Defending Genocide

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Of all the evil verses in the Bible, some of the worst must be the ones in which God orders his chosen people to slaughter and utterly exterminate the Canaanites who were living in the promised land, commanding them to kill men, women and children and to show no mercy to anyone under any circumstances. Passages like these are why Thomas Paine said of the Old Testament, “…it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the word of God”.

Any person of conscience, I hope, should have come to realize by now that genocide is the blackest of evils. Any person or text that defends it is morally depraved and unworthy of being taken seriously by good people. But since these verses still exist in the Bible, there are still apologists who tie themselves in knots trying to defend them – trying to defend the conclusion that genocide is sometimes an acceptable and justified act.

Let’s begin with this article from Rational Christianity, which discusses the genocides of the Old Testament specifically in relation to the Canaanite children. It admits that the children “did not share the guilt of their parents”, but insists that the Israelites were still right to slaughter them:

Why were the children killed, if they weren’t guilty? Apparently, they were considered as morally neutral, since they weren’t yet old enough to be held accountable or to have done much right or wrong. While not as corrupt as their parents, they were part of the society that was judged, and shared its earthly (though not its eternal) fate.

So, even though the children weren’t guilty, the society they lived in was guilty, and since that society was sentenced to be destroyed for its crimes, the children were doomed to be destroyed along with it for the crime they weren’t guilty of. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

This apologetic is just a restatement of one of the Old Testament’s more barbaric notions, the idea of “corporate guilt”, which claims that people bear the responsibility for things done by other members of their nation or tribe. This is a bloody and primitive superstition. A “society” as a whole cannot be guilty of anything: only individuals can be guilty for the acts they commit.

Next up, we have Wayne Jackson of Apologetics Press, who in this article offers the time-tested defense that the Canaanites were too evil to be allowed to live:

The Canaanite religion was a horribly brutal system as well. For instance, the goddess Anath is pictured as killing humans by the thousands and wading knee-deep in blood. She cut off heads and hands and wore them as ornaments. And in all of this gruesomeness, the Baal-epic says that her liver was swollen with laughter and her joy was great.

What a horrible image! Anath must have been an unimaginably evil goddess. Good thing she’s completely different from Yahweh, who will crush people underfoot until his robes are splattered and stained with their blood [Isaiah 63:3], who will kill so many people with his sword that the land will be “soaked with blood” [Is. 34:7], who demands that dead bodies be hung from trees to please him [Exodus 25:4] [Numbers 25:4], and who will “rejoice” to inflict all these punishments and many others on the objects of his wrath [Deuteronomy 28:63], laughing and mocking all the while [Proverbs 1:26].

The only difference between these savage Ancient Near East war deities, of course, is that Christians believe Yahweh to be the true god, and thus his mass slaughters were perfectly acceptable, even praiseworthy, while Anath was a false goddess and therefore the slaughters undertaken in her name were a vile and depraved crime. If Anath had any worshippers today, no doubt they’d take the opposite view.

As for the children, Jackson claims that the Israelites were doing them a mercy:

Would it not have been infinitely worse, in view of eternity, had these children grown to maturity and adopted the same pagan practices as their parents?

Although he doesn’t explain this further, the argument is apparently that it was better to kill the children while they were young and innocent, rather than allow them to grow up and become sinners who would end up damned. It’s interesting for a Christian apologist to accept this, since they always reject the identical reasoning for abortion.

The third apologist is Gregory Koukl of Stand to Reason. Koukl admits that “on an emotional level I am troubled when I consider this”. Nevertheless, he resorts to the inevitable fallback that human moral standards don’t apply to God, and that he can kill people however he wants and whenever he wants:

So I’m arguing first that it’s God’s prerogative to take life when He so chooses, and second that the means He uses to take that life is a matter of His prerogative as well. Whether it’s by disease, or mishap, or hailstones, or the angel of life, or the sword of a Jewish soldier, the means is up to Him. It’s His prerogative.

In this instance, I’ll grant that the apologists have a point: in their theology, God is responsible not just for the genocidal deaths of the Canaanites, but for every other painful and brutal death in the world as well. Why they imagine that this makes the problem better, rather than worse, I can’t say.

I think the preponderance of evidence from the same historical record–the Old Testament–is that God is good… This gives us good reason to trust Him. And if we have good reason to trust Him, then when we see things that seem to go against our sense of goodness and justice, it seems only fair to give the benefit of the doubt to [him]…

The moral double standard comes neatly packaged in a paragraph. When the Bible records God acting in ways that are good, we should count those to his credit. But when the Bible records God acting in ways that are evil (sorry – “that seem to go against our sense of goodness and justice”), those do not count against his character, because we should just trust that he is good. All positive evidence is to be trusted; all negative evidence is to be dismissed. The verdict is built into the process from the beginning. Human criminals only wish they could be judged by such a standard!

I don’t want to sound like I’m praising myself too highly, so let me make it plain that I don’t claim any superior moral virtue for myself. I make mistakes and sometimes use poor judgment, like everyone else. But I think I’m basically a good person, and one of the ways I can tell is that I don’t find myself making excuses for genocide. Granted, this is not a very high standard – which makes it all the more shocking that so many Christian apologists don’t meet it.

There’s a moral cliff here, and the apologists have walked right off the edge. No matter how you got to this point, no matter how slippery the slope or how reasonable your arguments seem, if you’ve come to the position of defending genocide, that ought to be a clue that you’ve done something wrong. The conclusion that genocide can be morally justified ought to be a reductio ad absurdum against any argument that you used to get there.

But because these apologists don’t see this, they’ve wandered into a dangerous trap. They’re forced to believe that not even genocide can be immoral if God commands it. This is an extremely dangerous position to advocate, because then the question of whether to commit such an act reduces to the question of whether God has in fact commanded it. What this amounts to is the total surrender of one’s own conscience – laying aside your moral sense and submitting your will to any authority figure who’s sufficiently charismatic to convince the masses that God speaks through him – and that is how crimes like genocide always begin. The apologists have not learned this hard-won lesson of history. By justifying the evils of the past, they leave the road wide open for those same evils to reoccur in the future.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://reasonvsapologetics.blogspot.com jim

    If God has the perfect right to do what He wants, and can in nowise be held accountable according to human standards (or human sensibilities), then the same goes for God’s servant, right? Funny how obeying God’s orders can eradicate a sense of human conscience with a single axiom, isn’t it? Empathy replaced by edict, which is exactly the biblical method.

  • Mr Doubt(hell)fire

    Thank you for posting one of the reasons why I think that the Bible is an evil book. The vast majority of the apologists, who generally have good intentions, would never attempt to defend any other instance of genocide. When the Bible’s examples of genocide are presented to them, however, they fall all over themselves attempting to defend the Bible. Surely, these apologists are highly unsatisfied with the defenses they present, yet they persist in putting them forth.

    I’m surprised that liberal theologians haven’t been able to utterly decimate conservative theologians about taking the Bible literally; then again, viewing the genocide presented in the Bible as a mere historical reference would put the Bible below the level of a history book.

  • Erika

    This is an extremely dangerous position to advocate, because then the question of whether to commit such an act reduces to the question of whether God has in fact commanded it.

    I just want to re-emphasize this point. It’s extremely important.

  • Polly

    I think the preponderance of evidence from the same historical record–the Old Testament–is that God is good… This gives us good reason to trust Him.

    I once saw a picture of Hitler with a kid on his lap and he really did lift MILLIONS of Germans out of a humiliating state, being subjected to foreign tyranny. So, naturally, taking all the GOOD that he did, I think we should trust that if he killed 6 million Jews and as many Slavs and Poles and Gypsies on top of that, then bygonnit, he musta had a REAL good reason.
    Makes sense don’t it?

  • Curt

    I’ve always wanted to ask these genocide-apologizing apologist this question: “Would you kill someone else’s children if your religious leader commanded you to do so?”

  • Anon Ymous

    I remember debating the book of Joshua with an otherwise good and kind man… he was a YEC-er, one of the few I’ve met here in Canberra, and he believed in the Omnimax God. I stopped debating fundamentalists after him. He eventually conceded that perhaps a deity who orders genocide might not meet our mundane, human standards of the word “good” (took me ages to convince him that the word had to hold its meaning – you couldn’t define God as being Good on the basis that that was just a part of the definition, and then extrapolate the normal meaning of “good” as being a reason for why others should worship him…). This didn’t change any other views. He still believed that the best course of action was to do as the terrorist commanded. So I robbed him of his rose-tinted spectacles without actually helping him any.

    Kind of nasty to the poor guy, really…

  • http://www.ooblick.com/weblog/ arensb

    who demands that dead bodies be hung from trees to please him [Exodus 25:4]

    In my NIV, Exodus 25:4 says

    blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair;

    None of the other verses 25:4 that I’ve seen have anything to do with hanging or trees. The closest I can find is the end of Deuteronomy 21.

    Can someone please help me find the correct verse? Thanks,

  • lpetrich

    What’s especially bad about such apologists is that they sometimes seem like they are celebrating that genocide.

    It’s a big contrast with Nazi apologists, whose favorite argument is that the Nazis had never committed mass murder — Holocaust denial.

  • http://michaelnugent.com Michael Nugent

    Regarding the quote from Gregory Kouki:

    “I think the preponderance of evidence from the same historical record–the Old Testament–is that God is good… This gives us good reason to trust Him. And if we have good reason to trust Him, then when we see things that seem to go against our sense of goodness and justice, it seems only fair to give the benefit of the doubt to [him]…”

    This assessment of “the preponderance of evidence” is distorted by being filtered through an existing belief in the goodness of this god. Without such a filter, the preponderance of evidence points to a god who conveys at best relative morality, and at worst arbitrary morality or immorality. The Canaanites were not even his first genocide. That came much earlier when he drowned everyone on the planet except the occupants of one ark.

    Kouki’s quote could just as easily be paraphrased:

    “I think the preponderance of evidence from the same historical record–the Old Testament–is that God is either evil or morally bankrupt… This gives us good reason to distrust Him. And if we have good reason to distrust Him, then when we see things that seem to be consistent with our sense of goodness and justice, it seems only fair to deny the benefit of the doubt to [him]…”

  • keddaw

    Of course the children of the Canaanite’s were guilty, does Christian doctrine not teach us that we are all punished by the sins of Adam? Punishing children for the crimes of the father is common – and toan extent still is, hence the dictionary definition of the teerm ‘bastard’ – an illegitimate child. How can a child be illegitimate?

    No genocide in the bible comes close to Noah’s Flood though. Every human, apart from 8, are killed alond with every land animal and every animal that requires salt water (a flood on that scale would reduce sea salinity) and the vast majority of plants (40 days under slightly salty water would kill virtually any non-oceanic plant.

