Home| Letters| Links| RSS| About Us| Contact Us

On the Frontline

What's New

Table of Contents

Index of Authors

Index of Titles

Index of Letters

Mailing List

subscribe to our mailing list:


Critique of Intelligent Design

Evolution vs. Creationism

The Art of ID Stuntmen

Faith vs Reason

Anthropic Principle

Autopsy of the Bible code

Science and Religion

Historical Notes


Serious Notions with a Smile


Letter Serial Correlation

Mark Perakh's Web Site

email this article to a friend printer-friendly format download format voice your opinion Digg It

Creationists for genocide

By Hector Avalos

Professor of Religious Studies,
Iowa State University

Posted August 24, 2007


From Darwin to Hitler?
Weikart's view of the Judeo-Christian tradition
Christianity and moral relativism
From Luther to Hitler
Sarfati and Luther's proto-Nazi plan
Pre-Darwinian blood purity
Materialism and the value of life
Abortion as a soul-saving machine
The ethics of biblical genocide
Love as a reason for genocide
Sin as a reason for genocide
Child sacrifice is biblically approved
Archaeology and Canaanite child sacrifice
El Pozo Moro and child sacrifice

From Darwin to Hitler?

One understands nothing about creationism unless one understands that it is meant to be a system of ethics. That is why the assault on evolution has always included a lengthy history of moral judgments against evolution. Perhaps none of these judgments has been more accusatory than the idea that Darwinism led to the Holocaust. Such an idea is trumpeted in many creationist venues, including books and blogs. A prime example of this accusation today is found in Richard Weikart's From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany (2004).[1] Weikart is a member of the Discovery Institute who has devoted his career to elucidating the supposed immoral consequences of evolution.

For Weikart, the materialistic basis of evolutionary theory is responsible for the devaluation of human life in general. In particular, the idea of the survival of the fittest leads to the devaluation or extermination of those considered "unfit" in society. Death becomes a good thing insofar as it helps the species rid itself of unfit organisms. The principal goal of all such anti-evolutionary moral arguments is to show that creationism, especially in its Judeo-Christian form, is a superior moral system.

Aside from exposing the historical flaws found in the work of Weikart, this essay demonstrates that the defense of genocide, infanticide and "eugenics" by creationists actually has a very venerable and lengthy tradition that precedes Darwin. In fact, the most blatant defenses of genocide ever penned are still to be found among creationists. Some of these defenders of genocide include Reuben A. Torrey, the famed fundamentalist apologist, William Lane Craig, Jonathan Sarfati, an Australian Young-Earth creationist with a Ph.D. in chemistry, and Glenn Miller, an American business executive who fancies himself to be a biblical scholar.[2]

Weikart's view of the Judeo-Christian tradition

Weikart's book is premised on a very biased definition of "Christianity" or the "Judeo-Christian" tradition. For example, Weikart tells us that "Christian theology taught the universal brotherhood of all races, who descended from common ancestors -- Adam and Eve." [3] He adds:

Before the advent of Darwinism in the mid-nineteenth century, there was no significant debate in Europe over the sanctity of human life, which was entrenched in European thought and law (though, as with all ethical principles, not always followed in practice). Judeo-Christian ethics proscribed the killing of innocent human life, and the Christian churches explicitly forbade murder, infanticide, abortion, and even suicide.[4]

Overall, Weikart has what we might term an "essentialist" view of Judeo-Christian tradition, which attributes to this tradition certain unchanging characteristics that makes it what it is. In terms of ethics, Weikart tells us the difference between Darwinism and Christianity:

Darwinism's contribution to the rise of moral relativism is even trickier. Certainly many Darwinists proclaimed the death knell for Christian, Kantian, or any other fixed system of ethics, and they contended that moral relativism was a logical consequence of a Darwinian view or morality.[5]

For Weikart, some of the features of this "fixed system of ethics" in Christianity included opposition to these practices:

  • moral relativism
  • differential value of human life
  • infanticide, including by abortion
  • genocide
  • killing innocent human life

Weikart's indictment of evolutionary theory, however, is premised on a very incomplete and distorted portrayal of Christian ethics and history.

Christianity and moral relativism

Christianity is actually founded on moral relativism that is even more chaotic than secular systems of ethics. Ephesians 2:15 tells us this about what Christ did to the Law of Moses: "by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace." In fact, from a traditional Jewish viewpoint, Christianity is founded on systematically destroying God's laws as revealed to Moses, and so speaking of a Judeo-Christian tradition is also akin to speaking of a Capitalist-Marxist tradition.[6a]

Weikart's claim that "brotherhood of all races" is a primary doctrine of Christianity can be decisively refuted not only on biblical grounds, but also on historical grounds. Polygenesis had a long history in Christianity, and the Bible provides evidence that not everyone in history is a pure descendant of Adam and Eve.[7] In Genesis 6: 1-4, for example, we find the story of the seduction or rape of human women by divine beings. These unions produced mutant offspring called Nephilim, who became the earthly enemies of the Israelites (Numbers 13:33). The Nephilim were to be killed or imprisoned (see also references to the Anakim in Deuteronomy 2:10-11).

For biblical authors, there were other qualities and events that prove to be more important than common descent from Adam and Eve in creating differentials in the value of human life. For example, the Canaanites, who are also descendants of Adam and Eve, were cursed to indefinite slavery because of the sin of a single man, Ham, the father of Canaan (Genesis 9:25-27). The belief that the sons of Canaan were cursed into slavery then resulted in justifying the enslavement of entire groups of people throughout Christian history, as has been amply documented.

Weikart attempts to whitewash slavery in the Judeo-Christian tradition thusly:

Even though some Christian groups, especially in lands with race-based slavery, developed theological justifications for racial inequality, most Christian churches believed that the people of other races were valuable and capable of adopting European religion and culture.[7]

The first euphemism to expose is Weikart's use of the verb, "developed." The fact is that most Christians who believed in slavery in European history did not develop such an ideology. They inherited this ideology from the Bible, which assumes the acceptability of slavery in both the Old and New Testaments (see Leviticus 25:44-45, Ephesians 6:5, 1 Peter 2:18). Almost all lands in Europe accepted slavery of one sort or another until very recently. In other words, slavery, which is based on the differential value of human beings, has been normative, not anomalous, for most of Christian history.

As even Weikart admits, racism also predated Darwinism.[8] Indeed, Benjamin Isaac, an historian at the University of Tel Aviv, has made a powerful case that racism existed in classical antiquity. He says that the "essence of racism is that it regards individuals as superior or inferior because they are believed to share imagined physical, mental, and moral attributes with the group to which they are deemed to belong, and it is assumed that they cannot change these traits individually."[9] That definition would apply to Canaanites and many other groups slated for extermination in the Bible.

These problems with Weikart's version of history prompt us to see that unclear definitions are devices by which Weikart touts the ethical superiority of the Christian tradition. For example, being against "killing innocent human life" is meaningless unless one knows how Weikart defines "innocent." In fact, I know of no religion or philosophy, theistic or atheistic, that would advocate killing "innocent" human life. It is just that those who advocate killing anyone can define "innocent" very differently from how we might define it. Indeed, neither biblical authors nor modern creationists believe that even children are always innocent victims.

Likewise, the forbidding of "murder" is meaningless unless one knows what Weikart means by that term. In actuality, "murder" refers to a killing not acceptable to an individual or group. Thus, killing in war is not regarded as "murder" for most nation-states, but it is regarded as murder by many Christian pacifists. Some Christians regard the death penalty as "murder," and some don't. Some Christians regard abortion as murder, and some don't. Thus, "forbidding murder" is no great accomplishment because every society and religion would also have categories of killing that would be unauthorized by the group in power.

