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(Un)Apologetics

The world seems to be full today of Christians, some well meaning, and some obvious charlatans, who make their livings in the field of Christian Apologetics.  For reference, let’s look at the definition of “apologetics”. From Merriam-Webster online dictionary:

1:   systematic argumentative discourse … in defense (as of a doctrine)

2:   a branch of theology devoted to the defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity

So for the purposes of this discussion, apologetics collectively offers a series of arguments for the existence of god, for the truth of the Christian religion, and for various specific matters of theology.  As with any logical argument, they must be evaluated based on:

  1. Whether the premises of the argument are valid. As an example, if an argument starts with the premise that all men are stronger than all women, it may be disproved by identifying even a single example of a woman who is stronger than at least one man.
  2. Whether the logic of the argument is valid.  Independently of whether the premises are true, the logic of the argument must support the conclusion based on the premises.  As an example, if we say that there is a correlation between A and B (the premise), therefore A causes B, the argument is faulty, because correlation does not imply causation.

These (Un)Apologetics are my attempt to answer the apologists’ arguments. My arguments are (in most cases) neither new, nor unique, but rather are just a composite of (in some cases) my own reactions, and in many other cases, information I’ve learned since my deconversion. I shall try to credit others when possible/appropriate.

As a general observation, one must wonder if the apologists really believe in the validity of their own arguments. They have a multiplicity of supposed “proofs” for the existence of god. But if any one of those arguments was sufficiently rigorous, there would be no need for any others. If we compare to the field of mathematics – when one mathematician submits a proof for some theorem, her peers review it, to confirm its rigor and validity. Once satisfied, they congratulate her, and cease spending any further effort on proving that theorem. At most, another mathematician might offer some simplifications to the proof. What you don’t see is other mathematicians spending their time driving more nails into the proverbial coffin.

In contrast, in spite of all the existing “proofs” for god, numerous apologists continue to spend their careers developing and refining new ones. And that’s because none of the arguments, whether old or new, actually stand up to any real scrutiny. They are all just different exercises in sophistry, appealing to those who are predisposed to theism, but failing on one or more factual or logical grounds.

Atheist or Agnostic?

There’s a common debate among nonbelievers as to whether atheism or agnosticism is the more rational position. Theistic apologists contribute to this with claims that atheism is indefensible, since one cannot disprove the existence of god(s). Some argue further, that it takes more faith to be an atheist than a theist.

But all of those arguments against atheism are based on the assumption of “strong atheism” or “gnostic atheism”.

Atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive. The word “gnostic” comes from the Ancient Greek, and literally means “having knowledge”. The gnostic claims to KNOW something to be true. “Theism”, on the other hand refers to the BELIEF in god(s), and that belief can range from absolute conviction, to a very weak belief. So one can be gnostic, convinced that either there is or is not a god. Or one can be agnostic with respect to the existence of gods, but decide to either believe or disbelieve. This is illustrated in the following common graphic.

This author readily agrees that the existence of god(s) cannot be disproved. One CAN disprove (falsify) claims about specific gods, if those claims are inconsistent with objective evidence. But there are thousands of gods worshiped around the world, many of whose descriptions are amorphous. Even Christians disagree on numerous aspects of their god, and major elements of Christian theology have evolved considerably over its history. Estimates of the number of worldwide Christian denominations are in the 10’s of thousands, representing an enormous range of theological positions.

They disagree on the divinity of Jesus, special creation, the means of salvation, the significance of the Eucharist and wine, the existence of, and nature of hell, the degree of involvement of God in human affairs, whether or not the Bible is literally inerrant, etc. Because its nature cannot be pinned down, it is impossible to disprove the existence of the Christian god, let alone the thousands of other claimed gods, or the infinite number of other possible gods.

So if we cannot disprove the existence of all gods, and since nobody has yet proven the existence of any god, agnosticism (saying “I don’t know”) is a far more defensible position than gnosticism (declaring that I KNOW there is a god, or I KNOW there is no god).

So for one who settles on the agnostic position, the next step is to make a decision as to whether to believe or disbelieve in god(s). The agnostic atheist chooses to disbelieve in a fantastic being, due to the absence of objective evidence. The theist (whether gnostic or agnostic) chooses to believe in some god or gods, and the reasons for such a decision are many and varied. In my experience, most of those reasons boil down to one or more of the following (in no particular order):

  1. Indoctrination. The undeniable fact is that the vast majority practice the religion of their parents. That’s not an accident. Childhood indoctrination is extremely hard to overcome.
  2. Wishful thinking (e.g. “There has to be more!”, or they are attracted to the promises offered by the religion for some afterlife, etc.)
  3. Appeal of fellowship offered by the church
  4. Intellectual laziness. Science hasn’t yet explained what caused the Big Bang, or how life originated on earth. Many religions claim to have the explanation. In all cases, those explanations are “god of the gaps” answers. Accepting them is intellectual surrender to the pat answer, and abdicates any need or motivation to pursue the science.
  5. Superstition. Humans are incredibly superstitious by nature. As evidence, one need only consider the many millions of sports fans who believe that the outcome of their team’s game is influenced by whether they wear their lucky socks or jersey or underwear while watching the game. Because of our superstitious nature, people are inclined to see the hand of god when they experience either good fortune or bad. They believe that “Things happen for a reason”.
  6. Other subjective “evidence”. Most theists will attest to the difference god has made in their lives. But this is true for virtually every religion. That doesn’t mean that all those religions are true, it means that such subjective evidence is useless for determining the truth of a religion.

Some agnostics choose neither belief nor disbelief, but instead just leave it with “I don’t know.” So that increases the number of variants in the gnosticism/theism realm from four to five. In “The God Delusion”, Richard Dawkins goes further yet, adding shades of gray in the degree of agnosticism, defining a scale with seven milestones or levels in the continuum of theism/atheism.

    1. Strong theist. 100% probability of God. In the words of Carl Jung: “I do not believe, I know.”
    2. De facto theist. Very high probability but short of 100%. “I don’t know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.”
    3. Leaning towards theism. Higher than 50% but not very high. “I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.”
    4. Completely impartial. Exactly 50%. “God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.”
    5. Leaning towards atheism. Lower than 50% but not very low. “I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.”
    6. De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. “I don’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”
    7. Strong atheist. “I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one.”

Levels 1 and 7 are synonymous with the gnostic theist and gnostic atheist positions, respectively.  As I noted earlier, since we can neither prove nor disprove the existence of god, neither levels 1 nor 7 are logically defensible. I think that both theists and atheists put themselves at a real disadvantage when they take a strong (gnostic) position.  In my experience, theists are far more likely to take the gnostic position.

The other level that I find to be especially tenuous is level 4. I’ve spoken to several folks who initially described themselves as strictly agnostic. But after further discussion, they consistently decided that they were agnostic atheists (a 5 or 6 on the Dawkins scale). My suspicion is that there are relatively few who truly fall at level 4. I don’t see how one can defend the claim that the existence and nonexistence of god(s) are equally probable, as there’s no objective basis for determining those probabilities.

In summary, there should be no debate over whether agnosticism or atheism is the right, or better answer, since the terms are not mutually exclusive. And in this author’s opinion, the gnostic position (whether theist or atheist) is not logically defensible. Theists are unlikely to be swayed by that argument. Among other reasons, it would require that they discard the majority of their apologetics arguments, each of which (falsely) claims to prove the existence of god.

I would like to see fewer atheists claiming gnosticism, as it routinely causes considerable wasted energy, by giving fuel to theists arguments that atheism is indefensible. And by taking such a position – by claiming to KNOW there is no god, the gnostic atheist  assumes a burden of proof, which is both unwise and unnecessary. The burden of proof should always rest with the theist, and we should avoid any arguments that suggest otherwise.

The Big Bang and the Laws of Thermodynamics

A popular argument by apologists is the claim that the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics prove the universe had a creator.  The argument goes as follows (from  “The First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics and the Origin of the Universe” Dr. Danny Faulkner, 2019)

Excerpt:

“The first law of thermodynamics is the familiar conservation of energy principle. That is, energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Through countless experiments, we discover that the amount of energy at the beginning of any experiment is equal to the amount of energy at the end of the experiment. Similarly, extensive experiments have demonstrated that matter is conserved as well. However, we know that matter merely is a form of energy, as revealed by the famous Einstein equation of equivalence, E = mc2, where E is energy, m is mass, and c is the speed of light. Therefore, to be absolutely correct, one ought to speak of the conservation of mass-energy. But if we restrict ourselves to processes that do not involve conversion between matter and energy, then we can view the conservation of energy and the conservation of matter as different manifestations of the first law of thermodynamics.

The second law of thermodynamics is different. It states that, while energy is conserved, energy becomes less useful over time. What makes energy useful is the difference, or gradient, that exists between the energy at two different locations. We can exploit that energy gradient to operate engines to do work, much as biological systems use energy gradients to sustain life. The natural tendency is for energy gradients to decrease with time so that energy becomes less useful to do work. Physicists define entropy to measure the degree that energy is less useful. Thus, more entropy corresponds to less useful energy. According to the second law of thermodynamics, the entropy of the universe must increase with time.

THE FIRST AND SECOND LAWS OF THERMODYNAMICS ARE WELL-ESTABLISHED, AND THEY APPEAR UNIVERSALLY TO APPLY.

The first and second laws of thermodynamics are well-established, and they appear universally to apply. Of course, there is no problem with the two operating simultaneously today, but a startling conclusion results if we extrapolate them into the past. If the first law of thermodynamics has always been true, then the universe must have always existed. Otherwise, sometime in the past energy must have spontaneously appeared when none had previously existed. But this would violate the first law of thermodynamics. Hence, the first law of thermodynamics requires that the universe be eternal. But what if we extrapolate the second law of thermodynamics into the past? If the universe was eternal, there would have been more than ample time for the universe to have already reached its maximum state of entropy, with no useful energy remaining. The fact that today we can use heat engines and that biological systems operate today reveals that the universe is far from the maximum entropic state. Therefore, the universe cannot be eternal, and hence the universe must have had a beginning in the finite past.

