The blog Thomisic Bent has been doing a series lately on why it was perfectly okay for God to command the Israelites to slaughter entire ethnic groups in the Old Testament, even down to the women and children. I’ve felt obliged to comment on all of them, because toward the end of my time as a Christian I began to realize just how heinous these stories are. Could you imagine God commanding something like the shootings in New Town, CT? As crazy as it sounds, what the OT suggests is even more horrific.
Thomistic Bent’s latest post, “Holiness and the Justice of God,” continues his rationale for accepting some of the Bible’s most blasphemous claims about God. Here’s an an excerpt:
As long as we compare ourselves to each other, we can convince ourselves that we’re not so dirty, and it’s really the other guy who needs a bath. But when we truly see how holy God is, we suddenly know how dirty we are…
God is patient, but will eventually demand a separation. In God’s terms, this is Hell, which is a separation from God, away from His good graces, a place where we can have what we want, to be left alone.
So we all deserve separation from God. But what if God were to select some, clean them up, and give them another chance? If He takes some of the filthy rags and cleans it up, He is not bound to take all the filthy rags.
So is part of the answer with God’s actions with the Canaanites. If God acted the way He does in the rest of the Bible, then we can conclude that He likely gave them plenty of notices about what He expected, and plenty of chances to change. The Canaanites refused, so He ordered all of them separated from Him into Hell.
Meanwhile, we sit around and compare one of them with the other and with ourselves, and say some of them are not so bad, for it seems to us that they did not do much wrong. We feel this way because we are comparing the Canaanites to ourselves, comparing one filthy rag with another. But if we, or the Canaanites, were to realize how holy God is, we would all, along with Isaiah and Peter, beg God to cast us away, for we are all deserving of separation. Only by God’s infinite mercy do any of us have a chance to change our ways.
Using this kind of logic, I could make the same case about dogs. When you compare one dog to another, there’s little difference. But when you compare a dog to a human, it’s suddenly quite clear that dogs are filthy, stupid, and completely uncivilized. That’s why we are well within our rights to wipe out all dogs. It’s what they deserve for not being as clean, intelligent, and civilized as we humans. In fact, the dogs would completely agree with us, if they could ever come to understand just how much better than them we really are. If we decide to spare any dogs, it only shows how merciful we are.
Does that really make sense? Or is it more rational for the higher being to accept the lower being for what it is? What’s even worse, when we think about this in terms of God, is that he supposedly created us to be exactly the way we are. If he’s all powerful, he could have given us the same level of perfection that Jesus had so that we would be able to live more perfectly and be more pleasing to him. Instead, he purposely handicapped us, and then decided to reject us because of the same handicap. He wants us to hate ourselves, merely for the “crime” of being what he created us to be. What kind of monster would operate in such a way?
The problem with people like the writer of Thomistic Bent is that they unquestioningly accept whatever the Bible tells them without really thinking about its implications. And I should know — I used to operate the same way. If you dig back far enough into this blog, you’ll see what I mean. But the problem with that position is that God himself has not told the writer of Thomistic Bent that all these things actually happened, or that he would have approved of them even if they had. No, these stories were passed down from generation to generation before being written down by mere men. We don’t have the original copies. And all the copies we have are divergent in certain areas. And God didn’t hand us a list of which books were authentic — that was decided by groups of men. At every step along the process, the books of the Bible have mankind’s fingerprints all over them… why in the world would we still assume that they contain the actual words of God, especially when they contain such disgusting barbarism and attribute it to him? Not to mention this type of vengeful God was typical for ancient Canaan.
Look, guys like the writer of Thomistic Bent mean well. They think they’re performing a public service by warning us about the scary sky-monster that they worship. They believe that the Christian god is very real, and their definitions of goodness, morality, justice, and mercy have been contaminated to the point that they can read everything about God in the Bible and not see it as contradicting those qualities. It’s a sad and dangerous state to be in. It’s religious fundamentalism. And while we look at the perpetrators of events like 9/11 as warped and backward, they were merely the fundamentalists of a different religion. If Christians believe that it was just for God to command the slaughter of an entire nation of people, down to the very last infant, then we can only hope they never begin to believe that he commands something similar for today.
I wish people like this would realize that even if the Christian God is real, he created us with the ability to question and reason. Even some passages in the Bible talk about the value of questioning things. If they could only apply those questions to the Bible — a collection of books that they agree were written by men, many ages ago — then maybe they would begin to see the problems in the Bible for what they are. If there really is a God, and he really does possess the qualities of goodness, morality, justice, and mercy, then such an honest, objective search for truth could only be pleasing to him, even if it leads someone away from religion altogether.