Version 1.1, pub. 6/19/2012 (addition to Slavery section)
"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it." -Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today I will be looking at a video response put together by two Christians, Kyle and Laura, on YouTube. Their video is a response to TheThinkingAtheist's video "Morality Without God." In it, they attempt to defend the horrific atrocities God carriers out in the Bible, and they attempt to show how TheThinkingAtheist took the cited Bible passages out of context. Here I will show why their excuses for God fall well short of refuting the central premise of TheThinkingAtheist's video; that the God of the Bible is simply a horrific monster.
[Note: Any quotes in red are direct quotes from either Kyle or Laura]
We first should note that many of the arguments they present in their two-part video rely on their preconceived notions of God and Christianity.
A case in point is Kyle's first suggestion that God is not "evil," but that he merely "defies our expectations of what is good." These so-called "expectations" are what we humans have concluded is morally right through careful logic and detailed studies. If God cannot even live up to our expectations, then he is clearly going against what common sense and basic logic has taught the human race for thousands of years. This is not a God I would ever support. Now let us examine each point they bring up and see if they hold up to scrutiny.
In "Morality Without God" (MWG), TheThinkingAtheist (TTA) cites the story found in Gen. 19:6 and 19:33-34 where Lot offers his two virgin daughters to be raped by an angry mob as evidence that God endorses rape. Kyle's answer to this is that God himself did not endorse this decision, and that "God was doubtlessly disappointed with Lot's decision." One thing needs to be made clear before we continue. In assessing God and his morality, we should keep in mind not just what God says in the Bible, but also what he doesn't say. Christians may argue that God's silence about an issue does not denote that he endorses it, but by not mentioning an issue he leaves it up to his imperfect humans to figure it out. And this cannot be a "free-will" issue, for if it were, why did God bother giving us the Ten Commandments? Discussing a certain topic shows us that that particular issue is important to him. God could very easily have just said "rape is wrong," and while that might not have completely stopped rape in the future, it certainly wouldn't have hurt.
That being said, Kyle provides us with no evidence to show that God was "disappointed" with Lot's actions. God was so disappointed with Lot that he still saved him from the city he was about to destroy? There is not a negative word about Lot found anywhere in the Bible. In fact, Lot is even referred to as "just" and "a righteous man" in 2 Peter 2:7-8. It is obvious that the Bible, for whatever reason, sees Lot as one of its heroes.
Although we do not find endorsement of rape in this passage per se, there are other passages which clearly do show just that. For example, in Deut. 22:28-29, if a man rapes a virgin, he must pay her father fifty shekels of silver, and then he must marry her. Yes, a fitting punishment indeed. A woman raped must now live forever with her rapist. Furthermore, we find in Deut. 21:10-11 and Num. 31:15-18 that you evidently can own sex slaves, i.e. forced sex. Again, there is not a word against rape in the Bible, and several passages endorsing it. (For more on rape in the Bible, see "What the Bible says about Rape" and "Rape in the Bible")
As for Kyle's second assertion, that God does not endorse incest, there are certainly passages in the Bible which do support this. It seems God may have changed his mind regarding this issue, but why would an all-powerful perfect God need to change his mind about anything? Neither of Kyle's arguments are supported by the evidence he presents, which turns out to actually be very little evidence.
We are then treated to a discussion from Laura about biblical hermeneutics; the science of how to properly evaluate Biblical scripture. Laura tells us that TTA took the Bible passages cited out of context and put his own spin on them. She says:
"It seems that it makes more sense to search for the truth rather than looking at things narrowly and falsely in order to get a justification for a predetermined thought or prejudice that one may have."Oh dear...
That's right. We can just assume that the makers of this response video in no way have a "predetermined thought or prejudice." Contrary to what Laura claims, TTA did not take the passages out of context. While God may not endorse everything everyone does in the Bible, there are certainly many places where he does not condemn bad behavior either. As we have established, this is very significant. This is merely another excuse the video trots out in order to defend God's horribleness.