    Most Christians I know claim that the Old Testament is allegory and moral story (what morals they take from this I can’t say) but if it is so a la carte then why pick out The Ten Commandments and anti-homosexuality as the 2 principles? And on that note, why are only 2 of the Ten Commandments illegal in most supposedly Christian countries?

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    None of the other verses 25:4 that I’ve seen have anything to do with hanging or trees. The closest I can find is the end of Deuteronomy 21.

    Can someone please help me find the correct verse? Thanks,

    I think Ebon might have meant this from Numbers 25:4

    And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel.

  • http://www.ooblick.com/weblog/ arensb

    Steve Bowen:
    Thanks. I guess it was late and I missed it.

  • Justin

    I find it fascinating that these apologists can excuse genocide, then turn around and accuse us of having no moral compass.

    the idea of “corporate guilt”, which claims that people bear the responsibility for things done by other members of their nation or tribe. This is a bloody and primitive superstition. A “society” as a whole cannot be guilty of anything: only individuals can be guilty for the acts they commit.

    Things like this indicate to me that sin and immorality cannot be considered the same thing.

  • http://1939to1945.blogspot.com NoAstronomer

    “The only difference between these savage Ancient Near East war deities, of course, is that …”

    ‘We’ won. Then, as now, history was written by the victors.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    This is exactly the sort of thing that started to turn me away from Christianity after I had read the Bible a number of times. I was like, “Wait a minute, the God of the Bible does not even live up to the standards of behavior that Christianity purports to represent.” I came to the conclusion that it was much more likely that the god of the Bible was made up than the possibility that the creator of a nearly infinite universe would make itself the personal deity of a confederation of semi-nomadic tribes on a patch of land in the Middle East.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    So I’m arguing first that it’s God’s prerogative to take life when He so chooses, and second that the means He uses to take that life is a matter of His prerogative as well. Whether it’s by disease, or mishap, or hailstones, or the angel of life, or the sword of a Jewish soldier, the means is up to Him. It’s His prerogative.

    Hmm. Killing is okay for god, but not for man, unless god commands it. Sounds suspiciously like the moral relativism they claim to detest.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    What gets to me about this… well, okay, everything gets to me about this. It actually makes me physically ill. But one of the main things that gets to me about this is that many of these apologists are the same people who pitch fits about abortion being morally intolerable under any circumstances.

    Killing an eight week old embryo that hasn’t yet developed a functioning brain: morally repugnant. Killing an actual child: just ducky, as long as God commands it.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Yeah, Greta, with a built-in Nuremberg defense, to boot.

  • J

    It’s also worth endlessly pointing out that the “historical” sources we have for the supposed “licentiousness” and child-sacrificing ways of the Canaanites* are not particularly reliable. There’s the Bible–almost certainly written centuries after the events they describe–and there’s Herodotus, who likely never never left mainland Greece and openly admitted he collected and wrote down his “Histories” more because they made a good story than because they were true.

    Most tellingly, the “Canaanites” were probably practitioners of more or less the same “holiness code” as the ancient Israelites/Hebrews. That is, death for adultery, death for sodomy, etc. This makes the likelihood that they engaged in wild “orgies” extremely dubious. What did they do, orgify and then get executed at dawn the next day?

    All of the Canaanites crimes sound suspiciously familiar if you read enough history. Orgy-having and child-murdering is exactly the same thing that the Cathars of Europe and many of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa and Asia were guilty of–at least, if you believe the official chronicles of the people who conquered/enslaved/exterminated them.

    *There’s even pretty good evidence that the Canaanites were not the ethnically or even religiously distinct people that the Bible says they were. Archaeologists–honest ones anyway–have

  • Joffan

    I saw a bumper sticker the other day…A Nation that kills its Children is a Nation without Hope, attributing the quote to the previous Pope I think. I wondered whether the driver would still agree if I changed the word “Nation” to “God” in each case: A God that kills its Children is a God without Hope – referring to either the genocidal tendencies discussed here or indeed historical childhood mortality in general.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    All positive evidence is to be trusted; all negative evidence is to be dismissed.

    I know you have a low opinion of most believers, but that’s not even what Koukl said. Contrary to what you accredit him with, Koukl actually acknowledged the problematic aspects, and admitted they were a source of consternation for him. That he feels the preponderance of evidence points to God being good does not mean you can say he’s dismissed the negative evidence.

    Re genocide, a question: if God is omniscient and has foreknowledge that the sudden destruction of an entire group of people would be beneficial for the ultimate good of all people, is such genocide still wrong? This is similar to the question of whether or not it would be immoral for God to have cut Hitler’s life short.

  • Leum

    Re genocide, a question: if God is omniscient and has foreknowledge that the sudden destruction of an entire group of people would be beneficial for the ultimate good of all people, is such genocide still wrong? This is similar to the question of whether or not it would be immoral for God to have cut Hitler’s life short.

    Hmm. I’d have to say that it might be acceptable to destroy a people under those circumstances, but I have more than a little trouble believing that such a scenario could exist. And there’s also the difficulty that God’s ordering someone else to carry out the acts; I don’t think genocide, even if somehow actually necessary*, is good for the moral character of a people.

    And, if God has that perfect foreknowledge, he shouldn’t have waited to use it after the people had already existed, he should have knocked them off when there were only one or two of them.

    *Just typing that made me sick

  • other scott

    Not that I totally agree with cl here, but to put his question into perspective: Human beings commit ‘genocide’ against noxious species all the time. We wipe out germs, bacteria and viruses on a daily basis or at least we try to. Being an Australian I have seen first hand what an introduced species can do to an ecosystem. Is our attempted eradication of cane toads any better than god’s eradication of the Canaanites. Sure human beings have consciousness and rational thought but in the eyes of god(who is supposed to be so far above us it is crazy) perhaps wiping out the canaanites was no different than a human being pulling a weed, taking an anti-biotic or squashing a toad.

    Following this train of thought really isn’t encouraging.

  • Maynard

    Human beings commit ‘genocide’ against noxious species all the time. We wipe out germs, bacteria and viruses on a daily basis or at least we try to.

    We do attempt to eradicate by prevention (inoculation, hand washing, drinking orange juice, etc.) but that is not genocide. That’s just prophylactic.

    Like those vile, nasty, uncomfortable condoms.

  • Maynard

    @cl:

    has foreknowledge

    How much foreknowledge does he need to avert genocide?

  • other scott

    “We do attempt to eradicate by prevention (inoculation, hand washing, drinking orange juice, etc.) but that is not genocide. That’s just prophylactic.”

    You don’t see vaccinations as an attempt at eradication of whatever germ/virus the vaccine is targeting? Sure the vaccines aren’t seeking out the germs and destroying them, but they are basically taking away their foodsource. I would argue that genocide by attrician is still genocide. Regardless of that, there are numurous other species that we actively seek out and destroy.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com D

    It’s funny this should come up now; the day this was posted, I engaged a coworker in a theological discussion re: the Ten Commandments. While I was rattling off the fake Ten, to “thou shalt not kill,” I added, “except when God says so.” This guy claimed that while God killed, he never ever commanded anyone to kill.

    Needless to say, I busted his balls over this one, starting with 1 Samuel 15 (it’s easy to remember for me because it’s 1S15).

    @ cl: You wrote, “…he feels the preponderance of evidence points to God being good…” and I want to stop you right there. Here’s the thing: humans are both good and evil. We do good, and we do evil. We are a mixed bag; we are not morally perfect. If you say God is good, and not a mixed bag, then you are in fact ignoring the bad stuff because the preponderance of evidence does not point to “God is good,” it points to “God is a miserable fuck-up just like the rest of us.” In fact, all of the evidence will tell you exactly that.

    As for your point on genocide, any consequentialist can tell you that if the ends do in fact justify the means, then the ends do in fact justify the means (and from there, it’s just a matter of stipulating your way to victory). You know what would have been even better? Causing all the wicked people’s parents to miscarry unknowingly, allowing the last good folks in the bloodline to die in relative peace instead of being, oh, I don’t know, brutally murdered to the last. Are you seriously arguing that miraculously coordinated miscarriages, especially at a time when people didn’t understand reproduction as fully as we do now, would have been no better than people butchering each other? Come on. This isn’t even funny any more; you’re usually more thoughtful than this (from what I’ve seen, anyway).

    @ other scott: Umm… I’m pretty sure that there’s a clear and obvious moral difference between “staving off implacable, unthinking threats to your health,” and “systematically exterminating an entire demographic of intelligent and self-aware creatures who are capable of feeling pain.” I mean, sure, we’re wiping out germs – but the germs left alive don’t give a shit. You know why? They don’t have nervous systems. They are completely insensate, they are incapable of suffering (or joy, for that matter), so rubbing them out is just as amoral as dusting your furniture (or morally superior, when you’re reducing the suffering of sentients). Remember, events are not good or evil in and of themselves; context matters. And I think that protecting ourselves from disease is more fitting of the term “self-defense” than “genocide.” By so abusing the term, you devalue it and trivialize the suffering of actual people throughout all of human history.

  • Maynard

    other scott:

    You don’t see vaccinations as an attempt at eradication of whatever germ/virus the vaccine is targeting?

    No. It’s the reduction of the opportunity the virus has to infect/replicate in the human host. It’s not an attempt to eradicate the current population. It’s prevention of the spread only.

  • http://bridgingschisms.org Eshu

    I have a vague memory of there being modern-day Christians who actually equate some modern races with the Canaanites, so as to justify racism towards them. Is this the case and can anyone point me to such an example? Perhaps I’m remembering this wrongly.

  • Alex Weaver

    You don’t see vaccinations as an attempt at eradication of whatever germ/virus the vaccine is targeting? Sure the vaccines aren’t seeking out the germs and destroying them, but they are basically taking away their foodsource. I would argue that genocide by attrician is still genocide. Regardless of that, there are numurous other species that we actively seek out and destroy.

    Humans suffer. Germs don’t.

  • Danikajaye

    If this “God” is all knowing and all powerful why should there ever be genocide? If a person or a race is going to be problematic why not stop them being conceived in the first place? Surely never existing is kinder than being bloodily murdered?

    I don’t care what type of convoluted theoretical moral dilemma somebody comes up with to try and excuse genocide- there is no excuse- EVER. Not if it is because “God” commanded it, not if it is to solve the Jewish problem, not if it is to stop the violence of the natives towards the settlers. I fail to see how killing other human beings purely because of their race would ever be to the advantage of other humans. If it is morally defensible to kill one lot of human beings it is then morally defensible to kill them ALL. You just have to find an excuse.

