Justifying Genocide

As some of you may have noticed, all of my recent posts have been reblogs.  My attention, with respect to blogging, has been poured into a new project – Elucidations on Atheism.  I’m one of eight authors involved in this collaborative blog – see “About” page – and it has honestly been rather rewarding so far.

One of the goals at Elucidations on Atheism is to promote cordial discourse between theists and atheists.  This doesn’t always occur, but nevertheless, that is our goal.  One of our regular theist commentators – clapham common tree – recently wrote a post in response to some of the exchanges.  I thought I’d take a moment and address his counter-argument, so without further ado, please see below.

Disclaimer:  This response does not support the historicity of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, nor does it support the historicity of the conquest of Canaan.  Neither of these have been substantiated in the slightest.  For more information, see Arkenaten’s article which provides some of the latest archeological evidence (amounting to naught) regarding this topic. 


Clapham took issue with our insistence that the Old Testament God is far from benevolent.  Atheists were citing various Bible verses attempting to illustrate that Yahweh is immoral, etc.  I’m sure you’re more than familiar with the atheist side of this debate, so I won’t belabor you with the details.  Instead, I’d like to summarize Clapham’s counter-argument.

“I am going to try show that having a Christian view of the Bible does not require us to pick the ‘good bits’ of the Bible and throw out the rest. In other words I hope to reconcile the actions of God in these difficult passages with the loving and morally perfect God that we claim He is.  I hope to show that, rather than being in conflict with what we claim is His moral character, these passages reflect something of it.”


GenocideI don’t want to address each point in Clapham’s essay, because that would be tedious for both you and me; and, moreover, I have provided the link so that if you’re interested, you can read it yourself. Instead, I’d like to address his primary premise, which I have summarized as follows:

P:  God’s command to kill every man, woman, child and beast was done to protect the innocent.

In other words, the Canaanites were evil (Deut. 9:4) because they were sacrificing their children (Deut. 12:31).  God didn’t approve, so he sent the Israelites into Canaan to cleanse the land of this immoral behavior.

It’s rather hard to argue with that logic, I suppose.  But Clapham seems to forget that God’s genocidal commandment included the innocent children that he was supposedly out to save (Deut. 2:34 & 3:6).  Not to mention, that God had already killed thousands of innocent children before they even left Egypt (Ex. 12:29).  Is the latter act not a sacrifice?  Did he not sacrifice every firstborn child of Egypt so that the Israelites might be freed?  But Yahweh does not stop there. If his own people reject him, will he not force them to eat the flesh of their sons and daughters (Lev. 26:29)?  Does he not doom the Median children to be broken into pieces before their parents’ eyes (Isa. 13:15-16)?  If the sons of Judah worship other gods, will their children not die of famine (Jer. 11:22)?

Why are these children not innocent?  Why do the actions of their parents destine them for unspeakable suffering?  Clapham’s logic would only be sound if, in fact, God saved those that were innocent.  Since God does not, we are forced to search for alternative motivations, and what motivation is more telling than Exodus 20:3?

First Commandment

That’s right, we forgot one of God’s primary commandments!  Actually, it’s his first commandment, which means it’s probably really important.  In Deuteronomy, we are told that God wants every man, woman and child utterly destroyed so that the Israelites will not marry into their culture, and thereby be tempted to “serve other gods” (Deut. 7:1-5).  That seems to be far more congruous with the genocidal commands seen throughout the Old Testament.  God doesn’t care about the innocent children that were being sacrificed!  On the contrary, he didn’t want his “chosen people” to come into contact with these children, which would inevitably (I suppose) result in the worship of false gods.

It’s sickening to see people try to justify the Old Testament god.  I have no doubt that Clapham is a moral human being.  Moreover, I have no doubt that he would be against murdering the children of his enemies.  Yet, his belief has him blinded to the malicious psychopath that is staring him in the face.  One wonders, why didn’t Gnosticism take off?  At least when they looked at the Old Testament, they were able to discern between good and evil.  They thought Yahweh was a bumbling idiot who hated humanity.  You have to give it to them, Yaldaboath (one of their names for Yahweh) is far more analogous with an impotent psychopath than with a benevolent being.

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68 replies

  1. If you are going to dispute the historical reality of the rest of the bible, why stop at this part? It happened or it didn’t. There is no more evidence for one part than annother.

    There is significant archeological proof that Canaanites were seriously involved in child sacrifice, surely adult human sacrifice too. In digs near the Old City of Jerusalem, they have found thousands of children’s skeletens on the site where sacrifices to Moloch took place. The Hinam valley, also known as “valley of the winds” is a weird place with a bizarre and ugly history. The wind always blows there and it’s always a few degrees colder than nearby. It’s commonly regarded as evil and haunted. I can’t attest to the evil or likelihood of being haunted, but I can attest to the wind and the weird temperature anomolies. And of course, the archeological evidence. This neither proves nor disproves what God did or didn’t say. Except that the authors of the Torah had a major issue with human sacrifice and those who perpetrated it. You may not care for their handling of the matter, but it was a very long time ago. They thought wiping out the society that did the evil deed was the way to go.

    They didn’t base it on the color of anyone’s skin. They had what in those days was a good and just reason. If you really read the Torah, God grew less and less bloodthirsty as the Torah progresses. He changes his name, his modus operandi, his reasoning … Oh, and the five books of the Torah are 5 out of more than 450 books. The rest were destroyed with the first Temple — or are we disputing the historical reality of the destruction of the temples too?