Laura proceeds to discuss the Bible's stance on human sacrifice, and focuses on the cited passage in TTA's video, Judges 11:30-39. In this passage, the character of Jephthah vows to God that he will sacrifice the first person who walks out of his home in return for victory in war. Laura's reasoning is that Jephthah went against God's wishes, since God supposedly condemned slavery earlier in Deut. 18:9-11. However, looking more closely at this issue, we see that this is not the whole story. First, we should note that, like Lot, even though Jephthah goes against what God wants, he still is not punished or scrutinized in any direct way by God himself. If God did not want him to do that, God could simply have said "don't do that." Now some of you are probably saying "But wait! He did say not to do that! He already condemned human sacrifice!" Which leads me to my second point. Let's take a look at even earlier passages where God condemns human sacrifice. God also condemns human sacrifice in Lev. 18:21 and Lev. 20:2. Furthermore, human sacrifice is again condemned in 2 Kings 21:6. So it seems that God is pretty much against human sacrifice, right? Well, not quite. Reading these passages in full, we see a common pattern amongst them other than just sacrifice.
"And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD." -Lev. 18:21 (emphasis added)
"Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones." -Lev. 20:2 (emphasis added)The pattern we see in these passages, other than human sacrifice occurring, is that these sacrifices were all being done for what the Bible considered to be false gods. Therefore, it seems that for the vast majority of the Bible, God is not against human sacrifice per se, but rather human sacrifice to other gods. Molech was the ancient Ammonite god that was strongly associated with child sacrifice, and the term Baal (or Ba'al) generally referred to a false god. In 2 Kings 23:10, sacrifice to Molech is once again condemned, and Jeremiah 32:35 states:
"And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger." -2 Kings 21:6 [Note that earlier 2 Kings 21:1-3 says: "Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hephzibah. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel. For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them."] (emphasis added)
"And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin." (emphasis added)Clearly what the Bible saw as sinful was not in fact human sacrifice as a whole. It just wasn't right when it was done for anyone other than Yahweh. As noted by biblical scholar Dr. Hector Avalos:
[I]t was the late texts that sought to substitute animals for actual human first-born sons. Genesis 22, which shows Yahweh substituting a ram for Isaac, is part of a late biblical tradition. Indeed, in Genesis 22, Abraham seems to presume that child sacrifice is not an impossible request, and it is the substitution of the ram that is unexpected. For most of biblical history, Yahweh was not against child sacrifice per se, but rather against child sacrifice to other gods. Even the prophet Micah ponders whether he should sacrifice his oldest son "as a sin offering" to Yahweh, although he rejects doing so in the end (6:6-8). [Quoted from: Yahweh is a Moral Monster, by Dr. Hector Avalos; published in The Christian Delusion, ed. by John W. Loftus, pg. 227]There are passages where God does indeed advocate human sacrifice. For example, Ezekiel 20:25-26 states:
"Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live; And I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the LORD." (emphasis added)The statute Yahweh is referring to is likely the one mentioned in Exodus 22:29-30, which says:
"Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me. Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his dam; on the eighth day thou shalt give it me." (emphasis added)Furthermore, need we be reminded that human sacrifice is the very foundation of Christianity? As Dr. Avalos notes:
Jesus Christ is viewed as the only-begotten son of God, who must be sacrificed to redeem the world because of "love" (John 3:16). Christ's sacrifice is premised on the sort of blood-magic inherited from the ancient Near East. This blood-magic is evident in Hebrews 9:22: "Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin." Christian apologists might claim that their god has authority to order sacrifice, but this claim is no more verifiable than that of any other religion that practices human sacrifice. [Ibid.]
That's right. It's the humans' fault every time. God forbid (pardon the expression) that Yahweh should ever be blamed for anything bad done in the Bible. This only further confirms my earlier assumption that both Kyle and Laura illogically believe (just like the earliest Christians) that God can do no wrong because, well, he's God. "Your argument is invalid" evidently existed thousands of years ago, and may have been invented by Christianity.
Based on everything we've seen, the truth is inescapable: Yahweh does indeed endorse human sacrifice in the Bible.
We now come to another disgusting aspect of the Bible that in fact had a profound impact on future history: slavery. Laura explains to us that slavery in the Old Testament was technically more like indentured servitude, due to the fact that slaves only worked for seven years in order to pay off a debt. She also claims that this was "not predicated on race or the idea that some people are inherently inferior." As we shall see, both of these assertions are false and misleading.
