The quintessential faith lesson of the Bible is about being willing to uncritically obey a capricious deity at the expense of loving your own child. This undermines the moral character of virtually all the major monotheisms of the world today as the only thing they seem to disagree on about this is which son of Abraham was supposed to be stabbed to death and set on fire as a burnt offering. Judaism and Christianity say, “Isaac.” Islam says, “Ishmael.” What a virtuous debate! *This* is why aliens don’t talk to us!
Christian apologetics, on the one hand, maintains that there’s nothing wrong with the story since Abraham was prevented from murdering his child, Isaac. On the other hand, their Jesus declares even the intention to sin is still a sin in stark contradiction to that inept defense. Sometimes Christian apologists even try to say that there wouldn’t have been anything wrong with Abraham’s intention to kill Isaac because he believed Isaac would be raised from the dead. But then on the other hand they want to say that the episode is a repudiation of the institution of human sacrifice. So which is it? Why repudiate an *ethical* system? Why not just keep doing it?
What they don’t want to admit is that the Hebrew god *lied* to Abraham in order to test him (demonstrating the uncomfortable and most often unacceptable Biblical premise that their god is willing to lie to even the elect, and not just the reprobate). This god dropped his promise to give Abraham descendents through Isaac because a god could pull rank like that and then didn’t put it back on the table until after the incident. Abraham then agreed to murder his child. And then Abraham didn’t even tell Isaac what was going to happen and lied to him in order to get him to comply (Abraham was no stranger to lying under pressure). And even though an angel was sent to stop Abraham from going through with it, Abraham was then *praised* for his murderous intentions by the Hebrew god. And *this* story is no random footnote in the Bible. It is the showcase of faith and supposedly the only reason Yahweh takes the human race at all seriously. Because of the willingness of one of us to murder another one of us on command. It’s not even a good metaphor. Any connection your faith has to this story is necessarily morally incoherent, denialistic, or just plain abominable.
The New Atheists, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens especially, have been keen to ridicule the immorality of Abraham on a number of occasions and in their books, “The God Delusion” and “God is Not Great.” Over 50 books have been published from their critics. Mostly from Christian apologists. And so it’s a great opportunity to see what the response has been on such a pivotal issue.
Are the New Atheists just taking cheap shots at religion? Do they just not “get it” about what faith is really about? It seems that their critics have had *plenty* of opportunity to set the record straight. Would you like to see what they had to say?
I’ve taken the liberty of argument mapping as much of the dialog as I could find. You can choose your own adventure.
General link: What’s wrong with father Abraham?
Selected quotes from Dawkins and Hitchens: Atheists Richard Dawkins & Christopher Hitchens on Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac.
The breakdown of important issues:
And three arguments of mine:
Know of a defense of Abraham on one of these issues that I haven’t come across? Know of a better rebuttal? Let me know!
One final word from Jesus himself (John 8:39):
“If you were Abraham’s children then you would do what Abraham did.”
That’s right. And remember that if you have that inerrant sensus divinitatis like modern Christian philosophers insist that we have? If it tells you to kill your kids, it can’t be wrong. It’s self-authenticating. Just ask it!
What would you tell someone that heard a voice of a god in their head or just had a really strong sense that they were being divinely tested with a divine compulsion to murder?
“Don’t do that, because that would be wrong?”
Congratulations. You’ve just condemned Abraham.
“Well Abraham could do that because he knew Isaac would be raised from the dead.”
So why can’t a modern person trust their god and believe that about their kids?
“Well…we don’t really believe in miracles…”
Oh… Well it all makes perfect faithless sense now. Jesus would *certainly* approve of your unbelief!
“God would never do that today.”
Well, except for when he does: Woman thought God told her to kill sons.
JT wants me to tackle Christian apologetics on a regular basis and that’s what I intend to do. My “New Atheists and their published critics” series will focus on popular and important issues in comprehensive ways. I may occasionally pick on one Christian apologist, but I’d much rather skewer an entire demographic of ineptitude.
If you like what I’ve done here you might be able to help. I don’t have access to the entire list of books. I want them ALL. Don’t want them on your shelf? Put them on mine! I’ll make good use of them here.