bookmark_borderThe Slaughter of the Canaanites – Principles of Justice

Clay Jones argues that Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), but that this command and the obedience of the Israelites to the command was morally justified because the Canaanites deserved the death penalty for various serious crimes or sins which were violations of the laws of Jehovah (see his article “Killing the Canaanites”). Jones provides a list of the crimes or sins allegedly committed by the Canaanites which were (supposedly) deserving of the death penalty: idolatry, incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and bestiality.
I have argued for sixty different objections against Clay Jones’s moral justification of Jehovah’s command to the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children).  You can read a summary of those sixty objections in a previous post.
Even that summary, however, is a bit long for most people to read through, so I’m going to boil my objections down further here, with a focus on the principles of justice that Jehovah violated (or that Jehovah encouraged the Israelites to violate), based on Clay Jones’s “defense” of Jehovah’s command to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children).
If one becomes familiarized with the following twenty-one principles of justice, one can generate most of the sixty objections that I came up with, just by closely examining the laws of Jehovah (found in the following books ascribed to Moses: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) that relate to the list of alleged sins or crimes of the Canaanites that Clay Jones uses as a justification for the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children).

Principles of Justice Involved in Objections 1-20:

(POJ1) It is unjust to severely punish a person (for a sin or crime) who is not capable of understanding the difference between right and wrong.

(POJ2) It is unjust to punish a child for the sins or crimes of their parents (or other adults).

(POJ3) It is unjust to severely punish a person (for a sin or crime) who is not capable of fully understanding the difference between right and wrong or fully understanding the negative consequences of their wrong actions.

(POJ4) It is unjust to impose the death penalty for a sin or crime that is significantly less serious than the sin or crime of premeditated murder.

(POJ5)  It is unjust to impose a more severe punishment on a particular sin or crime than the punishment that one imposes for greater sins or crimes.

(POJ6) It is unjust to impose a severe punishment on a person on the basis of an alleged “law” which has not been published and clearly communicated to the people in the area in which that person lives.

(POJ7) It is unjust to impose the death penalty on a person for allegedly committing a sin or crime without first charging that person with a particular sin or crime and having a public trial to determine whether that person is in fact guilty of that sin or crime.

(POJ8) It is unjust to impose the death penalty on a person for allegedly committing a particular sin or crime without first providing powerful evidence (to a judge or jury) that shows beyond a reasonable doubt that this person is in fact guilty of that sin or crime.

Principles of Justice Involved in Objections 21-28:

(POJ9) When one tribe or nation has settled in a certain geographic area and has been living on that land for a century (or for a number of centuries), it is unjust for another tribe or nation to take that land away from the tribe or nation that had previously settled there. 

(POJ10) It is unjust to wage a war of aggression for the purpose of expanding the territory or dominion of one tribe or nation.

(POJ11)  It is unjust to distribute serious punishments (such as the death penalty) to people for certain crimes based on their geographic location.  

This is also the basis for a powerful objection to the death penalty in the U.S.   Different states have widely divergent policies and practices concerning the death penalty.  In some states there is no death penalty at all; in some states the death penalty is used only rarely; and in other states the death penalty is used quite often:

  • GEOGRAPHIC ARBITRARINESS: Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, 82% of all executions have taken place in the South. The Northeast accounts for less than 1% of executions.

http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/death-penalty/us-death-penalty-facts/death-penalty-and-arbitrariness

(POJ12) It is unjust to distribute serious punishments (such as the death penalty) for certain crimes to people based on their racial or ethnic group.  

This is also the basis for a powerful objection to the death penalty in the U.S. :

  • A report sponsored by the American Bar Association in 2007 concluded that one-third of African-American death row inmates in Philadelphia would have received sentences of life imprisonment if they had not been African-American.
  • A 2007 study of death sentences in Connecticut conducted by Yale University School of Law revealed that African-American defendants receive the death penalty at three times the rate of white defendants in cases where the victims are white. 

http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/death-penalty/us-death-penalty-facts/death-penalty-and-race
(POJ13) It is unjust to punish some people with the death penalty for certain sins or crimes when one does NOT apply the same severe punishment to certain other people whom one likes or favors.

(POJ14) It is unjust to impose the death penalty on women for violation of a law that is clearly sexist and biased against women (e.g. where men are excluded from having to follow the law or are excluded from receiving the death penalty for violating the law, or are given some other advantage over women in the law concerning violations of that law).

(POJ15)  It is unjust for a person accused of a capital crime to be condemned to death by a judge or jury who have an obvious and significant vested interest in the accused person being found to be guilty.

(POJ16) It is unjust to encourage a tribe or nation to engage in SOCIOCENTRIC thinking, blaming the victim, and dehumanizing the enemy, and to fail to try to discourage such thinking by a tribe or nation when one has a close connection to that tribe or nation (and thus the potential to influence the thinking of people in that tribe or nation).

Principles of Justice Involved in Objections 29-60:

Most of the remaining objections are based on principles of justice that derive from the legal concept of “Void for Vagueness”.  But there are a few exceptions.  So, I will first specify the principles of justice that are involved in the exceptions, and then will specify the principles of justice that derive from “Void for Vagueness”.
Objections 39 and 45 are based on (POJ14).
Objection 41 is based on a similar principle, but where the sexism in the law is a bias against men:
(POJ17) It is unjust to impose the death penalty on men for violation of a law that is clearly sexist and biased against men (e.g. where women are excluded from having to follow the law or are excluded from receiving the death penalty for violating the law, or are given some other advantage over men in the law concerning violations of that law).
Objection 50 is based on this principle:
(POJ18)  It is unjust to engage in child sacrifice as a means for punishing the sin or crime of child sacrifice.
Objection 51 is based on (POJ13).
VOID FOR VAGUENESS
The twenty-seven remaining objections are all based on few principles of justice that derive from the legal concept of “Void for Vagueness”.  See the Wikipedia article called Vagueness Doctrine.
(POJ19)  It is unjust to inflict a punishment on a person for violating a law, when that law does not clearly specify that punishment as an appropriate one for violation of that law.
NOTE: It is a GREAT injustice to impose a SEVERE punishment (such as the death penalty) on a person for violating a law, when that law does not clearly specify that severe punishment (e.g. the death penalty) as an appropriate one for violation of that law.
(POJ20) It is unjust to punish a person for violation of a law, when that law does not clearly specify what conduct constitutes a violation of that law.

NOTE: It is a GREAT injustice to impose a SEVERE punishment (such as the death penalty) on a person for violating a law, when that law does not clearly specify what conduct constitutes a violation of that law.

(POJ21) It is unjust to punish a person for violation of a law, when that law does not clearly specify the scope of people to whom that law applies.

NOTE: It is a GREAT injustice to impose a SEVERE punishment (such as the death penalty) on a person for violating a law, when that law does not clearly specify the scope of people to whom that law applies.  It is also a GREAT injustice to impose a SEVERE punishment (such as the death penalty) on a person for violating a law, when the law appears to specify the scope of people to whom that law applies, and the person in question falls outside of that scope.

bookmark_borderJerry Coyne on Atheists Criticizing Other Atheists

On his website, Jerry Coyne yesterday wrote a blog post with the provocative question, “Why Do Many Atheists Hate the New Atheists?” The blog post seems to be the result of a book-length attack on the new atheists by C.J. Werleman (link).
Now I haven’t read Werleman’s book or, for that matter, many other critiques of the new atheists by fellow atheists. What I found interesting was Coyne’s summary of atheistic critiques of the new atheists:

The critique of New Atheists by other atheists seems to consist largely ofad hominem accusations, distortions of what they’ve said (Sam Harris is particularly subject to this), and, most of all, complaints that they dare criticize religion publicly. 

Maybe this is true of some or even many of the atheist critiques of the new atheists, but it isn’t true of all of them. And, for the record, I have no problem whatsoever with criticizing religion publicly.
Coyne’s list of characteristics of atheist critiques of the new atheists isn’t complete, however. He does not mention another element of atheist critiques of the new atheists. This element, made primarily by atheist philosophers, is that some / many / all of their arguments against theism are philosophically weak. 
For example, philosopher (and atheist) Erik Wielenberg devoted an entire article in a peer-reviewed philosophical journal to the central argument of Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion. Wielenberg calls that argument “Dawkins’s Gambit.” In that article, an article which Dawkins has so far ignored, Wielenberg shows decisively that Dawkins’ argument is simply irrelevant to what Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe.

The central weakness of Dawkins’s Gambit, then, is that it is aimed primarily at proving the nonexistence of a being that is unlike the God of traditional monotheism in some important ways. There are various versions of what Dawkins calls “the God Hypothesis,” and his argument is ineffective against some of them. To see this point more clearly, we may distinguish these two versions of the God Hypothesis:
(GH1)There exists a contingent, physical, complex, superhuman, supernatural intelligence that created the universe and has no external explanation.
(GH2)There exists a necessary, nonphysical, complex, superhuman, supernatural intelligence that created the universe and has no external explanation.
Dawkins’s argument may be effective against (GH1), but no clear-thinking Jew, Christian, or Muslim accepts that thesis. (GH2) is much closer to traditional monotheism than is (GH1), but Dawkins’s Gambit is ineffective against (GH2). In light of this, I must side with those critics of The God Delusion who have judged Dawkins’s Gambit to be a failure. (118)

Wielenberg is aware of the Courtier’s Reply, which Dawkins endorses. Towards the end of the article Wielenberg offers a critique which I take to be devastating to the Courtier’s Reply.

… As this excerpt should make clear, the courtier’s reply is intended as a response to those who criticize The God Delusion on the grounds that it fails to engage with sophisticated work in theology. The essence of the reply is that since theology deals primarily with a nonexistent entity (God), there is no need for Dawkins to engage with such material.
The reply does nothing to blunt the criticisms offered in this paper. A central element of my critique is that Dawkins’s Gambit provides no reason at all to doubt some of the most widely-held versions of the target of his attack, the God Hypothesis. I do not know exactly how much theology one needs to know to disprove the existence of God, but one needs to know at least enough theology to understand the various widely-held conceptions of God. In general, in order to argue effectively against a given hypothesis, one needs to know enough to characterize that hypothesis accurately. Furthermore, if one intends to disprove God’s existence, it is hardly reasonable to dismiss criticisms of one’s putative disproof on the grounds that God doesn’t exist anyway.
Thus, the central atheistic argument of The God Delusion is unconvincing, and the courtier’s reply cannot save it. However, Hume’s critique of monotheism is not so easily blunted in that the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion contains challenges to all three versions of the God Hypothesis identified in this paper. Therefore, atheists who wish to press the case against the God Hypothesis ought to look to Hume rather than Dawkins, and theists who wish to defend the God Hypothesis ought not to rest content with critiquing Dawkins’s Gambit. Parties on both sides of the debate should engage with the best the other side has to offer, and Hume is the more worthy model for atheists and the more challenging opponent for theists. He may be gone, but his aroma lingers on. (127, boldface mine)

Ouch.
Let’s return to Jerry Coyne’s post. Skipping ahead a few paragraphs, he writes:

The attacks by atheists on New Atheists stand in strong contrast with how religionists act when they disagree. Christians, for instance, don’t spend lots of their time attacking the character and arguments of other Christians like William Lane Craig or Pat Robertson. Yes, I know that there is some criticism along those lines. But I can’t think of a Christian or a Muslim who makes their living writing article after article criticizing individual coreligionists. Nor, do I think, do believers try to damage other believers by consistently misrepresenting their positions or questioning their characters. When they do engage in such criticism, they’re usually straightforward about their disagreements, not prone to distortion, and are rarely snarky.