Resolving the Contradiction

But this produces a contradiction: the first law of thermodynamics demands that the universe be eternal, while the second law of thermodynamics demands that the universe cannot be eternal. Both laws appear to be fundamental and inviolate, so there is no way one law can be made subordinate to the other. One could hypothesize that in the past one of the two laws did not apply, but that would be a departure from the way in which the natural world is known to operate. The physical world today follows these two laws (and others), so any past departure from how the world now works would have amounted to a non-physical operation. Another word for non-physical is metaphysical. There is no physical mechanism whereby physical processes would suddenly change. In fact, such a change would undermine the underlying principle of physical processes (and makes science as we know it possible). Thus, if physical processes changed at some time, it must have had a cause outside of the physical. That is, the origin of the universe requires a radical departure from how the physical world operates Hence, the origin of the world is beyond the realm of science, as science is the study of the physical, or natural, world, not the metaphysical or the spiritual.

ULTIMATELY, CONSIDERATION OF THE FIRST AND SECOND LAWS OF THERMODYNAMICS IN THE PAST LEADS TO THE CONCLUSION THAT THE ORIGIN OF THE UNIVERSE IS A METAPHYSICAL OR SPIRITUAL QUESTION, NOT A PHYSICAL ONE

Many physicists (including astronomers and cosmologists) are aware of this problem. Therefore, those committed to naturalism have attempted to explain away this problem by appealing to quantum fluctuations. However, as I have discussed elsewhere, there are problems with this explanation. Ultimately, consideration of the first and second laws of thermodynamics in the past leads to the conclusion that the origin of the universe is a metaphysical or spiritual question, not a physical one. Therefore, using science, we can conclude that the origin of the universe is not a question that science is equipped to answer on its own. Since science can’t tell us where the universe came from, the only consistent way to study the origin of the universe is to realize that the Creator God exists and that he is not part of the physical universe. He is transcendent. The God who made all was not himself created. This is exactly what the Bible says: ”All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). One ought to begin the study of the origin of the universe with God.”

Rebuttal:

There are several problems with his argument:

The First Law: Faulkner concludes that the First Law necessarily demands that the universe must have always existed. But to be clear, the First Law only requires that the matter/energy of the universe always existed IN SOME FORM. It says nothing about what that form was. Some Physicists believe that to be the case – that the Universe existed prior to the Big Bang, but was compressed into a tiny volume (the Mother of All Black Holes). Other theories describe different conditions prior to the Big Bang. But there’s simply nothing inherent to the Big Bang that demands an utter absence of matter & energy beforehand.

The Second Law: Faulkner states that “If the universe was eternal, there would have been more than ample time for the universe to have already reached its maximum state of entropy, with no useful energy remaining.”  Here, Faulkner makes the mistake of applying the Second Law as it applies to the universe as it exists today. The Second Law allows for entropy to be constant, if the system is in equilibrium. Our universe today is NOT in equilibrium, but there’s no reason to assume that to be the case prior to the Big Bang. If, for example, the Mother of All Black Holes hypothesis is correct, those conditions could have persisted indefinitely with no loss in entropy until, for whatever reason, some instability initiated the Big Bang). String Theory also posits steady-state conditions that preceded the Big Bang. Faulkner discusses this, but inexplicably dismisses String Theory, not because it has been discredited, but because there are issues that still need to be resolved.

We don’t know yet what caused the Big Bang, or what conditions preceded it. There are various hypotheses, and there is still much to be learned. There are a variety of hypotheses which are not contradicted by the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics.  And it’s entirely possible that we’ll one day find a better hypothesis that fits with all observations (those already made, and those yet to come), fully consistent with the Laws of Thermodynamics.  

Faulkner, however, wishes to throw in the towel.  Because we don’t yet have all the answers, he leaps to a God of the Gaps conclusion. He declares that, because science hasn’t YET answered the question. Science CAN’T answer the question. History is, of course, replete with questions that could not be answered by science … until they were.

Faulkner is welcome to believe what he wants. It’s fine if he wishes to go with “God did it”, but that conclusion is neither supported, nor demanded by science. Worse yet, Faulkner undoubtedly knows this.

No, Atheism is Not a Religion

Many theists claim that atheism is a religion, but that claim is inherently a dishonest one. As evidence, they often refer to the following Merriam-Webster definition of religion.

re•li•gion \ri-ˈli-jən\ noun

[Middle English religioun, from Anglo-French religiun, Latin religion-religio supernatural constraint, sanction, religious practice, perhaps from religare to restrain, tie back — more at rely] 13th century

1       a : the state of a religious 〈a nun in her 20th year of religion

b       (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural

(2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

2       : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

3       archaic : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness

4       : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

They acknowledge that definitions 1 and 2 don’t apply to atheists, and they focus on definition 4. But let’s dissect the definition.

  1. Is atheism a cause, principle, or system of beliefs? One can certainly define it as a cause for some, as well as a principle. It is not a system of beliefs, however. “Atheism” only defines one thing that the person does NOT believe in. It says nothing as to what the atheist DOES believe. But given this was a statement of “or”, this part of the definition is applicable to atheists.
  2. Is the disbelief in god(s) held to with ardor and faith? Well that depends on the person. Many atheists give little thought to their atheism, just as they give little thought to their disbelief in Santa Claus. Some (obviously including this author) give it much more thought. We argue against theism because we object to theist attempts to insert their religion into our schools, install their icons in our public spaces, and attempts to set public policy based on the musings of primitive men. So yes, there can certainly be some ardor involved. But if the atheist is arguing against theistic claims, and overreaching (noted above) by theists, that’s not the same as saying that the beliefs themselves are held with ardor or faith. As we know, many of the American founding fathers were theists, but were adamantly opposed to theocracies

    Is there faith involved? Those who argue that atheism is a religion say yes, claiming that the atheists hold their beliefs with blind faith. But that’s only remotely true for SOME atheists. Atheism is commonly subdivided into two forms: Gnostic Atheism, where individuals claim to KNOW there are no gods, and Agnostic Atheism, where individuals argue that we cannot know for certain whether god(s) exist, but who choose to disbelieve in god(s) due to the absence of objective evidence.

    One could reasonably argue that the gnostic atheist is acting on faith, when he claims (in the absence of proof) to know there are no gods. But it’s absurd to ascribe faith to the agnostic atheist.

I’ve seen no surveys on what percent of atheists are gnostic vs agnostic. I fall into the latter group, as do the vast majority of atheists I know, or whom I’ve had discussions with on social media. It’s rare that I come across gnostic atheists. Christian apologists seem to be of the opinion that most are gnostic atheists, based on the misinterpretation of (sometimes intense) vocal opposition. But as I’ve noted, intense opposition to unsupported theistic claims, and to theist overreach is not a valid indicator of atheistic gnosticism.

So in summary, the claim that atheism is a religion is applicable, at most, to gnostic atheism, which I believe is a small subset of the atheist population.

But this brings us to the other major problem with the claim. Even if we stipulate that gnostic atheism is a religion (under definition 4), it is not a religion in the same sense that Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. are religions (under definition 1).
In fact, if we go back to Merriam-Webster, we can see an enormous difference in the meanings, by looking at the examples:

Examples of religion in a Sentence

  • Many people turn to religion for comfort in a time of crisis.  
  • There are many religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.  
  • Shinto is a religion that is unique to Japan.  
  • Hockey is a religion in Canada.  
  • Politics are a religion to him.  
  • Where I live, high school football is religion.  
  • Food is religion in this house.

Those who argue that atheism is a religion, are using it in the same sense that hockey, politics, football and food are religions, NOT in the same sense as Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Shinto. The use of the word “religion” under definition 4, arose as a metaphorical term, rather than in any literal sense.

It’s both logically and semantically wrong to claim that theistic religions and atheism are qualitatively the same, when one isn’t using the same definition of the word. Equating the literal religions of Christianity, Judaism, etc. with the metaphorical religions of atheism, hockey, etc. is patently absurd. And it’s dishonest.

God is Not Good

A common claim of Christians is that “God is good.” Some go even further, saying, “God is good – always.“ The two variants are assumed to be synonymous, as I’ve never heard any suggestion from believers that God is good just some of the time.

This claim can be evaluated in two ways:

  1. From analysis of the objective evidence in everyday life.
  2. From the Biblical record.

In neither case does the claim stand up to scrutiny.

Objective Evidence from Everyday Life

Simply put, there is no objective evidence that a loving, just, or merciful god is engaged in the affairs of mankind. Disease and natural disasters inflict untold misery and death upon humanity. Believers are smitten with equal frequency and severity as nonbelievers, in spite of any amount of prayer. The only apparent difference between believers and nonbelievers is their interpretation of events.

If there is a natural disaster, in which 1000 men, women, and children are killed, but one nonbeliever and one believer are spared, the former, while being happy about his own survival, will mourn those who were lost. The latter carries that a step further, praising god for saving him. He believes that he and that other guy were singled out by God to be saved. He and his family will declare that “God is good.”, while those believers who lost their own loved ones will sadly chalk it up to “God has a plan.” … a plan which allegedly required the untimely deaths of 1000 men, women, and children, who all just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Disasters happen with some regularity, and many millions more suffer and die from all manner of diseases, with prayer having no statistically measurable effect. The objective evidence therefore indicates that either there is no god, or that he is indifferent to the suffering of his children.

That’s not to say this evidence means that God is bad. The problem of suffering, as well as that of evil in the world, has been a major topic of theological debate for two millennia, and I won’t try to argue that here. I’ll just conclude that there is no objective evidence that god is good. At best, the evidence shows that he is indifferent. The Biblical evidence tells a different story, however.

Biblical Evidence That God is Not Good

Note: all Bible references in this article are from the NRSV.

The Bible condones a number of practices that most modern civilized people (including most Christians) abhor. This includes rape, slavery, genocide, and the subjugation of women. Few would consider a world leader who condoned these things to be a good person.

Rape 

The Old Testament unequivocally condones rape, as long as the victim is female, unmarried, and not betrothed

Relevant verses

Deuteronomy 22:22-29

If a man is caught lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman as well as the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.

If there is a young woman, a virgin already engaged to be married, and a man meets her in the town and lies with her, you shall bring both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death, the young woman because she did not cry for help in the town and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

But if the man meets the engaged woman in the open country, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. You shall do nothing to the young woman; the young woman has not committed an offense punishable by death, because this case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor. Since he found her in the open country, the engaged woman may have cried for help, but there was no one to rescue her.

If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are caught in the act, the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman’s father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives.

