trouble that the Canaanites and Egyptians would cause the Israelites, yet he allowed them to come into existence anyway:

          Genesis 15:
          12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him. 13Then Yahweh said to Abram, ‘Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs {Egypt}, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years; 14but I will bring judgement on the nation that they serve, and afterwards they shall come out with great possessions. 15As for yourself, you shall go to your ancestors in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites {Canaanites} is not yet complete.’

          In other words, Yahweh promised Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan, which he could have given them to begin with, but he had to wait until the wicked Canaanites got even more wicked before he ordered them to be exterminated. Meanwhile, while Yahweh was waiting for the optimal amount of wickedness to achieve in the Canaanites, he allowed the people who would eventually be charged with the job of exterminating the Canaanites to be enslaved for four centuries and then wander around in the desert for another 40 years to ensure that the generation that had endured that slavery had died out–and he knew in advance that this is how it would play out and thought this was the best course of action!

        • Jason

          At best, if there is a Yahweh, we’re the victims of a very sick game.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          John: Great point about Ham. That would nicely cut the Gordian knot (if God had any intention of doing so).

      • MNb

        @Kodie: “It’s wrong when ….”
        Essentially that’s the moral code of a tribe of desert nomads. If the others attack us, steal our cattle and rape our wives it’s a crime. If we do it to them we are heroes.

        @BobS: “the Canaanites could’ve been teleported ….”
        Except that, after hearing this story, the Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians would have laughed their tunics off before invading Israel.

  • Kellen

    Richard: I hope I’m not coming across as confrontational; I’m always nervous when I write comments that I’ll look angrier in text than I really am. I respect your view on the morality of certain business decisions… even if I get the impression I wouldn’t agree with all of them. But something you said did stick in my head and make me think, and I’d like to present what I came up with.

    You paint this imaginary scenario where somebody is fired for no reason at all. Really? No reason at all? How often do you think that ever happens in real life?

    So, if I understand you (and feel free to let me know if I got this wrong), this argument is that, since this hypothetical job-killer is too cartoonishly evil to really exist, then the analogy that compares him to god is inherently flawed.

    But I actually think that’s what makes it the perfect analogy for a genocide-ordering god. If you take the story of the job-killing CEO literally, (kills jobs to be a dick and for no other reason) it doesn’t really seem realistic. But the god that practitioners of most Abrahamic faiths worship is exactly this guy. He lets babies die of AIDS. He lets hurricanes, earthquakes, and typhoons demolish whole populations. He inflicts floods and droughts. He gives genocide two thumbs up, as long as it’s his super-special-awesome Chosen People who perpetrate it. And his worshipers give him a free pass on all this death and misery because “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” In other words: Really. No reason at all.

    I don’t really believe that an actual human being would fire a hundred people for no reason either. I believe there’s a spectrum of morality in the actual practice of “killing jobs,” and the responsibility of employers to employees is somewhere in between “Give you job security forever” and “Eh, go fuck yourself” depending on the situation. And I think most people would agree. So, my earlier argument was probably ill-worded and definitely ill-placed. I think the fact that I believe employers should have responsibilities to their workers than they do came out more than I intended, and as a result I wound up burying the lead: I don’t think the fact that the situation Bob paints is imaginary makes it a flawed analogy. I think it makes it a more pointed one. That’s fine if you disagree, I just wanted to get that thought out there.

    • Richard S. Russell

      And a good thot it was, too, Kellen.

      As a long-time labor activist, I’m very much in favor of sticking up for the working stiff. I’m ardently pro-union and favor strong governmental protection for workers’ rights, workplace safety, anti-discrimination laws, the whole nine yards. But thru all those years of serving on the bargaining team, participating in strikes, carrying banners in support of screwed-over or laid-off workers, etc., I never once ran across an instance of a single employer who was doing it for no reason whatsoever. Oftentimes I thot the reasons totally sucked, or were misguided, or based on bad information, etc. But they were never non-existent.

      So I think you’re onto something when you say that that’s the way the ostensible Yahweh behaves: not even like a totally unenlightened employer but just like a random dickhead.