Again, I haven’t read Werleman or (I think) the other atheist critics Coyne probably has in mind, but, again, I don’t think Coyne is fairly representing all critics of the new atheists. Erik Wielenberg does not “make his living writing article after article criticizing individual atheists.” Nor does he “try to damage other atheists by consistently misrepresenting their positions or questioning their characters.” His article is straightforward, does not distort Dawkins’ argument, and is not snarky at all.
So, to sum up, Coyne may well be correct in his characterization of some, many, or even most (?) of the atheist critics of the new atheists. But other critics, like philosopher Erik Wielenberg, cannot be so easily dismissed. The new atheists have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, from honest, fair-minded interaction with such critics.

bookmark_borderThe Slaughter of the Canaanites – Part 9

Clay Jones argues that Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), but that this command and the obedience of the Israelites to the command was morally justified because the Canaanites deserved the death penalty for various serious crimes or sins which were violations of the laws of Jehovah (see his article “Killing the Canaanites”). Jones provides a list of the crimes or sins allegedly committed by the Canaanites which were (supposedly) deserving of the death penalty: idolatry, incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and bestiality.
The Sin or Crime of Bestiality
The word “bestiality” does not occur anywhere in the Bible.  Thus, the word “bestiality” does not occur anywhere in the laws of Jehovah.  Thus, there is no explicit prohibition of “bestiality” in the laws of Jehovah.  However, we can compare the meaning of “bestiality” in ordinary English language, and then review the laws of Jehovah to see whether some actions are prohibited which would fall under the meaning of the word “bestiality”:
sex between a person and an animal
(http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bestiality)
There are verses in Leviticus that prohibit such sexual activity:
Leviticus 18:23 New American Standard Bible
23 Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion.
Leviticus 20:15-16 New American Standard Bible
15 If there is a man who lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death; you shall also kill the animal.
16 If there is a woman who approaches any animal to mate with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them.
It appears that there is a bit of a double-standard here, in terms of men vs. women.  Men are to be put to death for having sex with an animal, but women are to be put to death merely for attempting to have sex with an animal (“approaches any animal to mate with it”).  This is SEXIST and unfair to women:
45. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanite men and women be killed as the death penalty for violating the prohibitions in Leviticus concerning sex with animals, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to execute men only for actually having sex with an animal,  while executing women for merely attempting to have sex with an animal.
In a previous post, I argued that the sin or crime of beastiality was not deserving of the death penalty:
17. If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of beastiality (i.e. sex between a human and a non-human animal), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the sin or crime of beastiality is NOT deserving of the death penalty.
Why should we have a law against having sex with an animal?  One concern might be for public health – sex with animals could result in transmission of new sexually transmitted diseases, especially from animals to humans (but also from humans to animals).  Another concern might be for the well-being of animals.  A non-human animal might be caused to suffer or might be physically injured by having sex with a human.  Even if an animal enjoys having sex with a human, this could be viewed as a sort of “rape” of the animal by the human, because a non-human animal is no more capable of giving consent to sex than is a baby or a young child.
But none of these reasons seem strong enough to warrant the death penalty, especially in view of the fact that the laws of Jehovah allow an adult man to violently rape a young girl without imposing the death penalty for that sin or crime.  So, even the violent “rape” of a non-human animal (which seems like the worst sort of case of having sex with an animal) cannot be justly punished with the death penalty by Jehovah’s laws, because that would mean treating the violent rape of a young girl by an adult man as something that is LESS SERIOUS than the violent “rape” of an animal by an adult man.
Furthermore, there are MANY different ways to injure or cause pain and suffering to animals.  Factory farming, for example, causes injuries and pain and suffering to millions of animals each year, but we have no laws that impose the death penalty on humans for such practices.  Some sadistic humans take pleasure in beating and abusing and even torturing animals.  Although we sometimes send people to prison for animal abuse, we don’t execute people for such crimes.  If it was the suffering and abuse of the animal that was the moral justification for prohibition of sex with animals, then Jehovah’s laws clearly miss the mark, because they fail to deal with the vast array of non-sexual ways in which humans cause animals to suffer.
Furthermore, it is clear that the laws of Jehovah concerning sex with animals are not based on a concern for the animals involved, because the laws command not only that the human involved be executed, but that the animal involved also be killed.  If the purpose of these laws was to protect animals from injury, suffering, and harm, then it makes no sense to kill the victim of the crime!
If sex with animals is considered to be wrong because non-human animals are incapable of giving consent to having sex, so that sex with an animal is a form of “rape”, then we should note that this justification is problematic.  If we want to prevent animals from having non-consensual sex, and if non-human animals CANNOT give consent (because like children they are unable to give consent) to having sex, then we have an obligation to prevent any and every non-human animal from ever having sex with any other animal (human or non-human).   According to this logic, ALL sexual intercourse by non-human animals would be considered to be “rape”.  Since we do allow non-human animals to have sex, even though they are not capable of giving consent to having sex, it is logically inconsistent to equate having sex with an animal with the sin or crime of RAPE.
We should be concerned about the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases being passed from animals to humans, but we should ALSO be concerned about non-sexually transmitted diseases being passed from animals to humans, and we allow all sorts of close interactions of a non-sexual nature between humans and animals, and those close non-sexual interactions ALSO have the potential to foster the transmission of diseases from animals to humans.  Apart from doing significant scientific investigation/study, it is not clear that sexually transmitted diseases that arise from humans having sex with animals is a greater health risk than diseases that arise from non-sexual interactions between humans and animals.  Even if sex with animals does present a greater health risk than non-sexual interactions with animals, it is far from clear that the difference is more than just a matter of degree.
I believe it is a good thing to prohibit humans from having sex with animals, but I do not see any reasonable justification for making such activity into a capital crime; sex with animals is NOT deserving of the death penalty.
In order to be JUST, the laws of Jehovah concerning sex with animals need to meet the following basic requirements:
R1. The laws of Jehovah must clearly indicate who falls under the scope of the law concerning sex with animals.
R2. The laws of Jehovah must state explicitly and definitely what conduct  constitutes a violation of the laws concerning sex with animals and that such conduct is prohibited.
R3. The laws of Jehovah must clearly indicate what punishment may be imposed for the sin or crime of  violating prohibitions concerning sex with animals.
Although the laws of Jehovah appear to give a clear indication of the SCOPE of the prohibitions concerning sex with animals, as I have argued concerning other prohibitions, the SCOPE is  the nation of Israel and does NOT include the Canaanites:
Leviticus 18:23 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
23 Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion.
Since the pronoun “you” in this verse clearly refers back to the phrase “the sons of Israel” found at the beginning of Chapter 18 of Leviticus, the first prohibition against having sex with animals applies only to “the sons of Israel” (i.e. the men of the nation Israel).  The phrase “any woman” should be interpreted in keeping with the interpretation of the pronoun “you”, so “any woman” in this context clearly means: any Israelite woman.  It would be absurd and illogical to limit the scope of the first prohibition to Israelite men, but to hugely expand the scope of the second prohibition to include every woman in every nation.  So, the prohibitions concerning sex with animals satisfy (R1), but since the scope is limited to Israelites, it would be unjust to apply the death penalty to Canaanites for violations of these laws:
46. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanites as the death penalty for violating Jehovah’s laws concerning sex with animals, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to impose a severe punishment on people on the basis of laws which clearly appear to exclude those people from the scope of those laws.
What about the second basic requirement for a just law?  Do the laws of Jehovah state explicitly and definitely what conduct  constitutes a violation of the laws concerning sex with animals (R2)? I will argue that they are VAGUE and UNCLEAR as to what specific sexual activities constitute a violation of the laws concerning sex with animals.
The first thing to note is that the prohibition concerning MEN having sex with animals uses the same UNCLEAR language as the prohibition against men having sex with other men.  Here is the verse prohibiting men from having sex with other men:

Leviticus 20:13 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)

13 If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them.

 This is followed a couple of verses later by the prohibition of men having sex with animals:
Leviticus 20:15 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
15 If there is a man who lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death;
The expression “X lies with Y” is a euphemism used in ancient Hebrew to mean roughly “X has sex with Y”.  But the use of euphemism makes both of these laws VAGUE and UNCLEAR, because a law, especially a law which carries the death penalty as a punishment, needs to be very clear and precise as to what conduct is prohibited.  We can see, based on a parallel passage in Leviticus 18 that the euphemism “lies with” is a way for referring to sex:

Leviticus 18:23 New Revised Standard Version (emphasis added)

23 You shall not have sexual relations with any animal and defile yourself with it, nor shall any woman give herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it: it is perversion.

It is reasonable to use Leviticus 18:23 as the basis for interpreting the phrase “lies with” in Leviticus 20:15, so we can conclude that the laws of Jehovah prohibit a man from having sexual relations with an animal, and that a violation of this law may be punished by the death penalty.  But if this is what the law against sex with animals means, then this law is VAGUE and UNCLEAR about what conduct constitutes a violation of this law, and thus this law is unjust.

The phrase “X had sexual relations with Y” is a vague and unclear statement, because it is unclear whether oral sex would count as an example of “having sexual relations”, and whether anal sex would count, and whether manual sex would count.  When President Bill Clinton famously asserted, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”, he was not lying, because the meaning of this phrase is VAGUE and UNCLEAR.

Miss Lewinsky and Bill Clinton had oral sex; she put his penis in her mouth and sucked and licked his penis until he had an orgasm and ejaculated.  But they did not engage in coitus; he did not insert his penis into her vagina and move his penis in and out of her until he had an orgasm and ejaculated.  Because it is unclear whether “having sexual relations” means strictly engaging in coitus or whether it includes other sorts of sexual activity (such as oral sex, anal sex, or manual sex), we cannot convict Bill Clinton of lying.  We can say he was being deceptive and using VAGUE and UNCLEAR language to mislead others, but what he asserted is NOT clearly false, because he used language which was (intentionally) unclear.

Such VAGUE and UNCLEAR language has no place in laws, particularly in criminal laws where serious punishments can be given to a person who is convicted of such a crime, and the death penalty is one of the most serious punishments that one can receive (apart from torture which we have eliminated as a legitimate legal punishment in the USA).

I, however, used the New Revised Standard Version above, as the basis for this interpretation.  The Revised English Bible provides an alternative translation to the key verse from Leviticus 18:

Leviticus 18:23 Revised English Bible (emphasis added)

23 You must not have sexual intercourse with any animal to make yourself unclean with it…

The phrase “X had sexual intercourse with Y” seems a bit more clear and specific than “X had sexual relations with Y”, and my American Heritage Dictionary (2nd College edition) supports my linguistic intuition here:

sexual intercourse:  Coitus, esp. between humans.

O.K., but what exactly is “Coitus”?  This term appears to have a fairly specific meaning, again from my American Heritage Dictionary:

coitus: The physical union of male and female sexual organs, leading to orgasm and ejaculation of semen.

Now we have clarity and specificity.

1.  “X lies with Y” means “X has sexual intercourse with Y”.

2. “X has sexual intercourse with Y” means “X and Y engage in sexual activity in which there is a physical union of male and female sexual organs [of X and Y] and in which the male has an orgasm and ejaculates semen.”

Therefore:

3. “X lies with Y” means “X and Y engage in sexual activity in which there is a physical union of male and female sexual organs [of X and Y] and in which the male has an orgasm and ejaculates semen.”

This very clear and precise definition of “X lies with Y” in (3) has some serious problems, however.  First on this definition, it is IMPOSSIBLE for one man to “lie with” another man, or to have “sexual intercourse” with another man, because on this definition, “X lies with Y” ONLY IF one of the two people has a female sexual organ, a vagina ( I suppose that someone could be born with both male and female sexual organs, but then it is not clear that such a person would be correctly categorized as a “man” in the view of the Israelites or of the author of Leviticus).

But it is clear that the author of Leviticus believes that it is possible for two men to be engaged in sexual activity that can be correctly categorized as “X lies with Y”.  Therefore, either the translators of the Revised English Bible were mistaken in their translation of Leviticus 18:23 (using the expression “sexual intercourse”) or else the definitions of “sexual intercourse” and “coitus” in my American Heritage Dictionary are mistaken.

