"Would you do it?": An open question to believers

15 Sep 2008

One of my favorite podcasts on secular issues is the Atheist Community of Austin's broadcast The Atheist Experience (also a cable access TV show). Good topics, live listener call-ins, and hosts who really know their stuff; I highly recommend that you listen in. (I wish more of those callers would regularly listen; they might learn to 1. Turn down the TV when calling!; and 2. Quit asking "So, you're atheist; that means you don't believe in anything, right?", again and again and again.)

I have a question about how one particularly loony Christian conceit fares in debates. I don't get much chance to talk to rabid believers, so thought I'd ask the debating pros at The Atheist Experience about their experience. The reply is an eye-opener. Here's my email first:

I've been an atheist for quite a while, though only recently an "active" atheist with a keen interest in related issues. I'd welcome questions and objections from believers, but for better or worse I have little opportunity - I live in Japan, where only around 1% of the population is Christian. (If I'm not mistaken, that's less than the percentage of people here with graduate degrees.) What does pass for religion around here is, as in much of the non-monotheistic world, more a matter of harmless social customs and traditions, not denial of reality or forcing beliefs on others. It's not really fodder for debate.

I've been listening to The Atheist Experience via podcast, and have a question addressing your extensive experience in debating believers. As I can't call in, I'll outline it below; if you find it interesting, I'd love to hear it taken up in a future episode.

One of the most baffling claims put forth by Christians is "the Bible is the source of morality". (The double-talking Dinesh D'Souza's debate routine comes to mind.) One problem is immediate: How, then, to explain morality in non-Christian lands where people know essentially nothing of the Bible? (Obvious example: crime statistics are far lower in Japan than in the US.) The even bigger problem: How do we get "morality" from a God who orders his followers again and again to execute people for things we don't even consider crimes (homosexuality, adultery, disrespect to parents, etc.); to slaughter cities full of people including women, children, and infants (except for virgin girls, who are to be saved for rape); to keep slaves; etc. etc.? How can the believers claim "Biblical morality", when they themselves knowingly *refuse* to follow such commandments?

I think the common response will be, "Well, that was the Old Testament; it was appropriate for those people then, but doesn't apply to us. Jesus changed all that... (yadda yadda)". In your experience, is that the usual response?

If so, here's what I'd love to ask in reply:

We may not be living under Old Testament law, but let's say we were. If you were one of the "chosen people" back in Old Testament days, and God commanded you to butcher the women and children of the neighboring city, and rape the tribe's virgins, and burn alive the priests of another god, and slit your firstborn's throat as a test of faith.... would you do those things?

It's not a purely imagined question. A challenge like "Would you start nuclear war if God told you to?" could be brushed off as unrealistic: "God would never ask such a thing". But not the above atrocities; according to the believers, God *did* demand those very things! And with his ways all mysterious and unknowable, he could surprise us all and demand them again - maybe even tomorrow. Either way, I ask the believers: Would you do it?

I'm really curious as to how they'd respond, as any answer is a loser. To say "No, I wouldn't do it" is to utterly reject "Biblical morality"; it's to admit that God's commandments are themselves immoral. Whereas to say "Yes, I'd do it" is to reveal one's self as a despicable monster with no claim to any morality whatsoever. (Meanwhile, the atheist easily stands on moral bedrock with a reply of "God or no God, of course I'd never do it!".)

So that's my question: Have you ever posed the above "Would you do it?" question about Biblical atrocities, to those making the "source of all morality" argument? If so: what the heck did they say?

I got a very quick reply from Don Rhoades at the organization: 

"Have you ever posed the above ...Would you do it?"

I have. Back in the spring, I had the opportunity to speak to a local high school class, and I actually got a young football player to admit that he would murder children if he believed he would be obeying God's will. Opened a few eyes, I think...

I assume you remember when Pat Robertson ran for president. One reason he wanted to run was that he felt the end times were near, and that a US president would need to push the button as part of God's plan, and he felt he was the man for the job. Staggering...

You are on the right track. Keep it up!

Regards, Don

Think about that football player's response. It so perfectly – and sadly – highlights the secularist claim that good people will always do good, but it takes religion to make good people do evil. Can't this fellow see that his willingness to kill for "belief" makes him no different from the Islamic terrorists that – I'm willing to bet – he and his community rail against? It should be an obvious realization – yet shutting down the rational ability to see obvious truths is what this fellow's religion (like most religion) excels at. Sigh.

This kid could even go on to become a "leader" in America. Just like Pat Robertson became a leader to many (and took a shot at becoming leader of the country).

All the more reason to listen to the good folks at The Atheist Experience, who battle against this danger. (Sure wish I could attend their dinners; they sound like a smart and fun group.)

