There is no doubt that the actions of the old testament God would land him squarely in an international tribune for war crimes. He wages total war on civilian populations, orders taking of slaves and war brides, kills children, demands absolute loyalty to orders, and provides no quarter for surrender. Hell, the bible reads like a do-it-yourself manual for how to end up as the defendant at the Hague International Court.
But let’s back up a bit. In all fairness, many military commanders from yesteryear would also face charges if tried in the modern times. Just think back in American history a mere 154 years ago when Sherman led a total war campaign to cut off the south. Although highly effective at crippling the enemy supply chains, it was also unnecessarily hard on the civilian population. Many other great commanders in history had not-so-great philosophies that included such questionable tactics as pillaging, chemical weapons, non-metallic land mines, killing all survivors, etc.
I’m not here to debate the morality of these historic commanders, but to point out that even the morality of full-scale war has evolved over time. It is now internationally understood that soldiers have a duty to disobey illegal orders, that efforts are made to protect civilian populations, and non-combatants are treated well. When we find out that possibly the greatest military commander of all time, Napoleon, also once used gas chambers on civilians, for example, we don’t just call it a good thing. It becomes part of the discussion, we call it wrong, and it becomes a lesson from which to learn and grow. Napoleon’s tactics, good. Napoleons gas chambers, bad.
War morality grows up just like human morality. Sherman was probably a good soldier doing what was necessary to achieve his military goal. But we learn from our mistakes. Unlike chickens (that exhibit empathy), we both exhibit empathy AND continue to learn through our advanced communication abilities. We are not forever stuck with basic forms of emotional attachment, we instead continue to grow and discuss values as a group, improving our morality, and improving our humane treatment of others.
The bible is more or less stuck with the words printed in it. On this point, I believe most Christians would actually take it further and say that they haven’t changed. This is actually worse for their case, because it means that the morality of the bible is therefore understood to be a single thing, unchangeable forever. But this is simply not how morality works. Our highly evolved communication is how we have advanced morality.
The bible fails because it is forever stuck in an ancient mentality. This was the early ages of human civilization, and humans made a LOT of mistakes back then. There is very little real history in the book, but it is a great window into understanding what those ancient civilizations thought about morality, of course, but also of power, the rule of law, how government is organized, and what they considered good or bad human traits. Human individuality was certainly not a highly prized value.
But beyond giving us a glimpse into the mentality of those ancient writers and leaders, there is no reason for us to consider any of the bible’s moral pronouncements with any more weight than discussing the moral values of Genghis Khan. It is simply ancient, outdated, juvenile morality.
So why am I writing this article? Because despite the absolutely immoral, genocidal, homicidal, war crimes that General Yaweh personally inflicts on humans in the bible, there are still people that say “he is good!” Even worse, THEY know genocide and other war crimes are bad, but STILL refuse to indict their god. Because excuses:
“God got better.” No, this isn’t how they say it, but it’s exactly what they mean. “Old Testament god, well we don’t follow that anymore. We just talk about Jesus and his love.” So, somehow god got better? Then your god is learning, and never tell me again that he is omniscient, because he still has much to learn.
“God was training the early people.” Ugh, this excuse makes me want to vomit. Is he god or not? He was super specific about cutting of the end of your pecker, church fashion sense, when you could have sex, exactly how to mark your slaves and how to handle disputes, but somehow he couldn’t just tell the entire world about war crimes and why they were bad?
This excuse really falls apart when you remember that in the entire history of every culture in the entire world, god’s morality just seemed to seamlessly match the culture of that time and location on the globe. Without god, the middle east pretty much acted with the same set of morality, and he “conveniently” agreed with them. But no culture on earth follows this same morality today. Apparently, god is insecure and doesn’t like to buck human trends, so that people will still revere him.
And the most disgusting of all, “god is always good so what he did was good for reasons we can’t know.” But they’re wrong. I know. I know that there is no reason to kill innocent children. There is absolutely nothing that can’t be achieved by other means other than killing a child. I don’t care what the reason was.
That child would grow up to be another Hitler? Easy. Never born, or change their life to prevent it. Parents used it as motivation for something great? Easy. Just take care of the great thing so they don’t have to go through agony to do the same thing. Seriously, I can play this game all day. If killing innocent children with horrible deaths is the best option your god can come up with to take care of something, then your god is fucking stupid.
So, I’d certainly entertain any discussion where Bible God is described as the creator of the universe, but is learning along the way. I’d entertain a discussion where god created the universe, but was really insecure in the beginning and kinda just went along with whatever his human buddies wanted. And I’d entertain a discussion where god created the entire universe, but he’s constantly screwing up in big ways, due to complete lack of empathy and low intelligence. All of these would be logical.
But don’t tell me bible god is good. He’s the world’s leading war criminal.
The Spartan Atheist