    This post appeared the day I finished reading a book about 2 small Jewish boys who were hidden from the Nazi’s but eventually found and killed in a concentration camp. Just reading about it had me sobbing by the end so how people ever carried it out is beyond anything I can comprehend.

    Also can somebody please tell me how the holocaust can be denied? Auchwitz and Birkenau still stand to this day along with the railways and gas chambers. I’ve visited them and the piles of hair and Jewish belongings are still there along with the meticulous documentation the Nazi’s were so fond of. They took a photo of nearly every Jew that was killed and recorded their names and date of death. What is there to deny? What is the argument of holocaust deniers?

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    other scott “Regardless of that, there are numurous other species that we actively seek out and destroy.”
    Personally, now this is just me talking here, I don’t really care if smallpox is sentient or not. If it has to die for me not to be horrible disfigured or dead from it, then so be it. I feel the same way about lions which, thankfully, aren’t a big problem around here, and river blindness, which seems to hang in the lions’ neighbourhood.
    I’m fine with symbiotes, though. I’m a big fan of mitochondria, in fact, and wouldn’t object too harshly if chlorophyll figured out a way to move in, as well.
    It’s the things that eat me that I have a problem with (I’m sure that the things I eat feel the same way about me. That’s why beans give me gas. Revenge).

    Eshu “I have a vague memory of there being modern-day Christians who actually equate some modern races with the Canaanites, so as to justify racism towards them. Is this the case and can anyone point me to such an example?”
    Look at the big name once you go west into Africa. The Biblical narrative, if memory serves is summed thusly; 12 tribes (in-group) = good, everybody else (out-group) = bad.

    “Perhaps I’m remembering this wrongly.”
    Of course your remembering it incorrectly. The SBC, who at the time were pretty damn sure they were right, were wrong. Eventually. It’s (hopefully) only a smattering of racists that still stick with that tale. This is why Obama’s a secret Kenyan now.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Danikajaye “Surely never existing is kinder than being bloodily murdered?”
    It gets weirder. Reading back (with the afterlife of the NT), that means that the young get a free ride to heaven, while those older than a certain age go to firey burning.

    “Just reading about it had me sobbing by the end so how people ever carried it out is beyond anything I can comprehend.”
    I hate to rock your world further, but the Milgram experiments (and their offspring) show that all of us under the right conditions are to some degree monsters, and that the “right conditions” typically need to involve an authority saying “do that”. We all pull the switch. The only variable is how far we’re willing to go.

    “Also can somebody please tell me how the holocaust can be denied?”
    1. It didn’t happen at all (Jewish lies).
    2. It did happen, but on a much smaller scale (faked camps, no nerve gas found, one Jew fell down the stairs that one time but it wasn’t Hitler’s fault, etc).
    3. It did happen. They deserved it (Jews are ooky/killed Jesus, etc).
    Note that I don’t believe the above, but that’s the chain of goalpost shifting.

  • other scott

    I mean I personally don’t believe that god is capable of genocide simply because I don’t believe god exists. I was simply pointing out that human beings still find it quite normal to commit ‘genocide’ against other species of life. We only find it abhorrent when the genocide is committed against other humans. If I were so inclined to believe in an all loving god that only had my best interests at heart I think I could almost gloss over the atrocities god committed in much the same way that I don’t particularly like to picture the numerous species that humanity has purposely driven to extinction and are still trying to eradicate.

    Still, it is a tall order to believe that something as simple as race/creed/belief could ever be dangerous(?) enough that a genocide is justified.

  • Archimedez

    Modusoperandi,

    You raise a relevant point:
    “but the Milgram experiments (and their offspring) show that all of us under the right conditions are to some degree monsters, and that the “right conditions” typically need to involve an authority saying “do that”. We all pull the switch. The only variable is how far we’re willing to go.”

    I should add that historically the percentage of soldiers who actually were willing to fight and discharge their weapons at the enemy on the battlefield is quite low–I recall figures between 15-25%. I’m not sure what the percentages are today.

    I also want to clarify that not everyone in the original Milgram obedience experiment was willing to administer “shocks” at the supposedly very harmful levels. About 35% of participants stopped obeying the command at some point after the actor/victim (who was pretending to receive shocks) pretended to protest. The disturbing part, of course, is that 65% obeyed the commands all the way.

    Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology
    1963, Vol. 67, No. 4, 371-378
    BEHAVIORAL STUDY OF OBEDIENCE
    STANLEY MILGRAM

    Abstract:
    “This article describes a procedure for the study of destructive obedience in the laboratory. It consists of ordering a naive S to administer increasingly more severe punishment to a victim in the context of a learning experiment. Punishment is administered by means of a shock generator with 30 graded switches ranging from Slight Shock to Danger: Severe Shock. The victim is a confederate of the E. The primary dependent variable is the maximum shock the S is willing to administer before he refuses to continue further. 26 Ss obeyed the experimental commands fully, and administered the highest shock on the generator. 14 Ss broke off the experiment at some point after the victim protested and refused to provide further answers. The procedure created extreme levels of nervous tension in some Ss. Profuse sweating, trembling, and stuttering were typical expressions of this emotional disturbance. One unexpected sign of tension—yet to be explained—was the regular occurrence of
    nervous laughter, which in some Ss developed into uncontrollable seizures. The variety of interesting behavioral dynamics observed in the experiment, the reality of the situation for the S, and the possibility of parametric variation within the framework of the procedure, point to the fruitfulness of further study.”

  • Tom

    There’s a quote, from “God on trial”, that I think pretty succinctly nails the moral relation of the Abrahamic god to all his various followers, whether he exists or not. “God is not good. God has never been good. He’s just been on our side.”

  • Wednesday

    I once spoke with a member of Campus Crusade for Christ, who tried to defend divinely mandated/committed genocide by making an appeal to fiction-writing: Sometimes when you write a story it doesn’t turn out how you want, because the characters have (metaphorically) minds of their own and aren’t doing what you intended them to.

    So, apparently, ordering the violent deaths of an entire people is morally equivalent to fictionally killing off a side character who’s gotten in the way of the plot. Either that or this young woman thinks it’s normal for writers to, when confronted with a story that’s not going as planned, violently and horribly kill off everyone in the cast/country/world rather than, you know, revising, rewriting, or simply abandoning the story.

  • Alex Weaver

    I mean I personally don’t believe that god is capable of genocide simply because I don’t believe god exists. I was simply pointing out that human beings still find it quite normal to commit ‘genocide’ against other species of life. We only find it abhorrent when the genocide is committed against other humans. If I were so inclined to believe in an all loving god that only had my best interests at heart I think I could almost gloss over the atrocities god committed in much the same way that I don’t particularly like to picture the numerous species that humanity has purposely driven to extinction and are still trying to eradicate.

    We also tend to be fairly bothered when it’s committed against, say, whales or buffalo.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Archimedez “The disturbing part, of course, is that 65% obeyed the commands all the way.”
    And don’t forget the modified Milgram (which, in its off hours, is a dive and also a sex position. But I digress) with other people in the room with the mark “shocking” other people. If memory serves, in that version virtually all of us turn out to be, dare I say, evil. Combine authority with in-group loyalty-slash-”wanna be normal” and the world is your oyster (to hold down and pluck, still switching, from its shell).

    Alex Weaver “We also tend to be fairly bothered when it’s committed against, say, whales or buffalo.”
    It’s their own fault, for being so tasty. If they tasted bad and were cute, we’d protect ‘em. Sure, we’d still wipe them out (like we’re tryin’ to do to, say, the deadly panda or the vicious pygmy bonobo), but a small fraction of us would feel at least a twinge of regret as we turned the last one into a handbag or dog food.

  • Alex Weaver

    Re genocide, a question: if God is omniscient and has foreknowledge that the sudden destruction of an entire group of people would be beneficial for the ultimate good of all people, is such genocide still wrong?

    The idea that it’s even remotely credible to claim that there might be a case where an omniscient being couldn’t find, an omnipotent being couldn’t carry out, and a halfway-decent, let alone omnibenevolent, being wouldn’t desire, a means of achieving the same end without all that bloodshed is one of them “extraordinary claims that requires extraordinary evidence.”

  • http://reasonvsapologetics.blogspot.com jim

    “The idea that it’s even remotely credible to claim that there might be a case where an omniscient being couldn’t find, an omnipotent being couldn’t carry out, and a halfway-decent, let alone omnibenevolent, being wouldn’t desire, a means of achieving the same end without all that bloodshed is one of them “extraordinary claims that requires extraordinary evidence.”

    Accepting the ludicrous proposition that the story up to the point of Adam and Eve eating the fruit were true, a benevolent God would simply have sterilized them so as not to allow the taint of sin to proceed through the subsequent generations. If He still wanted a race of humans to fellowship with, He could have snapped his fingers and started all over again. With a bit more foresight, I’d hope.

  • Peter N

    I’ve been thinking about cl’s comment, and it finally dawned on me that he may have found the key to a completely new field of Christian apologetics. See how this fits the evidence:

    1. God is all-knowing
    2. God is all-powerful
    3. God is all-benevolent
    4. God is not very bright
    Maybe God created humans, with our intelligence and imagination, to help Him make sense of His creation!

    This would certainly go a long way toward explaining the absurdities, contradictions, and moral failures in the Bible.

  • other scott

    All knowing and ‘not very bright’ seem to be mutually exclusive to me.

  • Alex Weaver

    All knowing and ‘not very bright’ seem to be mutually exclusive to me.

    There’s nothing inherently contradictory about having a huge store of facts but virtually nonexistent critical thinking skills and a lack of intuition or “vision.” I’ve met multiple walking examples.

  • other scott

    Haha, another good point! Though I do believe that all knowing in the whole omnimax sense is supposed to mean able to see the future too. I would think that having an unfettered vision of the future would help one always make the right choices.

  • Alex Weaver

    There are people who “know everything” about a subject in terms of discrete facts yet seem to be constitutionally unable to form connections between those facts to produce a sane, intelligible generalization or conclusion, too. I don’t think I’ve met as many, granted, but…

  • other scott

    Very true, and if you think about it along those lines: Knowing all the facts about a universe that you yourself created isn’t actually that special. Say if you wrote a book or created a computer game. Within the universe of that book or game you would be all-knowing. And all-powerful to boot!

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    other scott “Say if you…created a computer game. Within the universe of that book or game you would be all-knowing. And all-powerful to boot!”
    Witness dear, dear, Vox Day’s Argument from Divine Game Design* (scroll down to “During the demo”). Hint: He makes a 3O’d God work by crippling one of the O’s.

    *I’d hunt down and link Vox’s site with Vox talking about it directly, but that would kill a small part of my humanity.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Hmmm… decisions, decisions. Should I use my daily comment for the interesting developments taking place in this dicussion? Or use it to give D‘s comment in the other thread the swat-down it deserves? I guess I’ll take these..

