Why Yahweh Kills Innocents

This Sunday I visited the internet church of some fundamental-literalist, bible-thumping Christians. I miss them occasionally and love to go and hear an inspiring sermon now and again. Today’s sermon (a thread dialogue) was about God’s justice. I have paraphrased the conversation below for those of you don’t have time to go to church:


The Bible teaches not to steal or murder.


Come on, the Old Testament tells us that Yahweh ordering the destructions of entire cities — pregnant women, children, farmers, merchants — everyone!  You can’t imagine they were all guilty.


Yes, the were all “evil to the core” otherwise Yahweh would not have ordered them killed.  Yahweh does not kill innocent people because that would be murder and Yahweh doesn’t condone murder.


Seriously, everyone? Can you imagine any nation or city now where everyone is totally ‘evil to the core’.


Ah, you can’t compare to these days. The Bible tells us they were all evil. Every last one of them.

But the thumpers realize that their argument is weak and now offer 3 generic Christian caveats for why God is justified in killing innocents:

(1) The Evil Culture condemns Everyone:

Version 1: The utilitarian: “If the culture allows evil then all the people must be wiped or it will continue.” The great flood is just such an example, but it didn’t work.  So it appears Yahweh does not remove the bad apple from the barrel, he just burns the whole barrel.

Version 2: Tolerating Evil is Evil: Since horrible evil occurs in the culture, everyone in that culture is condemned because they did not stop it. Their tolerance condemns them. Other thumpers joined in say, “Yes, and America is next because of tolerating abortion and pornography! You will all die! Praise Jesus!”

(2) Everyone is Guilty from Birth:

Yep, the all too familiar Romans 3:23. By this argument, the word “innocent” is ridiculous because no one is innocent anyway. Yahway can wipe out whoever he wants and be justified.

(3) We can not understand God’s Mind:

This is the favorite escape clause of Christians. When the argument gets tough, they inevitably run here. It is the equivalent of saying, “OK, it may appear that innocents are killed, but that is because we have little brains. We have to trust the Bible.”

So that was my Sunday visit to the Church of Bible Thumpers.  I know you all have heard this stuff before.  I actually try to look for the good that religion can offer occasionally but encounters like this make me realize why it is import to speak out about Atheism.  Hope you will have a more reasonable Sunday than I have.

Note:  If you are sick enough to want to read the source and check to see if my paraphrases are accurate-enough, here ya go.  The sad thing about this post is that the author’s intent was to show why he doesn’t quote the Bible when he talks with non-believers (heathens).  But the comment thread shows why he indeed does need his Bible  — because he (and other fundies) don’t make sense without it. [or even with it].  OK, I realize this is a total waste of time and generic so I ask my readers for forgiveness.  But sometimes, I just can’t help myself and go back to look at a world I left behind.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

115 responses to “Why Yahweh Kills Innocents

  1. I never brought up the Bible, you did and then asked me to comment on the Bible. My reasoning is not circular because the very thing we were discussing…was the Bible. Do you really not see this?

    Sabio says: but what about the biblical accounts of XYZ?

    The Christian says: Well, the bible says ABC about XYZ

    Sabio says: Ha! You say you dont need the bible, but I just showed you that you need the bible for your positions on the the bible!

    The Christian…shakes his head in amazement.

  2. Sorry John, my post’s outline of the discussion shows the problems with your “logic”. I merely show that though you initially claim that “God does not kill innocents”, your support for this (Biblical and otherwise) falls apart. Your last resort was: “Look, if the Bible says it, it must be true. God has a reason even if I am contradicting myself. God backs me. Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah.”

  3. Your outline shows how you remove the bible from itself. You want to discuss certain biblical events, and then stop there. you dont like biblical answers to biblical questions. If you ask about the bible, dont be surprised that you get a biblical answer.

  4. I also noticed you have to actually mischaracterize my answers to your questions in order to mock, presumably because you hope your readers will not look upon the comment thread objectively and see your claims are exaggerated, or that they are like you, and get exceptionally defensive when you are challanged. this last post of mine and one before it was the first time you have been called to task, and you seem to have resented it.

  5. You want to pretend that your conversation is rational and reasonable, yet when the going gets tough you yell, “Foul. I don’t care if I seem to contradict myself. I am on God’s side and he is allowed to contradict himself.”

    All I ask is that you don’t pretend to be rational when you know full well you are going to back down from your claims when the going gets tough.

    Your Yahweh ordered the execution on “innocent” people. Fundies love that hate message. Their god is to be feared.

  6. Nah, John, this last post of yours and the one before were both illogical. You have been called to task and don’t like it.

  7. lmao!

    Even an atheist had to call you out on your bs, and because he did, you immediately assumed he was a Christian! Thats how involved with yourself you are. Just look at how snooty you’re getting, name-calling, and false accusations. Certainly not a characteristic of someone who is ok being challenged.

  8. @ John
    That atheist never came back into the conversation.
    You are now doing what you do on your site.
    When the going gets tough you ignore the main points, and try to find distractions. These distraction techniques illustrate your lack of commitment to reason.

  9. as opposed to exaggerating the discussion in order to mock it? Or as opposed to skimming thenn misrepresenting what the point of the post was? or as opposed to introducing subject matter into the comments, then being surprised when it is discussed? this is tiresome.

  10. Again, you are trying to distract with rhetoric. I will ignore you every time you try to avoid the main point. You are right, this is tiresome.

  11. Jen

    I have an interesting parallel experience. Friday night I watched my daughter play the part of a panda in “Children of Eden,” a play that started out in London, received such bad reviews that it never made it to Broadway, but is a real hit at local community theaters. Must mean the script is cheap. About three high schools in my local area (Utah) are performing it this fall. For the unversed in small-scale theater circuits, the story is that of Genesis from Adam and Eve to the great flood. The predominant thought in my head at the time was that God ends up looking like quite an ass. Taken as a metaphor he merely appears to be the extremes (black and white) of the human psyche. The musical was played pretty straight-forward here; high school students may not be developmentally ready to grasp and hence convey metaphor and irony, but the theme, I was slightly pleasantly surprised to discover (or project), was more humanist. Basically, Noah grows up and realizes HE has to be the adult and make the choices. He chooses not to throw an “innocent” from the race of Cain off the ark. So this, and your brief but surely more entertaining synopsis of the online sermon, is plenty church for me this week.

  12. Ian

    Erm, Not wanting to be the annoying contrary skeptic, but didn’t you ask John specifically to talk about a biblical topic?

    Now I agree that the justifications are an exercise in post-hoc rationalisation, and they nicely hoist themselves by their own petard. But I don’t think you can use it as evidence that Jon can’t have a discussion of same-sex marriage on consensus moral grounds, for example.

    I suspect he can’t (because in my experience believers can’t), but that’s just my prejudice from my experience. I’d like to see him try to argue for a ban on same-sex marriage (say), or develop a consistent moral position on unborn life, without appealing to a privileged moral authority or a pre-scientific worldview.

  13. Ian

    …doh – didn’t subscribe…

  14. Ian

    “Sabio says: but what about the biblical accounts of XYZ?

    The Christian says: Well, the bible says ABC about XYZ

    Sabio says: Ha! You say you dont need the bible, but I just showed you that you need the bible for your positions on the the bible!”

    Okay, John, so let me see if this is not the core of the issue:

    You seemed to be suggesting in your post that the positions on morality that your Christian tradition teaches (and backs by its particular interpretation of the bible), are *reasonable* positions, independent of your religious beliefs. I.e. you can have a fruitful discussion with a non-believer about your moral positions based only on consensus moral philosophy.

    Sabio then, it seems to me, wanted to point out that your morality is intrinsically unreasonable, with regard to consensus moral philosophy, because it involves specific definitions of fairly basic moral categories such as good and evil. The definitions of those categories that you use involve, for example, notions that all are evil, or that an unborn child may be evil if the city in which their parent’s live worship the wrong God (the details aren’t important, so I accept beforehand that this is likely a gross caricature of your specific criteria for ‘evil’).

    So rather than he-said-she-said, and insults, how about trying to figure out whether you can have a reasonable moral discussion without using definitions of moral terms or concepts that are predicated on your particular branch of your particular religion?

    I doubt you can, but it would be cool if you could.

  15. Ian

    @John – happy to believe I’m missing something, but that article is a list of links, many to issues not regarding gay marriage, many related to biblical themes, and those that were on topic didn’t support your view.

