Some non-theistic arguments.

A Moral Case against Christianity

0. Introduction and some terminology.

1. Preliminary issues.

1.1. Moral realism, theism and counterpossible scenarios.

1.2. The Bible and the sources of moral knowledge.

1.3. Sovereignty.

1.4. Who are we to judge God?

1.5. Assessing the morality of hypothetical characters and/or their actions.

1.6. Assessing whether a religion is true on moral grounds.

1.7. Our sense of right and wrong and Christianity.

1.8. The Fall.

1.9. The Old Testament and Christianity.

1.10. Hell and Christianity.

1.11. Not a moral agent?

1.12. Context.

2. Some legal dispositions in the Old Testament.

2.1. Local matters.

2.1.1. Sex outside marriage, adultery and rape.

2.1.2. Consensual sex outside marriage, or rape?

2.1.3. More on sex outside marriage, adultery and rape.

2.1.4. Forbidden marriages.

2.1.5. Priesthood and prostitution.

2.1.6. Men who have sex with men.

2.1.7. Inter-species sex.

2.1.8. Evil oxen?

2.1.9. Assorted commands and moral claims or implications.

2.1.10. The hardness of the hearts of the ancient Israelites.

2.2. Foreign affairs

2.2.1. Distant cities.

2.2.2. Dealing with some neighbors.

3. Some events described in the Old Testament.

3.1.The Flood.

3.2. Egypt.

3.3. Canaan.

3.4. Amalek.

3.5. Uriah.

3.6. The Sabbath.

3.7. Mass murder of captives, mass rape, and sex slavery.

3.8. Noah, Ham, and Canaan.

4. The New Testament and the Old Testament. Some of the links.

4.1 Jesus and the Old Testament.

4.1.1. Old Testament Law “sufficed” until the time of John.

4.1.2. Some curses.

4.1.3. The Transfiguration.

4.1.4. Jesus, Yahweh and the Ten Commandments.

4.1.5. After Jesus’s resurrection.

4.2. Paul and the Old Testament.

4.2.1. Paul and Old Testament Law.

4.2.1.1. Acts 24.

4.2.1.2. Acts 28.

4.2.1.3. Romans 2 and 3.

4.2.1.4. Romans 7.

4.2.1.5. 1 Corinthians 9.

4.2.1.6. Galatians 3.

4.2.2. Paul and some events in the Old Testament. Literal interpretation.

4.2.2.1 Acts 13. Canaan.

4.2.2.2. Romans 9. Egypt.

4.2.3. More on Paul and the Old Testament. 2 Timothy 3.

4.3. Stephen and Moses.

4.4. Peter and the Old Testament.

4.4.1. 2 Peter 2. The Flood.

4.4.2. 2 Peter 2. Lot and his daughters.

4.5. The Letter to The Hebrews and the Old Testament.

4.5.1. Hebrews 1. A historic link.

4.5.2. Hebrews 3. Moses, Egypt, and the Exodus.

4.5.3. Hebrews 6, 7 and 8. More detailed historic accounts.

4.5.4. Hebrews 9. Old Testament Law.

4.5.5. Hebrews 10. Old Testament Law.

4.5.6. Hebrews 11. Faith, the Flood, treason and more.

4.5.7. Hebrews 12. Moses, and Old Testament Law.

4.5.8. Hebrews 13. Moses, Joshua, and more.

5. Some of Jesus’s commandments, moral claims or implications.

5.1. Jesus commands that people love Yahweh.

5.2. Jesus commands that some people love their neighbors as they love themselves.

5.3. Some family values.

5.4. The Sermon on the Mount.

5.4.1. Jesus and Old Testament Law.

5.4.2. Jesus accuses some people of adultery.

5.4.3. Jesus accuses some more people of adultery.

5.4.4. Jesus orders some people to turn the other cheek.

5.4.5. Jesus commands that some people love their enemies.

5.4.6. Jesus, Yahweh and forgiveness.

5.4.7. Jesus commands that some people refrain from judging others.

5.4.8. Jesus and the Golden Rule.

6. Hell.

6.1. Infinite Hell vs. finite Hell or no Hell.

6.2. Hell as a place of torment vs. Hell as some state of mind or state of being.

6.3. Hell as imposed vs. Hell as chosen by the damned.

6.4. The immorality of Hell.

7. Heaven.

8. Conclusions.

Notes and references.

0. Introduction and some terminology.

a. In this essay, I will make a moral case against Christianity based on assessing the morality of some of the actions carried out by¨Yahweh, as described in the Bible, as well some of the actions of some of his servants, followers, etc.

b. I will not define ‘Christianity’, but will try to make this case as broad as I can, in order to encompass nearly all if not all religions that go by the name “Christianity”[0] At least, I will address all versions I’ve encountered.

c. One of the sources of the biblical passages is the Open English Bible [1], a public domain modern translation. The color of the text is not the same as in the original, and neither is the font, but other than that, the quotations are faithful. I invite readers to check the original in case of doubt. [1]

The abbreviation “OEB” indicates that a passages is from the Open English Bible.

d. Another source is a version of the World English Bible, a common public domain modern translation. [2].

The abbreviation “GWEB” indicates that a passage is from that version.  

I will use those two translations for the most part, though I might use others – with or without quoting from them, though of course I will identify them – as well, in some cases.

e. In any case, most other translations are relevantly similar in the passages I will assess, but I invite readers to check other translations if they have any doubts.

f. I will use the term ‘Yahweh’ as the name of the entity partially described in the Bible, and claimed to be the creator, lord, etc.

A potential source of ambiguity is the fact that different versions of Christianity accept different books as parts of the Bible. However, this is not a problem, since I will make arguments covering all versions – at least as far as I know -, and in any event, I will also address some potential objections like ‘that passage is not inspired’, and the like, when I think it’s needed or useful.

Also, the fact that the most common versions of Christianity posit a trinity presents a challenge when it comes to choosing the meaning of the term ‘Yahweh’. More precisely, there is a question of whether to use the word ‘Yahweh’ to name only the father, or the whole trinity.

For example, let’s consider the following passage:

GWEB:

Deuteronomy

6:4 Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one: 6:5 and you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6:6 These words, which I command you this day, shall be on your heart; 6:7 and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.

Given the usual Christian belief we should love not only the father, but Jesus and the third person as well, this passage – and the ones that follow it – suggests using the word ‘Yahweh’ to name the trinity.

On the other hand, let’s consider the following passage:

GWEB:

2 Samuel

12:11 This is what Yahweh says: 'Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he will lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12: 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.'"

In the context of the most common versions of Christianity – i.e., assuming a trinity -, this passage suggests that’s what the father said.

So, leaving aside potential arguments against a trinity – which are not the matter of this essay -, this raises the issue of choosing the terminology in this moral case.

I don’t find any choice entirely satisfactory, but I will adopt the following rules:

f.1. I will use the name '‘Yahweh’ to name the entity partially described in the Bible, and claimed to be the creator, “lord”, etc., without assuming in general that Yahweh is or is not a trinity, and I will consider different alternatives when that’s required to make a point, clarification, etc.

f.2. In passages that attribute some words to Yahweh, such as 2 Samuel 12:11, I will interpret that as a claim that the entity in question said that, without denying that, more specifically, a proper interpretation considering also the New Testament is that the father made the claim in question.                          

g. I will use the word ‘God’ to mean an entity, being, person, or substance that at least meets the following conditions:

g.1. He’s the creator of all other beings, directly or indirectly.

g.1.1. When I say ‘creator of all other beings’, I’m not talking about abstracta. I don’t think numbers, propositions, etc., are beings.

However, there is no need to settle that matter here: readers who hold that abstracta should be included in an ontology should replace '‘beings’ with ‘concrete beings’ above.

g.1.2. I say ‘directly or indirectly’ to indicate that I do not rule out that some being might be created by some being other than God even if God exists, as long as there is a chain of creators that reaches God as the origin.

g.1.3. As an alternative, condition g.1. can be replaced by g.1', which states that God is the creator of the universe, understanding ‘universe’ to mean the planets, stars, galaxies, etc. - a rather vague expression, but still precise enough for this context, which needs no further detail.

g.2. Immensely powerful. In particular, he’s far more powerful than all other beings put together, and is powerful enough to rule his creation effortlessly, and to defeat any other being effortlessly.

g.3. He is morally perfect.

g.4. He is vastly knowledgeable, and in particular, more knowledgeable than any other being.

Also, in particular, he knows all necessary truths, and knows everything that happened in the past and is happening in the present in his creation.

g.4.1. Usual conceptions of God in present-day philosophy of religion often demand more in terms of power and/or knowledge, but the previous requirements suffice. Also, expressions like “vastly knowledgeable” are vague, but no greater precision is required in this context.

g.4.2. In any case, under other conceptions of God, the moral case against Christianity below can still be made and based on the same objections, just changing part of the wording as needed. In particular, if a reader prefers a ‘greatest conceivable being’ understanding, the case below works as well, a least if the concept of the greatest conceivable being is coherent, and also if one adds g.1., or at least g.1'.

g.5. Some theists believe that God is not a being. I don’t intend to make an argument one way or another, even though I think if he existed, he would be a being. But if that is not so, then the condition g.1. should be understood as “He’s the creator of all beings”, and similarly, other parts of this essay should be adjusted as needed, using “substance” - or whatever the appropriate term is - instead of “being” or “entity”. I will continue to use the words “being” or “entity” for the sake of (some) brevity, but no part of this moral case against Christianity hinges on whether God would be a being or not.

To be clear, in the context of this moral case against Christianity, I will not claim that God exists, and I will not claim that God does not exist. I will argue that Yahweh, if he exists, is not God (of course, Yahweh does not exist, but I'm not arguing for that, either).

That aside, when quoting from a translation of the Bible, I will of course quote it accurately, and the translation in question might use the word “God” differently, perhaps to mean “Yahweh”. I will address the matter when commenting on the quotation if I reckon that clarification is needed.

h. By a ‘moral agent’ I mean any agent who is morally righteous, or morally wicked, or morally something in between, or a morally good agent – in particular, a morally perfect agent would be morally good -, or a morally bad agent, or an agent some of whose actions are immoral, or morally praiseworthy, or morally obligatory.

For instance, at least nearly all adult humans are moral agents, whereas, say, sharks are not.

I will also assume that Yahweh is a moral agent. I realize that some people might deny that and claim, say, that we can only properly say that he’s morally good in some analogous sense. I will address the matter later, but briefly, in that case I would say that if there is some analogy, then he’s morally wicked in that analogous sense, and the reasons I give in the essay below still apply.

Furthermore, many people ought to have disobeyed his commands barring a sufficient threat, and that’s not in any analogous sense. I will address the matters in greater detail later.

i. When I use terms the term ‘guilty’, unless otherwise specified, I mean it in a moral sense, not in a legal sense.

j. When I talk about the actions of Yahweh, Moses, etc., I’m not claiming that they in fact exist.

I’m just assessing the morality of some of the actions of Yahweh, Moses, etc., as described in the Bible, minus some moral claims or implications contained in the Bible, which I do not assume – i.e., I consider the biblical description minus some biblical moral claims. I will give some more details on how I will approach the matter later, in section 1.

k. More generally, when I assume any description of events in any biblical passage, I do so only for the sake of the argument, and in the context of this moral case against Christianity. I do not claim that any such description is actually an accurate representation of any historical events.

l. Sometimes I may just say “the ancient Israelites”, even if I’m talking only of the subset of them who lived under Mosaic Law, or the relevant subset in context. Still, in order to avoid misunderstandings, I will try to clarify at least whenever context is not sufficiently clear.

m. I only refer to different parts of this article as '‘sections’ or ‘subsections’' - i.e., no sub-subsections, etc., but I think links between the relevant parts of the document will prevent any ambiguity.

n. In order to be thorough, I will consider a wide range of objections to my points, whether actually raised by Christian philosophers or by other Christians, or even potential objections I think some Christians might plausibly raise. So, in particular, I don’t claim that all of the objections I’ll consider have been or will be raised by any Christians – let alone by Christian philosophers.

Still, I will consider all the usual objections to moral arguments against Christianity, at least those I’m familiar with, and several less usual ones but still used sometimes.

o. I don’t claim that there is any novelty in the ideas on which I base this case. Moral arguments against Christianity are common, and at least most (probably all) of the points I will raise have been raised by other people as well.

1. Preliminary issues.

Before raising moral objections to Christianity, and preemptively, in this section I will address some objections that are or might be raised against any moral case against Christianity.

Those readers who prefer to go directly to the moral objections to Christianity should skip this section, and go to section two instead.  

1.1. Moral realism, theism and counterpossible scenarios.

According to some philosophers, if theism is not true, then neither is moral realism, and hence – they would claim – since moral realism is true, so is theism.

Alternatively, or additionally, they might say that if God did not exist, then objective moral values and duties would not exist – that would be William Lane Craig’s claim.

Also, someone might connect such claims or beliefs with assessments about the morality of actions described in the Bible, made by atheists – in some sense of “atheism”.

For example, with regard to the massacre of Canaanites described in the Bible, William Lane Craig takes this stance as part of his reply, and claims that a non-theist who objects to Christianity on such grounds at most can be claiming that Christian theists who believe in the historical accuracy of that narrative and that God is good are being inconsistent. He insists that even if that were a problem – i.e., that inconsistency -, it would be no grounds for moral indignation on the part of the atheist. [3]

Of course, that is not true. Non-theists often do make moral claims, like everyone else. Perhaps, Craig meant to say that non-theists can only rationally raise such objections?

In any case, Craig does not suggest that an argument against Christianity would fail because of that reason only, but still, in a context like this, I would like to make the following points:

1. There is more than one usage of the expressions “moral realism” and “God” in philosophy, and the expression “objective moral values and duties” is rather ambiguous in Craig’s usage, but in any event, there seems to be no good reason to suspect that if theism – in any form, or under any definition – is not true, then it is not the case that:

a. Moral issues are matters of fact, not matters of opinion. For example, it’s not a matter of opinion whether it’s immoral for humans to stone people to death for adultery. There is an objective fact of the matter.

b. Some statements (or propositions, or judgments) assigning moral properties, like “Pol Pot was a morally bad person”, or “Bob has a moral obligation to pay his debts”, etc., are true.

It’s beyond the scope of this essay to address a metaethical argument for theism – let alone all of them -, though I particular, I have argued elsewhere that Craig’s argument fails for a good number of reasons. [4]

2. Even leaving 1. aside, and even if Craig’s or another metaethical argument for theism were successful, an atheist could still be in some cases rightfully morally outraged by a claim that some events were morally good, obligatory, praiseworthy, etc., even if she does not believe that they ever happened, just as she could be rightfully morally outraged by the promotion of false moral beliefs – beliefs that are very far from the truth.

She would of course be mistaken in her atheism under this assumption about metaethical arguments, but that would not automatically make any expression of moral outrage or indignation on her part unwarranted. For example, if someone were to, say, kidnap her for ransom, or slander her, she could be rightfully morally outraged.

Also, for example, if someone were to claim that atheists and/or people who have gay sex and do not repent, etc., deserve to and will actually suffer infinite torment in hell for not believing that God exists and/or for having same-sex sexual relations, then the person making such claims would be immorally spreading false moral beliefs and attacking the moral character of many people, by claiming that they deserve a horrible punishment that they do not deserve – and they do not deserve that if God exists, either; I would appeal to the reader’s sense of right and wrong on this. Her mistake about the existence of God would not make her moral indignation for that behavior out of place.

As just one more example, if Alice is an atheist, and Jack out of spite claims that she stole his wallet – but she did not -, she would be rightfully offended, outraged, etc. Her being an atheist does not make her indignation out of place, regardless of whether she’s right about atheism.

3. While atheists do not believe that Yahweh exists, many atheists believe and know that Mosaic Law was actually applied – it’s just that the commands did not come from Yahweh, of course.

Christians who defend Old Testament Law in their entirety are implying that, say, if a woman was actually stoned to death for [presumably] having consensual sex – with someone else – before being handed over to the man her father “pledged” her to, in accordance to Old Testament Law, she actually got a punishment that she deserved, and those stoning her to death in accordance to Mosaic Law did nothing morally wrong by stoning her to death. Events like that may well have actually happened, and many atheists know that.

Spreading beliefs such as those warrants moral indignation on other people, including atheists, who can be just as rightfully morally outraged as non-theists who are not atheists, or theists, even if those atheists happen – let’s say – to be mistaken about the existence of God, under any common understanding of the word “God”.

Now, indignation on their part would be warranted even if the events in question did not happened – i.e., if no women was actually so stoned -, because those defending them would still be spreading false moral beliefs. But just in case someone prefers to consider actual cases for some reason, they may very well have happened.

4. So, given all of the above, and while it’s true that an inconsistency on the part of some theists wouldn’t be grounds – independently on what the inconsistency is about or of anything else – for moral indignation on the part of some atheists, the promotion of beliefs like the ones under consideration does provide good grounds for moral outraged on the part of many atheists.

Leaving aside the issue of moral indignation and of some Craig’s contentions, someone might object to the approach I’m taking in this case against Christianity by arguing that moral realism and/or objectivism entails that there cannot be a creator of all other beings who isn’t morally perfect, and that somehow that’s a problem for my approach.

As before, I see no good reason to suspect that such claim about the purported implications of moral realism/objectivism is true, at least if one understands that points a. and b. above are sufficient for realism/objectivism to obtain -  else, one may ask what realism/objectivism mean, and why one should believe it obtains.

However, in any event, we needn’t settle metaethical issues here, since one may assess the morality of characters even in counterpossible scenarios in order to assess whether a religion is true, as long as the counterpossible assumptions do not get in the way of a proper moral assessment (e.g., as long as one doesn’t assume things like that torturing people for fun is possibly morally good, or other such impossibilities, and then decline to make moral assessments that contradict such impossibilities).

For example, let’s say that religion X says that there is a personal creator of all other beings– say, Bob -, who creates other personal beings and tortures them for eternity for fun, and who is morally perfect.

Of course, actual religions wouldn’t posit a creator who engages in that behavior – too obvious -, but the example is meant only to illustrate my approach to assessing Yahweh’s behavior.

There are two ways (among others) in which one may reply:

i. A morally perfect being would not torture anyone for fun. So, religion X is not true.

ii. Let’s assume that Bob is a moral agent who behaves as described in non-moral terms by religion X (clearly, one would not accept all of the moral claims of religion X in order to assess that). More precisely, let’s say that Bob creates other personal beings and tortures them for eternity for fun. Then, Bob is morally evil. In particular, Bob is not morally perfect. So, religion X is not true.

It seems clear to me that the two approaches are essentially equivalent and proper, and if the approach described in ii. involves a counterpossible hypothetical scenario, that’s a just matter of style, not a matter of substance. On either approach, a person is making a moral assessment of some of religion X’s claims, and properly concluding that religion X is not true because it makes false moral claims, regardless of how they choose to word the objection.

1.2. The Bible and the sources of moral knowledge.

Someone might suggest that, without the Bible[5], we have no reliable source of moral knowledge, and so allegedly we cannot properly assess the morality of the actions of Yahweh, as described in the Bible.

This is not an objection I would expect philosophers to raise, but I’ve seen some Christians making claims like this, so let’s point out that:

a. Most people in most civilizations did not have the Bible.

If they did not have any reliable source of moral knowledge, how could the people in those civilizations be morally blamed for their actions?

How was it their moral fault if some of them, say, killed or raped others for fun, if they did not have any reliable means of telling right from wrong?

Moreover, how can non-theists from today’s predominantly non-Christian countries (e.g., China, Japan, Vietnam) be properly blamed for their actions?

Could Muslims who have not been exposed to Christianity be properly blamed for following the teachings of Islam – including those cases in which Islam and Christianity do not agree?

If those people can’t be properly blamed for their actions, then they deserve no punishment at all – and surely, no afterlife punishment, either. But that contradicts most versions of Christianity.

In any case, it’s preposterous that they deserve no blame for any of their actions, no matter what those actions are. But that means they do have at least reliable means of telling right from wrong – reliable doesn’t mean infallible, of course, but it has to usually work, if the person decides to consider the matters carefully.

b. In fact, most people today do not use the Bible as a source of moral beliefs, since most people today aren’t Christians.

If they have no reliable source of moral knowledge without the Bible, why should they adopt Christianity?

If there is no reliable source of moral knowledge without the Bible, then it seems they have no reliable way of assessing whether the Bible – rather than, say, the Qur’an – is a reliable source of moral knowledge. How would that be their fault?

c. In fact, if there is no reliable source of moral knowledge without the Bible, it seems the Bible won’t provide any such source, either. For, how would anyone know that the Bible is reliable when it makes moral claims?

Even if there was good evidence that it was inspired by a powerful being, that would not give them any reasons to believe that it was inspired by a morally good being, let alone a morally perfect one, or a trustworthy one.

And they can’t reliably test whether the Bible contains moral truths unless they have another means that can be used to make moral assessments, at least in a generally reliable way. So, this objection would be untenable.

1.3. Sovereignty.

Another objection might be that the creator is sovereign, and so allegedly he has no moral obligations.

Thus, he wouldn’t be acting immorally if he acted in some way described in the Bible – whatever that way is.

That seems clearly false:

If there is a personal creator – in particular, a moral agent – who, say, tortures everyone else for eternity just for fun, one could clearly say that such creator is acting immorally. Someone might raise a metaethical objection, but they do not succeed, and if they did one can always properly reword a moral objection to a religion around the metaethical issue – I’ve already addressed such metaethical issues before.

Of course, Yahweh does not torture everyone for eternity for fun on the biblical account, but that’s just an example. The point is that one may assess the morality of his behavior in a hypothetical scenario.

Granted, Christian readers will no doubt object to my assessments of the morality of many of Yahweh’s actions, but that would require actually assessing the actions, not dismissing the whole moral case against Christianity merely on the basis of “sovereignty”.

1.4. Who are we to judge God?

Someone might raise the objection that we’re morally flawed, so we shouldn’t judge God.

Actually, if we know that an entity is God, we can properly judge his actions, by assessing that they’re never immoral, since God is morally perfect.

However, that aside, I’m not making any claims about God’s actions, but making moral assessments of the actions of Yahweh, as depicted (in non-moral) terms by the Bible.

To be clear, when I say ‘in non-moral terms’, I mean I’m assuming the scenario in which there is a creator who gives the command Yahweh gives, creates what Yahweh creates, etc., and then assessing the morality of his actions in that scenario. I’ve already explained the approach earlier.

Still, someone might be worried that this approach isn’t adequate in some cases. For example, what if the Bible says that Yahweh punishes some evil people, but does not explain or gives any other clues as to why those people are allegedly evil, either implicitly or explicitly?

In that case, it would not seem proper to assess that Yahweh’s targets were not evil, so I wouldn’t assess that. The matter has to be decided on a case by case basis, but in case of doubt, I simply won’t use that particular example as an objection to the moral character of Yahweh.

For instance, if there is no reason explicit or implicit in the text that allows one to assess that the people accused of being evil aren’t so, I will not dispute the claim that they’re morally evil.

Also, for example:

a. If a text or interpretation says or implies that Jack deserved to die, and says nothing more about Jack, then I will not dispute that. But if a text or interpretation says that person Jack deserved to die and Jack was a human infant, then I may well dispute it as a way or challenging the claims or implications in that text or interpretation. In particular, I might point out that human infants are not the kind of entity that can deserve to die. Similarly, if the text or interpretation gives some other reason to dispute that Jack deserved to die, I might dispute the claim based on that.

b. If a text or interpretation says or implies that Jack deserves to die for, say, an ordinary case of shoplifting, then I may well dispute it, since people do not deserve to die for that. The same goes for, say, adultery.

c. If the text or interpretation says or implies that Jack deserved to die and John killed Jack as a punishment, I might contend that John’s actions were immoral, if given the context, one can tell that John was not in a position to properly assess that Jack deserved to die.

But as usual, the matter would have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, which I will do from section 2 on.

1.5. Assessing the morality of hypothetical characters and/or their actions.

While this should go without saying, I’ve seen some odd objections, so I’d like to point out that we can properly make moral assessments about people in hypothetical scenarios, without being committed to the existence of the people in question.

For instance, we can say that something like “The fact that Lex Luthor did such-and-such thing shows that he’s not morally good”, without being committed to the existence of Lex Luthor.

Rather, we’re just taking the perspective of the story, instead of stating something like “If Lex Luthor existed and had acted in such-and-such manner, then that would show that he wouldn’t be morally good”, which would be cumbersome.

This is not only common when talking about TV shows, movies, comic books, novels, etc., but also in hypothetical scenarios raised in philosophical discussions.

I will take a similar approach with respect to the actions of Yahweh and/or those following his commands in many cases, but I’m in no way suggesting that he exists. I’m not assuming that he does not exist, either – well, it’s clear to me that Yahweh does not exist, but that assumption is not required for this moral case to work.

Incidentally, if a metaethical argument for the existence of God succeeded, then a moral argument against Yahweh would establish that either Yahweh does not exist, or he’s a creature, not God – since he’s not morally perfect, or even morally good. Still, I see no good reason to suspect that such a metaethical argument succeeds.

1.6. Assessing whether a religion is true on moral grounds.

As particular cases of assessing the morality of hypothetical characters and/or their actions, we can sometimes (often) properly use our sense of right and wrong to assess some claims made by a religion or more generally an ideology, without having to assess the matter of existence of the beings it posits, let alone being committed to their existence.

For example, if someone claimed, say, that the entities worshiped by the Aztecs were all morally good, we may properly use our moral sense to ascertain that such claim is not true.

That does not mean that we always can properly do that, of course. For instance, if religion Z claims that some entity E exists, claims that E is morally good and justly killed a human being, but Z gives no further information (explicitly or implicitly) about E, the situation, etc., then we wouldn’t be able to assess whether religion Z is true by making a moral assessment of E or her actions, though we would still be able to use our moral sense to tell that we have insufficient information to make such an assessment.

So, in brief, what I do in this article is nothing unusual, self-defeating, absurd, or anything like that, but merely assessing whether a certain religion or set of religions – namely, Christianity – is true, by means of assessing a number of Christian moral claims or implications, including claims or implications about the morality of Yahweh and/or some of his actions.

An alternative way to make a moral case against Christianity would be to say that if there existed an entity who engaged in the actions that, according to the Bible, Yahweh engages in, then such entity would not be morally good, let alone morally perfect, or also alternatively, that a morally perfect creator wouldn’t behave like that, etc.

However, those alternatives would be quite cumbersome, so merely as a matter of style, I prefer to say that Yahweh engaged such-and-such behavior, so he’s not morally good, etc.

That aside, of course it’s true that we have other means of assessing whether a religion is true, and my position is that many people have shown that Christianity is not true, in a variety of ways, independently of any moral arguments. But that does not make the use of a moral argument improper.

Also, granted, the conclusions that Yahweh is not morally good, or that some ancient Israelites should not have obeyed his actions, etc., do not entail that he does not exist. That is another matter – though my position is that he does not exist, that’s beyond the scope of this article.

Finally, let me point out that in case someone objects to any of my previous points by claiming that Christianity is not a religion and/or that “religion” is too vague a term for this context, or a similar objection, the objection would not work, since it’s still proper to assess the veracity of the moral claims a person is making, regardless of whether they’re part of a set of religious beliefs, etc., or of what “religion” means.

1.7. Our sense of right and wrong and Christianity.

As I explained in previous subsections, we can use our sense of right and wrong to assess whether Christianity is true, by assessing the morality of some of the actions of Yahweh, as well as the actions of those following his commands.

However, someone might claim that even if my sense of right and wrong tells me that Yahweh is not morally good – let alone morally perfect – their sense of right and wrong tells them otherwise – and the same for those following his commands.

While that might happen, we have to assess the matter carefully before concluding it does in a particular case.

For instance, there are plenty of examples in which some Christians seem to actually see moral problems in some of the actions of Yahweh or those following his commands, but they come up with new interpretations instead of concluding that Christianity is false.

For example, they might contend that some people are in Hell by their own free choice[6], or that some of the events described in the Bible actually did not happen, and that some passages were not inspired, etc.

Still, if some Christian’s sense of right and wrong actually yields a very different verdict from mine when assessing the morality of the actions of Yahweh or his followers that I will consider below, and in particular they find no fault in his actions even after careful reflection on them, then clearly they won’t find the case I’m making persuasive at all. All I would ask from readers is to try to assess the actions in question carefully, and make their own assessments of the morality of the behaviors in question, by means of their own moral sense.

1.8. The Fall.

Another objection a Christian might raise against this moral case goes as follows: As a result of the Fall, we shouldn’t trust our sense of right and wrong to make negative assessments about the moral character of Yahweh, or to conclude that he made false moral assessments.

a. This objection seems to assume Christianity – including its moral claims.

But we’re assessing whether Christianity is true. So, someone accepting this objection would be essentially refusing to use her moral sense as a means to assess whether Christianity is true – for every negative assessment would be rejected beforehand -, even if she claims that Yahweh is morally good.

Once again, there is no good reason to refuse to use one’s moral sense in this particular case, given that one can use it in general, to assess religious claims.

b. Point a. suffices, but additionally, if we shouldn’t even trust our moral sense even when it yields crystal clear assessments[7], like, say, that oxen aren’t morally guilty of anything, or that a woman in ancient Israel who became a prostitute and was the daughter of a priest, did not deserve to be burned to death for that, then that would cast such serious doubts on our moral sense that it would be hard to see how any moral assessment would be justified, given that we’re rejecting even crystal clear ones on the basis of the alleged Fall. The Bible would not help, of course, since we would not be able to assess that Yahweh is morally good, either, or that the Bible is a guide to moral truth.

1.9. The Old Testament and Christianity.

Different versions of Christianity have different views about the relation between Christianity and the Old Testament, on issues ranging from whether some stories should be interpreted literally, to even whether the Old Testament is part of Christian scripture at all, or whether some passages are.

I will consider such matters later when assessing specific cases, but for now, I will just point out that versions of Christianity comprising most adherents seem to agree that even though many or all of the laws of the Old Testament do not apply to Christians, nevertheless they were laws given by Yahweh – who they claim is God – to the ancient Israelites – or more precisely to some of them, since – for instance – there were ancient Israelites before Moses.

Moreover, attempts to separate Jesus from the Old Testament by rejecting the inspiration or accuracy of the latter run into the problem that the New Testament makes references to the Old Testament, even showing Jesus’s approval of a number of actions portrayed and the laws contained in the Old Testament, and so the person rejecting much of the Old Testament would be committed to rejecting much of the New Testament as well, as I will argue later.

1.10. Hell and Christianity.

Different versions of Christianity have different views of Hell.

I will address different variants later, but for now, I will point out that versions of Christianity comprising most adherents hold that there is indeed endless suffering – even if they do not agree on its nature, who or what causes it, etc.

However, this moral case does not hinge on whether the proper interpretation of the Bible – or some parts of it – is that there is infinite Hell. In fact, the rest of the essay is sufficient to establish, on moral grounds, that Christianity is false, even leaving aside all of the arguments involving Hell.

1.11. Not a moral agent?

Someone might claim or at least suggest that Yahweh is not a moral agent, and that if people say he’s morally good, they’re usually or always speaking in an analogous sense, and/or that it’s only proper to say that in an analogous sense. Then, they might object to my assessment that Yahweh behaved immorally in many cases – for instance – by saying that he’s not the kind of entity whose actions may be properly morally assessed.

However, the claim of an analogous sense would have to be argued for. In my experience talking to Christians and other believers in the existence of Yahweh, that is clearly not the case. Most of them clearly seem to believe that he’s morally perfect, and thus morally good, in no analogous sense – i.e., they’re using moral terms in the ordinary sense, not in some analogous sense, whatever that might be.

Moreover, that seems to have been Jesus’s stance as well, according to the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, as the following passages show:

OEB[1]

Mark 10:

17 As Jesus was resuming his journey, a man came running up to him, and threw himself on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to gain eternal life?”18  “Why do you call me good?” answered Jesus. “No one is good but God.

Matthew 19:

16 A man came up to Jesus, and said: “Teacher, what good thing must I do to obtain eternal life?”

17  “Why ask me about goodness?” answered Jesus. “There is but One who is good. If you want to enter the life, keep the commandments.”

GWEB:

Mark 10:

10:17 As he was going out into the way, one ran to him, knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” 10:18 Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except one--God.

Matthew 19:

19:16 Behold, one came to him and said, "Good teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" 19:17 He said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but one, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."

So, in Mark 10, a man says that Jesus is good. Granted, the man does not use the English word ‘good’, but he uses the word with the same meaning, so the fact that he wasn’t speaking in English is not important.

Now, in context, it’s clear that the man was saying that Jesus was morally good, and he clearly was not speaking in any analogous sense, since he was talking about Jesus, and the man did not believe that Jesus was Yahweh, or anything other than a human teacher, with knowledge about how to get eternal life.

Yet, Jesus responded saying that Yahweh was good, without any kind of suggestion of a shift in the meaning of the words in the middle of the conversation. Similar considerations apply to Mark 19:16-17.

Granted, someone might reject all of that and insist on the claim about an analogous sense. However, he would have to explain the evidence above, and furthermore, he would have to give some argument in support of his claim. Moreover, the person making the claim should explain, at least roughly, in which sense there would be an analogy.

But in any event, even that would not be a successful objection to the present moral case, since:

a. If Jesus and others were using ‘morally good’ in some analogous sense, they were making a positive evaluation of Yahweh’s character akin to a positive moral evaluation. But then, it seems similarly we may use our sense of right and wrong and conclude that Yahweh is morally wicked, even if in some analogous sense.

Perhaps, someone might still object and say that Yahweh’s mind is so different from ours that not even in any analogous sense one is entitled so assessing whether he’s morally good or bad. However:

a.1. That would contradict Jesus’s words, according to Matthew 19:17 and in Mark 10:18.

In those cases Jesus was saying that Yahweh was morally good, and was not using the words in an analogous sense. But even assuming that Jesus was using the words in an analogous sense, at least there would be an analogous sense in which he was making a positive moral evaluation, or rather a positive akin-to-moral evaluation.

a.2. If Yahweh’s mind is so alien that one can’t properly make any moral evaluations about his character, or even anything akin to moral evaluations, then all of the usual claims about Yahweh’s alleged moral character made by Christians would be false.

Moreover, one may still properly assess, based on the biblical stories, that Yahweh is a destructive force that horribly punishes people while falsely accusing them of behaving immorally and deserving those punishments, inflicts horrendous pain and generally suffering on children, and so on.

b. Christianity is not only committed to the belief that Yahweh is morally good, but also committed to the belief that all humans have a moral obligation to obey Yahweh’s commands, and it’s apparent even to those who might raise the ‘analogous sense’ objection in the cases in which one is talking about Yahweh, that there is no analogous sense in the case of humans in a position to choose whether to obey Yahweh’s commands. The claim is that those humans have or had a moral obligation to obey, not an akin-to-moral-obligation to obey.

However, we may properly assess based on the biblical stories that, in many cases, people did not have a moral obligation to obey Yahweh’s commands. In fact, often they had a moral obligation not to do obey – unless there were a sufficiently credible and justificatory threat from Yahweh or something like that, but in that case, at the very least they ought not to have obeyed willingly, or approvingly.

Of course, Christians will object to my claims in the paragraph immediately above this one. However, that is a disagreement about moral assessments, not about assessments in some sense analogous to morality – whatever that might mean, if it happened to make sense -, and so the matter is not related to this particular objection.

In light of the above, this objection does not succeed, so I will continue to make evaluations of Yahweh’s actions, as described in the biblical stories.

Of course, Christians will object to my claims in the paragraph immediately above this one. However, that is a disagreement about moral assessments, not about assessments in some sense analogous to morality – whatever that might mean, if it happened to make sense -, and so the matter is not related to this particular objection.

1.12. Context.

In my experience, a more or less common objection to moral arguments against Christianity contends that biblical quotes are taken out of context, and that we should also consider those cases in which Yahweh does something that’s clearly good.

According to this objection, if we were to take that into consideration, our conclusion would be that Yahweh is morally good, and that if some of his actions appear not to be so, it’s because we don’t have enough knowledge about the situation to make a better assessment.

However, with a similar criterion, someone might say that even if some of his actions appear to be morally good, that’s only because we don’t have enough information about the situation to conclude that they’re not.

It seems to me that both claims would not be warranted: it seems we do have enough information to make a moral assessment of the actions of entities in hypothetical scenarios, in many cases, and the same applies to Yahweh in particular. This point should be clearer when I consider the specific scenarios.

In particular, if an action appears to be morally wrong, and all the possible reasons that we can come up with fail to provide a justification for said action, and further, there appear to be obviously better alternatives – less immoral, or even not bad -, then it seems clear that we’re justified in assessing that such action would be morally wrong.

In addition to that, in some cases, we even know Yahweh’s motivation as stated in the Bible – to punish people he claims deserve such punishment, for instance -, and so a claim that he acted for mysterious reasons would be untenable. The same goes, of course, for morally good actions.
However, I don’t think that it’s in any way inappropriate not to also quote actions that appear to be morally good, or even that are so. On that note, objecting that I’m only focusing on the bad would be out of place: it would be like saying that if I said that a dictator who tortured people to death just for peacefully expressing disagreement with some of his policies acted very immorally and is not a good person because of that, I would be taking things out of context because the dictator in question, say, loved his children, sometimes or often behaved in a morally good way towards them, etc.,. and I did not point that out.

Maybe the dictator did love his children, but that does not change the fact that he acted very immorally when he tortured people to death just for peacefully expressing disagreement with some of his policies. Given how immoral such actions are, then the fact would be that the dictator in question is not a morally good person, even if some of his actions were morally good.

Similarly, some Taliban members, Hezbollah members, etc., do morally good actions on several occasions, but they also engage in atrocities, and it’s proper to conclude that they’re bad people based on that – not that they’re maximally evil, of course, but then, I’m not arguing that Yahweh is maximally evil, either.

2. Some legal dispositions in the Old Testament.

In this section, I will assess many of the dispositions in the law contained in the Old Testament.

2.1. Local matters.

In this subsection, I will assess commands involving domestic criminal laws, in particular commands not involving warfare against other tribes.

2.1.1. Sex outside marriage, adultery and rape.

GWEB:

Deuteronomy 22

22:23 If there be a young lady who is a virgin pledged to be married to a husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; 22:24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones; the lady, because she didn't cry, being in the city; and the man, because he has humbled his neighbor's wife: so you shall put away the evil from the midst of you. 22:25 But if the man find the lady who is pledged to be married in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her; then the man only who lay with her shall die: 22:26 but to the lady you shall do nothing; there is in the lady no sin worthy of death: for as when a man rises against his neighbor, and kills him, even so is this matter; 22:27 for he found her in the field, the pledged to be married lady cried, and there was none to save her. 22:28 If a man find a lady who is a virgin, who is not pledged to be married, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; 22:29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the lady's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has humbled her; he may not put her away all his days.

So, let’s assess some of the dispositions contained in Old Testament Law, beginning with the cases in which the death penalty by stoning is applied, and how the ancient Israelites should have reacted to such dispositions:

a. If a man has sex with a woman “pledged to be married to a husband”, and they’re in a city and she does not cry, they are both stoned to death. Moreover, it is implied that in that case, in particular she committed an immoral action that merits that punishment.

In other words, it’s implied that she deserves the death penalty, and furthermore, that she deserves the suffering of being stoned before dying.

In context, it’s apparent that there is an assumption that because she did not cry, she consented to having sex with the man in question. However, it is also apparent that even if she did not cry, she may well not have consented to having sex with him. Maybe the man raped her and (for instance) had a knife on her throat, she was terrified, etc. There are a number of possibilities. Also, incidentally, even if, in practice, legally proving that she had not cried was difficult, the fact remains that if that was legally proven, there was nowhere near evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that she had consented to having sex with him.

It is true that the biblical passage says ‘forces her’ - or makes similar distinctions in other translations – in the case in which he finds her in the field, and she’s not punished in that case, while the text does not mention force in the case in which they’re in the city and she does not cry. However, it seems that, in context, that is plausibly because the fact that she does not cry is considered conclusive evidence of consent. But if she didn’t cry and didn’t consent, either, she was a victim of rape, and was apparently then stoned to death, following the biblical command.

Still, let’s grant that this particular command only applies to cases of consensual sex.

Even if so, then what the man and the woman who have consensual sex with each other are guilty of – if anything – depends on the case:

a.1. If she was ‘pledged’ to another man by her father, without her consent, and she decided to have sex with someone else instead, she was not guilty of anything for having sex with him. While legally she was guilty of a crime punishable by death by stoning, morally, she was not morally guilty. Rather, the law was very unjust.

As for the man who had consensual sex with her, in that case he wasn’t guilty for having sex with her, either. At most, each of them may have been guilty of things like, say, placing the other person in danger for having sex with that person in a social environment in which there is an appalling law that punishes consensual sex with death by stoning, under those circumstances. But they did not deserve to be stoned to death for that, obviously. What was evil was the law in question.

a.2. If she freely consented to marrying a man, and then cheated on him with another man, then usually that would have been immoral, even though there are exceptions. But let’s say that this was not an exception. Then, she behaved immorally. As for the man who had sex with her, that depends on the case. But in any event, neither her nor her lover deserved to be stoned to death for their behavior. Maybe she deserved to have the marriage canceled and get no money in compensation for the cancellation, and to be told that she had behaved immorally, but that’s about it. Even very short term imprisonment (if available), or flogging, would have been very immoral, and stoning her to death was just monstrous.

Yet, in all those cases and others, the Bible demands that she and her lover be stoned to death for their behavior, and implies that they do deserve it, since:

a. i. The Bible imposes death by stoning as the punishment, and in context, the biblical text implies that all of the punishments it imposes are deserved.

a. ii. Specifically, the Bible points out that the woman who is found outside the city and forced does not commit any action that deserves the death penalty. The contrast is clear, and so it’s implicit that the woman who is in the city and does not cry deserves the death penalty, according to Yahweh. That alone wouldn’t on its own entail that – according to Yahweh – she deserves the death penalty by means of stoning – there are different means of execution, after all -, but given context, it’s clear that death by stoning is implicitly held to be just.

So, Yahweh here makes grossly false moral implications, and gives commands that are profoundly unjust, and which the ancient Israelites who were in a position to decide whether to follow them should have disobeyed, given that there was no other justification available.

On that note, and for example, if there had been a conclusively credible threat by Yahweh that he would torture the lovers for eternity unless other people stoned them to death, that would plausibly justify stoning them to death in order to save them from that fate at the hands of that monster, but of course it would not justify willingly stoning them to death, or believing that they deserved to be stoned to death, or that Yahweh was not a moral monster – let alone believing that he is morally good, and let alone morally perfect.

In the biblical context, however, there was no justification for following those morally abhorrent commands, nor for believing Yahweh’s false moral implications that they deserved to be stoned to death.

b. If a man finds a woman outside the city and rapes her, he is to be stoned to death, and she is not punished.

In those times, they did not have resources for a prison system that would be able to deal with such rapists, and a corporal punishment for such an act of rape would plausibly have been justified.

However, even then, stoning him to death would have been excessive. Even if the death penalty was justified – which is debatable, but let’s say that it was -, stoning him to death would have been too much. There are other means of execution that are less brutal.

However, there is a more serious moral problem with this disposition. So, let’s say for the sake of the argument that he deserved to be stoned to death for the act of rape he committed. The problem here is that he wasn’t being punished for rape. He was being punished for having sex with a woman ‘pledged’ to another man, regardless of whether she consented.

That is clearly shown by the facts that:

b. i. The Bible imposes the punishment to a man who rapes a woman pledged to another man. The very fact that whether she is pledged to another man is considered in the legal disposition is a clear indication that the intent is not to punish rape, but something else - if the target were rape, obviously whether the victim’s father pledged her to someone else would be irrelevant.

But there is more evidence. Let’s see:

b. ii. The punishment for him – namely, to be stoned to death – is the same as the punishment for consensual sex with a woman ‘pledged’ to another man, in the case considered in a. above, and the biblical context is the same. In that other case, her – unjustly presumed, but still presumed – consent does not alter the punishment for him, which is also to be stoned to death.

b. iii. In case of rape of a virgin woman who is not ‘pledged’ to another man, Deuteronomy does not impose the punishment of being stoned to death for the rapist. In fact, if Deuteronomy 22:28 does not include cases of rape (i. e., if Deuteronomy 22:28 is only about consensual sex, which seems very improbable), then Deuteronomy does not impose any punishment to the man who rapes a woman who is not pledged to another man. And if Deuteronomy 22:28 includes cases of rape – either exclusively or in addition to cases of consensual sex, as is very probably the case, as I argue below - , then the rapist of a woman who is not pledged to another man only has to pay a sum of money to the victim’s father, and then marry his victim - which is atrociously unjust to the victim, and also clearly not a punishment for rape, but apparently for some alleged offense against the victim's father.

Given the above, it’s clear that stoning to death is not a punishment for rape, but rather, a punishment imposed on a man for the sexual penetration of a woman whose father had ‘pledged’ her to another man, regardless of whether she consented to the sexual penetration in question – or, for that matter, to being pledged to that other man.

It’s also a punishment imposed on a woman whose father ‘pledged’ her to a man, for having consensual sex with a different man before she’s handed over to the man her father pledged her to, regardless of whether she consented to being ‘pledged’, and under the unreasonable assumption that if she did not cry, then she consented to sex.

c. Most of the ancient Israelites had not witnessed any of Yahweh’s displays of power.

They were just told that a morally good and vastly powerful creator had commanded what those biblical passages command, and that the people being punished deserved it, etc. But it’s clear that those ancient Israelites should not have believed such claims, and should not have followed the commands in question. One of the reasons why they should not have believed such claims is that they should have realized that many of the legal dispositions were deeply unjust, making them not the kind of legal dispositions a morally good ruler with such great power would pass.

For an analogy to one of the legal dispositions – say, the consensual sex case, in case she’s ‘pledged’ and actually consented to that -, let’s say Ahmed lives in the nineteenth century somewhere in the Middle East. He’s never been in contact with any religion other than the local version of Islam, and he’s been told that Sharia Law comes from a morally good creator and imposes only just punishments. Now, if he’s told that he should follow that law and stone a married woman to death for adultery (for instance), he should not believe that a morally good creator gave those orders, he should not believe that she deserves to be stoned to death for adultery, and he should not stone her to death, even if she actually got married consensually, rather than being forced into that marriage.

But the situation of those ancient Israelites, with respect to the case involving consensual sex and consensual marriage, was similar – granting even that her consent to the marriage was well established -; those ancient Israelites too were told that a morally good creator imposed that punishment as well as a large number of other punishments. They too were told that those punishments were all just, even though many of them were extremely unjust. And they too should have rejected the commands.

d. Even if some of the ancient Israelites witnessed some of Yahweh’s displays of power (I’m assuming he exists merely for the sake of the argument, though of course I do not believe he does), they should not have believed that he was morally good just because of such displays, since power does not indicate moral goodness. In fact, based on the appalling commands he was giving, and also given that he claimed or implied that some people deserved horrific punishments when they did not, etc., they ought to have realized that Yahweh was not a morally good being – let alone a morally perfect one.

Objection 2.1.1.1: You’re not interpreting the passages properly. If a victim of rape didn’t cry but other pieces of evidence showed that she was raped, she wasn’t punished.

Reply:

1. That does not seem to be based on the text. It seems that whoever makes such a claim should provide evidence. But even if other probatory elements were allowed, and even if that could have resulted in her being spared, it seems clear that in absence of other evidence, her lack of crying was considered sufficient evidence of consent by the author of biblical law. That is clearly a wrong way of assessing evidence, institutionalized in Old Testament Law, established by Yahweh.

2. Even if one grants for the sake of the argument that what this objection contends is true, and further that the punishment of being stoned to death was only applied to a woman who consented to having sex with a man other than the man they were ‘pledged’ to. I actually analyzed this case above, and as explained, the law was still profoundly unjust, those in a position to make a decision should still have rejected the commands, and Yahweh should not have given those commands in the first place.

Objection 2.1.1.2: Those who committed adultery in ancient Israelite society deserved to be stoned to death for that behavior, at least when it comes to the specific types of adultery punished by death by stoning in the Bible. You’re not part of that society, and you don’t have the amount of information that they had to make moral assessments.

Reply:

1. No, those who committed adultery did not deserve to be stoned to death for adultery, in the cases described in the Bible or in others. That’s apparent to a human being who is assessing the matter rationally.

It’s true that some, perhaps even most of those ancient Israelites assessed otherwise. I do not know the percentages. But for that matter, even today there are people who believe that in their societies it’s morally just to stone people to death for adultery, and that those people deserve to be stoned to death for that. In some social groups, perhaps even most people do believe those things.

We are not part of those societies, but that does not mean that we are not in a position to realize that such a punishment is very unjust, and that those who commit adultery do not deserve to be stoned to death for that. On the contrary, we can properly tell that the punishment in question is unjust; apparently, those people are failing to make proper assessments due to some bias, in many cases plausibly resulting from their religious beliefs. But whatever the reason for their error, we can tell that they’re in error. Similarly, we can properly make that assessment in the case of that ancient Israelite society.

This objection basically amounts to ignoring one’s sense of right and wrong in the particular case of ancient Israelite society. It’s not a proper way of assessing the matter.

2. In some cases, the people being punished were not even guilty of adultery in a moral sense, even if legally their actions were adultery. That would be the case of a woman and a man having consensual sex in a situation in which the woman’s father had ‘pledged’ her to another man, against her wishes. The morally guilty parties in that situation were neither the woman nor her lover, but the woman’s father and the man she was ‘pledged’ to. While even the guilty parties didn’t deserve to be stoned to death – that would have been excessive -, they did deserve severe punishment but didn’t receive any, whereas those who morally committed no adultery, got stoned to death. This law is morally appalling – of course, it would still have been morally appalling if the punishment had been applied only to cases in which the marriage wasn’t forced.

Objection 2.1.1.3: Those who committed [those kinds of] adultery in ancient Israelite society deserved to be stoned to death not for adultery, but for disobeying a morally perfect creator.

Reply:

1. That’s not what the Bible says.

The biblical passages make it clear that the punishment is for sex when a woman is ‘pledged’ to another man, rather than a punishment for disobedience to Yahweh.

In fact, there are many other punishments imposed in the Old Testament, and many of them do not involve stoning people to death, or the death penalty, even if those people would be disobeying Yahweh’s commands as well.

In particular, in this context, Deuteronomy 22:28 imposes a much more lenient punishment, even if the behavior that is punished is also an instance of disobeying Yahweh.

2. Yahweh is not a morally perfect creator, and in the context of assessing his moral character, it would be improper to assume that he’s morally perfect. In fact, the description of his behavior in the Bible shows that, while some of his behaviors are good, many are so evil that overall, the right conclusion is that he’s a moral monster, even if not maximally morally evil.

3. Let’s consider an analogy. Let’s say that religion X maintains that a morally perfect creator with the power to rule the universe at will commands that if a woman commits shoplifting, she shall be put in a tank full of water and then boiled, increasing the temperature at the right speed to guarantee a tremendous amount of pain for five minutes at least. Moreover, the religion in question contends that a woman who commits shoplifting deserves that punishment, either for shoplifting, or for disobedience to a morally perfect creator, or for both.

Then, it is clear that such a religion would be false, and we may properly make this assessment based on moral considerations. A woman who commits shoplifting does not deserve that, for any of the behaviors in question.

While the punishment is different in the biblical cases under analysis, and so is the behavior for which people are punished, the point of this example – and the sense on which the cases are relevantly analogous – is that a claim that the immensely powerful entity issuing the command is a morally perfect creator is not a successful reply to this kind of moral objection to a religion.

4. In fact, and given that the punishment also applied to cases of consensual sex between a man and a woman in which the woman’s father had ‘pledged’ her to another man against her will, we may as well substitute, say, ‘eating a banana’, or ‘playing chess’ for ‘shoplifting’ in point 3. above.

5. Moreover, again given that the punishment also applied to cases of consensual sex between a man and a woman in which the woman’s father had ‘pledged’ her to another man against her will, we may as well substitute ‘having consensual sex with a man other than the man legally allowed to rape her’ for ‘shoplifting’ in point 3. above.

6. Disobedience to a morally perfect creator would not, on its own or in addition to adultery, merit being stoned to death.

Objection 2.1.1.4: Those who committed adultery in ancient Israelite society deserved to be stoned to death for disobeying a morally perfect creator in a specific case in which such creator establishes that punishment for disobedience. If Yahweh had established a different punishment, then they would have deserved that different punishment.

Reply:

1. That’s not what the Bible says. The biblical passages make it clear that the punishment is for adultery when a woman is ‘pledged’ to another man, rather than a punishment for disobedience to Yahweh.

2. Yahweh is not a morally perfect creator, and in the context of assessing his moral character, based on the information we have about him and his behavior, it would be improper to assume that he’s morally perfect. In fact, the description of his behavior in the Bible shows that, while some of his behaviors are good, many are so evil that overall, the right conclusion is that he’s a moral monster.

3. Let’s consider an analogy. Let’s say that religion X maintains that a morally perfect creator with the power to rule the universe at will commands that if a woman commits shoplifting, she shall be put in a tank full of water and then boiled, increasing the temperature at a right speed to guarantee a tremendous amount of pain for five minutes at least. Moreover, the religion in question contends that a woman who commits shoplifting deserves that punishment for disobeying a morally perfect creator if such creator decided that the punishment would be as described.

Then based on that, we can properly make a moral assessment and conclude that religion X is not true.

While the punishment is different in the biblical cases under analysis, and so is the behavior for which people are punished, the point of this example – and the sense on which the cases are relevantly analogous – is that a claim that the enormously powerful entity issuing the command is a morally perfect creator is not a successful reply to this kind of moral objection to a religion.

