Divine Genocide II

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pyramidI decided to start a new post on the Amalekite Genocide in order to reduce the clutter below. But before I return to the discussion, I want to spend a little time explaining what I consider to be the correct approach to this topic and why.

I already mentioned that the topic can be broken into three parts: 1) God’s general right to kill, 2) God’s right to kill groups of people (including women/children), and 3) God’s right to use one nation to wipe out another. These three parts can be organized as a 3-level pyramid.

The foundational level of the pyramid has to do with whether God ever has the right to take a life that He has created. In my opinion, this is the principle issue in the discussion and affects how the other two parts are dealt with. Not just this, but if the Apologist loses the debate at this bottom level, the debate is entirely lost and there is no longer a need to proceed to level two. If on the other hand he succeeds at this level he still needs to defend the second level and then the third before the debate is fully won.

An unfair tactic on the part of the counter-apologist is to attack the top level of the pyramid directly. When the debate is started correctly (at the bottom,) the conversation only proceeds to the next level if the issue at the first level was conclusively dealt with. And, if conclusively dealt with, it does not need to be visited again. When the discussion is started at the top however, whatever defense the apologist makes is insufficient to address the problem since there are underlying issues that were never dealt with. And, even if he manages to bring up a good point, his opponent can always fall back to an underlying layer and dismiss the point as invalid.

Not just this but starting at the top causes confusion by trying to tackle too many facets of the topic at once (like when creationists bring up abiogenesis in an evolution debate.) And, since the burden of proof is on the apologist, confusion is always to his disadvantage.

If the counter-apologist prefers not to start from the foundational layer for that topic, there is nothing wrong with conceding that part of the debate. What this means however is that for the duration of that debate it will be assumed that the conceded parts have been addressed and conclusively dealt with and can no longer be brought into question.

If I am having a conversation with one person and that person made a concession and, if a second person wants to join the conversation, then it is assumed they are making the same concession. If they do not wish to concede any particular point then we will need to start a separate conversation.

One last thought regarding debate procedure. For this particular topic, it is necessary before anything else, to come to some consensus regarding the basis for any rights of created entities. This is another thing that might differ from one person to another and, if necessary, a new conversation could be started.


I will continue to work on responding to some of the previous questions over the next few days but wanted to give a more complete explanation of how I am approaching this discussion so that there is no confusion. Also, if there are any flaws in my reasoning here, they should definitely be dealt with before we continue on with the conversation as they will probably affect everything else.



  1. Lausten North  February 22, 2013

    Well, you’ve already turned this into a theological debate haven’t you? By starting with an assumption that there is a creator you have limited the ability of anyone to discuss the morality of nations going to war. Really not much point in that discussion. There is nothing here on earth that can create a sentient living creature, and we can’t know this creator that you ask about, so there is really no way to answer the first question. You can give whatever rights you want to the creator and there is no basis to say you are correct or not. Congratulations, you just figured out to trick the minds of Bronze Age people. Lucky for you, there are still some around, but I wouldn’t let them know about the internet.

    • Unapologetics  March 13, 2013

      It’s kind of hard for a debate about whether God was justified in destroying the Amalekites not to be a theological debate. It’s also hard to debate whether God was justified in killing without first assuming that God exists. If you don’t like how this debate is framed then take that up with Justin and the Reasonable Doubts gang. I’m just going along with how they set up the discussion.

      • Lausten North  March 14, 2013

        I’ll be watching for how follow-up with them. It seems like the framing is: The God of the Bible is not a coherent consistent character and this is evidence against him. A major incoherency is his advocacy of killing in one book and of peace in another.

        • Unapologetics  March 15, 2013

          Yes. Very good.

  2. a  February 26, 2013

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” – Epicurus, Greek philosopher, BC 341-270

  3. Lausten North  March 7, 2013

    I’m sure you’re busy, but maybe the thing to do is to revisit your own premises. You say this is important to the debate in your “About” section. If we need good premises, let’s find them. That might mean mine have flaws, or it might yours do.

    • Unapologetics  March 13, 2013

      You’ll need to elaborate on this a little more…

      • Lausten North  March 15, 2013

        What I’m seeing here and on your posts at Reasonable Doubts is that you start with some premises about theology that include “God placing humanity under ‘mortal probation in an attempt to save them.’” You rest most, if not all of your arguments on them. You say if we could sit down with God and understand everything that he has to deal with, then, “after you and I evaluated each of those possibilities we will probably conclude that the one He chose was in fact the best one.”