Incidentally, back to the "Would you do it?" question above: I've seen Dinesh D'Souza spouting his "source of all morality" lies in a few debates online, but I don't recall that I've seen anyone pose that question to him. Would love to hear how he tries to weasel out of that challenge. (Or just watch him expose his true colors with a "yes" or "no"; either answer would damn him.)


In presenting the question as asked, I can assume that you are admitting that the history of the Israelites, as it is presented in the Bible is true, accurate and trustworthy.

Since you are arguing from this premise, you will also agree that the following description of the nations with which the Israelites went to war is also true, accurate and trustworthy.

Having said that, in order to answer a hypothetical question such as this:
. I would have to know what it would be like to be part of the only monotheistic nation on earth.

. I would have to know what it would be like to be a member of a nation / race of people who had just been freed from, I think, 400 years of brutal slavery

. I would have to know what it would be like to have been literally saved and preserved through 40 years of wandering in the desert by Creator God.

. I would have to know what it would be like to be, again literally, in palpable contact with the awesome, fearsome presence of a Creator God, who makes His presence known by day and by night.

. I would have to know what it would be like to know beyond ANY doubt that Creator God exists ie. atheism in the Israelite community was an impossibility.

. I would have to know what it would be like to have this Creator God guide me and lead me and save me by miraculously providing supplies of food and water and by keeping my clothes and utensils etc. from wearing out during this entire forty year journey.

. I would have to know what it would be like for me to suddenly be thrust into a land where my tiny nation is surrounded by societies who worshiped multiple gods.

. I would have to know what it would be like for me to be surrounded by societies that kept slaves and treated slaves, not as my God commanded of me, like one of my own household, but as less than animals.

. I would have to know what it would be like for me to be surrounded by societies who worshiped many gods and were so barbaric and wicked that they offered their children as living burnt human sacrifices to these gods on a regular basis.

. I would have to know what it is like to be surrounded by these societies who forced women to work as temple prostitutes by the tens of thousands, and who sacrificed their children as living burnt human sacrifices to their gods on a regular basis.

. I would have to know what it is like for me to be surrounded by these societies who wanted to destroy me, my family, my race and my nation (just as Hitler attempted many years ago, and Iran and its neighbours want to do today).

. I would have to know what it is like to live at a time in history whereby using the word “brutal” to describe how humans lived in that day would, by today’s standards be an understatement.

. In order to answer the question, “Would I do it?” I would have to know all those things and since I can’t possibly do that, I can’t possibly answer the question.

Beyond that however, I would like to ask a more relevant question. What is it like to be a modern day atheist who can say without any apparent guilt or remorse that any nation in the world today that forces its women by the tens of thousands to work as prostitutes, makes a regular practice of killing their children as living burnt offerings to gods, and who wants to destroy YOUR country (just as Iran and its neighbours want to destroy Israel) be it the U.S. the United Kingdom, Japan or wherever you live, what I want to know is, how can you, atheist, advocate leaving that nation alone to do as it pleases? You, atheist, are no different than those who would have allowed Hitler to fry Jews to this very day if he’d just stayed inside his own borders.

I find that abhorrent and disgusting. But then again, your morality is selective and relative to the situation, isn’t it?

defaithed's picture

Thank you for taking the time to respond!

[quote=makarios]In presenting the question as asked, I can assume that you are admitting that the history of the Israelites, as it is presented in the Bible is true, accurate and trustworthy. [/quote]

No, I have no reason to assume so. Fully accurate history amid accounts of talking snakes and magically-parted seas? It's the believers, not me, who say it's all true and accurate.

That's the topic: the claims of modern believers. They say that everything written in the Bible is true and accurate, and that those writings are "the source of all morality".

Regarding that point: Among all of your "I would have to have been there..." disclaimers, your intent is unclear. Are you saying that, had you or I been raised in the same circumstances as the ancient Israelites, we would have made the same choices they did, and considered those choices moral? If so: Sure, that may well be so; we're all indelibly shaped by our surroundings. Although it's scary to think about, we can't say what kind of people we'd have become had we been brought up in a world of close-at-hand battles and child killings and slavery and so on.

Or are you, slightly different from the above, essentially saying that we can't judge the morality of the ancient Israelites' actions until we've walked in their sandals? It's indeed a tricky area, as tricky as it can be to weigh a child's wrongdoings, where "he's only a child" gets balanced against "yes, but he should know better..."

But I'm not asking about the Israelites' morality; I apologize if I was unclear on that. We can't say for sure what they did or didn't do, and they're long dead and gone anyway. I'm curious about the morality of people alive today.

Among the many, many instances in which God slaughters children or commands others to do it for him, in Hosea 13:16 he decrees that the infants of Samaria be "dashed to pieces", while "women with child shall be ripped up".