4. In fact, and given that the punishment applied in cases of consensual sex between a man and a woman in which the woman’s father had ‘pledged’ her to another man, we may as well substitute, say, ‘eating a banana’, or ‘playing chess’ for ‘shoplifting’ in point 3. above.

5. Moreover, again given that the punishment also applied to cases of consensual sex between a man and a woman in which the woman’s father had ‘pledged’ her to another man against her will, we may as well substitute ‘having consensual sex with a man other than the man legally allowed to rape her’ for ‘shoplifting’ in point 3. above.

6. Disobedience to a morally perfect creator would not, on its own or in addition to adultery, merit being stoned to death. And so a morally perfect creator would not imply that people who disobey him deserve that – not that this is the case under consideration, since the punishment was clearly for the sex, not for disobedience in cases in which that’s the specified punishment.

Objection 2.1.1.5: Even if it would have been immoral for some or any of the ancient Israelites to follow any or even all of the commands in question, it does not follow that it was immoral for Yahweh to give them.

Reply:

1. Just that we may properly assess, based on the description of the situation, that they should not have obeyed, we may properly assess that Yahweh shouldn’t have given those very unjust commands in the first place.

Let’s look at the situation: an immensely powerful being who can easily rule the universe at will is giving to some of the ancient Israelites commands that it would be very immoral for them to follow.

It’s apparent that he has no justification. It’s not as if someone forced him to give those commands, under threat of something worse, or that somehow he had another justification for issuing commands that should have been rejected for the people he issued those commands to.

2. Moreover, the biblical claim or implication is that all the people being punished deserved to be stoned to death, which clearly is false. Yahweh’s motivation seems to have been punitive, unless he was being deceptive. But there would have been no justification for that, either, considering the context. In other words, if he deceitfully implied that the punishments were merited, then his behavior is still appalling.

3. Additionally, this kind of behavior is in line with an assortment of other behaviors depicted in the Old Testament, and which show that he is a moral monster. It would not be a proper way of assessing the evidence to dismiss the evidence and suggest that Yahweh had some mysterious justification, especially given that the motivation is stated.

4. The fact that those ancient Israelites should not have followed Yahweh’s commands would on its own constitute a serious objection to versions of Christianity that hold that those commands were indeed from Yahweh.

Objection 2.1.1.6: Even if he made false moral claims of implications, like implying that those people deserved to be stoned to death when they did not, etc., that does not mean that Yahweh had no justification for lying.

Reply:

For that matter, no matter how atrocious a behavior by a powerful being appears to be, someone might claim that there were mysterious reasons we’re not privy to. But that would not be a proper way of assessing the evidence, and considering context, Yahweh’s behavior is clearly appalling, and there is no justification.

Objection 2.1.1.7: Those passages do not come from Yahweh. Moses made them up.

Reply:

1. That would still show that Moses was a moral monster, and that alone would be a decisive objection to most forms of Christianity.

2. In the context of the Bible, the view that Moses made up those commands and didn’t have Yahweh’s backing is untenable. Purely for example, Yahweh punishes Moses later for a much less extensive act of disobedience, and does not allow him to enter the land Yahweh took from other people and gave to some of the ancient Israelites (Numbers 20:9-12). However, Yahweh does not punish Moses in any way for the any of the evil legal dispositions Moses gave to some of the ancient Israelites.

3. The New Testament supports the view that Jesus actually believed that Mosaic Law in its entirety came from Yahweh, and so did his disciples, and also Paul/Saul and others. I will address some of those connections in much greater detail in later sections.

Objection 2.1.1.8: Yahweh is testing readers; readers are meant to realize that it would be very immoral to apply the punishments commanded in those biblical passages.

Reply:

1. That clearly wouldn’t be a reasonable interpretation. The passages command some people to behave in a morally appalling manner, and there is no indication whatsoever in either the Old or the New Testaments that Yahweh intended for people to understand that following his commands would be morally abhorrent.

2. Even a “test” like that would not have been morally acceptable on Yahweh’s part, since Yahweh would have been spreading moral confusion, and knowingly so, since it was clear that in ancient Israelite society, some (many) people actually believed that those biblical punishments were morally acceptable, just, and that it was morally obligatory for at least some of them to enforce said punishments.

Objection 2.1.1.9: Those passages do not come from either Yahweh, or Moses. Someone else made them up.

Reply:

The New Testament supports the view that Jesus actually believed that Mosaic Law in its entirety came from Yahweh, and so did his disciples, and also Paul/Saul and others. I will address some of those connections in much greater detail in later sections.

Objection 2.1.1.10. The passages are real, but the stoning was carried out in a humane fashion, so it wasn’t a way of torturing people to death.

Reply:

1. Actually, the command is “you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones”, so it seems people were to throw stones at them until they died. There is nothing humane about that. It’s a way of torturing people to death.

2. Moreover, the Old Testament describes a case of stoning in which Moses himself took part, and it’s as follows:

GWEB:

Numbers 15:

15:32 While the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 15:33 Those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. 15:34 They put him in custody, because it had not been declared what should be done to him. 15:35 Yahweh said to Moses, The man shall surely be put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside of the camp. 15:36 All the congregation brought him outside of the camp, and stoned him to death with stones; as Yahweh commanded Moses.

While in that case, there was a camp rather than a city, the monstrous method of execution matches the one prescribed in Deuteronomy 22:23-24 pretty well. There is no indication in the Bible that the stoning was meant to be carried out differently in the cases under consideration.

Even if the of stoning was in reality modified by some humans at some later time, and became somewhat less monstrous, it was still morally wrong, and in any case, I’m addressing the method as commanded in the Bible.

3. Regardless of how the stoning was to be carried out, at the very least many of the people being executed did not deserve to be put to death for their actions. In fact, as I argued earlier, some of them had done nothing wrong.

Objection 2.1.1.11. The passages are real, but women could only be legally pledged to a man with their own consent, even if her father’s consent was also required. So, the women who were stoned to death in this context were actual adulteresses. In fact, Genesis 24:1-7 is good evidence that a woman’s consent was required.

Reply:

1. Even if a woman’s consent was required for pledging her to a man, women who were raped but did not cry for a number of reasons could have been stoned to death as well. That’s morally abhorrent.

2. Leaving that aside, even if what this objection claims were true, it would still be morally abhorrent to stone two people to death for adultery. The punishment is far more immoral than the behavior in question.

3. I’m not suggesting that the consent of the woman was never respected, but rather, I’m saying it was not legally required. On that note, let’s take a look at the biblical evidence, beginning with the passages mentioned in this objection as evidence that a woman’s consent was required.

GWEB:

Genesis 24.

24:1 Abraham was old, and well stricken in age. Yahweh had blessed Abraham in all things. 24:2 Abraham said to his servant, the elder of his house, who ruled over all that he had, "Please put your hand under my thigh. 24:3 I will make you swear by Yahweh, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live. 24:4 But you shall go to my country, and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac."

24:5 The servant said to him, "What if the woman isn't willing to follow me to this land? Must I bring your son again to the land you came from?"

24:6 Abraham said to him, "Beware that you don't bring my son there again. 24:7 Yahweh, the God of heaven, who took me from my father's house, and from the land of my birth, who spoke to me, and who swore to me, saying, 'I will give this land to your seed.' He will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. 24:8 If the woman isn't willing to follow you, then you shall be clear from this my oath. Only you shall not bring my son there again."

On one hand, Abraham’s servant is concerned that the woman he – the servant – takes for Abraham’s son Isaac as a wife might not be willing to follow him to another land, and Abraham was also willing to respect her wishes in that particular regard.

It’s unclear why they would do that, but given that evidence in isolation, that suggests that either it was illegal to take a woman to another land without her consent after she was pledged to a man, or alternatively that Abraham would not do that even if it was legal, and Abraham’s servant knew Abraham well enough to know that Abraham wouldn’t do that.

On the other hand, there is still a command from Abraham to his servant to go take a wife for Isaac, and there appears to be no suggestion that it would be illegal for a woman’s father to pledge her to a man of his choosing without her consent.

It might be that what was illegal – if there was something illegal – was to take her to another land without her consent after her father had pledged her to a man of his choosing.

But to find more evidence, let’s keep reading, and see how the events unfolded and how the servant actually took a wife for his master’s son Isaac.

GWEB:

Genesis 24.

24:9 The servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter. 24:10 The servant took ten camels, of his master's camels, and departed, having a variety of good things of his master's with him. He arose, and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor. 24:11 He made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time that women go out to draw water. 24:12 He said, "Yahweh, the God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 24:13 Behold, I am standing by the spring of water. The daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 24:14 Let it happen, that the young lady to whom I will say, 'Please let down your pitcher, that I may drink,' and she will say, 'Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink,'--let her be the one you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master."

24:15 It happened, before he had finished speaking, that behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, with her pitcher on her shoulder. 24:16 The young lady was very beautiful to look at, a virgin, neither had any man known her. She went down to the spring, filled her pitcher, and came up. 24:17 The servant ran to meet her, and said, "Please give me a drink, a little water from your pitcher."

24:18 She said, "Drink, my lord." She hurried, and let down her pitcher on her hand, and gave him drink. 24:19 When she had done giving him drink, she said, "I will also draw for your camels, until they have done drinking." 24:20 She hurried, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again to the well to draw, and drew for all his camels.

24:21 The man looked steadfastly at her, remaining silent, to know whether Yahweh had made his journey prosperous or not. 24:22 It happened, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden ring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold, 24:23 and said, "Whose daughter are you? Please tell me. Is there room in your father's house for us to lodge in?"

24:24 She said to him, "I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor." 24:25 She said moreover to him, "We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in."

24:26 The man bowed his head, and worshiped Yahweh. 24:27 He said, "Blessed be Yahweh, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his loving kindness and his truth toward my master. As for me, Yahweh has led me in the way to the house of my master's relatives."

24:28 The young lady ran, and told her mother's house about these words. 24:29 Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban. Laban ran out to the man, to the spring. 24:30 It happened, when he saw the ring, and the bracelets on his sister's hands, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, "This is what the man said to me," that he came to the man. Behold, he was standing by the camels at the spring. 24:31 He said, "Come in, you blessed of Yahweh. Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house, and room for the camels."

24:32 The man came into the house, and he unloaded the camels. He gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. 24:33 Food was set before him to eat, but he said, "I will not eat until I have told my message."

He said, "Speak on."

24:34 He said, "I am Abraham's servant. 24:35 Yahweh has blessed my master greatly. He has become great. He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male servants and female servants, and camels and donkeys. 24:36 Sarah, my master's wife, bore a son to my master when she was old. He has given all that he has to him. 24:37 My master made me swear, saying, 'You shall not take a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live, 24:38 but you shall go to my father's house, and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son.' 24:39 I said to my master, 'What if the woman will not follow me?' 24:40 He said to me, 'Yahweh, before whom I walk, will send his angel with you, and prosper your way. You shall take a wife for my son of my relatives, and of my father's house. 24:41 Then will you be clear from my oath, when you come to my relatives. If they don't give her to you, you shall be clear from my oath.' 24:42 I came this day to the spring, and said, 'Yahweh, the God of my master Abraham, if now you do prosper my way which I go-- 24:43 behold, I am standing by this spring of water. Let it happen, that the maiden who comes forth to draw, to whom I will say, "Give me, I pray you, a little water from your pitcher to drink," 24:44 and she will tell me, "Drink, and I will also draw for your camels,"--let her be the woman whom Yahweh has appointed for my master's son.' 24:45 Before I had done speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder. She went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, 'Please let me drink.' 24:46 She hurried and let down her pitcher from her shoulder, and said, 'Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink.' So I drank, and she made the camels drink also. 24:47 I asked her, and said, 'Whose daughter are you?' She said, 'The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bore to him.' I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her hands. 24:48 I bowed my head, and worshiped Yahweh, and blessed Yahweh, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me in the right way to take my master's brother's daughter for his son. 24:49 Now if you will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me. If not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left."

24:50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered, "The thing proceeds from Yahweh. We can't speak to you bad or good. 24:51 Behold, Rebekah is before you. Take her, and go, and let her be your master's son's wife, as Yahweh has spoken."

So, once we have a fuller picture of what happened, we can see that:

a: In order to find out what woman Yahweh had chosen for Isaac, Abraham’s servant asks for some sort of sign.

b. He never asks Rebekah for her consent. Instead, he comes to the conclusion that Yahweh had chosen Rebekah for Isaac – on no good evidence, but that’s beside the point here.

c. He tells Rebekah’s father and brother about the story. They believe it without further questions – just on account that the servants had the bracelets -, and also come to believe that Yahweh has made that choice – on no good evidence, but that’s beside the point here.

d. Given that they believe that Yahweh made that choice, Laban and Bethuel – Rebekah’s father and brother – just tell Abraham’s servant to take Rebekah to another land, to be Isaac’s wife. Rebekah’s consent is apparently not required to pledge her to Isaac, or even to transport her to another land, once her father and brother have spoken.

Granted, it might be argued that Rebekah’s consent was given, and that if she had not given her consent, then her father Bethuel would not have been legally allowed to either pledge her to Isaac, or send her to another land. But that is by no means clear in the story, so the story in Genesis 24:1-50 is at least insufficient to settle the matter as to whether or not a woman’s consent was legally required for her to be pledged to a man.

Still, if Genesis 24:1-50 were all the biblical evidence we have, that would be insufficient to establish that a woman’s consent was not required.

However, Genesis 24:1-50 is not all of the biblical evidence we have. In fact, we have much more; so, let’s take a look at more biblical evidence:

GWEB:

Genesis 29:

29:9 While he was yet speaking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she kept them. 29:10 It happened, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban, his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban, his mother's brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother. 29:11 Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept. 29:12 Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's brother, and that he was Rebekah's son. She ran and told her father. 29:13 It happened, when Laban heard the news of Jacob, his sister's son, that he ran to meet Jacob, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban all these things. 29:14 Laban said to him, Surely you are my bone and my flesh. He lived with him for a month. 29:15 Laban said to Jacob, "Because you are my brother, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what will your wages be?" 29:16 Laban had two daughters. The name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 29:17 Leah's eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and attractive. 29:18 Jacob loved Rachel. He said, "I will serve you seven years for Rachel, your younger daughter." 29:19 Laban said, "It is better that I give her to you, than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me." 29:20 Jacob served seven years for Rachel. They seemed to him but a few days, for the love he had for her. 29:21 Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in to her." 29:22 Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast. 29:23 It happened in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him. He went in to her. 29:24 Laban gave Zilpah his handmaid to his daughter Leah for a handmaid. 29:25 It happened in the morning that, behold, it was Leah. He said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? Didn't I serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?" 29:26 Laban said, "It is not done so in our place, to give the younger before the firstborn. 29:27 Fulfill the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you will serve with me yet seven other years." 29:28 Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week. He gave him Rachel his daughter as wife. 29:29 Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah, his handmaid, to be her handmaid. 29:30 He went in also to Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.

29:31 Yahweh saw that Leah was hated, and he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. 29:32 Leah conceived, and bore a son, and she named him Reuben. For she said, "Because Yahweh has looked at my affliction. For now my husband will love me." 29:33 She conceived again, and bore a son, and said, "Because Yahweh has heard that I am hated, he has therefore given me this son also." She named him Simeon. 29:34 She conceived again, and bore a son. Said, "Now this time will my husband be joined to me, because I have borne him three sons." Therefore was his name called Levi. 29:35 She conceived again, and bore a son. She said, "This time will I praise Yahweh." Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing.

Genesis 31:

31:41 These twenty years I have been in your house. I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times

It is apparent in the passages above that the marriage was a deal between Laban and Jacob. Laban promised to give Jacob one of his daughters – Rachel – in exchange for seven years of work, and then he gave Jacob his other daughter – Leah – instead, and only gave him Rachel later in exchange for seven more years. The consent of Leah or Rachel was not part of the deal.

This is not to say that they did not want to be married to Jacob. Maybe they did. But it was clearly not a legal requirement in their social context. And Yahweh did not complain about that, while he did impose the punishment of stoning a woman to death if she was ‘pledged’ to a man but had consensual sex with someone else – or was raped but did not cry.

GWEB:

Exodus 21:

21:7 "If a man sells his daughter to be a female servant, she shall not go out as the male servants do. 21:8 If she doesn't please her master, who has married her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, seeing he has dealt deceitfully with her. 21:9 If he marries her to his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. 21:10 If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marital rights. 21:11 If he doesn't do these three things for her, she may go free without paying any money.

So, it’s clear that a father even had the legal right to sell her daughter as a servant, and then her master could legally marry his servant to himself, or to his son. While this does not address directly the case of a father’s ‘pledging’ a woman to be married to a man – but rather, selling her as a servant -, it shows the extent of a man’s legal power over his daughters, in ancient Israelite society.

Moreover, independently of the issue of a woman being pledged by her father to a man without her consent, the particular legal disposition quoted above also implied legalized rape, since a man could legally sell his daughter as a servant, and then her master could legally marry her to himself or to his son, and then he or his son could legally rape her.

GWEB:

Joshua 15:

15:13 To Caleb the son of Jephunneh he gave a portion among the children of Judah, according to the commandment of Yahweh to Joshua, even Kiriath Arba, which Arba was the father of Anak (the same is Hebron). 15:14 Caleb drove out there the three sons of Anak: Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai, the children of Anak. 15:15 He went up there against the inhabitants of Debir: now the name of Debir before was Kiriath Sepher. 15:16 Caleb said, He who strikes Kiriath Sepher, and takes it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter as wife. 15:17 Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter as wife.

Judges 1:

1:11 From there he went against the inhabitants of Debir. (Now the name of Debir before was Kiriath Sepher.) 1:12 Caleb said, He who strikes Kiriath Sepher, and takes it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter as wife. 1:13 Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter as wife.

Here, Caleb openly promises to give his daughter Achsah as wife to whoever strikes and takes Kiriath Sepher. There is no suggestion in the Bible that the promise was illegal, or that it was conditioned to Achsah’s agreement, or that Achsah had previously agreed. No one asked for clarification, either. And when Othniel took Kiriath Sepher, Caleb gave him Achsah as wife – as Caleb had promised -, again without any suggestion of an illegal act, or that she had a say on the matter. Again, this is not to say that, in this particular case, that she was forced. Maybe she was not. But rather, that there was no legal requirement that she consented.

1 Samuel 17

17:22 David left his baggage in the hand of the keeper of the baggage, and ran to the army, and came and greeted his brothers. 17:23 As he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke according to the same words: and David heard them. 17:24 All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid. 17:25 The men of Israel said, Have you seen this man who is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who kills him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father's house free in Israel.

Here, too, it seems that the king would give his daughter to whoever could defeat Goliath. It could be anyone. There is no suggestion of a condition that she had to consent.

2 Kings 14

14:5 It happened, as soon as the kingdom was established in his hand, that he killed his servants who had slain the king his father: 14:6 but the children of the murderers he didn't put to death; according to that which is written in the book of the law of Moses, as Yahweh commanded, saying, The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children be put to death for the fathers; but every man shall die for his own sin. 14:7 He killed of Edom in the Valley of Salt ten thousand, and took Sela by war, and called its name Joktheel, to this day. 14:8 Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash, the son of Jehoahaz son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying, Come, let us look one another in the face. 14:9 Jehoash the king of Israel sent to Amaziah king of Judah, saying, The thistle that was in Lebanon sent to the cedar that was in Lebanon, saying, Give your daughter to my son as wife: and there passed by a wild animal that was in Lebanon, and trod down the thistle. 14:10 You have indeed struck Edom, and your heart has lifted you up: glory of it, and abide at home; for why should you meddle to your hurt, that you should fall, even you, and Judah with you? 14:11 But Amaziah would not hear.

So, Jehoash – the king of Israel – told Amaziah – the king of Judah – to give his daughter to Jehoash’s son as wife. While Amaziah did not accept, that seemed like a negotiation between two kings, with no suggestion that Amaziah’s daughter’s consent was legally required.

Given the passages above, the biblical evidence supports the conclusion that there was no requirement that a woman agree to be pledged.

As I mentioned before, I’m not suggesting no fathers considered their daughters’ choices – either in the real ancient Israel or in the ancient Israel of the biblical story, but I’m assuming for the sake of the argument that the stories did happen. But the point is that the daughter’s consent was not legally required. So, in particular, a woman who was pledged to a man she did not want to get married to and had sex with someone else could be legally stoned to death for that. Still, of course even when she consented, as I pointed out stoning her to death for adultery would be abhorrent.

In addition to all of that, rape was legal if a father sold his daughter as a servant, and her master chose to marry her to himself or to his son.

2.1.2. Consensual sex outside marriage, or rape?

GWEB:

Deuteronomy 22:

22:28 If a man find a lady who is a virgin, who is not pledged to be married, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; 22:29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the lady's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has humbled her; he may not put her away all his days.

According to this disposition, it seems that according to Old Testament Law, if a man rapes a woman but her father has not ‘pledged’ her to another man, then he has to pay a sum of money to him, and then is forced to marry her – and so, she’s forced to marry him as well, and then he may legally continue to rape her after that.

However, I have encountered some objections from Christians who interpret the passage is not about cases of rape, but about cases of consensual sex. So, an objection might go as follows – variants are handled similarly, since I will consider both the hypothesis that it’s about rape, and the hypothesis that it’s not.

Objection 2.1.2.1. Deuteronomy 22:28 is not about rape, but about consensual sex. That’s why the text says “they’re found”, and that’s why Deuteronomy 22:28 (even in the original biblical text) uses an expression different from the expression used in Deuteronomy 22:25, which considers actual cases of rape.

Moreover, clearly the fact that he’s forced to marry her suggests an interest in her well-being, which would not be present if they wanted to force her to marry her rapist.

Reply:

1. If this passage does not include cases in which she does not consent – cases of rape -, either exclusively or together with cases of consensual sex, then it seems that Deuteronomy 22:29 does not address cases in which she’s raped, which also would be unjust, even if of course not as much as forcing the victim to marry the rapist. But that aside, it seems very probable that the passage includes both cases of rape and consensual sex, imposing the same punishment – namely, paying a certain sum of money to the woman's father – in both cases.

This is so because:

1.a.: In the the immediately previous dispositions (i. e., Deuteronomy 22:23-27), Deuteronomy establishes a man who sexually penetrates a woman pledged to be married to another man is sentenced to be stoned to death, regardless of whether she consented.

It seems the most probable interpretation that immediately after dealing with the case in which a man sexually penetrates a woman pledged to another man, Deuteronomy turns to the case of a man who sexually penetrates a woman who is not his wife or slave but also is not pledged to another man.

1.b.: In the case of the woman pledged to another man, her consent is irrelevant to his punishment – which is not for rape, but for something like some sort of “unlawful penetration”, in their misogynistic legal system -, and only relevant to whether she is punished too.

It would seem very improbable that in the case of a woman not pledged to another man, her consent makes the difference, and only in case he did not rape her, he is punished, but the rapist is ignored.

2. Deuteronomy 22:28 also uses an expression different from that used in Deuteronomy 22:23 – a case of consensual sex. So, the fact that it’s a different expression does not settle the matter. However, in Deuteronomy 22:28, the translation above is “lay hold on her”, which does seem to indicate rape. Another version of that translation [8] states that he “grabs her”, which also indicates rape.

Still, other translations have different wordings, but then, the same applies to “they’re discovered”, and so on. It appears that translators are divided on the matter, and the original text, without considering context, also is not decisive. But the context – as explained above – supports the view that this applies to both consensual sex and rape.

Objection 2.1.2.2. Deuteronomy 22:28 is not about rape, but about consensual sex. In fact, the disposition you just mentioned – namely, Exodus 22:16-17 supports Deuteronomy 22:28 is about consensual sex, given the similarities in the punishments.

Reply:

1. Actually, Deuteronomy 22:23-25 imposes the same punishment to a man regardless of whether he has consensual sex with a woman or rapes her, so a similarity in the punishments between Deuteronomy 22:28 and the disposition involving consensual sex in Exodus 22:16-16 does not suggest that Deuteronomy 22:28 is not also about rape.

2. While the punishment in Exodus 22:16-17 is in some way similar to that of Deuteronomy 22:28, it is different in other ways, supporting the interpretation that Deuteronomy 22:28 is only about rape, since that is the case left to be considered, and since the alternative would be conflicting disposition about the same case (i. e., the case of consensual sex between a man and a woman not pledged to be married to another man). Let's take a look at the disposition in Exodus:

GWEB:

Exodus 22:

22:16 If a man entices a virgin who isn’t pledged to be married, and lies with her, he shall surely pay a dowry for her to be his wife. 22: 17 If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.

Here too, a woman’s choice is unjustly ignored by Yahweh, who commands that it’s up to her father to decide whether she will marry the man she had consensual sex with, regardless of whether she wants to marry him or not, or whether she wants to have sex with him again.

It is clear that there is no concern for her well-being when she makes a choice to have sex. She may end up being denied a marriage she and her lover want, or – far worse – she may end up being handed over to a man she doesn’t want to have sex with anymore – a man who could then legally rape her.

Rather than concern for her well-being, what seems to be one of Yahweh’s concerns is that a woman not be allowed to choose her husband against her father’s wishes, closing even an indirect potential method of having sex with someone she wants to marry – just in case she does want to marry him.

Now, in that context, a potential interpretation of Deuteronomy 22:28 is that it was indeed about rape, and in that case, she’s not considered to be at fault because it was not her choice, whereas she’s mistakenly considered to be at fault in the consensual case.

If so, there is perhaps even some degree of concern about her well-being in the case of rape. That would explain the command “He may not put her away all his days”, which may be a very evil way in which someone as morally confused as Yahweh was manifests concern for a woman’s well-being, condemning her to a dire fate, while perhaps even believing he’s doing her a favor. Not that Yahweh’s deep moral confusion would excuse his behavior.  

Still, let's say that as the objection claims, Deuteronomy 22:28 – like Exodus 22:16-17 – is about consensual sex only.

Then, Yahweh gave two incompatible commands on the matter, since in one case, whether the woman and her lover get married depends on the woman’s father choice, whereas in the other case, it does not. Maybe he changed his mind after giving the first command?

In any case, both of the commands are unjust, for the reasons I explained above.

In addition to that, under the assumption that Deuteronomy 22:28 is about consensual sex only, a man who rapes a woman not pledged to be married to another man, is not punished by Deuteronomy at all - Deuteronomy only imposes the punishment of death by stoning to a man who rapes a woman pledged to be married to another man, but the stoning is for the penetration of a woman pledged to another man, not for the fact that it's rape.

There are plenty of other examples of unjust commands in the Old Testament, of course, some of which I have considered above, and some of which I will consider below. In particular, the situation of a woman in a situation such as the ones considered in this subsection gets even worse if the fact that she was raped, or alternatively that she had consensual sex, is not discovered before her father chooses to ‘pledge’ her to another man.

More precisely, let’s say a woman has sex consensually when she’s single and not ‘pledged’ to anyone, but nobody finds out, and later her father chooses to ‘pledge’ her to a man. Later even, she’s turned over to that man her father chose. If he complains because the ‘tokens of her virginity’ are not found and that is in fact the case, then she’s stoned to death.

Also, let’s say a woman is raped when she’s single and not ‘pledged’ to anyone, but nobody finds out, and later her father chooses to ‘pledge’ her to a man. Later even, she’s turned over to that man her father chose. If he complains because the ‘tokens of her virginity’ are not found and that is in fact the case, then she’s stoned to death.

Additionally, even if she did not have any sex, but the ‘tokens of her virginity’ are not found and he complains, she’s stoned to death.

So, let’s take a look at yet another appalling biblical command:

2.1.3. More on sex outside marriage, adultery and rape.

GWEB:

Deuteronomy 22:

22:13 If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and hates her, 22:14 and accuses her of shameful things, and brings up an evil name on her, and says, I took this woman, and when I came near to her, I didn't find in her the tokens of virginity; 22:15 then shall the father of the young lady, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the young lady's virginity to the elders of the city in the gate; 22:16 and the young lady's father shall tell the elders, I gave my daughter to this man to wife, and he hates her; 22:17 and behold, he has accused her of shameful things, saying, I didn't find in your daughter the tokens of virginity; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity. They shall spread the garment before the elders of the city. 22:18 The elders of that city shall take the man and chastise him; 22:19 and they shall fine him one hundred shekels of silver, and give them to the father of the young lady, because he has brought up an evil name on a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days. 22:20 But if this thing be true, that the tokens of virginity were not found in the young lady; 22:21 then they shall bring out the young lady to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done folly in Israel, to play the prostitute in her father's house: so you shall put away the evil from the midst of you.

So, Yahweh commanded that if a woman has sex and then marries someone who doesn’t know she’s not a virgin, she is to be stoned to death.

Furthermore, Yahweh attempted to justify the punishment, implying that she deserved to be stoned to death because she had sex before marriage and then married someone who did not know that she wasn’t a virgin, and apparently for prostituting herself at her father’s house.

Of course, even if she had sex before marriage and didn’t tell, that does not mean she was a prostitute, but perhaps, someone might suggest that the translation is mistaken.

In any case, whether or not she was a prostitute or whether Yahweh claimed that she was, it is clear that a woman does not deserve to be stoned to death for any of that. The same applies if the woman lived in ancient Israelite society.

Additionally, not finding the “tokens of her virginity” does not entail that she wasn’t a virgin, of course. It’s an assumption that might or might not turn out to be correct, depending on the case. But let’s leave aside that issue; even if the evidence in support of the claim that she wasn’t a virgin had been convincing, the fact remains that she didn’t deserve to be stoned to death for having sex before marriage, and then marry someone who did not know that.

In fact, she did not do anything immoral in this context in many cases, such as:

a. A woman has consensual sex with a man she likes, before being ‘pledged’ by her father, to a man she doesn’t want to marry. In this case, she isn’t guilty of any immoral behavior in this context. The guilty parties are her husband – for raping her – and her father – as an accomplice, for handing her over to a rapist.

b. A woman is ‘pledged’ by her father to a man she did not want to marry, and later she had sex with someone else she likes. But later even, she is turned over to the man her father chose. In this case, she isn’t guilty of any immoral behavior in this context. The guilty parties are her husband – for raping her – and her father – as an accomplice, for handing her over to a rapist.

c. A woman has consensual sex with a man she liked, and then he leaves her. Why should she tell others she wasn’t a virgin? It’s her business, not theirs. But then, her father ‘pledges’ her to someone else, and hands her over.

d. A woman is knocked out and raped by a stranger, long before being handed over to the man her father already ‘pledged’ her to – ignoring her will, since she does not want to marry that man.

She says nothing out of fear of being executed because she did not cry when she was raped. So, once she’s handed over to the man her father chose, he rapes her – since she did not consent to being ‘pledged’ or to having sex with that man -, and vilely accuses her of immorality for not having the “tokens of her virginity”.

Clearly, here the guilty parties are the two rapists and the father who is an accessory to rape, and moreover to enslaving his daughter even if she’s not classified as a slave by their customs. But she isn’t guilty of anything. Yet, Yahweh’s law punishes her, and lets the father and the legal rapist off the hook. The other rapist would have been punished if he had been found, but he would not have been punished for rape, since rape was not even a crime under Yahweh’s evil law.

In any event, it would have been very immoral to follow the command, at least barring things like justified belief in a credible threat of something worse for her, like Yahweh’s inflicting infinite torture on the woman targeted by the command unless she isn’t stoned to death – but that wasn’t the case, nor was there any other such justification; on the contrary, it’s implicitly claimed in the Bible that she deserved to be stoned to death.

As an analogy, let’s say Hamid lives in the early 21st century[9] in, say, rural Afghanistan, and is told that a woman who commits adultery deserves to be stoned to death, and that her execution by stoning was commanded by a morally perfect being who has as much power as attributed to Yahweh in the Bible. Hamid has not had contact with other religions beside the local version of Islam.

Clearly, he should not follow the command. He should not stone women for adultery. Nor should he believe that a woman who commits adultery deserves such fate. Moreover, he should not believe that a morally perfect being with that power issued that command.

Yet, the situation of an ancient Israelite who receives the biblical command quoted above seems relevantly in the senses that:

i. Most ancient Israelites had not witnessed any of Yahweh’s displays of power, so what they had was a claim that a powerful and morally good/perfect creator had commanded so.

ii. Adultery doesn’t merit being stoned to death as punishment.

iii. Granted, ancient Israelite law has some good commands too. But for that matter, so does Taliban law, or different versions of Sharia Law. The atrocities that they contain is what makes those laws overall bad.

iv. Even those ancient Israelites who did witness some of Yahweh’s displays of power wouldn’t be in a different position with regard to an assessment of the moral character of Yahweh and his commands – power does not entail or suggest moral goodness.

On the other hand, the cases are not relevantly similar in that:

v. Adultery is usually morally wrong – at least assuming that the person wasn’t forced into her marriage -, whereas the behavior for which a woman is being punished according to this particular biblical disposition at least often isn’t – at most, it might be immoral in some cases, if she freely made a promise and then lied, etc., but often it is not. Obviously, even in such cases, even prison time would be appallingly unjust. Yet, Yahweh commanded that she be stoned to death.

Now, someone might suggest that even if it would have been immoral to follow the command given by Yahweh and stone her to death for having sex before marriage and then marrying someone who didn’t know that she wasn’t a virgin, it does not follow that Yahweh was being immoral by giving the command in question.

But using one’s sense of right and wrong, one may assess not only the morality of following the command, but also the morality of Yahweh’s actions, when he gives commands that would be atrociously immoral to follow, makes abhorrent false moral claims or implications about what people deserve, etc., spreading immorality, while he could easily refrain from doing so, and while there is no sufficient threat that would justify Yahweh’s actions.

Objection 2.1.3.1. Yahweh has sovereignty over life and death. He gives life, and he may take it without acting immorally if he so chooses, with no need for any other justification. He does no wrong by calling for the stoning of those women, and those following his orders do no wrong, either.

Reply:

a. There is no good reason to believe that it’s not immoral for Yahweh to take someone’s life just because he created that person.

b. Even assuming Yahweh wouldn’t be acting immorally if he killed a person, Yahweh is not saying that the non-virgin should be killed because he says so. Rather, he falsely claims that she deserves to be stoned to death as a punishment for her actions.

c. This command does not “only” involve taking her life. Rather, it’s a command to torture her to death. She’s not “only” to be killed; she’s to be stoned to death. It’s a horrendous way of dying, regardless of whether the stoning procedure was somewhat less painful than other ways of stoning people to death.

d. The fact remains that an ancient Israelite who received the command should not have followed it, just as Hamid shouldn’t follow the similar command he receives. Neither should the ancient Israelite in question have thought it came from a morally perfect ruler of the world.

Objection 2.1.3.2. She deserves to be stoned to death not for having sex before marriage at her father’s house and then marrying someone who did not know, but for disobeying a morally perfect creator.

Reply:

a. That’s not what the Bible indicates. Rather, the Bible implies that she deserves such a punishment because she had sex before marriage and then married someone who did not know that she wasn’t a virgin – which might not even be true -, and/or apparently for prostituting herself at her father’s house – which might not even be true -, but not for disobeying a morally perfect creator.

b. It should be obvious to a human being who is contemplating the matter rationally that a morally good or morally perfect entity would not command that a woman be stoned to death just for having sex before marriage and then marrying someone who does not know that she wasn’t a virgin, and/or for prostituting herself.

c. Actually, disobeying a morally perfect creator, on its own, does not merit being tortured to death. On that note, let’s say that a morally perfect creator tells Alice to paint her car, and she doesn’t do it. Would Alice deserve torture to death because of it? It seems pretty clear that she wouldn’t, even if she believes that the order came from a morally perfect creator.

d. There are plenty of violations of the Mosaic Law that are not punished by death, let alone by torture to death. One such case is provided by the very Bible passage under consideration: if a man falsely accuses his wife of not being a virgin when she marries him, he is not to be tortured to death. Instead, he is to pay a fine.

Other versions of the Bible might include a more severe punishment for him than a fine[10], but nothing comparable to torture to death.

Moreover, there are plenty of cases in which Old Testament Law – in any versions – establish punishments not involving either torture or death for those who break the law.

So, a reasonable person in ancient Israel – i.e., one of those to whom the command was directed – should not have concluded that the reason she allegedly deserved the punishment was only or chiefly disobedience. And neither should we.

e. I gave more detailed arguments against this type of objection earlier, when assessing other biblical commands. Some of the same arguments apply here, with only minor adaptations, but the same basic reasons hold. I will not repeat the points here for the sake of brevity.

Objection 2.1.3.3. She deserves to be stoned to death not for having sex before marriage at her father’s house and then marrying someone who did not know, but for disobeying a morally perfect creator in the particular case in which such a creator decides that the adequate punishment for breaking his rules is to be tortured to death.

Reply:

a. As before, that’s not what the Bible indicates. The Bible implies that she deserves such a punishment because she had sex before marriage and then married someone who did not know that she wasn’t a virgin, and/or apparently for prostituting herself at her father’s house – which may not even be true -, but not for disobeying a morally perfect creator.

b. It should be obvious that a morally good or morally perfect entity would not command that a woman be stoned to death for having sex before marriage and then marrying someone who does not know that she wasn’t a virgin, and/or for prostituting herself. On that note, we may consider the Hamid analogy again.

c. Actually, disobeying a morally perfect creator, on its own, does not merit being tortured to death, as explained above, and in fact if the creator decided that punishment, then he wouldn’t be morally perfect in the first place.

d. With that criterion, someone might posit a religion in which a morally perfect creator called “Todd” commands that those who, say, eats broccoli, be tortured to death, but those who rape or torture children for fun be forced to pay a small fine to the parents, and nothing more.

It’s obvious that we can tell, on moral grounds alone, that such religion would be false. The point is that a morally perfect creator would not command either what Todd commands in that example, or what Yahweh commanded in the biblical story under consideration.

e. I gave more detailed arguments against this type of objection earlier, when assessing other biblical commands. Some of the same arguments apply here, with only minor adaptations, but the same basic reasons hold. I will not repeat the points here for the sake of brevity.

Objection 2.1.3.4. That command has to be considered in context, and the context is given by Yahweh’s covenant with Israel.

Reply:

Let’s take a look at the matter:

Yahweh made a pact with some of the leaders of ancient Israel.

He agreed to provide some kind of assistance in terms of food supplies, sometimes military help, etc., and on the other hand he commanded that they torture to death any woman who has premarital sex and then gets married to someone who does not know that she’s not a virgin.

Even if Yahweh always did as agreed, it should once again be obvious that that would not excuse his actions. On top of that, he actually lied, by implying that they deserved to be stoned to death, unless he himself was confused and falsely believed that she deserved that punishment.

So, the covenant does not alter the assessment of his actions as profoundly immoral, and his moral claims or implications, false.

Moreover, it would still be immoral for any of the ancient Israelites to obey that command.

On that note, if some of their leaders and/or ancestors made a pact with a powerful being, and according to that pact, a woman who has sex before marriage and then marries someone who doesn’t know that she wasn’t a virgin is to be stoned to death, they should refrain from behaving as commanded, unless there is a sufficient threat, like a credible threat from that being to torture the victim for eternity unless some of the ancient Israelites stone her to death.

However, there was no threat of a sufficient caliber as far as ancient Israelites could tell, and moreover, even on the face of such a threat, they should never have follow the command willingly, or believing that the entity giving them was morally good.

Objection 2.1.3.5. Yahweh realized that the command under consideration, alongside other harsh commands, was required to keep social peace among the ancient Israelites, who weren’t ready for a better law. Their hearts were hard.

Reply:

a. The command under consideration wasn’t merely harsh; it was profoundly unjust. It was a command to stone woman to death if she had sex before marriage and then married someone who didn’t know she was not a virgin. It’s appalling.

b. Yahweh also made the false moral implication that women who did that deserved to be stoned to death. Either he lied, or he was very mistaken.

c. Yahweh is an entity of immense power, capable of and willing to intervene in the history of Israel on many occasions. Obviously, he could have pointed out that those women did not deserve to be stoned to death, instead of falsely claiming that they did and then commanding that they be stoned.

No social breakdown would have followed if Yahweh had refrained from making false moral claims or implications and from issuing a profoundly unjust command, or even if he had commanded otherwise, and corrected the moral errors of those ancient Israelites who were mistaken.

What would the ancient Israelites have done, if he had not commanded that they be stoned to death, or implied that she deserved it?

Rebel against an immensely powerful being who can easily defeat them?

Should we believe that his commands would only be obeyed by most of the population if they were in line with what the people he’s giving commands to already wanted?

That seems preposterous; the ancient Israelites in the story are supposed to be human and not severely mentally ill, and that is not how human would behave – not even morally bad humans.

And if some of those ancient Israelites would irrationally have rebelled against a being that they knew was immensely powerful if said being didn’t give them the evil commands they wanted, or gave them good commands instead, then that wouldn’t excuse his actions, either.

On that note, the potential absurd rebellion of some brutal people who wanted to stone to death any woman who had sex before marriage and then married someone who didn’t know that she wasn’t a virgin, would not justify giving the evil command that those people wanted, just to appease them.

Also, it would not justify telling them or implying that the commands were actually just, and that their victims deserved to be stoned to death, which would likely even reinforce their false moral beliefs.

d. Those ancient Israelites ought to have disobeyed Yahweh’s commands to torture people to death – people who clearly did not deserve it.

Granted, there are hypothetical scenarios in which it is not the case that people should disobey commands like that. For instance, if Yahweh gave some people enough reasons to think that if they stone her to death, she will cease to exist, but if they don’t, Yahweh himself will torture her for eternity, then all other things equal, it’s not the case that they ought to disobey the command to stone her to death.

However, that wasn’t the case in the biblical description, and there was no other threat that would justify it. Moreover, while a threat like that would justify following such a command in some cases, it would still be horribly immoral to carry it out as a means of punishing the victim, and/or approving of the command in question.

Moses, for example, approved of the commands given by Yahweh, and thus in particular of say, stoning a woman to death because she had sex before marriage and then married someone who did not know that she wasn’t a virgin. He was also in favor of the other commands, like stoning a disobedient, drunkard, glutton son to death (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), etc., and so, Moses too was a profoundly evil person. Just because Yahweh proved to be powerful wouldn’t give Moses or any of the other ancient Israelites any good reason to believe that he was morally good.

On the contrary, his orders and other deeds gave them sufficient reasons to tell, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Yahweh wasn’t morally good.

Side note: in reality – and leaving aside for a moment the assumption that Yahweh exists -, the fact is that the humans who commanded that people be stoned or burned to death just for sex “crimes” involving only consensual sex between adults, were the real monsters in this case, since Yahweh does not exist. Some of those people just invented a creator as immoral as they were. But that’s beyond the scope of this essay.

Objection 2.1.3.6. Those passages were not meant to be taken literally.

Reply:

Those are commands, and moral claims or implications, and the passages are in a context of many other such commands and claims or implications that are part of Old Testament Law. There is nothing whatsoever in the text indicating that those passages weren’t meant to be taken literally.

If Yahweh issued commands and made moral claims and/or implications, he should have expected that they would be taken literally, since that’s how commands and moral claims or implications are usually taken, and that’s how his commands and moral claims or implications were usually taken. And, in fact, going by the biblical description, they were indeed taken literally.

So, if he did not mean for them to be taken literally, he should have clarified that.

Moreover, at any point after his commands were (as expected) taken literally, he could have clarified that he did not mean to actually command what he commanded (i.e., that the command wasn’t literal, for some reason), and that he did not mean to claim or imply what he claimed or implied.

He did not, so that would be his moral fault even if he hadn’t meant for them to be taken literally – though, again, it seems clear in the text that he did.

Objection 2.1.3.7. If Yahweh wanted those harsh laws to be enacted, then why did Jesus later chose to spare the adulterer?

Reply:

Stepping out of the story for a moment, it seems that whoever wrote that story about Jesus had an agenda that was quite different from the agenda of whoever wrote the part of the Old Testament under consideration.

If the claim that Jesus spared a woman who had committed adultery is true, then Jesus too had a different agenda from whoever wrote Deuteronomy, and probably different moral beliefs as well.

But leaving that aside and going back to the events as described in the Bible, we may point out that:

a. The command in question isn’t just harsh, but profoundly unjust.

b. Whatever the reasons for Yahweh’s later change of heart, that does not excuse his previous commands.

c. In addition to immoral commands, there is the issue of false moral claims or implications, like the implication that the punishment in question was deserved.

d. The fact remains that an ancient Israelite who read the law should not have interpreted that they were non-literal, given context.

e. Some deeds of Yahweh described in the New Testament do not appear to be better than any of those described in the Old Testament. In fact, some of them are even a lot more evil if the interpretation that there is infinite hell is correct. But that’s a matter for a later section.

f. Even if Jesus himself wouldn’t stone a woman for that behavior, he did approve of the commands themselves, at least as commands to the ancient Israelites, and considered it morally acceptable for those ancient Israelites to follow Old Testament Law. I will address this matter in much greater detail later.

Objection 2.1.3.8. Those laws applied only to the ancient Israelites, but do not apply after Jesus.

Reply:

That’s beside the point.

It remains the case that Yahweh gave immoral commands and made false moral claims and/or implications, even if he only gave such commands to some people, and only made such claims or implications before some people.

It remains the case that the ancient Israelites should not have followed those commands, nor should have the believe that they came from a morally good creator. Nor should we believe so.

Objection 2.1.3.9. Those passages are not true. That wasn’t the law given by Jesus’s father, but a law made by humans.

Reply:

Then, why did Jesus himself not point out that those laws were not the work of his father?

In fact, what Jesus said was:

OEB[1]

Luke 16:

16 The law and the prophets sufficed until the time of John. Since then the good news of the kingdom of God has been told, and everybody has been forcing their way into it.

17 It would be easier for the heavens and the earth to disappear than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be lost.

Matthew 5:17 Do not think that I have come to do away with the law or the prophets; I have not come to do away with them, but to complete them. 18 For I tell you, until the heavens and the earth disappear, not even the smallest letter, nor one stroke of a letter, will disappear from the law until all is done.

GWEB:

Luke 16:

16:16 The law and the prophets were until John. From that time the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. 16:17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tiny stroke of a pen in the law to fall.

Matthew 5

5:17 "Don't think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn't come to destroy, but to fulfill. 5:18 For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished.

So, regardless the obscurity about what exactly he’s going to change and what he’s going to leave intact, it is apparent that he acknowledges the whole content of Old Testament Law as originating in Yahweh – since in that context, “the law” is Old Testament Law. By the way, it is also apparent that Jesus approves of it.

As I mentioned, I will address the matter of Jesus’s beliefs in much greater detail later.

Objection 2.1.3.10. Yahweh is justified because he’s warning his people not to do evil.

Reply:

He’s falsely claiming or implying that a woman who had premarital sex and then married someone who did not know that she did deserves to be stoned to death, and is commanding that they actually stone her to death.

That cannot be excused as “warning his people not to do evil”.

Moreover, as in the analogous case of Hamid, it would be morally evil to actually follow the command.

Objection 2.1.3.11. You’re just making an emotional appeal. You have no basis for claiming that the actions of Yahweh are immoral, or that the claims he made are false.

Reply:

Actually, I’m using my own sense of right and wrong, which is the normal way of proceeding when assessing moral. That allows me – and readers too, of course – to make an assessment in the case of Hamid, and for that matter in the case of Yahweh, the ancient Israelites who followed his commands, etc.

I’m also appealing to readers’ own senses of right and wrong, but again, that’s how one normally goes about trying to persuade people in moral matters.

In fact, even many Christians agree with the assessments I’m making – namely, that the command in question is morally appalling, and that the implication that those women deserve that punishment is not true -, and then claim that those commands did not come from Yahweh, or that the passages were not meant to be taken literally.

As I explained above, those objections do not work, but those who make them intuitively assess that a personal being that behaves in the way Yahweh is depicted in this case, would not be morally perfect, or even morally good.

That aside, it’s true that someone might insist that their moral sense is in fact different, and that their assessment is that stoning a woman to death for having sex and then marrying someone who didn’t know that, was morally acceptable in ancient Israel, and that she deserved to be stoned to death.

Leaving aside the fact that in some cases the marriage was not her choice but her father just handed her over to a man without her consent, and even in cases in which she consented, it’s not the case that stoning her to death for that was acceptable in ancient Israel, or that she deserved such punishment.

However, the people who insist that it was acceptable and/or that she deserved it won’t be persuaded by this example, and probably not by anything in this essay, either. Yet, that does not mean that somehow my argument can be dismissed as an “emotional appeal” because it appeals to the readers’ sense of right and wrong. Furthermore, with that criterion, someone might dismiss any moral case as an “emotional appeal” (e.g., the Hamid example too), since ultimately all of them do appeal to the reader’s sense of right and wrong, even if implicitly.

So, it’s clear that the ‘emotional appeal’ objection fails.

Objection 2.1.3.12. If stoning a woman to death for having sex before marriage and then marrying someone who didn’t know she was no longer a virgin was so clearly immoral in the social context of the ancient Israelites, the ancient Israelites would have realized that. However, they actually embraced the law, because they saw it was good. It’s your sense of right and wrong that is giving you the wrong result, maybe because you’re not considering the social context, or for some other reason.

Reply:

This kind of objection might be raised against pretty much any moral argument when the person making the assessment is not in the social context in which the events take place, and many or even most of the people in the given context would disagree with the assessment in question. The ancient Israelites are no exception in that regard. It’s not generally a good objection, and it fails in this case too. But let’s consider a few cases as examples of this:

a. It is clear to a human being who is contemplating the matter carefully and rationally that, say, people who leave Islam do not deserve to be decapitated for that. It appears that none of that is apparent to many people in places such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Afghanistan. Many of those living in that context fail to see it. In some places, most people fail to see that.

Perhaps, they make that mistake because some beliefs to which they have strong emotional attachments get in the way of a proper assessment, and/or they haven’t even considered the matter and they’ve been told that those moral claims was true by an authority figure and/or some other reason – it depends on the person.

Some of those people would realize – or do realize – how unjust the punishment in question is if they actually have to decided whether to apply it, and give it more thought. Others would/do not realize even then.

But in any case, the point is that people who leave Islam do not deserve to be killed for any of that even in the social contexts in which they’re sometimes killed for that and/or in which the law establishes the death penalty for that – whether it’s enforced or not -, and even if most people there believe that they deserve it – and we don’t need to live in one of those social contexts to properly make that assessment. That assessment holds even if a powerful creator had inspired the Quran, or dictated it, etc.

b. It is also clear to a human being who is contemplating the matter carefully and rationally that, say, a woman who has sex before getting married, or who refuses to marry a person chosen by her father, does not deserve to, say, have her face disfigured with acid for that, even if the acid attack happens in a social context in which such attacks are common, and even if such attacks are believed to be morally right by many or even most of the people living in those social groups – not by all, of course; in particular, usually, the victims realize that the attacks are unacceptable, and so do a number of other people. Those who live in those social contexts more often make the mistake of believing that those attacks are acceptable than those who do not, but in any case, we can tell that they’re unacceptable.

c. It is also clear that a woman who has sex before marriage and then marries someone who didn’t know she wasn’t a virgin – today or in ancient Israel, or in any other society – does not deserve to be stoned to death for that. More precisely, it’s clear to a human being who is contemplating the matter carefully and rationally.

It was not clear to ancient Israelite lawmakers, and perhaps to most of the ancient Israelites, and also to many other people in the past, in different societies. Generally, people who live in brutal social environments may be more prone on average not to dedicate time to ponder whether their laws are just, and when they do, they may be more prone to do so looking through the tainted lens of some false beliefs that they’re emotionally attached to. But that does not challenge the warrant of our assessments of the matter.

Objection 2.1.3.13. The stoning was carried out in a humane fashion, so it wasn’t a way of torturing people to death.

Reply:

a. In fact, the command is that “they shall bring out the young lady to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones”. It seems, then, that all of those men would pelt her to death with stones. That’s a horrendous way of dying, and surely a way of torturing people to death. The fact that she might get “lucky” and get killed or knocked out by the first stone does not change the fact that the method is an atrocity. There is nothing humane about that.

Even if the of stoning was in reality modified by some humans at some later time, and became somewhat less monstrous, it was still evil, and in any case, I’m addressing the method as commanded in the Bible.

b. She did not deserve to be executed in any way, let alone suffer the horror, the fear, generally the terrifying ordeal that a person in that situation would have had to endure, from the moment at which she’s told she’s going to be stoned to death, to the moment at which she dies, or loses consciousness before that. Incidentally, any death sentence, by stoning or by any other methods in place, would have inflicted a lot of suffering on a woman who didn’t deserve anything like that, so that would have been deeply immoral already, but the method of killing makes it even worse.

c. As an analogy, we may also consider the Hamid case. What if the method of stoning that he’s told is proper is the same as used in ancient Israel? Clearly, the assessment about what she should do given above remains unaffected.

Objection 2.1.3.14. The stoning was not carried out in that fashion. It’s not the case that all those men would pelt her to death with stones. Rather, she would be thrown off a building, and then a man would kill her with a big stone if she survived, or something along those lines.

Reply:

a. That’s not what the Bible commands. Moreover, that’s not how the Old Testament describes another case of stoning – one in which Moses himself takes part:

GWEB:

Numbers 15:

15:32 While the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 15:33 Those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. 15:34 They put him in custody, because it had not been declared what should be done to him. 15:35 Yahweh said to Moses, The man shall surely be put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside of the camp. 15:36 All the congregation brought him outside of the camp, and stoned him to death with stones; as Yahweh commanded Moses.

Clearly, they did not stone him in the way described in this objection.

