Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Frank Turek's dishonesty concerning pagan child sacrifices

 This is my reply to a video by apologist Frank Turek entitled

Frank at 0:55 ff first distracts the discussion by pretending the atheist has no sufficient standard of morality by which to legitimately judge the OT atrocities to be immoral. But most people think slaughtering children is immoral, so we only need to appeal to this general mindset to show that our critique of the bible-god's morality, being contrary to even normative Christian ethics, thus indicates the OT god's morality is more likely a reflection of the morality of the OT authors, as would be the case with any ancient writing from the ANE.  Does the Republican Christian hold off from criticizing the Democratic Christian all because of charges that one of them cannot sustain his ethics from the bible?  No.  So if Christians forge ahead with their convictions despite a fair chance such ethics might be completely subjective, the atheists should be allowed to do so as well.

Second, "that's just your opinion" might be true, but that hardly proves the opinion is disqualified. When your dad sent you to bed on a school night at whatever time he did, he couldn't ground that exact bedtime in any absolute moral source, and yet under Turek's logic, as a child you'd have been morally justified to dismiss this parental mandate because it was your dad's merely subjective opinion.  But most people would say you had an obligation as a child to obey your parent, even if the particularly chosen bedtime for your Christian household was not the same as required by the Christian father living down the street. Hence, obligation can be reasonable and rational despite being based on non-absolute ethics.  Hence, our disgust at infanticide can be rational and reasonable even if only premised on subjective ethics.

Third, Christians who disagree with each other on gun-control and capital punishment do not objectively non neutrally sit on the fence until these issues are fully resolved, showing that even the possibility that their ethical views contradict the bible, doesn't slow down inerrantist-Christians from setting forth their subjective views and demanding compliance.

Fourth, Turek at 1:35 ff responds to the "you Christians provide the standard which God fails, when you say the God of the OT is loving" critique by saying God gives reasons in the bible for his slaughtering of people in the OT. But that doesn't work either; as he is assuming God' is always correct in his ways, when in fact the anthropomorphic interpretation of Genesis 6:6-7 and Exodus 32:9-14 cannot be sustained on objective bases such as grammar, immediate context, larger context or genre, in which case we find the bible-god imperfection to be just as literal as the other matters testified to in those contexts, and thus whatever "reasons" he gives for killing children, could just as easily be a case of him commanding now, that which he will literally regret later.

Fifth, Turek is incorrect 2:15 ff to say the Canaanites engaged in many abominations and watched their babies sizzle to death. a) his god would have to be morally inconsistent to kill pagans who burn their children to death, since God commands this in the OT, Leviticus 21:9; b) Gwendolyn Leicke asserts that while Hittite law allowed for bestiality, “I do not know of any references to intercourse between humans and animals from Mesopotamian sources.” (“Sex and Eroticism in Mesopotamian Literature” Routledge; 2003 at 210).  As far as children being “burned to death”, Plutarch (110 AD) notes that the Carthaginians used a knife to slit the throat of the children first, so that only a dead body was placed on the burning statue’s arms. De superstitione, chapter 13.  Carthaginian scholar Shelby Brown assert the literary evidence does not support the notion that the parents of such kids were calloused and hardened (“Late Carthaginian Child Sacrifice”, Sheffiled Academic Press, © 1991, p. 174).

Worse, when Turek at 2:30 ff says the music players played loud with intention to drown out the screams of the  babies being “cooked to death”, this is a dishonest representation of the sources.  Plutarch in the only source that mentions this loud playing of music to drown out the crying, but makes clear it is the crying of the parents beingdrowned out so they would not reach the ears of the other people.
“…No, but with full knowledge and understanding they themselves offered up their own children, and those who had no children would buy little ones from poor people and cut their throats as if they were so many lambs or young birds ; meanwhile the mother stood by without a tear or moan ; but should she utter a single moan or let fall a single tear, she had to forfeit the money, 6 and her child was sacrificed nevertheless ; and the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums so that the cries of wailing should not reach the ears of the people. Yet, if Typhons or Giants were ruling over us after they had expelled the gods, with what sort of sacrifices would they be pleased, or what other holy rites would they require?
Note also that Plutarch there says the child's throat was cut before being placed on the altar, obviously necessitating the conclusion taht the child was killed before being put into the flames.

It is clear that the wailing is being done by somebody other than the children whose were killed previous to the burning.

Turek's emotional remark that the children were screaming as they sizzled "to death" arises from his desire to make them appear to modern minds to be far more vile than they really were, and constitutes dishonesty on his part.  The historical sources neither express nor imply that the children were alive as their bodies burned.  They obviously wouldn't cut the child's throat, if they wished the child to due by burning.

Sixth, Frank says God’s ordering the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites was a case of God stopping evil, and yet those who ask why God doesn’t stop the evil in the world, are still complaining about it.  Yes, we do because your bible-god has the ability to successfully convince even pagans to do whatever he wants them to do by telepathy, no bloodshed required (Ezra 1:1), so that God could have stopped the alleged Canaanite atrocities with a wave of his magic Dale Carnegie wand, but no, he prefers to solve the problem with more bloodshed than necessary.

