Intelligent Design

“Liar, liar, pants on fire”? Ten Tough Questions for Professor Dawkins.

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For several years now, Professor Richard Dawkins, the renowned evolutionary biologist and author of The God Delusion, has refused to debate the topic of God’s existence with the philosopher and Christian apologist, Professor William Lane Craig. That is Professor Dawkins’ privilege; he is under no obligation to debate with anyone. Until recently, Dawkins’ favorite reason for refusing to face off against Professor William Lane Craig was that Craig was nothing more than a professional debater. But now, in an article in The Guardian (20 October 2011) entitled, Why I refuse to debate with William Lane Craig, Richard Dawkins leads off by firing this salvo: “This Christian ‘philosopher’ is an apologist for genocide. I would rather leave an empty chair than share a platform with him.”

In the same article, Professor Dawkins savagely castigates William Lane Craig for his willingness to justify “genocides ordered by the God of the Old Testament”. According to Dawkins, “Most churchmen these days wisely disown the horrific genocides ordered by the God of the Old Testament” – unlike Craig, who argues that “the Canaanites were debauched and sinful and therefore deserved to be slaughtered.” Dawkins then quotes William Lane Craig as justifying the slaughter on the grounds that: (i) if these children had been allowed to live, they would have turned the Israelites towards serving the evil Canaanite gods; and (ii) the children who were slaughtered would have gone to Heaven instantly when they died, so God did them no wrong in taking their lives. Dawkins triumphantly concludes:

Would you shake hands with a man who could write stuff like that? Would you share a platform with him? I wouldn’t, and I won’t. Even if I were not engaged to be in London on the day in question, I would be proud to leave that chair in Oxford eloquently empty.

Professor Dawkins, allow me to briefly introduce myself. My name is Vincent Torley (my Web page is here), and I have a Ph.D. in philosophy. I’m an Intelligent Design proponent who also believes that modern life-forms are descended from a common ancestor that lived around four billion years ago. I’m an occasional contributor to the Intelligent Design Website, Uncommon Descent. Apart from that, I’m nobody of any consequence.

Professor Dawkins, I have ten charges to make against you, and they relate to apparent cases of lying, hypocrisy and moral inconsistency on your part. Brace yourself. I’ve listed the charges for the benefits of people reading this post.

My Ten Charges against Professor Richard Dawkins

1. Professor Dawkins has apparently lied to his own readers at the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. In a recent post (dated 1 May 2011) he stated that he “didn’t know quite how evil [William Lane Craig’s] theology is” until atheist blogger Greta Christina alerted him to Craig’s views in an article she wrote on 25 April 2011, when in fact, Dawkins had already read Professor Craig’s “staggeringly awful” essay on the slaughter of the Canaanites and blogged about it in his personal forum (http://forum.richarddawkins.net), three years earlier, on 21 April 2008. In other words, Professor Dawkins’ alleged shock at recently discovering Craig’s “evil” views turns out to have been feigned: he knew about these views some years ago.

2. Professor Dawkins has recently maligned Professor William Lane Craig as a “fundamentalist nutbag” who isn’t even a real philosopher and whose only claim to fame is that he is a professional debater, but his own statements about Craig back in 2008 completely contradict these assertions. Moreover, Dawkins’ characterization of Craig as a “fundamentalist nutbag” is particularly unjust, given that Professor Craig has admitted that he’s quite willing to change his mind on the slaughter of the Canaanites, if proven wrong. Although Professor Craig upholds Biblical inerrancy, he does so provisionally: he says it’s possible that the Bible might be sometimes wrong on moral matters, and furthermore, he acknowledges that the Canaanite conquest might not have even happened, as an historical event. That certainly doesn’t sound like the writings of a “nutbag” to me.

3. Professor Dawkins says that he refuses to share a platform with William Lane Craig, because of his views on the slaughter of the Canaanites, but he has already debated someone who holds substantially the same views as Craig on the slaughter of the Canaanites. On 23 October 1996, Dawkins debated Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who also believes that the slaughter of the Canaanites was morally justified under the circumstances at the time (see here and here). What’s more, in 2006, Dawkins appeared in a television panel with Professor Richard Swinburne, who holds the same view. Dawkins might reply that Swinburne did not make his views on the slaughter of the Canaanites public until 2011, but as I shall argue below, he can hardly make the same excuse about not knowing Rabbi Boteach’s views. If he did not know, then he was extraordinarily naive.

4. Professor Dawkins refuses on principle to share a platform with William Lane Craig because of his views on the slaughter of the Canaanites, yet he is perfectly willing to share a platform with atheists whose moral opinions are far more horrendous: Dan Barker, who says that child rape could be moral if it were absolutely necessary in order to save humanity; Dr. Sam Harris, who says that pushing an innocent man into the path of an oncoming train is OK, if it is necessary in order to save a greater number of human lives; and Professor Peter Singer, who believes that sex with animals is not intrinsically wrong, if both parties consent.

5. Professor Dawkins refuses to share a platform with William Lane Craig, who holds that God commanded the Israelites to slaughter Canaanite babies whom He subsequently recompensed with eternal life in the hereafter. However, he is quite happy to share a platform with Professor P. Z. Myers, who doesn’t even regard newborn babies as people with a right to life. (See here for P.Z. Myers’ original post, here for one reader’s comment and here for P. Z. Myers’ reply, in which he makes his own views plain.) Nor does Professor Peter Singer, whom Dawkins interviewed back in 2009, regard newborn babies as people with a right to life. (See this article.)

6. Apparently Professor Dawkins himself does not believe that a newborn human baby is a person with the same right to life that you or I have, and does not believe that the killing of a healthy newborn baby is just as wrong as the act of killing you or me. For he sees nothing intrinsically wrong with the killing of a one- or two-year-old baby suffering from a horrible incurable disease, that meant it was going to die in agony in later life (see this video at 24:12). He also claims in The God Delusion (Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006, p. 293) that the immorality of killing an individual is tied to the degree of suffering it is capable of. By that logic, it must follow that killing a healthy newborn baby, whose nervous system is still not completely developed, is not as bad as killing an adult.

7. In his article in The Guardian (20 October 2011) condemning William Lane Craig, Professor Dawkins fails to explain exactly why it would be wrong under all circumstances for God (if He existed) to take the life of an innocent human baby, if that baby was compensated with eternal life in the hereafter. In fact, as I will demonstrate below, if we look at the most common arguments against killing the innocent, then it is impossible to construct a knock-down case establishing that this act of God would be wrong under all possible circumstances. Strange as it may seem, there are always some possible circumstances we can envisage, in which it might be right for God to act in this way.

8. Professor Dawkins declines to say whether he agrees with some of his fans and followers, who consider the God of the Old Testament to be morally equivalent to Hitler (see here and here for examples). However, the very comparison is odious, for in the same Old Testament books which Dawkins condemns, God exhorts the Israelites: “Do not seek revenge”; “Love your neighbor as yourself” and: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:18, 33-34, NIV.) That certainly doesn’t sound like Hitler to me – and I’ve personally visited Auschwitz and Birkenau. I wonder if Professor Dawkins has.

9. Dawkins singles out Professor William Lane Craig for condemnation as a “fundamentalist nutbag”, but he fails to realize that Professor William Lane Craig’s views on the slaughter of the Canaanites were shared by St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, the Bible commentator Matthew Henry, and John Wesley, as well as some modern Christian philosophers of eminent standing, such as Richard Swinburne, whom he appeared on a television panel with in 2006. Is he prepared to call all these people “nutbags” too? That’s a lot of crazy people, I must say.

10. Unlike the late Stephen Jay Gould (who maintained that the experiment would be just about the most unethical thing he could imagine), Professor Dawkins believes that the creation of a hybrid between humans and chimps “might be a very moral thing to do”, so long as it was not exploited or treated like a circus freak (see this video at 40:33), although he later concedes that if only one were created, it might get lonely (perhaps a group of hybrids would be OK, then?) Dawkins has destroyed his own moral credibility by making such a ridiculous statement. How can he possibly expect us to take him seriously when he talks about ethics, from now on?

Professor Dawkins, I understand that you are a very busy man. Nevertheless, I should warn you that a failure to answer these charges will expose you to charges of apparent lying, character assassination, public hypocrisy, as well as an ethical double-standard on your part. The choice is yours.

Read the rest of the article here.

126 Replies to ““Liar, liar, pants on fire”? Ten Tough Questions for Professor Dawkins.

  1. 1
    bbigej says:

    Talk about throwing down the gauntlet.

  2. 2
    NickMatzke_UD says:

    4. Professor Dawkins refuses on principle to share a platform with William Lane Craig because of his views on the slaughter of the Canaanites, yet he is perfectly willing to share a platform with atheists whose moral opinions are far more horrendous: Dan Barker, who says that child rape could be moral if it were absolutely necessary in order to save humanity; Dr. Sam Harris, who says that pushing an innocent man into the path of an oncoming train is OK, if it is necessary in order to save a greater number of human lives; and Professor Peter Singer, who believes that sex with animals is not intrinsically wrong, if both parties consent.

    Really? These are *worse* than genocide? The first two are obviously just highly contrived “no good answer” situations used as thought experiments in philosophy classes. Arguing that the less-worse answer is the one where fewer people die is the answer given by a fair number of people in surveys, and it is definitely not equivalent to genocide or the endorsement of genocide.

    And, beastiality is wrong, but wronger than *genocide*? Gimme a break.

    5. Professor Dawkins refuses to share a platform with William Lane Craig, who holds that God commanded the Israelites to slaughter Canaanite babies whom He subsequently recompensed with eternal life in the hereafter.

    Let’s not forget about the slaughtered women and children, too. Did they get eternal life? And, would you care to cite the Bible verse that proves that God did this?

    And anyway, the argument that killing people is fine if they will get eternal life leads to very bad places.

    It would be much simpler to admit that this is probably a legendary expansion on an ancient battle, with the story exaggerated in the retelling — both the number of deaths and the alleged endorsement of the activity by God. Why not go that route?

  3. 3
    Graham says:

    So, does WLC justify the slaughter or not ?

  4. 4
    Petrushka says:

    My question is not whether it is wrong for God to kill people, but whether it is wrong for people to kill entire nations because they want their land.

    Of course God would know that human life is presumably worth nothing at all compared to eternal life. From that point of view one wonders why bother with it in the first place.

    But when another person starts telling me that God ordered me to kill women, infants and children, I’d say I want to hear it directly.

  5. 5
    eigenstate says:

    My take on your charges, as one who’s followed Dawkins and Craig for years:

    #1. True enough. I actually remember that thread now at RD.net, but in Dawkins defense, I know I had read the divine command theory nonsense he defends way back then, but had forgotten that was part of WLC’s “official beliefs”. He sticks to his “big five” points, or “big three” now, more lately, as in his recent debates with Sam Harris or Stephen Law. I was again surprised, and taken aback again at the hollowed out conscience of this guy. That takes guts to baptize genocide like he does. I don’t believe in any devil any more than any god, but WLC is an advocate for the devil if there is one, on that point, in the most profound sense.

    #2. Conflation of two senses of the label. Inerrancy IS nutbaggery by any reasonable review, as far as I can see (and inerrancy is in NO way normative for Christianity). That is a belief that is impossible to ground as a belief outside of fundamentalism, fundamentalism as naked dogma; the Bible doesn’t even make that claim about itself. But I understand Dawkins’ earlier point to be salient, even so. Inerrancy may be nutbaggery, but WLC is NOT a “fringe” guy, not a fundamentalist in the “Fred Phelps is a fundamentalist” sense. WLC is not the guy in the loincloth wandering the streets as some kind of freak of Christianity. He’s the apologist in the Armani suit who is something of a “rock star” in evangelical and even some non-evangelical circles. On the one charge, Dawkins is pointing out that WLC is not fringe, within the broad circle of evangelical Christianity. On the other case, he’s pointing out that conceptually, anyone who subscribes to inerrancy is a “fundamentalist”, no matter how popular or not that it.

    #3. Not even strong enough to be a weak charge. “Nine charges” may not be as nice as a round number, but this one doesn’t even get off the ground. I should point out here that I don’t think Dawkins, or any serious academic should deign to debate WLC, but I think Dawkins’ excuse here is disingenuous at best. Right decision, wrong (stated) reason. I don’t find it even passingly credible that Dawkins is really unable to get past that view long enough for a debate. But it’s something between pedantic and näive to pretend that there isn’t a lot more going on here in this disagreement than the God-commander slaughter of innocents in the OT.

    #4. I think that is perfectly principled, assuming, arguendo, that Dawkins’ stated reason is the actual one. I don’t subscribe to one or more of those positions you listed, but I can see a reasonable path to each — a poor conclusion, in my view, but arrive at on basically reasonable grounds (ethics is necessarily a balance of competing interests, so much of this is intrinsic to the enterprise). WLC’s divine command ethics are wholly different from this, and share no such reasonable foundation. This is a terrible moral position arrived at by the evil, deliberate choice of superstition and moral abdication. That doesn’t mean Singer’s position is right, but WLC’s position is execrable in ways none of the others is, a perfect example of what can happen from abandoning reason as a governing principle, rather than a lawyer to rationalize superstitions.

    #5. See #4. WLC’s position is categorically inferior due to its eschewing of rational analysis of the competing interests (and in Myers’ case, knowledge regarding biology and physiology). This charge is a fail. It’s not just a matter of saying “well, I find X as objectionable as you find Y”. The first principles of WLC’s approach are inferior, anti-reason. Remember he’s the guy who doesn’t need the evidence to weigh for any of this. The philo-mumbo-jumbo is just his day job. He doesn’t believe in God because of the Kalam. He just knows god form unshakeable, incorrigible mystical experience. That’s how one goes of the rails in the most criminal way (I’m pro-life, and do not approve of Myers’ position, but I understand it to be responsibly engaged as a position, unlike Craig’s).

    Continued anon…

  6. 6
    eigenstate says:

    Continuing…

    #6 “Intrinsically wrong” is problematic from a rationalist point of view. “Wrong” as a value judgment may obtain, but it betrays a religious kind of dogma that defeats that very reasoning to suppose “intrinsically” applies. That’s a basically amoral way of thinking about, one which imputes “wrong” as only the dictates of power — an omnipotent deity, for example. “It’s intrinsic because God says it is” actually negates itself as an assertion, right? Anyway, I’m not convinced by this position, but I can see the reasoning the coherence behind the argument. I think the legal personhood reasonably assigned to a newborn at birth establishes an egalitarian minimum life interest, but that’s a legal and social imputation. In some sense that specifically sets those kinds of considerations aside (hard to do as a practical matter), Dawkins et al have a valid point, a reasonable case to make. Again, though, WLC is from Mars on this. He’s not even on the playing field of reason on this.

    #7. I am not Dawkins, but that’s not even a speed bump of a challenge to dismiss. “Eternal life” is not facts-in-evidence even if we DO wonder what kind of compensation it might be against the taking of one’s life in the real world, but no matter, that: it’s not any kind of compensation even if eternal life WERE real. The only way we should find ourselves susceptible to that lame appeal is if we are subscribing to the same divine command ethics as Craig (yikes!).

    #8. That the comparison is apt as it is, even if your defense is accepted, should be enough to sear the conscience of religious people who accept the OT as historical, and morally authoritative. That an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent deity surpassed Hitler in this particular or that is the very picture of “damning with faint praise”, isn’t it. (Calling Godwin’s law on this basic line of discourse in advance!). There’s just not much available to you if you have to defend the slaughter of an entire people, and your “moral authority” punishes his chosen people because they weren’t systematic and complete enough in killing the children, women, and their animals, etc. That’s the god Craig choose to worship, though, so…

    #9. I don’t think “nutbags” is workable in most cases. “Nutbaggery” is highly applicable, though. It’s not ad hominem, but applied to the idea, and leaves ample room for recognizing and appreciating other views and positions which may be brilliant, cogent, penetrating, and performative. But support for the slaughter of the Midianites, for example, is just impossible to arrive at in a reasonable, human-interested way. It’s “moral nutbaggery” of the most rarified kind. That doesn’t mean Aquinas wasn’t brilliant and lucid on many other points; manifestly he was. But if he is one to sign up for WLC’s divine command horrors, that’s a severe demerit for him. There’s some ideas in James Watson’s history that I think are charitably labeled as “crackpot” and “nutbaggery”. But that doesn’t diminish the brilliance of his meritorious work on DNA. People who are right on in some areas can be and sometimes are just completely whack in other areas.

