Creationists for genocide

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This is a guest appearance by Hector Avalos. I (Mark Perakh) have not contributed a single word to this essay which I am posting as a courtesy to Professor Avalos.

One of the most common accusations against “Darwinism” and evolutionary theory, as a whole, is that they lead to the devaluation of human life such as was dramatically manifested in the Nazi Holocaust. Such a notion is embodied in Richard Weikart’s From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany (2004). Avalos demonstrates, however, that all of the major ideological precursors of the Holocaust have a long religious history that pre-dates Darwin. We can find such precursors in the work of Martin Luther and among biblical authors. Furthermore, Avalos demonstrates that creationists constitute the most vocal defenders of genocide and infanticide from ancient times to the present day. Therefore, the claim that theistic creationist ethics minimize or eliminate the devaluation of human life is false. Read Creationists for Genocide at Talk Reason.

141 Comments

As someone who teaches courses on the Third Reich I always make the point that the roots of Nazi genocide were most assuredly NOT in Darwin or the ToE. The social Darwinism of the Third Reich grew from Luther, the cult of Wagner, and other Germanic occult ideas of race. The use of Darwin or any evolutionary thinking/writing was convenient justification for people with a priori ideas about race and religion. I’m glad to see Avalos give us some more on this.

This is an awesome rebuttal. Martin Luther’s 7 point plan for the Jews is by itself an awesome response to the Darwin-Hitler nonsense! I have added this to my arsenal. Thanks!

Perhaps someone should bring Dr. Avalos’ rebuttal to the attention of these bozos.

Has anyone ever written extensively on the idea that Darwinian evolution is a huge reason for the valuation of human life? Since it took billions of years for the evolution of the human species, and since millions upon millions of species have gone extinct over the eons, possibly at one future date to include us, isn’t the valuation of human life one possible conclusion? Or, given the randomness of mutations and the rigors of selection, isn’t it possible to conclude we’re lucky to be here at all and shouldn’t blow it because no species gets a second chance? Or that we should stop trying to kill each other off because we’re all part of the same human extended family? It just seems to me there’s a basis for that line of thought, maybe a stronger one ultimately than the creationist assertion that human life is valued because (and only if) God created it.

Indeed, ail. To this layman, life (on earth, and our human existence) seems in a way even more miraculous if it is an accident. God can do anything he wants, so making humans is no big deal. But if we are a result of contingent history… wow, we really *are* precious, rare, and valuable creatures.

Also, what God apparently really wanted was lots of beetles… :)

Henry

God can do anything he wants, so making humans is no big deal.

Even so, how do they know that thing(s) from the Bible is the creator God? Somebody throws a couple of thunder bolts and makes a donkey talk, and they assume that the thingy that did those are both one and the same thingy, and the creator of everything in the universe to boot! What utter gullibility.

Hitler himself claimed often to be a staunch Catholic and invoked Christianity and god often as being on the side of the Nazis. It is all through his plan, Mein Kampf.

Some Xian apologists have claimed since that he was really a closet atheist. They even had a few documents that indicated this. At least some of these documents have since been proven to be forgeries.

Apparently some Xians think that rewriting history and lying for Jesus makes everything all right. Sorry, it just means you broke the commandment about not lying.…again.

Freethought Today Vol 19, #9 Was Catholic Hitler “anti-christian” On the trail of bogus quotes: Richard Carrier Excerpt:

“Surveying Hitler’s remarks on religion in the Table Talk, Jochmann remarks that “Hitler was by no means unreligious.” It is the Genoud-Trevor-Roper text that distorts this picture far beyond that, painting Hitler as a quasi-atheistic anti-Christian. It is clear that Picker and Jochmann have the correct text and Trevor-Roper’s is entirely untrustworthy. Hitler was no more anti-Christian than your run-of-the-mill Protestant bigot. His Christianity was odd, surely, but so is that of many die-hard believers today.”

Very timely this essay since TBN are repeating D. James Kennedy’s “Darwin’s legacy” from Coral Ridge at the moment (I think it’s on tomorrow afternoon here).

I assume they are repeats of the programmes from last year as I don’t think Kennedy has recovered from the major heart attack that he had last Christmas, (as far as I know) ?

More on Hitler’s interpretation of Xianity. Doesn’t sound much like a closet atheist to me. FWIW, one can easily find pages and pages of these quotes. He invoked god and Xianity often as inspirations and allies for the Nazis.

Adolph Hitler Munich, 1922:

“My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before in the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice…. And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people…. When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom to-day this poor people is plundered and exploited.” -Adolf Hitler, in his speech in Munich on 12 April 1922

Overall, a good essay. The sections detailing how Nazi ideas came from Luther are particularly well done. However, there are a few problems with the essay. Most seriously, the essay seems to present creationism and a single whole, where the comments of Sarfati and others are all part of a single unifying ideology. While this may have some truth, many PT readers would immediately object if a writer did the same portraying the comments of Dawkins, PZ, Nick Matzke, Mark Perakh etc. as all part of some complete, consistent ideology.