A simple question comes out of that: If God told you today to go and do and crush children and rip up pregnant women in the neighboring town, would you do it?

I wouldn't. I'm not saying "No, because there is no God, ha!". No; I'm saying that if the heavens parted, and an omniscient Being revealed itself as the unmistakeable God of the Bible, and gave us that commandment above... I'd have eat some major crow about the whole atheism thing, sure, but I'd still refuse the order to butcher children. It's obscenely immoral. A God who commands it is obscenely immoral. Anyone today who'd follow the order is obscenely immoral. Full stop.

How about you? No need to try to imagine ourselves in the ancient Israelites' sandals; let's talk about our surroundings, our time, our shoes. Say the God of the Bible reveals himself today and issues a clear command to butcher babies in the next town. Would you do it?

For the faithful who wants to call the Bible "the source of morality", I don't see a way out of that conundrum. A reply of "yes" is depraved immoral lunacy. A reply of "no, it's immoral" is an admission that the God of the Bible issued immoral commands, shooting down the "source of morality" claim.

Of course, there's a third option: Argue that God's Old Testament commands to butcher children sound immoral to us, but weren't immoral at the time, because [insert argument]. I won't try to talk anyone out of taking that tack, because the twisted convolutions of cultural relativism and theology that would be required to put a good face on baby slaughter can only serve to make atheism look that much better.

But the person making those arguments to absolve the ancient Israelites still hasn't answered the key question: If the same order came again from God, here and now, would you do it?

[quote=makarios]Beyond that however, I would like to ask a more relevant question. What is it like to be a modern day atheist who can say without any apparent guilt or remorse that any nation in the world today that forces its women by the tens of thousands to work as prostitutes, makes a regular practice of killing their children as living burnt offerings to gods, and who wants to destroy YOUR country (just as Iran and its neighbours want to destroy Israel) be it the U.S. the United Kingdom, Japan or wherever you live, what I want to know is, how can you, atheist, advocate leaving that nation alone to do as it pleases? You, atheist, are no different than those who would have allowed Hitler to fry Jews to this very day if he’d just stayed inside his own borders.[/quote]

You've lost me completely; please explain what you're talking about. Some nation is forcing women to work as prostitutes and is offering babies to burnt offerings to gods? And I advocated "leaving that nation alone to do as it pleases"? WHAT nation? Is this a real nation? A historical one? Is it something hypothetical (and if so, what does it have to do with anything)?

Did you, by chance, intend that portion as a response to some other blogger somewhere else?

As long as you mention Hitler, though, I hope we can agree that if you and I were transported in time back to the Nazi regime, we'd see Hitler's actions as atrociously immoral, and refuse his command to slaughter.

(Well, I guess I can only say that for myself; perhaps your response would be "I would have to know what it's like to grow up German... I would have to know what it's like to endure the Treaty of Versailes concessions...I would have to... ")

“If God told you today to go and do and crush children and rip up pregnant women in the neighboring town, would you do it?”

He wouldn’t do that. You simply cannot remove the question from the context. I explained the context. The Israelites were confronted by a throughly evil culture that is determined to eliminate God’s chosen people from the earth; a people through whom God has promised to bring salvation to the whole world.

God is a righteous judge. Anyone who wishes to escape that judgement was and is free to do so. No one was or will be turned away. It was the same with the Israelites. In fact it was God's command to them that they offer freedom and peace to anyone who wanted to leave, before they attacked. I think that we can assume that many did just that. However, God did not, does not and will not allow sin to go unpunished. He will justly punish sin and rebellion. It is not my right to do that, but it certainly is God's right and His duty to do that. Atheists scream for justice only because they don't know what they're talking about. What you really need to be asking for is mercy.

The context of those who God ordered destroyed was a nation of people who subjugated women to prostitution and children to die as burnt offerings. For years, they had been following the Israelites in the desert, killing the stragglers, the weak, the elderly and the disabled. They had no right to do that. The lives of others were not their's to take. God created life and He has the right to take it. But if you can’t create it, you don’t have that right. We tend to forget that God takes the life of every human being. It’s called death. The only question is when and how, and that we have to leave up to Him.

Now, it true that God used the Israelites as a tool of His judgment. Did children die. Well, if you believe what the Bible said then yes He did. If you don’t believe what the Bible said, then it’s nothing short of ridiculous to even be talking about it.

Since you have asked, let me ask you this,
“Were there thousands of children killed when “our side” bombed Germany?"

"Were thousands of children killed when "our side" bomb Japan?”

Of course there were. Should we have allowed Hitler to sweep the globe with his insanity? It would seem that your answer would be yes.

Should we have allowed Imperialist Japan to attempt to do the same? It sould seem tht ayour answer would be yes."

