Were the genocidal actions of the Old Testament God justifiable?

Yes, they are better. I feel no reluctance at all in claiming my viewpoint is morally superior to a collection of genocidal barbarians.

Everyone is overlooking my earlier point … those “genocidal barbarians” and the book they wrote were in a sense a stepping-stone to the creation of your ‘new, superior morality’. After all, Western civilization, within which that morality flourished, is not conceivable except in reference to that “barbarian” book.

Too bad some 20th century types slipped backwards … :frowning:

Nonsense. Christianity has promoted and excused mass murder and other atrocities, not fought against it. Our more modern morality exists in spite of Christianity, not because of it.

First, we are talking about the OT, and not Christianity per se.

I think it is a pretty defensible assertion that the intellectual and moral basis of Western society was pretty heavily influenced by the OT - whether through Christianity or not.

In any event, I think dismissing the morality of the ancients with contempt makes about as much sense as dismissing other aspects of their society and their technology with contempt. Sure, it was primitive and not as good as ours. But ours developed out of theirs.*
*excluding Western types like the Nazis and Communists, who truly attempted and to an extent succeeded in throwing out those aspects of Western civilization associated with the moral traditions as embodied by the OT.

I remember GM Young wrote in Portrait of an Age that pedantic young atheists of the 19th Century used this specific story to confound the divinity students. He never said what a reasoned, intellectual Christian respone would be, though. It never bothered me much, because I never really took the Bible as inerrant. It does seem like a childish conception of God, though. I would assume that something is forbidden because it is wrong. If God is all good, then it seems He would never order anyone to carry out an evil act.

Well, my view is that there is no God, so therefore arguing whether his actions were right or wrong is nonsensical. Obviously anybody can do whatever they want and then say “God told me to do it”.

But assuming there is a God, and assuming the bible is right, then there’s no problem. God is the God of Israel, so it makes sense He’d help Israel and punish Israel’s enemies. God promised Israel the land of Canaan, so the people living there had to be killed, enslaved, or otherwise dispossessed. Sure, it sucks for the Canaanites, but that’s not God’s problem…His deal was with the Israelites. Remember Exodus 6:6-8?

And then again from Leviticus 26 (bolding mine)

So, He’s keeping His part of the deal.

:rolleyes: As always your moral and ethical superority leaves me speechless. It must feel good to you to be so superior, ehe? You are lucky that you won’t be able to see the comments of the Der Trihs of 2000 years hence…and what they think of the morals and ethics of this time.


No, you’re misunderstanding what I’m saying. I’m not saying the kid is a threat. I’m saying the kid’s ancestors attempted to commit genocide, so the kid is being killed for revenge.

Threw it out ? They practically embodied it, what with their fondness for genocide and rabid hatred of dissent.

Claiming to be superior to gencidal barbarians from over 2000 years ago is hardly grandiose. And, yes, I do think the people of the future will justifiably despise us.

Which is immoral, since the kid did nothing. You might as well pick some random stranger and/or animal and kill them. For that matter, just pound a rock to bits with a hammer; it has just as much to do with it.

Yeah, I’m in the “genocide is bad” camp. You can’t commit such a crime and still be “good”, “holy”, or “right”.

Sorry god, you messed up on that one.

Couple of questions; first off, surely the morality of the people of that time isn’t the important thing, but the morality of God? The morality of the people of that time is just as equal in this regard as our 20th centry morality is, since it is God’s morality that’s in question, here?

So, further question. God’s morality is not mutable; it does not change over time, otherwise the Bible would be useless except for one particular period of time. Since God’s morality is unchanging, then what is acceptable then is also acceptable now; just as what is unacceptable doesn’t change. Would you agree with this?

I see the stuff like the Amalekite passage as proof that the Bible was written by humans, and in some cases humans with very naive and primitive theologies.

Even if, hypothetically, God actually ordered the genocide, it’s still not ok just because God ordered it. It’s still immoral in my view. If God ordered it, then God is evil by my lights, and my lights are the only ones I have any ability to follow.

Uhuh. Reminds me of similar claims to moral superiority from those dark folks in Africa…or those damn yellow bastards in Asia…or those brown folks in Mexico…or…or…or.

