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Trying again, God sanctioned genocide/infanticide...

post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 
Ok, Im trying this again. This is open to any religion whose holy text includes an account of their deity wiping out an entire people or children.

This is my conflict. I am a christian and believe in a loving god. But when I read my bible and read about the killing of infants or wiping out a whole nation it makes me question my beliefs. How do you get past that?

I am thinking about the Egyptian firstborns killed before the Exodus, or the enemies of the Isrealites who, by all biblical accounts, were a wicked people but... there had to be babies among them. Also among those who dies in the flood.

On the circ issue I would like to hear ONLY from Jews who believe it is the right thing. This is not a debate and I really need some help with this so dont want this thread closed. When you consider that it is painful and not medically necessary for infants (or do you believe that it is?) how do you reconcile that requirement with a loving god?

I can see how some may see this as an attack on Jewish history but it isnt. From my christian perspective the the loving Jesus is the same as the God who ordered these things done in the OT so it is an issue for me. Its not like I think, Jesus is good and OT God is bad, so glad I have Jesus. For me they are a continuous stream.
post #2 of 49
I didn't get to read the other thread, but to me this is a very valid question and I hope you get thoughtful rather than kneejerk replies.

This question is part of the reason why I left Christianity, to be honest. For me, the only way I could make sense of it was to say that the violence in the Old Testament (and the violence in almost all religions, not picking on any one religion) is a result of man's imperfect understanding of God. Back then, people had a heightened tribal mentality, more so than today. People of other tribes were not really considered people in the same way people of one's own tribe were. So wiping out the women and children of another tribe wasn't the horrible thing it is today. The Jewish tribes engaged in that behavior, just as the other tribes of their day did. They justified it by saying their God commanded it, the same way other tribes did. They were people of their times.

And God, if there is a God, must have been crying for all those innocent little babies.

In other words, God is good but the people got it wrong because they were (and we still are) influenced by their culture and times. Culture has changed, and along with it the various religions' understanding of God. The truth behind the religion is eternal, but our interpretation of that truth changes.

In my case, I stopped thinking of Christianity as the One True Religion and started thinking of it as an imperfect attempt to understand God, just as all other religions are humankind's imperfect attempts to understand God. I think there are quite a few Christians (non-literalists) that embrace this sort of viewpoint. I have ended up identifying with another religion that has practically no history of religious warfare, but I could have just as easily remained a Christian and may well return to the Christian church in the future.

I'm interested in hearing other replies...
post #3 of 49
I suppose you're in part thinking of the "cursing Psalms," such as 137 (the psalm of the Hebrew exiles in Babylon):

Psalms 137:1 By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. 2 On the willows there we hung up our lyres. 3 For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" 4 How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? 5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! 6 Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy! 7 Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem, how they said, "Raze it, raze it! Down to its foundations!" 8 O daughter of Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall he be who requites you with what you have done to us! 9 Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock! (RSV)
post #4 of 49
That is one psalm I really have trouble getting my head around. How can God be the God of all people if he rewards people of one group for killing innocent children from another group? I can somewhat understand those psalms from a historical context of two peoples at war, but now that they are also included in the Christian Bible, how does a modern Christian Bible literalist interpret them?

When I read verses like these I can't help but wonder if they are basically how some Christians support things like the current war, basically reading it that God is sanctioning war, even civilian and children casualties. Otherwise, I can't understand how anyone can be Christian and support modern warfare. As Howard Zinn put it, when talking about modern warfare "All war is a war against children".

The Noah's ark story and the firstborn of Egypt story are also troublesome. Was God the God of the Egyptians when this happened, or is it only since Jesus came that God is the God of all people? What happened to the souls of the Egyptian firstborn male babies?
post #5 of 49
i think in order to really understand this you have to think beyond the "here and now". to us as humans, death is an awful curse. it's something we run from- for the most part. but this is only because we can't see what's beyond the veil. it could be bad, but it could also be more glorious than imaginable.

in my personal belief (Mormonism) we're here as a part of our progression. sometimes the Lord feels it is not necessary for us to stay too long. other times another's agency to choose takes us without His "permission"- this is why cold-blooded murder is one of the two things that is unforgivable. some of us *need* this life in order to which a certain point in our progression where as the Lord has different plans or others. we're all unique and need unique care.

so that being said i want to say that in an "unbeliever" (i hate that phrase but i can't think of a better word. ) the killing of innocent babies makes no sense. but religious text needs to be taken in context. i'll speak for the Bible because that is my personal religious text- when the Lord took the first born sons of Egypt He brought them back to Him. children, in my faith, are innocent and if they die at a young age they are sent right back to our Father in Heaven. so, with that mindset, the Lord did them a favor. life, here on Earth, is far worse than what awaits us in death (unless you're a cold-blooded killer which i highly doubt any of us are). try and think of it in that perspective.