There is no good reason to think that the method of stoning a man to death for working on a Sabbath was so radically different from the method of stoning a woman to death for not having the “tokens of her virginity” the night she was handed over to the man his father decided to hand her over to.

As I mentioned before, even if the of stoning was in reality modified by some humans at some later time, and became somewhat less monstrous, it was still evil, and in any case, I’m addressing the method as commanded in the Bible.

b. Even if the stoning were meant to be carried out as described in this objection, the punishment would still remain a moral atrocity. She deserved neither to be executed, nor to endure the horror, the fear, generally the terrifying ordeal that a person in that situation would have had to endure, from the moment at which she’s told she’s going to be stoned to death, to the moment at which she dies.

Objection 2.1.3.15. The stoning was not carried out in that fashion. Moreover, she was to be given a drug to dull her senses and prevent her from suffering much.

Reply:

a. That’s not what the Bible says. There is no indication of that in the text.

b. Even that would have been unacceptable, as she did not deserve to be sentenced to death. In fact, in many cases, she had done nothing wrong, as I explained above. But even in those cases in which she did something wrong, she surely did not deserve to die for that.

Objection 2.1.3.16. Such punishment was rarely applied, due to strict standards of evidence.

Reply:

a. While it was apparently difficult in practice to legally prove that the conditions specified in the Bible had been met, and in that sense the standards were strict, on the other hand the condition that the ‘tokens of her virginity’ not be found is not nearly good enough as evidence that she wasn’t a virgin, so the standards were bad.

b. Let’s consider a hypothetical alternative command that contains good standards of evidence but still commands that a woman who had sex before being handed over by her father to the man he chose to gave her to – for a certain amount of money, perhaps -, shall be stoned to death if the man in question did not know in advance that she was not a virgin. Then, the assessments remain as above: Yahweh should not have commanded that, and the ancient Israelites in a position of power in which they could decide whether to apply the punishment should not have done so.

c. Let’s even consider a hypothetical alternative command that contains good standards of evidence but still commands that a woman who had sex then consensually married someone who did not know she wasn’t a virgin, be stoned to death. Then, the assessments remain as above: Yahweh should not have commanded that, and the ancient Israelites in a position of power in which they could decide whether to apply the punishment should not have done so.

d. The claim of implication that she deserved such punishment is false.

Objection 2.1.3.17. The passages are real, but women could only be legally pledged to a man with their own consent, even if her father’s consent was also required. So, the women who were stoned to death in this context were actual adulteresses.

Reply:

I addressed this matter earlier.

Objection 2.1.3.18. Even if those following the command did not know what good would be achieved by following it, they should have followed the command trusting that Yahweh had some good reason, as evidenced by the morally good character of Yahweh, which can be seen taking a look at the Old Testament as a whole. So, they should have concluded that stoning her to death was required to prevent something worse, or to bring about a greater good in the future.

Reply:

a. Actually, the character of Yahweh, when assessed taking a look at the Old Testament as a whole, is not that of a morally good person. It’s a person who does some morally good things, cares about some people, but also does very evil deeds, many times. He is not overall any better than people like, say, Saddam Hussein, Jorge Rafael Videla, Augusto Pinochet, Hafez Al-Assad, Bashar Al-Assad, Muammar Gaddafi, Alfredo Stroessner, etc., who are or were very bad people, even if plausibly to different degrees. In fact, he’s worse than at least some of those.

The particular command to stone a woman to death if she has sex before being handed over to the man her father chose as her husband and who did not know she wasn’t a virgin – and the false moral implication that a woman in that situation deserves such punishment – is an example of Yahweh’s very evil actions, but I’m making a general case by assessing many of his actions. And just as we can properly tell that a brutal dictator is a bad person even if he cares about his family and a few other people and sometimes behaves in a good way, the same applies to Yahweh.

b. As before, we may consider the analogous case of Hamid. He should not believe that the command came from a morally perfect creator, and should not follow it.

c. In fact, given how powerful Yahweh was, if the ancient Israelites believed that Yahweh had such power, they should have reckoned that an entity with that power wouldn’t need to torture a woman to death like that to prevent something worse. For instance, if Yahweh was the ruler of the world and could effortlessly do pretty much anything he wanted, there is no way Yahweh would have been trying to save her from a fate worse than what he was commanding for her, like being tortured forever by an even more powerful being. Nor is there any other reason one could think of that would justify Yahweh’s behavior.

d. Leaving the previous points aside, Yahweh was not suggesting that stoning her to death was required to save her from something worse, or somehow that there was some ulterior reason that justified such behavior. Rather, Yahweh directly implied that she deserves to be stoned to death for her behavior, and that in that way, that ‘evil’ would be removed from Israel.

But of course, trying to remove evil from Israel does not justify stoning a woman to death for having sex before marriage and then marrying someone who doesn’t know that she did, even if the marriage was consensual, which may or may not be the case, since the choice was made by her father.

Her behavior may or may not be immoral depending on the case, but surely even in those cases in which it might have been, it was not so to the extent of showing that she’s evil. What would be very evil would be to stone her to death for any of that. In some other cases, there was no immoral action on her part, but only on the part of her father who handed her over to another man without her consent, and on the part of the man who acquired her.

2.1.4. Forbidden marriages.

GWEB:

Leviticus 20:14

“If a man takes a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burned with fire, both he and they; that there may be no wickedness among you.

So, Yahweh commands if a man marries a woman and also her mother, the three of them shall be burned to death.

Moreover, Yahweh tries to justifies that punishment by claiming that those people are wicked, and that in that way, wickedness is removed from among the ancient Israelites.

In other words, given context, it’s clear that Yahweh is claiming or implying that all of those people – i.e., the two women and the man, in each case in which such marriages occurred – deserve to suffer such punishment for those actions, namely for engaging in the forbidden marriage. However, that claim is not true, and was not true in ancient Israel either.

Of course, if one or both of the women did not consent, then those who forced her or them deserved serious punishment of course, but even granting for the sake of the argument that in cases of force, those responsible would deserved to be burned to death for rape and sex slavery, it is clear that the biblical disposition does not punish anyone for rape or sex slavery. That is obvious by the fact that a lack of consent on the part of one or the two women in not required in order to punish the man, and more obviously even, by the fact that Yahweh commanded that all three of them be burned to death, even the two women, and claimed that all of them were wicked.

So, Yahweh is making false moral claims or implications. What Yahweh fails to say is that burning people to death as a punishment just for entering that type of illegal marriage is horribly immoral.

As for objections, they’re relevantly similar to some of the objections addressed in the previous subsection, and can be handled in essentially the same manner, so I will not repeat them here.

2.1.5. Priesthood and prostitution.

GWEB:

Leviticus 20:9 “‘The daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by playing the prostitute, she profanes her father. She shall be burned with fire.

Once again, Yahweh gives the appalling command to burn a woman to death for being a prostitute, if she is the daughter of a priest.

There is also an implicit claim that she deserves it because she “profanes her father”. No further comment is needed here; it should be obvious at this point that Yahweh is a moral monster. [11]

Objections are handled essentially as before.

2.1.6. Men who have sex with men.

GWEB:

Leviticus 20: 13 “‘If a man lies with a male, as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Yahweh commands that the death penalty be imposed to man who has sex with another man, and attempts to justify this by saying that they committed an abomination, implying that they deserved such punishment, which clearly isn’t true.

In this particular case, the method of execution is not specified. However, the execution itself and the suffering of being arrested and told that they would be killed would be pretty bad.

Moreover, the use of the expression ‘their blood shall be upon them’ associated it to the cases in which stoning was specified, and Yahweh did not raise any objections to the use of stoning – not that his actions wouldn’t be immoral if a different method to punish the innocent were specified.

Most of the objections are the same as before, and so they’re similarly handled, but I’ll consider some specific objections:

Objection 2.1.6.1. That command was only for cases of rape, not for all cases of homosexual sex between men.

Reply:

The command is that they both be killed, and the implication is that the both deserve the death penalty. If this was a command about cases of rape only, the command was at least very unjust towards the victim, and the implication that he deserved to be killed, false, even assuming that the perpetrator deserved it.

Objection 2.1.6.2. That command was only for cases of male prostitution, or maybe for some cases of ritualistic homosexual intercourse, or maybe for only cases in which they have sex on a woman’s bed, and not for all cases of homosexual sex between men.

Reply:

Even in those cases, they still didn’t deserve to be put to death for that. So, if what this objection claims is true, the command was still unjust.

Objection 2.1.6.3. The command is justified to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. In the case of heterosexual sex, there is also a risk of STD, but is required for reproduction.

Reply:

a. That is not supported by the text, and those ancient Israelites weren’t told anything about STD, anyway, so there is no way they could have understood that potential transmission of STD was the reason for the punishment.

b. A command to execute men for having sex with other men in order to prevent the spread of such illnesses would be unjust, anyway. Yahweh – the creator of all sexually transmitted illnesses, by the way, but let’s let that pass –, who often intervened in the affairs of some of the ancient Israelites, could have just stopped the illnesses all by himself – or refrained from causing them, but that aside -, instead of punishing innocent people.

c. Yahweh implied that they deserved to be killed, which is not true anyway.

d. There is no ban on heterosexual sex after menopause, even though that does not result in reproduction.

2.1.7. Inter-species sex.

GWEB:

Leviticus 20

20:15 "'If a man lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death; and you shall kill the animal. 20:16 "'If a woman approaches any animal, and lies down with it, you shall kill the woman, and the animal: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

In addition to the usual unjust commands and false moral claims, in this particular case Yahweh accuses any non-human animal who has sex with a woman for the “crime” of having sex with a woman, given that the expression “their blood shall be upon them” indicates their deaths are a punishment. In the case of a man having sex with a non-human animal, that expression is not used, but given the same context, it seems that the intent is also punitive.

It’s not that the woman or the man deserves to be killed, of course – objections are handled as in previous cases, mutatis mutandi, so I will not repeat them here for the sake of brevity -, or that this case is any worse than the others.

Also, very plausibly, killing the non-human animal in question as a punishment is not as immoral as killing the human man or woman involved, also as a punishment.

However, this case is curious because Yahweh is implicitly accusing an entity that is not even a moral agent[12] of acting immorally. There is a similar command in the case of a man having sex with a non-human animal (Leviticus 20:15), but in the case of a woman, the confused accusation on the non-human animal seems more clear, given the claim “their blood should be upon them”.

Objection 2.1.7.1. The non-human animals in question were possessed by demons, who deserved the punishment for having sex with women.

Reply:

a. That is not what the Bible says.

If Yahweh meant to say that this command only applied to possessed non-human animals, he should have said so in order to be understood.

Instead, the command applies to any woman, and any non-human animal she may choose to have sex with and which would have sex with her – she doesn’t have to pick one that is possessed.

b. This command is actually in line with a tendency to fail to realize that some beings aren’t moral beings, and punish them; I will provide another example later.

c. If Yahweh wanted to punish demons possessing non-human animals, Yahweh could simply do it himself, leaving the non-human animals alone.

d. As before, as an analogy, we may consider how Hamid should behave if he were told that a woman who has sex with a non-human animal deserves to be killed, and if he were commanded to carry out such a killing. Should he believe that the non-human animals in question would be possessed, and that she deserves to be killed for that?

Surely, that’s not the case.

2.1.8. Evil oxen?

GWEB:

Exodus 21

21:28 "If a bull gores a man or a woman to death, the bull shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the bull shall not be held responsible. 21:29 But if the bull had a habit of goring in the past, and it has been testified to its owner, and he has not kept it in, but it has killed a man or a woman, the bull shall be stoned, and its owner shall also be put to death. 21:30 If a ransom is laid on him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is laid on him. 21:31 Whether it has gored a son or has gored a daughter, according to this judgment it shall be done to him. 21:32 If the bull gores a male servant or a female servant, thirty shekels of silver shall be given to their master, and the ox shall be stoned.

Leaving aside other issues – like the injustice that the owner is to be put to death if the bull kills “a man or a woman”, but not “a male servant or a female servant” -, while killing a dangerous animal is acceptable in such cases, those are clearly not just commands to kill a dangerous ox. Rather, the ox is punished for his actions by being tortured to death by stoning.

In brief:

i. Killing the ox because he’s dangerous would probably have been acceptable in context.

ii. Killing the ox by stoning him to death because he was dangerous would have been unacceptable. There were clearly more humane ways of killing the ox, which were not more costly.

iii. Killing the ox by stoning him to death because of a belief that he deserved to be stoned to death as a punishment was unacceptable behavior, and also involved a serious confusion, like the failure to realize that oxen are not moral agents.

Yet, commanding that the ox be put to death by stoning was a way of implicitly saying that the ox deserved it. But he did not deserve it: the ox was just an ox.

So, in addition to cruelty against non-human animals, here Yahweh is implying that oxen who behaved in that manner were acting evilly, and deserved to be tortured to death for their actions.

Objection 2.1.8.1. The oxen were possessed by demons, who deserved the punishment for attacking humans.

Reply:

That is not what the Bible says, or how it was interpreted.

If Yahweh meant to say that this command only applied to possessed oxen, he should have said so in order to be understood.

But he did not, so the command applied to any ox, and even in the story, there is no good reason to believe that any ox that gored a human was possessed.

Objection 2.1.8.2. There was no implication that the ox deserved it. Stoning the ox to death was simply the procedure for killing him. Before animal rights activists brought confusion, there was no moral outrage at killing an animal.

Reply:

a. Even if the specific procedure for stoning humans differed from the procedure for stoning oxen, the fact remains that stoning in any of its variants was used generally for punishment in many ancient societies, including ancient Israel. It was not a normal procedure for killing oxen. So, there was an implicit moral condemnation of the ox for his actions.

b. It’s true that there was no moral outrage at killing an ox, and often there is no such outrage today. But that’s not the point, and the morality of killing oxen in other cases is not the matter at hand, either. In other words, the point I’m making here is not based on any claim about the rights of non-human animals. Rather, the point is about the moral confusion of the Old Testament on this issue. More precisely, the Old Testament implicitly held that oxen were morally guilty. That’s deeply confused, and so Yahweh was deeply confused too, or he was deceiving those ancient Israelites.

As a side note, and leaving aside the biblical description for a moment, of course in reality Yahweh does not exist and this was just a case of some ancient Israelites being confused. But that’s another matter, which exceeds the scope of this essay.

c. That said, on the issue of the rights of non-human animals, that too may properly be used to raise an objection to Old Testament laws, and one does not need to be an animal rights activist to recognize that killing an ox by stoning him to death when there are faster, less painful and no more costly methods, is unacceptable because it inflicts a lot of suffering unnecessarily.

2.1.9. Assorted commands and moral claims or implications.

Just to add some more evidence, I will quote a number of other immoral commands issued and/or false moral claims or implications made by Yahweh.

GWEB:

Leviticus 20:27 “‘A man or a woman that is a medium, or is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.’”

Leviticus 24:16 He who blasphemes Yahweh’s name, he shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him. The foreigner as well as the native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.

Deuteronomy 25:

25:11 When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draws near to deliver her husband out of the hand of him who strikes him, and puts forth her hand, and takes him by the secrets; 25:12 then you shall cut off her hand, your eye shall have no pity.

Those are some examples, but of immoral commands and false moral claims or implications. Many other examples can easily be found in the Bible.

Objection 2.1.9.1. You’re taking things out of context. You should consider Jesus’s life, and see that he was morally good. Then, if some passages in the Old Testament appear problematic, you should realize that Yahweh knows better than you do, and that once we’ve established – based on Jesus’ life, and/or other actions of Yahweh described in the Old Testament -, that he is morally good, we can conclude that Yahweh had good reasons for giving those commands.

Reply:

a. The ancient Israelites had no access to the New Testament, so it’s not the case that they should have considered Jesus’s life.

b. In any case, even counting the New Testament, what is proposed in this objection would be an improper way of assessing the moral character of Yahweh: essentially, it would amount to arbitrarily picking some of the actions described in the Bible, “conclude” from them that a being is morally good, and then claim that he must have had mysterious reasons for the others. However, just as we can use our sense of right and wrong to assess that some of his actions were good, we can use it to assess that some of his actions were profoundly evil.

c. It’s important to point out that it’s not the case that we don’t have sufficient information to make an assessment in the cases of the Old Testament under consideration: assuming the description in the biblical story – as usual -, in some cases we have the commands Yahweh gave, and the reasons used by him to attempt to justify them, including moral claims or implications that are false, etc.

d. Even considering Jesus’s actions, assuming that Jesus is Yahweh’s second person and that Jesus’ deeds can properly be attributed to Yahweh, Yahweh remains very evil, just as a dictator who tortures political opponents to death just for speaking out against some of his policies is a morally evil person, even if he is kind to his children, and even if he is good towards millions of people in the country he rules over. He’s not maximally morally bad, but still a morally evil person. Many of the actions carried out by Yahweh, as described in the Old Testament, are no better than those of the hypothetical dictator.

Objection 2.1.9.2. In the case of Yahweh, the interpretation that he is evil even though sometimes he [alternative objection: and/or his son] did good things, does not make sense, since it would make no sense for a person to be so good sometimes and so evil some other times. No person would act like that, unless he’s insane, and Yahweh does not appear to be so. So, we should reject the passages involving evil behavior.

Reply:

a. In the case of humans, there are plenty of people, in the past and today, who do both a lot of evil and a good number of good deeds, often try to do what’s right, and usually believe themselves to be morally good, or mostly so, even when they’re not.

For instance, many law-enforcement agents, judges, and rulers in all kinds of oppressive regimes, and/or brutal political and social environments, often justly arrest and/or punish murderers, terrorists, rapists, bank robbers, thieves in general, con artists, etc.

Sometimes, they impose reasonable penalties – not always, of course, but it’s not difficult to find examples of crimes in which the penalties are reasonable. Some other times, however, those people impose immorally severe penalties, or immorally punish people for actions for which they don’t deserve to be punished at all – like peaceful political opponents whose only “crime” is to speak out, apostates, or adults of the same sex who have consensual sex with each other and are punished for that -, etc.

It’s improbable that all of those people were or are insane.

b. Still, given some of the particular features of Yahweh’s behavior, it might be that a human who would behave in such a manner would be insane, but it’s not clear that we can extend that assessment of mental illness to all other intelligent species, or to all non-human intelligent entities with minds very different from human minds and who don’t belong to any species. In particular, I do not know that an assessment that Yahweh is insane would be warranted, even under that assumption about humans.

c. Actually, if – but it’s a big “if” - any entity that behaves as Yahweh in the description is insane under some of the usual concepts of ‘insane’, then the proper conclusion based on the description would seem to be that Yahweh, as described in the Bible, is indeed insane. Whether the kind of insanity in question would excuse his actions is another matter, but it seems very probable that it would not, since he would still know what he’s doing, acting of his own free will, etc.

But if the description entails that he’s insane, then it’s not the case that he does not appear to be insane, based on such description, so objection 2.1.7.2 would still fail.

Granted, someone might suggest that in any case, we should reject belief in an insane creator. While I think we have enough reason to reject all of the descriptions of Yahweh’s behavior, I see no good reason to selectively reject passages in order to avoid a conclusion of insanity and/or that he’s not a good person, that he’s a bad person, etc.

d. Leaving aside the biblical story for a moment, the people who wrote the passages of the Old Testament under consideration had very different moral beliefs and agendas from those writing the New Testament; further, different writers of the Old Testament had very different beliefs and agendas, and the same goes for different writers of the New Testament.

An obvious interpretation is that Yahweh and his actions were just imagined by some of the of the ancient Israelites, and his character reflects the moral beliefs of the writers, including many false ones.

Later, some other people made up different stories about Jesus, which are quite different from each other, and also considerably different from the stories in the Old Testament, and yet some other people put together an assortment of different stories, perhaps making the composed character look more alien. But that’s not the matter of this essay.

Objection 2.1.9.3. Yahweh is justified because he’s warning his people not to do evil.

Reply:

a. He’s making many false moral claims or implications, and giving many immoral commands. The actions for which people were to be burned to death, stoned to death, etc., are not actions for which they deserved anything like that.

b. Even if we assume for the sake of the argument that all of the actions for which people are being burned to death, stoned to death, etc., were indeed immoral – an implausible assumption, but let’s let that pass -, Yahweh would have been “warning” them not to do those particular immoral actions...by falsely claiming or implying that those involved in said actions deserved to be stoned to death, burned to death, etc., for those actions, and by commanding others to carry out far more immoral actions, namely inflicting such unjust punishments.

c. Moreover, Yahweh falsely claimed or implied that even the non-human animals involved in some of those actions described above deserved to be killed, stoned to death, etc., and gave the command to impose those punishments to those non-human animals. Who was he warning, then? Oxen?

The fact is that the code gave by Yahweh to the ancient Israelites is full of evil commands, false moral claims or implications and other absurd beliefs.

Stepping out of the story for a moment, it’s unsurprising that the code is so flawed, given that this code was invented by an ancient group of humans who were born in a society that already endorsed many brutal practices. But assuming that these were the commands given by Yahweh, he was clearly evil. And assuming that they weren’t, then Jesus was mistaken by believing they were – a matter that I will assess later.

2.1.10. The hardness of the hearts of the ancient Israelites.

I addressed the ‘hardness of the hearts’ objection earlier, but here I will address it in greater detail.

The basic idea behind that objection is that allegedly Jesus’s claim in the case of divorce also extends to other dispositions of the law given by Yahweh to the ancient Israelites, and allegedly that would justify Yahweh’s commands. I will argue that the objection fails.

OEB[1]

Mark 10

2 Presently some Pharisees came up and, to test him, asked: “Has a husband the right to divorce his wife?”

3 “What direction did Moses give you?” Replied Jesus. 4 “Moses,” they said, “permitted a man to ‘draw up in writing a notice of separation and divorce his wife.’”

5 “It was owing to the hardness of your hearts,” said Jesus, “that Moses gave you this direction; 6 but, at the beginning of the Creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother, 8 and the man and his wife will become one;’ so that they are no longer two, but one. 9 What God himself, then, has yoked together no one must separate.”

GWEB:

Mark 10

10:2 Pharisees came to him testing him, and asked him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”10:3 He answered, “What did Moses command you?” 10:4 They said, “Moses allowed a certificate of divorce to be written, and to divorce her.” 10:5 But Jesus said to them, "For your hardness of heart, he wrote you this commandment. 10:6 But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female.* 10:7 For this cause a man will leave his father and mother, and will join to his wife, 10:8 and the two will become one flesh,* so that they are no longer two, but one flesh. 10:9 What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."

This objection, however, fails for – at least – the following reasons:

a. Yahweh commanded some of the ancient Israelites to engage in those heinous acts of torture to death by burning or stoning people to death – among other atrocities.

The “hardness” of their hearts would not excuse giving them the order to commit such atrocities.

b. Yahweh clearly implied that the people to be burned, stoned, killed etc., and even the non-human animals to be punished, etc., deserved to be so punished. In addition to the general context, one can easily see those implications by looking considering at the wording of some of the commands; for instance:

GWEB:

Deuteronomy 22:

22:20 But if this thing be true, that the tokens of virginity were not found in the young lady; 22:21 then they shall bring out the young lady to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done folly in Israel, to play the prostitute in her father's house: so you shall put away the evil from the midst of you.

Here, the claim is that they shall stone her because she has done folly in Israel, implicitly saying that she deserves to be stoned to death because of her actions.

GWEB:

Leviticus 20:27“‘A man or a woman that is a medium, or is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.’”

Again, the punishment is not deserved, but again, it’s implied in context that it is.

GWEB:

Leviticus 21:9 “‘The daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by playing the prostitute, she profanes her father. She shall be burned with fire.

In this case, there is also an attempted justification for the command: “she profanes her father” - and implicitly, that’s why she allegedly deserves to burn with fire.

GWEB:

Leviticus 20:16 “‘ If a woman approaches any animal, and lies down with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.

Leviticus 20:13 “If a man lies with a male, as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

As in previous cases, Yahweh not ‘only’ condemns them to death, but he implies that they deserve to be put to death. That implication is clear in that context. But it’s not true. Those people did not deserve to be put to death.

So, it’s not only that Yahweh was passing laws because of the hardness of someone's hearts; he was also making false moral claims or implications.

c. Regardless of whether their hearts were hard or not, Yahweh was far more powerful, and was giving them a law, sometimes making threats and taking direct action to coerce some people to follow it.

So, he clearly could have made things much better if he had refrained from issuing evil commands and from making false moral claims or implications.

In fact, by giving evil commands and making false moral claims or implications, he was plausibly reinforcing their immoral practices and beliefs, and the “hardness” of their hearts.

d. Jesus himself believed that the law in question was morally acceptable at least in the context of ancient Israel, going by the biblical story, and as the following passages, among several others, show:

OEB[1]

Luke 16: 16 The law and the prophets sufficed until the time of John. Since then the good news of the kingdom of God has been told, and everybody has been forcing their way into it. 17 It would be easier for the heavens and the earth to disappear than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be lost.

Matthew 5:17 Do not think that I have come to do away with the law or the prophets; I have not come to do away with them, but to complete them. 18 For I tell you, until the heavens and the earth disappear, not even the smallest letter, nor one stroke of a letter, will disappear from the law until all is done.

GWEB:

Luke 16:

16:16 The law and the prophets were until John. From that time the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. 16:17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tiny stroke of a pen in the law to fall.

Matthew 5

5:17 "Don't think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn't come to destroy, but to fulfill. 5:18 For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished.

Granted, later he introduces changes. But even then, the fact remains that Jesus implied that Old Testament Law was just, and that following it, at least for the ancient Israelites who lived under Mosaic Law, was acceptable.

In particular, Jesus’s statements implied that if some of those ancient Israelites considered Old Testament Law to be just, and following Old Testament Law stoned a woman to death for having sex before marriage and then marrying – by choice or not – someone who didn’t know about it, or burned a woman to death if she was the daughter of a priest and was a prostitute, or burned a man and two women to death if he married them both, and they were mother and daughter, then they – i.e., the people inflicting those punishments – did not do anything immoral.

So, given that Jesus seemed to be at least reasonably acquainted with Old Testament Law – so, it’s not the case that he did not know what the Old Testament said about those matters -, then it seems clear that Jesus had some – many – false moral beliefs, unless he was lying. I will address the matter of Jesus’s take on Old Testament laws in greater detail later.

2.2. Foreign affairs.

In this subsection, I will assess commands given by Yahweh as rules for warfare.

GWEB:

Deuteronomy 20.

20:10 When you draw near to a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace to it. 20:11 It shall be, if it make you answer of peace, and open to you, then it shall be, that all the people who are found therein shall become tributary to you, and shall serve you. 20:12 If it will make no peace with you, but will make war against you, then you shall besiege it: 20:13 and when Yahweh your God delivers it into your hand, you shall strike every male of it with the edge of the sword: 20:14 but the women, and the little ones, and the livestock, and all that is in the city, even all its spoil, you shall take for a prey to yourself; and you shall eat the spoil of your enemies, which Yahweh your God has given you. 20:15 Thus you shall do to all the cities which are very far off from you, which are not of the cities of these nations. 20:16 But of the cities of these peoples, that Yahweh your God gives you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes; 20:17 but you shall utterly destroy them: the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite; as Yahweh your God has commanded you; 20:18 that they not teach you to do after all their abominations, which they have done to their gods; so would you sin against Yahweh your God.

Yahweh classifies other tribes in two groups, so let’s consider the rules for different types of cities:

2.2.1. Distant cities.

In the case of cities that are far off from the place where those ancient Israelites lived, Yahweh says that before attacking the city, the Israelite forces shall “proclaim peace”.

However, he’s clearly talking about an ultimatum, since if the city (presumably the government) accepts this “peace”, then all of its inhabitants became forced laborers. But if the government refuses to surrender, those ancient Israelite forces attack and when they win – somehow assisted by Yahweh, apparently -, then all adult males are in the city are killed, and women and children are taken as plunder. Then, those women would be taken as “wives” if the raiders so choose. In other words, they would become sex slaves, and be repeatedly raped, all in accordance to Old Testament Law.

Let’s take a look at this from the perspective of the inhabitants of one of those cities: a foreign force from a distant land approaches their city, and threatens to massacre men and take women and children as slaves if their leaders do not surrender and become servants. Surely, those people would be justified in assessing that the attackers were behaving unjustly – and rightly so.

So, let’s say that the government of the city does not surrender to the aggressor. Then, Yahweh’s command is to kill all adult men, regardless of whether they fought to defend their city, their loved ones, etc., and to take women and children as plunder.

It’s clear that Yahweh’s behavior is appalling. Yahweh here commands mass murder and enslavement of people who did not deserve to be killed or enslaved, including the enslavement of children. So, we have even more evidence about Yahweh’s wickedness.

Also, it would be immoral to follow the commands given by Yahweh, at least as long as there is no further reason that would justify it. For instance, a justification might be a credible threat by Yahweh to torture all of the inhabitants of the city for eternity in case the ancient Israelites in that situation fail to attack, but annihilate them when they die if the ancient Israelites in question attack. In that case, an attack may be justified, but not a willing attack, but rather, an attack to prevent more evil on the part of the moral monster Yahweh.

But clearly, this is not the situation we’re talking about. Nor is there any alternative justification. All those attackers had was an alleged commandment by a powerful entity, which in most cases, they haven’t even witnessed, even under the assumption of the existence of Yahweh, etc.. And even assuming that some of those attackers had witnessed some of Yahweh’s displays of power, a display of power is not an indication of moral goodness, or anything like that. Those who watched those displays of power had been commanded by a powerful entity to attack a city without provocation, kill all men, take women and children as slaves, steal property, and so on. That might reduce their degree of responsibility to some extent, but would not excuse their actions.

Objection 2.2.1.1. All other tribes in that area had even worse rules of war, or at least similarly bad. This was an improvement over previous laws.

Reply:

Even if that were true, that would not excuse Yahweh’s commands to engage in evil behavior.

Objection 2.2.1.2. Men who didn’t fight were to be spared.

Reply:

a. The Bible does not say so. It says all of them are to be killed. Women, on the other hand, would be taken as ‘plunder’.

b. Even if some men were to be spared, killing all men who fought to defend their community against an attacker and who were later captured or surrendered would be morally atrocious.

c. Even if prisoners would also to be spared and taken as slaves, attacking a city in order to take the female population as slaves that they would rape – leaving aside taking male slaves, stealing goods, etc. – would be morally abhorrent as well.

Objection 2.2.1.3. Women were not to be raped.

Reply:

That’s not true. While there was no commandment to rape in case an attack took place, those attackers who would feel like raping would be allowed to do so, and essentially that was one of the purposes of taking women as ‘plunder’ in the first place.

On that note, this is what the text says:

GWEB:

Deuteronomy 21.

21:10 When you go forth to battle against your enemies, and Yahweh your God delivers them into your hands, and you carry them away captive, 21:11 and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you have a desire to her, and would take her to you as wife; 21:12 then you shall bring her home to your house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; 21:13 and she shall put the clothing of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in your house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that you shall go in to her, and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. 21:14 It shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall let her go where she will; but you shall not sell her at all for money, you shall not deal with her as a slave, because you have humbled her.

So, the attacker was allowed to take the woman as a ‘wife’ - i. e., a sex slave, since her consent was not required. In that case, the victim would be given a month to mourn the death of her father and her mother – if the mother was also killed by Israelite forces, it seems -, and after that he would “go into her” (in other words, he would rape her), and make her his ‘wife’.

On the other hand, if the rapist later does not like her anymore, he would let her go free instead of selling her as a slave, because he “humbled” her.

This legal disposition would apply in a number of war scenarios, including the attacks on distant cities regulated in the previous chapter of Deuteronomy, and which I’m commenting on.

Granted, some of the women might be in a sense willing to become husbands of the attackers. For instance, there is such thing as Stockholm Syndrome after all. But that would not excuse his behavior, nor was it required. Her consent was simply not an issue.

Objection 2.2.1.4. Yahweh is sovereign, so all territories belong to him. Those defending the city were not defending what was theirs, since Yahweh gave some of the ancient Israelites the right to attack. Also, the women were created by Yahweh. He has the right to give them as wives to whomever he chooses, regardless of their consent.

Reply:

a. Even if Yahweh created them all, that would not justify enslaving any group of people living in distant cities and whom the ancient Israelite leaders just choose to attack. Nor would it justify giving women to their rapists, allowing such acts of rape, sex slavery, etc., promoting the belief that such behaviors were morally acceptable, and so on.

So, Yahweh was behaving immorally.

b. The defenders had no contact with Yahweh, no reason to believe that he was the creator of everything, and no knowledge that he had made an alliance with the invaders. Even if they had known, of course that would not would have justified the attacks, their enslavement, etc., but perhaps the fact that the victims of Yahweh and his followers were defending themselves, their families, their property, etc., and did not know that they were up against Yahweh, might make the injustice of the attack more clear to some potential readers.

c. The aggressors – i.e., those ancient Israelites who took part in an attack under these rules – in most cases hadn’t witnessed Yahweh’s feats, either. They only had a claim that Yahweh existed and commanded that. That’s not different from what people from many other tribes would have, with regard to claims about other entities with superhuman powers. Now, surely if some distant tribe had sent troops to ancient Israelite territory with the objective of reducing people to servitude or else plunder their cities, kill all the men and take women and children as slaves, etc., because their religious tradition said that was okay, that would have been immoral. The similar actions of the ancient Israelites who had the claim that Yahweh authorized it were similarly immoral.

d. Furthermore, those ancient Israelites who witnessed Yahweh’s feats should not have considered him morally good. He was very powerful, no doubt, but that’s not an indication of moral goodness. And his behavior clearly showed he wasn’t good, overall. In fact, it showed that he was a moral monster.

e. Let’s consider how those women plausibly felt – a matter those ancient Israelites should have pondered too, when they were ordered to attack -: They witnessed an attack on their city, the plunder and destruction of everything they knew in their lives, the slaughter of their sons by foreign raiders, and then they had to endure that those raiders take them and their daughters by force as slaves, and – if the raiders so choose - ‘marry’ them regardless of consent, and rape them for as long as the rapists saw fit. Inflicting all of that suffering was despicable, on the part of Yahweh and on the part of Yahweh's followers.

f. Similarly, those children witnessed an attack on their city, the plunder and destruction of everything they knew, the slaughter of their fathers, older brothers, etc., by foreign raiders, and the enslavement of their mothers, sisters, young brothers, etc., and then they too were taken as slaves.

So, it’s apparent that the attackers should not have engaged those behaviors.

Objection 2.2.1.5. Yahweh didn’t command such behavior. He just permitted it in case that the ancient Israelite leaders decided to attack a city.

Reply:

Yahweh tells them what to do in case they decide to attack, like killing all of the men and taking the women and children as plunder if the city does not surrender, so it is a command for those in such situations.

But in any case, authorizing those immoral actions and promoting the belief that they were not immoral, is morally unjustified. Yahweh could have easily banned them. Also, in any case, those ancient Israelites should not have attacked those cities just because Yahweh claimed to authorize them. ‘Authorization’ from a powerful being, creator or otherwise, does not justify inflicting horrendous suffering on the innocent.

Objection 2.2.1.6. Those cities had attacked Israel before.

Reply:

a. That’s not what the Bible says; the language clearly tells otherwise. Those were distant cities, not previous aggressors.

b. Even if that were true (but the text does not support that), it would still not justify the behavior described above. For instance, to take women as sex slaves would still be unacceptable.

Objection 2.2.1.7. Those children were not taken as slaves but adopted, and the women were taken as wives.

Reply:

a. Since their consent was not required – they were part of the plunder –, if those Israelite attackers took those women as ‘wives’ against their will, they raped them, and also enslaved them, since they had to obey their ‘husbands’. On the other hand, if they weren’t taken as ‘wives’, they were still enslaved.

Either way, they were enslaved.

b. There is no textual indication that the children were adopted. In fact, they were to be taken as plunder too.

Objection 2.2.1.8. The condition of slaves in ancient Israel was not as bad as the condition of slaves in any of the neighboring tribes.

Reply:

That would need to be argued for. Even if, in some other tribes, slaves were overall worse off, that does not entail that in all other tribes in the region, slaves were overall worse off. But in any case, that’s beside the point. Many of the actions of the ancient Israelite attackers, like the killing of all men, and the rape of women, would be morally unacceptable, regardless of the conditions of slaves elsewhere.

Objection 2.2.1.9. Yahweh allowed such behaviors to achieve a greater good, namely to fulfill his plan of salvation.

Reply:

a. His plans were regularly appalling, and in any case, there is no need to massacre and enslave all those people to ‘save’ others. Yahweh is enormously powerful, and can pretty much effortlessly run things as he chooses.

b. In any event, it should be clear that those ancient Israelites should have refrained from committing those actions. Let’s once again consider what Hamid should do if he were told that a powerful being is ‘allowing’ such behavior.

So, they should have rejected the ‘authorization’ given by Yahweh, and rejected the claim that he was morally good.

2.2.2. Dealing with some neighbors.

In the case of the Hittite, the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, Yahweh’s command is to kill them all.

Again, we may consider how the people of those cities felt when those ancient Israelite raiders entered their homes, slaughtered their children, siblings, parents, etc., before slaughtering them too. The behavior of the attackers was plain evil.

Objection 2.2.2.1. The adults were guilty of abominations in their worshiping of their gods.[13] They deserved to be killed. Additionally, killing them was needed because otherwise most of the ancient Israelites would have become worshipers of false deities as well.

Reply:

a. The Old Testament claims that the inhabitants of those cities committed abominations. But none of those ancient Israelites had anything remotely like conclusive evidence that all of the adults had committed abominations. What those ancient Israelites had, in most cases, was a claim made by someone else, if that. So, even if the targeted adults actually deserved to be killed, those ancient Israelites didn’t know that, and should not have followed the commands.

As before, one may adjust Hamid’s analogy to make a parallel.

b. Even if the ancient Israelites who participated in an attack of that sort had had good reasons to believe that the adults deserved the death penalty for some of their actions, the attackers should have realized that the slaughter of young children was not acceptable, since young children were neither guilty nor a threat. Of course, in some cases, they may well have realized that, but did it anyway.

c. The claim that the killings were needed because otherwise most of the ancient Israelites would have become worshipers of false deities as well is clearly untenable under the assumption that Yahweh exists and the other deities do not. Those other deities did not exist, so they wouldn’t be able to do anything to persuade any of the ancient Israelites that they did exist, whereas Yahweh could show his power whenever he chose.

Indeed, Yahweh could have even converted the other tribes, since they worshiped non-existent beings, whereas Yahweh is a real immensely powerful entity – of course, assuming the description in the story for the sake of the argument; I’m not suggesting that Yahweh actually exists.

Objection 2.2.2.2. The adults were guilty of abominations in their worshiping of their gods, who were actually demons. So, those adults deserved to be killed. Additionally, killing them was needed because otherwise most of the ancient Israelites would have become worshipers of demons as well. While Yahweh could have used his power to prevent those demons from contacting any humans, then show his powers to the other tribes, etc., that would have interfered with the free will of the demons and/or the free will of the members of the other tribes.

Reply:

a. That’s not even suggested in the text, and there would have been no good reason for those ancient Israelites to suspect that that was the case.

b. As explained above, the Old Testament claims that the inhabitants of those cities committed abominations. But the ancient Israelites did not have anything remotely like conclusive evidence that all of the adults had committed abominations. So, even if the targeted adults actually deserved to be killed, the ancient Israelites who took part in the attack didn’t know that, and should not have followed the commands.

As before, one may adjust Hamid’s analogy to make a parallel.

c. Moreover, if most people in those other tribes were worshiping entities with superhuman powers that gave immoral commands, etc., their situation seems similar to that of the ancient Israelites who worshiped Yahweh. Those demons may have been powerful and evil, but those are also two of Yahweh’s properties, as evidenced by the biblical descriptions.

d. Even if the ancient Israelites who participated in an attack of that sort had had good reasons to believe that the adults deserved the death penalty for some actions, the attackers should have realized that the slaughter of young children was not acceptable, since young children were neither guilty nor a threat.

e. Respecting the free will of the demons does not justify allowing them to roam around doing all sorts of evil deeds, just as we don’t allow murderers or rapists to do as they please in order to respect their free will. And Yahweh could have effortlessly stopped any demons.

Objection 2.2.2.3. Not all of the people in those cities were to be killed. Even if that part of the text says they were, Joshua 6 shows that a prostitute who hid Israelite spies and thus helped the Israelite attackers destroy her city and kill nearly everyone, was spared.

Reply:

Even if a few traitors who helped the attackers were to be spared, that does not justify the slaughter of everyone else, including children, etc.

Objection 2.2.2.4. There may have been exceptions for other people, apart from traitors. Maybe those who repented and converted were spared.

Reply:

There is no textual evidence of that, and in fact the targets of the attack are not told to repent or convert, but in any case, that still would not justify the behavior of the attackers, the slaughter of young children, etc.

Objection 2.2.2.5. Young children who were killed went to Heaven, so that’s not a problem.

Reply:

a. The ancient Israelites in question were never told about Heaven. They did not believe that those children were going to Heaven. Nor did they have any good reasons to believe so, or that there was any justification for the killing.

b. The children in question didn’t just move from existence on Earth to existence in Heaven painlessly. Rather, many of them died after horrible suffering, which wouldn’t be justified even if they went to Heaven later. If Yahweh wanted to place them in Heaven, he could just zap them without suffering, so that they would immediately be transported to Heaven.

c. Let’s take a look at the situation:

An army enters a city and slaughters the entire population, adults and children, men and women, young and old. Many of the inhabitants had to see their children, parents, siblings, espouses, etc., being slaughtered before their eyes, before they too were killed.

The attackers do that based merely on the commands they find in a traditional stories and/or legal dispositions, in many cases written before the people they’re killing were even born, or merely on the basis of a direct command by a powerful entity.

It should be obvious that the behavior of the attackers was very evil, unless again there was a sufficient threat in case of disobedience, like a credible threat from the most powerful being stating that unless the inhabitants of the city are slaughtered, he will torture all of them forever. But that was not the case, and even in such a case, those receiving the command should not believe that the entity making the threat is morally good. Nor is there any indication of another threat that would justify either attacking those cities and killing everyone, or believing that the commands to do so were the commands of a morally good ruler of the world.

Objection 2.2.2.6. Young children were knocked unconscious by Yahweh, so none of them suffered.

Reply:

There is no suggestion in the text that Yahweh would do that every time that some ancient Israelites followed his command and killed everyone in a city.

Given that, those ancient Israelites had no good reason to suspect that that would happen.

As I explained earlier, those ancient Israelites ought to have disobeyed even an order to kill even all of the adults, but even if we leave that aside and we assume for the sake of the argument that it would not have been unacceptable for them to follow the order to kill everyone if they had had conclusive evidence that young children would be knocked unconscious by Yahweh beforehand, the fact is that they had nothing remotely like conclusive evidence, and so they ought to have disobeyed as well, given that there was no other justification, either.

Objection 2.2.2.7. The ancient Israelites who follow Yahweh’s orders, every time, had some justification that we don’t know about.

Reply:

a. The biblical account attempts to portray the ancient Israelites who follow Yahweh’s orders in a positive light, so one would expect that they would have included a reference to a justification if they had them. So, based on that, the claim made in this objection seems very implausible.

b. Moreover, even leaving a. aside, after carefully considering the matter, it is clear that no excuse justified either their actions and the actions of Yahweh’s.

Perhaps, a sufficiently clear threat by Yahweh to inflict far worse punishment on their innocent victims if those ancient Israelites failed to follow their commands might have justified their actions – but that isn’t the case under consideration -, but surely not Yahweh’s actions. And given his amount of power – he is essentially the ruler of the world, and can do as he pleases -, it seems clear that there was no justification for his behavior.

Nor is there any other justification for their behavior. They were just engaging in immoral actions. It would not be a reasonable interpretation of the story described in the Bible to say that there were some mysterious reasons justifying the behavior of those obeying Yahweh in all those cases.

Objection 2.2.2.8. Those passages were not to be taken literally.

Reply:

There is no textual indication of that. In fact, it seems clear in context that those are rules for waging war, and so without any indication to the contrary, plausibly the literal interpretation should be regarded as the correct one.

Objection 2.2.2.9. The passages regulating war in an immoral fashion are not actual commands from Yahweh. Jesus protected children. How could the same entity command the ancient Israelites to slaughter children like that?

Reply:

a. For that matter, one might ask how could the same entity kill children horribly with viruses, bacteria, and all sorts of parasites. It would be an entity with a mind very different from that of normal humans.

b. Even leaving aside viruses, etc., that infect children regularly, Yahweh directly targeted David’s son in order to punish his father, slaughtered children in Egypt, specifically ordered the slaughter of everyone in many cities, including children (e. g., 1 Samuel 15: 3, ‘Now go and strike Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and don’t spare them; but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’), and generally engaged in moral atrocities all around. So, there is nothing particularly surprising about his behavior here.

On that note, an ancient Israelite with access to the stories we find in the Old Testament should not have found the command to slaughter children to be unusual for Yahweh. He or she should have rejected the claim that Yahweh was morally good, of course.

c. That aside, it is true that, if one considers Jesus’s behavior as well as Yahweh’s behavior in the Old Testament, and one assumes they’re the same entity, then some of his actions would seem more than odd for a normal human, or an entity with a similar mind. In fact, a normal human would not be a monster like Yahweh. But there are even humans who engage in moral atrocities, while at the same time believe that they’re doing the right thing. Some other times, they actually do the right thing. Many religious fanatics of different religions are examples of that. Perhaps, even they would not go as far as Yahweh would go. But we’re talking about an entity who is three persons (whatever that means), and whose first and third person are not human. Such an entity may well have a mind vastly different from that of normal human beings. At least, the story depicts that, and considerations about human psychology are not a significant objection to the straightforward interpretation of the story.

Objection 2.2.2.10. The passages regulating war in an immoral fashion are not commands from Yahweh. We should check whether Old Testament passages come from Yahweh in light of Jesus’s words and actions.

Reply:

I will address some issues about Jesus later, but here I will point out that even that objection would not apply to the situation of an ancient Israelite, who had no access to the New Testament, and who should have concluded that Yahweh was morally evil based on the accounts available to them – aside from the question of what they would have concluded about Yahweh’s existence, in case they didn’t witness any of his actions.

3. Some events described in the Old Testament.

In this subsection, I will address accounts of events described in the Old Testament, involving, among others, commands and/or direct action by Yahweh, and/or approval by Yahweh of the actions of some of the ancient Israelites.

3.1. The Flood.

The Flood account (Genesis 6-9) was interpreted literally by nearly all Christian denominations and nearly all Christians, and for nearly all of the time Christianity has existed. Nowadays, the situation has changed, and many, perhaps most Christians reject such interpretation, and favor either a localized flood, or no flood at all. I will consider first the Flood as described in the Bible, and then deal with other interpretations when assessing objections.

So, according to the Bible, Yahweh flooded the world and killed everyone, except for those on board the ark. That was morally unacceptable, for a number of reasons. I will focus on one of them, which is sufficient to establish this point: young children.

Since Yahweh killed everyone in the world except for those on board the Ark, it’s clear that that included many young children. But Yahweh flooded everything with massive rains, rather than, say, zapping everyone so that they instantly die. Their deaths, in many cases, would not have been immediate, but would have come after different amounts of suffering, from a little to a lot.

So, some of those children would have seen their parents or siblings suffer and then die, would have tried to breathe and stay afloat only to fail and succumb, etc.; in short, it would have been horrendous for them. Yet, they did not deserve such suffering.

Even if Yahweh had been justified in doing that to the rest of the people who endured his actions, and even if he had been justified in killing those young children (I reckon that neither of the two is true, but leaving that aside), the fact would remain that the suffering he inflicted on young children was completely unnecessary to achieve that goal, and so it’s clear that such behavior was immoral.

Objection 3.1.1. The flood was local, not global. It covered a large area in the Near East, but surely not the world.

Reply:

If that is the case, then Yahweh immorally inflicted a lot of pointless suffering on a smaller number of young children. But that’s still immoral behavior on his part, and actually very immoral, given what it consisted in.

Objection 3.1.2. There were no young children in the affected area.

Reply:

It’s implicit in the text that there were human tribes in the affected area, and given basic facts about human behavior, the reasonable conclusion assuming that the flood in question happened is that almost certainly there were many young children.

Objection 3.1.3. Yahweh didn’t make the young children in question suffer. They were just zapped into Heaven.

Reply:

There is no textual support for that. The text clearly specified flooding by means of massive rains as the method of killing, making no exceptions beyond the Ark. Given that method, the reasonable conclusion assuming that the flood in question happened – either globally or even locally – is that almost certainly, at least some children suffered horribly because of that.

Objection 3.1.4. Yahweh didn’t make the young children in question suffer. Yahweh made them unconscious so that they wouldn’t suffer.

Reply:

There is no textual support for that, even though the Flood account seems intent on giving a rather detailed account of Yahweh’s involvement in those events, and even though that would have partially excused some of Yahweh’s behavior, making them particularly relevant because of that.

So, this interpretation appears quite improbable.

Objection 3.1.5. Those children suffered as a means of punishing the parents and/or older siblings, who witnessed their suffering. Whenever the parents/older siblings died first, young children were just zapped into heaven, or alternatively young children always died first.

Reply:

a. There is no textual support for the view that some of the children were zapped into heaven. The text clearly specified flooding by means of massive rains as the method of killing.

b. While young children would die first in most cases, it’s extremely improbable that that would always be the case.

c. In any event, it would be immoral to inflict such suffering in young children as a means of making their parents suffer, regardless of how evil their parents may have been, or how much suffering they may have deserved.

Objection 3.1.6. Many young children suffer horribly as a result of viruses, bacteria, parasitic worms that burrow through their eyes, etc. If the objection to the Flood based on the suffering of children were successful, for that matter an argument from suffering would be successful against a much broader range of theistic views than Christianity.

Reply.

Actually, I hold that an argument from suffering does succeed, and those examples may properly be used as part of it.

However, some philosophers may suggest that suffering caused as a result of the general ‘laws of nature’ is justified, or something along those lines.

My position is that such a reply does not succeed, but there is no need to make that claim or take a stance on that in this context. It’s enough for me to assess that specifically inflicting such suffering by a flood is immoral.

Objection 3.1.7. The Flood never happened, locally or globally.

Reply:

While that avoids a moral objection to Christianity based on the Flood account, it’s in conflict with the account in Genesis, plus other passages of the Old Testament and New Testament that refer to the Flood account (Isaiah 54:9, Hebrews 11:7, 2 Peter 2:4-5) and implicitly hold that Yahweh did not do anything immoral.

Objection 3.1.8. The Flood never happened, locally or globally. However, the passages describing it ought not to be rejected, but rather interpreted in a non-literal way. They were meant to teach moral lessons, not history.

Reply:

a. The account is taken literally in the New Testament (Hebrews 11:7, 2 Peter 2:4-5).

b. In any case, the story is one that depicts Yahweh behaving immorally, while the Bible implies, given context, that his behavior is morally acceptable. So, if it was meant to teach moral lessons, it would have taught mistaken moral lessons.

3.2. Egypt.

In this subsection, I will assess some of the events described in the Book of Exodus.

At that time, the ancient Israelites were slaves in Egypt – as usual, according to the story -, so Yahweh decided to set them free. That alone wouldn’t be a problem, but the methods are, as we shall see:

GWEB:

Exodus 4.

4:1 Moses answered, “But, behold, they will not believe me, nor listen to my voice; for they will say, ‘Yahweh has not appeared to you.'” 4:2 Yahweh said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A rod.” 4:3 He said, “Throw it on the ground.” He threw it on the ground, and it became a snake; and Moses ran away from it. 4:4 Yahweh said to Moses, “Put forth your hand, and take it by the tail.” He put forth his hand, and laid hold of it, and it became a rod in his hand. 4:5 “That they may believe that Yahweh, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” 4:6 Yahweh said furthermore to him, “Now put your hand inside your cloak.” He put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, as white as snow. 4:7 He said, “Put your hand inside your cloak again.” He put his hand inside his cloak again, and when he took it out of his cloak, behold, it had turned again as his other flesh. 4:8 "It will happen, if they will neither believe you nor listen to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign. 4:9 It will happen, if they will not believe even these two signs, neither listen to your voice, that you shall take of the water of the river, and pour it on the dry land. The water which you take out of the river will become blood on the dry land."

So, Yahweh was willing to provide evidence of the fact that - at the very least - that a being with superhuman powers was involved, and indeed on Moses’s side. That plausibly would have convinced Pharaoh to let those ancient Israelites go.

However, Yahweh interfered also by altering Pharaoh’s minds, so that he would not let them go:

GWEB[1]

Exodus 4.

4:21 Yahweh said to Moses, "When you go back into Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your hand, but I will harden his heart and he will not let the people go. 4:22 You shall tell Pharaoh, ‘Thus says Yahweh, Israel is my son, my firstborn, 4:23 and I have said to you, “Let my son go, that he may serve me;” and you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.'"

GWEB:

Exodus 7.

7:1 Yahweh said to Moses, "Behold, I have made you as God to Pharaoh; and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. 7:2 You shall speak all that I command you; and Aaron your brother shall speak to Pharaoh, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land. 7:3 I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. 7:4 But Pharaoh will not listen to you, and I will lay my hand on Egypt, and bring forth my armies, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. 7:5 The Egyptians shall know that I am Yahweh, when I stretch forth my hand on Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them."

After Moses’s display of power, which surpassed those of Egyptian sorcerers, Pharaoh refused to let those ancient Israelites go, so Yahweh said:

GWEB:

Exodus 7. 14Yahweh said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn. He refuses to let the people go.

It’s not surprising that Pharaoh was stubborn, given that Yahweh was using his powers to harden Pharaoh’s heart, but that’s Yahweh’s fault.