So we have several specific cases here:

A man is caught having intercourse with a married woman (verse 22): Both are executed, with no apparent regard for whether it was consensual.

A man is caught in town having intercourse with a betrothed woman (verses 23-24): The presumption is that it was consensual (since she did not cry out), and they both are executed.

A man is caught outside of town having intercourse with a betrothed woman (verses 25-27): Since it happened outside of town, she is given the benefit of the doubt (as to whether she cried out), so only the man is executed.

A man seizes a non-betrothed virgin, and is caught having intercourse with her. Well in this case, his “punishment” is to marry the object of his desires.

Christians have claimed that this does not condone rape, but rather it was the merciful solution for a woman who had been sullied, and who would likely have trouble finding a husband as a result. But that argument fails on two counts.

1. Few women would welcome being forced to marry their rapist, so in that sense, it’s hardly a mercy.

2. As noted previously, most modern civilized people view rape to be an evil act, regardless of the marital or betrothal status of the victim. So unless we’re all just misguided on that, the more appropriate “absolute moral guidance” would have been for God to direct that rape is unequivocally wrong, and a rape victim is blameless, and remains unsullied.

3. Furthermore, any justification for the position on rape, collapses in light of other Bible verses.

Genesis 19:1-8

The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed down with his face to the ground. He said, “Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you can rise early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the square.” But he urged them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.” Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”

So here, Lot (our hero) offered up his virgin daughters to be gang-raped. Lot, of course, was spared from the destruction of the city, having been judged to be a righteous man (In spite of offering his daughters to the mob). The Old Testament condones rape of women, as long as they’re neither married nor betrothed.

Numbers 31:1-18

31 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Avenge the Israelites on the Midianites; afterward you shall be gathered to your people.” So Moses said to the people, “Arm some of your number for the war, so that they may go against Midian, to execute the Lord’s vengeance on Midian. You shall send a thousand from each of the tribes of Israel to the war.” So out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe were conscripted, twelve thousand armed for battle. Moses sent them to the war, a thousand from each tribe, along with Phinehas son of Eleazar the priest, with the vessels of the sanctuary and the trumpets for sounding the alarm in his hand. They did battle against Midian, as the Lord had commanded Moses, and killed every male. They killed the kings of Midian: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian, in addition to others who were slain by them; and they also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. The Israelites took the women of Midian and their little ones captive; and they took all their cattle, their flocks, and all their goods as booty. All their towns where they had settled, and all their encampments, they burned, but they took all the spoil and all the booty, both people and animals. Then they brought the captives and the booty and the spoil to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation of the Israelites, at the camp on the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho.

Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the congregation went to meet them outside the camp. Moses became angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. Moses said to them, “Have you allowed all the women to live? These women here, on Balaam’s advice, made the Israelites act treacherously against the Lord in the affair of Peor, so that the plague came among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man by sleeping with him. But all the young girls who have not known a man by sleeping with him, keep alive for yourselves. 

 So this story covers two atrocities: genocide against the Midianites (discussed later in more detail), and rape of their virgin captives (verse 18), with the rape commanded by God’s own prophet Moses.

The New Testament, as far as I’m aware, is silent on the topic of rape. So the only reasonable conclusion is that the Bible condones rape, as long as the victim is female, and neither married nor betrothed. The harsh position on rape of married and betrothed women appears to be due to the perceived harm to the husbands and fiancées, rather than to the actual victims.

Genocide

In the rules for warfare, Deuteronomy 20:16-17 states:

But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the Lord your God has commanded,

I previously mentioned the genocide inflicted by Moses’ army against the Midianites. But this was just the tip of the iceberg. The book of Joshua chronicles an entire campaign of genocide against the kingdoms of Canaan. Moses and Joshua led the slaughter of most of the people of Canaan, summarized in Joshua chapter 12:

The Kings Conquered by Moses

12 Now these are the kings of the land, whom the Israelites defeated, whose land they occupied beyond the Jordan toward the east, from the Wadi Arnon to Mount Hermon, with all the Arabah eastward: King Sihon of the Amorites who lived at Heshbon, and ruled from Aroer, which is on the edge of the Wadi Arnon, and from the middle of the valley as far as the river Jabbok, the boundary of the Ammonites, that is, half of Gilead, and the Arabah to the Sea of Chinneroth eastward, and in the direction of Beth-jeshimoth, to the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, southward to the foot of the slopes of Pisgah; and King Og of Bashan, one of the last of the Rephaim, who lived at Ashtaroth and at Edrei and ruled over Mount Hermon and Salecah and all Bashan to the boundary of the Geshurites and the Maacathites, and over half of Gilead to the boundary of King Sihon of Heshbon. Moses, the servant of the Lord, and the Israelites defeated them; and Moses the servant of the Lord gave their land for a possession to the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

The Kings Conquered by Joshua

The following are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the Israelites defeated on the west side of the Jordan, from Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon to Mount Halak, that rises toward Seir (and Joshua gave their land to the tribes of Israel as a possession according to their allotments, in the hill country, in the lowland, in the Arabah, in the slopes, in the wilderness, and in the Negeb, the land of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites):

To be clear, Joshua did not just take the kings. He slaughtered every man, woman, and child in those kingdoms. From Joshua 11:19-20:

There was not a town that made peace with the Israelites, except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon; all were taken in battle. For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts so that they would come against Israel in battle, in order that they might be utterly destroyed, and might receive no mercy, but be exterminated, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

But Joshua did leave some Canaanites alive, for the sole reason that he eventually became too old to finish the job. So God handled the rest, by just driving them out of Canaan. One must wonder why God didn’t just drive EVERYONE out of Canaan in the first place. This is recounted in Joshua chapter 13:

The Parts of Canaan Still Unconquered

Now Joshua was old and advanced in years; and the Lord said to him, “You are old and advanced in years, and very much of the land still remains to be possessed. This is the land that still remains: all the regions of the Philistines, and all those of the Geshurites (from the Shihor, which is east of Egypt, northward to the boundary of Ekron, it is reckoned as Canaanite; there are five rulers of the Philistines, those of Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron), and those of the Avvim in the south; all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah that belongs to the Sidonians, to Aphek, to the boundary of the Amorites, and the land of the Gebalites, and all Lebanon, toward the east, from Baal-gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo-hamath, all the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon to Misrephoth-maim, even all the Sidonians. I will myself drive them out from before the Israelites; only allot the land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have commanded you. 

The Great Flood would, of course set the record for genocidal acts if it was actually true. And the genocide against the peoples of Canaan was purportedly all at God’s direction. And for that reason, many Christians (Evangelicals at least) defend it, because, they say, God the creator has the right to kill (or order to be killed) anyone he chooses. But that rationale essentially gives god a free pass to do whatever he wishes. On this topic and others, Christians have often argued that mere humans are unqualified (i.e. have no standing) to pass judgment on their creator. But if that’s true, it’s a two-way street. If we are unqualified to judge God to be evil, then we are equally unqualified to judge him to be good.

Slavery

The Bible unequivocally condones slavery. Conservative Christians frequently will falsely justify it with the claim that it wasn’t slavery as practiced in the US South, but rather was just an indentured servitude, established as a means to pay debts. But that’s only partially true. Jews could be kept as indentured servants. And Mosaic law forbade the enslavement of other Jews as slaves, but non-Jews were fair game. Deuteronomy 20:10-11 describes, in the the laws for waging war, a directive to enslave any who surrender to the army of the Israelites.

When you draw near to a town to fight against it, offer it terms of peace. If it accepts your terms of peace and surrenders to you, then all the people in it shall serve you at forced labor.

Exodus 21:1-11 institutionalized slavery, laying out the rules and regulations in the conduct of slavery.

The Law concerning Slaves

These are the ordinances that you shall set before them:

When you buy a male Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, but in the seventh he shall go out a free person, without debt. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s and he shall go out alone. But if the slave declares, “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out a free person,” then his master shall bring him before God.  He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost; and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him for life.

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed; he shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt unfairly with her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife. And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out without debt, without payment of money.

Exodus 21, verses 20-21 and 26-27 address the penalties (or lack thereof) for violence against a slave.

Exodus 21:20-21

When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.

Exodus 21:26-27

When a slaveowner strikes the eye of a male or female slave, destroying it, the owner shall let the slave go, a free person, to compensate for the eye. If the owner knocks out a tooth of a male or female slave, the slave shall be let go, a free person, to compensate for the tooth.

So there can be no question that slavery was condoned and firmly institutionalized in the Old Testament. The New Testament has several mentions of slavery. Jesus told the Parable of the Unforgiving Slave, and The Parable of the Faithful Slave

Matthew 18:23-35

“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Matthew 24:45-51

“Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that wicked slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In their Epistles, Paul and Peter repeatedly tell slaves to obey their masters, and/or masters to treat their slaves kindly.

Ephesians 6:5-9

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free.

And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality.

Colossians 3:22-25

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong has been done, and there is no partiality.

1 Timothy 6:1-2

Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be blasphemed. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful to them on the ground that they are members of the church; rather they must serve them all the more, since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved.

Titus 2:9-10

Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior.

1 Peter 18-25

Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh. For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.

“He committed no sin,
    and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Colossians 4:1

Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, for you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

Then, in his letter to Philemon, Paul says he is returning Philemon’s slave, Onesimus, but encourages Philemon to set Onesimus free.

Philemon 1:8-21

For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus.I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Onesimus was obviously a Christian, and a close personal friend of Paul, so Paul’s request to Philemon was an isolated instance. In all other cases, Jesus, Paul, and Peter tacitly condone the institution of slavery. None of them indicate any issues with the institution of slavery (whether it be the enslavement of non-Jews, or indentured servants). None of them even hint that slavery, in any form, is wrong.

So in summary, the Old Testament codified the institution of slavery, and the New Testament condoned it. This fact was routinely used by US slave holders to defend the practice, and was almost certainly a factor in the establishment of slavery in the American colonies, beginning in 1508, and its persistence here, for over 350 years. 

Subjugation of Women

The Old Testament is firmly patriarchal in nature, viewing women as little more than property. As discussed above:

A virgin who is raped is forced to marry her rapist.

Men are allowed to have many wives, but a woman may have but one husband.

Lot offered his virgin daughters to be gang raped, rather than allow his male visitors to be gang raped by a mob.