“Will there be children killed when Israel or whoever bombs Iran?” Most likely.

Should we allow Iran and it’s allies to destroy the only democratic and sovereign nation in the Middle East? It would seem that your answer would be yes.

“Say the God of the Bible reveals himself today and issues a clear command to butcher babies in the next town. Would you do it?”

Again, He wouldn’t do it. This was no arbitrary, or capricious act on the part of God. These societies, the Amalakites and Caananites etc. were evil to the core. I mean, think about it. Just how evil must a society be in all other areas to accept and promote the ritual killing of it’s children; to accept and promote the sexual subjugation of it's women? These nations were guilty of gross violations of human dignity.

“. . . twisted convolutions of cultural relativism”

Coming from an atheist? That’s priceless!!

“You've lost me completely; please explain what you're talking about.”

That IS the context. I'm talking about the context. You wanted to bring the decision into today? You want to make it personal? Fine. Then you must bring a similar context. God didn’t say, “I’m bored Moses. God kill some people in the town next door.” The Israelites were on the verge of having genocide committed against them. The closest context that I can come up with is present day Israel. Or you can use the U.S. if you want. Islam extremists can think of nothing sweeter than wiping both the United States and Israel off the map. If they had the technology, they’d do it in the blink of an eye and cheer when it was over. Perhaps you remember 9/11?

For the sake of argument let’s say it was Iran that was going to destroy your country. They'd already been picking off a thousand here, two thousand there with dirty bombs within your country, and now you knew beyond any doubt that a final strike was imminent. Would you say, “No, we must let Iran destroy us all because if we strike them some of their children will be killed.” Would you? It sounds like you might.

“we'd see Hitler's actions as atrociously immoral, and refuse his command to slaughter.”

You’re twisting this completely. The question must be, “Hitler’s actions were atrociously immoral. Do we stop his army knowing that in the process some children will be killed or do we go about letting him do as he wants until his bloodlust is satiated?”

defaithed's picture

You're trying to change the question, and I can't blame you. But, sorry, I'm going to stick to the topic.

You're going off about using bombs against enemy forces even though civilian deaths will be an unavoidable side effect. That is indeed a hugely difficult moral issue, and a decision that I hope (or wish) no leader would undertake lightly. One would hope that such bombings would be used only when other options have been exhausted, and even then, that any measure possible to limit civilian casualties while still achieving the end of war would be taken. Given those strictures, bombing enemy targets in Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, etc. may have been the only viable options to prevent even more misery and deaths in the future, and thus be repugnant but justifiable all the same. I think most peace-loving but pragmatic persons will share that viewpoint (you too, as far as I know).

But that's not at all what the Bible is talking about, is it. The ancient Israelites didn't have bombs. Slaughter was at the end of a sword, with every target visible, recognized, and deliberately chosen. What God commanded (according to believers) was intentional, selective slaughter of children. Just look at the commands, in addition to the earlier Hosea atrocity:

"Thus saith the LORD of hosts ... go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling..." - 1Sam. 15:2-3

"Have you saved all the women alive? Kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves." - Numbers 31:1-54

"...Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children." - Judges 21:10

"...Then Menahem smote Tiphsah, and all that were therein, and the coasts thereof from Tirzah: because they opened not to him, therefore he smote it; and all the women therein that were with child he ripped up." - 2Kings 15:16

"Therefore deliver up their children to the famine, and pour out their blood by the force of the sword; and let their wives be bereaved of their children, and be widows; and let their men be put to death; let their young men be slain by the sword in battle." - Jeremiah 18:21

On and on. I'm not talking about the many vague depictions of "kill every inhabitant of the city" massacres, and asking "Wasn't there 'collateral damage' in there?" No, I'm pointing at instances of deliberate, selective butchering of women, infants, and even fetuses. (With divine commands to rape thrown in as well.)

[quote=makarios]“If God told you today to go and do and crush children and rip up pregnant women in the neighboring town, would you do it?” He wouldn’t do that. [/quote]

He DID command that, again and again, according to believers. So that defense is a no-go. And please don't hand out nonsense about how the evil tribes deserved it. Children and infants were NOT "determined to eliminate God’s chosen people from the earth". Children and infants did NOT "subjugate women into prostitution" and make burnt offerings. Children and infants did NOT "pick off stragglers". Children and infants are NOT "evil to the core". They did not deserve slaughter, by any sane and moral reckoning. Yet God ordered that they be deliberately targeted, and "dashed" and "ripped up" and "put to the sword".

Sick and depraved - and, sadly, hardly unique to the Israelites. Human history everywhere is red with such cruelties.

But can such targeted butchery of children be defended? Is it ever moral

Is a God who would command that butchery a moral God? Can he be our "source of morality"?