So, anyway, Yahweh kept using his powers in an appalling manner:

GWEB:

Exodus 7.

7:20 Moses and Aaron did so, as Yahweh commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and struck the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. 7:21 The fish that were in the river died; and the river became foul, and the Egyptians couldn't drink water from the river; and the blood was throughout all the land of Egypt. 7:22 The magicians of Egypt did in like manner with their enchantments; and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he didn't listen to them; as Yahweh had spoken. 7:23 Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he lay even this to heart. 7:24 All the Egyptians dug around the river for water to drink; for they couldn't drink of the water of the river. 7:25 Seven days were fulfilled, after Yahweh had struck the river.

Making the water from the river undrinkable would inflict considerable suffering on the Egyptian population at large, including of course young children. But there was no need for that, since Yahweh could have simply forced Pharaoh, for example by means of making threats of by means of directly altering Pharaoh’s mind.

Now, given all of the options available to Yahweh, it’s debatable whether making threats or directly altering Pharaoh’s mind so that he would let the slaves go would have been morally acceptable, but at least it’s clear that the course of action Yahweh chooses was morally unacceptable.

An analogous case would be as follows: let’s say that a brutal, murderous dictator has taken thousands of people as slaves from a neighboring country. In order to set them free, we have at least the following three options:

i. We can use a drug that will make the dictator temporarily obedient to our commands, and then tell him to set the slaves free. That’s guaranteed to work. Then, we can protect the former slaves in their country of origin by protecting that country from attack.

ii. We can inflict pain and suffering on the dictator and/or some of his accomplices, in order to force his hand, but without making innocent people suffer, other than perhaps indirectly if, say, their family members are some of the ones we target. That will also work.

iii. We can inflict pain and suffering on the population of the country ruled by the dictator, including young children, for a long time. That is also guaranteed to work eventually.

Also, we may assume that, in all cases, we can easily defeat any kind of retaliation from the dictator or from anyone else. Also, there are no other entities with greater power than ours making any kind of threats. Given that, it seems pretty clear that it would be immoral to pick option iii.

But Yahweh picked an option that would be essentially equivalent to iii, if it weren't for the fact that Yahweh himself hardened Pharaoh’s heart, which makes Yahweh's actions even worse.

Granted, Yahweh had even more options, so it might be debatable whether even something like i. or ii. would have been acceptable for someone in his position, but the point here is that at least he had those three options, and that given that he had those three options, picking something like iii. or even worse was morally unacceptable, since it inflicts a lot of suffering on beings that do not deserve to be harmed in that fashion – or at all – while some of the alternatives would achieve the intended goal as well, without that suffering.

Objection 3.2.1. Yahweh didn’t actually altered Pharaoh’s mind. That was a figurative way of saying that Pharaoh was unreasonably unyielding.

Reply:

We may grant for the sake of the argument that Pharaoh's mind was not deliberately altered by Yahweh, and Yahweh's option is similar to iii. - while Yahweh had plenty more options at his disposal. There was no need to inflict such horrific suffering on the innocent. Yahweh's behavior is still abominable.

Objection 3.2.2. Yahweh didn’t actually altered Pharaoh’s mind. That was a figurative way of saying that Pharaoh was unreasonably unyielding. Also, Yahweh did not altered Pharaoh’s mind directly to respect his freedom of choice, so Yahweh wouldn’t choose anything like i. above.

Reply:

Actually, making threats, bringing suffering upon many people, etc., were means of coercing Pharaoh. His choice to let those ancient Israelites go was surely not free. It’s not that there is a problem with coercing evil people and force them to let the innocent alone (within limits), but the point is that Yahweh wasn’t respecting Pharaoh’s freedom; rather, it was taking it away.

But regardless, given Yahweh’s huge power, there was always the option of targeting Pharaoh and his accomplices with accuracy, instead of hitting the innocent too with mostly indiscriminate weapons. As before, it’s debatable whether that alternative would have been acceptable, given all of the means available to Yahweh, but what is clear that given that at least that alternative was available, the course of action that Yahweh took was not morally acceptable – not even close to being acceptable.

Objection 3.2.3. Yahweh did not cause any suffering on any young children. All young children were either zapped into Heaven immediately without suffering, or knocked unconscious so that they would not suffer.

Reply:

There is not textual evidence of that. In fact, some of Yahweh's actions were indiscriminately destructive, causing suffering to Egyptians in general. Given the specific details of some of those accounts, one would have expected that something as extraordinary as all children being made unconscious or dead without suffering would have been specified. It was not.

Moreover, some of those attacks also inflicted suffering on Egyptians who were slaves, oppressed, etc. - not just on Pharaoh and/or his accomplices.

Objection 3.2.4. The passages were not meant to be taken literally. That never happened.

Reply:

a. There seems to be no good textual support for that, and apparently they usually if not always were taken literally in ancient Israel, by those familiar with the text.

b. The New Testament supports the literal interpretation as well, since the massacre of the firstborn and other events from Exodus are mentioned in Hebrews 11, and the writer of Hebrews 11 clearly implies that was a real example of past events. I will address that in greater detail later.

Objection 3.2.5. The passages were not true. That never happened.

Reply:

That would seem to require leaving aside part of the New Testament as well, since the New Testament refers to some the events in Egypt depicted in the Old Testament (Acts 7, Acts 13, Romans 9, Hebrews 3, Hebrews 8, Hebrews 11, etc.), without ever suggesting that much of the Old Testament description was false. I will address the connections between the Old Testament – including the Flood and some of the other parts I’m specifically addressing – and the New Testament in greater detail later.

3.3. Canaan.

Joshua 6-11 describes the war waged by some ancient Israelites against a number of other tribes. The Israelite human leader is Joshua, who in turn takes orders from his boss, Yahweh.

So, Joshua 6 describes an attack on Jericho, as ordered by Yahweh. According to the description, no one is spared in that attack – and that includes men, women, children, etc., no matter whether they’re too young to be guilty of anything – with the following exceptions: a woman called ‘Rahab’ and anyone in her house are to be spared, because she treacherously protected some Israelite spies. But other than that, everyone is slaughtered.

For example:

GWEB:

Joshua 6

6:20 So the people shouted, and the priests blew the trumpets. It happened, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, that the people shouted with a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. 6:21 They utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, both young and old, and ox, and sheep, and donkey, with the edge of the sword. 6:22 Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, "Go into the prostitute's house, and bring out from there the woman and all that she has, as you swore to her." 6:23 The young men who were spies went in, and brought out Rahab with her father, her mother, her brothers, and all that she had. They also brought out all her relatives, and they set them outside of the camp of Israel. 6:24 They burnt the city with fire, and all that was in it. Only they put the silver, the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron into the treasury of Yahweh's house. 6:25 But Rahab the prostitute, her father's household, and all that she had, Joshua saved alive. She lived in the midst of Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers, whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.

The behavior of the attackers is clearly morally abhorrent, and so is that of Rahab. Her guilt would be mitigated or even eliminated if she had been tortured, or credibly threatened, etc., but that does not seem to be a probable interpretation, given that she's being rewarded for her treacherous behavior, which resulted in the slaughter of all of the other inhabitants of the city, including non-combatant adults, prisoners of war, and all children, and the infliction of horrible suffering on the innocent – as they were being hacked and stabbed to death, etc. - by Joshua and his accomplices.

Moreover, the text says that Yahweh was backing Joshua, and later Yahweh directly told Joshua to attack another Canaanite city, Ai:

GWEB:

Joshua 8

8:1 Yahweh said to Joshua, Don't be afraid, neither be dismayed: take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai; behold, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land; 8:2 You shall do to Ai and her king as you did to Jericho and her king: only its spoil, and its livestock, you shall take for a prey to yourselves: set you an ambush for the city behind it.

So, clearly Yahweh approved of the massacre of the people of Jericho. He commanded the attack in the first place, and approved of the manner in which it was carried out. Moreover, he told Joshua to do pretty much the same to the people of Ai.

In this case, Joshua set up an ambush. His forces approached Ai to draw their defenders out, and then killed them. After that, they massacred the rest of the defenseless people of Ai:

GWEB:

Joshua 8

8:24 It happened, when Israel had made an end of killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the field, in the wilderness in which they pursued them, and they were all fallen by the edge of the sword, until they were consumed, that all Israel returned to Ai, and struck it with the edge of the sword. 8:25 All that fell that day, both of men and women, were twelve thousand, even all the men of Ai. 8:26 For Joshua didn't draw back his hand, with which he stretched out the javelin, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. 8:27 Only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took for prey to themselves, according to the word of Yahweh which he commanded Joshua. 8:28 So Joshua burnt Ai, and made it a heap forever, even a desolation, to this day. 8:29 The king of Ai he hanged on a tree until the evening: and at the going down of the sun Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree, and cast it at the entrance of the gate of the city, and raised thereon a great heap of stones, to this day.

It is apparent that Joshua should not have behaved like that. Having received orders from a powerful being does not do anything to excuse his behavior – and Yahweh is the one who commanded such behavior.

All non-combatants were targeted and killed by Joshua, even after all enemy forces had been defeated. Also, Joshua had no good reason to believe that all of the adult non-combatants were guilty of any behavior that merited the death penalty. A command from a powerful being is surely not enough, much less if the powerful being has the track record of Yahweh, who on many occasions gave commands that shouldn’t have been followed by those he gave those commands to, as I’ve been explaining.

But moreover, even leaving that aside, and even if Joshua had had good reasons to believe that all of adult non-combatants deserved to be killed, the fact is that Joshua did not stop with the adults. As commanded by Yahweh, he killed all young children as well, and those children were obviously neither guilty of any crime nor a threat to Joshua or his troops, or to other people.

The description speaks for itself, and it seems perfectly in line with the murderous behavior of several ancient Israelite leaders described in the Bible. Also, Yahweh clearly approves of such behavior by Joshua.

After the massacres of the people of Jericho and Ai, some people from Gibeon came up with a ruse: They pretended to be from a distant land, so that Joshua would accept them as servants instead of killing them. The ruse, unlike Joshua’s ruse in the attack on Ai, was not meant to kill anyone, adult or child. Rather, those people came up with a ruse as a means to save their lives from a powerful aggressor bent on taking their land and killing them all. The ruse worked so their lives were spared, but they were enslaved instead. The people of Jericho and Ai weren’t so “lucky”, since their leaders didn’t come up with a ruse to have them enslaved.

After Gideon’s surrendered, the five kings of the Amorites decided to attack Gideon in retaliation for surrendering to Israelite forces. While the Bible does not describe the details of the attack by those Amorite leaders, we may grant that it was done in a particularly heinous manner if needed, since that’s not the point here.

Joshua, his troops and Yahweh counterattacked, easily defeating the attackers. Unsurprisingly given the vast difference in firepower, most of the fatalities were caused by Yahweh, who threw huge stones at them from the sky. Later, Yahweh showed his support for Joshua by stopping the Sun and the Moon in the sky at Joshua’s request.

After those kings and their troops were defeated and killed, Joshua and his troops attacked another city, Makkedah (Joshua 10:28), repeating the pattern shown in Jericho and Ai: everyone was slaughtered, including defenders of the city, non-combatants, men, women, young children, the elderly, etc.

After Makkedah, similar massacres was committed against the people of Libnah, and then Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, Devir, and many others, as the following passages describe:

GWEB:

Joshua 10

10:29 Joshua passed from Makkedah, and all Israel with him, to Libnah, and fought against Libnah: 10:30 and Yahweh delivered it also, and its king, into the hand of Israel; and he struck it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls who were therein; he left none remaining in it; and he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho. 10:31 Joshua passed from Libnah, and all Israel with him, to Lachish, and encamped against it, and fought against it: 10:32 and Yahweh delivered Lachish into the hand of Israel; and he took it on the second day, and struck it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls who were therein, according to all that he had done to Libnah. 10:33 Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish; and Joshua struck him and his people, until he had left him none remaining. 10:34 Joshua passed from Lachish, and all Israel with him, to Eglon; and they encamped against it, and fought against it; 10:35 and they took it on that day, and struck it with the edge of the sword; and all the souls who were therein he utterly destroyed that day, according to all that he had done to Lachish. 10:36 Joshua went up from Eglon, and all Israel with him, to Hebron; and they fought against it: 10:37 and they took it, and struck it with the edge of the sword, and its king, and all its cities, and all the souls who were therein; he left none remaining, according to all that he had done to Eglon; but he utterly destroyed it, and all the souls who were therein. 10:38 Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to Debir, and fought against it: 10:39 and he took it, and its king, and all its cities; and they struck them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed all the souls who were therein; he left none remaining: as he had done to Hebron, so he did to Debir, and to its king; as he had done also to Libnah, and to its king. 10:40 So Joshua struck all the land, the hill country, and the South, and the lowland, and the slopes, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but he utterly destroyed all that breathed, as Yahweh, the God of Israel, commanded. 10:41 Joshua struck them from Kadesh Barnea even to Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, even to Gibeon. 10:42 All these kings and their land did Joshua take at one time, because Yahweh, the God of Israel, fought for Israel. 10:43 Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp to Gilgal.

The biblical description is crystal clear, and speaks for itself. More evil deeds are described in Joshua 11.

Objection 3.3.1. Those passages are not true. Jesus loved children and would not have behaved like that, and that gives us sufficient grounds to reject the offending passages.

Reply:

a. Even if Jesus would not have behaved like that, that does not mean that the first person of the Christian trinity wouldn’t have, if they are the same entity, because if they are, then Yahweh is a being who is three persons (whatever that means), and only one of them is human. If the source of information about said being says it behaved in certain ways, why reject the passages in which he behaves immorally and choose the others?

b. Immoral behavior by Yahweh seems to be very common in the Old Testament, as I’ve been pointing out in this essay. Assuming that Yahweh is a trinity, the first person behaves appallingly very often.

c. Moreover, Jesus may have loved children, but even then, he believed or at least implied that following Mosaic Law would not have been immoral for the ancient Israelites who lived under such law, even if he meant to change those laws for the future.

d. There are passages of the New Testament that refer to the acts described in the Old Testament passages under consideration.

For instance, the story of Jericho is brought about in Hebrews 11:30-32, but there is no suggestion in Hebrews – or anywhere else in the New Testament, for that matter -, that only part of the story is true.

So, why did the author of Hebrews 11 implicitly commended the actions of Joshua and the ancient Israelite forces in Jericho, without even suggesting that if those people behaved as described in the Old Testament, their actions were not commendable, but morally abhorrent?

So, it seems someone rejecting the Old Testament passages describing the atrocities mentioned above would also have to reject Hebrews 11:30-32.

I will assess the matter of some of the connections between the Old and the New Testament in greater detail later.

Objection 3.3.2. Not all non-combatants were to be killed. Rahab wasn’t, and neither were those in her house. She was righteous, so she was spared.

Reply:

a. A traitor who hides enemy spies before the attack is not a non-combatant.

b. She betrayed her city, and help an enemy army slaughter everyone else except for those in her house, including young children. While fear for her life and/or the lives of her loved ones might somewhat diminish the extent of her guilt, it’s clear that her actions were appalling as well.

c. In any case, even if some people had been spared, the targeting and slaughtering of all of those innocents was evil – and all young children were innocent. There was no justification.

Objection 3.3.3. Yahweh knocked all young children unconscious beforehand, so that they would not suffer.

Reply:

a. There is no textual evidence of that, and surely such a massive intervention by Yahweh would have been a very salient event, which would have been recorded.

b. The ancient Israelites who received the order to attack did not have any good evidence that young children would be knocked unconscious beforehand.
As I explained earlier, they ought not to have obeyed an order to target all of the adults they targeted, either, but leaving that aside, and even assuming for the sake of the argument that those ancient Israelites would have been justified in attacking as they did if they had had conclusive evidence that all young children would be knocked unconscious beforehand, the fact remains that they did not have anything remotely like conclusive evidence, and so they ought not to have obeyed Yahweh’s orders, given that there was no other justification, either.

Objection 3.3.4. The ancient Israelites in question had some justification that we don’t know about.

Reply:

a. The biblical account attempts to portray the ancient Israelites who follow Yahweh’s orders in a positive light, so one would expect that they would have included a reference to a justification if they had them. So, based on that, the claim made in this objection seems very implausible.

b. Moreover, even leaving a. aside, after carefully considering the matter, it is clear that no excuse justified either their actions and the actions of Yahweh’s.

Perhaps, a sufficiently clear threat by Yahweh to inflict far worse suffering on their innocent victims if those ancient Israelites failed to follow their commands – but that isn’t the case under consideration – might have justified their actions, but surely not Yahweh’s actions. And given his amount of power – he is essentially the ruler of the world, and can do as he pleases -, it seems clear that there was no justification for his behavior.

Nor is there any other justification for their behavior. They were just engaging in immoral actions. It would not be a reasonable interpretation of the story described in the Bible to say that there were some mysterious reasons justifying the behavior of those obeying Yahweh in all those cases.

Objection 3.3.5. Yahweh did nothing wrong against those children, who were taken to Heaven, when they have eternal bliss.

Reply:

a. Even if they were taken to Heaven, that would not justify commanding an action that would inflict horrible suffering on many of those children, as they would be hacked to death by those ancient Israelite soldiers. The fact is that Yahweh could have moved them to a place of bliss without any suffering. The actions of Yahweh were not justified.

b. The soldiers who committed the slaughter neither believed in Heaven, nor had any good reasons to even suspect that the infants they were about to slay would go to Heaven. So, they didn’t even have that attempted excuse.

In any case, had those soldiers believed in Heaven, and had they further had good reasons to believe that the infants they were about to hack to death would go to Heaven, they should have realized that Yahweh’s actions were morally unacceptable as pointed out in a., and that so was what was demanded of them, since that horrific slaughter is not justified by further rewards no matter how great – for that matter, again, Yahweh had the option of taking those children to Heaven directly, with no prior horrific torment.

But let’s consider the actions of the soldiers (including commanders, etc.), in greater detail:

c. Those ancient Israelites who had witnessed at least one of Yahweh’s displays of power in the context of his giving the command to attack and commit the massacre had at best evidence that a very powerful being was commanding them to attack a city and slaughter all of the inhabitants, including children, non-combatants, etc. Clearly, they should not have believed that the entity in question was morally good, and in any case, they had a moral obligation to disobey the command.

d. Those ancient Israelites who did not witness any of Yahweh’s displays of power in that context only had the word of their commander that Yahweh had commanded the slaughter. Now, that command would have been in line with some of the other atrocities that Yahweh is described as commanding or committing in other parts the Old Testament, so perhaps those people had heard stories that would make such a command in character under the assumption of existence of Yahweh.

Yet, even granting for the sake of the argument that they had good reasons to believe that Yahweh existed and had given the command, they had a moral obligation to disobey, since under those assumptions they would have been in a situation relevantly similar to that of the ancient Israelites whose actions I addressed earlier in c.

Objection 3.3.6. Yahweh did nothing wrong against those infants, who were taken to Heaven, when they have eternal bliss. The ancient Israelites who received the command were justified because by taking a look at Yahweh’s actions in general, they should have concluded that he was a morally good being, whose commands were always justified, even if they did not know why in particular.

Reply:

a. Even if those infants were taken to Heaven, that would not justify commanding an action that would inflict horrible suffering on many of them, as they would be hacked to death by those ancient Israelite soldiers. The fact is that Yahweh could have moved them to a place of bliss without any suffering. The actions of Yahweh were not justified.

b. If the ancient Israelites who received the command had had, before receiving this particular command, good reasons for believing that Yahweh was morally good, then given what this command was, they should have reckoned that one of the following was the case:

b.1. Yahweh had not given the command, and some of their fellow ancient Israelites had made it up.

b.2. Yahweh had not given the command, and some powerful evil entity pretending to be Yahweh had done so instead.

b.3. Their previous assessment that Yahweh was morally good was mistaken, even if justified based on the evidence they previously had.

At any rate, they had a moral obligation not to hack children to death in that situation. They ought to have disobeyed the command.

c. Actually, those ancient Israelites should not have concluded that Yahweh was morally good, prior to receiving the command, and even assuming their belief that Yahweh existed was justified, for the following reasons:

c.1. The Yahweh-authored domestic law that they had was overall very unjust. While it had some acceptable dispositions, others were so morally evil that overall the system was very unjust. For that matter, one can find some acceptable dispositions in laws enforced by the Taliban, or the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran, or of Saudi Arabia, or even Aztec laws. But that does not change the fact that those systems are overall very unjust. Mosaic Law also falls into that category, for the reasons I explained earlier in this essay.

For those reasons, if their belief that the author of Mosaic Law was Yahweh was justified, then based on that those ancient Israelites should have concluded that Yahweh was not morally good, let alone morally perfect.

c.2. In addition to the laws, some of the other actions committed by Yahweh as described in the Old Testament were appalling, like his behavior against the innocent in Egypt. So, if those ancient Israelites were justified in believing that those actions had been carried out by Yahweh, they should have concluded he was not morally good.

c.3. If those ancient Israelites were not justified in their belief that the law was from Yahweh, or that the other actions were also Yahweh’s, then they should have at least realized that Yahweh had failed to make himself clear at all despite his power, and based on that, at least they should have refrained from concluding that he was morally good.

3.4. Amalek.

In this subsection, I will address the events described in 1 Samuel 15, in which some ancient Israelites, following Yahweh’s commands, attack a city.

Let’s take a look at Yahweh’s command, according to Samuel:

GWEB:

1 Samuel 15

15:1 Samuel said to Saul, Yahweh sent me to anoint you to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore listen you to the voice of the words of Yahweh. 15:2 Thus says Yahweh of Armies, I have marked that which Amalek did to Israel, how he set himself against him in the way, when he came up out of Egypt. 15:3 Now go and strike Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and don't spare them; but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.

Given that Samuel didn’t lie according to the story, then the story holds that Yahweh commanded the killing of people living at the time of the attack for the actions of their ancestors. Also, he commanded the killing of infants as well.

In this case, whether or not the adults persisted in their attacks against some Israelites is not a factor included in the rationale. Only the actions of their ancestors are counted.

The ancient Israelites who received that command should have realized that the adults they were targeting didn’t deserve to be killed for the actions of their ancestors, even if those Amalekites denied that the actions of their ancestors were immoral, just like someone who, say, denies that the killings of Stalin were immoral, does not deserve the death penalty because of it.

But moreover, leaving aside the adults, the ancient Israelites receiving the orders should have realized that infants did not deserve to be slaughtered, and furthermore that there was no justification for such behavior.

Objection 3.4.1. The ancient Israelites who were in that situation had sufficient reasons for their conclusion that the killing of all the adults was justified. Babies who needed to be breastfed had be killed as well, because adopting them wouldn’t have been possible without their mothers, since they would have died of starvation.

Reply:

a. Actually, one can tell based on the story that the ancient Israelites who received the command were told by Yahweh that the reason was to punish those people for the actions of some of their ancestors, and that’s not justified at all. There is no indication that they believed that they had some other reason.

Moreover, they had no good reason to believe that all of the adults deserved to die.

b. Even leaving points a. and b. aside, and even if no alternative source of milk were available, this proposed excuse fails to address the slaughter of infants who could eat other foods, and who could be adopted instead of massacred. Instead, the Yahwehists in question chose to obey the command and to kill all of those young children.

Furthermore, they either reckoned or should have reckoned that those infants – their victims – would in some cases die suffering horrible pain – they would be hacked and slashed with primitive weapons -, so in addition to the already atrocious killings, one may add the atrocious suffering caused in the process.

Their actions were despicable.

Objection 3.4.2. Yahweh did not give the command. Samuel lied.

Reply:

There is no textual support for that claim.

In fact, at no point does Yahweh complain that Samuel might have lied.

Moreover, the text clearly shows that that was not the case, as we can see in the following passage:

GWEB:

1 Samuel 15

15:7 Saul struck the Amalekites, from Havilah as you go to Shur, that is before Egypt. 15:8 He took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 15:9 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the cattle, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and wouldn't utterly destroy them: but everything that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly. 15:10 Then came the word of Yahweh to Samuel, saying, 15:11 It grieves me that I have set up Saul to be king; for he is turned back from following me, and has not performed my commandments. Samuel was angry; and he cried to Yahweh all night.

So, Yahweh complained because Saul had failed to kill everything as commanded, but did not complain about Samuel’s representation of Yahweh’s commands. It’s clear that according to biblical description, Samuel did not lie, nor was he mistaken about what Yahweh had commanded.

Objection 3.4.3. Those passages are not true. Jesus loved children and would not have behaved like that, and that gives us sufficient grounds to reject the offending passages.

Reply:

I addressed this matter earlier, when assessing the case of Canaan. Most of those points apply to this case as well.

Objection 3.4.4. Those ancient Israelites following Yahweh’s commands, every time, had some justification that we don’t know about.

Reply:

a. The biblical account attempts to portray the ancient Israelites who follow Yahweh’s orders in a positive light, so one would expect that they would have included a reference to a justification if they had them. So, based on that, the claim made in this objection seems very implausible.

b. Moreover, in this case, the rationale for the attack is explained: it’s because of some immoral behavior that some of the ancestors of the victims engaged in. It’s surely unacceptable.

c. Furthermore, even leaving a. and b. aside, after carefully considering the matter, it is clear that no excuse justified either their actions and the actions of Yahweh’s.

Perhaps, a sufficiently clear threat by Yahweh to inflict far worse punishment on their innocent victims if those ancient Israelites failed to follow their commands might have justified their actions – but that isn’t the case under consideration -, but surely not Yahweh’s actions. And given his amount of power – he is essentially the ruler of the world, and can do as he pleases -, it seems clear that there was no justification for his behavior.

Nor is there any other justification for their behavior. They were just engaging in immoral actions. It would not be a reasonable interpretation of the story described in the Bible to say that there were some mysterious reasons justifying the behavior of those obeying Yahweh in all those cases.

Other objections are handled in a way similar to similar objections in the previous subsection.

Objection 3.4.5. No children suffered. They were just zapped into Heaven by Yahweh, before experiencing any pain.

Reply:

a. Actually, Yahweh commanded some of the ancient Israelites to kill all those children. That wouldn’t make sense if Yahweh had killed them by himself, zapping them instantly into Heaven. So, the children had to undergo different periods of suffering – depending on the case – while they were being slaughtered by those ancient Israelite raiders.

b. Even this would not justify the actions against the adults, who were being punished for what some of their ancestors did.

c. Even that would not justify the actions of the ancient Israelites who followed the command, and which were never told about Heaven. In fact, it’s pretty clear in the text that the ancient Israelites in question were bent on massacring those children as well.

Objection 3.4.6. The Amalekite adults continued to sin. They excused the actions of their ancestors. They were being punished for their own actions, not for those of their ancestors.

Reply:

a. That is not what the text says. The text is talking about a collective punishment on the Amalekites of the time of the attack, regardless of behavior and/or age, for the actions of some of their ancestors.

b. In any event, that would not justify the infliction of terrible suffering on Amalekite children.

Objection 3.4.7. It was necessary to destroy the Amalekite culture, because there was a threat that they would spread their evil ways. Also, the adults were guilty. Properly interpreted, the reason for the attack was to remove bad people who would spread their evil ways.

Reply:

a. The ancient Israelites involved had no good reason to believe that those of the people they were targeting were guilty of anything. Even if Yahweh had claimed so, there would have been no good reason to believe an entity who makes as many false claims as Yahweh does.

Still, there is no need to rely on that, since:

b. There is no textual support for the claims in objection 3.4.7. In fact, the command was explicitly to “go and strike Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and don’t spare them; but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”; the rationale was “Yahweh of Armies says, ‘I remember what Amalek did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way, when he came up out of Egypt.”.

It’s apparent that the primary objective is to punish those Amalekites who lived at the time of the attack for their actions of some of their ancestors; but let’s say that it was just one of several objectives, and not even the primary one. Even then, it would have been unjust to kill those Amalekites for the actions of some of their ancestors.

c. Regardless, there is no need to kill young children, who were not evil, and could be raised not to be evil – well, perhaps not by the monsters who followed Yahweh’s monstrous orders, but hypothetically.

3.5. Uriah.

According to the Bible, David had sex with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, and then had Uriah killed.

Yahweh punished David for that murder. Let’s see how Yahweh punished him:

GWEB:

2 Samuel 11:

11:1 It happened, at the return of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem. 11:2 It happened at evening, that David arose from off his bed, and walked on the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful to look on. 11:3 David send and inquired after the woman. One said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? 11:4 David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in to him, and he lay with her (for she was purified from her uncleanness); and she returned to her house. 11:5 The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, and said, I am with child. 11:6 David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite. Joab sent Uriah to David. 11:7 When Uriah was come to him, David asked of him how Joab did, and how the people fared, and how the war prospered. 11:8 David said to Uriah, Go down to your house, and wash your feet. Uriah departed out of the king's house, and there followed him a mess of food from the king. 11:9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and didn't go down to his house. 11:10 When they had told David, saying, Uriah didn't go down to his house, David said to Uriah, Haven't you come from a journey? why did you not go down to your house? 11:11 Uriah said to David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in booths; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open field; shall I then go into my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing. 11:12 David said to Uriah, Stay here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart. So Uriah abode in Jerusalem that day, and the next day. 11:13 When David had called him, he ate and drink before him; and he made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but didn't go down to his house. 11:14 It happened in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 11:15 He wrote in the letter, saying, Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire you from him, that he may be struck, and die. 11:16 It happened, when Joab kept watch on the city, that he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew that valiant men were. 11:17 The men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and there fell some of the people, even of the servants of David; and Uriah the Hittite died also. 11:18 Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war; 11:19 and he commanded the messenger, saying, "When you have made an end of telling all the things concerning the war to the king, 11:20 it shall be that, if the king's wrath arise, and he tells you, 'Why did you go so near to the city to fight? Didn't you know that they would shoot from the wall? 11:21 who struck Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Didn't a woman cast an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?' then you shall say, 'Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.'" 11:22 So the messenger went, and came and showed David all that Joab had sent him for. 11:23 The messenger said to David, The men prevailed against us, and came out to us into the field, and we were on them even to the entrance of the gate. 11:24 The shooters shot at your servants from off the wall; and some of the king's servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. 11:25 Then David said to the messenger, Thus you shall tell Joab, Don't let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another; make your battle more strong against the city, and overthrow it: and encourage you him. 11:26 When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she made lamentation for her husband. 11:27 When the mourning was past, David sent and took her home to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased Yahweh.

So, Yahweh was displeased with David’s actions, and so he decided to respond as follows:

GWEB[1]

2 Samuel 12:

12:11 This is what Yahweh says: 'Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he will lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12:12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.'"

So, David’s wives – completely non-guilty on this matter – are going to be “given” by Yahweh to David’s neighbor, to be raped if they don’t feel like having sex with him – since their consent is not required anywhere.

GWEB:

2 Samuel 12:

12:13 David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against Yahweh." Nathan said to David, "Yahweh also has put away your sin. You will not die. 12:14 However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to Yahweh's enemies to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die." 12:15 Nathan departed to his house. Yahweh struck the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and it was very sick. 12:16 David therefore begged God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night on the earth. 12:17 The elders of his house arose, and stood beside him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. 12:18 It happened on the seventh day, that the child died. The servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead; for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he didn't listen to our voice: how will he then harm himself, if we tell him that the child is dead!

So, as a means to punish David for his murderous and treacherous actions, Yahweh decided to target someone else as well: David and Bathsheba’s son was slowly killed by Yahweh, who caused him to be very sick for a week, and then die.

Objection 3.5.1. Yahweh has sovereignty over life and death. He gives life, and so he has the right to take it. He does no wrong by killing David and Bathsheba’s son.

Reply:

a. There seems to be no good reason to believe that he has the right to take someone’s life just because he gave that person life. Parents, for instance, do not have that right.

b. In any event, Yahweh is not “only” killing the child. He’s making him very sick, with an illness that kills him in a week. Someone might suggest that, perhaps, the child was always unconscious and suffered no pain, but there is no textual reason supporting that, and usually when someone becomes very ill and die in a week, they do suffer, so without any further information about the child’s condition, the most probable interpretation of the scenario in the text is that he suffered.

c. Even if we leave the case of child aside, that would not excuse Yahweh’s decision to “give” David’s wives to David’s neighbor, regardless of whether those women consented.

Objection 3.5.2. That passage was an allegory. Those events never happened. Yahweh was teaching the ancient Israelites a moral lesson against adultery and murder.

Reply:

But that would teach wrong lessons, since the actions attributed to Yahweh are implicitly considered acceptable given the context of the text, even though they would have been unacceptable.

Objection 3.5.3. Those passages ought to be removed from the Bible.

Reply:

That deflects a moral objection against Christianity based on the events described in this subsection, but at the cost of rejecting part of the Old Testament. It seems someone raising this objection but accepting much of the Old Testament would have to explain why she makes such difference.

Moreover, rejecting the account of this particular incident would not suffice. In fact, given the number and extent of the atrocities attributed to Yahweh in the Old Testament, much of it would need to be rejected. Similarly, much of the New Testament would have to be rejected as well, given its connections to the Old Testament – a matter I will address later.

3.6. The Sabbath.

In addition to giving many unjust laws, Yahweh sometimes gave orders to unjustly punish specific people. One example of that can be found in the Book of Numbers.

GWEB:

Numbers 15:

15:32 While the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 15:33 Those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. 15:34 They put him in custody, because it had not been declared what should be done to him. 15:35 Yahweh said to Moses, The man shall surely be put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside of the camp. 15:36 All the congregation brought him outside of the camp, and stoned him to death with stones; as Yahweh commanded Moses.

So, there was a law against working on Sabbath – a horribly unjust law, as often.

Yahweh had made that law, and then he directly commanded that the man be stoned to death for breaking the rules he imposed on those people.

Then, Moses actually followed this command, and so did the rest of the congregation.

Let’s just try to imagine the situation: Moses is told by Yahweh to stone a man to death for working on a Sabbath. Moses, it seems, fails to realize that Yahweh is a moral monster, and just relays the command to a group of other people. It’s clear in context that Moses here was not following the command just out of fear – which might have reduced the immorality of his behavior to some extent -, but willingly. In fact, Moses was so depraved that he believed that his behavior was morally acceptable, and even morally obligatory.

The fact that Yahweh – a moral monster – commands that a man be stoned to death provides of course no justification for believing he deserves to be stoned to death. But moreover, it was clear in context that the reason – broadly speaking, as he was being unreasonable – why Yahweh wanted them to horribly torture that man to death was not some mysterious deed that only Yahweh knew about, but simply for disobeying one of the commands that Yahweh gave them, by working on a Sabbath.

Moses and the rest of those murderers should have realized that the command they were given was profoundly unjust, and furthermore that they should not have followed it at all. Yahweh behave in a morally monstrous way by issuing the command in the first place, and in this case, Moses and other humans who participated willingly behaved just as despicably.

Objection 3.6.1. He deserved to be stoned to death for disobeying a morally perfect creator.

Reply:

a. It should be obvious that simply disobeying a creator would not merit being stoned to death, even if he were morally perfect.

b. Yahweh is not morally perfect, but a moral monster, and this particular command is an example of his evilness.

c. In any case, Moses and those other people had no good reason at all to believe that Yahweh was morally perfect, or even morally good. In fact, even if they had seen great displays of power on his part, great power does not even suggest moral goodness, let alone moral perfection.

Moreover, given that Yahweh was commanding that they stone a human being to death just for disobeying him, they ought to have realized Yahweh was not morally good. Of course, given his track record, they should have known by then that they were dealing with an enormously powerful, evil entity.

d. As a side note – not important from a moral perspective, though – the people stoning that man to death had no sufficient reason for thinking that the monster issuing the commands in question had not himself either been created by some other, perhaps even more powerful being, or perhaps formed from some non-intelligent stuff, even if they had no sufficient reason to conclude that he had, either.

3.7. Mass murder of captives, mass rape, and sex slavery.

Numbers 31 describes how Yahweh commanded Moses to carry out an attack on other people, and the events that unfolded after that.

GWEB:

Numbers 31

31:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 31:2 Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward you shall be gathered to your people. 31:3 Moses spoke to the people, saying, Arm you men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian, to execute Yahweh's vengeance on Midian. 31:4 Of every tribe one thousand, throughout all the tribes of Israel, you shall send to the war. 31:5 So there were delivered, out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand of every tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. 31:6 Moses sent them, one thousand of every tribe, to the war, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the vessels of the sanctuary and the trumpets for the alarm in his hand. 31:7 They warred against Midian, as Yahweh commanded Moses; and they killed every male. 31:8 They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain: Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they killed with the sword. 31:9 The children of Israel took captive the women of Midian and their little ones; and all their livestock, and all their flocks, and all their goods, they took for a prey. 31:10 All their cities in the places in which they lived, and all their encampments, they burnt with fire. 31:11 They took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of man and of animal. 31:12 They brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, to Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation of the children of Israel, to the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by the Jordan at Jericho.

So, those ancient Israelite troops attacked and killed every single man, apparently regardless of whether those men were combatants or not, whether they were too ill or old to fight, or whether they had surrendered. They also took the women and their children as spoils of war. In other words, they took them as slaves as slaves, and brought them to Moses and to one of Yahweh’s priests.

The soldiers surely would expect to take women as sex slaves – their consent was not required, as usual -, raping them repeatedly – in accordance to Yahweh’s laws.

What was Moses’s reaction?

GWEB:

Numbers 31

31:13 Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them outside of the camp. 31:14 Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, who came from the service of the war. 31:15 Moses said to them, Have you saved all the women alive? 31:16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against Yahweh in the matter of Peor, and so the plague was among the congregation of Yahweh. 31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. 31:18 But all the girls, who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

So, Moses was not angry because his troops wanted to enslave children – both boys and girls -, or because they wanted to enslave adult women, in general.

Instead, Moses was angry because the soldiers had kept the women who were not virgins alive, and apparently – unless he was lying about his motivation, but why would he? - he believed that all of the women who were not virgin had “caused” the children of Israel to trespass against Yahweh. Furthermore, he believed apparently that those women deserved to be killed for that.

So, Moses commanded that all women who were not virgins be killed. He further commanded that every male child be killed as well.

On the other hand, Moses told his men to keep the virgin girls for themselves - implicitly for sex slavery and repeated rape in the future - if they so choose.

It is not specified what he wanted his men to do with adult women who were virgins – if there were any -, or with girls who were not virgins because they had been raped already. Given context, it seems all non-virgins were to be killed regardless of whether they were adults. As for adult women, also context indicates that they were presumed to be non-virgins – which might or might have been true, but of course does not justify the killings in any way -, and were to be executed. In any event, his command was immoral regardless of how he split the girls and the women between those that were to be killed and those that were to be enslaved and raped whenever their masters chose.

So, in particular, Moses:

1. Falsely blamed all non-virgin women for a plague. Of course, regardless of what some Israelite men did in order to have sex with at most some – surely not all – of those women, those men made their own choices, and in any case, surely blaming those women for a plague was absurd.

2. Murdered all of the boys but kept girls for slavery, including sex slavery and thus repeated rape.

Given that behavior, even independently of other events, one should reckon that Moses was a moral monster, a mass-murderer and mass-rapist – regardless of whether he engaged in mass rape personally, he surely was responsible given his commands.

So, what was Yahweh's reaction?

GWEB:

Numbers 31

31:25 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 31:26 Take the sum of the prey that was taken, both of man and of animal, you, and Eleazar the priest, and the heads of the fathers' houses of the congregation; 31:27 and divide the prey into two parts: between the men skilled in war, who went out to battle, and all the congregation. 31:28 Levy a tribute to Yahweh of the men of war who went out to battle: one soul of five hundred, both of the persons, and of the cattle, and of the donkeys, and of the flocks: 31:29 take it of their half, and give it to Eleazar the priest, for Yahweh's wave offering. 31:30 Of the children of Israel's half, you shall take one drawn out of every fifty, of the persons, of the cattle, of the donkeys, and of the flocks, even of all the livestock, and give them to the Levites, who perform the duty of the tent of Yahweh.

Yahweh did not punish Moses or his men, or expressed any disapproval whatsoever, but proceeded to give instructions as to how to divide the spoils of war, including the people taken as slaves.

Even assuming for the sake of the argument that there was no human sacrifice and Yahweh’s “wave offering” was “just” giving some captives to the priests as slaves, the fact remains that Yahweh instructed Moses – and, through him, many other ancient Israelite men  – to engage in mass slavery and mass rape. Yahweh is another moral monster, like Moses.

So, what happened then?

They just proceeded to divide the spoils, after murdering the captive women and perhaps girls who were not virgins – or who they believed were not virgins, anyway – and the children of those who had children. While it would have been monstrous to do that to a single woman or to a single child, one may point out here that the massacre was massive, as one may reckon from the description.

GWEB:

Numbers 31

31:31 Moses and Eleazar the priest did as Yahweh commanded Moses. 31:32 Now the prey, over and above the booty which the men of war took, was six hundred seventy-five thousand sheep, 31:33 and seventy-two thousand head of cattle, 31:34 and sixty-one thousand donkeys, 31:35 and thirty-two thousand persons in all, of the women who had not known man by lying with him. 31:36 The half, which was the portion of those who went out to war, was in number three hundred thirty-seven thousand five hundred sheep: 31:37 and Yahweh's tribute of the sheep was six hundred seventy-five. 31:38 The cattle were thirty-six thousand; of which Yahweh's tribute was seventy-two. 31:39 The donkeys were thirty thousand five hundred; of which Yahweh's tribute was sixty-one. 31:40 The persons were sixteen thousand; of whom Yahweh's tribute was thirty-two persons. 31:41 Moses gave the tribute, which was Yahweh's wave offering, to Eleazar the priest, as Yahweh commanded Moses. 31:42 Of the children of Israel's half, which Moses divided off from the men who warred 31:43 (now the congregation's half was three hundred thirty-seven thousand five hundred sheep, 31:44 and thirty-six thousand head of cattle, 31:45 and thirty thousand five hundred donkeys, 31:46 and sixteen thousand persons), 31:47 even of the children of Israel's half, Moses took one drawn out of every fifty, both of man and of animal, and gave them to the Levites, who performed the duty of the tent of Yahweh; as Yahweh commanded Moses. 31:48 The officers who were over the thousands of the army, the captains of thousands, and the captains of hundreds, came near to Moses; 31:49 and they said to Moses, Your servants have taken the sum of the men of war who are under our command, and there lacks not one man of us. 31:50 We have brought Yahweh's offering, what every man has gotten, of jewels of gold, armlets, and bracelets, signet rings, earrings, and necklaces, to make atonement for our souls before Yahweh. 31:51 Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold of them, even all worked jewels. 31:52 All the gold of the wave offering that they offered up to Yahweh, of the captains of thousands, and of the captains of hundreds, was sixteen thousand seven hundred fifty shekels. 31:53 (For the men of war had taken booty, every man for himself.) 31:54 Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold of the captains of thousands and of hundreds, and brought it into the Tent of Meeting, for a memorial for the children of Israel before Yahweh.

So, 32000 girls and/or women were taken as slaves. Usually, that would mean sex slavery, so they would live a life of constant rape. The number of boys who were murdered is not specified, and neither is the number of women who were not virgins – or presumed to be non-virgins, anyway.

However, one can tell that the number of murder victims in that event was probably also in the thousands, since there is no good reason to suspect that there were so many more virgin girls – and adult women, if any were spared – than boys and women who were not virgins – or were presumed to be non-virgins – put together.

So, given those actions, one ought to reckon that Yahweh is a moral monster. And so is Moses.

Objection 3.7.0. Yahweh did not command that anyone be raped.

He only commanded the attack and give instructions as to how to split the virgins who had been taken as slaves, but then it was up to the slave owners to decide whether to rape the virgin women they took as slaves. They  were allowed not to rape them if they so chose. For all we know, none of those men chose to rape their female slaves. In fact, the soldiers and the others were not even commanded to keep the virgins as slaves. They were allowed to set them free.

Reply:

1. Given context, it's pretty obvious that at least many – probably most – of those virgin girls – and adult women, if any adult woman were spared – were to be raped.

2. Even if they hadn't been raped, Yahweh and Moses would still be responsible for giving them to those men as slaves, and further for allowing them to choose whether to rape them. Moreover, even if they hadn't allowed rape – but they did -, they would have been responsible for giving them to those men as slaves.

3. Even if all of those virgins girls - and adult women if there were any - had been set free – which is obviously not what happened in at least nearly all cases -, Moses and Yahweh were responsible for giving those victims to different groups of men as slaves.

Purely for example, Yahweh commanded that one out of a hundred virgin girls - and women, if any adult women were spared - be handed over to the Levites as slaves. That is evil.

4. Yahweh and Moses were also responsible for the massacre of non-virgin – or presumed non-virgin – women – and maybe girls too -, and of all of the boys, and so on.

Objection 3.7.1. Yahweh is sovereign. He has the right to take any life at any time of his choosing. Hence, he did nothing wrong for commanding the killings. Neither did Moses.

Reply:

1. Even assuming Yahweh created humans, that does not give him the right to kill them at will.

2. Even if one does not count the killings, those children were inflicted horrible suffering. It’s not as if they were just zapped into Heaven before they knew what was going on. Rather, we’re talking about the mass slaughter of boys by ancient Israelite soldiers.

3. Moses had seen Yahweh’s displays of power, but power does not make a being morally good. Rather, given Yahweh’s commands and actions, Moses should have figured that Yahweh was not morally good.

4.  Incidentally, while it makes no moral difference in this context – creator or not, Yahweh is a similarly despicable being -, but actually being powerful does not show that Yahweh is the creator of humans, let alone of every other concrete being. The displays of power witnessed by Moses did not surpass those of some supervillains in some comics or generally fantasy stories.

5.  In addition to mass murder, Yahweh, Moses and his accomplices are also guilty of mass slavery and mass rape – either directly or as accessories, depending on the specific case.

So, both Yahweh and Moses are monsters, and would be so even if they hadn't committed murder, because of their other actions.

6. Moses is also guilty of the false accusation against women who weren’t virgins, and whom he and his men murdered – whom he blamed for a plague, while that clearly was not their fault.

Of course, blaming them is immoral but less so than murdering them. But Moses did both.

Objection 3.7.2. The male children had to be killed, otherwise they would have retaliated against Israel later. That justifies the killing.

Reply:

1. With that criterion, someone might say that it would be a justified policy for Russia to kill the children of Chechen rebels and/or terrorists, to prevent further attacks when those children grow up. Clearly, that would be mass-murder, rather than justified killings. And the same applies to the biblical case under consideration.

2. In any case, Yahweh – who was often willing to interfere directly, by means of giving commands and sometimes even by taking part in the hostilities – could easily block any attempted retaliation, using energy shields or whatever he likes.

3. Furthermore, while the killing of those boys was obviously an abhorrent act – mass murder -, in addition to the killing, there was the suffering inflicted on them on Moses’s command – it’s not as if Yahweh took them to Heaven instantly -, and Yahweh was on board with that – there was not even a hint of a disagreement with Moses.

4. In addition to the mass-murder of boys, Moses and some of those ancient Israelites engaged in mass slavery and mass rape of girls and perhaps some women. And Moses falsely blamed all women who were not virgins for a plague, using that as part of his attempted “reason” to kill them all.

Objection 3.7.3. The male children were better off being killed. Otherwise, they would have died more slowly of starvation without their mothers and the rest of their families.

Reply:

1. With that criterion, someone might try to justify slaughtering male children because they’re orphans. 2. The way in which they were killed, while faster than starvation, inflicted enormous suffering on them. Assuming for the sake of the argument that killing them had been acceptable for Yahweh, he could have just taken them to Heaven immediately.

3. Clearly, Moses did not have those children killed them in order to do them a favor. Of course, if Moses had killed those children in order to do them a favor, that would still not have justified his actions. He ought to have known better.

4. If Moses was trying to do those children a favor by killing them, then why did he kill just the boys? Why not the virgin girls?

Objection 3.7.4. The male children were better off being killed. Otherwise, if some of them managed to reach adulthood, they would have gone to Hell forever after their deaths. So, killing them was their salvation.

Reply:

1. If there is infinite Hell, that is Yahweh’s biggest atrocity. If he wanted to save them from Hell, all he had to do was to refrain from sending them to Hell. But I will address the matter of Hell in much greater detail later.

2. Moses did not know anything about Hell, and did not had those children killed in order to save them from Hell.

3. As before, if Moses had been trying to save those children from something – whatever that something was -, then why did he only had the boys killed, but not the virgin girls?

Objection 3.7.5. All of the women who were not virgins had led at least one ancient Israelite astray, and that resulted in a plague. For that, they deserved to be executed.

Reply:

1. It’s absurdly implausible to think that every single one of them had convinced at least one ancient Israelite men of doing anything.

2. Even leaving 1. aside, those ancient Israelite men made their own choices.

3. If there was a plague caused by Yahweh, then Yahweh was responsible for that.

4. Regardless, in addition to the murder of those women, Moses and Yahweh were responsible for the suffering inflicted on their children. In the case of their daughters, they were enslaved and raped. As for their sons, they were murdered.

Objection 3.7.6. Those virgin girls and women would not have had a better life without the Israelite soldiers. So, by taking those women and girls with them, the Israelite soldiers were doing them a favor. Yahweh instructed that out of concern for the well-being of those girls and women.

Reply:

1. They were raped and enslaved. That’s not a favor, or acceptable.

While the virgin women in question probably would have faced a very difficult situation after all of their family members who were either men on non-virgin women – or assumed to be non-virgin, anyway – had been slaughtered in accordance to Yahweh’s and Moses’s commands, they still had the right not to have sexual intercourse with the men who had just slaughtered their families, or for that matter with anyone else. Similarly, they had the right not to serve them in general, sex aside. In other words, it was still their right to choose. But Yahweh, Moses and their accomplices did not respect that right. They engaged in mass slavery and mass rape.

2. In the case of girls, Moses and his men had no right to enslave them, either, let alone rape them.

3. Incidentally, the motivation of the Israelite soldiers, and Moses’s motivation, obviously wasn’t to help those women and girls, after slaughtering the rest of their families. They just saw them as bounty – and so, as their property – and wanted to use them for sex and a variety of other purposes.

Of course, even having the motivation to protect them would not have been an excuse rape and slavery.  If Moses and his men were so utterly confused that they thought that they were doing those girls and women a favor by taking them by force from their homes, holding them captives and raping them repeatedly, they still had a moral obligation not to be so confused, and not to do that. Similarly, Yahweh too was behaving monstrously, and either he knew that or he ought to have known that.

Objection 3.7.7. Men who surrendered were not killed.

Reply:

There is no biblical evidence of that, but let’s say for the sake of the argument and in the context of the reply to this objection that non-combatants were not killed. Moreover, let’s also leave all of the killings aside in this context, just for the sake of the argument. Then, the actions of mass slavery and mass rape commanded, instructed, and/or approved of by Yahweh and Moses are appalling, and both of them are blameworthy.

Objection 3.7.8. The claims made in those biblical passages are not true. Someone made up the story. Those events never happened. Yahweh is morally perfect, and he would never command anything like that. Neither would Moses.

Reply:

The atrocities I addressed in this subsection are in line with the immoral behavior displayed by Yahweh, Moses and others throughout the Old Testament, as earlier parts of this essay show.

Granted, someone might hold that much of the Old Testament is false but the New Testament is all true, but then, the New Testament’s connections to the Old Testament make such a stance untenable. I’ve already addressed some of those connections briefly, and I will further address that matter below.

3.8. Noah, Ham, and Canaan.

According to the Bible, Noah was a just man:

GWEB:

Genesis 6

6:9 This is the history of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time. Noah walked with God. 6:10 Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

As it happened, one of Noah’s sons, Ham, saw Noah naked. It’s not clear what else he did, if anything.

GWEB:

Genesis 9

9:20 Noah began to be a farmer, and planted a vineyard. 9:21 He drank of the wine and got drunk. He was uncovered within his tent. 9:22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 9:23 Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it on both their shoulders, went in backwards, and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were backwards, and they didn't see their father's nakedness. 9:24 Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his youngest son had done to him. 9:25 He said,

"Canaan is cursed.

He will be servant of servants to his brothers."

9:26 He said,

"Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Shem.

Let Canaan be his servant.

9:27 May God enlarge Japheth.

Let him dwell in the tents of Shem.

Let Canaan be his servant."

So, Noah is described as a righteous man, and when his son Ham sees him naked, Noah curses Ham’s son, Canaan, asks Yahweh to make Canaan a servant of his brothers as a punishment for Ham’s behavior.

So, Ham somehow offended Noah, and then Noah punishes Ham’s son Canaan for the alleged transgression of his father Ham. That’s obviously unjust behavior. Well, perhaps it’s not obvious to people like Noah or Yahweh, or the writers of the Old Testament, but it’s still very unjust on Noah’s part, and even if Noah failed to realize that, that is no excuse - he should have realized.

Objection 3.8.1. Ham did not just saw Noah naked. Ham sexually abused his father Noah.

Reply:

Regardless of what Ham may have done to Noah, Canaan did not deserve to be punish for the actions of his father.

Objection 3.8.2. Ham did not just saw Noah naked. Ham sexually abused his father Noah. And Canaan was an accomplice.

Reply:

Actually, the biblical text is clear that cursing Canaan was Noah’s reaction after Noah realized what Ham – not Canaan – had done to him. Noah was reacting only to what he knew about Ham’s actions. Moreover, the text also depicts the events involving Ham, not Canaan.

Objection 3.8.2. Noah was generally a righteous man, and was blameless before the Flood happened. But he was not morally perfect, and he behaved immorally by cursing Canaan.