i would also like to point out that if one doesn't believe that the here-after is a better place or that God was acting out of mercy and for the greater good than one obviously doesn't believe in that form of God (meaning the God depicted in the Bible or other religious text. an example being that i believe in the God of the Bible but if a friend were to come to me with a religious text saying that God wore a pink tutu and was parading down the street in an invisibility cloak i wouldn't believe in that form of God. make any sense?) and therefore doesn't believe in the actions taken in that religious text. i hope you're still with me so if you don't believe in the God of the Bible than that concludes that you don't believe He killed the first born sons of Egypt so this is really a non issue? unless your concern lies in those who condone this action from the Lord which i have tried to clear up above when i talked about those who believe (ick! awful way of putting it. please help me find another) having a different view point where the Lord blessed those babies by brining them back to Him.

that was all clear as mud, right?
post #6 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlmostAPpropriate View Post
On the circ issue I would like to hear ONLY from Jews who believe it is the right thing. This is not a debate and I really need some help with this so dont want this thread closed. When you consider that it is painful and not medically necessary for infants (or do you believe that it is?) how do you reconcile that requirement with a loving god?

I can see how some may see this as an attack on Jewish history but it isnt. From my christian perspective the the loving Jesus is the same as the God who ordered these things done in the OT so it is an issue for me. Its not like I think, Jesus is good and OT God is bad, so glad I have Jesus. For me they are a continuous stream


Okay, I'm only replying to two fast points. Have no ko'akh (strength) for the others. Honestly.


1->

Circumcision *is* painful and *is not* medically necessary for infants. Period, end of sentence.

When done in the context of a brit mila, it is a spiritual obligation for Jews. Nobody else ... only Jews. Period, end of sentence.




2->

When you mention the horror of the Egyptian firstborn being killed one night in the book of Exodus, did you also think to mention the horror of the Jewish baby boys being murdered for years before that? Or the slavery of 200 years before that?

The command to wipe out a people, did you remember that those were the same people who attacked the fleeing just-freed-slaves from behind, wiping out the weakest among them and many more besides?

Are you only looking at what the Jewish Book of Our Story tells about what we're doing to the other guys, or are you just looking at what the other guys did to us? Which is why, yes, it does seem like an attack on Jewish history.





The Jewish tradition gets no pleasure out of any of it, and as just one "ritual" example we pour out some of the wine in our wineglasses at the Passover seder to remember it. The midrash tells of the angels celebrating over the vanquished Egyptians at the sea and then being berated by G!d for daring to celebrate when G!d's children are in pain ... referring to the Egyptians.









But anyway, if this isn't an attack on Jewish history, then it's questioning your faith in G!d, I guess, which is a great thing to work through ... am just at the direction your questioning seems to be going in. If you didn't include the question about bris mila, I wouldn't have any issues with it at all. There's a huge difference between the death of the firstborn in Egypt and the Jewish baby boys, on the one hand, and a ritual for Jews and their spiritual growth, on the other.
post #7 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tradd View Post
I suppose you're in part thinking of the "cursing Psalms," such as 137 (the psalm of the Hebrew exiles in Babylon):

Psalms 137:1 By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. 2 On the willows there we hung up our lyres. 3 For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" 4 How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? 5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! 6 Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy! 7 Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem, how they said, "Raze it, raze it! Down to its foundations!" 8 O daughter of Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall he be who requites you with what you have done to us! 9 Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock! (RSV)
It's a psalm, though--it's poetical, not literal. It means that the tormentor will become the tormented--that the Babylonians will be treated as harshly as they treated the Jews. (My Tanach has a note saying that it's about Darius the Mede.) It doesn't necessarily mean that there are going to be babies having their brains bashed out.
post #8 of 49
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thao View Post
.....Back then, people had a heightened tribal mentality, more so than today. People of other tribes were not really considered people in the same way people of one's own tribe were. So wiping out the women and children of another tribe wasn't the horrible thing it is today. The Jewish tribes engaged in that behavior, just as the other tribes of their day did. They justified it by saying their God commanded it, the same way other tribes did. They were people of their times.

And God, if there is a God, must have been crying for all those innocent little babies.

In other words, God is good but the people got it wrong because they were (and we still are) influenced by their culture and times.
That makes sense to me. I guess I have never considered a non-literal christianity. I will have to read more about that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tradd View Post
):

Psalms 137: 8 O daughter of Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall he be who requites you with what you have done to us! 9 Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock! (RSV)
In part yes. When I think about it as one tribe warring against each other it makes a human kind of sense, not much different then today. But then where does having a direct link to God make a difference? How am I as a person of faith in any kind of improved position than an atheist?

