The Slaughter of the Canaanites – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I outlined three main Christian responses to the stories of Jehovah commanding the slaughter of the Canaanites and of the Israelites carrying out this command.  There are significant problems with each of the three Christian responses, but the response with the most obvious and most serious problems is the Conservative one.

1. The Conservative Christian response:

The story of the slaughter of the Canaanites is FACTUAL, but Jehovah was morally justified in commanding the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children) in Palestine.

I plan to take on this Conservative response first.  After flushing this stinky turd down the drain, I will then move on to point out a few problems with the Liberal and Moderate responses.

Before I start raising objections against the Conservative response, I want to take a moment to disagree with William Lane Craig’s high-level comment on the issue of the slaughter of the Canaanites.  Here is the comment by Craig that I have in mind:

The problem, it seems to me, is that if God could not have issued such a command, then the biblical stories must be false. Either the incidents never really happened but are just Israeli folklore; or else, if they did, then Israel, carried away in a fit of nationalistic fervor, thinking that God was on their side, claimed that God had commanded them to commit these atrocities, when in fact He had not. In other words, this problem is really an objection to biblical inerrancy.


Now that puts the issue in quite a different perspective! The question of biblical inerrancy is an important one, but it’s not like the existence of God or the deity of Christ! If we Christians can’t find a good answer to the question before us and are, moreover, persuaded that such a command is inconsistent with God’s nature, then we’ll have to give up biblical inerrancy. But we shouldn’t let the unbeliever raising this question get away with thinking that it implies more than it does.

Craig insists that the issue of the slaughter of the Canaanites is irrelevant to the question of “the existence of God or the deity of Christ”, but he is wrong on both counts.

Jehovah is portrayed as commanding the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) in the O.T.,  thus Jehovah is a false god (because God is a perfectly morally good person).  But Jesus promoted worship of Jehovah, obedience to Jehovah, and prayer to Jehovah, thus Jesus promoted worship, obedience, and prayer to a false god.  That means that Jesus was a false prophet, and thus that Jesus cannot be the divine Son of God.  Jesus cannot be God Incarnate.  Thus, the issue of the slaughter of the Canaanites is of direct relevance to the question “Is Jesus the divine Son of God?”

Although the issue of the slaughter of the Canaanites might not be sufficient to prove that God does not exist, it certainly provides significant evidence against the existence of God.  One of the main arguments against the existence of God is the problem of evil, and there is hardly a better piece of evidence than the fact that millions of innocent Jews (men, women, and children) were slaughtered by Hitler and the Christian Germans who followed (or failed to actively resist) the leadership of Hitler.  The slaughter of the Canaanites, if the O.T. stories are factual and historical, is one more horrific example to add to the list of horrible things that God, if God exists, has allowed to take place.

Furthermore, it is clear and obvious to those of us not blinded by religious indoctrination and dogma, that the scriptures or holy books of the three great Western religious traditions are NOT divinely inspired documents, but rather are human creations reflecting all of the ignorance, stupidity, prejudice, hatred, hypocrisy and other foibles of the human authors of those writings.  The stories of the slaughtering of the Canaanites are just some of the many obvious indications that the Bible is a purely human work,  not a book authored by an all-wise and perfectly loving deity.  So, the slaughter of the Canaanites is an important piece of evidence against the divine inspiration of the Bible.  But similar problems exist with the Quran.  From where I sit, the scriptures of the three major Western religions are purely human works, and not inspired by God.

But billions of human beings are Jews, Christians, or Muslims, and they view these books as being inspired by God, despite the fact that the books, from a skeptical point of view, are OBVIOUSLY NOT insprired by God.  This is an indication that humans tend to be credulous on matters of religion.  These three great Western religious traditions share in common the worldview of THEISM, but these three religious traditions are, IMHO, obviously false religions being based on holy books that are beleived to be inspired by God when those books are clearly NOT inspired by God.

I admit that this does not, by itself, prove that God does not exist.  However, Christians believe that God wants to reveal himself to humankind, and I think they are reasonable in this belief; that is, IF God exists, THEN God would want to reveal himself to humankind and would make serious efforts to do so.  But the three great Western THEISTIC religious traditions are all false religions, so it looks to me (and many other independent critical thinkers) like God has made little or no effort to reveal himself to humankind.  This is powerful evidence supporting the view that there is no God.

Therefore, William Craig is WRONG on both counts.  The existence of God and the deity of Jesus are both at stake here, when we examine the issue of the slaughter of the Canaanites.

Here is how the Christian apologist Clay Jones summarizes his conservative approach to the O.T. stories of the slaughter of the Canaanites:

  The “new atheists” call God’s commands to kill the Canaanites “genocide,” but a closer look at the horror of the Canaanites’ sinfulness, exhibited in rampant idolatry, incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and bestiality, reveals that God’s reason for commanding their death was not genocide but capital punishment. After all, the Old Testament unequivocally commands that those who do any one of these things deserves to die. (from the article “Killing the Canaanites”)

There are so many obvious problems with this attempt to justify the slaughter of the Canaanites that it is hard to know where to start.  In just an hour I came up with a dozen objections to this attempt to justify the morality of Jehovah’s command to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children).  I will present some of those objections in the next installment of this series.

In the meantime, please provide some of your own thoughts on Clay Jones’s attempt to justify Jehovah’s command. Perhaps there are a few problems or objections that I have missed.