The Ten Commandments clearly reflect the view that a woman is the property of her husband (Exodus 20:17):

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Women can be sold by their fathers into slavery, as concubines (Exodus 21:7-11):

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed; he shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt unfairly with her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife. And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out without debt, without payment of money.

And women are consistently viewed as being inferior and subservient to men. 

Genesis 3:16

To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
    in pain you shall bring forth children,
yet your desire shall be for your husband,
    and he shall rule over you.”

A husband could divorce his wife, but a wife could not divorce her husband. And a woman who is divorced and then remarries, is viewed as having been defiled, such that she may not remarry her first husband if her second husband dies or divorces her. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)

Laws concerning Marriage and Divorce

 Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, and so he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house; she then leaves his house and goes off to become another man’s wife. Then suppose the second man dislikes her, writes her a bill of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house (or the second man who married her dies); her first husband, who sent her away, is not permitted to take her again to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that would be abhorrent to the Lord, and you shall not bring guilt on the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession.

The New Testament likewise views women as subservient to men, having been created from man, and FOR man. They are overtly told to be submissive to their husbands, and told to remain silent in church. Some relevant verses below:

Ephesians 5:22-23

Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior.

1 Corinthians 11:1-9

I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you. But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ. Any man who prays or prophesies with something on his head disgraces his head, but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head—it is one and the same thing as having her head shaved. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil. For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection of God; but woman is the reflection of man. Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35

Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

1 Timothy 2:13-15

For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

Titus 2:3-5

Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.

1 Peter 3:1-2

 Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

Other Biblical Evidence
God is a Narcissist

God gave to Moses, 10 Commandments, along with hundreds of rules within Mosaic Law. Of these, much of the Mosaic Law became obsolete, as Jesus claimed to have fulfilled the law. The 10 Commandments are consistently viewed as being the keystone of Old Testament Law.

Depending on which version of the Old Testament is used, God commands us in either 3 or 4 of the 10 Commandments to (in some form or fashion) “Worship Me.” In abbreviated form, a common version of the 10 Commandments is as follows (with the first 4 focused on worshiping Him):

  1. You shall have no other Gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourselves an idol
  3. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God
  4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy
  5. Honor your father and your mother
  6. You shall not murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not give false testimony
  10. You shall not covet

The choice of 10 as the number of commandments is, of course, arbitrary, but among the 10, it seems there should have been room for proscriptions against rape, slavery, and genocide.

Using even one commandment to demand our worship is the act of a narcissist; four such commandments indicate an extreme narcissist. Christian theology teaches that God created us with the primary expectation that we worship him… and the penalty if we fail to do so, is an eternity of unspeakable torment. This is not a “good” being. It is an extreme sociopathic narcissist.


The Story of Job

Job is often held up as the ideal example of patience and faithfulness to God. In chapter 1 of the Book of Job, he is a prosperous man with a wife, seven sons, and three daughters. God boasts to Satan of the righteousness and faithfulness of Job, but Satan argues that it’s easy for Job to be faithful, because he has been so blessed. God claims that Job would be faithful even without those blessings. This leads to a bet as to who is right, and God gives permission to Satan, to take everything from Job.

One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.” Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Satan then proceeds to take everything from Job:

13 One day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the eldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans fell on them and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16 While he was still speaking, another came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was still speaking, another came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three columns, made a raid on the camels and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was still speaking, another came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house, 19 and suddenly a great wind came across the desert, struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; I alone have escaped to tell you.”

Even after all of this, Job remains faithful to God. God thought he had won the bet, but Satan wasn’t done. In Chapter 2, Satan argued that Job still had his health, saying they should take that from him and see what happens, and does so, again with God’s permission:

One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. The Lord said to Satan,“Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord, “Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” The Lordsaid to Satan, “Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.”

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.

Then, over the next 39 chapters, Job laments his misery, and debates his faith with his friends, but he never blamed God for his plight. Instead, Job remained faithful to God.

So God won the bet, and In Chapter 42, restored all Job had lost, and more … except of course for the children, whom God replaced with even better children (though I can imagine no good parent who would happily accept the loss of any child, just because they had another).

10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. 12 The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. 15 In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. 16 After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. 17 And Job died, old and full of days.

So while Christians hold up this story as a model of faithfulness, the picture it paints of God is damning. God subjected Job to unimaginable misery in a game of sport. This is not the act of a good and loving father, but rather of a sociopath.


Elisha and the Mauling of Boys

In 2 Kings 2:23-24, The prophet Elisha is mocked for his baldness by a group of boys, and responds by having them mauled by bears.

23 He went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go away, baldhead! Go away, baldhead!” 24 When he turned around and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.

This is not the act of a loving, kind, merciful, or good God.

Conclusions

There are many other Bible passages that could be added to this analysis, but I think those already discussed are more than enough to refute the claim that God is good. The Bible instead describes a god who is a narcissistic sociopath, who created us with the overarching requirement that we worship him, under penalty of an eternity of unspeakable torment. He sanctions rape, slavery, genocide, and the subjugation of women. He tormented Job in a game of sport. He caused bears to maul 42 boys, merely because of a childish insult to his prophet. If the Old Testament is to be believed, he is NOT good.

Apologists have two common responses to these conclusions. I’ve already noted and refuted the first – the claim that mere humans, by their inferior standing, are unqualified to place judgement upon their own creator, which if correct, means we’re also unqualified to call him good.

The second common argument is that we cannot judge God by human standards. They argue that morality is defined by God, and applies to humans, but not to God himself. God is declared to be good by standards that apply only to him, and that humans can’t possibly know or understand those standards. But if that’s true, the claim that he is good has no meaning. Like it or not, we’re speaking a language of humans, and the word “good” only has meaning within that context. To say that “God is good”, where “good” is undefined, has no more meaning than declaring that “God is grgthbtf”.

The Kalām Cosmological Argument

One of the most popular arguments of Christian apologists is the Kalām Cosmological Argument. Kalām is so-named because it originated within Islamic discipline of scholastic theology, known as Ilm al-Kalām, which is commonly abbreviated as Kalām. Its history actually predates both Islam and Christianity, going back (at least) to Plato and Aristotle, who each posited versions of an “Uncaused First Cause”.

Among Christian Theologians, Aquinas and Leibniz each offered arguments for the necessity of a creator as a first cause. But the Kalām argument most commonly used today is the version that has been popularized by William Lane Craig:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The Universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the Universe has a cause.

Analysis

The argument fails on the very first premise. Humans have no experience whatsoever, with observing ANYTHING beginning to exist. As far as we know, the total energy and matter in the universe has not changed since the Big Bang. We know that energy may be converted into matter, and vice versa. But those processes are ones of conversion, not creation. Furthermore, we know that even those conversions can occur with no proximate cause. A prime example is with the case of nuclear decay, which can produce energy and new particles, from existing radioactive isotopes. Nuclear decay occurs randomly and spontaneously, requiring no external agent of any kind. So Craig’s first premise commits the fatal logical fallacy of begging the question. He’s trying to prove that the universe had a cause, by (incorrectly) asserting that everything that began to exist had a cause.

The second premise, that the universe began to exist, also has problems. While physicists have traced our universe back to a rapid inflationary period, which occurred over a tiny fraction of a second, just after a cosmic singularity, the discussion of the actual beginning is still problematic. Physics has not yet traced the expansion back to the singularity itself. Some Physicists believe the universe follows a cyclical process of expansion and collapse. Others postulate , per string theory, that our universe is just one of many in a multiverse. And there are other hypotheses as well. But if the cyclic theory is correct, the claim that our universe began to exist would not strictly be true.

So this brings us to a more subtle problem with the overall theme of Kalām. At its heart, Kalām is an appeal to our standard notions of cause and effect (heartening back to Plato’s and Aristotle’s first cause). But cause and effect, in ALL our experience, is an artifact of Newtonian (or “Classical”) Physics, with actions and reactions driving events, and being ubiquitous in our experiences. But physicists have known for over a century that Newtonian Physics is only an approximation to how the universe really works. It’s an outstanding approximation for nearly everything we experience on a daily basis. But it breaks down at very small (subatomic) scales, and Quantum Physics is required to accurately describe behavior in these domains. And under Quantum Physics, traditional notions of cause and effect are upended. Refer to the following article for details.

https://www.nature.com/news/how-quantum-trickery-can-scramble-cause-and-effect-1.22208

Newtonian Physics likewise breaks down under conditions of extreme velocity and/or gravitation, where relativistic effects come into play. The bottom line – under the conditions of the initial singularity, Newtonian Physics and our normal notions of cause-and-effect simply did not apply. For these reasons, Kalām’s attempt to apply traditional notions of causality are embarrassingly trite, though it’s understandable as to why Kalām is so popular among the general public.

While Kalām fails on multiple logical grounds, that’s not the end of its problems. Even if Craig’s arguments were all correct, and the Big Bang DID have a proximate cause, there’s no reason to conclude that the cause was an intelligent agent. Kalām claims to be an argument for an intelligent creator, but it concludes with no such determination.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics

Christian Apologists often attempt to use the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics as an argument against evolution. The 2nd Law states that total entropy of an isolated system can never decrease over time, and is constant if and only if all processes are reversible. In simple terms, entropy is the randomness or disorder in a system, and is inversely related to the usable energy. So the 2nd Law demands that in a closed system, disorder can never decrease, and usable energy can never increase.

Apologists argue that evolution represents an INCREASE in order, and therefore a DECREASE in entropy. And this is a reasonable conclusion. But in spite of being reminded of this over and over again, they have willfully ignored the conditions under which the 2nd Law applies – i.e. that it is for an isolated system (a system that has no mass or energy input or output).

We know, of course, that all life on Earth takes in energy from the outside. Plants absorb sunlight, and convert it into chemical energy via photosynthesis. Animals consume plants or other animals for their energy. The result of this fact, is that the 2nd Law simply doesn’t apply to biological organisms, since they are NOT isolated systems. The entropy of the universe increases through biological processes, but that is not the case for the organisms themselves.

Ignoring the criterion for an isolated system is akin to referring to the statement that “no woman who has had a full hysterectomy can bear children”, and declaring that no woman can bear children.

The 2nd Law argument against evolution is among the absolute worst of modern apologetics. At best, it demonstrates a glaring lack of understanding of the science. At worst, it is blatantly dishonest.

