The Hebrew Scriptures, which the Christians adopted as their Old Testament, are infamously violent. The endorsements of violence, mass murder and rape & pillage are dramatic, and are conducted under the direct commands of God for the betterment of the believer's religion. The worry is that this gives justification for anyone who hears voices in their head telling them to murder for their religion that actually they should do so. Many Jewish terrorists have followed this line of logic, and for hundreds of years Europe fell into the barbaric and ignorant dark ages under the terrible machinations of Christian institutions that embraced and used all of the Bible's endorsements of violence.
Exodus 15:3 states that God loves war, but it is not just enemy combatants that are the target. Exodus 22:18 has been used as the basis for murdering women accused of all manner of daft superstitious things ("thou shalt not suffer a witch to live"). Exodus 32:27-29 has the God of Israel command the army to murder sons, brothers, friends and neighbours and they are then blessed for doing so. In Numbers 31:17 they are told to murder all the children amongst the enemies and any woman who might be pregnant. Deuteronomy 7:1 tells the Israelites to occupy their future land and exterminate the original inhabitants because they are infidels: "you're to make no compromise with them or show them any mercy". Deuteronomy 13:6-9 says that if your relatives or friends try to get you to worship other gods, you must kill them "without mercy" - a deed that Abraham attempts in Genesis 22:1-18. In Deuteronomy 20:16-18 they are told to exterminate "everything that breaths". Joshua 6:21-24 and Judges 20 tell stories where God wants them to kill "everyone in the city, men, women, young and old. They also killed the cattle, sheep and donkeys. ... And they burnt the city with fire" and looted all they could. All with no morality nor sense of loss at all. 1 Samuel 15:1-8 has it that because the indigenous people of Amalek opposed God's murderous army, they killed all the men, women, children, babies, cattle, camels and donkeys there1. Not all the slaughter is on God's chosen land: In Esther 9:12-16 the Israelites slaughter over 75,000 enemies in an internal strife in the Persian empire. In Hosea 13:16 the infants of Samaria will be "dashed in pieces" because the people no longer follow Israel's bloody God. If you are in any doubt that God commands bloodshed in his name then Jeremiah 48:10 declares that you will be cursed if you refrain from bloodshed. These examples are where it is Humans carrying out God's will and don't include the many times where God leads by murderous example.
This collection of Biblical genocides was started by a different author whose credentials I misplaced in the 1990s; it is not a complete documentation of divine slaughter in the Bible but it suffices as a snapshot of the horror:
Exodus 32:27-28 "[Moses' orders to his army] he said to them, "The Lord God of Israel commands every one of you to put on his sword and go through the camp from this gate to the other and kill his brothers, his friends and his neighbours. The Levites obeyed and killed about 3000 Men that day".
Exodus 32:29 "Moses said to the Levites, "Today you have consecrated yourselves as priests in the service of the Lord by killing your sons and brothers, so the Lord has given you his blessing".
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)".
Deuteronomy 7:1 "When Yahweh your god has settled you in the land you're about to occupy, and driven out many infidels before you...you're to cut them down and exterminate them. You're to make no compromise with them or show them any mercy".
Deuteronomy 20:16-18 has the Israelites commanded to exterminate "everything that breaths".
Joshua 6:21-24 "With their swords they killed everyone in the city, men, women, young and old. They also killed the cattle, sheep and donkeys. ... And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord".
Judges 20: Description a battle and city-burning, with no morality or sense of loss at all.
Judges 20:42-48 "... and them which came out of the cities they destroyed in the midst of them. ... And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand of the best Benjamine soldiers; ... and they gleaned of them in the highways five thousand men; ... and slew two thousand men of them. So that all which fell that day of Benjamin were twenty and five thousand men that drew the sword; ... And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city, as the beast, and all that came to hand: also they set on fire all the cities that they came to.
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... 3-8 : With 210000 soldiers they killed all the men, women, children, babies, cattle, camels and donkeys".
Esther 9:12-16: The Israelites slaughter enemies in an internal strife in the Persian empire, at least 75800 enemies are killed.
Hosea 13:16 "Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up".
