I have blogged previously on this here, here and here.
William Lane Craig originally sought to gain academic respectability by trying to share a platform with leading Atheist, Humanist and evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins to debate the existence of gods. Dawkins refused to share a platform with a person who had previously sought to defend the Canaanite genocide and child murder as described in the Bible, and had said so in a Guardian article.
Unbelievably, Lane Craig had explained that:
- Genocide is not wrong if you believe a god has ordered it. In fact you have a moral duty to carry it out.
- Child murder is not wrong because it makes them happy.
The article in which he 'explained' this can be read here
Lane Craig then attempted to capitalise on this refusal by accusing Dawkins of cowardice and released a small army of fawning acolytes onto the social network media such as Twitter and Facebook to repeat this accusation ad nauseum. They also commissioned bus advertisements in Oxford, England where the (non) debate was supposed to be taking place.
However, this backfired badly and served merely to emphasise the repugnant right-wing views espoused by Lane Craig and those for whom he provides apologetics, closely linked as they are to extreme right-wing neo-Conservative American politicians who will pay good money to have their policies given a gloss of moral respectability and help to dress them up as some sort of crusade (I use that word deliberately).
One of Lane Craig's faithful acolytes is someone who posts on Twitter as @PMEWhite who has come under sustained attack for his promulgation of these right-wing views from the Atheist and Humanist communities there. Obviously stung by this, he has posted a 'question' to William Lane Craig, which looks like so much like a carefully-worded and prepared question that one might be tempted to think 'Peter' is Lane Craig himself:
Dear Dr Craig,
You are becoming increasingly known as "the apologist who defends genocide and infanticide in the Old Testament", mainly due to your Q&A response on the question of the Canaanites.
Many people seem to react emotionally, without engaging with the detail of your arguments and without providing their own moral foundations on which their outrage can stand.
However, I've been hearing recently that the Old Testament accounts of these killings used exaggerated language. This was mentioned at an apologetics conference I attended recently, and I'm told it's even in Paul Copan's new book (haven't been able to read it yet, however).
In particular, it's being said that language about "killing all women and children" was typically and culturally "over-the-top", and that it's not necessary to interpret the text to mean that they were all *really* slain.
You, however, defend a more literal account: that God did order the deaths of the women and young children.
How have you made sure that you're not mistaken? Or, to put it another way, is this not an opportunity to avoid burdening yourself with needing to defend the view that God ordered the mass killings of women and children?
It's a tricky one, and an emotive topic, but I'd love to know what you think especially about these accounts of "exaggerated language".
Many thanks again,
(Note the second paragraph in which 'Peter' feeds Lane Craig the main thrust of his reply and prepares the audience for it. This is highly suggestive of a prepared question)
This question and Lane Craig's rambling reply can be read in full here.
The pertinent part is:
I’ve seen those kinds of responses, too, Peter, and find them disappointing because they fail to grapple intellectually with the difficult questions raised by such stories. Emotional outbursts take the place of rational discussion, leaving us with no deeper understanding of the issues than before we began.
I find it ironic that atheists should often express such indignation at God’s commands, since on naturalism there’s no basis for thinking that objective moral values and duties exist at all and so no basis for regarding the Canaanite slaughter as wrong. As Doug Wilson has aptly said of the Canaanite slaughter from a naturalistic point of view, "The universe doesn't care." So at most the non-theist can be alleging that biblical theists have a sort of inconsistency in affirming both the goodness of God and the historicity of the conquest of Canaan.
So, those who react with revulsion at the thought of genocide and child murder are merely being emotional and William Lane Craig finds this 'disappointing'. He then has the effrontery to accuse US of not having any morals and admits to being mystified by our indignation because "The universe doesn't care". Well, that's okay then. No problem, as long as the universe is happy.
If anything, I find this this condescending double-think even more repugnant and morally bankrupt than his original apologia. Not only does he not retract a word of it, he actually compounds the insult by presenting moral outrage as a character weakness and uses it to try to argue that we lack morality whilst having the sanctimony to imply that Christians like him hold a monopoly on it. This from someone who appears to think the only possible reason for committing genocide and murdering children or not is whether it pleases something. In his case, an imaginary friend; in our cases 'the universe'. Never is there any consideration that your actions just might have something to do with the potential victims. Nope. The only rational consideration is an unemotional assessment of what's in it for you. How very Christian! And how very conveniently the golden rule of doing to others what you would want them to do to you, is cast aside for selfish gain.
I suppose it would be too much to expect Lane Craig, or the audience he writes for, to understand that an emotional response is a direct result of our innate morality and horror at the thought that anyone could actually present genocide and child murder - CHILD MURDER! - as good things. Because we have innate morality we don't need to consult 'scriptures' and perform coldly calculated intellectual somersaults until we've worked out a way to make it seem like a good thing.
We know it's wrong. Because we know it's wrong we know a religion which can present it as a good thing is wrong.
Very clearly, the cold, calculating and conveniently versatile 'morality', as dished out on demand by Lane Craig and similar religious apologists, is a very different thing to the innate emotional human morality felt by most decent, compassionate and empathetic human being who don't need a book to look up right and wrong in, and don't need to employ professionals to provide spurious justification for repugnantly indefensible views and actions.
One wonders if there are any limit to the depths to which Christian apologists won't descend to give spurious credence to the extreme right-wing views of those to whose tune they cravenly caper.