        I agree with you, when you said, “I really don’t see how a sensible debate about the Amalekites can take place without first coming to a consensus…” on these points and others. So, let’s move the discussion back to attempting to have a sensible discussion about God and his purpose. The trouble with that is, we can’t. You stated elsewhere that all indicators are that God won’t reveal that, at least not in our lifetimes. You stated that there isn’t a way for us to experiment and collect evidence and discover the truth of these assertions you are making. Or maybe I’m not understanding what you are saying.

        • Unapologetics  March 15, 2013

          You quoted my statement about consensus and stopped short of what I said the consensus should be on. Before discussing the Amalekites one should first discuss when, if ever, would God have the right to kill.

          ask yourself if you ever built a robot that could think like a human; would you ever have the moral right to destroy this robot?

          • Lausten North  March 15, 2013

            I indicated the out of context quote in two ways. First I put “…”, then I said “these and other points”. You had a long paragraph with angels too, I’m not going quote everything you said. I accept that you said it and my not quoting it did not change the understanding of what you said.

            The framing that we are discussing is that this is a story about men trying to justify the killing of men, women and children. They are doing it by claiming God told them to. You are trying to frame it by beginning with a discussion about whether or not God has that right. Justin rejected that notion in the closing of his response to you. I reject it. If you want to start there, that’s fine, but don’t be surprised if I don’t engage with it.

            We aren’t engaging with arguments about God’s existence or what rights he might have if he did, because those have all been dealt with elsewhere. If you are going to rest your argument about morality on that then you need to start with a new argument for that foundation. So far you have only provided descriptions of theologies that have already been refuted, at least to my satisfaction. You can continue with that and continue to point out how the discussion can’t get started if we can’t agree on it. I agree that we can’t agree on that.

            Or, you could reconsider some of the things you have said about Scientific Evidence. I wrote my recent blog post on your statement about the unfairness of an all boys basketball tournament being used to judge how well girls play basketball. You could consider what I said there. You seem to have a grasp of what the idea of naturalism is, but you accept that there are supernatural events occurring. That makes it difficult to discuss naturalism.

          • Unapologetics  March 15, 2013

            Unfortunately Lausten, it seems that no matter how many times I rephrase my point you continue to misunderstand it. I simply can’t think of any other way to express myself that will make it any more clear.

            you state, “this is a story about men trying to justify the killing of men, women and children. They are doing it by claiming God told them to.”

            I have told you this as much as ten different times already. THIS IS CATEGORICALLY NOT WHAT THIS CONVERSATION IS ABOUT. You are welcome to have that conversation somewhere else with someone else but I personally have no interest in that conversation because I reject the premise.

            The question I am discussing is this:

            If God exists, does He have the right to take away the life of someone He Himself created and He Himself sustains and keeps alive?

            Does He have this right

            a) At all times
            b) Only under certain circumstances
            c) Never under any circumstances

            If you have an opinion about which of the 3 options is correct and why then share it. Otherwise there is nothing left to talk about here.

            I will address the Scientific evidence part in the other post.

          • Lausten North  March 15, 2013

            I hear you perfectly. I’m trying to explain that you’re not going get any traction with that. You’re asking people to engage in a “can Batman beat up Superman” type conversation. Of course you can find a character in a book and discuss what powers and rights you think the book says it has. You can speculate all you want about what motivates that character but if that character is God, then that is strictly a theological conversation. You are inviting atheists into this and immediately starting with a premise that atheists reject.

          • Unapologetics  March 15, 2013

            No Lausten, Justin and the RD gang invited the Christian apologist to debate whether Batman can beat Superman and I responded to THAT conversation. If you want to debate the EXISTENCE of batman and superman that is what the “Atheist fallacies” post is for. No one is forcing you into this conversation.

            The first problem with Justin’s debate is that he wants to debate the Amalekite issue but he rejects many prerequisite christian doctrines that are needed to explain the Amalekite issue. This is like wanting to debate algebra when you have disagreements on basic math. The second problem is that he still has not taken the time to address some of the essential definitions in the debate like the rights of the creator/created.

            There are certain rules to having a proper debate and without following proper protocol the entire thing becomes meaningless and a complete waste of time.

          • Lausten North  March 16, 2013

            I’m starting to agree with you on this being a waste of time. You seemed like you might be more reasonable at the beginning, showing understanding of the scientific method and even posting the Lawrence Krauss video. You have since attempted to move the premise of this discussion back to some claims about God that you hold, but atheists reject. We know that if you first claim that God has the right to kill people that he creates, then you have created a system in which those actions are moral. The question is, are those actions moral, so you start out claiming that they are. I’m not wasting my time with that discussion, because you are framing it in a way that my opinion doesn’t matter.

