Commenter on the Bill Victor debate misses the point.

Total beers: 4

A commenter by the name of Marcus Krueger on Bill Victor’s blog suggests something Bill could’ve said in response to my question about whether or not Bill would kill me at god’s command.

Dear Dr. Victor:

I am a Christian who was present at your debate. I want to quickly give my answer to the infamous question. This will also be a indirect response to Erik Muir’s comment.

I would first like to commend you for the grace and humility which you displayed during the debate even when it was definitely not going your way and the humbleness you are showing by this blog post in dealing with your mistake.

The reason the Christian would know that the command from God to kill JT would not be valid is because it violates the New Testament. Ben Witherington puts it this way:

“In 1 John 2 the Beloved Disciple suggests a series of moral tests to see if one’s experience is of God, for example– does it produce behavior like the behavior of Jesus? Does it lead one to love God with one’s whole heart and one’s neighbor as self, or is it narcissistic in character? Does it lead to holy living or does it lead to questionable beliefs and behavior? Does it lead to moving on faith, or does it lead to fear-based practices, since the experience of the real love of God casts out all fear? Does it lead to the belief that Jesus is the Son of God come in the flesh, as the Johannine Epistles put it, or to some sort of heterodox belief about Jesus?”

Now God appearing to you and telling you to kill JT would violate several of the conditions of John 2.

I would also like to discuss the issue of Abraham since a main contention of the skeptic is that God commanded Abraham to kill Isaac as a test of faith so therefore God could command anyone to kill thus God is immoral.

There is ultimately more theologically to the story of Abraham than merely a test of faith. If you follow the entire narrative underlying the entire Torah it is easy to see that many of the actions God takes is to prove that the one true God is different than the other God’s that were worshiped in the ancient near east.

For example, In the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2 God is specifically pointing out that he created the sun and the moon, the land, the trees, etc. This is important because it is the first foundations of the theological narrative I stated previously. In the ancient near east worship of the sun, moon, trees, etc. as deity was common so God is essentially saying that He demands worship not his creation.

In the case of Abraham it is important to note that God stayed Abraham’s hand via an angel,which ultimately signifies that He is a God that does not demand child sacrifice because child sacrifice was very common in the ancient times. God commanded Abraham to go through this exercise knowing that he could make this point through it while simultaneously testing Abraham’s faith. It is shown in the Torah that God chooses to uses actions over simple commands because as we all know actions speak louder than words.

Way to spectacularly miss the point.

I am not arguing that god’s nature includes ordering people to kill themselves.  Obviously, I don’t believe in god.  The point is that an otherwise perfectly kind person like Bill Victor would be willing to adopt an evil master if god did make such a command.

The point is that even if we knew a god existed and was giving us moral pronouncements, it does not make those pronouncements moral.  We must still evaluate them with reason and compassion before we deem such a god’s commands to be reasonable or compassionate.  And if its commands are not reasonable and/or compassionate, by complying you become a monster, not a saint.  Faith has taken a very kind person like Bill Victor, and countless other Christians, and moved them into a position where they’d be willing (even eager) to commit murder with no explanation, just by obedience to a command.  This is not beautiful.  It is not noble.  It is horrific and ugly.  It is a contamination.  It keeps someone like Bill Victor from being as good as they could be.

Whether a god exists that would make such a command is not the point.  The point is that so many Christians would sacrifice empathy at god’s decree.  Bill eventually came around in the debate and said he’d defy god in such a scenario, choosing to allow himself to be punished instead.  That was actually the proper answer: let the blood be on the malicious party’s hands, even if that party is the ultimate power in all the universe.  And if allegiance to kindness over god is sufficient reason to tell god to go fuck himself were he to demand cruelty of you, why do we need god telling us to be charitable?  Why do we need to obey when he tells us to hinder the happiness of gay people?

The people who say we should abide by god’s will over compassion, and just cite how god’s conveniently always compassionate (even though their own fucking bible tells a different story, and not that they’d refuse if commanded to inflict harm), remind me of this clip:

…which would be funny if this weren’t the precise thing being advocated by people like Marcus.

And if god doesn’t demand child sacrifice, he sure has a strange way of showing it with Jephthah and with the various wars/genocides he commanded in which children, born and unborn, were killed.

There comes a time when you must realize that no good person accepts a wicked master.  Faith of this flavor keeps us from getting there.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Glodson

    I believe that commenter is very good a selective Bible readings, as there are passages that directly contradict their claims.