Furthermore, if we go with the narrow definition of “X lies with Y” that is implied by this Revised English Bible translation of Leviticus 18:23, then the laws of Jehovah would allow (without any punishment imposed) the following sexual activities:

  • oral sex between men
  • anal sex between men
  • manual sex (mutual masturbation) between men
  • oral sex between a man and an animal
  • anal sex between a man and an animal
  • manual sex between a man and an animal
  • penile/vaginal sex between a man and an animal in which the man does not reach orgasm or does not ejaculate
  • oral sex with another man’s wife
  • anal sex with another man’s wife
  • manual sex (mutual masturbation) with another man’s wife
  • penile/vaginal sex between a man and another man’s wife in which the man does not reach orgasm or does not ejaculate
  • oral sex between a man and his mother (or sister or daughter)
  • anal sex between a man and his mother (or sister or daughter)
  • manual sex (mutual masturbation) between a man and his mother (or sister or daughter)
  • penile/vaginal sex between a man and his mother (or sister or daughter) in which the man does not reach orgasm or does not ejaculate

Most Christian believers would find such wide-ranging sexual freedom to be appalling, and would be inclined to doubt the divine inspiration of the laws of Jehovah if those laws permit all of these sexual activities to be engaged in without any prohibition or punishment.

We could tweak the definition of “sexual intercourse” to try to achieve a definition which was clearer and more specific than the obviously problematic phrase “sexual relations” but less specific than the very precise definition of “coitus” from my American Heritage Dictionary, but such tweaking would be arbitrary, and NOT well grounded in the text of Leviticus.  The problem is that Leviticus is VAGUE and UNCLEAR in ALL of the sexual prohibitions that we have been considering (i.e. “incest”, “adultery”, “homosexuality”, and “bestiality”).

Such unclarity leaves too much room for interpretation by a judge or jury as to whether or not a specific instance of questionable sexual activity is prohibited or not.  Thus, ALL of the sexual prohibitions found in Leviticus should be VOID FOR VAGUENESS.  ALL of these sexual prohibitions constitute UNJUST LAWS, particularly in view of the fact that violations of these laws may be punished by the death penalty.  The definitions of capital crimes must be very clear and precise, leaving very little room for subjectivity and different interpretations by different judges or juries:

47. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanites as the death penalty for the sin or crime of having sex with an animal, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the laws of Jehovah fail to state explicitly and definitely what conduct  constitutes a violation of the laws concerning sex with animals.

This problem also applies to the prohibition of “adultery” in the laws of Jehovah:

48. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of thousands of Canaanites as the death penalty for the sin or crime of “adultery”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the laws of Jehovah are VAGUE and UNCLEAR about what conduct constitutes “adultery” (because of the key phrases “lies with” and “sexual relations” are vague and unclear ). 

 The same problem applies to the prohibitions of sexual activity in the laws of Jehovah that fall under our concept of “incest”:
49. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of thousands of Canaanites as the death penalty for the sin or crime of “incest”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the laws of Jehovah are VAGUE and UNCLEAR about what conduct constitutes “incest” (because of the key phrases “lies with” and “sexual relations” are vague and unclear). 
I want to consider and reject one possible line of defense against the objection I have raised here.  Suppose that someone replies to my objection by arguing from facts and details about the meanings of Hebrew words and phrases found in various passages from Leviticus and  by arguing from facts and details of the content of Leviticus related to the beliefs and attitudes of the author of Leviticus towards sex, that there is an alternative translation and interpretation of Leviticus 18:23 which is less VAGUE than the translation of the New Revised Standard Version (i.e. “sexual relations”), and which is less NARROW and less SPECIFIC than the translation of the Revised English Bible (i.e. “sexual intercourse”).  Furthermore, suppose this responder to my objections was successful in showing that this alternative translation and interpretation avoids the problem of being VOID for VAGUENESS and is a better and superior translation/interpretation than the two alternatives I have described above.  Would such a response show my objection to be weak or faulty?  I don’t think so.
For my objection here to work, it is NOT necessary that the translations/interpretations that I have pointed to be shown to be CORRECT or even shown to be the BEST AVAILABLE interpretations in terms of the latest and greatest Old Testament scholarship and scholarship concerning the meanings of ancient Hebrew words and phrases.  The reason why this is so, is that laws are very practical in nature, especially laws that govern the everyday behavior of people in general.  Such laws, in order to be just laws, must be clearly written and easily understood by the common person.
I think it is a good and wonderful thing that a few people, perhaps one in a ten thousand people, become scholars and experts in the Old Testament and in the translation and interpretation of ancient Hebrew.  However, we cannot expect the average person to master Old Testament scholarship and the subtleties of translating ancient Hebrew.  Because of the practical nature of laws, especially laws that govern the everyday behavior of common folk, it would be UNJUST to impose the death penalty on a person who misunderstood one of the laws of Jehovah simply because that person fell short of being a competent scholar of the Old Testament or of the ancient Hebrew language.
If a case for an alternative translation/interpretation of Leviticus 18:23 rests on facts and details about the meanings of ancient Hebrew words and phrases and/or facts and details concerning the beliefs and attitudes of the author of Leviticus about sex, then such discussion is likely to require TOO MUCH of the common person on the street.  This would especially be true of ancient Canaanites who (a) were mostly illiterate, and (b) did not have possession of printed copies of the laws of Jehovah, and (c) did not have access to modern scholarship concerning the translation or interpretation of the Old Testament and of the ancient Hebrew language.
Thus, even if a solid case could be made that some alternative interpretation of Leviticus 18:23 was both clear and specific, but less narrow and less specific than the definition of “coitus” from my American Heritage Dictionary, this would probably NOT refute my objection, because the arguments for such a claim are likely to demand too much knowledge or effort on the part of the common person, or on the part of the average Canaanite.  Laws concerning the everyday behavior of people in general MUST be written in clear and specific language that does NOT require a significant amount of knowledge and learning on the part of people who are expected to conform their actions to those laws.
The laws of Jehovah do clearly specify the death penalty as the punishment for a violation of the laws that prohibit people from having sex with animals, thus these laws satisfy the third requirement for a just law (R3), but this just makes it all the more critical that the laws be clear and precise about what conduct constitutes a violation of these laws.

bookmark_borderThe Slaughter of the Canaanites – Summary of Objections

Clay Jones argues that Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), but that this command and the obedience of the Israelites to the command was morally justified because the Canaanites deserved the death penalty for various serious crimes or sins which were violations of the laws of Jehovah (see his article “Killing the Canaanites”). Jones provides a list of the crimes or sins allegedly committed by the Canaanites which were (supposedly) deserving of the death penalty: idolatry, incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and bestiality.
The following is a summary of sixty objections that I have raised against Clay Jones’ proposed moral justification of Jehovah’s command to the Israelites for the slaughter of the Canaanites.

From Part 3:

1. If Jehovah commanded the killing of babies as capital punishment for a crime or sin, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to use the death penalty on babies.
2. If Jehovah commanded the killing of babies as capital punisment for crimes or sins committed by the babies, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to severely punish a person who is not capable of understanding the difference between right and wrong.
3. If Jehovah commanded the killing of babies as capital punishment for crimes or sins committed by their parents (or other adults), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to punish a child for the sins or crimes of their parents (or other adults).
4. If Jehovah commanded the killing of young children as capital punishment, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to use the death penalty on young children.
5. If Jehovah commanded the killing of young children as capital punisment for crimes or sins committed by the young children, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to severely punish a person who is not capable of fully understanding the difference between right and wrong or fully understanding the negative consequences of their wrong actions.
6. If Jehovah commanded the killing of young children as capital punishment for crimes or sins committed by their parents (or other adults), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to punish a child for the sins or crimes of their parents (or other adults).
7. If Jehovah commanded the killing of persons with significant mental disabilities as capital punishment, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to use the death penalty on persons with significant mental disabilities.
8. If Jehovah commanded the killing of persons with significant mental disabilities as capital punishment for crimes or sins committed by those persons with significant mental disabilities, then  JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to severely punish a person who is not capable of fully understanding the difference between right and wrong or fully understanding the negative consequences of their wrong actions.
9. If Jehovah commanded the killing of persons with significant mental disabilities as capital punishment for crimes or sins committed by their parents (or other adults), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to punish a person with significant mental disabilities for the sins or crimes of their parents (or other adults).
10. If Jehovah commanded the killing of thousands of wicked persons, as Jones asserts, then JEHOVAH IS CRUEL and UNKIND, because the killing of those persons (based on traditional Christian theological beliefs) ensures that not only will those persons be deprived of any further opportunities for pleasure or happiness in this life, but ensures that those persons will have no further opportunities to repent and thus ensures they will suffer and be in misery for all eternity.
11. If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of idolatry (worshipping other gods besides Jehovah), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the sin or crime of idolatry is NOT deserving of the death penalty.
12. If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of idolatry (worshipping other gods besides Jehovah), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the Canaanites were unaware of the law requiring that they not worship other gods besides Jehovah.
13. If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of adultery, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the sin or crime of adultery is NOT deserving of the death penalty.
14. If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of adultery, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the Canaanites were unaware of the law requiring that they not commit adultery.
15. If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of homosexuality (i.e. sex between two or more males or between two or more females), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the sin or crime of homosexuality is NOT deserving of the death penalty.
16. If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of homosexuality (i.e. sex between two or more males or between two or more females), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the Canaanites were unaware of the law requiring that they not commit the sin or crime of homosexuality.
17. If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of beastiality (i.e. sex between a human and a non-human animal), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the sin or crime of beastiality is NOT deserving of the death penalty.
18. If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of beastiality (i.e. sex between a human and a non-human animal), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the Canaanites were unaware of the law requiring that they not commit the sin or crime of beastiality.
19.  If Jehovah commands the death penalty for adultery, homosexual sex, and sabbath violations, but let’s a rapist off with just a fine (and permanent access to continue raping the female victim), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because not only are adultery, homosexual sex, and sabbath violations not serious enough to merit the death penalty, but they are clearly less serious than rape, which is always non-consensual sex and often involves significant violence against the victim, and yet Jehovah commands a punishment for rape that is significantly less than the death penalty, and JEHOVAH IS CRUEL and UNKIND, because Jehovah condemns to the victims of rape to be married to their rapist, providing the rapist with permanent access to continue raping the woman or girl.
20. If Jehovah commanded the killing of thousands of Canaanites (men, women, and children) as capital punishment for sins or crimes they allegedly committed, and did so without requiring any trials to be held, and without requiring any witnesses to give evidence that any particular Canaanite committed some sin or crime worthy of death, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to condemn a person to death for allegedly committing a horrible sin or crime when no trial has been held to determine whether the person is actually guilty and no evidence of that person’s guilt has been given by witnesses.

From Part 4:

21. If Jehovah commanded the Israelites to take the land of the Canaanites, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because when one tribe or nation has settled in a certain geographic area and has been living on that land for a century (or for centuries) and another tribe or nation comes along and takes that land away from the tribe or nation that had previously settled there, then that is an act of land theft. 
22. If Jehovah commanded the Israelites to wage war against the Canaanites in order to take possession of their land, then JEHOVAH IS UNUST, because it is wrong to wage a war of agression for the purpose of expanding the territory or dominion of one tribe or nation.
23.  If Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter every man, woman, and child who lived in Palestine (the “promised land”) as the death penalty for certain serious crimes or sins, but not to do this to other tribes and peoples living outside of Palestine, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to distribute serious punishments (such as the death penalty) for certain crimes to people based on their geographic location.   
24.  If Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter people who were members of certain ethnic groups as the death penalty for certain serious crimes or sins, but not to do this to other ethnic groups, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to distribute serious punishments (such as the death penalty) for certain crimes to people based on their ethnic group.  
25.  If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) as capital punishement for the crimes or sins of idolatry, incest, adultery, child-sacrifice, homosexuality, and beastiality, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to punish some people with the death penalty for certain sins or crimes when one does NOT apply the same severe punishment to certain people that one likes or favors.
26. If Jehovah commanded the slaugher of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) as the death penalty for the crimes or sins of idolatry, incest, adultery, child-sacrifice, homosexuality, and beastiality, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because Jehovah’s laws are sexist and at least two of the laws invoked here are sexist (concerning incest and adultery), thus the use of the death penalty in this way is biased against women. 
27. If Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children) as capital punishment for certain serious crimes or sins, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust for a person accused of a capital crime to be condemned to death by a judge and jury who have an obvious and significant vested interest in the accused person being found to be guilty.