A Pogo cartoon from 1959. reprinted in Shkovskii and Sagan’s *Intelligent Life in the Universe*, goes like this:

“I been readin’ ‘bout how maybe they is planets people by folks with *ad*-vanced brains.

“On the other hand, maybe *we* got the most brains… maybe *our* intellects is the universe’s most advanced.

“Either way, it’s a mighty soberin’ thought.”

raven Wrote:

More on Hitler’s interpretation of Xianity. Doesn’t sound much like a closet atheist to me.

Hitler was a master orator, so he told people what they wanted to hear, and Germany was christian. That said, AFAIU he wasn’t irreligious in private. “Mildly christian” is perhaps a description consistent with what those who observed him privately said.

[I’m too tired right now to find those sources again, but googling Hitler and sorting through the crap IIRC this is what you will find from historical references.]

raven, more to the point, who cares what Hitler believed in private? It is his politics that counts, and you described them to a T.

In regard to comment Comment #199405. I do not know a single Christian creationist who does not defend biblical genocide to some extent. Thus, this is most certainly a unifying factor among all Christian creationists. Of course, there are also non-Christian creationists (e.g., Muslim creationists), but they also would defend God’s right to command genocide.

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Robert O’Brien, are you serious? You’re telling us there are Young-Earth Creationists out there who believe the OT is literally true, yet concede that it was wrong for God to command genocide?

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To echo Larsson, it’s my understanding that Hitler said whatever it was that he thought would help him accomplish his goals. If that meant saying he was a Catholic, then sure enough he was one. If it meant just endorsing generic “Christianity,” then that’s what he did. Or if it meant invoking German mythology or ancient Northern European gods, then he’d do that as well. I think it went beyond merely trying to fool people, however. I think he was also self-delusional, and grasped for anything that might give him an edge.

In regard to Comment #199535: “There are other types of creationists besides YECs.” This changes the issue. The issue is not about whether different types of creationists disagree on the age of the earth, but whether they disagree on the defensibility of biblical genocide. So, Mr. O’Brien, why don’t you provide us with one Christian creationist (old or young earth) who repudiates, as immoral, biblical genocide.

In regard to Comment #199535: “There are other types of creationists besides YECs.” This changes the issue. The issue is not about whether different types of creationists disagree on the age of the earth, but whether they disagree on the defensibility of biblical genocide. So, Mr. O’Brien, why don’t you provide us with one Christian creationist (old or young earth) who repudiates, as immoral, ALL biblical genocide.

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Very timely this essay since TBN are repeating D. James Kennedy’s “Darwin’s legacy” from Coral Ridge at the moment (I think it’s on tomorrow afternoon here).

I assume they are repeats of the programmes from last year as I don’t think Kennedy has recovered from the major heart attack that he had last Christmas, (as far as I know) ?

here’s hoping he will soon be joining Falwell in his current “ministry”.

another person the world would be better off seeing the back of, so to speak.

Me. Although I do not describe myself as an OEC, that is probably how others would classify me.

he means someone of note who has actually published something on the subject at hand, oh witless wonder.

I think he was also self-delusional, and grasped for anything that might give him an edge.

another issue and approach that equates him with creationists.

shocker.

You need to get out more.

says the hermit, from his cave.

uh, you DO know who Hector Avalos IS, right there, RO?

…the defense of genocide, infanticide and “eugenics” by creationists actually has a very venerable and lengthy tradition that precedes Darwin.

Yawn. Of course it does. So does opposition to those ideas by creationists. For 99% of human history, everybody was a creationist, no matter what their politics-of-choice was. There were creationists who supported each of those things, and creationists who opposed it. All this essay proves is that Mister Avalos is quite effective at cherrypicking examples from history that support his biased view of religion.

The fact of the matter is this: any religious, political, or social philosophy can be adapted to support mass evils, and any religious, political, or social philosophy can be adapted to oppose mass evils. The only exceptions to this are philosophies that explicitly build themselves around support of mass evils – an exception which does not apply to religion as a whole, or Christianity as a whole, or Protestantism as a whole, or even most of the subgroups of Protestantism.

I don’t understand why people think it’s a good argument that Hitler wasn’t really a Christian, but just said it to win support. Wouldn’t that mean that Hitler himself was an atheist, but genocide could only be justified through religion?

Let me express a dissent from the essay. Not that I am denying the historical basis in Christianity for genocide. And most assuredly not that I would claim that there is a reasonable connection with “Darwin”. (In fact, I think that Avalos gives away too much in conceding such a connection.)

For one thing, there is always the problem of people going back in history to find that someone’s ancestors were abused by someone else’s ancestors. Not that Avalos is doing that, but it is a problem always to be avoided. The lesson to be learned from history is not to find out who abused whom. The more important lesson to be learned is how we should not repeat the crimes of our ancestors. Where did they go wrong? Are we going wrong, ourselves?

For another, I prefer (and it is my personal preference, which I cannot ask others to share) to keep this as a question of “evolution or creationism”.

If there is something in the acceptance of evolutionary biology which has a danger of endorsing genocide, then that should be addressed. If creationism protects us against that danger, then that should be addressed.

