Monday, March 14, 2016

How would the God of the Old Testament reply to Dawkins?

Dawkins: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

But what if a being matching just this description were to, in fact, be real. Would he say back to Dawkins:

But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'"


Ilíon said...

According to the New Testament, Jesus Christ *is* "the God of the Old Testament"

Ilíon said...

"How would the God of the Old Testament reply to Dawkins?"

How about this?

"Young man(*), when you can slap my face without first climbing onto my lap, then, perhaps, your rant may be taken seriously."

(*) as one says to a small child

The metaphor illustrating Dawkins' total dependence upon God even as he rants against God could be extended indefinitely --

"Young man, when you can slap my face without first climbing onto my lap, when you can feed yourself without looking to me to supply you the food, and when you can draw the breath to make a rant such as this without looking to me to supply you life by which you rant, then, perhaps, your rant may be taken seriously."

Ilíon said...

Or, how about this?

"Excuse me, but who died and made *you* God?"

Angra Mainyu said...


Yeah, the monstrous god of the OT might reply like that, and even believe he has a point. For that matter, if there were a creator that tortures everyone after "death" for eternity, purely for the pleasure of it (I just created a creator even worse than the OT god!), and Dawkins (or someone else) said that such creator is a cruel monster, he might reply like you think the OT god might reply - and still believe he has a point.

But monsters believing they're right doesn't make them any less monstrous. Fortunately, they're imaginary.

jdhuey said...

The god of the OT, would not have said anything to Dawkins - He would have turned him into a pillar of salt, sent the angle of death to smite him, give him some nice boils to torment him, have his house fall on him in an earthquake, or perhaps, have the Israeli army destroy the city he lives in killing every living thing. Talking was not his strong suit.

Angra Mainyu said...


While I agree he might have done something like that to Dawkins (and maybe also give his wife to one of his followers as a "wife"/sexual slave, or something like that), he might have also talked.
After all, in the OT, Yahweh often makes false or morally irrelevant claims or implications while displaying grossly misplaced moral outrage at the actions of the victims, and sometimes he lets the victims hear those claims, or at least hear about them.

Victor Reppert said...

I suppose if you defined "good" as "what is in accordance with the will of a being with absolute power, then any actions such a being might perform are good by definition.

But, of course God does a lot of things in the Old Testament, and his actions are perceived differently as the account progresses.

Angra Mainyu said...

If you defined "good" as "what is in accordance with the will of a being with absolute power", then that would not match any ordinary meaning of the word "good".
However, Dawkins doesn't define "good" (at least, not in the quote you provide, or any other I'm familiar with). Rather, he claims that the OT god is, jealous and proud of it, petty, unjust, etc., and he matches at least most of the adjectives.
As for how the actions are perceived by the OT characters, that depends on the character, but the OT ignores the perspectives of many characters whose perceptions would only highlight the injustice of the actions of Yahweh and some other people the writers intend to present in a good light.
For example, the OT does not describe how, say, women given to Yahweh's followers as sexual slaves (e.g., Numbers 31) perceive Yahweh's behavior, or how a woman about to be stoned to death for (allegedly, because the "tokens of her virginity" were not found the night she was handed over to the man who made a deal with her father) having sex before being handed over to the man her father chose (Deuteronomy 22:13-21), perceive Yahweh's behavior (he commanded that to Moses), etc. - nor does it say whether his victims even believe that the people raping and/or stoning them to death, etc., are acting in accordance to the commands and/or regulations given by an extremely powerful being.

Victor Reppert said...

The allegation that the Israelite men spared the young girls in order to rape them is nothing but baseless supposition predicated upon a lack of biblical knowledge. In the custom of the time, marriages were conducted at a young age. Therefore, the reference to the young girls who had not “known man by lying with him” would indicate that they were very young, likely under the age of twelve. These girls were too young to be able to lead the men of Israel away from Jehovah; therefore, these girls were allowed to live. As to raping them, it is more logical to assume that they wanted these girls for servants. This would be similar to Joshua 9, where Joshua allowed the Gibeonites to live in compelled servitude to the Israelites. Moreover, it would have been sinful for the Israelite men to rape the Midianite girls because rape was (and still is) abhorrent to God (Deuteronomy 22:23-28, esp. 25).

Angra Mainyu said...

For a more thorough analysis, I reply to your link with my link ( ), but let's take a look at the Bible.

Numbers 31:9 The children of Israel took captive the women of Midian and their little ones; and all their livestock, and all their flocks, and all their goods, they took for a prey.
So, they took all of the women, girls and boys as captives. What's next?