            Since you approached it with a reasonable tone at first, saying you felt you were being treated unfairly and I was framing it in a way that your opinion didn’t matter, I thought maybe we could discuss the framing. The title of the debate is “Does the slaughter of the Amalekites show that God is evil?” That title does leave out the discussion of who is God, and that is problematic, however, both debaters state early on who they are and where they stand on that, so it’s the best we can do without changing the debate to “Does God exist?”. Starting with “what rights does God have” leads to the same problems.

            As I said before, if you want to begin with a definition of God that includes angels, creator of everything, or rights to end the lives of the lives he created, then we can’t get started with that. There is no analogy to robots or surgeons or anything else that will convince me you have something new here.

          • Unapologetics  March 16, 2013

            I never claimed that god has the right to kill people any time he wants. What I am saying to you is that if you want to discuss this topic with me then YOU are the one that needs to tell me when YOU think a creator has the right to kill, if at all. Unless you clarify that for me I have no way of knowing how to proceed with the conversation.

            In essence what you are saying to me is that you want to have a discussion about whether Batman can beat up Superman. However, you will only have this discussion if I first accept the premise that:

            a) Superman doesn’t exist


            b) that Superman doesn’t have x-ray vision and isn’t able to fly and doesn’t have super strength or basically any other superpower that comic books, cartoons and movies generally attribute to him.

          • Lausten North  March 23, 2013

            Yeah, I understood all that before. If you don’t want to agree then fine, we don’t.

        • Lausten North  March 17, 2013

          I don’t think I said you said “god has the right to kill people any time he wants”. If I implied that, I’m sorry. Also, sorry to mess up the organization of your blog, but sometimes I have referred to things you said in Divine Genocide III. You lay your beliefs out pretty clearly in that. In the other threads, you ask to work on the underlying assumptions. That’s quite sensible. However you might notice not too many are jumping in on that.

          What I’ve been suggesting is that you are asking atheists to jump into this at a point where you already have made too many assumptions. You’re asking us to agree to too many premises. I agree that a question like “Is God a moral monster?” is poorly framed because you have to stop and agree on what God is and what morality is. But that doesn’t mean that the question can’t be discussed if you don’t believe in God, or in a particular theology that involves a Creator’s rights to end the life of its creation under certain circumstances.

          Many atheists have studied those theologies and have rejected them and can explain why they have rejected them. That is, they are allowing for a discussion even with a completely different understanding of the underlying premises. You are saying, we can’t even have a discussion until I tell you when I “think a creator has the right to kill.” I’m not going to answer that because I don’t believe in a creator. That doesn’t mean you have to stop believing in a creator. It means we have to find a different basis for discussing the morality of the Amalekite genocide.

          • Unapologetics  March 17, 2013

            I’m not asking you to believe in a creator. I’m asking you what you would do if YOU ever managed to create something that was self-aware, that could think, hope, love. If you created this something and were using your own resources to keep it alive, what rights do you feel YOU should have then?

            If you have a different basis for discussing the morality of the Amalekite genocide then I’d like to hear it.

          • Lausten North  March 17, 2013

            I do, thanks. First of all, I accept that archaeology says it did not happen. Second, I accept all the evidence relating to authors of the Bible being men who were prone to making up stories. There are a variety of reasons for that which we could go into if you want. The question is, why would men make up a story wherein they were told by God to commit genocide? You could discuss either the morality of those men or of the morality within the story. Some concessions can be made for people’s actions because of their place in history, but there are limits to that.

          • Unapologetics  March 17, 2013

            “The question is, why would men make up a story wherein they were told by God to commit genocide?”

            Good question. Why would they?

          • Lausten North  March 17, 2013

            It could be that they wanted to show that they were legitimate players in the Levant. They were a small kingdom. Their origins are not well known, implying there is not much evidence that they actually had conquered anyone significant. This story portrays them as a fearsome opponent. Also, it legitimates any conquering they had done or were planning on doing. When recruiting for future wars, they now had something to point to, something that named their enemy, gave reasons for hating that enemy, and gave permission from their God to do the smiting.

          • Unapologetics  March 17, 2013

            Around when do you think this happened? Around the time of David? The exile? Time of Jesus? Closer to our time?

            Also, did they make up the whole bible as a context for this story or was the rest of the stuff already there and they just added this?