But evolutionary biology today is in a different state than evolutionary biology in the early 20th century. That era has been called the “eclipse of Darwinism”, because, to oversimplify things, it was thought that, although evolution happens, it does not happen according to “random variation and natural selection”. Many people thought that natural selection was not productive enough, that there had to be something else going on - for example, an “elan vital”, or some kind of “Lamarckian” progress up the “chain of being”.

After all, the eugenicists felt that there had to be intelligent intervention in the process of biological change to avert an otherwise inevitable deterioration.

And the modern creationists definitely depend on that same idea, that there has to be “intelligent design”.

The contemporary creationists do not differ from those of us who accept evolution at the level of “micro”evolution. They often insist on the reality of evolution within a “kind”, and it’s only evolution within “mankind” that could conceivably be a matter for eugenicists. So how do they propose to distance themselves from those social/political movements of the early 20th century? Not on the basis of the acceptance of evolution, for they agree that evolution is a reality within “mankind”. Not on the basis of the need for “intelligent intervention”, for they agree with that.

On other matters of biology, our contemporary creationists also agree with the rest of us that there is a great similarity between the human body and that of other living things, particularly the other primates. They only say that the similarities are due to some decision on the part of the “designer” to make us similar (or, perhaps, due to some limitations as to what the designer could do). In other words, they are “telling our kids” that we are “purposefully designed” to be “animals”. Rather than providing a guard against our kids “acting like animals”, it would, if taken seriously, tell us that they are animals-by-design. Moreover, our contemporary creationists agree that the body of each individual human being comes about by “random chance” (such as the particular genetic makeup that each individual has) and “natural law”. If, as they seem to claim, the idea of random chance and natural law has bad implications, then how do they distance themselves from those implications?

The final difference between creationists and the scientists, is that the scientists will tell us that matters of morality are not scientific questions - “is does not lead to ought” - but by the very fact of the creationists’ raising of the “moral consequences of evolution”, they are telling us that their notions of evolution do have moral consequences. If they were being consistent (and, I add, that consistency is not a strong point of creationism), then how can they say that:

1. Evolution occurs within “mankind”. The human body is basically just another primate body. “Random chance” plays an important part in the origins of the individual body.

2. WIthout intelligent intervention the process of evolution will lead to deterioration.

3. Biology has moral consequences.

How can they say those things, and assume a morally superior position over evolution?

Robert O'Brien Wrote:

Me. Although I do not describe myself as an OEC, that is probably how others would classify me.

As you probably know, OEC itself covers a lot of ground, from the “young life” variants that accommodates all the biological arguments of YEC, to the “progressive” variants that accept all of mainstream science’s chronology, but deny only an evolutionary mechanism, and usually common descent too. Those who accept common descent too but (apparently) deny the mechanisms, and spin the usual anti-“Darwinism” arguments are usually called IDers, not OECs.

So, regardless of what you prefer to be called, what is your position regarding the chronology of life and common ancestry of species? And have you ever challenged any creationists?

I am not convinced that Weikart distinguishes between “evolution” and “Darwin”.

A great many people, including creationists, accept the reality of evolution, when it is restricted to “micro”evolution - evolution within a “kind” (sometimes called a “baramin”), such as within “mankind” - or when it is “de”volution - “downward” evolution. There is a whole subgenre of creationist writing about “baraminology”.

Among the important ways in which “darwinism” differs from creationism, there is the idea that nature, left to its own devices, by such means as natural selection, is productive; and there is no direction to evolutionary change, no “upward” or “downward”. The creationists all seem to agree that nature requires a “helping hand”, such as “intelligent design” in order to “progress” (or, at least, not to deteriorate).

It seems to me to be critical for eugenics also to deny the efficacy of “undirected evolution”.

Another important feature of “darwinism” is the idea that large-scale variation in life, including the origin of species, is also a natural event: Macro-evolution. I cannot imagine how macro-evolution has any relationship at all to any of those social/political campaigns.

In brief, the only way that evolution can be involved in these social/political campaigns is only in a way that goes counter to Darwin, and counter to modern evolutionary biology; but in agreement with creationist understanding of evolution.

If there is to be a cautionary tale to be derived from these social/political movements, it ought to be that an incoherent, pseudo-scientific social/poltical movement is not to be trusted.

Here is one of the places where Weikart shows the influence of the Reverend Thomas Malthus on eugenics.

From page 185 of ‘From Darwin to Hitler’ ‘Malthus’s view that organisms have a biological tendency toward overpopulation, causing most organisms to perish before reproducing. Thus, the mass destruction of organisms , including humans, was, according to Darwin and Malthus, inevtiable.’

From page 185 of ‘From Darwin to Hitler’ ‘Malthus’s view that organisms have a biological tendency toward overpopulation, causing most organisms to perish before reproducing. Thus, the mass destruction of organisms , including humans, was, according to Darwin and Malthus, inevtiable.’

But that’s for species are can’t (or don’t) plan for their future welfare. If a species plans for its future appropriately, the inevitable can become, well, evitable. Hopefully, anyway.

