God as Hitler
God and Violence in the Old Testament
In the Old Testament, God comes across as an extraordinarily angry, violent and psychotic character. But is there an explanation for behavior that otherwise would be considered deranged on the part of God and his followers?
If anyone can show us, it is William Lane Craig, one of the brightest Christian Apologists today. Dr. Craig sets out to do just that in the three videos at the end of this article. He tries to make sense of the violence committed by God and ordered by God in the Old Testament. Unfortunately for him, his effort comes up short, as we shall now see.
Dr. Craig's arguments are in bold, and my commentary is in regular typeface.
Did God Commit Atrocities in the Old Testament?
This criticism is really an attack on the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy.
Essentially, yes. But here's the problem: if one part of the Bible is suspect, then all parts of the Bible are suspect. Therefore Christianity, being based on the Bible, is suspect.
These events might just be Israelite nationalist myths.
If so, then the entire Bible might be a collection of myths and human stories. And if the words uttered by God during these atrocities were actually human words, then every word uttered by God and/or Jesus might just be a human word, thereby robbing Christianity of divine inspiration. This issue very much affects the legitimacy of the Christian religion, more so than Craig would like to admit.
God as Hitler
Dr. Craig's main argument is two-fold: (1) God is under no moral obligation to anyone or anything, (2) the Canaanites had it coming because they sinned.
God has no moral obligations ("Divine Command Morality").
If God is under no moral obligation to anyone or anything, then to describe him as loving, just, wise, fair, compassionate or anything else is logically absurd. Craig makes this mistake multiple times as he speciously cites God's "moral sufficiency" or "just cause" for these and other killings.
These labels assume an external standard of justice, love and compassion. But if God is the standard of justice, love and compassion, then justice is God and God is justice, by definition. Therefore to say "God is just" is simply another way of saying "God is Godly." Therefore whatever God does is just/ loving/ compassionate, no matter how bizarre or appalling it may be to the human consciousness.
This also means that morality--defined as God's law--has no identifiable characteristics. It just is whatever God says it is, at any given moment. At this time, it is moral to kill. At that time, it is moral to not kill. Since God cannot be predicted, we are left with a provisional morality that is not absolute, not timeless and not reliable. It could change at any time. This is also contrary to the Christian conception of morality.
The Canaanites deserved it because they sinned.
Here we have at least three problems:
- The killing of the children: the children had not sinned. Here is where Dr. Craig plays a game of "musical commandments" and claims that suddenly the anti-murder commandment is trumped by the commandment against mixing with pagan nations, without explaining why this is the case. (Normally all commandments are to be followed with equal vigor, and God is very clear about that innumerable times in the Bible.)
- The fact that the Canaanites had no way of knowing what God's standard-du-jour was (hardly seems "just"). God did not mind when the Israelites violated his laws before he enlightened them, but the Canaanites were expected to know despite never having received instruction from God.
- Since, as we have seen, to "sin" really means "to not follow God's laws," this is of course arbitrary because at another time, were God's law to change and find Canaanite practices acceptable, then killing them would not be justified. To make a permanent punishment--death--subject to impermanent laws is not the action of a coherent entity, and certainly not a perfect one.
God the Psychotic
Toward the end, the host asks a very poignant and extremely important question: why do we have reason to doubt a person who kills in the name of God today?
Craig replies "I think a person like that is psychologically deranged and a psychologist could tell that."
Well, well! There were no psychologists in ancient Israel, were there?
He says "there are not the justifying circumstances in that case that there were in the conquest of Canaan."
We see once again an aforementioned contradiction: on the one hand, God does what God wants, and that's that--the root of Craig's "Divine Command Morality." But on the other hand, there were "justifying circumstances" for this atrocity. Justifying to whom? If God is the ultimate arbiter of justification, what possible meaning does "justifying circumstances" have for Him? He does what he wants, and that's that.
The logical absurdities, contradictions, schizophrenia and paranoia of God demonstrate that the God of the Old Testament is simply the tribal god of the ancient Israelites. His genocidal xenophobia more closely resembles Adolph Hitler than any rational or moral being.
More by this Author
Exploring the possibility that Jesus Christ was mentally deranged, based on the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia and stories from Jesus' life.
What the story of the Garden of Eden tells us about human life, human nature and our potential.
Brief history of isolationism and interventionism in the US, and current trends in American attitudes.