The Spherical Earth Conspiracy

Introduction.

While this isn’t strictly a apologetics issue, it is loosely related, since the Old Testament has numerous passages that only make sense if interpreted within a flat Earth paradigm. And no small number of flat earthers justify their fierce defense of their bizarre beliefs, by pointing to the Bible. But to be clear:

  1. The vast majority of Christians and Jews reject the flat earth nonsense.
  2. Flat Earthers are by no means limited to the ranks of religious zealots.

But I’ve added this post here because of that loose relationship, and frankly, because this is my forum, so it is my prerogative to do so.

Flat Earthers have, in numerous forums, published various “proofs” that the earth is flat. All of those, as far as I know, have been soundly refuted. Certainly none of the many flat Earth “proofs” I’ve looked at hold even a little bit of water. Therefore I won’t in this post, discuss the reasons that we know that the Earth is, in fact, (roughly) spherical. Instead, I’ll focus on the conspiracy theory that flat Earthers claim is behind the spherical Earth. Frankly, even if one didn’t have the slightest understanding of the actual science, the utter absurdity of the conspiracy theory alone, should be sufficient cause to reject all their nonsense.

The Conspiracy

Flat Earthers, reject virtually everything NASA has done. In their view, there was no moon landing. All the space photos of the Earth have been faked. On top of that, GPS is rigged, to make pilots think they are flying in straight lines around the globe, when they are actually flying curved paths above a disc. Likewise, any other evidence against the flat Earth has been faked. The motives for the conspiracy are presumed to be financial in nature.

Analysis

My background – I have a B.S. in Physics, an M.S. in Systems Engineering, and retired in 2017 after 34 years as a Systems Engineer, working for a defense contractor. During that career, I served as Chief Engineer on two programs.

The programs I worked on included a missile system, a passive radar detection and location system, and two airborne active radar systems. And I consulted on several others. All of these systems were designed to work with a roughly spherical Earth (henceforth, I’ll refer to it simply as a “spherical Earth” for simplicity, though in fact, the systems actually depended upon much more accurate ellipsoidal Earth models). Since the systems were designed for a spherical Earth, they would have performed horribly on a flat Earth. They would have been dismal failures, and would never have made it into production, let alone be successfully employed. But they all performed as expected, and as required by our customers.

So the flat Earthers, would no doubt declare that (as with the folks at NASA), I and hundreds of of other engineers who worked on these systems must be part of the cabal that is behind the conspiracy. And if that’s true, the same must also be true for tens (or hundreds) of thousands of engineers who work on other defense, aeronautics, space, navigation systems, etc. in the US, Russia, China, France, the U.K., India, ETC.

Of course, to do so, we’d have to design these systems to work with flat Earth geometry and Physics, but convince all those who didn’t have a “need to know” that we were using spherical earth geometry and physics. So that would require that we have some way to know who’s part of the cabal, and who is not, lest we slip up and reveal the truth to the general public. That alone would be a daunting challenge.

Most of us kept textbooks on our shelves at work. As a Physics major, I naturally had some Physics texts. But clearly, I could not leave flat Earth Physics books out in plain sight. Rather, these would have to be the “phony” spherical Earth Physics books. We’d have to be experts in spherical Earth Physics, which we were taught in school, and which we’d discuss in open meetings, conferences, etc. But we’d obviously also have to be experts in the “real” flat Earth Physics, in order to design systems that actually worked. So that would necessitate having some publishers in the cabal, who would print the flat earth physics books for us, along with flat earth books on GPS, radar, etc. These would have to be distributed with extraordinary care, to assure that none of them were ever seen by the wrong people. And we also would therefore require Ultra Top Secret vaults, to store them, and in which to read them.

The above challenges don’t just apply to the contractor engineering staffs. Contractors work closely under the oversight of their customers, who have their own engineers and scientists.

And of course, universities and research institutes around the world would also be involved. Physicists around the world would have to be part of the cabal, most of them spending entire careers, advancing the state of the phony spherical Earth Physics. Any who are not part of the cabal, would have to be watched closely, to make sure they didn’t stumble across the truth. Others in the cabal would labor in secret, on advancing the real flat Earth Physics. Other disciplines be similarly involved – geology, climatology, etc.

So when all is said and done, this cabal would have been in existence for many decades, involving multiple generations of scientists and engineers in universities, as well as aerospace and defense contractors, DoD agencies, universities, research institutes, etc. throughout the world, with numbers likely in the hundreds of thousands of members. Not one among those hundreds of thousands has leaked any flat earth textbooks or design documents.

Obviously the extraordinary efforts to develop, perpetuate, and protect this conspiracy would have staggering costs. The presumed financial motivation for the claimed conspiracy clearly holds no more water than any of their supposed proofs. It’s beyond absurd.

And somehow, the ranks of flat Earthers are conspicuous in the absence of disgruntled former engineers. Instead, the various flat Earth groups are populated by those who are scientifically illiterate, or at best, semiliterate. They are poster children for the Dunning-Kruger effect.

For reference, the Dunning-Kruger effect is a type of cognitive bias in which people believe that they are smarter and more capable than they really are. Essentially, low ability people do not possess the skills needed to recognize their own incompetence.

The Moral Argument for God

The Argument from Morality has been framed in a variety of ways. The most prevalent today is as formulated by William Lane Craig, or some similar variant.

Craig states the moral argument as follows:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

2. Objective moral values do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.


I’ll start with Premise 2, because I believe it has the greatest problems.

Craig expects us to accept his premise that objective moral values exist. But the fact is that human views on morality have varied widely throughout history, and have (with culture as a whole) evolved over time. This includes even proscriptions that we tend to think of as universal, such as against murder. But among primitive tribes, it’s not unusual to prohibit murder of those within ones own tribe, while allowing or encouraging the murder of those from other tribes. In “The Selfish Gene”, Richard Dawkins discussed an evolutionary basis for these mores.

Even today, “civilized” people justify war and/or genocide against other groups with different race, ethnicity, religion, etc. These sentiments are little different from primitive tribalism, and are therefore commonly described in those terms. Clearly, there are many who believe murder to be moral under certain conditions. In one fairly extreme example, in a NY Times online survey, 42% of respondents said that they would go back in time to kill baby Hitler if they could.

In The Myth of Absolute Morality, I discussed the facts that:
A) Christians can’t even agree among themselves on numerous significant matters of morality.

B) The Bible clearly condones several behaviors, such as rape, slavery, genocide, etc, that most modern civilized people believe are abhorrent. This is just one bit of evidence for the evolution of moral standards. And any reasonably objective person would agree that this fact should disqualify the Bible as an objective moral standard.

C) The vast majority of Christians don’t actually use the Bible as an absolute source for moral guidance. Most reject the view that rape, slavery, and genocide are moral behaviors. And most likewise have no issue with remarriage by divorcees, in spite of Jesus’ condemnation of it. So nearly all Christians use the Bible as a Chinese menu for moral decisions, selecting the parts they like, and ignoring the rest.

So the Christian apologists’ claims that absolute morality exists, are belied by their own rejection of various Biblical teachings.

Of course, the fact that moral views are not universal doesn’t necessarily mean that there can’t be an objective right and wrong. One could argue that objective right and wrong exist, even if people can’t agree on it. The obvious problem with such an argument is the absence of any proof or logical basis for the assertion. The theists will make that claim, based upon their belief that their god defines absolute morality. That opinion is useless to this discussion, since it results in a naked application of circular reasoning (“We know we have absolute morality because God declares it to be so” and “we know God exists because we have absolute morality.”).

So for the purposes of the Argument from Morality, we would require the premise to be proven through non-theistic means. Craig and other apologists attempt to use item B above (the fact that atheists make moral judgements against the Bible) as supposed proof that even most atheists believe that SOME moral absolutes exist. There are two problems with Craig’s response:

Firstly, all of us, whether theists or atheists have both the capability and duty to make moral judgements. We’re not required to declare our judgements to be right or wrong in any absolute sense. At most, we should hopefully be able to explain our judgements.

Secondly, even if the person who criticizes Biblical morality believes that the Bible is OBJECTIVELY flawed, the obvious conclusion is that he is rejecting Premise 1 (the claim that if God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.). As one example, the secular humanist believes that moral behaviors are ones which seek to avoid or minimize harm to others, and/or to help others (no god required). Dan Barker wrote about this extensively in “Mere Morality”, written as a response to C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”.

While I won’t declare this moral framework to necessarily be the definition of “absolute morality”, there are no doubt some who would. It certainly COULD be justified by arguing that humanism is the only rational basis for HUMANS to make moral decisions. I don’t make that claim, but I am personally convinced that it’s far superior to the musings of primitive men.

In conclusion, neither of Craig’s premises are supported. Both premises are statements of opinion, rather than fact, and hence his Argument from Morality fails.

The Myth of Absolute Morality

A topic commonly discussed by Christian apologists is that of morality. There are three common arguments:

  1. They declare that the atheist has no basis for making moral decisions, whereas Christianity has an absolute basis for morality, given to us by God in the Bible.
  2. This argument is often supplemented by accusations that the atheist is being logically inconsistent when they make ANY judgements of right and wrong.
  3. Many Christians will further claim that atheists reject god because they wish to be free of moral constraints. Those Christians will ask, “Without a belief in god, and the threat of eternal damnation, what is to stop humans from devolving into wanton murderers, rapists, etc?”

This article focuses on the first claim – that the Bible provides the sole basis for absolute morality

Note: all Bible references in this article are from the NRSV.

On Absolute Morality

Christians’ claim that the Bible provides their guidance in absolute morality has two major problems:

First, Christians themselves can’t agree on several significant moral issues, such as abortion and homosexuality. Christians on both sides of the abortion issue bolster their case with Bible verses in support of their respective positions.

Second, the Bible condones a number of practices that most modern civilized people (including most Christians) abhor. This includes rape, slavery, genocide, and the subjugation of women.

So the undeniable fact is that few if any Christians actually treat the Bible as their go-to source in matters of morality. Instead, it’s treated like a Chinese menu, from which they cherry-pick their positions in various matters of morality, ignoring any that don’t fit with their own worldview, and inventing other positions that are absolutely lacking any sort of Biblical basis.