Laura's insistence that "Christianity sees every human being as equal in the eyes of God" is simply absurd. The New Testament flatly denies equal rights to women (see: 1 Cor. 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15). Though it appears that Paul declares equality for all in Galations, this is not really what he is saying at all. The passage in question reads:
"For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." -Galations 3:27-29What Paul is basically telling us here is that only those who have been "baptized into Christ" are seen as equal in the eyes of God. In other words, only those who have accepted Christ as their God are seen equally. And even in this case, Paul is not discussing equality in the sense that people are given equal legal rights, but rather equality in the sense that they all share the same "promise" in the afterlife. He was not asserting a political concept, but rather a very prejudicial theology, where only those who have been "baptized into Christ" are equals.
Update 6/19/2012: After questioning Laura about this issue and presenting her with the information regarding Galations 3:27-29, she responded with:
And yet strangely it is debated. Now, what was all that about "looking at things narrowly and falsely in order to get a justification for a predetermined thought or prejudice" again?
Furthermore, need we be reminded of God's discrimination of homosexuals in Lev. 18:22? Modern medical science and psychology studies have demonstrated quite decisively that homosexuality is inherent in nature, including human nature. Did God not know this? If so, it merely supports the very obvious truth that the Bible was written by uninformed humans, not by God or anyone divinely inspired by him. However, if God did know this, then he is clearly exhibiting discrimination against an inborn nature of some humans. How is this any different than discrimination against someone due to the color of their skin? The New Testament supports this as well. As Paul says in 1 Cor. 6:9-10:
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." (emphasis added)Who the "effeminate" is, is unclear, but "abusers of themselves with mankind" likely refers to homosexuals, and indeed other translations do in fact say "homosexuals" and "men who practice homosexuality." The idea that "Christianity sees every human being as equal in the eyes of God" is groundless.
As for slavery itself, this was done abundantly throughout the Bible and was rarely, if ever, seen as wrong. We have already established that the Bible is quite fine with the owning of sex slaves. But even that aside, the Mosaic law of slaves only working for seven years is not quite as grand as Laura believes. We read in Deut. 15:4 and 11 that:
 "Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the LORD shall greatly bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it..."  "For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land."As we can see, there is nothing here about the concept of slavery ending. Verse 11 clearly states that "the poor shall never cease out of the land." So even though Hebrew slaves were to be set free after seven years, there is nothing in these passages about preventing new slaves from being taken into servitude. We should also keep in mind that this rule appears to only apply to Hebrew slaves. Moreover, these laws are apparently no longer applicable once we reach the New Testament, as Christ is viewed as "Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances." (Ephesians 2:15). Furthermore, the concept of owning slaves permanently is indeed found in the Bible. Lev. 25:44-46 reads:
"Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour." (emphasis added)Laura argues that "the Mosaic law regarding the treatment of slaves was put there to ensure they were treated with human dignity." However, she does not proceed to actually tell us what these laws required. Let us read what these laws do in fact say.
"And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money." -Exodus 21:20-21 (emphasis added)
We find in Isaiah 14:1-2 that God evidently envisions a future with more slavery, not less. The passage in question reads:
"For the LORD will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob. And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the LORD for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors." (emphasis added)
If we continue further into the New Testament, we see that slavery actually continues. In 1 Peter 2:18-20, we read:
"Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God."A similar statement is also made in Ephesians 6:5. Note that the word "froward" essentially means "difficult to deal with" (other translations use words such as "harsh," "cruel," "unjust," etc.). So we are told to respect our masters whether they are being reasonable or unreasonable. We also see in the NT Paul's endorsement of slavery, whereby in Philemon he returns a runaway slave to his master. Paul, who was out constantly preaching the supposed word of Christ, does not reprimand Philemon for owning a slave.
Furthermore, we see that slavery is not included as one of the listed sins in the previously mentioned 1 Cor. 6:9-10. As we saw, that list consisted of "fornicators," "idolaters," "adulterers," "effeminate," "abusers of themselves with mankind," "thieves," "covetous," "drunkards," "revilers," and "extortioners." So apparently Paul saw cheating on your partner and being drunk as being worse crimes than owning slaves.