    Not that it matters. The point is that this is a failing of a morality defined by authoritarianism. Many Christians are happy to condemn others for “failings” that are only considered failings thanks to dogma and not reason.

    Also, this heartwarming Bible story. Why would we think that this fictional deity would want a parent to sacrifice their child? And why would we believe the parent would go through with it?

    We’ve already seen an answer to the last question in a recent posting from Chile.

  • Park James

    I just looked at the other comments on the page. The very first comment is trying to justify a woman murdering her kids because god told her to (seriously, can’t make this shit up). And the 4th is a guy complaining about JT using ad hominems, followed by discussing how JT swears and that makes his arguments poor. What a bunch of goons.

    • Glodson

      Sounds like the classic misunderstanding of what an Ad hom is, and the whole tone trolling gambit as well.

      Those fuckers use dirty language, therefore the argument is invalid! Because not cussing is logic.

      • CottonBlimp

        People need to learn that “ad hominem” isn’t latin for “being mean”.

        • Glodson

          It is infuriating. I have been around the bend trying to explain the difference between an insult and an actual ad hom. Fuck, some don’t even realize that one doesn’t even have to be insulting to commit bust out an ad hom, and will causally poison the well after their stumbling ad hom.

  • busterggi

    “Now God appearing to you and telling you to kill JT would violate several of the conditions of John 2.”

    The Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe is stymied because of something someone wrote in a book and attributed to him? Wotta wuss.

    • Glodson

      I suppose that there could be some truth to that. If I remember Revelations, God can’t wait to get some killing done himself. He probably wouldn’t really ask you to kill your kid, he would rather do it while you watch. And then send the kid’s soul to hell.

    • Rob

      Yeah, and the omnipotent creator of the universe can’t handle a handful of iron chariots.

      heck, why didn’t he tell his people about the magic potion of brimstone, batshit and charcoal?

  • Rain

    It is shown in the Torah that God chooses to uses actions over simple commands because as we all know actions speak louder than words.

    And I suppose the simple commands in the Torah prove the exact opposite. Yeah didn’t think so…

    • Rain

      God works bestest of all with inaudible commands and invisible actions though. Him/Her are a very effective administrator. (Him/Her referring to the Holy Trinity of Jesus the son, ummm somebody the Father (don’t know his name off hand), and Tina Fey the mommy.)

  • Feminerd

    Uh, actually, God in the Torah is all about the appearing in smoke and fire and making direct commands. He’s less about inferred actions and more about “Do what I say, when I say, because I said it”. I mean, all the Hebrews were fucked because Moses got upset with them and struck a rock with his staff to make water appear for his thirsty people, instead of waiting for God to tell him to strike the rock (or a different rock, I forget exactly. Sunday school was a long time ago).

    I swear, Christians don’t ever actually read the OT, but they think that random pullquotes are somehow useful for shoring up their additions to it. The whole mess is nonsense, of course (OT and NT), but at least the OT God is doesn’t use Hell to fuck with people’s heads. How can you claim the NT God is nicer when all of a sudden he doesn’t just murder people, he tortures them for eternity? That’s a HUGE step up in sadism.

    • busterggi

      “instead of waiting for God to tell him to strike the rock ”

      Note to less bible savvy readers – this does not refer to Dwayne Johnson.

      • islandbrewer


        I was waiting for a followup of a folding chair to the back of the head, with a slingshot off the ropes into a big haymaker.

      • Glodson

        That would make the Bible better.

        “The Rock ducked under that steel chair Moses swung at his head! Oh my god! ROCK BOTTOM ON MOSES! THE PEOPLE’S CHAMP HAS PENNED THE MAN WHO GOT PHARAOH TO LET HIS PEOPLE GO!”

        • Park James

          I would have gone with “AND THE ROCK FINISHES THE MAN WHO SAID ‘LET MY PEOPLE GO’ WITH THE PEOPLE’S ELBOW!”. But that might out me as someone who once watched wrestling, and I wouldn’t want to do that.

  • Rocky Morrison

    Our modern culture of abortion on demand certainly represents a form of child sacrifice to the mantras of “privacy”, and “womens rights”. The rights of a viable healthy “fetus” in an otherwise healthy pregnancy be damned…as if there has never been a balancing test in Constitutional law.

    If you would approve of, say, abortion for purposes of sex selection, you don’t have much room to talk.

    • Glodson

      Two problems.