Henry

In comment 291419 Richard Weikart wrote:

Fire away, but know that my lack of response is simply because I’m gone.

Since Richard Weikart has explained that he would travel to England, does the quoted sentence mean that the aborigines of England have not yet reached the age of the Internet? Or is all the evidence to the contrary “unpalatable truth” for Weikart? Hopefully the readers of this blog will survive without further comments from Weikart.

Richard Weikart Wrote:

However, Dr. Avalos sidesteps a key issue in my book: under the influence of Christianity for centuries infanticide and killing the disabled were forbidden by all European societies. Darwinian-inspired thinkers of the late nineteenth century began to endorse infanticide and involuntary euthanasia.

I can’t comment on a book I haven’t read and will likely never read considering the repeatedly reported lack of scholarship. But I note that Hector Avalos didn’t sidestep this “key issue”:

Hector Avalos Wrote:

When we look at the wider length of Christian history, we see that the advent of Christianity did not end infanticide, despite repeated claims to the contrary. In fact, some researchers think that Christian theology sometimes may have encouraged infanticide. Keith Wrightson remarks:

It also raises the disturbing possibility that if Christian social morality had done much to overcome the practice of infanticide motivated by considerations of communal or familial interest, it may have exacerbated resort to it to avoid the stigma of illegitimacy.

[Reference removed.]

But I guess that reading the article is to much scholarship to ask from of a denialist.

I’m also curious to why Weikart claims that a religion influenced societies “for centuries”, since we know hear that the book only concerns “the period of approximately 1859-1914”. Either the book and the subsequent discussion covers a larger period, or Weikart tries to apply a double standard here.

I must say I find Mr. O Brien’s assertion that most Christians are profoundly unorthodox, not to say heretical, in their view of the Old Testament, to be profoundly implausible. It is also contradicted by this survey

http://www.galluppoll.com/content/?ci=27682

As regards Levine: I learned quantum mechanics in a physics department, largely from Roy Glauber. Oddly enough, chemists and physicists approach q.m. very differently, and even more oddly, I’ve never taught what we call ‘quantum I’ at the graduate level. So I really don’t have an opinion on Levine, never having looked at it.

Avalos has a far greater grasp of history than the people that he was trying to talk to on the Culture Watch site…at leasts he’s not the only one to try to teach some real history…http://www.skepticfriends.org/forum[…]OPIC_ID=8176

With regard to infanticide, from the Middle Ages through the 19th century the practice in Italy was that unwanted newborns (malformed, illegitimate, etc) were dropped off anonymously at religious institutions using special revolving “wheels” mounted through walls or doors. (It is commonly said that anyone in Italy who carries the family name Esposti/Esposito/etc, meaning “exposed”, is likely the descendant of one of these children, because that was the last name they were given.) I am not sure whether the practice or something similar existed elsewhere in Europe, but I suspect it did.

Once under charge of the religious orders, the care these children received was often minimal, and mortality among them was rampant, apparently reaching as high as 98% in some places, because of malnutrition, disease, and whatever else these kids endured. For practical purposes, therefore, infanticide had not been eliminated as much as it had become an institutional and impersonal practice, made palatable via the anonymous “wheel” mechanism and the disconnect from what happened afterwards. It’s similar to the hypocrisy that makes the death penalty acceptable to many US citizens today by pretending the killing is “humane” and hiding it from view. The barbarism is the same, but it’s less offensive to the public.

With regard to infanticide, from the Middle Ages through the 19th century the practice in Italy was that unwanted newborns (malformed, illegitimate, etc) were dropped off anonymously at religious institutions using special revolving “wheels” mounted through walls or doors. (It is commonly said that anyone in Italy who carries the family name Esposti/Esposito/etc, meaning “exposed”, is likely the descendant of one of these children, because that was the last name they were given.) I am not sure whether the practice or something similar existed elsewhere in Europe, but I suspect it did.

Once under charge of the religious orders, the care these children received was often minimal, and mortality among them was rampant, apparently reaching as high as 98% in some places, because of malnutrition, disease, and whatever else these kids endured. For practical purposes, therefore, infanticide had not been eliminated as much as it had become an institutional and impersonal practice, made palatable via the anonymous “wheel” mechanism and the disconnect from what happened afterwards. It’s similar to the hypocrisy that makes the death penalty acceptable to many US citizens today by pretending the killing is “humane” and hiding it from view. The barbarism is the same, but it’s less offensive to the public.

With regard to infanticide, from the Middle Ages through the 19th century the practice in Italy was that unwanted newborns (malformed, illegitimate, etc) were dropped off anonymously at religious institutions using special revolving “wheels” mounted through walls or doors. (It is commonly said that anyone in Italy who carries the family name Esposti/Esposito/etc, meaning “exposed”, is likely the descendant of one of these children, because that was the last name they were given.) I am not sure whether the practice or something similar existed elsewhere in Europe, but I suspect it did.