    Ethnic cleansing isn’t exactly a rarity today, so are we also arguing ancient peoples were worse than us? Or obligated to be better than us? They had the excuse of an ancient value system and limited knowledge of the world. What’s OUR excuse?


    (1) If you read the old testament (the Torah) in Hebrew, it’s a VERY different book. Discussing material translated who knows how many times — with increasing inaccuracy through each subsequent translation — is meaningless.

    (2) If you are going to deny authenticity to biblical history, then why give credence to THIS piece and not the rest?

    (3) Picking and choosing what to accept or dispute from wildly inaccurate texts is not scholarship. It’s bogus and proves nothing. No one knows what God did or didn’t say and if there is no God, then He/She/It/They didn’t say anything and it’s all a load of drivel.

    (4) The only proof we have is archeological — pieces of a puzzle for which most pieces are (and may forever remain) missing.

    • I must say, I‘m rather surprised by this comment. I think you have misunderstood the entire purpose of this post. First, there are varying degrees of evidence for the historicity of the Bible, but since you’re mainly upset with my disclaimer, I presume, I’ll reiterate it. This post was not meant to discuss the historicity of these events. I was simply addressing them as if they actually occurred. Now, as you said, there is archeological evidence for human sacrifice in Canaan, but that doesn’t mean that there is evidence for the exodus from Egypt (which there isn’t), nor does it mean that the conquest of Canaan occurred as depicted in the Bible. Archeologists have been searching for evidence in both respects for decades and they haven’t found anything. It is far more likely that the Israelites conquered the surrounding peoples progressively, just as any other conquering state throughout history.

      Also, again, the point of this was not to dispute the historical accuracy of the Bible. Clapham made an argument using the texts that God ordered the destruction of these civilizations because he didn’t approve of human sacrifice. I used the same texts to show that God had no problem with human sacrifice, and that the command to destroy these civilizations, if they did come from God, was more likely the result of his intolerance for the worship of other deities.

      Perhaps you would like to read past the disclaimer.

    • That is a very valid point. Why discuss how evil an event was if you don’t think it actually happened? Really, your whole response was very well thought out.

      • Well, here is one of the comments that motivated Clapham to justify the genocide found in the OT. I’m sorry that it’s so long, but if you’re really interested in why I would write about something that I don’t believe happened, you will need this background.

        “Clapham, if I may interrupt, I’d like to illustrate why your argument is fallacious. Your main focus seems to be divided between two impressions of Ark’s argument. First, because all religion (from an atheist’s perspective) is man-made, the problem is not with religion, but with man. Second, you’re adamant about shifting the attention from the evil portions of the Bible, to the benevolent portions of the Bible.

        Let’s examine another man-made convention – totalitarianism. If you came across a forum that was split between totalitarians and atotalitarians, would you support a similar argument? That is, the totalitarian proclaims that his antagonist’s argument is facile: “Totalitarianism is man-made, and it is the people within this convention that are causing harm, not the convention itself. Therefore, the problem is with people, not with their conventions.” The atotalitarian replies, “The convention permits the people to cause harm by providing justifications for their actions. If a convention is deficient, and cannot foster or maintain peace, it should be discarded.” Which side of the argument would you be on? Should we allow totalitarianism to continue, simply because it is a product of humanity? Is it your reasoning that humanity is at fault while the convention is innocent of wrongdoing? How do you correct the deficiencies in human character by permitting the conventions that perpetuate those deficiencies to linger on?

        The same analogy can be applied to your second issue: atheists only focus on the bad things in the Bible. Why should we accept a document simply because it has SOME nice things to say? Surely we are capable of developing documents entirely absent of evil postulations! If the totalitarian said, “Yes, we promote genocide and murder, this is true; but you guys never focus on the good things we do! We also built a strong economy and reduced the national crime rate!” You see the foolishness of this argument, right? The Bible is not, historically, the most moral document ever written. Shouldn’t we strive to promote the most principled and ethical ideas possible? Ridding ourselves in the process of unwanted, immoral baggage from centuries past.

        So I ask you, why permit a deficient and backward convention to continue? Why not promote a convention that puts humanity first, rather than a few people? Or, in your case, one super-person? If the convention has repeatedly failed to uphold our moral ambitions, we should not be asked to endure its existence simply because it’s innocent of its own creation.”

        In response to this, Clapham wanted to show that God commanded the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites for moral reasons, thus showing that the Bible is a perfectly moral document. My argument here is to illustrate that even if these events occurred as depicted, the motivations were based on religious intolerance. And, we (collectively) discuss the moral implications of fictitious writing all of the time. Why should I be banned from such discussions simply because one side doesn’t think they’re fictitious?

    • Teepee, without getting too much into it (i have dealt with this matter before and have another post coming dealing with the “historical” nature of the Pentateuch) but it is common knowledge there was no conquest. It was a geopolitical myth invented after the fall of Mamlekhet Yisra’el (Kingdom of Israel) in 722 BCE to justify a northern land grab.

