Bible dealbreakers: God’s wrath

I’m doing a series on what I’d like to call “Bible dealbreakers,” reasons why I reject the Bible’s authority and therefore reject Christianity. This is the sixth part in the series, and I’ll post a wrap-up tomorrow.

According to (most mainstream) Christians, God is loving, merciful, and benevolent. Some go so far as to say that “God is love.” This is not without scriptural basis. I’ve heard people cite this — that the Christian message is so wonderful, so inspirational — as a reason to believe in and of itself. Of course, “it sounds nice” is not actual evidence of truth. Moreover, when God’s particular actions and words are recounted or foretold in the Bible, he doesn’t really look like love at all. God isn’t so wonderful or inspirational. He looks to me like a vengeful, horrible monster.

Seriously … remember that time when God was looking out for his chosen people — who he somehow let become enslaved en masse in the first place — by trying to get them freed from slavery? Oh wait, God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” so that he wouldn’t believe any of God’s signs and wouldn’t let the Israelites go, giving God an excuse to generally make everyone and everything suffer or die.

And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” Exodus 7:1-5

And then, of course, come the plagues: all water turns to blood; Egypt is overrun by frogs; all the dust in the kingdom turns into gnats; there’s an attack of either wild animals or flies (scholars disagree); an epidemic kills all the Egyptians’ livestock; terrible boils afflict Egyptian men and livestock (which just all died…?); there’s a huge hailstorm; an immense swarm of locusts descends; there’s total darkness over Egypt for three full days; every Egyptian firstborn male child is killed. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so he didn’t miss his chance to do all that stuff.

This next bit teaches us that, if God tells you to commit genocide, you better take it all the way, or God will be very, very disappointed in you.

And Samuel said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'”… And Saul defeated the Amalekites from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.

The word of the LORD came to Samuel: “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.”…

And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And the LORD sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the LORD? … Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.” 1 Samuel 15

The Biblical prophets promise that God will continue to be a jerk well into the future. God is jealous and wrathful, and he takes satisfaction in causing great human suffering:

Therefore fathers shall eat their sons in your midst, and sons shall eat their fathers. And I will execute judgments on you, and any of you who survive I will scatter to all the winds. Therefore, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations, therefore I will withdraw. My eye will not spare, and I will have no pity. A third part of you shall die of pestilence and be consumed with famine in your midst; a third part shall fall by the sword all around you; and a third part I will scatter to all the winds and will unsheathe the sword after them. Thus shall my anger spend itself, and I will vent my fury upon them and satisfy myself. And they shall know that I am the LORD—that I have spoken in my jealousy—when I spend my fury upon them. Ezekiel 5:10-13

God is “cruel” and has “wrath and fierce anger.” He’s going to plunge the world into total darkness and kill nearly everyone, especially the babies, and he’ll steal your stuff and rape your wives. (Then kill them, I guess.) Why? Because the world is too evil and wicked. Hmm.

Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light;  the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light. I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless. I will make people more rare than fine gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the LORD of hosts in the day of his fierce anger. And like a hunted gazelle, or like sheep with none to gather them, each will turn to his own people, and each will flee to his own land. Whoever is found will be thrust through, and whoever is caught will fall by the sword. Their infants will be dashed in pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered and their wives ravished. Isaiah 13:9-16

Oh, here’s another nice one. If the adults in a particular country don’t follow the right religion, God thinks the best course of action is to kill everyone — especially all their infants and unborn fetuses.

Samaria shall bear her guilt, because she has rebelled against her God; they shall fall by the sword; their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open. Hosea 13:16

Even the Psalms, which are supposed to be this beautiful poetry, portray a disgustingly cruel God — and the psalmist(s) sing(s) his praises.

I know Christians like to say that Jesus brings a new attitude of love and kindness. I don’t buy that argument on face, because Jesus and God are generally supposed to be two parts of the trinity, two embodiments of the same essence. And I’ve never heard a Christian claim that the Old Testament is a crock of lies. No matter how you slice it, Christians have to contend with the “fact” that their supposedly loving God is the same one responsible for all this disproportionate wrath and cruelty. But I think it’s also worth noting that Jesus can be a spiteful jerk as well. Not only did he destroy that fig tree because it wasn’t bearing fruit out of season, he was racist and he was deliberately obscuring his message so that most people would be unable to understand him (and would therefore be condemned to hell). He also repeatedly affirms the rightness of “the Law and the Prophets,” never questioning or disapproving of the terrible way God is depicted.

If God is as much of an asshole as the Bible reveals him to be, I wouldn’t be interested in worshiping him any more than I would be interested in obeying a tyrannical, oppressive dictator. (Read: not at all.) Even if all the other points I’ve been making were defeated, and the Bible could be shown to be true — even if God did set the rules that determined my eternal fate, I wouldn’t be interested in following them. After all, even that is not a guarantee of happiness rather than infinite torture, especially coming from a monster such as this.

But even more importantly — and I really don’t want this to get lost here — I have my own moral reasoning skills and moral intuition. I know what it means to be nice and what it means to be cruel. I know what it means to love and what it means to hate. I know what justice looks like, and what it doesn’t. When Christians claim, “Our God is a loving God,” or “Our God is just and fair,” it’s honestly hard not to laugh in their faces. It undermines the whole of their scripture and belief system to have their perfect, benevolent deity’s morality so egregiously out of whack. And quite frankly, it frightens me that so many really nice and well-intentioned people are willing to stand behind (the made-up concept of) this monster and his values unquestioningly.

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  1. Questioning

     /  March 1, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    What’s sad is that I was always taught that all those people deserved what they got. We all deserve what they got. But God has chosen to be merciful to some of us. When I was a Christian, it made me feel so thankful–that there was nothing good about me, and I deserved hell, but God chose to love me anyway. Now that I am on the outside, it doesn’t just seem ridiculous–it breaks my heart. I spent my whole life thinking I was worthless, and that I was lucky God spared me. It was very damaging, and I still feel guilty sometimes feeling good about myself and believing that I’m a good person. It’s appalling to me that I used to read those Old Testament stories and believe that God was totally justified in committing those acts.

  2. I’ve always found this one to be a particularly effective deal breaker too. There is only one reason someone could possibly worship a god like the one described in the Christian bible: fear. Biblical imagery is far too similar to the act of groveling before an abusive parent. There is nothing healthy about an adult choosing to do this. A definite deal breaker.

  3. This is really circular logic. I control my family with love and what I consider fair and when they misbehave I beat them. My god controls his children with love and what he considers fair and when they misbehave he beats them. I know that this is the right way cuz g0d does this. This is the way g0d acts because this is the way I do it……. round and around again.

  4. Trikepilot

     /  March 4, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Having never been indoctrinated into the religious world but viewing it as an outsider, this series you have just finished gives me an insight into the fundamentalists whose world I must share.

    Thank you for that insight.

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