From Part 5:

28. If Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites on the grounds that the Canaanites were wicked and deserved to die, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because Jehovah should have been taking the exact opposite view and encouraged the Israelites to consider the very real possibility that they were engaging in SOCIOCENTRIC thinking, and simply rationalizing their evil actions by following the natrual irrational human tendency to believe what is in one’s vested interest to believe, and to believe that one’s own nation or people are good, right, just, and noble, while believing that the enemies of one’s own nation or people are evil, wrong, disguisting, unjust, and ignoble, that they were engaging in the universal and natural irrational tendency towards blaming the victim and dehumanizing the enemy.
29. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) in part as a punishment for the crime or sin of “idolatry”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because there is no clear indication in the laws of Jehovah as to who is in scope for the prohibition of “idolatry”.
30. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) in part as a punishment for the crime or sin of “idolatry”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because there is no clear specification in the laws of Jehovah as to what activity constitutes “idolatry”.
31. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) in part as a punishment for the crime or sin of “idolatry”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because there is no clear specification in the laws of Jehovah as to what punishment may be used for violation of the prohibition against “idolatry”.
32. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) in part as a punishment for the crime or sin of “worshiping an idol”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because based on the opening of the Chapters stating this prohibition, the pronoun “You” in the prohibition appears to refer to the Israelites and NOT to the Canaanites.
33. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) in part as a punishment for the crime or sin of “worshiping an idol”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because there is no clear specification in the laws of Jehovah as to what activity constitutes “worshiping an idol”.
34. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) in part as a punishment for the crime or sin of “worshiping an idol”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because there is no clear specification in the laws of Jehovah as to what punishment may be used for violation of the prohibition against “worshiping an idol”.

From Part 6:

35. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) in part as a punishment for the crime or sin of “incest”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because there is no clear indication in the laws of Jehovah as to who is in scope for the prohibition of “incest”.

36. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) in part as a punishment for the crime or sin of “incest”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because there is no clear specification in the laws of Jehovah as to what activity constitutes “incest” nor is there a clear and explicit statement that “incest” is prohibited.

37. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) in part as a punishment for the crime or sin of “incest”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because there is no clear specification in the laws of Jehovah as to what punishment may be used for a violation of the prohibition against “incest”.

From Part 7:

38. If Jehovah commanded that thousands of Canaanites be slaughtered as capital punishment for the sin or crime of “adultery”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because Jehovah’s laws do NOT clearly indicate that the Canaanites fall under the scope of the prohibition of “adultery” (in fact they indicate that the law applies only to “the sons of Israel”).

39. If Jehovah commanded that thousands of Canaanite women be slaughtered as capital punishment for the sin or crime of “adultery” (as understood in Leviticus 20), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to impose the death penalty on women for doing something that men are allowed to do with impunity (i.e. be sexually unfaithful to their spouses).

40. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of thousands of Canaanites as the death penalty for the sin or crime of “adultery”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because either the laws of Jehovah are VAGUE about what conduct constitutes “adultery” (because of the word “friend” or “neighbor” in the law) or the laws of Jehovah are clear about what conduct constitutes “adultery” (because we interpret “friend” or “neighbor” to mean “an Israelite man”) but this law was violated by only a handful, at most, of Canaanites.

 From Part 8:

 41. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanite men as the death penalty for the sin or crime of homosexual sex, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to severely punish men for engaging in consensual sex with other men while allowing women to engage in consensual sex with other women with impunity.
42. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanite men as the death penalty for the sin or crime of “homosexuality”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because there is no explicit prohibition of “homosexuality” in the laws of Jehovah.
43. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanite men as the death penalty for the sin or crime of having sexual intercourse with another man, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, becuase the laws of Jehovah are unclear as to what precise conduct counts as a violation of this prohibition.
44. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanite men as the death penalty for the sin or crime of having sexual intercourse with another man, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, becuase the laws of Jehovah give clear indication that this law applies only to Israelite men.

 From Part 9:

45. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanite men and women be killed as the death penalty for violating the prohibitions in Leviticus concerning sex with animals, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to execute men only for actually having sex with an animal,  while executing women for merely attempting to have sex with an animal.
46. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanites as the death penalty for violating Jehovah’s laws concerning sex with animals, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to impose a severe punishment on people on the basis of laws which clearly appear to exclude those people from the scope of those laws.
47. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanites as the death penalty for the sin or crime of having sex with an animal, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the laws of Jehovah fail to state explicitly and definitely what conduct  constitutes a violation of the laws concerning sex with animals.

48. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of thousands of Canaanites as the death penalty for the sin or crime of “adultery”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the laws of Jehovah are VAGUE and UNCLEAR about what conduct constitutes “adultery” (because of the key phrases “lies with” and “sexual relations” are vague and unclear ). 

49. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of thousands of Canaanites as the death penalty for the sin or crime of “incest”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the laws of Jehovah are VAGUE and UNCLEAR about what conduct constitutes “incest” (because of the key phrases “lies with” and “sexual relations” are vague and unclear). 

From Part 10:

50. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) in part as punishment for the sin or crime of “child sacrifice”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because Jehovah was in effect commanding the Israelites to engage in acts of child sacrifice on a massive scale to punish acts of child sacrifice.
51.  If Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter thousands of Canaanites in part as the death penalty for the sin or crime of “child sacrifice”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to show favoritism towards the Israelites by ignoring (or even promoting) “child sacrifice” among the Israelites, but then commanding the mass slaughter of other tribes or peoples for engaging in the same sort of activity.
52. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanites as the death penalty for violating a prohibition against “child sacrifice”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because there is no explicit prohibition of the practice of “child sacrifice” in the laws of Jehovah.
53. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanites as capital punishment for violation of the prohibition against giving a son or daughter to the god Molech (i.e. Leviticus 20:2), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law should be Void for Vagueness (the law fails to clearly specify the conduct that is prohibited).
54. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanites as capital punishment for violation of the prohibition against giving a son or daughter to the god Molech (i.e. Leviticus 20:2), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the scope of this law is limited to the men of the nation of Israel, and does NOT include the Canaanites.
55. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanites be slaughtered as the death penalty for “burning their sons and daughters in the fire” to Jehovah in violation of Deuteronomy 12:31, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law in Deuteronomy 12:31 should be Void for Vagueness (because it fails to clearly specify the conduct that is prohibited).
56. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanites be slaughtered as the death penalty for “burning their sons and daughters in the fire” to Jehovah in violation of Deuteronomy 12:31, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law in Deuteronomy 12:31 clearly applies only to the Israelites and not to the Canaanites (since the law is clearly addressed to the Israelites).

57. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanites be slaughtered as the death penalty for “burning their sons and daughters in the fire” to Jehovah in violation of Deuteronomy 12:31, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law in Deuteronomy 12:31 does NOT clearly state that the death penalty is to be the punishment for this sin or crime.
58. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanites be slaughtered as the death penalty for “making his son or daughters pass through the fire” in violation of Deuteronomy 18:10, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law in Deuteronomy 18:10 should be Void for Vagueness (because it fails to clearly specify the conduct that is prohibited).
59. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanites be slaughtered as the death penalty for “making his son or daughters pass through the fire” in violation of Deuteronomy 18:10, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law in Deuteronomy 18:10 clearly applies only to the Israelites and not to the Canaanites (since the law is clearly addressed to the Israelites).
60. If Jehovah commanded that many Canaanites be slaughtered as the death penalty for “making his son or daughters pass through the fire” in violation of Deuteronomy 18:10, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because this law in Deuteronomy 18:10 does NOT clearly state that the death penalty is to be the punishment for this sin or crime.

bookmark_borderThe Slaughter of the Canaanites – Part 8

Clay Jones argues that Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), but that this command and the obedience of the Israelites to the command was morally justified because the Canaanites deserved the death penalty for various serious crimes or sins which were violations of the laws of Jehovah (see his article “Killing the Canaanites”). Jones provides a list of the crimes or sins allegedly committed by the Canaanites which were (supposedly) deserving of the death penalty: idolatry, incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and bestiality.
In Part 5 I showed that JEHOVAH IS UNJUST if he used the idea of the death penalty for “idolatry” as part of a justification for the slaughter of the Canaanites. In Part 6 I showed that JEHOVAH IS UNJUST if he used the idea of the death penalty for “incest” as part of a justification for the slaughter of the Canaanites.  In Part 7 I showed that JEHOVAH IS UNJUST if he used the idea of the death penalty for “adultery” as part of a justification of the slaughter of the Canaanites.
I also plan to show that JEHOVAH IS UNJUST if he used the idea of the death penalty for “child sacrifice” as part of a justification for the slaughter of the Canaanites.  However, there is a good deal of historical information and complex historical issues surrounding “child sacrifice” in the Old Testament, so I want to put in a bit more time reading and studying before I lay out my objections to this proposed moral justification of the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children).
The Sin or Crime of Homosexuality
In a previous post I pointed out that RAPE is always non-consensual sex and often involves violence against the victim, and is thus a serious crime that deserves a serious punishment; while homosexual sex is generally consensual sex between adults and thus ought not to be punished as a crime at all, and certainly ought not be punished more severely than RAPE. (Also, when homosexual sex is non-consensual, it can just be considered RAPE, and thus wrong and deserving of punishment simply for that reason.)
But the laws of Jehovah are SEXIST, and so the violent rape of a young girl by an adult man is punished not with the death penalty, but with a fine, which is paid to the girl’s father (as compensation for damaging his property), and no compensation is given to the girl.  In fact, the man is required to marry his victim, and thus he gains the legal right to continue raping the girl whenever he wishes.  The absurdity of imposing capital punishement for the sin or crime of homosexual sex, while only imposing a fine and a mandatory marriage on a rapist, shows that JEHOVAH IS UNJUST and that JEHOVAH IS A SEXIST (and thus that Jehovah is NOT God).
Although the laws of Jehovah are SEXIST and treat women as pieces of property owned by men (girls and single women are owned by their fathers and engaged or married women are owned by their husbands) and thus women are treated UNJUSTLY by the laws of Jehovah, there is also injustice towards men that results from the SEXIST nature of the laws of Jehovah.  As I previously pointed out, only men can commit the crime of “incest” because the SEXIST laws of Jehovah fail to recognize the possibilty that women can also initiate sexual activity.  Thus JEHOVAH IS UNJUST towards men for making “incest” a crime that only a man can do.
The same problem occurs here with the sin or crime of “homosexuality”:
Leviticus 18:22 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
22 You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.
Leviticus 20:13 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
13 If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them.
The sin or crime of “homosexuality” (i.e. homosexual sex) can ONLY be committed by a man, according to the laws of Jehovah.  But if homosexual sex is wrong for a man, then it should also be wrong for a woman. If men deserve punishment for homosexual sex, then women also deserve punishment for homosexual sex.  But because the laws of Jehovah are SEXIST, they focus on the actions of men, and largely ignore the actions of women, and they also assume that only men can initiate sexual activity, when in fact women are also capable of initiating sexual activity, including homosexual sex with another woman:
 41. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanite men as the death penalty for the sin or crime of homosexual sex, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to severely punish men for engaging in consensual sex with other men while allowing women to engage in consensual sex with other women with impunity.
To avoid the INJUSTICE involved in laws subject to being made Void for Vagueness, a law against “homosexuality” must meet at least these three requirements:
R1. The laws of Jehovah must clearly indicate who falls under the scope of the law concerning “homosexuality”.
R2. The laws of Jehovah must state explicitly and definitely what conduct  constitutes “homosexuality” and that such conduct is prohibited.
R3. The laws of Jehovah must clearly indicate what punishment may be imposed for the sin or crime of “homosexuality”.
First of all, the words “homosexual” and “homosexuality” do NOT occur anywhere in the Old Testament, so these words do not occur in the laws of Jehovah.  So, there are no laws against “homosexuality” per se in the laws of Jehovah.
42. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanite men as the death penalty for the sin or crime of “homosexuality”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because there is no explicit prohibition of “homosexuality” in the laws of Jehovah.
But we know the meaning of the word “homosexuality”, so we can review the laws of Jehovah for laws that in effect prohibit homosexuality, even if the word “homosexuality” is not explicitly used in the laws of Jehovah.  My American Heritage Dictionary (2nd College edition) gives two definitions of “homosexuality”:
1. Sexual desire for others of one’s own sex.
2. Sexual activity with another of the same sex.
It would be unjust for Jehovah to impose the death penalty on someone just for having sexual desire for others of the same sex, especially since Jehovah supposedly created human beings and thus he is responsible for creating humans who have such homosexual desires.  Having a desire does not, however, mean that one must act on the desire, so it makes more sense to understand the sin or crime of “homosexuality” to mean engaging in sexual activity with another of the same sex.
The laws of Jehovah, as we have already seen, do not prohibit ALL “sexual activity with another of the same sex”.  The laws of Jehovah, for example, do NOT prohibit a woman from engaging in sexual activity with another woman.  The laws of Jehovah also do NOT prohibit a man from french kissing another man.  So, it is inaccurate and misleading to say that the laws of Jehovah prohibit “homosexuality”.  Rather, they prohibit only specific forms of homosexual activity between men.
Do the laws of Jehovah satisfy the second requirement for a just law against certain forms of homosexual activity between men?  There is a problem of VAGUENESS, because of the phrase “lies with a male as those who lie with a woman”.  Taken literally, a man would be committing this sin or crime just by lying down near another man without engaging in sex, since men often lie down near a woman without necessarily having sex with the woman.
But the authors of the Old Testament often used euphemisms for sexual intercourse, and this appears to be an instance of such a euphemism:
Other references to sexual intercourse also use ordinary words with a specifically sexual sense.  Among the most frequent is a Hebrew verb that means “to lie with” or “to sleep with,” with both primary and sexual meanings parallel to English useage. (Michael Coogan, God and Sex, p.9-10).
Given that “to lie with” is a common euphemism in the OT for sexual intercourse, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 should be understood as prohibiting sexual intercourse between men.
Presumably, this law concerns anal intercourse between men, since that is the closest analogue to ordinary sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.  This law of Jehovah does NOT prohibit anal intercourse between a man and a woman, nor between women (with the use of fingers or penis-shaped objects).  It is UNCLEAR whether this law of Jehovah prohibits oral sex between men or mutual masturbation between men, because it is not clear that oral sex or mutual masturbation were considered to be part of ordinary sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.
So, there is a significant degree of VAGUNESS and UNCLARITY in this law, a degree that would be unacceptable in a modern court of law in the USA, because it leaves too much room for interpretation by a judge or jury.  If Jehovah is omniscient and is a perfectly morally good person, then there is no good reason to lower our standards of justice for the laws of Jehovah, and if Jehovah was NOT omniscient or NOT a perfectly morally good person, then Jehovah was NOT God.  Therefore:
43. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanite men as the death penalty for the sin or crime of having sexual intercourse with another man, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, becuase the laws of Jehovah are unclear as to what precise conduct counts as a violation of this prohibition.
Since Leviticus 20:13 explicitly prescribes the death penalty for this sin or crime, the third requirement (R3) for a just law is satisfied by this particular law.
What about the SCOPE of the prohibition?  Does this law satisfy the first requirement (R1) of a just law?  Do the laws of Jehovah clearly indicate who must comply with this prohibition? Does this law apply to the Canaanites?  Once again, it is fairly clear that this law does NOT apply to Canaanites.  The key question here is:  What is the referent of the pronoun ‘you’ in Leviticus 18:22?
Leviticus 18:22 New American Standard Bible
22 You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.
The opening of Chapter 18 of Leviticus makes it clear to whom the word “you” refers:

