Wednesday, April 28, 2010

God's Old Testament Morality

God’s morality, or lack thereof, is what initially struck me as the most potent argument against the notion of a “good” god in my journey of intensifying doubt. The genocide led by god of the Old Testament, which included the annihilation of infants and children, struck a deep emotional chord with me. I have two children of my own whom I could never imagine abusing the way the O.T. god does his creation that he presumably loves. My opponents, during a recent informal debate, made the erroneous analogy of god being like a parent to his children who loves them infinitely, but apparently just finds it necessary to give them a good thrashing now and then. I submit to my reader that I want nothing to do with such a malevolent father. I cannot, for the life of me, comprehend a god who creates and then intentionally destroys his creation. Even people who are incapable of deliberate premeditated evil, such as babies, are fair game for termination in god’s maniacal eyes. Quickly, I will turn to the lovely and enduring story of the Midianite race to amplify my central theme.

Numbers 31:1-18:

"...And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses, and they slew all the [adult] males. And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones...And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, unto Moses...And Moses was angry with the officers of the host And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Ba'laam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the female children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."

I used to read over these passages and try to reconcile them by making excuses for god. As John Loftus sometimes says, I had my “god glasses” on and never realized how terribly immoral god was behaving. All the old clich├ęs like, “God’s ways are mysterious ways,” “we shouldn’t question the creator of the universe”, and “God had a plan that was bigger than what we could ever fathom” would serve as a seemingly adequate reassurance at the time when faced with many moral insensibilities of the scriptures. I used to go so far as to tell people that God had to destroy everyone, or Jesus may have never come to save mankind from their sin.

The above scripture alludes to Moses being upset because the Midianites would again tempt the Israelites to fall into their evil religious practices of foreign gods; total annihilation of the Midianites was the only answer god could come up with. What I couldn’t get back in my evangelical days is why if god was on the Israelites side showing them miracle after miracle, appearing to Moses numerous times, going before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night were they still stupid enough to seek other gods. Looking back, maybe it wasn’t stupidity but a distinct realization that the brainless and evil things he had them doing made him less than worthy of worship. Perhaps, they were desperate for a god who didn’t suck ass. Or, perhaps the whole mess is nothing more than a fairy tale about a group of barbaric nomads who lived for the kill. Furthermore, where does the Hebrew god get off calling Balaam evil? Last time I checked, god was all for stoning which included stoning rape victims who failed to cry loud enough in the city (Deut. 22), slavery, sexual repression, genocide, infanticide and nearly complete human annihilation to boot. Evidently, mankind was so wicked that god had to flood the entire face of the earth presumably wiping out the unborn, infants, children and the majority of the animals that inhabited the world in the process; what a brilliant idea and so loving! Lest we forget the story of the first born children in Egypt being killed by gods “death angel” as a display of his awesome power.

Here are a few more arguments that theists like to make in regards to the Midianite tragedy which are really just attempts to circumvent the elephant in the room. Christian apologists will argue that the Midianites would regain power and wipe out the Israelites if they weren’t completely destroyed. Really, the creator of the universe can only think of killing all of them as a good, moral strategy for his people. Why is gods brainstorming ability so inadequate? Moreover, I thought murdering the helpless would go against the Ten Commandments but I guess it’s okay if god says so. Lastly, why bother creating anything if he has the foreknowledge that his own people are just going to destroy them before they even have the chance to walk? I suppose that he just wanted to make some kind of nefarious example out of them.

The cultural context argument out there makes the bogus case that we must understand the context of the day and age in which these Hebrews lived. My usual response is why would god choose to conform to their culture instead of the culture conforming to him? It’s as if god was willing to compromise any sense of morality to accommodate the Israelites cultural practices. Why didn’t he just abolish slavery, execution, genocide and infanticide instead of helping advance it? Obviously, it’s because the Bible would make a bit more sense and logic is not one of the Bible’s strong suits.

Yet another ridiculous claim is that God was actually being merciful because the Midianites were so evil that none of their children would be capable of redemption in the future; they got an automatic ticket to heaven! But don’t be so fast my Christian friends. The whole concept of age of accountability is not even found in the Bible. There is no basis for this argument, and these children could very well end up in hell since the Bible makes it clear that we are all born into sin. But who knows since there is no objective way to interpret the Bible anyway.

Progressive Revelation is another equally dubious argument that was thrown at me during the aforementioned debate. Progressive Revelation is the idea that later written sections of the Bible contain a fuller revelation of god, and presumably his sense of morality than older sections of the Bible. Basically, the Israelites were still doing pretty hideous things because god couldn't reveal too much of himself to them. This makes no sense because god told the Israelites to destroy the Midianites completely. So turning the other cheek and loving your neighbor as yourself would have been too progressive for the time, or too revolutionary? Or, are we looking at a god with inconsistent morality? I'm going with the latter conclusion. The god of the N.T. doesn't fair much better since he introduces us to the concept of never ending torture in hell that defies any sense of justice.

Theists will stop at no lengths to justify immoral actions that they themselves would never do. You can ask them if they would kill their own child if ordered by god to do so, and they will never give you a straight answer because they know it would go against their own moral sensibilities. But, for some reason, god can get away with anything he so chooses. In the call in program The Atheist Experience, Matt Dillahunty does a beautiful job of capturing the absurdity of god’s morality and making a convincing argument that the majority of humankind’s morality is superior. Matt lectures on the superiority of secular morality from time to time. This is a superb and entertaining video.