Reply:

1. Someone who goes as far as to try to turn his grandson into a servant as a punishment for the actions of his son is not a righteous man. While a generally good person might behave immorally under some circumstances, a generally good person wouldn’t engage in willful punishment of the innocent

2. Moreover, there is no criticism whatsoever in the Bible of Noah’s cursing Canaan.

4. The New Testament and the Old Testament. Some of the links.

In this section, I will address some of the connections between the New Testament and the Old Testament.

In particular, I will focus on some events depicted in the New Testament and in which Jesus, Paul or other characters in the New Testament say or at least imply that all of the Law in the Old Testament was from Yahweh, and furthermore was just, and on some of Paul’s own writings in the New Testament.

I will also consider situations in which the characters in the New Testament interpret events in the Old Testament literally – events in which Yahweh behaves in a morally appalling manner, even if of those the writers of those passages fail to realize that, and so do the characters depicted in those passages.

4.1 Jesus and the Old Testament.

In this subsection, I will address some of Jesus’s claims or implications about the Old Testament, as described in the New Testament. In particular – but not exclusively – I will focus on some of the connections between Jesus and Old Testament Law, which suffice to show that Jesus was not morally perfect.

4.1.1 Old Testament Law “sufficed” until the time of John.

OEB[1]

Luke 16:

16 The law and the prophets sufficed until the time of John. Since then the good news of the kingdom of God has been told, and everybody has been forcing their way into it.

17 It would be easier for the heavens and the earth to disappear than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be lost.

Matthew 5

17 Do not think that I have come to do away with the law or the prophets; I have not come to do away with them, but to complete them. 18 For I tell you, until the heavens and the earth disappear, not even the smallest letter, nor one stroke of a letter, will disappear from the law until all is done.

GWEB:

Luke 16:

16:16 The law and the prophets were until John. From that time the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. 16:17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tiny stroke of a pen in the law to fall.

Matthew 5

5:17 "Don't think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn't come to destroy, but to fulfill. 5:18 For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished.

While Jesus does not specify in those passages exactly how things will change, he clearly implies that Yahweh exists, and also implicitly endorses Yahweh’s actions from a moral perspective.

Moreover, when Jesus says that the law sufficed until the time of John, he is implying that following the law was at the very least morally acceptable for people living under such law, in ancient Israelite society.

Granted, different translations have different wordings, but in any case, it seems clear in context that he was in fact implying such acceptability. Jesus never suggested that any of the ancient Israelites should have disobeyed the law, or that the law was unjust. Yet, a decisive problem is that the only law available to those ancient Israelites after Moses, and which Jesus was talking about, was the full set of laws written in the Old Testament.

So, Jesus’s claims imply, in context, that if some of those ancient Israelites stoned a woman to death for having sex before marriage and marrying someone who didn’t know about it – regardless of whether her marriage was forced, but even leaving that aside, Jesus's implication is false -, or burned a woman to death because she was the daughter of a priest and was also a prostitute, or burned a man and two women to death because he married them both and they were mother and daughter, etc., then they didn’t do anything immoral – as long, at least, as they followed some procedure perhaps -, and that Old Testament Law – much of which was profoundly immoral – was ‘enough’.

This shows that Jesus believed that some – or rather many – very immoral behaviors were morally acceptable at least – or even morally obligatory -, or that lied by deliberately making false moral claims, or was unaware of much of what the Mosaic Law said. But based on the New Testament, we can conclude he was at least reasonably knowledgeable about the content of the Old Testament in general and Old Testament laws in particular, so it seems either Jesus had some false moral beliefs – many, but some is enough to make this point -, or was lying. Moreover, Jesus was promoting some false moral beliefs as well.

Granted, that does not imply that Jesus would have been willing to engage in the immoral behaviors he condoned and/or believed to be morally acceptable.

For example, it may well happen that a man fails to realize that punishment X established in code C is very unjust, until he is in a position of having to decide whether or not to apply the punishment in question. However, when he eventually is that position, he realizes – based on an intuitive moral assessment of the situation – that applying punishment X would be morally unacceptable, and decides not to apply it for that reason. In that case, he just failed to properly picture and assess the situation as a hypothetical scenario, but made the proper assessment when it actually happened.

Also, for that matter, it may well be that a present-day Christian believes that it was morally acceptable for any of the ancient Israelites to apply any of the punishments prescribed in the Old Testament if the conditions established in it were met, but he has that belief because he’s biased towards his religion, and he’s never done or ever would do anything nearly as immoral as the action of, say, an ancient Israelite who actually participated in the stoning of a woman because he believed – even if correctly and based on sufficient evidence, in addition to the evidence required in the Old Testament – that she had consensual sex before being handed over to the man her father had ‘pledged’ her to.

But the point is that Jesus had some false moral beliefs unless he was lying, and promoted a number of them. All of that is incompatible with some usual and central Christian beliefs, like the conjunction of the beliefs that Jesus never lied and never made a mistake in a moral assessment. In short, Jesus was not morally perfect.

Objection 4.1.1.1. Jesus was a reformist. He didn’t come to endorse the Mosaic Law, but to change it. He even said that the a disposition in that law was given to the ancient Israelites because their hearts were hard.

Reply:

a. While it is true that – as always, according to the biblical description -, on one occasion, Jesus said that a specific part of the law had been given to at least some of the ancient Israelites because of the hardness of their hearts, he did not claim or imply that the same was true of other Old Testament legal dispositions. Nor did he claim or imply that it would have been immoral for any of the ancient Israelites to take advantage of the specific disposition in question, namely one that authorized some type of divorce.

b. Even if all of the evil commands I considered earlier had been given to the ancient Israelites because of the “hardness of their hearts”, that would still fail to provide any excuse for the actions of Yahweh, as I explained in a previous section, or for the actions of Moses, or for the actions of those following the commands.

In particular, if those evil commands had been given to the ancient Israelites because of the hardness of their hearts, Yahweh would still have behaved immorally in giving them such orders. Also, Jesus believed that Yahweh never acted immorally. If Jesus believed that Yahweh gave all of those commands to those ancient Israelites because of the hardness of their hearts, Jesus should have concluded based on that belief that Yahweh had acted immorally; his failure to conclude that would be a moral imperfection on his part – not an atrocity or anything like it, but a moral imperfection nonetheless.

Objection 4.1.1.2. You’re taking those passages out of context by focusing on the connection between Jesus and the Old Testament, instead of taking into consideration all the good Jesus did, as described in the Gospels.

Reply:

I’m not taking anything out of context. Rather, I’m considering the context, explaining some of Jesus’s positions on the Old Testament, and considering that Christianity claims or implies that Jesus is and was always truthful, and had no false moral beliefs.

So, while other New Testament passages describe Jesus as doing good things, that does not affect the point I’m making here.

Objection 4.1.1.3. Given all the good that Jesus did, and given that he’s the same being as Yahweh, we can tell that Yahweh must have had some reasons for the commands he gave, for the false moral claims or implications, and for other actions, even if we don’t know what those reasons were.

Reply:

a. The ancient Israelites who were in a position to decide whether to act in accordance to Old Testament Law should have refrained from following many of Yahweh’s commands, and surely it’s not the case that they should have taken a look at Jesus’s life to assess whether such commands were justified, since Jesus hadn’t even been born when those ancient Israelites lived.

Yet, Jesus claims that the Law sufficed until John, which is a false claim. The law he’s talking about is contained in the Old Testament, and commanded many immoral behaviors, while failed to command many morally obligatory ones.

b. In any case, what is proposed in this objection would be an improper way of assessing the evidence. We ought to take a look at all of the description, concluding that if Jesus is the same being as Yahweh, then he is a profoundly evil being, even if he also did good things a number of times.

People like Hafez Al-Assad, Augusto Pinochet, or Jorge Rafael Videla, very probably did at least a few good things sometimes during their lives, but they were all bad persons.

c. Given the extent of the atrocities committed by Yahweh and by his servant Moses, the claim of “mysterious reasons” appears even more obviously unreasonable – if possible.

d. In some cases, the rationale behind his actions is actually explained in the Bible, and his actions are clearly not justified based on the rationale in question, as the previous sections show.

Objection 4.1.1.4. There is no immorality in Mosaic Law, or in any of the actions carried out by Yahweh or by Moses, as described in the Old Testament.

Reply:

That’s not true. I already assessed that matter earlier.

Objection 4.1.1.5. The passages of the Old Testament that you quoted earlier are not true. Yahweh did not command or do any of that.

Reply:

Jesus clearly implied that following Old Testament Law – which included those passages – was morally acceptable, at least for the ancient Israelites living under such law.

Objection 4.1.1.6. The passages of the Old Testament in which Yahweh appears to command moral atrocities, are not true. Yahweh did not command any of the atrocities in question. In fact, Jesus implicitly indicated that those passages were not true when he said that the greatest commandment is to love Yahweh – who is God – with all of one’s heart, mind, soul and strength, and the second commandment is to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself.

Reply:

a. Yahweh is not God, since Yahweh is not morally good, let alone morally perfect.

b. I will address the two commandments in question later, but for now, briefly, while surely not nearly as bad as much of the content of the New Testament, in both cases Jesus claims or implies that people have moral obligations that they do not have. That promotion of those false moral beliefs results in false accusations of immorality against people who have done nothing wrong.

c. That Jesus said that those two were the greatest and the second commandments respectively does not suggest that he was implicitly indicating that some of the other commands in the Old Testament were falsely attributed to Yahweh.

In fact, given the rest of the New Testament – e.g., the passages quoted above in this subsection, and passages I will analyze later in this section -, it’s clear that he did not implicitly indicated that Yahweh did not command the atrocities the Old Testament commands. Quite the opposite; he endorsed repeatedly the Old Testament.

d. In the Old Testament, the following command is given:

GWEB:

Deuteronomy 6.

4 Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God. Yahweh is one. 5 You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.

So, Jesus’s so-called “greatest commandment” was actually included in Deuteronomy, alongside many abhorrent commands.

Given the context in which Jesus was citing the command – namely, talking to people who believed that commands to stone women to death, etc., came from Yahweh -, in context there is no reason to think that Jesus was in any way suggesting that the passages in question were not from Yahweh.

So, if he meant to suggest that such commands were not from Yahweh, he clearly failed to make his point in any way that might be understood by his interlocutors.

e. Also in the Old Testament, the following command is given:

GWEB:

Leviticus 19:

18 “‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people; but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yahweh.

So, Jesus’s second commandment was actually included in Leviticus, alongside many abhorrent commands. In fact, even in the same chapter of Leviticus, and very close to the command about loving one’s neighbor, there is the following command:

Leviticus 19: [1]

19:20 "'If a man lies carnally with a woman who is a slave girl, pledged to be married to another man, and not ransomed, or given her freedom; they shall be punished. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free. 19:21 He shall bring his trespass offering to Yahweh, to the door of the Tent of Meeting, even a ram for a trespass offering. 19:22 The priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering before Yahweh for his sin which he has committed: and the sin which he has committed shall be forgiven him.

While the punishment here is not as immoral as the punishments established in several other passages I addressed earlier, it’s still unjust to punish them. Moreover, this passage implicitly condones the sale of women for money, regardless of consent.

In addition to that, it’s implicit that if the woman is free - “free” as women might be in ancient Israelite society, that is; the father can still decide to hand her over to a man of his choice -, then the command is to execute her and her lover if they have premarital sex – which is in line with the punishments imposed in Deuteronomy, and also morally abhorrent.

It was a common belief among Jewish people of the time of Jesus that Yahweh had commanded that people love their neighbors as they love themselves, and also that he had commanded that, say, a woman be stoned to death for having premarital sex after being ‘pledged’ to a man.

Given that context, there is no good reason to think that Jesus was in any way suggesting that the atrocious commands in question had not been commanded by Yahweh when he just identified two of Yahweh’s commandments and said those two were the greatest and the second.

So, if Jesus meant to suggest that the morally abhorrent commands were not from Yahweh, he clearly failed to make his point in any way that might be understood by his interlocutors. A far more probable interpretation based on his words and context is that Jesus simply failed to realize how immoral many of Yahweh’s commands were.

f. In any case, Jesus made a false moral claim or implication by implying that people had a moral obligation to love Yahweh and to love their neighbors as they love themselves. I will address the matter later.

Objection 4.1.1.7. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love Yahweh – who is God – with all of one’s heart, mind, soul and strength, and the second commandment is to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself. In Matthew 22:40, Jesus said that the whole law depends on those two commandments. It’s clear that a law that depends on those two commandments cannot contain commands to commit moral atrocities. Even if Jesus’s interlocutors and/or his disciples did not realize that at the time, there is an incompatibility between those two commandments and the atrocities listed in the Old Testament as part of Yahweh’s law, so Jesus did imply that much of the law contained in the Old Testament is not from Yahweh.

Reply:

a. Yahweh is not God, since Yahweh is not morally good, let alone morally perfect.

b. There is no incompatibility between a command to love Yahweh and a command to commit atrocities against some humans.

c. Jesus does not clarify who counts as a ‘neighbor’, and surely his interlocutors would not have understood him as including (as ‘neighbors’) those to be stoned, burned or generally put to death in accordance to the Old Testament. Jesus did not clarify otherwise, so there was no good reason in context for his interlocutors to understand the concept of ‘neighbor’ to refer to those as well.

Incidentally, most of Jesus’s interlocutors had not seen him protect a woman who had allegedly committed adultery. But even in that case, he did not suggest that they should love her as they love themselves.

d. In any event, both the command to love Yahweh and the command to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself are included in the Old Testament, alongside abhorrent commands, as indicated above.

So, if there is some incompatibility between those commands and some other commands, then Old Testament Law was already inconsistent, and Jesus’s interlocutors – who were familiar with that law – had no idea that it was inconsistent, and neither did the writers of the Old Testament – or, for that matter, neither would the writers of the New Testament later.

But given that Jesus did not say it was inconsistent, there seem to be no good reason to think that he knew it was inconsistent. One would expect Jesus to clarify if he knew that, given the paramount importance of such matters – his interlocutors believed that those atrocities were morally good, and sometimes even morally obligatory!

e. In any case, if Jesus actually gave those two commandments, he implied that it was immoral not to love Yahweh, or not to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself. But that is not true, and so he was still making false moral claims or implications. I will address the two commandments in question in more detail later.

Objection 4.1.1.8. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love Yahweh – who is God – with all of one’s heart, mind, soul and strength, and the second commandment is to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself. In Matthew 22:40, Jesus said that the whole law depends on those two commandments. It’s clear that a law that depends on those two commandments cannot contain commands to commit moral atrocities. Even if Jesus’s interlocutors and/or his disciples did not realize that at the time, there is an incompatibility between those two commandments and the atrocities listed in the Old Testament as part of Yahweh’s law, so Jesus’s did imply that much of the law contained in the Old Testament is not from Yahweh.

Moreover, Jesus said that he did not come to change the Law, and also was against stoning an adulteress. So, Jesus clearly implied that the Law did not contain any commands to stone women for adultery in the first place. Similarly, given the context of Jesus’s ministry, we should conclude that all of the commands involving stoning and/or burning people to death for sex outside marriage, gay sex, etc., were not from Yahweh – who is God.

Also, loving God is incompatible with carrying out such commands, and Jesus commandment is to love God – incidentally he did not say “Yahweh”, but “God”.

Reply:

a. Given many of the contexts in which Jesus was speaking, if he did not believe that Yahweh was the author of many legal dispositions in the Old Testament, and if he realized how unjust those dispositions were, one would have expected him to say something, and make it clear that much of the law contained in the Old Testament was deeply unjust and ought to be rejected, especially considering that Jesus, according to the Gospel, did not seem to refrain from challenging common views when he disagreed.

In fact, Jesus was trying to give moral lessons, and both his disciples and at least nearly all other Jews of the time were very mistaken about the morality of Old Testament Law, failing to realize that it was, overall, a very unjust legal code, containing many morally abhorrent commands. So, if Jesus had known how unjust many of the dispositions in the Old Testament were, he probably would have said so, saying – for instance – that Yahweh’s will had been misrepresented.

b. Generally, the interpretation outlined in this objection overlooks much of the New Testament and its connections to the Old Testament. I will give evidence against this kind of objection and similar ones in the rest of this section and the next one, by pointing to several of those connections.

c. If one assumes, for the sake of the argument, that Jesus intended to convey that much of the law contained in the Old Testament was not from Yahweh and was actually unjust, then his method was clearly a particularly bad one. He just needed to say so. He did not, and the vast majority of Christian denominations, leaders and adherents came to believe that all of the appalling legal dispositions contained in the Old Testament were actually good, just laws for ancient Israel, given to them by Yahweh.

Incidentally, most of Jesus’s interlocutors had not seen him protect a woman who had allegedly committed adultery. But even in that case, he did not suggest that they should love her as they love themselves – though that would be false, anyway, as I will argue later.

d. On the incidental point, it’s true that biblical translations above translate Jesus’s words as saying “God”, rather than “Yahweh”. However, he was talking to interlocutors that would have interpreted that passage in the context of the Old Testament, and in particular of Deuteronomy 6:4-5, and who surely were not familiar with later Christian theology, modern philosophy of religion, etc., so they would probably have understood his words as a commandment to love Yahweh, not as a commandment to love God in a sense of the word ‘God’ used in modern philosophy.

e. On the issue of loving Yahweh and allegedly unchanging laws, let’s say that Joseph was a Rabbi born 100 years before Jesus was born, and who died aged 70. So, Joseph did not have access to Jesus’s commandments, and all he knew about Yahweh was what was contained in the Old Testament – which he studied thoroughly, reflecting on the events described and claims made therein, etc.

Then, clearly, Joseph should not have followed many of the commands if he found himself in the situations specified in them, and should have realized upon reflection that the Old Testament depicted the behavior of a moral monster – a non-existent one, but let’s leave that part aside for the sake of the argument.

In particular, it’s intuitively clear that Joseph had no moral obligation to love Yahweh.

f. In any case, if Jesus actually gave those two commandments, he implied that it was immoral not to love Yahweh, and not to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself. So, he was promoting at least some false moral beliefs. I will address the two commandments in question in more detail later, when I deal with liberal Christianity from another perspective.

4.1.2. Some curses. [14]

OEB[1]

Mark 7: 1 One day the Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus. 2  They had noticed that some of his disciples ate their food with their hands ‘defiled,’ by which they meant unwashed. 3  (For the Pharisees, and indeed all strict Jews, will not eat without first scrupulously washing their hands, holding in this to the traditions of their ancestors. 4  When they come from market, they will not eat without first sprinkling themselves; and there are many other customs which they have inherited and hold to, such as the ceremonial washing of cups, and jugs, and copper pans). 5  So the Pharisees and the teachers of the law asked Jesus this question — “How is it that your disciples do not follow the traditions of our ancestors, but eat their food with defiled hands?” 6  His answer was: “It was well said by Isaiah when he prophesied about you hypocrites in the words — ‘This is a people who honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far removed from me; 7  but vainly do they worship me, For they teach but human precepts.’ 8 You neglect God’s commandments and hold to human traditions. 9  Wisely do you set aside God’s commandments,” he exclaimed, “to keep your own traditions! 10  For while Moses said ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Let anyone who abuses their father or mother suffer death,’ 11  you say ‘If a person says to their father or mother “Whatever of mine might have been of service to you is Korban”’ (which means ‘Given to God’) — 12  why, then you do not allow them to do anything further for their father or mother! 13  In this way you nullify the words of God by your traditions, which you hand down; and you do many similar things.”

GWEB:

Mark 7:

7:1 Then the Pharisees, and some of the scribes gathered together to him, having come from Jerusalem. 7:2 Now when they saw some of his disciples eating bread with defiled, that is, unwashed, hands, they found fault. 7:3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, don't eat unless they wash their hands and forearms, holding to the tradition of the elders. 7:4 They don't eat when they come from the marketplace, unless they bathe themselves, and there are many other things, which they have received to hold to: washings of cups, pitchers, bronze vessels, and couches.) 7:5 The Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why don't your disciples walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with unwashed hands?" 7:6 He answered them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7:7 But in vain do they worship me,

teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'* 7:8 "For you set aside the commandment of God, and hold tightly to the tradition of men--the washing of pitchers and cups, and you do many other such things." 7:9 He said to them, "Full well do you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. 7:10 For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother;'* and, 'He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.'* 7:11 But you say, 'If a man tells his father or his mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban, that is to say, given to God;"' 7:12 then you no longer allow him to do anything for his father or his mother, 7:13 making void the word of God by your tradition, which you have handed down. You do many things like this."

In this passage, we can tell the following:

i. Jesus charges the Pharisees with hypocrisy for ignoring Yahweh’s commands, and uses one of Moses’ commands in the Old Testament as an example of one of the many commands that the Pharisees were failing to abide by.

However, Jesus does not say or suggest, at any point, that some of the commands in the Old Testament were not really from Yahweh – let alone that the Pharisees ought not to follow some of them. Rather, the accusation against them was of failing to follow Yahweh’s commands while accusing him, and being hypocrites because of it, without raising any issues about the authenticity of the source.

ii. In addition to that, Jesus endorses a specific command as coming from Yahweh, namely one in which the death penalty is established for apparently cursing one’s parents. Moreover, Jesus accuses the Pharisees of using a far more lenient punishment instead.

In context, this further supports the view that Jesus believed that the commands were all from Yahweh, and implied that neither was it immoral for Yahweh to give such commands, nor was it immoral for the ancient Israelites to follow them. But Yahweh behaved immorally by giving many of those commands if he gave them, and the people obeying them were also behaving immorally by doing so.

Objection 4.1.2.1. Jesus was talking about the death penalty for some curses, and nothing else. One shouldn’t interpret from those words that he believed that any other commands also came from Yahweh.

Reply:

Leaving aside the issue of the morality of the death penalty for that kind of curses, context indicates otherwise. Considering also other passages, it seems that the text strongly supports the view that he believed that all of those commands were in fact Yahweh’s commands.

4.1.3. The Transfiguration.

Let’s take a look at the transfiguration of Jesus, as described in the Gospel of Mark:

OEB[1]

Mark 9

2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain alone by themselves. There his appearance was transformed before their eyes,

3 and his clothes became of a more dazzling white than any bleacher in the world could make them.

4 And Elijah appeared to them, in company with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus.

5 “Rabbi,” said Peter, interposing, “it is good to be here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

6 For he did not know what to say, because they were much afraid.

7 Then a cloud came down and enveloped them; and from the cloud there came a voice — “This is my dearly loved son; listen to him.”

8 And suddenly, on looking around, they saw that there was now no one with them but Jesus alone.

GWEB:

Mark 9

9:2 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John, and brought them up onto a high mountain privately by themselves, and he was changed into another form in front of them. 9:3 His clothing became glistening, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. 9:4 Elijah and Moses appeared to them, and they were talking with Jesus. 9:5 Peter answered Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let's make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." 9:6 For he didn't know what to say, for they were very afraid. 9:7 A cloud came, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." 9:8 Suddenly looking around, they saw no one with them any more, except Jesus only.

So, we can tell that:

i. Jesus is talking to Moses, but it’s obvious that Jesus is not condemning Moses for the evil commands he issued and/or the false moral claims or implications he made. Rather, this passage actually only stresses the links between the Old and the New Testaments, and particularly between Moses and Jesus.

ii. In context, the voice coming from the cloud is unmistakably that of Yahweh. If the proper interpretation of the text is that there is a trinity, then more precisely, the voice is that of the first person of Yahweh.

However, Jesus neither condemns Yahweh – or the first person of Yahweh – for the atrocities he committed, nor claims that Moses committed those atrocities on his own and falsely attributed them to Yahweh, nor condemns Moses in any way.

iii. Here Yahweh himself – or the first person – endorses Jesus as well, and utters no word of condemnation against Moses for the atrocities he (i.e., Moses) commanded in Yahweh’s name, further implying that Moses was indeed following Yahweh’s orders when he issued all of those commands – how else should Jesus’s disciples interpret the presence of Moses, whom they associated with Old Testament Law?

Yet, Yahweh, as described in the Old Testament, was a moral monster – as explained earlier -, and in particular, many of his commands were immoral.

As for Moses, he was a man who willingly relayed commands like the command to stone a woman to death if she has sex before being handed over to the man her father chose to hand her over to, the command to stone a drunkard, glutton, disobedient son to death (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), and so on. If we go by the biblical description, Moses did not just had some false moral beliefs about what other people did. He actually gave the commands, and willingly so. So, Moses was evil as well. And Jesus does nothing to suggest that.

Objection 4.1.3.1. The passage of the transfiguration is allegorical. It didn’t really happen, and the New Testament does not claim it happened.

Reply:

a. There seems to be no textual support for that interpretation.

b. If the transfiguration itself was not meant to be taken literally, it’s unmistakable that it is meant to connect Jesus with Yahweh, Moses and Elijah. In particular, it shows that:

i. Jesus endorsed the actions of Yahweh, as described in the Old Testament, and believed or implied that Yahweh was morally good.

ii. Jesus endorsed the actions of Moses, as described in the Old Testament, when those actions are approved of in the Old Testament.

That’s enough to show that Jesus was not morally perfect.

4.1.4. Jesus, Yahweh and the Ten Commandments.

OEB[1]

Matthew 19:16 A man came up to Jesus, and said: “Teacher, what good thing must I do to obtain eternal life?”

Matthew 19:17 “Why ask me about goodness?” answered Jesus. “There is but One who is good. If you want to enter the life, keep the commandments.”

GWEB:

Matthew 19:16 Behold, one came to him and said, “Good teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”

Matthew 19:17 He said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but one, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

Then Jesus went on to explain those commandments, though it seems he forgot to include a number of exceptions if he meant that behaving according to them was morally obligatory, since sometimes – for instance – it’s morally acceptable to kill (e.g., in self-defense, in some cases in war, etc.), or to lie (e.g., in most cases it would be acceptable to lie to the agents of an oppressive government in order to hide a person they’re trying to arrest and torture just because she wrote an article speaking out against government abuse, etc.).

On the other hand, if Jesus was setting conditions for salvation, that would mean salvation is based on deeds, at least partially, which is a problem for many versions of Christianity.

But those issues aren’t what I’m trying to get at here, so we may set them aside.

Rather, the point I’d like to stress is that Jesus claims that Yahweh is morally good. In context, the ‘One who is good’ is an obvious reference to Yahweh.

Since – as we saw in earlier sections – Yahweh is not morally good, Jesus had false moral beliefs, or lied, or both.

Objection 4.1.4.1. The immoral commands in the Old Testament were not given by Yahweh. Yahweh is morally good, and Jesus made a true claim.

Reply:

Let’s consider the context:

a. Jesus was talking to people who believed that Yahweh was morally good, but also believed he had issued the abhorrent commands that I quoted earlier, as well as many other abhorrent commands – but they failed to realize they were abhorrent.

b. In context, a reasonable person talking to Jesus would have understood his claims as supporting the moral goodness of Yahweh, as described in the Old Testament, which was considered historically accurate by Jesus’s interlocutors. Yet, Jesus did not state that Yahweh did not issue those commands, or even made any suggestions to that effect, which we should expect if Jesus believed that the commands in question did not come from Yahweh.

So, it seems that Jesus believe that those atrocious commands came indeed from Yahweh, but Jesus failed to realize that they were atrocious.

4.1.5. After Jesus’s resurrection.

The connection between Jesus, Yahweh and Moses is also clearly shown in other passages. For instance, in a passage in which Jesus, after resurrecting, talks to some of his disciples:

OEB[1]

Luke 24

25 Then Jesus said to them: “Foolish men, slow to accept all that the prophets have said!

26 Was not the Christ bound to undergo this suffering before entering into his glory?”

27 Then, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them all through the scriptures the passages that referred to himself.

28 When they got near the village to which they were walking, Jesus appeared to be going further;

29 but they pressed him not to do so. “Stay with us,” they said, “for it is getting towards evening, and the sun in already low.” So Jesus went in to stay with them.

30 After he had taken his place at the table with them, he took the bread and said the blessing, and broke it, and gave it to them.

31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him; but he disappeared from their sight.

GWEB:

Luke 24

24:25 He said to them, "Foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 24:26 Didn't the Christ have to suffer these things and to enter into his glory?" 24:27 Beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he explained to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 24:28 They drew near to the village, where they were going, and he acted like he would go further. 24:29 They urged him, saying, "Stay with us, for it is almost evening, and the day is almost over."

He went in to stay with them. 24:30 It happened, that when he had sat down at the table with them, he took the bread and gave thanks. Breaking it, he gave to them. 24:31 Their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he vanished out of their sight.

While it’s true that Jesus was trying to explain to them the connection between the prophecies in the Old Testament and his own life, death and resurrection, the fact is that he knew his disciples believed that all of the Old Testament was true, including the attribution of Old Testament Law in its entirety to Yahweh. Yet, Jesus didn’t say to his disciples that while they should accept everything attributed to the prophets in the context of Old Testament prophecy, other claims attributed to those prophets, to Yahweh and to other followers of Yahweh described in the Old Testament, were false.

In that context, saying that they would be foolish for not accepting all that the prophets have spoken would only have reinforced their false beliefs, in case many of the legal dispositions in the Old Testament did not come from Yahweh.

4.2. Paul and the Old Testament.

In this subsection, I will address passages in the New Testament in which Paul cites or otherwise refers to the Old Testament. I will consider both some of Paul’s writings and the New Testament, and other writings in the New Testament that describe some of Paul’s actions.

The pattern that emerges is as follows:

i. In his writings, as well as in words attributed to him in the New Testament, Paul explicitly accepts the historical accuracy of several parts of the Old Testament he refers to, including Yahweh’s authorship of many Old Testament legal dispositions.

ii. There is no suggestion whatsoever that Paul realized that much of the Old Testament, or indeed any of it, consisted of false moral claims or implications, and depictions of immoral actions by Yahweh.

iii. In particular, even when Paul knew he was talking to people who believed in the historicity of claims like Yahweh’s actions in Egypt or Canaan, and also believed that Yahweh was the author of Old Testament Law (as described in the Old Testament), Paul did not denounce those Old Testament passages, or even hinted that there might be any problem at all, despite the moral atrocities described in them as commanded or executed by Yahweh.

Given all of that, based on the New Testament we may conclude that Paul believed that all of the Mosaic Law came from Yahweh, and also believed in the historicity of all of the events described in the Old Testament and that I addressed earlier in this moral case, as well as many other events described in the Old Testament.

Yet, according to the New Testament, Paul was chosen by Jesus to be his vessel to take his teachings to other nations, and to Jews as well (Acts 9). In other words, Paul was chosen as a moral teacher.

So, Paul’s failure to recognize moral atrocities, and the fact that he promoted false moral beliefs – like the belief that some of the immoral actions depicted in the Old Testament were not immoral -, provides good evidence that Jesus too was very mistaken, or was very inept at delivering his message, or both.

4.2.1. Paul and Old Testament Law.

In this subsection, I will address some of Paul’s claims and implications about Old Testament Law, either in Paul’s own writings, or in other parts of the New Testament.

4.2.1.1. Acts 24.

In Acts 24, Paul is brought before Governor Felix, to respond to a number of accusations.

Among other things, Paul says:

GWEB:

Acts 24:

24:14 But this I confess to you, that after the Way, which they call a sect, so I serve the God of our fathers, believing all things which are according to the law, and which are written in the prophets; 24:15 having hope toward God, which these also themselves look for, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.

OEB[1]

Acts 24:

14 This, however, I do acknowledge to you, that it is as a believer in the cause which they call heretical, that I worship the God of my ancestors. At the same time, I believe everything that is in accordance with the law and that is written in the prophets; 15 and I have a hope that rests in God — a hope which they also cherish — that there will one day be a resurrection of good and bad alike.

Assuming that the New Testament account is accurate, here Paul unmistakably endorses Old Testament Law in its entirety. While Paul did not believe that all of those laws and regulations applied to the Gentiles, in this passage he makes it clear that he believed that Yahweh gave the law to the ancient Israelites.

Unless Paul was lying, he was confused, failing to see that the Old Testament described the actions of a moral monster, and that those following some of the commands contained in Old Testament Law would have been acting immorally.

Granted, Paul might have been lying to improve his chances of being released, but there is no textual evidence of that. On the contrary, the context of the text suggests Paul was being honest.

Objection 4.2.1.1.1. The Acts of the Apostles provides no good evidence of what Paul believed. After all, Paul didn’t write it, and the writer of Acts did not have good information about Paul’s life.

Reply:

That would imply that some of the events depicted in the New Testament did not happen, and the New Testament makes some false claims about Paul.

4.2.1.2. Acts 28.

Acts 28:23 describes how Paul was trying to persuade some Jewish people.

GWEB:

Acts 28:

23 When they had appointed him a day, many people came to him at his lodging. He explained to them, testifying about God’s Kingdom, and persuading them concerning Jesus, both from the law of Moses and from the prophets, from morning until evening.

OEB[1]

Acts 28:

23 They then fixed a day with him, and came to the place where he was staying, in even larger numbers, when Paul proceeded to lay the subject before them. He bore his testimony to the kingdom of God, and tried to convince them about Jesus, by arguments drawn from the law of Moses and from the prophets — speaking from morning until evening.

Here, Paul is making arguments based on the Old Testament, including Mosaic Law. There is no hint that Paul realized how immoral that law was, overall, or even that it contained a single immoral command. On the contrary, Paul seems to believe that there was nothing immoral in that law, and in any case, he's using it to persuade people who believed that the law in question was just, without telling them it was overall deeply unjust, given some of the appalling dispositions it contained.

4.2.1.3. Romans 2 and 3.

Romans 2 and 3 contain more claims made by Paul with respect to the Old Testament, and in particular, Old Testament Law, such as:

GWEB:

Romans 2:

2:13 For it isn't the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be justified 2:14 (for when Gentiles who don't have the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are a law to themselves, 2:15 in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience testifying with them, and their thoughts among themselves accusing or else excusing them) 2:16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men, according to my Good News, by Jesus Christ.

OEB[1]

Romans 2:

13 It is not those who hear the words of a law that are righteous before God, but it is those who obey it that will be pronounced righteous. 14 When Gentiles, who have no law, do instinctively what the law requires, they, though they have no law, are a law to themselves; 15 for they show the demands of the law written on their hearts; their consciences corroborating it, while in their thoughts they argue either in self-accusation or, it may be, in self-defense — 16 on the day when God passes judgment on people’s inmost lives, as the good news that I tell declares that he will do through Christ Jesus.

GWEB:

Romans 3:

3:19 Now we know that whatever things the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God. 3:20 Because by the works of the law, no flesh will be justified in his sight. For through the law comes the knowledge of sin. 3:21 But now apart from the law, a righteousness of God has been revealed, being testified by the law and the prophets; 3:22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all those who believe. For there is no distinction, 3:23 for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God;

Romans 3:

19 Now we know that everything said in the law is addressed to those who are under its authority, in order that every mouth may be closed, and to bring the whole world under God’s judgment. 20 For ‘no human being will be pronounced righteous before God’ as the result of obedience to law; for it is law that shows what sin is.

21 But now, quite apart from law, the divine righteousness stands revealed, and to it the law and the prophets bear witness — 22 the divine righteousness which is bestowed, through faith in Jesus Christ, on all, without distinction, who believe in him.

It is apparent in context that, while Paul is preaching to Gentiles and saying that Yahweh makes no distinction in a number of senses, Paul also makes it clear that he believes that the everything said in the law written in the Old Testament is indeed the law given to the ancient Israelites by Yahweh.

As before, there is no indication whatsoever that Paul realized that Old Testament Law contained any evil dispositions, or that Yahweh was a moral monster if Yahweh was the author of that law.

4.2.1.4. Romans 7.

Romans 7 also contains a number of Paul’s claims about Old Testament Laws, and about Jesus. While much of what he says is those passages is obscure at best, some of his claims are clear enough. That includes the claims that Old Testament Law was from Yahweh, and that it was entirely good and just, as one can see in the following passages:

GWEB:

Romans 7:

7:1 Or don't you know, brothers (for I speak to men who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man for as long as he lives? 7:2 For the woman that has a husband is bound by law to the husband while he lives, but if the husband dies, she is discharged from the law of the husband. 7:3 So then if, while the husband lives, she is joined to another man, she would be called an adulteress. But if the husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she is joined to another man. 7:4 Therefore, my brothers, you also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you would be joined to another, to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit to God. 7:5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were through the law, worked in our members to bring forth fruit to death. 7:6 But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that in which we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter. 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? May it never be! However, I wouldn't have known sin, except through the law. For I wouldn't have known coveting, unless the law had said, "You shall not covet."* 7:8 But sin, finding occasion through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of coveting. For apart from the law, sin is dead. 7:9 I was alive apart from the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. 7:10 The commandment, which was for life, this I found to be for death; 7:11 for sin, finding occasion through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. 7:12 Therefore the law indeed is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good. 7:13 Did then that which is good become death to me? May it never be! But sin, that it might be shown to be sin, by working death to me through that which is good; that through the commandment sin might become exceeding sinful. 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, sold under sin. 7:15 For I don't know what I am doing. For I don't practice what I desire to do; but what I hate, that I do. 7:16 But if what I don't desire, that I do, I consent to the law that it is good. 7:17 So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. 7:18 For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing. For desire is present with me, but I don't find it doing that which is good. 7:19 For the good which I desire, I don't do; but the evil which I don't desire, that I practice. 7:20 But if what I don't desire, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. 7:21 I find then the law, that, to me, while I desire to do good, evil is present. 7:22 For I delight in God's law after the inward man, 7:23 but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members. 7:24 What a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death? 7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord! So then with the mind, I myself serve God's law, but with the flesh, the sin's law.

OEB[1]

Romans 7:

1 Surely, friends, you know (for I am speaking to people who know what Law means) that Law has power over a person only as long as they lives. 2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband while he is living; but, if her husband dies, she is set free from the law that bound her to him. 3 If, then, during her husband’s lifetime, she unites herself to another man, she will be called an adulteress; but, if her husband dies, the law has no further hold on her, nor, if she unites herself to another man, is she an adulteress. 4 And so with you, my friends; as far as the Law was concerned, you underwent death in the crucified body of the Christ, so that you might be united to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that our lives might bear fruit for God. 5 When we were living merely earthly lives, our sinful passions, aroused by the Law, were active in every part of our bodies, with the result that our lives bore fruit for death. 6 But now we are set free from the Law, because we are dead to that which once kept us under restraint; and so we serve under new, spiritual conditions, and not under old, written regulations.
7 What are we to say, then? That Law and sin are the same thing? Heaven forbid! On the contrary, I should not have learned what sin is, had not it been for Law. If the Law did not say ‘You must not covet,’ I should not know what it is to covet. 8 But sin took advantage of the Commandment to arouse in me every form of covetousness, for where there is no consciousness of Law sin shows no sign of life. 9 There was a time when I myself, unconscious of Law, was alive; but when the Commandment was brought home to me, sin sprang into life, while I died! 10 The Commandment that should have meant life I found to result in death! 11 sin took advantage of the Commandment to deceive me, and used it to bring about my death. 12 And so the Law is holy, and each Commandment is also holy, and just, and good. 13 Did, then, a thing, which in itself was good, involve death in my case? Heaven forbid! It was sin that involved death; so that, by its use of what I regarded as good to bring about my death, its true nature might appear; and in this way the Commandment showed how intensely sinful sin is. 14 We know that the Law is spiritual, but I am earthly — sold into slavery to sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I am so far from habitually doing what I want to do, that I find myself doing the thing that I hate. 16 But when I do what I want not to do, I am admitting that the Law is right. 17 This being so, the action is no longer my own, but is done by the sin which is within me. 18 I know that there is nothing good in me — I mean in my earthly nature. For, although it is easy for me to want to do right, to act rightly is not easy. 19 I fail to do the good thing that I want to do, but the bad thing that I want not to do — that I habitually do. 20 But, when I do the thing that I want not to do, the action is no longer my own, but is done by the sin which is within me. 21 This, then, is the law that I find — when I want to do right, wrong presents itself! 22 At heart I delight in the Law of God; 23 but throughout my body I see a different law, one which is in conflict with the law accepted by my reason, and which endeavors to make me a prisoner to that law of sin which exists throughout my body. 24 Miserable man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body that is bringing me to this death? 25 Thank God, there is deliverance through Jesus Christ, our Lord! Well then, for myself, with my reason I serve the Law of God, but with my earthly nature the Law of sin.

So, while much of that is obscure, in Romans 7:12 Paul states that the law is holy, and that every commandment is holy, just and good. As I pointed out earlier in this essay, it is not true that all of the legal dispositions in the Old Testament are good or just. In fact, some are profoundly unjust, and following them would have been very immoral. But Paul, in Romans 7, fails to realize that – as he consistently fails to realize that throughout his writings.

Additionally, he clearly identifies Yahweh as the author of Old Testament Law.

Objection 4.2.1.4.1. Paul was actually saying that Christians were not under the Law. They were free from it. It would be a twist of his words to suggest that he supports Old Testament Law.

Reply:

I’m not saying or uggesting that Paul was saying that Old Testament Law was applicable to him, or to the people he was talking to. I’m not even saying or suggesting that he was saying that Old Testament Law was applicable to anyone after the coming of Jesus. Much of what he says is obscure, but in any case, applicability at the time he was speaking is beside the point I’m making in this subsection.

The basic point I’m making in this subsection is as follows:

In Romans 7, claims that Old Testament Law was from Yahweh, and that it was entirely good and just  - at least, as a law for the people from the time of Moses up to the time of Jesus. But as I pointed out earlier in this essay, it is not true that all of the legal dispositions in the Old Testament are good or just. Some are profoundly unjust, and following them would have been very immoral.

Objection 4.2.1.4.2. Paul was talking about the parts of Old Testament Law that came indeed from Yahweh. But many others didn’t. Paul did not endorse those.

Reply:

There is no textual support for that. On the contrary, context decisively support that he endorsed all of Old Testament Law. That’s clear by several reasons, some of which I’ve been pointing out through this essay, but for example:

a. Paul says that every Commandment is holy. In context, he’s talking about Old Testament Law.

b. Paul was talking to people who believed that all of the law in the Old Testament was from Yahweh. But he made no indication that some of it was not.

c. Other passages in the New Testament also show Paul believed that all of the law in the Old Testament was good, just, and from Yahweh, such as passages in Romans 2 and 3.

d. While Paul did not write the Acts of the Apostles, the fact is that the book in question is also part of the New Testament, and also holds that Paul believed that all of the law in the Old Testament was from Yahweh, and was also good and just.

Objection 4.2.1.4.3. Paul’s moral mistakes are not a problem for Christianity, since Christianity does not claim that Paul was morally infallible, either in ascertaining moral truth, or in behaving in a morally acceptable manner.

Reply:

According to the New Testament, Paul was chosen by Jesus to be his vessel to take his teachings to other nations, and to Jews as well (Acts 9).

Paul’s words in Romans 7 were one of the ways in which Paul was taking Jesus’s teachings to the intended audience. Moreover, those words made it into the New Testament, and by that means, it reached people all over the world, for many centuries, spreading both historical and moral confusion.

Jesus could have easily corrected that. But he did not, even though he was willing to intervene and tell some people – like Saul/Paul – to carry out his teachings.

4.2.1.5 1 Corinthians 9.

In 1 Corinthians 9:9, Paul cites Deuteronomy 25:4, clearly accepting it as coming from Yahweh. There is no suggestion in the text that Paul rejected other parts of the law contained in Deuteronomy as not coming from Yahweh.

Someone might say that Paul wasn’t interesting in clarifying that point in the context of 1 Corinthians 9:9, but the fact is that there is a crystal clear pattern in Paul’s writings in the New Testament, namely that whenever Paul refers to some Old Testament legal dispositions, he accepts those dispositions as coming from Yahweh, and whenever he refers to Old Testament passages describing any actions of Yahweh, Paul accepts them as historical. This is so even when he knows that some or all of the people he’s talking to accept the entire Old Testament Law as coming from Yahweh, and the events described in it and which I addressed earlier (among many others) as historical.

If Paul wanted to correct moral errors and he had realized that the Old Testament depicted Yahweh as a moral monster – claiming he was good, but still depicting the actions of a moral monster -, one would have expected his writings to be very different from what they are.

4.2.1.6. Galatians 3.

In the letter to the Galatians, Paul asserts that no one is justified by the works of Old Testament Law, but by faith. Yet, Paul also makes it clear that Old Testament Law came from Yahweh.

GWEB:

Galatians 3:

3:19 What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the seed should come to whom the promise has been made. It was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator. 3:20 Now a mediator is not between one, but God is one. 3:21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could make alive, most certainly righteousness would have been of the law. 3:22 But the Scriptures imprisoned all things under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 3:23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, confined for the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 3:24 So that the law has become our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

OEB[1]

Galatians 3:

19 What, then, you ask, was the use of the law? It was a later addition, to make people conscious of their wrong-doings, and intended to last only until the coming of that ‘offspring’ to whom the promise had been made; and it was delivered through angels by a mediator. 20 Now mediation implies more than one person, but God is one only. 21 Does that set the law in opposition to God’s promises? Heaven forbid! For, if a law had been given capable of bestowing life, then righteousness would have actually owed its existence to law. 22 But the words of scripture represent the whole world as being in bondage to sin, so that the promised blessing, dependent, as it is, on faith in Jesus Christ, may be given to those who have faith in him.

23 Before the coming of faith, we were kept under the guard of the law, in bondage, awaiting the faith that was destined to be revealed. 24 Thus the law has proved a guide to lead us to Christ, in order that we may be pronounced righteous as the result of faith.

There is no indication in Galatians that only part of Old Testament Law came from Yahweh, or that Paul realized that if all of it came from Yahweh, then Yahweh behaved very immorally. Nor is there any indication that he realized that the ancient Israelites ought to have disobeyed – except perhaps given sufficient threat from Yahweh, in which case at least they shouldn’t have obeyed them willingly, or believing that they came from a morally good ruler of the world – many of the legal dispositions contained in the Old Testament – of course, I'm talking about those ancient Israelites who were in a situation in which the law demanded they engaged in some of the appalling actions mentioned earlier in this essay.

In fact, even if Paul believed that Old Testament Law was not applicable to Christians, he clearly believed that it was or had been applicable to the ancient Israelites from the time it was given to Moses up to the time of Jesus at least, and also that it would have been at least morally acceptable for those Israelites to follow said law. He even claims in the passage quoted above that Old Testament Law played a role as a tutor or guide to lead people to Christ - obviously implying, in context, a morally positive assessment of the Old Testament Law, at least for the context of the period I mentioned above.

4.2.2. Paul and some events in the Old Testament. Literal interpretation.

In this subsection, I will address some of Paul’s views on some events depicted in the Old Testament. I will argue that he interpreted those events in the OT literally, failing to realize that Yahweh was depicted as a moral monster, and so were some of his followers and servants – even though, of course, the writers of those OT passages failed to realize that, and believed to be depicted good actions while in reality they were depicted atrocities.

4.2.2.1. Acts 13. Canaan.

Acts 13 contains an account of a speech given – allegedly - by Paul, in which he makes a number of references to the Old Testament, including those depicting the massacres in Canaan.

In particular, Paul says the following:

GWEB:

Acts 13:

13:16 Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, "Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen. 13:17 The God of this people* chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they stayed as aliens in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm, he led them out of it. 13:18 For a period of about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. 13:19 When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land for an inheritance, for about four hundred fifty years.

OEB[1]

Acts 13:

16 So Paul rose and, motioning with his hand, said: “People of Israel and all here who worship God, hear what I have to say. 17 The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors, and during their stay in Egypt increased the prosperity of the people, and then ‘with uplifted arm brought them out from that land.’ 18 For about forty years ‘he bore with them in the desert’; 19 then, after destroying seven heathen nations in Canaan, he allotted their land to this people —  

In context, Paul’s approval of Yahweh’s actions is apparent, but those would be Yahweh’s actions as described in the Old Testament. Yet, some of Yahweh’s actions, as described in the Old Testament passages Paul is referring to, are morally appalling.

By the way, he also endorses the Exodus as described in the Old Testament as historic. He was mistaken, and thus so is the New Testament, but this is a side note in the context of this moral case: we may grant that the Exodus happened as described – minus the relevant moral assessments of Yahweh's, Moses's, etc., behavior, of course - for the sake of the argument.

Objection 4.2.2.1.1. Those nations weren’t destroyed in the sense of being exterminated completely. They were driven away for good reasons, and those who resisted were killed.

Reply:

Regardless of whether they were exterminated, the fact is that many of those who did not resist and were not guilty of anything – such as young children – were also targeted and killed.

Also, and additionally, given the method of killing, the attackers surely inflicted a lot of pain and suffering on many of them before killing them. I addressed some of Yahweh’s actions and some of the actions of those following his commands in greater detail earlier.

4.2.2.2. Romans 9. Egypt.

GWEB:

Romans 9:

9:14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? May it never be! 9:15 For he said to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."* 9:16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy. 9:17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I caused you to be raised up, that I might show in you my power, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."* 9:18 So then, he has mercy on whom he desires, and he hardens whom he desires. 9:19 You will say then to me, "Why does he still find fault? For who withstands his will?" 9:20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed ask him who formed it, "Why did you make me like this?"* 9:21 Or hasn't the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel for honor, and another for dishonor? 9:22 What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath made for destruction, 9:23 and that he might make known the riches of his glory on vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory, 9:24 us, whom he also called, not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles?

OEB[1]

Romans 9:

14 What are we to say, then? Is God guilty of injustice? Heaven forbid! 15 For his words to Moses are — ‘I will take pity on whom I take pity, and be merciful to whom I am merciful.’ 16 So, then, all depends, not on human wishes or human efforts, but on God’s mercy. 17 In scripture, again, it is said to Pharaoh — ‘It was for this purpose that I raised you to the throne, to show my power by my dealings with you, and to make my name known throughout the world.’ 18 So, then, where God wills, he takes pity, and where he wills, he hardens the heart. 19 Perhaps you will say to me — ‘How can anyone still be blamed? For who withstands his purpose?’ 20 I might rather ask ‘Who are you who are arguing with God?’ Does a thing which a person has moulded say to the person who has moulded it ‘Why did you make me like this?’ 21 Has not the potter absolute power over their clay, so that out of the same lump they make one thing for better, and another for common, use? 22 And what if God, intending to reveal his displeasure and make his power known, bore most patiently with the objects of his displeasure, though they were fit only to be destroyed, 23 so as to make known his surpassing glory in dealing with the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared beforehand for glory, 24 and whom he called — even us — Not only from among the Jews but from among the Gentiles also!

Here, and as before, Paul accepts some events described in the Old Testament as historical.

Yet, he fails to realize that if Yahweh behaved as described in those passages of the Old Testament – and many, many others -, he was a moral monster.

Objection 4.2.2.2.1. In that passage, Paul does not accept that Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart during the events described in Exodus, but just that Yahweh made Pharaoh that way beforehand, as the clay analogy shows.

Reply:

a. The clay analogy does not seem to show that. It may well be – and I find it more plausible – that Paul believed that Yahweh had predestined Pharaoh to do that, but intervened along Pharaoh’s life, in order to carry out his agenda. That includes the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart.

b. Even under the assumption that Paul believed what this objection says, the fact remains that Yahweh’s actions, as depicted in the relevant Old Testament passages, were abhorrent. Purely for example – I addressed this matter in greater detail earlier -, the way he inflicted suffering on Egyptian children was evil.

Objection 4.2.2.2.2. Paul’s moral mistakes are not a problem for Christianity, since Christianity does not claim that Paul was morally infallible, either in ascertaining moral truth, or in behaving in a morally acceptable manner. Neither are Paul’s mistaken beliefs about the historicity of some of the events depicted in the Old Testament a problem for Christianity.

Reply:
According to the New Testament, Paul was chosen by Jesus to be his vessel to take his teachings to other nations, and to Jews as well (Acts 9).

Paul’s words in Romans 9 were one of the ways in which Paul was taking Jesus’s teachings to the intended audience. Moreover, those words made it into the New Testament, and by that means, it reached people all over the world, for many centuries, spreading both historical and moral confusion.

Jesus could have easily corrected that. But he did not, even though he was willing to intervene and tell some people – like Saul/Paul – to carry out his teachings.

4.2.3. More on Paul and the Old Testament. 2 Timothy 3.

The Second Epistle of Paul to Timothy is part of the New Testament, and claims to be from Paul. Let’s that a look:

GWEB:

2 Timothy 3:

3:14 But you remain in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them. 3:15 From infancy, you have known the sacred writings which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus. 3:16 Every writing inspired by God is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction which is in righteousness, 3:17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

OEB[1]

2 Timothy 3:

You know who they were from whom you learnt it; 15 and that, from your childhood, you have known the sacred writings, which can give you the wisdom that, through belief in Christ Jesus, leads to salvation. 16 All scripture is God-breathed: helpful for teaching, for refuting error, for giving guidance, and for training others in righteousness; 17 so that God's people may be capable and equipped for good work of every kind.

So, the letter claims that all scripture is from Yahweh, and good in particular for moral teaching.

The GWEB’s wording is different, and based on it, someone might suggest that perhaps the OEB got the translation wrong, and that perhaps Paul was only talking about Yahweh-inspired writings, without taking a stance on whether all of the writings understood at the time as scriptural were in fact Yahweh-inspired.

However, and regardless of which translation is more accurate, in that passage Paul states that he is talking about the writings that Timothy had known from infancy/childhood, and which Paul calls “sacred writings”. Given that those writings included all of Old Testament Law, plus the events depicted in the Old Testament and which I addressed earlier in this essay, one should reckon that the author of this epistle believed that all of those writings – which include moral atrocities, false moral claims or implications, etc. - were profitable for moral teaching, and in fact were inspired by Yahweh.