Laura proceeds to cite two Christian activists who fought against slavery as evidence that "Christianity first introduced the concept into western civilization that slavery is wrong." She cites William Wilberforce and Frederick Douglass as examples. While these men undoubtedly contributed enormously to the abolishment of slavery, the idea that it was necessarily due to there "Christianity" is not well supported. As we have seen, the Bible clearly endorses slavery, so regardless of whether or not these men believed they were acting in accordance with the teachings of the Bible, they were in reality going against what the Bible actually preaches. The fact that two Christians contributed to the abolishment of slavery is not the same thing as Christianity contributing to this. As Dr. Richard Carrier has demonstrated, the idea that all peoples of all faiths should share the same legal rights is a pagan concept, not a Christian one. (See the paragraph on "Slavery" in Dr. Carrier's essay On Musonius Rufus. See also his article Christianity Was Not Responsible for American Democracy) The reality is that it was only after the secularization of the west did people begin to obtain equal legal rights. Had either Wilberforce or Douglass followed the true teachings of the Bible, especially Ephesians 6:5 and 1 Peter 2:18, we might still have slavery today. The fact of the matter is that God never said a word against the concept of slavery, which makes absolutely no sense if he exists.
After her discussion of slavery, Laura proceeds to tackle the story found in 2 Samuel 6:1-10, whereby the character of Uzzah reaches out to steady the Ark of the Covenant after the oxen stumble, and as a result he is killed by God. Laura claims that:
"TheThinkingAtheists say that Uzzah just made an innocent mistake and then God struck him down. They are presenting this story in a certain light in order to make God seem like a whimsical unjust tyrant, who strikes people down for the most innocent actions."
You are an eighth grade student on a class field trip to an art museum. You and the class pass through a large room full of amazing artwork. There is security all around to make sure the art is kept safe. At one point, you and the class pass by a large vase that is valued at $100,000. The tour guide tells you how valuable and rare the vase is, and tells everyone that touching it is absolutely forbidden. The class then starts to leave, and while doing so one of your classmates brushes past the table the vase is sitting on. He nudges it just enough to knock the vase off balance and it begins to topple over. So through natural reflex, you hastily reach out and stop the vase from falling just in time. The security guard present sees the whole thing; the fact that your classmate knocked the vase over and that you reached out to save it. The security guard then takes you by the arm and says you must leave the museum, and that your parents are going to have to pay a hefty fine for touching the vase, which no harm came to and made it safely back on the table.Does the outcome of this scenario sound reasonable to you? Was the student's punishment justifiable? Do you think the security guard was right to punish him? I hope your answer was "no" for all three of these questions. If we find this story to be nonsense, then we must also see the story of Uzzah to be nonsense as well. Uzzah was simply acting on natural reflex to steady the Ark for he feared it would fall. God killing him was a pretty odd way of saying "thanks for not letting it fall over." With Gods like that, who needs devils? What would God have done if he had just let it fall? According to Laura, Uzzah did no favors for God, but instead "rebel[led] against God." She also insists that this incident "tells us about God's great holiness," but all I see this as is an example of God's great selfishness. We see God acting like nothing more than selfish jerk who can't stand to have anyone touch his stuff no matter what. One can almost here God crying like a spoiled teenager "THAT'S MINE! DON'T TOUCH IT!" Defending God on this is ridiculous, but must be done in order to maintain the delusion that God is perfectly good.
Laura's next attempt at defending God's actions has her discussing God's mistreatment of animals. The incident cited in MWG, found in Joshua 11:6, has Joshua hamstringing the enemies' horses (called "houghing" in the Bible). Laura first gives us examples in the Bible of God speaking kindly of animals as evidence that God does not condone animal abuse. She cites Ecc. 3:19, Genesis 9:5-17, Hosea 2:18, and Joel 1:20 as examples of this. However, none of these passages actually seem to support her argument.
Ecc. 3:19 simply tells us that the fate of animals will be the fate of man as well. Basically, God tells us that everything dies, and no living thing is immune to this. Genesis 9:5 is simply the story of Noah's selection of animals that will be saved from the flood. Why God needed to kill all but two of every animal is odd, seeing as they had done nothing wrong. Hosea 2:18 simply has God including these new animals in his covenant. Again, why he had to kill any animals is puzzling. And Joel 1:20 describes how animals cried out in pain and sadness, and God hears them but does nothing to help them. These passages don't really tell us that God cares about the animals per se, but rather he cares about them being dominated by the humans of the Earth. As we shall, this is evidently what God had in mind.