    Leum,

    I’d have to say that it might be acceptable to destroy a people under those circumstances,

    I agree. One thing I find really problematic is that so many people – atheist, believer, or otherwise – get into these modes of thinking where they ask themselves moral questions like, “Is X right or wrong?” I believe that at least 99 times out of 100, the correct questions is, “When is X right, and when is X wrong?” I find that Ebon and many commenters here are in the former camp, and that such is why I often disagree with black-and-white pronouncements on morality.

    ..there’s also the difficulty that God’s ordering someone else to carry out the acts;

    Yes, that should also get addressed. Even if we say there are conditions where genocide is justified, the morality of entrusting such to humans remains a debatable question. [cl makes another note..]

    Maynard,

    It’s the reduction of the opportunity the virus has to infect/replicate in the human host.

    Ha! And they say I wriggle out of conundrums with semantics! Okay then: “God [was just reducing] the opportunity of the [Canaanite] virus to infect/replicate.” Is that better?

    D,

    If you say God is good, and not a mixed bag, then you are in fact ignoring the bad stuff because the preponderance of evidence does not point to “God is good,” it points to “God is a miserable fuck-up just like the rest of us.”

    First off, get yourself in context here. What I’m saying is this: Ebon tried to paint Koukl as one-sided: “All positive evidence is to be trusted; all negative evidence is to be dismissed.” Yet, Koukl did not dismiss the “negative evidence.” He accepted it, and still said that he felt God was good because of the overwhelming positive evidence. I know that you personally feel the preponderance of evidence points to God being a monster, and if I were to treat you like Ebonmuse treated Koukl in the OP, I would accuse you of “dismissing the positive evidence,” yet I know better than to assume the worst about people.

    You know what would have been even better? Causing all the wicked people’s parents to miscarry unknowingly, allowing the last good folks in the bloodline to die in relative peace instead of being, oh, I don’t know, brutally murdered to the last.

    Maybe, maybe not, but you still need to unpack your presuppositions here. What if there were no “last good folks in the bloodline?” That is how the Bible describes the state of those who received God’s judgment. We have instances of God withholding the judgment of an entire population on account of a single “good” person.

    Are you seriously arguing that miraculously coordinated miscarriages, especially at a time when people didn’t understand reproduction as fully as we do now, would have been no better than people butchering each other? Come on. This isn’t even funny any more; you’re usually more thoughtful than this (from what I’ve seen, anyway).

    I appreciate the compliment, but “better” for who? Me? You? Them? Who am I to say? I can’t judge the “better” or “best” method if I don’t know the motive.

    Alex Weaver,

    Humans suffer. Germs don’t.

    Well that’s only about the most human-centric argument I’ve heard all day. For one, you don’t know if germs suffer. For two, many of the species we do eradicate do experience suffering. Cane toads? The entire population of squirrels they killed off the beach in my hometown? Next time try an answer that deals with the difficult question instead of eschewing it in four words.

    The idea that it’s even remotely credible to claim that there might be a case where an omniscient being couldn’t find, an omnipotent being couldn’t carry out, and a halfway-decent, let alone omnibenevolent, being wouldn’t desire, a means of achieving the same end without all that bloodshed is one of them “extraordinary claims that requires extraordinary evidence.”

    If you want to rest your case on an argument from personal incredulity, be my guest.

    Danikajaye,

    Surely never existing is kinder than being bloodily murdered?

    Someone that “never existed” couldn’t judge the kinder method, so I can’t accept that as a usable argument.

    I fail to see how killing other human beings purely because of their race would ever be to the advantage of other humans. If it is morally defensible to kill one lot of human beings it is then morally defensible to kill them ALL.

    For one, “their race” wasn’t the reason God had them killed. For two, even if we say that it can be morally defensible to kill one lot of human beings, such is not the same as saying it is morally defensible to kill them all.

    This post appeared the day I finished reading a book about 2 small Jewish boys who were hidden from the Nazi’s but eventually found and killed in a concentration camp. Just reading about it had me sobbing by the end so how people ever carried it out is beyond anything I can comprehend.

    Well then, no offense, but that would help explain why your counter-arguments in this instance are hotly emotional, as opposed to coldly logical.

    other scott,

    Human beings commit ‘genocide’ against noxious species all the time. We wipe out germs, bacteria and viruses on a daily basis or at least we try to.

    Correct, and according to atheists we’re just another product of evolution, no better than any of those species, right? So to those who think thusly, why is it “okay” to kill those species, and not ours?

    I was simply pointing out that human beings still find it quite normal to commit ‘genocide’ against other species of life. We only find it abhorrent when the genocide is committed against other humans.

    Yes. I believe that’s the most cogent argument in this thread, one that painfully reveals the special pleading by which many atheists reason.

    Still, it is a tall order to believe that something as simple as race/creed/belief could ever be dangerous(?) enough that a genocide is justified.

    I agree, and that’s why I think there’s much more to the story than what’s presented in Ebonmuse’s overly-simplistic explanation.

  • Maynard

    cl:

    Maynard,

    It’s the reduction of the opportunity the virus has to infect/replicate in the human host.

    Ha! And they say I wriggle out of conundrums with semantics! Okay then: “God [was just reducing] the opportunity of the [Canaanite] virus to infect/replicate.” Is that better?

    No, I think they say you wriggle out of conundrums with straw men and red herrings.

    Explain how you can equate an omniscient deity, with foreknowledge, who orders genocide to human attempts at preventing sickness/death by natural observation and trial & error experimentation?

    Any way you look at it, you end up with a being unworthy of worship (and real jerk to boot).

    And once more:

    How much foreknowledge does he need to avert genocide?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    I’ve updated the post with the correction pointed out by Steve Bowen – thanks to those who caught my mistake. Lest this seem too academic a debate, I’ve also added some photographic documentation of exactly what the apologists are defending.

    In regards to other scott’s comment:

    Human beings commit ‘genocide’ against noxious species all the time. We wipe out germs, bacteria and viruses on a daily basis or at least we try to. Being an Australian I have seen first hand what an introduced species can do to an ecosystem. Is our attempted eradication of cane toads any better than god’s eradication of the Canaanites

    I don’t agree that the extermination of a non-human species can be called genocide, for the same reason that slaughtering a chicken or a cow isn’t murder. Animals aren’t moral agents to which such terms can be rightfully applied (with some possible exceptions, such as chimpanzees). Killing off an entire species may be wrong for other reasons, but certain kinds of crimes can only be committed against persons.

    There’s also a vital difference between, say, stamping out polio or trying to eradicate an alien species such as cane toads, versus slaughtering a whole race of human beings. Namely, animals, microorganisms, etc. can only make their living in one way – they can’t be reasoned with or persuaded to adopt a less destructive lifestyle. If they’re causing harm to us, or irreparably damaging ecosystems, we have the right to act in self-defense. This is not true of humans, who can always choose to make a living in a different way that doesn’t harm others. As Alex said, even if you grant the total depravity of the Canaanites (which I don’t), it’s not even remotely credible to think that an all-powerful god couldn’t come up with a better solution to this problem than violently massacring all the offenders.

  • Danikajaye

    cl , what a load of bullshit. Justified genocide? Really? For arguments sake, if an all-knowing being slaughtered a group of people for the benefit of the rest of human kind then would it not follow that this group of people were going to do something worse? What is worse than genocide? What could a group of people possibly do that would be more horrific and cause more destruction, pain and suffering in the world than the killing of a whole group of men, women and children?

    Which side of the Euthyphro dilemma are you on? If you believe that what is moral is commanded by God because it is moral then it would seem that genocide has been established as a moral option. If somebody is willing to twist themselves into a pretzel it can be then used to to defend other instances of genocide. What criteria do a group have to meet to make themselves a target for “justified genocide”? Can you please show me an example in human history of justified genocide? Armenia, Bosnia, Cambodia, East Timor, WWII, Rwanda….?

  • Alex Weaver

    I wanted to add something:

    This is similar to the question of whether or not it would be immoral for God to have cut Hitler’s life short.

    It would be immoral from the perspective of a god; far better would be to ensure that young Adolf would acquire a broader and more compassionate perspective – flaming shrubbery demanding tolerance, humility, and goodwill would work, but so would covertly arranging personal acquaintance with progressive philosophy and familiarity with and mentoring by good citizens, proud Germans, and perhaps veterans of all ethnic and religious backgrounds, especially but not only Jewish, thus inspiring him to recognize the common humanity and common national identity of his countrymen, to reject the arrogant imperialism, ethnocentrism, and militaristic machoidiotism that had largely defined German foreign policy and views of the world up to and through World War I, and hope to unite all the peoples of Germany to rebuild their country and help create a better future for their children. Under the subtle guidance of providence he would appeal to the best in Germans and come to prominence and a position of leadership nonviolently and lawfully, using his political and oratory talents to promote unity, tolerance, compassion, and the rule of law, rekindling hope and gaining the trust of the people and being elected to office legitimately, instituting necessary reforms and recognizing and publicly characterizing Communism not as a conspiracy of Jews or others but, like fascism and xenophobic scapegoating, as an understandable but misguided product of desperation, wishful thinking, and all the human frailties, a wrong and unacceptable approach to social progress, thus swaying the bulk of the people away from either and suppressing the violent fringes of left and right while maintaining the rule of law. Ultimately he would help to guide the economic recovery of Germany, negotiate an end to the sanctions of the Versailles treaty, and, if necessary and by forming alliances with the rest of the free world, prepare to protect all Europe from military expansion by the Soviet Union while respecting and upholding the sovereignty of Germany’s neighbors. Ultimately he would either reach the limit of electoral terms or step down, allowing for a peaceful and lawful transition of power in either case, and retire as a beloved national hero of Germany and an inspirational figure for the world, to live out the rest of his days in peace.

    That would be the moral approach for a god. If the Canaanites were really as bad as apologists say, the appropriate remedy there would have been analogous.

  • http://rhino1515.blogspot.com/ Rhino1515

    Eshu: I believe you are thinking of the Mormons. For years and years, the Mormons justified their racist refusal to allow African-Americans into their religion by claiming something along the lines of:

    Ham was bad [not the food, the dude] because he saw Noah naked and hung over. Ham’s son was Canaan. God somehow blamed Canaan for what Ham did [again, the guy -- not the delicious pork product]. Canaan was somehow turned black because of what his dad did. All of his descendants also turned black. Therefore: anyone with black skin was responsible, for ever and ever, for what Ham saw….

    Jeez, I do NOT know why my brain didn’t just explode explaining that! How absurd and ridiculous?!?!

  • other scott

    I think Danikajaye raises the best point by far. No matter what the group who was destroyed were going to do, it can hardly be worse than genocide!!

