WHAT THE BIBLICAL GOD IS REALLY LIKE
BY JON NELSON
Asking god believers to describe the god they believe in usually provokes a wide range of responses, ranging from anger directed toward the person asking the question to a half-hearted attempt to ascribe human-like characteristics to their invisible deity.
Since gods are the creation of humans rather than the other way around, these various “descriptions” of god invariably conform to the individual describing it. Their gods are, in other words, extensions of themselves, or of how they would like to be. If these people were all correct in their beliefs, the universe would be populated with billions of invisible gods.
For simplicity’s sake, we will ignore all these individual deities and focus on the best known of them all: the god of the Bible. This god, though as fictitious as all the rest, is the one that the majority of believers claim to believe in and to follow. This is both relevant and timely considering how many of his followers are demanding that we “return” to him and to the allegedly timeless values in the Bible. Here, we will examine the god of both Old and New Testaments to see what conclusions we may draw about him.
It seems obvious, in reading the Bible, that this god would have right-wing political views. After all, it is right wing religious and political leaders who are insisting that the Bible is the inerrant word of their god. These people are almost without exception members of the Republican Party, which today is all but owned by the Religious Right. Since the late 1970s, when the Religious Right was started, this fundamentalist view of the Bible has been the bread and butter of the Republican Party, and of right-wing ideologues and pundits. In addition, history has conclusively shown that every single government founded or based on biblical principles has been ideologically ultra-conservative. There are no exceptions to this. The first government that challenged this view was the United States. None of the founding political documents of this country, from the Declaration of Independence to the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution, mention religion in any way other than exclusionary. Our laws were designed by secularists who wanted to establish a new precedent: government of, by, and for the people. In other words, our laws are (or should be) reflective of our secular origins. By contrast, today’s Religious Right would return us to the days of biblical literalism, which means that our laws would mandate the death penalty for homosexuals and rebellious children (and many others).
But these are not the only laws mandated by the god of the Bible. It is obvious from reading it (or from listening to right-wing Christian leaders that biblical morality is, to put it mildly, rather unusual and at odds with what most Americans believe true morality is all about. In the Bible, there is no condemnation of really immoral things such as genocide, torture, war and slavery. Instead, the biblical god seems to be totally preoccupied with our sex lives. He stresses extreme conformity and tolerates nothing else; this while he is busy killing or ordering the killing of countless people and groups of people. The Amorites, Midianites, Ammonites, Horims, Syrians, and Amalekites were all slaughtered en masse with god’s approval, and often by his direct command. And we all know what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah! Nowhere are any of these and other massacres condemned in the Bible; obviously, mass homicide, rape and pillage are considered the natural order of things by the god of the bible. But let someone have sex with a person of their own gender—that is considered the gravest of sins! Today’s leaders of the Radical Religious Right (RRR) have a strikingly similar agenda: one never hears their leaders speaking against war, yet abortion (which interestingly is nowhere condemned in their Bible) and homosexuality are considered to be the epitome of evil.
The god of the Bible also insists that anyone practicing witchcraft should be killed (Ex. 22: 18). In our (supposedly) enlightened age, we know that witchcraft doesn’t work because witches don’t exist and nobody can break the laws of nature. But the writers of the Bible in their ignorance did not know this. However, one would think that their all-knowing god would! To any thinking person, this is proof positive that there was no god making his wishes known to the biblical authors, or to anyone else two thousand years ago, or any time since then; in no instance was the Bible ahead of its time in logic or scientific thought. At any rate, countless thousands, perhaps millions of people have died unnecessary deaths because of this one biblical passage. Religious leaders, until fairly recent times, have wholeheartedly endorsed Ex. 22: 18. For example, Martin Luther (1484-1546) stated “I should have no compassion on these witches; I would burn them all.” John Wesley (1703-1791), the founder of Methodism, at the time when the principles of the Enlightenment were making religious dogma obsolete and nonsensical, wrote in his 1768 journal: “Giving up witchcraft is, in effect, giving up the Bible.”
