Commanding the mass murder of child prisoners of war is evil, no matter what.
That is a point which ought to be cleared up, just in the event that there are any questions, or if there is any confusion over that point. Commanding mass murder of anybody
is, generally speaking, a pretty awful thing. Murdering any number of children
at all is quite likely to be a clearly evil thing. There are in fact quite a few adjectives additional to "evil" which could properly be assigned to such an act: horrid, disgusting, unforgivable, unredeemable, and from traditional religious perspectives, sinful, even blasphemous. Where the mass murder commanded is not simply of children, but of the most powerless possible, child war prisoners, it is a new magnitude of abomination at issue. It is rationally impossible to comprehend that such a statement as this ought to ever be a controversial point, but it is surprisingly not difficult to find people willing to argue that there are reasons for mass murdering child war prisoners which are not only good, but holy
, blessed and beloved and commanded by their god
. This in turn arises from a surprising number of Old Testament
passages wherein comparable conduct is recorded or expressly commanded. For example:
Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.
2 Kings 15:16:
Then Menahem smote Tiphsah, and all that were therein, and the coasts thereof from Tirzah: because they opened not to him, therefore he smote it; and all the women therein that were with child he ripped up.
It might be noted that these are not claimed to be in the commanding voice, but instead might simply relate things which happened, not necessarily those which were ordered. But then we have:
1 Samuel 15:2-3:
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.
(Indeed, that story goes on to tell that the invaders decided to spare the best sheep and camels and such, and their God conveyed this to their king so as to have them punished for not simply killing these animals). And then, in other words directly attributed to their God:
Happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us. He who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.
And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males. And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword. And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods. And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire. And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men and of beasts. And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, unto Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho.
And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp. And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle. And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
Objectively, the notion that children, infants torn from their mothers' wombs, even, ought to be punished for the culture which their ancestors were born into, is abhorrent and abominable. It falls into the category of injustice known as blood libel
, the condemnation of offspring for the crimes of their ancestors. But, astonishingly enough, it is worse even than that. For it is not simply child mass murder which is commanded, but murder committed with especially torturous cruelty. In two different places, the Bible lauds "ripping open" pregnant woman; in two other places, it extols "dashing children against the ground/rocks." To command soldiers to not simply murder children, but to do so in the brutal and revoltingly intimate manner of physically grasping them and smashing them against the ground over and over until their screams explode into a piles of splashing blood and bits of bone and brain and scattered limbs, that is a horrific evil against the soldiers themselves as well. Clever apologists will insist that these, again, were simply examples of how God's will was carried out, but that these especial methods were not commanded. Still, it is indisputable that the deaths of numbers of infants were commanded, and even if the infants are murdered by some other means, there is no way for primitively armed soldiers to kill a village's worth of children without bloody brutality beyond the pale. Soldiers who've been to a war zone
will tell you (if they're not purely sociopaths
, that the sight of mutilated bodies of dead children is amongst the most traumatizing and haunting of experiences, the sort of thing which awakens them with cold sweats for decades thereafter.
A number of defenses have been raised in defense of the indefensible. Lines of attack include the assertions that since all humans are corrupt
due to free will
, the infants have it coming as much as the grown adults. Conversely it is supposed that since life is temporary and afterlife
is eternal, it is morally proper for an eternity-granting God to to order the murder of infants and children in this
life because they can be recompensated for this indignity in an eternal afterlife in Heaven.
Another excuse offered for these depraved commands is that the cultures under attack were so "sinful" that even the infants were irredeemably tainted by having come from them. This reasoning is likewise offered in defense of the deaths of any children to have been drowned in the mythic divinely poured flood of an earlier book in the collection. But with these military occurences, this is rendered a somewhat odd contention in light of the fact that the same soldiers who are commanded to kill all the infants and little children were simultaneously commanded to take the unmarried girl children of this culture as wives -- if the culture was so depraved that even the infants and small children (male and female alike, as "little ones" is not gender-specific) must be slaughtered due to some taintedness, then why would the girls old enough to "take" as wives (and yet who've not yet lost their virginity
) be suitable to bear and raise the children of the very soldiers who just slaughtered all the rest of their people?
Notably, a similar quandary is faced by Muslims
forced to defend their highest prophet
, in having married a six-year-old girl and had sex with her at the age of nine -- a sequence of events which civilized society
has long since grown to revile, but which in the most devout Muslim societies are still actively practiced in conformity with the example of the Prophet. A somewhat reminiscent quandary in Mormanism
, over Joseph Smith
's many wives, including some teenage ones, is resolved in part by simply acknowledging that Joseph Smith was an imperfect human, thusly repudiating any sanctity to such acts.
Now to be fair, to be wholly honest, I don't believe any deity
, not even the Biblical one, actually ever ordered or endorsed or even allowed for any such hideousness. I think what happened was that some soldiers attacked their enemy, and in their fury, in the heat of battle, some handful of them of their own accord killed the children. Of their own volition, a small number ripped open the bellies of pregnant women and fatally assaulted their fetuses. Of their own volition some depraved few seized children and dashed them to death against the ground. And once all this was done, they felt so horribly about it that they had no choice but to come up with some story to justify their own behavior. So they lied that this atrocity was not from the heart of any human at all, but was god-commanded and god-blessed. They lied and the story-writers took the lies as truth and errantly entered them into the books which would come to be called holy. Naturally, if the claim of a God-commanded mass murder of child war prisoners is an error
, than the book writ whole can not be claimed to be error-free; and so, everything in it becomes suspect; every thing asserted to be the command of the god involved is as suspect. But this is small price to pay to be able to state, without needing to qualify or make excuse, that commanding the mass murder of child prisoners of war is evil, no matter what.
Post-script, from Chord: "And then there's the part of the Sodom and Gomorrah story where God can't find ten innocent people in the city, as if to say that kids aren't innocent. The bible really doesn't care for the lives of children."