          • Lausten North  March 17, 2013

            I don’t know when the Amalekite story was written. I’m just an amateur Bible historian. But I’m pretty sure there was no small group of “they” that wrote the entire thing. I have read Friedman’s “Who Wrote the Bible”, which is a bit dated, but a good introduction to the Documentary Hypothesis. He says there were collections of stories, with some different versions held by the North and South kingdoms, then they were synthesized during the exile in the 5th century BC. I can’t evaluate the complicated arguments that have gone on since then. Here is a long article that presents some of them. I don’t agree with its conclusion but you can draw from it what you like. https://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2010/09/24/The-Documentary-Hypothesis.aspx#Article

          • Unapologetics  March 17, 2013

            Ok. Read the article and can’t say I have an opinion about any of it. As far as the Amalekites there is nothing in the article about it and you haven’t said anything more about it either. So what do you want to talk about next?

          • Lausten North  March 18, 2013

            Nothing. I wanted to discuss how you frame a discussion about any of the acts of war or violence or any other act in the OT that could be considered immoral. That is a step below step 1 of your pyramid above. Like you have said, if we can’t complete the discussion on the lower part of the pyramid, there is no point in continuing. If you have no opinion on archaeological evidence, literary analysis or the use of myth in ancient Israel then jumping to a discussion about the Amalekites would be pointless.

          • Unapologetics  March 18, 2013

            There is no step below step one in my pyramid. Justin’s argument against the Bible and your argument are completely independent lines of argumentation. Justin is attacking internal consistency while you are taking the archeology/ literary criticism approach. These are separate discussions and it makes no sense to clump them together as I already explained with my Romeo & Juliet analogy a while back.

            I don’t generally pick up discussions on archeology since it’s not my background. I usually either discuss theism/atheism without getting into Christianity at all but just from a strictly scientific/logical standpoint or I sometimes pick up theology issues when someone attacks some part of the Bible as being internally contradictory.

            If you want to discuss archeology/literary criticism anyway, we can. But I’ll tell you up front that I am only interested in actual evidence not theories. If there is an actual archeological discovery that you think contradicts something in the Bible we can look into it. But just because someone out there has a theory that claims most of the Old Testament is bogus doesn’t mean anything to me. There are plenty of other theories out there. I’m just interested in any actual evidence behind the theories. I don’t consider the theory evidence in and of itself.

            So I don’t accept that the events didn’t happen or that the authors were prone to make up stories or the use of myth in ancient Israel. If you have evidence to the contrary you can share it.

            Btw, the article you linked to was actually trying to disprove the Documentary Hypothesis.

          • Lausten North  March 18, 2013

            Yes, I know the article disagreed with the Documentary Hypothesis, I thought it would be a fair and conciliatory way of presenting it. By definition, a hypothesis has not risen to the level of proof, so I am open to discussion on the matter. It’s just a good place to start for questions about who wrote the Bible, when did it get redacted, how were the stories used and viewed historically, etc. But you are using a different scale.

            You aren’t accepting that I see a step that should come before your step 1. You aren’t accepting that it makes no sense to discuss the morality of scripture with someone who wants to claim that God has very special rules for morality that apply only to him. There is just no basis for that conversation other than accepting your premises, and I don’t accept them, and I’ve attempted to explain why.

            I don’t think we all need to be experts in all fields to sort this out. We need to trust other experts and figure out how to determine who is trustworthy. National Geographic has many articles on the Bible, this one http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/print/2010/12/david-and-solomon/draper-text describes recent discoveries, by both believers and non-believers. It doesn’t say “the OT is bogus”, but it shows that there is almost no evidence for the existence of important characters like Moses or David. This gets back to the “proving a negative” conversation, which you pretty much just didn’t accept either.

            I appreciate your continuing interest in the conversation, even though we can’t find much common ground.

          • Unapologetics  March 20, 2013

            Lausten, our problem is not that we can’t find much common ground. Our problem is that there is a breakdown in communication. It’s evident from this last post that you have not understood a thing I said from the very first time you came here until now. My imagination fails me in coming up with yet another creative way to explain the same things to you for the 20th time. I’m sure there is someone out there that will make more sense to you when discussing these topics but it obviously isn’t me.

          • Lausten North  March 20, 2013

            I understand you, I just don’t agree to your terms. You want to discuss God as He is portrayed in the BIble. You want to explain how there is a consistent theology that makes sense of the Amalekite genocide.

          • Unapologetics  March 20, 2013

            No Lausten, it is very clear to me that you don’t actually understand me when I try to explain something. I don’t know if this is because you don’t read my comments thoroughly, because you read other people’s arguments into my comments, because I am just a really poor communicator myself or if we simply have different ways of reasoning and just can’t get on the same wavelength.

