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Is God a 
Moral Monster?
The God of the Old 
Testament is 
arguably the most 
unpleasant 
character in all 
fiction: jealous and 
proud of it, a pe...
. . . a vindictive, 
bloodthirsty ethnic 
cleanser; a 
misogynistic, 
homophobic, racist, 
infanticidal, 
genocidal, filic...
. . . 
megalomaniacal, 
sadomasochistic, 
capriciously 
malevolent bully. 
Richard Dawkins 
The God Delusion 
© Shane Pope
‘ethnic cleansing’
‘bloodthirsty massacres’
‘xenophobic relish’
‘morally indistinguishable from 
Hitler’s invasion of Poland’
‘‘ 
’’ 
What makes my jaw drop is that 
people today should base their 
lives on such an appalling role 
model as Yahweh –...
[The Canaanites] 
were pitilessly 
driven out of their 
homes to make 
room for the 
ungrateful and 
mutinous children 
of...
The Old Testament 
contains ‘a warrant 
for trafficking in 
humans, for ethnic 
cleansing, for 
slavery, for bride-price, ...
. . . but we are not 
bound by any of it 
because it was put 
together by crude, 
uncultured human 
animals. 
Christopher ...
OT law
‘‘ 
’’ 
Anyone who curses their father or 
mother is to be put to death. 
Because they have cursed their 
father or mother...
‘‘ 
’’ 
Now the son of an Israelite mother 
and an Egyptian father went out 
among the Israelites, and a fight 
broke out ...
‘‘ 
’’ 
Then the Lord said to Moses: ‘Take 
the blasphemer outside the camp. 
All those who heard him are to lay 
their ha...
OT narratives
‘‘ 
’’ 
However, in the cities of the 
nations the Lord your God is giving 
you as an inheritance, do not leave 
alive any...
‘‘ 
’’ 
. . . Otherwise, they will teach you 
to follow all the detestable things 
they do in worshipping their gods, 
and...
‘‘ 
’’ 
They devoted the city to the LORD 
and destroyed with the sword 
every living thing in it – men and 
women, young ...
Some 
responses
It is nothing to do 
with ethnicity
God’s desire to bless all 
nations through Abraham
‘‘ 
’’ 
I will bless those who bless you, 
and whoever curses you I will 
curse; and all peoples on earth will 
be blessed...
God’s concern for foreigners
‘‘ 
’’ 
The foreigner residing among you 
must be treated as your native-born. 
Love them as yourself, for 
you were forei...
the problem is the Canaanite’s 
evil behaviour
‘‘ 
’’ 
After the LORD your God has 
driven them out before you, do not 
say to yourself, “The LORD has 
brought me here t...
‘‘ 
’’ 
No, it is on account of the 
wickedness of these nations that 
the LORD is going to drive them 
out before you. 
D...
‘‘ 
’’ 
It is more reasonable to believe 
such elemental things [as wife 
beating and child abuse] to be evil 
than to bel...
‘‘ 
’’ 
. . . I firmly believe that this is 
bedrock and right and that anyone 
who does not believe it cannot 
have probe...
‘‘ 
’’ 
God’s act of engaging in battle is 
not for the sake of violence or 
even victory as such but to 
establish peace ...
Israel is subject to 
the same standards
‘‘ 
’’ 
Do not defile yourselves in any of 
these ways, because this is how 
the nations that I am going to drive 
out bef...
‘‘ 
’’ 
But you must keep my decrees 
and my laws. The native-born and 
the foreigners residing among you 
must not do any...
‘‘ 
’’ 
. . .And if you defile the land, it will 
vomit you out as it vomited out the 
nations that were before you. 
Deut...
The destruction is 
not what we think
‘‘ 
’’ 
[We don’t have] a simple conquest 
model, but rather a mixed picture 
of success and failure, sudden 
victory and ...
hyperbolic language
‘‘ 
’’ 
When the Lord your God has 
delivered them over to you and 
you have defeated them, then you 
must destroy them to...
‘‘ 
’’ 
Do not give your daughters to their 
sons or take their daughters for 
your sons, for they will turn your 
childre...