  • pattrsn

    Just did a quick calculation. Assuming a minimum population of 16 million, 2 million Israelis and at least 14 million for the 7 other larger nations, and the sinai peninsula being 60,000 sq km’s, that gives us a minimum population density of 267 people per sq km. that gives the sinai peninsula a population density larger than modern Germany. In fact today it would put the sinai peninsula into the top 15% of modern countries by population density.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Israel + West Bank and Gaza is about 26,000 sq km. I think this (smaller) area is the relevant one to consider, since the Sinai was just a transition.

      • Richard S. Russell

        Don’t be too hasty, Bob. “Just a transition” still involves 40 years — entire lifetimes for some people. Besides, it’s not just the missing Hebrew corpses that should be raising red flags about this particular fairy tale. Where are all the sheep bones? Where are the ovine coprolites? An army marches on its stomach, and this was a civilian army of massive proportions. It should’ve left traces of its passage wherever it went.

        Say, didja hear that the reason they spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness was really because Moses was a guy, and he’d never stop to ask for directions?

  • smrnda

    Most decent Christians I run across, and virtually all Jews tell me that they find these passages troubling and difficult, the way an honest American would be bothered that Thomas Jefferson was so adamant about liberty and owned slaves. What bothers me most about Craig is that he’s really not bothered by genocide so much as he’s bothered by anyone who says his holy book might not be perfect all the time. It’s sacrificing your moral compass for theological consistency, and even a lot of Christians wouldn’t do this.

    On the effects of Christianity, I see high levels of teen pregnancy and social dysfunction in many of the more religious parts of the US, and I see better social outcomes in secular societies. I see a long history of people being persecuted for being the wrong religion or the wrong type of Christian, and I’m not all that impressed with Christian charity, because soup kitchens aren’t a solution to poverty, and for every charity you’ve got something like the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland. We’d solve more social problems using the welfare state models they use in Europe, it’s just a lot of Christians oppose effective government solutions to poverty since they need desperate people to come crawling to them in order to get converts.

    • Rain

      Most decent Christians I run across, and virtually all Jews tell me that they find these passages troubling and difficult, the way an honest American would be bothered that Thomas Jefferson was so adamant about liberty and owned slaves.

      One would think that Craig would be a little sympathetic to that point of view instead of saying people are “dishonest” if they are bothered. But one would be wrong, apparently.

  • Rain

    So God has no obligation to the people he created, and he can do with them whatever he wants without moral obligation. A human life is then to God what a sand castle is to us, and each of us can destroy our creations without moral error.

    Like William Lane Craig himself said onces:

    “Thus, if there is no God, then life becomes meaningless.”

    Oh wait… !

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Snap!

    • Rain

      So in other words Craig somehow manges to prove that God is an atheist who thinks life has no meaning. Good job William…

  • MNb

    Off-topic: if I won’t comment anymore in the future it’s not because I don’t want to, but because I can’t in the new commenting system. I just found this out on Chris H’s blog and really have to get myself a somewhat less outdated OS.

  • se habla espol

    Craig will respond that this is cherry picking and that the Old
    Testament offsets the genocide and slavery with compassionate demands
    like, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).

    This depends on the use of the word ‘neighbor’. Since the Hebrews were one or more tribal cultures, I would expect my neighbor to be a member of my tribe — a member of another tribe would not be a neighbor. This wouild limit the compassion to only my homeboys — genocide and slavery of others is just fine.

  • John W. Morehead

    This is a huge ethical and hermeneutical challenge for Christians, particularly Evangelicals. Unfortunately, many take the approach of Craig and offer what I believe are simplistic answers that all too easily accommodate claims of divine genocide. It is ironic that this takes place while the finger of accusation is pointed at Muslims for violent passages in the Qur’an. Thankfully, there are Christians who take this seriously and are wrestling with the issues in more responsible ways, such as Philip Jenkins and Peter Enns.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I hope that Jenkins and Enns do a more credible job of squaring God’s OT love of genocide with modern ideas of morality than Craig … ?


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