By Vexen Crabtree 2013
Monotheism is at its most inconsistent when you consider the fate of the unborn or very young babies who die very young. Many theists say that such unfortunate people go straight to heaven - some say they become a class of angel in heaven, and Christians can quote from a number of versus in the Bible that support that position. But if it is true, then it seems that there is no real reason why God persists that the rest of us must endure the suffering and pain of real life before entering heaven. This is why that in history, certain groups of Christians have murdered babies, often immediately after baptizing them. Thankfully, I suspect that most theists do not take their beliefs entirely seriously and doubt if there really is a heaven. The final issue is, if infanticide is a way to ensure people go to heaven, why does God itself not immediately send all babies to heaven and remove all suffering, and why did it create evil in the first place? These are vexing questions for classical religionists.
As a god-believing loving parent, I would do anything to make sure my child goes to heaven. No Earthly good deeds that I could do for them can possibly compare to the eternal bliss of heaven. So I could quite possibly, if I genuinely believed, murder my own child in order to make sure it goes to heaven before it has sinned1. My own pain and suffering (and punishment at the hands of the authorities) would be meaningless when contrasted against the amazing gift I'd given my child.
“The Spaniards in Mexico and Peru used to baptize Indian infants and then immediately dash their brains out: by this means they secured these infants went to Heaven. No orthodox Christian can find any logical reason for condemning their action, although all nowadays do so. In countless ways the doctrine of personal immortality in its Christian form has had disastrous effects upon morals.”
It is ironic that if, out of love, a poor mother made the painful decision to baptise and then murder her own infant, or (depending on her theology) killed herself a few days before the birth. By doing either action, she ensues the baby is sent to heaven by god, while she was sent to hell for murder and suicide. Such is the nature of a true loving sacrifice. Her fate is ironic because her intentions were wholly good. The more selfish action is to refrain from the infanticide so that she wouldn't go to hell but the baby will, perhaps later, end up in hell. Thankfully it seems that the vast majority of Christians do not seem to truly believe in their own religious machinations, and such murders are rare in the modern world.
I do not advocate infanticide for the sake of allowing a child to go to heaven, because I am not a Christian and do not believe that God exists or that heaven exists. I therefore do not kill babies or cause suffering for moral reasons: In short, I think it is wrong to do so. A Christian can make a supreme self sacrifice and send themselves to hell by killing their baby and sending it to heaven. The reason they do not do so, is selfishness: they do not want to go to hell. (It is also possible they don't truly believe in heaven but I mention that later). I do not believe in hell, yet I still do not kill babies. It seems that I am a more moral person than the Christian. The Christian risks their baby going to hell out of selfishness, out of a desire to go to heaven themselves. The more they believe it is wrong to kill babies, the greater the disservice to themselves they would be doing if they did so, and the greater the self-sacrifice would be.
Although I am often critical of Christianity, I know that Christianity has hardly ever promoted infanticide. The Spaniards mentioned by Russell (1957)2, who baptized then slaughtered their babies, are in a minority. But there are also some cases where baby killing has been commanded (and/or caused) by God in The Bible:
Exodus 4:22-23: "Then you must tell him that I, the Lord, say, 'Israel is my first born son. I told you to let my son go, so that he might worship me, but you refused. Now I am going to kill your first-born son.'"
Numbers 31:17: (Moses) "Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him" (in other words: women that might be pregnant).
1 Samuel 15:1-8: "Now listen to what the Lord Almighty says. He is going to punish the people of Amalek because their ancestors opposed the Israelites... : With 210000 soldiers they killed all the men, women, children, babies, cattle, camels and donkeys."
2 Samuel 12:11-19: "Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee ... the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. ... And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. ... David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead."
It seems that in practice and in theory, Christianity does allow infanticide. The "Do not kill" commandment is not absolute or completely binding. If the intentions are good and Godly then, and demonstrated in the Bible, infanticide is indeed allowed by God.
If God is all-powerful and all-good, it would have created a universe in the same way it created heaven: with free will for all, no suffering and no evil. But evil and suffering exist. Therefore God does not exist, is not all-powerful or is not benevolent (good)3. Such arguments have been used by many philosophers as evidence against belief in god4,5. A theodicy is an attempt to explain why a good god would have created evil and suffering. The most popular defence is that it is so Humans could have free will. However the entire universe and the natural world is filled with suffering, violence and destruction so any Humanity-centric explanation does not seem to work.”
Click on the page link for a series of pages on the problem of evil. Here are two relevant attempts to explain why God created evil and suffering:
"The Experience of Evil Theodicy" by Vexen Crabtree (2003): "Some people say that God created suffering, pain and evil because we need to experience these things. But [...] God could grant everyone whatever benefit is accrued from the experience of suffering, and put everyone in heaven immediately. This would prevent all suffering. But, God does not prevent all suffering. In addition, it seems that the only type of God that creates evil and suffering and designs life so that it needs these things, is either immoral or plain insane."
"God Never Needs to Test Us" by Vexen Crabtree (2005): "An attempt to justify the existence of evil is to say that God is testing us in some way. Perhaps that if we pass the test(s), God will put us in heaven. [... But] God is all-knowing. It knows everything, future and past. [...] God therefore never needs to test anyone. God knows, even without doing a test, what the results of the test will be. [...] To say that God needs or wants to "test" us is to say that God is not all-knowing. [...] The existence of suffering and evil, therefore, is clearly not excused by saying that God wants to test us."
To the present day, all theodicies have failed to explain why a good god would create evil, meaning that the existence of evil is simply incompatible with the existence of a good god. After thousands of years of life-consuming passion, weary theologians have not formulated a new answer to the problem of evil for a long time. The violence of the natural world, disease, the major catastrophes and chaotic destruction seen across the universe and the unsuitability of the vastness of reality for life all indicate that god is not concerned with life, and might actually even be evil. Failure to answer the problem of evil sheds continual doubt on the very foundations of theistic religions.”
Current edition: 2016 Apr 136
Last Modified: 2016 Apr 13
Originally published 2003 Feb 08
Parent page: Christian Moral Theory and Morality in Action: Biblical Morals and Social Disaster
All #tags used on this page - click for more:
The Bible (NIV). The NIV is the best translation for accuracy whilst maintaining readability. Multiple authors, a compendium of multiple previously published books. I prefer to take quotes from the NIV but where I quote the Bible en masse I must quote from the KJV because it is not copyrighted, whilst the NIV is. Book Review.
(2016) "A Biblical-Theological Response to the Problem of Theodicy in the Context of the Modem Criticism of Religion". Published in the Evangelical Review of Theology (2016) 40:3, 247-263.