From Luther to Hitler

While we do not deny that evolutionary theory was a factor in Nazi ideology, it is a mistake to see it as the main or only factor, given the long history of Christian anti-Judaism. Christian anti-Judaism has a continuous history from its earliest days (see John 8:44), and so it is absurd to say that Darwinism was even necessary or sufficient to explain the Holocaust.[10] The Holocaust was simply the latest and most violent spasm of repeated Christian anti-Judaism.

In particular, Weikart never mentions that Martin Luther (1483-1546), the father of Protestantism, espoused a seven-point plan for the Jews in 1543, hundreds of years before Darwin came on the scene. For this reason, Luther's plan bears repeating at length: [11]

First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them.

This is to be done in honor of our Lord and Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, blaspheming of his son and of his Christians....

Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed...

Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them.

Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb...

Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews.

Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasures of silver and gold be taken from them for safekeeping...

Seventh, I recommend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen. 3 [:19])

Note that every single element, from killing disobedient Jews to consigning Jews to hard labor, is paralleled by the Nazi plan. That is why even the Lutheran editor of Luther's works was moved to make this statement:

It is impossible to publish Luther's treatise today, however, without noting how similar his proposals were to the actions of the Nationalist Socialist regime in Germany in the 1930's and 1940's.[12]

It is no surprise, therefore, that Hitler specifically names Luther as one of his heroes. As Hitler phrased it: "Beside Frederick the Great stands Martin Luther as well as Richard Wagner."[13] Darwin is nowhere to be found in this list of heroes.

Note that Luther's murderous plan has mainly religious motives, not evolutionary theory, as justification. The plan, Luther says, is to be enacted in honor of Christ and Christendom. And, in fact, Hitler, like Luther, thought he was following God's will: "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator; by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord."[14] This statement alone eliminates the idea that Darwinism was the main or only rationale for Hitler's actions.

Sarfati and Luther's proto-Nazi plan

Jonathan Sarfati, an Australian creationist and self-described convert from Judaism to Christianity, seems to believe that Luther's plan was not as bad as what Adolf Hitler had in mind. Let's examine Sarfati's reasons:

Yes, we all know about Luther's disgraceful attacks on Jews late in his life. They should not be condoned, but Luther's antisemitism was totally different to Hitler's. Luther trashed anyone he saw as an opponent of the Gospel, and his choicest barbs were for the papacy. Hitler cared nothing for the Gospel, and killed Jews just because they were Jews, including quarter of a million Jewish Christians. He also intended to wipe out Christianity, as Nuremberg prosecutor William Donovan thoroughly documented.[15]

The first thing to notice is that Sarfati tells us not to condone Luther's "attacks on Jews late in his life." Yet, he also tells us Luther is different from Hitler because "Luther trashed anyone he saw as an opponent of the Gospel..."Hitler, on the other hand, wanted to kill Jews just because they were Jews. >In other words, specificity (just killing Jews) is differentiated from "generality" (anyone who hates the gospel) in deciding whether genocide is deemed better or worse.

Of course, Sarfati is factually incorrect or misleading in saying that Luther "trashed anyone he saw as an opponent of the Gospel." Luther has killing in mind ("on pain of loss of life"), not just "trashing," for Jews unwilling to accept some of his terms. Furthermore, Luther never recommended a seven-point plan for Catholics or any other group. He explicitly says he wants to burn the Talmud, not the sacred scripture of every other religion.

And if Luther is to be excused by the fact that his hatred was not just reserved for the Jews, then Hitler's hate, by Sarfati's logic, might be mitigated by the fact that he also did not reserve his hatred only for the Jews. Hitler hated all enemies of the Aryan race, and so his hatred is not less generalized than that of Luther. In any case, Sarfati seems to believe that hatred of all non-Aryans is somehow more opprobrious than hatred of all non-Christians.

And even if we were to accept Sarfati's logic that Luther hated all enemies of the gospel, we would also have to conclude that Luther's genocidal plan might encompasseven more people than just Jews. After all, Luther might define the billion or so Muslims that now exist as people who hate the Gospel. It is just that Luther did not have the lethal technology available to him that Hitler did.

Despite telling us that Hitler's plan is different because he just hated Jews, Sarfati admits that Hitler also wanted to kill Christians. He refers us to the work of William Donovan, the American military officer who documented Hitler's war on churches. The problem is that Sarfati confuses attacks on churches opposed to Nazi religious views with attacks on Christ or "Christianity." Rather, Nazis saw themselves as the bearers of the true Christianity, just as Luther saw himself as the bearer of true Christianity.

To illustrate this point, we need look no further than the writings of Alfred Rosenberg, a premier Nazi ideologist. He used parts of the Bible as support in The Myth of the Twentieth Century: An Assessment of the Psychical-Spiritual Struggle of our Time, first published in 1930. [16] Rosenberg is best described as being against Christendom, or the organized religions such as Catholicism which had departed from what he believed to be the true teachings of Jesus.

Rosenberg advocated what he called "positive Christianity" (positive Christentum), as opposed to the "negative" one represented by the Asiatic clergy. [17] Rosenberg sought to purify Christianity by going back to its Nordic roots, an idea supported by Ernest Renan (1823-1892), a well-known biblical scholar. [18] Rosenberg thought that the Gospel of John best preserved some of the teachings of Jesus. He commented thus: "The Gospel of John, which still bears an aristocratic spirit throughout, strove against the collective bastardization, orientalization and Judaization of Christianity." [19]

Sarfati also fails to mention that any hatred of non-Nazi churches by Hitler would be equivalent to the hatred of non-Protestant churches by Protestants. The attacks on Catholic churches that took place under Protestants were not considered an attack on Christianity as much as an attack on corrupt forms of Christianity. In this respect, Hitler was not different from John Knox, who attacked the churches of rivals in Scotland, or from Henry VIII, who attacked Catholic monasteries in England. [20] Likewise, Catholics who killed thousands of Protestants in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in Paris in 1572 did not see themselves as attacking "Christians," but as attacking the enemies of Christ. [21]

And let us not forget how Sarfati, among others, wishes to excuse Luther's plan because it is formulated late in life. Sarfati leaves unexplained why formulating a hateful plan late in life is relevant or a mitigating circumstance. Are we to believe that uttering something genocidal near the end of one's life is more acceptable than in our youth? Can we call someone a good human being because he was good for 59 years, but just happened to plan a mass murder at 60? If some mental disability is implied, could we not make the same argument for Hitler, who might have been suffering from some mental illness or drug addiction, as has been alleged? [22]

In sum, Sarfati is arguing that the acceptability of a proto-Nazi policy depends on the identity of the perpetrator and the victim. It is not genocide that is always wrong; it is upon whom, and by whom, the genocide is perpetrated that makes it wrong or right. In this respect, Sarfati is not much different from Ernest Haeckel, who is described by Weikart as follows:

It was not the killing that bothered Haeckel, but only the killing of the wrong people, which would stymie evolutionary progress and perhaps even cause degeneration. [23]

Genocide is acceptable if done for the reasons Sarfati finds acceptable. Sarfati exhibits the moral relativism for which he and his creationist cohorts denounce Darwinism.

One also cannot ignore the unmistakable "evolutionary" view of Christianity that one finds among Christian creationists. For them, Christianity represents the apex of religions. Judaism is a fossil or an inferior version that was meant to culminate in Christianity. Killing certain groups (such as the Canaanites) was acceptable because they might have stood in the way of the "salvation history" meant to culminate in Christianity. Thus, "salvation history" has many of the same negative consequences for particular groups (e.g., Canaanites who threaten the chosen group; anyone that stood in the way of the "goal") creationists attribute to evolutionary theory.