Once under charge of the religious orders, the care these children received was often minimal, and mortality among them was rampant, apparently reaching as high as 98% in some places, because of malnutrition, disease, and whatever else these kids endured. For practical purposes, therefore, infanticide had not been eliminated as much as it had become an institutional and impersonal practice, made palatable via the anonymous “wheel” mechanism and the disconnect from what happened afterwards. It’s similar to the hypocrisy that makes the death penalty acceptable to many US citizens today by pretending the killing is “humane” and hiding it from view. The barbarism is the same, but it’s less offensive to the public.

Sorry about the multipost. I kept getting a Movable Type error message.

…infanticide had not been eliminated as much as it had become an institutional and impersonal practice, made palatable via the anonymous “wheel” mechanism and the disconnect from what happened afterwards.

It’s abortion with a 90+% “success” rate, made palatable according to the same rationale used by firing squads when they randomly load one of the rifles with a blank. For some reason, it alleviates the killer’s guilt when he knows that there’s a nonzero chance that he might not in fact be a killer.

This might be a double post…

…infanticide had not been eliminated as much as it had become an institutional and impersonal practice, made palatable via the anonymous “wheel” mechanism and the disconnect from what happened afterwards.

It’s abortion with a 90+% “success” rate, made palatable according to the same rationale used by firing squads when they randomly load one of the rifles with a blank. For some reason, it alleviates the killer’s guilt when he knows that there’s a nonzero chance that he might not in fact be a killer.

This is an absolutely awful thread. Once again we are treated to uninformed distortions of the Hebrew Bible by a “scholar” with an agenda and dangerous little knowledge.

All of these “blood libels” against the Hebrew Bible have been debunked by myself in this forum and by many others. I will therefore not bother getting into details yet again here.

Suffice it to add, as I have reminded folks on many other occasions, that the Hebrew Bible was written by the Jews and for the Jews and was passed on by them (very meticulously, I might add)from generation to generation, over the course of thousands of years, together with an oral tradition which gave meaning to the words and their context. And we have extensive records of these traditions going back many centuries in the form of the Talmud, Midrash and others. The suggestion that the Hebrew Bible at any point demanded human sacrifices or endorsed genocide of the Cannanites would be laughed out of town by any Jew familiar with his religion, irrespective of the silly and ignorant word games played by Savalos and his ilk. And of course neither of these notions was ever actually performed, for good reason - they were never advocated.

‘The suggestion that the Hebrew Bible at any point demanded human sacrifices or endorsed genocide of the Cannanites would be laughed out of town by any Jew familiar with his religion, irrespective of the silly and ignorant word games played by Savalos and his ilk.’

Numbers 31:17-18 ‘Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.’

Comment #202197 Regarding: Posted by Carol Clouser on August 31, 2007 2:57 AM (e):”All of these “blood libels” against the Hebrew Bible have been debunked by myself in this forum and by many others. I will therefore not bother getting into details yet again here.”

Ms. Clouser appears to be outside of her area of expertise, and she provides no credentials of training in biblical studies from any secular academic institution. I have failed to find her listed as a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, the largest organization of academic biblical scholars in the world.

The persons I have quoted concerning child sacrifice/genocide in the Bible include Jon Levenson of Harvard Divinity School, and Moshe Greenberg, both recognized Jewish biblical scholars. My own Ph.D. is in Hebrew Bible. I don’t know of many academic biblical scholars, Jewish, Christian, or secular who do not agree that the biblical authors were endorsing the idea of genocide, even if historically they may have questions about its actual implementation.

Her statement that “ we have extensive records of these traditions going back many centuries in the form of the Talmud…” is also quite misleading. The earliest Hebrew manuscripts for the Bible are the Dead Sea Scrolls which date no earlier than about the third century BCE, and so about 1000 years after the supposed events related in Deuteronomy. There is also the inscription from Ketef Hinnom, but that is of disputed date. For a standard treatment of biblical manuscript traditions, see See Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (Ausburg: Fortress, 2001).

Re: Comment #202197 Posted by Carol Clouser on August 31, 2007 2:57 AM (e) “All of these ‘blood libels’ against the Hebrew Bible have been debunked by myself in this forum and by many others. I will therefore not bother getting into details yet again here.”

Ms. Clouser appears to be outside of her area of expertise, and she provides no credentials of training in biblical studies from any secular academic institution. I have failed to find her listed as a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, the largest organization of academic biblical scholars in the world.

The persons I have quoted concerning child sacrifice/genocide in the Bible include Jon Levenson of Harvard Divinity School, and Moshe Greenberg, both recognized Jewish biblical scholars. My own Ph.D. is in Hebrew Bible. I don’t know of many academic biblical scholars, Jewish, Christian, or secular who do not agree that the biblical authors were endorsing the idea of genocide, even if historically they may have questions about its actual implementation.

Her statement that “ we have extensive records of these traditions going back many centuries in the form of the Talmud…” is also quite misleading. The earliest Hebrew manuscripts for the Bible are the Dead Sea Scrolls which date no earlier than about the third century BCE, and so about 1000 years after the supposed events related in Deuteronomy. There is also the inscription from Ketef Hinnom, but that is of disputed date. For a standard treatment of biblical manuscript traditions, see See Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001).

