I was recently contacted by Mariano of AtheismIsDead with the proposal of correcting evilbible.com in conjunction with a group of bloggers. Sounded like fun, so here we are.
See also the other posts so far in the series:
-Atheism, the Bible, Rape, EvilBible.com and Dan Barker, part 1 of 6
-The Impossibility of God, Part I: Prolegomena
My contribution to the project begins with the page Murder in the Bible.
Obviously, a site named EvilBible intends to discuss moral value judgments. And the author is apparently an atheist. Thus it comes as little surprise how the author (apparently a woman named Chris "Ali Baba" Thiefe) casts the issue in objecting to alleged murders that take place in the Bible.
After reading much on this site, it becomes readily apparent that most or even virtually all of the complaints against the Bible are emotionally-driven. No effort is made to ground an atheistic theory of morality that could enable someone to apply a meaningful label of "good" or "evil" to an action or thought. It really seems that EB.com is more like a (crappy, selective, and poorly-done) information service than a serious attempt to build a case against the Bible. In that, it is not any different from several dozen other antitheistic websites out there.
One example is when EB says:
In much of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, there are laws that command that people be killed for absurd reasons
Is the definition of "absurd" given anywhere on the page? No.
On the home page? No.
On the About EvilBible.com page? No.
It's just simply absurd; no other explanation is apparently required. So...am I supposed to be impressed or distressed b/c Ali Baba thinks the reasons are absurd? You know what they say about naked assertions.
How about the definition of "murder"? That would seem to be a good place to start. Yet no attempt is made to define even that. This is pretty shoddy, pretty clumsy. I suppose one is free to make up one's own definition. Fortunately, I've got one - Murder is the unjustified taking of human life. As every man, woman, and child is sinful and bears the guilt of the sin of Adam, all are subject to the death penalty. This includes the various peoples of Canaan, whom God commanded the OT Hebrews to put to death after hundreds of years of giving them time to repent of their perversions. This includes the millions of babies that die every year in the womb (re: Sam Harris' correct and yet wrongheaded and amazingly morally blind assertion that God is the greatest living abortionist). God is fully justified in putting anyone to death at any time thru any manner or agency He chooses.
Absent an argument to the contrary, EB.com's assertion that the Bible commends murder is already defeated. And as the archives of this blog alone will attest, even if EB.com's authors were to muster an argument for their definitions of absurd and murder, etc, the chances are pretty good that said argument would be seriously faulty and arbitrary.
Finally, how often does EB.com offer the context of these passages? Hint: It rhymes with "never", revealing that EB.com is merely an exercise in intellectual dishonesty. After all, Ali Baba herself, on her own webpages, says: "I...say...cursed be he...who...does not...murder...people." What more proof of Ali Baba's guilt do we need? I'll call the police.
Now, just for the purpose of piling more dirt on EB.com's face, let me take their points one by one and offer more explanation. I will also offer corrected subtitles where helpful and relevant.
Under 1) Capital Punishment Crimes, EB.com gives us a list of, well, crimes for which the death penalty is prescribed.
I suppose EB.com is against the death penalty? We are not told, but the point is that each one of these offenses is a violation of the law of the land. And it's not just these reasons that warrant the death penalty, you know. Murder was also a capital crime in OT Israel. I don't, however, see that mentioned in this list of "absurd" reasons for capital punishment. Why? Presumably EB.com considers 1st-degree murder a justifiable reason for the state's putting someone to death, but I'm just guessing b/c we are not told.
EB.com here is meddling in the affairs of another country, calling it names such as "absurd". EB.com is guilty of anachronistic judgment, committing the thoughtcrime of temporalethnocentrism. One wonders whether EB.com supports the US' actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, where one country is meddling in the laws of another.
The one exception in this section is Romans 1:24-32, with the subtitle "Infidels and Gays Should Die". EB.com is apparently totally unaware of the difference between DEscriptive and PREscriptive text. In this case, the text is DEscribing what is happening to certain members of unrepentant humanity due to God's judgment on them. There is no "Go and do this or that" type of command here. Further, the death penalty mentioned here is not loss of one's physical life but rather an emphasis on their state of spiritual death (which is, incidentally, a much more serious condition than physical death). A better subtitle - "Infidels and Gays Will Die, Unless They Repent, Just Like All Other Sinners."
Under 2) God's Murders for Stupid Reasons:
"Kill Brats" - Once again, EB.com displays ignorance that this is a historical acct, not a prescriptive set of commands. These "children" were actually more like a gang of teenagers, who were threatening Elisha the prophet, shouting in effect, "Elijah went up with you to the mountain and didn't come back. Why don't you go on back too and not come back?" They are wishing death upon a servant of God, rebelling against God's authority on Earth. Finally *God* sends the bears, not Elisha. A better subtitle - "God Kills Rebellious Teen Gang Who Had Committed Assault".
"God Kills the Curious" - The Ark had just been returned to Israel from enemy captivity, and Israelites knew or should have known the law for the treatment of the Ark. They broke the law and thus committed a capital crime, and their punishment showed that God takes reverence of Him very seriously. Does Ali Baba think ignorance of the law is a good excuse for breaking it?
This blasphemous action followed worship: "The people chopped up the wood of the cart and sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to the LORD." v. 14. Indeed they should have known better, and they learned their lesson - The people mourned because of the heavy blow the LORD had dealt them, 20 and the men of Beth Shemesh asked, "Who can stand in the presence of the LORD, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?" v. 20. A better subtitle - "God Kills the Sinfully Curious Blasphemers".