‘‘ 
’’ 
So Joshua subdued the whole 
region, including the hill country, 
the Negev, the western foothills 
and the mounta...
© Paterm 
The Mesha 
Stele 
“Israel has utterly perished for always.”
‘‘ 
’’ 
Joshua was not trying to deceive 
people; the ancient audience 
would have readily understood 
what was going on. ...
‘‘ 
’’ 
“Men and women” or similar 
phrases appear to be stereotypical 
for describing all the inhabitants of 
a town or r...
cities or garrisons?
‘‘ 
’’ 
We know that many of these 
‘cities’ were used primarily for 
government buildings, and the 
common people lived i...
‘‘ 
’’ 
At the sound of horsemen and 
archers 
every town takes to flight. 
Some go into the thickets; 
some climb up amon...
‘‘ 
’’ 
Do not defile yourselves in any of 
these ways, because this is how 
the nations that I am going to drive 
out bef...
‘‘ 
’’ 
There is no indication in the text of 
any specific noncombatants who 
were put to death. 
Richard Hess
‘‘ 
’’ 
[We] are not talking about 
genocide or ethnic cleansing, but a 
kind of corporate capital 
punishment that was de...
God is God
God can have good 
enough reasons
Israel’s unique situation
‘‘ 
’’ 
In the fourth generation your 
descendants will come back here, 
for the sin of the Amorites has not 
yet reached ...
God’s promises
‘‘ 
’’ 
I will make you into a great nation, 
and I will bless you; I will make 
your name great, and you will be a 
bless...
Further Reading 
David Lamb, God Behaving Badly (IVP USA, 2011) 
Chris Wright, The God I Don’t Understand 
(Zondervan, 200...
www.tonywatkins.uk 
twitter.com/tonywatkins_ 
facebook.com/TonyWatkinsPage
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Is God a moral monster? (2014-11-09)

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Session 2 of the Life's Big Questions series at Above Bar Church, Southampton (www.abovebarchurch.org.uk).

Published in: Spiritual
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  • YES god is a murdering sadistic monster
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  • This looks terrific Tony, thanks for posting it and good on you for tackling it!
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Is God a moral monster? (2014-11-09)

  1. 1. Is God a Moral Monster?
  2. 2. The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it, a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak . . . © Shane Pope
  3. 3. . . . a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential . . . © Shane Pope
  4. 4. . . . megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. Richard Dawkins The God Delusion © Shane Pope
  5. 5. ‘ethnic cleansing’
  6. 6. ‘bloodthirsty massacres’
  7. 7. ‘xenophobic relish’
  8. 8. ‘morally indistinguishable from Hitler’s invasion of Poland’
  9. 9. ‘‘ ’’ What makes my jaw drop is that people today should base their lives on such an appalling role model as Yahweh – and even worse, that they should bossily try to force the same evil monster (whether fact or fiction) on the rest of us. Richard Dawkins The God Delusion
  10. 10. [The Canaanites] were pitilessly driven out of their homes to make room for the ungrateful and mutinous children of Israel. Christopher Hitchens God is Not Great: © Hugh Greentree, used under a Creative Commons licence
  11. 11. The Old Testament contains ‘a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre . . . © Hugh Greentree, used under a Creative Commons licence
  12. 12. . . . but we are not bound by any of it because it was put together by crude, uncultured human animals. Christopher Hitchens God is Not Great © Hugh Greentree, used under a Creative Commons licence
  13. 13. OT law
  14. 14. ‘‘ ’’ Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. Because they have cursed their father or mother, their blood will be on their own head. Leviticus 20:9
  15. 15. ‘‘ ’’ Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. The son of the Israelite woman used the Name blasphemously with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. . . .
  16. 16. ‘‘ ’’ Then the Lord said to Moses: ‘Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. Leviticus 24:10–14
  17. 17. OT narratives
  18. 18. ‘‘ ’’ However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them – the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites – as the Lord your God has commanded you. . . .