Leviticus 18:1-5 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)

1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
2 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘I am the Lord your God.
3 You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes.
4 You are to perform My judgments and keep My statutes, to live in accord with them; I am the Lord your God.
5 So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the Lord.

The word “you” occurs seven times in these opening verses of Chapter 18, and in each case this word clearly refers back to “the sons of Israel”  who previously lived “in the land of Egypt”.  Clearly the word “you” in Leviticus 18:22 refers to “the sons of Israel” (i.e. the men of the nation Israel) and NOT to the Canaanites.  Therefore, although the laws of Jehovah do clearly indicate the SCOPE of this law prohibiting sexual intercourse between two men, they indicate that the law applies to the Israelites, not to the Canaanites:
44. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of many Canaanite men as the death penalty for the sin or crime of having sexual intercourse with another man, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, becuase the laws of Jehovah give clear indication that this law applies only to Israelite men.
In conclusion, the laws of Jehovah do clearly indicate that the death penalty may be imposed for the sin or crime of a man having sexual intercourse with another man and thus the law prohibiting this satisfies the third requirement for a just law (R3).   This law, however, is somewhat UNCLEAR and VAGUE leaving it open to a judge or jury to determine whether oral sex between men counts as a violation, and whether mutual masturbation between men counts as a violation, and thus this law is unjust and should be made VOID FOR VAGUENESS and fails the second requirement for a just law (R2). Furthermore, although the SCOPE of this law is clearly indicated by the opening verses of Leviticus Chapter 18, thus satisfying (R1), the scope includes only Israelite men, not Canaanite men, and so the use of this law to impose the death penalty on a Canaanite man would be unjust.
Finally, Jehovah’s laws concerning homosexual activity are clearly UNJUST, because as a result of their SEXIST viewpoint they impose a severe punishment (death) on men for engaging in an activity that women are allowed to engage in with no punishment at all (i.e. having sex with another person of the same sex).
 
 

bookmark_borderThe Slaughter of the Canaanites – Part 7

Clay Jones argues that Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), but that this command and the Israelites obedience to the command was morally justified because the Canaanites deserved the death penalty for various serious crimes or sins which were violations of the laws of Jehovah (see his article “Killing the Canaanites”). Jones provides a list of the crimes or sins allegedly committed by the Canaanites which were (supposedly) deserving of the death penalty: idolatry, incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and bestiality.
The Sin or Crime of Adultery
To avoid the INJUSTICE involved in laws subject to being made “Void for Vagueness”, a law against “adultery” must meet at least these three requirements:
R1. The laws of Jehovah must clearly indicate who falls under the scope of the law against “adultery”.
R2. The laws of Jehovah must state explicitly and definitely what conduct  constitutes “adultery” and that such conduct is prohibited.
R3. The laws of Jehovah must clearly indicate what punishment may be imposed for the sin or crime of “adultery”.
The sin or crime of “adultery” is explicitly prohibited in the Ten Commandments:
Exodus 20:14 New American Standard Bible
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
Deuteronomy 5:18 New American Standard Bible
18 ‘You shall not commit adultery.
The Ten Commandments, however, do not specify or define what conduct constitutes “adultery” (R2), nor do they indicate the punishment for “adultery” (R3).
But the Ten Commandments do provide clarity about who falls under the scope of this law (R1).  The word “you” in this commandment has a clear referent in both Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5:
Exodus 19:1-6 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
1 In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.
2 When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain.
3 Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel:
4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself.
5 Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;
6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
Exodus 20:1-2 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
1 Then God spoke all these words, saying,
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
Deuteronomy 5:1-6 New American Standard Bible
1 Then Moses summoned all Israel and said to them:
Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully.
2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb.
3 The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today.
4 The Lord spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire,
5 while I was standing between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain. He said,
6 ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
Obviously Jehovah did not bring the Canaanites “out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery”.  It is clear in both Exodus 20 and in Deuteronomy 5, that Jehovah is giving the Ten Commandments to ISRAEL, more specifically to “the sons of Israel” (because Jehovah was a sexist).  It is clear from the context that the pronoun “you” found in the Ten Commandments refers to “the sons of Israel” and thus the scope of these laws does NOT include the Canaanites. Therefore, although there is a clear specification of the scope of the law against “adultery” (R1), the scope does NOT include the Canaanites, and thus:
38. If Jehovah commanded that thousands of Canaanites be slaughtered as capital punishment for the sin or crime of “adultery”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because Jehovah’s laws do NOT clearly indicate that the Canaanites fall under the scope of the prohibition of “adultery” (in fact they indicate that the law applies only to “the sons of Israel”).
The book of Leviticus provides some clarification about what conduct constitutes “adultery” (R2) and about what punishment may be imposed for this sin or crime:
Leviticus 20:10-12  New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)
10 ‘If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
11 If there is a man who lies with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death, their bloodguiltiness is upon them.
12 If there is a man who lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have committed incest, their bloodguiltiness is upon them.
Although verse 10 by itself does not clearly define “adultery,” it does give us a big clue: “adultery” is something that a man does “with another man’s wife” and “with his friend’s wife”.  But just doing something with a “friend’s wife” is obviously not deserving of serious punishment.  If I play checkers with a friend’s wife, it would hardly be just to kill me for playing that game with her.  Verses 11 and 12, however, appear to provide specific examples of adultery, and both involve a man who “lies with” another man’s wife, namely with his father’s wife (vs. 11) or with his son’s wife (vs. 12).  So, based on this passage from Leviticus Chapter 20, one may reasonably infer that in the laws of Jehovah:
Definition of “adultery” (as used in Leviticus)
The sin or crime of “adultery” occurs when a MAN has sexual intercourse with the wife of one of his friends or with the wife of one of his relatives.
This interpretation of “adultery” is confirmed by a sexual prohibition stated in an earlier chapter of Leviticus:

Leviticus 18:20 New American Standard Bible (emphasis added)

20 You shall not have intercourse with your neighbor’s wife, to be defiled with her.

The first thing to notice here is that this is a SEXIST understanding of “adultery”.  In the English language, the ordinary meaning of “adultery” includes sexual unfaithfulness of either husband or wife, but on the meaning of “adultery” in the book of Leviticus, a husband can have sex with any woman he wants to, so long as she is not already married to another man.   A woman, on the other hand, is prohibited from having sex with any man other than her husband, on pain of DEATH:
In the Ancient Near East and the OT (Lev. 18:20; 20:10; Deut. 22:22) adultery meant consensual sexual intercourse by a married woman with a man other than her husband..  However, intercourse between a married man and another woman was not considered adultery unless she was married. (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p.23) 
This understanding of “adultery” is clearly sexist and unfair to women, thus:
39. If Jehovah commanded that thousands of Canaanite women be slaughtered as capital punishment for the sin or crime of “adultery” (as understood in Leviticus 20), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to impose the death penalty on women for doing something that men are allowed to do with impunity (i.e. be sexually unfaithful to their spouses).
The second thing to notice about the above understanding of “adultery” is that it is VAGUE and UNCLEAR.  This law appears to fail to meet the second criterion for just laws (R2). When is someone considered to be a “friend”?
Are all of my neighbors automatically considered to be my “friends”?  What if I have never had a conversation with one of my neighbors, would that person still be categorized as a “friend” just because he lived on my block?  What if I have a long-standing disagreement with one of my neighbors about noisy late-night parties?  What if I hate this particular neighbor?  Is that person still considered, for legal purposes, to be my “friend”?  And if ALL of my neighbors are considered to be my “friends”, how far does my neighborhood extend?  Is it just the people on my block?  If I walk three blocks away from my house, is it OK to have sex with another man’s wife who lives in that area? or do I have to travel to a completely different city? or to a different state? or to another country?
The most plausible interpretation of “friend” (alternatively translated as “neighbor”) is given by a modern translation of this verse:
Leviticus 20:10 Good News Translation (emphasis added)
10 If a man commits adultery with the wife of an Israelite, both he and the woman shall be put to death.
In other words “friend” (alternatively translated as “neighbor”) in this context means “an Israelite man”.  This fits well with my previous point about the SCOPE of this law (and of the Ten Commandments in general) being limited to “the sons of Israel”.  This also fits with a conservative Jewish interpretation of this passage and the prohibition of “adultery”:
 10 And a man who commits adultery with [another] man’s wife, committing adultery with the wife of his fellow the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
 committing adultery with the wife of his fellow: [Thus] excluding the wife of a non-Jew. [From here,] we learn that [the legal status of Jewish] marriage cannot be held by a non-Jew. — [Torath Kohanim 20:105; Sanh. 52b]
(from a Jewish commentary on the Torah available at Chabad.org)
If the legal status of Jewish marriage “cannot be held by a non-Jew”, then it would NOT be possible for a Canaanite man or woman to commit “adultery” unless the Canaanite man was having sex with a married Jewish woman or the Canaanite woman had converted to become Jewish and then married a Jewish man.  Neither of those events was likely or common.
So, we might be able to set aside the problem of the VAGUENESS of this law against “adultery” by interpreting “friend” or “neighbor” to mean “an Israelite man”.  But if we do so, then the prohibition of “adultery” would NOT provide a JUST basis for slaughtering Canaanites, because very few Canaanites would have been guilty of having sex with the wife of an Israelite man (or of being that wife).
40. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of thousands of Canaanites as the death penalty for the sin or crime of “adultery”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because either the laws of Jehovah are VAGUE about what conduct constitutes “adultery” (because of the word “friend” or “neighbor” in the law) or the laws of Jehovah are clear about what conduct constitutes “adultery” (because we interpret “friend” or “neighbor” to mean “an Israelite man”) but this law was violated by only a handful, at most, of Canaanites.
Leviticus does clearly state that the death penalty may be given as the punishment for the sin or crime of “adultery”, so the third requirement (R3) for a just law is satisfied.  We have seen that the law against “adultery” satisfies (R1), but that the law only applies to “the sons of Israel” and NOT to the Canaanites.  We have seen that this law should either be “Void for Vagueness” because of the unclarity of the word “friend” (or “neighbor”), or else we can adopt the most likely interpretation of this word, and understand the definition of “adultery” to be “having sex with the wife of an Israelite man”, in which case very few Canaanites would have been guilty of this sin or crime.  Either way, JEHOVAH IS UNJUST for using this law against “adultery” as the basis for the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children).