    #10. I can understand the concern for being “one of a kind”, and lonely/isolated, etc. But apart from that (and perhaps that would be addressed by a “hybrid population” of humans/apes), I understand the emotional reaction, but do not see the ethical case as a categorical imperative to avoid such a thing. Perhaps there is a case to be made, but I’m not aware of it. This kind of complaint regularly strikes me as very much like the appeal from those who “just know” that homosexuality” is “unnatural” and “inherently wrong”. It traffics only on the appeal to some perceived cultural consensus or social unanimity, in lieu of making a case on the ethical merits. If Neanderthals and some proto-humans were to have produced offspring, was that unethical back 500,000 years ago? If the biology works, it works, right? I think this is a particular horror for those with religious intuitions because it’s a huge cognitive dissonance for the exceptional status reserved for humans. Not just bigger-brained, but ontologically superior, having been endowed with the imago dei, etc. in some sense that transcends just more advanced physiological capabilities.

  7. 7
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    God explicitly told the Israelites that he was executing the Canaanites because of their wickedness, not because they were special. He never extinguished the Israelites, but he didn’t hold back punishment from them either.

    This type of action is not an absolute moral wrong. It’s wrong for us, because we cannot make such judgments or see the possible outcomes. For me to cut a person open and remove his heart is an absolute moral wrong. For a heart surgeon it isn’t.

    It’s ultimately a matter of trust. God says that he will never act unjustly. He also says that his thinking is far above our own, to the point that we can never fully understand it.

    I choose to trust God, but I understand the other point of view. From that point of view, killing lots of people is wrong no matter what. That’s a point of view that values life, so I have to respect it even if we disagree on this particular matter.

  8. 8
    nullasalus says:

    The summary of these responses amounts to, “Look, infanticide can be morally acceptable. So can bestiality. So can wide-scale slaughter. So can genocide. In fact, these can all be justified as reasonable positions to hold. But, how Craig arrives at these positions is enough to make debating him – that is, showing up to argue that he’s wrong – morally repugnant.”

    Dawkins is not refusing to debate WLC on the grounds that he holds ‘superstitious, unreasonable beliefs’ (From Dawkins’ POV, belief in God, belief in inerrancy, etc). He’s happily debated others who believe in God, etc. His refusal to debate was supposed to have everything to do with the conclusion Craig came to. But he manifestly tolerates, or even views as reasonable, acts which are as or even more morally repugnant – certainly in a popular sense (which is exactly what Dawkins was hinging quite a lot of his reply on) – as Craig’s views.

    And note that saying “Well I think it’s defensible!” doesn’t work, because Craig would say the same. The point of Dawkins reply was that he considers it morally outrageous to even debate someone who holds such views. And it seems clear that if Dawkins’ defense works, it could work against Singer, Myers, and really – Dawkins himself.

    But I think Torley’s move here is misguided. No one – not atheists, not theists, not agnostics – thinks that Dawkins is ducking a debate with Craig due to his moral outrage about his defending the slaughter of the Amalekites. It’s obvious why he’s ducking – fear of another high profile loss. He doesn’t have faith in his abilities or his arguments being persuasive in that forum. It’s like responding to Dawkins giving an excuse of “Well, I have an appointment to get a haircut that day” and replying by conducting a survey of barber shops in the area, seeing how long a haircut takes, seeing the average wait time… Kind of pointless.

  9. 9
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    There are two different ways of looking at this.

    One if is you don’t believe in God, or in the God of the Bible. If you don’t, then this is just a bunch of people killing each other over land with no respect for life. That’s not what I personally believe, but it’s a logical conclusion from that point of view.

    If you do believe in God, and in the God of the Bible, then you look at the matter from a very different point of view. If God created everything and everyone, knows everything that we don’t, and says that he’ll never do anything unjust, then you either just take it or leave it.

    That point of view hinges on whether one is willing to consider that there might be someone else who understands more than we do and is in a position to know what we cannot and make judgments that we cannot.

    The alternative is to decide that our personal understanding of right and wrong, while perhaps enlightened, also contains the highest form of morality and the greatest wisdom possible.

    I’m not saying that to judge it, but you must realize that is the position you are taking.

    Look at the criminals in jail in the United States. They are in and out of prison. Many of them will never know anything else. I certainly don’t advocate killing them. But surely you can see that no one has the wisdom to determine what to to with them, how to make them better citizens, or how to prevent the circumstances that led them to where they are.

    You may make statements about genocide in a mocking tone. But where is your great wisdom, or mine? How many died in Iraq? How many die from violence each day? From poverty? That is the death toll from our collective wisdom. I don’t see what higher moral plane it elevates us to that we can so quickly judge the events that took place in the Bible.

    And if you don’t believe in God, then why bother judging him anyway?

  10. 10
    eigenstate says:

    I don’t find infanticide morally acceptable, or bestiality, or wanton slaughter of human beings. But that doesn’t make these all peers in moral standing. Divine Command commits are particularly toxic because it is a meta-ethical commitment. The divine command theory subscribe hasn’t just made a (possibly) poor moral choice on one issue or another. She has abdicated moral autonomy altogether. Some putative support for infanticide by PZ Myers (not saying he’s against what is alleged, I’m just not familiar with his stance) is not like that, it does not consign all moral authority to some unseen, impassable, ineffable deity.

    That’s a problem that completely outclasses an “ethical fail”. It’s a meta-ethical fail on Craig’s part. Any moral mistakes on infanticide questions, as egregious as they may be, pale in comparison to such a meta-ethical fail as Craig’s. Literally ANYTHING can be endorsed, and endorsed beyond any corrigibility by the meta-ethical commitments Craig endorses. See, in painful-to-read vivid form, Craig’s defense of the slaughter of entire peoples in the OT.

    That does distinguish Craig’s fail from any alleged “equivalent fail” on the part of Myers or Singer. Myers and Singer are without the meta-ethical incorrigibility and irrationality of divine fiat.

  11. 11
    material.infantacy says:

    What individuals or groups currently endorse the destruction of the innocent in this day and age? That would seem a good indicator of where the substantive “ethical fail” resides.

  12. 12
    bbigej says:

    I always get a kick out of observing materialists expressing “moral outrage”…

  13. 13
    nullasalus says:

    I don’t find infanticide morally acceptable, or bestiality, or wanton slaughter of human beings. But that doesn’t make these all peers in moral standing. Divine Command commits are particularly toxic because it is a meta-ethical commitment.

    That you find them toxic does not mean that they are, in fact, toxic – this has to be argued for. More than that, Dawkins did not launch into any sort of criticism about the “meta-ethical commitments” Craig was engaged in. He didn’t mention the “divine command theory” once. He appealed, almost exclusively, to the actual acts themselves. Dawkins did not make an argument against, or even a denunciation of, a general ethical/moral theory that could in principle – or did, in fact – lead to conclusions he finds morally abhorrent. He pointed at the end results and sneered “Who could ever defend such acts”?

    And as Torley pointed out: Well, Dawkins could. And Singer could. And Harris could. And many others could. It undermines his move here completely.

    This is a case – a very typical case, when it comes to Dawkins – of people presenting what they wish Dawkins would have said, or imagine they could have said, as what he actually said. As it stands, the criticism here would fail against Craig, since it amounts to “I think his theory is abhorrent, and that’s that.” – but it suffers from the difficulty of not even being the reasoning Dawkins offered to reject Craig.

    And frankly, I would love – absolutely love – for Dawkins to say, “Look, killing innocent people, infanticide, bestiality and genocide are all reasonable sometimes. But my problem here is how Craig reached these conclusions! No, no, if you’re going to kill children, justify it the way Peter Singer does. That’s reasonable. This, however, is simply unacceptable.”

  14. 14
    wallstreeter43 says:

    Is this the same Dawkins some of you are defending that says this about hitler and moral relativism?

    http://www.dyeager.org/post/20.....-absolutes

    “”Previously we noted in an interview with Richard Dawkins[1], when asked for his definition of morality he responded “Moral philosophic reasoning and a shifting zeitgeist.” In short, society defines whatever it believes is right and wrong. That is, of course, value relativism where nothing is right or wrong—absolute morality doesn’t exist according to Dawkins””

    “”The interviewer noticed this, and when prompted to respond Dawkins replied “What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right?”.

    A bizarre place to find yourself in to be sure; Dawkins expresses such contempt for religion and God he finds himself in the strange place in justifying his atheism he can’t even say Hitler was evil.””

    Dawkins is just a coward , and the true reason hes been ducking Craig all of these years is that he would be trounced in a debate and fears that he would either lose a percentage of his more open minded followers or that he would be exposed for his infantile philosophy and red herring arguments.

    Im getting great pleasure in knowing that Craig went on dawkins home turf and dawkins is too afraid to debate him there.

    Dawkins isnt after the truth, he just wants to retain his popularity with his sheeple.

  15. 15
    Graham says:

    Only those who remained behind were to be utterly exterminated

    Is this Craigs loving god ?

  16. 16
    NickMatzke_UD says:

    So, your position is that genocide is wrong now, but was just hunky dory back then?

  17. 17
    material.infantacy says:

    So it is wrong in the here and now, that’s your position? That is, the willful destruction of the innocent is objectively wrong today?

    That’s my position. What’s yours?

  18. 18
    Petrushka says:

    And to think that on another thread I was accused of slander for noticing that UD members have found ways to justify genocide.

  19. 19
  20. 20
    material.infantacy says:

    Is a judge who sentences a convicted murderer to death, himself a murderer?

    Is a vigilante citizen who summarily executes a murder suspect, himself a murderer?

    If you answer “no” to the first and “yes” to the second, then it would be slander to accuse you of justifying murder.

  21. 21
    Chas D says:

    And if you don’t believe in God, then why bother judging him anyway?

    It isn’t so much a question of judging God, but of taking the position “If God exists, then …”. If one is a believer and one thinks that everything that happens will be judged with infinite wisdom, then that can excuse an awful lot ‘down here’. Without wishing to disabuse someone of their ultimate faith, one might still want to argue against the effect that some aspect of their belief has on the value they place on other people’s lives. The Bible is very clear on killing. But if one thinks that, behind the Bible, is a being who will both reward the victim with eternal life, and make a specific and just decision on the transgressor based upon proper repentance, that is a position that even the atheist is entitled to query, because of its earthly consequences!

  22. 22
    Petrushka says:

    Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

    Yes. I think the death penalty is murder. Assuming one is a True Christian.

  23. 23
    philip snow says:

    Well, you too, have a genocide problem! Even more so, in fact, if you believe God used billions of yrs of vicious, ‘red in tooth and claw’ ‘natural selection’ to turn slime into people, then lied and said it was ‘very Good’!! As even Dawkins realises! That’s why, correctly for once, he has no time for compromisers like most of you ID/Ross-type guys….What awful contortions you must have to go through to subvert the clear teaching of ‘In 6 days God made the heavens and the earth and everything that is in them, and rested on the 7th day – therefore the Lord rested on the 7th day and made it holy’ etc… There is nothing in the clear examples of rapid, catastrophic geology, or the incredible vagaries of all radiodating methods, the evident rapidity of adaptive ‘speciation’ or archaeological recent history etc, that does NOT contradict Genesis etc. Jesus et al never ever referred to Genesis etc as anything other than recent history, and just as there are no more than a few thousand yrs in the Torah, so there is’nt in Revelation etc, as we can clearly see already! We should be getting ready for the real, 2 Peter 3 ‘heat death’ of the universe, and warning everbody, but as Jesus et al warned about the complacency ‘JUST like the days of Naoh….and significantly for modern Caananites like ‘Liberal Christians’, …LOT! ‘Will He find faith on earth’ when He returns to a world of scripture-twisters and adders to scripture?? ‘The time is short’….

  24. 24
    homerj1 says:

    God ordered a one-time, one-place clearing out of the Promised Land. The inhabitants had been unbelievably warped for over 400 years, offering children as live sacrifices to their gods, having sex with animals, etc. (see Leviticus 18 for a laundry list of their deeds).

    It wasn’t genocide, by the way. God ordered the clearing out of a land, not a race.

    Oh, and this was God ordering this, not a human. He was within his rights as creator.

  25. 25
  26. 26

    Yeah, Dawkins can be pretty hypocritical.

    He nonetheless has an excellent point about Craig’s moral philosophy.

    I’m still stunned that some people here defend it.

    And I think that drawing some kind of moral equivalence between the butchering of small children because their parents belonged to a population that butchered small children, and the euthanasia of children suffering horribly from an incurable disease is pretty crass.

    The second is motivated by “treat others as you would be treated”. The first is not. Feel free to disagree with both, but let’s not pretend there is any moral equivalence, or that the first is not morally inferior to the second.

  27. 27
    Joseph says:

    One more time for the learning impaired-

    If justice is good and the alleged genocides were just, then it follows that God is still good.

  28. 28
    bornagain77 says:

    ‘Are you serious?’

    And are you serious in that you presuppose yourself to be wiser than Almighty God? And though you may not doubt that you understand more than God himself, myself I have more than sufficient reason to believe that you are not nearly as wise as you present yourself to be:

    Erasing Hell by Francis Chan – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnrJVTSYLr8

    Job 38:4-11
    “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched a line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb; When I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band; When I fixed my limit for it, and set bars and doors; When I said, ‘This far you may come but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!”

    Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sl0Ln3Ptb8

  29. 29
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    Elizabeth,

    You’re right to be shocked by the killing and the deaths. From the position of a Christian, the same God who commanded it gave you the facility to be disturbed by it.

    The mistake you make is in thinking that the obvious wrongness of you or I or Hitler killing people translates into some absolute moral wrong, that there is no higher vantage point from which such decisions can be made.

    Petrushka quoted the verse, ‘Do not avenge, but leave room for God’s wrath.’ Just a few verses early it commands us not to be wrathful. That a double standard, and deliberately so. Within a few verses it is written that we should not vengefully express wrath, but God can, should, and does.

    So from the standpoint of a Christian, there is no conflict, because there is not one standard, but two. Or, to look at it a different way, there is one standard, but God reserves the decision for himself.

    If you’re going to say what God should or shouldn’t do or what should makes sense to a Christian, then look at it from that perspective.

    IOW, if you don’t believe that God was justified, then you don’t believe in the Bible. If you don’t believe in the Bible, then you don’t believe that God commanded it. If you don’t believe that God commanded it, how can you then turn around and say that he was wrong to command it?

  30. 30
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    This is tricky, but I’m siding with Petrushka, sort of.
    The Bible does not condemn capital punishment. It acknowledges that governments ‘bear the sword’ to punish wrongs, and that God permits it. It serves as a deterrent against wrong.

    At the same time, that sword has been used to wrongfully persecute, and even in recent times to execute obviously innocent people.

    The scriptures place Christians outside of that. If people are committing crimes and governments are punishing, even killing them, that is between them. God permits that arrangement, and it is not our place to interfere.

    But similarly, it is not the place of Christians to execute anyone, period. The scriptures make clear (1 Cor 5,6) that the role of Christians is to judge the congregation, and the greatest punishment is excommunication. Those verses spell it out in a few clearly written sentences that leave no room for confusion. God judges those outside, Christians judge those inside. Therefore Christians are not granted the authority to punish a crime by taking a life.

  31. 31
    Barry Arrington says:

    You know why Dr. Liddle. (Unless you have figured out how to derive an “ought” from an “is”)

  32. 32
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    Chas D,

    I wasn’t entirely sure what position you were taking.

    But if one thinks that, behind the Bible, is a being who will both reward the victim with eternal life, and make a specific and just decision on the transgressor based upon proper repentance, that is a position that even the atheist is entitled to query, because of its earthly consequences!

    If by “query” you mean inquire about it, I would say it’s a position that everyone should query, atheist or otherwise.

    If by “query” you mean challenge it, then I suppose everyone is entitled. But it’s either true or it isn’t, and either way challenging it wouldn’t make a difference. If I have two children they are entitled to argue about what I would or wouldn’t do, but neither one determines the outcome – I do.

  33. 33
    Chris Doyle says:

    Richard Dawkins correctly describes what existence amounts to if the atheistic worldview is true:

    The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

    This is the universe that atheists have to admit they live in. And in such a universe, it is irrational, meaningless and pointless to express moral outrage about anything. Like the Atheist Bus Campaign said:

    There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

    As long as you’re an atheist, and you’re alright (Jack), then moral outrage is a waste of your limited time. Just make sure you do enjoy life – at all costs – because it’s not worth postponing oblivion if you’re suffering in a pitiless and indifferent universe.