Quote:
Originally Posted by magstphil View Post
i i'll speak for the Bible because that is my personal religious text- when the Lord took the first born sons of Egypt He brought them back to Him. children, in my faith, are innocent and if they die at a young age they are sent right back to our Father in Heaven. so, with that mindset, the Lord did them a favor. life, here on Earth, is far worse than what awaits us in death (unless you're a cold-blooded killer which i highly doubt any of us are). try and think of it in that perspective.

That is kind of helpful, thanks. Is that generally the accepted theology taught in your church. That non-jews had a hope for eternal salvation in that time? Ive never really thought about that. I guess in my mind I had God giving that hope only to his chosen people of the time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by merpk View Post
Circumcision *is* painful and *is not* medically necessary for infants. Period, end of sentence.

It *is* spiritually necessary for Jewish infants. Nobody else ... only Jews. Period, end of sentence.
Ok, I get that. We really could leave circ out of this entirely. I mentioned it because it is the only medically unnecessary, painful religious practice that I know of in modern western culture. If anyone knows of and practices others my question is the same: How do you reconcile a loving god with a requirement for pain?

Quote:
Originally Posted by merpk View Post
Are you only looking at what the Jewish Book of Our Story tells about what we're doing to the other guys, or are you just looking at what the other guys did to us? Which is why, yes, it does seem like an attack on Jewish history.
I really am not well versed in the Jewish religion so by the Book of our Story are you referring to the Hebrew part of my Christian bible? If so, then yes, that's what I mean. And I get that it was as a PP mentioned a tribal mentality back then. The world was basically made up of the oppressed and oppressors. So there is no doubt that the Jewish oppressors had it coming, as they say. It again, makes a lot of sense from a human perspective. Maybe I am just expecting an unreasonable degree of mercy from God. Maybe he is more human (or we more godlike) in his desire for vengeance than I'd like to think.



Quote:
Originally Posted by merpk View Post
The Jewish tradition gets no pleasure out of any of it, and as just one "ritual" example we pour out some of the wine in our wineglasses at the Passover seder to remember it. The midrash tells of the angels celebrating over the vanquished Egyptians at the sea and then being berated by G!d for daring to celebrate when G!d's children are in pain ... referring to the Egyptians.
Wow, that is really interesting. I had never heard/read that part of the story. It is comforting in a way, that God didnt turn a cold heart to them.

This really isnt a Jews vs Christians question. I want to be very clear on that. It is an anyone whose God has acted violently and yet is depicted as loving question.

Merpk, I understand that you have a deep ancestral connection to the history of the Isrealites that I never will. What I hope you can understand that for me it is part of my spiritual ancestry. I was raised as a JW and for them God the father and Jesus are literally separate father/son. So the God who sanctioned things in the OT is the same Supreme god of the NT. Now that I am a more mainstream christian I am trying to get my head around trinity - but even then, God the Father of the OT and Jesus the Son of the NT are intrinsically linked so one is as guilty or blameless as the other.

My christian bible is full of references as to how God's character is unchanging so if her saw this kind of violence as acceptable then, then he does now - and if so, how can we say that God is love.
post #9 of 49
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexisT View Post
It's a psalm, though--it's poetical, not lyrical. It means that the tormentor will become the tormented--that the Babylonians will be treated as harshly as they treated the Jews. (My Tanach has a note saying that it's about Darius the Mede.) It doesn't necessarily mean that there are going to be babies having their brains bashed out.

You know, maybe that is what I need to learn about. I have only ever considered the bible from a 100% literal perspective. Or one that said that God himself directly approved of every word in it. So that its not the psalmists feelings and words but what God thinks and wants.
post #10 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlmostAPpropriate View Post
That is kind of helpful, thanks. Is that generally the accepted theology taught in your church. That non-jews had a hope for eternal salvation in that time? Ive never really thought about that. I guess in my mind I had God giving that hope only to his chosen people of the time.
**bolding mine** really?! that's very interesting to me because in my faith and in my mind children are sinless, period. they are innocent. i would have to get more into Mormon doctrine thus derailing the thread to really go into it all but i hope the above pretty much covers your question...
post #11 of 49
Thread Starter 
Magstphil, You know, I havent thought about this in a long time - who had the option of salvation in Ancient times - but I feel like as a JW is was taught that the pagans didnt have that hope. But again, I am not positive that is a JW doctrine, I just dont know where else I might've picked it up.

I consider children blameless too which is why this is so troubling to me - punishing the child for the parents sin. You know what, it is JW doctrine because when my Mom & Sister cut ties with me it was one of the things they said - how they hoped I would reconsider for my children's sake, as they would be judged according to my sins until they matured.