Have fun with that moral superiority Der…

You are assuming a belief in God…which I don’t have. Certainly, if there WAS a God, then the morality would be absolute…because God would have been, er, ‘alive’ in both cases. Without a belief in God though, I find ‘morality’ to be relative. Obviously Der thinks that ‘morality’ is some kind of absolute…and HE is ‘God’, able to be the absolute yard stick by which all others are measured.

Agreed…again, if you assume there is a God, he/she/its morality would be absolute and unchanging…it would be the Der Trihs Yardstick™ by which all others are judged. Therefore it would be moral (by Gods yardstick) whatever he/she/it decides to do…because God is the creator, owner, and manager of all existance.

Such a being would be beyond our definition of ‘good’ and ‘evil’…more like a force of nature. Impersonal. Do you think its immoral for a scientist to cut up, say, a bunch of stem cells? Why…or why not? Is it immoral for a home owner to put out baited traps for rodents or bugs? Again, why or why not? IF there was a God, and IF this was the God of all creation, a being that transcends time and space, has a master plan by which he/she/it runs the entire universe and all creation, and has some kind of ultimate goal for all creation, is all seeing, all knowing, blah blah blah…well, that being is so far beyond us as to be incomprehensible by its very nature. It has no sexual drive (well, except for that shower of light thingy he/she/it has for virgins), it doesn’t age, and it has infinite knowledge, it lives in all of time and space…so we can’t relate to it in any meaningful way to MAKE a judgement. Just an immortal being would be beyond our ability to relate too because we would have radically different outlooks on life and the universe we inhabit. Same for all those other magical abilities.


Baloney. I’ve heard this a million times and I still think it’s nonsense. My definition of good and evil is the only one that matters. If it’s wrong to me, it’s wrong. This is true of everybody. Morality is completely subjective and autocratic in every individual. Even the decision to submit to a religious authority still requires one to make a subjective, autocratic moral choice that submitting to that authority is the “right” thing to do. By my lights, submitting to a genocidal deity is the WRONG thing to do and therefore I can’t and won’t do it. God has to conform to MY morality, I don’t have to conform to his.

Some people argue that God, by virtue of the fact that he is the Supreme Being, is axiomatically the arbiter of right and wrong. Bullshit. Saying that is just another way of saying “might makes right”. Even if there is a God, and he exactly like the God of the Bible, and he’ll send me to hell for all eternity for opposing him, that still doesn’t make him right. In fact, I am a courageous guy for opposing an evil God that will torture me for eternity.

I disagree. To me its arrogance equal to the imaginary god to think that everything must comform to ones own definition of ‘good and evil’…that there is some kind of absolute yard stick by which it can be measured, and incidentally YOUR yardstick is the correct one. This is what allowed folks throughout history to BE monsters to the other guys…they aren’t like me so therefore I can kill them without thought. Its what allows bigots to put down anyone who doesn’t look and act just like they do.

We can only judge ‘morality’ as it relates to the times and the events during a specific time period. Thus, we can judge, or at least evaluate that the Germans (to use an easy example) were immoral during WWII in their killing of the Jews…as this was completely unacceptable at the time. If we assume there was no god for a moment ( :stuck_out_tongue: ), we can attempt to judge the purported actions of the early Hebrew tribes (well, we can judge the story, if we disconnect it from the possible reality of what may have actually happened)…and probably judge that, for the time, genocide WAS justified…it was a common response and an accepted during that time period.

God, however, we have no common yardstick to measure by. Unless we are arrogant (as IMHO you and Der are being here), and assume WE are the ultimate yardstick for judging morality, and everyone else is wrong, then we have to base our judgement on comparisons. And what would you compare God TOO? How can we even relate to a being that has neither a beginning nor end, doesn’t age nor fear death, has the power to create all of existance, is in all times and all space…AND supposedly has some kind of master plan for creation. A creation IT created, for its own purposes and designs? What do we relate it TOO, to make a rational judgement?


:rolleyes: That’s one of the stupider statements I’ve heard. Feeling morally superior to someone because of their skin color is nothing at all like feeling superior to a group because they commit genocide. Prejudice is called that because you judge people before they do anything; it’s not prejudice if you don’t like people because of what they’ve actually done.