Also, assuming that the author is not lying, the author is Paul. Given that, Paul was a terrible moral teacher. He would have led people into vast moral confusion – well, that he did. And yet, Paul was appointed by Jesus as a teacher – also, according to the New Testament.

Now, if the author of the letter was not Paul, then the author was lying about that, so a lie made it into the New Testament. But regardless of that, the fact is that epistle is a part of the New Testament, and claims or implies that all of Old Testament Law is from Yahweh, is profitable for moral teaching, and so on.

Objection 4.2.3.1. Paul said that those writings were profitable for moral teaching, but he did not say how. It’s compatible with Paul’s claim that some of the writings are profitable in the sense that by reading them, people would likely figure out that many of their moral claims or implications are false, etc.

Reply:

1. That’s simply not a reasonable assessment of the evidence. Paul never suggested any of the sort, and that was not the understanding of other Christians, either.

2. In the passage under consideration, Paul implied that Old Testament law, plus all of the passages depicting events and making false moral claims or implications that I addressed earlier in this essay, were inspired by Yahweh.

So, given that, it follows in particular from Paul’s implications and the fact that Old Testament Law is deeply unjust overall, and contains many despicable dispositions, that Yahweh inspired a deeply unjust law overall, and many despicable dispositions. Moreover, it also follows that Yahweh inspired depictions of other atrocities – which are implicitly or explicitly presented as morally acceptable or even obligatory, or praiseworthy, in the Old Testament.

Objection 4.2.3.2. 2 Timothy was not actually written by Paul.

Reply:

1. Regardless of who wrote 2 Timothy, the fact is that 2 Timothy is part of the New Testament, and claims or evidently implies that all of scripture – the scripture known by childhood by Timothy – is Yahweh-inspired. That includes all of Old Testament Law, plus the other atrocities depicted in the Old Testament and which I addressed earlier in this essay.

2. Incidentally, 2 Timothy is part of the New Testament, and claims to be from Paul. So, if it’s not, then clearly the New Testament contains a lie – among many other false claims.

Objection 4.2.3.3. Paul did not believe that the divorce law was Yahweh-inspired, since Jesus said otherwise.

Reply:

1. Jesus said in the New Testament that Moses gave them the divorce law because of the “hardness” of the hearts of some people, but did not say that the legal disposition in question did not come from Yahweh.

2. Moses claimed or implied that the entire set of laws was from Yahweh, but Jesus never suggested that Moses had falsely attributed commands to Yahweh.

3. At any rate, the fact remains that 2 Timothy is part of the New Testament, and identifies the scripture that Timothy would have learned from childhood as “sacred”, and that includes all of Old Testament Law, plus the other atrocities depicted in the Old Testament and which I addressed earlier in this essay.

Objection 4.2.3.4. But the New Testament makes it clear that [parts of, or all, on different versions of this objection] Old Testament Law is no longer binding for Christians. You're just taking this passages out of context.

Reply:

1. I'm not taking anything out of context. I'm quoting from the Bible and pointing out what 2 Timothy 3 says, which is that all of the Old Testament is good for moral teaching.

2. I'm not claiming or suggesting that 2 Timothy 3 establishes or claims that all or part of the legal dispositions in the Old Testament are binding for Christians. However, by claiming that all of scripture is good for moral teaching, 2 Timothy 3 is committed to:

a. The false moral belief that following the commands contained in the Old Testament Laws was morally acceptable and even obligatory for those under that law. That includes commands to commit morally appalling actions, like stoning a woman to death because the “tokens of her virginity” were not found the night she was handed over to the man his father chose as a husband, or if she was found having sex with someone other than the man her father chose for her – if not for not crying if she was being raped, etc.

This is compatible with the view that Christians do not have a moral obligation to do that, or even that they have a moral obligation not to do that. But it's still a case of a moral belief that is far away from the truth.

b. The false moral belief that the moral claims or implications made in the context of Old Testament Law, were all true. For example, it's implied in the Bible, and in the context of Old Testament Law, that the people being stoned to death, burned to death, etc., as punishments, actually deserved to be treated in that manner. That is false.

4.3. Stephen and Moses.

Among other claims, Acts 6 says that some people accused Stephen of promoting the belief that Jesus will change the law of Moses.

GWEB:

Acts 6:

6:12 They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes, and came against him and seized him, and brought him in to the council, 6:13 and set up false witnesses who said, "This man never stops speaking blasphemous words against this holy place and the law. 6:14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us."

OEB[1]

Acts 6:

12 and they stirred up the people, as well as the councillors and the teachers of the law, and set on Stephen, and arrested him, and brought him before the High Council. 13 There they produced witnesses who gave false evidence.“This man,” they said, “is incessantly saying things against this Holy place and the law; 14 indeed, we have heard him declare that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and change the customs handed down to us by Moses.”

In Acts 7, Stephen rejects the accusations and makes, among others, the following claims.

GWEB:

Acts 7:

7:35 "This Moses, whom they refused, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge?'--God has sent him as both a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 7:36 This man led them out, having worked wonders and signs in Egypt, in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years. 7:37 This is that Moses, who said to the children of Israel, ‘The Lord our God will raise up a prophet for you from among your brothers, like me.*'* 7:38 This is he who was in the assembly in the wilderness with the angel that spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, who received living oracles to give to us,

OEB[1]

Acts 7:

35 This same Moses, whom they had disowned with the words — ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ was the man whom God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer, under the guidance of the angel that had appeared to him in the bush.

36 He it was who led them out, after he had shown wonders and signs in Egypt, in the Red Sea, and in the desert during forty years. 37 This was the Moses who said to the people of Israel — ‘God will raise up for you, from among yourselves, a prophet, as he raised up me.’ 38 He, too, it was who was present at the assembly in the desert, with the angel who talked to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors, and who received living truths to impart to you.

Clearly, Stephen claims that Moses indeed led the ancient Israelites out of Egypt with Yahweh’s help, guided by an angel.

Stephen continues:

GWEB:

Acts 7:

7:51 "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit! As your fathers did, so you do. 7:52 Which of the prophets didn't your fathers persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, of whom you have now become betrayers and murderers. 7:53 You received the law as it was ordained by angels, and didn't keep it!"

OEB[1]

Acts 7:

51 Stubborn people, heathen in heart and ears, you are for ever resisting the Holy Spirit; your ancestors did it, and you are doing it still. 52 Which of the prophets escaped persecution at their hands? They killed those who foretold the coming of the righteous one; of whom you, in your turn, have now become the betrayers and murderers — 53 You who received the Law as transmitted by angels and yet failed to keep it.”

So, Stephen claims that the law of Moses that they received was the law as transmitted by angels.

This is clearly an endorsement of Mosaic Law, at least as proper for the people of ancient Israel, and of many of Moses’ actions, as depicted in the Old Testament, and to the extent that he’s allegedly following Yahweh’s commands.

In the story, Stephen surely knew that the people he was talking to – most of them at least – believed that the events in Egypt had happened exactly as described in the Old Testament, and moreover that all of the actions of Yahweh and of Moses described there were morally good.

Similarly, at least most of the people Stephen was talking to believed that Yahweh gave Moses all of the Old Testament Law, as described in the Bible, and they also believed that all of the commands in question were morally good, and Stephen again knew that.

Yet, Stephen at no point suggests that either the Old Testament description was mistaken, or that Yahweh and Moses were behaving immorally. On the contrary, he seems to clearly accept that the account is historical, and also approve of Moses’ actions, and of Yahweh’s as well.

Now, it’s apparent that Stephen was not trying to hide his beliefs out of fear, since he continued to make points that enraged his audience – and which he clearly realized would likely have that effect -, to the point that they stone him to death afterward. Nor is there any suggestion that Stephen was hiding his beliefs for any other reason.

However, if Stephen had been aware of the fact that if Yahweh and Moses behaved as described in some the passages of the Old Testament Stephen was talking about, their actions were abhorrent, it seems apparent that his words would have been very different from what they were.

So, based on all of the above, Acts 6 and 7 strongly support the conclusion that Stephen believed that those appalling actions described in the Old Testament were not only historical, but also morally good.

Yet, according to Acts 6:5, Stephen was a man “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit”.

4.4. Peter and the Old Testament.

In this subsection, I will address some of the claims or implications made by Peter – according to the New Testament - about some events in the Old Testament.

4.4.1. 2 Peter 2. The Flood.

The Second Epistle to Peter accepts the historicity of a number of Old Testament events, including some in which Yahweh’s behavior was immoral. In particular, the author mentions Noah and the Flood.

GWEB:

2 Peter 2:

2:4 For if God didn't spare angels when they sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus, and committed them to pits of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; 2:5 and didn't spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah with seven others, a preacher of righteousness, when he brought a flood on the world of the ungodly; 2:6 and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly; 2:7 and delivered righteous Lot, who was very distressed by the lustful life of the wicked 2:8 (for that righteous man dwelling among them, was tormented in his righteous soul from day to day with seeing and hearing lawless deeds): 2:9 the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment; 2:10 but chiefly those who walk after the flesh in the lust of defilement, and despise authority…

OEB[1]

2 Peter 2:

4 Remember, God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them down to Tartarus, and consigned them to caverns of darkness, to be kept under guard for judgment. 5 Nor did he spare the world of old; though he preserved Noah, the preacher of righteousness, and seven others, when he brought a flood on the godless world. 6 He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and reduced them to ashes, holding them up as a warning to the godless of what was in store for them; 7 but he rescued righteous Lot, whose heart was vexed by the wanton licentiousness of his neighbors; 8 for, seeing and hearing what he did, as he lived his righteous life among them, day after day, Lot’s righteous soul was tortured by their wicked doings. 9 The Lord, therefore, knows how to deliver the pious from temptation, and to keep the wicked, who are even now suffering punishment, in readiness for ‘the day of judgment’ — 10 especially those who, following the promptings of their lower nature, indulge their polluting passions and despise all control. Audacious and self-willed, they feel no awe of the celestial beings, maligning them,

While it’s true that the author of 2 Peter was focusing on condemning certain behaviors, rather than on the question of the historicity of the Flood account, he accepts without question that all the behavior displayed by Yahweh in the parts of the Old Testament he’s referring to, was not immoral – that is implicit in the letter, given context.

However, the behavior displayed by Yahweh in the Old Testament Flood account (for instance) was very immoral. So, here, as in many other passages, the New Testament contains a false moral assessment, implicit in this particular case, but still clear enough.

Objection 4.4.1.1. Peter did not write 2 Peter.

Reply:

But 2 Peter is still part of the New Testament. So, it remains the case that the New Testament implicitly or explicitly accepts the historicity of the events described above.

Additionally, if 2 Peter was not written by Peter, then the New Testament makes the false historical claim that 2 Peter was written by Peter.

4.4.2. 2 Peter 2. Lot and his daughters.

As described in the Old Testament, Yahweh destroyed the city of Sodom, but spared Lot and some of his family members.

One may raise here the issues of people who lived in Sodom and did not deserve to be killed, including children, the suffering that may have been inflicted on those children by Yahweh, and so on.

However, I’ve already addressed several of the cases in which Yahweh inflicts horrible suffering on the innocent, and in this part of this essay, I would like to focus on Lot’s character, and the claims made in the New Testament.

So, Yahweh sent two angels to talk to Lot and warn him in advance, before destroying the city. The following passages describe some of the events:

GWEB:

Genesis 19:

19:1 The two angels came to Sodom at evening. Lot sat in the gate of Sodom. Lot saw them, and rose up to meet them. He bowed himself with his face to the earth, 19:2 and he said, "See now, my lords, please turn aside into your servant's house, stay all night, wash your feet, and you will rise up early, and go on your way." They said, "No, but we will stay in the street all night." 19:3 He urged them greatly, and they came in with him, and entered into his house. He made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. 19:4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter. 19:5 They called to Lot, and said to him, "Where are the men who came in to you this night? Bring them out to us, that we may have sex with them." 19:6 Lot went out to them to the door, and shut the door after him. 19:7 He said, "Please, my brothers, don't act so wickedly. 19:8 See now, I have two virgin daughters. Please let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them what seems good to you. Only don't do anything to these men, because they have come under the shadow of my roof."

So, two angels arrived in Sodom, and Lot invited them into his house – which the angels accepted.

A group of other men from Sodom did not know that the two guests at Lot’s house were angels, and wanted to rape them. But when those men demanded that Lot bring the two guests to them so that they could rape them, Lot offered his two daughters to the rapists instead, on the condition that the rapist left the angels alone.

Lot behaved in an appalling manner. He was handing his daughters over to be raped in order to save two angels from being raped!

But what does the New Testament, and specifically 2 Peter, say about Lot?

GWEB:

2 Peter 2:

2:4 For if God didn't spare angels when they sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus, and committed them to pits of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; 2:5 and didn't spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah with seven others, a preacher of righteousness, when he brought a flood on the world of the ungodly; 2:6 and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly; 2:7 and delivered righteous Lot, who was very distressed by the lustful life of the wicked 2:8 (for that righteous man dwelling among them, was tormented in his righteous soul from day to day with seeing and hearing lawless deeds):

OEB[1]

2 Peter 2:

4 Remember, God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them down to Tartarus, and consigned them to caverns of darkness, to be kept under guard for judgment. 5 Nor did he spare the world of old; though he preserved Noah, the preacher of righteousness, and seven others, when he brought a flood on the godless world. 6 He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and reduced them to ashes, holding them up as a warning to the godless of what was in store for them; 7 but he rescued righteous Lot, whose heart was vexed by the wanton licentiousness of his neighbors; 8 for, seeing and hearing what he did, as he lived his righteous life among them, day after day, Lot’s righteous soul was tortured by their wicked doings.

The author of 2 Peter was familiar with the story of Lot, as depicted in Genesis. Yet, the author considered that Lot was righteous, and the claim that Lot was righteous is part of the New Testament.

While a righteous person doesn’t need to be morally perfect, it should be clear that a person who behaves as wickedly as Lot did in the Genesis passage I quoted above is not a righteous person – not by a long shot.

So, the New Testament makes the false moral claim that Lot was a righteous person. Also, this passage shows the extent of the moral confusion of the author of 2 Peter.

Objection 4.4.2.1. The depiction of the events in Genesis is erroneous. Lot did not offer his daughters to the rapists to save the angels. The author of 2 Peter knew that.

Reply:
 1. There is no indication in the Bible that the author of 2 Peter did not believe that the Genesis depiction was not historically accurate.

2. On the contrary, context clearly indicates that he considered the account historically accurate, given that he was also talking about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah – and other events depicted in the Old Testament, like the Flood – as if they were historical, and he had no other source of information about those events or alleged events than the Hebrew scriptures.

Moreover, he was talking to people who generally accepted the accounts in question as historically accurate, so one would have expected a clarification if he thought otherwise.

So, it’s almost certain that he accepted those scriptural accounts as historic – as was usual in his social context -, and said nothing to suggest that he made an exception in the case of Lot’s actions.

3. In any case, the author of 2 Peter knew or should have known that at least most of the people he was addressing believed that the biblical description was accurate, so by endorsing Lot as righteous, the author of 2 Peter was promoting false moral beliefs, either knowingly or – much more likely – due to his own moral confusion.

Objection 4.4.2.2. Peter did not write 2 Peter.

Reply:

But 2 Peter is still part of the New Testament, and claims to be from Peter.

So, it remains the case that the New Testament makes the false moral claim that Lot was a righteous person, and in addition, if Peter did not write 2 Peter, then the New Testament makes the false historical claim that 2 Peter was written by Peter – though that’s not the main issue in this context.

Objection 4.4.2.3. Lot didn’t know that the angels were powerful enough to defeat the rapists, and he was trying to protect angels. The rape of angels would be worse than the rape of humans, so he was trying to prevent something worse by offering his daughters to the rapists.

Reply:

1. Even if Lot did not know about the angels' powers, he had a moral obligation not to offer his daughters to a gang of rapists in order to persuade the rapists to spare the angels.

In fact, Lot would have had that moral obligation even if the angels had been morally good persons, and even if they had been morally better than Lot’s daughters. As usual, I would ask readers to assess the matter using their own sense of right and wrong, rather than trusting biblical claims on the matter – which would be like putting the cart before the horses, in the context of assessing whether some biblical moral claims are true.

2. Incidentally, Lot should have known that the angels were not morally good, since they were two of Yahweh’s enforces, willing to do Yahweh’s bidding – and Yahweh is a moral monster, which Lot should have known, and maybe would have known if he had used his own sense of right and wrong to assess Yahweh’s behavior, instead of blindly following him.

But this is incidental, since even if Lot had properly believed that the angels were morally good, or even morally better than any human, that would not have made it morally acceptable to hand over his daughters to the rapists in order to protect the angels.

As usual, I would ask readers to assess the matter using their own sense of right and wrong, rather than trusting biblical claims on the matter.

3. At any rate, if Lot wanted to make a sacrifice for the angels, he could have offered himself to the rapists. Of course, Lot did not have a moral obligation to make that kind of sacrifice – though he had the right to do it -, but he did have a moral obligation not to turn his daughters over to the rapists.

And even if Lot reckoned the rapists would not have accepted raping him instead of the angels, he still should not have offered his daughters to the gang of rapists. His behavior was horrific.

Objection 4.4.2.4. Lot had invited the angels into his home, and for that reason, he was responsible for their safety, even if that required big sacrifices.

Reply:

The fact that he had invited them does not cancel his moral obligation not to offer his daughters to a gang of rapists. Lot’s actions were simply despicable.

Objection 4.4.2.5. It was implicit, given the local customs, that by inviting them into his house, Lot made a commitment to protect the angels at any cost.

Reply:

If Lot’s commitment to the safety of the angels, implicit or explicit, included the protection of the angels at any cost to his daughters, then that would have been a morally abhorrent deal – regardless of whether in line with local customs or not -, and in any case, Lot would still have had the moral obligation not to hand his daughters over to the rapists in order to protect the angels.

The fact remains that Lot's actions were deeply immoral.

4.5. The Letter to the Hebrews and the Old Testament.

In this section, I will assess some of the references to the Old Testament included in the Letter to the Hebrews.

While the letter declares Old Testament Law no longer applicable, places Jesus above Moses, etc., the fact is that the Letter to the Hebrews – implicitly or explicitly, depending on the part of the law – holds that Old Testament Law was indeed from Yahweh, and also that many events depicted in the Old Testament actually happened as depicted.

More precisely, the Letter to the Hebrews:

a. Makes frequent references to the Old Testament, without suggesting any errors in it.

b. In particular, tries to establish historic links between Old Testament events and people on one hand, and events and people from the time the letter was written on the other hand. In order to do that, the letter uses the Old Testament as a trustworthy historic record, without any qualifications.

c. In particular, the letter uses the Old Testament as an authoritative source about what Yahweh's law for the ancient Israelites was, from the time of Moses up to the time of Jesus, without any qualifications.

Given that, in context it should be clear that the Letter to the Hebrews implicitly endorses a literal interpretation of the events described in the Old Testament in the context of the parts it quotes, as well as relevantly related parts. That includes Yahweh's authorship of all of Old Testament Law.

Moreover – though the points above suffice -, the people the letter was meant for were Hebrews who believed that Old Testament Law was given to Moses by Yahweh, and also believed in a literal interpretation of events like the Flood, the Exodus, Joshua's immoral campaign - they didn't realize Joshua's behavior was morally abhorrent in those depictions, but they believed the events happened as described -. and so on. Yet, the Letter to The Hebrews makes no suggestion at any that those events had not happened, and clearly talks as if they did – even though the author of the letter knew about the beliefs held by the people the letter addresses.

That makes a non-literal interpretation of those references to the Old Testament even more improbable; the evidence clearly supports the view that they were meant to be taken literally.

Moreover, many of the actions the letter directly or indirectly mentions – actions by Yahweh, Moses, etc. - were morally appalling, but the Letter to the Hebrews makes no mention of that, an in fact, sometimes implicitly and sometimes even explicitly, it deems them morally good. Those are gross moral errors regardless of whether the events in question happened or not, and also regardless of whether the letter holds that they did.

In the following subsections, I will provide evidence supporting the assessments that the Letter to the Hebrews makes a literal interpretation of many Old Testament passages and that in particular, it considers Old Testament Law to be entirely from Yahweh.

Additionally, and more importantly in this context, I will make the point that regardless of whether or not that literal interpretation is intended, many of the moral claims or implications contained in the letter are grossly mistaken.

As for objections, I will not repeat in this section my reply to objections to my assessment that Old Testament Law has appalling dispositions, etc.; I already handled that earlier.

Of course, given that theory is underdetermined by evidence, someone might consistently reject the assessment that the Letter to the Hebrews supports the literal interpretation I described above – or part of it -, and say that – for example – they consider it more probable that the Letter to the Hebrews didn't intend to focus on the issue of historicity, which they might consider a detail in context, and so we may not reach any conclusions about historicity or claims of historicity from it. With regard to that sort of objections, my reply is:  

1. Given the available evidence – including the points I made above in this section, and the evidence I will provide in the subsections below -, such interpretations are extremely improbable. I invite readers to make their own assessments on the matter.

2. In any case, even assuming for the sake of the argument that I'm mistaken about the literal interpretation, some decisive moral objections to Christianity based on the Letter to the Hebrews remain – even if not all of them do -, as I will argue below.

4.5.1. Hebrews 1 and 2. A historic link.

In the first and second chapters, the Letter to the Hebrews intends to establish a historic link between the prophets and other characters in the Old Testament on one hand, and Jesus on the other, claiming continuity in Yahweh's revelation. That makes allegoric, metaphoric, or generally non-literal interpretations of many events depicted in the Old Testament extremely improbable as the intended interpretation of Hebrews – which becomes even more clear given the audience the letter was for, as pointed out above.

GWEB:

Hebrews 1 and 2

1:1 God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 1:2 has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds. 1:3 His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself made purification for our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 1:4 having become so much better than the angels, as he has inherited a more excellent name than they have. 1:5 For to which of the angels did he say at any time,

"You are my Son.

Today have I become your father?"

and again,

"I will be to him a Father, and he will be to me a Son?"

1:6 Again, when he brings in the firstborn into the world he says, "Let all the angels of God worship him." 1:7 Of the angels he says,

"Who makes his angels winds,

and his servants a flame of fire."

1:8 But of the Son he says,

"Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.

The scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your Kingdom.

1:9 You have loved righteousness, and hated iniquity;

therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows."

1:10 And,

"You, Lord, in the beginning, laid the foundation of the earth.

The heavens are the works of your hands.

1:11 They will perish, but you continue.

They all will grow old like a garment does.

1:12 As a mantle, you will roll them up,

and they will be changed;

but you are the same.

Your years will not fail."

1:13 But which of the angels has he told at any time,

"Sit at my right hand,

until I make your enemies the footstool of your feet?"

1:14 Aren't they all serving spirits, sent out to do service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?

2:1 Therefore we ought to pay greater attention to the things that were heard, lest perhaps we drift away. 2:2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense; 2:3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation--which at the first having been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard; 2:4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders, by various works of power, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will?

OEB[1]

Hebrews 1

[1] God, who, of old, at many times and in many ways, spoke to our ancestors, by the prophets, [2] has in these latter days spoken to us by the Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. [3] For he is the radiance of the glory of God and the expression of his being, upholding all creation by the power of his word; and, when he had made an expiation for the sins of humanity, he ‘took his seat at the right hand’ of God's Majesty on high, [4] having shown himself as much greater than the angels as the name that he has inherited surpasses theirs.

[5] For to which of the angels did God ever say —

‘You are my Son; this day I have become your Father’?

For again —

‘I will be to him a Father, and he will be to me a Son’?

[6] And again, when God brought the first-born into the world, he said —

‘Let all the angels of God bow down before him.’

[7] Speaking of the angels, he said —

‘He makes the winds his angels

And the flames of fire his servants';

[8] while of the Son he said —

‘God is your throne for ever and ever;

The scepter of his kingdom is the scepter of Justice;

[9] You love righteousness and hates iniquity;

Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the festal oil more abundantly than your peers.’

[10] Again —

‘You, Lord, in the beginning did lay the foundation of the earth,

And the heavens are the work of your hands.

[11] They will perish, but you remain;

As a garment they will all grow old;

[12] As a mantle you will fold them up,

And as a garment they will be changed,

But you are the same, and your years will know no end.’

[13] To which of the angels has God ever said —

‘Sit you at my right hand

Until I put your enemies as a stool for your feet’?

[14] Are not all the angels spirits in the service of God, sent out to minister for the sake of those who are destined to obtain salvation?

Hebrews 2

[1] Therefore we must give still more heed to what we were taught, so we do not drift away. [2] For, if the message which was delivered by angels had its authority confirmed, so that every offense against it, or neglect of it, met with a fitting requital, [3] how can we, of all people, expect to escape, if we disregard so great a salvation? It was the Master who at the outset spoke of this salvation, and its authority was confirmed for us by those who heard him, [4] while God himself added his testimony to it by signs, and marvels, and many different miracles, as well as by imparting the Holy Spirit as he saw fit.

The letter quotes from many passages of the Old Testament, and the intent to make a historic connection is apparent. No indication whatsoever that some of the events depicted in the Old Testament concerning the actions and words of the prophets, the accounts of Yahweh's communicating in various ways to the ancient Israelites, etc., did not happen, is given.

4.5.2. Hebrews 3. Moses, Egypt, and the Exodus.

GWEB:

Hebrews 3

1 Therefore, holy brothers, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus; 2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, as also was Moses in all his house. 3 For he has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who built the house has more honor than the house. 4 For every house is built by someone; but he who built all things is God. 5 Moses indeed was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were afterward to be spoken, 6 but Christ is faithful as a Son over his house; whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the glorying of our hope firm to the end.

OEB[1]

Hebrews 3

1. Therefore, my Christian friends, you who, all alike, have received the call from heaven, fix your attention on Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our religion. [2] See how faithful he was to the God who appointed him, as Moses was in the whole house of God. [3] He has been deemed worthy of far higher honor than Moses, just as the founder of the house is held in greater regard than the house itself. [4] For every house has its founder, and the founder of the universe is God. [5] While the faithful service of Moses in the whole house of God was that of a servant, whose duty was to bear testimony to a message still to come, [6] the faithfulness of Christ was that of a son set over the house of God. And we are his house — if only we retain, unshaken to the end, the courage and confidence inspired by our hope.

In the passage quoted above, the letter places Jesus clearly above Moses. But in doing so, he implies the historicity of Moses. Moreover, it implicitly accepts the accuracy of the accounts of Moses's actions in the Old Testament. That is very clear because that was the source accepted by Jews of the time of the letter as an accurate record of Moses's behavior, and the letter offers no other source nor makes any suggestion that the source generally trusted contained false statements about Moses, and even goes on to assesses Moses's worthiness, his position in history, etc. - which wouldn't make sense without a record of his life, at least generally accurate.

Also, the letter regards Moses in a positive light – not as positive as Jesus, of course, but still, the letter clearly fails to recognize that the Moses of the Old Testament would be an evil person, given some – many –  of his actions – like participating in the stoning of a man – who surely did not deserve that for gathering sticks on a Sabbath -, or commanding – by means of Old Testament Law - the stoning, burning, etc., of people who also did not deserve any of that for any of the actions for which they are so punished, commanding the destruction of entire cities killing everyone – including prisoners of war, children, non-combatants -, or everyone except for those taken as slaves in other cases, and so on. Of course, in of all those cases, Yahweh was also a perpetrator; in fact, he was the boss who gave the orders Moses and others shouldn't have obeyed. But in the Letter to the Hebrews, Moses is regarded positively, and of course Yahweh much more so, while the Old Testament account of Moses's life is implicitly accepted without mentioning exceptions.

Granted, the passage I quoted above does not in particular refer to all of those cases. But it's part of a letter to people who believed those events had happened, there is no indication whatsoever in the letter that they hadn't, and the idea that Moses was a good servant is also based on an assessment of the actions of Moses depicted in the Old Testament – a very mistaken one, but that's not the point.

GWEB:

Hebrews 3

12 Beware, brothers, lest perhaps there be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God; 3:13 but exhort one another day by day, so long as it is called "today;" lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 3:14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm to the end: 3:15 while it is said

"Today if you will hear his voice, don't harden your hearts, as in the rebellion."  

3:16 For who, when they heard, rebelled? No, didn't all those who came out of Egypt by Moses? 3:17 With whom was he displeased forty years? Wasn't it with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 3:18 To whom did he swear that they wouldn't enter into his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 3:19 We see that they were not able to enter in because of unbelief.

OEB[1]

Hebrews 3

[12] Be careful, friends, that there is never found in anyone of you a wicked and faithless heart, shown by that person separating themselves from the living God. [13] Rather encourage one another daily — while there is a ‘Today’ — to prevent anyone among you from being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. [14] For we now all share in the Christ, if indeed we retain, unshaken to the end, the confidence that we had at the first. [15] To use the words of scripture ‘If today you hear God's voice, Harden not your hearts, as when Israel provoked me.’ [16] Who were they who heard God speak and yet provoked him? Were not they all those who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses? [17] And with whom was it that God was sorely vexed for forty years? Was not it with those who had sinned, and who fell dead in the desert? [18] And who were they to whom God swore that they should not enter upon his rest, if not those who had proved faithless? [19] We see, then, that they failed to enter upon it because of their want of faith.

In these passages, the letter talks about Moses's leadership, the exodus through the desert, and the rebellion of some of them against Yahweh – and speaks as if those people existed, wandered through the desert, rebelled, etc., gives the example of how Yahweh was vexed for forty years with those people, and so on.

While it might be argued that the author of the letter didn't want to stress that those events had never happened, but wanted to teach a  moral lesson, it would have been deceitful to do that in that conversational context, and in any case, there is no indication in that passage or its context that weighs against the most natural interpretation by far – the literal one; i. e., that the Letter to the Hebrews holds that events such as the Flood, the destruction of Jericho, etc., happened as described in the Old Testament, and also that Yahweh is the author of Old Testament Law, which he actually gave to Moses. In fact, the context of the letter clearly supports that interpretation, given the obvious attempt to establish a historic link, and a of continuity in Yahweh's revelation.

4.5.3. Hebrews 6, 7 and 8. More detailed historic accounts.

In the sixth, seventh and eighth chapters – earlier too, but I will focus on these ones now -, the Letter to the Hebrews keeps making comparisons between Jesus and some characters in the Old Testament. While it's of course possible and in some context proper to compare fictional characters with real people, in the case of the letter, context indicates that the people mentioned in the Old Testament are assumed to be real, and their actions – depicted in the Old Testament – are assumed to be real as well. Otherwise, it would make no sense to try to establish links throughout history, argue for a progressive revelation, etc.

The following passages are some examples:

GWEB:

Hebrews 6

6. 19. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and entering into that which is within the veil; 6:20 where as a forerunner Jesus entered for us, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 7

7:1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of God Most High, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 7:2 to whom also Abraham divided a tenth part of all (being first, by interpretation, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace; 7:3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God), remains a priest continually. 7:4 Now consider how great this man was, to whom even Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth out of the best spoils. 7:5 They indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest's office have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brothers, though these have come out of the body of Abraham, 7:6 but he whose genealogy is not counted from them has accepted tithes from Abraham, and has blessed him who has the promises. 7:7 But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. 7:8 Here people who die receive tithes, but there one receives tithes of whom it is testified that he lives. 7:9 We can say that through Abraham even Levi, who receives tithes, has paid tithes, 7:10 for he was yet in the body of his father when Melchizedek met him. 7:11 Now if there was perfection through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people have received the law), what further need was there for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? 7:12 For the priesthood being changed, there is of necessity a change made also in the law. 7:13 For he of whom these things are said belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. 7:14 For it is evident that our Lord has sprung out of Judah, about which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. 7:15 This is yet more abundantly evident, if after the likeness of Melchizedek there arises another priest, 7:16 who has been made, not after the law of a fleshly commandment, but after the power of an endless life: 7:17 for it is testified,

"You are a priest forever,

according to the order of Melchizedek."

7:18 For there is an annulling of a foregoing commandment because of its weakness and uselessness 7:19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. 7:20 Inasmuch as he was not made priest without the taking of an oath 7:21 (for they indeed have been made priests without an oath), but he with an oath by him that says of him,

"The Lord swore and will not change his mind,

'You are a priest forever,

according to the order of Melchizedek.'"

7:22 By so much, Jesus has become the collateral of a better covenant. 7:23 Many, indeed, have been made priests, because they are hindered from continuing by death. 7:24 But he, because he lives forever, has his priesthood unchangeable. 7:25 Therefore he is also able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, seeing that he lives forever to make intercession for them.

7:26 For such a high priest was fitting for us: holy, guiltless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; 7:27 who doesn't need, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices daily, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. For he did this once for all, when he offered up himself. 7:28 For the law appoints men as high priests who have weakness, but the word of the oath which came after the law appoints a Son forever who has been perfected.

OEB[1]

Hebrews 6

[19] This hope is an anchor for our souls, secure and strong, and it ‘reaches into the sanctuary that lies behind the curtain,’ [20] where Jesus, our forerunner, has entered on our behalf, after being made for all time a high priest of the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 7

[1] It was this Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and gave him his blessing; [2] and it was to him that Abraham allotted a tithe of all the spoil. The meaning of his name is ‘king of righteousness,’ and besides that, he was also king of Salem, which means ‘king of peace.’ [3] There is no record of his father, or mother, or lineage, nor again of any beginning of his days, or end of his life. In this he resembles the Son of God, and stands before us as a priest whose priesthood is continuous.

[4] Consider, then the importance of this Melchizedek, to whom even the patriarch Abraham himself gave a tithe of the choicest spoils. [5] Those descendants of Levi, who are from time to time appointed to the priesthood, are directed to collect tithes from the people in accordance with the Law — that is from their own kindred, although they also are descended from Abraham. [6] But Melchizedek, although not of this lineage, received tithes from Abraham, and gave his blessing to the man who had God's promises. [7] Now no one can dispute that it is the superior who blesses the inferior. [8] In the one case the tithes are received by people who are mortal; in the other case by one about whom there is the statement that his life still continues. [9] Moreover, in a sense, even Levi, who is the receiver of the tithes, has, through Abraham, paid tithes; [10] for Levi was still in the body of his ancestor when Melchizedek met Abraham.

[11] If, then, perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood — and it was under this priesthood that the people received the Law — why was it still necessary that a priest of a different order should appear, a priest of the order of Melchizedek and not of the order of Aaron? [12] With the change of the priesthood a change of the Law became a necessity. [13] And he of whom all this is said belonged to quite a different tribe, no member of which has ever served at the altar. [14] For it is plain that our Lord had sprung from the tribe of Judah, though of that tribe Moses said nothing about their being priests. [15] All this becomes even yet plainer when we remember that a new priest has appeared, resembling Melchizedek, [16] and that he was appointed, not under a Law regulating only earthly matters, but by virtue of a life beyond the reach of death; [17] for that is the meaning of the declaration —

‘You are for all time a priest of the order of Melchizedek.’

[18] On the one hand, we have the abolition of a previous regulation as being both inefficient and useless [19] (for the Law never brought anything to perfection); and, on the other hand, we have the introduction of a better hope, which enables us to draw near to God. [20] Then again, the appointment of this new priest was ratified by an oath, which is not so with the Levitical priests, [21] but his appointment was ratified by an oath, when God said to him —

‘The Lord has sworn, and will not change, “You are a priest for all time.”’

[22] And the oath shows the corresponding superiority of the covenant of which Jesus is appointed the surety. [23] Again, new Levitical priests are continually being appointed, because death prevents their remaining in office; [24] but Jesus remains for all time, and therefore the priesthood that he holds will never pass to another. [25] And that is why he is able to save perfectly those who come to God through him, living for ever, as he does, to intercede of their behalf.

[26] This was the high priest that we needed — holy, innocent, spotless, withdrawn from sinners, exalted above the highest heaven, [27] one who has no need to offer sacrifices daily as those high priests have, first for their own sins, and then for those of the people. For this he did once and for all, when he offered himself as the sacrifice. [28] The Law appoints as high priests men who are weak, but the words of God's oath, which was later than the Law, name the Son as, for all time, the perfect priest.

All of these passages, and their context, clearly support a literal, historical interpretation as the one intended by the Letter to the Hebrews, trying to establish some account of a progressive revelation, a new covenant, etc.

The letter's argumentation continues into the next chapter:

GWEB:

Hebrews 8

8:1 Now in the things which we are saying, the main point is this. We have such a high priest, who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 8:2 a servant of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. 8:3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. 8:4 For if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, seeing there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; 8:5 who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, even as Moses was warned by God when he was about to make the tabernacle, for he said, "See, you shall make everything according to the pattern that was shown to you on the mountain."* 8:6 But now he has obtained a more excellent ministry, by so much as he is also the mediator of a better covenant, which on better promises has been given as law. 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8:8 For finding fault with them, he said,

"Behold, the days come," says the Lord,

"that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;

8:9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers,

in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they didn't continue in my covenant, and I disregarded them," says the Lord.

8:10 "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel.

After those days," says the Lord;

"I will put my laws into their mind,

I will also write them on their heart.

I will be their God, and they will be my people.

8:11 They will not teach every man his fellow citizen,

and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,'

for all will know me,

from the least of them to the greatest of them.

8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness.

I will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more."

8:13 In that he says, "A new covenant," he has made the first old. But that which is becoming old and grows aged is near to vanishing away.

OEB[1]

Hebrews 8

[1] To sum up what I have been saying: — Such is the high priest that we have, one who ‘has taken his seat at the right hand’ of the throne of God's Majesty in heaven, [2] where he serves in the sanctuary, in that true tent set up by the Lord and not by man. [3] Every high priest is appointed for the purpose of offering gifts and sacrifices to God; it follows, therefore, that this high priest must have some offering to make. [4] If he were, however, still on earth, he would not even be a priest, since there are already priests who offer the gifts as the Law directs. [5] (These priests, it is true, are engaged in a service which is only a copy and shadow of the heavenly realities, as is shown by the directions given to Moses when he was about to construct the tent. ‘Look to it,’ are the words, ‘that you make every part in accordance with the pattern shown you on the mountain.’) [6] But Jesus, as we see, has obtained a ministry as far excelling theirs, as the covenant of which he is the intermediary, based, as it is, on better promises, excels the former covenant. [7] If that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second. [8] But, finding fault with the people, God says —

‘“A time is coming,” says the Lord,

“When I will ratify a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah —

[9] Not such a covenant as I made with their ancestors

On the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.

For they did not abide by their covenant with me,

And therefore I disregarded them,” says the Lord.

[10] “This is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel

After those days,” says the Lord.

“I will impress my laws on their minds,

And will inscribe them on their hearts;

And I will be their God,

And they will be my people.

[11] There will be no need for anyone to instruct their fellow citizen,

Or for a person to say to their relatives ‘Learn to know the Lord’;

For everyone will know me,

From the lowest to the highest.

[12] For I will be merciful to their wrong-doings, And I will no longer remember their sins.”’

[13] By speaking of a ‘new’ covenant, God at once renders the former covenant obsolete; and whatever becomes obsolete and loses its force is virtually annulled.

Here, in chapter 8, the letter distinguishes between the old and new covenants, and offers an interpretation of Yahweh's words and actions as depicted Old Testament, as supporting the view that Jesus came to fulfill a promise, established a new order, rendered the former covenant obsolete, etc.

All of this decisively supports a literal interpretation, and an acceptance of the Jewish Scripture – the Old Testament – as an authoritative source.

Purely for example, one may point out the old covenant can only become obsolete, lose force, etc., if it exists in the first place. But it's not just that there had to be an old covenant. The source of information generally accepted as authoritative on said covenant by the Jewish people when the letter was written was the Old Testament, and the Letter to the Hebrews offers no other source, makes no suggestion that the source in question was full of errors – or that it had any errors at all -, and quotes from it at length, implicitly accepting its authority as a source.

Moreover, if the author of the letter to the Hebrews had known that Old Testament Law commanded many despicable behaviors, and was overall profoundly unjust, etc., and had believed that all of the evil parts – much of Old Testament Law, actually – did not come from Yahweh, then the author would very probably have mentioned that, lest the people the letter is meant for remain utterly confused about many moral issues – even if that wasn't the main focus of the letter. But there is not even a hint of any of that. On the contrary, the evidence in the letter indicates that the author of the letter – whoever that was - did not realize that Old Testament Law was full of abhorrent dispositions, etc., and believed it was all from Yahweh.

The same goes for the events depicted in the Old Testament and which give context to what the letter is talking about, such as “Not such a covenant as I made with their ancestors On the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.”. The fact is that the Old Testament describes events in Egypt that involve very immoral behavior on the part of both Moses and Yahweh, and that the people the letter is meant for interpreted the Old Testament literally, without realizing that the depictions involved very immoral behavior. But the Letter to the Hebrews remains silent, implicitly accepting the actions depicted in the Old Testament as both real and morally good.

4.5.4. Hebrews 9. Old Testament Law.

In this chapter, the Letter to the Hebrews makes it clear that the old covenant was not as perfect as the New Covenant. But by doing so, also the letter unmistakably regards the old covenant, with all of its dispositions, as coming from Yahweh.

The imperfections in the old covenant the Letter to the Hebrews talks about things like not being able to satisfy the conscience of the worshiper, but surely the letter is not talking about the appalling commands in the Old Testament; that can be seen clearly by reading the letter itself:

GWEB:

Hebrews 9

9:1 Now indeed even the first* covenant had ordinances of divine service, and an earthly sanctuary. 9:2 For a tabernacle was prepared. In the first part were the lampstand, the table, and the show bread; which is called the Holy Place. 9:3 After the second veil was the tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, 9:4 having a golden altar of incense, and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which was a golden pot holding the manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; 9:5 and above it cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat, of which things we can't speak now in detail. 9:6 Now these things having been thus prepared, the priests go in continually into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the services, 9:7 but into the second the high priest alone, once in the year, not without blood, which he offers for himself, and for the errors of the people. 9:8 The Holy Spirit is indicating this, that the way into the Holy Place wasn't yet revealed while the first tabernacle was still standing; 9:9 which is a symbol of the present age, where gifts and sacrifices are offered that are incapable, concerning the conscience, of making the worshipper perfect; 9:10 being only (with meats and drinks and various washings) fleshly ordinances, imposed until a time of reformation.

OEB[1]

Hebrews 9

[1] It is true that even the first covenant had its regulations for divine worship, and its sanctuary — though only a material one. [2] For a tent was constructed, with an outer part which contained the stand for the lamps, and the table, and the consecrated bread. This is called the sanctuary. [3] The part of the tent behind the second curtain is called the inner sanctuary. [4] In it is the gold incense-altar, and the ark containing the covenant, completely covered with gold. In the ark is a gold casket containing the manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tablets on which the covenant was written; [5] while above it, and overshadowing the cover on which atonement was made, are the cherubim of the presence. Now is not the time to discuss these things in detail. [6] Such, then, was the arrangement of the tent. Into the outer part priests are constantly going, in the discharge of their sacred duties; [7] but into the inner only the high priest goes, and that but once a year, and never without taking the blood of a victim, which he offers on his own behalf, and on behalf of the errors of the people. [8] By this the Holy Spirit is teaching that the way into the sanctuary was hidden, as long as the outer part of the tent still remained. [9] For that was only a type, to continue down to the present time; and, in keeping with it, both gifts and sacrifices are offered, though incapable of satisfying the conscience of the worshiper; [10] the whole system being concerned only with food and drink and various ablutions — external ceremonials imposed until the coming of the new order.

While the letter says that it's not the place to discuss some of the details, it's talking about details regarding the regulations for worshiping. It should be apparent that the fact that Old Testament Law is overall very unjust, full of morally abhorrent dispositions, wasn't one of such “details”.  

Moreover, the letter specifically identifies the “Holy” Spirit as teaching through those regulations for worshiping - including by the way the sacrifice of some animals – again linking Yahweh to the Old Testament and its laws, and without ever suggesting that someone else made up much of Old Testament Law, adding further support for the interpretation that the Letter to the Hebrews accepts Old Testament Law as coming entirely from Yahweh.

GWEB:

Hebrews 9

9:11 But Christ having come as a high priest of the coming good things, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, 9:12 nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption. 9:13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify to the cleanness of the flesh: 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 9:15 For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, since a death has occurred for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, that those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. :16 For where a last will and testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him who made it. 9:17 For a will is in force where there has been death, for it is never in force while he who made it lives. 9:18 Therefore even the first covenant has not been dedicated without blood. 9:19 For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 9:20 saying, "This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you."

OEB[1]

Hebrews 9

[11] But, when Christ came, he appeared as high priest of that better system which was established; and he entered through that nobler and more perfect ‘tent,’ not made by human hands — that is to say, not a part of this present creation. [12] Nor was it with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, that he entered, once and for all, into the sanctuary, and obtained our eternal deliverance. [13] For, if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, purify those who have been defiled (as far as ceremonial purification goes), [14] how much more will the blood of the Christ, who, through his eternal Spirit, offered himself up to God, as a victim without blemish, purify our consciences from a lifeless formality, and fit us for the service of the living God! [15] And that is why he is the intermediary of a new covenant; in order that, as a death has taken place to effect a deliverance from the offenses committed under the first covenant, those who have received the call may obtain the eternal inheritance promised to them. [16] Whenever such a covenant as a will is in question, the death of the testator must of necessity be alleged. [17] For such a covenant takes effect only on death, it does not come into force as long as the testator is alive. [18] This explains why even the first covenant was not ratified without the shedding of blood.

These passages continue to accept the old covenant as fully from Yahweh. Additionally, they also show another moral error, namely the belief that a covenant somehow needs a blood sacrifice in order to come into force. Also, the idea that the blood of Jesus would purify people for their immoral behavior is also very confused.

The next passage is particularly interesting, because in it, the Letter to the Hebrews plainly identifies every command in Old Testament Law given by Moses in the Book of Exodus as coming from Yahweh:

GWEB:

Hebrews 9

9:19 For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 9:20 saying, "This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you."

OEB[1]

Hebrews 9

[19] For, when every command had been announced to all the people by Moses in accordance with the Law, he took the blood of the calves and of the goats, with water, scarlet wool, and a bunch of hyssop, and sprinkled even the book of the Law, as well as all the people, [20] saying, as he did so — “This is the blood that renders valid the covenant which God has commanded to be made with you”.

So, according to the Letter to the Hebrews, every command had been announced to all of the people by Moses according to the Law. The quotation in Hebrews “This is the blood that renders valid the covenant which God has commanded to be made with you” is from Exodus 24:8, but while some of the worst parts of Old Testament Law are not contained in Exodus but in other parts of the Old Testament, there are very unjust ones in Exodus as well, like the one endorsing a certain form of slavery, or the one establishing the killing of the owner of an ox in some cases if the victim is not a servant, but establishing only a monetary compensation if the victim a servant, etc. – which is also very confused in establishing the stoning of oxen as a punishment.

Moreover, context – i. e., the rest of the Letter to the Hebrews, and the intended audience – indicates a very probable full endorsement of Old Testament Law as coming from Yahweh, not only the parts in Exodus. Still, the parts of Old Testament Law contained in Exodus suffice to show the moral confusion of the Letter to the Hebrews.

4.5.5. Hebrews 10. Old Testament Law.

GWEB:

Hebrews 10

10:28 A man who disregards Moses' law dies without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses. 10:29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will he be judged worthy of, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant with which he was sanctified an unholy thing, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?

OEB[1]

Hebrews 10

[28] When someone disregarded the Law of Moses, they were, on the evidence of two or three witnesses, put to death without pity. [29] How much worse then, think you, will be the punishment deserved by those who have trampled underfoot the Son of God, who have treated the blood that rendered the covenant valid — the blood by which they were purified — as if it were not holy, and who have outraged the Spirit of love?

First, in the MWEB translation, this passage clearly holds that Yahweh judges that the people who are punished for breaking Mosaic Law, actually deserve the punishment they get in accodance to it.

Else, it would make no sense in this context to compare those who break Mosaic Law with those who commit some offenses against the “Son of God”, the “Spirit of Grace”, etc., and ask how much worse punishment the latter will be deemed worthy of, in the reader's assessment. That's because the latter offenses will be judged by Yahweh, and so the question is how much worse punishment Yahweh will deem the latter worthy of. But in order for that comparison to make sense given context, it's required that Yahweh also deems the people punished by breaking Mosaic Law in this context, worthy of the punishment they receive.

It might be objected that the passage above only refers to the application of the death penalty under Mosaic Law, and not to the rest of of the punishments Mosaic Law imposes. But again, given context, it is very probable that all of Mosaic Law is deemed sanctioned Yahweh – and, of course, that Yahweh agrees that the law in question imposes just punishments.

Moreover, even if we limit the matter to the cases in which the death penalty is imposed, the fact is that Mosaic Law imposes the death penalty in many cases in abhorrent manners, and also, on people who do not deserve to be executed for their actions, and sometimes on people who do not deserve to be punished at all, as I argued earlier.

It might be suggested that Mosaic Law only agreed with Yahweh's moral assessments, but he didn't actually sanctioned it. But apart from the fact that that seems very improbable in this context, in any event that wouldn't help Christianity, since Yahweh would still be making grossly false moral judgments.

Also, given that the Letter to the Hebrews evidently holds that Yahweh is morally perfect, and also holds that Yahweh deems the punishments imposed by Mosaic Law to be deserved punishments – or at least, the punishment in cases in which the death penalty is imposed -, the letter is implicitly holds that imposing the death penalty in accordance to Mosaic Law would be a case of deserved punishment, at least until Mosaic Law becomes obsolete, with Jesus. Yet, that's a serious moral error – many of the punishments were vastly unjust, not deserved at all, as I pointed out earlier.

Second, in the OEB translation, the passage clearly endorses the use of the death penalty in accordance to Old Testament Law, as punishment that is deserved. Else, it would make no sense in this context to compare the violation of the Law of Moses with those offenses against the “Son of God”, etc., and ask how much worse the punishment deserved by those other people will be – which is what the passage  asks, according to the OEB translation. But as I mentioned, Mosaic Law imposes the death penalty in many cases in abhorrent manners, and also, on people who do not deserve to be executed for their actions, and sometimes people who do not deserve to be punished at all, as I've argued earlier.

Of course, in the OEB translation, the passage under consideration also implicitly holds that Old Testament Law was from Yahweh, given context. But the claim that the death penalty under Mosaic Law was deserved punishment is a gross moral mistake, sufficient to make a conclusive point, regardless of whether the passage also holds that the author of Mosaic Law was Yahweh.

Still, let's take a look at the passage in question in another public domain translation, the King James Version:

King James Version:

Hebrews 10

10:28 He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 10:29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? 10:30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.

So, the King James Version of the Bible, like the GWEB I quoted earlier in this subsection, asks what the reader thinks the person who committed some offenses against the “Son of God”, etc., will be considered worthy. The same points I made in my assessment of the passage in the GWEB apply here as well.

Other translations also allow one to make a decisive moral point against Christianity based on them. I invite interested readers to take a look at other translations as well.

4.5.6. Hebrews 11. Faith, the Flood, treason and more.

In chapter 11, the Letter to the Hebrews promotes faith – faith in their particular religion, of course -, by means of encouragement and warnings. In order to do that, it gives examples of actions some people carried out in the past because of faith, or without faith, commending the faith-based behaviors in question, while condemning the ones in which the person acted without faith – allegedly, the person should have had faith.

However, there are decisive problems in this chapter too, such as the fact that some of the actions that are commended, and which are said to be based on faith, were profoundly immoral. This is so regardless of whether or not those were hypothetical scenarios that never happened, or historical events – though in fact, the Letter to the Hebrews clearly counts them as historical events, for all of the reasons I've been explaining in this section, (since the rest of the letter gives this passage context) and some I will explain below.

There are other decisive problems as well. So, let's take a closer look:

GWEB:

Hebrews 11

11:1 Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, proof of things not seen. 11:2 For by this, the elders obtained testimony.

OEB[1]

Hebrews 11

[1] Faith is the realization of things hoped for — the proof of things not seen. [2] And it was for faith that the people of old were renowned.

While this is not crucial, Hebrews 11:2 indicates in this context that the examples to be introduced are historical, not counterfactual, metaphorical, allegorical, etc. This is in line with the previous chapters of the letter.

GWEB:

Hebrews 11

11:7 By faith, Noah, being warned about things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared a ship for the saving of his house, through which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

OEB[1]

Hebrews 11

[7] It was faith that enabled Noah, after he had received the divine warning about what could not then be foreseen, to build, in reverent obedience, an ark in which to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world, and became possessed of that righteousness which follows on faith.

That passage is a reference to the Flood account, in which Yahweh behaves in a grossly immoral fashion, as I pointed out earlier. While the Letter to the Hebrews does not specifically describe Yahweh's behavior with regard to the Flood, it's implicitly accepted in this context that the Old Testament account – the source available to the Jews of the time the letter was written, and generally accepted then - is correct.

GWEB:

Hebrews 11

 11:23 By faith, Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that he was a beautiful child, and they were not afraid of the king's commandment. 11:24 By faith, Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 11:25 choosing rather to share ill treatment with God's people, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a time; 11:26 accounting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked to the reward. 11:27 By faith, he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. 11:28 By faith, he kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of the blood, that the destroyer of the firstborn should not touch them. 11:29 By faith, they passed through the Red Sea as on dry land. When the Egyptians tried to do so, they were swallowed up.

