Sometimes, I get a little concerned when my Christian friends quote the Bible as a source of morals. According to them, any atheist who denies the existing of God (their God in particular) is bound to be immoral as there is no moral compass to show the right true way. Furthermore, they argued, the absence of such morality would lead to humanity’s decadence and, ultimately, to the end of the human race- whether God chooses to end us by smiting us (remember, he IS all powerful, after all) or will cause us to perish from disasters, diseases or something worse.
But is God truly moral by today’s pluralistic standards of human morality? Of course, some would argue by saying that we do not really know what morality is because God is Morality and what God does is morality. There are some who argue that God defines the standards of morality and whatever action he does corresponds to those standards. There is some merit in the second argument as the Christian God has been known to set morality laws in the Bible. The Ten Commandments with its romanticized imagery (courtesy of a white bearded Charlton Heston in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 movie of the same name) plays to the argument that God is a law giver and he is the ultimate police man who will punish us.
But is the Torah, Bible and Koran a good source of morals? Over the course of the following weeks, I shall highlight several “interesting” verses to highlight the morality of God. In this article, I shall focus on the most fundamental one of all- the taking of another human life.
Passages that discourages killing are commendable standards that almost all societies, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist, subscribe to. But there are passages too, especially in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim faith that show killing is allowed. As I am not familiar with the Judeo-Muslim scriptures, I shall quote from the Bible to illustrate my point:-
This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ “
When I read the passages quoted above, I feel quite disconcerted with my conjured mental image of God looking more like Saddam Hussein than the peaceful looking white bearded man in the sky as envisioned by Michelangelo in his Sistine Chapel ceiling painting. God commanded Saul, through Samuel, to go forth and “put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” What the cattle, sheep, camels and donkeys did to deserve this fate, only God knows! Dogs and cats lovers, rejoice, though, for they were spared and not in God’s hit list!
Saul did go forth and carried out God’s command. However, he returned with the captured the king of Amalekites, Agag and spared the best of the cattle and sheep for the solders and as offerings to God.
When God realized what happened, He was as pissed as hell! (Funny isn’t it, God always seem to be not in the know even though he all knowing). This evidenced by the following passages:-
“But I did obey the LORD,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.”
But Samuel replied:
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
he has rejected you as king.”
Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the LORD’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them. Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD.”
But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel!”
Poor Saul…so, let me put this in context:-
It really isn’t entirely clear what the Amalekites did but they sure did something that really, really pissed God off. And why couldn’t God, with his omnipotence and omniscience, solve the Amalekites problem himself? What kind of an omnipotent God is it that creates a being so flawed like us, expects us to do right all of the time and gets pissed off when we don’t do as He pleases?
God asked Saul to utterly annihilate the Amalekites (men, women and children) and their livestocks. The price of not following such an instruction is equivalent to a sin. Therefore, Saul has committed a sin, according to Samuel’s reasoning. Hmm…whatever happened to “Thou shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13), one of God’s own Ten Commandments?
I mean, God could have made his teachings consistent- “thou shall not kill” and asked that Saul imposed economic sanctions on Amalekites. But no, God, like George Bush commanding the invasion of Iraq, commanded Saul to carry out a very brutal ethnic (and inter-species) cleansing. After all, Saul, had he subscribed to the “thou shall not kill” rule, would have been very, very confused when he was commanded by the God to do the very thing that the same God commanded against a few books back in the book of Exodus!
If God have omniscience (all knowing), wouldn’t he had known that in some future point that He would have to arrange for the elimination of the Amalekites? Couldn’t he have commanded Moses to convey to his followers that “thou shall not kill, except, in the case of the Amalekites and their cattle, sheep, camels and donkeys, which, I can foresee, will be pissing me off big time in the near future.”
Perhaps if God did do that, then the Bible is clearly consistent. But then again, why did God create Amalekites in the first place if HE can already see the end result?