In his bestselling 2006 book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins throws down the gauntlet against the Judeo-Christian God. While much of Dawkins’ book is devilishly quotable polemic, he arguably reaches his rhetorical apex with this oft-quoted passage:
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
If one of these charges has emerged in the last few years as the watershed issue of skeptical objections to the Bible, it is in the charge of God as genocidal. This should not be surprising. After all, genocide came to be viewed in the twentieth century consciousness as the crime against humanity, or as Samantha Powers memorably put it, a problem from hell. And yet, the biblical narrative describes God as commanding the Jews to eradicate the residents of Canaan. If anything qualifies as genocide — the crime against humanity, the problem from hell — surely this does.
Not so fast. In their new book Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God, Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan challenge this assumption. I have previously had the pleasure of interviewing both Paul and Matt on the podcast. In this episode Matt joins us once again for a brief discussion about the new book.
While I had not yet read Did God Really Command Genocide? when I conducted the interview, I have since read it and I can say that whatever disagreements I have with the argument – and there certainly are some which I will note in a forthcoming interview – nonetheless this book is powerfully argued and provides essential reading for anybody interested in the topic of the Bible and violence.
You can visit Matt online at his website: http://www.mandm.org.nz/