OEB[1]

Hebrews 11

[23] Faith caused the parents of Moses to hide the child for three months after his birth, for they saw that he was a beautiful child; and they would not respect the king's order. [24] It was faith that caused Moses, when he was grown up, to refuse the title of ‘son of a daughter of Pharaoh.’ [25] He preferred sharing the hardships of God's people to enjoying the short-lived pleasures of sin. [26] For he counted ‘the reproaches that are heaped on the Christ’ of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, looking forward, as he did, to the reward awaiting him. [27] Faith caused him to leave Egypt, though undaunted by the king's anger, for he was strengthened in his endurance by the vision of the invisible God. [28] Faith led him to institute the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that the Destroyer might not touch the eldest children of the Israelites. [29] Faith enabled the people to cross the Red Sea, as if it had been dry land, while the Egyptians, when they attempted to do so, were drowned.

Here, the Letter to the Hebrews focuses on Moses's actions. But this passage clearly implies that Yahweh behaved as described in the Old Testament as well. In fact, Yahweh is identified as the destroyer of the firstborns. It's apparent in context that the rest of Yahweh's actions, as described in that part of the Old Testament – i. e., the part dealing with the captivity of many ancient Israelites in Egypt, and their escape -, also make up the scenario in which Moses allegedly acts on faith. But the problem is that that scenario depicts very immoral actions on Yahweh's part, as I pointed out earlier. So, the Letter to the Hebrews takes the events in Egypt as described in the Old Testament to be historical, but even assuming otherwise, even an allegory, metaphor, or any other sort of story not meant to be taken literally, also wouldn't be acceptable, as the allegedly morally perfect being is depicted as behaving appallingly.

GWEB:

Hebrews 11

11:30 By faith, the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been encircled for seven days. 11:31 By faith, Rahab the prostitute, didn't perish with those who were disobedient, having received the spies in peace.

OEB[1]

Hebrews 11

[30] Faith caused the walls of Jericho to fall after being encircled for seven days. [31] Faith saved Rahab, the prostitute, from perishing with the unbelievers, after she had entertained the spies with friendliness.

The actions of Rahab are commended in this passage, as are the actions of who attacked Jericho. But the attackers whose behavior is described in the Old Testament were human moral monsters who committed atrocities all around, and Rahab was the evil traitor who harbored them, helping them commit their atrocities – as I mentioned earlier.

While the Letter to the Hebrews clearly takes all of these events to be historical, even assuming that the letter wasn't meant to be taken literally in that regard – but it was -, the fact remains that the letter in question is grossly mistaken about moral matters, commending abhorrent behavior.

GWEB:

Hebrews 11

11:32 What more shall I say? For the time would fail me if I told of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets; 11:33 who, through faith subdued kingdoms, worked out righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 11:34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, grew mighty in war, and caused foreign armies to flee.

OEB[1]

Hebrews 11

[32] Need I add anything more? Time would fail me if I attempted to relate the stories of Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah, and those of David, Samuel, and the prophets. [33] By their faith they subdued kingdoms, ruled righteously, gained the fulfillment of God's promises, ‘shut the mouths of lions,’

First, they didn't rule righteously, as the OEB translation claims. Those who ruled, ruled applying the overall profoundly immoral Old Testament Law, which contains despicable commands.

Second, and with respect to the MWEB translation, in this context faith is “is assurance of things hoped for, proof of things not seen”.  Now, if they have proof – or perhaps that means conclusive evidence, in this context -, that may be useful, but if that's what the letter is talking about, it's puzzling that that would be called “faith”. It would be a very unusual usage. Else, it seems faith involves jumping to conclusions, assigning some events more probability than what they should, etc., which involves some sort of error on its own, and regardless of what they did out of faith.

In any event, the passage commends those people for certain actions regarded as based on faith, and the actions so regarded are or at least include salient actions described in the Old Testament in which they trust Yahweh, follow his commands, etc.; this should be clear in context, and in particular considering that those Old Testament depictions are the source accepted as accurate by the people the letter was written to, and no other source is given.

Yet, many of those actions are horribly immoral. For example, Samuel behaved despicably by Yahweh's orders in the context of the attack on Amalek, described  earlier.

4.5.7. Hebrews 12. Moses, and Old Testament Law.

GWEB:

Hebrews 12

12:18 For you have not come to a mountain that might be touched, and that burned with fire, and to blackness, darkness, storm, 12:19 the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which those who heard it begged that not one more word should be spoken to them, 12:20 for they could not stand that which was commanded, "If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned”; 12:21 and so fearful was the appearance, that Moses said, "I am terrified and trembling." 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable multitudes of angels, 12:23 to the general assembly and assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 12:24 to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better than that of Abel. 12:25 See that you don't refuse him who speaks. For if they didn't escape when they refused him who warned on the Earth, how much more will we not escape who turn away from him who warns from heaven, 12:26 whose voice shook the earth then, but now he has promised, saying, "Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens."

OEB: [1]

Hebrews 12:

[18] It is not to tangible ‘flaming fire’ that you have drawn near, nor to ‘gloom, and darkness, and storm, [19] and the blast of a trumpet, and an audible voice.’ Those who heard that voice entreated that they might hear no more, [20] for they could not bear to think of the command — ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it is to be stoned to death;’ [21] and so fearful was the sight that Moses said — ‘I tremble with fear.’ [22] No, but it is to Mount Zion that you have drawn near, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to countless hosts of angels, [23] to the festal gathering and assemblage of God's firstborn whose names are enrolled in heaven, to God the judge of all people, to the spirits of the righteous who have attained perfection, [24] to Jesus, the intermediary of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that tells of better things than the blood of Abel. [25] Beware how you refuse to hear him who is speaking. For, if the Israelites did not escape punishment, when they refused to listen to him who taught them on earth the divine will, far worse will it be for us, if we turn away from him who is teaching us from heaven.

Once again, the Letter to the Hebrews compares events described in the Old Testament – including the punishment Yahweh imposed to those ancient Israelites for their actions - with the situation at the time of the letter, and the kind of punishment the people the letter is meant for should expect if they turned away from their religion. In making that comparison, the letter implicitly accepts as historic some events described in the Old Testament.

In particular, the command "If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned” is from Exodus 19:12-13. Apart from the moral confusion spread by such a command, which implicitly holds that oxen and many other non-human animals might be guilty and deserve to be stoned to death – a mistake also made elsewhere in Exodus -, here the letter implicitly holds that those events really happened, that Yahweh gave that command. This is, of course, in line with the rest of the Letter to the Hebrews.

Also, the quotation in which Moses says he's terrified, is from Deuteronomy 9:19. The events described in Deuteronomy 9 and the following chapters include Yahweh's sanctioning a large portion of Old Testament Law, including some abhorrent commands, and false moral claims or implications, as I've argued earlier. While the Letter to the Hebrews does not mention those other commands specifically, given how the letter is using Deuteronomy as a reliable historical source, and given that Yahweh gives those commands in the same context within the story as the event that the Letter to the Hebrews does quote, and generally given the points I made earlier in this section, the most probable interpretation by far is that the Letter to the Hebrews implicitly supports the attribution of all of Old Testament Law to Yahweh.

Still, that result is not required. Even if we limit the case to some parts of Old Testament Law – including all of the parts in Exodus, for example, or the parts involving the death penalty -, that shows conclusively that the Letter to the Hebrews contains serious moral errors.

4.5.8. Hebrews 13. Moses, Joshua and more.

In the last chapter, the Letter to the Hebrews keeps making references to both events described in the Old Testament, and legal dispositions contained in it:

GWEB:

Hebrews 13

13:5 Be free from the love of money, content with such things as you have, for he has said, "I will in no way leave you, neither will I in any way forsake you."

OEB: [1]

Hebrews 13

[5] Do not let your conduct be ruled by the love of money. Be content with what you have, for God himself has said —

‘I will never forsake you, nor will I ever abandon you.’

The reference in this case is to Deuteronomy 31:6. As usual, the Old Testament is taken as an authoritative historical record, and in particular a record about what Yahweh said. But let's take a look at Deuteronomy 31:6, and its context:

GWEB:

Deuteronomy 31

31:1 Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. 31:2 He said to them, I am one hundred twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in: and Yahweh has said to me, You shall not go over this Jordan. 31:3 Yahweh your God, he will go over before you; he will destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them: and Joshua, he shall go over before you, as Yahweh has spoken. 31:4 Yahweh will do to them as he did to Sihon and to Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land; whom he destroyed. 31:5 Yahweh will deliver them up before you, and you shall do to them according to all the commandment which I have commanded you. 31:6 Be strong and of good courage, don't be afraid, nor be scared of them: for Yahweh your God, he it is who does go with you; he will not fail you, nor forsake you. 31:7 Moses called to Joshua, and said to him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of good courage: for you shall go with this people into the land which Yahweh has sworn to their fathers to give them; and you shall cause them to inherit it. 31:8 Yahweh, he it is who does go before you; he will be with you, he will not fail you, neither forsake you: don't be afraid, neither be dismayed. 31:9 Moses wrote this law, and delivered it to the priests the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of Yahweh, and to all the elders of Israel.

The Letter to the Hebrews clearly holds that Moses was indeed relaying Yahweh's message, and not just making things up. But the message includes the abhorrent promise of victory to Joshua and his accomplices, who – under Yahweh's commands, as described in the Old Testament – committed numerous atrocities.

GWEB:

Hebrews 13

13:10 We have an altar from which those who serve the holy tabernacle have no right to eat. 13:11 For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside of the camp. 13:12 Therefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered outside of the gate.

OEB: [1]

Hebrews 13

We are not without an altar; but it is one at which those who still worship in the tent have no right to eat. [11] The bodies of those animals whose blood is brought by the high priest into the sanctuary, as an offering for sin, are burnt outside the camp. [12] And so Jesus, also, to purify the people by his own blood, suffered outside the gate.

The reference here is to Leviticus 16:27, in which the sacrifices in question are regulated. But the claim that Jesus suffered also to purify the people by his own blood – a vast moral confusion on its own, of course -, and generally the context, identifies Yahweh as the author of the disposition in question.

Once again, the Old Testament – in this case, Leviticus – is taken as an authoritative source – which is in line with the rest of the Letter to the Hebrews.

5. Some of Jesus’s commandments, moral claims or implications.

In this section, I will address some of Jesus's commands, moral claims or implications – as stated in the Gospels.

Now, I argued earlier – in several parts of this essay, and in addition to other points connecting the New and Old Testaments - that at least several books of the New Testament – including the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke – claim or imply that Old Testament Law was authored by Yahweh, and yet that Yahweh is morally good – even perfect. That's enough to establish that Christianity is not true, for reasons I've explained earlier, when I addressed Old Testament Law.

However, some Christians mistakenly interpret the Old Testament – or the relevant parts of it – very differently. Some other Christians just reject much of the Old Testament and even the New Testament, misinterpreting some of the the parts of the Bible they accept, and in particular failing to realize how some of the parts they accept endorse some of the parts they reject.

In fact, some liberal Christians might even propose a “Gospels only” version of Christianity, or even a more limited version than that, perhaps accepting exclusively the Sermon on the Mount.

So, for the sake of thoroughness I will address some of Jesus's moral claims, moral implications and commandments, showing that even the most limited versions of Christianity fail on moral grounds, even if the moral shortcomings of some limited versions are less serious than those of some, more traditional versions.

5.1. Jesus commands that people love Yahweh.

In two passages in the Gospel, Jesus claimed that two commandments were the greatest – or first; translations vary -, and the second. Let us consider the allegedly greatest one first:

GWEB:

Matthew 22:

22:33 When the multitudes heard it, they were astonished at his teaching. 22:34 But the Pharisees, when they heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, gathered themselves together. 22:35 One of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, testing him. 22:36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?" 22:37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'* 22:38 This is the first and great commandment. 22:39 A second likewise is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'* 22:40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

Mark 12:

12:28 One of the scribes came, and heard them questioning together. Knowing that he had answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the greatest of all?" 12:29 Jesus answered, "The greatest is, 'Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one: 12:30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.'* This is the first commandment. 12:31 The second is like this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'* There is no other commandment greater than these."

OEB: [1]

Matthew 22:

34 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they collected together. 35 Then one of them, a Student of the law, to test him, asked this question — 36 “Teacher, what is the great commandment in the law?” 37 His answer was: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great first commandment. 39 The second, which is like it, is this — ‘You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Mark 12:

28 Then came up one of the teachers of the law who had heard their discussions. Knowing that Jesus had answered them wisely, he asked him this question: “What is the first of all the commandments?”
29 “The first,” answered Jesus, “is — ‘Hear, Israel; the Lord our God is the one Lord; 30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this — ‘You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

In the GWEB and OEB translations, the commandment says “God”, and “Lord”, rather than “Yahweh”. But it seems clear in context that he was talking about Yahweh.

To see that, let’s consider a longer quotation, including previous passages, and also corresponding passages from the Old Testament.

GWEB:

Deuteronomy 6

6:4 Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one: 6:5 and you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6:6 These words, which I command you this day, shall be on your heart; 6:7 and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.

Leviticus 19

19:18 "'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people; but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yahweh. 19:19 "'You shall keep my statutes. "'You shall not crossbreed different kinds of animals.

"'you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed; "'neither shall there come upon on you a garment made of two kinds of material. 19:20 "'If a man lies carnally with a woman who is a slave girl, pledged to be married to another man, and not ransomed, or given her freedom; they shall be punished. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free. 19:21 He shall bring his trespass offering to Yahweh, to the door of the Tent of Meeting, even a ram for a trespass offering. 19:22 The priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering before Yahweh for his sin which he has committed: and the sin which he has committed shall be forgiven him.

Matthew 22

22:23 On that day Sadducees (those who say that there is no resurrection) came to him. They asked him, 22:24 saying, "Teacher, Moses said, 'If a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed for his brother.' 22:25 Now there were with us seven brothers. The first married and died, and having no seed left his wife to his brother. 22:26 In like manner the second also, and the third, to the seventh. 22:27 After them all, the woman died. 22:28 In the resurrection therefore, whose wife will she be of the seven? For they all had her." 22:29 But Jesus answered them, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. 22:30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like God's angels in heaven. 22:31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, haven't you read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, 22:32 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?'* God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." 22:33 When the multitudes heard it, they were astonished at his teaching. 22:34 But the Pharisees, when they heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, gathered themselves together. 22:35 One of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, testing him. 22:36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?" 22:37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'* 22:38 This is the first and great commandment. 22:39 A second likewise is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'* 22:40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

Mark 12:

12:18 There came to him Sadducees, who say that there is no resurrection. They asked him, saying, 12:19 "Teacher, Moses wrote to us, 'If a man's brother dies, and leaves a wife behind him, and leaves no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up offspring for his brother.' 12:20 There were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and dying left no offspring. 12:21 The second took her, and died, leaving no children behind him. The third likewise; 12:22 and the seven took her and left no children. Last of all the woman also died. 12:23 In the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be of them? For the seven had her as a wife." 12:24 Jesus answered them, "Isn't this because you are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God? 12:25 For when they will rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 12:26 But about the dead, that they are raised; haven't you read in the book of Moses, about the Bush, how God spoke to him, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'*? 12:27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are therefore badly mistaken." 12:28 One of the scribes came, and heard them questioning together. Knowing that he had answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the greatest of all?" 12:29 Jesus answered, "The greatest is, 'Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one: 12:30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.'* This is the first commandment. 12:31 The second is like this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'* There is no other commandment greater than these."

OEB: [1]

Matthew 22

23 That same day some Sadducees came up to Jesus, maintaining that there is no resurrection. Their question was this: — 24 “Teacher, Moses said — ‘should a man die without children, the man’s brother will become the husband of the widow, and raise a family for his brother.’ 25 Now we had living among us seven brothers; of whom the eldest married and died, and, as he had no family, left his wife for his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and the third brothers, and indeed to all the seven. 27 The woman herself died last of all. 28 At the resurrection, then, whose wife will she be out of the seven, all of them having been married to her?”
29 “Your mistake,” replied Jesus, “is due to your ignorance of the scriptures, and of the power of God. 30 For at the resurrection there is no marrying or being married, but all who rise are as angels in heaven. 31 As to the resurrection of the dead, have you not read these words of God — 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of dead people, but of living.” 33 The crowds, who had been listening to him, were greatly struck with his teaching.

34 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they collected together. 35 Then one of them, a Student of the law, to test him, asked this question — 36 “Teacher, what is the great commandment in the law?” 37 His answer was: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great first commandment. 39 The second, which is like it, is this — ‘You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Mark 12

18 Next came some Sadducees — the men who maintain that there is no resurrection. Their question was this — 19 “Teacher, in our scriptures Moses decreed that, should a man’s brother die, leaving a widow but no child, the man should take the widow as his wife, and raise up a family for his brother. 20 There were once seven brothers; of whom the eldest took a wife, but died and left no family; 21 and the second took her, and died without family; and so did the third. 22 All the seven died and left no family. The woman herself died last of all. 23 At the resurrection whose wife will she be, all seven brothers having had her as their wife?”
24 “Is not the reason of your mistake,” answered Jesus, “your ignorance of the scriptures and of the power of God? 25 When people rise from the dead, there is no marrying or being married; but they are as angels in heaven.
26 “As to the dead, and the fact that they rise, have you never read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the Bush, how God spoke to him saying — ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of dead people, but of living. You are greatly mistaken.”

28 Then came up one of the teachers of the law who had heard their discussions. Knowing that Jesus had answered them wisely, he asked him this question: “What is the first of all the commandments?”
29 “The first,” answered Jesus, “is — ‘Hear, Israel; the Lord our God is the one Lord; 30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this — ‘You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Given that context, it’s clear that Jesus was talking about Yahweh.

Now, someone might suggest that Jesus meant “God”, using the word ‘God’ in one of the senses in which it’s commonly used in present-day philosophy of religion – for instance –, like the ones I mentioned earlier, even if there was also an implicit claim that Yahweh is God in one of those senses. But that seems implausible given the context, as is implausible that Jesus was talking about any ‘neighbor’ beyond Israel.

But let’s let that pass.

Even if Jesus meant “God”, at least he implied that Yahweh was God, and the Israelites and their descendants, including the Jewish people of Jesus’s time and his interlocutors, ought to love Yahweh. Yet, it should be clear that they had no such moral obligation.

For example, his interlocutors believed that Old Testament Law came in fact from Yahweh, and that the events described in the Old Testament and which I addressed in earlier sections, actually happened. Based on those beliefs, if they had considered the moral issues properly, they would have concluded that Yahweh was a moral monster – not that they should have believed, upon reflection, that he existed, but let’s leave that aside for the sake of the argument -, and it’s obviously not the case that they ought to have loved Yahweh. Nor is it the case that we should love that monstrous being, regardless of whether he exists.

But let's leave aside the connection to Yahweh, for the sake of the argument.

Even then, it’s not even the case that we have a moral obligation to love God, either. If someone claims otherwise, given how the claim flies on the face of one's moral sense, the burden would be on them; still, I will provide some counterarguments by means of hypothetical scenarios later.

Objection 5.1.1. Yahweh isn’t a moral monster. Precisely one of the things Jesus’s interlocutors should have understood is that the Old Testament included many false claims about Yahweh, and in particular, not all of the law contained in the Old Testament came from Yahweh.

Reply:

1. Jesus’s interlocutors were in no position to conclude that from Jesus’s words in that context. Quite the opposite. Jesus was implicitly accepting all of the Old Testament, and that should be clear from reading the relevant passages.

While it’s true that plausibly many if not all of them should have concluded – if they reflected on the matter, at least – on their own that Yahweh does not exist and so nothing came from Yahweh, that’s another matter, which I’m leaving aside from the sake of the argument.

2. Let’s consider again a scenario I brought up earlier:

Let’s say that Joseph was a Rabbi born 100 years before Jesus was born, and who died aged 70. So, Joseph did not have access to Jesus’s commandments, and all he knew about Yahweh was what was contained in the Old Testament – which he studied thoroughly, reflecting on the events described and claims made therein, etc.

Then, clearly, Joseph should not have followed many of the commands if he found himself in the situations specified in them. After reflecting on the matter carefully, he should have realized that the Old Testament depicted the behavior of a moral monster – a non-existent one, but let’s leave that part aside for the sake of the argument.

In particular, it’s intuitively clear that Joseph had no moral obligation to love Yahweh. So, Jesus’s moral implication that all those people have an obligation to love Yahweh, was false. He was promoting at least some false moral beliefs, either by mistake, or deliberately. Either way, Christianity is false.

3. Regardless, even if we limit the command to living God – rather than the monstrous Yahweh -, it is false that we all have a moral obligation to love God.

Objection 5.1.2. Yahweh isn’t a moral monster. He is God, and much of the Old Testament is false. Moreover, the claim was about God, and we all have a moral obligation to love God.

Reply:

1. While many of the claims in the Old Testament are false – e. g., Yahweh does not exist -, the point is that Jesus never suggested so, and his interlocutors didn’t have any good reasons to think he did.

2. Even leaving a. aside, the claim that we all have a moral obligation to love God is false.

For example, let’s consider the following scenarios:

Scenario 5.1.2.2.1

Bob tells Alice that, say, black holes do not exist. But Alice makes an assessment based on the evidence available to her, and continues to believe that they do exist. Bob also tells Alice that there is a multiverse with many parallel universes. Alice makes an assessment based on the evidence available to her, and does not acquire the belief that such a multiverse exists.

In addition, Bob tells Alice that God exists. Similarly, Alice makes an assessment based on the evidence available to her (including philosophical arguments, perhaps), and she does not acquire the belief that God exists.

In this scenario, Alice does not even believe that God exists. She’s made her assessment, and her conclusion is otherwise. She does not have the capability to come to believe, by an act to will, in the existence of a multiverse, or the existence of God for that matter – nor that she would have a moral obligation to do so, if she could.

It should be clear that she does not have a moral obligation to love an entity she does not even believe exists. Granted, it’s possible to have some feelings for characters whose existence one does not believe in, like some characters on TV or movies, but that’s not morally obligatory. And it’s intuitively clear that she does not have a moral obligation to love God.

Granted, someone might argue that she has a moral obligation to assess the evidence better and conclude that God exists. But there is no good reason to think she made a mistaken assessment of the evidence, including philosophical arguments. That would have to be argued for by the theist. Moreover, even if she made an error, it does not follow that her error would be morally culpable, and that’s intuitively implausible as well.

Still, let’s consider another scenario.

Scenario 5.1.2.2.2

Tapi lives in a society in which there is no belief that God exists. In fact, people do not even have a word that means ‘God’. Nor do they have any belief or even a concept of a superhuman ruler of the universe, or anything like it.

Tapi spends most of her time gathering different types of food, to sustain herself and her family. She has no knowledge of philosophy of religion whatsoever. She loves her family, but it is not the case that she loves God, just as it’s not the case that, say, she finds black holes terrifying. She does not even have a concept of a black hole, or of God.

It’s rather obvious that Tapi is not behaving immorally by not believing that God exists, or for not loving God – an entity she does not even have a concept of.

But since she’s not believing immorally, she’s not breaking any moral obligations. Hence, a claim that she has a moral obligation to love God would be false.

Granted, someone might say that she has a ‘sensus divinitatis’ and she should use it to know God. But the existence of such sense would require evidence.

Moreover, while Tapi is a hypothetical character, people relevantly like her did and probably do exist, and promoting the belief, even after considering the evidence, that all those people are being immoral is not only baseless: it’s at least usually immoral. People who have access to evidence ought to assess the evidence rationally and realize that they have no case at all against people like Tapi, and that having no case at all, promoting the belief that those people are being immoral is itself an immoral attack on those people’s character.

Of course, promoting that belief is not remotely as immoral as, say, the behavior of some ancient Israelites who participated in a massacre of an entire population – including children – because they believed – or even if they knew – that Yahweh commanded so –, or participated in the stoning to death of a woman for [allegedly, but even if true and established properly, in addition to the conditions required by their laws] not being a virgin when she was delivered to a man her father chose to deliver her to. So, I’m not suggesting that all of the immoral actions I’m assessing in this essay are immoral to similar degrees. But even though there are vast differences in degree, it remains immoral to promote such belief, at least usually – perhaps, there are excuses in specific situations, like serious threats in case a person fails to promote them.

In any case, the point remains that the claim that we all ought to love God is false, regardless of the morality of the actions of each person promoting such belief today.

Objection 5.1.3. Jesus did not mean that everyone ought to love God. If someone non-culpably does not believe that God exists, clearly there is no such moral obligation.

Reply:

1. Considering context and assuming that he did make such claims, Jesus was talking about Yahweh, and was talking the ancient Israelites and the Jewish people of Jesus’s time, as well as their future Jewish descendants. And he was making a false claim, as argued above.

2. Even if we accepted this objection for the sake of the argument, in any case, Jesus’s claim or implication that one ought to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself is false, as I will argue in the next subsection.

5.2. Jesus commands that some people love their neighbors as they love themselves.

The commandment identified by Jesus as the second was to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself:

GWEB:

Matthew 22:

22:33 When the multitudes heard it, they were astonished at his teaching. 22:34 But the Pharisees, when they heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, gathered themselves together. 22:35 One of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, testing him. 22:36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?" 22:37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'* 22:38 This is the first and great commandment. 22:39 A second likewise is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'* 22:40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

Mark 12:

12:28 One of the scribes came, and heard them questioning together. Knowing that he had answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the greatest of all?" 12:29 Jesus answered, "The greatest is, 'Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one: 12:30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.'* This is the first commandment. 12:31 The second is like this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'* There is no other commandment greater than these."

OEB: [1]

Matthew 22:

34 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they collected together. 35 Then one of them, a Student of the law, to test him, asked this question — 36 “Teacher, what is the great commandment in the law?” 37 His answer was: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great first commandment. 39 The second, which is like it, is this — ‘You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Mark 12:

28 Then came up one of the teachers of the law who had heard their discussions. Knowing that Jesus had answered them wisely, he asked him this question: “What is the first of all the commandments?”
29 “The first,” answered Jesus, “is — ‘Hear, Israel; the Lord our God is the one Lord; 30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this — ‘You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

So, in those passages, Jesus is implying that some people have a moral obligation to love their neighbors as they love themselves, and so that it would be immoral not to do so.

So, two questions here are whom the commandment is directed at, and how should one interpret ‘neighbor’. Let’s consider some context:

The commandment was given to a Jewish audience of Jesus’s time, and his audience would have understood it in the context of the respective Old Testament commandment, so it would have been understood as a command given by Yahweh to Israel – where ‘Israel’ includes the ancient Israelites and the Jewish people of that time, and also their future descendants or at least some of them.

Also, the command was given in Leviticus, alongside other commands of behaviors that were not actually morally obligatory, and even many commands to engage in behaviors that were morally wicked – though Jesus’s interlocutors failed to realize that they were wicked, believing that following those commands was morally obligatory for those to whom the commands were given.

GWEB:

Leviticus 19

19:18 "'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people; but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yahweh. 19:19 "'You shall keep my statutes. "'You shall not crossbreed different kinds of animals. "'you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed; "'neither shall there come upon on you a garment made of two kinds of material. 19:20 "'If a man lies carnally with a woman who is a slave girl, pledged to be married to another man, and not ransomed, or given her freedom; they shall be punished. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free. 19:21 He shall bring his trespass offering to Yahweh, to the door of the Tent of Meeting, even a ram for a trespass offering. 19:22 The priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering before Yahweh for his sin which he has committed: and the sin which he has committed shall be forgiven him. It is clear that this is the relevant context of the commandment, if one considers who Jesus’s interlocutors were, and his words:

GWEB:

Matthew 22

22:23 On that day Sadducees (those who say that there is no resurrection) came to him. They asked him, 22:24 saying, "Teacher, Moses said, 'If a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed for his brother.' 22:25 Now there were with us seven brothers. The first married and died, and having no seed left his wife to his brother. 22:26 In like manner the second also, and the third, to the seventh. 22:27 After them all, the woman died. 22:28 In the resurrection therefore, whose wife will she be of the seven? For they all had her." 22:29 But Jesus answered them, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. 22:30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like God's angels in heaven. 22:31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, haven't you read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, 22:32 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?'* God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." 22:33 When the multitudes heard it, they were astonished at his teaching. 22:34 But the Pharisees, when they heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, gathered themselves together. 22:35 One of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, testing him. 22:36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?" 22:37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'* 22:38 This is the first and great commandment. 22:39 A second likewise is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'* 22:40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

Mark 12

12:18 There came to him Sadducees, who say that there is no resurrection. They asked him, saying, 12:19 "Teacher, Moses wrote to us, 'If a man's brother dies, and leaves a wife behind him, and leaves no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up offspring for his brother.' 12:20 There were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and dying left no offspring. 12:21 The second took her, and died, leaving no children behind him. The third likewise; 12:22 and the seven took her and left no children. Last of all the woman also died. 12:23 In the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be of them? For the seven had her as a wife." 12:24 Jesus answered them, "Isn't this because you are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God? 12:25 For when they will rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 12:26 But about the dead, that they are raised; haven't you read in the book of Moses, about the Bush, how God spoke to him, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'*? 12:27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are therefore badly mistaken." 12:28 One of the scribes came, and heard them questioning together. Knowing that he had answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the greatest of all?" 12:29 Jesus answered, "The greatest is, 'Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one: 12:30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.'* This is the first commandment. 12:31 The second is like this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'* There is no other commandment greater than these."

OEB: [1]

Matthew 22

23 That same day some Sadducees came up to Jesus, maintaining that there is no resurrection. Their question was this: — 24 “Teacher, Moses said — ‘should a man die without children, the man’s brother will become the husband of the widow, and raise a family for his brother.’ 25 Now we had living among us seven brothers; of whom the eldest married and died, and, as he had no family, left his wife for his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and the third brothers, and indeed to all the seven. 27 The woman herself died last of all. 28 At the resurrection, then, whose wife will she be out of the seven, all of them having been married to her?”
29 “Your mistake,” replied Jesus, “is due to your ignorance of the scriptures, and of the power of God. 30 For at the resurrection there is no marrying or being married, but all who rise are as angels in heaven. 3
1  As to the resurrection of the dead, have you not read these words of God — 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of dead people, but of living.” 33

 The crowds, who had been listening to him, were greatly struck with his teaching.

34 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they collected together. 35 Then one of them, a Student of the law, to test him, asked this question — 36 “Teacher, what is the great commandment in the law?” 37 His answer was: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great first commandment. 39 The second, which is like it, is this — ‘You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Mark 12

18 Next came some Sadducees — the men who maintain that there is no resurrection. Their question was this — 19 “Teacher, in our scriptures Moses decreed that, should a man’s brother die, leaving a widow but n0o child, the man should take the widow as his wife, and raise up a family for his brother. 20 There were once seven brothers; of whom the eldest took a wife, but died and left no family; 21 and the second took her, and died without family; and so did the third. 22 All the seven died and left no family. The woman herself died last of all. 23. At the resurrection whose wife will she be, all seven brothers having had her as their wife?”
24 “Is not the reason of your mistake,” answered Jesus, “your ignorance of the scriptures and of the power of God? 25 When people rise from the dead, there is no marrying or being married; but they are as angels in heaven.
26 “As to the dead, and the fact that they rise, have you never read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the Bush, how God spoke to him saying — ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of dead people, but of living. You are greatly mistaken.”

28 Then came up one of the teachers of the law who had heard their discussions. Knowing that Jesus had answered them wisely, he asked him this question: “What is the first of all the commandments?”
29 “The first,” answered Jesus, “is — ‘Hear, Israel; the Lord our God is the one Lord; 30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this — ‘You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Given context, it’s clear that he was talking about ancient Israelites, as well as their Jewish descendants of his time, and their future Jewish descendants. Those were the people who allegedly had that moral obligation, and it was an alleged moral obligation to love other people of the same tribe.

Yet, there generally is no moral obligation to love one’s neighbor as one does not love oneself, and that was no different in the case of the members of that particular social group.

Granted, they had a law commanding so, but then again, even if an otherwise legitimate government were to give a command of that sort, that would not make it morally obligatory. There are limits to what governments may legitimately command. Of course, if the commander is not an otherwise legitimate government, but the moral monster Yahweh or someone claiming to speak in Yahweh’s name, that also would not make loving one’s neighbors as one love oneself, morally obligatory.

Incidentally – and to address potential objections, leaving aside the historical connection– as I mentioned, generally it’s not the case that one has a moral obligation to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself. This is intuitively clear, but to give a more specific example to support that assessment, let’s consider the following scenario:

Scenario 5.2.a.

Alice’s house is next to Mary and Bob’s house – Bob is Mary’s husband.

They have been neighbors for a few months, since Alice moved into her new house. They don’t know each other very well, but they say ‘hello’ when they run into each other, and generally are civil neighbors, with no conflict.

One day, Alice sees an ambulance in front of Bob’s house, which then leaves.

For a couple of days, she does not hear from her neighbors. Then, Mary shows up, and they have the following conversation:

Alice: Hello, how are you?

Mary: Not well, actually. My husband is in the hospital, with a kidney disease. He needs a donor.

Alice: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I hope he gets better soon.

Mary: Thank you.

Then, they go into their respective houses.

A few days later, Alice hears the doorbell, sees it’s Mary, and opens:

Mary: Hello, how are you?

Alice: I’m alright. How about you?

Mary: Not good. My husband doesn’t have much time without a kidney, and we’ve not found a compatible donor.

Alice: Oh, that’s horrible. But you may still find a donor.

Mary: Yes, we hope so.

Alice: So, how may I help you?

Mary: I would like to ask you to go to he hospital and get tested, to see whether you’re a compatible donor. If you are, I would like you to donate one of your kidneys to Bob.

Alice is shocked by this reply, but politely and sincerely says that even though she wishes Bob well, and he’s a nice neighbor, she will not sacrifice a kidney for him.

It is apparent that, in the scenario, Alice does not behave immorally. She would not behave immorally if she agreed to get tested and donate her kidney to Bob in case of compatibility, either. [15] But she has no obligation to do so.

Yet, if she loved Bob as much as she loves herself, it’s clear that – in nearly all such situations – she would be willing to sacrifice a kidney to save his life. But she does not love him as much as she loves herself, and she isn’t will to sacrifice her kidney.

Claiming that Alice behaved immorally because she did not love Bob to the extent to which she loves herself would be an unjust accusation of immorally against someone who is not doing anything immoral. And while Alice is a hypothetical character in a hypothetical scenario, the same applies to actual cases in which people do not love their neighbors as the love themselves.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that such promotion is nearly as immoral as some of the other actions I’ve considered in this essay. For instance, promoting such beliefs today is never remotely as immoral as, say, the actions of a person who, in ancient Israel, participated in the burning of two women and one man to death for engaging in a forbidden sort of marriage, and just because that was their law.

But regardless, the belief one has a moral obligation to love one’s neighbors as one loves oneself is, as a universal claim about adult, normal humans, false – and furthermore, it’s false in at least nearly all cases: in other words, at least nearly always in real scenarios, it’s not the case that one has such moral obligation.

Given that – at least upon reflection -, people should refrain from promoting it, generally – there might be excuses, of course, like sufficient threats. But I’m considering usual cases.

Moreover, regardless of the morality of the promotion of such false moral belief, the fact remains that it’s a false moral belief, and so Christianity is false.

Objection 5.2.1. Jesus meant to extend his commandments to others. It wasn’t only for Israel. And the term ‘neighbor’ also should not be understood as limited to other ancient Israelites, or Jews, etc. Moreover, Yahweh was not a moral monster, and Jesus’s was implicitly saying that much of the law in the Old Testament did not come from Yahweh, since Yahweh is a loving creator.

Reply:

1. That interpretation ignores much of the context. I already explained what the context was, above.

2. Let’s leave 1. aside for the sake of the argument. In any event, the claim that generally one love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself is false, as explained above.

So, one way or another, Jesus was still making false moral claims.

Objection 5.2.2. In the scenario, Alice has no moral obligation to get a test. Her obligation is to love Bob as she loves herself, but not to donate her kidney.

Reply:

The point is that she did not love her neighbor as she loved herself, but if she had, then she would plausibly had accepted to get herself tested, and also would have given him her kidney if compatible.

So, if she refuses to get tested and/or donate her kidney, she would – in at least nearly many scenarios – be breaking her moral obligation to love her neighbor as she loves herself, if she had such moral obligation. But she’s not doing anything immoral, since there is no such moral obligation.

Objection 5.2.3. In the scenario, the situation is not relevantly analogous to her sacrificing a kidney to save her own life, since in that case, the kidney would be lost anyway if she died.

So, the fact that she refuses to give a kidney to save Bob’s life, but she would sacrifice a kidney to save her own life, does not indicate that she does not love Bob as much as she loves herself.

Reply:

1. That does not make the case not relevantly analogous, since the point is that if she loved Bob as much as she loves herself, she would be – at least, in nearly all such situations –  willing to sacrifice a kidney to save his life.

2. For that matter, one may just come up with alternative hypothetical scenarios, like:

Let’s say that Alice is right-handed, and so is Bob, and his right hand is about to get cut off by a machine, but she can sacrifice a finger and the machine will automatically stop. She has no way of stopping the machine without sacrificing a finger. If she loved Bob as much as she loves herself, she would sacrifice her left little finger in order to save his right hand, just as she would sacrifice her left little finger in order to save her own right hand if she had to. However, Alice chooses not to sacrifice her left little finger or any other finger to save Bob’s right hand. But she’s not done anything morally wrong. [15]

The details are left to the reader, but the point is the same, namely that this kind of scenarios show that there is no moral obligation to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself.

3. For that matter, we may even stipulate that she does not love him as much as she loves herself.

The examples are just a means of illustrating the point that human beings usually and normally do not love their neighbors as their love themselves – or, for that matter, as they love their parents, children, siblings, etc. -, and that’s not always or usually immoral on their part.

However, the examples are not needed, since one may use one’s sense of right and wrong to assess that it’s not true that a human being who does not love her neighbors as much as she loves herself is being immoral just because of that.

Objection 5.2.4. In the scenario, Alice has no moral obligation to get a test. Her obligation is to love Bob as she loves herself, but not to donate her kidney. She acted immorally by not loving Bob as she loves herself. She should have. But it’s not the case that she should have donated her kidney. The same goes for the hand scenario.

Reply:

1. How is she supposed to love her neighbor as she loves herself, while her behavior does not match what a person who loves her neighbor as she loves herself would behave?

2. In any case, the claim that she acted immorally still flies on the face of our moral intuitions, and there is no justification for the accusation against Alice.

3. Furthermore, while not needed, we may even consider scenario in which the neighbor is, say, Jack, a serial rapist and killer who just targeted her and was stopped by the police just in time. Or let’s say that Jack is Bob’s neighbor, and brutally murdered Bob’s daughter, before being arrested. It’s pretty clear that Bob is not being immoral if he does not love Jack as he loves himself – or at all.

But we don’t need extreme scenarios to show that there is no general moral obligation to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself. The original scenario, or the fingers variant, is sufficient.

Objection 5.2.5. Actually, we all have a moral obligation to love our neighbors as we love ourselves because God, the morally perfect being who created us and rules the universe, commands us to do so.

Reply:

If God existed, he wouldn’t create anything like our universe, or like us.

But leaving that aside, even assuming such being exists, there is still no good reason to believe that he commanded us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Christians might claim so, and on that basis, that we have a moral obligation – though the claim that we would have an obligation in that case is disputable too, but let’s let that pass.

But that’s precisely what I’m arguing against, on the basis of a moral assessment of the scenario. Generally, if a religion makes a moral claim, we may properly assess the claim in question by our intuitive sense of right and wrong, and on that basis, argue against the religion in question, as I have argued in the first section.

It would be an improper way of assessing the evidence – or rather, a refusal to assess much of it – to just refuse to use our own sense of right and wrong to assess the claims of Christianity on the basis that if Christianity is true, then any conflict between it and our assessments means our assessments are wrong. That kind of reasoning would essentially shield Christianity for being assessed on the basis on its moral claims, and that would not be a rational way of assessing whether Christianity is true.

5.3. Some family values.

Let’s take a look at some of Jesus’s commands and moral claims or implications regarding families.

OEB[1]

Luke 14

26 “If any one comes to me and does not hate their father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes and even their life, he can be no disciple of mine.

27 Whoever does not carry their own cross, and walk in my steps, can be no disciple of mine.

28 Why, which of you, when you want to build a tower, does not first sit down and reckon the cost, to see if you have enough to complete it?

29 Otherwise, if you have laid the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will laugh at you,

30 and say ‘Here is a person who began to build and was not able to finish!’

31 Or what king, when he is setting out to fight another king, does not first sit down and consider if with ten thousand men he is able to meet one who is coming against him with twenty thousand?

32 And if he cannot, then, while the other is still at a distance, he sends envoys and asks for terms of peace.

33 And so with everyone of you who does not bid farewell to all you have — you cannot be a disciple of mine.

GWEB:

Luke 14

14:26 "If anyone comes to me, and doesn't hate his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he can't be my disciple. 14:27 Whoever doesn't bear his own cross, and come after me, can't be my disciple. 14:28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doesn't first sit down and count the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? 14:29 Or perhaps, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, everyone who sees begins to mock him, 14:30 saying, 'This man began to build, and wasn't able to finish.' 14:31 Or what king, as he goes to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 14:32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an envoy, and asks for conditions of peace. 14:33 So therefore whoever of you who doesn't renounce all that he has, he can't be my disciple.

So, Jesus was telling them to abandon and hate or disregard their families: their parents, children, siblings, and so on. He even told them to hate themselves – but not to hate him, of course.

We may consider some options:

i. If Jesus is Yahweh’s second person, then this particular immoral action pales in comparison with the previously described atrocities committed by Yahweh, so it’s a drop in an ocean of immorality even if we leave Hell aside.

ii. If Jesus is not Yahweh’s second person, but Jesus knew that Yahweh existed and Jesus was either Yahweh’s ally or at least a high-level henchman, then what Jesus did in this particular case was also immoral, and we can add that to other immoral actions he committed in league with Yahweh, as described in the Gospels.

Of course, those immoral actions pale in comparison with the atrocities directly committed or commanded by Yahweh - as described in the Old Testament - but still, if Jesus had serious power and was directly involved as a key player in Yahweh's evil plot – as the Gospels seem to indicate -, his willing involvement in Yahweh's evil plot would plausibly make him no better than henchmen working for people like Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler, Saddam Hussein, etc.

In any event, even if Jesus's participation didn't involve similarly evil deeds, and even if Jesus was less evil than all of those people, his willing participation as a powerful, high-level henchman or an ally of Yahweh’s is enough to make him a bad person at the very least.

In particular, of course Jesus was not morally perfect.

iii. If Jesus is not Yahweh’s second person but Jesus knew that Yahweh existed and Jesus was Yahweh’s servant or follower, then what Jesus did in this particular case was also immoral, and we can add that to other immoral actions he committed in the service of Yahweh. Of course, those immoral actions pale in comparison with the atrocities directly committed or commanded by Yahweh, as described in the Old Testament.

But in any case, Jesus was not morally perfect, and given what he did in the case under consideration  - i. e. telling people to abandon their families and follow him and the monster Yahweh-, he was not a good person. In fact, under this scenario (i .e., iii),  Jesus’s behavior is similar to that of a cult leader who tells people to abandon their families and follow him and who actually believes himself to be chosen, connected to some creator, etc., with the difference that Jesus was actually following a real moral monster whose existence Jesus actually knew about - even though he failed to realize that Yahweh was a moral monster.

iv. If Jesus was a fully human preacher with no special connection to any being with superhuman powers – which is actually the case, of course, but leaving that aside for the sake of the argument and considering options instead -, this action indicates that he was far from being a good role model. Rather, he seems to have been a cult leader, spreading his false religion and telling people to hate or disregard and abandon their families. Given that, the fact that Jesus also did good things doesn’t make him a great moral teacher – even though even his cult leader immorality isn’t nearly as immoral as the atrocities commanded and/or committed by Yahweh in the Old Testament.

v. If Jesus was some other kind of entity, he lied or probably was even confused about what he was. In any case, he was neither morally perfect, nor a good moral teacher.

Of course, again that does not mean that all of Jesus’s teachings or public actions were immoral.

For instance, under the (correct) assumption that he was a fully human preacher with no connection to any being of superhuman powers, preventing the stoning of a woman for adultery was morally good, assuming he actually did that – which I see no good reason to believe, but leaving that aside.

On the other hand, demanding that people leave their families to follow him, making false promises of an afterlife for those who follow him in that fashion, etc., were all immoral actions on Jesus’s part.

Objection 5.3.1. It would have been immoral for a human preacher who isn’t also the same entity as the creator to say what Jesus said to the disciples, but Yahweh is a trinity, and Jesus is the second person, so he has sovereignty.

Reply:

The previous sections show that Yahweh is a very evil being, and also that the sovereignty objection fails.

Objection 5.3.2. Those are bad translations. Jesus did not mean to say that his disciples had to hate or even disregard their families, but only that their families should take second place to their dedication to Jesus.

Reply:

That is not what the Bible says, but even if that is the case, that was still immoral. So, he wasn’t exactly a good role model.

Moreover, generally he promoted false moral beliefs, like the belief that leaving their families like that was morally good – in addition, of course, to false moral beliefs already common in his social environment, like the belief that Yahweh was morally good.

So, based on that, one should reckon that Jesus was not a great moral teacher, let alone morally perfect.

Objection 5.3.3. Those passages are false. Jesus did not say that.

Reply:

Someone making that claim ought to explain how he goes about ascertaining why he thinks so, and why he thinks other passages are accurate.

Objection 5.3.4. Your assessment of Jesus’s character is biased because you’re not considering the passages in which Jesus does good things.

Reply:

Actually, I do grant that there are several passages in which Jesus does good things, and assess that even so, overall he wasn’t a great moral teacher, let alone morally perfect, for the reasons I’ve been explaining. But there are even more reasons, as I will explain below.

5.4. The Sermon on the Mount.

The Sermon on the Mount is contained in the Gospel of Matthew, and is accepted by all mainstream versions of Christianity, and in fact all versions of Christianity I'm familiar with. In this subsection, I will address some of Jesus's commands, moral claims or moral implications contained in the Sermon, and show some of his errors and wrongful behavior.

5.4.1. Jesus and Old Testament Law.

OEB[1]

Matthew 5:

[17] Do not think that I have come to do away with the Law or the prophets; I have not come to do away with them, but to complete them. [18] For I tell you, until the heavens and the earth disappear, not even the smallest letter, nor one stroke of a letter, will disappear from the Law until all is done. [19] Whoever, therefore, breaks one of these commandments, even the least of them, and teaches others to do so, will be the least esteemed in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps them, and teaches others to do so, will be esteemed great in the kingdom of heaven. [20] Indeed I tell you that, unless you obey God's commands better than of the teachers of the Law, and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

GWEB:

Matthew 5:

5:17 "Don't think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn't come to destroy, but to fulfill. 5:18 For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished. 5:19 Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

As I argued earlier, Jesus did endorse Old Testament Law as coming from Yahweh, even if he intended to change parts of it. But Old Testament Law is not the focus of this section, so I will just mention the matter and link to my earlier comments on the issue, and then focus on other shortcomings of Jesus's teachings in the Sermon.

5.4.2. Jesus accuses some people of adultery.

In the following passage, Jesus makes false accusations of adultery against innocent people, and promotes false moral beliefs about what those people deserve:

OEB[1]

Matthew 5:

[27] You have heard that it was said — “You must not commit adultery.” [28] But I say to you that anyone who looks at a woman and desires her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. [29] If your right eye causes you to sin, take it out and throw it away. It would be best for you to lose one part of your body, and not to have the whole of it thrown into Gehenna. [30] And, if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It would be best for you to lose one part of your body, and not to have the whole of it go down to Gehenna.

GWEB:

Matthew 5:

5:27 "You have heard that it was said, * 'You shall not commit adultery;'* 5:28 but I tell you that everyone who gazes at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. 5:29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna. 5:30 If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off, and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna.

Granted, there are situations in which it's immoral to look at a woman with desire.

However, it is not the case that it's always immoral to do so, even if the person looking at her is not married to her, and regardless of whether the person looking at her is Jewish. But in the passage quoted above, Jesus is incorrectly implying that the behavior is immoral.

Moreover, Jesus implied that people who do look at a woman with desire are at risk of being cast into Gehenna – in other words, Hell. But if Yahweh cast people into Gehenna for looking at a woman with desire, he is morally evil. Yet, Jesus believed that Yahweh was morally good.

Objection 5.4.2.1. Jesus was talking about Gehenna figuratively.

Reply:

1. The text does not seem to indicate so, and in any event, he should have expected his interlocutors to interpret that literally – given their beliefs. So, Jesus was promoting the false moral belief that a person may deserve to be cast into Hell for looking at a woman with desire, either deliberately or out of negligence.

2. In any event, even if one were to leave Gehenna out of it just for the sake of the argument, it would remain the case that Jesus's accusation of immorality is false. It's not always immoral to look at a woman with desire, even if the person looking at her is not her husband – nor her wife, though it's obvious Jesus didn't consider that option.

Objection 5.4.2.2. Jesus was not talking about all instances of looking at a woman with desire. He was talking about men staring in a predatory fashion.  

Reply:

There is nothing in the text indicating that.

Objection 5.4.2.2. Jesus was only talking about the Jewish society of his time.

Reply:

Even in Jesus's time, perhaps – say – a woman and a man were in a relationship, but her father did not approve, and they couldn't get married. But it wasn't immoral for him to look at her with desire. It's just one example, but the point is that Jesus's implications remain false even if limited to the Jewish society of his time.

5.4.3. Jesus accuses some more people of adultery.

In the previous subsection, I addressed some of Jesus's false claims about adultery. Let's take a look at more of those claims:

OEB[1]

Matthew 5:

[31] It was also said — “Let anyone who divorces his wife serve her with a notice of separation.” [32] But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of some serious sexual sin, leads to her committing adultery; while anyone who marries her after her divorce is guilty of adultery.

GWEB:

Matthew 5:

5:31 "It was also said, 'Whoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorce,' 5:32 but I tell you that whoever puts away his wife, except for the cause of sexual immorality, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries her when she is put away commits adultery.

When Jesus says “It was also said”, he's making a reference to Deuteronomy:

GWEB:

Deuteronomy 24:

1 When a man takes a wife and marries her, then it shall be, if she finds no favor in his eyes, because he has found some unseemly thing in her, that he shall write her a certificate of divorce, and put it in her hand, and send her out of his house. 2 When she has departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife. 3 If the latter husband hates her, and write her a certificate of divorce, and puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, who took her to be his wife; 4 her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before Yahweh.

So, in this passage, Jesus was either amending those laws, or claiming that it would be immoral for a man to act in accordance to those laws, divorcing his wife. But moreover, Jesus claimed that if a man divorced his wife and she remarried, then both she and her new husband were guilty of adultery, and both were behaving immorally.

Now, the legal disposition in the Old Testament was unjust, since it did not allow a woman to similarly divorce her husband. But I already addressed some of the heinous marriage dispositions in the Old Testament, so let's focus on Jesus's claim about the woman who remarries and her new husband, and let's consider two potential situations:

1. Consensual remarriage:

In this case, a woman who is divorced because her husband chose to divorce her, choses to marry another man, who chooses also to marry her. We may assume the new husband is single – since Jesus didn't exclude single men from his moral judgment -, and it should be clear that neither the woman nor her new husband are behaving immorally just because they get married and/or have consensual sex. Yet, Jesus falsely implies that they are behaving immorally.

In fact, Jesus promotes the false moral belief that a woman who was divorced by her husband behaves immorally if she ever marries again, unless he dies first.

Moreover, it is clear in this context that any sexual relationship with anyone other than the man who divorced her would be regarded as adultery on her part by Jesus's standards, regardless of whether she has sex with someone she's not married to, or with someone she married later.

So, according to the moral views promoted by Jesus, a woman divorced by her husband either gives up on having a sexual life, or incurs immorality, except perhaps if she reconciles with the man who divorced her. Based on that, one should realize that Jesus had false moral beliefs, and immorally promoted those false moral beliefs, condemning people who did nothing wrong. A woman does nothing wrong just by starting a new relationship with another man, after her husband divorced her.

While this particular false moral teaching of Jesus is much less evil than many other biblical teachings, it has done considerable damage up to the present time, to a large extent via the Catholic Church, which seems bent on promoting the same false moral beliefs Jesus was promoting on the matter.

2. Forced remarriage:

I don't think Jesus is talking about forced remarriage in this context, but just in case someone wonders about that, clearly, if the marriage is forced, the new husband's fault is rape and slavery – much worse than adultery -, and she is not at fault at all. So, in the cases of forced marriages, Jesus's moral claims would be false as well – if the claims were about those cases, that is. They aren't, but they're still false, as pointed out in 1. above.

Objection 5.4.3.1. Jesus was talking about the Jewish society of that time, and in that social context, it would have been immoral for a woman divorced by her husband to remarry unless he died first, and it would have been immoral for anyone else to marry her for as long as the former husband lived. Moreover, as long as he lived, it would have been immoral for her to have any sex with anyone else.

Reply:

That's not true, even in that society. If a husband decided to divorce her wife, it is not the case that she had a moral obligation not to have sex ever again unless he died first, or they reconciled. Similarly, it is not the case that she had a moral obligation not to remarry.

I invite readers to use their own moral sense to assess the matter, rather than the claims of Christianity.

Objection 5.4.3.2. Jesus was merely trying to protect women from being abandoned by their husbands. He didn't mean to imply that a woman rejected by her husband behaved immorally if she remarried while her husband or former husband was still alive-, nor did he mean to imply that a man who married a divorced woman behaved immorally.

Reply:

While Jesus may have been trying, among other things, to protect some women, he clearly implied that a woman who remarries in those conditions commits adultery, and also clearly claimed that a man who marries her commits adultery as well. It's also implicit in this context that their behavior is immoral, according to Jesus. He was mistaken.

