The Morality of Barbaric Oaths: Finding Middle-Ground for the Secular Reader

by Keith Lodermeier
This essay considers two biblical tales each involving a paternally initiated oath to the Israelite god, YHWH. Both fathers unintentionally offer his child as a sacrifice, one for a fulfillment of the oath and the other for transgression. Both oaths arise from the misguided and unwise actions of the fathers. The first story is that of Jephtha, the bastard son of a prostitute who had been driven away by his legitimate brothers only to be recalled in order to lead an attack against their oppressor, the Ammonites, in a time of apostasy:
If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering1
The second oath is that of Saul whose army is rescued by Jonathan, Saul’s son, after a near catastrophe in battle with the Philistines: “Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies.”2

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34 Unconvincing Arguments for God

Atheism – the lack of belief in gods – is based upon a lack of evidence for gods, lack of a reason to believe in gods, and difficulties and contradictions that some god ideas lead to. Nevertheless, atheism is a tentative state, subject to change if compelling theistic arguments are presented. Following are some of the arguments that atheists have considered, along with some of the reasons these arguments have been rejected.



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