      First: this is a poor attempt at a tu quoque. Which is a fallacy to begin with. The basics is that instead of dealing with the argument at hand, one tries to assert the other side does something as bad. This doesn’t address the faults raised in the argument of the original side, it is merely a side step.

      Second: the reason why this is an attempt at a tu quoque is that this is also irrelevant. People who approve of abortion on demand do so out of a belief in a woman’s bodily autonomy. She decides what goes on in her body, not anyone else.

      Despite this being a fallacious and irrelevant point, let’s dig deeper into why this is stupid. Because this is stupid. Now the sex of a fetus won’t likely even be known until around week 18. Most abortions, by far, happen before then. In fact, it is about 88% as of 2006 at least are done before week 12.

      When we are talking about why women get abortions in the US, I have not seen any data to suggest that sexual selection of the fetus registers as a significant factor. When we talk about why women get abortions, nothing suggests that sexual selection for the fetus is a major component. It is a systemic problem in some parts of the World, China and India being notable examples. This is for a preference of a son, and is rooted in a cultural problem with women. Outlawing the practice would not address the issue driving this type of abortion, as it has to do with the culture itself.

      Provide data that this problem, in the US, is a statistically significant problem.

      Even if you do, remember that the other question is “why is the woman getting the abortion?” Why is she selectively aborting a fetus in the 18th week or after for sex? Is it a response to our culture? Maybe there’s an underlying reason that should be broached for the betterment of the culture for the other children actually borne.

      Further, the fetus doesn’t have any rights. This is a biological process. The woman is autonomous. She’s the one incurring all the risks. She’s the only paying the price for the pregnancy, often in every sense of the word. And here you are, trying to trump the right to her body with an imagined right of a gestating parasite in her body.

      When a woman consents to be pregnant, that’s a great thing. I hope she enjoys the process, and I hope it brings her happiness. When she doesn’t, she should be allowed to end that process. Why are so eager to find a way for you to assert when a woman should be allowed to decide what goes on in her body? Do you have any other arbitrary issues you want to decide for other people?

      Finally, this has fuck all do to with the debate, or the points. No one is mandating abortions. No one is mandating abortions for sexual selection. People are arguing for the right to chose. The right to decide for one’s self. This is why your objection completely fails to be valid. This is not the same as a deity demanding a child sacrifice from their follower. This is not the same thing as murdering a child to appease a god. Abortion isn’t murder, it isn’t a sacrifice.

      Oh, before I forget, you can drop the scare quotes around the words privacy, women’s rights, and fetus. It is about privacy, women’s rights, and they are fetuses.

      • Rocky Morrison

        You are quite mistaken; the sex of the child can be determined long before week 18.

        Moreover, there are counties where abortion is mandated, and it is done because of the sex of the child.

        And oddly enough, those are officially atheistic countries.

        And as far as a healthy viable fetus is concerned, that where the woman’s rights become the Highest Standard…and the Child Is Sacrificed to obey that standard.

        Yep…its the modern version of Child Sacrifice, done to appease the Right to Privacy and Standard of Living.

        Face it. You know it.

        If a healthy viable fetus is not human, then maybe YOUR humanity is suspect.

        • Nate Frein

          Rocky, your comments here are as idiotic as the one you deleted on the other thread.

          Moreover, there are counties where abortion is mandated, and it is done because of the sex of the child.

          Those countries aren’t America. Further, since banning abortions doesn’t effectively reduce abortion rates, how do you expect it to stop sex-selective abortions without addressing the inequality in cultural value between a daughter and a son?

          And oddly enough, those are officially atheistic countries

          [citation needed]

        • Glodson

          You are quite mistaken; the sex of the child can be determined long before week 18.

          Can be. Not often is. At best, it will be at the ultrasound in the 18th week. There is a test that can use the amniotic fluid. This is not often done, usually for cases of a pregnancy of an older woman, and not often done for the sake of determining the sex of a child. Even then, this test is often administered at the 16th week. The vast majority of abortions are done before week 12.

          Moreover, there are counties where abortion is mandated, and it is done because of the sex of the child.

          And oddly enough, those are officially atheistic countries.

          China is the only one that likely fits that bill that I know of where sexual selected abortions occur at a high rate. And the abortions are not mandated by the fucking government. This is a cultural problem with a preference for sons over daughters. There are also a high rate of infanticide of daughters. The other country noted for this problem is India, which is not secular at all.