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    People, please! I think you’re forgetting that some of those Canaanites were leading the Chosen away from the Lord. Away. From the Lord. They were the Rock & Roll music-slash-comic books-slash-Harvey Potter and the Thing of the Other Thing of their day.
    I think I’ve made my point.

  • Ritchie

    Danikajaye

    Also can somebody please tell me how the holocaust can be denied? Auchwitz and Birkenau still stand to this day along with the railways and gas chambers. I’ve visited them and the piles of hair and Jewish belongings are still there along with the meticulous documentation the Nazi’s were so fond of. They took a photo of nearly every Jew that was killed and recorded their names and date of death. What is there to deny? What is the argument of holocaust deniers?

    I’m pretty sure the arguments employed by holocaust deniers mirror Creationsts’ arguments against evolution. Every individual piece of evidence which points in favour of it is to be individually discredited or explained another way.

    We know evolution is true in the same way we know the holocaust really happened – there is a huge amount of small bits of evidence which all point to the same conclusion. Every piece of evidence is small on its own, but backed up by a tonne of other small pieces saying the same thing. The denier simply has to refuse to see the bigger picture. Every eye-witness is lying and has an agenda, the NAZI’s were forced into false confessions, the photographs were staged by the allies for propaganda purposes, all NAZI documents mentioning the final solution are forged, the camps were not really used as gas chambers at all, etc…

    Frighteningly enough, it’s actually pretty easy to deny the reality of something you don’t want to believe. A lesson, perhaps, in the enormous power of self-deception.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com/ D

    @ cl: Y’know what? You’re right, on that part about Koukl, and for that, I apologize. You were making a point about argumentative form, and I got side-tracked. I lost sight of your actual point, and addressed your pretend point, and so I was just talking right past you.

    As for the other stuff… I don’t even know where to begin. Your point on unpacking presuppositions is a good one; however, realize that we all have presuppositions, and they can’t all be fully unpacked because they’re not all “packed” to begin with (that may not stick, but I hope you get the point – it’s not the important part anyway). Point is, we have to argue from common ground: you seem to take “God is good” on faith, which, OK – but that prevents you from taking our criticisms of your God seriously. Perhaps I’m over-psychologizing you; I thought of this because you said, “…’better’ for who? Me? You? Them? Who am I to say? I can’t judge the ‘better’ or ‘best’ method if I don’t know the motive.” Does the motive matter? Unnecessary suffering seems to be justifiable only by sadism, and in a world where God can poof away any undesirables he likes, it looks to me like all suffering is unnecessary. So tell me, what do you think the moral difference is between a leader telling his followers to exterminate another group of people, and that same leader simply poofing those undesirables out of existence? And since God has consistently chosen the former, I really want to know why God thought that was better than the latter option. Oh, and keep in mind that the act of butchering people is psychologically harmful to the actors – imagine yourself walking through city streets, sword in hand, cutting down everyone you see because God said so. So I’d also like to know why it’s OK for God to give his chosen people the thousand-yard stare, too. And if you don’t know – then why on Earth do you take God’s side in this? What other thing in your life do you do this for?

    It’s like this: we mortals are fallible, thus though we are not always mistaken, it is always the case that we might be mistaken on any point. I’m starting to suspect that if you could not show that “God’s deed X” is good or at least not evil, you’d simply shrug your shoulders and write it off as your faith. Fine, but then you’ve quit the rationality game; more importantly, you’re not arguing with us in good faith. What’s the point of your talking here, if you’re not going to play the rationality game along with us? You don’t seem to be open to the idea that “God might be a jerk.” So ask yourself this: imagine it is the case that the God of Abraham exists and did actually dictate the Bible, but he’s a manipulative and sadistic bastard who you’d be better off avoiding. If this were true, then would you want to know? And if so, then how would you know it? What evidence could convince you that this is the case?

    I mean, if you wanna say that there is a god and he’s good, that’s one thing; but you simply can’t have “good god” and “Bible true,” because the Bible is full of evil, wicked shit. Exterminating cities for sticking it in the naughty place? Sending bears to maul children for laughing at a bald priest? Jesus turning a woman away and calling her and her demon-possessed daughter “dogs” after she begged for his help? (Doesn’t matter that he eventually fixed the daughter – he called her a dog in the first place, and that’s just not cool.) I mean, OK, I guess I haven’t been considering the idea that you might think this stuff is good. But if that’s true, then you’re a monster, and I’m just grateful that you’re not the one wearing the god-hat.

    Which other comment? I have e-mail, you know. joyousfox@gmail.com (I’m not opposed to doing battle with monsters, I just want to know what the terms are here.)

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    I’ve seen the comments from others but I’ve only got the “umph” for this one right now:

    D,

    ..you seem to take “God is good” on faith, which, OK – but that prevents you from taking our criticisms of your God seriously.

    No it doesn’t, and I don’t think it’s fair (or “good faith” BTW) of you to just assume that. In order to defend the position that God is good – however – the person trying to defend has to assume such for the sake of argument (the “necessary presuppositions” you allude to”) None of that means I don’t take your criticisms seriously. On occasion I’ve seen my arguments dashed to pieces and sometimes I quiver in my boots. Contrary to your claim, I take everyone’s criticisms deeply to heart. Take for just one example Ebonmuse’s essay A Ghost In The Machine. I’ve written upwards of 10,000 words in response to that one argument, which I doubt Ebon even reads. I’ve asked him to debate me on it, and I’ll do so again right here – Ebon, why not just debate the essay?

    I learn from atheist criticism – immensely. It makes me smarter, stronger and more resilient; it’s the wax and polish on my belief. If I didn’t take your criticisms seriously (and by ‘your’ I mean everyone here and elsewhere), I wouldn’t be here, and you make sport of me by pretending otherwise. Lastly, realize that whatever slothful induction you’ll permit me the liberty of mistakenly swallowing is on your plate too. Now.

    Does the motive matter? Unnecessary suffering seems to be justifiable only by sadism, and in a world where God can poof away any undesirables he likes, it looks to me like all suffering is unnecessary.

    First off, hell yes the motive matters! In everything. Intent is a hallmark property of consciousness; not sure why I blurted that out, maybe it’s relevant somewhere else, I don’t know. Second, this is another example of what I mean when I say unpack your presuppositions: I don’t necessarily agree that God can just “poof away any undesirables”. Do you suppose God can do the logically impossible? I don’t. So, if God wants to make beings that understand the difference between right and wrong, it is absolutely mandatory that they be given the ability to do wrong and reap the consequences – no matter how “brutal” or “cruel” it seems. This relates (in a weird way) right back to the other discussion. Well, I presuppose God has some purpose for beings who have knowledge of good and evil, and have committed themselves to refinement towards the good.

    So tell me, what do you think the moral difference is between a leader telling his followers to exterminate another group of people, and that same leader simply poofing those undesirables out of existence? And since God has consistently chosen the former, I really want to know why God thought that was better than the latter option.

    Again, I don’t know if God could “poof” them out of existence or not to be honest; I’m trying to make as little assumptions as possible, and I will say that “consistently chosen the former” is an overstatement for sure. A big one.

    What other thing in your life do you do this for?

    Not sure what ya mean, but again, this is mental exercise for me and I take it as serious as you or next person posting. Probably more serious to be honest, as these are the criticisms I’m using to refine arguments that will be published.

    I’m starting to suspect that if you could not show that “God’s deed X” is good or at least not evil, you’d simply shrug your shoulders and write it off as your faith. Fine, but then you’ve quit the rationality game;

    No more than you when you accept that yes, one day we’ll have X, Y or Z explained in its entirety, so chill out. Also, whoever claims God acted in an evil way has the burden of proof; theirs is the positive claim. It seems the only arguments offered thus far are that genocide is always morally wrong, and I don’t think that’s a sustainable argument; and that God could’ve done things differently, which is not even an argument.

    ..more importantly, you’re not arguing with us in good faith. What’s the point of your talking here, if you’re not going to play the rationality game along with us? You don’t seem to be open to the idea that “God might be a jerk.”

    You know what? I’m just as open to that as the idea that you’re being a jerk right now. Seriously. All this “not arguing with us in good faith” crap is unfounded silliness. I’m sitting here making an honest and straightforward attempt to explain why I think it’s not as black-and-white as most of you here would have us believe, so don’t sit here and say I’m not trying or that I’ve departed from rationalism or any of that nonsense. Far from it. While we’re on the subject of departures from rationalism, I’ve yet to hear a cogent explanation from Ebonmuse, yourself or anyone else which both allows atheists to claim humans are inherently no better than the lower species, but also allows atheists to justify humans exterminating lower species for certain reasons, because “animals aren’t moral agents.” For certain reasons, humans exterminate lesser species that threaten them. Well, then it follows that humans ought not complain if and when higher species have ours eliminated for analogous reasons.

    Here’s what this boils down to on my end: presuming higher species / beings / entities / God (etc.) exist, whatever logic it is that allows humans to justify exterminating lower species must also allow these higher species to justify the extermination of humans. Further, just as the species we exterminate typically aren’t aware of the reason we’re exterminating them, it’s plausible that we may be totally unaware of the reason for our own extermination – while the extermination itself in fact remains justified – from the position of the higher species. Just as the cane toad probably can’t understand why we’re exterminating it, any human species being exterminated by a higher species probably wouldn’t understand why, either.

    Exterminating cities for sticking it in the naughty place? Sending bears to maul children for laughing at a bald priest? Jesus turning a woman away and calling her and her demon-possessed daughter “dogs” after she begged for his help? (Doesn’t matter that he eventually fixed the daughter – he called her a dog in the first place, and that’s just not cool.) I mean, OK, I guess I haven’t been considering the idea that you might think this stuff is good. But if that’s true, then you’re a monster, and I’m just grateful that you’re not the one wearing the god-hat.

    [sigh...] let’s see how the other stuff goes and we can get back to this. The short answer here is that you add information in at least one place, and you argue from at least one presupposition that I would challenge. I’ll note your email, but if we’re gonna take the time why not have the arguments where they might benefit others? Sorry it takes me so long to get back; at least DA’s neat and clean and orderly.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com/ D

    @ cl: Whoah. You’re right, I have been a jerk. I’m sorry, I forget sometimes (perhaps too often!) that we’re coming from completely different perspectives here. My apologies. How about I try again?