  34. 34
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    I’m sure this has already been pointed out, but how can Dawkins judge anything as good or bad, ever, after stating that there is no good or bad?

    I don’t fault him if he follows his beliefs to this logical conclusion. Good for him, he’s being honest (until someone does something “bad” to him, I’m sure.)

    Perhaps he even realizes how absurd it is to call anything (i.e. Israel, Canaan) “bad” while explicitly stating that there is no such thing as “bad.”

    He’s just trying to make religious people feel stupid by pointing out what he sees as glaring inconsistencies in their belief system. But he doesn’t care to understand that system, so he’s just speaking from ignorance.

    It’s like a first grader telling an algebra teacher that variables are stupid because letters can’t equal numbers. Anything can seem stupid if you don’t understand it. But to use it an excuse to avoid understanding it is willful ignorance.

    Even ignorance isn’t that bad. But to be proud of it is what makes someone a genuine idiot.

  35. 35
    eigenstate says:

    nullasalus,

    I’m not convinced Dawkins is familiar with “divine command theory” as a term of art. He may be, but that’s clearly what Craig is espousing, as a working label in theology and theistic ethics. That he doesn’t use the term doesn’t discount his grasp of the problem — the poverty of a “God said it, that settles it, period” as the overriding principle.

    If you were expecting Dawkins to deconstruct Divine Command Theory in his Guardian article, I think you are mistaken on the goal of the piece — this is retail polemic. And as I said, and this I think is largely to his credit, he’s likely not comfortable on that kind of theology-centric analysis on his own.

    I believe you’ve missed the major thrust here, though: Neither Dawkins nor Singer nor Harris or any of those guys can get where William Lane Craig stands. To suppose so is to completely miss the meta-ethical chasm that Craig’s Divine Command disposition creates between its subscribers and the dialectic-everyone-else. PZ Myers can at least HEAR you (or me), in other words, and your plea for the life interest of a fetus or a newborn. Craig can’t possibly even hear you; he can’t consider your case, because Just Is As Just Does, and it’s an axiom. God declaring genocide good makes it good, and that’s that. There is nothing more to hear or consider.

    Craig is completely incorrigible epistemically in ways that all the “others” you mention would revile. At a minimum, they maintain some semblance of rational corrigibility that Craig has categorically eschewed. If Torley thinks otherwise, I’d relish a chance to see that case for equivalency and cross examine it. That’s a pretty lopsided contest, in my view.

    As for what you’d love to hear Dawkins say, I think I would salute that kind of clarity from Dawkins, myself, and agree with it. Singer (from other points of view) may ARRIVE at evil, but has a reasoning epistemology and a tractable ethical framework to begin with at least. Craig is the mind that BEGINS from evil — that might makes right, and that what God says is good is unassailably good, by definition, even when tested to such absurd lengths as to making Craig a willing and enthusiastic apologist for the wholesale slaughter of innocents and genocide.

    That IS unacceptable on a more fundamental level than any wrong beliefs Singer may arrive at. Singer at least begins from reasonable first principles, and is corrigible in principle. Craig does not and is not.

    Maybe it’s me projecting onto Dawkins, but I believe that’s the categorical difference, the warrant for the “extra deep outrage” at Craig’s position. It’s particularly execrably in ways other “wrong moral stances” aren’t, and betrays a much deeper and more dangerous moral problem.

  36. 36
    Bantay says:

    Dr Liddle

    God gave the Canaanites sufficient warning (470 years of warning) before executing a purge of their presence in the land meant for the Hebrews.

    Furthermore, it was not meant as a wholesale slaughter of Canaanites on the basis of their being Canaanite, but on the basis of their not turning from sin. This degree of undeserved patience on the part of a just and holy God in entirely inconsistent with your (and Dawkin’s) caricature of the Hebrew/Christian God, especially in light of the suffering and cruelty inflicted upon innocent children by the Canaanites themselves.

    As you may remember from an earlier post on some other thread, I listed some Scriptures that demonstrate the Canaanites were actually torturing and sacrificing young children in ritual murders by burning them alive.

    Also, that God expressly forbade the Hebrews from engaging in ritual child sacrifice, placed among the prohibitions of sexual sin are suggestive that the Canaanite culture was so morally depraved that sexual acts were taking place simultaneously with the child sacrifices.

    Again, this is not consistent with the (your) typical objection, as if the Canaanites were somehow themselves saints undeserving of judgment and worthy of some kind of moral defense. No, rather there is a murder and cruel suffering of young children on a much greater scale going on this very day in the form of abortion, the forcible ripping out of a mother’s womb of an innocent, young life….a heinous crime that atheists are more likely to support than theists and of which the Hebrew/Christian God expressly stands against.

    So again, I ask you to examine yourself. You are not qualified to indict the Hebrew/Christian God, but we both know that at some time in your life, you have lied, stolen or used God’s name in vain. If there is anyone guilty and needing a defense, it is you. God loves you so much that He made a way for you to be forgiven of your sins, in the person of Jesus Christ and His work upon the Cross before rising again on the 3rd day in view of over 500 eyewitnesses over a period of 40 days. This demonstration of self-sacrificial love is again, not consistent with the caricature that Dawkins continues to try to (desperately) foist upon others. You don’t have to lower yourself to that level.

  37. 37
    eigenstate says:

    I’m sure this has already been pointed out, but how can Dawkins judge anything as good or bad, ever, after stating that there is no good or bad?

    I think you missed the key qualifier there — “at bottom”. There is no “cosmic moral authority”, in his view. Man is the measure. That’s local, not cosmic, evolutionary, biological, physical, not transcendant, metaphysical.

    In no way does that remove “good” or “evil” from the lexicon. Instead, this is a position that provides a real world ground for those semantics. Moral goods are those principles and consequences that promote human flourishing, on human terms, in light of evolved human biology and psychology. There is no “cosmic good” that transcends that, and this insight GROUNDS values rather than annihilates them.

    It says something quite opposite of how you took it then. This materialist view has this semantic grounding as a real world, objectively verifiable basis (man has a physical nature and psychology we can investigate scientifically as the basis for informing our moral calculus, in other words), which is grounds that superstitious appeals to a conjectured deity-as-moral-lawgiver can only ground as a matter of conjecture.

    The theist has no grounds for morality “at bottom” either, in his view, but is in a much worse predicament. For he is confused and mistaken about the basis and warrant for moral principle formation. Materialist ethics are as complicated and messy and difficult as human psychology and biology are, because they are intricately bound up in that. But in that they are attached to the real world, to the real nature of humans, as the background for thinking about good and evil.

  38. 38
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    Eigenstate,

    In no way does that remove “good” or “evil” from the lexicon. Instead, this is a position that provides a real world ground for those semantics. Moral goods are those principles and consequences that promote human flourishing, on human terms, in light of evolved human biology and psychology.

    So you’re saying that if one group of people wiped out another group of people thousands of years ago, this did not promote human flourishing.

    Perhaps if we bomb Colombia into the stone age they will stop exporting cocaine, and we will thus promote human flourishing.

    Perhaps if we change the three-strikes rule to include immediate execution the rest of us will flourish.

    Any of these things could be good. Or they could be evil. Who decides? Is it a vote? Do the people who die get a vote? What the heck is “flourishing?” Did you flourish today?

    Your definition, “Moral goods are those principles and consequences that promote human flourishing, on human terms, in light of evolved human biology and psychology,” is vacuous.

  39. 39

    There really only needs to be one question posed to Dawkins.

    “Consistent with your atheism which tells us that everything can be reduced to matter in motion, why should I care about the Canaanites being slaughtered?”

  40. 40

    your atheism which tells us that everything can be reduced to matter in motion

    It “tells us” no such thing.

  41. 41

    How can genocide be just?

  42. 42

    And are you serious in that you presuppose yourself to be wiser than Almighty God?

    I suppose myself wiser than those “Christians” who imagine that a good God could have ordered genocide.

  43. 43

    God gave the Canaanites sufficient warning (470 years of warning) before executing a purge of their presence in the land meant for the Hebrews.

    “meant for the Hebrews”?

    Can you hear yourself?

  44. 44
    Collin says:

    Craig does not endorse genocide. I am fully convinced that he would never support someone proposing it today. He is just trying to make sense of a genocide that happened. Maybe he fails, but he is NOT endorsing genocide.

  45. 45
    Collin says:

    If I may, I don’t think that Craig’s moral philosophy really centers around this topic. He is merely trying to reconcile his belief in the inerrancy of the bible and his belief in the goodness of God. That’s a very difficult thing to do here and I don’t think he succeeds. But I do not think that Craig is trying to justify any proposed genocide nor do I think that if you asked him what his moral philosophy is that he’d even think about this part of the bible. He’d tell you more about the teachings of Jesus and Paul than what is found in Leviticus (or wherever).

  46. 46
    Collin says:

    I don’t think it can. But what about when the Allies destroyed many German and Japanese cities in World War 2? I’m curious to know if you think those were justified or not.

  47. 47
    nullasalus says:

    Maybe it’s me projecting onto Dawkins

    It is. And that’s the problem. The case you’re making here – and again, this case mostly comes down to ‘I dislike Craig’s meta-ethics!’ – has nothing to do with what Dawkins said.

    As I said, by all means, let’s see Dawkins say that one can reasonably come to the conclusion that infanticide, genocide, bestiality, etc are acceptable, even moral acts – but that what makes Craig go a bridge too far is the particular meta-ethics he upholds. It would suck almost all of the air out of his reply – you know it, I know it. But more than that, Dawkins simply did not present the argument you’ve been giving here anyway. The concern is not “Hypothetically, what reasons could Dawkins give for refusing to debate Craig which sound principled yet which don’t run roughshod over his past stated views and acts?” It’s “Do the reasons Dawkins gave hold water?” And no, they don’t.

    Dawkins is ducking Craig because he thinks he would do poorly. He can’t and won’t say that, but there’s the truth that everyone knows.

  48. 48
    Collin says:

    Thanks for pointing this out, nullasalus. Dr. Liddle (and others) want to make this about Craig’s views. This post (and the one before it) are about Dawkins’ excuses. I couldn’t blame Dawkins if this were really his view, but I don’t think that it is. He doesn’t want to debate Craig because Craig would win.

    And I wouldn’t want to debate Craig for the same reason, but I’m humble enough to acknowledge it.

  49. 49

    I don’t “want to make this about Craig’s views”, Collin.

    You can talk about Dawkins if you want. But Craig’s views remain on the table, because Dawkins placed them there. I’m still amazed people can defend them.

    As for Dawkins, I don’t hold any great brief for Dawkins. But I will object when people claim that Dawkins, or any atheist, has no right to critique Craig because we have no basis for our morality or whatever.

    We do.

  50. 50
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    Elizabeth,

    I hesitate to drive off the “absolute moral good” cliff again, because I think it’s an irrelevant point.

    But you seem insistent that to kill a population of people is an absolute moral wrong. Why? I’m not asking it in the snide, ‘you’re an atheist so you don’t believe anything’ way. Really, why?

    You can never really judge anything without the facts, not even this. And in this case those facts include what the long-term outcome would be with out without that decision. And that long-term outcome may even include some of those who died. I don’t know.

    I’m not asking you to agree with it. I’m asking you to realize that although your point of view is a good principle to live by, it is not a universal all-or-nothing case of right or wrong. Within the context of belief in God is the belief that he gives us enough wisdom to live by, but that he has it all. That enables him to decide what is absolutely right or wrong, but enables us to live within narrower guidelines.

    And if you don’t believe in a God who can make those decisions, select the best outcome, and right any wrong, then you don’t believe that God commanded those things anyway. So what does it matter?

    It’s like cutting a man’s heart out while he’s still alive and removing it, and cutting another man’s heart out while it’s still beating and putting it in the other body. No matter how you slice it, that will always be barbaric and shocking outside of its context.

    In this case the wrong you perceive cannot be separated from its context. As an atheist, how can you believe the verses that say God commanded it and reject the ones in which he expresses his hatred of bloodshed and his love of justice? It’s pointless to make arguments about any belief system from outside of its context.

    To me, the next logical argument is, what if someone says that God commanded him to raise an army and commit another genocide? If this act is viewed as righteous, what else will someone do? I don’t disparage such reasoning. It’s rational, and such fears have been realized many times over. But there’s no value in explaining it to anyone who doesn’t really want to know about it. The world is full of people, including clergy and theologians, who have read the Bible from cover to cover and have never been moved by it, because they view it as a collection of stories, just one more dusty old book to discuss academically.

  51. 51
    vjtorley says:

    Hi everyone,

    Thanks for all the comments. I’ve just got time for a few quick responses.

    Elizabeth:

    You ask: “How can genocide be just?” Wrong question. First ask yourself this: “Could it ever be right for God to kill an evildoer?” As I argued in my reply to Professor Dawkins, no-one has been able to show why it wouldn’t be. Next, ask yourself: “Could it ever be right for God to slay an entire society of evildoers, especially when every man and woman living in that society engages in morally depraved practices?” Once again, I think you will agree that if the answer to the first question is “Yes”, then the answer to the second question has to be “Yes”. Now, finally ask yourself: “Could it ever be right for God to slay the innocent children in that society, along with their parents?” The answer I gave was: “If God knows that a fate worse than death awaits them were they to go on living, and if he slays them such in a way that they experience neither pain nor dread in their final moments, then there seems to be no reason in principle why He could not.” Now, when God has done all that, you could say that He has destroyed an entire culture. But if you’re going to object to God behaving in that way, you would really have to show that it was wrong for Him to slay even one individual.

    Nick Matzke asked how Dan Barker’s and Sam Harris’ views could possibly be worse than William Lane Craig’s defense of Divine genocide. I think I see what the problem is here. An action is not good or bad because of its results, but because of the attitudes underlying it. If you want to assess how evil someone is, ask yourself this: “What’s the worst thing he would do to me?” That’s what’s so horrifying about the act utilitarianism embraced by Barker and Harris. There isn’t anything they wouldn’t do, in order to promote the greatest happiness of the greatest number. They would be prepared to inflict unlimited degradation on an individual, for that purpose. Degradation of an individual – e.g. through torture or rape – can be an even more profound insult against human dignity than killing them. There are certain things that the God of the Old Testament would never do to people. He never commands torture. He orders bodies to be buried by sundown. He forbids bestiality. Why? Because we are all made in His image. Even when He destroys people, He does not degrade them. If I had a choice between living in an Israelite theocracy and a society governed by act utilitarian principles, I know which one I’d choose. The worst fate that could happen to me in the former society is that I’d be killed. In the latter society, I might be tortured, drugged, degraded and brainwashed. That’s far worse.

    Must run; off to work now. Be back later.

  52. 52
    Collin says:

    Craig’s views are pretty hard to defend. And I agree that people should not try to make this about the philosophical question “where does morality come from anyway?” That is just hiding the ball. But I think that Mr. Torley’s point is that Dawkins has just found a convenient excuse.

    I wonder if you’d respond to my question above about actions by the Allies in World War 2.

  53. 53
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    From the source:

    Deuteronomy 9:5

    It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 6 Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

    Keep in mind that God would have foreseen when making such a promise what the future state of the land would be. It’s not a case of, ‘Oops, you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, so die.’

    Also, keep in mind that the opportunity was open for anyone to hear and turn back. Many did. Why do you think God made such a spectacular display of miracles in the preceding years? Among other things, it caused everyone to hear of him and associate his name with the Israelite people. He got the word out across entire populations long before there were newspapers or phone lines.

    In fact, in the case of the Gibeonites, years later God showed them greater favor than the Israelites. And then he eventually erased the distinction between Jews and non-Jews. Long before Jesus he made it abundantly clear that his favor was never based on nationality. He didn’t hint at it. He spelled it out.

    Again, if you don’t believe that, then you don’t believe that God did it anyway. So why care?

  54. 54
    eigenstate says:

    He endorses it when God orders it. God doesn’t get judged as “good” or “evil”, in his view. Good and evil are defined by his nature. As Sam Harris pointed out in his recent debate with Craig, if God’s decree was that every third child should have its eyeballs put out at birth, that’s the end of the story. Craig would be obligated to defend that as indisputably, unassailably “good” as he is with the genocide against the Midianites. When you endorse Yahweh in the divine command sense (that is, surrendering one’s own moral judgment in deference to the plenary authority of the Almighty), you endorse what Yahweh endorses. Genocide, stoning of homosexuals, etc.