Pre-Darwinian blood purity

Weikart obliquely mentions the fact that German Darwinist geneticists championed the Nuremberg laws, which prohibited marriage between Germans and Jews in order to preserve Germanic blood purity. [24] John P. Koster, a Christian apologist, is even more accusatory of Darwinism:

Two aspects of Hitler's life really have to be considered at this point. The first aspect is the way in which something resembling the atheist syndrome shaped Hitler's own savagely distorted personality. The second is the way in which Darwin and Huxley's picture of man's place in the universe prepared the way for the Holocaust. [25]

Two practical consequences of Nazi ideology are noted by Koster. One is the passage of the Nuremberg Laws. Another, outlined in the famous Wannsee Conference of 1942, began the large scale movement of Jews to labor camps, where only the hardiest were to survive. The labor camps were considered to be living laboratories for Darwin's concept of the survival of the fittest.

But the specific idea of blood purity did not begin with Darwin. Such a notion was already present in Christian ideas about Jews. For example, the marriage of Christians and Jews was forbidden by the Council of Elvira already in the fourth century. Juan Martinez Siliceo, the archbishop of Toledo, proposed legislation in 1547 based very specifically on what is called "limpieza de sangre" ("cleanliness of blood," "purity of blood"). [26] Statutes enacted in Toledo in 1449 also focused on blood purity as a means to discriminate against Jews who had converted but were not Spaniards by "blood."

Some of Hitler's specific terminology for "purity of the blood" (e.g., "Reinhaltung des Blutes") corresponds quite closely to terminology (limpieza de sangre) applied against Jews in Spain. Likewise, in Islam we find that blood is also believed to be the locus of genealogical relationships. Thus, one Hadith speaks of Allah making blood sacred (harrama...dima'a). [27] Hitler, therefore, probably mirrors Christian or Islamic ideas more than Darwinian ones here. As far as I know, Darwin did not speak of "blood purity."

In fact, the Bible, not Darwinism, has been the principal exponent of the most systematic ideology of genealogical purity inherited by western civilization. One example is found in the story of the shock exhibited by Ezra, the priest, at how the Jews had mixed with foreigners:

Ezra 9:1 After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, "The people of Israel, the priests, and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.

Ezra 9:2 For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons. Thus the holy seed has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands, and in this faithlessness the officials and leaders have led the way."

Even if there is no understanding of modern genetics, it is clear that the author understands that the mixing of "seed" is a physical process. Likewise, the author seems to think of "pollution" in material terms in prohibiting miscegenation:

Ezra 9:11 which you commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, 'The land that you are entering to possess is a land unclean with the pollutions of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations. They have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness.

Ezra 9:12 Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, so that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.'

Ezra believed that this miscegenation would bring the wrath of God (10:14; see also Deuteronomy 23:3-6). Genealogical purity was supposed to maintain strength (Ezra 9:12: "so that you may be strong"). >The solution was to send away the wives, even with children (Ezra 10:3). Thus, family values here are subordinate to ethnic values. [28]

But viewing the mixing of seed as sin is not that different from Hitler's view of miscegenation: "To bring about such a development is, then, nothing else but to sin against the will of the eternal creator." [29] Now, where would Hitler get the idea that miscegenation would be a sin against the eternal creator? Was it from Darwin's books, or was it from the Bible to which creationists subscribe? And we see, very little difference, therefore between the biblical idea that certain groups were inferior by virtue of their genealogical identity, and Weikart's observation that

One fundamental component of this Nazi worldview was human inequality, the notion that human beings have differing values depending on their biological characteristics. [30]

Recall also that Koster cites the Wannsee Conference plan to place Jews in labor camps, and then ignores that this idea is the last point of Martin Luther's seven-point plan for the Jews. Seen in this light, the Nuremberg laws are simply a continuance of Christian and biblical concepts.

Weikart tells us that Hitler "continually accused the Jews of greed, deceit, sexual deviance, and other immoral deeds, thereby justifying his view of them as an inferior race." [31] Not only are these charges parallel to charges made by Sarfati against the Canaanites, but Weikart has apparently forgotten that at least one of these accusations against the Jews can be traced back to Jesus in John 8:44:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Part of this verse (Der Vater der Juden ist der Teufel = The Father of the Jews is the Devil) from John was posted on road signs in some German towns. [32] Recall also that Luther's anti-Judaic tract is called "On the Jews and Their Lies." Thus, there is a clear continuous portrayal of Jews as liars in Christian history from John to Hitler.

Materialism and the value of life

Weikart's assault on evolutionary theory is part of a larger assault on "materialism" that permeates creationist literature. According to creationists, the idea that life originates from purely physico-chemical processes leads to the devaluation of human life. That materialistic world-view, argue creationists, is why we have abortion, among other ills, in modern society.

Yet, the opposite may be more often the case. Creationists often have a pneumatocentric view of life that can devalue the human body. A pneumatocentric view of life, which is unique to religion, means that the welfare and salvation of the non-material soul has priority over bodily well-being. We find a classic expression of this idea in Matthew 10:28:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Likewise, the author of 1 Corinthians 5:8 advises this punishment for a congregation member who has sinned: "you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." Indeed, the Muslim hijackers who flung themselves into the World Trade Center on 9-11 cared little for their bodies. It was their souls that they wanted to preserve intact.

Abortion as a soul-saving machine

A pneumatocentric view of life can logically result in the advocacy of abortion. The reason is that many creationists believe that fetuses and those who die in infancy go directly to heaven. For example, Louis T. Talbot (1889-1976), a former chancellor of Biola College, a creationist mecca, answers a question concerning the destiny of those who die in infancy as follows:

Yes, all infants, including stillborn babies, and young children who have not reached the age of accountability at death, go immediately into the presence of God. [33]

That would mean that abortion should result in a 100% salvation rate for fetuses who are aborted. Abortion would also eliminate completely the risk of sending aborted fetuses to an eternal torture in hell. So, by this logic, creationists should be for abortion, not against it.

In fact, Reuben A. Torrey (1856-1928), a famous creationist, nearly comes to this conclusion when explaining why killing Canaanite children was justified:

Even today I could almost wish that all the babies born into families of wicked influence might be slain in infancy, were it not for the hope that some concerned Christian will carry to them the saving gospel of the Son of God. [34]

Yet, even this wish is illogical if all dead infants go directly to heaven. Torrey substitutes a risky hope of salvation through the gospel for what is the certainty of salvation through abortion or infanticide.

If creationists object that it is murder to commit an abortion, then we need to understand that Exodus 21:22 does not seem to regard the value of a fetus as equal to that of an adult. If a fetus is lost by an accidental human action, only a fine is imposed, whereas adults killed accidentally may require life for life (Numbers 35:22-34).

Yet, let's suppose that creationists do not support abortion to save souls because they deem it murder to perform abortions. But even if abortion be regarded as murder, the fact remains that one abortion doctor could send a thousand souls to heaven in his lifetime. One still would gain 1000 souls for every doctor lost because of performing abortions. Abortion would still be a better method of saving souls than what anti-abortionists favor now (let the children grow up and hope they convert). The economics of soul-saving favor abortion no matter how we calculate it.

By the same token, a materialist view of life may be somatocentric -- a view in which the body is the only and most valuable part of a person. Such a view can lead logically to valuing human life. Evolutionist materialists may try to make the most of the life they have on earth rather than sacrifice their earthly life for an afterlife that cannot be verified to exist. Valuing genetic diversity can lead to valuing the preservation of life. Thus, it is religious pneumatocentrism, not evolutionary theory, that can lead to senseless sacrifices of human life.

The ethics of biblical genocide

If every creationist might not be willing to defend Luther, it is different when it comes to biblical genocide. Indeed, all creationists defend biblical genocide in both the Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament, and in the New Testament. First, there is little dispute among academic biblical scholars (Jewish, Christian or secular), or even among creationists, that genocide is the proper term for the practices evinced in some biblical texts.