    Can you give a sketch outline of a consensus moral argument why one should not just allow any couple to marry regardless of their gender?

  16. Ian

    the problem is Sabio injected subject matter that was foreign to my post. I don’t particularly like that, which is why I have set up a discussion page for general — you guessed it — discussion.

    Second. The links I provided here are links to my site’s categories for my own arguments against abortion and against same sex marriage without appealing to God and the Bible, which was the topic for the post that Sabio is getting all aflutter over. The only times the articles reference God or the bible is when the argument for abortion or for same sex marriage that I am addressing references God or the bible. So yes, you missed something. The list of links is a table of contents so to speak for what you had been asking.

    Sabio’s post here isnt really about same sex marriage or abortion, so I’ll leave that here. But feel free to browse the two pages I linked to. I have covered most of the arguments and objections.

  17. Ian

    “the problem is Sabio injected subject matter that was foreign to my post.”

    We don’t get to control or mandate where challenges come from unfortunately. I wish it were otherwise. I’d have a lot easier time debating folks if I could make sure they didn’t introduce subject matter foreign to what I wanted to talk about, or what I’d introduced😉

    “I don’t particularly like that,”

    That was obvious. And I don’t think Sabio liked your obvious distate to widening the conversation! I’ve discussed religious, scientific and moral issues at great length, and its rare that someone doesn’t annoy me. Sometimes I end up spitting. But that’s life. You want to hold court on the internet, you have to suck it up.

    “the links”


    “I have covered most of the arguments and objections.”

    I find that untrue, as well as patronizing. And I think you’re plenty smart enough to understand why. The one positive argument (on Prop 8 ) I found raised a whole bunch of objections and counter-arguments to that you didn’t graze across. The specifics of those objections are less relevant than the fact that I find it hard to believe you couldn’t anticipate that there would be some. Hence finding it patronizing.

    You don’t have to compromise your commitment to your point of view in order to discuss it honestly, openly and generously.

  18. Ian

    parenthetical prop 8 is a smiley – I’m sure there’s some cosmic significance to that…
    [ I fixed it for Ian — no cosmic significance allowed on this blog !! ] 😉

  19. @ Ian
    In your 11:57 comment, you summarized my point. John wants to imagine his positions are not theologically grounded. And, of course, by “theologically”, we mean his spin on the Bible. Thus, though not explicit, with only a little exploration, these assumptions become obvious — as they did in his talk about “Yahweh Kills Innocents”. And as you imagine, he does the same in Death-Penalty and Abortion posts. He wants to imagine himself doing otherwise and he uses distraction, avoidance and rhetoric to avoid real dialogue.

    My biggest objection with John is that he does not own up to this positioning. Best wishes dialoguing with him. Are you having conversations on his blog?

    I find his style similar to those of ID folks — they pretend to be empirical until the going gets rough.

    But always, you have done a more succinct and refined job at stating the point. Thank you.

    [Just came home after riding with the kids and raking leaves. I love Autumn!!]

  20. @ Jen
    Thanx for popping in. Glad you enjoyed today’s sermon.
    Indeed, that does parallel my recent theological exploration. Myths of a god who purges the planet of evil — taking the innocent too. Shiva, in Hindu mythology, has this role also. It is fun to watch devote Hindus try to justify Shiva too. The play is very similar. But those devoted to a a genre of theater are often unaware that someone else is using the same script.

  21. JSA

    There is something weird about pointing out supposed OT atrocities as if that makes God a moral monster. Avalos has made a career out of it, but I must be too stupid to get the point.

    For at least 1,000 years after Christ, most people didn’t find slavery or the Canaanite genocide to be morally repugnant. And it’s entirely wrong to say, “They only accepted genocide because they thought it was Yaweh’s will”. Most people alive have genocidal ancestors (most of whom were not Jews), and those genocidal cultures justified their genocide in many different ways. The only consistent thing is that they all considered genocide to be morally acceptable at times.

    At best, people like Avalos are pointing out that some of our Western moral norms are very different than the moral norms of the past. That’s hardly surprising or interesting.

  22. @ JSA
    Thanx for dropping in.

    We don’t want a confusing conversation here simply due to the fact that there are many flavors of Christianity with contradictory positions. I am sure your version and John Barron’s version are rather different. Not to mention that you both use far different reasoning methods.

    John Barron would not want to liken Israel’s genocide moves to other tribal genocides — after all, God commanded Israel and so their genocide campaigns was justified and no innocents were hurt — because Yahweh only kills the guilty.

    I am not sure what your version of the story is, but I know Christians vary widely on their interpretations. I am only discussing the flavor of Christian “logic” and “theology” that John and his ilk display.

    Don’t want to mix up the conversation. And I am not going to defend Avalos here but to say he is arguing against a similar stream of Christianity — an all-to-common and politically-corrupting stream of Christianity. I appreciate Avalos’ battle. There are many Christians who still want us to have that self-righteous, Yahweh-inspired, annihilative anger used in many OT stories. I find it interesting that there seems to be a certain personality type that gravitates to such thinking.

    So, it would be helpful if you tell us if you are talking to John’s positions, my statements or Ian’s statements. I’m not clear.

  23. Ian

    JSA – the point is surely general rather than specific, though. What it shows is that – if those atrocities were justifiable morally, then the moral code under which they were justified cannot be universal or absolute.

    Thus what Avalos’s focus on OT atrocities does show, rightly I think, is that the believer’s belief in an absolute morality is mistaken. Their morality is as contingent as anyone else’s.

    There are ways to avoid this, however. John does it in two rather different ways at different parts of his blog. In the post in question, he argues that the genocide was in fact moral (because the people to be destroyed were ‘evil to the core’). In other parts of his blog (not in relation to this particular case) he argues that there is an absolute moral law, but sometimes people don’t know what it is, or make mistakes about it. Both seem to me to be highly specious, but avoid the direct problem.

  24. Ian

    … sabio outlines a potential third escape which I’ve heard before. Even acts that would be immoral in another context become moral when God orders them, because God, by definition, cannot give evil commands (cf the Euthyphro dilemma)

  25. JSA

    I wouldn’t expect Christians (or Jews) to have any problem with morality changing over time. Very few of them are calling for adulterers or Sabbath-skippers to be stoned to death. The idea that believers adopt “absolute morality” seems like a bit of a red herring.

    If anything, it feels like Avolos and Dawkins are assuming an absolute morality. Dawkins has gone even further — he can’t even imagine it being morally permissible to believe that genocide can sometimes be morally permissible.

  26. Ian

    JSA: don’t you think most believers would claim there is an absolute morality rooted in God? John says it explicitly on his blog – as a good reason to reject atheism, because morality is obviously absolute, and to treat it as relative is untenable.

    Those who don’t obviously don’t have a problem with the argument to OT “atrocities”, then!

  27. JSA

    Sure, lots of believers talk about “objective morality”, but it seems clear that they don’t mean “moral laws never change”. I’m pretty sure that John doesn’t believe it is moral to keep slaves, stone adultresses or Sabbath-skippers, or that Christians must be circumcised and eschew bacon. So he must have been talking about something else.

    People who believe that morals haven’t changed since the OT, typically end up in jail or the insane asylum.

  28. Ian

    Maybe he’ll return and enlighten us. But some notes (not to single out John, but because I think he is indicative of other conversations I’ve had with believers).

    a) he claims that rape is wrong and couldn’t be otherwise. Presumably in your scheme, it would be conceivable that at some point in the future or in a non-western culture, rape would be considered moral, and therefore would be moral.

    b) he argues that the genocide of the innocents is justifiable using a current moral framework – he does not appeal to “it was moral then but isn’t now”, but instead to an argument of the form “it is moral to destroy groups of people who are wholly evil”.

    “People who believe that morals haven’t changed since the OT, typically end up in jail or the insane asylum.”

    I disagree. In my experience they typically find more elaborate post-hoc rationalisations why the corresponding situations today are morally different to those historically. I think it is much rarer than you give it credit for to find a Christian who thinks that God has changed his view on what is moral and immoral. That God is both unchanging and absolutely moral in his commandments, is pretty much a given for most conservative Christians I have talked to.

    “or that Christians must be circumcised and eschew bacon.”

    Its not my battle to fight, but as I understand it, these two in particular are not considered moral laws, even in observant forms of Judaism, but a religious law. In the same way as not even the most ardent moral absolutist would (I think) argue that it is intrinsically immoral to drive on the left, but that (in the USA) it is certainly a legal obligation, and one might be breaking other moral laws (such as the moral obligation not to unnecessarily endanger life) by breaking it.

