Friday, January 27, 2006

Sorry, nothing else I can do.

Lotsa talk around these parts about morality. Objective vs. subjective. How the other camp is incorrect, but little support for one’s own camp.

And of course, one of those topics that comes up are acts by God that appear evil, and how to reconcile it with a solely Good God. If a Christian discusses this area with a non-believer, it is common for the non-believer to throw some of the atrocities in the face of the Christian with a badgering of “how come, how come?” We’ve all seen them—the flood, Abraham/Isaac, Job, hardening Pharaoh’s heart, the Midianites, Joshua’s genocide, etc. Most of us could recount the arguments for both sides fairly well.

And the Christian is left in the unenviable position of confirming that God is still Good, in some way, so these atrocities must have some greater reason we cannot ken, and somehow God remains good in this greater reason. Basically, the Christian (by defending the actions) recognizes they appear evil, and has no explanation, but holds onto the hope that God must be good.

What could be so much worse that God had to take these routes? If a Christian can’t know (and I sympathize with that) can they postulate what would be worse? Take Joshua’s genocide.

All right—for the moment you are God. You have phenomenal cosmic power. You can create, destroy, and manipulate time. Having created nature, you can direct it to do your bidding. You know what humans will do for the entire course of their existence in the universe.

You know that perpetually, over the centuries, a severe sticking point for non-believers is this action of killing off all the Canaanites, men, women and children, so the Jews could have a place to live, as recorded in the Book of Joshua. You can see that time and time and time again, this will be thrown in the face of those that trust and defend you, and they have little to no explanation. Certainly nothing convincing.

You are looking at the Canaanites, year 1500 B.C.E. Every one you see will die within 100 years, if you don’t lift a finger. You don’t need to kill them; time (which you created) will do it for you. Death by killing is not a necessity. You remember the course of history of this locale over the past 500 years; populations have come and gone, waxed and waned.

What you need is to evict them. Remember, you are God, you saw this coming for 1000’s of years. It’s not like you only have a few days to clear out the squatters. Think of all the solutions available to you. Make the land undesirable. Few years of drought here, Rain in Syria, and the people move off. Send a disease that all it does is sterilize the men. Population dwindles. Create a few natural disasters that scare the occupants to go elsewhere.

Translocate them. Send visions of big, scary monsters. Give a gold rush and good jobs elsewhere.

Even if genocide was acceptable, have it committed by one tribe vs. another. The Tanakh has other stories where soldiers wiped each other out (Gideon) without the Israelites being the bad guys.

As a human, I can think of dozens of ways in which to clear the land of populace (or at a minimum severely reduce the number) without resorting to genocide. Frankly, I cannot think of a single reason why killing the children would ever be necessary.

So, to all the Christians that say it must have been moral, for some unknown reason, can you explain why God couldn’t have taken these other routes to clear the land? Why God absolutely, positively, with no other options available, had to kill these nationalities right down to the children?

Can you frame together a scenario that informs us skeptics that clearly the only and last resort that a good God could do, to clear the land of people, was genocide? An eternity of planning, and the best plan God could come up with is bloody, murderous, slaying?

As I start to look at these other atrocities, I can’t help but wonder why God was not able to put a plan together at least as well as I, a mere human, could. Noah couldn’t even save a one week old baby. God had to have the virgin females, and only the virgin females from the Midianites. Not one virgin baby boy. Not one widow. (Whoops. Forgot. They were ALL widows.)

But even if it was a last resort, the Christian must cling to the fact that somehow this was a good act. Wait a minute. If it was a good act (even a last resort) that means, for God, it was a good act as a first resort. Is the Christian honestly saying that, for God, genocide is good ONLY if it was a last resort? Can they proof that out? Can they demonstrate it was? That God was somehow limited in His ability, that we was forced to go to Defcon One and commit genocide? What, exactly, IS a last resort for a God? How can it have no options?

Realistically, genocide is acceptable to this God as even a first resort. God didn’t look for alternatives to wiping out the Canaanites—It was and always was a moral act.

And building on that, if genocide is morally acceptable for God (and God certainly places no limitation on it being in His sole discretion) then it would be morally acceptable for His followers.

A straightforward question for Christians that hold to the literal translation of the historic events of the Tanakh—in your objective (and I use the term in its loosest possible sense) morality, is genocide wrong? If so, when (since we know of at least one instance it was not) is it wrong and what proofs are there?

It is amusing to watch the arguments of whether morality is objective or subjective, when those claiming objective morals cannot even demonstrate what they are. If there are objective morals, and genocide is acceptable under those morals, I, for one, would be proud to violate that moral. I can only fervently hope that Christians would join me.

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