            And this is not an isolated case either. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about the Amalekites, science, theism vs atheism or even the stuff you wrote about me on your blog. I’m sorry but there’s been a definite breakdown in communication that I’ve been unable to resolve no matter how hard I try. And, like I said, I can only go in circles so many times.

          • Lausten North  March 22, 2013

            Just checking if I didn’t post my response properly or you are really cutting me off.
            I read DG III, part 4, that seems pretty clear about where you want to take this. To get there, we need to agree on premises, and we can’t get started with that. The difference I see is that I am willing to discuss why one premise is preferable to another, and you simply refuse to accept any argument contrary to your premise. It’s not that you need to think up more analogies, it’s that you need to consider the weakness of your analogies.

          • Unapologetics  March 22, 2013

            I don’t expect you to agree on any premises. I keep telling you that my response was not written for you but in answer to the RD debate.

            They chose of their own accord to argue that, even if God does exist and even if the Bible is true, that God is still immoral.

            My response to that was that there is a certain theological context for the God of the bible that explains his actions. If someone does not agree with that context they need to debate the context first before they debate the Amalekite issue.

            But it does not make sense to say that the God of the Bible is immoral and then expect the Christian to defend a god who functions within some other context that the atheist made up and which the Christian doesn’t actually believe in.

            Keep in mind that by context I mean theological context and not archeology or literary criticism etc. None of that is relevant to the current debate because of the way the RD gang (and not me) framed the debate. If you’re not happy with that framework, no one is forcing you into this particular conversation.

          • Lausten North  March 22, 2013

            When you say “agree with the context”, that’s what I mean by a premise. I understand that the title of the debate, “Does the Amalekite genocide prove God is immoral”, sounds like it is assuming God exists. I can guarantee you that no one on the RD team would enter a debate with the assumption, “even if God does exist”. That is what the entire show is about, that the Christian God doesn’t exist, nor do any other gods. You can refine that, but it’s basically what the show is.

            You are the only one saying that it doesn’t make sense to use “some other context that the atheist made up”. That other context is what we call reality, we didn’t make it up, it’s just what we observe. We admit our observations could be flawed, but we’re going to go with them for now. I understand that there is a theological context where this world is just a preparation for the Kingdom or there are other theological contexts where this world is not all there is. It doesn’t help me to know the specifics of your version of Christianity or any version.

            What I’m doing and I believe RD is doing, is claiming that attempts to defend a context where genocide could be moral, is itself immoral. I am sure that there is a theological context for God that explains his actions. That’s why I have problems with theological contexts. I’ve seen how they are used once they are explained. I choose to enter into this conversation because I think it is important that people understand this.

          • Unapologetics  March 22, 2013

            I am not claiming that the RD gang is considering the possibility that God exists.

            They are approaching this from the perspective that God, even as a fictional character, is immoral. Read Dawkins’ quote that the debate is framed around.

            And my response is that if you evaluate a fictional character you need to take into account the context of the fictional story he is a part of.

            I have gone over this enough. There is nothing more I can say to you that will help you see that you are misunderstanding the topic of the debate. Thank you for your time.

          • Lausten North  March 23, 2013

            We agree on at least one thing, in a fictional world, you can define morality anyway you want.

          • Unapologetics  March 23, 2013

            Actually, we can’t even agree on that. I am not arguing that God should be judged by a fictional standard of morality and neither is Justin or Dawkins.

            Dawkins’ point is that even though he considers the Bible fictional many people take it seriously and hold it up as the standard for morality. But, he argues, the Bible’s God is Himself immoral by any common standard of morality.

            My response is that to determine if someone is immoral we must first DEFINE that standard of morality. However, because as human beings we have never been in a position to CREATE and to PRESERVE a life we don’t actually have a standard for this yet. I am not saying that we should develop a fictional standard of morality but that we should develop one that is appropriate for a Creator.

            Justin in his last post argued that we should be using the common standard that we usually apply to capital punishment cases. I responded that this is not an accurate standard since the hesitation people usually have with capital punishment is precisely that “we did not create this life so do we have the right to take it away.”

            So my solution went something like this:

            If atheists are correct, then the reason that human beings have self-awareness is entirely because of the brain. At some point scientists will figure out what makes the brain tick and will be able to produce something like the brain themselves. And, at that point they will need to ask themselves what rights they have as creators. This is not make-believe but a real situation that we will inevitably have to think about at some point in the future. If science progresses as it has this far we will ourselves become creators some day and we should think about what our rights should be in such a case.

            I am not asking something outrageous or nonsensical. And it is not possible to claim someone is immoral without first having a definition of what IS moral, a definition appropriate for the situation.

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