    One can step back from that bit of moral atrocity, and many, many Christians have the sense and brains to do this. But there you break with Craig’s theology. Such autonomy violates both his commitments to inerrancy and the unquestionable endorsement of whatever God chooses as necessarily good, no matter what it is.

  55. 55

    Well, I don’t know, Collin. My bias is strongly pacifist, and I find it hard to justify those attacks. But I think that often ethical dilemmas are between two evils, made worse by the fact that we have to guess at the likely results of alternative courses of action. Perhaps those attacks saved lives in the end. I don’t now.

    But they were not genocides which is a term usually reserved for the deliberate eradication of a population or culture as the primary effect of an action, and often deliberately targets children to bring about that end, as well as the abduction and/or rape of the women. I do not believe that Churchill or Truman intended to eradicate German/Japanese culture, but to end the war. Hitler, on the other hand, most certainly committed genocide.

    On at least three occasions in the NT, God allegedly commands or commits genocide: the Canaanites, the Midianites, and of course the entire world bar 8 people in the Flood.

    Anyway, I’m going to log out of UD shortly and take an extended break. It’s been nice to talk to you, but I think I’ve been a thorn in your collective sides for long enough 🙂

    If you want to drop by The Skeptical Zone you’ll be very welcome, as will anyone from UD.

  56. 56
    Collin says:

    Thanks. For the response. I think you mean “OT” not “NT.”

  57. 57
    mullerpr says:

    This whole matter forced me to make my mind up about this Canaanite matter and I think my effort to find insight might have crossed some different boundaries. Please evaluate.

    IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Human judgments are not God’s judgments and God’s judgement of the Canaanites is above any human reproach, simply be definition of who God is.

    In the case of the Canaanites I would say the moral judgments of Godly people would have been the same then as Godly people today. In practice this would imply that the actions of the generals and soldiers executing this Divine command would have been judged like it would today – as being evil in terms of our human obligation. People then and now would simply not have the means to assert that the divine command is there to overrule our moral obligation. Infact I think that it would not have come into action if the people involved were not influenced above their natural moral tendencies (This is a well known phenomenon where people of any belief system execute things they would not under normal conditions) . Like a temporary moral switch that were switched off.

    I therefore strongly feel that every Godfearing person of that period would have tried to get out of the execution of the command.

    God being omnipotent and omniscient would never expected humans to act as if His moral judgements are their moral judgements. Abraham is a case in point when he were asked to sacrifice his son – he trusted that God will supply a physical & moral outcome (… Remember this was not a judgement from God but a test to expose the depth of Abraham’s faith to Abraham himself and everyone hearing about this) . This implies that He will get his judgments executed without expecting humans to abdicate their moral duties.

    To illustrate this. I think that those killing non combatants then would have been justly tried if an International Court of Justice were in effect then. This would have maintained both God’s execution (… which would have happened by the hand of men or otherwise, regardless) as well as the universal human moral obligation (… As it is instituted by Divine revelation)

    In summary, it should be clear from our own human experience that we cannot assume that it were simply a Divine decree that moved the Israelites to execute a Divine judgment like this. Overriding authority and influence is a well established fact in law today and it might even have ensured acquittal for the perpetrators without condoning their actions.

  58. 58
    bornagain77 says:

    eigenstate, since God is real and you are not God then it necessarily follows that it is you who is severely twisted in your exegesis so as to so unwisely condemn God who holds the fate of your eternal soul in His hands.

  59. 59
    goodusername says:

    “You know why Dr. Liddle. (Unless you have figured out how to derive an “ought” from an “is”)”

    –“Ought” is derived from goals and desires, which in the case of morality, come from empathy and reason.

    I believe this to be the case for both Christians and atheists.
    If God exists, why “ought” someone obey Him? Probably because it seems the reasonable and empathetic thing to do.

    One can’t argue both that morality is important because of empathy and reason (which I’m pretty sure most Christians would) and at the same time argue that morality is meaningless without God’s laws.

  60. 60
    Timbo says:

    No, I don’t think it is right for God to kill an evildoer. For one thing I don’t think the death penalty is morally defensible for us, let alone God. I meant, God can do whatever he wants! As an omnipotent entity he can just make the evildoer not evil with a flick of his fingers surely?

  61. 61
    Timbo says:

    In line with my comment above, why couldn’t God just use his power to stop the Cannanites eating children or whatever it was they were said to be doing? Why did he have to have them killed?

  62. 62

    Daniel Dennett on debating with William Lane Craig:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wb10QvaHpS4

    Transcript:

    “What professor Craig does brilliantly and with a wonderful enthusiasm, is he takes our every day intuitions, our gut feelings of what’s plausible, what’s counterintuitive, what couldn’t possibly be true and he cantilevers them out into territory where they’ve never been tested in cosmology where whatever the truth is it’s mind-boggling. So we know; we know in advance that whatever the truth is, it’s going to be jaw-droppingly implausible and counterintuitive in one way or another. The simplest expression of this I think was due to the late Philip Morrison who pointed out ‘perhaps we are alone in the universe. Perhaps there’s no other planet in the whole universe that has intelligent life on it. Or perhaps that’s not true.’ Both alternatives are mind-boggling. The hypothesis that we’re alone is mind-boggling; the hypothesis that we’re not alone is mind-boggling, so you can’t use mind-bogglingness as your litmus test. The truth is going to be very hard to believe; and some of our home truths are going to have to be abandoned. We already know this from quantum physics. We already know this from Einstein. How do we get the leverage to find the epistemic sort of leverage to dislodge something that just seems so crashingly obvious, we’re prepared to use it as a premise? It takes a huge scientific structure with complex mathematical arguments and a sort of delicious conspiracy of confirmatory evidence, and finally people shake their heads and say: ‘OK, however counterintuitive this is we’re going to have to accept it.’ That’s the situation in quantum mechanics as Richard Feynman, the late great physicist said. And he was, he was as arrogant a scientist as there ever was. He had a black belt in overconfidence. And he says ‘I don’t understand quantum mechanics, nobody understands quantum mechanics.; Ah, maybe nobody can. In those circumstances you come to trust the mathematical theory that you can’t interpret yet. Raging battles over how to interpret quantum mechanics: unsettled. But, as Feynman points out, the mathematical structure, which is just in some sense a black box that we can’t yet get to the bottom of; it predicts results of such breathtaking accuracy. This comparison, I won’t get it exactly right, but I think it, it’s like being able to measure the distance between San Francisco and Miami to a hair’s breadth. Breathtakingly accurate predictions; those are the sorts of just the weight of evidence that can overturn everyday intuitions that you think: ‘that couldn’t possibly be false.’ Ah, but it turns out to be false. And what Professor Craig has shown us is how the arguments go and how, if you start with a bunch of initially very plausible premises, and in each case he says: ‘look, this is a very plausible premise, I don’t see how this could be false. This, boy this just stands to reason.’ And then you pursue it and pursue it, and he does that, as near as I can see I have no quarrels with the relentless development he puts on those premises, but we end up at really remarkably implausible conclusions. Now officially of course, if you end up with a contradictory, as self-contradictory conclusion, you’ve got a reductio ad absurdum argument and something has to give. I cannot pin a formal reductio on anything; at least if I can, I can’t do it impromptu. With an awful lot going on in that talk. But I can point to some areas of suspicion. Um, first I want to address one of the points that came up late. Maybe I’ll just make that point and then, and then that will be enough.

    Let us suppose for the sake of argument that the cosmological argument, one of the cosmological arguments that he presents does favor the conclusion that the cause of the universe is a timeless, changeless, abstract, immaterial whatever. At that point we have no idea what that might be. But whatever it is, it’s the cause of the universe. Maybe it’s the idea of an apple. Maybe it’s the square root of seven. ‘But no,’ he says, ‘It’s nothing like that, because abstract things can’t cause things.’ Who says? Who says abstract things can’t cause things? My favorite example of an abstract thing causing things is the principle of triangulation so that when you, when you wanna keep your house from going like this (physical demonstration), you put a triangular piece on and you tack it down and then thanks to the rigidity of triangles you create a rigid structure. It seems causal. It’s quite wonderful the effect of tacking that extra piece on and making the triangle, and now we’ve got a rigid figure. It’s, you put in geometry, an abstract principle being invoked in a causal way. But you say: ‘well that’s not really causation.’ OK, it’s something like causation. And of course we’ve already heard from professor Craig, it’s not really like causation when God causes the universe, because it’s not it’s not causation of; it’s not physical causation. Well what do we know about non-physical causation? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. So we’re really just guessing at what non-physical causation could be. Our intuitions just don’t carry us into that area. Now contemporary cosmology is a fascinating area and I must say it, it completely twists my head up, and I have no confidence about anything in that area. I’m delighted that Professor Craig mentioned my colleague (Alex deLincoln?), who is one smart dude, and I wish I could, I wish I could get to the bottom of all of this stuff thatAlex does. Uh, I wish Alex were here to respond. Because I know that Alex and Alan Guth and some of these other people would have an awful lot to say. Unfortunately it would be highly technical, and I don’t think that I would understand it, and I don’t think most of you would understand it, but it, but they first of all, they wouldn’t agree. Contemporary cosmology is in a wonderful snarl. And we’re gonna; those of us who are not mathematicians and physicists are going to have to sit on the sidelines and wait for something to percolate out of this. But the intrepidness with which Professor Craig leaps in there and chooses sides is a wonderful thing; I just don’t have his courage on that point.

    But back to the question of this changeless God. The trouble with a changeless God is that IT is changeless. It is outside of time. Don’t bother praying to it or certainly don’t expect IT in time to hear your prayer and answer your prayer. A changeless God is a Deist God at best. So that’s why I don’t think that most people in the world who believe in God need take anything more than the most passing curiosity or interest in the battle of cosmology. Because it doesn’t really reflect a response to their curiosity at all. Now Professor Craig says that this, he’s got some arguments that this is a personal God. Ah, one of the premises is “There’s two kinds of causation: scientific causation and personal causation.” I submit that that’s just false. That, that’s just as good as my life work, to show how personal causation is, is reduces to scientific causation. So that’s where I would drive the wedge in there. But that’s a long story. Thanks very much.”

    It appears that Dennett is rather congenial about WLC as far as his courage in defending his position, and as far as his enthusiasm.

    Then there’s Andrew Copson:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXAm7OMvxuA

    Partial Transcript:

    “Well I understand why a lot of people don’t want to debate him one-on-one. The one-on-one occasions that he does uh, micromanage, really in terms of format to his advantage; they’re often set up occasions with largely Christian audiences who come to see him, and a lot of people find his arguments contradictory and contorted and very obscure, but plausible to the untrained eye, so really, they take a lot of refuting, and it’s (something you have to?) refute in writing afterwards. Live, it’s quite difficult. So a lot of people don’t like to debate him one-on-one and I completely understand that.”

    So we have three opinions regarding debating with Craig:

    Dawkins – he’s immoral
    Dennett – (in a roundabout sort of way) – he’s naive
    Copson – he’s disingenuous

    Which is it?

    All of these?

    One underlining factor I see in all of these opinions is that they refuse to consider the arguments on their merits.

    Dennet thinks that because Craig couldn’t possibly understand cosmology because he doesn’t, that Craig doesn’t really know what the truth is. None of us does.

    Copson thinks that all of Craig’s debates are a Christian set-up.

    Dawkins thinks Craig is morally reprehensible and naive and a whole host of other things.

    Well what all these things have also in common is that they are excuses for not addressing arguments. Copson in particular thinks that the one-on-one debate format does not leave enough room for effectively addressing the arguments. Well too bad. It’s called research. Research that is done prior to the debate. A debate is not held in a vacuum. Craig’s writings are available. If one hasn’t done the necessary research (as Craig has done) to know what the opponent is arguing, then yes, I can see how a one-on-one debate will not have an outcome to one’s advantage. So it’s a Copson cop-out.

    Dennett’s excuse is interesting. One has to be a cosmologist to understand the basics of causation. Fine. Cosmology would certainly be helpful, but Craig is arguing from principles upon which even cosmology is based. You certainly couldn’t be an effective cosmologist without understanding the philosophical basis for why you know something to be true or false. These are the foundations from which Craig forms his arguments.

    Dawkins is simply being silly. Is he a coward? I don’t think so. I think he’s simply trying to avoid the arguments in order to keep his own arguments out of the light of scrutiny. That might be sort of an intellectual cowardice in some respects, but I don’t think he’s necessarily afraid to debate so long as there’s a format to his liking. I would guess that he agrees with Copson’s cop-out.

  63. 63
    eigenstate says:

    ScottAndrews2,

    By “human flourishing” I wasn’t referring to something strictly utilitarian that holds the “good of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. Humans are social beings, so “flourishing” is to some extent necessarily a team sport. But the Colombians you refer to above, or the Midianites the Israelites supposedly slaughtered to the last infant at God’s behest are not themselves flourishing. They are dead, deprived of the most precious resource they have, their health and consciousness, and are rendered unable to flourish in any sense, any more.

    Which is not to say that interests will not clash. Sometimes, choices have to be made, and killing a few does mean saving many more, no way around it. The particularly acute grievance in the case of genocide and Craig’s defense of it is the gratuitous nature of the extent and “completeness” of the killing. Innocent women and children who were no longer any threat to the Israelis were slaughtered as part of a grand (and gratuitous design). We lament killing in war now, etc., but reserve special recriminations for just that kind of gratuitous and massive killing and infliction of suffering.

    Could we pursue relief from whatever drug problems you are thinking about in America (or whatever) WITHOUT genocide being waged against Colombians? I think there’s good reason to suppose we could, and reasonable, practical alternatives are available that do balance the “flourishing” interests of the Colombians rather than just gratuitously wiping them out.

    That’s the real rub — the kind of atrocity Craig defends is so mindless, such a wholesale indulgence in unneeded death and suffering. To be human and aware of one’s world around us is to understand that life, a long life, even with just a little flourishing, is relatively rare and new phenomenon for mankind. Death and suffering come all to easy just as things are, and here God, the “omnibenevolent” deity demands an orgy of slaughter and killing, far beyond any measured or proportionate response for purposes of self-defense. That’s why such campaigns from earthly tyrants are decried as something… more… “crimes against humanity” itself, beyond just execrable crimes.

    As for reasoning toward principles and values that are effective in promoting human flourishing, at both the individual level, and at the group level, I wonder if you aren’t mistaking a complex and difficult challenge with “vacuous”. As an former Christian, I can well understand how that can appear “vacuous” against the easy, abdicated backdrop of God-said-it-I-believe-it-that-settles-it approaches to moral calculus. Humans are messy, conflicted, complex, challenging beings, psychologically. Human morals and ethics are similarly problematic, for that very reason. We have some very effective tools available in our ability to reason, cooperate, test, adjust and evaluate critically, but we are not gods. We are just humans, and these are humble and challenging tools toward complex problems.

    But at least they aren’t imaginary!

  64. 64
    eigenstate says:

    bornagain77,

    I don’t think so. Even if God is real, if he is like the character related in the Bible, I think a man reasoning for himself and toward pro-human values and virtues will find himself morally compelled to curse and defy such a tyrant. That is, if God has my eternal soul in his hands, that’s not warrant for me to be a coward in the face of his monstrous behavior, or to pretend his evils are anything else.

    That is just a very pure form of debasing oneself, isn’t it?

  65. 65
    material.infantacy says:

    CY, thanks for that, especially the effort on the Dennett transcript.

    I think Dennett stumbles in trying to argue for abstract causation, but I found his comments interesting nonetheless. He invokes an intelligent agent making use of abstract principles in order to provide an example of abstract causation — but WLC’s point still stands (which I believe possibly derives from C.S. Lewis; and I’ve heard Lennox say something similar) that the principles governing triangulation (or any abstract concept) don’t cause anything — it’s the application of the concept that has an effect — in Dennett’s example, it requires intelligent causation. Stating that we don’t know anything about non-physical causation doesn’t solve that problem, it underscores it.

  66. 66

    Elizabeth,

    Do you believe that a good God would judge the unjust? How about Hitler? Would it stand to reason that Hitler’s crimes are judged in a certain way as to prevent Hitler from ever again being able to carry them out? What sort of judgment might that be?