If this God asked us again to deliberately target and butcher babies – yes, even in an "evil nation" whose adults are truly up to some sort of wickedness – would you do it?  

The atheist has no trouble answering all of those with "NO!" It's the believer who has to hem and haw, and scrape for justifications, and try to change the question.

Why not just give an honest answer, believers? It could be something thoughtful, like: "True, scriptures like that are disturbing. They raise serious questions that I'd like to pose to God. I'll have to allow that the Bible carries traces of imperfect humanity; we can't claim it all as some imperfect moral guide. But I still think we can derive morality and inspiration from other scriptures, such as..."

Or even something more hard-line: "Is it hard to understand how a moral God could give such commands? Yes, it is - but I'm steadfast in my belief that if He commanded it, it must have been right for the circumstances. Massacres and all, the Bible is our inerrant moral guidepost. If God commanded another massacre today, I'd know through His perfection that it's for a good reason, and I'd obey."

The latter will sound like dangerous lunacy to some... but by actually answering questions, it at least shows some backbone!

I won't pester you further to answer the questions. If you want to leave it at some sort of "I can't make that call", that's fine. On the matter of morality, that reply speaks volumes on its own.

In any case, thank you for providing one believer's viewpoint.

You may not have noticed by I forgot to sign my name and it bumped me to the top of your comments under visitor.

If our ability to communicate with and understand each other was any worse we’d be married.

Look, there is no doubt that there is some really awful stuff in the Bible. And that awful stuff, horrific stuff, as you admit, continues to the present day. The Bible, in large part is a record of human failings and God’s plan to deal with that. Before I got to know Jesus these are the exact issues that kept me from becoming a Christian; that and all the pain and suffering that we see and/or experience in our own lives.

I hear you, you’re saying that God is responsible for all of it and I’m saying that you don’t understand the context.

Your asking if I would take part in God’s plan to destroy evil and I’m saying that you don’t understand the context.

While those two potential responses that you wrote are excellent, given my personality those words simply wouldn’t have come out of my mouth.

First: I cannot conceive of any situation in which I would put the sword to infants.

However: I cannot conceive of any situation in which God would ask me to do such a thing.

You say: “He DID.”

Well, yes He did. Here’s the problem. Just because God used the Israelites as a tool of His Justice 5,000 years ago, within a specific context (you may disagree but that’s important) it doesn’t mean that He would do the same thing today.

That is like you saying, “Canada better watch out because the U.S. might at any moment use nuclear weapons to destroy it’s cities.”

And I say, “The U.S. would never use nuclear weapons on Canada.”

And you say, “They DID!” (I’m referring to Japan, in case you aren’t old enough to remember).

Or it’s like you saying, “Would you take a goat and cut its throat and sacrifice it if God told you to do it?”

And when I say, “God would never ask me to do that,” you reply with, “He DID!”

I don’t see any point in going further down this road. You have your thoughts and I have mine.

“That is indeed a hugely difficult moral issue, and a decision that I hope (or wish) no leader would undertake lightly. One would hope that such bombings would be used only when other options have been exhausted, and even then, that any measure possible to limit civilian casualties while still achieving the end of war would be taken.”

God gave those nations 400 years to change the nature of their societies. They were given warning after warning after warning after warning. Even as the armies of Israel approached, anyone who wanted to leave was allowed to leave. My guess is that many women and children were spared because of that but that’s beside the point since God ordered the complete destruction of any who stayed. And that's what is so offensive. Anyhow, peace was offered to them. Unfortunately, as has been true down through history, the fate of children is held in the arms of their parents. If their parents are evil, the children pay the price.

The other point to be made is that God WILL punish evil. This is a point that you need to pay attention to. I don’t know how old you are but however old you are, God has given you that long to change your mind. It’s by His mercy that you’re still alive and still have time to change your mind. Just because you don’t like God or how He does things, it doesn’t change the fact of His existence.

“If this God asked us again to deliberately target and butcher babies – yes, even in an "evil nation" whose adults are truly up to some sort of wickedness – would you do it?”

If I was in the armed forces I would have to do it. “We” do it all the time. Do you think that some guy who’s sitting in a cubicle in Arizona, when he pushes a button that releases a Hellfire missile from a drone over Iran doesn’t know that children are going to die? Have you never seen the news reports of children who have been burned and torn limb from limb and ripped open and disfigured for life? War of any kind is horrid beyond description. It's only politics that keep those of us at home from knowing the details. Nevertheless, we do that!!! Those who are in our armed forces do that.