  29. JSA

    That’s exactly my point. If people like John are already so comfortable interpreting things in such a way that death penalty for adultery was once moral, but isn’t currently, then why would the Canaanite genocide be any different?

    That’s why I think Avalos is so pointless. His book could only be effective in arguing against people who think that it is still moral to stone adulterers, and who *also* think genocide is immoral. That must be a very small population.

  30. Ian

    “That’s exactly my point.”

    In which case, I totally missed it😉

  31. @ JSA
    I understand what Ian has said and agree. I too don’t understand what you have said. I think that is because, as I feared, you brought in two pieces of unnecessary extra material (interesting in their own right, but confounding):

    (a) Avalos (& now Dawkins) — and your complaints against them.

    (b) Your version of Christianity claiming that it is actually the most common view amongst orthodox Christians.

    All of this, instead of addressing John Barron’s view and the other fundamentalists on his thread.

    So your point is not clear to me either because of these confounders.

    Ian clearly disagreed with you:

    I disagree. In my experience they typically find more elaborate post-hoc rationalisations why the corresponding situations today are morally different to those historically. I think it is much rarer than you give it credit for to find a Christian who thinks that God has changed his view on what is moral and immoral. That God is both unchanging and absolutely moral in his commandments, is pretty much a given for most conservative Christians I have talked to.

    So I don’t get what you meant when you said “That is exactly my point”. Do you disagree with John Barron’s view — why or why not?

  32. I’m always disturbed by fundamentalist Christians who are genocide apologists when it comes to the Bible. If they’re willing to excuse horrors in their holy book, what else would they be willing to excuse in the name of religion?

    Incidentally, some of the genocide defenses you mentioned are also used in a book called THE CASE FOR FAITH. It’s a morally repugnant book, but it provides a good look into fundamentalist mental gymnastics.

  33. DJ

    When sky god gets his ass kicked I hope his fundie followers go with him. Good riddance.

  34. JSA

    I agree with the quote from Ian that you highlighted. In fact, I attempted to quote it in my own reply, but the oneswipe theme on the iPad made it impossible to select text for copy/paste.

    I wasn’t interested in addressing John’s view, since I’m still struggling to understand the relevance of the question. I literally can’t see what the point could be. Pointing out that God commanded genocide could only make sense if you’re dealing with someone who thinks that our morals have never changed, and who also thinks that genocide is never morally permissible. Do any such people even exist?

  35. FreddieLloydCase

    “This Sunday I visited the Internet church of…”

    visit – to go to and stay with (a person or family) or at (a place) for a short time for reasons of sociability, politeness, business, curiosity, etc.: to visit a friend; to visit clients; to visit Paris.

    Perhaps next time you should actually, like, go visit…

    Kinda’ like “riding with the kids and raking leaves”. Being there is at least half the experience don’t ya” think?

  36. @Ahab :
    Indeed. Christians who are apologists for hurricanes and earthquake death and destruction are also very sick. Some preach it. But that is just the tip of the iceberg while many just whisper it among themselves and to their children (“God deals in mysterious ways with the sins of evil people.”).

    @DJ :
    Yeah, I really don’t want anyone’s “ass kicked” — that limits the number of friends I can have.

    @JSA :
    You said you were “struggling to understand the relevance of the question.” Well, the relevance is because of a conversation with John Barron and several other fundie Christians at his site about Abortion, Death Penalty and Old Testament commands to wipe out towns and the whole planet (Noah’s purge). John claims that his god (Yahweh) does not kill innocents AND he thinks those stories are all true. So he has to tell us why they aren’t innocent or tell us why it is OK for Yahweh to kill innocents. I think he played both sides of the argument. He flounders because it is a weird thing to think, period.

    Concerning your last question. (1) First, I don’t think most believers have anywhere near a careful philosophy of morality (or of anything, for that matter). Heck, I truly think none of us have careful philosophy. (2) People hold contrary views without any problems — their mind cares not about “truth” but more about usefulness. They pull out the position which helps them the most at any given time. Thus tons of self-deceptive rationalizations and distractions are also simultaneously generated.
    So, in that sense of “think”, I can answer:
    “Yes, I think lots of folks think their Yahweh commanded genocide back then but wouldn’t now — yet Yahweh is unchanging.” And they would generate lots of stuff to support that if pushed. But remember, given the right situation, they may even agree that occasional natural disasters that happen to other folks, may be their god again purging the world (innocents being unfortunate collateral but justified for some odd reason). Yes, I think tons of Christians exist who fit that ticket. Sorry, my only data is lots of conversations.

    @ FreddieLoydCase:
    I have visited in person for years and still go occasionally on field trips. You are right, it broadens the experience immensely. That is what inspires many of my posts.

  37. Interesting alert:
    Coincidentally (or perhaps divinely orchestrated) Paul Myers just posted about visiting (in person) a Christian fundie group (“Creation Ministries of the Ozarks”) where their leader (Dr. Rod Butterworth):

    was trying to explain how the bloody god of the Old Testament really wasn’t such a bad fellow after all.

    “You don’t understand: all those people he had to kill, were horrible people. They deserved to be killed!”

    To which I replied, “But that’s exactly the excuse Hitler used to murder the Jews!”

    “No…” He seemed slightly nonplussed.

    One of Mattir’s spawn was there, and she explained to him that it was true, that Jews were accused of blood libel, and the Nazis claimed they used Jesus’ blood in evil rituals.

    “Oh, well, there probably were Jews who did that, who hated Christianity, and those Jews would have deserved it.”

    You could have knocked me flat with a feather.

    Unlike Myers, it would take a bulldozer to knock me over. I have heard sick beliefs like this for decades — it is hard to shake me when it comes to such folks. The problem is, they often hide in normal dress and have jobs right next to yours and never tell you what they really ‘think’.

  38. Thank you, Sabio, for your diplomacy regarding this discussion. You have far more patience than I do when it comes to exposing these contradictions. No matter how you present your case and apply some common sense, their answer usually involves a diversion, a different definition or some twisted justification. Simply put, the fundies are either too stubborn to admit they’re wrong or too stupid to realize it. There really is no way to sugar-coat it.

    They stand by their bible and everything in it; never conceding any contradictions; never acknowledging the blatant moral shortcomings; never even entertaining the notion that anything could be possibly wrong. They just tell you that you’re the one not reading it correctly, that you’re not interpreting it right and you’re just biblically illiterate. It really amazes me the amount of mental gymnastics they go through to maintain their beliefs.

    Personally, I acknowledge that there are some good messages in the book, but there are far too many ridiculous ones to give it too much credit. No matter what your intent is with any conversation with a believer, I find that this lack of critical examination is a show-stopper. Whether it is explicitly mentioned or merely implied, the foundation of the Christian’s belief lies in this flawed book.

    Yes, their god works in mysterious ways; killing innocents, pregnancy miscarriages, orchestrating mass genocide – but it’s all somehow justified. Oh yea, we’re not allowed to judge this divine entity by human standards. How convenient.

  39. FreddieLloydCase

    “Just came home after riding with the kids and raking leaves. I love Autumn!!”
    Sabio… You LOVE Autumn? Seriously, wouldn’t it be better if we made a few simple changes? Lets craft a season where the leaves rake themselves… Better yet, the leaves turn but stay on the trees! Yeah, and if we get enough votes, make enough persuasive arguments, perhaps Autumn will change itself into something more to everyone’s liking.

    Nevermind. I suspect Autumn doesn’t care much what we think. Love it or hate it, it will be here next year, just like always, dumping its dead leaves all over my yard. My back will probably hurt again when I rake. But then, when I finish, maybe I’ll go for another ride with the kids and the beauty of Autumn will reveal itself again.

  40. I have had similiar feelings and questions… especially in relation to the life of David as related in the Bible.

  41. JSA

    So your point is that you succeeded in flustering a random Internet fundie named John? That hardly seems noteworthy.

    When you brought up the Canaanite genocide in the context of God’s prohibition on murder, I thought you might be thinking of something like:

    A. “God prohibits murder, but God COMMANDED murder! ZOMFG! God’s morality is contradictory!”

    That objection doesn’t make any sense, though. Many people throughout history, including atheists, have believed that genocide is morally permissible in certain cases, while still believing that murder is wrong. Not only can a moral distinction between murder and genocide be made; such a distinction has been the norm for much of human history.