So maybe if I do consider that the children were taken to be with God it isnt quite so awful, except what about the actual terror and pain of the dying act?
post #12 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlmostAPpropriate View Post
You know what, it is JW doctrine because when my Mom & Sister cut ties with me it was one of the things they said - how they hoped I would reconsider for my children's sake, as they would be judged according to my sins until they matured.
hmmmm... i wonder if there are any JW mamas who can comment more on this?

Quote:
So maybe if I do consider that the children were taken to be with God it isnt quite so awful, except what about the actual terror and pain of the dying act?
did they die painfully? i can't recall...
post #13 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlmostAPpropriate View Post
That non-jews had a hope for eternal salvation in that time? Ive never really thought about that. I guess in my mind I had God giving that hope only to his chosen people of the time.
Jews don't think about salvation and damnation in the way that Christians do, so it's not exactly parallel, but from the Jewish perspective, you don't have to be Jewish to be a righteous human being. Non-Jews actually have it a lot easier since they don't have all the obligations that Jews have. Being "chosen people" is really more about having extra obligations, and not so much about having extra privileges.
post #14 of 49
This isn't a complete answer, but to put the question in context, bear in mind that God eventually takes everyone's life. I was taught that He chooses the best possible time for each human being's death, taking into account that person's salvation, the salvation of those around him, and other factors we are unaware of but always with our best interests in mind. If God had not taken the lives of the Egyptian firstborn, he would have taken all their lives at some later time. I assume it was not an act of vengeance against the Egyptians, much less their babies. We might just as well ask ourselves, "Why would a merciful God take the lives of all those babies who died of SIDS in Belgium in the last 18 months?"
post #15 of 49
The circ issue I can sum up in a nutshell:

I don't see circ as being "barbaric" or "evil" just medically unnecessary. It's not something I think should be paid for with health care resources, because it's not a part of health care. When there are no benefits, but potential risks, why should most baby boys go through this procedure?

But circ has spiritual benefits for Jewish boys, and therefore the risk/benefit analysis shifts. For some individual boys circ needs to be delayed (sometimes indefinitely) but for healthy Jewish newborn boys the spiritual benefit outweighs the potential physical risks. I assume that members of other religions who circ (for ex. Muslims) go through a similar thought process specific to their religion's spiritual benefits.

As for the other question- I don't really think much about it. I'm not G-d and I don't pretend to understand everything He does. Are those tragedies listed in the Torah really any worse than the tsunami that hit Asia a few years ago or Hurricane Katrina? I just accept, on faith, that G-d has an ultimate plan even when things look dark and random to my limited human comprehension.
post #16 of 49
I am interested in the posts that compare the God-ordered massacres in the Old Testament to natural disasters (tsunamis, SIDS). To me, and I'm guessing to the OP, there is a difference between God directly taking human life by some natural mechanism, and God ordering one human being to take the life of another through violence. In the first instance, I suppose you could say God has the right since he is the creator. In the second, God is telling his people to do something that basically goes against his commandments. It is traumatizing to the killer as well as to the killed.

I mean, as a parent, if there were some really painful thing you had to do (I dunno, lance a boil, pull the plug to let a child on life support die, whatever) you would do it yourself. You would be considered a really bad parent if you told your kid to do it for you.

I understand and respect the idea that God is inscrutable to humans and we can't pretend to know what he is doing. That makes sense to me. But comparing God-ordered killing of innocents to a natural disaster does not.
post #17 of 49
I realy dont think any one who has truly read the bible can say they get there morals from it. God kills over 2 millon people in the bible and that only acconts for the numbers given they dont give the exact number for how many he wiped out when he flooded the earth so from what I here 32 millon is a good estament. The devel which is said to be such a bad guy only killed 10 people.
post #18 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by mike View Post
I realy dont think any one who has truly read the bible can say they get there morals from it. God kills over 2 millon people in the bible and that only acconts for the numbers given they dont give the exact number for how many he wiped out when he flooded the earth so from what I here 32 millon is a good estament. The devel which is said to be such a bad guy only killed 10 people.
Actually, God has killed not just 32 million people, but every person who has ever lived. If you take death as the ultimate evil, then God is far more evil than the devil; but from the Christian perspective, death is far from the worst evil that could happen to us. "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28)
post #19 of 49
Thread Starter 
This has actually been really helpful to me, thank you. I am really wanting to preserve my faith rather than finding reasons to let it go.

Again, for practicing Jews only - can you tell me what the spiritual reward of circ today is? Is it required to have prayers heard or as a show of your willingness to sacrifice. Does God give a reason or just ask you to do it as an act of obedience?
post #20 of 49
Just poping in to ask, who are the aprox 10 people the devil killed? Just trying to follow the conversation. thx.
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