  19. 19. ‘‘ ’’ . . . Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshipping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 20:16–18
  20. 20. ‘‘ ’’ They devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it – men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys. Joshua 6:21
  21. 21. Some responses
  22. 22. It is nothing to do with ethnicity
  23. 23. God’s desire to bless all nations through Abraham
  24. 24. ‘‘ ’’ I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. Genesis 12:3
  25. 25. God’s concern for foreigners
  26. 26. ‘‘ ’’ 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 19:34
  27. 27. the problem is the Canaanite’s evil behaviour
  28. 28. ‘‘ ’’ After the LORD your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.”
  29. 29. ‘‘ ’’ No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you. Deuteronomy 9:4
  30. 30. ‘‘ ’’ It is more reasonable to believe such elemental things [as wife beating and child abuse] to be evil than to believe any skeptical theory that tells us we cannot know or reasonably believe any of these things to be evil. . . .
  31. 31. ‘‘ ’’ . . . I firmly believe that this is bedrock and right and that anyone who does not believe it cannot have probed deeply enough into the grounds of his moral beliefs. Kai Nielsen Ethics Without God
  32. 32. ‘‘ ’’ God’s act of engaging in battle is not for the sake of violence or even victory as such but to establish peace and justice. Paul Copan Is God a Moral Monster?
  33. 33. Israel is subject to the same standards
  34. 34. ‘‘ ’’ Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. . . .
  35. 35. ‘‘ ’’ But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. . . .
  36. 36. ‘‘ ’’ . . .And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you. Deuteronomy 18:24–28
  37. 37. The destruction is not what we think
  38. 38. ‘‘ ’’ [We don’t have] a simple conquest model, but rather a mixed picture of success and failure, sudden victory and slow, compromised progress. Gordon McConville ‘Joshua’ in The Oxford Bible Commentary
  39. 39. hyperbolic language
  40. 40. ‘‘ ’’ When the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them.
  41. 41. ‘‘ ’’ Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. Deuteronomy 7:2–5
  42. 42. ‘‘ ’’ So Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded. Joshua 10:40
  43. 43. © Paterm The Mesha Stele “Israel has utterly perished for always.”
  44. 44. ‘‘ ’’ Joshua was not trying to deceive people; the ancient audience would have readily understood what was going on. In fact, if we read the text closely, we see this is exactly right. Paul Copan ‘How Could God Command Killing the Canaanites?’
  45. 45. ‘‘ ’’ “Men and women” or similar phrases appear to be stereotypical for describing all the inhabitants of a town or region, “without predisposing the reader to assume anything further about their ages or even their genders”. Richard Hess
  46. 46. cities or garrisons?
  47. 47. ‘‘ ’’ We know that many of these ‘cities’ were used primarily for government buildings, and the common people lived in the surrounding countryside. Richard S. Hess
  48. 48. ‘‘ ’’ At the sound of horsemen and archers every town takes to flight. Some go into the thickets; some climb up among the rocks. All the towns are deserted; no one lives in them. Jeremiah 4:29 niv
  49. 49. ‘‘ ’’ Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Leviticus 18:24
  50. 50. ‘‘ ’’ There is no indication in the text of any specific noncombatants who were put to death. Richard Hess
  51. 51. ‘‘ ’’ [We] are not talking about genocide or ethnic cleansing, but a kind of corporate capital punishment that was deliberately limited in scope and restricted to a specific period of time. Paul Copan ‘Yahweh Wars and the Canaanites’
  52. 52. God is God
  53. 53. God can have good enough reasons
  54. 54. Israel’s unique situation
  55. 55. ‘‘ ’’ In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure. Genesis 15:16 NIV
  56. 56. God’s promises
  57. 57. ‘‘ ’’ I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. Genesis 12:2–3
  58. 58. Further Reading David Lamb, God Behaving Badly (IVP USA, 2011) Chris Wright, The God I Don’t Understand (Zondervan, 2008) Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? (Baker Books, 2011) Paul Copan and Matt Flannagan, Did God Really Command Genocide? (Baker Books, 2014)
  59. 59. www.tonywatkins.uk twitter.com/tonywatkins_ facebook.com/TonyWatkinsPage

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