      “There is no archaeological evidence for any of it. This is something unexampled in history. They [Judah] wanted to seize control of the territories of the kingdom of Israel and annex them, because, they said, `These territories are actually ours and if you have a minute, we´ll tell you how that´s so.’ The goal was to create a myth saying that Judah is the center of the world, of the Israelite way of life, against the background of the reality of the later kingdom… The people of Judah started to market the story of Joshua’s conquest of the land, which was also written in that period, in order to give moral justification to their territorial longings, to the conquest of the territories of Israel.” (Israel Finkelstein, professor of archaeology, Tel Aviv University)

      Or as Rabbi Sherman Wine said:

      “The Jews did not emerge as a nation under the leadership of Moses. They were never rescued from slavery in Egypt. They never stopped at Sinai. Two Hebrew nations emerged in the highlands of Canaan. One was Israel; the other was Judah. The relationship of the two nations was often hostile. The Israelites were more powerful than the Judeans (Jews). Omri and Ahab were greater kings than David and Solomon. But Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians. Only the Jews survived.”

  2. I have felt, for a very long time, it takes a sick and twisted mind to find means to excuse the atrocities in the bible. If you can rationalize your way out of that shit hole, you can justify darn near anything you decide you might be capable of.

    This leads me to repeat something I have been known to say on more than a few occaisions. “There ain’t nuthin that scares me more, than a bunch of good (insert religion here)”

  3. Great post mate, it is funny someone would have problems with a critique of fiction. How many times do we critique the Lord of the rings though we know Tolkien or any of the characters he created didn’t visit [Mordor]?

  4. As my eight year old boy says “Some people wrote the Bible to make other people feel like shit.”

    (And yes, I allow my boys to swear at home and in our vehicles, I do NOT allow them to call anyone names or make fun of other people at all. I try to lead by example.)

  5. Hi there. Thanks for providing a reply to my post. I think(?) we have made some progress in at least narrowing the discussion to the point of children. I’ll post a fuller reply to this but just a quick observation. Reducing this complicated issue to a one dimensional problem simply doesn’t move it forward. And in the same way simply quoting other passages in isolation (out of context) only takes us back to the same point we were before I wrote the Canaanite piece – see my point on Churchill. We have to look at these passages in context to have any hope of really understanding them. Saying God is unjust because children die reduces a complicated issue to one dimension. It’s the same error as making abortion a one dimensional issue. It’s the same as saying children taken from their mothers is a one dimensional issue. Well as we see in the UK sometimes it’s in the child’s interest to be taken away from an abusive environment. I’m disappointed you didn’t address some of my more pointed question as I think those help clarify the issues, but so be it. I obviously wasn’t clear enough in my post that I think that it is at least conceivable that it might be merciful to that child that it doesn’t live. (see the parts in my post on Hitler and child soldiers). We need to examine our assumption that to live is always the best thing – to reduce these complex matters to one dimension is like reducing “pulling the plug” and euthanasia to one dimension. I doubt any of us would do that. Thanks for posting your reply though – i do aprpeciate you taking the time.

    • Clapham, please don’t play contextual games. The passages are completely related to the subject we are talking about. Just because they are in isolation doesn’t mean they are out of context.

      Also, I have not reduced the problem to one dimension. You’re right, there are many things that are worse than death. Being burned alive is certainly horrible, but the OT doesn’t depict children being put out of their misery, it depicts children being tortured. Let us use your analogy: “we see in the UK sometimes it’s in the child’s interest to be taken away from an abusive environment.” Tell me, when was the last time the UK broke children into pieces to save them from an abusive environment?

      I apologize if I missed specific questions that you were interested in. I’ll review your post again and then confirm with you which questions you’re most interested in. Or, you can provide them in a comment. I look forward to your reply. If, by the way, you plan on accusing me of utilizing out of context passages, please provide reasons as to why they are out of context. I do not have a problem conceding on that matter, so long as you can demonstrate that the passages are unrelated to the discussion.

      • Hi there. Thanks for another gracious and constructive reply. I’m sorry if I’ve given the impression that I am playing a game here – nothing could be further from the truth. I hope this is shown by the amount of time I’ve time I’ve dedicated to this. And I think it’s also shown by the fact that I think we have narrowed the question down to just the children – i.e. I think we have made some progress in understanding God’s actions, even if some difficult bits remain. This is my point on context – it does help us understand. These passages are disturbing to me too – I don’t take them lightly. But I don’t want to dismiss them lightly either. I think the questions that I posed, as uncomfortable as they may be, do help highlight that the issues of death, justice and mercy are not straight forward. If we can say at some point death, in some circumstances, might be merciful, such as in that of a young Hitler, then the difficult part to stomach is the graphic description of what that might look like as it happens. I think that is what is alluded to in some of your passages (I’m not going to try deal with all of them – I simply don’t have that amount of time). I wonder if these graphic images are there to shock us into a greater awareness. I sincerely apologise if any of my responses have seemed glib or given the impression that these passages are not difficult or disturbing to me. But I do think that careful examination of the context can help us go a long way to getting a better understanding. I hope to be able to post on this again at some point.

        • Your comments reveal so much more than you actually are aware.
          You are as fundamental and intransigent as the Muslim chappie on Tildeb’s post.

          Truly with this level of mentality a line in the sand will one day have to be drawn.
          It is against all principles of human decency that people like you are allowed to vote.
          I also have reservations about you being allowed in the gene pool….even in the shallow end.

          There is no possible way to justify Divine Command Theory.You are an outright fundamentalist.
          You should not be allowed to impart such beliefs to children. You are a disgrace.

          Tildeb’s final closing statements regarding an oath of fealty to be taken by everyone who wishes to live in a secular democratic society are on the money.

          Anyone who would put their god above their country or fellow man should be denied citizenship and politely asked to leave.
          I might even have a whip round to help pay for your ticket.