We also know from reading the Bible that its god is an avid supporter of slavery. This is extremely easy to prove; there are no passages in the Bible condemning slavery, although a few regulating it. 1 Peter 2: 18-20 states this very clearly: “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.” Down through the centuries, slave owners were able to continue the barbaric practice of human bondage with a clear conscience, convinced that their religion supported them, and they were right. Also, consider the timeless moral injunction of Ex. 21: 20 which tells us: “and if when a man smite his slave, or his slave girl, with a rod and he dies under his hand, he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished…” In other words, if you beat your slave to death, it is not a crime if the slave manages to hang on for twenty-four hours. Is this another example of god’s sublime morality? Consider this, and then consider that there are people inside and outside our government today who are working to make the Bible’s laws the law of our land. Imagine an America based on biblical law. Increasingly, this is becoming fact; the erosion of more and more of our basic rights, all in the name of religious “freedom,” threatens to turn the United States into a Christian version of Iran.
There is much unintentional humor in the Bible: The god of the Bible, who is said to know everything, the god supposedly powerful and intelligent enough to create the entire universe and everything in it, didn’t know the first thing about building a boat, leaving the job to a six-hundred year old man named Noah. God also made Noah collect millions of samples of all living things across the globe, another task apparently beyond god’s capabilities.
God also doesn’t seem to have much of a sense of direction, for the Bible tells us that the ancient Israelites, under the guidance of their god, wandered for forty years in an attempt to transverse a desert that is only two hundred miles long. Assuming that they traveled for eight hours a day, that amounts to a snail’s pace of about three yards per hour. But then, if they were indeed god’s “chosen people,” and lived to ages similar to Methuselah who the Bible tells us lived 969 years, perhaps we can excuse their tardiness; what’s a few decades when one can expect to live centuries!
God also prefers his male followers not to have testicles, for Matthew 19: 12 clearly states: “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb and there are some eunuchs which were made eunuchs of men and there be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” One can only wonder why god hates the same genitalia he gave to man.
It has taken women two thousand years to begin emerging from the subservient role the biblical god laid out for them, a struggle that continues to this day. The Tenth Commandment implies that women are the property of their husbands, no different from the land and slaves he owns: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, his field, or his manservant…” Women’s inferiority is carried through to the New Testament, where Paul (the real founder of Christianity) says that a woman must remain silent in church and if she has any questions, to ask her husband. Notice also the unstated assumption that the woman’s brain is so fragile and inferior that she cannot figure things out for herself. Clearly, this god would not be happy with the upstart women of the twentieth century who had the effrontery to challenge his will and insist that they are the equals of men.
God also doesn’t think much of medicine; from Genesis to Revelation, none of the biblical writers question the accepted notion that disease is caused by demons. Again, one would can excuse the ignorant writers of scripture, but for a god unlimited in intellect, this is unthinkable, unless his goal is to keep us sick and dependent on prayer. However, if this god really does care about us, the least he could have done would be to give his scribes a few basic health and hygiene tips. But no, instead it took us humans nineteen hundred years to learn what god could have decreed for doctors in five words: wash your hands before operating! Again human suffering is obviously of no concern to the biblical god; he is too focused on our sexual peccadilloes to bother himself with major issues like diseases that can kill us. Clearly, god supports witch doctors, spells and incantations rather than things that actually work such as medicine, doctors, and plain old common sense.
So in conclusion, what do we know about the god of the Bible? We know he would support the idea of a political/religious dictatorship that would shred our civil liberties, the foundation of our freedom. He certainly would disapprove of our laws and our Constitution. We know that he supports slavery and war, but not a person’s choice of same gender sex. We know he hates witchcraft but not witch doctors, which he prefers over real doctors. Is this god worthy of our unquestioning love? What possible value can believing such nonsense have for people in the twenty-first century?
The only logical conclusion to arrive at from the above shows that the biblical god is a product of pre-rational minds who hated life and sought total control over others. God’s only excuse is that he doesn’t exist! In a sense, this is irrelevant since any totalitarian dictator needs look no further than the Bible to justify their actions. That so many people today continue to worship this deity attests to the fact that believing is easier than thinking. It also shows that, as Voltaire once stated, those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.