Chapter 16 - Why does God massacre millions of children?

For most people, the last three chapters offer all the evidence that they need to prove to themselves that God did not write the Bible. Clearly, an all-loving God cannot be a huge proponent of slavery. Nor can an all-loving God be an advocate of both animal and human sacrifice. Nor can an all-loving God be a flagrant misogynist. Therefore, since the Bible specifies that God loves slavery and animal/human sacrifice and that God hates women, it is easy for most people to conclude that primitive men wrote the Bible rather than God.

However, if you need additional evidence, then we can approach the Bible from another angle and reach the same conclusion.

In the book of Matthew, chapter 2, mixed into the Christmas story, the Bible describes an amazing massacre of thousands of babies:

    And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

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Think about the thousands of families who were affected by this massacre. The Bible describes their suffering: they wept and could not be comforted. Of course they could not be comforted. If you are a parent, you know exactly how distraught you would feel if an agent of the government came to your door one morning and slaughtered your children.

Why did God do this? Being all-knowing, God knew that this would happen. In fact, according to the Bible, God acted on his knowledge. But why would God take the time to reach down to earth and save his own child, and then allow all of these thousands of other innocent children to die? If God is love, where is the love in that? How could a loving God willfully allow such massive suffering without taking action?

Think about how easy it would have been for God to prevent all of this suffering:

  • God could have appeared to Herod in a dream and told him not to kill these children.
  • God could have killed Herod.
  • God could have guided the wise men so that Herod would not have felt mocked by them.
  • God could have protected the babies.
  • God could have spoken to the murdering soldiers and turned them away from the task.
  • God could have sent all of these families to Egypt when he sent Jesus and his family there.
  • God could have made it so that no male children besides Jesus were born during that time.
  • God could have changed history so that Herod was not king.
It is easy to come up with thousands of solutions, yet God did nothing.

God, by sending his son to earth, was the direct cause of this massacre. And God, as an all-powerful and all-knowing being, knew that it would happen and had the power to prevent it. In fact, God did take direct action to save Jesus. Instead of saving the thousands of other children, however, God stood by and watched as they were slaughtered.

It is interesting to note that this is not the only place in the Bible where God causes thousands of children to die. In the book of Exodus chapter 12 verse 28, God writes about one of his early massacres:

    So the people of Israel did just as the LORD had commanded through Moses and Aaron. And at midnight the LORD killed all the firstborn sons in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn son of the captive in the dungeon. Even the firstborn of their livestock were killed. Pharaoh and his officials and all the people of Egypt woke up during the night, and loud wailing was heard throughout the land of Egypt. There was not a single house where someone had not died.
Here the death of the children is directly at the hand of God.

In Isaiah chapter 13, God paints this word picture:

    Anyone who is captured will be run through with a sword. Their little children will be dashed to death right before their eyes. Their homes will be sacked and their wives raped by the attacking hordes. For I will stir up the Medes against Babylon, and no amount of silver or gold will buy them off. The attacking armies will shoot down the young people with arrows. They will have no mercy on helpless babies and will show no compassion for the children.
What a lovely image.

In Jeremiah chapter 49, verse 20, God paints a similar picture:

    Therefore hear the plan which the LORD has made against Edom and the purposes which he has formed against the inhabitants of Teman: Even the little ones of the flock shall be dragged away; surely their fold shall be appalled at their fate. At the sound of their fall the earth shall tremble; the sound of their cry shall be heard at the Red Sea.
In Hosea chapter 13, God paints a similar picture:
    Samaria shall bear her guilt, because she has rebelled against her God; they shall fall by the sword, their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open.
In Numbers chapter 31, God paints a similar picture:
    Moses said to them, "Have you let all the women live? Behold, these caused the people of Israel, by the counsel of Balaam, to act treacherously against the LORD in the matter of Pe'or, and so the plague came among the congregation of the LORD. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
Here Moses, acting as an agent of God, specifies that thousands of male babies and children be killed, as well as thousands of women. The Bible states in verse 35 that the captured women numbered "thirty-two thousand persons in all, women who had not known man by lying with him." This was not a small attack. Tens of thousands men, women and children were massacred.

In Deuteronomy Chapter 3 we find this:

    Next we turned and went up along the road toward Bashan, and Og king of Bashan with his whole army marched out to meet us in battle at Edrei. The LORD said to me, "Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon." So the LORD our God also gave into our hands Og king of Bashan and all his army. We struck them down, leaving no survivors. At that time we took all his cities. There was not one of the sixty cities that we did not take from them—the whole region of Argob, Og's kingdom in Bashan. All these cities were fortified with high walls and with gates and bars, and there were also a great many unwalled villages. We completely destroyed them, as we had done with Sihon king of Heshbon, destroying every city—men, women and children. But all the livestock and the plunder from their cities we carried off for ourselves.
They massacred all the men, women and children in 60 cities at God's request.

Then there is Noah's flood, in which God massacred every single child on the face of the earth.

Key Point

It is appropriate at this point to speak to Christians, especially the "casual Christians" who go to church occasionally because it seems like the "right thing to do." Most Christians have never read the Bible. They have no idea that the God of the Bible is a huge proponent of slavery, or that God hates women, or that God finds the annihilation of small children so enthralling. Should we, as human beings living in the modern world, be worshipping a God like this?
Doesn't it feel odd to find all of this material in the Bible? Especially the quote from Moses in Numbers 31. You may recall that the sixth commandment is, "Thou shalt not kill."

What does God have against children? Why would an all-loving, all-knowing being act in this way? In the case of Herod's massacre, a religious person might say, "God had to do it to fulfill a prophecy in the Bible." But that makes no sense, because God could have left the prophecy out.

A normal person, after reading passages like these, is left first with a deep sense of disgust. Any normal human being knows that these acts are monstrous. What we are seeing here is not a loving God, but instead a demonic executioner working at a massive scale. Why would anyone worship this appalling monster?

A normal person then asks the obvious question: Did God actually write these verses in the Bible? Would God actually condone these acts?

I think we can all agree that a loving God would not condone these acts. Therefore, these parts of the Bible could not have been written by God. It should be obvious to all of us that God did not write the Bible.

It is appropriate at this point to speak to Christians, especially the "casual Christians" who go to church occasionally because it seems like the "right thing to do." Most Christians have never read the Bible. They have no idea that the God of the Bible is a huge proponent of slavery, or that God hates women, or that God finds the annihilation of small children so enthralling. Should we, as human beings living in the modern world, be worshipping a God like this?

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by Marshall Brain

New York Times Coverage
discussed in a
New York Times piece
by N. D. Kristof.
For a counter-point to Mr. Kristof, please see
Chapter 26.

Recommendation by Sam Harris
Sam Harris recommends WWGHA in his book Letter to a Christian Nation.

Endorsement by Richard Dawkins
In a New York Times Letter, Richard Dawkins calls WWGHA a "splendid Web site."

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