Remarriage by Divorcees

One of the best examples of Christians ignoring Biblical teachings is in the case of remarriage by divorcees. Jesus himself unambiguously condemned remarriage by divorcees. From Mark 10:1-10

He left that place and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan. And crowds again gathered around him; and, as was his custom, he again taught them.

Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

In spite of this condemnation, most modern Christians, including many of the most ardent Bible thumpers, see no moral problem with divorcees remarrying. It is commonplace among their ranks, and I’ve yet to hear of a Christian baker or florist refusing to hire out their services for weddings involving heterosexual divorcees (as they have for same-sex weddings). So in this case at least, most Christians clearly don’t really believe the Bible provides any sort of absolute moral guidance. I’ve raised this issue numerous times with conservative Christians, and have yet to hear a single meaningful response as to why they ignore Jesus’ condemnation of remarriage by divorcees, while being unyielding on the subject of homosexuality.

Homosexuality

The Old Testament (Leviticus chapters 18 and 20) declares homosexual acts to be an abomination. From Leviticus 18:22-23:

22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 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.

Leviticus 20:13 defines the penalty for being caught in homosexual acts:

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

Interestingly, we can see that the author of Leviticus only had a problem with homosexual acts between men. Note that immediately following his proscription of male homosexuality, he made it a point to explicitly prohibit bestiality for both men and women, so it would seem that lesbian acts were deemed to be perfectly acceptable.

There is also the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis Chapters 18 and 19), which were destroyed due to wickedness. A central part of that story is the attempted gang rape of Lot’s male visitors by a mob of men in Sodom. There is considerable debate among Christians as to the significance of this story, and what “wicked” behaviors ultimately led to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But certainly it seems consistent with the overall Old Testament views on male homosexuality.

Jesus himself never said a word on the topic of homosexuality, though I’ve frequently seen opponents of same-sex marriage point to Mark 10:6-7 (part of the section that I referenced earlier in which Jesus condemned divorcees remarrying) claiming that Jesus was overtly defining marriage to be between one man and one woman.

But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,

They infer that since Jesus described ONLY marriages between man and woman, that no other types were allowed. Of course, reading those same verses, and using the same strict logic, we would also have to conclude that a man may never leave his parents except to be married (since Jesus listed that one reason, and one reason only). Clearly there are few Christians who would infer or follow that extreme (and silly) rule.

But there are other New Testament passages that also DO appear to condemn homosexuality, though there are varying opinions on those among Biblical scholars. These include:

  • Romans 1:26-27
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Since I am NOT a Bible scholar, I won’t engage in that debate. I will just summarize that the Old Testament clearly condemns homosexual acts between men, as does (apparently) the Apostle Paul, while Jesus was silent on the topic. In spite of that, many millions of Christians don’t view those proscriptions as absolute moral guidance, but rather (correctly in my opinion) as being just a product of the culture and the times. Conservative Christians, in particular, generally take a hard line in condemning homosexuality (both male and female, in spite of the fact that the Bible condemns only the former).

Marriage – One Man and One Woman?

An argument frequently made by conservative Christians in their opposition to same sex marriage, is that marriage is defined in the Bible to be between one man and one women. But that claim is patently false. David, Solomon, Jacob, Abraham, etc. all had multiple wives and/or concubines. Solomon is reported to have had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

1 Kings 11:1-3

King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the Israelites, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you; for they will surely incline your heart to follow their gods”; Solomon clung to these in love. Among his wives were seven hundred princesses and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. 

Genesis 16:2-3

and Sarai said to Abram, “You see that the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave-girl; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her slave-girl, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife.

Genesis 30:1-13

When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister; and she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” Jacob became very angry with Rachel and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” Then she said, “Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, that she may bear upon my knees and that I too may have children through her.” So she gave him her maid Bilhah as a wife; and Jacob went in to her. And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. Then Rachel said, “God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son”; therefore she named him Dan.Rachel’s maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and have prevailed”; so she named him Naphtali.

When Leah saw that she had ceased bearing children, she took her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Then Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 And Leah said, “Good fortune!” so she named him Gad. 12 Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 And Leah said, “Happy am I! For the women will call me happy”; so she named him Asher.

There are many other such examples. Apologists have made various attempts to explain these, such as:

  • God did not condone these, but tolerated them. But there’s no Biblical support for this claim.
  • God condoned these, because they were required to grow and propagate the Jewish population, etc. This is an argument for moral relativism, in direct contradiction to the claims for absolute morality.
  • Polygamy was commonplace during those times. This argument sidesteps the question as to whether polygamy is morally acceptable, but appears to be another argument for moral relativism.

Rape 

The Old Testament unequivocally condones rape, as long as the victim is:

  • Female, and
  • Not married, and
  • Not betrothed

Relevant verses

Deuteronomy 22:22-29

22 If a man is caught lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman as well as the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.

23 If there is a young woman, a virgin already engaged to be married, and a man meets her in the town and lies with her, 24 you shall bring both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death, the young woman because she did not cry for help in the town and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

25 But if the man meets the engaged woman in the open country, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. 26 You shall do nothing to the young woman; the young woman has not committed an offense punishable by death, because this case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor. 27 Since he found her in the open country, the engaged woman may have cried for help, but there was no one to rescue her.

28 If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are caught in the act, 29 the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman’s father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives.

So we have several specific cases here:

  1. A man is caught having intercourse with a married woman (verse 22): Both are executed, with no apparent regard for whether it was consensual.
  2. A man is caught in town having intercourse with a betrothed woman (verses 23-24): The presumption is that it was consensual (since she did not cry out), and they both are executed.
  3. A man is caught outside of town having intercourse with a betrothed woman (verses 25-27): Since it happened outside of town, she is given the benefit of the doubt (as to whether she cried out), so only the man is executed.
  4. A man seizes a non-betrothed virgin, and is caught having intercourse with her. Well in this case, his “punishment” is to marry the object of his desires.

Christians have claimed that this does not condone rape, but rather it was the merciful solution for a woman who had been sullied, and who would likely have trouble finding a husband as a result. But that argument fails on two counts.

1. Few women would welcome being forced to marry their rapist, so in that sense, it’s hardly a mercy.

2. As noted previously, most modern civilized people view rape to be an evil act, regardless of the marital or betrothal status of the victim. So unless we’re all just misguided on that, the more appropriate “absolute moral guidance” would have been for God to direct that:

  • Rape is unequivocally wrong, and
  • A rape victim is blameless, and remains unsullied. PERIOD.

EVERY argument against those points that I’ve seen, has implicitly been an argument for moral relativism, and against the use of the Bible as an absolute moral standard.

Genesis 19:1-8

The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed down with his face to the ground. He said, “Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you can rise early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the square.” But he urged them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.” Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”

Yes, this is in one of the same stories that conservative Christians point to, as justification for their stance on homosexuality. But in this case, Lot (our hero) offered up his virgin daughters to be gang-raped (verse 8). Lot, of course, was spared from the destruction of the city, having been judged to be a righteous man (In spite of offering his daughters to the mob). But as we’ve already seen, the Old Testament condones rape of women, as long as they’re neither married nor betrothed.

Numbers 31:1-18

31 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Avenge the Israelites on the Midianites; afterward you shall be gathered to your people.” So Moses said to the people, “Arm some of your number for the war, so that they may go against Midian, to execute the Lord’s vengeance on Midian. You shall send a thousand from each of the tribes of Israel to the war.” So out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe were conscripted, twelve thousand armed for battle. Moses sent them to the war, a thousand from each tribe, along with Phinehas son of Eleazar the priest,[a] with the vessels of the sanctuary and the trumpets for sounding the alarm in his hand. They did battle against Midian, as the Lord had commanded Moses, and killed every male. They killed the kings of Midian: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian, in addition to others who were slain by them; and they also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. The Israelites took the women of Midian and their little ones captive; and they took all their cattle, their flocks, and all their goods as booty. 10 All their towns where they had settled, and all their encampments, they burned, 11 but they took all the spoil and all the booty, both people and animals. 12 Then they brought the captives and the booty and the spoil to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation of the Israelites, at the camp on the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho.

13 Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the congregation went to meet them outside the camp. 14 Moses became angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. 15 Moses said to them, “Have you allowed all the women to live? 16 These women here, on Balaam’s advice, made the Israelites act treacherously against the Lord in the affair of Peor, so that the plague came among the congregation of the Lord. 17 Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man by sleeping with him. 18 But all the young girls who have not known a man by sleeping with him, keep alive for yourselves. 

So this story covers two atrocities: genocide against the Midianites (discussed later in more detail), and rape of their virgin captives (verse 18), with the rape commanded by God’s own prophet Moses.

The New Testament, as far as I’m aware, is silent on the topic of rape. So the only reasonable conclusion is that the Bible condones rape, as long as the victim is female, and neither married nor betrothed. The harsh position on rape of married and betrothed women appears to be due to the perceived harm to the husbands and fiancées, rather than to the actual victims.

Fortunately, even those who claim that the Bible is our only source for matters of morality will generally agree that rape is an immoral act.

