Infanticide – Ain’t god a shit!
Ah, the final plague, the death of the Egyptian first-born. At long last and after great fanfare, we arrive at the murder of Egyptian children and all for the glory of the Lord. This is the culmination of God’s strategy of beating the Egyptians with plagues and horrors on one hand and forcing the Pharaoh to be a stubborn bastard on the other. The stage is set for his big event, the miracle that will show the world once and for all that he is Lord. Here, he finally gets to do just what he wants, that is to create such an atrocity his name will reverberate throughout Egypt and the known world and spread fear down through the ages. Doesn’t that sound reasonable? Come on! Who doesn’t want that? And can you actually doubt that it has worked? Ever hear of a God fearing’ folk? Does this not reaffirm his title of the Lord of Genocide? What he does here must be a crime by any measure in any culture!
Did all this actually happen? Uh… No. In fact, certainly not. The only record of it is in the Hebrews own accounts, that is the Bible. In fact, nothing in Egyptian history or ancient archeology even hints at the Hebrews being in Egypt at the time, at all. Did you know that with all the references to Egypt contained in these lovely biblical pages, there is not even a single reference to the pyramids? It’s such an outstanding feature to our modern minds that you would think that it would have made more of an impression on a group of desert herders. The only reference to the Israelites at all from any Egyptian source is an inscribed stone telling of Egypt conquering the Hebrews. This is an obviously manufactured or greatly embellished story that has expanded over the ages. Like the great epics of Homer, it may have a kernel of truth to it, but it certainly is wrapped tightly in a thick outer shell of fiction.
This tale of God’s power was certainly told by Hebrews to Hebrews to give them a special place in the world, and it grew in the telling. As with any other mythology, the story of Moses and all the other biblical stories gave the Hebrew mind a place to belong, a mental fortress where they and their culture were special, important, powerful. Every culture finds these self-deceptions necessary to make it through life, some myth to grab on to in the bitterest of times. Look at the stories of the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Hopi and the Navaho, the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans. Each of these groups and every other group on the planet has similar stories that set them apart from their neighbors. Something they can rally around to feel important. Something to give them hope. We have them today, and the Hebrews were certainly no different.
There is something in the human psyche that needs to belong to the better group, needs to separate themselves from the barbarians. In the absence of real history and science, the stories they wove from evolved legends became the basis for their uniqueness, their superiority over their enemies. Is this tale any different? Only in the negative effect it has on our modern western world. Viewing it as a window into the ancient mind is one thing, understandable and enlightening. Insisting on its literal truth is quite another. It retards progress and causes stagnation and decay. Our world is as progressive as it is today not because we cling to some ancient creed handed down for centuries. We have progressed greatly because we have shed these superstitions and taken science as our tool, as our savior.
Look at the world today. Those areas that cling hardest to their cultural superstitions, that baggage also known as religion, are the regions of our planet which are poorest, have the least respect for human rights, and are the least free. This is not a coincidence. Not by a long shot. This is an inevitable result of hanging on to nonsensical beliefs in the light of all evidence to the contrary, a direct result of fundamentalism.
But for our purposes, We assume it is 100% literal and true and see what kind of world it would be if that were the case. I know many of you long time readers are well aware of this, but I feel the need sometimes to remind both you and I why we do what we do and give any new reader a chance to jump right in and not get lost or misinterpret my intentions. In the moral muck we deal with, it’s so easy to lose sight of our purpose. It’s also too easy to rely on political correctness to carry us through. So often the distaste of offending anyone is our greatest weakness. We hold back when some right-wing religious neighbor or coworker starts in about prayer in schools or the United States being a Christian nation. We as skeptics need to refute these statements, to come into the fight. Polite and peaceful offense are the best weapons for this job. Pick them up. Try them out. Trust me on this, it’s amazing how good it can feel to say what you truly feel. Our opponents have said what they have felt for ages; it’s time we exercised the same rights.
So much for my raving soliloquy. We must get back to the task at hand. Most of us know the story already, and I urge you to read it for yourselves, but let’s cover it again. Bear with me for this is a long quote, but one essential to understanding the horrors inherent in this story.
Exodus 11, 4-10.
Moses then said, “Thus says the LORD: At midnight I will go forth through Egypt. Every first-born in this land shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh on the throne to the first-born of the slave-girl at the handmill, as well as all the first-born of the animals. Then there shall be loud wailing throughout the land of Egypt, such as has never been, nor will ever be again. But among the Israelites and their animals not even a dog shall growl, so that you may know how the LORD distinguishes between the Egyptians and the Israelites. All these servants of yours shall then come down to me, and prostate before me, they shall beg me, ‘Leave us, you and all your followers!’ Only then will I depart.” With that he left Pharaoh’s presence in hot anger. The LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh refuses to listen to you that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” Thus, although Moses and Aaron performed these various wonders in Pharaoh’s presence, the LORD made Pharaoh obstinate, and he would not let the Israelites leave his land.