Nonsense. There’s no reason why a god couldn’t be evil or amoral.

:rolleyes: Yes, because “genocide is bad” is such an extreme position. Yessir, that makes me a raving egomaniac; how DARE I denounce people for something as harmless as that ?!

It was acceptable to the Germans; that’s why they did it. By your own “logic”, the Holocaust was just. Not to mention the evils of Stalin, Pol Pot, and every other fanatic group that has ever existed.

I’ve said elsewhere that I’m a person of faith who bashes religion. IOW, just because I have faith doesn’t mean religion gets a free pass when it fucks up. Getting right down to it, the religious massacres in the Tanakh, when I read them, had the effect of permanently turning me off of Biblical Christianity at first, and eventually any sort of Christianity. With all due respect. I think Christians have as much right to be respected as any other religion–no more and no less. But this matter, and its repercussions through history, is so heavy I wonder if it’s the single worst religion fuckup ever.

There’s a contradiction in my feelings big enough to drive a camel through, because I still have positive feelings for Judaism. I took the test for hidden feelings about Judaism by Harvard University Psychology, and the result was: “Your data suggest a strong automatic preference for Judaism compared to Other Religions.” Maybe it’s just that no Jews have done anything bad to me personally, while I’ve suffered a lot at the hands of Christians. But that sucks as a basis for establishing ethical principles expected of religions, so I’m going to need some work here. If my thoughts on this were a web page, there would be the yellow-on-black icon saying “Construction in progress.”

Leslie Feinberg suffered from both anti-Semitism and transphobia growing up. Since the world’s first recorded anti-trans legislation is in the Torah, Feinberg saw the Jews getting blamed for all the millennia of transphobia in the West. After getting beaten up for being Jewish, Feinberg did not want to add to anti-Semitism because of being trans. So Feinberg, who came from a Marxist background, analyzed the class structure of this and similar law that marginalizes queers, women, working classes, slaves, etc., and concluded that the Jewish religion and people weren’t to blame, it was the result of a power grab by an elite landowning class to keep others in their place.

I’m giving this as an example of how do we criticize stuff in the Tanakh that’s really wrong, without going anti-Semitic.

My Israeli friend is Pagan; although of Jewish heritage, she has nothing further to do with the Jewish religion. She must have felt as strong a need to make a definitive break from her upbringing as I did from Catholicism. When I told her how much I enjoyed a Shabbat service with Rabbi Lerner, she said her sister and brother-in-law were Tikkun, but she understands Hebrew and therefore knows she doesn’t agree with what they’re singing—despite the beautiful melodies.

The English versions of the prayers that Lerner uses sound quite New Agey and gender inclusive, but as far as I could tell, the Hebrew texts used were the original melekh ha-olam sort of wording. Rabbi Lerner prefaced the Hebrew texts with a disclaimer that this was the work of people who lived long ago and had a different worldview than today, but he found it still had contemporary relevance because it found spiritual value in celebrating the beauty of creation.

I heard a Protestant minister quip, “Nowadays the Protestants want to be Catholic, the Catholics want to be Jewish, and the Jews have gone Buddhist.” He got a big shocked laugh for saying something so un-PC in front of an interfaith audience. :stuck_out_tongue:

A few comments:

  1. There is a fallacy in assuming that BigGiantHead is bound to the same moral/ethical laws that are imposed upon its bipedal creations.

  2. I assert that BigGiantHead, being Creator and all, has the right to break/kill/alter/erase its Created Stuff, including aforementioned bipedal creations.

  3. Using (2) above, BigGiantHead can order his minions, including those bipedal creations to break/kill/alter/erase its Created Stuff, including aforementioned bipedal creation (including other and assorted bipedal creations).

In short, a Creator God can break its stuff, via any mechanism it chooses, including via proxy action using other of its creations.

Oh, God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on.”
—Bob Dylan, “Highway 61 Revisited”

My reading of the Abraham sacrifice story is: It’s the ancient version of the Stanford prison experiment and the Milgram obedience to authority experiment demonstrating that humans have this dangerous tendency to obey violent dictators and kill on command. And that we’d better watch out and keep this tendency in check if we value our freedom and justice. The ugly flip side of Abraham’s sacrifice story is the Nazis saying “I was just following orders.”