"Killed by a Lion" - I've always found the "school of prophets" and unnamed "men of God" and prophets wandering around Israel and Judah during the times of 1 Samuel - 2 Kings pretty fascinating, but the OT doesn't give a lot of info about their identity or grouping or anything. However, why assume this is an absurd reason? Why not consider that these 2 guys very possibly knew each other and/or that prophets were generally known? Why disobey the voice of a prophet, which was tantamount to disobeying the very voice of God? Murdering someone else is disobedience to the Law, which came directly from God - so the instructions of a prophet.
"Killing the Good Samaritan" - God had given very specific instructions on how to transport the Ark of the Covenant - carried by men with poles, a reverent procession, etc. These men had forgotten the holiness of God and were transporting the Ark on an oxcart, and when it was in danger of tipping over (b/c it wasn't carried by men as God had instructed), God decided to let His displeasure with the disobedience be known. A better subtitle - "God Punishes the Disobedient to Reiterate His Holiness".
Under 3) Murdering Children:
Most of these items are prophecies of the coming Babylonian destruction of Judah, if I'm not mistaken. The Babylonians were the tool God used to punish Judah for its 100s of years of extreme disobedience and blasphemy and idolatry, much like He had used Joshua-era Israel to punish Canaan for the same thing. Read Samuel, Kings and Chronicles with the heart of a Christian and you'll find yourself amazed at God's patience, that He let things go on like that for so very long. Of course, if He had intervened quickly, Ali Baba would no doubt be complaining that God didn't give them a chance to set things right. There's no pleasing people like EB.com's authors.
"God Kills all the First Born of Egypt" - Perhaps Ali Baba missed the preceding events, the 400 years of brutal slavery, the unwillingness to let Israel worship God despite pleas for simple humanity's sake as well as 9 supernatural plagues, etc.
Further, God expressly said that He wanted to humble mighty and mightily-blasphemous Egypt under His hand to glorify His name to everyone who would hear of these events. In doing so, He explicitly put the smackdown on Egyptian pagan (and false) deities - the river god, the sun god, fertility god, etc, not to mention the considered-divine Pharaoh.
"God Will Kill the Children of Sinners" - A warning of God's chastening punishment if Israel were to go astray from their covenant with God. Now, I love my children, so it's really kind of amazing to me that Israel would so easily neglect her covenant with God. Sin is a powerful and horrible thing.
Under 4) Miscellaneous Murders:
"More of Samson's Murders" - Israel and Philistia were at war. Does Ali Baba object to war, I guess?
"The Angel of Death" - Israel and Assyria were at war. People were starving inside Jerusalem b/c of the siege of the army camped outside its wall. Ali Baba wouldn't know this, however, b/c I can't believe that she actually did read this psg.
"Peter Kills Two People" - I missed where the text says, "And Peter swung his sword and decapitated Ananias." These people had sold their property and given what they claimed was the full price to the church, thus lying, probably in order to gain a good reputation. This is the first sin in the church of Jesus Christ, and God showed how seriously He takes sin by putting them to death when they continued unrepentant in their sin. And let us remember that, if they truly had faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, they were taken immediately to Heaven - not a bad fate. If not, they were sinful interlopers in the Body of Christ, a serious offense. A better subtitle - "God Kills Two People in the Act of Sin to Protect His Church".
"Mass Murder" - God had given the Canaanites 100s of years to repent of their sin and idolatry and His patience eventually reached its limit.
Further, it's not like this is a problem under an evolutionary atheistic worldview! The Amalekites did lose the battle - obviously they were not sufficiently fit to survive in this cruel, nasty, brutish world. Sometimes unfit and backwards civilisations die off. Why is a moral problem for ascribing blame when it's a people group that does the killing, versus a slower, more gradual process as, say, the Anasazi or Cro-Magnon man or something? I don't see Ali Baba blaming Mammy Nature or Papa Darwin for murder.
"Kill Your Neighbors" - Neighbors who had been encamped at the foot of a mountain covered by the cloud of glory from the Lord, and they were making a golden calf and then engaging in an orgy while Moses was at the peak. Sometimes you need extreme measures to get people's attention.
"Kill the Family of Sinners" - Achan had explicitly disobeyed the direct command of God not to take any booty from Jericho. This cost Israel several dozen lives and a military defeat.
"Kill Followers of Other Religions", "Murder" - Idolatry was a capital offense in OT Israel. This is the death penalty.
"Kill All of Babylon" - A prophecy of God's sending Persia to punish Babylon for its idolatry, evil, and bloodthirsty actions. See comments about the Amalekites above.
"Micah Kills a Whole Town" - Ali Baba says, "(Note that God approves of this slaughter in verse 6.)".
V 6 - The priest answered them, "Go in peace. Your journey has the LORD's approval."
Yes, their journey had the Lord's approval. I missed where in the text their subsequent violent actions had the Lord's approval. Maybe EB.com could cite said approval in its 2nd edition.
So, the whole of the page examined, and not even one psg stands up to even elementary scrutiny. An exercise in futility, really, but it's hard to believe that the author is putting forth a serious effort. However, given the caliber of Internet atheist commenters I've seen in places even as well-known as ERV, I guess it shouldn't surprise me that much.