Friday, April 19, 2013

The Euthyphro Dilemma/Not such a dilemma at all.

Plato's famous dilemma concerning the nature of goodness is still being raised today as a serious challenge to Christianity. Is an act right because God says it's so, or does God say it's so because it's right? The question first surfaces in Plato's dialog Euthyphro

I have heard this argument several times before. It's funny that it's even called a dilemma because the bible is full of examples that are in my opinion self-refuting. This is only a dilemma to a Christian apologist and not to someone who reads the bible with the eyes of reason and not faith or fear. 

Christians love to cite the ten commandments which appear in the scriptures twice, once in Exodus 20:3-17 and in Deuteronomy 5:7-21. The sixth commandment is that "You shall not murder." This is how it is stated in the New International Version but other versions have it as thou or you shall not kill.

Murder: The unlawful killing of another human being without justification or excuse. 

I actually had a theist try and defend the murderous actions of God as they are described in the scriptures. They justify murders perpetrated by God personally or by his followers under his command by stating that those that died deserved it because they were sinners! Therefore it was not murder it was God meting out justice.

That same theist even tried to make an argument based on distinguishing the meaning of the words to kill and murder! This line of reasoning prompted me to write an entire post in response in order to tear that argument to shreds.

 It should read: You shall not murder/kill unless I say so

1The Lord said to Moses, 2“Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people.”3So Moses said to the people, “Arm some of your men to go to war against the Midianites so that they may carry out the Lord’s vengeance on them. 7They fought against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and killed every man 17Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man. Numbers 31:1-3,7,17-18

Now as you can see by simply reading this text as is that in this case it was God who commanded the slaughter of the Midianites and it was up to Moses and his people to carry out the good Lords "vengeance" on them. What was their sin? 16“They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people." Numbers 31:16 because they led the Israelites to worship other gods, yet another perfect example of religious intolerance! 

One more important thing to point out here is that God was unjust in carrying out vengeance on the Midianites because he did not make the people take responsibility for their own sins. If anything he should have punished the guilty and not the Midianites for sharing their religion with the Israelites. The Midianites did not force the Israelites to worship their gods they willingly did so. Yet believers still insist that their god is just and continue to try to make a case for his many crimes against humanity.

God made it clear in the ten commandments that he was a jealous God and that worshiping other gods would be a sin that would be punishable by death. Although the penalty is not stated directly in the commandments it is carried out throughout the biblical narrative on numerous occasions. 

So let's take one more look at the question again:  Is an act right because God says it's so, or does God say it's so because it's right? 

I think with just this one example I've clearly demonstrated that that question answers itself. An act is right because God says it is. But there are occasions in the scriptures where he overrides his own commandments and commits acts or uses the Israelites to carry out acts that are considered and have been declared by God as sinful. But on those particular occasions it wasn't sinful because they were being again commanded by God to do so.   

Note: All citations of scripture are derived from the New International Version  (©2011)


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