          • My dear Ark – your comments really are hilarious. Here you are calling me a fundamentalist and intransigent, and YOU are the one saying that people like me shouldn’t be allowed to vote! That people like me are a disgrace. I won;t mention the numerous other personal insults you have hurled at me. It sounds like YOU are a moment away from picking up your gun to shoot me!
            You keep banging on about this Divine Command Theory. I honestly don’t know where you get that – I’ve certainly never mentioned it. Maybe if you stop calling me names and actually think about what i write our friendship can blossom to the wonderful lush bush i know it can be. Yours in eager anticipation of that day, Clapham.

            • You do not need to use the words Divine Command Theory as this is what you are proposing. Look it up.
              This is the explanation to excuse the actions of the deity you worship.

              That I don’t believe in any of the ridiculous stories of the Bible is immaterial. The fact is YOU DO, and that is at best delusional at worst it is tantamount to a mental illness.
              Notwithstanding that these are fictitious stories you spend goodness knows how many megabytes trying to justify them.
              It has already been pointed out to you that several people, claiming that they have been instructed by god, have killed others.
              Now, I am hoping you will conclude that these people are seriously mentally ill?
              And I am sorry to say, based on your continued attempts at finding a rational answer to justify the actions of Yahweh you sir are also quite possible unwell..
              As for shooting you? No. I am not a murderer. That is the preserve of the deity you worship. But I would have little qualms about Incarceration.

              The ridiculous deserve ridicule.
              The day you relinquish this obsession with trying to qualify and justify an abominable story/book I will afford you all the respect and understanding you wish.
              Until then, you and every religious person are merely prisoners of fallacious literature.

              • I’m surprised you find the Muslim fundamentalist states so offensive. You share many similar views…like the incarceration of people who hold to viewpoints other than your own…and deportation…and who knows what after that….;-)

                • I am surprised you don’t find the Muslim states so offensive. After all you worship the same god…

                • I am sure Jefferson won’t mind if I nick this from his comment.

                  Clapham will undoubtedly see that if he justifies these acts, there is almost no atrocity which god could commit that would be wrong.

                  Basically, he is saying you are a dick…but he is more polite.

                  And this describes anyone who will uphold the Divine Command Theory.

                  • Sadly it didn’t take long for the name calling to come back did it? And your obsession with DCT…dude (i know you love that), give it a break…. Let’s pick this up when you can show some form of respect to anyone who holds a view contrary to yours….

                    • Anyone who abides by Divine Command Theory deserves no respect.
                      Let’s pick this up when you can learn some basic humility and value for human life….Dude

  6. Informative and enjoyable, as usual. It’s been a while since I’ve been by, but I’m starting to blog more often again, so you’ll see me around 🙂

    As someone who believed intensely in God and my religion (Mormonism), I have done what Clapham is doing here – mental gymnastics, trying to understand the difficult parts of religion and God while maintaining faith in the things that made me believe in the first place. It’s . . . difficult, and MUCH much easier to ignore the issues and continue in blissful ignorance, which is what many do. Kudos to Clapham for attempting to rectify his faith with this terrible history above.

    That said, at some point, and with some topics like this, justifying scripture or old doctrine becomes scary. Clapham will undoubtedly see that if he justifies these acts, there is almost no atrocity which god could commit that would be wrong. When that’s the case, what would Clapham say to a man who believed that God wanted him to kill his son or to strap a bomb to his chest and walk into a subway? There is no good argument from faith, because what God commands is good, and there is precedence for the worst crimes in scripture.

    • Great to see you, Jefferson! I will have to swing over. I was thinking about you the other day, as I was trying to think of blogs that could be featured on our new site. Would you mind if we featured your blog? It’s nothing special – just a link to the right hand side of the page.

      As for this post, Clapham, as you can see above, accused me of using passages out of context. Are you familiar with the passages I cited? If so, are they out of context?

      • That sounds great, RL, thanks for the link!

        Unfortunately I didn’t give the Old Testament more than a couple, cursory reads while young, and that was long before I started questioning the things it contained. Having grown up in Utah and then gone on my mission to Illinois. I was first challenged by the unique problems LDS scriptures. What’s interesting is that the people giving those challenges typically believed in the inerrancy of the bible, which contained all of the same issues but which they believed in without a problem.

        So I apologize, but I can’t comment very well on the specific scriptures cited. I’ll review them when I have a moment and see if I have anything to add.

        • Sorry, Jefferson. Your comments got sent to my spam folder for some reason. With respect to my question, don’t worry about it. I think Clapham should be responsible for demonstrating why they are out of context. I reviewed them again, and I do not think that they are.

    • Thanks for your comment – it is spurring me on to think of these things more rather than less. I love the title of this blog –the Latin translated into “dare to be wise”. I’m trying to do that! Failing a lot but still trying. Part of that must be to tread carefully and methodically, in deep humility, and to understand the question.
      The question here is “if there is a god who is morally good, can He do this”.
      I think this comes down to at least two questions – (1) does He have the right to judge (I think that we have agreed that this is the case with the adults (?)), and (2) does He also have the right to save. I put this as a question for the more difficult case of the children. And so I ask the question “could it have been merciful to Hitler for him to die young, before he became the monster that he did?”. I think the answer to this must be “yes, its conceivable”. If that is the answer it moves this question forward.
      I have never heard a Christian use these as grounds for repeating what was done, and I would fiercely oppose it if it did. But, when I go slowly and carefully, I can start to see grounds for why God as judge, and God as savior, could do some of these things. I agree its gory and graphic. But life is. WW2 was gory and graphic and i dare say we would have our stomachs turned if we had to view what happened to some Nazis – i.e. just actions sometimes look very ugly.