bookmark_borderThe Slaughter of the Canaanites – Part 6

Clay Jones argues that Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), but that this command and the Israelites obedience to the command was morally justified because the Canaanites deserved the death penalty for various serious crimes or sins which were violations of the laws of Jehovah. Jones provides a list of the crimes or sins allegedly committed by the Canaanites which were (supposedly) deserving of the death penalty: idolatry, incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and bestiality.
To avoid the INJUSTICE involved in laws subject to being made “Void for Vagueness”, a law must meet at least these three requirements:
R1. The law must clearly indicate who falls under the scope of the law.
R2. The law must state explicitly and definitely what conduct is prohibited.
R3. The law must clearly indicate what punishment may be imposed.
We saw in Part 5 of this series that Jehovah’s laws fail all three tests in relation to the (alleged) prohibition of “idolatry”, and that in relation to the prohibition against “worshiping idols” there is unclarity about what conduct constitutes “worshiping an idol” (R2), and that the scope of the prohibition appears to be limited to the Israelites (R1), and that there is no clear indication in the laws of Jehovah that the punishment for this sin or crime is the death penalty.
So, we can either discard the first item on Clay Jones’s list or else conclude that JEHOVAH IS UNJUST for demanding the death penalty to be used on Canaanites on the basis of the laws of Jehovah concerning “idolatry” and/or “worshiping idols”.
The Sin or Crime of Incest
Let’s apply the three  basic requirements for a just law to the prohibition of “incest” in the laws of Jehovah:
 Q1. Do the laws of Jehovah clearly indicate who falls under the scope of the law that prohibits “incest”?
Q2. Do the laws of Jehovah state explicitly and definitely what specific conduct constitutes “incest” and that “incest” is prohibited?
Q3. Do the laws of Jehovah clearly indicate that the punishment for the crime or sin of “incest” is the death penalty?
Once again Clay Jones has failed to actually read and study the laws of Jehovah before pronouncing that thousands of Canaanites (men, women, and children) were guilty of the crime or sin of “incest” and determining that “incest” was a capital offense in the laws of Jehovah.
As with the word “idolatry”, the word “incest” occurs ONLY ONCE in the entire Old Testament (in Leviticus 20:12)!  No definition or clarification is given in the laws of Jehovah to specify what conduct constitutes “incest”.  Furthermore, the specific example of conduct that is categorized as “incest” in Jehovah’s laws does NOT FIT with the ordinary meaning of the word “incest” in the English language.  This makes that specific passage confusing and unclear, and implies that the Hebrew word that was translated by the English word “incest” had a meaning that was NOT equivalent to the meaning of the word “incest” in English.   Finally, there is no clear and explicit prohibition of “incest” in the laws of Jehovah (a minor detail that somehow slipped past Clay Jones). So, the answer to Q2 is NO, and Jehovah’s laws fail to meet the requirement (R2).
Although the death penalty is assigned to one particular kind of conduct that is categorized by the laws of Jehovah as “incest” (in Leviticus 20:12), this is NOT sufficient reason to conclude that the death penalty is assigned to “incest” in general.  Furthermore, there is no explicit assignment of the death penalty to the crime or sin of “incest” in general.  Thus the answer to Q3 is NO, and the laws of Jehovah concerning a prohibition of “incest” fail to satisfy (R3).
Because there is in fact no general prohibition of “incest” in the laws of Jehovah, there can be no specification of the scope of the persons to whom such a prohibition applies. So, the answer to Q1 is also NO, and Jehovah’s laws concerning “incest” fail to satisfy (R1).
Three swings, and three stikes, AGAIN.  Jehovah’s laws concerning the prohibition of “incest” fail all three basic requirements for a just law, so if Jehovah commanded that the death penalty be applied to thousands of Canaanites in part because of their violation of Jehovah’s laws concerning a prohibition of “incest”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST.

35. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) in part as a punishment for the crime or sin of “incest”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because there is no clear indication in the laws of Jehovah as to who is in scope for the prohibition of “incest”.

36. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) in part as a punishment for the crime or sin of “incest”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because there is no clear specification in the laws of Jehovah as to what activity constitutes “incest” nor is there a clear and explicit statement that “incest” is prohibited.

37. If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) in part as a punishment for the crime or sin of “incest”, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because there is no clear specification in the laws of Jehovah as to what punishment may be used for a violation of the prohibition against “incest”.

 But wait a minute.  We all know what the word “incest” means.  The ordinary meaning of this word in English can be clearly and simply defined as follows:
INCEST is the crime or sin of having sexual intercourse with one’s parent, child, sibling, grandchild, or grandparent.
If Jehovah’s laws prohibit sexual intercourse with a parent, and with a child, and with a sibling, and with a grandchild, and with a grandparent, then Jehovah’slaws prohibit all of the sexual conduct that we now categorize as “incest”.  And if Jehovah’s laws assign the death penalty to each of these kinds of sexual conduct, then Jehovah’s laws assign the death penalty to each of the kinds of sexual conduct that we now categorize as “incest”.  So, even if the word “incest” appeared nowhere in the laws of Jehovah, the laws of Jehovah could still in effect prohibit what we now call “incest” and assign the death penalty to what we now call “incest”.
So, we need to look at the specific sorts of sexual conduct that Jehovah’s laws prohibit and the punishments that the laws of Jehovah assign to violations of those various prohibitions:
Q4.  Do the laws of Jehovah prohibit sexual intercourse with one’s parent?
Q5. Do the laws of Jehovah prohibit sexual intercourse with one’s child?
Q6. Do the laws of Jehovah prohibit sexual intercourse with one’s sibling?
Q7. Do the laws of Jehovah prohibit sexaual intercourse with one’s grandchild?
Q8. Do the laws of Jehovah prohibit sexual intercourse with one’s grandparent?
Because homosexual sex is called out as a separate crime or sin in Clay Jones’s list, and because that will be considered in a later post, I’m going to ignore for now the idea of two related males having sex with each other, and only examine what the laws of Jehovah have to say about sex between a male and female who are related to each other in the ways specified above.
(Q4) & (Q5)
The laws of Jehovah do prohibit sexual intercourse between a male and his mother (Leviticus 18:7).
Although having sex with your “father’s wife” is a capital offense (Leviticus 20:11), having sex with your own mother does not necessarily involve having sex with your father’s wife, because your parents could have been previously divorced.  Therefore, there is no clear and specific statement in Jehovah’s laws that the punishment for a man having sex with his mother is the death penalty.
There is NO PROHIBITION in the laws of Jehovah of a father having sex with his daughter!!
Bible scholar Michael Coogan (co-editor of The Oxford Companion to the Bible) explains why this is the case:
Not all of these prohibitions [concerning sexual conduct in Leviticus 18] concern what we would call incest, sex between close relatives.  As with the seventh commandment, they have to do with property: one man in an extended family expropriating the property of another man in the same family, a woman under the latter’s control.  That is why the list is incomplete according to our definition of incest: sex between father and daughter is not mentioned, because the daughter was the father’s property, as the law permitting a man to sell his daughter as a slave shows. [see Exodus 21:7] (God and Sex, p.109)
In other words, the laws of Jehovah treat women as property owned by men.  Since a daughter was the propery of her father (until she becomes engaged or married) a father having sex with his own daughter does not involve “expropriating the property of another man.”  So, here we have further evidence that Jehovah was a SEXIST who viewed girls and women as the property of men, and thus that JEHOVAH IS UNJUST.
(Q6)
The laws of Jehovah prohibit sexual intercourse between a male and his sister (Leviticus 18:9&11 and 20:17, and Deuteronomy 27:22). However, the laws of Jehovah do NOT assign the death penalty as the punishment for this form of incest:
Commentary concerning Leviticus 20:17:
There was no precedent for a humanly executed death penalty for the offenses in vv.6 and 17-21, so none is given, but the text is confident that God would punish them. (Eerdman’s Commentary on the Bible, p.118) 
(Q7) & (Q8)
The laws of Jehovah prohibit a male from having sexual intercourse with a female grandchild (Leviticus 18:10).
The laws of Jehovah do NOT clearly and explicitly assign the death penalty to this form of incest.
The laws of Jehovah do NOT clearly  and explicitly prohibit a woman from having sexual intercourse with a male grandchild (when the grandchild was too young to be held accountable for engaging in prohibited forms of sex), because the laws of Jehovah are SEXIST and wrongly assume that only males can initiate sexual activities.
In fact, for the same reason, the laws of Jehovah do NOT clearly prohibit a woman from having sexual intercourse with her son, where her son is too young to initiate sex or to be held accountable for his sexual activity.  Similarly, Jehovah’s laws do not clearly and explicitly prohibit sex between a woman and her brother when the woman initiates the sex and the brother is too young to initiate sex or to be accountable for his sexual activity.  Because Jehovah’s laws are SEXIST, they fail to deal with forms of incest where an older woman initiates sex with a young boy with whom she is directly related (i.e. her brother, her son, or her grandson).  This is further evidence that Jehovah is a SEXIST and thus that JEHOVAH IS UNJUST.
The laws of Jehovah also do NOT prohibit a male from having sexual intercourse with his grandmother.
However, the omission of this last prohibition could be because people had short life spans in the Ancient Near East, especially women who often died from giving birth to a child, so it would probably be rare for a grown man to have a grandmother who was still living.
Conduct that we consider to be the most common form of incest is NOT prohibited by the laws of Jehovah (i.e. sex between a man and his daughter), and another sort of conduct that we consider to be a common form of incest is prohibited by the laws of Jehovah (i.e. a male having sex with his sister) but the death penalty is NOT assigned to that form of “incest” by the laws of Jehovah.  Furthermore, although sex between a man and his mother is prohibited, the laws of Jehovah do not clearly and explicitly state that death is the punishment for such sexual conduct. Although sex between a man and his female grandchild is prohibited, the laws of Jehovah do not clearly and explicitly state that the death penalty is the punishment for this form of incest.
Finally, the laws of Jehovah have no clear prohibition concerning sex between a woman and her brother, son, or grandson when she is the one who initiates the sexual activity, and the male is too young to initiate sex or to be accountable for his sexaual activities.
Therefore, it is simply NOT the case that Jehovah’s laws prohibit incest in general, if we understand “incest” in terms of the ordinary meaning of the word in the English language, and it is NOT the case that Jehovah’s laws clearly and explicitly state that the punishment for sexual conduct that we consider to be incest is to be always, or in general, the death penalty.
The one form of incest that is clearly to be punished by death, according to the laws of Jehovah, is when a man has sex with his “father’s wife” (not with his mother, but with some other wife of his father), but this sexual conduct would be punished by death even without the law against this form of incest, because this is ALSO a form of adultery. The son is having sex with a woman who already belongs to (is owned by) another man.
So, it appears that the one form of incest that is clearly punishable by the death penalty may be judged by Jehovah to be worthy of death because of special circumstances beyond just the fact of the sex being between close relatives (i.e. this particular form of incest involves adultery – stealing another man’s wife/property).  Thus, it might well be the case that Jehovah does NOT view incest, in and of itself, as deserving the death penalty.

