The Sadness of God Nicole Scott Free Inquiry

I was listening to an American Family Radio program one morning and heard one of the speakers declare that the biblical creator god (I will hereafter refer to him as “God” for simplicity) was saddened by every abortion. Based on knowledge of human reproduction, this seemed implausible. There are 140 million human births each year, and there are 73 million abortions performed globally (Guttmacher Institute data). However, God has designed human reproduction so that there are 220 million spontaneous/natural abortions each year.1 If God was opposed to abortion (and omnipotent), I think he would have created a reproductive apparatus that would not produce three times more abortions than those produced by human abortionists. A human conceptus has only about a 30 percent chance of being born.2

Killing actual infants and children also does not seem to sadden God. After allowing “the sons of God” to go to earth and fornicate with women (perhaps the 1988 movie Earth Girls Are Easy is loosely biblically based), God is saddened by the resulting wickedness: “The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in his heart” (Genesis 6:6, New American Standard Bible). This story doesn’t make much sense though, because being omniscient doesn’t allow one to truthfully say, “Whoa! I didn’t foresee that happening!” God did not express sadness at his drowning of every infant and child on the earth with Noah’s flood. If you credit God’s omniscience regarding future events, you have to agree that he planned the drownings. What else could he have done? Well, he could have just turned every adult who had lost his favor into a pillar of salt or sand (his choice) and sent his angels, who appear quite human in several biblical references, to raise the orphans. But he is God, and he can do whatever he wants. Just don’t expect him to be sad when he drowns children.

God, of course, places the rainbow in the sky and swears off drowning, but there are so many more ways to harm humans, which he demonstrated to the Egyptians. There is no mention in the Bible of any respite for the Egyptian children from the ten plagues. Egyptian children would have suffered terrible thirst when all their water was turned to blood and suffered miserably from the hordes of gnats and flies. They would have suffered from the plague of boils and would have starved after the plagues of hail and locusts ruined all their crops. Of course, omniscient God knew that the first nine plagues would be terrible cruelties for the Egyptian peasants and their children (who had no voice in the Egyptian government) but would not persuade Pharoah to let the Israelites go. What else could he have done? He could have turned all the statues and temples of the Egyptian gods into sand and then killed all the firstborns.

Before thinking that God has eschewed tormenting and killing children, it is instructive to read Revelation, especially chapters eight and nine, for his plans. Those two chapters readily indicate horror and death for hundreds of millions of infants and children. There is no mention of God being sad about it.

Although God gave the commandment “You shall not murder,” God does not consider killing children murder if he commands it. In chapter 31 of Numbers, God became angry with the Israelite men for fornicating with Midianite women and worshipping the Midianite god. He was so angry that he sent a plague that killed 24,000 Israelites (Numbers 25:9). God was also angry with the Midianites so he told Moses, “Take full vengeance for the sons of Israel on the Midianites” (Numbers 31:1). Moses sent Israelite warriors against the nation of Midian, and they killed every adult male, but the warriors were uncertain about what they should do with the Midianite women and children. They herded them back to the Israelite encampment. Moses was not pleased that the women and children had been spared, and he ordered, “Now, therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves” (Numbers 31:17–18). The females who were virgins (who would have been mostly infants and children) numbered 32,000 (Numbers 31:35). What a gory mess the Israelite warriors must have made when they began slaughtering the Midianite women, male infants, and children with their swords and spears. The number of virgins suggests this was a massacre of perhaps 60,000 people. That would have been hard day’s work to kill that many; there were only 12,000 Israelite warriors. God obviously knew this work was good because he blessed the Israelites by ensuring that none of the warriors went missing (Numbers 31:49).

The massacre of the male Midianite infants and children is at least 1,000 times greater than the estimated twenty male infants killed on order of Herod, as recorded in Matthew 2:16 (“Massacre of the Innocents”).3 God, who designed the human reproductive system so that 70 percent of conceptuses spontaneously abort, who is documented to have drowned, gratuitously tormented, and starved infants and children, and who has ordered his worshippers to hack to death the infants and children of those who offended him, is not a god who can plausibly be thought to be saddened by abortion.

I can imagine a scene wherein Texas Governor Greg Abbott is confronted by a woman with two infant boys who offers her body to the governor if he will eschew Yahweh and worship Gaia to save the earth. Like Moses, the governor may hear the voice of God urging him to take vengeance on this woman and her sons. As the governor is considering stoning them with his pistol (a modern metal-stone throwing device), what will he do? He will rightly say, “No, God, I am more pro-life than you.”

[1] Toby Ord, “The Scourge: Moral Implications of Natural Embryo Loss.” The American Journal of Bioethics, volume 8, issue 7, 2008, pp. 12–19.

[2] Giuseppe Benagiano, et al., “Fate of Fertilized Human Oocytes.” Reproductive Medicine Online, volume 21, 2010, pp. 732–743; Michael J. Zinaman, et al., “Estimates of Human Fertility and Pregnancy Loss.” Fertility and Sterility, volume 65, issue 3, 1996, pp. 503–509; Elena Vaquero, et al., “Diagnostic Evaluation of Women Experiencing Repeated In Vitro Fertilization Failure.” European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, volume 125, issue 1, 2006, pp. 79–84.

[3] David Noel Freedman, ed., Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, pp. 637–638.

I was listening to an American Family Radio program one morning and heard one of the speakers declare that the biblical creator god (I will hereafter refer to him as “God” for simplicity) was saddened by every abortion. Based on knowledge of human reproduction, this seemed implausible. There are 140 million human births each year, …

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