The morality of God's genocides

@Eddie suggests a new topic, so here it is. Many times in the bible, God either commands or personally performs genocidal massacres. I can see a few potential responses:

  1. God didn’t actually do that; the bible is in error or is being misunderstood.

  2. Our moral standards don’t apply to God’s actions.

  3. Our current moral standards are God’s current standards too, and his standards have changed. Or maybe conditions have changed in some way that makes what was right then wrong now.

  4. Genocide is perfectly all right, and our current morality is incorrect.

  5. The only moral standard is whatever God commands or does; if God does genocide, it’s right by definition.

  6. God is evil; deal with it.

  7. Shut up.

But none of those seem satisfactory. Would anyone care to resolve this?


I personally hold to #1, which as I see it, is compatible with both theism and otherwise.

I used to believe some amalgam of 2, 5, and 7, with the barest, teensiest sliver of a hint of 3.

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Given recent events it seems like Gods’ genocides are the least of our worries.

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I’m not sure under which, if any, of those categories the answer that most people gave in the other thread would fall. That would be that it is possible for an entire race of people to be so irredeemably “wicked” or “sinful” that the only solution is to kill them all. And God, being omniscient, would know if this was the case.

Seems a silly idea with respect to babies, at least. I’d like to see someone try to defend the evil baby claim explicitly.

It’s really not all that different from the general concept of original sin, whereby we are all considered to be wicked and sinful, simply because one individual happens to be among our ancestors.

Which is not to deny that the idea is silly.


There are other responses besides the ones listed.
8. God exists but not in a form that is being assumed here. God does not cause genocide, and certainly does not intervene in genocides caused by humans.
9. God does not exist.

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It also strikes at the heart of predestination and free will.

What annoys me is that the people who defend biblical genocide usually oppose abortion too, without ever noticing that the ‘arguments’ they use for each also apply to the other.


1 in it’s various forms - it’s very broad - seems to satisfy a lot of people.

It also has the virtue of being quite strongly defensible in at least some cases - we can be sure that God did not literally wipe out almost all of humanity around 4000 years ago, and I understand that the genetic evidence is against such a severe bottleneck at any time since modern humans appeared.

I maybe be being a bit pedantic here but I think 2 needs to be modified to include the idea that God’s direct commands override normal moral values.

In the light of what the Bible actually says, I think that 2, 4 and 5 are unsatisfying because they come uncomfortably close to 6.


I don’t really see those as being incompatible if one chooses, say, option 2. God could then be justified in killing anyone he wants, including fetuses if they are considered to be people, but humans would still not have that right.

What if they think their god has told them to?

I’d say that both of those are sub-hypotheses of #1.

Yeah, I think that’s just a restatement of the same thing.

Could you expand on this, while we’re waiting for someone to actually defend God’s genocide? I’d say they’re all quite different. #6 is unique in that it demands that there is indeed a correct moral stance and that it applies to God as well as to humans.

I notice, by the way, that the defenders are notably absent here. One can imagine reasons for that.


From the previous discussion, it would appear that that is no different than God doing it himself. He gives the commands, and the people just follow if they know what’s good for them.

That’s assuming the people who think God told them are correct. If not, then they are guilty of murder, because they should know better than to think that God would order something as awful as a genocide.

4 is at least consistent with that idea and I’d say that’s the point of using 4. Unless it’s to justify genocide.

If you’re claiming that there is an objectively correct moral stance, the idea that it doesn’t apply to God raises some awkward questions (and if you aren’t you’re conceding that people could justifiably think of God as evil for doing these things). In more detail.

Concedes that by our moral standards God is evil - and if we shouldn’t use our moral standards, on what basis could we call God good?

This is a hard sell, given how appalling genocide is - especially when humans engage in “ethnic cleansing”. There are going to be a whole lot of actions that are normally wrong - and what makes them right? Anyone with doubts about the idea - which really seems justified - is on the verge of considering God to be evil (or at least in need of a better explanation)

That’s introducing an element of subjectivity into morality, as well as taking God out of normal moral discourse. It’s like 2, only denying that morality is fully objective.

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TBH, I’m not really sure what the point of this discussion is, until and unless someone comes by who is willing to defend genocides in at least some circumstances. At the moment, it seems to be a group of people who do not believe genocide is ever acceptable trying to imagine how someone else might manage to conclude otherwise. Not quite as interesting as having someone who actually does conclude otherwise.

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The point is probably more about the moral dilemma, something akin to Euthyphro’s Dilemma, the Epicurean Paradox, and Subjective v. Objective Morality. As mentioned by others, the topic also asks questions about free will and predestination.

We don’t need anyone to take a specific position in order to ascertain the moral implications of each position.


I think the point was to satisfy a request by @Eddie (who seems to have decided to not participate anyway).

I would mention first that all people die, by God’s decree, according to Christianity, and because of sin.

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” (Rom. 5:12)

And can even the youngest children be completely wicked? We speak of infancy as a time of innocence, and certainly children are not conscious of evil like adults are. But we read that children can be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth, and children can also be indwelt by evil spirits from an early age:

Luke 1:15 … he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.
Mark 9:21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered.

Similarly, even the youngest can turn to God or turn away from God:

PS 22:10 “From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.”
Psalm 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth.
(See also Ps. 51:5 and Isa. 48:8)

Thus apparently both righteousness and wickedness can start at an early age, even within the womb, and when the sin of the Amorites reached its full measure (Dt. 15:16), apparently all the people, men, women and children were completely wicked.

(excerpted from my page at

Yes, that’s always seemed to me to be one of the more absurd, not to say immoral, parts of Christian theology.

Does that actually seem credible to you? Evil babies, and in fact every baby in the entire population being evil? Further, does that justify genocide?


Are you referring to demonic possession here? And if so do you actually believe in demonic possession?

But thanks for being the first person willing to defend genocide. Others seem unwilling to venture in.