Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Challenge #2 to Theists: Distinguishing Right From Wrong

This is my second challenge to theists. Although it's really a challenge only to the adherents of Yahweh-based religions and not all theists, I call it "challenge to theists" because I assume that not everyone would know what "challenge to Yahwists" means. This challenge is really directed only to those of you who follow the deity known as Yahweh. I know that very few of you use that name, but it's the only name I know to use that will get the attention of my intended audience.

Before I go into the details, I should point out that in my last challenge, one responder spent hours putting together a reply, only to discover that I had fumbled a bit when asking the question, not doing a good job of boiling it down to its essence. I've tried to do a better job here, but before you go cranking out 45 minutes of response videos, you might want to PM me with the short version of your answer, so we can make sure I've made the question clear enough.

You say that Yahweh is good, and Satan is evil.

In saying so, you indicate that you have at least some ability to distinguish between good and evil.

I present these acts for your consideration:

Drowning every single baby in the world, as in Gen 7:11-12

Burning babies to death with fiery sulfur, as in Gen 19:24-25

Starving babies to death, as in Ex 9:6, 9:25, 10:15

Ordering and assisting in the slaughter, presumably by sword, of every male, from babies to old men, and the slaughter of every non-virgin female, from a nation large enough to field an army of roughly 10k men, as in Num 31:5, 7, 17

Tacitly endorsing the enslavement as wives every virgin from aforementioned nation, from babies to teenagers, as in 31:18

Tacitly endorsing or explicitly ordering the slaughter, presumably by sword, of every human, from baby girls to old women, baby boys to old men, in the nations of Heshbon (Deut 2:34), Bashan (Deut 3:6), Jericho (with the exception of one household) (Joshua 6:21) , Ai (Joshua 8:25), Libnah (Joshua 10:30), Lachish (Joshua 10:31), Eglon (Joshua 10:35),  Hebron (Joshua 10:37), Debir (Joshua 10:39), Hazor (Joshua 11:10)

Now don't get me wrong; I'm not asking the tired old question that gets the tired old answer about how it was justified for this reason or that. I'm not asking you to justify these acts. I just present them as points to consider in the following ruminations.

If killing babies is always wrong, then Yahweh did wrong. If killing babies is sometimes justified, then at least in principle, abortion can be sometimes justified. Similarly, if killing elderly people is sometimes justified, then at least in principle, euthanasia can be sometimes justified. You may wish to say that although abortion and euthanasia could in principle be justified, humans do not have the moral wherewithal to decide under which circumstances these would be justified. But if that's the case, then how can you have the moral wherewithal to decide whether Yahweh was justified in committing these acts?

What has Satan done over the eons? Thought of himself as better than Yahweh? Given Yahweh's aforementioned behavior, was Satan so far out of line to think so? You might say that Satan was the cause of all of Yahweh's aforementioned evil acts, that Satan caused humanity to fall into sin, thus necessitating the deaths of these countless innocent children. But if you're going to look for causes, why stop just one step removed from the result? Why not go back further, to the time when Yahweh created Satan, knowing full well that one result would be the savage deaths of unnumbered infants. It's hard to say that Satan was the cause of all this.

So finally, my actual question: how do you look at Yahweh's behavior and conclude that Yahweh is good, then look at Satan's behavior and conclude that Satan is evil? By what standard do you distinguish good from evil?

Some other thoughts that didn't make it into the video; at this point I can't remember why. Maybe the video was getting too long or something.

Are these acts not evil? Yahweh did all these things, not Satan. You might wish to object, saying that Yahweh had to do these things because Satan had led humans into terrible sin, so it was ultimately Satan's fault. But the word "ultimate" doesn't mean just under the surface. It refers to the root cause. Where did Satan come from? Was he not created by Yahweh? Did not Yahweh know, when creating Satan, that Satan would ultimately rebel and lead humanity into unspeakable sin, requiring Yahweh to kill and order the killing of all those babies?

Depending on your particular doctrine, you may believe that Satan tempts us to sin. Into what kinds of sins does Satan tempt us? Sexual immorality is probably at the top of the list. Lying and deceit would rank high. From one of the numerous lists of deadly sins we can see gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride. But let's think about some specific sins that are clearly evil. Say murder, torture, rape, child molestation, assault. I assume that you will agree with me that these are all clearly worse than any sort of marital infidelity, worse than homosexuality/lesbianism, worse than orgies, worse than sex outside of wedlock.

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