      • Since there are SO many different avenues this debate could move towards, I’ll try to keep my comments within the context you’ve given, namely that god is morally good and that the bible is historically accurate.

        It is hard to debate against the position that things we see as TERRIBLE could actually be good, in the long term. It’s basically the question brought up in pop culture via The Minority Report – to punish a crime which hasn’t yet been committed would be seen by everyone as an immoral thing to do, but given a perfect knowledge of the future it would be the same as punishing it post-act, but would avoid all the negative side-effects. God, with that perfect knowledge, could be conceived of doing many, many things which would not make sense to us with our limited perspective. This is impossible to argue against within that context of believing God is moral, because the answer to every challenge would be, “We are mortals and can’t understand the ways of god.”

        To move the debate towards a more practical area – how does this view of morality affect out society?

        Christians (and modern Mormons as well) like to place scripture firmly where they think it belongs – far, far in the past. What if these horrors in the Old Testament were to happen today? It happens often, within Christianity. A woman killed her child because of god’s command just a couple of weeks ago, men claim to be prophets and gain cult followings. To the question, “Would you do this (whatever “this” may be), a true believer has to answer “Yes.” At least they should, or I would claim they don’t really believe.

        Believing in a god who did terrible things for righteous reasons opens up a frightening moral gray area where the believer has no good rebuttal for terrible actions. “Why did you kill your son?” “God commanded me.” “That must have been a false spirit.” “It was god.”

        To them, I say, “There is no God, those feelings are the products of your own indoctrination, delusions, and desires or guilt.” Admittedly my words wouldn’t stop the zealous mother, but they might prevent another person from believing in the delusions in the first place.

        What do you think about those thoughts? What moral guidance can you offer the world, where God can commit atrocities?

        • Great points- thanks for making them. I’m going to try answer them as briefly as I can.
          Just a quick point of correction. I’m not arguing for the minority report position. I’m not pinning this on justice but on mercy. I’m saying those children would suffer as they follow in the footsteps of their society and it’s merciful to them that they don’t. It’s a fine but important distinction to make.
          So I say it could have been merciful TO Hitler if he had died younger – he wouldn’t have become the tormented hate fulfilled person that he did become.
          On your other point.
          There certainly are some evil hateful ideas dressed up as religion. Christianity however is not one of those. As with any book, we can’t simply read one part and get the full picture. Yes, the Bible records God acting in a particular time and context as has been discussed above. But that time and context no longer applies –these remain as pictures of what God’s judgement is like. But any suggestion that WE are to do those things is simply not found in the Bible.
          People can twist the most noble things into evil – see the reign of terror. See the suggestion in a comment above that I should be denied voting rights and citizenship because of my belief.
          We can’t simply say someone did X in the name of Y therefore we must throw out Y.
          I offer the thoughts of Jrugen Habermas – noted atheist intellectual and scholar – on the contribution Judeo-Christian ethics has made to the world. http://claphamcommontree.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/jurgen-habermas-on-judeo-christian-ethics/
          I offer the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5) as another example.
          A final thought – justice often involves someone having to do something “horrible”. Someone has to lock up a prisoner in a small room with no freedom. Someone had to fight the Nazis. Someon had to kill Nazis.
          This is an inescapable truth.
          The picture at the top of this blog (were it real) would be the picture of someone who has burned children to their death receiving the death penalty. It could just as easily have been a Nazi guarding a gas chamber being killed by liberating forces. This is the reality of the world we live in. We like to think that we can have a world view that doesn’t ever have any bloodshed in it – but the presence of evil means that just simply isn’t the way life is. So we need to have an ideology that encompasses this – to not have one is like sticking our head in the sand and creating world views from there.
          I personally think Christianity provides the most coherent view of these bloody realities, and how life actually fits together than any other view. There are lots of views that take pot shots at aspects but I am yet to find one that can coherently, and encompassingly, deal with the reality of evil in this world, proper justice, mercy and love.

          • Thanks for the response, Clapham. I’ll respond with #’s for each point to make this easy to negotiate.

            #1) Minority report, justice vs. mercy. I actually think you’ve given up a good argument in favor of a very weak one here. You said, “I’m saying those children would suffer as they follow in the footsteps of their society and it’s merciful to them that they don’t.” That would work in a theology where those who were killed would go to heaven . . . in this case, in Christian theology, God “saved” them from a “bad” life by sending them straight to a hell where they will be tormented forever. That’s not mercy.

            That is, of course, if you accept the idea that those who don’t accept Christ will go to hell. I’ll let you clarify that, if you’d like.

            #2) The God of the Old Testament vs the God of the New. Again, believers (with the exception of evangelicals and a few other Christian sects) like to keep God very far in the past. You’ve done so here by saying God acted in that way at that time, implying that he wouldn’t now. If I’m a believer, and I’m reading the Old Testament, you KNOW I’m going to be trying to apply it to my life. That’s what you’re supposed to do. And if I’m doing that and I come to a hard passage and I feel that twinge of challenge within me that I think is god, asking, “Would you do this if I commanded you?” some terrible things can happen.

            You say that God doesn’t act in that way anymore, but I think the Bible portrays a very different God. It portrays one that is the same yesterday, today, and forever, that reveals himself by direct revelation through gifts of the spirit. If the Christian God is real, then he is one who is active, who is still performing miracles, who is still commanding difficult things of us, who is still asking us, at least figuratively, to give away all we have and follow him. Christ and the Old Testament both present a radical, life-changing religion that modern sects have watered down.