31:13 Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them outside of the camp. 31:14 Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, who came from the service of the war. 31:15 Moses said to them, Have you saved all the women alive? 31:16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against Yahweh in the matter of Peor, and so the plague was among the congregation of Yahweh. 31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. 31:18 But all the girls, who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

So, Moses was angry because they kept the women alive, and order the murder of all of those women, for "leading the Israelites stray", allegedly.
Imagine that some women convince some men to worship Baal or whatever deity the women in question believe in. For that reason (or for bringing about some plague, which is a false accusation Moses leveled against them), the women are executed. It's atrocious behavior, even if Yahweh were real (which, by the way, the women in question wouldn't have known, but regardless).
The fact that a powerful being (even assuming it happened) was commanding such behavior would be good evidence that the being in question was evil. But Moses failed to realize that.
Moreover, Moses commanded the murder of all of the male children - with all of the suffering that would be involved but even without that, it would have been evil -, and told his men to keep all of the girls who have not known man for themselves.
Clearly, that was sexual slavery. Their consent was never asked, and the boys were murdered, so it's not more logical to assume they wanted them as servants excluding sexual servitude. It makes no sense, actually. While a few of them might have kept them as domestic servants without a sexual component, there is absolutely no good reason to think that that would be the usual behavior, let alone the behavior in all cases. There was no law against raping them, and indeed, rape was usual behavior for raiding armies like that. The fact that they murder all of the males is also telling.
Moreover, the sanctioning of rape is very common throughout the Bible.
For example, a man was allowed (for example) to sell his daughter as a servant, and then the buyer could (if he so chose) marry her to his own son (Exodus 21:7-10). Her consent was not required at any point. Or consider Joshua 15:13-17, or Judges 1:11-13, where Caleb openly promises to give his daughter Achsah as wife to whoever strikes and takes Kiriath Sepher. There is no suggestion in the Bible that the promise was illegal, or that it was conditioned to Achsah’s agreement, or that Achsah had previously agreed. No one asked for clarification, either. And when Othniel took Kiriath Sepher, Caleb gave him Achsah as wife – as Caleb had promised -, again without any suggestion of an illegal act, or that she had a say on the matter.

Angra Mainyu said...

As for the claim that rape was abhorrent to Yahweh, that's not at all the case. Quite the opposite, he sanctioned rape (see above), and never passed a law in the OT against rape. Deuteronomy 22:23-28 might end up punishing some rapists but not for the rape; rather, the punishment would be for some sort of "crime" against the victim's father.

I analyze Deuteronomy 22:23-28 in greater detail here, but with respect to 22:25, it says that if a man finds a woman outside the city and rapes her, he is to be stoned to death, and she is not punished. But he was not being punished for rape. He was being punished for having sex with a woman ‘pledged’ to another man, regardless of whether she consented.

That is clearly shown by the facts that:

A. The very fact that Deuteronomy 22:25 establishes the punishment for someone who rapes a woman pledged to another man is obviously telling us that it's not rape they're trying to punish.

B. Moreover, the punishment for him – namely, to be stoned to death – is the same as the punishment for consensual sex with a woman ‘pledged’ to another man, in the same biblical context (Deuteronomy 22:23.) In that case, her – unjustly presumed, but still presumed – consent does not alter the punishment for him, which is also to be stoned to death.

C. In case of rape of a virgin woman who is not ‘pledged’ to another man, Deuteronomy does not impose the punishment of being stoned to death for the rapist. In fact, if Deuteronomy 22:28 does not include cases of rape but only consensual sex, then no punishment is imposed for the rapist in that case. At all. The punishment is only for cases in which she is pledged for another man. And if Deuteronomy 22:28 includes cases of rape, then the rapist only has to pay a sum of money to the victim’s father, and then marry his victim. The stoning to death is only if she is pledged for another man.

Given the above, it’s clear that stoning to death is a punishment imposed on a man for sexual penetration of a woman whose father had ‘pledged’ her to another man, regardless of whether she consented to the sexual penetration in question – or, for that matter, to being pledged to that other man.

It’s also a punishment imposed on a woman whose father ‘pledged’ her to a man, for having consensual sex with a different man before she’s handed over to the man her father pledged her to, regardless of whether she consented to being ‘pledged’, and under the unreasonable assumption that if she did not cry, then she consented to sex.

Angra Mainyu said...

The case of Joshua 9 was very different, because some of the Gibeonites fortunately managed to deceive Joshua into believing that they weren't a neighboring tribe, and so according to the Bible, they were to be turned into servants if they surrendered willingly, rather than being exterminated (which was still of course a very unjust disposition, but less unjust towards distant cities than towards neighbors).
By the time Joshua realized of the deception, he had already sworn an oath to Yahweh not to kill them, so the usual treatment wasn't applied. Instead, Joshua cursed them, turning them - and their descendants - into servants - even though they had done nothing to deserve that fate: the Gibeonites who deceived Joshua had saved their people from extermination by a raiding army, and their descendants hadn't even been born yet.
However, the case in numbers was different: there was no surrender beforehand, and certainly no deception. There was an attack, extermination of the adult males (whether they surrendered or not), then women and children were taken captives. Then non-virgin women and male children were executed, and the Israelites who had just raided the place and killed all males (even children) and non-virgin women, took the virgins for themselves.

Victor Reppert said...

I am not at all sure that, given the moral learning curve of the Hebrew people, it is all that shocking that it took them a long time to internalize the "consent rule" and even that they presumed divine approval for violations of that rule. I am inclined to follow C. S. Lewis in allowing for moral blemishes in Scripture. I realize the New Testament depends heavily on the Old, but conversion from polytheism to monotheism resulted in one of the great moral revolutions of history. (Imagine a king who actually repent when someone challenges him for adultery.)

I think the defenses of inerrancy are interesting and have to be taken seriously, but I don't think they're essential to the defense of Christianity.