5.4.4. Jesus orders some people to turn the other cheek.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commands that some people – namely, the people the command is meant for - refrain from resisting those who wrong them. Furthermore, he claims or implies that they have a moral obligation not to resist.

OEB[1]

Matthew 5:

[38] You have heard that it was said — “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” [39] But I say to you that you must not resist those who wrong you; but, if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to them also. [40] If someone sues you for your shirt, let them have your cloak as well. [41] If you are forced to carry a soldier's pack for one mile, carry it two. [42] Give to anyone who asks and, if someone wants to borrow from you, do not turn them away.

GWEB:

Matthew 5:

5:38 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” 5:39 But I tell you, don't resist him who is evil; but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. 5:40 If anyone sues you to take away your coat, let him have your cloak also. 5:41 Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 5:42 Give to him who asks you, and don't turn away him who desires to borrow from you.

However, Jesus's moral implications in the passage above, are not true.  

In nearly all cases, humans do not have a moral obligation not to resist attackers. Examples abound, but for example, if a person attempts to rob or beat another person, the latter does not behave immorally is she resists, at least in nearly all cases – some expected consequences might be the bases for some exceptions, but at least nearly always there is no moral fault in resisting.

That's perhaps even more clear – if possible – if a person attempts to kidnap, rape or kill another person.

So, again, one should conclude Jesus made false moral claims or  implications, and promoted false moral beliefs. That's without even bringing up cases in which people have a moral obligation to resist.

Objection 5.4.4.1. Jesus did not actually command some people not to resist, nor did he claim or imply that they had a moral obligation not to resist. He was only talking about what is morally better, but not required. Turning the other cheek is morally praiseworthy, but it's generally not immoral to resist.

Reply:

1. That interpretation is extremely implausible. In the text, Jesus is clearly giving commands, telling people how they ought to behave.

2. Actually, it's not the case that generally, not resisting is morally praiseworthy. In fact, generally, the victim who allows the perpetrator to do as he wants is not just because of that – i. e., all other things equal – behaving in a morally better way than the victim who resists – successfully or not.

So, even under this extremely improbable interpretation of the text, it turns out that Jesus promotes false moral beliefs.

Objection 5.4.4.2. In this context, Jesus was not talking about serious wrongdoings, like attempted robbery, murder, rape or kidnapping, but lesser ones, like slapping someone.  

Reply:

1. Actually, Jesus gives a general command not to resist those who wrong one, so this objection posits a very improbable interpretation.

2. Even in those cases of lesser offenses, there is generally no moral obligation not to resist, nor is it generally morally praiseworthy not to resist.

Objection 5.4.4.3. In this context, Jesus was not talking about serious wrongdoings, like attempted robbery, murder, rape or kidnapping, but lesser ones, like slapping someone. Moreover, he was talking only about the Jewish people. The command was not for anyone else.

Reply:

The moral belief he promotes in this context would still be false, and for the same reasons, applied to the Jewish people.

Objection 5.4.4.4. In this context, Jesus was not talking about serious wrongdoings, like attempted robbery, murder, rape or kidnapping, but lesser ones, like slapping someone. Moreover, he was talking only about the Jewish people of his time. The command was not for anyone else.

Reply:

That's improbable, but even then, the moral belief he promotes in this context would still be false, and for the same reasons, applied to the Jewish people of his time.

5.4.5. Jesus commands that some people love their enemies.

After commanding that some people turn the other cheek, Jesus goes on to tell them to love those who hate them:

OEB[1]

Matthew 5:

[43] You have heard that it was said — ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ [44] But what I tell you is this: love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, [45] so that you may become children of your Father who is in heaven; for he causes his sun to rise on bad and good alike, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. [46] For, if you love only those who love you, what reward will you have? Even the tax-gatherers do this! [47] And, if you only welcome your brothers and sisters, what are you doing more than others? Even the Gentiles do this! [48] You, then, must become perfect — as your heavenly Father is perfect.

GWEB:

Matthew 5:

5:43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor,* and hate your enemy.*' 5:44 But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, 5:45 that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. 5:46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? 5:47 If you only greet your friends, what more do you do than others? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? 5:48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

First, in the passages quoted above Jesus implies that – at least - the Jewish people had a moral obligation to love their enemies. But that's not true.

Second, when he intends to argue in support of that claim and says “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?”, he omits another alternative, namely loving those who don't hate one, even if they don't love one, either. But let's leave that aside.

Third, when he says (in the OEB version) “Don't even the Gentiles do the same?” he is implying that Gentiles – i. e., not Jews – are generally morally inferior to Jews, and generally bad people. If he believed that, he was mistaken about that. But either way – maybe he lied -, he promoted that false moral beliefs again, as long as the translation is correct.

Granted, the MWEB says “tax collectors” in both cases, but most translations say either “Gentiles” or “pagans”.

Still, even granting for the sake of the argument that he means “tax collectors” - one wonders why so many translations got it so wrong -, and that collecting taxes in that context involved some pretty evil behavior – worse than worshiping Yahweh -, the problem remains that people do not have a general moral obligation to love those who hated, persecuted or otherwise wronged them.

Purely for example, if the victim of a serious crime does not love the perpetrator, generally she is not behaving immorally because of that. Nor is the victim who loves the perpetrator behaving in a morally better way than the victim who does not love the perpetrator, all other things equal.

The same holds if one limits the assessment to Jewish victims, or even to Jewish victims of the time of Jesus, so even if Jesus's command was only meant for the Jewish people, or even just for the Jewish people of his time, in the passages quoted above he is promoting false moral beliefs.

Incidentally, in that context, Jesus is talking about their enemies, persecution, etc., so it's even more apparent that he's not talking about minor offenses only.

5.4.6. Jesus, Yahweh and forgiveness.

In the Sermon, Jesus tells people that if they forgive the offenses of others, then Yahweh will forgive their offenses, but if they do not forgive the offenses of others, then Yahweh will not forgive their offenses, either.

OEB[1]

Matthew 6:

[14] For, if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you also; [15] but, if you do not forgive others their offenses, not even your Father will forgive your offenses.

GWEB:

Matthew 6:

6:14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 6:15 But if you don't forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

In this context, Jesus is implying that it's immoral not to forgive other people's offenses. While in some situations a person does have a moral obligation to forgive some offenses, in some other situations, that is surely not the case.

For example, the – surviving – victims of some of the heinous crimes of, say, Boko Haram, ISIS, or Los Zetas – victims of torture, slavery, rape, etc. - have no moral obligation to forgive those people. They do not incur immoral behavior if they do not forgive them.

By promoting the belief that it's always immoral not to forgive, Jesus smears the reputation of the victims, by implying that they behave immorally if they do not forgive – even if he fails to realize that.

Objection 5.4.6.1. In this context, Jesus was not talking about serious wrongdoings, but lesser ones, like slapping someone.  

Reply:

That is very improbable. Jesus is saying this after talking – earlier in the Sermon – about serious wrongdoings, commanding people to love their enemies, and so on. In that context, he seems to be talking about any wrongdoings, including serious ones.

Objection 5.4.6.2. Jesus did not mean to imply that it is immoral not to forgive, but that it is morally praiseworthy to forgive, and not praiseworthy not to do so.

Reply:

1. That is very improbable, given the threat of retribution from Yahweh.

2. Even if he meant that, it's still false. It's not the case that the victims of heinous crimes who forgive the perpetrators are, all other things equal, behaving in a morally better way than those victims who do not forgive them.

Objection 5.4.6.2. In this passage, Jesus didn't mean to imply that it is immoral not to forgive people who are not sorry for their actions or do not request forgiveness, but only that it is immoral not to forgive those who are sorry and request forgiveness.

Reply:

Even if that's what the passage means – which the text does not indicate -, Jesus's moral implication remains false.

Objection 5.4.6.3. In this passage, Jesus was not making any claims or implications about the morality of not forgiving. He was merely promoting being generally more disposed towards forgiveness.  

Reply:

While he may have wanted to promote that, it should be apparent from the text that he was making such claims or implications, as I pointed out earlier in this subsection.

5.4.7. Jesus commands that some people refrain from judging others.

In the Sermon, Jesus condemns hypocrisy – which is a good point –, but goes much further than that, making false moral claims or implications. Let's see:

OEB[1]

Matthew 7:

[1] Do not judge and you will not be judged. [2] For, just as you judge others, you will yourselves be judged, and the standard that you use will be used for you. [3] Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your friend's eye, while you pay no attention at all to the plank of wood in yours? [4] How will you say to your friend ‘Let me take out the speck from your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own? [5] Hypocrite! Take out the plank from your own eye first, and then you will see clearly how to take out the speck from your friend's.

GWEB:

Matthew 7:

7:1 "Don't judge, so that you won't be judged. 7:2 For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you. 7:3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but don't consider the beam that is in your own eye? 7:4 Or how will you tell your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye;' and behold, the beam is in your own eye? 7:5 You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye.

I reckon that Himmler was a morally evil person. So was Pol Pot. So is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. So is Abubakar Shekau. By making those true, warranted moral assessments, I just morally judged other people, but I didn't behave immorally by doing so. The fact that I'm in no way morally perfect does not make it immoral for me to judge them. Nor would it be immoral for me to judge them without also pointing out that I'm not morally perfect.

Yet, in the passages quoted above, Jesus is implying that judging others is immoral. By making that implication in that context, he's promoting false moral beliefs, smearing some people who didn't do anything wrong – namely, those who judge others in those cases in which it's not immoral to judge others.

The conclusion does not change if we restrict Jesus's statements to the Jewish people, or even to the Jewish people of his time.

Moreover, there is another serious problem with Jesus's statements, namely the fact that he threatens that those who judge others will be judged by the same standards.

However, judging a person by the same standards by which he or she judges others is improper if his standards themselves are improper.

For example, if Jack morally condemns people just for having sex with their partners without being married, it would still be improper to morally condemn Jack just for having sex with his partner without being married. It would be proper – generally - to morally condemn him for condemning people just for having sex with their partners without being married, and for his hypocrisy, but not just for having sex with his partner without being married.

Furthermore, there is the problem of those who judge others by wrong, even abhorrent standards, but who live up to those abhorrent standards. For example, if a fanatic, truly convinced member of ISIS actually lives up to the abhorrent false moral beliefs he promotes and by which he condemns other people, it would still be improper to judge him by those despicable standards he is truly committed to. Even if most member of ISIS are not like that, at least some probably are – else, one may just pick some other group, extant or not.

So, in short, Jesus's moral implications are mistaken again.

Objection 5.4.7.1. Jesus only meant for his judgment to apply to the people in the Jewish community of his time. So, even if some members of ISIS live up to their despicable standards, that is not a problem for Jesus's judgment.

Reply:

1. ISIS was just an example. One may as well consider a Jew of the time of Jesus who would condemn others on the basis of some of the also despicable moral standards of the Old Testament, and who lived up to the particular standards by which he judged others.

2. Regardless of whether someone lives up to the bad standards they apply, it's improper to judge them by bad standards.  It's either an epistemic error, or a deliberate unwarranted moral judgment, based on the wrong standards.

Objection 5.4.7.2. Jesus didn't mean that they would be judged by their own standards only. They can be judged by their own standards, and also by the right ones.

Reply:

That's a very improbable interpretation given context, but in any event, that would still be improper.

Objection 5.4.7.3. Jesus didn't mean that they would be judged by their own standards by Yahweh, or by anyone making proper judgments. He just meant that they would be so judged during their lives, by someone – whoever that someone might be.

Reply:

If so, then Jesus clearly was mistaken, or lying, since there are people who get away with wrongly judging others.

Objection 5.4.7.4.  Jesus was not implying what you say he was implying. Context indicates he was condemning hypocrisy, and nothing more.

Reply:

While it's plausible that he was mostly concerned with condemning hypocrisy, he clearly went the wrong way about that, condemning not only hypocrisy but proper behavior, as I've been explaining.

Objection 5.4.7.5. Jesus meant that people shouldn't pass judgment without recognizing their own faults.

Reply:

That's not what the text says or suggests.

Objection 5.4.7.6. Jesus meant that people shouldn't pass judgment in an arrogant manner.

Reply:

That's not what the text says or suggests, either.

5.4.8. Jesus and the Golden Rule.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus endorses the Golden Rule and makes a number of other claims in that context:

OEB[1]

Matthew 7:

[12] Do to others whatever you would wish them to do to you; for that is the teaching of both the Law and the prophets.

GWEB:

Matthew 7:

7:12 Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets.

There is a similar passage in the Gospel of Luke.

Telling people to behave in that manner, in that context, contains the implicit moral claim:

GR: The people for whom the command was meant, have a moral obligation to do to others as they wish others do to them.

Two questions arise:

1. Who is the command meant for?

2. Who are the “others”?

Most versions of Christianity accept that the rule is at least meant for all mentally competent adult humans are included in both categories. Let's say that that is so, and let's consider the following scenarios:

Scenario GR1:

Pierre is a prison guard in France. He does his job, working to keep inmates in prison. One of the inmates is Jean, who is in prison for bank robbery. Pierre does his job of his own free will. But he does not wish that others put him in prison, or hold him there.  

Scenario GR2:

Rashid is a member of the Taliban, who enforce their rules in the territory they control. In particular, Rashid flogged Anwar for failing to grow a beard, cut off Adbul's hands just for non-violent theft, and flogged Soraya for not wearing a burka. Rashid does his job of his own free will. But he wouldn't want others to flog him, or to cut off his hands.

Pierre does not behave immorally just for helping keep Jean in prison, even though Pierre does not wish to be put in prison, or to be held in prison. On the other hand, Rashid did behave immorally for flogging Anwar for failing to grow a beard, and also for cutting off Abdul's hands for non-violent theft, and also for flogging Soraya for not wearing a burqa.

However, GR seems to imply that Pierre behaves immorally. So, GR is false.

Objection 5.4.9.1. GR does not imply that Pierre behaves immorally. Pierre is treating Jean as he wishes others to treat him, since he wants that everyone in France be subject to French law. In particular, he wants that anyone be imprisoned if they commit bank robbery. While he had no moral obligation to help others in prison before he got his job as a prison guard, after he did, he had no moral obligation not to become a prison guard, either.

And since he got the job, he has a moral obligation to do as he promised, and help keep Jean and others in prison – since he wishes others to keep their promises to him as well.  

Reply:

Alright then, but let's say Rashid wants that everyone in Afghanistan – or some regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan; the place is not relevant – be subject to Taliban law. In particular, he wants that any man be flogged if they fail to grow a beard, any woman be flogged if she fails to wear a burqa.

Going by the same standards, it seems it follows from GR that after Rashid took his job, he has a moral obligation to flog men for not growing beards, and women for not wearing burqas. But it's not the case that he has such moral obligations. So, GR is false.

Objection 5.4.9.2. GR does not imply that Pierre behaves immorally. Pierre is treating Jean as he wishes others to treat him, since he wants that everyone in France be subject to French law. In particular, he wants that anyone be imprisoned if they commit bank robbery. While he had no moral obligation to help others in prison before he got his job as a prison guard, after he did, he had no moral obligation not to become a prison guard, either.

And since he got the job, he has a moral obligation to do as he promised, and help keep Jean and others in prison – since he wishes others to keep their promises to him as well.  

The case of Rashid is different, because French criminal law applies regardless of sex or gender, whereas Taliban law applies differently to men and women.

Reply:

Let's then consider a scenario in which, say, the punishment for non-violent theft is to be hanged to death. Let's further add that criminal law applies equally to men and women. It remains the case that the willing enforcer does not have a moral obligation to hang people to death for non-violent theft. So, GR is false.

Objection 5.4.9.3. GR does not imply that Pierre behaves immorally. Pierre is treating Jean as he wishes others to treat him, since he wants that everyone in France be subject to French law. In particular, he wants that anyone be imprisoned if they commit bank robbery. While he had no moral obligation to help others in prison before he got his job as a prison guard, after he did, he had no moral obligation not to become a prison guard, either.

And since he got the job, he has a moral obligation to do as he promised, and help keep Jean and others in prison – since he wishes others to keep their promises to him as well.

The case of Rashid is different, because Rashid does not wish that Taliban law be applied to everyone. He wishes that Sharia law be applied. But he is mistaken about the interpretation of Sharia law.

Reply:

Let's then consider a scenario in which, say, the punishment for non-violent theft is to be hanged to death. Let's say that there is no misinterpretation of any laws. It remains the case that the willing enforcer does not have a moral obligation to hang people to death for non-violent theft. So, GR is false.

Objection 5.4.9.4. Every adult, mentally competent human wishes that others treat them in accordance to their moral obligations. So, GR only implies that every adult, competent human being has a moral obligation to behave according to her moral obligations, which is obviously true.

Reply:

1. We may stipulate that Jean is adult and competent, and wishes that Pierre broke his moral obligations, accepted his bribe and allowed him to escape. That is not such a far-fetched scenario. There are plenty of times when people wish that others break their moral obligations when doing business with them – only they usually want that they break their moral obligations in a way that only harms third parties, of course.

2. In fact, even if one were to rewrite the objection to say that every adult, competent human being wishes that others treat them in accordance to their moral obligations towards them – or something like that -, there are counterexamples.

3. Regardless, let's say for the sake for the argument that the objection is somehow modified in a way that yields the conclusion that every adult, competent human being has a moral obligation to behave according to her moral obligations.

It would be a mistaken interpretation of the text to conclude that that's all GR entails. In fact, GR is supposed to provide a method for ascertaining moral obligations, not just to state the transparent tautology that every adult, competent human being has a moral obligation to behave according to her moral obligations, which is obviously true.

Objection 5.4.9.5. Jesus only meant that the Golden Rule was applicable to the Jewish people and the ancient Israelites, and not to adult, competent humans from other social groups.

Reply:

Even when limited in that way, GR is false. For example, let's say Saul was an ancient Israelite who sincerely supported the application of Mosaic Law, and was actually an enforcer. It remains the case that he had no moral obligation to engage in the atrocities commanded in that law.

Objection 5.4.9.6. Jesus only meant that the Golden Rule was applicable to those Jews who wished that Yahweh's Law be applied properly. Any injustice included in Mosaic Law is not from Yahweh, and so not a proper application.

Reply:

There is no basis in the text to believe Jesus meant that. If he meant to say that, he was seriously negligent.

Objection 5.4.9.7. Jesus only meant that one should love everyone – even one's enemies – as one loves oneself.

Reply:

There seems to be no good reason to think so, but if he meant that, then he was still mistaken, as I pointed out in an earlier subsection.

6. Hell.

Based on the previous sections, I would assess that Yahweh is a moral monster. However, if the most common interpretations of the New Testament are correct in positing that Hell exists and is infinite, I would say that he’s even far more evil than what any of the actions described in the Old Testament reveal.

6.1. Infinite Hell vs. finite Hell or no Hell.

The arguments in the rest of this section only apply to versions of Christianity that hold that Hell is infinite or, alternatively, that accept parts of the Bible that entail that Hell is infinite. [16]

While there is disagreement about whether Hell is finite or infinite, the following Old Testament passage seems to imply it’s the latter.

OEB[1]

Psalm 81: 15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him in everlasting terror.

GWEB:

Psalm 81: 15 The haters of Yahweh would cringe before him, and their punishment would last forever.

I have encountered an objection holding that the translation “forever” of the Hebrew word “olam” might be mistaken. [17]

Most English translations seem to interpret the passage as a claim that there is infinite punishment, but this alone is not decisive.

In addition to that passage, some Christian denominations – including the largest one by far, namely the Roman Catholic Church -, hold that the Book of Judith is part of the Bible. In that case, there is also the following passage in the Old Testament:

GWEB:

Judith 16:17

Woe to the nations that rise up against my race: The Lord Almighty will take vengeance of them in the day of judgement, To put fire and worms in their flesh; And they shall weep and feel their pain for ever.

Here too, a line of interpretation holds that the word translated as “for ever” has or might have been mistranslated, and in reality, the passage is or might be about a long finite period.  [18] The passage is usually translated indicating infinite pain, but this alone might is not decisive, either.

However, the New American Bible – an English translation of the Bible approved by the Roman Catholic Church – also states that their weeping and suffering will last forever.

In addition to that, the Catechism of the Catholic Church also claims that Hell is forever [19], and so do other Church documents.

So, at least according to Catholicism, it seems that Hell is forever (granted, the Catholic Church also seems to claim that Hell is freely chosen by those in Hell, but that claim is untenable on the basis of other Catholic tenets, as I argue below; also, the Catholic Church does not claim that Hell is a place of fire, but the fact remains that it holds it’s infinite, which is the point I’m getting at in this part of this essay).

Several Protestant denominations that reject the Book of Judith also affirm that Hell is eternal.

The second largest Christian denomination by number of adherents – the Eastern Orthodox Church – also accepts the Book of Judith – even if not with the same status as other books[20] -, which holds that Hell is eternal under the most common translations [21] –, but there are Eastern Orthodox Christians who reject this view.

In any event, at least denominations of Christianity comprising the majority of Christians, hold or imply that Hell lasts forever.

6.2. Hell as a place of torment vs. Hell as some state of mind or state of being.

For most of the history of Christianity, Hell has been seen by most Christians as a place of punishment, where the damned endure a number of torments.

However, nowadays there are competing views, including those that characterize Hell as a state of mind, or a state of being, or something along those lines.

Now, according to most versions of Christianity, the dead will eventually resurrect, so they will have bodies. So, they will have to be put somewhere, and if the damned will be separated from the blessed – i. e., they won’t be in the same place -, then whether the suffering is caused by fire or by some other condition, it’s difficult to see how that would not be a place of eternal torment. Maybe someone might use the word ‘Hell’ to denote not the place but the mental state, etc., but terminology aside, there would be a place of eternal torment.

In any case, and while a lot could be said about those issues, it’s not important to the moral case I’m making: regardless of whether the word “Hell” is used to denote a place where the damned will go, or some state of mind or being of those people, and even regardless of whether there is such a place, the important point here is that people in Hell will endure eternal suffering, without possibility of escape – they don’t even have the choice to be annihilated to end their torment.

Once it’s clear that such eternal torment is imposed by Yahweh, the immorality of his actions should be apparent.

6.3. Hell as imposed by Yahweh vs. Hell as chosen by the damned.

While the traditional view of Hell, for most of the history of Christianity, was that Hell was a punishment imposed by Yahweh, nowadays there are many Christians who interpret the matter differently, and claim that even though Hell is a form of infinite suffering, it’s freely chosen by the damned.

However, that alternative view is clearly untenable, based on some other beliefs held by those Christians: if Yahweh is the creator of every other being, and there is infinite Hell – in any of its variants, place or not -, then infinite Hell is imposed by Yahweh on the damned.

On that note, humans would not choose to suffer for eternity – not even very bad people would make such choice -, unless, perhaps, they’re seriously mentally ill, or are sacrificing themselves to save others, but both situations would arguably not be cases of free choices, and in any event, those are not the situations under consideration.

So, given the above, it is apparent that Hell is generally not chosen by the damned, but imposed on them by Yahweh. Moreover, and while the previous considerations suffice, one can also point out that the damned are not allowed to leave or cease to exist after a finite time in Hell, even though Yahweh – who created the rule according to which they end up in Hell – could easily let them go or destroy them, if he accepted.

Objection 6.3.1. The people in Hell freely choose to suffer for eternity by means of freely choosing to sin [alternatives: by rejecting the Gospel, or generally by meeting the conditions for going to Hell in each version of Christianity that posits infinite Hell], like criminals put themselves in prison or death row by freely choosing to commit crimes.

Reply:

a. Let’s consider the following scenario:

Alice believes Hell does not exist.
Even if she was negligent and that’s why she believes Hell does not exist – in reality, that is normally not the case, though in some cases someone might negligently come to have the true belief that Hell does not exist, but leaving that aside – the fact remains that she believes Hell does not exist.
So, when she meets the conditions to avoid Hell, she never expected that the consequences of her meeting such conditions would be to go to Hell.
For instance, let’s say Alice read the Gospel and was told by some Christians that if she did not believe it was all true, and/or did not trust Jesus as her lord and savior, she would go to Hell.

Some other Christians told her that there were some other conditions she had to meet in order to avoid Hell. And then, some Muslims told her there were some other conditions, and her present choices would result in her going to Hell. In some cases, the conditions were mutually incompatible.
Now, Alice – very reasonably, but leaving that aside – did not believe any of the claims.
In fact, she came to the conclusion that the rules in question – namely, rules imposed by an immensely powerful creator that establish that meeting certain criteria would result in her suffering for eternity – did not exist.

Then, clearly she did not choose to be in Hell. That is the case regardless of whether Hell is a state of mind/being, a place of torment by fire, etc. The point is that Alice did not choose to go to a place or be in a situation in which she would suffer for eternity, even if she made choices that resulting in her meeting Yahweh’s criteria for ending up in Hell – criteria she did not believe in, regardless of whether her lack of belief was epistemically culpable.

If Alice indeed ends up in Hell, that’s not her choice, but was put in that place or state by whoever made the rules she did not believe existed, and in this case, that creator is Yahweh.

Now, let’s consider another scenario:

Bob never heard of Christianity, Islam, or Hell. Moreover, the concept of eternal punishment is totally alien to him as well.

Once again, the conclusion is that he did not choose to suffer for eternity, either in a place of torment or in some other way.

So, if Bob does end up suffering for eternity in Hell, then:

i. If Hell is a place, then Yahweh tossed Bob in there.

Yahweh may have done so personally or by proxy, or by some mechanism that sends people who meet certain criteria to Hell, but the method of placing Bob in Hell is beside the point here.

ii. If Hell is not a place but a state of mind or state of being, then Yahweh made humans in a way such that, regardless of what they want, if they meet certain criteria, they enter a state of perpetual suffering, of which they cannot ever escape. Bob didn’t believe that, and the choice is still Yahweh’s. So, clearly the choice is not Bob’s, but Yahweh’s, even if Bob made choices that met Yahweh’s conditions for ending up in Hell. Moreover, Yahweh has no mercy on him: even if he asks to be annihilated instead, Yahweh sticks to the infinite suffering instead.

b. That aside, even in the case of criminals, they generally do not choose to be put in prison or death row. For instance, let’s consider the following scenario:

In Iran, the law establishes that if a man has consensual sex with another man, they’re to be punished by either execution or 100 lashes, depending on the specific sexual activities they engage in.

Also, in Iran, Ali has sex with Mahmoud, in one of the ways that are punishable by death according to Iranian law. They do not expect to be caught. However, they get caught and put in jail for that, and later they’re dragged to the place where they’ll be executed, while they beg for mercy. Eventually, they are executed.

In a case like that, it would not be true case that they freely chose to be arrested or executed, even if they freely chose to have sex with each other.

Granted, in the case of infinite suffering imposed by an all-powerful, all-seeing entity, there is a difference: it would be absurd to believe one has a shot at escaping that fate, if one believes that such entity exists and has imposed such rules. However, many people do not believe that there is an entity like that, or that such rules have been imposed. Moreover, having an absurd expectation to escape still wouldn’t be a choice to be put in Hell.

The point here is that however one slices it, at least in nearly all cases if not all, humans do not freely choose to be in Hell – regardless of what else they freely choose to do.

Now, there are figurative senses in which someone can say that, for instance, if Tom robs a bank, he “put himself in prison”.

For instance, someone could say that Tom put himself in prison meaning that Tom made a free choice for which he deserved to be put in prison. That may well be true, whereas it’s not true that Ali or Mahmoud made a free choice for which they deserved to be arrested or executed.

But in any case, this is a figurative sense of the expression “chose to be put in prison”. In a literal sense, neither Ali or Mahmoud chose to be executed, nor did Tom choose to be put in prison.

Back to the cases of Alice and Bob, it’s even more clear – if possible – that they did not made a free choice to suffer infinitely in Hell, but rather, if they end up suffering infinitely, that suffering was imposed on them by Yahweh.

Someone might claim that they deserved to suffer for eternity, but that’s a different objection, which I tackle elsewhere.

Objection 6.3.2. The people in Hell choose to suffer for eternity, knowing that they would suffer for eternity.

Reply:

a. They would have to be severely mentally ill to do that, or at least temporarily seriously mentally impaired, unless that’s a condition to save someone else from the same fate. But those aren’t the cases under consideration.

b. In any case, it’s easy to find examples of people who would go to Hell according to Christian rules (in any variants), but who do not choose to go. There are plenty of real life examples similar to the cases of Alice and Bob I outlined above, and even plenty of examples of actual bad people (unlike Bob or Alice in those examples), like serial killers, who would of course not make that choice.

Objection 6.3.3. The people in Hell freely choose to reject Yahweh, who is God, and Hell is separation from Yahweh/God.

Even if the damned do not know that human minds are such that being separated from Yahweh results in terrible suffering – but they should know -, their choice to be separated from him is a free choice nonetheless. Yahweh is only respecting their free choice.

Reply:

a. Previous sections show that Yahweh is not God  since he’s not morally perfect.

b. There is no need to rely on previous sections here, though, since the point is that the claim that Yahweh is God is shown to be false by the fact that he inflicts infinite torment on people in Hell, and clearly against their will.

c. It is not the case that they all chose to reject Yahweh. In many cases, people never even heard of him, and even when they have, they assess hat he does not exist and/or that he’s a monstrous imaginary character. That is an assessment, not a choice.

In fact, a choice is implausible. For instance, I do not choose to believe that Yahweh does not exist any more than I would choose to believe that, say, Athena, Thor or Darth Vader does not exist. In other words, I do not choose at all. I assess.

The same goes many if not all people who have heard of Yahweh and do not believe that he exists.

Even if there were always some irrationality in making that assessment – not the case, but that aside -, the fact would remain that most of the people in that situation, if not all of us, do not make such choices.

The same applies to the assessment that he is a monstrous character. That’s an assessment, not a choice.

d. Even if – say - Mary freely chose to be separated from Yahweh for eternity without knowing that that would result in eternal torment, and even if she was epistemically at fault for not knowing, that still would not change the fact that the endless torment is imposed by Yahweh, rather than being freely chosen by Mary. She’s still not choosing Hell.

On that note, let’s consider the following scenario:

Let us suppose that some human scientists genetically engineer some intelligent beings based on, say, pigs, but vastly modified. They are very intelligent, capable of talking, and they live for over a millennium.

Also, the scientists design their brains so that, if they’re not in the presence of humans, their minds enter a state of horrible suffering – let’s call that state “Bell”.

Now, let’s say that Pig is one of those beings, and his makers give him the chance of choosing to remain in their company, or to go to some other place, in the presence of individuals of his species and some other species, but no humans.

Additionally, they give Pig some clues that, if he follows them properly, would lead him to the conclusions that:

i. In the absence of humans, he will be in a state of terrible suffering.

ii. If he chooses to be in the presence of his makers, he will be allowed to be in the presence of humans for the rest of his life. But if he chooses otherwise, he won’t be in the presence of humans ever again.

iii. He will not be killed by request, and he won’t be allowed to kill himself, either: there will be robots that will stop him from killing himself if he tried.

iv. He almost certainly still has many centuries to live.

Now, Pig makes a badly mistaken assessment – let’s say he’s epistemically guilty -, and fails to realize that he will suffer horribly if he’s not in the presence of humans.

Then, Pig chooses not to be in the presence of his makers anymore.

So, his makers put him in a place without humans and – as he should have expected but didn’t expect at all -, Pig begins to suffer tremendously.

Pig realizes he’s made a mistaken assessment, and desperately asks to be put in the presence of humans again – there are no humans before him, but there are cameras and microphones that let his makers know what he’s doing, saying, etc.

But his makers refuse, telling him that he freely chose to be in Bell, and they’re only respecting his free choice.

So, he asks his makers to have mercy on him and kill him. But his makers reply that he’s freely chosen to be in Bell for the rest of his life, which will almost certainly last for several centuries.

It is apparent in the scenario that Pig did not choose to be in Bell.

It is true that he chose not to be in the presence of his makers – or other humans -, but that does not change the fact that Bell is not chosen by Pig; it’s imposed by his makers.

In other words, the suffering is not chosen; it’s imposed by his makers.

Given the amount of suffering, it’s clear that Pig’s makers are torturing him.

It should be also obvious that the actions of Pig’s makers are morally evil, but I will address the evil of hell in the next subsection.

In this subsection, the main point is that Hell, like Bell, is not chosen by the people in Hell, but imposed on them.

In other words, just as horrible suffering is not chosen by Pig but is instead inflicted on him by his human makers, infinite torment is not chosen by the people in Hell but is inflicted on them by Yahweh, regardless of whether Hell is a place, a state of mind, or whatever it is.

Objection 6.3.4. Even if infinite suffering is inflicted on the damned by Yahweh, rather than being chosen by the damned, he is respecting their freedom by respecting their free choice to be separated from him from eternity.

Even if the damned do not know that human minds are such that being separated from Yahweh results in terrible suffering – but they should know -, their choice to be separated from him is a free choice nonetheless. Yahweh is respecting their free choice about that, and hence their freedom.

Reply:

Regardless of the status of the specific choice to be separated by Yahweh, the fact would remain that Yahweh is still the one inflicting infinite suffering on those people against their will, since he’s the one who made the rule that those separated from him will suffer forever, since they did not believe the rule existed, and since they’re begging for mercy but he does not save them.

A good analogous scenario which also highlights that Yahweh is not respecting their freedom in any significant sense, is the Pig scenario above. Another scenario would be as follows:

Let’s suppose that in a distant realm, ruled absolutely by the Emperor, an imperial decree says that when a person turns eighteen, she has to choose between declaring herself a servant of the emperor and follow his commands without question – regardless of what they are -, or be classified as an undesirable (the decree applies to both men and women).

Also, the decree says that anyone who fails to follow a command from the Emperor is also classified as an undesirable.

The decree also establishes that a declaration of undesirability is irreversible, except if the Emperor chooses to make an exception and that the punishment for undesirability is to be thrown naked and unarmed into a pit inhabited by a voracious and cunning monster, which will eat them mostly alive, eating non-vital organs first.

So, at eighteen, Luke refuses to serve the Emperor, escapes and joins a group of rebel fighters. Surely enough, Luke is classified as an undesirable.

Once Luke is captured, the Emperor sends a message to the rebels, stating: “I have chosen to respect the free choice made by your friend Luke.”

So, the Emperor orders his enforcers to throw Luke into the pit; they follow the command, and Luke is eaten mostly alive, suffering great pain in the process and begging for mercy and for a quick death until he – eventually, but surely not quickly – dies.

Would it be sensible to say that the Emperor was just respecting Luke’s freedom by respecting his free choice not to be a servant of the Emperor’s and/or Luke’s free choice to be an undesirable?

I hope it’s clear enough that it would not be so.

Note that this would not change if the Emperor had instead – for instance – used advanced technology to make Luke, and had made Luke in a way such that refusing to serve him would cause Luke great pain for the rest of his life – which Luke did not know because of some epistemic mistake -, instead of tossing Luke into a pit with a [another] monster.

Objection 6.3.5. Hell is not separation from Yahweh. The damned are actually in the presence of Yahweh. However, being in the presence of Yahweh results in terrible suffering for them, because of their rejection of Yahweh. But even if the damned do not know that human minds are such that being in the presence of Yahweh while rejecting him results in terrible suffering – but they should know -, their choice to be reject him is a free choice nonetheless. Yahweh is only respecting their free choice.

Reply:

This variant is not relevantly different from the variants involving separation from Yahweh, since the method of torture is not morally relevant.

The fact remains that Yahweh is inflicting infinite torture, by making human minds in a way that would result in eternal suffering for those who do not believe that Yahweh exists – or who meet whatever conditions are the conditions for ending up suffering forever.

The damned in many cases do not even believe that that condition exists before they end up in Hell, but regardless of that, it’s clear that they do not want to be in Hell. They are in Hell against their will. Purely for example they would much rather be destroyed, but they’re not allowed by Yahweh to commit suicide.

Yahweh could, of course, annihilate them – for instance -, or give them the means to destroy themselves, but he chooses not to. He’s also the one who previously chose to make human beings in such a way that they would suffer horribly in his presence if they failed to believe in his existence – or whatever counts as rejection -, even though he did not have to make such a horrendous rule.

So, regardless of whether Yahweh’s intentions are punitive or some other intentions, he is actually torturing human beings for eternity.

6.4. The immorality of Hell

As we saw in the previous subsection, Hell is imposed by Yahweh on some people.

I hope at this point it is clear to the reader how enormously evil Yahweh’s actions are: we’re talking about inflicting suffering on people for a thousand years, then a million years, then a trillion years, and then more – it just never ends.

There is no relief, or hope of relief. They may beg for mercy, or even ask to be annihilated. But there is no way out for them: they’re damned forever, by Yahweh.

It should be obvious that Yahweh is behaving horribly immorally.

In fact, many Christians who think about the matter seem to realize that, and then either they claim that there is no infinite Hell, or they come up with untenable views, such as the view that the damned put themselves in Hell.

Leaving aside versions of Christianity that do not posit an infinite Hell – which are still vulnerable to the points made in earlier sections of this article, but not to the objections based on the evil of Hell -, the fact is that infinite suffering is not chosen but imposed by Yahweh.

Objection 6.4.1. There is no infinite Hell. That’s a mistaken interpretation of Christianity.

Reply:

As I pointed out earlier, versions of Christianity comprising the vast majority of adherents contend that Hell is infinite, but some claim otherwise, or even deny that there is Hell at all.

If a version of Christianity denies that there is infinite Hell – or, at least, does not affirm that there is -, then it’s immune to the objection based on Hell, as I recognized earlier. However, the points made in earlier sections still show that those versions of Christianity are not true, either (which points work depend on the specific version, though most work for versions comprising the vast majority of adherents).

Objection 6.4.2. The people in Hell deserve to suffer forever, for their sins, and so Yahweh is doing justice by imposing infinite suffering on them.

Reply:

Even if one considers some of the worst crimes, like some cases of murder, rape, rape plus murder, mass torture, etc., that is not true: if someone commits such actions, arguably they deserve to suffer for that, so someone might say that they deserve to suffer for years, or even for decades, or perhaps even for centuries.

I don’t know what’s the maximum they might deserve, but one thing appears obvious: they don’t deserve to suffer for eternity.

One should, perhaps, stop for a moment and consider what the concept of Hell entails: It’s suffering for millions of years, and then trillions of years, and then more, and so on. It just never ends.

The punishment seems clearly infinitely disproportionate even in the case of the worst criminals.

Objection 6.4.3.The people in Hell deserve to suffer forever, not so much for adultery, rape or murder – which only merit finite punishment -, but for the infinite sin of offending (and/or disobeying) a morally perfect creator, Yahweh – who is God.
 Reply:

a. As previous sections show, Yahweh is far from being morally perfect, but leaving that aside, and confusing terminology aside, if one ponders the matter carefully, it should be apparent that disobeying an order from a creator – even if he were morally perfect – would not make a human being deserving of infinite suffering, and the same goes for offending a morally perfect creator.

In other words, even if God exists, then offending or disobeying God simply does not merit infinite punishment.

The claim that people actually deserve to go to Hell is in serious conflict with our sense of right and wrong. For instance, let’s consider the following scenario:

There exists one personal being, and no other moral agents; let’s call that being – for instance -, Joe.

Joe knows that if he creates morally flawed moral agents, then each of those beings will, at least once, behave immorally. He also believes that if such beings behave immorally – at least once -, they will deserve to be tormented for eternity, and that he will reckon that they will deserve it.

Moreover, Joe knows that if he reckons that someone deserves infinite torment, he will in fact inflict infinite torment on that person – Joe has the power to do so -; no amount of begging for forgiveness or anything else will change that. Joe knows all of that perfectly well.

Also, Joe knows that, if he creates a morally flawed moral agent, then Joe will in fact inflict infinite torment on her. Moreover, Joe not only knows that, but he’s consciously aware of that.

So, what does Joe do?

He proceeds to create billions of flawed moral agents.

Then, each of these agents behave immorally at least once, and Joe proceeds to torment every single one of them for eternity, with no mercy whatsoever.

If this objection were correct, then for all we know, Joe might even be morally perfect.

But it’s obvious that Joe would be a moral monster.

b. Moreover, if this objection were correct, then the normal human moral condemnation against a serial rapist and murderer because he intends to rape and murder his victims [23] –  not for offending some morally perfect creator -, would be completely out of place. What would really matter would be his actions that offended – maybe not even deliberately – a morally perfect creator.

After carefully considering the matter, it should be clear that this view conflicts with a human normal moral sense. What normally matters when assessing the morality of those actions is not whether they offended a creator, but rather factors such what he intends to do to his victims, what he believes and is justified to believe about the effect of his actions on his victims, and so on, not how a creator – any creator – might feel about it.

c. Incidentally, many Christians who have pondered the matter of infinite Hell seem to have reached the same conclusion – namely, that humans do not deserve infinite suffering, and that it would be evil to impose that on them -, and so nowadays many Christians reject the idea of an infinite punishment imposed by Yahweh, and instead maintain that Hell is some state chosen by those in Hell, or that Hell is finite or even nonexistent. While the view that Hell is finite or nonexistent does avoid the argument from Hell – though some of the points made in other sections still show that those versions of Christianity are not true, either -, the claim that Hell is chosen by those in Hell is untenable, as I showed earlier.

Objection 6.4.4. The people in Hell deserve to suffer forever, not for rape, adultery or murder, but for the infinite sin of causing infinite suffering on a morally perfect creator, who abhors any wrongdoing, and whose infinite suffering increases with every single immoral action [or, as a variant of this objection, with some specific immoral actions]. The suffering of each of the damned is similar to the suffering he inflicted on Yahweh, who is God.

Reply:

a. As usual, there’s always the alternative of pointing out that Yahweh is far from being morally perfect, as previous sections show, so he isn’t God, though as usual, this is not necessary in this context, as the Hell-based moral objection to versions of Christianity that posit infinite Hell stands on its own.

b. Also, for reasons similar to those given above, this objection too is in conflict with our moral sense, so even if God exists, human do not deserve infinite suffering.

The Joe scenario is also applicable to this variant of the objection, and clear enough to show that it fails.

In addition to all of that, we can point out the following:

i. If a being – say, B – were to suffer for eternity for every single immoral act that occurs – and with a level of suffering comparable to that of the people in Hell for every single case -, then freely carrying out an act of creation from which – he knows  - some immoral actions will eventually result, would appear to be a free choice entailing to be in Hell forever. He could freely choose not to create – or not to create anything that would yield that result.

So, it seems clear that it’s not a case of negligence if a human does not factor in – when she acts – the possibility of the suffering of a being with such a completely alien kind of mind.

To put a concrete example: intuitively, it’s clear that a shoplifter does not have to factor in the potential infinite suffering of radically alien invisible beings when she considers whether or not to shoplift, anymore than she has to consider the possibility that, say, eating an apple will result in some invisible entity suffering infinite torment because said entity suffers like that when someone eats an apple.

While it’s true that she has a moral sense by while she can tell shoplifting is immoral but eating apples is not (in usual cases, all other things equal, etc.), her moral assessment about shoplifting requires considerations about consequences for things such as the well-being of the owner of the shop, other humans, etc., but not of about a being with a radically different kind of mind, who would freely choose to make morally flawed entities, even though he knows that that will result in eternal Hell for himself.

Similar considerations apply if the being suffers eternally for some but not all immoral actions.

ii. This objection would have the odd result that the creator would be in a state of eternal suffering, in a sense in Hell. That does not appear to be compatible with Christianity at all – though this isn’t the main objection to the objection.

iii. It wouldn’t help this objection to say that the creator would suffer like that for every immoral action unless he inflicts infinite torment on the wrongdoers – or something along those lines -, because in that case, it’s apparent that the creator in question should either refrain from creating or endure the consequences of his choice, which would not be the fault of humans committing shoplifting or any other immoral actions, given that clearly it’s not the case they should factor in such radically alien beings with such radically alien minds.

Objection 6.4.5. Our sense of right and wrong cannot be trusted on these matters, since it’s flawed because of the Fall. We ought to listen to Yahweh instead, since his sense of right and wrong is perfect.

Reply:

That would amount to simply assume Christianity, instead of assessing whether it’s true.

As I explained when replying to preliminary objections, we can often properly use our sense of right and wrong to assess whether a religion is true, and in particular, we can properly do so when there is sufficient information in the religious story to make an assessment of the behavior of people in a certain scenario. That’s often the case in the Bible, and that’s what I’ve been doing.

Objection 6.4.6. Jesus suffered for our sins and died on the cross to save us. If some people ungratefully reject his offer, it’s only fair that they suffer for eternity.

Reply:

a. Generally, non-Christians do not reject any offers. They do not believe that there is an offer in the first place. Some of us believe that even if Jesus made an offer about twenty centuries ago, he was not in a position to meet his end of the bargain, and in any case he’s not making that offer anymore because he’s dead.

b. Others, like Muslims, for instance, don’t believe in Christianity, but believe that Jesus still is out there so to speak. Yet, they too do not believe that there is an offer from Jesus to avoid Hell by becoming Christians, or generally by meeting the conditions that different versions of Christianity posit.

c. Even if there were some epistemic guilt on the part of all unbelievers; even if there were some irrationality in reaching the conclusion that there is no Hell, and/or no offer from Jesus to be accepted or rejected, etc., the point would remain that they would not deserve infinite torment for making such an error.

d. If Yahweh chose to suffer as a means of giving some people a chance to avoid the infinite torment he himself would otherwise impose on them, that would be another oddity of his radically alien mind - “odd” from a human perspective, of course.

But the fact that Yahweh suffered by choice would not change the fact that human beings do not deserve to be tormented forever. That would be Yahweh’s fault.

e. Even if Yahweh were giving all humans a chance to avoid eternal punishment by worshiping him, he would still be coercing humans into worshiping him under the unjust threat of infinite torment, and even worse, carrying out that punishment if someone fails to worship him.

So, even if some people were actually rejecting his offer, it wouldn’t be remotely fair that they would suffer for eternity. Instead, those few rejecting the offer would be courageous people who would stand up against a moral monster who demands worship under the threat of infinite torment. Perhaps, they would also be foolish because they would have no chance against Yahweh’s immense power.

But what they wouldn’t be is deserving of infinite torment just because they refuse to worship the monstrous entity threatening to impose infinite torment of them – and an entity would have to be truly monstrous to seriously demand that, and even much more so to carry out the threat.

7. Heaven.

This section applies to versions of Christianity holding that all people who sincerely repent and meet conditions like accepting Jesus as their lord and savior, go to Heaven, without any punishment in the afterlife, regardless of how much evil they did before and of whether they were caught and punished during their lives.

For example, a brutal dictator who tortured and murdered peaceful opponents, a thug who engaged in armed robbery, rape and murder, a con artist who ruined the lives of thousands of people, leaving them in poverty, may repent in their deathbeds without ever getting caught, accept Jesus and then die.

According to these versions of Christianity, those people do not go to Hell, or to any place of punishment, but to Heaven.

Of course, those people do not deserve to be punished for eternity. That too would be unjust – even much more so than letting them get away with their deeply immoral behavior. But they deserve at least some punishment. Yet, they escape the punishment they deserve.

Granted, those people feel sorry for what they did, but even then, those people are guilty of atrocities and deserve punishment for them. However, Yahweh lets them get away with it. That shows that Yahweh is not perfectly just. Of course, given the extent of Yahweh's atrocities, this particular matter is only a drop in an ocean, but it's another reason to reject a claim of moral perfection, on the relevant versions of Christianity.

An objection to this argument holds that Yahweh's justice needs to be seen also in light of his mercy. But this objection fails because if Yahweh's mercy or alleged mercy involves leaving some people guilty of atrocities unpunished if they repent and accept Jesus, etc., such mercy is is incompatible with perfect justice – those people still deserved punishment for what they did. [24]

8. Conclusions.

After assessing Yahweh’s behavior, it’s clear that he’s not a morally good person. Moreover, he’s a moral monster. Of course, while this is enough to conclude that Christianity is not true, that does not entail that Yahweh does not exist. My position on the matter is that are conclusive reasons to believe that he does not exist, but that’s beyond the scope of this essay.

Additionally, it is clear that many people ought to have disobeyed biblical commands, that Hell is enormously unjust and Heaven less so but still unjust.

As for the most liberal versions of Christianity, they seem to misinterpret much of the Gospels and/or the Old Testament – not that more conservative versions interpret all of it properly; different versions just seem to make different mistakes. But leaving that aside, the most liberal versions of Christianity also promote some false moral beliefs – even their moral errors usually aren’t as bad as those made by more conservative versions. Based on that, the proper conclusion is that they are false religions as well.

Notes and references.

[0] Someone might object to this and say that Christianity is a single religion, even if Christians sometimes disagree with each other on some doctrinal issues.

There is no need to address that matter here, since whether they’re different religions or one religion with different interpretations, I will raise objections to all of the versions of Christianity I’ve encountered, which includes all of the most usual ones.

Also, someone might reject the expression ‘versions of Christianity’. In that case, I invite readers to pick their preferred terminology, but the substantive objection to Christianity are not affected.

[1]

Open English Bible (OEB): http://openenglishbible.org/

In particular, the quotes in this essay are from the following version: http://openenglishbible.org/oeb/2013.11/OEB-2013.11-US.html

[2]

ftp://ftp.ibiblio.org/pub/docs/books/gutenberg/8/2/9/8294/8294-h/8294-h.htm

[3]

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-slaughter-of-the-canaanites-re-visited

[4]

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub

[5] Or, for that matter, Catholic Tradition, and/or some other specific traditional sources.

I will focus on the Bible for the sake of brevity, since the reply is essentially the same in other cases.

[6] I will argue that such claims are untenable. In particular, I will argue that it can be established from some of the tenets usually held by those who claim that people are in Hell by their own free choice, and obvious facts about human behavior, that at least most if not all of the people in Hell would be there not by their own free choice.

[7] It is true that many people reject many of the moral assessments that are crystal clear to me. But that fact would not constitute a good objection to my moral case against Christianity, just as the fact that the Taliban or many present-day Iranian or Saudi religious and/or political leaders, etc. rejected/reject many of the moral assessments that are crystal clear to me, is not a problem for my assessments of their actions – not a significant problem, anyway.

[8]

http://ebible.org/web/DEU22.htm#V0

[9] Someone might suggest that said lack of knowledge of other religions is improbable in the early 21st century even in rural Afghanistan. That does not seem to be the case, but in any event, one may just adjust the scenario and assume Hamid lives in the late 20th century instead, or if it comes to that, in the 19th century instead, or in the 18th century.

To be clear, I don’t see why such modifications would be needed, but the point is that they wouldn’t be a problem if required, and the scenario still works as an analogy.

[10] The Catholic “New American Bible” includes whipping him as part of the punishment.

[11] If one puts aside for a moment the assumption that Yahweh exists and assesses the evidence properly, my conclusion is that he does not exist, and the monsters were the humans who supported this law. But that’s another matter.

[12] One might argue that chimpanzees, bonobos and some other non-human animals are moral agents, though the matter is debatable. There is no need to take a stance on that here, since the Old Testament legal disposition is not limited to those non-human animals.

[13] According to the GWEB, it seems Yahweh claims that they committed abominations against their gods*. That’s also what the King James Bible says, as well as a few other translations. But some other translations disagree. I’m not taking a stance here.

*Side note: While I think that the term ‘god’ is quite vague and often problematic for a number of reasons, I think there is no need for greater precision in this particular context.

[14] I got the idea of adding subsection 4.1.2. after an exchange with a poster called ‘Jeff’ at Randal Rauser’s blog.

[15]

I’m assuming no other factors at play, like Alice having an obligation to keep in a particularly good shape for some other reason, or threats by third parties, etc. We can in any case further specify the scenario if needed, but the idea should be clear. We may also assume, if needed, that Alice has no family or anyone in charge, etc.

We may also assume that Alice does not have any moral and/or religious objections to organ donation, and that the hospital in question provides high quality medical care, including transplants.

[16] Finite variants of Hell I'm familiar with are also morally bankrupt because they either punish some people excessively for their immoral behavior, or punish some people for behavior that is not actually immoral. But I'm not arguing against those variants here. The versions of Christianity that present those finite variants are still vulnerable to some of the rest of the arguments of this essay.

[17] This objection was raised by a poster called “Jayman” at Randal Rauser's blog.

[18] This issue was raised by a posted called “Simon K” at Randal Rauser's blog.

[19] Sources:

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1033-1037. http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_P2O.HTM

New American Bible (Judith 16): http://www.usccb.org/bible/judith/16

[20]

Sources:

http://www.orthodoxanswers.org/orthodoxbibles

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Orthodox_Church

[21]

In addition to the Book of Judith, the following sources provide evidence that the Eastern Orthodox Church holds that Hell is eternal.

http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles-2009/Mettalinos-Paradise-And-Hell-According-To-Orthodox-Tradition.php

https://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/spirituality/the-kingdom-of-heaven/heaven-and-hell

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_views_on_Hell#Eastern_Orthodox_concepts_of_hell

http://www.antiochian.org/node/18270

[22]

While there are good moral objections to a finite Hell if it involves certain forms of punishment or if it punishes, say, unbelievers, there are plenty of potential variants and addressing all or most of them would make this essay much longer than it is.

[23]

More precisely, what the criminal deliberately did to his victims as far as he could rationally tell is the morally relevant point, since – for instance – he would be just as immoral if, say, someone puts him in a holodeck where he believes that he’s raping and killing people, even if he is not and no one is suffering. But that’s not the matter under consideration here.

[24]

There are other objections to the arguments in section 7 that are not based on Christian beliefs, such as philosophical positions that reject the idea that humans deserve anything, even if they accept that some other moral properties are instantiated. I don't think those views are correct, but it's beyond the scope of this essay to address them.