            One simple question is all that someone needs to be asked – “Do you REALLY believe God did said or did that?” If so, what would bar him from behaving the same today? Do you really think God would never command a genocide again?

            The difficult things of the Old Testament can’t simply be brushed under the rug of “Well, that was with the law of Moses and that’s been fulfilled.”

            • Good points and thanks for breaking it up.

              1) If I could pick and choose my arguments I would! ;-). Jesus sums up the “Law and the Prophets”, basically the OT, in “love God and love your neighbor” (moor or less Matt 22v40). Sometimes that is tough love, like WW2 and I guess like what we see here. I think this was my point in the original post and I think RLC is satisfied with that in the case of the parents. So what to make of the children? Maybe Minority Report is the way to go but I don’t think so. I think God judges us on our own sin. Original sin is a difficult concept but I prefer the interpretation that it created in us a propensity to sin rather than condemnation. I think the propensity to sin is borne out in everyday life – I’ve never met anyone, even the most aggressive atheist, who say they have never committed some moral wrong, even by their own definition of it. So often original sin is really a red herring – our own “sin” is an almost undeniable fact. And this is what the Bible says – Romans 6v23.

              This ties into your point on condemnation for not believing. Jesus’ act of atonement deals with sins. It is our sin that results in condemnation in the first place. Each person is free to make their own atonement for what they have done, but the Bible makes it clear that none have the currency to do it. So the problem is not so much that we don’t believe. Its that we sin and then aren’t able to atone for it ourselves. Not believing simply puts us in the position of having to write a very, very, big check, one we can’t actually write. Its not that we will stand innocently before God and he wills ay you never believed. If you are innocent you have no problem.

              And this is true of life – if I cheat on my wife I can never actually atone for it. She has to forgive me (suck up the pain and the consequences) and nothing I do can force her to do that. I have to rely on her to forgive me. This is one of the reasons I believe the Bible’s story on the state of mankind and sin – it rings true with what I see in human relationships.

              2) Good summary. I am evangelical (don’t hate me;-)). This really requires a long response but I’ll try and keep it short. Yes God is alive and active today. However when it says that He never changes that doesn’t meant hat He does exactly the same thing all the time. That would make him a stone! Jesus gets confronted with a very similar issue with the woman caught in adultery and He provides the answer – He who is without sin cast the first stone (John 8v1-11). Anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus and think they have had a direct revelation should start testing that revelation there! The picture of Jesus is the supreme revelation of God’s character in the Bible – this is Hebrews 1 v 1-4. We are told to test every revelation (1 john 4v1), so anyone who thinks they’ve heard from God should start with the Bible to make sure. This is why you can be sure no one who has ever really read the Bible would advocate genocide.

              Sometimes we will have to fight evil (I keep citing WW2 cos I think its an obvious example). The presence of evil means that we will sometimes have to fight this. To have a philosophy of life that doesn’t take account of this IMHO means having a deficient one.

              A last point, I think that we have distinguished this from genocide with RLCs agreement that this might be just in the case of the adults. Genocide is something based on race. I think I’ve shown that this is based on action not ethnicity.

              Hope that helps clarify the position.

              • There is absolutely no way to rationally discuss this with a religious person, and especially
                someone of an evangelical bent, like Clapham

                The best (worst) example (paraphrased) of this came from William Lane Craig, whom when asked how he would react if it was shown conclusively that God did not exist his answer was along the lines of:
                “Pray to god for guidance”

                Thus, all conversation is actually a waste of time with such people.
                It matters not if one is trying to be rational, polite, sarcastic or aggressive.
                They care not if every ounce of factual evidence were to be laid on the table that unequivocally demonstrated the utter fallaciousness of their belief from start to finish, they would simply disregard it.

                They simply cannot consider a scenario where the god they believe in does not figure, hence when they pose questions to the non-believer every question assumes that the god they worship is real.
                Why don’t you believe in God. How can you hate God, Where did you get your morals if not from God. etc ad nauseum.

                Now, as many atheists have oft said, we really don’t care one iota what an individual believes and as long as he came by this belief of his own accord…as an adult this is fine.
                But they do not. They are usually the product of inculcation and guilty of inculcating others, especially children.
                The latter is intolerable and this is why nonbelievers get upset as religion and god belief is granted special privilege.

                So, what are the options open to developing secular humanist world where god belief eventually does not figure?

                Practically, there are none.

                Although it would be nice if there was some way to legislate against exposing children to any form of religious inculcation.

                However, based on world stats. it will eventually dwindle to become inconsequential and people like Clapham will become oddities.

                Read any religious deconvertee and you will quickly see that they all exhibited the type of mindless prattle demonstrated by people like Clapham.
                All were convinced of their own belief, though were at pains to try and demonstrate how tolerant they were of every other belief and were more than willing to prayer for you.

                And almost everyone I have read, and /or discussed with have stated they couldn’t believe how they were so blind, so dense to have been a believer, irrespective of the faith or particular god they worshipped.

                Oh, and they are all used to the dismissive and derogatory, “Oh, you were never a proper believer” from former friends, colleagues or simply believers.

                It is very difficult to know how to treat the likes Clapham, Silence of Mind, unklee and the myriad of believers that still cause harm to people, simply by being god believers as they could really not care less what vyou think.