Laura, after admitting that God did in fact order Joshua to hamstring the horses, then claims that "nowhere in the Bible does God tell human beings to abuse animals." Uhhh... What!? What does she back this up with? The fact that other Christians outside the Bible have said animal abuse is wrong! Again... What!? How does the fact that other Christians speaking kindly of animals support what God does in the Bible? Like her arguments concerning slavery, Laura seems to think that Christians supporting a certain position is the same thing as Christianity supporting a position. Certain Christians supporting a view is just not the same thing as God or the Bible supporting a certain view.
She goes on to cite Genesis 1:28, which states:
"And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."From this, she claims "In this case the word 'dominion' means protecting, loving, and caring for." But it actually does NOT mean this at all. As John Loftus points out regarding this passage:
The world was created for human beings. It was a "good" world, for us. And God tells us what we are to do with the rest of creation. We are to subdue it and have dominion over it, something reiterated in Genesis 9:1-3 and Psalm 8. When we look at the Hebrew words for "subdue" and "dominion" we see just what God wanted from us. The Hebrew word for subdue is כָּבַשׁ and it's a very harsh word which literally means "to trample on." According to an authoritative Lexicon it means to "tread down, beat or make a path, subdue; 1. bring into bondage, 2. (late) subdue, force." [Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon]. We see this word used in Zechariah 9:15 of Israel trampling on the weapons of her enemies. In Jeremiah 34:11 it's used of slave owners taking back released slaves and subduing them again. The word "subjugate" would be an appropriate word for what this word means, and doing this demanded force. The same word is used by king Ahasuerus who was angered at what he considered Haman’s attempted sexual assault ("subduing") of Queen Esther, in Esther 7:8. It's also the derivative word for the word "footstool." What God said was for us to make the rest of creation a footstool for our own purposes.
The word "dominion" doesn’t fare any better. It has a similar meaning to the word "subdue" except that it also includes the idea of chastisement. This is no benign way to rule over nature. It meant to "master" over someone, especially when he or she refused to be subdued. It's used of King Solomon’s overseers who forced his laborers to build the Temple in I Kings 9:23. It’s used in Isaiah 14:2 describing the time when the Israelites defeated her oppressors and subdued them. Either one of these words was enough to convey the harshness of this man-given lordship over the earth, but because both words are used together, they are meant to confer upon mankind a dictatorial and domineering rule over nature. [Quoted from: The Bible and the Treatment of Animals, by John W. Loftus; (John Loftus's entire article is highly recommended reading for this issue)]All this passage tells us is that we are allowed to dominate the animals and are allowed to do with them as we wish. After all, what could "dominion over the fish of the sea" mean other than we're allowed to eat the fish? God is in fact horrible to animals, and if he actually exists, he continues to be horrible to this day. [See: The Darwinian Problem of Evil, by John W. Loftus; published in The Christian Delusion, ed. by John W. Loftus, pg. 237]
We then move on to the second video, in which Kyle attempts to defend God's actions for the remainder of their response. Kyle's rational for God ordering the horses to be hamstringed is that horses were essentially seen as weapons of war, and hamstringing them was the only alternative to prevent the enemies of Israel from obtaining them. Kyle says "getting the Israelites to trust God was more important than the lives of those horses." The fact that Kyle can even say such a thing with a straight face is quite sickening to me. I can certainly come up with a better alternative; how about just killing the horses? Never mind the fact that there is no reason why God has to allow these wars to occur in the first place. But why must they be hamstringed? Why must they suffer, when they will likely have to be killed anyway? If anything, this demonstrates to us that God does not see animals as real living things at all, but just tools for humans to do what we please with them. Like slaves, animals are seen as our property in the eyes of God, and nothing more.
Baby Killing, Kidnapping, and Death
I include these three issues together because Kyle seems to address them essentially together as well. His arguments against each one are all equally as weak. TTA cites two incidents of baby killing in MWG: the massacre of all those in the city of Jericho in Joshua 6:21-27 and the killing of the Amalikites in 1 Samuel 15:3. Kyle's response to the incident in Joshua is that no babies were likely at Jericho, since the city was more of a fortress, and therefore would likely have only contained soldiers. However, let's keep in mind that Jericho was a city that contained upwards of 20,000 people. Are we really supposed to believe that out of all those 20,000 people, not a single baby was present?