    As far as “genocide,” are you certain that’s the correct label for the Canaanite slaughter, given the lack of fine detail in the narrative? Are you certain that the lack of fine detail demonstrates that it is genocide from a 21st Century perspective, and not what the scriptures say it is; the judgment of God, and the protection of His chosen people, such that his plan of salvation for all of us is not hindered by His chosen people following in the same sinful path as the Canaanites? Is that really genocide? Really?

    Consider this:

    The scriptures are a narrative of the relationship between God and His people. In that narrative there are many instances of judgment for sin. We have evidence for sin and evil in the present. I don’t think there is one among us who wouldn’t say that certain evil needs to be judged harshly.

    Since we live some 3,000 years after the event in question, it hardly seems reasonable for us to judge such an event from a 21st Century perspective without having the background knowledge on first of all, just how terrible and unjust the Canaanites were, and just what might have been if the slaughter had not occurred.

    I would never try to excuse an act of genocide, but from my perspective as a believer in a good God, who judges evil harshly, the narrative does not upset me. The scriptures also attest to the fact that first of all we are all sinners, and second of all there will be an end-times judgment even harsher than that depicted in the Canaanite slaughter – one in which God himself will be the judge and executioner. This vision does not cause the idea of a good and just God to escape me.

    Or perhaps you won’t believe in a god or gods unless you found one to your liking, who doesn’t judge, but simply lets us do what we want – let’s us choose our own morality? Is that the sort of god you would believe in? If so, I think that sort of god would be a terrible and unloving god. The mightiest would win and the weak would have no protector.

    So are you really wiser than those Christians who believe that a good God would judge evil, yet give us every opportunity to come into relationship with him, with the reward of eternal life – even to the innocent ones among the Canaanites who were slaughtered? In the context of scripture the event is an act of justice and providence, not an act of genocide.

  67. 67

    I don’t think Dennett really believes that abstracts can be causal. He uses that argument against Craig’s idea of God as an abstract entity that is causal, but it’s a strawman, because that’s not really Craig’s idea of God. What I found interesting is his statement that a changeless God would be “a deist God at best.” I hardly find any basis for such an assertion.

  68. 68
    bornagain77 says:

    eigenstate, and exactly how is it possible for a atheist to debase himself any further than his materialistic philosophy has already debased him of true value?

    It is interesting to point out that the materialistic philosophy has an extremely difficult time assigning any proper value to humans in the first place, i.e. Just how do you derive value for a person from a philosophy that maintains transcendent values are illusory?:

    How much is my body worth?
    Excerpt: The U.S. Bureau of Chemistry and Soils invested many a hard-earned tax dollar in calculating the chemical and mineral composition of the human body,,,,Together, all of the above (chemicals and minerals) amounts to less than one dollar!
    http://www.coolquiz.com/trivia...../worth.asp

    Whereas Theism, particularly Christianity, has no trouble whatsoever figuring out how much humans are worth, since infinite almighty God has shown us how much we mean to him:

    John 3:16
    “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    Casting Crowns – Who am I? with lyrics
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pt7OZyBj5Ik

  69. 69
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    mullerpr,

    People then and now would simply not have the means to assert that the divine command is there to overrule our moral obligation.

    If anyone ever tells you that God wants you to kill one person or lots of them, run. That was a specific time and place, and it is past. It’s notable that in the first century Christians refused military service. There was no question of whether killing was just, unjust, war, etc. That didn’t change until years later when they threw the Bible out the window.

    But back then, these people had witnessed the parting of the Red Sea, a pillar of fire leading them at night and one of cloud by day, the miraculous provisions of food from the sky and water from rock, and a quaking, smoking mountain. They never had to wonder where their orders were coming from.

    There was allowance for those without the stomach for it. If you couldn’t do it you just went home.

    It’s interesting that God did not want David to build his temple because he had engaged in warfare. Those wars were proper, but to an extent it had a defiling effect.

    It’s noteworthy that everyone knew that God was fighting for Israel, but responded differently. Some went to great lengths to make peace. Others made a deliberate decision to fight God to the death. Where is their responsibility?

    In summary, it should be clear from our own human experience that we cannot assume that it were simply a Divine decree that moved the Israelites to execute a Divine judgment like this.

    Our only knowledge of these events is from the Bible. If you don’t believe that God commanded it, why believe it even happened at all?

  70. 70
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    Timbo,

    As an omnipotent entity he can just make the evildoer not evil with a flick of his fingers surely?

    God has a number of creations that do what they are supposed to do with no choice. They are called plants and animals.

    How can we exist in God’s image without choosing to do what is right?

  71. 71
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    Eigenstate,

    Any way you slice it, someone isn’t flourishing. Some are doing quite poorly. Many die every day, including children. We’re all on our way there. If we look past our own relative comfort, the world is pretty crappy place for a lot of people, and no U.N. or anyone else know what to do about it.

    Where is your outrage?

    You make the common mistake of believing that your own wisdom and your own understanding are the starting point. They are the ruler against which all others are measured.

    Humans are messy, conflicted, complex, challenging beings, psychologically. Human morals and ethics are similarly problematic, for that very reason.

    That’s for sure. Compare the world of today with that of 100 years ago. Granted, every evil in the world today was present then. But the comparison stops there.

    How many millions have died in wars? How many are starving to death? How many have experienced sexual abuse within their own homes? How many men are addicted to degrading pornography? How many suffer poverty to provide others with excessive wealth and comfort? How many die of cheaply preventable diseases because their lives aren’t worth the cost of a few cans of cat food?

    Besides some helpful advances in technology, this is what earthly knowledge and wisdom have amounted to.

    Show me a man, or men, women, anyone who can reverse this avalanche and I’ll show you someone worthy to question God.

    People living in relative paradise believe in such humanistic drivel. The rest sit around wondering why you can’t help them as they watch their children die.

  72. 72

    If you follow the premises, everything can be reduced to matter in motion. So why should I, if I assume atheism is true, care one way or the other?

  73. 73

    I started a new blog here:

    http://onkalam.blogspot.com/

    where I discuss Dennett’s presentation a little more in-depth, and I plan to include a post on Dawkins’ reasons for refusing to debate Craig, but I need to do some more in-depth research on several issues regarding Craig’s views and Dawkins’ published statement.

    I wanted to have a blog so that I can keep my own thoughts in order, and blogging is an excellent way of doing that. Also, I wanted to have a good forum for something a little more in-depth than the theological discussions we often have here. Of course I will continue to comment here as well.

    Hopefully others will join in discussion -everyone here is welcome. Eventually the blog will be linked to my name.

  74. 74
    eigenstate says:

    ScottAndrews2,

    Any way you slice it, someone isn’t flourishing. Some are doing quite poorly. Many die every day, including children. We’re all on our way there. If we look past our own relative comfort, the world is pretty crappy place for a lot of people, and no U.N. or anyone else know what to do about it.

    Where is your outrage?

    I know of no god extant upon wish to lay any outrage. For human affairs, my outrage lays wherever I find cause. Only 12% of Afghan women are literate, I just read in the paper, and they have a life expectancy of 48 years. They have one of the highest fertility rates in the world, and yet Afghan women have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world (top three or four, something like 150 deaths/1000 births). This is due in no small part to fanatical religion.

    Authoritarian politics, lack of medicines, education, and just clean water to drink, all bear cause for concern, charity, outrage.

    As for starting points, all humans are their own starting point, even the voluntarists. William Lane Craig says God is just no matter what vile thing God may do, and that’s Craig’s view because he says that’s how it is. It is so for him because he said so, it starts with him, and his mind choosing Yahweh. Same goes for you, if you worship Yahweh. He is your authority because you have begun with your choice (your overarching authority) to subscribe to the demands of Yahweh. He’s your authority because you say he is, and you are the starting point.

    No different for me, I just think there are much better heuristics and values to embrace than those of Yahweh, even in the unlikely case that such a thing does exist.

    As for watching their children die, humanism is a powerful engine toward charity, aid and direct support. It also propels human progress in ways that help indirectly — I understand great progress is being made in (materialist!) medicine against malaria in recent months, a breakthrough that could mean a profound development in the well being and health of millions and millions of the world’s most poor and underprivileged. I’ve not yet seen the prayer that does a damn thing for a kid with malaria — prayers are for the satisfaction of the ones praying, so far as anyone can tell.

  75. 75

    “How can genocide be just?’ Wrong question. First ask yourself this: ‘Could it ever be right for God to kill an evildoer?’”

    Exactly!

    If we don’t have an understanding of justice there’s no real basis for talking about morality. It all becomes either as Dr. Liddle likes to point out, an exercise merely in invoking the golden rule, or might makes right.

    The inadequacy of the golden rule should be obvious to anyone when one considers that doing unto others as I would have them do unto me does not consider that evil exists. If I’m evil, and I do unto others as I would have them do unto me, I might have them also do evil, or do the evil that I would have them do unto me – for example, asking someone to kill someone for me. It’s an inadequate basis for morality without some idea about justice and goodness.

    Of course I think we all understand the injustice of might makes right.

  76. 76
    Collin says:

    “copson cop-out” Very well phrased. Thanks for the interesting thoughts.

  77. 77
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Liddle:

    you just condemned the world to be subjected to the genocidal mania of Hitler and the Japanese militarists.

    That’s why I have written in the vein I do here on this subject. There are no easy answers in a world of radically demonic irreconcilable evil. (And you are in no position to dismiss the demonic as only metaphorical if you have not fully grappled wit the case of Hitler, the carpet-chewer.)

    So, Craig is fundamentally right that we must start with what is plain and well founded before we address what is difficult, in light of what we have established before. And, I am on record on this matter that there is no easy, non-difficult answer, including he view that lies behind Dawkins’ dismissal. Such is always the case with major worldview issues.

    But there is more, an issue of tone, responsiveness and attitude.

    Once we reckon with the realities of needing to confront unbridled evil in this world, and its aggressive propagation by sword or by ideology or both, and the problem of irreconcilable blood feuds as a significant feature of the culture in question [something the Romans faced with Carthage and Hannibal], we need to take a long, slow pause before pronouncing too confidently on this matter.

    Unless our hearts have lurched like Marshal Petain’s by that roadside on the way to the Verdun Front in 1916, we are in no good position of being sufficiently morally wounded and hurt, to make a sound judgement on this.

    (And that, BTW, is the glaring gap between Craig and Dawkins on this matter: Craig is speaking as one wounded by grappling with a really hard difficulty leading to uncertainties and open-endedness in his position, Dawkins is using a supercilious and insincere smearing talking point to dodge having to have the moral courage to defend some really outrageous assertions against Christians, the Scriptures and God.)

    GEM of TKI

  78. 78
    Collin says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful post.

  79. 79
    kairosfocus says:

    T: We see here the terrible flipside of one of the greatest gifts we have from God, without which life is meaningless: we can love. So, we must be able to choose, and to choose implies the ability to be really selfish, thus evil. God in justice holds us to account and uses our limited lifespan, to restrain such evil from going totally out of hand. And, in the worldview in question, he himself took the full price of redemptive restoration in his own body, so that we may live in a new and complete world in which those who choose love may live by it forever. And, those who choose selfishness, too. If you prefer a robot world or an erase-reboot game world to that, kindly explain why. GEM of TKI

  80. 80

    It’s sort of similar to “The dog ate my homework.”

  81. 81
    Chas D says:

    CY – a very thoughtful post, thanks. I wouldn’t go the whole way with you, but appreciate the viewpoint.

    My own 2 cents is that a debate is just a debate … like the kids at school who offered to fight me – for what? To prove who is the better fighter? Wow. Probably you. Next! The debaters aren’t out to change each others minds, as might be at least possible in a direct unobserved discussion. They are very aware of, and playing to, their audience, and hoping to ‘win’ some ballot (that is never cast). And this happens on the Net too – the new home of somewhat self-aware posturing. Dawkins has of course dipped a very deliberate toe into something I would be a little more circumspect about. I can see how he got to that position, as a writer on evolution with a bulging postbag of Creationist misunderstandings. A determined rationalist, religion simply bugs the hell out of him. He’s not a bad speaker, but his strength is his writing. (Not everything he ever wrote, any more than everything Craig ever said was logically impeccable).

    OK, maybe that was 3 cents!

  82. 82
    Chas D says:

    I simply mean that one is entitled to enter a debate on morality, and argue against (ie challenge) someone’s position, without sharing their view on its source. The fact that one does not share their belief does not disbar one from pointing out inconsistencies in their interpretation.

    “God wanted these people to be put to death.”

    “God is supposed to be loving and just, and is dead against killing”.

    “You don’t believe in God, so butt out!”

  83. 83

    Yeah, I agree as far as debates are concerned; but where Dawkins falters is that he does debate others; so if he were to use the argument that he writes better than he speaks (which I don’t think is really accurate and not really what you even suggest) is not entirely a good argument for avoiding certain debates. Perhaps that’s why he really hasn’t invoked that as his reason.

    My own view on the matter is that debates for one reason or other often intentionally lack in substance, and so really the intention is for the audience to have a cursory introduction to the arguments at hand for further investigation on their own, so they can make up their own minds.

    Opinions are often formed by debates, as American political debates can attest to.

    I find it interesting that in colleges, a person involved in a debating class or club will often argue a contrary position to their own. So to me I think the skill is not so much in having the “correct” view, but in possessing the strength of argument to make one’s own views appear more reasonable than one’s opponent. Of course there are some views that are simply not intellectually appetizing, no matter the strength by which they are presented.

    So debates are what I would call an intellectual spectacle intended to gain interest. In that area I would say that Craig’s debates often end up being the ultimate intellectual spectacle for the uninitiated (and sometimes the initiated) on particular views about God’s existence in general. He’s certainly a champion in that regard. I think he erred slightly in his argument for the justness of the Canaanite slaughter. I don’t disagree with his views; I just think he could have presented them in a manner that would seem more impeccable than they appear to some of his opponents. Perhaps it’s not an issue he has had to confront too often, because what I usually see from him in debates is that which is carefully drawn out and defended.

  84. 84
    Chas D says:

    what I usually see from him in debates is that which is carefully drawn out and defended.

    Kind of. But I think I’d go with Dennett’s assessment. There is a logical sequence that one can follow, and if one isn’t alert, the whole thing can seem essentially sound. But to pick one example, on the cosmological argument, he states up front that the ‘fundamental principle of metaphysics’ is that everything has a cause. He goes on to suggest Bengal tigers popping into existence uncaused as an example of such tomfoolery. But we essentially live in a ‘causal bubble’ – the universe. Or, in fact, on a scale within it, well above the quantum level, that has that nice regularity. Tigers are part of it, and obviously don’t disobey these regularities. But looking outside the bubble – to extend internal rules on causality beyond its boundaries, to the universe itself – I can see the appeal, but I can’t agree with the logic. We’re a bit like Jim Carrey in the Truman Show. It all makes sense inside the bubble. What causal inferences we can make about the outside – as Dennett says – are likely to be mind-boggling whichever way they pan out.

  85. 85

    Craig actually makes a distinction between quantum “events” and material things that exist. He believes that everything that comes into existence has a cause, but that it does not necessarily apply to events. Events can theoretically occur without a cause and without affecting the argument as a whole. One thing Craig does is pay fairly close attention to what his opponents are saying, as illustrated by this point, which was first brought up in response to just such a detraction.

    Jim Carrey in the Truman Show eventually figured out that he lived inside a bubble and supposed that there was something outside of it. Nice illustration; in fact beautifully done, but it doesn’t quite work. There were signs inside the bubble, which led to the conclusion that the bubble was not all that existed.

    I think that Craig makes a similar observation. Materialists might agree, but that the something is other than God. He’s not enforcing an internal rule, but enforcing internal observation. The fact is that we don’t know through observation that there is something outside the bubble. We are limited by what we can observe internally.

    It’s the signs that we can observe internally, which could give us limited hints as to what (if anything) lies externally. But even that might have its limits. If the character played by Ed Harris had done a better job in preventing the anomalies Carrey’s character encountered throughout the film, then perhaps Carrey (Truman) would never have discovered the truth. But that wouldn’t then mean that there was no truth to be discovered. Craig I believe would argue that evidence of what is external is set up intentionally not only through what is observed, but also through understanding and reasoning alone, however limited in scope.

    So for Craig, he’s not extending the limits of causality outside of the bubble. He’s invoking what primarily lies within. What lies without; in Craig’s view is limitless (namely God); which would seem to lend some credence to the counterintuitive nature of quantum events as BA77 in particular (among others) has pointed out in several posts of late.