    What if there were no “last good folks in the bloodline?”
    I’m sorry, I only meant “good enough to not be slaughtered.” I just think that it would have been better if God had caused the last deceased ancestors of those killed to never conceive their children, instead of letting those children be conceived and grow and then be slaughtered. In other words, if you’re going to exterminate a people, why do it with swords rather than infertility? I think this because I don’t see how butchering those people accomplishes anything worthwhile that could not have been accomplished just as well, had the Israelites simply walked into a ghost town; and I also think that “people killing people” made the situation worse than it needed to be, in an admittedly intuitively obvious sense. I also think that if God can part the Red Sea or even raise a man from the dead, then there’s no way he could lack the power to prevent a conception. Does that clarify what I meant, and do you disagree at any point?

    …”better” for who? Me? You? Them? Who am I to say? Well, would you buy that you’ve inherited knowledge of good and evil from Adam and Eve? I mean, I take different steps to get there, but I think we can agree that humans are able to somehow tell apart good from evil, and so we can answer these sorts of questions. And even if we can’t answer a particular one, I’m sure we could agree on what kinds of answers would at least fit, and whether or not those “fitting” answers could apply to the Bible stories in question. Do you think that this sort of approach would be a good tack to take if we are to decide whether genocide can or cannot be justified, or at least under what conditions it could be justified? Either way, we can get a step closer to seeing where we fundamentally disagree, or even clearly outlining an empirical basis of our impasse! For instance, if we could agree that X would justify genocide, and could have best been accomplished by genocide rather than other means, then we could establish whether X might have been achieved by that Bible story, whether or not it was specifically mentioned as having been achieved, thus more specifically framing our disagreement. I just see that as a really big “if.”

    First off, hell yes the motive matters! In everything. D’oh! I forgot that not everybody is an intent-disregarding strict consequentialist like myself. And yeah, OK, I’ll agree at least provisionally that I’d prefer an honest screw-up to a deliberate shit-head, if they took all the same actions – but I’d judge them as moral equals for the results of those actions. This might be the hinge of our disagreement, though, if we can’t come to common ground here. So… how do you feel about rock-paper-scissors? I know of no more honorable solution to the problem of trying to argue value-based judgments about systems of value judgments, to be honest! :)

    What other thing in your life do you do this for? By this, I meant that any human who took the actions God is written to have taken, any device that brought about the results God has sought at various points, any idea that caused as much suffering as the idea of “God” has (true or not!), I would unreservedly term “evil,” no matter how much good that thing had also done. For example, in the book of Job, I don’t think that “having created the cosmos” makes it OK for God to let the Devil ruin Job’s life, and I don’t think that the rewards God gives Job for his faith make up for the suffering he experienced, especially not to prove a point to Satan.

    For example, suppose some crook I know tells me that you only like me because I gave you a bunch of nice stuff. I tell him, “Rubbish! Go wreck his stuff, and see what he does!” He does so, and you keep talking to me, acting like nothing’s going on, not even asking me for new stuff or even complaining to me that it got wrecked. Finally, I tell you that you’ve been Punk’d, and I replace all the stuff that guy wrecked, filling you in on the entire scheme. Would you be OK with that, and be glad that crook underestimated the strength of our friendship, or would you be mad at me for playing along? I would be mad, because friends don’t taunt criminals to wreck their friends’ stuff just to prove how great of friends they are. At least, that’s my opinion. And if you were mad at me, I wouldn’t expect you to cool off if I told you that I built your house and all the stuff in it (which Job still acquired by his own labor after God put it together, after all).

    To me, the grief of going through that period of having all my stuff wrecked is not something that can just be made OK with presents. If a criminal does that to me, I’m pressing charges; if a friend watches complacently, then we’re not friends any more. Making the scenery upon which the grand plot unfolds simply does not give a free pass to play with me like that, in my book; yet that’s how I see God’s role in Job. I’ll bet you have a different interpretation, so what’s the secret ingredient (for lack of a better term, not to be dismissive) that makes it OK for God to do some things, but not OK for humans to do them?

    The reason I mentioned e-mail was simply because we could at one stroke A) not have to worry about hijacking the thread as we do the detailed work of sorting out just exactly where we agree and disagree, and B) not need to have every communication from your end be approved by someone. I mean, I don’t know what’s up between you and Ebon, and I’m not going to speculate, so I’m not saying whether his special moderation of you is warranted to my mind because I don’t know (and it’s his right in the first place, so it’s not like it even warrants me investigating). However, you seem to be spending a lot of your “daily post” or what-have-you on me, and I’m responding pretty in-depth to you, so why don’t we take this “outside” DA? Maybe we should continue this from our own soapboxes?

  • XPK

    D and cl -
    From someone who has been lurking on this website for a month or so, I beg you not to take this debate elsewhere unless you let people know where you are taking it and put it somewhere we can watch. Discussions like these are why I check this website at least twice a day, so please keep me (us) posted.

    Thank you.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    cl wrote:

    1.

    In order to defend the position that God is good – however – the person trying to defend has to assume such for the sake of argument (the “necessary presuppositions” you allude to”). [emphasis added]

    This doesn’t seem apparent to me. Defense attorneys might disagree with you as well. Additionally, isn’t this begging the question?

    2.

    I don’t necessarily agree that God can just “poof away any undesirables”.

    Let me make sure I have this clear: God can conjure up a worldwide flood; God can create the entire Universe; and more to the point, God can impregnate a virgin with his own son; but God cannot practice abortion? The logic behind this point seems rather fuzzy.

    3.

    It seems the only arguments offered thus far are that genocide is always morally wrong, and I don’t think that’s a sustainable argument; and that God could’ve done things differently, which is not even an argument.

    Given that genocide is in essence punishment by association, I’m wondering when it can ever be moral. Please give an example or two, hypotheticals acceptable, real-world preferable. And the point of wondering why God could or couldn’t have done it differently is exactly that — if us imperfect beings can concieve of a more moral method of accomplishing a goal, why cannot this Perfect Being? As such, it is a strong argument to the imperfection of God’s morality.

    4.

    While we’re on the subject of departures from rationalism, I’ve yet to hear a cogent explanation from Ebonmuse, yourself or anyone else which both allows atheists to claim humans are inherently no better than the lower species, but also allows atheists to justify humans exterminating lower species for certain reasons, because “animals aren’t moral agents.”

    Not all atheists abide by this standard. I hold that the fact that we are moral agents while most animals aren’t makes us more and not less responsible for their well-being, so long as they don’t provide a threat to us.

    5.

    Well, then it follows that humans ought not complain if and when higher species have ours eliminated for analogous reasons.

    So, since some humans behave immorally, the Deity may do so without sanction?

    6.

    whatever logic it is that allows humans to justify exterminating lower species must also allow these higher species to justify the extermination of humans.

    In line with my argument in 4. above, what threat did the Canaanites pose God?

    I still cannot believe that you are advocating that genocide may on occasion be moral. Boy, did I misread you.

  • Polly

    CL SAID:

    just as the species we exterminate typically aren’t aware of the reason we’re exterminating them, it’s plausible that we may be totally unaware of the reason for our own extermination – while the extermination itself in fact remains justified -

    Translation: God’s ways are mysterious and beyond our comprehension. Just trust and believe.

    What’s the discussion about? We’ve heard this a zillion times before.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com/ D

    @ XPK: Huh. OK! I guess it’s OK for cl and I to respond primarily to each other after all in someone else’s sandbox… I mean, scrolling ain’t hard. I just didn’t want to hijack the thread, but I guess if it’s directly related to the topic at hand (or teasing out the presuppositions we’re bringing to the topic already), then it’s not really hijacking. Glad someone else is enjoying this besides the two of us!

    @ Thumpalumpacus: Re: #2, I just remembered that God can “poof” desirables into Heaven. So he can definitely physically transport people – I’d teleport people inside the Sun, myself, or perhaps just fling them into a volcano. Or maybe even rain down specific, targeted meteorites that embedded themselves in their targets. Look, point is, I’d try to figure out the morally best method of extermination in my head, and then stick with that whenever I felt it was necessary. Also, I wouldn’t have stopped walking around in my own creation (as was done in Genesis, like a good Babylonian deity). I think it’s important to put in actual face-time with one’s constituents.

    Re: #3. I have a stipulation! OK, you’ve been taken up into a spaceship, and aliens say, “Use this death ray to exterminate all the Swiss (sorry, Switzerland, but I hope you can take a joke!), or we’ll exterminate five times as many people including the Swiss.” So the Swiss are done for either way; do you take action and save, um, four times as many people as are in Switzerland? Or do nothing and watch as even greater suffering unfolds? So, hooray for trolley problems; point is, you can hypothetically justify any act by simply stipulating that the act in question is the only means available to avert something even worse.

    Of course, to defend specific acts of genocide, you have to show either that the hypothetical scenario described is actually the case, or show how worse consequences would have followed had the genocide not been undertaken (and how other courses of action would have failed to prevent them). The problem we’re probably going to run into is that we won’t be able to agree on how to establish any of that one way or the other. Grr.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    I disagree D. One can try and cling to the hope that genocide can be pardoned because it was the best option, but that’s a rather bad argument when speaking of an omni-max deity. If the best option for a deity that can literally do anything is genocide, then this deity is either malevolent or stupid as hell.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com/ D

    OMGF, I’m unclear on which part you disagree with (I’m assuming the background assumption I was trying to elucidate, viz “Genocide is possible to justify”). What I’m saying is that, given the theoretical framework for general justification, it’s going to be hard to pin cl down to specific claims we can objectively hash out; my above post (#60) was meant to dispense with assuming that it couldn’t be done and simply asking him how he would do it, and I meant in #64 only to show how the general justification framework could be applied to genocide. While I personally agree with you, rational disagreement is possible when starting from different premises; your last sentence assumes quite a bit of context, either situational or argumentative (or both). I was simply trying to show how that context matters.

    Does that help clarify my meaning?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Sorry D, I was being unclear. I was referring specifically to your last paragraph of #64, specifically the very last sentence. (This is probably why I didn’t quote it, because it was fresh in my mind.) I see what you meant now, though, I think. I think you are saying that you won’t be able to agree with cl anything resembling a way of actually determining anything…but that’s mostly because cl is pathologically unable to not be a sophist.

    The fact remains that genocide is what cl and other fundies are defending and you and I both agree (I think) that it’s ridiculous to do so (and I would venture to guess that any objective look at morality would be on our side).

  • Thumpalumpacus

    D Wrote:

    Of course, to defend specific acts of genocide, you have to show either that the hypothetical scenario described is actually the case, or show how worse consequences would have followed had the genocide not been undertaken (and how other courses of action would have failed to prevent them).

    It seems to me that not only must one show that the hypothetical is real, but also that the cure of genocide is preferable.