bookmark_borderThe Slaughter of the Canaanites – Part 4

In Part 3 of this series, I raised twenty objections to a Conservative Christian approach to the Old Testament stories about Jehovah commanding the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children).  Most of the objections are to the effect that some particular aspect of the slaughter of the Canaanites is evidence that JEHOVAH IS UNJUST.
The particular attempt to show that Jehovah and the Israelites were morally justified in this horrifically violent activity is from an article by the Christian apologist Clay Jones.  The article can be summarized as follows:
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”)
I have many more objections to present, and it is unlikely that I will be able to cover all of the remaining objections in this post, so I think my critique of Jones’s defense of Jehovah will extend at least to Part 5 in this series. In the previous post I neglected to mention a fairly BIG and obvious problem, as one reader reminded me:

And how convenient that the owners of the land God wanted to give his people were such wicked people.
Oh yes, there is that small matter of Jehovah commanding the Israelites to wage a war of agression in order to take land away from the Canaanites.
This gives me the opportunity to recommend a favorite book: Jesus Against Christianity: Reclaiming the Missing Jesus (hereafter: JACby Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer (Trinity Press Internatinal, 2001).  Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer is (or was at time of publication) Assistant Professor of Justice and Peace Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Chapters 3 and 4 focus on “some of the many violent and disturbing biblical portraits of God” from the Old Testament (JAC, p.24).  Chapter 3 lays out “Seven Troubling Images of God” from the Old Testament, and one of those images is relevant here: “Troubling Image of God 4: God the Land Thief” (JAC, p.28).
The discussion begins with a quote from the Old Testament:
On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:18-21)
This quote is then commented on by the author:
God is here depicted as a determined and powerful land thief.  As the Reform Jewish writer Regina M. Schwartz notes, “over and over the Bible tells the story of a people who inherit at someone else’s expense.”  How would we respond to a group of Mexicans invading the United States and claiming the land as their inheritance based on God’s promises?  If that seems far-fetched, then imagine the reverse, which actually happened.  We should also recall how our ancestors nearly wiped out native peoples and then continued onward and outward. … A defense of God the land thief is implicit in…the biblical text…: It is OK for God’s chosen people to steal land from pagans because they are pagans.  They worship false gods.  They, always defined as the other, are savage peoples, barbarians.  (JAC, p.28-29)
So, in the background of the slaughter of the Canaanites there are a couple of BIG injustices by Jehovah:
21. If Jehovah commanded the Israelites to take the land of the Canaanites, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because when one tribe or nation has settled in a certain geographic area and has been living on that land for a century (or for centuries) and another tribe or nation comes along and takes that land away from the tribe or nation that had previously settled there, then that is an act of land theft. 
Furthermore, just as it was morally wrong for Hitler and the Nazis to wage war on other countries in Europe in order to expand the territory and dominion of the German nation, so it was wrong for the Israelites to to wage war on the Canaanites in order to take possession of their land:
22. If Jehovah commanded the Israelites to wage war against the Canaanites in order to take possession of their land, then JEHOVAH IS UNUST, because it is wrong to wage a war of agression for the purpose of expanding the territory or dominion of one tribe or nation.
I realize that this is a BIG issue, and that much more could be said both for and against points (21) and (22), but I have many more objections to present, so will not go further into details about these two objections at this time.
In the New Testament, Christians are warned against the sin of partiality:
James 2:1-4 New American Standard Bible
The Sin of Partiality

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 

For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 

and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” 

have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?

This guidance from James for Christian believers has roots in the Old Testament:

Deuteronomy 1:16-17 New American Standard Bible

16 “Then I [Moses] charged your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your fellow countrymen, and judge righteously between a man and his fellow countryman, or the alien who is with him. 

17 You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s.

According to Moses, Jehovah himself judges in that manner:
Deuteronomy 10:17-18 New American Standard Bible

17 For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe.

18 He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.

Both the New Testament and the Old Testament are opposed to the sin of partiality.  This is important when it comes to legal matters and especially when someone is accused of a serious crime or sin.  The judge (and the jurors) in a criminal trial ought not to take gifts or bribes, either from the prosecution, or the alleged victim, or the victim’s family, or from the defense, or the defendant, or from the defendant’s family.
Someone who is rich or powerful should not be assumed to be innocent, nor should someone who is poor or powerless be assumed to be guilty.  Guilt or innocence should be determined by an impartial consideration of evidence that is relevant to the accusations against the defendant.  Innocence should be presumed of both rich and poor, both Israelite and Canaanite.  Only if there is clear and solid evidence of guilt should a person be convicted and condemned to death.
Imagine that, contrary to some of the previous complaints about injustices by Jehovah, that Jehovah had not been completely unjust and unfair to the Canaanites, and that before condemning them all to death, Jehovah required that specific charges be made against specific Canaanites and that trials were to be held and that witnesses were to testify providing evidence for and against the guilt of each accused Canaanite.
And since the Canaanites were unfamiliar with the laws of Jehovah, an Israelite expert on those laws would be appointed to each Canaanite defendant, to ensure that before any Canaanite was condemned to death or executed, they would first be given a fair trial (just as Jehovah insisted be the case for Israelites who were accused of serious crimes or sins).
Even in this idealistic circumstance, Jehovah cannot avoid serious charges of injustice, because there are a number of problems of partiality or BIAS that remain untouched by all of the above precautions.
BIAS #1: Geographical Bias
If the point of the slaughter of the Canaanites was to punish wickedness, then there was no good reason to create arbitrary geographical constraints on this mission.  The peop0le who lived in Palestine were not the only people who were involved with idols and worship of other gods.  They were not the only people who commited adultery.  They were not the only people involved with incest.  They were not the only people who engaged in homosexual sex.  So, if these are truly horrible sins that must be punished by the death penalty, then that is true of people who live outside of Palestine (or the “promised land”) as well as those who lived inside of Palestine.  It is unfair to severely punish people who happen to live in Palestine, yet leave completely unpunished people who are doing the same crimes or sins outside of Palestine.
23.  If Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter every man, woman, and child who lived in Palestine (the “promised land”) as the death penalty for certain serious crimes or sins, but not to do this to other tribes and peoples living outside of Palestine, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to distribute serious punishments (such as the death penalty) for certain crimes to people based on their geographic location.   
BIAS #2: Ethnicity Bias
If the point of the slaughter of the Canaanites was to punish wickedness, then there was no good reason to create arbitrary ethnic constraints on this mission.  The Canaanites were not the only people who were involved with idols and worship of other gods.  The Canaanites were not the only people who commited adultery.  The Canaanites were not the only people involved with incest.  The Canaanites were not the only people who engaged in homosexual sex.
24.  If Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter people who were members of certain ethnic groups as the death penalty for certain serious crimes or sins, but not to do this to other ethnic groups, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to distribute serious punishments (such as the death penalty) for certain crimes to people based on their ethnic group.  
BIAS # 3: Bias of Favoritism
Supposedly, the primary purpose of the slaughter of the Canaanites was to punish them with the death penalty for very serious crimes or sins.  But the serious sins are not consistently punished when the person doing the crime or sin was an Israelite, especially a leader or ‘hero’ of the Israelites.
One of my readers pointed out some examples of this bias:

Clay Jones states, “the Old Testament _unequivocally_ commands that those who do any one of these things deserves to die.” So far, you’ve highlighted the injustice of punishing non-Hebrews for Hebrew laws of which they are unaware. I would further highlight the injustice of failing to punish Hebrews for Hebrew laws of which they are aware.

  • With respect to idolatry, yhwh commands Moses to institute worship of Nehushtan (Num 21:4-9, 2Kings 18:1-7). This is the model by which the author of John suggest that the idolatry of Jeshua worship ought to be understood (JN 3:14-15). Moses is not given the death penalty.
  • With respect to incest, Abraham married his half-sister (Gen 20:11-13), a crime worthy of being cursed (DT 27:22). Abraham is not cursed, despite having yhwh’s law within his heart (PS 40:8, Heb 8:10).
  • With respect to adultery, David is not given the death penalty for adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband (though his newborn son is; 2 Sam 12).
  • With respect to child sacrifice, Jephthah is not given the death penalty for sacrificing his daughter to yhwh (JG 11).

I’m not familiar with the example of Moses being involved in idolatry, but most of us are familiar with the story of Aaron creating the golden calf (an idol) for the Israelites to use in worship.  Aaron did not receive the death penalty for his involvement with creating an idol and encouraging worship involving that idol (see Exodus 32:1-6).
25.  If Jehovah commanded the slaughter of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) as capital punishement for the crimes or sins of idolatry, incest, adultery, child-sacrifice, homosexuality, and beastiality, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to punish some people with the death penalty for certain sins or crimes when one does NOT apply the same severe punishment to certain people that one likes or favors.
BIAS # 4: Bias of Sexism
We have already seen some evidence of Jehovah’s sexism in the discussion about why RAPE doesn’t appear as one of the serious crimes or sins of the Canaanites.   There will be more evidence of sexism coming up in future posts, as I get into details concerning the crimes or sins in the list given by Clay Jones.  Just keep this one in mind when you read the next post in this series.
26. If Jehovah commanded the slaugher of the Canaanites (men, women, and children) as the death penalty for the crimes or sins of idolatry, incest, adultery, child-sacrifice, homosexuality, and beastiality, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because Jehovah’s laws are sexist and at least two of the laws invoked here are sexist (concerning incest and adultery), thus the use of the death penalty in this way is biased against women. 
I believe there is also a sexist bias against men involved here, because the death penalty for homosexual sex only applies to men, and not to women (if I remember correctly – I will check on this and do an update in the next post).
BIAS # 5: Bias of Vested Interest
According to the O.T. the Israelites desired to have the land of the Canaanites.  According to the O.T. the Israelites had an expectation that they would soon live in and possess the land where the Canaanites lived.  According to the O.T. Jehovah had promised the Israelites that they would settle in the land where the Canaanites lived.  Given this background, it is clear that both Jehovah and the Israelites had a vested interest in the proposal to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children).  If the Israelites were to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children), then they could easily take possession of the land that the Canaanites had previously settled and occupied.
No judge or juror would be allowed (in the USA) to hear a capital case in which the judge or juror had such an obvious and significant vested interest in finding the defendant guilty.  Thus, even if Jehovah had required trials for each and every Canaanite before condemning any Canaanite to death, those trials could not possibly be fair, because the judge and the jurors would have had an obvious and significant vested interest in the outcome of those trials.
27. If Jehovah commanded the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children) as capital punishment for certain serious crimes or sins, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust for a person accused of a capital crime to be condemned to death by a judge and jury who have an obvious and significant vested interest in the accused person being found to be guilty.
To be continued…