If Weikart cannot find evidence of modern Christians justifying the killing of entire groups of people, men, women and children, I am willing to help him out.

Try http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/[…]ddendum.html

Regarding the genocide of the Midianites: it was endorsed within the last three years by no less a personage than the Religion Moderator of the right-wing US website Free Republic. She went on to argue that the modern equivalent of the Midianites were ‘proselytizing atheists’ such as Richard Dawkins.

Mr. Avalos states, “Gill offers nothing much beyond theological say-so. I see nothing based on lexicography, grammar and exegesis of the Hebrew terms huqim and mishpatim. For example, where does Gill show an example where the combination of huqim-mishpatim is applied only to laws that were not ‘the moral law.’ How do you read Leviticus 26:46, then? Are huqim-mishpatim related ony to the non-moral law there?”

As I have stated, I do not know Hebrew, and so I may be completely off base in my criticism. You seem to suggest that because I do not know Hebrew, I may as well suspend my judgement until I have acquired the proper tools of assessment myself. But this may very well be an absurd requirement. Do you have the proper background in molecular biology, geo- and biochemistry to assess the claims that the early earth’s atmosphere was condusive to the production of organic molecules, and that a self-replicating entity could arise from this mixture? How about the mathematical knowledge to judge the validity of Godel’s famous incompleteness theorems? Chances are that you do not, but you believe the judgements of people you trust in the field who have studied the matter extensively. In this case, I hold to both John Gill’s and John Calvin’s interpretation of Ezekial, both of whom were Biblical scholars who knew Hebrew, which is that the ‘statutes’ and ‘laws’ referenced in Ezekial 20 is referring to those laws imposed when the people of Israel led themselves into various idolatries via the sovereign will of God. These are not (or at very least do not have to refer to) the statutes of Lev. 26: 26, which “the LORD made between him and the children of Israel in mount Sinai by the hand of Moses.” Do draw on Calvinism, this is the distinction between God’s revealed will and his sovereign will. He ‘gave’ the children of Israel the moral statutes in Lev. 26 as his revealed will, but He also ‘gave’ or led the children of Israel over to immoral statutes via his sovereign will, such as in Jer. 7 when the children of Israel practiced child sacrifices. To believe that God gave the children of Israel the command to sacrifice infants would be to directly contradict his commands in Exodus 13 and 34, which directly states that children are /not/ to be sacrificed but redeemed with a rixed price. It seems that Mr. Avalos suggests that there is NO and CANNOT BE a distinction between the statutes that God commands, whether they arise as the result of His direct revelation (revealed will) or his sovereign action in making the hearts of his people go astray from his commands to various idolatries (sovereing will). Is this just an assumption you are making, or could Gill’s and Calvin’s explanations work?

By the way, Mr. Avalos never addressed my commets about Exodus 13 and 22 in Comment #200842. If my assessment (which is Gill’s and Calvin’s assessment) is correct, then whatever the statutes that God is referring to in Ezekial 20 /cannot/ be referencing child sacrifice, assuming that the Bible is consistent. You may find Calvin’s interpretation implausible, but is it possible? Is it consistent?

Here is John Calvin’s exposition of Ezekial 20: 25 -26

Ezekiel 20:25 25. Wherefore I gave them also statutes that 25. Ego quoque dedi illis decreta non bona, were not good, and judgments whereby they et judicia in quibus ton vivent. should not live;

