William Lane Craig tries to defend Biblical genocides

A few weeks ago I posted a video of a debate between Sam Harris and William Lane Craig. The video made it clear that Craig is no dummy, despite believing in absurdities. He’s been particularly busy recently defending the faith, and one of his latest articles tries to justify the genocide and infanticide in the Bible. It’s pretty messed up, actually:

According to the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament), when God called forth his people out of slavery in Egypt and back to the land of their forefathers, he directed them to kill all the Canaanite clans who were living in the land (Deut. 7.1-2; 20.16-18). The destruction was to be complete: every man, woman, and child was to be killed.

The command to kill all the Canaanite peoples is jarring precisely because it seems so at odds with the portrait of Yahweh, Israel’s God, which is painted in the Hebrew Scriptures. Contrary to the vituperative rhetoric of someone like Richard Dawkins, the God of the Hebrew Bible is a God of justice, long-suffering, and compassion.

We’ve obviously read a different book. God doesn’t strike me for one second as having any kind of compassion at all. He kills people for burning incense improperly. He commands his “people” to kill all the other tribes who happen to live around them. This whole “God is love” shit is a pretty recent phenomenon. Just ask Pope Innocent III.

According to the version of divine command ethics which I’ve defended, our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a holy and loving God. Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill. He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are.

In other words, if the commands of an all loving God sound evil, it’s only because good and evil are not really concepts he has to worry about, since he’s not subject to his own moral laws. In other words, if God does something we consider evil, like command the Jews to slaughter innocent people, it only seems that way to us because we’re subject to moral laws, not God.

So the problem isn’t that God ended the Canaanites’ lives. The problem is that He commanded the Israeli soldiers to end them. Isn’t that like commanding someone to commit murder? No, it’s not. Rather, since our moral duties are determined by God’s commands, it is commanding someone to do something which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been murder. The act was morally obligatory for the Israeli soldiers in virtue of God’s command, even though, had they undertaken it on their own initiative, it would have been wrong.

Wow. So if I kill my neighbor, I’m committing an evil act. However if a voice in my head told me to do so, it’s kosher. Good to know!

God taught Israel that any assimilation to pagan idolatry is intolerable. It was His way of preserving Israel’s spiritual health and posterity. God knew that if these Canaanite children were allowed to live, they would spell the undoing of Israel.

Yeah, clearly little children who remember nothing of their parents equally stupid religious beliefs would have been a major threat. Better that they should all be smashed against rocks, right?

Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation.

See, that’s the kind of ignorant shit that drives us crazy. You’re literally suggesting they were in fact saved by being brutally murdered. That’s just fucking ignorant.

Don’t just take my word for it. Every atheist blogger out there has something to say about Craig’s inane statements. I strongly recommend Greta’s comments about it.

Comments (8)

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    Thanks for linking out to Greta Christina. Her essay is fantastic! You know, with information like this, sometimes I almost feel like I can de-program my religious friends. Nah, who am I kidding?

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    Did he just promote suicide bombing?

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    I blogged on something similar Craig said several years ago.

    Craig needs the conclusion “God is moral” to be the endpoint, so he begins with this and figures out how to get there. This is quite simply intellectual dishonesty. For Craig, God is assigned a priori to be the ultimate good. But this is simply nonsense. “Good” is a post hoc assignment based on assessing actions against a set of values or that the result is beneficial to others.

    We say someone is “good” because they perform acts that benefit others. But it is clearly ridiculuous to say because someone is “good” they will perform beneficial acts without actually first assessing prior acts of the person. “Good” is not a property of a being like mass is to matter, which is where Craig’s argument falls apart.

    That being said, it is clear that it is that action and its consequences that are central to the issue. If commanding genocide is wrong when a human does it, then it is wrong when any conscious agent with the ability to tell right from wrong does it. It makes not one whit of difference who is doing the ordering. Otherwise, Craig is simply being a moral relativist as whether an action is considered “right” or “wrong” depends only on who is placing the order and not on the consequences.

    Besides, isn’t asking someone to do their dirty work for them when they have the power to do it themselves immoral in and of itself?

    Since his god is the extreme case where anything it does is moral – a prima facie absurd and quite frankly immoral statement – then any action is excused no matter how heinous. His god is the ultimate Mafia don.

    And he doesn’t understand why we point and laugh at him. We point and laugh at him because he’s an idiot. A clever idiot, but an idiot nonetheless.

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    So I did write a comment about this blog and would like to share the comment made, because I would like to give you a chance to defend yourself. Have you heard of modal logic before or know that it exists in various formal systems? The overall theme is pretty clear though in showing that a clear, logical, expandable format can be applied to content that could be viewed as illogical or nonsensical given another “point of reference”, speaking in non-technical terms. I think that we would both agree that people have taken on systems of definitions and concepts that group under the same label but actually process information differently. We all do it in everyday life, it’s probably a small reason why we disagree with one another so often even, so why are this person’s beliefs being rejected because of what the end consequence of their argument? Why not attack the process if it’s fundamentally flawed? Your arguments consist of converse errors and ad populum attacks, or so it seems…

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    Whoops… the grammar was bad but the semantics are there

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    So I didn’t notice the other post when I originally posted. It’s funny because it’s a very well-natured post that still misses the mark in that there is a set of values that he is comparing his “good” against, this is because there are many religious systems that cannot be falsified, though they possess very little evidence for their support, he has absolutely no reason or need to beg any question. Honestly, your example fits so well that you might have intended it to, but craig’s here-critiqued work specifically assesses the actions of his supposed god and does provide a set of values to gauge the actions against, and it really should be obvious that these are not expulsions of the basic underpinnings of his faith but, actually, just an aspect of the system explored. You and this supposedly good atheist really need to get off your intellectual high horses and back to reality, since I can’t think of a reason why genocide would be, necessarily, a bad thing, given that, firstly, there is no overarching moral compass to the existence so people are free to lay down whatever systems they want with whichever terms they wish, since labels exchange connotations and meanings all the time anyways. Secondly, if you still want a rigid sense of good, then the only problem that you would have with craig is how far he is reviewing the evidence on why he should listen to his god, and you still cannot guage his personal evidence for his belief in a god, though that information is potentially reviewable. Why obama and not the abrahamic god, one definitely has a longer history filled with good stories? Now are these histories beneficial to the children or just well-composed? Well, we’ll have to ask me how i decided to use the words? It seems like you just want any reason to reject his claims, but you definitely picked the wrong article if you disagree with those parts of his overall theory. Just wait until he says something actually inconsistent. pssh

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    This whole matter is resolved very simply using logic. If God is creator and ruler of the universe, and the judge of what is right and wrong, then he is in effect an absolute dictator. If you tell me to kill someone, I won’t. But if God commands me, I will. I can’t tell God, who created me, “sorry, God, but I think what you are commanding me is immoral.” God’s reply. “I created you, including the moral law and your conscience. Now you are telling ME what is right? Absurd!”

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    p.s. from the Christian point of view, we are all depraved anyway. No one is innocent. Having said that, God does command us not to murder.

    p.p.s. Some of the same people who criticize the destruction of Amalek say dropping the bomb on Hiroshima or firebombing Dresden was a good thing. But note that God didn’t command anyone to destroy these cities, this was done on human initiative.

    p.p.p.s. If we all followed God’s law at this time, and accepted Jesus as our savior, then there would be no violence at all. But mankind has never learned. We are lucky God lets us live at all.

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