    I suppose you could respond that all of these people (including the atheists) were deluded. It’s conceivable that one of our ancestors is looking on from the afterlife right now and exclaiming, “OMG, Sabio is sooo right! How could I have been so stupid! Genocide involves killing, and murder is wrong, so genocide is always wrong!” Just imagine this dimwitted ancestor’s head exploding when he learns that stoning adulterers also involves killing!

    However, I don’t think it’s plausible that our ancestors were that dimwitted.

    The only other possible point I could imagine you making would be completely independent of the moral prohibition on murder:

    B. “Sure, people used to think genocide was morally permissible, but we know it’s wrong now. Therefore, God once commanded something immoral.”

    This objection falls flat on its face immediately, because your hapless fundie probably isn’t arguing in favor of genocide now, and we already have multiple examples of moral attitudes which are different today than yesterday. For example, we don’t stone people for adultery or Sabbath-skipping.

    So you would need to strengthen the objection to something like:

    C. “Sure, people used to think genocide was morally permissible, but we know it’s wrong now, therefore it was always wrong. Therefore, God once commanded something immoral.”

    Good luck defending that claim.

  42. @JSA

    I’m not quite sure about the point you’re trying to make. Are you saying that there was a time in history where we can consider genocide right? Hasn’t it always been wrong? That says a lot for Christian morality and the subjective nature of it if Christians don’t believe genocide has always been wrong.

  43. JSA

    @zqtx – The fact that many cultures prior to Christianity considered genocide to be morally permissible, and the fact that atheist cultures in modern times have considered genocide morally permissible, shows that it’s been a subjective matter throughout history, completely independent of the existence of Christianity.

    You seem to be assuming a level of moral absolutism that the average fundy wouldn’t even adopt. That has got to be pretty difficult to defend from an atheist perspective.

    Consider the example of eating meat. There is a strong chance that our distant descendants will find it utterly repugnant that we slaughter living creatures to eat their flesh. Many people today already reject eating meat. But does this mean that our ancient ancestors were immoral? At which point did they become immoral? Was it when they did what came naturally to them and ate the meat? Or what it when the first 10% of the world population adopted vegetarianism as a moral principle? Or will our ancestors remain moral right up until the point that world sentiment shifts to a tipping point of 99.9% of people condemning meat-eating?

    You can’t use modern moral consensus as your compass for a “universal” morality and then judge the past by it, because the modern moral consensus changes.

  44. I believe morality to be somewhat relative, whereas many Christians would state them as absolute and universal. I would be interested in hearing more about which “atheist cultures” in modern times you feel consider genocide permissible. I hope you’re not trying to assert that Nazi Germany was an atheist state. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Nazi_Germany, just in case)

    Are you equating eating meat to morality? I appreciate the analogy, but I fail to see the link between the two unless you are endorsing equality between man and the rest of the animal kingdom. Are carnivores or omnivores immoral?

    Sabio’s original question is a valid one. How does a Christian justify Yahweh’s constant killing of innocents, whether it be commanded or performed by he himself?

  45. @ JSA
    Sorry if my post was not “noteworthy” to you.
    As I said, lots of Christians believe this nasty stuff. It is important to illustrate preposterous thinking especially when those holding it are fighting for their theocracy to rule our country.
    To tell you the truth, after all you have written, I still have no idea what you believe on the subject. Maybe you should do a post on your site telling us: “My Theology on: How to make sense of the reported Mass-Killings-by-God in the Old Testament”.

    I have thought of writing a post on the “Ways to Explain Mass Killing by Yahweh”. I’d imagine there are at least 10 common ways. But not sure I have the time, endurance or interest. Especially since Yahweh is a totally made up story anyway!

    @ Jessica
    Lots of people have written both about the Myth of David and about how such a corrupt King could be valued so much to expect a Messiah to come from him.

    @ zqtx
    Actually, I don’t think I was too diplomatic. Like you, I agree, sometimes you just have to stop conversing when deadlocks are reached. But it is nice to know where you disagree. But as you say, when people are slippery, even that is impossible.

    As for the Bible, it is not a book — well, it is a bunch of books gathered together under the false pretense of being one book. Each individual work in it has very different purposes. So, to call the bible a “flawed book” is to buy into their flawed view of the Bible as a Homogenous work. We need to be focused on (1) Their misunderstanding of the nature of that compilation of works or (2) Specific points within books or about specific books.

    @ Freddie
    You have to be straightforward to me. I won’t waste my time guessing at allusions or analogies. I’m not bright enough to catch subtleties.

  46. JSA

    @zqtx – I don’t think any Christians argue that genocide is morally permissible today, so it’s not true to say that Christians are absolutist on the topic of the original post. It seems that you and Sabio are the ones being absolutist about it. I’m curious what non-theistic basis you would have for being absolutist about genocide, especially since you are bucking the historical moral norms of human society.

    The analogy to vegetarianism was meant to show that morality evolves. Every living person is descended from genocide, prostitution, rape, and slavery. It’s great that those things are in our past. Maybe in the future, you and Sabio will be seen as immoral savages by our ancestors who have the luxury of being even more morally evolved than us.

    @Sabio – By “hardly noteworthy”, I was trying to be tactful. You were playing a “gotcha” game with someone who is clearly your intellectual inferior, and then boasting about how you tripped him up. You could trip up random fundies all day long, but it wouldn’t demonstrate that your “gotcha” question is logical or valid. It would just show that you enjoy picking on weaker people.

    I’d be happy to provide you with a list of potential theistic responses if you would clarify what your challenge is. I assume that it’s not “A” or “B” above. Is it accurate to say that your challenge is:

    C. “Sure, people used to think genocide was morally permissible, but we know it’s wrong now, therefore it was always wrong. Therefore, God once commanded something immoral.”

    Please revise if necessary to accurately reflect what you’re trying to say, and I’ll proceed.

  47. @JSA – So it appears that you’ve proven my point. In my experiences, Christians condescendingly denounce moral relativism, yet you try to slough off genocide as acceptable back in the day. Just own it. The record of non-theists on the subject throughout history is simply unclear – I just said that my personal moral compass is somewhat relative and that still has nothing to do with the original question. That’s just another distraction.

    More to the point, Christians do not have an evolving morality. It is literally carved in stone. It is unwavering. What’s wrong today is just as wrong as it was back then and vice versa. Christians just get rather selective on what they choose to apply their morality to. As long as their imaginary friend endorses it I suppose it’s all right.

    Yes, we all are a result of all the crap that’s happened before us.
    (sarcasm) Some would call it a miracle. (/sarcasm)

  48. @ zqtx
    There are many different types of Christians. Many different positions.

    Actually, the people I am addressing are those who declare themselves righteous and secure in a superior moral position. It is this position I am trying to show as inconsistent, self-deceptive or a lie.

    My position on the story is that genocide stories were common back then and, even when false, were use to preach a message of superiority. So it would be no surprise that yet another made-up deity would be attributed such stories. But to try to make that deity consistent with their new revised deity of thousands of years later would take perversions of logic or more lie or more myths.

    But that is a nonbeliever’s perspective (and I am sure their are others). I am mildly curious if people have compiled a list of the various ways people have tried to make the stories of the old-testament-killing god consistent with their new-testament-mercy god (of course the Revelations-killing god is another story). The point is, Christians come in all flavors and each component of their Christian theology has different options thus making many permutations. Here are three examples where spelled out the main options:
    (1) Atonement Theology
    (2) Soteriology
    (3) Eschatology

    So, my question is, what are the main options for “Theocidology” — Beliefs about Why Yahweh Kills.

  49. @ JSA
    Also, I don’t consider myself an intellectual superior to the guys I was debating. I am very comfortable with my defects and pretty aware of them. I have huge intellectual holes and lack of abilities. But I can not tolerate self-righteousness and will jump in even if I feel I am may not have the intellectual background of the debater. “Picking on weaker people” was not even on my radar. I think you grossly misunderstand me.

  50. JSA

    What’s wrong today is just as wrong as it was back then and vice versa.

    You’re describing Christians who exist only in your imagination. The truth is, it’s considered wrong to stone adulterers, but it wasn’t back then. It’s considered wrong to stone Sabbath-skippers, but it wasn’t back then. It’s considered wrong to commit genocide against non-Jews, but it wasn’t back then. Slavery was considered wrong, but it wasn’t back then. Polygamy is considered wrong, but it wasn’t back then. And we could go on down the list.

