Way too many Christians talk a very big game about having a monopoly on morality. They even frequently claim that non-Christians either lack the capacity for morality or are aping Christianity’s monopoly on it. But they’re wrong. The worst moral failings aren’t found in the Bible. No, for that dubious honor we must look to the Christians who use the Bible to excuse their own moral failings.
The Real Victims Here.
I saw this image recently (h/t Godless in Dixie). It just about made me do a spit-take:
The image and the content in it are drawn from the writing of big-name apologist William Lane Craig (WLC). It’s about the myth of the Slaughter of the Canaanites. But it isn’t an exact quote. His actual writing makes him look much worse:
So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life. So who is wronged? Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.
Yes. The real victims here are the ancient Hebrew soldiers who’d been ordered to commit genocide.
A Bit of Background.
William Lane Craig is an utter embarrassment for his tribe. And what’s funny is that I’d barely even heard of him when I deconverted. Years later, I heard so much about him in such glowing terms from Christians that I looked at his writing. But when I finally got around to examining his claims–which we’ve done before here on this blog–it was downright baffling to see reality collide with Christians’ idolization. His arguments and reasoning are terrible. He talks a very big game, but there’s just nothing there beyond wordplay.
He’s moved past simply trying to contort reality to fit his religious ideology on this quote, though. He’s moved well into the realm of atrocity apologetics now. Currently, he’s working overtime to fit the atrocity of this genocide with his conceptualization of a just and loving god.
Now, the specific incident he’s talking about here is in the Book of Joshua in the Bible. In this myth, Joshua is told by his god to go rob the Canaanites of their land. Yahweh wants them to have it now. Obviously, the Canaanites aren’t thrilled with this idea, so a war ensues. (The myth of the Fall of Jericho is part of this story.) After Joshua’s army wins the war, the existing Canaanites are slaughtered or enslaved. The Hebrews destroy their cities, rob the beaten Canaanites, and distribute their land among themselves.
If you’re wondering what the Canaanites did that got them this treatment, the answer is “nothing.” They were simply living on land the Hebrews wanted.
Not once does Joshua even try to find a peaceful solution to getting the Hebrews into that land. Considering how specific his god is about slaughtering everybody, he might have been afraid to suggest it.
Embarrassing. Downright Embarrassing.
William Lane Craig is supposed to be one of apologetics’ biggest names. And yet he’s found a rationalization for the MURDER OF CHILDREN. He’s sure not alone; I’ve had to unfriend and block other Christians from Facebook because they kept trying to rationalize rape, genocide, slavery, and all the other atrocities in the Bible. I will not socialize with anyone who thinks that’s acceptable, ever. This cruelty completely horrifies me, and it always will.
But oh no, our apologist here thinks there is a time when children–little children!–just have to be murdered. He thinks there’s a perfectly fine justification for murdering children. He thinks he’s found a way to reconcile the murder of children with a just and loving deity. If his god ordered this murder, then there just wasn’t any better way to handle the situation, by definition. He’ll even make up reasons and speculate wildly on the basis of absolutely nothing in the Bible itself to get around this injustice and atrocity.
In short, William Lane Craig can hear about the murder of thousands of people, including innocent children, and still feel perfectly at ease with his belief. He’ll even try to mangle the Bible to make his interpretation work with it.
An Untenable Situation, For Most.
I get that he’s in a really untenable situation here. He could comprehend that the slaughter of the Canaanites was hugely immoral and unjust. But that puts him face-to-face with the sudden realization that his god ordered the Hebrews to do something hugely immoral and unjust. Jews themselves have been struggling with this episode for many thousands of years. Indeed, many of them eventually come to accept that the Bible is not a prescriptive document but rather a descriptive one. Therefore, it’s a reflection of its time and place. But that puts nuances into the Bible that Christians like him can’t handle.
So he comes up with a rationalization:
- My god is good and just, and perfect in every single way.
- This terrible thing that my god ordered his people to do is a thing that no good or just being would ever think is okay.
- Therefore I will find some way to make this terrible thing into a good and just thing to keep believing my god is good and just.
- Here’s my convoluted reasoning.
- Hooray! This terrible thing is really a good thing! (Also war is peace, slavery is freedom, etc.)
And every single time one of these contortions is made, a little bit more of his compassion dies.
I often get the feeling, talking to really gung-ho Christian extremists, that sometimes they seem not even human at all anymore. It’s like their sense of compassion has been utterly stamped out. Their innate goodness and virtue has been scorched out of them.
And I think this rationalization is how it happens.
I think there’s only so much of that someone can do before sheer cognitive dissonance threatens to tear that person apart or they just divorce themselves from any semblance of love and go full-throttle Lawful Evil. If any mindset epitomizes that alignment, it is “the end justifies the means,” after all.
Jewish people themselves don’t generally go around saying that the Canaanite children deserved their slaughter. Nor will they claim that the book of Joshua is somehow a good and virtuous reflection of a good and virtuous god. For that appalling belief we must look to those Christians who simply can’t cope with the idea of their holy book (and for that matter their god) being anything but timeless, ageless, and perfect.Those are the Christians who tell us that their god can do absolutely anything, anything at all. Then, in the next breath, they’ll tell us that this genocide had to happen. Their omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, omnibenevolent god couldn’t possibly have done anything else.
