A dictionary will tell us that God did indeed order genocide, and that convicts him, whether the Israelites completed the job or not. While the Canaanites might have sacrificed children, God ordered the same thing. And isn’t genocide an overreaction to child sacrifice?
(These Bite-Size Replies are responses to “Quick Shots,” brief Christian responses to atheist challenges. The introduction to this series is here.)
Challenge to the Christian: The Bible condones genocide
Christian response #1: Are you saying that God killed for no good reason? And don’t complain when God doesn’t stop evil (pandemics, earthquakes) and then complain when he does (killing evil Canaanites).
The reason doesn’t matter. Genocide is “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group.” It’s a crime against humanity, regardless of the reason.
The author complains that the Canaanites sacrificed some of their children, but he forgets that God did the same: “So I gave them other statutes that were not good and laws through which they could not live; I defiled them through their gifts—the sacrifice of every firstborn—that I might fill them with horror so they would know that I am Jehovah.”
And what solution to the problem of the Canaanite’s child sacrifice occurs to God? More of the same, of course. God demands that they all be exterminated—adults and children. You’d think that a god who could speak the universe into existence could think up a more moral solution.
The Christian challenge ends with apparent atheist hypocrisy. Atheists demand God stop evil (this is the Problem of Evil) but then are outraged when God cleans up evil in Canaan. My response: God is welcome to address the evil in Canaan, but he needs to do it in a humane manner. Do I really need to explain the irony of solving Canaanite child sacrifice with genocide? An omniscient god could think up dozens of solutions that were actually moral.
The Canaanites sacrificed some of their children. God responded by killing *all* their children … and all the adults. See a problem? [Click to tweet]
Christian response #2: The God of the Bible never commanded genocide. That was hyperbole.
And yet God did command genocide. Here’s one instance: “So Joshua subdued the whole region. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord had commanded.”
The apologist will say that later in the Bible, that tribe reappeared. Clearly they were not totally destroyed; therefore, no genocide; therefore, God is off the hook.
First, what this shows is that the Bible is unreliable. If “He totally destroyed all who breathed” is hyperbole, who decides what else is hyperbole? And second, the point isn’t who the Israelites killed or didn’t kill. The point is that God commanded genocide! How thoroughly the Israelites followed his commands isn’t important. God’s own holy book convicts him.
The Bible records Joshua destroying a tribe, but then that tribe appears later in the Bible. But this doesn’t exonerate God because he ordered the genocide. His own holy book convicts him. [Click to tweet]
(The Quick Shot I’m replying to is here.)
Continue with BSR 13: The Bible Condones Slavery
For further reading:
of a principle is the vigor and persistence
with which it is opposed.
In any field, if people see that
a principle is obvious nonsense
and easy to refute, they tend to ignore it.
On the other hand, if the principle is difficult to refute
and it causes them to question
some of their own basic assumptions
with which their names may be identified,
they have to go out of their way
to find something wrong with it.
— Charles Osgood, psychologist
Image from Arisa Chattasa, CC license