    BTW, both Jewish and Christian faiths have always had official mechanisms by which “what’s wrong” can adapt with the times. If you know of any significant Jewish or Christian populations who are pro-stoning, pro-genocide, pro-slavery, and pro-polygamy; let me know. Otherwise, admit that morals change with the times.

    FWIW, you seem to be reacting against someone who told you that atheists are moral relativists. I was once a militant atheist, so I know how it feels. But the appropriate way to combat this is to point out how Christian morals change. The proper response is not to pretend that Christians still consider stoning, polygamy, or genocide to be morally permissible. That is so obviously false that it just makes you look irrational.

  51. JSA


    I think I could come up with much more plausible atheist explanations for the genocide stories, but yours is plausible enough.

    Regarding “Theocidology”, the topic is far too vague. The question, “Why does Yaweh kill people?” only makes sense if you presume that all humans have an inalienable right to eternal life. Is that really what your question is?

    Or is it something more specific, like: “Why does Yaweh prohibit murder, but command adulterers to be stoned? Isn’t that contradictory?”

    Or is is instead something like “Why did Yaweh command genocide, when genocide punishes children who have not sinned?”

    Basically, there is no way to construct a theodicy without knowing exactly what supposed evil the theodicy is supposed to address. So I need to know what, exactly, you’re objecting to. And if you’re objecting to all death, that’s fine — I just need you to be specific.

  52. @JSA
    I think we have gone far enough here. You again asked me ” So I need to know what, exactly, you’re objecting to.” I already told you: I am objecting to John Barron’s self-righteous logic (and those like him). But you tell us you don’t care about his particular logic — you don’t care about the post. You think I am silly picking on him. You just care about the title of the post and have many issues you’d like to discuss.

    Well, zqtx and you may continue but your conversation is not mine. I know how hard it can be to try to carry on more than one argument at a time and I find zqtx’s argument to broad and again, it is not mine. I think I will take my little idea (even if only “plausible enough”) and post on it in another post sometime. Please join me there.

  53. @JSA – Please understand that the morality of atheists is not the topic of discussion here. I only bring up Christian morality because the theist bloggers I have experienced seem to assert their morality is not relative and that their god’s laws have not and have never changed.

    You have made it abundantly clear that even Christian morality is relative.

    If you want a specific argument on Yahweh’s killing of innocents, consider this:
    I hear Christians oppose abortion because they claim it kills an innocent human life. Isn’t it somewhat contradictory that Yahweh aborts more pregnancies than humans could ever be responsible for?

  54. JSA

    I only bring up Christian morality because the theist bloggers I have experienced seem to assert their morality is not relative and that their god’s laws have not and have never changed.

    I hope I’ve given you an adequate response for this now. If someone says that god’s laws have never changed, you can simply respond with a one-sentence reductio by asking, “So, you believe that slavery, genocide, stoning, and polygamy are morally permissible today?” It’s really not worth discussing things with people who are unhinged from reality.

    I hear Christians oppose abortion because they claim it kills an innocent human life. Isn’t it somewhat contradictory that Yahweh aborts more pregnancies than humans could ever be responsible for?

    Well, Yaweh aborts 100% of pregnancies; if not before birth, then within 70 years or so after birth. So your question could be expanded to ask “Why does Yaweh get away with killing every single human that ever lived, but we’re not allowed to kill anyone at all, no matter how evil that person is?”

    IOW, you’re pointing out a massive asymmetry in what Yaweh is morally permitted versus what people are morally permitted.

    As an aside, I’ve always found it hypocritical that the same people who oppose abortion are often those who support the death penalty. As far as I can see, the Bible doesn’t prohibit abortion (and traditional Jewish law was that killing a fetus in the first or second trimester was a property crime; not murder). And there is no way that the Bible supports the death penalty. But I am admittedly outside of mainstream on this particular issue.

    Now, in your response to the question about asymmetry, there are several possible points a theist could raise. I don’t think any of them are slam-dunks, BTW:

    1) What rights does a creator owe to her creation? On one extreme, one could say that we are made in the image of God, so we are as different from God as a clay statue is different from a sculptor. On the other extreme, Genesis suggests that the only thing separating us from God (post-garden) is our mortality, suggesting that we’re more than just clay pots in relation to God. But the general point is that we aren’t obviously owed the right to eternal life. I’m not aware of any good philosophical arguments supporting that claim that all individual humans are owed eternal life.

    2) Due to some imperfection passed down from our common ancestors, we bear some defect in our very nature which disqualifies us from the right to eternal life. This argument depends on the assumption that only perfect beings are qualified for eternal life, and that all humans are imperfect in the relevant way.

    3) Living, for any amount of time, is better than never having lived at all. The fact that anyone gets to live at all is a great good. (This is definitely controversial, and I’m skeptical, but many atheist philosophers hold to this).

    4) What’s wrong with dying, anyway? Atheists like Hitchens have argued that eternal life is immoral, in effect asking, “What right does Yaweh have to not kill people!” He and others argue that life in heaven would be excruciatingly boring, and annihilation would be preferable. We all have the experience of “dying” every night when we fall asleep, and I can’t imagine any of us freaking out if we never woke up. Maybe that makes me autistic, but I think neurotypical people may be irrational about this.

    5) We don’t know what rewards each person gets in the afterlife, but God seems to offer eternal life to at least a subset of people who die. So perhaps our mortal lives are a tiny price to pay in relation to the ultimate eternity.

    6) The trajectory of human evolution seems to be one of increasing peace and prosperity for an increasing number of people. God has promised that the human population will number as the stars of the sky. A world with 300 sextillion souls being replenished every generation, and living in wealth far beyond what we can imagine, might be worth the relative misery that a tiny number of us have experienced in getting to that point.

  55. JSA

    I already told you: I am objecting to John Barron’s self-righteous logic (and those like him).

    I think that both of you were being self-righteous and illogical. You didn’t win because you were more logical, you just won because you’re better at arguing and more familiar with the territory.

    Responding to unwarranted self-righteousness with self-righteousness is great, but doing it in an unwarranted way is a hollow victory. Unlike him, I think you’re capable of logically responding to him, and I was hoping to goad you into doing that.

  56. FreddieLloydCase

    Sabio… I just find it fascinating to peek in on (a “field trip” as you call it) those that posture such philosophical outrage against Christians (who they obviously disdain) using an account (which I’m sure they find spurious) of an event recorded in a book (which I doubt they consider historically valid) about the apparent moral ambiguity of a Being they either despise or dismiss outright.

    That’s why I  couldn’t resist commenting on your parenthetical, “I love Autumn”…  The bigoted and totally intolerable, “I love the God of the bible” gets a serious, furrowed-brow woodshedding, while the ever popular,  “I love Autumn”, escapes unscathed. Hilarious! We always choose cuteness over beauty.

    BTW, If you ever tire of beating up on caricatures, I’d suggest, “Notes from a Tilt-a-Whirl” by Nate Wilson. You’ll argue with him too, but the book does offer a more nuanced (and definitely more entertaining) argument IMHO. Careful though… Lots of allusions and analogies.

    Cheers.. Freddie

  57. @JSA – I appreciate your advice, but my attempts using that reply in the past have led to the theist defending those atrocities and accusing me of taking those bible passages and events out of context. As for your somewhat unique definition of abortion, you have definitely given me an answer I have never considered. Since abortion in most conversations means the termination of a pregnancy, i.e. before birth, I guess your statement doesn’t really make sense.

    Regarding your list, you merely point out the absurdity of the notion of eternal existence, whether it is eternal life with your imaginary friend or eternal torment in damnation without your imaginary friend. On what facts to you assert that this eternal state even exists?

    This is quite a diversion away from the original question regarding the killing of innocents.

    It’s really simple:

    1. The unborn are considered by Christians to be innocents and as such, have concluded that abortion (defined as termination of a pregnancy) is immoral and a sin against god.
    2. God routinely performs abortions.

    Dress it up however you like. There’s a contradiction here. If you believe that god exists, it either leaves us with an immoral deity or we make some excuse to justify the behavior. Any attempt to derail the conversation is just a distraction.

  58. JSA

    You’re confused about why “pro-life” Christians oppose abortion. They don’t oppose it because the unborn baby is “innocent”. They oppose it because the unborn baby is “alive”, in their opinion. IOW, they think it is murder.

    If it was a matter of “innocence”, then presumably they would support mothers killing children who have committed a crime, and that’s just absurd.