This is clearly reflected in Show Them No Mercy: 4 Views on God and Canaanite Genocide (2003), a book edited by four Christian conservatives. [35]

Among the most important of these genocidal biblical texts is Deuteronomy 20:16-18:

Deut. 20:16 But as for the towns of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive.

Deut. 20:17 You shall annihilate them -- the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites -- just as the LORD your God has commanded,

Deut. 20:18 so that they may not teach you to do all the abhorrent things that they do for their gods, and you thus sin against the LORD your God.

And this text against the group called the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15:

1. And Samuel said to Saul, "The LORD sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore hearken to the words of the LORD.

2. Thus says the LORD of hosts, "I will punish what Am'alek did to Israel in opposing them on the way, when they came up out of Egypt.

3. Now go and smite Am'alek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass."

Christians, in particular, have been more reticent to define certain New Testament passages as genocidal or even as violent. Consider the violence that Jesus plans for the enemies of Christians at the last judgment.

Matt. 25:41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels...

Matt. 25:46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

As I have argued elsewhere, some New Testament authors actually advocated a type of violence that was much higher, in both quality and quantity, than what is found in the Jewish scriptures. The Old Testament god may often wish to injure or kill you, but only up to the limits of your earthly lifetime. The New Testament advocates eternal torture by fire. Imagine Hitler saying that he did not want to kill Jews in ovens, but rather just torture them forever in ovens, and you would see the moral depravity of such an idea. In fact, most creationists forget that the burning of opponents is a punishment advocated by the Bible, not by Darwin's books.

Love as a reason for genocide

Recall that Weikart believes that Christianity taught the universal love of all humanity. But the fact is that "love" itself can be defined in such a way as to render genocide a loving act. Consider this passage, from R. A. Torrey, one of the contributors to The Fundamentals, a series of anti-evolutionary tracts that helped popularize the name "fundamentalist":

The extermination of the Canaanite children was not only an act of mercy and love to the world at large; it was an act of love and mercy to the children themselves. [36]

Indeed, Christian "love" has been a very common defense for violence throughout Christian history.

Moreover, some creationists even use medicalized language, quite similar to that of Nazi ideologues, to explain the necessity of genocide of the Canaanites. Gleason Archer, a renowned evangelical creationist, phrases it thus:

Just as the wise surgeon removes dangerous cancer from his patient's body by use of the scalpel, so God employed the Israelites to remove such dangerous malignancies from human society. [37]

Archer has no trouble thinking of Canaanite children as being part of the "malignancy" that had to be removed.

Sin as a reason for genocide

Another approach to defending biblical genocide centers on the charge that the Canaanites deserved it because they were sinful. Glenn Miller provides such a rationale in a lengthy blog post titled: How could a God of Love order the massacre/annihilation of the Canaanites?[38] Specifically, Miller says that the Canaanites deserved the killing of their women and children because they engaged in these activities:

  • Child sacrifice
  • Homosexual sex
  • Incest

First, let's recall that the very notion that "sin" and sexual depravity can justify genocide is also similar to Hitler's rationale in combating miscegenation: "To bring about such a development is, then, nothing else but to sin against the will of the eternal creator." [39] Hitler, it should be observed, also wanted to eliminate homosexuality, something that marks him again as more similar to some biblical authors (e.g. Leviticus 20:13) than he is to Darwin.

Moreover, Miller assures us that God treats everyone the same for such sins:

And God allowed no double standards. When Israel began to look like 'Canaanites', God judged them IN THE SAME WAY...and 'vomited' them from the Land as well. This expulsion was also accompanied by the harsh measures of warfare faced by the Canaanites.[40]

However, the Israelites were not treated the same as the Canaanites. The Canaanites were to be completely annihilated (Deuteronomy 20:16: "you must not let anything that breathes remain alive") not just expelled from the land. There is no similar punishment that demands that, when a Hebrew commits a sexual sin, all Hebrew women and children should be killed so that nothing is left of them.

If incest is a reason for genocide, it does not appear to be so in the case of Abraham, regarded as of the most blessed man on earth, despite the fact that he married his half-sister (Genesis 20:12), and had multiple sexual partners (Hagar and Sarah in Genesis 16).

Moreover, incest with a sister or a half-sister is to be punished by death according to the Mosaic law (Leviticus 20:17), which would have applied to Abraham, who married "the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother" (Genesis 20:12).

So Miller ends up trying to convince us that a whole city, including children, should be burned in Sodom (Genesis 19) because God did not like certain sexual acts to be performed, but yet God blesses a man that commits sexual acts that are explicitly prohibited in the Mosaic law. If the objection is that the Mosaic law was not in effect at the time of Abraham, then we should note that it was also not in effect at the time of Sodom's demise. God is the biggest moral relativist of all in biblical literature.

Child sacrifice is biblically approved

Miller's justification of Canaanite genocide is premised on the idea that child sacrifice is unconditionally repugnant to the biblical God. Miller forgets that child sacrifice may have been perfectly acceptable to the biblical god, something demonstrated in painstaking detail by Jon Levenson, the Albert A. List professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard Divinity School. In his brilliant treatment, The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son (1993), Levenson states that "only at a particular stage rather late in the history of Israel was child sacrifice branded as counter to the will of YHWH and thus ipso facto idolatrous." [41] He points to Ezekiel 20:25-26, as one example where Yahweh says:

[25] Moreover I gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not have life;

[26] and I defiled them through their very gifts in making them offer by fire all their first-born, that I might horrify them; I did it that they might know that I am the LORD.

But of which statutes is Yahweh speaking when referring the sacrifice of a first-born son? That statute may be the one in Exodus 22:29-30:

[29] "You shall not delay to offer from the fulness of your harvest and from the outflow of your presses.

"The first-born of your sons you shall give to me.

[30] You shall do likewise with your oxen and with your sheep: seven days it shall be with its dam; on the eighth day you shall give it to me.

As Levenson observes, many Christian and Jewish scholars have tried to mitigate or eliminate the obvious meaning of these passages. But even Moshe Greenberg, author of a major commentary of Ezekiel, and who otherwise minimizes the idea that normative Yahwism engaged in child sacrifice, admits:

The polemic against child sacrifice (to YHWH) in Deut. 12:29ff.; Jer 7:31; 19:5, 32:35 indicates that at least from the time of the last kings of Judah it was popularly believed that YHWH accepted, perhaps even commanded, it. [42]

For Levenson, it was late texts that sought to substitute animals for actual human first-born sons. Genesis 22, which shows Yahweh substituting a ram for Isaac, is part of a late biblical tradition. Indeed, in Genesis 22, Abraham seems to presume that child sacrifice is not an impossible request, and it is the substitution of the ram that is unexpected. For most of biblical history, Yahweh was not against child sacrifice per se, but rather against child sacrifice to other gods.

And, of course, Miller forgets that sacrifice of a son is the foundation of Christianity. After all, Jesus Christ is viewed as the only-begotten son of God, who must be sacrificed to redeem the world because of "love" (John 3:16). Christ's sacrifice is premised on the sort of blood-magic inherited from the ancient Near East. This blood-magic is evident in Hebrews 9:22: "Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin." Christian creationists might claim that their god has the authority to order sacrifice, but this claim is no more verifiable than that of any other religion that practices human sacrifice.

Then there is the sheer logical absurdity of the pragmatics suggested by Sarfati and Miller, who argue that the Israelites had to kill Canaanite children because the Canaanites were killing their children. This, of course, leaves unexplained why we have to kill the children, instead of killing the perpetrators of the infanticide. Such a measure is, in fact, attributed by Tertullian, the famous church father, to a Roman official:

In Africa infants used to be sacrificed to Saturn and quite openly, down to the proconsulate of< Tiberius, who took the priests themselves and on the very trees of their temple, under whose shadow their crimes had been committed, hung them alive like votive offerings on crosses. [43]

This is a far wiser and most just punishment than killing children so that they will not be killed by their parents. Such actions by the Romans refutes the usual apologetic mantra that Christianity was needed to finally stop such killings.