Here God announces that he had taken vengeance upon people so hard and obstinate, by permitting them to endure another yoke, since they would not be ruled by the doctrine of the law; for we saw that, when God imposed the law upon the Israelites, they would have been extremely happy, had they only considered how honorable it was to be in covenant with God, who deigned to bind them to himself in mutual fidelity. This was a remarkable honor and privilege, since God not only showed them what was right, but promised them a reward which he by no means owed them. But what was the conduct of that unteachable nation? It threw off the yoke of the law; hence 278 Or, “my burning wrath.” — Calvin. 279 Or, “against them.” — Calvin. 207 m on Ezekiel (V2) John Calvin it deserved to experience a different government. God, therefore, gave them laws that were not good, when he suffered them to be miserably subjected to an immense heap of errors: such laws as these were not good. Some writers have violently distorted this passage, by thinking the law itself, as promulgated by Moses, “not good,” since Paul calls it deadly; but they corrupt the Prophet’s sense, since God is comparing his law with the superstitions of the Gentiles: others explain it of the tributes which the people were compelled to pay to foreigners. But, first of all, God does not speak here of only one age; nay, during the, time of the Israelites’ freedom his vengeance was nevertheless severe. Thus, in the next verse, the Prophet confirms what I have briefly touched on, namely, that the laws called not good are all the fictions of men, by which they harass themselves, while they think that God is worshipped acceptably in this way: for we know how miserably men labor and distract themselves when Satan has fascinated them with his toils, and when they anxiously invent numerous rites, because there is no end of their superstitions; hence these statutes are not good: for when they have undergone much labor in their idolatry, no other reward awaits them than God’s appearance against them as an avenger to punish the profanation of his own lawful worship. They indeed by no means look for this, but they utterly deceive themselves; hence they must hope for no reward but what is founded on the covenant and promise of God; for all false and vicious forms of worship, all adventitious rites, which men heap together from all sides, have no promise from God, and hence they vainly trust to them for life. God began to show them this in the wilderness; but in succeeding ages he did not fail to exercise the same vengeance. We see how they fell in with the superstitions of the Moabites; and why so? unless God blinded them by his just judgments. (Numbers 25:1-3.) He had experienced their untamed dispositions, and so he set them free from control; and not only so, but afterwards gave them up to Satan, and so he says that he gave them laws that were not good. The Prophet might indeed have said, that they despised God’s law through their own wisdom, that they foolishly and rashly legislated for themselves: this was indeed true; but he wished to express the penalty of which Paul speaks, when he says that the impious were delivered to a reprobate mind, and to obedience to a lie, (Romans 1:24-26,) since they did not submit to the truth, and did not suffer themselves to be ruled by God, and thus were given up to the tyranny of Satan and to the service of mere creatures. Now, therefore, we understand the Prophet’s meaning, I have given them also, says he, laws not good, as if he had said that the people so threw themselves into various idolatries, that God desired in this way to avenge their incredible obstinacy; for if the Jews had calmly acquiesced in God’s sovereignty, he had not given them evil laws, that is, he had not suffered them to be so tormented under Satan’s tyranny; but when they were entangled in his snares, God openly shows them to be unworthy of his government and care, since they were too refractory. It follows — Ezekiel 20:26 26. And I polluted them in their own gifts, in 26. Et contaminavi ipsos in suis muneribus, that they caused to pass through the fire all that trajiciendo quidquid aperit vulvam, ut perderem openeth the womb, that I might make them ipsos, ut quod, (sed supervacuum est,) ut cognoscant quod ego Iehovah. 208 m on Ezekiel (V2) John Calvin desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the LORD.

There is no doubt that God here continues the same doctrine’ hence we gather that injurious laws were given to the people when they adopted various errors and worshipped idols of their own fabrication instead of God: hence it is added, I polluted them in their gifts. This, then, was added by the Prophet, lest the Jews should object that they had not altogether rejected the worship of God; for they mingled the ceremonies of the laws with the fictions of the Gentiles, as we saw before, and the Prophet will shortly repeat: in this way they thought they discharged their duty to God, though they added mixtures of their own. Here the Prophet meets them, and cuts off all occasion for turning aside, since they were polluted in their gifts, and nothing was pure or sincere when they thus corrupted God’s precepts by their comments. However, they daily offered their gifts, and professed to present them to the true God; yet they obtained no advantage, because God abominated mixtures of this kind, as we have previously said; for he cannot bear to be worshipped by the will of men, but wishes his children to be simply content with his commands. Now, we perceive the meaning of the Prophet — God pollutes them in their gifts; that is, renders their gifts polluting whenever they think that they discharge their duty; — but how? why, he says, when they cause whatever opens the womb to pass through. 280 Here the Prophet touches on only one kind of superstition, but, by a figure of speech, he means all kinds, by which the Jews vitiated God’s pure worship; for this superstition was very detestable, to pass their sons through the fire, and to consecrate them to idols. But in this passage God speaks only of the first-born, so as greatly to exaggerate the crime: that ceremony was indeed general; but since God claimed the first-born as his own, and wished them to be redeemed at a fixed price, (Exodus 13:2, Exodus 22:29, and Exodus 34:19, 20,) and by this act wished the remembrance of their redemption to be kept up, since all the first-born of Israel, as well as of animals, had escaped, while those of the Egyptians perished, (Numbers 3:13, and Numbers 8:16,) was it not monstrous to pass through the fire, and to offer to idols those who were specially devoted and sacred to God? We see, then, that the Prophet does not speak in vain of the first-born. That I should destroy thou, says he, and they should know that I am Jehovah. God here shows that he had proceeded gradually to the final vengeance; and for this reason the people were the more convicted of stupidity, since they never perceived God’s judgments manifest. If God had suddenly and impetuously issued his vengeance from heaven, men’s astonishment would not have been wonderful; but when he grants them space of time and a truce that they may weigh the matter at leisure, and admonishes them to repentance, not once only, but often; and then if they remain always the same and are not effected, they show themselves utterly desperate by this slothfulness, as the Prophet now asserts. But when he adds, that they may know that I am Jehovah, he means that as he was not acknowledged as a father by the Jews, he would be their judge, and compel them whether they would or not to feel the formidable nature of that power which they despised. Since we have treated this subject fully before, we now pass it by more lightly. Yet we must notice this, that God is recognized by the reprobate, since, when his fatherly goodness has been for a long time 280 Supply “the fire,” as in the authorized version. 209 m on Ezekiel (V2) John Calvin despised by them, he at length appears as a judge, and draws them against their will to his tribunal, and executes his vengeance, so that they cannot escape. It follows —

RE: Comment #201419 Posted by Richard Weikart on August 28, 2007 7:11 PM (e) Dr. Weikart’s response unfortunately evades the serious issues raised about his thesis, and overlooks that I did discuss many of the items he said I omitted.