  86. 86
    vjtorley says:

    Timbo,

    You asked why an omnipotent Deity can’t make evildoers good, or at the very least, make them stop engaging in evil practices (such as killing children). The short answer is: free will. Your first option would rule out the possibility of libertarian freedom. Do you really want that? And on your second option, God would have to be continually intervening to stop the Canaanites from killing children, over a period of hundreds of years. That sounds messy – and if He did that, presumably He’d be obliged to stop every other act of murder occurring on the planet, too. And that’s not all. To be fair and consistent, God would have to stop everyone from hurting anyone else. That makes God a cosmic nanny.

    Kairosfocus and Scott Andrews2 are spot on in their comments. The possibility of evil is the price of libertarian freedom.

  87. 87

    An inconsistency in argumentation seems inevitable when a materialist, who objects to the kinds of killing we have at hand attempts to show that it is inconsistent with a loving God.

    First of all, your first two premises are incorrect.

    “God wanted these people to be put to death.”

    Actual scripture states that “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

    That’s an important distinction, because as the narrative points out, after 400 years of God’s patience, they did not come to repentance. So I don’t think it’s so much that God wanted them to be put to death; quite the contrary. God prevented such an act for 400 years. So I wonder how many Canaanites were actually spared His final judgment in that amount of time. Probably thousands.

    In order to make your argument consistent you really must be consistent with what scripture states and what it doesn’t state.

    So the truth of the matter would seem that God is being consistent with his nature as a loving provider by eliminating an obstacle to the Israelites’ acceptance of his loving providence, however reluctantly (if that’s a term that can be attributed to God). He’s also being consistent with many warnings he had given that the acts of the Canaanites would lead to their own destruction; whether naturally or by divine intervention.

    Your second premise, that God is against killing is also problematic. “Thou shall not kill” has a context that does not apply to the giver of life. Scripture makes this quite explicit throughout. So God Himself is not so much opposed to killing as He is opposed to human beings – his creatures taking it upon themselves to kill.

    God as judge would not be opposed to all killing despite His will that all should live. Furthermore, His non-objection to killing is not counter to His loving nature. It in-fact supports it, in that there is evil in the world. Killing as an act of judgement or safety providence is therefore as much an act of love as giving life. It all depends on the circumstances.

    Another inconsistency that is quite glaring here, and I’m surprised that nobody has yet pointed it out, is that now all of a sudden, the materialists, who are normally the staunch moral relativists have become the moral absolutists on this one position. Interesting.

  88. 88
    Stu7 says:

    NickMatzke_UD wrote:

    “And, beastiality is wrong, but wronger than *genocide*? Gimme a break.”

    I’m curious, why, from an atheistic viewpoint, is beastiality wrong? Surely it’s not “wrong”, but only morally objectionable to you as an individual.

  89. 89
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    This is so gross I can’t believe I’m even saying it.

    But from a standpoint that defines “good” and “bad” in terms of benefits and effects, look at all the problems that would be solved if society accepted such use of animals. Less rape. Definitely fewer unintended pregnancies. And at least one more vegetarian.

    I don’t say this to insult atheists. But you do realize that you must at the very least weigh this and consider whether it would be good or bad. And if you jump to a conclusion, ask yourself why.

    Now I’m going to go sanitize my keyboard and my hands.

  90. 90
    mullerpr says:

    ScottAndrews2,

    I think we are in agreement on your comment of my first statement. My explanation of the similarity is in the inability for humans to see God’s intent clearly. In this case God’s intent for our moral obligation. Apart from highlighting our imperfect nature this deprived insight into God’s will has no effect on our free will and obligation to execute his moral decrees.

    1Co 13:12
    12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall fully know even as I also am fully known.

    Hope this thought answers how we can get to a free will state of perfection in God’s presence. Why has God not revealed himself to this degree? I just know the revelation of Christ is enough and while people focus on Christ their moral insight brightens almost to perfection, but we agree on the last words of the Bible:
    Rev 22:20-21
    20 He who testifies these things says, Yes, I am coming quickly, Amen. Yes, come, Lord Jesus . 21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. Amen.

  91. 91
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    mullerpr,

    Apart from highlighting our imperfect nature this deprived insight into God’s will has no effect on our free will and obligation to execute his moral decrees.

    God makes it much easier for it now, because beyond excommunication there are no moral decrees for us to execute. No present or future acts of vengeance are to be committed by men.

    That means that we can separate those past events from any concerns about some religious figure telling us that God wants us to kill. That does happen, but hopefully we know not to listen, ever. A careful student of the Bible would have found grounds to reject a person’s teachings long before it even came to that.

    Many “Christian” religions have confused this issue by suggesting that wars are still fought with God’s endorsement. This has continued at least through the 20th century.

    I’m not saying that anyone should or should not fight in any given war. Make your own choice. But make no mistake – any warfare endorsed by God will be carried out by him and his armies, not by human soldiers.

  92. 92
    markf says:

    You asked why an omnipotent Deity can’t make evildoers good, or at the very least, make them stop engaging in evil practices (such as killing children). The short answer is: free will. Your first option would rule out the possibility of libertarian freedom.

    But God did stop them engaging in evil – by killing them. So he certainly removed their free will. The question is why did he use this method.

  93. 93
    Collin says:

    He gives them a chance to repent and then acts after they reach a certain point of degradation.

    An omnipotent but good diety may allow evil if his goal is to create a species that has free will like he does. This may sound blasphemous to some, but to me it is kind of like God is lonely and wants something other than rocks and space to talk to. Something that He can relate or that can even surprise him. But His forebearance will only last so long and an evildoer will eventually be stopped by God’s justice. But it takes a long time for that; God let’s the evildoer have ever chance to repent.

  94. 94
    markf says:

    He allows a certain amount of free will – but apparently there is a limit. If free will takes you down the wrong path, and you get a warning but still don’t repent – then end of free will!

  95. 95
    Collin says:

    Yes. I don’t see a problem with that. I’m not saying God doesn’t give constraints and limits. But those limits are obviously very broad.

  96. 96

    markf,

    I think you’re correct in pointing out that there are limits to free will. We aren’t completely autonomous.

    However, the limits to free will do not prevent us from acting on the aim of God’s providing us with free will in the first place, and that’s to freely love; to love God, and to love others as ourselves. There’s nothing that God would do to prevent us from doing these things.

    One of my favorite passages of scripture in this regard is Galatians 5:22-23:

    “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

    So there’s no law against doing good. There is only law against doing evil. There’s no limit to doing good as far as free will is concerned. If we wanted to indulge as much as we could, there is nothing from God that would stop us. If, however, we wanted to do as much evil as our heart would allow, there are restraints on such acts.

    So while God does not force us to do good, he certainly encourages it.

  97. 97
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    Markf,

    Free will is always limited. I want to step off the edge of my roof and keep going, but free will does not empower me to do that.

    Speaking from a Christian perspective (so that hopefully I sound explanatory and not dogmatic) it is a fundamental law that all things must exist in harmony with God’s purpose. To hope to live indefinitely otherwise is like hoping to stay underwater without breathing. Free will doesn’t make that possible.

    So from that perspective, it’s not God limiting their free will. They may choose to live within the parameters of the universe God created, or they may opt out. For them to stop living is their own preference, not God’s.

    It’s not a matter of taking away someone else’s freedom. But that freedom has limits. And even still, whether to live within those limits is a choice. That’s a lot of choices, and a lot of freedom.

    And what’s more, there’s plenty of room to move within those limits. It’s not crowded and restrictive. Look at Adam and Eve. Eat from any tree in this whole garden, just not this one. Somehow they found that restrictive, but can we honestly say that God was unnecessarily limiting their freedom?

    (Again, explaining, not trying to be dogmatic. I speak within the context of my beliefs, not assuming that everyone shares them.)

  98. 98
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    Going a step further, note that God did not kill Adam and Eve. He had given them a gift, they rejected him, and so he withdrew it.

    From that day on, not one person was entitled to life. Every living person, even with the best of intentions, was entitled only to death.

    That puts his acts of execution in a different perspective. The same sentence he executed upon the Canaanites was also suffered by Abraham, Moses, David, etc. Everyone wants to live and yet dies. It is not as though death is a natural part of God’s purpose, inflicted upon some and sparing others.

  99. 99
    Upright BiPed says:

    Hi CY,

    I wonder. Since freedom from physical determinism seems to be the manifest observation in phenomena, such as the existence of information, and indeed of life itself, I wonder IF there is any limit at all. Perhaps the limit we have simply suggests that we have minds without limits, but bodies which must follow the laws as they are.

    Ah well, nevermind. 🙂

  100. 100
    material.infantacy says:

    UB, I’ve wondered myself if physicality grounds us in a dimensionally constrained reality. Instead of providing us with physical perception, I sometimes wonder if the physical body limits us to a fixed point in time and space. I know this is not the whole story; certainly being unconstrained from the physical body would not necessarily grant us access to all of time and space. Perhaps in this realm, limited by three spacial dimensions and a partial fourth, we are given access to, and at the same time constrained to, this side of a tear in a wider reality. No, I haven’t been smoking anything; and no, I’ve never been institutionalized. xp

  101. 101

    I believe that the only being who has complete free will is God himself. Since we are contingent beings, we are limited by the very “nature” of God. This is partly why I believe that Jesus said “the truth will make you free.” Not completely free as in having God’s attributes (there are some quasi-Christian groups that believe that), but free as being endowed by God with some of his freedoms. Some of that comes in mortal life (the ability to freely love and other physical freedoms and freedoms of the mind – to create and to think rationally), and the rest comes after. So perhaps in the after life we might have the ability to travel to other worlds in an instant, and to conjure up worlds of our own; but we will still be contingent beings. Everything we do freely could not overstep the will of God. We will not in that sense be gods, as some believe. The primary purpose in my understanding of the end of creation is God’s glory, and His creatures loving Him without the constraint of separation (sin) from Him. Since sin is separation from God, when we are finally set free from those constraints we will no longer be separated from Him, but we will still be separate as in not being God ourselves (again, as some believe).

    So in my belief, it is our willful sin that separates us from the more complete freedom that God has stored up for us in the afterlife. Faith in this life gives us the ability to overcome some of those constraints; as Jesus stated “If you have faith like a mustard seed….” So being more Christlike and loving towards others and God in this life makes us more free than in continuing along the path of sin, which leads to the loss of even those freedoms we now enjoy. Our free will is always subservient to either the will of God or to sin itself. Ideally, if we submit to God’s will, we are less subservient to our own sin. So while we have the freedom to do as we please, the consequences of what we choose to do determines the level of freedom that we have.

    A bit more theological than some here would prefer, I’m sure, but those are my views on the matter.

  102. 102
    bornagain77 says:

    William Lane Craig Responds to Richard Dawkins ‘Genocide’ Claim
    http://www.christianpost.com/n.....aim-59702/

  103. 103
    kairosfocus says:

    Nope, ought derives from PURPOSE, not subjectively chosen goals. Purpose points to source and intent of that source. No source in mind, no purpose. No purpose, no ought.

  104. 104
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks:

    I took a moment to skim back across the above.

    We should be ashamed of ourselves for the rhetorical games I see above.

    Yes, ashamed.

    Terribly ashamed.

    For, the above underscores to me the superficiality and foolish one upmanship games that typify far too much of current discussion in our civilisation.

    Let me explain why, amplifying aspects of what I have linked above (and which has been studiously ignored by those hastening to score one upmanship points over Craig and those much despised Christians . . . ).

    VJT cites Boteach who reminds us of the horrible decision confronting Churchill and Roosevelt within living memory. The only means to restrain Hitler, running rampant in the East was the heavy bomber; and if Hitler defeated Russia and seized the Caucasus, the war was over. That meant a LOT of civilians were going to die. And, many tens of thousands of young airmen too.

    If Hitler won, and if he got his heavy water in Norway, the rest of the world would be under the gun of German nukes.

    Mein Kampf made it all too plain what you were looking at as a consequence: the cat does not look with pity on mice.

    So, the choice was not whether innocents would die in huge numbers, slaughtered; including of course a very large number of innocent children. It was which innocents, and how many, and what that would mean for the whole world.

    (And BTW, that is why my dad warned me not to go into Economics: son, you may face decisions as to how many will starve, this year, or in the next several years. You are not cut out for that. His heart bled, and he did not sleep as well as he would have otherwise slept, but he made the decisions he had to. And, I respect him for it. In the end, our nation recognised that, too.)

    We rightly see Churchill as the greatest Prime Minister of modern Britain, and FDR as one of the greatest American Presidents.

    So, now, do you rightly accuse these men and the airmen in those fragile bombers over Germany of being genocidal mass murderers?

    Or, do you recognise that there are situations where we confront radical evil in a world where our choice is between the horrible and the worse than merely horrible.

    I do not have a note on the personal reaction of these two men to what they were doing, but I do have such for Marshall Petain of France, in 1916 as he stood by the roadside and watched young French soldiers marching to the front in the teeth of a German attack where he literally had to simply send in divisions to stand and die by the tens of thousands to hold an attack that pointed like a dagger to the vitals of France — and attack he must have known was in part designed to bleed France white in a desperate defense.

    He wrote words that deserve to be more famous than his “They shall not pass!”

    Namely: “My heart lurched . . . ”

    And, unless our hearts have lurched, we should have the decency to refrain ourselves on this matter.

    After you understand that sometimes you face horrible choices and have the courage to chose the lesser of evils even as your heart lurches, then you can look at the basis for the value: ought, and whether you can ground it on an is in your worldview.

    If you have no such is, have the decency to know that your worldview boils down to basing moral feelings on might, manipulation and borrowing from other views and traditions.

    Then, face the history of such amorality.

    And, be ashamed of the manipulation games you have tried above in this thread and elsewhere.

    Including you, Mr Dawkins and co.

    The bottomline on the text in view is that they are one part of a much bigger picture, as Mr Craig pointed out in the parts that were brushed aside in the haste to play at gotcha. There are no easy answers on the texts in view, and that holds for all answers including the dismissive ones.

    But, on the premise that we understand that we deal — as guilty sinners — with a God who is moral, and dread, just judge, we will understand that we do not deserve mercy. Mercy is by grace and bought at a stiff price out of loving mercy (one that Mr Dawkins and ilk sneer at). On that strength, millions have come to be reconciled and morally transformed by God, leading to the reformation of our civilisation across centuries.

    The sort of struggle you see Craig having grows out of that, as he then confronts a governmental case involving nations gone bad, nations that had 400 years of warning of the just judgement of God. (How I remember how in my childhood, we would so often go across to Port Royal and see the former richest wickedest city in the world reduced to a fishing village by a shattering quake that was regarded by one and all as a just judgement.)

    There are no easy answers to such a case, but neither were there easy answers, good answers for Churchill and FDR.

    So, now, let us pause and re-think.

    Then, let us think again, before hitting “Post Comment” where we have not had our hearts lurch.

    GEM of TKI

  105. 105

    KF,

    Christopher Hitchens, a materialist atheist made a similar argument in favor of our involvement in Iraq. His argument is that Saddam Hussein stated that if he had waited to attack Kuwait until he had nukes, he would have been more successful, and this is why he cooperated with international authorities, believing that if he could convince them he had no further intentions on Kuwait, he could pursue them again when things quieted down. I don’t think most understand just how dangerous the man was.

    Begin here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmnVQLOd9Lg

    Unfortunately we live in a time when any conflict is unpopular among those who live comfortably on the sidelines of the tough decisions that must be made in order to have a safe world.

    I don’t normally agree with Hitchens, but when he made that speech during a debate with His Christian brother arguing the other side, I sided with the atheist.

  106. 106
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    Chaz,

    I simply mean that one is entitled to enter a debate on morality, and argue against (ie challenge) someone’s position, without sharing their view on its source. The fact that one does not share their belief does not disbar one from pointing out inconsistencies in their interpretation.

    You certainly are entitled. But eventually your arguments dissolve into rhetoric. Like many you are willing to educate yourself exactly enough to point out supposed inconsistencies, but your interest appears to stop just short of understanding the explanations.

    It gives the impression that you aren’t particularly interested in understanding the matter, only at pointing out what seems wrong on the surface, for whatever juvenile satisfaction that gives you. You’re entitled to do so, but it is, to be blunt, a display of willful ignorance. It isn’t the basis for any meaningful debate.

