Many Christians present their religion and their Bible as the best (if not the only) guides to morality. Some go so far as to claim that atheists have no basis or standards for morality because they don’t believe in God and don’t follow the Bible. One problem with this argument (and there are many problems) is the fact that the Bible depicts God ordering some pretty atrocious acts. So… are such acts “moral” when done under orders from God and if so, how does this make Christians more “moral”?
This is a tough dilemma and most Christians try to avoid it. William Lane Craig, though, is a “serious” theologian who doesn’t shy away from tough dilemmas. He’s tackled directly and argued directly that it’s quite alright for Christians to engage in genocide and infanticide whenever instructed to by God. And presumably it would be further proof of the lesser morality of atheists for objecting to such behavior and trying to stop Christians from following God’s orders.
And don’t forget: whenever Christians insist that atheists are ignoring “serious” theology and “serious” arguments, the theology and arguments of someone like William Lane Craig is exactly what they have in mind.
These stories offend our moral sensibilities. Ironically, however, our moral sensibilities in the West have been largely, and for many people unconsciously, shaped by our Judaeo-Christian heritage, which has taught us the intrinsic value of human beings, the importance of dealing justly rather than capriciously, and the necessity of the punishment’s fitting the crime. The Bible itself inculcates the values which these stories seem to violate.
The command to kill all the Canaanite peoples is jarring precisely because it seems so at odds with the portrait of Yahweh, Israel’s God, which is painted in the Hebrew Scriptures. …According to the version of divine command ethics which I’ve defended, our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a holy and loving God. Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill. He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are.
For example, I have no right to take an innocent life. For me to do so would be murder. But God has no such prohibition. He can give and take life as He chooses. What that implies is that God has the right to take the lives of the Canaanites when He sees fit. How long they live and when they die is up to Him.
Source: Reasonable Faith
If God “has no moral duties” and no “moral obligations” or prohibitions, it really makes no sense to call God “moral” in the first place. What William Lane Craig is describing here is a completely amoral being — a being that cannot even conceive of morality, much less act morally and exist in any sort of moral relationship. It’s little wonder, then, that it would be described as massacring large numbers of people without second thought or a tiny twinge of the conscience. It has no conscience. No empathy. No moral sense whatsoever.
That would all be bad enough, if such a being existed, but William Lane Craig goes farther by insisting that we all somehow have a moral obligation to do whatever this amoral being commands. Why? Simply because it commands it — not because it’s a “moral” act but simply because this being is too powerful to oppose. That’s the length and breadth of William Lane Craig’s conception of morality: blind obedience to whomever or whatever is most powerful and in control.
Of course, the average adult would and should find such a position repugnant, which is why Craig hastens to justify killing the Canaanites on different grounds altogether. If Craig had real courage of his convictions he’d be fine with stopping at the above; because he doesn’t, though, he needs to include justifications that might appeal to normal sensibilities. Since he has nothing valid, though, all he can do is blame the victims: that’s right, the Canaanites could be slaughtered simply because God commanded it… oh, and by the way, they totally deserved it anyway.
By the time of their destruction, Canaanite culture was, in fact, debauched and cruel, embracing such practices as ritual prostitution and even child sacrifice. The Canaanites are to be destroyed “that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God” (Deut. 20.18). God had morally sufficient reasons for His judgement upon Canaan, and Israel was merely the instrument of His justice, just as centuries later God would use the pagan nations of Assyria and Babylon to judge Israel. …
So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life. So who is wronged? Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.
Oh, pity the poor Israelites who had the difficult task of murdering in the name of their God. The adult Canaanites got what’s coming to them and the infants went to heaven, so everyone ended up better off… except the instruments of God’s Will who evidently suffered PTSD and needed extensive counseling sessions to get over their tough work. Maybe we should take up a collection for them or something?
Greta Christina explains what’s going on at the heart of William Lane Craig’s position:
Religion, by its very nature as an untestable belief in undetectable beings and an unknowable afterlife, disables our reality checks. It ends the conversation. It cuts off inquiry: not only factual inquiry, but moral inquiry. Because God’s law trumps human law, people who think they’re obeying God can easily get cut off from their own moral instincts.
And these moral contortions don’t always lie in the realm of theological game-playing. They can have real-world consequences: from genocide to infanticide, from honor killings to abandoned gay children, from burned witches to battered wives to blown-up buildings.
Faith-based violence is a problem — a real problem all over the world and with pretty much every religion. Even religious apologists who insist that religion doesn’t cause violence readily admit that there is far too much violence associated with religion and being justified by religion. Here we have a perfect — and perfectly horrific — demonstration of how and why that happens. William Lane Craig is saying that absolutely anything, even genocide and infanticide, is morally just and right so long as God is ordering it.
This isn’t any sort of esoteric, philosophical discussion. It has “real world consequences” because there are people out there in the real world — here and now, not in the past — who are killing others and justifying their crimes by insisting that it’s what God wants. Craig may not be openly advocating things like assassinating abortion providers and honor killings, but he’s providing the support of “sophisticated” theology.
WLC uses the eyes of faith, that begged question of the we just say so of credulity rather than use reason. But then he glorifes might makes right. Per Lamberth’s argument from autonomy, no God has any rights over us but rather has the duty per Fr. Meslier’s the problem of Heaven- that one-way stree for HIm- to put us into a better place!
Plato would query why would he so debases himself when morality exists independently of religion and therefore, our usual morality wins over WLC’s perverted one!
Carneades would probably maintain that WLC’s concept of God contradicts our usual concept and so cannot exist! To perpetrate such evil betrays the good, and no God would do that. Then again, evil tells against any God as he notes that from the viewpont of the burning pig , his sacrifce cannot vouchsafe for the good. That is, people are more valuable than some God’s whims!