In Genesis 22:1-18 and Qur'an 37:99-113 Abraham was tested by God and told to murder his own son. He obeyed, although God stopped him at the last moment, and gave him incredible rewards for his loyalty. Yet Abraham clearly failed any possible moral test: in going to murder his own son for God, he was displaying the worst signs of religion: insanity, murderous willingness to attempt spiritual gain at any cost, and an inability to question the true worth of his own beliefs. He followed criminal orders without asking why - a trend that in history has had terrible consequences yet is endorsed in the Bible. Not only that, he did not even question the highly likely probability that hearing voices is not a good thing. The Bible should teach that we ought to use our moral compass to decide if we ought to listen to the voices in ours heads! Instead, the Bible teaches we ought to murder even our own son in order to get ourselves into heaven, if it is what we think God wants.”
"Abraham's Attempted Sacrifice of His Son Isaac: Genesis 22:1-18 and Qur'an 37:99-113: 5. Conclusion: An Immoral Story Shows The Failures of Abraham and The Contradictions of Scriptures" by Vexen Crabtree (2012)
This type of instruction is not limited to just the most holy amongst us, such as Abraham. Deuteronomy 13:6-9 says that if your relatives or friends try to get you to worship other gods, firstly you must not give in to them, and secondly, you must kill them. That's right - kill your relatives if they try to draw you away from your religion, "without pity".
Some of the genocides committed by God in the Bible are of the young, the innocent, and some are even the results of accidents. (Click the links below for full descriptions):
Aside from directly endorsing violence and strife, the Bible speaks volumes about the dangers of tolerating other religions. Tolerance and even friendship are sometimes discouraged and sometimes condemned. In the Bible, to be godly you have to be intolerant and shun those who had wrong beliefs.
12Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee; 13But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: 14For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, who is a jealous God. 15Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice.
5But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. 6For thou art a holy people.
Exodus 34:12-15 graphically warns believers not to get ensnared by those who believe differently, commanding that foreign altars and images are destroyed, and is repeated in Deuteronomy 7:1-2, 5-6. Making agreements with others will lead to "whoring" after their gods. With terrors like this awaiting true believers, it is no wonder that Abrahamic religions have found themselves centers of sectarian strife and intolerant violence towards others. It is not just foreigners who are subject to this violence. Deuteronomy 13:6-9 says that if your relatives or friends try to get you to worship other gods, firstly you must not give in to them, and secondly, you must kill them. That's right - kill your relatives if they try to draw you away from your religion, "without pity".
So, there are also milder elements of intolerance found in the Hebrew Scriptures / Old Testament. If there was any doubt, believers are certainly not to marry non-believers (Deuteronomy 7:3) as even the greatest men will be turned away from God by non-believing women (1 Kings 11:1-4). And Deuteronomy 28:9 says not to even learn about other religions or peoples. Insolar ignorance was the order of the day and fundamentalists have long since been found withdrawing their children from religious studies classes (if not from public education in total).
All of this scriptural violence has real-world effects. Judaism has developed into one of the least violence religions, but, the horrendous teachings found in the Bible all too often lead individual and small Jewish communities to commit acts of terrorism and violence.
Modern Judaism does not lend itself to violence or extremism2. In history it has proven to be the most peaceable Abrahamic religion. Nonetheless Judaism has still amassed a monstrous catalogue of horrors in its name. If the stories of the Bible can be believed, the founding of Judaism occurred amidst pointlessly murderous battles with the rightful native inhabitants of Canaan and huge numbers of Biblical statements can be used to support violence and aggression in the name of religion. In history, Jewish nations conducted forced conversion en masse3. Modern terrorist incidents have also centered on the struggles to control land that has special religious significance for Jews in Israel. Extremist groups in the West Bank have executed violent terrorist campaigns against Palestinians and other campaigns have occurred against the Temple Mount4,5,6,7,8. Today, mainstream Judaism and the government of Israel speak out consistently and strongly against extremism, but the Haredim (ultra-conservative Orthodox Jews) are still growing in number and can be found aggressively trying to segregate the genders, enforcing strict rules of dress on others and banning free access to secular reading material especially via the Internet.”
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]
(2008) Fundamentalism. Second edition. Published by Polity Press, Cambridge, UK.
(2007) Fundamentalism. First edition 2005. New edition now published as part of the “Very Short Introduction” series. Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
(2009) The Invention of the Jewish People. Hardback English edition. Originally published Matai ve'ekh humtza ha'am hayehudi? (When and How Was the Jewish People Invented?) 2008. Published by Verso, London, UK.
(2003) Israel & Palestine. Published by Profile Books Ltd, London, UK. Wasserstein is Professor of History at Glasgow University.