Interestingly, Kyle conveniently ignores the second passage cited by TTA, in which God specifically says to murder babies. That passage reads:
"Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass." -1 Samuel 15:3 (emphasis added)
"Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up." (emphasis added)
Kyle then discusses the massive amount death God causes throughout the Bible, but like so many other apologists he insists that God has excuses for everything he does. Kyle compares God's actions to that of police officers and military personnel, and "we do not question" these people when they "make a life or death decision." First of all, we do question these people if we feel there is probable cause. A cop may act unjustly and will have to suffer the consequences. The same goes for anyone in the army. The fact that a person is cop or a soldier does not make them immune to criticism. But in Kyle and Laura's world, God's actions cannot be questioned, only defended. I cannot emphasis this enough: Christians play favorites with their God. They have deluded themselves into believing their God is perfect, and that only imperfect humans can make bad decisions. Kyle also compares God's actions to that of a parent simply looking out for his children. But again, parents are not immune to criticism either. The fifth Commandment may say to "Honour thy father and thy mother," but we must always keep in mind that honour and respect are things you earn. If my parents were half as horrific as Yahweh, I would feel absolutely no obligation to honour or respect them in any way. The same goes for any cop or military personnel.
I should also mention that one reason we do, for the most part, respect our parents, the police, and military personnel, is also because we know they actually exist. We can acknowledge their presence and learn to better understand why they do what they do. In most cases when responsible parents, cops, and military personnel do things we may at first object to, they will usually give us a valid explanation for why they did it. We may not like their answers sometimes, or sometimes their answers may genuinely be bad, but at least they gave us something. In the case of God, we have absolutely no proof of his existence, and if does exist, he is obviously not speaking to us in any kind of direct way. If God exists, there is absolutely no valid reason for this silence. Instead, Christians have to speak up for God and invent any number ad hoc excuses for why he allows and supposedly causes terrible things to happen in the world.
Kyle's answer is typical amongst apologists: free will. Two words Christians are so fond of repeating over and over again. Never mind the fact that God directly intervened numerous times in the Bible. Why was God so willing to help the Jews escape Egypt and find the land of milk and honey, but was curiously absent when Hitler tried to eradicate virtually all of them? Where was God for any number of the terrible things that served no benefit when they first happened, and certainly are not benefiting us now? The argument about free will is a weak one, and is really nothing more than a last resort for Christians who otherwise have no strong defense for God's actions and inaction.
Kyle's trust in God appears to be only strengthened by the supposed protection God gives us. But again, the problem is that we don't know if he is actually protecting us. Kyle claims that he would "much rather these decisions be made by a higher power such as God, rather than humans of so much mental limitation." And I would much rather put my trust in someone that I actually knew for a fact existed. People are flawed. That much is obvious. But we know they at least exist, and therefore can even be given the chance to be trusted in the first place. Why the hell would I trust someone who has never given me, or anyone else for that matter, proof that he exists in the first place? It's like a pair of irresponsible parents leaving their child home alone for the evening, insisting that they've hired a babysitter to watch him all the way across the street. You have absolutely no evidence the babysitter exists. You've never seen him or her. He or she has never spoken to you over the phone. All you have to go on is your parents' word, or perhaps at most your parents might show you a brochure saying what a great babysitter he or she is, but it obviously could be fake and full of lies. We know what the likely case is here. In all likelihood there really was no babysitter. They just wanted an evening out and didn't want to spend money on a sitter. We know this is usually not how parents treat their children when they go out. The have the sitter actually come over, and he or she speaks to you and directly interacts with you. That is the beginning of the trust building. Because God has not done even that, I have absolutely no reason to trust that he is watching over me or anyone else for that matter. We are not "grown up children," as Kyle believes. And if we were, God is one of the most irresponsible parents that has ever existed.
Kyle then decides to address the issue of kidnapping discussed in TTA's video. The passage in question is in Num. 31, where God rewards stolen plunder to the Israelites, including 32,000 virgin women. The next illogical argument Kyle gives us is that this was not a case of kidnapping per se, but rather "the military act of protecting innocent bystanders by making them prisoners of war." Oh really? Let's read some of the passages in this chapter and see how these innocent bystanders were "protected."