Perhaps what we’re missing in our conversation is the notion of a target. Surely you aren’t so naive as to think that if Bin Laden was spotted sitting in a compound where there were families nearby that all of them wouldn’t be wiped out in order to kill him. Did I just use a double negative? To get the target, children would die. I can’t expect you to understand, but in the stories that you are reading, sin is the target and here is the point that you’re missing. God is going to punish sin where ever it’s found - totally. Does His way of doing it match our idea of morality? No because we not only condone evil, we celebrate it. We pay huge dollars to those who promote it and titillate us with it. We don’t understand the horror of filth to a perfectly Holy God. I’ve used the example of, If you were in your favourite restaurant eating your favourite meal, how many of the chef’s pubic hairs would you need to find in your meal before you wouldn’t eat it? Where ever we find filth when we expect cleanliness, we’re repulsed. God simply does not tolerate evil and when the possessors of that evil were making plans to destroy His chosen people, well, the results were drastic. You really should pay attention to that. It has implications of eternal proportions for you.

What I find interesting is that whenever I talk to atheists about what they’re objecting to in the Bible they inevitably do one or more of the following. You’ve done the same in the passages that you quote.
. Assume that the unexplained is unexplainable
. Assume that a partial report is a false report.
. Neglecting to interpret difficult passages in light of clear ones.
. Base a teaching on an obscure passage.
. Assume that because people in the Bible did something, that God must have approved of it.
. Forgetting to remember the Bible used different literary devices.
. Forgetting that the Bible uses nontechnical everyday language.
. Forgetting that the Bible is a human book with human characteristics describing human passions.
. Forgetting that the Bible is a historical book describing the chronic failings of human beings while also describing God’s plan of rescuing us from our dilemma.

“The atheist has no trouble answering all of those with "NO!"
We’ll if I had been keeping track, I could show you over a dozen quotes where atheists plead an inability to say what any other atheist may or may not do :)

I think that you’re right. We’ve gone about as far as we can go on this. Bottom line:
. I can’t conceive of any situation where I’d kill a child at God’s request because that scenario simply won’t arise.

. I can’t say what I would or wouldn’t do if I was in the armed forces of Israel back in the day

. If / when Israel defends itself again, children are going to die.

defaithed's picture

I like the marriage comment. : ) As you say, clearly we won't agree, and that's fine. I appreciate the calm tone of the response.

There are areas where we're not talking the same thing. Such as: "Just because you don’t like God or how He does things, it doesn’t change the fact of His existence." Actually, I'm not questioning his existence here (that's a big separate topic); I'm questioning his morality (and that of his followers).

Similarly, "I hear you, you’re saying that God is responsible for all of it..." Well, not "all of it"; that's again too big a topic. I'm only talking about the instances of God expressly issuing the command "go forth and kill children". (You also warn me not to "Assume that because people in the Bible did something, that God must have approved of it", but that's not an issue here. We both know that there are plenty of examples of the Israelites doing things God didn't approve of – with hell to pay afterward! – and I'd like to think that these reports of child-killing were among those. But scripture says God not only approved the slaughter, he commanded it!)

Your examples of collateral damage to children in the process of taking out evildoers isn't, I'd have to say, faithful to the Bible verses in question. "Get the bad guy, even if you have to kill children" is not the same matter as "Get the bad guy... and make sure you kill the children too!". The former epitomizes tragic warfare decisions, as you note, and is morally difficult. Whereas the latter is what God commanded (according to scripture), and is morally obscene

Regarding those commands, I can't find excuses on God's behalf persuasive. Killing children because the parents were bad – i.e., deliberately killing these people because those people were bad - is evil beyond redemption, to me. I guess we'll have to disagree there. (You can understand, then, how I can't make heads or tails of a claim like "God simply does not tolerate evil", when to me, the alleged written record of God's actions portrays him as evil incarnate!)

Finally, regarding the suggestion that I don't understand the context of God's alleged commands, I'll hold that I understand the context perfectly - i.e., claims of divine command as justification for massacre. Claims that aren't necessarily true. If I'm not mistaken, you hint at such things yourself: Biblical accounts may be partial accounts. Written from the imperfect viewpoint of imperfect people. Subject to confusion due to difficult language or shifting literary styles. (Atheists aren't "forgetting" these things; we're proclaiming them!) 

In other words, the accounts of child massacres may simply be false - they didn't happen. I'd sure like to think so! Or maybe the killings are true, but God's involvement is false. Or it's all true, and God is indeed immoral. Or it's all true, but God remains morally blameless due to some divine reason that we can't understand. (I think that'd be your choice.)

Either way, those are off-topic for me. I'm not "objecting to... the Bible" per se; it says what it says (and there are other books, ancient and new, with as much horror within). Needless to say, I don't even consider the "defendant" to exist.