    The innocence of the person being killed is irrelevant. God kills *everyone* eventually, whether guilty or innocent, and we humans aren’t allowed to kill anyone, even if they’re guilty. In fact, God killing innocents is the more trivial case of Sabio’s “theocidy”, since most anyone would prefer to enter the afterlife as innocent as possible, rather than be kept in a world where guilt is a constant danger.

  59. No, I’m pretty sure my definitions are correct from the conversations I’ve had.

    I like the fact that you’ve redefined the word to make it seem irrelevant, though.

    It’s an interesting perspective you have about god eventually killing everything that lives instead of seeing it as a life cycle like the rest of us.

    It’s just a peek into the theist’s mind….

    Good luck with that – Happy Thanksgiving and good night.

  60. JSA

    This has nothing to do with “definitions”. You realize that there is a difference between a definition and reason, don’t you? It’s pretty easy to find out why people oppose abortion. “Abortion is murder”, and “life begins at conception” are the two most common slogans of the pro-life folks. And they’re called “pro-life”, not “pro-innocence”. This is not the sort of thing where you get to save face by saying “let’s agree to disagree”. It’s a simple matter of fact.

    And I’ve already addressed your objection even if we concede, for sake of argument, that pro-life is the same as “pro-innocence”. Here is the response:

    A) God is permitted to kill innocent people, while humans are not allowed to kill innocent people. So?

    B) God is permitted to kill all people, while humans are not allowed to kill any people. So?

    You seem to be thinking that both A and B are immoral, but you haven’t even attempted to explain why. It’s as if you have a case of moral Tourette’s where you’ve imagined some weird absolutist morality (“But Mommy! God can kill innocent people but I can’t! It’s not fair!). And so you involuntarily scream, “It’s not fair!”, without having any reason whatsoever for saying it.

    Pray tell, why is it unfair that God can kill innocents, but you cannot?

    And FWIW, among the potential responses to your cries of “It’s not fair!“, items #3, #5, and #6 above were all variations of “life cycle”, and #2 was about “corporate” culpability as opposed to individual. If you think that “life cycle” supports your case, you need to provide specific reasons; not just repeatedly exclaim your personal prejudice.

  61. @ Freddie
    Thanx for the referral to Nelson’s book “Tilt-A-Whirl“. The reviews are mixed, of course. It appears that he is a postmodernist, progressive Christian whose prose is full of confusing, fuzzy metaphors. (that is from some of the negative reviews).
    I must admit, when I started this blog, I really had not heard of Christians like Rob Bell (“The Gods aren’t Angry”) and Peter Rollins (“How not to speak of God”) and found some of their thinking interesting in contrast to fundamentalists. (here is an interview of these two)
    I am not sure of course, but maybe you could tell us.
    There are so many different Christians and different spins on God, it helps to have someone declare their versions, can be helpful.
    If you’d like to send me this book, I would be glad to give it a look.

  62. Earnest

    I’m trying hard not to view this as an internet version of a bar-fight. At times the name-calling has degenerated to that level (especially back on the original post). Sabio, I am tempted to hold you to account because you keep sallying forth out beyond the confines of Triangulations, sword in hand, trying to save the Saved. Dude, you can’t succeed. Although it is somewhat entertaining for me, this is from someone who is also entertained by mixed martial arts matches. I see similarities.

    @ JSA: your defense of Yahweh is the most effective I have seen on both websites combined. However, do we not now have King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Murderer of Murderers? If your God can just snuff anybody at His whim, and simply hide behind the tissue paper of “mysteriousness”, well fine. Logically you got me there, but your God is now immersed in a serious relevence problem for me. I think your God, as constructed, is a defective product that does not lead me by example. I will pass on this transaction and move on to a vendor with a lower christology model that better fits my life leadership needs.

  63. Hey Earnest

    The conversation got mixed up with lots of speakers and lots of different issues. I stopped participating because the thread moved away from my intent. I agree with Ian’s points. But I am letting JSA and zqtx have it out since it is another issue of theirs.

    Meanwhile, I plan to follow up along the same course in coming posts. This post reveals the varieties of opinions out there about how to explain why god kill.

  64. Ian

    As JSA has pointed out, Christians don’t spend time worrying about the immorality of God. I’ve pointed out different ways to justify the central issue here, there are many more. Smorgasbord theology is very common. You pick a reason here, and a justification there, and hope the result works together. But the result is also about as intellectually shallow and self-deceptive as a platful of meatballs and fruitcake.

    The hard task is to come up with a consistent model of God. If you want to say that God isn’t susceptible to human moral standards – then follow that through your moral theory (turns out to be disastrous to most naive moral theories of faith). If you say God is justified in killing the evil even by consensus moral standards, follow that through to what it means for morality today. If you say theological morality changes over time, follow that through. And so on, and so on.

    It is very tough to come up with a consistent view on even one issue such as this, much less a complete set of doctrines of God. Developing a systematic theology is very hard, and there have been no more than 10 in Christian history who’ve even got close to doing it. Fewer still who’ve ended up with a God recognizable to orthodox Christianity.

    It is exhilarating to see it done well though.

    I’ve been battling for 3 years now to design a systematic theology. In that time I’ve read dozens of them. Even Barth, in my opinion the greatest theological mind of the last 150 years, consistently refused to claim that he’d managed to create a consistent system of theology. Most fail for lack of courage: courage to actually follow through with something you claim about God all the way. Not to bottle out when the immediate problem is avoided – to have the courage to say “if this were true, what would it mean.” and to not pull punches with the answers.

    Ultimately the value of discussions like this one is to point out how hard (nearer impossible) it is to be consistent about one’s theology. And how little most believers care about whether their beliefs make sense.

    This, surely, is the point. Not which ad-hoc rationalisations each side wants to pin on the other. But that they are ad-hoc fig leaves.

  65. Very well said, Ian. Thank you.

  66. JSA

    @Earnest – I don’t think there is any need to hide behind mystery in this case. Zqtx is essentially saying:

    “Your God can take innocent people up to spend an eternity in paradise with him whenever he wants, but we aren’t allowed to kill innocents, ever? LOL, your God is a hypocrite!”

    The complaint is so silly on its face, the burden of proof should be on the complainer to show why it’s even worth taking seriously.

    @Ian – Making a flawless systematic theology is incredibly hard, and by the time you do it, the world changes. But I don’t think this issue rises anywhere near that level of difficulty. It certainly could get to that point, and I could raise several objections around this topic that would expose legitimate problems in Christian theology. But I haven’t seen anything rising to that level on this thread.

  67. Ian

    “The complaint is so silly on its face.”

    To be fair, I think it was the imaginary lolspeak that made it silly on its face.

    The initial version was merely fallacious.

    Though related to an interesting argument about medical care and medical research, given that pre-birth fatality is incredibly high (between 25% and 50% fatality rate, depending on the estimate). An chain of argument I’ve not yet had the opportunity to rehearse with anyone who wants to start from a theistic position, yet.

  68. Ian

    “But I don’t think this issue rises anywhere near that level of difficulty.”

    I read Sabio’s initial skirmish on John’s blog as being about consistency. Maybe I was reading something into it, but it seems Sabio has agreed here that was his motivation too.

    I would never expect Christians to give a systematic account of their theology. I’d be amazed if they did.

    And I think your reading of the intellectual disparity was right.

    But despite all that, I do think it is useful sometimes to point out to folks (like John) who thinks he’s all reasonable and consistent, that he’s not. And the root of the question Sabio raised, i.e. Euthyphro should be one of the first question that anyone claiming a reasonable account of the morality of God should have to answer. It certainly has functioned that way through the history of thought.

    I would hope I didn’t get soft-balled by my intellectual superiors when I made untenable claims too.

  69. @ Ian:

    (1) What does “the imaginary lolspeak” mean?

    (2) What does “soft-balled” mean?

    (3) You said:

    I read Sabio’s initial skirmish on John’s blog as being about consistency.

    You are right. And I told JSA that a couple times — but I think JSA had other issues he needed to get off his chest.

    John Barron makes a pretense of having a type of systematic theology — it is that which I am confronting: “I understand the world and God and here is how it goes!”

    And John is not alone in this regard by any stretch of the imagination.

  70. Ian

    lolspeak = insertion of LOL, or ROFL – JSA inserted that in zq’s comments to make them sound more silly.

    Softball = not hardball ? My ball-sport metaphors might be off.

  71. gottcha. thanx. I think zqtx needs to set up a site soon. He has a lot to say and would probably get lots of bites.

  72. JSA

    Regarding the imaginary lolspeak, the complaint is hardly less silly without it. I’d be happy to engage any reasoning you have based on pre-birth fatality, though; it sounds like it might be interesting.

