Rebuking, or Supporting, Genocide?

GenocideThere are many who claim that the God of the Old Testament is intolerably evil on the grounds that, by their reading, he commands genocide.

Whether or not this is the case has been debated many times, but I’m not interested in furthering that discussion. Rather, I’m curious about what strikes me as one of many unsettling double-standards.

Those who claim to be so deeply outraged by a demand for genocide which, in their eyes, was commanded by a fictional character over twenty-five centuries ago, seem shockingly indifferent to actual recommendations of genocide.

Among the defenders of the Old Testament God, I am unaware of any who are currently pressing for genocide to be carried out today. However, Peter Singer has famously supported infanticide, and Sam Harris has openly recommended nuclear genocide of muslim peoples simply because “some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them”.

When one asks one’s self why such vocal opponents of “genocide” are silent on direct recommendations of mass killing, it is difficult not to conclude that it is because those making the recommendations are atheists, promoting secular ideas.

Is the debate really so partisan as that – that we cannot break rank even when mass slaughter is being proposed? I like to think that I’d balk at a theist who said such a thing, and I’ve made my distaste for fundamentalism clear to all who know me. Though there must certainly be atheists who have done as much, they are few enough in number that I can’t seem to find them.

This seems doubly a problem for a group that prides itself on it’s rationality. Certainly, one would have hoped for some scientifically gathered data from Harris before he told us to support the killing of millions of people. It very often feels like the New Atheists are, at heart, the hypocritical pharisees of the atheist community: embarrassing more thoughtful atheists with their unthinking, doctrinal commandment of “thou shalt oppose the theist at all costs”.

I honestly cannot understand why such a group isn’t trying to distance itself from Singer and Harris, if for no other reason than political expedience (but, hopefully, for more noble reasons). I don’t see anything like a “clear thinking oasis” in this, and hope that more atheists join those who take a thoughtful approach.

2 responses to “Rebuking, or Supporting, Genocide?

  • mtemples

    I’m not a group – I’m just one, me. I don’t run with the atheist crowd, so to speak. I find them to be politically motivated rather than rationally or ethically motivated. Rationality and ethics serve their political views rather than the other way ’round. But those who serve the group’s agenda become a force. Those who don’t are lost to the tide. We could be a majority even, but who would know?

  • Debilis

    I think your take of the self-proclaimed voices of atheism is pretty accurate. I always try to remember that they don’t actually speak for all atheists (probably not even the majority, as you say), much as they’d like to believe they do.

    What I can say for certain is that I’m very grateful for the kind of atheist that you seem to be–not interested in towing a political line. It’s actually a good reminder to me, to not tow a political line simply because some vocal churches claim that it is the “Christian” view.

    I’ll to my best to remember that, as well.

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