What I'm objecting to is some people's reaction to the Biblical accounts - specifically, the conjoined responses of "Yes, everything in the Bible is literally true, including God-ordered massacres of children!" and "The Bible is the source of all morality!" One or both of those could be false; they can't both be true. Unless we invoke the erasure of moral conflict due to divine reasons that we can't understand... but I myself reject that. My bottom line is that there's no forgiving crimes like those (if they're true), not for anybody, not for any reason.

Sorry for writing so much; the intent is not to hammer you on every point, but to get some thoughts down in writing, for myself and future readers. I know you've made your own efforts toward reconciling the contradiction I talk about. My real beef is with believers who don't give it thought at all! 

Dude, you seriously can't reason with some people. Focusing so much on the stupidity of this one group of people, or even engaging in argument with someone like makarios - who can't even keep track of what topic is being discussed - is a waste of your time and energy, and the time and energy of your readers.

defaithed's picture

I appreciate the supportive comment. Let me note, though, that the only way to know whether or not a reasoned discussion can be had with a stranger, like the fellow who commented here, is to give it a try. No harm there.

In this particular case, I would agree with you that furthering the exchange isn't likely to be productive; looks like our battle lines are clearly drawn, and I don't see sign that either would budge. That's okay by me, as I have no burning desire to change the fellow's mind. Rather, getting all our thoughts down in text may be of interest to future readers; get it all out there, and let the public make of it what they will, I say.

Also, a thought purely from a writer's perspective: An exchange like this is a good chance to build up written "assets" – that is, somewhat-organized thoughts that can be reassembled, copied, or pointed to in future writings. For example, in a future discussion, a writer can say "See my refutation of that point in this earlier article", and quickly move on. Efficiency!

LOL, I should I sould have read your comment back to the guy I responded to because I just basically regurgitated your answer.  Oops!  Sorry about that!  Love your site!  I found it last night, and I have spent a few hours already reading through posts and comments!  I have only been an Atheist for about 5 years so I am still pretty new to all of this debating Christians, etc.  I have only really admitted in public and to family and friends for the last couple so still learning.  I am a woman from Texas in the middle of bibletown USA which is not exactly the most conducive to friendly exchanges about religion or politics so I will take any help I can get and appreciate websites like this one!!!  I studied my way out of Christianity after running into these type of websites and comment forums.  It led to many ah ha (aka wtf!?) or pause moments.  It was a shock to the system to say the least, and it changed my entire perspective on life and my environment (friends, family and other people alike)  Anyway, I am proof that your website is important, and friendly exchange is vital so I appreciate you taking the time to put it together and keep it fresh for new and old visitors alike.  I know it is hard to keep it civil or not want to punch a hole in your computer screen so props for being able to keep your composure.  I have failed in that way more and than once, but I am trying very hard to keep it friendly because of how important it is especially here in Texas.  Very interesting stuff!  Cheers!

I know why you think it is a waste of time, and I have thought that many times too, but I have changed my mind over the years because of the many lives it can potentially impact.  I don't agree that it is a waste of time at all anymore.  In fact, I think it is important that we have as much as evidence, in writing, as we can gather because the question Defaithed is asking is a VERY important one.  I have watched and read so many debates and books that refuse to admit that the bible is NOT the source of morality.  If they believe that is IS the source of morality, then we must expose the reasons why that cannot possibly be true and try to get people to re-evaluate the whole issue altogether this time having some very important perspective.  MANY Christians, I would say probably more than seventy-five percent, have no idea what the Bible really says about morality, and/or can't know because they have never read it cover to cover with a studious eye or at all.  It is important that Christians who are being persuaded by arguments such as the ones posed by Makarios are also getting arguments like Defaithed's so they can have ALL of the arguments before claiming the Bible is the source of morality.  I would bet a large portion of them have not, and they would likely have a whole new outlook on their faith.  It quite possibly would open the door to a whole mess of questions they have never even considered, and once they give this subject the attention it deserves and weigh ALL of the evidence and arguments, there would be a lot less Christians in the world.  As it stands, many not only don't have all of the evidence, they are being sheltered from ever getting it because that is how Christianity has lasted as long as it has.  It's "guardians" have gone to great lengths and deceptions to protect its "dirty little secrets".  Millions have been murdered throughout history in the name of Christianity, and millions have died trying to protect it from being exposed as the evil is truly is and claims proudly throughout its pages.  Again, unfortunately, many have not read it, cannot truly understand it, are told what it says by authority figures such as parents/clergy/educators who mask/lie/explain away the ugly parts, or they are just too indoctrinated to even consider questioning it even when presenting with undeniable facts.  Because of its bloody history and the power it still holds over people and lawmakers, I do think it is necessary for Defaithed to have taken the time to answer, in great detail and rebuttal, Makarios not to change his mind but to leave behind a paper trail or history that one day might meet the eyes of someone whose mind it will change.  The Bible is one of the most beautifully crafted works of literature the world has every seen or will ever see, but we MUST expose it as just that, a "bestseller" if you will so we can continue to heal our planet and return morality to its rightful owners....HUMAN BEINGS.  I know you already know of all this so I am really just answering the important points you made because there are a lot of people who, like you, think it is a lost cause to argue with those who refuse to listen, but t hopefully Atheists/Unbelievers and Christians will both see from these posts that not only is it a relevant conversation to have and keep open, it is quite possibly the difference between life and death for some people.  I really admire Defaithed for showing us that you don't have to be a total ass to believers to engage them, and how he has showed how much further you can get in the conversation by keeping it polite and professional.  I also think it is important to show compassional and empathy for Christians, as I was one for 32 years, because it is a very big deal to them.  It is not an easy thing to let go of when it is all you have ever known.  I was raised by a minister and my grandfather was also a minister, and all of my family members were somehow involved in the church in different capacities so it was a HUGE and life-changing decision for me that I didn't take lightly and fought for a very long time.  I was shunned by many family members and lost friends (I am from the south too) because of my deconversion so it was a very fragile time in my life.  I am still grieving the loss of my faith in some ways, but I am also celebrating my life and the freedom I have now to understand just how short and precious my time truly is here.  And to Christians reading this, when I say I am free and happier than I have ever been, it isn't because I get to "sin" or do whatever I want.  I didn't leave because I was some child not wanting to be bossed around.  I am more accountable now than I have ever been and 1000 times more moral in my consideration for other people and the treatment of my planet.  My children even have more attention and love, if that is even possible, from me now that I realize this is it and my time with them is precious but short.  I savor every moment.

