Saturday, September 7, 2013

Yes Dr. Craig, You're Still An Apologist For Genocide

I love pressuring Christians to justify the numerous genocides that god commands in the Bible. They will usually respond with things like, "The Canaanites were wicked and deserving of God's judgement." Or they'll say, "You have no objective moral foundation to call out genocide." Oh right, like being an atheist somehow prevents me from censuring the mass slaughter of ethnic groups, and somehow only theism gives people the ability of condemning it. Sure. Remember, it's the theist here that's defending genocide. Only religion it seems could make a rational person defend mass genocide in this day and age.

So, when it comes to the apologist extraordinaire William Lane Craig, I paid extra close attention to his attempt at justifying genocide when he was called out on it in a debate a few years ago during his 2011 UK tour. His justification was a shocking spectacle into the mind of an apologist trying ever so hard to make sense of mass slaughter. And his numerous other podcasts and written justifications for it just seem to add insult to injury to him.

On a recent Q and A, he attempts once again to explain why the Canaanite conquest was justified. Craig says that a lot of the criticism against him is just heated emotional rhetoric lacking intellectual substance, and that none of it refutes the moral argument for god. Speaking of substance, Craig's justification boils down to this: "God has the moral right to issue such commands and that He wronged no one in doing so." In other words, god can do whatever he wants; he's the boss. If he wants you to commit genocide for him, then so be it. He has the right to do so because he makes the rules. 

This is basically the best Craig has come up with, and it's sad. But he also warns, "If it is the case that God could not have issued the commands in question, that goes no distance toward proving atheism or undermining the moral argument for God; it at most implies a liberal doctrine of biblical inspiration, such that inspiration does not imply inerrancy." So even if we're right that no such commands were ever issued by a perfect god, according to Craig, god and the moral argument are still intact.

Let's examine this.

One reason many former Christians and Jews rejected their religions is because of disturbing passages like the ones describing genocide in the Old Testament. Liberal theology does offer some middle ground to one not willing to unclasp his hands from theism altogether, but who wishes to keep the core beliefs. But the central question that Craig raises is this: "has God failed to act in accordance with His perfect moral character?" Craig has argued numerous times that god's commands are consistent with his "perfectly just and loving" nature. The only issue Craig has is with the Canaanite children being killed, not the "debased" adults. And his greatest sympathy appears to go to the Israelite soldiers who were given these commands.

This brings up many issues. First, under divine command theory, if something is morally wrong, such as the killing of children or defenseless women, and it becomes morally right if god commands it, then you are taking the first horn of the Euthyphro dilemma that asks, Is something morally good because God commands it, or does God command it because it is morally good? In other words, you'd have to agree that something is good because god commands it. I've yet to see anyone call Craig out on this even though he tries to weasel his way out of the Euthyphro by saying "God is good." The Canaanite conquest illustrates why that is not a valid circumvention of the dilemma, because the theist will have to admit that the conquest would have been wrong if god didn't command it, and so the only thing making it morally right, is god's command.

Second, if perfect love and justice allows for the wholesale slaughter of unarmed women and children, I'd hate to see what imperfect love and justice is like. The theist like Craig thinks that whatever god does is perfect by definition. How can anyone then say god is good, if he can do whatever he wants? It seems to me that the word "good" becomes meaningless to describe god if you say that he can also do whatever he wants. I mean, what limitations would there be on god that his "perfectly just and loving" nature prevents him from doing, if genocide gets a pass?

Craig tries to justify the slaughter of the children by saying they all get a free trip to heaven! Yay! "My claim is that in taking these children home early," Craig argues, "God does them no wrong. Indeed, He may actually prevent their eternal damnation by snatching them out of a depraved Canaanite culture." This has made many a theist and atheist squeamish. At what exact age are the children eligible for hell? Is it 7, 10, 13, 15, 18? There must have been a cut off age for each child. What if you were unfortunately one day past that age? Would you have to suffer an eternity in hell that was avoidable if you were just one day younger? And for the children who were old enough to realize what was going on but who made it to heaven, when they got to heaven, why would they have any feelings other than hatred towards god who authorized their deaths and their parent's? Wouldn't forcing them to spend an eternity in heaven be cruel? After all, according to most Christians, in heaven you worship god all day long, for eternity. Imagine being forced to worship the deity that wished you and your people to be violently exterminated from the planet? I fail to see how that's a reward.

This all speaks of one bizarre god who, far from being perfect, most certainly only resided in the fearful, superstitious thoughts of an ancient peoples. Sure if these stories in the Bible are not historical (and they're not) that alone wouldn't disprove god. Rather, this is one argument of many that shows the Bible is nothing more than a collection of old myths and legendary embellishments and that no being issuing such commands could be called god. And it does put a damper in the moral argument contrary to what Craig thinks by forcing the believer to take one side of the Euthyphro dilemma, the worst side.

Towards the end Craig offers us another blunder. The questioner asks Craig if it is a sign of mercy to kill children because they will be rewarded with heaven, and Craig responds saying, "we have a moral prohibition against killing the innocent." He forgot to mention that it's OK to kill the innocent, if god commands you. And the idea that the "death of a child brings great good to that child" is obviously comforting to grieving parents, which it is why it's nothing more than wishful thinking, but brings up additional philosophical issues, like the fact that such a system would result in heaven being populated by billions of child drones who were essentially forced into heaven.

"So where’s the problem?" Craig asks. Well the problems as I've outlined above for him are numerous. There are "insuperable philosophical objections" to the historical interpretation of the genocidal commands of Yahweh. It is helpful to remember that there were several genocides commanded by him, not only of the Canaanites, but of the Midianites, and the Amalekites too. If god thought all these people were wicked and somehow unworthy of their lives, couldn't god just have painlessly annihilated them, or not even allow them to be born in the first place, extricating the Israelites of the task of genocide? Why choose one of the most violent methods available to make your point? And why in some cases spare only the virgin girls as with the Midianites? There's no consistency. It seems out of character for an all-loving being who Christians say is the ontological source of love itself.

That so violent a command can have educated modern people like Craig feel sympathy only for the people commanded to do it, shows you how psychopathic religious belief can be in how it forces one to think god is always right no matter what he does or commands.


  1. The apologetic response to these genocide stories is just incredible. I would hope WLC and any other apologists get challenged on these things as much as possible. This stuff is so horrible I could imagine some onlookers hearing his explanation and realizing that something is wrong.

    It also could make some Christians aware that genocide is even in the bible. When I was a Christian I almost never read my bible and I had no idea of the terrible stuff that is in there.

    1. All one needs to do is listen to his explanations, and come up with counter arguments like I have and then present them to him in a debate or in a dialogue. His justifications lead to numerous problems, but many people who debate Craig fail to do their homework and find good counter arguments to his arguments. That's why where Craig gets slammed the hardest is on YouTube and in the blogosphere.



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