    You’re entitled to express yourself. But showing genuine interest in what you’re talking about is what separates discussion from mockery, whatever your motivation may be. Self-righteousness, I’m guessing.

    And that goes for pretty much all of you.

  107. 107
    kairosfocus says:

    Thanks. Sobering.

  108. 108
    goodusername says:

    “So, now, do you rightly accuse these men and the airmen in those fragile bombers over Germany of being genocidal mass murderers?”

    –I don’t, and the reason I don’t is because they were far from being omnipotent – their power was quite limited – and they were up against a force about as powerful as theirs was. And thus their ability to avoid collateral damage was very limited.

    I’m sure the bombers were hoping that their bombs did, somehow, miss killing children.

    If it was within their power to send in Seal Team 6 in a helicopter and kill off a few key targets within the Nazi and Japanese leadership and end the war, but decided to carpet bomb and drop nukes anyway, then I would accuse them of being mass murderers.

    There are some actions I wonder about (was the carpet bombing of Dresden really necessary? Was the SECOND nuke necessary? Or, could we have at least waited a little longer than 3 days to drop the 2nd to see if Japan would surrender?) But anyway… for the most part, I think they were just doing the best with what they had.

  109. 109
    kairosfocus says:

    Verdun — let us watch, ponder and learn.

  110. 110

    Yes, ponder.

    Modern tendencies are to think “what does that have to do with me? What does it have to do with human progress?” Everything.

    Personally for me, as I was watching that video I was thinking about my father’s father, who was among thousands of Canadian soldiers who fought in the trenches of France during WW1 and lived to tell about it. Even though I never met my grandfather, It has everything to do with me. I owe my existence to an event that happened in a certain way such that something more ominous was prevented – including the potential death of my grandfather on a battlefield before he could raise a family.

    There is something miraculous in that for me. Some might say “well if he didn’t have to be on that battlefield in the first place your life would have been even more probable.” Not so. If he didn’t have to be on that battlefield, that does not mean that the threat was not there. We owe our existence to the bravery of those who died as well as those who survived to tell about it, and who prevented a more evil outcome. Ultimately I believe it was God’s providence.

    Those who say that He does not exist must have to ponder such things in the darkness and meaninglessness of it all. I don’t. I fully believe that God has the potential life of future humans in mind when He drives the outcome of certain conflicts caused by willful disobedience to His commands. We live because He has willed us to live. He has fine tuned a lot of things, among which is history towards a certain purposeful outcome.

    We have to think of how many more humans would have died in the following couple of decades if the outcome had been different. – or if Hitler had maintained power into the 1950s and gained nuclear weapons. Would we even exist?

    If we hadn’t stopped Saddam Hussein from obtaining nuclear weapons would we be here today? If we don’t stop that guy in Iran from getting them, then what? These are our problems, clearly. I often get pretty ticked off when I read comments on the internet that we shouldn’t be involved in foreign conflicts. “We’re not the world’s police force.” True, there are some conflicts we could avoid. I’m not certain if Libya was the right thing to do from the air like we did, where we had no control over what happened on the ground. Now somewhere there’s some weapons that could very easily get into the wrong hands. It might end up being a learning experience that makes us think twice about such strategies. I hope not. I hope it proves to be successful in the long-term, and I’m glad that there’s one less dangerous dictator in the world, and hope for people who had to tolerate him for the last 42 years.

  111. 111
    kairosfocus says:

    GUN:

    Pardon, but I am in no mood for talking point exchanges.

    You are playing at the sort of superficial, distractive rhetoric that I cautioned against above.

    Look, again, at the dilemma confronting Churchill and Roosevelt, who knew what was at stake far away on the Russian front, and what they were doing, when those bombers went in.

    Bomber Harris knew, and Saunders — whose health broke — knew too.

    Reflect on what would have happened if these men did not bleed Germany by aerial bombardment; at a horrific cost in Commonwealth and Allied Airmen, as well as ever so many civilians who were inevitably killed.

    Think about a Germany sitting on the Persian Gulf, with the oil of the Caucasus AND the Middle East, with nukes and the rockets to launch them.

    Think about it again, and again till it goes home that the real cost on the other side of decisions we can so easily criticise, lies in what the men we pour so easily scorn on and find fault with forestalled, at terrible, terrible cost.

    Then, when your heart has lurched, think about the choice between the horrible and the worse.

    Then, think about why you find yourself in moral pain and under moral government.

    Then, look hard at the worldviews that are so touted in our time that have in them no foundational is that can ground the ought that tears you. But instead are reduced to “might makes right,” to manipulation of emotions, and to unacknowledged borrowing from that which it would scorn and supplant.

    Then, rethink your worldview, and your basis for moral judgements.

    THEN, you can begin to deal with how to approach a difficult issue, where we do not know all the relevant facts, save for a crucial one: a world in which love is genuinely possible is one in which choice is real, and so too the consequences of choice. Including the choice not to love.

    Then, please stop playing at Monday Morning Quarterback; showing instead an appreciation for how hard it is to make the right decision in the face of such issues with so much at stake.

    And, BTW, the two nukes backed up by the bluff that more was behind BARELY sufficed to get the Japanese to surrender.

    Let’s just say, that nearly seventy years later, last I heard, the US forces were still drawing on the stocks of Purple Hearts made in anticipation of the expected losses in an invasion of the Japanese Home Islands.

    Second guessing on hindsight is easy. Playing gotcha rhetoric is easier yet.

    But the matters at stake go far beyond such.

    Time for some very sober thinking.

    GEM of TKI

  112. 112
    kairosfocus says:

    CY:

    Actually, the world owes Israel an unacknowledged debt there.

    In 1981, with their first F16’s backed up by their first F15s, they hit Osirak, that had been so unwisely built with French aid — Chirac.

    That bought the 10 years that made all the difference in 1990/91. And ever since.

    All the Israelis got over that was denunciation and more.

    We had better do some serious re-thinking.

    Especially given what has happened with Iran.

    GEM of TKI

  113. 113

    Yes, as a Bob Dylan fan, I’m constantly reminded of that event in one of his songs from his 1983 album “Infidels” – “Neighborhood Bully.” – with Israel as the neighborhood bully.

    Part of the lyric: “He destroyed a bomb factory, and nobody was glad. ‘The bombs were meant for him; he was supposed to feel bad. He’s the neighborhood bully.'”

  114. 114
  115. 115
  116. 116
    goodusername says:

    “Pardon, but I am in no mood for talking point exchanges.
    You are playing at the sort of superficial, distractive rhetoric that I cautioned against above.”

    –Why are we reflecting on the orders of FDR and Churchill that killed so many innocents? I may be wrong, but I assumed that on this thread that you were using that as an analogy to the order of God to wipe out the Canaanites.

    In which case my response was hardly “superficial” but goes to the very heart of the analogy. I agree with you that FDR and Churchill ought to be held in high esteem – but the very reasons we feel for FDR and Churchill and don’t blame them, is for the very reasons the analogy fails – FDR and Churchill aren’t God. They aren’t omnipotent. How powerless they must have felt during the war.

    How they must have wished that they had the power to strike down Hitler, Goering, Himmler, etc with lightning instead of blowing up village after village and houses, schools, etc.
    We aren’t powerful enough to avoid collateral damage – precisely because we are so powerless.

    “Then, please stop playing at Monday Morning Quarterback; showing instead an appreciation for how hard it is to make the right decision in the face of such issues with so much at stake.”

    –All I said was “there are some actions I wonder about” and gave the second nuke as an example and you actually jump on that? (and then you say you are “in no mood for talking point exchanges”? Really?) And I DO have an appreciation for how hard their decisions were precisely BECAUSE I ponder about some of their decisions – and each time I do I’m thankful to God (if there is one) that I wasn’t the one that had to make the decisions.

    “And, BTW, the two nukes backed up by the bluff that more was behind BARELY sufficed to get the Japanese to surrender.”

    –Yes, I think so too. I have been involved in some debates regarding the nuking of Japan, and most opponents of the nuking don’t realize how opposed to surrender their military was. We had a third nuke ready and very nearly had to use it.

  117. 117
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    I have no political affiliation.

    But the invasion of Iraq benefited too many people politically and monetarily. When anyone gains power or money while justifying their actions with lies, they leave themselves open to suspicion.

    Countless civilians died. They went from a tyrant they knew to random suicide bombers, death by checkpoint, and valium addiction. Has anyone ever met these people? They are as hospitable and decent as anyone you know.

    If I were going to destroy that many lives, I would at least decline to run for a second term for fear anyone might wonder if I had done so for political gain. I would show that if thousands of people must die, at least one man’s ambition and power should be sacrificed to attribute some small value to their deaths. Instead we just flushed human life down the toilet and people got rich and reelected.

  118. 118
    kairosfocus says:

    GUN:

    It seems you don’t get it.

    The heart of the issue is that we ourselves need to reflect on what it is like to confront the choice of the horrible, and the worse than horrible.

    We need to feel enough moral pain that our hearts LURCH, to use what seems to be a more dynamically correct translation for Petain’s response to those boys marching down the road to their doom in defence of France in 1916.

    It’s like those songs that cannot really be sung till you have loved and been hurt, so you can sing with empathy colouring your voice.

    For me, that moment came early, when my dad took me aside and told me about the sort of decisions economists may have to make, did have to make.

    I am sick of superficial, dismissive talk that seems not to have enough depth of historically informed empathy to respond at enough depth.

    Do you realise how sickening the tone of much of the above is?

    I want to hear the timbre of someone who has vicariously stood in Churchill’s shoes (especially), looking at the Eastern front, knowing the deep background nuke story, knowing what bombing will require and what it will cost, and knowing what not bombing would cost.

    Then, I want to hear the tone of someone who has felt what it is like to have to make that sort of decision, and not be able to explain it in the teeth of fierce criticism and second-guessing.

    Someone who is wounded, in short.

    Some things, only the hurt and hurting can safely, soberly deal with.

    The issue is tearing, heart-rending moral pain, not talking points.

    Beyond this, I struggle to put the matter in words.

    But, that does not mean that it is not supremely important.

    GEM of TKI

  119. 119

    Scott,

    And that’s just the sort of emotion-driven argument that Hitchen’s brother Peter used in that debate – only he was much more emotional. I don’t like talking politics either, but this is more than a political issue. The problem is when we try to make it into a political issue rather than the world survival issue that it was. If it had to do with oil then that’s one thing, and a sad excuse; – unfortunately, the Arab world is both dangerous, conflict driven and oil rich, so accusations that we’re in it for something other than our protection often overlook the danger and conflict part. But I truly believe that there was something much worse at stake, and the outcome is that we got rid of the cause of that much worse evil.

    A lot of people are now rejoicing over the killing of Osama bin Laden. But we all pretty much knew that he had to be taken out one way or another. Saddam as the head of a militarized state that had acquired nuclear capabilities was much more dangerous than bin Laden, but many of us did not know it at the time of the Iraq war. He was more dangerous than Kadaffi, and even more dangerous than the North Koreans. Remember that during the first gulf war Saddam not only attacked Israel with scud missiles, but his arab neighbors like Saudi Arabia and several Persian Gulf states. My parents were living in the UAE at the time in Abu Dhabi, and they remember having to take cover from potential scud missiles. President Clinton ordered a hit on him in retaliation for his attempted assassination of President George HW Bush while visiting Kuwait in 1993 – 2 years after the gulf war.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directorate_14

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....062793.htm

    So he decided to lay low for a while; but I think we can come to the definite conclusion that if we had not gone in there and taken him out, he would have eventually surprised the world with a nuclear attack on Israel and perhaps some of his other Arab neighbors in retaliation for their involvement in the gulf war. These are issues that the international community pretty much ignored, thinking that since he had complied with UN sanctions, we should let him be. But that’s precisely what he was hoping for. It was his strategy.

    So these are the facts about Saddam Hussein that we often forget.

    1) Committed genocide on his own people.
    2) Invaded a friendly neighbor.
    3) Built a nuclear arms facility – which Israel took out in 1981.
    4) Attacked Israel with scud missiles during a war in which Israel was not a combatant. (and Israel exercised restraint and did not retaliate, and was never thanked for not getting involved, even though Israeli citizens died)
    5) Attacked Gulf states that were not directly involved in the conflict.
    6) Attempted to assassinate a US President under whom armies defeated him

    Belief that Saddam would just forget that and live in peace among his neighbors is simply illusory given his record and his stated intentions.

    And let’s keep in mind also that Arab states are generally friendly towards their Arab neighbors. But in that conflict Saudi Arabia and several other Arab nations got involved as enemies of Iraq. They wanted Saddam taken out, because they sensed how dangerous he was. That’s almost unheard of in the Arab world, where they protect their own as brothers. Of course that’s not so much true today with the Arab spring, but it was a reality at the time.

    This is Hitchens’ argument, and his sources come from Iraqis themselves, who were in the know.

    I don’t say this lightly, as I know that many people lost their lives and continue to lose their lives even today, sadly. But that’s the whole point I think that KF is trying to make, that people will lose their lives in conflicts that must take place in order to have a safer world. There are no easy solutions to these problems, and those who have to make the decisions are often hard pressed for alternatives. Invading Iraq was not a clear go, and in hindsight, the reasons given for the invasion were perhaps ill advised, but the outcome and the facts that are known today on Saddam’s intentions pretty much justifies what we did. I am not a believer in the idea that ends justify means. However, in this case we did have facts about Saddam’s threat even at the time. We just didn’t have the correct evidence to base the justification for an immediate invasion, but now we do.

    And Hitchens happens to believe that history will show the Iraqi invasion to be one of the best foreign policy decisions in American history.

  120. 120
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    CY,

    I don’t see good foreign policy decisions. I see human history up through the present as a morass of ill will and conflicts that pause or end when too many have died on one or both sides, or one yields to the domination of the other.

    That sounds awfully negative, but the worst mistake is to try to case a positive light on it.

    The question should not be, ‘when will the war end,’ but, ‘when will wars end?’ Isn’t that the outcome that Christians are waiting for, or should be?

    The Bible describes the earth’s rulers as opposed to the rule of God’s son (Psalm 2) and counsels not to put faith in them (Psalm 146.) Revelation 16 describes the kings of the entire earth unified against him.

    The Bible indicates that God’s own rulership is the means by which he will accomplish his will. What comes before that is a demonstration of futility, several thousand years of solid evidence that no product of human wisdom can effect lasting peace.

    (Now you see why I mention that I have no political affiliation.)

  121. 121

    You are correct about human beings’ inability to effect lasting peace by their own wisdom. Well said. But we must not forget that there are powerful and evil people in the world and if we ignore them, they will do what they intend to do. We have learned that with every one of these evil leaders we have had to face in the past.

    Churchill didn’t ignore Hitler, and we are alive today because of it.

    Obama did not ignore Osama bin Laden and several others of his cohorts, and the world is safer because of it.

    George HW Bush, Clinton and George W Bush did not ignore Saddam Hussein, and we are alive today because of it.

    These are all political leaders, and there were many more political leaders from many countries involved than just them; So politics plays a part. But I can imagine when you’re in those positions and have to face really tough decisions that offer no clear and easy solutions, the politics go out the door. Sometimes you benefit politically from those decisions, and sometimes not, but you still must make the decisions that seem crucial at the time.

    And then we have Israel, who remains one state completely surrounded by well-armed enemies intent on obliterating them. And we make it into a political issue rather than a human issue – that because of them there is relative peace in the Middle East. If they were not there, Saddam Hussein would have won, as KF pointed out, so the peace is relative to the absolute carnage and unspeakable death (probably in the tens of millions) that would have occurred if they hadn’t destroyed that nuclear facility in 1981. Remember, at that time the Western world was still doing business with Saddam, and ignoring the threat. My father was an aerospace engineer at the time – 1979, working in Saudi Arabia for a US corporation, who sent him to Baghdad to negotiate a contract for a radar ground system. So I know full well that even in 1979 the US and other Western countries were friendly with Iraq, while at the same time Iraq was building nuclear arms facilities, and preparing to engage in a 9 year war with their neighbor Iran.

    It’s because of these circumstances, and because of my even limited knowledge of history that I am not a pacifist – but equally as troubled by war and conflict as you. It saddens me and often scares me to death.

  122. 122

    “I see human history up through the present as a morass of ill will and conflicts that pause or end when too many have died…”

    Well now see that’s a problem right there, because conflicts don’t end when too many people have died. Too many people have already died, and yet conflict continues.