    I totally get that Sabio was responding to what he saw as self-righteous inconsistency. But he seemed to be doing it in a rather self-righteous and inconsistent way. I agree that Euthyphro would have been an interesting place for the conversation to go, but Sabio wasn’t even close to tripping over it accidentally. Even in his summary of theist responses in this post, he seems to have missed DCT, which is the only place where Euthyphro has any traction.

  73. Ian

    “I’d be happy to engage any reasoning you have based on pre-birth fatality, though; it sounds like it might be interesting.”

    Probably best for another venue. Rather than further muddying these waters. Despite alluding to theism when I raised it, it isn’t (in my mind) an argument about God either way.

  74. Earnest

    @ Ian: Agree with Sabio that your summary was quite elegant. Also, if I were to read a single book or article by Barth, what should that be?

    @ Sabio: agree, there have been divergent tracks of thought here, and agree we need to get together sometime.

    @ JSA: but I disagree. I think “mysteriousness” is at the center of my problem with this whole thing.

    Imagine me standing, Book of Job in hand, asking the heavens, “why do maximally bad things happen to maximally good or maximally innocent people?” And all I get back as a response is “the Lord moves in mysterious ways”.

    My gut reaction continues to be to shout “please don’t try to feed me that hopelessly tired garbage again, it tasted bad the last time I tried to swallow it”. JSA, speaking as one Christian to another, “mysterious ways” for me is a cop-out. If we disagree, perhaps your christology is simply higher than mine and therefore there can be no agreement, and I will just have to live with that.

    I want to worship Christus Victor, not Cthulhu Victor. I praise the one, I flee the other. Please examine closely the repulsive features of the God that you demand that we perceive as the real deal.

    I concede that, as Ian mentioned, forming a durable yet attractive God may be an impossible task for us humans.

  75. JSA

    @Earnest – You’re right about Job. Job is far more difficult than the miscarriage vs, abortion issue. As I mentioned, I could come up with a handful of others that are legitimately challenging.

  76. Ian


    It’s always difficult, I think, to get a sense of what a theologian is about by reading their stuff, paradoxical as that sounds. If you want to get a handle on Barth, then summary articles about him are better. There’s a volume called “The modern theologians” (Blackwell) which has a good overview of his position and significance. After that it’s probably worth actually venturing into his Work. His commentary on romans is his seminal work that establishes his concerns. His major work on systematics is his church dogmatics, but that is huge.

  77. Max


    Really enjoyed both this thread and the one it refers to. It inspired me to engage Mr. Barron in a little exchange of my own. I must say the man is at least a good sport about posting dissenting comments. Especially considering my first one was not too diplomatic. (I’ve gotten nicer)

  78. @ Max
    He will post what you write, but I noticed that in your conversation with him he kept hurling insults at me, as he did at Ian. You did get nicer. Good job.

  79. @Ernest: A great overview of Barth by Barth would be “Dogmatics in Outline.” A super condensed version of the massive Dogmatics series.

  80. Earnest

    Thanks Luke!

  81. Earnest

    Also thanks Ian I think I may read the Blackwell chapter before the other suggested readings.

  82. Chris

    Hey Buddy you are completely wrong on something. You are missing the key, who is JESUS. Of course that YHWH was doing at his pleasure anything with humankind since ADAN disobeyer. That’s why all men since born are sinner. So the condenmation of sin is death. All these is at the bible. So there were no right in front of YHWH so everybody was comdemned. THAT’S IS WHY JESUS CAME TO PAY FOR THE SINS. SO NO MORE SLAUGHTER WE ARE CLEAN. THESE ARE THE NEWS!! DONT GO BACK TO THE PAST

  83. @ Max: That was funny. I almost deleted Chris’ babbling nonsense but I decided to leave it for humor sake. He helps illustrate so why we write against this stuff.

  84. Max

    I’m still trying to figure out what an ADAN disobeyer is.

  85. It is like the “I am the Walrus” lyrics — don’t try! (re: your post)

  86. Max

    Maybe the answer is in there to who killed Paul?

  87. Gary

    Late to the conversation.

    I have been searching for the quote and cannot find it so forgive me for throwing it out there anonymously and probably quite butchered. Perhaps someone here knows this statement and can source it for me?

    “To a people of war, their god will be a god of war. To a people of peace, their god will be a god of peace.”

    None the less it speaks to my view pertaining the atrocities present in the bible. I do not believe God actually ordered genocide or the killing of innocents. In fact since I am a believer that Jesus is the revelation of God, I have come to believe that which is contrary to His revealed nature is a pollution to the scripture.

    Still finding nuggets in your blog Sabio…

  88. Gary

    forgot notification switch…grrrr.

  89. Max


    I tried to find the source by googling it, but no luck. It’s a wonderful quote and it explains so much. What I did find by googling it does not reflect well on Biblical Christianity. It seems there are many who are drawn to the creed to glory in death and destruction.

  90. Gary


    So if we can’t find it…do I get to take credit for it? grin

    Once I realized the bible was not perfect or inerrant my faith became much stronger. Someplace in the midst of the Christian faith (not meant to be an exclusionary statement) I believe there is a great truth. Sadly, most Christians gladly accept the untruths they are fed in their churches. This may be what Jesus was referring to regarding the broad and narrow paths.

  91. Max

    It’s all your’s Gary.

    I consider myself an atheist in the sense of not having a belief in God rather than having an absolute surety that God does not exist. I find this entirely compatible with understanding that Jesus was a brilliant spiritual teacher. I believe he was not alone in this, as the man known as the Buddha had a lot of pretty good ideas too, as did many many others; some more famous than others.

    The big problem I have with most teachings is the divisive, all or nothing aspect. It seems so tribalistic. Shouldn’t humanity be getting a little more sophisticated than that by now?

  92. Gary


    “Shouldn’t humanity be getting a little more sophisticated than that by now?”

    Indeed! Of course in this present Internet age I believe we are seeing much progress. So easy though to focus on those among us who are not just exclusionary, but militantly so. But hey, I am a former exclusionary fundamental bible believing baptist. Clearly progress is being made.

    I have a high degree of respect for your type of atheism. It has always seemed to me that an atheist who declares with certainty that there is no god and only fools believe in one, is operating on the same type of “faith” as the believer who declares that a “fool says in his heart there is no god”.

  93. Max

    Yes, that’s the form of exclusionary fundamentalism I went through. Looks like we’re meeting in the middle.

  94. @ Gary :
    Yes, you are a heretic or sorts. So you don’t believe whole sections of the OT had anything to do with your god. Are you a Marcionite? I had one of those on my site once.

    @ Max & Gary
    Little off topic, but, I think those distinctions between atheist is really hard to pin down and lead to much unnecessary misunderstandings. Consider (a) & (b)

    (a) I strongly believe their is not a buggy-man that kills eat people while they sleep. To strongly not believe that does not seem any less virtuous than saying, “Well, I have no evidence he doesn’t exist but I think he doesn’t”. Sometimes we just have to take a stance. And to think there is someone in the sky who will take care of you in time of trouble or who you can supplicate for miracles to me is just nonsense — if you call that “God”, I don’t believe in it, no doubts.

    (b) But if you make “God” fuzzier and can’t pin her down, then the conversation gets fuzzy.

    I am a fundamentalist exclusionary (of imagined beings) but not of real people. We don’t want to mix terms here.

  95. Max

    I will take a vigorous stance against the buggy man. I’m also inclined to lean against the ‘fuzzier’ God if it’s synonymous with unconditioned consciousness, which seems to be the god many spiritualists are inclined toward. My fave Buddhist teacher Stephen Bachelor thinks this is is exactly the concept the Buddha was trying to avoid with his concept of awakening. Consciousness must always be “of something” or it’s not really consciousness. It may be blissful, possibly even highly beneficial, but not awake to the world in the way he thought was most liberating and conducive to compassion.

    I guess , if you get right down to it, I believe as the supposedly militant atheist Richard Dawkins does, that ‘God’ almost certainly does not exist. Do I believe that Christianity is worthless? No, not at all. It’s worth quite a lot to those for whom it gives their lives meaning. It just doesn’t work to give my life meaning, largely because of its exclusionary characteristics.

