In his “defence” of the atrocities commanded by Yahweh (God), tyronehster made a few astonishing assertions to explain why these acts of gratuitous violence should not be regarded as immoral. On further research, I’ve found that tyronehster is simply parroting the usual defences offered by real-world genocidists in defence of their actions.
In “The 12 Ways to Deny a Genocide”, Gregory Stanton of Genocide Watch describes the twelve most common rationalizations that supporters of crimes against humanity adhere to when challenged on the morality of their campaigns of violence. You can find the original article at Genocide Watch: http://www.genocidewatch.org/genocide/12waystodenygenocide.html. It seems that, in studying real and contemporary cases such as the Nazi Holocaust and the genocides in Rwanda, Yugoslavia and Darfur, Stanton has inadvertently presented the broader range of Christian defences in favour of the actions of their violent god.
In summary, Genocide Watch notes the following tactics used by genocidists:
1. Question and minimize the statistics. This is very common amongst Christian apologists who are reluctant to provide headcount estimates of the millions who must have died as a result of the Flood. Often they will retort that Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot killed more people, forgetting that they are simply equating their “holy” god with megalomanic psychopaths.
2. Attack the motivations of the truth-tellers. “You’re just anti-christian, you hate God!”, a classic ad hominem attack. No more needs to be said about this point.
3. Claim that the deaths were inadvertent. The classic retort of this sort is that the victims had been warned and despite his immense patience with mankind, Yahweh’s justice had to prevail – in short, the deaths were collateral damage resulting from the implementation of the Lord’s Divine Plan.
4. Emphasize the strangeness of the victims. As Stanton explains, “Whether they be classified as infidels, primitive tribalists, or of another race and caste, they are unlike us”. This is the form of dehumanisation that the Nazis, and in fact most genocidists, have employed, and the cases of the Canaanites and other bronze-age tribes are no different in how they were pursued.
5. Rationalize the deaths as the result of tribal conflict. Ah, yes – the land issue. Christians maintain that Yahweh had earmarked the Promised Land to the Israelites and they were therefore justified in clearing their opposition out of the territories thus granted. The twist of course, is that this is a case where earthly conflict was driven and motivated by an alleged divine endorsement – the ultimate tool to overcome hesitance to commit crimes against humanity.
6. Blame “out of control” forces for committing the killings. Perhaps not at the forefront of Christian apologetics, this argument does emerge in the treatment meted out by Israelite soldiers to their victims – they were, after all, soldiers trained to kill brutally and without mercy.
7. Avoid antagonizing the genocidists, who might walk out of “the peace process” – which is just a form of appeasement. Christians try to avoid discussion of this “Old Testament genocides” question because it detracts so starkly from the message of modern christianity, namely of love and tolerance. In essence, it amounts to avoidance of a critical issue to prevent loss of the beliefs they hold dear. This is the same mechanism as appeasement.
8. Justify denial in favour of current economic interests. The Realpolitik for American conservative christians is that they are wedded to the idea of a restored and united Israel firmly in place representing US interests in the Middle East, and dress it up in the mythology of the End Times. There are very powerful commercial as well as political interests involved in this charade, which purpose would not be served by acknowledging that the ancestors of the modern Israelis committed crimes against humanity – despite the evidence in their own holy books.
9. Claim that the victims are receiving good treatment. This is where William Lane Craig comes into his own, claiming that the innocent children and infants would have borne no grudge against their butchers because their deaths would have hastened them onward to bask in the glory of God. The sophistry in this argument is sickening, but gets worse when he asserts that we should in fact feel sorry for the Israelite soldiers, forced as they were to carry out these atrocities.
10. Claim that what is going on doesn’t fit the definition of genocide. Now we come to tyronehster, who has been at pains to point out that because the Israelites weren’t commanded to murder absolutely everyone of each tribe and nation, the actions merely constituted “wholesale slaughter” and not genocide – as if that somehow makes the situation better. He falls foul of the “all or none” misconception of genocide. Stanton again: “The all-or-none school considers killings to be genocide only if their intent is to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group “in whole.” Their model is the Holocaust. They ignore the “in part” in the definition in the Genocide Convention, which they often haven’t read.” This is known as “definitionalist denial” in legal and humanitarian circles and is very common – it is also based on ignorance.
11. Blame the victims. Well, this is Christian apologetics at its best – “the Canaanites had been warned by Yahweh about their sacrificing of their children to Moloch”. “Those killed in the Flood were sinners who didn’t turn from their ways”. The list is almost endless, but each parroted excuse follows the same denialist style.
12. Say that peace and reconciliation are more important than blaming people for genocide, or in the case of christianity, that the superstitious world-view is more important than the lives of thousands, if not millions, of innocents taken by violence. This is the justification for amnesties for mass murderers as part of peace agreements, and for opposition to post-conflict tribunals. But peace and reconciliation are not alternatives to justice. Without prosecution of those who commit genocide, an expectation of impunity is created. We see this regularly in christians who pull out the bully card in the form of threats of eternal torture for non-believers. “As Fein and Harff have shown, one of the best predictors of future genocide is previous genocide that has gone unpunished. Without trials, denial becomes permanent”. Yahweh’s record is not particularly good on this point, and the denialism of Christians has endured long enough to be considered permanent.
There is of course a thirteenth rationalization, if it can be called that (since it isn’t rational), that the superstitious like to use – they were commanded to commit the act by their god. This of course the most insidious of justifications since it can clearly not be proven and therefore no evidence is demanded, which paradoxically allows the genocidists to claim it with impunity.
Putting the above into perspective, the twelve-point list of denialist tactics as employed by the world’s worst genocidists, ethnic cleansers and mass murderers are the result of research into real-world genocide and ethnic cleansing – the stuff we’ve seen on the news and been revolted by. These people are power-hungry serial killers, psychopaths at every level of their being. They exist now, and the leaders of the civilized world encounter them every day – indeed, thousands may have been slain by them in the time it took you to read this article. They maintain legions of politicians and military leaders to perpetuate the denialist myths listed here.
Does it not seem strange that the defences offered by christians for the actions of their god follow the same pattern?