          These abortions are not mandated. Name the other countries, link to sources.

          Oh, this is just to prove you aren’t a liar. As this is irrelevant again. You talked about our culture. Those are other cultures. Show it is a problem in the USA or drop it

          And as far as a healthy viable fetus is concerned, that where the woman’s rights become the Highest Standard…and the Child Is Sacrificed to obey that standard

          You are an idiot. A fetus is not a child. Period. You don’t give a shit about sexually selective abortions. You are just an anti-choice nut who wants to draw this parallel to make a “reasonable” objection. It is her body, her choice. The straw-abortion concern over sexually selecting a pregnancy is just a ruse to voice your idiotic concerns.

          If a healthy viable fetus is not human, then maybe YOUR humanity is suspect.

          It isn’t. The human is the woman pregnant. If she elects to take the fetus to term, she will have a child that is a human being. If not, then it isn’t. Period. Your honest and ability to reason are both suspect.

          Finally, you have not addressed my points in that your are bringing in an irrelevant point. You have simply asserted bullshit in order to derail so you can talk about abortion. Which has nothing to do with this actual discussion. Even if your points were remotely valid, this would still be fallacious. As explained above, and by others, your points aren’t valid, making this attempt doubly stupid.

        • Andrew Kohler

          “Moreover, there are counties where abortion is mandated….”

          In which case we are not talking about “abortion on demand,” as that phrase, as practically applied, refers to the demand of the pregnant woman, not to the demand of a totalitarian government. (I suppose that too is a demand, but of quite a different nature.) Most certainly forced abortions are antithetical to privacy rights, women’s rights, bodily autonomy, and I suppose even “standard of living,” although I can’t tell quite what is meant by that here. If you wish to raise objections to abortion in both cases, then please draw the proper distinction.

          As Glodson notes below, sex-selective abortions in China are not government mandated. I have heard of cases of forced abortion in China, but I assume this has more to do with the one-child policy.

          One further note: I think most pro-choice people would not not say that a woman should not be allowed to have an abortion if sex selection is the motivation (which also could be sex selection favoring females, by the way). I do not think that to be a good basis for the decision, but the fact remains that it is a question of the woman’s bodily autonomy. (Matt Dillahunty articulated this characteristically well in his abortion debate.)

          • Glodson

            Not only that, but the entire idea of an abortion mandated by a figure who isn’t the woman pregnant still runs afoul of the whole Pro-Choice line of reasoning.

            The entire fucking point is to leave it to the woman to decide for herself, to respect her bodily autonomy. Any body that mandates abortion under certain criteria is a violation of that woman’s bodily autonomy. That’s the whole idea behind choice. She can elect to be pregnant, or elect to abort the pregnancy. Her choice.

            When an outside force robs her of her agency in this choice, that is a violation of her autonomy. So whether it be denial of abortion or the mandating of an abortion, it doesn’t matter if it robs the woman of her choice.

            So, the entire point dealing with mandated abortions is just stupid.

          • Andrew Kohler

            That’s exactly what I was trying to say only much better expressed :-)

    • islandbrewer

      Abortion on demand? Where? After a waiting period, transvaginal ultrasound, and approval from a judge? After being forced to listen to some nonsensical and fact free lecture and look at a picture of your fetus and having protestors scream at you and call you a murderer? Having to go through a week or two of bureaucracy one week before the end of your legal window?

      That’s … a new definition of “on demand”.

    • DavidMHart

      Abortion is not a form of child sacrifice because a foetus is not a child. Seriously. You are able to tell the difference between a child and an adult, so please don’t pretend to be unable to tell the difference between a foetus and a child.

      As regards abortion for sex-selective purposes, once you admit that a woman, as a sentient being, has the right to decide whether or not her body is to be used to sustain a pre-sentient being and then put through considerable trauma getting it out, then it follows that we have to accept her decision, even if we don’t agree with her reasons, because it’s her body. What we also have to do (if we are in any position to influence the cultural milieu of a country where sex-selective abortion is causing a dangerously skewed gender ratio) is to try to change the culture so that parents value daughters just as much as they value sons. Do that and sex-selctive abortion will disappear. Fail to do that, and sex-selective abortion will continue, whether you ban it or not.

    • Nate Frein

      It’s not exactly a modern culture.

      If anything, it’s abortion restrictions that are the modern trend.

