In a recent episode of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” (the number one show on television) the main character, Rick, and his group, slaughtered a cadre of zombie apocalypse survivors who had become cannibals. The cannibals had put up signs to a place called “Terminus” that promised survival for those who could get there, but when a person arrived, they were herded into boxcars, taken out as needed, and slaughtered like cattle.
After being rescued from a gruesome death at Terminus , Rick and his gang take refuge in a church building. Rick wanted to destroy his cannibal captors before the group moved on, but others in his group, tired of battling, just wanted to get away. Needless to say, the cannibals came after Rick’s group, and when they thought the stronger members had left the church building, they moved in and attacked the vulnerable ones. The stronger members came back and the cannibals were trapped. Rick had a decision to make: either let the cannibals live, or destroy them. Rick decided to destroy them. In a gruesome scene, he and his group fervently kill the cannibals.
I asked some of the other people watching the show with me if they thought Rick was wrong for annihilating the cannibal group, and they all were like, “NO! The cannibals were evil! They threatened to kill the baby [in a certain scene]. They chopped off Bob’s leg and ate it. They slaughtered people like they were cattle. If Rick didn’t kill the cannibals, the cannibals would have killed Rick and his people.”
I thought this was an interesting response in light of some of the complaints put forward by atheists concerning Israel’s conquest of Canaan. My group of young adults saw the cannibals as a manifestation of pure evil. They didn’t think they should be reasoned with, persuaded, or shown mercy. Instead they thought the proper response was that the cannibals should be totally destroyed.
The Canaanite tribes were examples of pure evil also. The Amalekites were one of the tribes that Israel was commanded to destroy (1 Samuel 15). The main reason for God’s command to fight against them was that they kept attacking the weakest Israelites. During the Exodus out of Egypt the Jews were walking as a group and the crippled, elderly, and women with children lagged behind. It was this group of the “least of these” that the Amalekite tribes would attack.
“Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God.” (Deuteronomy 25:17-18)
For hundreds of years (1 Samuel 14:48) the Amalekites, who were great in number (Judges 7:12), raided the crops and villages of the Jewish people. They refused to give the Israelites water, even when the Jews offered to pay them for it. They also worshiped Baal and practiced human sacrifice and cannibalism.
The Jews, on the other hand, were commanded to follow the Mosaic law with its moral teachings and cleansing rituals. These laws kept the Jewish people healthy and protected them from diseases. But the Amalekites didn’t honor God or His laws. They didn’t practice laws concerning hygiene or cleanliness. They had no sexual guard rails and they drank blood (usually in the belief they would gain power from it).
Interestingly, when the early church first began to spread to the Gentiles, the only rules the disciples put upon the new Christians were rules to guard them against the dangers involved with drinking blood and committing sexual immorality.
“Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (Acts 15:20)
These were the same guidelines that had protected the Jews from infectious diseases and STD’s. They were meant to be a blessing, not a burden. And if the Gentiles now expected to join with Jewish Christians, then at a minimum there had to be some rules concerning health and cleanliness.
The Jews weren’t commanded to wipe out entire tribes in every case; often they were told to rescue the women and children, but in the case of the Amalekites they were commanded to burn everything, including women, children, and animals. Perhaps God was providing them with another dimension of protection that was necessary for their survival. Perhaps the Amalekites were riddled with disease and/or had hearts that were filled with evil thoughts. How were the Israelites supposed to weed them out? How could they tell who was healthy or who was diseased? How could they tell whose hearts were able to live peacefully with them and those who were filled with hatred? Even the children would have been impacted by disease or hatred.
In The Walking Dead, when the group was at the prison, Carol was judged and exiled for burning the bodies of people who had an infectious disease, but she was right. The disease had to be dealt with and cut off before it spread to others. Tyrese, whose loved one was burned, was later able to see that what Carol did was a just and moral act. Even the zombie apocalypse itself was the result of an infectious disease gone awry and loosed upon the earth.
At what point does a loving person decide it’s necessary to decimate something that is bent on destroying those he loves? Sometimes hatred for evil is the ultimate form of love. War is often a loving act when it destroys an entity that is filled with an evil heart.
Christopher Hitchens saw that this was true. He supported the war on terror. In a debate with Alistair McGrath, he once declared:
“The worst kind of immorality yet is the wicked idea of non-resistance of evil, and the deranged idea that we should love our enemies. Nothing, nothing, could be more suicidal and immoral than that. We have to defend ourselves and our children and our civilization from our enemies. We have to learn to educate ourselves in a cold, steady dislike of them and a determination to encompass their destruction.” 
Yet Hitchens, Dawkins, et al . . . criticize God for warring against the Canaanite tribes. Dawkins calls God ” a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser . . . ”  Hitchens could see the necessity of fighting against the Taliban, but attacked God for fighting against the Amalekites, who were arguably even more evil than Islamic terrorists. Hitchens was opposed to religious Islamofascists who dishonor women, suppress free speech, and produce tyranny, but what about the poisonous religious societies that worshiped Baal and were determined to annihilate the Israelites? These tribes were brutal, cruel, and warring. They performed violent and sexually immoral rituals and offered their own children up as sacrifices, roasting them alive, while pounding loud drums to cover their cries and work the people into a religious frenzy.
What would have happened to the world if this type of religious practice were to prevail? Instead of worshiping a God who cared for the oppressed and needy, a God who was interested in justice and mercy, the Baals basked in perverted religious rituals that didn’t care about the needs of people. Worshiping these gods led to a hardening of people’s hearts–even against their own children. If people were defeated in battle by those who followed these gods, they were often treated sadistically; having their eyes gouged out, their skin peeled off, or hooks put into their backs so they could be dragged away. This is similar to ISIS who beheads and crucifies its enemies.
Rick and his group had already learned to kill zombies whose bite would destroy them, but the group also had to realize that part of maintaining goodness and kindness in society was the formation of the gentle warrior who, for the sake of love, can also kill humans that have no regard for kindness, compassion, mercy, or love.
If Rick was God, I think he would have told the Jews to destroy the Amalekites–and I think it would have been morally justified.
 Christopher Hitchens and Alistair McGrath, “Poison or Cure? Religious Belief in the Modern World.” Debate, Michael Cromartie Berkely Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Washington D.C., October 11, 2007, Ethics and Public Policy, http://www.eppc.org/publications/pageId.390/default.asp (accessed 9/25/2008).
 Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Mariner Books, 2008), 51.