                On one hand I am tempted to offer sympathy and encouragement in the hope that if someone like Nate Owens can come round others can too and on the other I just want to laugh at the utter stupidity of the way they behave.

                And while we may consider we are offering a forum to discuss this rationally an honestly with believers they are anything but: being disingenuous and above all, delusional.

                As atheists, though ,I strongly feel that before entering any sort of discussion, it should be incumbent on believers to demonstrate that there is adequate evidence of their god. Otherwise. Put up or Push off.

                • Ah, the voice of reason comes back to the party ;-). How about taking a bash at my question on Hitler, Maybe then we’ll have something to talk about….cheerio.

                  • No problem at all
                    I have no issues discussing an anti semitic ( and anti a lot more) mass murdering, Catholic sympathising mentally unstable maniac.

                    But first, please demonstrate with evidence the nature of your god and the authority from what /whom you proceed from.


                    • I have no answer for you i;m afraid. OK, now since its no problem t all, lets hear it….? And please be sure to answer it and not use some other deflection.

                    • No. I insist you offer something…
                      If you haven’t even got the integrity to at least try to offer an answer …any answer then you are widdling on the cornflakes of reason and have no case.
                      Thus, I will not sully this excellent post with any dialogue about Hitler.

                      If you can’t be bothered, then you are a fraud. At least have the decency to admit that what you believe is based solely on faith.

                    • 1. I never promised to give an answer. And in any event you have already expressed yourself to be very familiar with my views, certainly familiar enough to deride them, and me.

                      2. This post is about discussing the events, if they took place. So to start the discussion you have to make the assumptions.

                      3. You on the other hand claimed it was “no problem, AT ALL….” to answer the question. So please….do be a man of your word.

                      The crowd grows restless at the sound of crickets….

                    • No.There is no onus on me to satisfy your ego.

                      I never said you “promised” either.
                      I am saying that if you have any integrity at all then you ought to offer evidence.

                      This constant side-stepping of the issue merely makes the case against your belief stronger.

                      So, one final time.
                      Offer evidence of the god that you derive your authority and beliefs from and we can proceed from there. No problem…at all!

                    • Ark, you are very familiar with the contents of my blog. My views are set out there for alt to see. Including on metaphysics. You are also familiar with my comments so you KNOW i have no problem expressing my views.

                      This post is however about a particular issue. You and i and anyone who bothers to read this will know that the reasons no answer is forthcoming is because the answer is obviously “yes”. Yes, it could have been merciful to Hitler to die before he became the person you, and so many other described him to be.

                      There is no shame in that answer. But obviously it goes to prove the correctness of the point i was trying to make.


                    • Your behaviour illustrates the futility of arguing or even attempting to discuss religion – at any level -with an evangelical.

                      This, I believe will ultimately reveal itself as obvious, even to the authors on this particular blog.

                      Your Hitler scenario is not really worth answering, ( although I will, maybe even in crayon, should you decide to offer evidence of your god) as you are not intelligent enough to recognise that the dynamics would have changed completely had there been no religion involved in the first place.

                      Now, I have no doubt that RJ and the others on this thread will pick up on the comments and maybe you will get some sort of platitude from them:
                      For better or worse, this is not my style.
                      You are an intransient ass, and have not an ounce of integrity in this matter.

                      You should consider yourself fortunate to encounter such an across the board level of tolerance.

                      This wont happen on one of my posts….count on it.

                    • Whoa! You two are both being stubborn! Clapham, why do you refuse to provide justification for your beliefs? Ark, why won’t you answer his question about Hitler?

                    • Good day RLC (Is it ok if i refer to you as such?).

                      As i’m sure you know, if i could provide conclusive evidence for the existence of God in the space of a comment box there would probably be about 50m fewer blog posts on worpress and i would have published a best selling book!

                      Sadly i can’t, but i am happy to discuss the many evidences that there are -and you and i are already in the midst of such a discussion on metaphysics. I assumed our dear friend Ark, being acquainted with this as we all know he is, could not possibly have made his question a serious one.

                      One of the tasks that i have is to disprove the allegation that God is a sponsor of genocide – which is what i set about to do when writing the original post that this post responds to. So on this post i try to seek to address that issue. Which was the reason i directed that question to our good friend, Ark. Who initially seemed quite keen to give my uppity little question the treatment it so seemingly deserved.

                      Sadly nothing has been forthcoming.

                      But that’s OK because the answer is as clear as daylight.

                      I do however look forward to us discussing metaphysics at some point in the future.

                      Until then, all the best,


                    • You may call me whatever you wish, Clapham. RLC works for me, or just “R” for the sake of brevity. 🙂 Thank you for asking though.

                      I don’t think our particular discussion with regards to whether God is immoral falls under the same topic (i.e. whether God exists). In our current discussion, we are assuming that he does, which is why I refer to it as a thought experiment. I think that is the point Ark is trying to make: without first addressing the most fundamental of all questions (Does God exist?) all subsequent questions are inconsequential. I will have to admit, I have yet to see you posit anything on that particular subject. Is this something you would prefer to cover sometime in the future?

                    • Yes, i agree – but if god is accused of genocide one must assume his existence to refute the argument. which is what you kindly did. so my suggestion is that on this post dealing with genocide we finish that debate before moving onto the next one. if we dont do that we end up just having a multitude of discussions with no conclusions. a highly unsatisfactory state if we are really searching for the truth, rather than just seeing who can pee the furthest. 🙂

                    • That’s fine by me, Clapham.