bookmark_borderThe Slaughter of the Canaanites – Part 3

In Part 2 of this series, I began to discuss the Conservative response to the Old Testament stories about Jehovah commanding the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites:
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 also introduced an example of this Conservative approach, namely an article by the Christian apologist Clay Jones. Here is a brief summary of that article:
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 problems with this attempt to provide a moral justification of Jehovah’s command to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children) that I hardly know where to begin.  I have more than a dozen objections to present right now, and I may end up with over two dozen objections by the time I’m finished examining Jones’s attempted justification of Jehovah:
1. If Jehovah commanded the killing of babies as capital punishment for a crime or sin, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to use the death penalty on babies.
2. If Jehovah commanded the killing of babies as capital punisment for crimes or sins committed by the babies, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to severely punish a person who is not capable of understanding the difference between right and wrong.
3. If Jehovah commanded the killing of babies as capital punishment for crimes or sins committed by their parents (or other adults), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to punish a child for the sins or crimes of their parents (or other adults).
4. If Jehovah commanded the killing of young children as capital punishment, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to use the death penalty on young children.
5. If Jehovah commanded the killing of young children as capital punisment for crimes or sins committed by the young children, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to severely punish a person who is not capable of fully understanding the difference between right and wrong or fully understanding the negative consequences of their wrong actions.
6. If Jehovah commanded the killing of young children as capital punishment for crimes or sins committed by their parents (or other adults), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to punish a child for the sins or crimes of their parents (or other adults).
7. If Jehovah commanded the killing of persons with significant mental disabilities as capital punishment, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to use the death penalty on persons with significant mental disabilities.
8. If Jehovah commanded the killing of persons with significant mental disabilities as capital punishment for crimes or sins committed by those persons with significant mental disabilities, then  JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to severely punish a person who is not capable of fully understanding the difference between right and wrong or fully understanding the negative consequences of their wrong actions.
9. If Jehovah commanded the killing of persons with significant mental disabilities as capital punishment for crimes or sins committed by their parents (or other adults), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to punish a person with significant mental disabilities for the sins or crimes of their parents (or other adults).
I’m just starting to get warmed up.  You can begin to see already, I hope, that Jones’s attempt to show that Jehovah was morally justified in commanding the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites (men, women, and children) actually raises a number of  reasons to doubt the moral goodness and fairness of Jehovah.
The objections above concern persons who are not fully morally accountable for their actions (babies, young children, and persons with significant mental disabilities).  There are other objections that relate to normal moral agents, to moral agents who are fully morally accountable for their actions.
Before I go on listing more of the various injustices that Jehovah committed (based on Jones’s veiwpoint), there is one very important injustice that I want to mention now.  From Jones’s point of view, which is shared by Catholics and conservative Evangelical Christians, if a wicked person dies before repenting of his/her sins, then that person will end up being punished eternally in hell for their sins; such a person will be in misery for all eternity.
Given this assumption, when faced with a person who is believed to be wicked and who has not yet repented of their sins, the one thing that one ought to refrain from doing, at almost any cost, is to refrain from killing that person.  That is because in killing such a person we would not merely be ending his or her life and any chances of further pleasure and happiness in this life, but we would be ensuring that he or she would spend eternity in misery.
On the one hand, the idea that Jehovah created hell and plans to put many human beings in hell where they will suffer and be miserable for all eternity is itself a very powerful reason to believe that JEHOVAH IS UNJUST.
But let’s set the injustice of eternal punishment aside for a moment, and assume for the sake of argument that hell could (somehow) be morally justified, this would mean it was cruel and unloving to kill a wicked person, since (based on traditional Christian beliefs) doing so will ensure that the wicked person will have no further opportunity to repent, and thus ensure that the wicked person will spend eternity in hell and eternity in misery.
10. If Jehovah commanded the killing of thousands of wicked persons, as Jones asserts, then JEHOVAH IS CRUEL and UNKIND, because the killing of those persons (based on traditional Christian theological beliefs) ensures that not only will those persons be deprived of any further opportunities for pleasure or happiness in this life, but ensures that those persons will have no further opportunities to repent and thus ensures they will suffer and be in misery for all eternity.
The obvious alternative to commanding the slaughter of the Cannaanites is that the Israelites should have been commanded by Jehovah to put their own lives at risk, and to sacrifice their own lives if necessary, in order to work as evangelists and missionaries to the Canaanites, to preach and teach and persuade and encourage the Cannanites to repent of their wicked ways and to begin to worship the true God, etc.
Jones provides a list of sins that he believes morally justify the use of capital punishment against the Canaanites, and he notes that  “the Old Testament unequivocally commands that those who do any one of these things deserves to die.”  Of course you cannot actually command that an act become something for which one deserves to die.  You can command that a person be killed for doing such-and-such, but that does NOT mean that doing such-and-such is truly worthy of the punishment of death.
Laws can be unjust by assigning punishments that are too severe or that are too light.  The punishment for a crime, should fit the crime.  The greater a crime or sin, the worse the punishment should be.  Minor crimes or sins should receive minor punishments, and serious crimes or sins should receive more significant punishments.  This is a basic principle of justice.
It is important to note not only what Jones includes in his list of crimes or sins, but what he fails to include as well.  The absence of two crimes or sins, in particular, is of great significance: working on the Sabbath and rape.  Here is what Jehovah’s laws say about working on the sabbath day:
 Exodus 31:14-15 American Standard Version

14 Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that profaneth it shall surely be put to death; for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.

15 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to Jehovah: whosoever doeth any work on the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.

According to Jehovah, the punishment for doing “any work on the sabbath day” was the death penalty.  Did the Canaanites observe the sabbath day?  Did the Canaanites always refrain from doing any work on the sabbath?   I don’t think so.  The Cannanites, no doubt, did some work on the sabbath, and probably did a great deal of work on some sabbath days.  So, based on Jones’s reasoning, the Cannanites all deserve the death penalty for working on the sabbath day, contrary to the Ten Commandments.
So, why doesn’t Jones include working on the sabbath day in his list of horrible sins?  According to Jehovah, this is a sin so grevious that someone who commits this sin deserves to die.  But for some reason this sin doesn’t make Jones’s list.
There are some obvious reasons why working on the sabbath day doesn’t appear on Jones’s list, even though it fits with his line of reasoning.  Nobody would buy Jones’s justification of Jehovah, if it was based on the sin or crime of working on the sabbath.  The problem is that there are obvious objections here that would cast further doubt on the goodness and fairness of Jehovah:
If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of working on the sabbath day, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the sin or crime of working on the sabbath is NOT deserving of the death penalty.
If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of working on the sabbath day, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the Canaanites were unaware of the law requiring that they not work on the sabbath day.
Similar objections can be raised against some of the sins  or crimes that do appear on Jones’s list:
11. If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of idolatry (worshipping other gods besides Jehovah), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the sin or crime of idolatry is NOT deserving of the death penalty.
12. If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of idolatry (worshipping other gods besides Jehovah), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the Canaanites were unaware of the law requiring that they not worship other gods besides Jehovah.
13. If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of adultery, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the sin or crime of adultery is NOT deserving of the death penalty.
14. If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of adultery, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the Canaanites were unaware of the law requiring that they not commit adultery.
15. If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of homosexuality (i.e. sex between two or more males or between two or more females), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the sin or crime of homosexuality is NOT deserving of the death penalty.
16. If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of homosexuality (i.e. sex between two or more males or between two or more females), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the Canaanites were unaware of the law requiring that they not commit the sin or crime of homosexuality.
17. If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of beastiality (i.e. sex between a human and a non-human animal), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the sin or crime of beastiality is NOT deserving of the death penalty.
18. If Jehovah commanded the killing of the Canaanites as punishment for the sin or crime of beastiality (i.e. sex between a human and a non-human animal), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because the Canaanites were unaware of the law requiring that they not commit the sin or crime of beastiality.
It is unjust to punish a person for violation of a law that was not published or well communicated and documented.  This is also a basic principle of justice.  So, if Jehovah commanded the Israelites to kill the Canaanites for disobeying Jehovah’s laws (like the Ten Commandements), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because Jehovah would be commanding that people be punished for violating laws that were not published or well communicated to the Canaanites.
Why is it that RAPE is missing from Jones’s list of horrible sins?  Surely some Canaanites were guilty of the crime of rape, and so that would provide yet another potential justification for application of the death penalty to the Canaanites.  The main reason why rape does not appear on Jones’s list is that it is not a capital offense in the laws of Jehovah:
Deuteronomy 22:28-29 American Standard Version

28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, that is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;

29 then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he hath humbled her; he may not put her away all his days.

 That’s right.  If a married woman has consensual sex with a man other than her husband, then Jehovah commands that both the woman and her lover be put to death.  If two adult men have consensual sex, then Jehovah commands that both men be put to death.  If a mother works at cooking a meal for her children on the sabbath day, then Jehovah commands that she be put to death.
BUT if a forty year old man violently rapes a twelve year old girl, the punishment is NOT the death penalty for the man, but a fine of fifty shekels and mandatory marriage to the girl he raped.   That way the man can continue to rape the young girl any time he wants to, with no further punishment.  Clearly Jehovah shows no regard for the basic principle of justice that the punishment should fit the crime.
19.  If Jehovah commands the death penalty for adultery, homosexual sex, and sabbath violations, but let’s a rapist off with just a fine (and permanent access to continue raping the female victim), then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because not only are adultery, homosexual sex, and sabbath violations not serious enough to merit the death penalty, but they are clearly less serious than rape, which is always non-consensual sex and often involves significant violence against the victim, and yet Jehovah commands a punishment for rape that is significantly less than the death penalty, and JEHOVAH IS CRUEL and UNKIND, because Jehovah condemns to the victims of rape to be married to their rapist, providing the rapist with permanent access to continue raping the woman or girl.
Before the death penalty is allowed by Jehovah, a general legal requirement must be satisfied:
Numbers 35:30 New Revised Standard Version

30 If anyone kills another, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses; but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of a single witness.

Deuteronomy 17:6New Revised Standard Version

On the evidence of two or three witnesses the death sentence shall be executed; a person must not be put to death on the evidence of only one witness.
So, why should two or three witnesses testify to the guilt of a person in order to condemn that person to death?  Presumably, the point is to be as certain as humanly possible of the person’s guilt before imposing the very serious and irreversible punishment of the death penalty.  It is better to let some horrible crimes go unpunished than to severely punish a person who is actually innocent.  We want to avoid at all costs, imposing the death penalty on an innocent person.
Right now in the USA, the death penalty is being re-evaluated and looks to be on its way out.  One powerful argument for eliminating the death penalty is that it is extremely expensive to prosecute death-penalty cases.  This is because in the USA we want to be very sure that a person has received a fair trial and is truly guilty of a horrible crime before we impose the death penalty on him or her.  We believe that it is better to let some horrible crimes go unpunished than to impose the severe and irreversable punishment of the death penalty on an innocent person.
So, did two or three witnesses testify to the crimes committed by each and every Canaanite that Jehovah ordered to be killed?  Obviously not.  Did at least one witness testify to the crimes committed by each Canaanite that was put to death?  Obviously not.  There were NO TRIALS for any Canaanite.  There were NO WITNESSES who testified to the crimes of any specific Canaanite person who was killed.
Although Jehovah required there be at least two witnesses to testify to the guilt of the accused person before the death penalty could be used on an Israelite, there was no such constraint in this case.  Instead, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of Canaanites were summarily condemned to death, without any trials, and without any evidence from any witnesses.
20. If Jehovah commanded the killing of thousands of Canaanites (men, women, and children) as capital punishment for sins or crimes they allegedly committed, and did so without requiring any trials to be held, and without requiring any witnesses to give evidence that any particular Canaanite committed some sin or crime worthy of death, then JEHOVAH IS UNJUST, because it is unjust to condemn a person to death for allegedly committing a horrible sin or crime when no trial has been held to determine whether the person is actually guilty and no evidence of that person’s guilt has been given by witnesses.
To be continued…
 

bookmark_borderJerry Coyne Blocking: Episode II

I’ll make this very brief and to the point. Jerry Coyne wrote something on his website. (The details don’t even matter, but if you’re curious, you can read the article here.) A scientist named Ben Allen disagrees with something Coyne wrote. Allen submits a comment critical of Coyne’s claim in the combox on Coyne’s website. Allen is subsequently blocked from his site. Because of the scientific nature of the disagreement and Allen’s scientific credentials, however, Allen attracts the attention of PZ Myers, who agrees to publish Allen’s critique as a guest post on Myers’s blog. The comments on Allen’s post are as interesting as the post itself: many other people report being blocked by Jerry Coyne for similar reasons. And readers of this blog will remember that I described my own experience being blocked by Jerry Coyne over a minor issue.
I have great respect for Jerry Coyne’s intelligence and knowledge of biology. I have no respect for his thin-skinned moderation and comment blocking policy, however. Virtually all Christian apologists I’ve interacted with have been much more tolerant of publishing criticisms in their comment boxes, Twitter feeds, discussion forums, etc. than Jerry Coyne is. Jerry Coyne is not acting like a freethinker who has nothing to fear and everything to gain from the honest pursuit of truth.
Jerry Coyne should be ashamed of himself. Kudos to PZ Myers for helping to expose Coyne’s behavior.