Genocide

In the rules for warfare, Deuteronomy 20:16-17 states:

16 But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. 17 You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the Lord your God has commanded,

I previously mentioned the genocide inflicted by Moses’ army against the Midianites. But this was just the tip of the iceberg. The book of Joshua chronicles an entire campaign of genocide against the kingdoms of Canaan. Moses and Joshua led the slaughter of most of the people of Canaan, summarized in Joshua chapter 12:

The Kings Conquered by Moses

12 Now these are the kings of the land, whom the Israelites defeated, whose land they occupied beyond the Jordan toward the east, from the Wadi Arnon to Mount Hermon, with all the Arabah eastward: King Sihon of the Amorites who lived at Heshbon, and ruled from Aroer, which is on the edge of the Wadi Arnon, and from the middle of the valley as far as the river Jabbok, the boundary of the Ammonites, that is, half of Gilead, and the Arabah to the Sea of Chinneroth eastward, and in the direction of Beth-jeshimoth, to the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea,[a] southward to the foot of the slopes of Pisgah; and King Og[b] of Bashan, one of the last of the Rephaim, who lived at Ashtaroth and at Edrei and ruled over Mount Hermon and Salecah and all Bashan to the boundary of the Geshurites and the Maacathites, and over half of Gilead to the boundary of King Sihon of Heshbon. Moses, the servant of the Lord, and the Israelites defeated them; and Moses the servant of the Lord gave their land for a possession to the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

The Kings Conquered by Joshua

The following are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the Israelites defeated on the west side of the Jordan, from Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon to Mount Halak, that rises toward Seir (and Joshua gave their land to the tribes of Israel as a possession according to their allotments, in the hill country, in the lowland, in the Arabah, in the slopes, in the wilderness, and in the Negeb, the land of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites):

the king of Jericho one
the king of Ai, which is next to Bethel one
10 the king of Jerusalem one
the king of Hebron one
11 the king of Jarmuth one
the king of Lachish one
12 the king of Eglon one
the king of Gezer one
13 the king of Debir one
the king of Geder one
14 the king of Hormah one
the king of Arad one
15 the king of Libnah one
the king of Adullam one
16 the king of Makkedah one
the king of Bethel one
17 the king of Tappuah one
the king of Hepher one
18 the king of Aphek one
the king of Lasharon one
19 the king of Madon one
the king of Hazor one
20 the king of Shimron-meron one
the king of Achshaph one
21 the king of Taanach one
the king of Megiddo one
22 the king of Kedesh one
the king of Jokneam in Carmel one
23 the king of Dor in Naphath-dor one
the king of Goiim in Galilee,[c] one
24 the king of Tirzah one
thirty-one kings in all

To be clear, Joshua did not just take the kings. He slaughtered every man, woman, and child in those kingdoms. From Joshua 11:19-20:

19 There was not a town that made peace with the Israelites, except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon; all were taken in battle. 20 For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts so that they would come against Israel in battle, in order that they might be utterly destroyed, and might receive no mercy, but be exterminated, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

But Joshua did leave some Canaanites alive, for the sole reason that he eventually became too old to finish the job. So God handled the rest, by just driving them out of Canaan. One must wonder why God didn’t just drive EVERYONE out of Canaan in the first place. This is recounted in Joshua chapter 13:

The Parts of Canaan Still Unconquered

Now Joshua was old and advanced in years; and the Lord said to him, “You are old and advanced in years, and very much of the land still remains to be possessed. This is the land that still remains: all the regions of the Philistines, and all those of the Geshurites (from the Shihor, which is east of Egypt, northward to the boundary of Ekron, it is reckoned as Canaanite; there are five rulers of the Philistines, those of Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron), and those of the Avvim in the south; all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah that belongs to the Sidonians, to Aphek, to the boundary of the Amorites, and the land of the Gebalites, and all Lebanon, toward the east, from Baal-gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo-hamath, all the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon to Misrephoth-maim, even all the Sidonians. I will myself drive them out from before the Israelites; only allot the land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have commanded you. 

The genocide against the peoples of Canaan was purportedly all at God’s direction. And for that reason, many Christians (Evangelicals at least) defend it, because God the creator has the right to kill (or order to be killed) anyone he chooses. The Great Flood would, of course set the record for genocidal acts if it was actually true.

So those apologists rely on the “God told me to do it” defense, which has been used by various religions and individuals for all of human history to justify all sorts of evil and barbarity. Indeed, the same people who defend the genocide of the Old Testament, are harshly critical of the same behaviors perpetrated by some Muslims (which is also purportedly done at God’s direction). The “God told me to do it” defense, if employed today in a murder trial, would at best land the perpetrator in a mental hospital. In any case, most modern, civilized people view genocide as immoral for any reason. That includes most Christians (Evangelicals perhaps notwithstanding).

Abortion

While many Christians (conservative Christians in particular) are staunchly opposed to abortion, the Bible simply does not support that position. In fact it’s quite the opposite. I cover this topic in detail, in: https://unapologetics.org/2020/01/18/abortion-is-ok-god/

So this is a case where many Christians, especially those who are the strongest believers that the Bible is THE source for matters of morality, reject the Biblical position, and arbitrarily declare abortion to be immoral.

Slavery

The Bible unequivocally condones slavery. Conservative Christians frequently will falsely justify it with the claim that it wasn’t slavery as practiced in the US South, but rather was just an indentured servitude, established as a means to pay debts. But that’s only partially true. Jews could be kept as indentured servants. And Mosaic law forbade the enslavement of other Jews as slaves, but non-Jews were fair game. Deuteronomy 20:10-11 describes, in the the laws for waging war, a directive to enslave any who surrender to the army of the Israelites.

10 When you draw near to a town to fight against it, offer it terms of peace. 11 If it accepts your terms of peace and surrenders to you, then all the people in it shall serve you at forced labor.

Exodus 21:1-11 institutionalized slavery, laying out the rules and regulations in the conduct of slavery.

The Law concerning Slaves

These are the ordinances that you shall set before them:

When you buy a male Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, but in the seventh he shall go out a free person, without debt. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s and he shall go out alone. But if the slave declares, “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out a free person,” then his master shall bring him before God.  He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost; and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him for life.

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed; he shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt unfairly with her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. 10 If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife. 11 And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out without debt, without payment of money.

Exodus 21, verses 20-21 and 26-27 address the penalties (or lack thereof) for violence against a slave.

Exodus 21:20-21

20 When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. 21 But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.

Exodus 21:26-27

26 When a slaveowner strikes the eye of a male or female slave, destroying it, the owner shall let the slave go, a free person, to compensate for the eye. 27 If the owner knocks out a tooth of a male or female slave, the slave shall be let go, a free person, to compensate for the tooth.

So there can be no question that slavery was condoned and firmly institutionalized in the Old Testament. The New Testament has several mentions of slavery. Jesus told the Parable of the Unforgiving Slave, and The Parable of the Faithful Slave

Matthew 18:23-35

23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Matthew 24:45-51

45 “Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. 51 He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In their Epistles, Paul and Peter repeatedly tell slaves to obey their masters, and/or masters to treat their slaves kindly.

Ephesians 6:5-9

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free.

And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality.

Colossians 3:22-25

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, 24 since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve[l] the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong has been done, and there is no partiality.

1 Timothy 6:1-2

Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be blasphemed. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful to them on the ground that they are members of the church; rather they must serve them all the more, since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved.

Titus 2:9-10

Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, 10 not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior.

1 Peter 18-25

18 Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh. 19 For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. 20 If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.

22 “He committed no sin,
    and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

23 When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Colossians 4:1

Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, for you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

Then, in his letter to Philemon, Paul says he is returning Philemon’s slave, Onesimus, but encourages Philemon to set Onesimus free.

Philemon 1:8-21

For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus.10 I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. 12 I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. 13 I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. 15 Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Onesimus was obviously a Christian, and a close personal friend of Paul, so Paul’s request to Philemon was an isolated instance. In all other cases, Jesus, Paul, and Peter tacitly condone the institution of slavery. None of them indicate any issues with the institution of slavery (whether it be the enslavement of non-Jews, or indentured servants). None of them even hint that slavery, in any form, is wrong.

So in summary, the Old Testament codified the institution of slavery, and the New Testament condoned it. This fact was routinely used by US slave holders to defend the practice, and was almost certainly a factor in the establishment of slavery in the American colonies, beginning in 1508, and its persistence here, for over 350 years.

But contrary to the Biblical stance, most modern civilized people, including most Christians, view slavery to be abhorrent, no matter how kindly slaves are treated.

Subjugation of Women

The Old Testament is firmly patriarchal in nature. The Old Testament views women as little more than property. As discussed above:

  • A virgin who is raped is forced to marry her rapist.
  • Men are allowed to have many wives, but a woman may have but one husband.
  • Lot offered his virgin daughters to be gang raped, rather than allow his male visitors to be gang raped by a mob.

The Ten Commandments clearly reflect the view that a woman is the property of her husband (Exodus 20:17):

17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Women can be sold by their fathers into slavery, as concubines (Exodus 21:7-11):

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed; he shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt unfairly with her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. 10 If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife. 11 And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out without debt, without payment of money.

And women are consistently viewed as being inferior and subservient to men.

Genesis 3:16

16 To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
    in pain you shall bring forth children,
yet your desire shall be for your husband,
    and he shall rule over you.”

A husband could divorce his wife, but a wife could not divorce her husband. And a woman who is divorced and then remarries, is viewed as having been defiled, such that she may not remarry her first husband if her second husband dies or divorces her. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)

Laws concerning Marriage and Divorce

1 Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, and so he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house; she then leaves his house and goes off to become another man’s wife. Then suppose the second man dislikes her, writes her a bill of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house (or the second man who married her dies); her first husband, who sent her away, is not permitted to take her again to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that would be abhorrent to the Lord, and you shall not bring guilt on the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession.

The New Testament likewise views women as subservient to men, having been created from man, and FOR man. They are overtly told to be submissive to their husbands, and told to remain silent in church. Some relevant verses below:

Ephesians 5:22-23

22 Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior.

1 Corinthians 11:1-9

I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you. But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ. Any man who prays or prophesies with something on his head disgraces his head, but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head—it is one and the same thing as having her head shaved. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil. For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection of God; but woman is the reflection of man. Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35

34 Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

1 Timothy 2:13-15

13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

Titus 2:3-5

Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.

1 Peter 3:1-2

1 Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

On this topic, there certainly are many Christians, especially Evangelical Christians, who follow these teachings, but we also have no shortage of female Evangelical preachers and televangelists, who apparently reject the notion that it is unseemly for a woman to teach men on matters of faith.

But many other Christians, as well as a great many non-Christians take serious issue with the notion that women should be treated as second class citizens.

Conclusions

As discussed, while Christian apologists claim that the Bible is the source for absolute morality, not even they actually believe that, as evidenced by the fact that most of those same apologists reject Biblical teachings on rape, slavery, divorce, and abortion (at a minimum). And they can’t agree among themselves on what the Bible actually teaches on a number of matters (thereby rendering the Bible useless on those matters).

And the Bible condones a number of practices that most modern civilized people (including most Christians) abhor. This includes behaviors such as rape, slavery, and genocide. That fact alone should disqualify the Bible as a moral standard.

When one reads the Bible objectively, its moral teachings show no evidence that they were bestowed upon us by a loving, moral, just God. Rather, they show every indication that they were the inventions of ancient men, as the simple products of their time and culture.

It is absurd to think that modern man should be ruled by the primitive morals of ancient men. We can do far better.

