Abandon All Fear

What nobody else seems to be saying…

[Whodunnit] Killing In The Name Of…

Posted by Lex Fear on February 26, 2009

I have been debating an atheist called postsimian over at The Friendly Atheist but it’s getting far too long and off topic now so I’ve decided to post a response back here.

I said I’d respond if PS persuaded me of his/her arguments and after reading his/her last response there are a couple of things I do have to concede. Yep shock horror.

If you want to follow the debate from the beginning, head over and read the comments on Hermant’s post: Foxhole Atheist Jeremy Hall Tells His Story.

1) PS is right, I won’t bother looking up the verses, I never do when discussing things with atheists because usually (a) it comes down to a debate about intepretation and (b) I don’t want to get into the trap of circular reasoning or trying to defend the bible as a doctrine, because it’s not. I try to stick with experience and following Jesus.

2) PS also pointed out my own scotoma – PS is absolutely right that there is killing in the bible and there is God killing too, and in some instances it even seems unfair or as if the innocent are being punished.

I’ve never tried to make this a good vs evil argument. My initial point is about Christians killing and being in the army, and also an acknowledgement that atheists also kill alongside the religious.

Christ is very specific as I stated before, he has not abolished the law — but he has made clear he wants Christians to follow the law in their hearts and in their minds (Hebrews 8:7-13).

Now if your read the scripture I just quoted you will see an almost direct contradiction to the scripture PS is using to justify that the OT law should be obeyed.

So once again contradictions, and once again I must heed PS of contradictions in the bible that must be resolved before you simply start following any interpretation you use (doubtless if PS was still a Christian PS would be persecuting people, but most Christians are not like PS).

For example there is one such contradiction which causes you to wonder if it was God or if it was Satan who commanded David to conduct a census (2 Samuel 24:1 vs 1 Chronicles 21:1).

The reason for this is simple, not just errors but up until a certain point in Jewish OT history they did not know of the existence of Satan, therefore things got attributed to God.

See this article for more contradictions.

Back to killing. I must split this in to two cases:

God Killing People

Yes God killed, and taking on board that God could be blamed for Satan or natural happenings – yes innocents got killed too. Something I’ve had trouble personally reconciling is the fact that if one person in a family committed a crime/sin then the whole family was punished.

On the surface this is terrible, yes. But once again I would state that when someone turned to God and prayed for mercy he granted them such.

Secondly, I must make reference to an instance of God taking the life of an unborn (2 Sam 12:13-23). It could be called abortion – I’d use that term and I am to post something soon discussing this which I think will shock many conservative evangelicals.

You can look at this two ways since God did the killing.

1) If God doesn’t exist then this is just a religious individual who coincidentally sinned in adultery and his mistress had a stillborn.

2) If God does exist then we have the problem of how a good God would punish an unborn but not the sinner in this instance.

First off, Davids last words on the matter are that “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

If we are believing in (1) this means nothing if we are believing in (2) we have to take the whole picture. Did God simply just kill the baby, or did he take the life/soul of the baby directly to the heaven?

If you take the premise that God exists and he did kill, you must also take the premise that there is an afterlife – a heaven. This is why David implied, the baby will never live in this life, but he would see him again when he died.

So when you look at death in the bible, particularly of innocents, remember that the presumption is there is a better place waiting for them.

It doesn’t make the killing any better in real terms but if you’re going to believe that the killings that took place in the bible actually happened, you have to accept all the other stuff really happened too – like miracles and the concept of heaven, otherwise you commit a non sequitur.

Ie. You can’t say God killed but then God doesn’t exist and heaven doesn’t exist. They are linked. If God killed innocents then they went to heaven. If God doesn’t exist then they died of natural causes.

People (Israelites) Killing People

Now I grant that doesn’t excuse humans killing humans through God’s command, but again I can only point to the law analogy and to the instances of pleading mercy.

Could the Israelites have disobeyed God freely when he ordered them to kill? Yes. Just as an atheist or religious soldier can disobey his superior officer and face the consequences – but if there is no God why worry about the consequences right?

10 Responses to “[Whodunnit] Killing In The Name Of…”

  1. sakina101 said

    This made for a very interesting article to read. It raises good points, I look forward to reading more from you.

  2. postsimian said

    What I was essentially trying to demonstrate is that the Christian God is capable of evil as well as good. When arguing the bible with Christians, to me it makes sense to approach the topic from the angle that God exists. While it’s obvious that I think the case is clear that no gods exist in any religion, this is an unproductive approach when attempting to convince people to view their religion through a different lens.