When Humans Are Better Than Gods.
I’m not even a god and I can think of better ways of handling a land dispute, given divine-level power and might. I could make the Hebrews’ current land awesome, for one, or peacefully relocate the Canaanites. I could magically make the two tribes able to coexist peacefully. Definitely, I could expand the available resources so nobody has to fight. I could even make it so that no particular land is sacred to anybody, so nobody must occupy any particular spot for holy reasons.
But those are all obviously supernatural solutions that would require a great deal of divine power to pull off. At least, I think so. Nobody’s ever seen anything supernatural happen or credibly demonstrated the existence of any god, so maybe those are all actually really easy things to do for a divine being. For all I know, those things are all cantrip-level spells for a God-class character. If we ever get proof of any gods’ existence or activities, we can find out.
By contrast, warfare is very obviously what humans do. The story of Joshua–stripped of its obviously mythic and supernatural elements, of course–is exactly what I would expect to see of an ancient resource dispute. But William Lane Craig can’t have a book in the Bible being mythic. Nor can he worship a god who couldn’t have figured out how to resolve a straightforward land dispute. And it seems very curious to me that given a myth that directly contradicts the childish Christian view of an omnimax god, this apologist–and many others really–still has to cling to the idea of the omnimax god. They cling to it even if that means finding a way to excuse and explain away the murder of children.
(Are we totally sure these Christians are worshiping who they say they are worshiping? Because from here, it looks like they’re bowing down to and licking the feet of the bad guy in their cosmology.)
I Know Where the Moral Failings Are.
And this huckster has the nerve to think that I left Christianity because I had some kind of moral failing? He thinks I flunked out of the Cool Kids’ Club he leads because I was unfit to serve his monster of a genocidal god? He writes in that post:
I firmly believe, and I think the Bizarro-testimonies of those who have lost their faith and apostatized bears out, that moral and spiritual lapses are the principal cause for failure to persevere rather than intellectual doubts. But intellectual doubts become a convenient and self-flattering excuse for spiritual failure because we thereby portray ourselves as such intelligent persons rather than as moral and spiritual failures.
Let’s restate my outrage here: the guy who thinks that sometimes little children just need to be murdered thinks I’m the one who suffered a moral failing.
Am I supposed to feel sad that William Lane Craig thinks I’m just not moral enough to serve his god? Am I supposed to feel hurt and ashamed that an atrocity apologist and child-murder-excusing beast thinks that ex-Christians like me have a “Bizarro-testimony” based on a “moral and spiritual lapse?”
The Cart Before the Horse.
Of course, he restricts himself to attacking the character of ex-Christians. He never provides (and never has provided) a credible reason to believe that his religion’s claims are true. All he’s really got are contortions and arguments and words, words, words. But like most apologists, you follow his logic to its conclusion and at the end of the path we find atrocity apologetics.
I’m suddenly realizing that a moral failing in his world is probably a very good thing in Reality-Land. He’s flipped good and evil here. He’s relabeled them.
When a downright evil god considers an act good, then that act is probably actually very evil indeed. We see the same thing happen with the modern Christian Right, whose every single stance, platform, and position falls on the wrong side of history. People like William Lane Craig demonize ex-Christians because they have to do so to maintain their own power over their people. And the Christians who similarly must have an omni-everything god will lap up what he spews and go forth to parrot it all at people who don’t fall into line.
So if a person who rationalizes child-murder thinks I’m an ex-Christian because of my own inability to live up to the standards of a monster, then maybe I ought to feel flattered that he noticed I am so diametrically opposite the “morals” of the beast of a god this beast of a man has created in his own image.
Too Many Targets.
I am glad that so many people are starting to speak out about having deconverted from this religion. The more of us there are, the harder it will be for people like William Lane Craig to maintain their puerile belief that we’re somehow less holy and moral than Christians are. Strangers are more easily demonized than friends, and that which is poorly-understood is more easily distorted and demonized than that which is examined closely.
And that first moment a Christian realizes he’s wrong about something, that Christian is going to wonder exactly what else his onetime hero is wrong about. (Spoiler: Everything.) All it takes is one realization that one thing is drastically in error, just one brick removed to start the Jenga tower shaking like the mythic Walls of Jericho themselves.
Indeed, it was exactly this particular atrocity that drove our friend Neil from church, as he talks about in this post here. One never knows what that first brick will say as it slips out of the tower.
So to paraphrase one of my commenters over at Ex-Communications: Keep it up, apologists. We need more of this sort of talk. It shows people just what this religion really is at its core.
NEXT UP: We look over some super-derpy blatherings from Joyce Meyer. I hope you’ll join us, because she is just awful!
The Cool Kids’ Club is a nickname of mine for the popular clique in a larger group. In my church, the Cool Kids’ Club was the ethereally-pretty, willowy blonde girls in the choir. Their parents were the elite of the church for older people. In turn, they ruled the younger generation. Think of them like Heathers or Mean Girls, depending on your generation–but they can be of any gender or age.
6/12/18: I updated this post, fixing a broken image and adding new links and information where needed. I also tidied up some clunky prose. Nothing substantial was changed.
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