By Vexen Crabtree 2003 Feb 08
“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). 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.”
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.
“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.”
As a loving god-believing parent I would do anything to make sure my child goes to heaven. Even if this means sacrificing my own child, causing myself pain, because I love my child I will do what is best for it over and above what is best for myself and am willing to sacrifice myself for it. This means I am willing to pay the consequences, whatever they are, as long as I know my loved child then enjoys eternity in heaven (at least this is the case in Christianity1.
Sacrificing one's own life for a greater good is a moral action that is seen as good. If I murder a baby, I will go to hell. But if I love my baby, I will gladly go to hell if it means it can enjoy eternity in heaven. Such is the nature of a true loving sacrifice. Such an extreme sacrifice, done out of genuine love, would end up with myself in hell. Which is ironic, given that my intentions are absolutely good. I could be more selfish and keep the baby alive (risking its future damnation) for the sake of my own fate.
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, and by doing so the baby was sent to heaven by god, while she was sent to hell for murder. 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 this more selfish action, however, would result in the baby maybe going to hell. In the type of theology where unborn babies go to hell when they die and people are punished for sending them there, it seems that rational morality is turned upside down. Thankfully it seems that the vast majority of Christians do not seem to truly believe in their own religious machinations.
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. However such a self sacrifice is (thankfully) rare.
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.
Reincarnation could befall babies who die before facing life. If it is the case that there is a purpose for evil and suffering, then, those who are not yet ready to enter heaven can return to live another life where they continue on their journey towards readiness. Belief in reincarnation solves the problems presented on this page. It means that there is a purpose to life, that the experience of suffering and the tests of life serve a purpose for a greater good. Infanticide is then a disservice to our loved ones because it delays their entry to heaven, rather than accelerates it. If reincarnation occurs, life and evil and suffering make a lot more sense, as do our moral inhibitions against killing babies.
“Universalism is the belief that all people can be saved, and that all people enter into heaven independently of their religion and of the knowledge they happened to gain during life. If a creator-God is responsible for the world, then, universal salvation from pain and suffering for all beings, is a requirement of benevolence. In other words, god cannot be perfectly good until all people are saved from the suffering that god itself made possible.
Universalism combined with reincarnation seems consistent with a loving creator. It will send us back to Earth to try again rather than sending us to hell to be punished, until, eventually, everyone is saved. It is more loving, more perfect, if a God is infinitely patient with us, until every last living being has attained heaven. Of course, this is a highly problematic situation as long as the population of the Human race increases at a great rate, but, this website is largely concerned with monotheism, and reincarnation is generally a feature of atheist religions such as Buddhism or polytheistic ones.”
“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.”
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]
Russell, Bertrand. (1872-1970)
Why I am not a Christian (1957). Quotes from Fourth Impression of 1967 edition, 1971, Unwin Books.