    I don’t know anyone who would have a problem with people who simply practicing the good parts of the bible, the way you claim to believe. What is a problem is the idea that “Because I’m a Christian, God is on my side, therefore what I am doing is right,” where “what I am doing” is a variable for which any action can substitute. Over the past few years, we’ve seen evangelicals supporting terrible things such as the use of torture. This has more to do with nationalism than faith, of course, but at the same time it contradicts what is consistently claimed to be the Christian message.

    In arguably most cases where a society commits evil, the invocation of good gods resolves the conflict of what they’re doing. There are obvious exceptions such as Stalin or Pol Pot, whose ridiculous authoritarian ideologies and culture of power were justification enough in their minds. However, many other historical examples give faith as a justification for evil. Even World War II German soldiers had “God With Us” on their belt buckles. Why? They needed to convince themselves they were the good guys. (that’s not to make an absurd equation between Christianity and Nazism, but to give an example of how faith is used to justify evil)

    Similarly, when President Bush says God put him on a mission to attack Iraq and the religious right/evangelicals turn out en masse in the 2004 election to vote for him, one can’t help but notice the correspondence between evil deeds and religious approval.

    What I think would be beneficial to all of society (not just atheists) is a universal acknowledgment by the religious that their god is capable of both good and evil, as is plainly evidenced in all holy books. Perhaps then, people will recognize evil as evil and avoid it, rather than invoking their faith to justify it and carry it out.

    Anyway, that ought to suffice as explanation for my use of conventions such as “God killed ____” or “God committed/commands (insert evil of choice).” Miracles are irrelevant and their exclusion is not a non sequitur. In context, all it shows is that the biblical God is capable of good as well as evil. But of course a non-existent god couldn’t kill someone. It’s about staying in context to show that parts of the bible are objectively evil.

    Re: contradictions – yes, what may appear to be a contradiction must be resolved, typically by context. “Thou shalt not kill” seems pretty broad, but can be narrowed down to “thou shalt not kill humans.” Judging by the frequency of killing of other tribes, we can probably whittle this definition down to “thou shalt not kill fellow Jews.” But then again, they’re recorded killing each other in large numbers–at God’s behest–which leaves… what? Unless the true meaning is “thou shalt not kill thyself,” what we have here are genuine contradictions, not that which merely appears to be contradictory. Logically, via the square of opposition, genuine contradictions are strictly irreconcilable.

    We can all agree that “thou shalt not kill” seems like a pretty good idea. We can also objectively agree that God commands his people to kill others as well as each other. We can objectively agree that God himself betrays this commandment by killing people. What does this tell us? The Christian God is capable of good and evil, essentially confirming JL Mackie’s assertion that if evil exists, God cannot be wholly good and omnipotent. Objectively, in the context of the bible, we can all observe God committing evil acts and thus conclude that he is not wholly good.

    Re: taking babies to a better place. One has to wonder why a good god would put anybody through the hardships of life and simultaneously open them to the possibility of hell when they could just bypass the whole process as you’ve reasoned him to do with the stillborn child. If going to HappyFunLand™ absolves God of wrongdoing, it makes sense to ask why he puts a premium on making people suffer through life to get there–if you’re lucky enough to be born into an area in which he’s worshiped.


  3. postsimian said

    Point of clarification: “I don’t know anyone who would have a problem with people who simply practicing the good parts of the bible, the way you claim to believe.” should be read as “I don’t know anyone who would have a problem with people who simply practicing the good parts of the bible, such as the way you claim to believe.”

  4. Eric P. said

    I’m not terribly impressed by the list of “unanswerable contradictions,” but that may just be because I’ve seen most of them answered in a Bible reference book that I own dated 1907. The anti-God squad is notoriously unwilling to do their homework…

    However, you do set up a fantastic point that, since the atheists believe the Bible to be full of contradictions, why do they automatically assume that their interpretation of problematic verses is the correct one? What if there’s another verse that contradicts it, and all the Christians decide to follow that one instead?

    Excellent points all around, especially under the “God Killing People” heading. Can’t eat one’s cake and have it too!

  5. postsimian said

    Eric, “interpretation” is a scapegoat. I liken it unto the way conspiracy theorists claim a government cover-up when their ideas don’t pan out.

  6. Cecilieaux said

    If I may throw in my own agnostic oar …

    My read of the whole discussion is that the Judaeo-Christian God of the Bible, and the Bible itself, stands squarely and fairly indicted of a whole slew of things, among them a worldview that is pre-scientific and decidedly not humanistic. That’s to be expected from authors who lived far away and long ago. Yes, of course, it does discredit Christianity and Judaism and the Bible as containing models that are tenable among post-scientific, post-humanist Westerners of the 21st century.