"And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, 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 women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves." -Num. 31:15-18 (emphasis added)We previously addressed this passage, and we established it is one of several passages where the taking of sex slaves occurs. This passage tells us that every male child and every woman who has had sex are put to death, but all the virgin women (and note that it says here "women children." ugh) are to be kept alive. The Israelites are told they can keep them alive for themselves. The meaning here is obvious. Can anyone honestly read this passage and think it is in anyway humane? Furthermore, the kidnapping and forcing into slavery occurs to children in 1 Kings 9:21. Again, it is obvious that God sees certain humans as little more than semi-conscious property. God's followers obviously saw the taking of other humans as essentially the same as taking property and animals.
Having failed to provide any valid arguments defending God's actions, Kyle then provides further confirmation for my view that Christians illogically refuse to accept God's evil: "God makes the rules." Whether Kyle or Laura want to accept it or not, they (and probably most Christians) do NOT follow many of God's rules. Were we to follow all of God's "rules," or follow his example and act like him, we would ultimately have to:
-Solve our problems with mass murder (Genesis 7:4, 17-23)
-Murder anyone who picks up a stick on a Saturday (Numbers 15:32-36)
-Commit genocide when he wants you to (Deuteronomy 2:31-34, Deuteronomy 3:1-6, Deuteronomy 7:1-3, Joshua 10:40, Joshua 11:19-20, 1 Samuel 15:2-3)
-Buy and keep slaves (Leviticus 25:44-46)
-Make sex slaves of prisoners of war (Deuteronomy 21:10-12, Numbers 31:15-18)
-Kill people who have sex (Deuteronomy 22:13-30, Deuteronomy 22:23-30)
-Have gay men executed (Leviticus 20:13)
-Abolish religious freedom with murder and terrorism (Deuteronomy 12:1-13:16)
-Suppress free speech with murder (Leviticus 24:11-16)
-Engage in human sacrifice when you promise him to (Judges 11:29-40)
-Murder tens of thousands of innocent people just because one guy did what God actually inspired him to do (2 Samuel 24:1-17)
-Kill pacifists (1 Kings 20:35-36)
-Hideously maul dozens of children merely for being silly (2 Kings 2:23-24)
-Smash babies against rocks (Psalms 137:8-9)
-Make deals with the Devil and allow hideous evils to befall the innocent just to win a bet (Job 1:8-2:10)
-Be jealous, angry, and vengeful (Nahum 1:2-8)
-Bake your meals with human shit (Ezekiel 4:12-15)(See: The Will of God, by Dr. Richard Carrier)
Of course, many Christians have unfortunately followed many of the above rules, and as a result we have had centuries of horrible crimes committed and likely millions of lives lost. I can already here the objections from other apologists: "But those people didn't follow the real teachings of Jesus or the Bible!" As I have demonstrated, this is simply untrue. As scholar Earl Doherty appropriately summarizes:
Jesus, if he existed, may have said to love one another, or one's enemies—though if he did, he was echoing those who had said it before him. But he was also reputed to have advocated compelling the non-believer to conversion, to have condemned to Hell those communities and individuals who failed to heed his message, to have urged his followers to take up the sword, and to hate one's father and mother (the repudiation of social commitments) in the interests of furthering the beliefs and goals of the sect. According to the Gospel of John, he declared the Jewish authorities to be sons of Satan. (If he also said on the cross, "Father, forgive them"—as recorded only in Luke—his words failed to provide any inspiration for centuries of Christians to follow his example.) Christians throughout history have done as much evil as good by following some of the "teachings of Jesus," and very few of them can simply be dismissed as charlatans and lunatics. Thus [the] claim that Christians who have committed atrocities are going "contrary" to the teachings of Jesus is a sham, and can only be supported by a very selective choice of the words found in Jesus' mouth in the Gospels.
Kyle also seems to have problems with how the Bible verses were displayed in TTA's video. According to him, TTA did not actually quote scripture, but merely "paraphrased scripture in a way that did not reflect the meaning in the text that is uncovered upon adequate scrutiny." The verses in the Bible are quite long, and obviously need paraphrasing when time is limited. Kyle is of course using the argument anticipated in the video, that the passages were taken out of context. Read the quotes yourself and see if TTA misrepresented them.
Kyle's assertion that the passages were taken out of context is only fueled by his determination to believe that there is an excuse for every terrible thing God has ever done.