Furthermore, Miller's suggestion violates at least one biblical commandment found in Deuteronomy 24:16:

The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor shall the children be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin.

But, as usual, creationists often disregard their own scriptures or pick-and-choose scriptures that favor their view. Whatever the biblical passages chosen, Miller wishes to convince us that it is logically acceptable to kill children because those children are being killed.

Archaeology and Canaanite child sacrifice

Creationists are not content to point to biblical texts that indict the whole of Canaanite culture. Miller and Sarfati believe that there is archaeological evidence that proves every one of the charges made by biblical authors against the Canaanites. Glenn Miller provides this supposed evidence in his aforementioned blog post, which is used as a reference by Sarfati. [44] But the uninformed self-confidence of the amateur biblical scholarship evinced by both Miller and Sarfati becomes their own snare.

If we follow a traditional biblical chronology, the genocide of the Canaanites and Amalekites was ordered somewhere between the Exodus, which Miller dates at around 1400 BCE (in opposition to most academic scholars), and the time of Saul, around 1000 BCE. Therefore, we should expect that Miller would offer archaeological evidence for these Canaanite practices from that time.

However, Miller's main evidence dates from after 800 BCE, and as late as the fourth century CE. Moreover, most of the evidence is not from Canaan. He tries to obscure this fact by saying "Canaanite culture (in the broad sense)," but this is a meaningless description unless he defines "Canaanite" in the first place. And, indeed, scholars cannot agree on what is "Canaan" or "Canaanite." [45] But, for the sake of argument, let's accept the geographical borders for Canaan given in Numbers 34:1-12. These boundaries would include most of what we now call Lebanon, parts of Syria, and all of what is presently called Israel.

Yet, most of the evidence cited by Miller is not from Canaan at all. Rather, Miller is referring mainly to evidence found in Punic and Neo-Punic sites in the Mediterranean lands and islands west of biblical Canaan. "Punic" is the name given to the culture attributed to colonists from Phoenicia, which roughly corresponds to the area we know as Lebanon. [46] But "Phoenicia" is itself a construct of Greek geographers, and there is no indication that the Phoenicians called themselves that or thought of themselves as a unified people.

It is true that many places in the western Mediterranean were colonized by Semitic-speaking peoples somewhere between 750 BCE until their subjugation by the Roman empire by the end of the Punic Wars. It is true that many archaeologists do view Punic culture as a continuation of Canaanite culture. But that opinion must be tempered by the fact that these sites also evince the presence of Greeks and other peoples.

Thus, it is not always easy to distinguish what is "Punic," and, by extension, "Canaanite," from what is not. Shelby Brown comments, "By the fourth century the Levant had been so frequently invaded and culturally changed that it cannot really be considered 'Phoenicia.'" [47] Similarly, William F. Albright, who is now viewed as on the conservative side of modern biblical scholarship, even admits that:

The relatively late date at which the practice of< setting up commemorative stelae in connection with "tophet" sacrifices was introduced, makes it improbable that they were derived from Phoenicia proper. [48]

In any case, Miller cites the discovery of a tophet, a cemetery supposedly devoted to sacrificed infants, at Carthage in what is now Tunisia. The word tophet derives from some references in the Bible to burning children in the valley of Hinnom outside of Jerusalem. According to 2 Kings 23, a king named Josiah (ca. 642-609 BCE) destroyed places of worship that were dedicated to gods other than Yahweh. 2 Kings 23:10 says:

And he defiled To'pheth, which is in the valley of the sons of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech.

Thus, using the word tophet at Carthage is already prejudicing the case because it assumes that the cemeteries at Carthage represent the same practice described in Jerusalem. Moreover, the biblical record says that the tophet is a specific location in the valley of Hinnom. With the possible exception of Isaiah 57:5 (uses plural "valleys"), no other tophets are said to exist anywhere else.

We cannot overlook the fact that Harvard Professor Lawrence Stager, who was a principal modern excavator of Carthage, makes a strong case for the existence of child sacrifice at that site on the following evidence: [49]

  1. Greco-Roman texts that mention child sacrifice among Punic cultures.
  2. Inscriptions at Punic sites, especially those that mention the term mlk
  3. Osteology: "No skeleton has shown any signs of pathological conditions that might have caused death." [50]

Yet, even if we were to accept all of this evidence, the problem remains that this does not confirm anything about supposed Canaanite practices ca. 1400 BCE when the orders were given. Indeed, some scholars (e.g. George Heider) see any child sacrifice as an intra-Punic development. [51] If so, anything done by the Neo-Phoenicians is akin to killing British women and children as punishment for crimes committed by the U.S. Army at Wounded Knee, South Dakota in 1890.

Inscriptions with the term mlk are extremely difficult to interpret. The term usually is assumed to mean the same as what is found in the Hebrew Bible (e.g., Leviticus 18:21 and 20:2-5). Two interpretations are usually found for mlk in the history of scholarship: 1) mlk is the name of the deity to which the offering is made; 2) mlk is the technical term for the offering itself, regardless of to which god it is made. [52] Miller makes much of the fact that the Phoenician phrase, mlk 'dm, might mean "the sacrifice of a man," but he neglects to mention that this term has not been found thus far at Carthage, but at other places. [53] In regard to the inscriptions at Carthage, even Stager admits "None refers explicitly to child sacrifice, only to vows made to Tanit." [54]

Another problem with Miller is his uncritical use of anti-Canaanite (or anti-Carthaginian/Phoenician) sources. Shelby Brown reminds us:

Stelae and the burials they commemorate represent the only primary evidence for the role of sacrifice in Carthaginian and Phoenician religion. With the exception of quotations of the Phoenician Sanchuniathon by later authors, no Punic or Phoenician literature describing or explaining the rite has survived. Our information consists only of descriptions of the enemies of Carthage. [55]

The fact that enemies of Carthage are the main source for the claim of child sacrifice is very important because it is well-known that rival cultures routinely accused each other of horrible behavior.

Indeed, Miller seems to ignore that it is precisely accusations of child sacrifice that were constantly being launched against both Christians and Jews in antiquity. Such an accusation is reported by Tertullian (ca. 155-230), the famous church father, as follows:

We are said to be the most criminal of men, on the score of our sacramental baby-killing [sacramento infanticidii] and the baby-eating that goes with it and the incest that follows the banquet where the dogs are our pimps in the dark, forsooth, and make a sort of decency for guilty lusts by overturning our lamps. [56]

If we should not take such reports about Christians at face-value, we certainly should not do it for the Canaanites.

Moreover, the sources Miller cites are extremely late. For example, he cites Eusebius, the famous Christian historian of the fourth century, to tell us about supposed Canaanite behavior some eighteen-hundred years earlier, around 1400 BCE. But we could come to opposite conclusions by using sources that are just as late. For example, there are well-developed Rabbinic traditions that tell us that the biblical passages cited by Miller as evidence of burning children should not be interpreted that way.

Consider Deuteronomy 18:10 as translated by the version (NIV = The New International Version) quoted by Miller.

Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire.

However, the word "sacrifices" is not the only possible translation of the Hebrew, which uses the phrase "he'ebîr ba'esh" also used in 2 Kings 23:10 to describe the activity at the tophet outside of Jerusalem. This phrase may also be translated as "cause to pass through/over the fire." Thus, we also can translate Deuteronomy 18:10 as follows: "There shall not be found among you that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire," as does the King James Version (and the NIV in a note).

