What would you think of a mother who used a large rock to bash in the heads of her three sons (all under 10 years old), killing two of them and nearly killing the third? What if she said god told her to do it? You would probably think she was insane. As you may have guessed, this actually happened. It’s just one of the many cases of parents who have attempted to kill their own children under the delusion that god told them to.
A while back there was the case of a father who attempted to stab his son to death. The son thought they were going hiking in the mountains, but the father intended to kill his son with a knife and set the body on fire. Why? Because he believed god had told him to do it. So what do you think of this man? He also must have been insane, right? Not according to Christians, Jews, and Muslims. This is the story of Abraham and Isaac.
I’m sure people who believe this really happened will say, “But God told him to stop at the last moment!” True, but that misses the point. The message is that you should obey god no matter what he tells you to do. Just recently a woman, after hearing her pastor preach about this story, murdered her two-year-old daughter. In her suicide note she wrote, “God never told me to stop.”
What exactly is the difference between this woman and Abraham? Both of them believed God told them to murder their children and were just following orders. So why is Abraham considered righteous and this woman considered insane?
Recently I watched a debate where Dan Barker asked Dinesh D’Souza, “Would you follow God’s command to kill me simply because he told you to?” Dinesh said (and I’m paraphrasing) he would doubt whether it was really a command from God and that he would consult the scriptures. Since the scriptures say not to murder, he would conclude that it wasn’t really a command from God. This completely evades the question (Would you follow God’s command?) and the amusing thing is that if he consulted all of the scriptures and not just the passages he likes, he would find God ordering murder in the very first book.
It was Bible stories like this that led me toward atheism. I read it several times when I was a Christian, but each time I glossed over it without considering what it really meant. Except the last time. Near the end of the story, God says, “I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven.” (Genesis 22:17) The last time I read this verse before completely losing my faith, I actually looked up and said out loud, “But Abraham failed the test!”
The story would have made a lot more sense if Abraham had said, “No, that would be wrong,” and been rewarded for it. (I suppose if Abraham really had said that, God would have cursed him and all his offspring.) Instead the Bible teaches that God rewards blind obedience, that you should do whatever he commands, even if it’s wrong. This is the sort of belief that causes moral people to do immoral things.
Let’s get even deeper: If God knows everything, wouldn’t he know whether Abraham would pass the test? Yes? Then why put Abraham through it? And why put Isaac through the horror of being tied up and seeing his father raise a knife over his body? If you’re a Christian (or a Jew or a Muslim, for that matter), what do you think is the point of this story?
A couple years ago I became a father and the mere thought of sacrificing my son makes me sick. Even if I were absolutely certain god was telling me to do it, I would refuse. I’ll close with a quote from Christopher Hitchens, who said it best:
If I was told to sacrifice [my children] to prove my devotion to God, and I was told to do what all monotheists are told to do and admire the man who says, “Yes, I’ll gut my kid to show my love of God,” I’d say, “No. Fuck you.”