  7. As far I’m concerned Clapham, produce this god you speak of, or failing that show some kind of evidence that any gods have existed, or failing that maybe explain to us how magic works and if it can be detected in any way, or failing that I would accept any tiny sliver of evidence that might even argue for the possibility of any of these things. Failing all of these things, how about a simple definition of this god? Then perhaps, we can discuss all of the philosophical ramifications of this gods so called intentions. Evidence by the way is not a little black book, or a feeling, or a belief, or a “cuz I really really know it’s true”

    …until then, we are playing in the sandbox of infinite possibilities. I have better things to do. I have played Mad Libs before. This is the depth of you philosophy.

  8. Shelldigger reporting in. I do not know why my previous post showed up as “Anonymous”, but rest assured it was me.

    …and Clapham, don’t hold your breath, engaging you in any manner would be a complete waste of time. There is an old saying, something about wrestling with a pig, you both get muddy but the pig likes it. I’ll pass.

    • Fair enough.

      Of course if we take the view that anyone that disagrees with us is a pig we’d never speak to anyone other than people that reinforce our own view of the world. Maybe a better view is that we are all pigs and when we debate things we get closer to findout what the truth is. One of things that i find so true of th Bible is taht weare allpigs in need of a good wash. Not that just some of us are pgis.

      I am suprised by how offensive people find the view that God passed a death sentence on child murdering people (both the canaanites and the jews). And seemingly no one fancies taking a shot at answering the Hitler question and resolving the position on children.

  9. You are an intransient ass,

    And quite probably intransigent, as well.

  10. Ark, why won’t you answer his question about Hitler?

    Of course I will, RJ, and have said it would be no problem at all.
    All he has to do is show evidence of his god and I will write him a damn novel on dear Adolf if it will make him happy

    • I see. Chicken and the egg. What if he provides his evidence for God, but it’s not to your liking (as I’m sure it won’t be). Would you still write him a novel? 🙂

      • Well evidence has to be verifiable otherwise it isn’t evidence merely hearsay,like the flying teapot, not so?

        • No, I agree. I’m just trying to understand what it would take. Essentially, the Hitler question is not worth answering because the more fundamental question (Does God exist?) has not been satisfactorily answered. I’m with you on that.

          Still, it’s not very enticing for Clapham. That is, he knows that essentially anything he says will fall on “deaf ears,” so to speak. It’s why he never provides an answer, I think. And this is unfortunate, because I’m interested in the answer – I probably won’t assent to it, but I’m interested nonetheless.

  11. @Clapham

    Yes, i agree – but if god is accused of genocide one must assume his existence to refute the argument.

    “One”: You mean christians. No atheist ever assumes anything of the sort.

    I make a point to try and always state that the biblical tales of god-caused and god-commanded murder maybe them and general all round genocide are all nonsense.

    But sadly, christians have been using their god as a reason to slaughter their fellow human beings since they first
    learned to pronounce ”Heretic! ” and the only way they have managed to sleep at night and allay their conscious is to invent Divine Command Theory.

    What atheists are working toward is completely rubbishing most of the Old Testament; confining such barbarism to the middens of myth.

    When that day arrives…and it will, you better believe it, you may find your dear Yeshua tradition is suddenly standing on very shakey legs indeed.

    To paraphrase some old book of myths

    Behold, the truth will come as a thief and ye shall be left naked, and they see your shame.

  12. No – obviously I mean anyone who engages in the debate. Including RLC.

    The very existence of this post is evidence that some atheists in debating “God’s morality” do make the temporary assumption that God exists. Because if you don’t you can’t have the debate.

    And just to restate the point, people have also “slaughtered each other” in the name of peace, freedom and love. What do you think happened in WW2. Or in any war? They sat down and had a cup of tea? No – brace and decent people took a view that evil had to be resisted, even if that meant killing the people who were perpetrating the evil. As I previously stated RLC picture on this post could just a well have been the scene outside a nazi incinerator. This is a reality and philosophy that seeks to explain life must deal with. History! shows us that sometimes the fight for good means that people bent on evil must be killed.

    Bald allegations prove nothing unless you are willing to investigate them more fully. Breast cancer surgeons routinely cut and maim women –that’s what they’re paid to do. Merely saying “this man cuts and maims women” states a fraction of the truth without helping anyone decide whether the action is actually evil or not.

    So, my question on Hitler still stands should you wish to answer it….

    • You fail utterly to comprehend, and I suspect it is an ingrained intransigence that has you by the throat.
      People have been killing each other since even before they climbed down from the trees.
      Nobody, least of all me, is denying this or trying to hide or run away.
      The whole point of doing away with religion and god belief is it removes one more ( BIG) reason for people to hate each other, and kill each other.
      And that can only be a good thing.

      Religion is indefensible. Only the ignorant and morons consider it necessary. Ignorance can be cured.

  13. Mixed up in all this is the doctrine of salvation. Did those children go straight to heaven? Without hearing about Jesus? I thought that was impossible… Were they not of the elect so they didn’t matter anyway? Read Romans 9. Apparently God creates some people for the purpose of destruction, to help the elect. You can try to justify genocide, but make sure your justification actually matches your doctrine of salvation or else you are conceding inerrancy. Or… you can conclude that the OT is history, written by humans, with justification based on fictional divine commands thrown in, which seems like the most plausible explanation to me.

Please share your thoughts here. With the exception of blatant spam, no one will be censored. I invite criticisms and disagreement, but hope we can maintain a cordial and respectful dialogue. Thanks!

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