And, according to many ancient Jewish commentators, "passing a child through fire" did not refer to burning a child IN a fire, but rather to a ritual more akin to fire-walking in Fiji or passing through lit torches. Commenting in Deuteronomy 18:10, the Talmudic tractate Sanhedrin (64a) says: "There was a loose pile of bricks in the middle, and fire on either side of it." [57] Rashi, the medieval Jewish commentator, further elaborates on this interpretation in his commentary on the worship of Molek in Leviticus 18 and Deuteronomy 18:10,

"...and this was the manner in which it was worshipped: that he (the father) handed his child (lit. his son, but it applies to his daughter also; cf. Deut. XVIII.10) over to the priests of the idol. These lit two large pyres one opposite the other and made the child to pass on foot between the two pyres (Sanh. 64a)." [58]

Yet, despite these problems, Miller assures us:

Archeological evidence is firm and growing. Child sacrifice burial grounds are called tophet in the literature, and they occur throughout Palestine and the Phoenician empire. Ahlstrom mentions sites "at 'Atlit, Tell el-Far'a (S) and Tell el 'Ajjul in Palestine" (HAP: 688, n. 2).

Miller is actually referring to a footnote in a book, History of Ancient Palestine (HAP), by the late Gösta Ahlström, a biblical scholar who spent most of his career at the University of Chicago. [59]

But when one reads that footnote, we realize that Ahlström is simply citing an article by another scholar named Kurt Galling. When we look at what Galling actually said, we find nothing that implies the presence of child sacrifice at Atlit, Tell el-Far'a or Tell el 'Ajjul. Galling says:

Also on the Palestinian coast, south of [Mt.] Carmel, three urn cemeteries are found. [60]

Galling then specifies that these three cemeteries are at Atlit, Tell el-Fara'a and Tell Ajjul. But these three "urn cemeteries" (urnenfriedhöfe) imply nothing about child sacrifice. Nor does Galling refer to them as a tophet.

Because he is not a trained biblical scholar, Miller is not sufficiently critical of the interpretations that even Ahlström must be asked to justify. It has long been known that there were a variety of means by which people in Canaan buried their dead. Elizabeth Bloch-Smith summarizes them well: [61]

  • Simple graves
  • Cist graves
  • Storage jars (Pithos) burials
  • Anthropoid coffins
  • Cremation burials

In other words, the urns may represent cremation burials, and nothing at those sites tells us otherwise. In fact, Galling himself provides a footnote to articles about "cremated burials." [62] An authoritative summary of the Tel 'Ajjul states: "There is some indication of Phoenician-style cremation burials in cemetery 1000."[63] There is no indication of human sacrifice.

Prof. Stager, on the other hand, overlooks that the vast majority of diseases do not leave evidence on bones. Thus, one cannot, as Prof. Stager does, use this lack of disease in the bones as evidence that these were healthy children. Nor does Miller seem to realize that Jeffrey Schwartz, the official osteologist of the Carthage excavations has come to a very different conclusion about the manner of death of the infants at Carthage. Schwartz says:

In fact, the statistics at present indicate that, on the basis of cranial and long bone measurements, approximately 81 percent of all individuals in my sample -- whether from single individual urns or double individual urns -- were late third-trimester fetuses...These statistics imply that at least 54 percent, but possibly as many as 81 percent, of the individuals from my sample died of natural causes before they were cremated -- which means, of course, that most of the individuals in this sample had not been sacrificed in the sense of being victims of a blood-killing. [64]

Schwartz also explains the repeated presence of two individuals in the same urn differently from Stager. The latter doubted that natural causes would have affected two children far apart in age in the same family. Schwartz, however, believes that the individuals in the same urn are often so close in age (months apart) that they may not be from the same family at all. [65]

Miller also resorts to another well-worn device used by creationists: The claim that opposition is "growing" against the view creationists oppose. Again, this is a matter of not reading the scholarly literature with much depth. In fact, we can easily find claims that any trend is the opposite of what Miller claims. For example, in the authoritative Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible(582), we find this statement:

Finally, it should be noted that an increasingly vocal body of European scholars is challenging the interpretation of the Punic remains as indicating any cult of child sacrifice. [66]

In tracing the history of the "Punic sacrifice" idea, Brien Garnand, who is compiling a massive data-base on these issues, believes 1987 marked the turning point away from the Punic sacrifice idea, even if he disagrees with that shift. [67]

Garnand notes that many scholars simply see that aspersion upon the Phoenicians as an instance of Western and Christian-inspired prejudice against other groups. In that respect, it is very much like the negative ancient propaganda launched against Christians. Regardless of whether these "revisionist" scholars are correct, the point remains that we could just as well find quotes that indicate a growing trend that is opposite of what Miller claims.

El Pozo Moro and child sacrifice

Another instance where Miller's amateur research is evident is in his appeal to a monument found at a place called Pozo Moro, southwest of Valencia, Spain. Miller is content to just cite Ahlström's description:

The archaeological excavations at Punic Pozo Moro in Spain show a monument with a ritual scene with a god (with an animal head) on a throne and a table in front of him. He holds with one hand a pig lying on its back and in the other hand he has a bowl with the head and the feet of a little child (?) sticking up. He holds this bowl in front of his mouth. To the right there is another bowl, and a god with an animal head (horse?) holding a knife in his right hand above the bowl ready to slaughter the child. The scene (in a neo-Hittite style) shows both animal and child sacrifices as food for the gods. [68]

But there are numerous problems with using this monument to make any claims about Canaanite child sacrifice in 1400-1000 BCE. First, the monument dates after 500 BCE. Second, nothing makes this monument necessarily Canaanite, or even Punic (Ahlström mentions a "Neo-Hittite style"). [69]

Third, and, most importantly, there is no text or inscription to help us decipher what is being depicted. The scene depicts beings that are part beast and part human. What makes Miller think that this is a Molek child sacrifice? There is no fire here depicted, as would be expected of a Molek sacrifice. While certain elements of the Pozo Moro can be found in many places in Canaan, the distinctive aspects of the monument (e.g., the specific two headed figure holding a possible child in a bowl) are not found in any part of Canaan.

There are alternative interpretations possible. For example, what if this is a depiction of a demon about to eat children? That would not make it a depiction of an acceptable sacrifice, but rather a depiction of an unwanted aspect of life. Otherwise, interpreting the Pozo Moro monument as endorsing the practice depicted would be akin to looking at Albrecht Altdorfer's painting, Lot and His Daughters (1537), in Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum, and then concluding that the painting and the whole of Austrian culture endorses the incestuous practice depicted.

This last point is important because both Miller and Sarfati have no problem generalizing any bad behavior to every Phoenician or Canaanite to justify the wholesale slaughter in the biblical texts. Such generalization is most ironic in light of Sarfati's repeated assault on induction as a valid scientific procedure. But, for Sarfati, the induction that ALL Canaanites kill children because SOME of them have been found to kill children, seems to be perfectly valid.

If we went further, and asked which gods are said to eat people, we would go right back to the biblical god. Aside from the charge of ritual cannibalism against Christians reported by Tertullian, consider this passage in Psalm 21:8-9:

[8] Your hand will find out all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you.

[9] You will make them as a blazing oven when you appear. The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath; and fire will consume them.

Similar sentiments are found when Christ returns, according to Revelation 19:16-18:

[16] On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords.

[17] Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in midheaven, "Come, gather for the great supper of God,

[18] to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great."

So, if the mythology of eating human flesh by the biblical god is admitted by biblical authors, then one can see that the monument at Pozo Moro might be interpreted in that light. If we say that these biblical allusions to eating human beings are poetic, then we ought to allow the same interpretations when we find allusions to eating human beings in non-biblical literature.