    And so far as I’m concerned, I’d just as soon you lay off the Swiss, or at least the good folks as Toblerone.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com D

    …cl is pathologically unable to not be a sophist.
    - OMGF, #67

    That may be. I’m leaving it as an open question in my mind, for the admittedly conciliatory reason that saying this (and, I would argue, even thinking it) will prevent us from making any headway with cl. Granted, it is also possible that cl’s attitude is preventing us from making any headway with cl, but – look, I think the best way to make argumentative progress in situations like this is to do the jarring, difficult work of getting inside your partner’s head.

    Please understand that I don’t mean this as an insult, and I am fully aware that I’m the newcomer to this situation so maybe you just spent all your patience already (I had to go out & get more just in the course of this thread!). I just want to ask this as an honest question: “Would you rather insult cl and cause him to keep trolling until he leaves in a huff, probably angry at us mean-ol’ atheists who won’t even try to understand the root of his point of view; or would you rather try to make him feel safe and unpressured so that we can get to the honest root of our disagreement and maybe even ‘snap him out of it,’ as you might see it?”

    Cl has said that he enjoys this vigorous debate; I believe him because he called me out on being a bitch in a careful and measured fashion instead of simply hurling the insult and having done with it – as I’d done at length to him, I’m sorry to say. Perhaps that was just bait, but I’m excited at the prospect of sharpening my skills on him and maybe learning a thing or two in the process. My hope is that cl comes to think that the sharpest and shiniest arguments are in our hands, but whether or not he’s even open to this idea, we’ll never find out if we don’t show him all of our sharp & shiny arguments. Rather than straight out attacking him with Occam’s razor, for example, I’m trying to take an approach more along the lines of, “And this little number is my Occam’s razor. It slices and dices and removes superfluous deities from your ontology with a flick of the wrist! Check it out: you can use it to get rid of Odin, and Zeus, and Kukulcan, and Quoklo – but be careful! You can cut yourself with it, too!”

    …not only must one show that the hypothetical is real, but also that the cure of genocide is preferable.
    - Thumpalumpacus, #68

    Yes, precisely; but the hypothetical referred to, in context, was a stipulative example where it is the case that genocide is the only means available to prevent an even worse end. Demonstrating that “genocide is the only means available to avoid [worse than genocide event X]” is a task and a half, though! (I personally don’t think it’s possible, because I think there’s always more than one way to skin a cat, but I’m open to having my mind changed.)

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    D,

    Would you rather insult cl and cause him to keep trolling until he leaves in a huff, probably angry at us mean-ol’ atheists who won’t even try to understand the root of his point of view; or would you rather try to make him feel safe and unpressured so that we can get to the honest root of our disagreement and maybe even ‘snap him out of it,’ as you might see it?

    I once thought like you, that we could reason with him. He seems like an intelligent person. He uses well-formed sentences, he uses logic-y sounding arguments and words. But it’s all just a facade and he’s nothing but a well-polished liar for Jesus. I’ve lost all my patience with him, documented numerous cases of him lying, quote mining, etc. Then after I asked him not to comment at my blog, he continued to do so, even going so far as to issue threats. I will not humor him, because it’s become rather plain that he’s only interested in trolling and muddying waters. He’s so full of himself that he thinks he’s being banned and ignored because he’s just so good at debate and his points are un-answerable, but that’s simply because he’s deluded. Read his stuff for a couple days and it’ll take 2 seconds to rip his arguments to shreds, since it ends up being the same ole’ BS that we’re accustomed to from the charlatans that line up to apologize for their evil god. So, good luck, but fair warning.

    And, for the record, I don’t think you were being a bitch at all. I thought your arguments were rather incisive and spot on.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com/ D

    Thank you for the encouragement, OMGF – and double-thanks for the warning. My thing is, I remember what it was like to believe what cl thought. I remember what it was like to think, “Look… I can give these guys what-for, satisfy my argumentative urges, and preach Jesus all at the same time!” I see that as wrong now, but it felt so right at the time.

    I guess I’m stuck in between the two of you. The reality of the situation seems to be less like, “I can be the bridge between C & E,” and more like, “I’m at the corner and can reach C & E, but those spots can’t be reached from each other.” (Full disclosure: I don’t see this as a morally-charged assessment, just a geographical metaphor for the context of the discussion.)

    Double-full disclosure: I see cl as the victim of his own mind-virus, an’ I wanna help. Maybe that’s condescending. I’ve been condescending as a Christian, seeing atheists as victims of their own sin or the goddamned Devil’s deceit. I guess the difference is that I know my 25-year-old position is condescending, and I thought my 14-year-old position was indisputable at the time. Also, I now understand that condescension (in the sense of 1 as distinct from 2) is sometimes a rational approach, as long as you consistently treat the other person as a person and an argumentative peer. Threats, lies, and out-staying one’s welcome do not satisfy that criterion, though. So if we can all condescend politely to one another… blargh. Barking up the wrong tree now.

    Look, cl, I can be your best pal if you wanna keep going at this, and if Ebonmuse still feels like allowing you in his sandbox (even if he doesn’t, you know how to get a hold of me). While I’m taking everyone’s words into consideration, ultimately, you’re the person who will most shape my opinion of you. Ball’s in your court, don’t fumble, and… beware of mixing metaphors. :)

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  • Asi

    1)The “hanging from trees” example cannot be used to prove G-d being bloodthirsty. This was in a time and society where “an eye for an eye” was completely literal, human sacrifice and slavery were smiled upon, and capital punishment was carried out. Since the form of government was based on religion entirely, any rational person or being (which is why many of you don’t understand this) would kill whoever committed an offense which required death (idol worship required stoning) and adultery, another heavy offense, especially if they were equivalent in power and stature to probably the Secretary of State today, and therefore, especially in a religious society, expected to provide a GOOD example, instead of violating 2 of the worst offenses! (What kind of idiot would call someone bloodthirsty for carrying out the prescribed punishment for one of his own laws?) To compare this with a deity who asked for human blood in her services is incredibly ridiculous!
    2)How can you possibly call the elimination of the Canaanites “genocide”? If a nation goes to a country and kills most of its inhabitants because they won’t surrender, and then allows the survivors to stay in the land as long as they abide by the civil (not even religious) laws and pay a small tribute, that’s what the normal human (which usually possesses what some scientists call ‘logic’) would call conquest! What you say about “murdering men, women, and children” does not mention the fact that a) they weren’t told “Go murder all the innocent people you can find”, and b) the ‘no mercy’ part was actually referring to the Amalekites, who in attacking the Jews gave people the feeling that Jews can be attacked and therefore started Anti-Semitism as we know it.
    3)If you read the Old Testament (or Torah as I call it), then you would know that when Isaiah says his stuff, he is talking about the Jews finally being able to fight back against all the constant oppression and massacres they had been victims of like how they say the streets ran with blood after roughly everything that happened to the Jews, and NOT, as you imply, going out into the streets and saying “God, give me the strength to kill all of the children in this community”.
    4) I notice how you are only quoting three Christians to represent all of the world’s religions. Why not ask a Muslim or a Jew or a Buddhist for a change? I mean, though you personally may think so, it’s not like the world is divided into atheists (smart) and Christians (stupid).

  • Asi

    And again, just in case you got lost in all the words: It wasn’t genocide, it was conquest!

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    What you say about “murdering men, women, and children” does not mention the fact that a) they weren’t told “Go murder all the innocent people you can find”, and b) the ‘no mercy’ part was actually referring to the Amalekites…

    Thanks for playing. You’re wrong on both counts:

    “When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and shall cast out many nations before thee, the Hittite, and the Girgashite, and the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; and when the LORD thy God shall deliver them up before thee, and thou shalt smite them; then thou shalt utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them…”

    http://www.mechon-mamre.org/e/et/et0507.htm

  • Asi

    Yeah, but “When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it” implies that the only members of this nation they should kill are the ones inside the Land, implying conquest more than genocide. Afterwards, it says “you shall not make marriages with them. How could they marry them if they killed all the women and children? As to ‘no mercy’, it does say that, but what kind of conquest program would it be if they fought seven nations, all mightier and hinted to be significantly (physically) larger (i think in Numbers), with mercy?
    Also, what about the other stuff I said?

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Wow. You’re trying to equivocate on “conquest” vs. “genocide?” Utterly destroy them…genocide.

    As for your other points, the eye for an eye argument doesn’t hold here. It’s not about the current culture, but about what god specifically demands of Moses. He tells Moses to hang them from the trees for god’s delight. Are you claiming that god did not say this and that the story is made up in order to reflect the culture of the time?

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann1086

    Very well.

    1)The “hanging from trees” example cannot be used to prove G-d being bloodthirsty. This was in a time and society where “an eye for an eye” was completely literal, human sacrifice and slavery were smiled upon, and capital punishment was carried out. Since the form of government was based on religion entirely, any rational person or being (which is why many of you don’t understand this) would kill whoever committed an offense which required death (idol worship required stoning) and adultery, another heavy offense, especially if they were equivalent in power and stature to probably the Secretary of State today, and therefore, especially in a religious society, expected to provide a GOOD example, instead of violating 2 of the worst offenses! (What kind of idiot would call someone bloodthirsty for carrying out the prescribed punishment for one of his own laws?) To compare this with a deity who asked for human blood in her services is incredibly ridiculous!

    …. what?

    No seriously, I have no idea what you’re saying. Are you… trying to defend these laws? Or… what?

    2)How can you possibly call the elimination of the Canaanites “genocide”? If a nation goes to a country and kills most of its inhabitants because they won’t surrender, and then allows the survivors to stay in the land as long as they abide by the civil (not even religious) laws and pay a small tribute, that’s what the normal human (which usually possesses what some scientists call ‘logic’) would call conquest! What you say about “murdering men, women, and children” does not mention the fact that a) they weren’t told “Go murder all the innocent people you can find”, and b) the ‘no mercy’ part was actually referring to the Amalekites, who in attacking the Jews gave people the feeling that Jews can be attacked and therefore started Anti-Semitism as we know it.

    “Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group.” Seriously, you’re defending this?

    3)If you read the Old Testament (or Torah as I call it), then you would know that when Isaiah says his stuff, he is talking about the Jews finally being able to fight back against all the constant oppression and massacres they had been victims of like how they say the streets ran with blood after roughly everything that happened to the Jews, and NOT, as you imply, going out into the streets and saying “God, give me the strength to kill all of the children in this community”.

    So when previously-oppressed minorities do the slaughtering, it’s ok? Seriously? This is your argument?

    4) I notice how you are only quoting three Christians to represent all of the world’s religions. Why not ask a Muslim or a Jew or a Buddhist for a change? I mean, though you personally may think so, it’s not like the world is divided into atheists (smart) and Christians (stupid).

    Firstly, strawman. There are plenty of stupid atheists and smart Christians. Try reading the extra chapter in Michael Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things, entitled “Why Smart People Believe Weird Things”. It’s an excellent read.