The final issue Kyle has with the video is in fact the title; "Morality Without God." The end of TTA's video claims that "Morality is a choice, not a church." From this, Kyle asks:
"What choice exists apart from ones made through examining the social knowledge that has been saturated with religious understandings for centuries?"Answer: quite a few choices actually. First and foremost, the moral teachings we use today, even if they were solely due to religion, were certainly not solely due to Christianity. For example, most of the Ten Commandments can be found in earlier mythologies. The 42 Negative Confessions found in the Egyptian Book of the Dead (written hundreds of years prior to the Ten Commandments) contain most of the Ten Commandments, including "thou shall not steal" ("Have you stolen?"), "thou shall not kill" ("Have you slain another?"), and "thou shall not bear false witness" ("Have you spoken lies?"). It is possible that these texts even influenced the Ten Commandments.
Secondly, it is obvious that "religious understandings" are not solely responsible for our moral guidelines today, for if they were, we would be carrying out any number of the horrible crimes we have previously discussed.
Note that in the above video at min. 2:34, Richard Dawkins states:
"Nobody in our days actually defends many of the moral injunctions that you'll find in either the Bible or the Koran. I mean, they're horrible, many of them. Disgusting. And when you challenge religious people, they say 'Well of course we don't do that anymore. We don't stone people to death, and you're allowed to break the Sabbath if you want to, and that sort of thing.' But, having admitted that, they've then admitted that actually they're getting their morality from somewhere other than religion. They're getting it from a moral consensus which is secular, which develops through time... What I've called in The God Delusion the 'Changing Moral Zeitgeist.'"Science can tell us how to be moral, and it does a much better job than religion. That is the whole point of TTA's video. Morality is a choice because we figured it out on our own, without the need for a divine entity in the sky. If our morals rested solely on religious teachings, I doubt there would be nearly as many people in the world as there is today. Though Christians like Kyle and Laura do appear ready to defend God's actions at any time, those who follow logic and common sense can see that God is nothing more than a cruel, selfish, disgusting, and most of all, evil being. The message of TTA's video stands: morality is a choice, not a church.
And so we come to the end of Kyle and Laura's video response. The last point Kyle wishes to make is that in assessing the world around us, we should start from a place of humility, for we "do not know everything," and that:
"To try to justify what we believe based on what we see is not as wise as striving to seek truth. To whatever depth it takes for reality to be revealed."And this of course goes against what the scientific method has taught us.The scientific method teaches us that we decide what is and isn't reality based on careful research and studies. Repeatable, verifiable, testable studies, based on what we can see and determine is real. The scientific method is the best tool ever devised for seeking the truth, because it's free of bias and agenda. Of course we do not know everything, and everything should be questioned. But Kyle and Laura seem to have abandoned this principal in seeking to find justification for the atrocious behavior of Yahweh. It is my hope that both Laura and Kyle will scrutinize the God of the Bible just as thoroughly as they have scrutinized TTA's video. To do otherwise shows a profound willful ignorance on their part, in which case any discussion on the matter is over. The Bible tells us that Jesus is "the way," "the truth," and "the life." (John 14:6) But this simply isn't true. The fact is that science is the way, the truth, and the life, because science literally shows us the way, it gives us the truth, and it improves our lives. Religion has hardly done any of this.
The last thing Kyle tells us in regards to knowing the truth is that we must seek it, but we should not seek "a justification of assumptions." Hardly anything in their video has demonstrated to me that they have attempted anything other than just that. Recall Laura's words from before, that "It seems that it makes more sense to search for the truth rather than looking at things narrowly and falsely in order to get a justification for a predetermined thought or prejudice that one may have." This is merely an assertion that TTA and other atheists are biased in their opposition to God and religion. The question of God's morality is in fact secondary to my questions about God as a whole. As I have made clear several times already, there is no credible evidence at all that God exists, and plenty of evidence that shows he does not exist. So my thoughts about the God portrayed in the Bible are not narrowed to what I want to believe about him, as I have no reason to think he exists in the first place. In other words, I don't need God to be evil. But Christians do need him to be good. The scriptural stories Laura and Kyle have been taught are likely distortions of what really occurs in the Bible. And what we see occur in the Bible is a world of death, destruction, dehumanization, torture, and outright chaos.
Deliberate ignorance is dangerous, and we must not let it corrupt this world that we have tried so hard to make a good and happy place to live in.
For more on the subject of morality and its relation to religion, the following books are recommended:
Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism
Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe
Philosophers without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life