But let's suppose that child sacrifice was as pervasive among Canaanites as Sarfati and Miller will have us believe. The fact that child sacrifice remained so strong 1000 years after the order for genocide was given (ca. 1400-1000 BCE) means that the intended cure for this practice was not very effective. Recall that Tertullian, the church father, tells us that it was not biblical principles that ended this practice in some locales, but rather a Roman official.

<>When we look at the wider length of Christian history, we see that the advent of Christianity did not end infanticide, despite repeated claims to the contrary. In fact, some researchers think that Christian theology sometimes may have encouraged infanticide. Keith Wrightson remarks:

It also raises the disturbing possibility that if Christian social morality had done much to overcome the practice of infanticide motivated by considerations of communal or familial interest, it may have exacerbated resort to it to avoid the stigma of illegitimacy. [69a]

Finally, Sarfati and Miller forget that any child sacrifice in antiquity was done by theists and creationists!!! The Canaanites, after all believed in gods and creation, and that did not deter them from killing children. In fact, belief in gods is what probably made them kill children.


For his archaeological confirmation of bestiality among the Canaanites, Miller offers us one miserly example. This is a fragmentary and ambiguous mythical text from Ugarit, an ancient city which flourished ca. 1400 BCE in what is now the coast of Syria. But again, Ugarit is not part of Canaan. In fact, an Ugaritic list of merchants refers to "Ya'ilu, a Canaanite" (Ugaritic in transcription: y'l.kn'ny), which shows that Ugaritians were not Canaanites. [70]


The idea that Creationist ethics are the answer to a supposedly Darwinian tendency to devalue human life is a myth. Given the foregoing discussion, we can demonstrate that almost every feature Weikart and his cohorts list for Nazi ideology is advocated by at least one passage/biblical author in the Bible (Old Testament or New Testament). Here is a summary:

Nazi ideologyBible
Homosexuality condemnedYESYES
Genealogical purity demandedYESYES
Life unequal in valueYESYES
Whole groups devaluedYESYES
Genocide permissibleYESYES

We can do the same in comparing practices attributed to the Canaanites, with practices sometimes endorsed by biblical authors.

Child sacrificeYESYES
Eating human beingsYESYES

Moreover, the longest history of defenses for genocide are found among creationists. This history begins with the biblical authors, who defended their genocides, and continues with modern creationist who are still justifying those acts, among other acts of genocide in Christian history. Weikart could have better titled his book, From John and Luther to Hitler.

Creationism fails miserably as an ethical system because determining when genocide is acceptable depends on totally unverifiable claims about who can access the divine will or who can read God's mind. Creationist ethics are based on the whims and claims of people who tell us they know what God wants. Scientific ethics, as imperfect as they may be, at least can demand verifiable evidence that violence in self-defense is necessary. Theistic violence, on the other hand, often relies on the unverifiable belief that a supernatural being said we had to sacrifice human life. [71]


*Unless indicated otherwise, all biblical translations are from the Revised Standard Version on-line edition.

[1] Richard Weikart, From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany (New York: Palgrave McMillan 2004). Edward Babinski also provides an excellent review of related historical oversights by Weikart at: http://www.edwardtbabinski.us/darwin_hitler.html (last accessed August 6, 2007). For another work that influenced Weikart, see James Rachel, Created From Animals: the Moral Implications of Darwinism (New York: Oxford, 1990).

[2] For Sarfati's basic biography, see: http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/bios/j_sarfati.asp (accessed on July 28, 2007). For his defense of young-earth creationism, see Jonathan Sarfati, Refuting Compromise: A Biblical and Scientific Refutation of "Progressive Creationism" (Billions of Years) as Popularized by Hugh Ross (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2004). For William Lane Craig's defense of genocide, see http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5767

[3] Weikart, From Darwin to Hitler, 102.

[4] Weikart, From Darwin to Hitler,145.

[5] Weikart, From Darwin to Hitler, 41.

[6a] See Jacob Neusner, Jews and Christians: The Myth of a Common Tradition (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1991).

[6b] See Leon Poliakov, The Aryan Myth (New York: Basic Books, 1974), especially 175-182.

[7] Weikart, From Darwin to Hitler, 103. For studies of how the curse of Ham was used to justify slavery, see Stephen Haynes, Noah's Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery (New York: Oxford, 2000); David M. Goldenberg, The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003).

[8] Weikart, From Darwinism to Hitler, 103.

[9] Benjamin Isaac, The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), 23.

[10] For a more thorough discussion on the various factors that I believe are responsible for the Holocaust, see Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2005), 303-324.

[11] Martin Luther, On the Jews and Their Lies, translated by Martin H. Berman in Luther's Works: The Christian in Society IV, edited by Franklin Sherman (55 volumes; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971), 123-306. See further, Peter F. Wiener, Martin Luther: Hitler's Spiritual Ancestor (Cranford, New Jersey: American Atheist Press, 1999).

[12] Sherman, On the Jews and Their Lies, 268 n. 173.

[13] Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, translated by Ralph Manheim (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971), 213. German: "Neben Friedrich dem Grossen stehen hier Martin Luther sowohl wie Richard Wagner." Our German text is from Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (München: Müller, 1936), 232. Henceforth we label this source as "German, page number."

[14] Hitler, Mein Kampf, 65/German, 70: "So glaube ich heute im Sinne des allmächtigen Schöpfers zu handeln: 'Indem ich mich des Juden erwehre, kämpfe ich für das Werk des Herrn.'"

[15] Jonathan Sarfati, post of June 21, 2007 under the article "Time to Trim the Bible?" at http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2007/03/15/time-to-trim-the-bible/ (last accessed on August 6, 2007).

[16] Our citations are from the following edition: Alfred Rosenberg, Der Mythus des 20. Jahhunderts: Eine Wertung der seelisch-geistigen Gestaltentkämpfe unserer Zeit (München: Hoheneichen Verlag, 1938). Extracts have been translated into English as Alfred Rosenberg, Race and Race History and Other Essays, edited by Robert Pois (New York: Harper & Row, 1970).

[17] Rosenberg, Der Mythus, 78.

[18] Levy Smolar, "Ernest Renan's Interpretation of Biblical History," in Biblical and Related Studies Presented to Samuel Iwry, edited by Ann Kort and Scott Morschauer (Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1985), 237-257. For other theologians that were used to support Nazism, see Robert P. Erickson, Theologians Under Hitler (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985). See also Richard Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945 (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 2003). For Weikart's review of Steigmann-Gall, see German Studies Review 27, no. 1 (2004):174-76.

[19] Rosenberg, Der Mythus, 75. My translation of the German: "Gegen diese gesamte Verbastardierung, Verointalisierung und Verjudung des Christentums wehrte sich bereits das durchaus noch aristokratischen Geist atmende Johannesevangelium." Pois' edition (Race and Race History, 70) translated "Johannesevangelium" as "evangelical teachings of St. John," which obscures Rosenberg's more specific reference to the book we call the Gospel of John.

[20] See Lamont Stewart, The Swordbearer: John Knox and the European Reformation (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1991; Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars:Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992).

[21] For a study of St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre and how the Pope viewed Protestants killed in that massacre, see Hector Avalos, Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Press, 2005), 337-343.

[22] On Hitler's alleged mental instability, see Louis L. Snyder, Encyclopedia of the Third Reich (New York: Marlowe and Company, 1976), 160.

[23] Weikart, From Darwin to Hitler, 175.

[24] Weikart, From Darwin to Hitler, 226.

[25] John P. Koster, The Atheist Syndrome (Brentwood, Tennessee: Wolgemuth and Hyatt, 1989), 142.

[26] See further, Linda Martz, "Pure Blood Statutes in Sixteenth-Century Toledo: Implementation as Opposed to Adoption," Sefarad 61/1 (1994): 91-94; Albert Sicroff, Los estatutos de limpieza de sangre: Controversias entre los siglos xv y xvii (Madrid: Taurus ediciones, 1985); Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1997), especially 242-54; Henry Kamen, Philip of Spain (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 33-34.