    Our task as human beings is to protect our fellow human beings from dying. We can’t logically do that if we have a position that we don’t fight powerful and evil enemies because people will die. We have to weigh the consequence of even many more people dying if we don’t act.

    I mentioned Dylan in another post below. Compare:

    Bob Dylan – 1963: “How many deaths will it take till we know that too many people have died?” – Blowin’ in the Wind

    Bob Dylan – 1983 (20 years later) “He [Israel] destroyed a bomb factory and nobody was glad. The bombs were meant for him, he was supposed to feel bad.” – Neighborhood Bully

    Ya think Dylan had a wake-up call from his peacenick days? And the difference is that he was a Christian in 1983, supposedly.

    I’ll have to leave it at that. difficult issues. Thanks for your thoughts.

  123. 123
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    CY,

    Our task as human beings is to protect our fellow human beings from dying. We can’t logically do that if we have a position that we don’t fight powerful and evil enemies because people will die. We have to weigh the consequence of even many more people dying if we don’t act.

    Our task as human beings is to obey God. (Ecclesiastes, final verses.)

    The Bible says, more than once, that the world is ruled by the Devil. These are his wars. They are not for Christians.

    In both world wars, men who called themselves Christians killed one another, and their clergy blessed them. God commanded the extermination of Canaan. Hiroshima, Baghdad, and all the rest are just people killing each other.

    Consider Jesus’ own words. Turn the other cheek. Do the labor they force upon you, give them what they seize from you, and them some. Love your enemies. This is where we put our money where our mouth is.

    I’m sorry if that sounds dogmatic. Everyone loves Jesus right up to the part about loving your enemies, loving fellow Christians, not living by the sword, and suffering wrong rather than committing it. Then suddenly they treat Jesus like a child who doesn’t understand what the grown ups are talking about.

    No offense.

  124. 124

    You know I find myself agreeing with most of what you say. Except with the concept of protecting others from evil. Turning the other cheek has limits. You don’t turn the other cheek to a madman who intends to bomb a group of people to smithereens; you stop him. Sometimes in the process that might mean that some people might die simply because they are close enough to or in the danger zone. You can’t help that, but you must stop that bomb from going off. Tough choices, but they fall quite within obeying God in my view. And sometimes you don’t know if it’s the man with the bomb who’s the madman, or the man with a gun to his head. But when you do know, I think you’re quite warranted and to do so; and you’re being obedient to God as in doing good so that others can live.

    Francis Schaeffer has some interesting writings on what makes for a just war. The criteria is always when there’s a significant threat to the safety of others. turf wars on their own are never just, and religious on their own wars are never just, but when the safety of human beings is at stake, in some cases certain types of conflict can be justified. All of the situations I’ve mentioned fit that criteria.

    But I fear we’re getting into the OT zone here, as the original turn towards this subject was KF’s mention of a battle during WW1 and how it relates to the situation of the Canaanites.

  125. 125
    kairosfocus says:

    SA & CY:

    A thoughtful exchange.

    The issues are deeply connected, through the question of how we make our judgements, and how we base our arguments.

    In particular — and as I have noted elsewhere — a major problem with Christian ethics on the ground, is that we tend to absolutise the turn the other cheek principle, taking it out of its proper context — do not be waspish in the face of insults and personal abuse, and turn it into a governmental mandate.

    If you look carefully in the Gospels, you will see that Jesus has occasion to deal with the question of force in the teeth of determined evildoers.

    For instance, that lurks under his dealings with soldiers including Centurions. He does not say, quit; he says, serve God. When he deals with the Herod family, as a prophet he is pretty direct in criticising the pattern of injustice. When challenged on taxes, he gives a classic: give Caesar what is his, and God what is his. The subtlety involved is what Paul discusses in Rom 13:1 – 10. Caesar is God’s servant to do us good by defending the civil peace of justice, holding the power of the sword in that cause and having taxing power in support of that mandate. Of course, as God’s servant, he is accountable under God for justice.

    Also, elsewhere in scripture — Moshe’s “Let my people go” is classic — when a tipping point has been reached; i.e. when evil triggered by selfish abuse of the power of choice becomes an exceeding danger in the teeth of obvious consequences and ignored correction God will act on the behalf of an oppressed people. And a part of that can be expressed in popular uprising and actions of legitimate representatives.

    This by the way is what across 2,000 years of Christian influence on our civilisation, was channelised into the peaceful means of the general election.

    Then, when Jesus comes towards the end of his ministry, there is a crucial but puzzling incident. For, he says go buy a sword, and he is understood literally, there are two swords. He says, that is enough.

    Backdrop.

    Then, we come to Gethsemane, and Peter pulls one of the swords and tries to start the revolution.

    There is a palpable echo here of the situation in the Maccabees where at Modein, the pagan rulers have sent agents to make the village sacrifice pigs to idols. The revolution begins when the first Jew to turn traitor and blasphemer steps forward and the sword is pulled, cutting him down, with the officials who came to impose evil and apostasy by force. To abuse the power of the sword in the hands of government to protect the civil peace of justice. Wolves, in shepherd’s clothing.

    The father and six of seven Hasmonean brothers perish in the struggle, in which the recurring theme is, that the Gentiles always break their treaties.

    This is the background against which Peter tried to cut off the head of the servant next to him; he ducked, that’s why the ear was cut off instead.

    Jesus’ reply was that those who live by the sword die by it. And he healed the servant.

    Somehow, that did noting to defuse the situation, and seemingly, it was suspiciously missing in action in the trials that followed.

    Somebody was suppressing highly relevant evidence that did not suit the kangaroo court’s agenda.

    Jesus’ mission was NOT to launch a new Maccabean revolution.

    Indeed, that is what comes out very explicitly in his trial: the authorities are reacting to a teacher of righteousness who is making them uncomfortable in injustice, hypocrisy and corruption [don’t forget, he seems to have cleansed the temple twice, driving out the money changers at whip point] by treating him as if he were a rebel. Indeed, they end up manipulating the crowd — notice, the issue of the flip side of democracy, misrule influencing and influenced by manipulated, intimidatory mobs shouting out foolish slogans as popular will — to literally put him in the place of a notoriously murderous leader of rebellion and brigandage, Barabbas.

    Notice, when he does speak before a judge willing to at least listen to the sound truth — he is silent before those who are jut raging mobs dressed up in fancy robes and sitting in seats of government — he points out that he has not been leading rebellion, but publicly teaching the truth and calling men, including of course men in government, to repentance in light of the Kingdom of God in heaven. The ultimate kingdom foreshadowed by Daniel that shall grow as a mountain filling the whole earth, shattering the proud and arrogantly wicked kingdoms of unjust man in rebellion against his maker.

    A kingdom that comes peaceably by the truth in love, in the teeth of fire and sword.

    So, he is cutting clean across those who would lead a revolution against Rome: Rome has not yet filled the cup of its iniquity, but ISRAEL has, now culminating in scheming against Messiah.

    An Israel that will not heed the sign of Jonah, nor the counsel of God by the example of Assyria: repentance even on the brink of prophesied national destructive judgement by disaster may avert it. For, God is merciful.

    Something that Dawkins et al conspicuously omit in their overheated incendiary rhetoric.

    Against that backdrop, those who tried to rise up against Rome, three times [once in the diaspora], would fail, at horrible cost to the nation over the next 100 years.

    There are many lessons in that for our time and our civilisation, one that is rapidly filling up the cup of its iniquities.

    In that context, I think we need to take serious and sobering stock of what it is for leaders of government to confront radical, out of control evil, and the dilemmas they often face of choosing the horrible in the face of the worse than merely horrible. And, we must tear our hearts through that reflection, until we have been opened up to be wounded, so that our hearts have lurched in the face of such terrifying dilemmas.

    So, let us stand by the side of the road with Petain, watching the young men he is forced to send to their doom because foolish policies maintained for years in the teeth of his own advice [advice that seems to have retarded his career . . . ] have brought the nation to that point where the forts they needed were not well guarded, had indeed been stripped of guns, and the officer corps was not properly prepared to handle the challenge of Germany; they had been trained to think in terms of fast-moving infantry attacks and cavalry tactics, in the face of over a decade of evidence from South Africa and from Eastern Russia on how much the world had changed thanks to the rapid fire long range rifle and the machine gun. Not to mention, the heavy mobile, rapid firing guns that were needed were missing — they were only then being hastily designed or improvised.

    Stand by Petain as he sees the ashen faced, staggering few survivors coming back down the same road a matter of days later.

    Knowing that this horrendous rent in blood was what was holding the pivot of the line. (The very reason why Verdun — guard city of a major invasion route ever since the days of Gaul — had in the 1880’s been re-fortified in the modern way [a ring of more or less underground forts at enough distance to keep artillery out of range of the key point] in the aftermath of the defeat at the hands of Prussia in the 1870’s, and had been updated in the early 1900’s.)

    Let it rip a hole in our hearts, a sobering hole that can open our hearts and minds to understand that things too often are much much more painful, difficult, horrible and complex than we would like them to be.

    THEN, we can safely address the sorts of issues that Craig was grappling with, with a perspective that is sufficiently broad to see that whichever way we come out on it, there will be horrific difficulties that we with our bounded rationality cannot fully understand.

    And in particular, we must come to grips with the sort of dilemma a Churchill faced as he made the decision to send in heavy but fragile and vulnerable bombers to force Germany to fight a major home front attritional campaign that drained it of the crucial resources that would otherwise have made mincemeat of the Russians.

    For just one crucial instance, if the capacity to make the infamous 88 mm anti aircraft and antitank dual use gun was not largely diverted to protecting German cities, it would have been available on the Russian Front, with predictable horrific consequences — think of the slaughter just a few of those guns did so often in the Middle East at that time, or indeed how Rommel’s gun line of just such guns had stopped the counterattack at Arras at a crucial point in the May 1940 campaign.

    The same, for the fighter and fighter-bomber capacity that went into fighting off the bombers.

    And the imposed losses on the cities put a severe restraint on the capacity of German war production to surge.

    But, at a horrific cost in civilian lives, including children.

    Because Rommel’s improvised gun-line held in May 1940, there was not going to be a Western Front in France until the Germans had been bled white through horrific attrition, on the East Front and over Germany.

    Attrition that could not even be put in words to the public who had seen what the Western Front in 1914 – 18 had cost and would do almost anything to avoid that again, which is exactly what led to the ill-advised passivity and appeasement in the face of Hitler in the 1930’s when he could have been stopped at far lower cost. (And let us not forget, the Russians paid something like over 20 million lives to defeat the Germans. But the alternative was much, much worse.)

    I hope this is enough, that we have been duly torn, sobered up and shamed over our habitual superficiality and glib gotcha rhetorical tactics.

    Those who refuse to learn from bitter history, are doomed to repeat it.

    It is in that context, that I am utterly incensed at Dawkins’ cynical cowardice, lying — VJT has demonstrated that beyond doubt — and slander. Neither Craig nor any other responsible Christian leader or thinker is an advocate of genocide; something Dawkins full well knows.

    They are grappling — and sometimes stumbling in the grappling — with issues that cut right across history and come down to today as we see how we foolishly talk about an Arab Spring, not seeing the rising tide of Islamist naked aggression that seeks to exploit the uprisings, or the Iranian nuke and ballistic missile programmes that back it.

    Why is it that in an information age with experts on instant tap, we are so willfully ignorant of the religiously motivated ideology of the IslamISTS?

    Why do we not even know that even the DATE of the 9/11 attacks — 318 years, less one day from the last IslamIST surge high water mark at the gates of Vienna in 1683 under the Ottoman Sultan as Caliph, just before Jan Sobieski of Poland personally led the Cavalry charge on the 12th of Sept that broke the siege — is pregnant with symbolism of the IslamIST intent? (Hint: UBL was making a bid to be Caliph, and his base “in the direction of Khorasan” was itself pregnant with symbolism connected to the end of days global conquest Black Flag Army and related hadiths.)

    We live in a very, very dangerous time, and are too often willfully ignorant and foolish.

    That is the price we pay for the sort of foolish gotcha polarising rhetoric that we tolerate in public discussions.

    A price that predictably leads on to blood.

    Rivers of blood.

    That is the context in which Netanyahu has denounced the UN as a theatre of the absurd and has declared: better a bad press than a good eulogy.

    Israel faces an existential crisis manipulated by Iran as it races to complete its nuke programme.

    I am highly confident on the track record of 1967 that Israel will act decisively soon, regardless of the horrific cost and the price they will pay in the eyes of the world as “neighbourhood bully” [Thanks, CY]; for the alternatives are far worse than merely horrible. (Indeed, in that regard, I think the Schalit exchange is a clearing the decks for action.)

    Against that backdrop, Dawkins is using the excuse of a known false accusation of support for genocide, to duck being held publicly responsible for his many ill-founded but manipulative statements over the course of decades.

    That is a strong sign of a man who knows he is in the wrong, but is too proud to climb down, whatever the cost to others.

    THAT is the main focus that his thread has from the Original Post.

    The tangential and poisonous distractive talking point does need to be addressed, but it can only be soundly addressed in a context where we have first taken the time and effort to build enough background and have had enough moral pain to feel the weight of the full balance of the issues.

    A weight that must start with: why is it that we find ourselves inescapably under moral government, even in the teeth of the materialistic ideology that Dawkins et al champion in the name of science, that leads to the implication that there is no real OUGHT, there is just IS, and no is that — per materialistic premises, can ground ought?

    From that and other related considerations, we will then see that ethical theism is a serious and respectable position.

    Then, we can look at the central warranting argument and grounds that are foundational to the Christian, ethical theistic tradition; a point that has been central to the Christian intellectual-prophetic challenge to our civilisation ever since Paul challenged the Stoics and Epicureans on Mars Hill on 50 AD. (This point, we must note, is pivotal to Craig’s argument as he then goes on to grapple with a difficulty on grounds that are much less firm either way. A responsible addressing of what Craig actually argued, would fairly deal with that context in a sober fashion instead of brushing it away in a gleeful, willfully out of context “gotcha and so I don’t need to talk to you.”)

    Look back above and in other threads where this has come up, onlookers, and see if the objectors have seriously and soberly grappled with that context.

    On fair comment, no; this has all been an exercise in selective hyperskepticism and too often gleeful rhetorical bashing.

    That should be sobering, and it is a big part of why I have called up the sort of wider context as above.

    We must be responsible.

    In that context, we can then reasonably look at the particular issues in a more balanced, more informed, more sober-minded way. One that I find conspicuously missing in action.

    And, onlookers, it is no accident that, after several times of linking the discussion just linked, there has been no responsible addressing of these aspects form the circle of objectors.

    Red herrings, led away to strawmen soaked in vicious ad hominems [the false charge of support for genocide fairly drips with the implied accusation, Nazi] and ignited through incendiary gotcha rhetoric are rhetor5ically very effective. But hey come at a terrible price: clouding the issues, poisoning the atmosphere, polarising it, and stirring hostility that all too soon becomes hate and scapegoating, leading on to violence, overt mob violence or covert violence by abuse of the power of law and policy and institutional dominance.

    Those are the tactics that Dawkins et al have been indulging for decades, and it is high time that they were called to public account for that.

    That will not happen if we keep on following red herrings and cheering on the burning of ad hominem soaked strawmen.

    So, please at lest think about what is at stake in the wider context of all this, for our civilisation.

    GEM of TKI

  126. 126
    ScottAndrews2 says:

    It is a well-known historical fact that early Christians refused military service. This was not on the grounds that any particular conflict was immoral.

    It is also observable that as this stance changed, Christendom was straying from nearly every aspect of scriptural teaching – incorporating the use of idols, pagan festivals, and greek philosophy, as well as granting titles, robes, and giant hats to to those taking the lead.

    Are we to understand that those present at the outset misunderstood these points, and that the latter were enlightened? Or did the scriptures plainly foretell apostasy and corruption?

    Human wisdom tells us that we must fight Hitler and Hussein. Proverbs 3:5 tells us “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

    Jesus also said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) Name one cross-bearing religion the members of which have not killed each other in a 20th century war with the full support of their clergy. Human wisdom says defend, fight. But now those blood stains won’t come off, and those that participated cannot be identified by the above verse.

    When the issues become complex and difficult, that is when we must determine whether we will lean on God’s understanding on our own. That’s where the rubber meets the road. Perhaps that’s why Jesus also said the road to life would be narrow and difficult, and that the other would be more popular.

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