“Abortion is OK” – God

It would be a mistake to declare the Bible to be either pro-choice or pro-life. While there are several verses relevant to the discussion, none condemn abortion, and none suggest that women should have a choice in the matter. In fact, since the Bible is overtly patriarchal throughout, any decisions with respect to the unborn fetus are left solely up to men. The Bible DOES however have a number of verses that deal with the “personhood” of the unborn, and the killing of the unborn. These verses clearly show that the unborn were not viewed as living persons, nor was killing them considered to be murder, with the possible exception of late-term fetuses. In fact, there are multiple instances in which the killing of the unborn was commanded or otherwise forced.

In spite of that, conservative Christians claim that the Bible supports their “pro-life” agenda, referencing a number of verses, none of which actually discuss abortion or the Biblical perspective on the “personhood” of the unborn. I’ll present each of them in turn. All Bible verses quoted here are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

1) Jeremiah 1:4-5

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

But the first part of the quote merely indicates the biblical belief that God was involved in the creation of life. The 2nd part makes it clear that it’s talking about one specific person (Jeremiah). The verse doesn’t say WHEN Jeremiah was consecrated – just sometime before he was born (perhaps only moments before). More importantly, while it DOES indicate that Jeremiah had special status, it implies that the rest of us did not.

2) Psalm 139:13-16

13  For it was you who formed my inward parts;
     you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
     Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15  My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
     intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
     all the days that were formed for me,
     when none of them as yet existed.

But all verses 13-15 say (once again) is that God is directly involved in the creation of the embryo. But according to the Christian doctrine, God was involved in the creation of every plant and animal (including some truly objectionable ones, such as parasites) ever born, many of which we routinely kill. Verse 16 teaches only the standard Christian doctrine that God is omniscient.

3) Psalm 127:3-5

3 Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the sons of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has
    his quiver full of them.
He shall not be put to shame
    when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

This just says, in short, that it’s good to have lots of sons. It says nothing about the unborn.

4) Genesis 1:27

27 So God created humankind[a] in his image,
     in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

This just describes the original creation of Adam and Eve (as adults). It has nothing to do with the unborn or abortion.

5) Psalm 8:5-7

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?[c]

You have made them[d] a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them[f] with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their[g] feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

So this Psalm merely says that humankind is important to God – beneath the angels, and above the animals. There is no mention of the unborn.

6) Job 31:15

15 Did not he who made me in the womb make them?
    Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?

The “them” in this verse refers to Job’s servants. The point of the verse is just to affirm that he and his servants are equal in the eyes of God, by pointing out that (per standard Judeo-Christian theology) God is involved in the creation of all life.

7) Psalm 22:10

10  On you I was cast from my birth,
    and since my mother bore me you have been my God..

To understand this verse, it must be considered in context. Here is the Psalm 22:1-11

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
    and by night, but find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
    in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm, and not human;
    scorned by others, and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me;
    they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
“Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
    let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”

Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
    you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
10 On you I was cast from my birth,
    and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.

The Psalm begins with the lament that the author felt abandoned by God. Whereas God watched over and protected his ancestors, the author believes that he has now been forsaken, in spite of having previously been protected by God. This has nothing to do with the status of the unborn. Some other translations use the words such as “…from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” which imply that it’s talking about the unborn, but while the word “from” could be interpreted that way, the context from verse 9 and the first part of verse 10 suggests otherwise (i.e. that it means “from the moment of birth”).

8) Isaiah 49:15

15  “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
     and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!

As with most of the preceding verses, this has nothing to do with the unborn.

So to summarize, the above verses are either totally irrelevant to the abortion debate, having nothing to do with the status of the unborn, or they merely attest to the theological view that God creates the embryo, and God is all-knowing, and therefore knows everything about the life of each person. None of these verses give any insight as to whether the developing embryo/fetus is truly viewed as a LIVING person.

Passages supporting Pro-Choice position

On the other hand, there are other verses that shed light on the question of whether the unborn were viewed as living persons. One of the most significant and relevant is in Exodus, where it specified a simple fine for causing a miscarriage.

Exodus 21: 22-24

22 When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine. 23 If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

These verses (as translated in the NRSV) show that the Bible views the killing of an unborn child as a minor matter – punishable by paying a fine to the father. Other translations give a different sense altogether. Some translations, such as the New International Version (NIV) refer to premature birth, rather than miscarriage. Still others, such as King James, use the phrase “her fruit depart from her”, which is ambiguous.

A more detailed analysis indicates that none of these are quite correct. “The Septuagint Has the Correct Translation of Exodus 21:23”, by Thomas McDaniel, argues that the language for all of those translations was flawed, because they were using the Masoretic texts, which had diverged from the original Hebrew, as indicated by the language of the much earlier Septuagint. The Masoretic texts date to the 9th century, CE, while the Septuagint is a set of translations from the original Hebrew into Koine Greek, dating from the mid 3rd century BCE. McDaniel references Brenton’s translation from the Septuagint:

“And if two men strive and smite a woman with child, and her child be born imperfectly formed, he shall be forced to pay a penalty: as the woman’s husband may lay upon him, he shall pay with a valuation. But if it be perfectly formed, he shall give life for life.”

McDaniel further explains this text as distinguishing between the early term embryo/fetus (which is not yet in human form) and later-term fetus, which is fully formed as a human. So according to McDaniel, miscarriage in the former case would warrant a fine, while the latter case would be punished by “life for life”, as would death to the mother, of course. The full text of McDaniel’s analysis can be found at:

http://tmcdaniel.palmerseminary.edu/LXX_EXO_%2021_22-23.pdf

Interpretation of these verses has been, and will doubtless continue to be a subject of intense debate. I’m certainly not qualified to argue one position over another, however, I don’t believe that the premature birth interpretation makes much sense logically. If the child is born prematurely, but alive and healthy, there would be no need to pay a fine. McDaniel’s analysis makes far more logical sense.

The Bible has other relevant verses which indicate that even newborn babies (under 1 month) are of no value:

Leviticus 27:1-6

27 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When a person makes an explicit vow to the Lord concerning the equivalent for a human being, the equivalent for a male shall be: from twenty to sixty years of age the equivalent shall be fifty shekels of silver by the sanctuary shekel. If the person is a female, the equivalent is thirty shekels. If the age is from five to twenty years of age, the equivalent is twenty shekels for a male and ten shekels for a female. If the age is from one month to five years, the equivalent for a male is five shekels of silver, and for a female the equivalent is three shekels of silver.

This indicates that no value is attached to babies under 1 month.

Numbers 3:14-15

14 Then the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, saying: 15 Enroll the Levites by ancestral houses and by clans. You shall enroll every male from a month old and upward.

So here a census is commanded, but excludes babies under 1 month.  Newborn babies aren’t even considered to be people.

And then there is the forced abortion for an unfaithful pregnant wife:

Numbers 5:16-22

16 Then the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the Lord; 17 the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. 18 The priest shall set the woman before the Lord, dishevel the woman’s hair, and place in her hands the grain offering of remembrance, which is the grain offering of jealousy. In his own hand the priest shall have the water of bitterness that brings the curse. 19 Then the priest shall make her take an oath, saying, “If no man has lain with you, if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while under your husband’s authority, be immune to this water of bitterness that brings the curse. 20 But if you have gone astray while under your husband’s authority, if you have defiled yourself and some man other than your husband has had intercourse with you,” 21 —let the priest make the woman take the oath of the curse and say to the woman—“the Lord make you an execration and an oath among your people, when the Lord makes your uterus drop, your womb discharge; 22 now may this water that brings the curse enter your bowels and make your womb discharge, your uterus drop!” And the woman shall say, “Amen. Amen.”

Hosea,describes punishment to be visited by God upon the Israelites, including killing their children and causing the women to miscarry.

Hosea 9:10-16

10 Like grapes in the wilderness,
    I found Israel.
Like the first fruit on the fig tree,
    in its first season,
    I saw your ancestors.
But they came to Baal-peor,
    and consecrated themselves to a thing of shame,
    and became detestable like the thing they loved.
11 Ephraim’s glory shall fly away like a bird—
    no birth, no pregnancy, no conception!
12 Even if they bring up children,
    I will bereave them until no one is left.
Woe to them indeed
    when I depart from them!
13 Once I saw Ephraim as a young palm planted in a lovely meadow,[d]
    but now Ephraim must lead out his children for slaughter.
14 Give them, O Lord—
    what will you give?
Give them a miscarrying womb
    and dry breasts.15 Every evil of theirs began at Gilgal;
    there I came to hate them.
Because of the wickedness of their deeds
    I will drive them out of my house.
I will love them no more;
    all their officials are rebels.

15 Every evil of theirs began at Gilgal;
    there I came to hate them.
Because of the wickedness of their deeds
    I will drive them out of my house.
I will love them no more;
    all their officials are rebels.

16 Ephraim is stricken,
    their root is dried up,
    they shall bear no fruit.
Even though they give birth,
    I will kill the cherished offspring of their womb.

Then in Chapter 13, Hosea describes God’s wrath against Samaria:

Hosea 13:16

16 Samaria shall bear her guilt,
    because she has rebelled against her God;
they shall fall by the sword,
    their little ones shall be dashed in pieces,
    and their pregnant women ripped open.

Other Biblical verses refer to being stillborn as a preferred fate for some people:

Ecclesiastes 6:3-5

A man may beget a hundred children, and live many years; but however many are the days of his years, if he does not enjoy life’s good things, or has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. For it comes into vanity and goes into darkness, and in darkness its name is covered; moreover it has not seen the sun or known anything; yet it finds rest rather than he.

Job 3:16-19

16 Or why was I not buried like a stillborn child,
    like an infant that never sees the light?
17 There the wicked cease from troubling,
    and there the weary are at rest.
18 There the prisoners are at ease together;
    they do not hear the voice of the taskmaster.
19 The small and the great are there,
    and the slaves are free from their masters.

It’s clear that the verses that pro-lifers reference in support of their opposition to abortion are all irrelevant to that discussion. And there are a numerous other, far more relevant verses, that contradict any notion that the fetus (especially the early-term fetus) is a living person. If the Bible supports any position on abortion, it would be on the pro-choice side. While the Bible never gives women a choice in the matter (consistent with the highly patriarchal nature of the Bible), forced abortions are prescribed in some cases, accidentally causing a miscarriage (at least in the early-term) is just a minor civil matter, and the Bible places no value on even newborn children.