This one passage encapsulates everything that sickens me about this book and it’s more rabid followers. God murders the children of the Hebrews enemies because they will not relent. They will not relent because God will not let them relent by breaking the Pharaoh’s free will to force this infanticide on the world. I have heard it argued several times that because he is God, what he does is right. Tell me, how can any creature, God or no, have the right to act in this manner? There have been similar biblical instances before but none so egregious. With Sodom and Gommorah and the Flood, he targeted both the innocent and the guilty. Here, he targets the innocent to punish the guilty! He kills the children to harm the parents. More accurately, he kills children to punish the parent’s boss. Simply, to torment the guiltiest, he murders the most innocent. WTF? What could have the lowly slave girl possibly have done to warrant such punishment, let alone her child? Why is God always such a bastard? How can there ever be any justification for this act? In any court for crimes against humanity, could there ever be extenuating circumstances that would mitigate this atrocity or even reduce the horror of this sin. Could God have had a good reason?
No! Shit no! What the hell was he thinking? This behavior dips into areas we, as imperfect as we are, would refuse to tread, yet he glories in his crime. In all my reading of history I can recall many places where children were murdered along with their parents, but I remember few where they were murdered in their stead. Even without the “perfect justice” and “perfect mercy” attributed to The Lord, we wouldn’t stoop so low. Why does he? No matter how your look at it, this is indefensible. This is wrong! As lowly flawed mortals, do we morally stand so much higher that our Lord? Must we?
It would be as if we built a weapon system that would kill only Iraqi children and leave the adults screaming in grief. Can you possibly imagine the reaction if our government even contemplated such a weapon. Can you imagine how you would feel, what you would be willing to do to stop it. In our modern wars, we’ve killed children without a doubt, by the thousands, but it was because we aren’t precise enough with our technology. Even with all the murderous instincts we possess, and those are many, the vengeance of infanticide cannot even be contemplated. Yet, there are vast numbers of people in our society who not only accept such a creature but actively worship it. WTF? What is so wrong with us that we refuse to hold our God, the object of all praise honor and glory, to the same standards we hold every human being? If God were made human and held accountable for his crimes against humanity, he may not make monsters like Stalin and Hitler appear benevolent, but he would reset the entire definition of being an asshole. View this in this light I think the theists ought to give up all the current symbols of religion in favor of a more accurate one, one huge puckering asshole just waiting to shit all over us at will. Can’t you just see that icon hanging over the altar, a swollen sphincter bulging with malevolence. Damn, I can almost smell it already.
Other oddities in this biblical section include the demand of valuables from the Egyptians. You see, God has not only promised the Hebrews that they will be freed, but that the Egyptians shall give them many valuable things before they depart. So before the infanticide hits, he instruct the Hebrews to ask their Egyptian neighbors for valuables.
Instruct your people that every man is to ask his neighbor, and every woman her neighbor, for silver and gold articles and for clothing.” The LORD indeed made the Egyptians well-disposed toward the people; Moses himself was very highly regarded by Pharaoh’s servants and the people in the land of Egypt.
So just before he murders their children, God magnifies the moral repugnancy of the act (if possible) by making the Egyptians actually like the Hebrews. And he still murders their children! What a son-of-a-bitch, huh? Why the games? Why the constant need for pain? He’s like some emotional vampire feeding off the fear and pain he causes.
Just look at this next quote. This one’s right after the firstborn’s destruction and the Hebrews are given permission to depart.
The Israelites did as Moses had commanded: they asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The LORD indeed had made the Egyptians so well-disposed toward the people that they let them have whatever they asked for. Thus did they despoil the Egyptians.
Oh, yeah. I’ll just bet they were “well disposed”, their dead children still lying at their feet and all. I’ll bet they were very “Well Disposed”. Murder my children and rob me? Sure. Thank you Lord! May I have another?
To protect themselves from being mistake for an Egyptian, (apparently, we all look alike to God) the Hebrews butcher their lambs using a prescribed ritual and mark their doors with the blood so that God will know who is who. Omniscient, my hairy white ass! God then instructs them to hold this event sacred for all time, thus the Passover celebration. Were I God, I’d be hoping my people would forget this murderous rampage rather than celebrating it annually. It’s like having Jeffery Dahmer eve or John Wayne Gacy day. Why in today’s world, do we celebrate infanticide? Why must this book always insist black is white, bad is good, and atrocity is justice? Why do we make excuses for him? Why must God always equal right? Fascinating questions, no?
Again, I feel the need to point out that what I say shouldn’t be taken as anti-Semitic. The Jews are an amazing people with a fascinating culture and heritage. The things they have accomplished as a group and as a nation have been nothing short of incredible. I don’t always agree with Israeli policies, but I have great respect for their accomplishments, and it would take a complete idiot not to acknowledge the hardships they have only overcome. I’m just pointing out the absurdity of using a bronze age work of fiction as your ultimate moral guide. People were bastards back then, all people, no exceptions. I understand this and do not blame them for their flaws. I just don’t see how we can hold any of them or their Gods up as pillars of morality in today’s world.
Are we much different today? Maybe not, but we’re trying. And a big part of the effort is to leave the morals of the past lying in the dirt and pick up better ones along the way. We cannot act as though we reached some moral peak 3000 years ago and continually try to reach back into our past and recover it. A people cannot improve if their way is always back. To use the morality of the past is the way of genocide, infanticide and racism. The morality we need is the path to tolerance, not arranged and halfhearted justifications of genocide. We need to improve, not regress. To evolve, not to decay. Thoughtful science, not irrational superstition.
Forward, not back. Damn it people, let’s get going!