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The Christian Delusion 8: Yahweh is a Moral Monster


I can’t put my finger on it, but this was one of my least favorite chapters. One reason may be that I was sort of distracted reading it. Or maybe I never really had to deal directly with these arguments, so they don’t seem as important to me. Or maybe I find Hector Avalos to be a not so great author. Maybe I don’t like his style.

The point of Avalos’ argument is to answer an apologist for Old Testament morality named Paul Copan. Copan defends all sorts of things like infanticide and genocide, all for apparently bad reasons. He also seems to make the argument that the ancient Hebrew people were better than their contemporaries, answering the “trajectory argument.” Actually, Avalos did a good job of both, showing that Copan was simply making excuses, engaging in special pleading, and simply wrong on the facts of the ancient Babylonians and such. There was some worse, some bad. Either way, even if the ancient Hebrews were better, can we really excuse murder by saying “well he murdered more people!” Does that make it okay for God to command it. If you molest one child, and all your buddies molest five, that doesn’t excuse God if he commanded you to do so. Lame argumentation.

Ah, another source of annoyance is Avalos stating, rather matter of factly, that all people are moral relativists, and that some just don’t know it. I found it rather ill defended, and although the thesis holds some water, ain’t nobody going to be convinced by his weak argumentation for it.

Kindle Notes:

Because it is hard to erase all of the injustices found in biblical law, another favorite technique is the “trajectory” argument. Thus, apologists can argue that, while things may look bad, they are heading in the right direction (2789).

For example, if we, as Americans, value freedom of religion, then it is clear that biblical law is inferior to that of other Near Eastern systems. One could easily argue that the denial of religious freedom is at the “moral heart” of the OT. It is the very first of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:3: “You shall have no other gods before me” (2802).

“Yes, God prohibits the worship of other gods and the fashioning of graven images, but the ultimate desire is that Yahweh’s people love him wholeheartedly” (2806).

Note: “Love me or I’ll kil you” is not love.

Moreover, Copan’s statement about the temporary nature of the law contradicts Deuteronomy 4:2: “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it; that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (2817).

Note: Jesus can change the law, not people.

JUSTIFYING GENOCIDE Copan’s arbitrary privileging of his faith claims devolves into a morass of moral relativism when he tries to justify the genocide of the Canaanites (2823).

Given the fact that Canaanite women and children are to be killed despite being made in the image of God, Copan’s main defense is a faith claim. He remarks: First, Israel would not have been justified to attack the Canaanites without Yahweh’s explicit command. Yahweh issued his command in light of a morally sufficient reason-the incorrigible wickedness of Canaanite culture … if God exists, does he have any prerogatives over human life? The New Atheists seem to think that if God existed, he should have a status no higher than any human being. Of course, this assumes that Yahweh exists and has the authority to kill women and children (2835).

JUSTIFYING INFANTICIDE To excuse the plain horror of infanticide, Copan offers this as comfort: “Death would be a mercy, as they would be ushered into the presence of God and spared the corrupting influences of a morally decadent culture.” This rationale actually follows a long apologetic tradition, such as this one evinced by the famed fundamentalist apologist, Reuben A. Torrey: “The extermination of the Canaanite children was not only an act of mercy and love to the world at large; it was an act of love and mercy to the children themselves” (2853).

If soul saving is the goal, then abortion provides a 100 percent salvation rate (2860).

Deuteronomy 24:16: “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor shall the children be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin” (2864).

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