    Secondly, how is a blog post about the OT/Torah not about Jews? Or, hell, about Muslims, since they tend to regard the OT as “canon”? Further, I really hate apologists who deflect criticism of their religious beliefs by whining about how we’re not criticizing other people’s beliefs. We do that all the time, too (search fields are your friends!). You’re just too butthurt to notice when we do.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Yeah, but “When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it” implies that the only members of this nation they should kill are the ones inside the Land, implying conquest more than genocide.

    So, genocide is OK as long as it’s only directed against people in a specific geographical region. Thanks for clearing that up.

  • Thumpalumacus

    Another problem with this “conquest, not genocide” argument is that a common tool of genocide is forced relocation, which occurs in almost every instance. Thus, your objection actually strengthens the case advanced in the OP.

    Btw, is that moral relativity there, or are you just glad to see us?

  • Asi

    Themann- you’re saying that if someone tries to take over a country, and its people are of one race, that’s genocide? Secondly, yes I am defending the laws. I feel, as I have said already, that punishing someone by death for two offenses which have already been announces as worthy of death is okay.
    OMGF- read what I said to themann, and again, God sayinghe’s delighted about people who sinned horribly being punished is not the same as asking to kill people as SACRIFICES.

    Ebonmuse-

  • Asi

    Ebonmuse-if what I said to themann is genocide to you, then yes. You’re right. It is okay.
    Thumpalumpacus- again, the canaanites WERE allowed to stay in the Land
    Themann- also, I didn’t say it wasn’t about Jews. I said they only quoted Christians.

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann1086

    you’re saying that if someone tries to take over a country, and its people are of one race, that’s genocide?

    If by “take over a country” you mean “kill every male, adult woman, and non-virgin girls” and “keep the virgin girls for yourself”, yeah, that is fucking genocide.

    God saying he’s delighted about people who sinned horribly being punished is not the same as asking to kill people as SACRIFICES

    And such a god is an all-loving all-good being? What definition of good are you using?

    Secondly, yes I am defending the laws. I feel, as I have said already, that punishing someone by death for two offenses which have already been announces as worthy of death is okay.

    “This was in a time and society where “an eye for an eye” was completely literal, human sacrifice and slavery were smiled upon, and capital punishment was carried out. Since the form of government was based on religion entirely, any rational person [...] would kill whoever committed an offense which required death (idol worship required stoning) and adultery, another heavy offense”. So, to clarify, you defend human sacrifice, slavery, and killing people who worship a different god and sleep around… if those are the laws. And these are “God’s laws”, right? Therefore these are moral laws?

    You need a “remedial ethics” course, holy fuck…

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    OMGF- read what I said to themann, and again, God sayinghe’s delighted about people who sinned horribly being punished is not the same as asking to kill people as SACRIFICES.

    And your point is? Do you honestly think that god getting satisfaction out of having Moses hang people from trees is somehow less bad, less barbaric, less cruel if it isn’t done as some sort of “sacrifice” as you put it? It’s still an offering of a dead body to a god, displayed in a heinous fashion, and god supposedly gets his kicks from it.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Yeah, but it’s not some icky magazine put out by Larry Flynt; it’s God’s command, and that makes it good.

    Or so I gather of the argument.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    I have to say, I just love the illogic of this bit:

    This was in a time and society where “an eye for an eye” was completely literal, human sacrifice and slavery were smiled upon, and capital punishment was carried out. Since the form of government was based on religion entirely, any rational person or being (which is why many of you don’t understand this) would kill whoever committed an offense which required death…

    So, let’s review: Child sacrifice was a grave sin in God’s eyes, and to punish the Canaanites for practicing it, God ordered the Israelites to… kill all the Canaanites, including the children. Yep, makes perfect sense.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Well Ebon, if you were rational, you’d realize that god was powerless to stop those ancient barbarians from being barbarians. He had no power to give them rules and laws to follow or to teach them that wholesale slaughter is not OK. So, you see that he was forced to order them to slaughter their enemies including all the children (and livestock, salt the Earth, etc) because that’s just how things were back then. god couldn’t do anything about it, his hands were tied.

  • Nickorama

    Yeah, he`d have to be some kind of “omnipotent being” to get out of THAT fix.

  • Daniel

    Many Bible scholars make no attempt to defend The Old Testament. This has actually been a matter of deep debate since the earliest days of Christianity. Many Christians either feel The Old Testament shouldn’t be part of the Christian Bible or alternately view it as a merely historical (not necessarily factual) document read to contrast the world before Jesus with the world post-Jesus. That is to say, many Christians (especially theologians) believe Jesus to be the image of TRUE divinity & Yahweh (or Yahu) to be a tribal war deity shared by the bulk of ancient Semitic people.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Daniel “Many Christians either feel The Old Testament shouldn’t be part of the Christian Bible…”
    Hey, it worked for the Cathars.

    “This has actually been a matter of deep debate since the earliest days of Christianity.”
    Deep theological discussion:
    Theo A: “Hey, this bit from the Tanakh makes me uncomfortable. This must mean that it didn’t happen.”
    Theo B: “You mean that bit that Jesus and Paul mentioned in the sequel?”
    Theo A: “Oh. Well this bit here in the Tanakh has no evidence for it. It’s merely hearsay.”
    Theo B: “You mean like the New Testament?”
    Theo A: “Crap.”
    [Buzz]
    Theo Supervisor: “Quittin’ time, everybody. Your paychecks are in the front. Good work. I’ll see you all on Monday for another round of biblical navel-gazing, where half of you will prove Aquinas right and half will prove him wrong. The third half will prove him both right and wrong via semantic games and verbal gymnastics. Remember to bring your sneakers.”

    “That is to say, many Christians (especially theologians) believe Jesus to be the image of TRUE divinity & Yahweh (or Yahu) to be a tribal war deity shared by the bulk of ancient Semitic people.”
    It should be pointed out that nobody actually listen to theologians. Sure, when position X needs the veneer of intellectual thought behind it, theologian X’s view will get a mention, but the theologian’s God and the believer’s God are two different things (and more and more so as time goes on. Spong comes to mind). Theology isn’t religion, it’s the science of never being wrong.

  • jemand

    @daniel, some god then, who let millions of people in thousands of generations die painfully and horribly before deciding to give anyone an image of true divinity.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Many Bible scholars make no attempt to defend The Old Testament. This has actually been a matter of deep debate since the earliest days of Christianity.

    I see. What is exactly the word of God is apparently a matter of debate. What are your criteria? Do they comport with those of theologians? Doesn’t this worry you?

    Many Christians either feel The Old Testament shouldn’t be part of the Christian Bible or alternately view it as a merely historical (not necessarily factual) document read to contrast the world before Jesus with the world post-Jesus.

    I’m unsure what your phrase ” … historical (not neccessarily factual) document …” actually means. Forgive my truculence if I say you sound like you’re trying to have it both ways. Also, it sounds as if you’re arguing that the world before Jesus was, ahem, evil.

    That is to say, many Christians (especially theologians) believe Jesus to be the image of TRUE divinity & Yahweh (or Yahu) to be a tribal war deity shared by the bulk of ancient Semitic people.

    So, Yahweh is only a “tribal war deity”? Then why does his son merit any mention? After all, that’s not my tribe.

    By the way, if humans can decide who God and Jesus really are, doesn’t that clearly paint the anthropogenic nature of both?

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com Steve Bowen

    Apposite quote turned up on Google Quote of the Day this morning

    For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing.
    – H. L. Mencken

  • Thumpalumpacus

    You gotta love a good curmudgeon.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    So, um…did Jesus and his dad (self) kill off Yahweh or something?

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  • eaglemonsoon

    First of all, people that believe in God don’t believe s/he is COMPLETELY all powerful. Think about it – how can God be completely omnipotent ever since s/he gave humans free will? Obviously to give humans the power to choose for themselves, God also had to give up that power to compel or force us. So no, God does not and has not had complete control over human affairs. It seems, when it comes to humans at least, God relies on inspiration for the most part.

    So does s/he sometimes inspire genocide? No way, not according the the modern sensibilities that we possess in our current era.

    But we aren’t talking about the modern world. We are talking about a world that existed over 3000 years ago. The world was very different place, very brutal. Humanity has come a long way since then. I’m sure we can’t even imagine it within our comfy lifestyles, in front of our computers. And I don’t think anybody claims the Israelites were moral exemplars for their time. I’m not Jewish, but I’ve read that the Rabbi’s very humbly teach that Israel was God’s last choice and that God was pretty much stuck with them because they were the only nation that would even remotely listen at that time. And when you read, you can see this “Yahweh” of theirs had a really hard time with them.

    As far as the newborn babies go, they are innocent and precious but their parents were bloodthirsty and brutal. Apparently these parents took newborn babies and burned them alive. And it is very probable they brutalized the babies that they for whatever reason decided not to burn. My point is, its doubtful they were loving parents in any way, shape, or form. And their babies would likely have been severely psychologically and emotionally damaged from abuse and/or neglect. Babies from these types of environments sadly, even if raised in loving homes, most grow up to be sociopaths. From birth to three months is a critical time for emotional/psychological development, and if severely disrupted, it causes lifelong damage. Even in a modern era, we struggle to help children from these types of environments (children from Russian orphanages who were abused and neglected for example) and even we with all our knowledge of psychological treatments cannot help most of these children. So how much better could a primitive tribe do? Maybe they really couldn’t have adopted those children and raised them because those children might just kill their adopted parents because of their deep seeded emotional issues. Maybe the Israelites just were not willing to raise those children because they had too many of their own brats to contend with. Either way, I think God has to deal with reality like everyone else and s/he can only take a person with what they are willing and capable of doing. Morally, for that particular time in history at least, perhaps it was better to just replace that group of people with another maybe slightly better.

    Either way, since all of you people are apparently so smart, how would you have have inspired and directed the very tiny portion of humans that would even listen to you if you were God? Oh and keep in mind that even those tiny portion of humans that actually listened only listened to a certain extend if at all, and usually just did the opposite of what you told them anyways.

    Obviously this question is just rhetorical because all atheists and even many theist don’t believe in this narrative anyways, at least literally.

    Thanks for having this discussion. I’ve enjoyed reading what you have to say, And seriously, I love atheists. I think it is really healthy to question our assumptions, and challenge and think through our beliefs whatever they are. Keep up the good work and may God bless your lives!

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    So, your solution for saving the children is to kill them? I hope you aren’t a pediatrician.

    And, I can’t imagine how an omni-max god could possibly ever do anything at all to help solve a situation that he himself got himself and the rest of us into, let alone have seen it coming! If you are going to toss out all the attributes of god as non-existent, then perhaps you can salvage some sort of argument for why god isn’t at fault, but then why worship such an entity?