Anyway, thank you Defaithed for posing this very important question, keeping it polite, and answering in detail.  And thank you, Makarios, for your detailed answers from a Christian point of view.  I have many issues with them and Defaithed touched on many of them, but there are definitely a few that I think are glaring as well.  That is for another post though.  ;)


Also, just for the record, I absolutely do not think they are all stupid.  Most of them are not.  If that were true then I would have had to have been stupid for 32 years, and I obviously would never admit to such a obviously incorrect statement.  Lol!  It would also mean that a large portion of our country (I'm in the US) are stupid, and while I admit there are a lot of stupid people in this country, I can't attribute that to only the Christian community. There are MANY who are much smarter than myself.  That would be like saying, for instance, however many years ago when doctors bled people to treat their illnesses that they were stupid because they didn't believe a small group of people telling them otherwise but couldn't show them why with 100% certainty that they were wrong.  I don't know if that is a great analogy, but you get what I'm saying  When you have 32 years, like I did, of people telling you something else and basing your entire life around the idea that it was undeniably true (undeniably bc I never really questioned it), it is hard to tel them otherwise especially when such a large number of people are standing behind me saying no your are wrong to the person presenting the new info. 

You're not your (last sentence). New to site so not sure if I can edit.  Thought since I was claiming I am not stupid I should point out I see my typo.

You are wasting your time talking to Markarios.  He has been so thoroughally brain-washed that he thinks black is white, evil is good, hate is love, the slaughter and torture of innocents and the continuous rape of young girls is justified if your favorite god orders it. 

This man's position is the epitome of all that is evil about the morality taught by the leaders of the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.  It is no wonder that the Christian Bible sometimes confuses the Yahweh god and the Satan god.  (See the differing accounts of the census taken by King David.  In one version the Yahweh god told David to take it, then punished him for doing so by killing his innocent daugher while another version says that the Satan god told David to take it and that is why the (equally evil) Yahweh god committed a disgusting revenge murder. 

defaithed's picture

Well, we haven't "talked" in over a year, so there's no time being wasted. Anyway, I agree with what you say. And I have to add that the attempts by believers to justify atrocities is such an eye-opener to me. Back in my religious days, I don't remember challenging my fellow believers on that point (I was sadly sheep-like), or being challenged by non-believers. (I wish someone had done so! I'm really curious as to how my young believer self would have replied.)

About the best you can get from those atrocity apologists is an evasive "Yes, there is some awful stuff in the Bible. But..." Which is a pretty dishonest attempt to duck the question. We're not simply charging the Bible with "containing awful stuff"; the fact that it does so is obvious to anyone, and what of it anyway? The daily newspaper contains awful stuff. So what?

No, the charge we're making is that the believer's God himself committed inexcusably horrible, depraved acts; that God, as described by the believers, is an utterly immoral being. Just as you noted. That's the charge we're making, and the one that the apologists refuse to meet head-on. I would still love to hear the "pros" like D'Souza answer that, if they haven't already tried.


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