[27] M. Muhammad Ali, A Manual of Hadith (1941; Reprint, Columbus, Ohio: Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore Inc, 2001), 316.

[28] For another perspective, focusing on marriage of priests with Jewish women, see Martha Himmelfarb, "Levi, Phinehas, and the Problem of Intermarriage at the Time of the Maccabean Revolt," Jewish Studies Quarterly 6 (1999):1-24.

[29] Mein Kampf, 286/German 314: "als Sünde treiben wider den Willen des ewigen Schöpfers."

[30] Weikart, From Darwin to Hitler, 7.

[31] Weikart, From Darwin to Hitler, 213.

[32] See Robert P. Erickson and Susannah Heschel, Betrayal: German Churches and the Holocaust (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999). A photograph of a road sign with John 8:44 appears on p. 92, photograph 6; See the older, but still useful, study by Charles Y. Glock and Rodney Stark, Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism (New York:Harper & Row, 1967).

[33] Louis T. Talbot, Bible Questions Explained (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1934), 244.

[34] R. A. Torrey, Difficulties in the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, n.d.), 60.

[35] C. S. Cowles, Eugene H. Merrill, Daniel L. Gard, and Tremper Longman III, ed., Show Them No Mercy: 4 Views on God and Canaanite Genocide (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003).

[36] Torrey, Difficulties in the Bible, 60.

[37] Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982), 121. On the use of medical rhetoric by the Nazis, see Götz Aly, Peter Chroust, and Christian Pross, Cleansing the Fatherland: Nazi Medicine and Racial Hygiene (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994).

[38] See http://www.christian-thinktank.com/qamorite.html (last accessed August 8, 2007). Sarfati refers readers to this blog as his "documentation" in his post of March 3, 2007 at http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2007/03/15/time-to-trim-the-bible/ (last accessed August 8, 2007).

[39] Hitler, Mein Kampf, 286/German, 314: " als Sünde treiben wider den Willen des ewigen Schöpfers."

[40] Glenn Miller, "How Could a God of Love Order the Massacre/Annihilation of the Canaanites?" http://www.christian-thinktank.com/qamorite.html (last accessed on August 6, 2007).

[41] Jon Levenson, The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 5.

[42] Moshe Greenberg, Ezekiel 1-20 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983), 369.

[43] Tertullian, Apologeticus, Translated by T. R. Glover and G. H. Randall (LCL 250; Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1977), 9.1-3.

[44] See http://www.christian-thinktank.com/qamorite.html (last accessed August 8, 2007). Sarfati refers readers to this blog as his "documentation" in his post of March 3, 2007 at http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2007/03/15/time-to-trim-the-bible/ (last accessed August 8, 2007).

[45] For a good treatment, see Anson Rainey, "Who is a Canaanite? A Review of the Textual Evidence," Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 304 (1996):1-15.

[46] For a survey of the Phoenicians, see Glenn Markoe, Peoples of the Past: Phoenicians (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000).

[47] Shelby Brown, Late Carthaginian Child Sacrifice and the Sacrificial Monuments in their Mediterranean Context (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991), 179.

[48] William F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (1968; reprint Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), p. 238.

[49] Lawrence Stager, "An Odyssey Debate: Were Living Children Sacrificed to the Gods? Yes," Archaeology Odyssey (November/December 2000):28-31. See also Lawrence Stager and Samuel R. Wolff, "Child Sacrifice at Carthage: Religious Rite or Population Control Biblical Archaeology Review (January/February, 1994):31-51.

[50] Stager, "Were Living Children Sacrificed to the God?", 28-31.

[51] George Heider, The Cult of Molek: A Reassessment (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1985).

[52] For surveys of the scholarship, see John Day, A God of Human Sacrifice in the Old Testament (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).

[53] There is a possible occurrence of mlk in an inscription found in Injirli, Turkey, but we must await the full publication of this inscription mentioned by Glenn Markoe, Peoples of the Past: Phoenicians 135.

[54] Lawrence Stager, "Were Living Children Sacrificed to the Gods?," 28-31. The opposite response to the question was offered by M'hamed Hassine Fantar in the same issue pages 28-31.

[55] Brown, Late Carthaginian Child Sacrifice, 15.

[56] Tertullian, Apologeticus (7.1), Translated by T. R. Glover and G. H. Randall (LCL 250; Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1977), 37.

[57] Our citations of the Babylonian Talmud are from Isidore Epstein, ed., Hebrew-English Edition of the Babylonian Talmud (London: The Soncino Press, 1988-1994).

[58] We follow the edition of Rabbi A. M. Silberstein, Chumash: With Rashi's Commentary. 5 Volumes (Jerusalem: Silberman Family, 1934), 3:83.

[59] Gösta Ahlström, History of Ancient Palestine (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993).

[60] Kurt Galling, "Der Weg der Phöniker nach Tarsis in literarischer und archäologischer Sicht," Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins 88 (1972):142: "Aber auch and der palästinischen Küste südlich des Karmel, finden sich 3 Orten Urnenfriedhöfe." My translation.

[61] Elizabeth Bloch-Smith, "Life in Judah from the Perspective of the Dead," Near Eastern Archaeology 65, no. 2 (2002):124-127.

[62] Galling, "Der Weg der Phöniker," 142, n. 3.

[63] See J. P. Dessel, "'Ajjul, Tell El-," in Eric M. Meyers, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archeaology in the Near East, 5 volumes (New York: Oxford, 1997), 1:39.

[64] Jeffrey H. Schwartz, What The Bones Tell Us (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1993), 56-57.

[65] Schwartz, What the Bones Tell Us, 52-53.

[66] G. C. Heider, "Molech," in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, ed. Karen van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst, 2nd revised edition (Leiden: Brill, 1999), p. 582.

[67] For a status report on the project, see Brien Garnand, "Barbarians at the Borders: The Maintenance of Ethnic Identities in the Ancient Mediterranean World," American Schools of Oriental Research Newsletter 49, no. 3 (1999):9

[68] Ahlström, The History of Ancient Palestine, 688, n. 2.

[69] For example, the lions found on the Pozo Moro monument have reasonable parallels outside of Canaan, at site called Alalakh (now in Turkey, late second millennium BCE). The lions at both Pozo Moro and Alalakh are recumbent, and have tails depicted as bending upward on the side of the body of the lions. For a photograph of the Alalakh lions, see Henry Frankfort, The Art and Architecture of the Ancient Orient (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1970), 273, plates 319 and 320. For the excavator's report, see Martín Almagro-Gorbea, "Pozo Moro: El monumento orientalizante, su contexto socio-cultural y sus paralelos en la arquitectura funeraria Iberica," Madrider Mitteilungen 24 (1983):197-201; For another study, see John S. Rundin, "Pozo Moro: Child Sacrifice and the Greek Legendary Tradition," Journal of Biblical Literature 123, no. 3 (Fall, 2004):425-447.

[69a] Keith Wrightson, "Infanticide in European History," Criminal Justice History 3 (1982):5.

[70] The Ugaritic text is designated KTU 4.96, line 7 in the standard edition of KTU (= Die keilalphabetischen Texte aus Ugarit) presented in Manfried Dietrich, Oswald Loretz, and Joaquín Sanmartín, The Cuneiform Alphabetic Texts from Ugarit, Ras Ibn Hani and Other Places (second, enlarged edition; Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 1995), 248.

[71] We should note the reticence of many creationist bloggers to answer a question I frequently put to them: "Do you believe genocide/infanticide is always wrong?" Note response #17 at: http://www.verumserum.com/?p=1114#comments. The Kansas creationist blogger ironically known as Forthekids (http://reasonablekansans.blogspot.com), has apparently refused to even post the question on her blog, despite repeated requests.