Seventh, Copan, Flannagan and other Christian apologists try to make God look more politically correct to modern sensibilities by saying God’s infanticide orders in the OT were cases of mere war-rhetoric and exaggeration which was common in the ANE of those days. At 4:15 ff Turek says those arguments for hyperbole are compelling, because the bible forbids intermarrying with the group that it just said in a prior verse were to be “wiped out”, so the only way to avoid the contradiction of possibly marrying dead Canaanites is to assume the text was hyperbole.  Doesn’t matter if it was; the “hyperbole” defense does not even imply that there was NO infanticide or killing of non-combatants.  Worse, the cities of the promised land often fought amongst themselves, so if all Joshua intended to do was “dispossess” them, that means pagans fleeing to parts unknown with the kids and not much to survive on, and likely to be turned away by the other cities, while not knowing exactly how far they must go to get free of the Hebrew attacks.  One could say dispossessing the Canaanites subjected their children to a slow death from starvation, thirst, disease, attacks by other pagans, which is worse than simply putting them to the sword immediately. 

And some Christians would argue that just because it was PAGAN convention in those days to exaggerate war victories, doesn’t mean the Hebrew authors would have found such literary convention appealing.  When you say you worship a god who cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18, Titus 1:2), you are necessarily implying that when God inspires you to write in the style of straight narrative history, he is not permitting you to “exaggerate” what really happened in history.  Copan appeals to the bizarre and convoluted theories of Wolterstorff to justify trivializing the yucky parts of the bible while still somehow saying those parts were still “inspired by God”.

Pagans also told about their gods that were pure fantasy…should we presume OT authors likely did something similar?  Or does your god’s inability to lie preempt the possibility that the OT authors would imitate pagan literary conventions.

Eighth, Turek says God is the creator of life and thus can take it whenever he wishes (3:15 ff), but would you continue to think a man was free from mental illness, if he intentionally destroyed all of his possessions and burned his house down once per year, with no criminal intent?  Does the fact that he has the “right” to destroy his own things, suddenly foreclose any discussion about his mental health?  Of course not.

Ninth, Turek says if Christianity is true, people don’t die, they just change location, but that’s a pretty big IF.   It is far from clear that the OT supports the notion of an afterlife, and groups like Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah Witnesses make compelling arguments that the NT doesn’t even support the idea of a literal afterlife.  Once again Turek’s apologetics here appears geared away from convincing atheists of the error of their way, and more geared toward helping Christians feel good about the bible they already infuse with a great amount of trust.  If that is the case, prepare to be decimated in your own debates with atheists if you take Turek’s comments here and try to use them in actual debate.

Tenth, Turek says the Canaanites, without extermination, would otherwise have corrupted the Israelites coming into the promised land.  While the threat of corruption is stated in the bible, this argument creates more problems than it solves:  Most of today’s atheists don’t feel the least bit of compulsion to get into New Age crap or palm reading or any of the things you say are spiritually false.  As atheists, they don’t have the weapons of warfare the NT says Christians have to fight such things, such as the shield of faith. 
So it is not likely that the Israelites, had they experienced God in reality exactly as the bible says, should have found pagan practices directly contradicting the most basic level of Hebrew ethics, to be the last bit enticing.

What makes more sense of Israel’s alleged continual fall into idolatry on nearly every page of the OT is that they had no real-life reasons to think their Yahweh was any more “true” than the Molech or Chemosh or idols worshipped by the pagans.  And apparently God’s motive for killing the Canaanites (to prevent them from corrupting the Israelites) didn’t work, since on nearly every page of the OT, the Hebrews are giving in to polytheism. 

Eleventh, Turek says God allows people to make free choices (3:55 ff), but according to Ezra 1:1, God can successfully motivate even pagans to do his will, and in Ezekiel 38-39, the metaphor of “hook in your jaws” is used to describe the degree to which God causes pagans to sin, then punishes them for doing what he forced them to do.  So again, God’s respect of freewill is about as stupid as the parent “respecting” the freewill of a disobedient daughter to take a gun from the house with intent to shoot others at school.  True love will always force the loved one against their will to protect them from disasters about to be caused by their own choices, and there’s no denying that the parents who engage in “tough love” after the teen leaves home, obviously love their children just a bit less than they did when the kids were just toddlers.  You do NOT “love” the person whom you allow to destroy themselves, when you have ability and opportunity to prevent the evil without creating greater evil, and yet you just sit by and do nothing.  Clearly a mother’s “love” for a toddler and a man’s “love” for his 23 year old gangster son are not the same thing.  In Psalm 5:5, God’s hatred is not toward the works, but the “workers” of inquity (i.e.,, the people themselves).  So perhaps part of the problem between Christians and atheists is that Christians are arguing from a premise of God’s love that doesn’t even work biblically.

Twelfth, Turek then gets preachy at 5:20 ff and says we do evil every day, which contradicts Luke 1:6 and other texts that say sinners managed, without becoming perfect, to satisfy God’s commands upon them to the point of being righteous in his sight.

As far as Turek’s trifle about how God’s love is manifested God also killed the baby born to David and Bathseba (2nd Sam. 12:15-18), and Turek would be foolish to ask the atheist to first take sides with him in Christianity’s in-house debate about original sin, so Turek could persuasively argue that the baby, infected with original sin “deserved” to die.  If Christians had the law of God in their heart, they’d never cy about the death of a loved one, because the deceased had always “deserved” to die.  So the fact that even spiritually alive people violently disagree with god’s ways, justifies spiritually dead atheists to think they will never make sense of this religious confusion, and to thus avoid entering the fray.

Finally, Turek argues that an atheist cannot justify atheism on the basis that the god of the OT is evil, which is technically true, but the more developed atheist argument is that the evil and ways of the OT god are so close to the evil of the pagans in the ANE (except of course for the monotheism which doesn’t go back to the people as much as it goes back solely to a handful of idealistic OT authors), that it is more likely the OT authors didn’t speak about their god with any more truth than the Moabites did when speaking about Chemosh.

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