First, Dr. Weikart suggests that my focus on the Bible is irrelevant to a critique of his thesis. However, his book is premised on a dichotomy between “Judeo-Christian values” on the one hand and those of “Darwinism” and Nazi ideology on the other hand. Since the Bible is the basis of Weikart’s definition of Judeo-Christian values, then it is necessary to show that many biblical values sometimes are not that different from those of Nazi ideology on the questions of genocide, ethnocentrism, the value of human life, etc.

The fact that my critique is effective is most evident in his movement of the goal post from “Judeo-Christian” ethics to the Judeo-Christian ethics of 1859-1914. As he now phrases it: “My book is about the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and shifts in thinking that occurred during the period of approximately 1859-1914. Avalos hardly ever says anything about what Christianity was like during that period.”

However, Dr. Weikart believes that Judeo-Christian ethics are superior to evolutionary ethics regardless of the time, and so restricting it to 1859-1914 is already a retreat for him. One can also sense this retreat in the final sentences of his post: “I’m on leave this coming academic year to write a book entitled “Hitler’s Ethic,” where I will prove that evolutionary ethics was a central part of Hitler’s worldview.”

This promise an admission that his thesis of Darwinism being such a heavy contributor to Nazism was left “unproved” in the very book that should have proved it, From Darwin to Hitler.

Even so, it is not true that I did not provide much evidence of what Christianity was like between 1859 and 1914. After all, does he think that Germany was full of atheists in this period? Note the following items I referenced from this period:

Reuben A. Torrey (1856-1928), who defended not only genocide but also broached the possibility that killing children today might be a good thing if they went to heaven. Torrey was a major Christian evangelical figure who contributed to the anti-evolutionist tracts, The Fundamentals, which were published in 1910-1915.

Ernest Renan (1823-1892), a well-known biblical scholar, whose work was used by Alfred Rosenberg. Renan had developed the thesis that Jesus was an Aryan, not a Jew. This allowed Nazis to claim Jesus as one of their Aryan heroes, while detesting Judaism.

And, of course, we can gladly oblige Dr. Weikart’s request to show what Christianity was like in the period 1859-1914. One only has to recall that during this entire period, African-Americans were not seen as full citizens of the United States because of racism, which was supported by biblical prooftexts.

I can provide a catalog, but let’s just give one example from 1859, the very year in which The Origin of Species was published. The book is Slavery Ordained of God by Fred. A. Ross (1859; Reprint, New York: Negro University Press, 1969) pages 6-7. Here is short extract:

Let the Northern philanthropist learn from the Bible that the relation of master and slave is not sin per se. Let him learn that God says nowhere it is sin…Let him learn that slavery is simply an evil in certain circumstances. Let him learn that equality is only the highest form of social life; that subjection to authority, even slavery, may, in given conditions, be for a time better than freedom to the slave of any complexion. Let him learn that slavery like all evils, has its corresponding greater good; that the Southern slave, though degraded compared to his master, is elevated and ennobled compared to his brethren in Africa.

How is this much different from Hitler’s view that he was head of master race that had right to enslave other people? True enough, Ross thinks that slavery might be eliminated in some future utopia, but only when the master race felt secure enough to eliminate it.

If Weikart believes that there was a Judeo-Christian culture in America between 1859-1914, then he should perhaps also familiarize himself with how genocide and other forms of human devaluation were very much at home in this period in America.

Yes, during the year between 1859 and 1914 is when self-described Christians in America were still killing off the Native populations or moving them into reservations to separate them from the European newcomers. American segregationist policies were so effective that they prompted Hitler himself to comment as follows in Mein Kampf, p. 286 (Manheim translation).

North America, whose population consists in by far the largest part of Germanic elements who mixed but little with the lower colored peoples, shows a different humanity and culture from Central and South America, where the predominantly Latin immigrants often mixed with the aborigines on a large scale. By this one example, we can clearly and distinctly recognize the effect of racial mixture. The Germanic inhabitant of the American continent, who has remained racially pure and unmixed rose to be master of the continent; he will remain the master as long as he does not fall victim to the defilement of blood.

And before Weikart credits the Judeo-Christian tradition the abolition movement, let him understand abolition, equal rights for women, and many other of those freedoms we hold dear were the result of abandoning biblical principles or abandoning literal interpretations of the Bible.

I hope Dr. Weikart at least integrates the discussions found in the following books that describe the nature of Christianity in part of the period that on which he says he concentrates:

Robert P. Erickson and Susannah Heschel, eds. Betrayal: German Churches and the Holocaust. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999.

Charles Y. Glock and Rodney Stark. Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism. New York: Harper & Row, 1966.

David E. Stannard, American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World. New York: Oxford, 1992.

H. Henrietta Stockel, On the Bloody Road to Jesus: Christianity and the Chiricahua Apaches. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004.

So let Dr. Weikart tell us a bit more about Judeo-Christian culture between 1859 and 1914 in his next book. I certainly look forward to reading it.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Perakh published on August 24, 2007 9:43 AM.

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