    What none of this does is definitively exclude the possibility of a god, albeit one better behaved that Jehovah.

  7. postsimian said

    What it does happen to achieve is exclude the possibility of the Judeo-Christian god, especially if we are to believe that either the bible is infallible or that God is infinitely good and all-powerful. The claims of other gods can and have been effectively and demonstrably disproved as well, leaving us with only a deistic, non-interventionalist god or impersonal force for which there has been no evidence. In that sense, I’m a token agnostic: I only believe in the possibility of god to the extent I believe in the existence of the tooth fairy, thus subscribing to the Hitchensian principle which states “that which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

    When gods and religious myths of all varieties are consistently debunked, one questions whether there is a defensible basis for any god at all.

  8. lwtc247 said

    Cecilieaux said “one better behaved that Jehovah” I think I understand why you wrote that, but in its naked form, it makes me wince. There is no superlative of God, any display of such, is an inversion of understanding of what God is.

    On the killing thing, just to chip in from a more simpleton perspective, where is the history of the people God has slain or commanded to be slain etc? In my research into Zionism, I have naturally conducted studies into the three branches of monotheism. The tribes and cities previously mentioned subject to Gods wrath or that of the Israeli tribes seem deserving of death, just as death is a prescribed punishment to a number of crimes.

    But really, what I wanted to say, is that the problem/distaste of killing here, or so it seems to me, rests with the subconscious fear of killing for one transposes that possibility onto oneself. And this fear has an atheistic root, i.e. that death is the end so the (selfish)preservation of life is the primary concern of atheism, whether it speak its name or not.

    There is a great liberation of the mind awaiting those who free themselves of this thinking. Death is just the next step. OK, there is another ‘branch’ of that fear which isn’t atheistic and that is once the grip of death is upon us, there is no more opportunity to repent for ones sins or to do good, but my guess is the former is by far the majority perception.

    As the Knower of All, The Almighty knows what is worthy of death, when death by killing is attributable to him or his believers. Without a detailed knowledge of the history of all those who, let’s say “dies at God’s hands”, how on earth can be slate God for what he has done. Even if we knew that history, that we sit in judgement of God is a diabolical notion.

    This direction was leaned towards earlier: I find it very difficult to reconcile an atheist being critical of God, when the whole basis of that persons belief system (belief there is no God) rejects anything to do with God! If that rejection is based on a hatred of God, well then, that is different and in my eyes, (the latter) does indeed qualify the individual to levy criticism, but for the atheist??? – it seems to me he is automatically self-disqualified himself from doing so.

    To a believer, anything and everything God does or commands us to do, is the absolute best for us. Non-debatable, period! The Majesty of God demands blind-loyalty. If God is the truth, blind-loyalty cannot be argued against, but of course such loyalty seems woefully sparse.

    As for Christians dropping bombs or helping to kill people in whatever capacity, very clearly, are acting out of loyalty to evil, not to God. Nowhere does God authorise this. Nowhere. It is quite simple. People doing so are in error. The same can be said of Jewish settlers machine-gunning worshipers in a mosque, or Muslims blowing up a bus of kids.

    Well done for a stimulating discussion on friendlyatheist and here.

  9. postsimian said

    The argument is always the same. “God is God, therefore senseless murder is justified.” I’m wondering how the Israelites were so certain the Canaanites were “deserving of death” since they had just arrived after a few centuries of slavery by the Egyptians. At any rate, it doesn’t matter what the history is. We’ve had some very recent examples of genocide over the past few hundred years. Would you care to justify those? How does the idea of a loving god fit into those scenarios? If not, would you explain why those are bad but the ones detailed in the bible are not?

    Anyway, criticism of the gods of other religions is mandatory if the intention is to criticize the religion itself. It doesn’t suggest latent belief nor hatred. How is it any different than speaking of a character in a novel or a movie? Are movie critics disqualified from criticizing films because they don’t believe the characters are real people? This is not soundly reasoned.

    Finally, the fact that religious people routinely violate their beliefs as well as the commands of a god they claim to believe is real is a sparkling example of how seriously we should take the claims of the religion itself. Likewise, we’ve already discussed objectively evil things, flaws and other weaknesses that directly contradict the consistently-claimed attributes of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim god. The house of cards has collapsed. There is no solid foundation for these religions.

  10. […] Whilst not intended, this makes an excellent follow-up to that post – Killing In The Name Of… […]

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