  96. Gary


    I would not say they do not have “anything” to do with my God as it is clearly history of the nation of Israel and the Christian faith. I would simply say that the belief that God told them to utterly destroy every living thing, including pregnant women and children and animals, as well as other clearly unloving actions and laws, was more about what they thought about God as opposed to what He wanted from them. In other words those things are the invention of men rather than the word of God. Warring people, warring God. I am thus not a Marcionite in the sense that I do not believe in a lower wrathful god as it were…rather the human tendency to interpret and define God in our own image. This is the chief reason I strive to figure out who Jesus really was and filter the the bible through that lens of revelation. Not an easy task considering the corruption of the bible due to man’s meddling, but it is my goal none the less.

    I am intrigued that you think an exclusionary stance among Christians is so different than one among atheists. Of course we agree that one side is ultimately right…either God exists or He doesn’t…but as for the bias and behavior of the exclusionary mindset there are certainly many similarities. BTW – I cease to be fuzzy in whether or not I believe God exists, just as you do, so in that sense alone we are both quite fundamental.

  97. @ Max:
    I essentially agree. I thought you were saying something else.

    @ Gary:
    I think you are mixing terms. Consider these three uses of exclusive:

    (1) The following is exclusive Soteriology: “You have to believe what I do and your behavior doesn’t matter or you are going to Hell and burning for eternity.”

    (2) The following is exclusive Beerology: Kids under 21 are not allowed to drink beer.

    (3) The following is exclusive Nukology: Nations who believe other nations should be annihilated should not be allowed to have nuclear weapons.

    I think exclusion is OK at times. So I am not an “anti-exclusionist”. You were playing with the word and mixing terms. You can’t separate the adjective from the phrase I was using it with.

    I didn’t say if you believe in God you will burn forever in Hell. Did I?

  98. @ Gary,
    It is a difficult job to figure out what part of the Bible (OT or NT) agrees with your intuitions of what God or Jesus should teach, eh?

  99. Gary


    Note that I also did not say if you don’t believe in God you will burn in Hell. I was referring to the behavior of exclusivists. And as for the difficulty of figuring out which parts of the bible…you bet it is. Though I find the task easier then believing in the literal infallability of it. And is this not the part and parcel of the search for enlightenment?

  100. @ Gary,

    But I was talking about a specific type of exclusivism, not exclusivists in general. That is my point. It is a common informal fallacy called ambiguity (redefinition) fallacy that I find happens often in these sort of discussion. Perhaps we are misunderstanding each other, though.

  101. Gary

    Yeah I understand you I think. And then I broadened the point to draw some similarities between the common behaviors. Exclusivists (soteriologically speaking) judge others by what they believe concerning God and eternity. As a result they form opinions about them that affect how they perceive each other. I understand that for some people of faith this means they think they will burn in hell. But my point is that if there is no hell or god, then what really concerns you is what they think of you…not whether or not you will actually roast, right?

    I am saying that Exclusivism among atheists produces the same result in that it forms the basis for what they think about others. I have been mocked countless times by atheists who have no qualms about insulting the intelligence of anyone who believes in the existence of god. It feels a lot like the condescension that can often flow in the opposite direction.

  102. Hey Gary,
    You said,

    I am saying that Exclusivism among atheists produces the same result in that it forms the basis for what they think about others.

    And that is the important distinction I am trying to make. “Exclusive soteriology” led to the torture of the inquisition, wars between countries and, in my mundane life, Christians telling their kids not to play with mine. By extracting the word “exclusive” and saying,

    “Well, you atheists are exclusive too! You think you are right about their being no god. You make fun of me.”

    is a profane comparison and a rhetoric move which capitalizes on combining at least two informal logical fallacies: (1) Ambiguity and (2) Tu Quoque

    To tell people who believe in Astrology that they are silly and wrong, is nothing like telling your children to avoid them and to hate countries that believe in astrology or worse, to torture people out of their belief in Astrology.

    I am not trying to attack you personally, I just have heard this argument several times by Christians and have taken this moment to show how it is a illogical distraction. Call me “harsh”, call me “exclusive” but I would still love to share a beer and let our kids play together.

  103. Gary


    Do not think that I am in any way attempting to minimize the horrors committed by religion over the centuries. This would not be a correct assessment of my thought process.

    I thought we had broadened the discussion to include present day relationships between individuals attempting to find common ground. My statements were neither “profane” nor a simple “rhetoric” move.

    I am not trying to be defensive her Sabio, but if you will not allow dialogue that may offer a point of view contrary to yours without resorting to such terms…then what is the point of pursuing the discussion any further?

  104. @ Gary
    Yes, I don’t think you were trying to minimize the horrors committed by religion over the years. I was just pointing out that using the Tu Quoque argument sneaks in that notion whether you intended it or not.

    You said, ” … if you wil not allow dialogue that may offer a point of view contrary to yours without resorting to such terms ….”

    Again, it is not personal, I am pointing at the logical fallacies and the rhetoric they support. I don’t think it was intentional. I think disagreeing and showing why, is important. Again, I have heard your argument used by others several times. Equating atheists who hold strong opinions with exclusivist Christians (meaning, soteriological exclusivism) is a logical fallacy. Again, this is not personal.

  105. Gary

    I get it…I really do. My point stands, largely because it was a different aspect of the broad picture of human relations; not because I was attempting to equate torture and war to telling someone they are “silly and wrong” as you somewhat fallaciously suggest. If you believe that the discussion needs to be limited to the extreme consequences of exclusiveness (I.E. “torture of the inquisition, wars between countries”) that has been the result of soteriological exclusivism then I will leave you to it.

    If however you would like to have a discussion on the impact of exclusivism upon human relationships across differing belief paradigms (of which soteriologial exclusivism is one example) then let me know. I would be very interested in exploring such a topic. Perhaps another thread would be more suited?

    (I have never written the words soteriological exclusivism so many times in one place in my entire life…grin)

  106. @ Gary
    Yeah, I never undertook to talk about the term “exclusivism” in general — and in fact find it too broad to be useful — sort of like “freedom”.

    Anyway, I would say that telling someone they are wrong and even making fun of them (“insulting their intelligence”) for that thought is not being “exclusive”. Ideally people can keep their criticism from being personal, but sometimes the stakes are just too high!🙂

  107. Gary


    You said, “Yeah, I never undertook to talk about the term “exclusivism” in general — and in fact find it too broad to be useful — sort of like “freedom”.”

    Uhm yeah…I kind of figured that was your stance when you reigned Max in as he and I were having what I thought was a productive dialogue.

  108. Gary

    @ Sabio,

    Reviewed your opening comments here again and this statement of yours struck a chord with me…

    “But the comment thread shows why he indeed does need his Bible – because he (and other fundies) don’t make sense without it. [or even with it]. OK, I realize this is a total waste of time and generic so I ask my readers for forgiveness. But sometimes, I just can’t help myself and go back to look at a world I left behind.”

    For the record…I too can’t help but go back and look at that world I left behind. We may differ in many things…but in this we are of one accord.

    While I do believe in God…I do NOT believe those fundies are representative of His nature…nor are the passages in question. That’s right…I think the prophets infused their own blood lust into God’s purpose.

    If I ever start that blog I may just call myself The Happy Heretic.

  109. (3)

    So frustrating!

    That is not an answer.

  110. Sue

    For the record, people are not aware that Yahweh is a cruel Anunnaki. Yes, he is an alien who came on this earth and created us with DNA. Read up on Abraham/Sumer/Mesopotamia…that is where this Yahweh hid behind this name of Yahweh. There is Wisdom (Sophia), she is the quiet one and taught the truth. Jesus came to rescued us as he tried very hard to tell Pharisees about their father: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it”? And who is the one he calls “Father”? There will be only one meaningful way to understand these words: The “father the devil” is YHWH! And Jesus’ father is a God (Supreme Creator) higher than YHWH, the true original prime creator God, in whose creation YHWH is a lower-level entity that makes believe that he is the only god.

  111. Thanx Sue: I love all the many crazy variations of this stuff. Better than TV sometimes. Is this close to Marcionism too?

  112. Sue

    Yes, Marcion taught the difference between Jesus’ father and Yahweh. So did the Gnostic group which the late early church father hated but didn’t understand them at all. Another thing that most people are not aware of too is that Jesus is from Essene Gnostic group and surprisingly the late early church father admitted this in their writing . Don’t take my word for it…go read it up for yourself. You’ll learn alot of stuff which I did. Hope that enlightened you. : )

  113. Sue

    I enjoyed reading many of the variation of these stuff above too. Always fascinating how mind thinks and discern things. Good to keep open mind. And keep that head out of the sand like the ostrich do…lol!

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