    • Loqi

      Does anyone know who the “sex selection abortion” meme came from originally? This “concern” had never been raised prior to a couple of months ago, and now every nutjob is screaming it from the rooftops as if they’ve ever given a single shit about women. That suggests that one of the religious right leaders said it, and since his followers can’t think for themselves, they instantly absorb it and parrot it as if they’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

      • islandbrewer

        I have no idea, but it certainly fits in with the “atheists abort babies for ebil whimsical reasons” meme.

      • Glodson

        It seems to be the latest fad in anti-choice logic. I can only suspect they got some news about this being a problem in some countries. China and India are notable examples. But the selective abortions based on sex aren’t the problem. In fact, they are much more humane than the endemic problems of the infanticide of young girls.

        The exact reasons for this is different in both countries noted. China has more a problem with a massive population, an authoritative government seeking to slow the population growth, and a cultural preference for sons as first born. India is different. The dynamic is more economic, at least as I understand it. There’s a need for a dowry, sons are seen as the provider. And that’s not even talking about Hinduism.

        This is the reality. The problem isn’t the abortions. The problem are the cultural problems that marginalize women to such a degree that there’s a massive preference for sons. Eliminating abortion would only serve to increase the deaths of children.

        But they don’t care. They don’t care about the pain. They just think it is a good data point. Much like the Gosnell case. They don’t understand that these points aren’t points for restrictive access to abortion, and the denial of the need for women’s rights. They are quite the opposite.

        As such, we’ll get this idea parroted at us. They’ll think it is clever, and we have no answer. And they won’t listen when we answer. And they’ll bring it up when it has no bearing on the discussion at hand. Like in this commenting thread.

        • Loqi

          Yeah, it seems to have started as soon as the Republicans got stomped in the last election. Since women were such a big part of why they lost, and because taking the right to vote away from them won’t fly anymore, they decided to try to make their agenda look pro-woman in a bit of electoral theater. Of course, making their agenda look pro-woman is no small task, as we saw in the Gosnell case, in which they tried to express genuine concern for the victimized women, while in the next breath denouncing them as slutty gold diggers who decided to have an abortion because their bank account…err…owner…err…baby daddy left them. Next up, I expect someone to proudly announce that they have binders full of sluts, so they’re totally not anti-woman.

          I more want to know which of the christfuhrers

          • Loqi

            Damn you, Disqus! Last paragraph should read I want to know which of the Christfuhrers is giving the marching orders and made the edict that this is the new anti-abortion talking point.

          • Glodson

            I don’t know. But the attempt to rebrand anti-choice bullshit as pro-women is just another denial of reality. A twisting of ideas so that they don’t really need change their policies, just how they sell them to the public.

    • RobMcCune

      Well seeing how fetus isn’t a child and an abortion isn’t a sacrifice, that makes you 0 for 2.

    • amycas

      I logged in precisely so I could downvote this idiot.

  • Jeff Collins

    Unfortunately for this moron, there’s a ton of textual evidence that suggests Abraham DID kill Isaac and that God was pleased. Notably, most of the story uses “Elohim” for God, indicating it came from a northern Israelite source called E, while the part where the angel stays his hand uses YHVH (Jehova/Yahweh), indicating it came from a source called J. So really, God approves of child sacrifice, and the ancient Israelites came to an independent judgement contra their scripture that it was wrong, so wrote it out of the Torah.

  • Andrew Kohler

    A gem indeed. In case this Morrison stumbles across this blog post (and because I still don’t have a YouTube account), I would like to take him up here on his challenge, and attempt to clarify a few things:

    I would not kill if my government told me to (or rather, if I did, it would be because I myself believed that it was justified to do so, which would have to be under extreme circumstances). This is because being an atheist does not mean replacing a god with the state as the supreme being. The word for that is “totalitarian.” Some forms of totalitarianism keep the concept of God and use it for their advantage, like Nazi Germany (hey, Morrison’s the one who went Godwin’s Law by implication), in which belief in God was no problem so long as it didn’t conflict with Nazism (trust me on this one–I’m writing a dissertation about a composer in Nazi Germany). Other totalitarian systems have rejected the idea of God, like communist China under Mao (although I’m still not sure about the state of Buddhism under Mao). Oh, and other manifestations of totalitarianism are explicitly religious–that’s called theocracy, which is an inherently totalitarian system.

    I have never heard anyone say that atheists cannot be killers, and if someone made that claim in the atheist/skeptic/free-thought community that person would be met with enormous resistance, because that remark is almost as un-serious as this Morrision person.

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