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.”
I 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?
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.