Based on the Bible, god should be at the top of the FBI's 10-Most-Wanted list. Christians often chide nonbelievers because we supposedly are incapable of morality. Why? We do not believe in a god and, therefore, cannot partake of the higher morality of the divine.
What exactly does this supremely moral being do, according to the scriptures of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim deity? Here are a few examples.
In 2 Samuel 6:6 and also 1 Chronicles 13:9, the oxen hauling the ark of God stumbled, and a man named Uzzah, in order to protect the ark from falling, quite naturally put out his hand to steady it. Most people would consider this a good deed. So what happened next? "And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there because he put forth his hand to the ark."
No good deed shall go unpunished, it seems.
In 2 Samuel 12:15, because David committed a crime in order to marry Bathsheba, god killed their firstborn child--not the offending adulterers! In fact, the poor baby suffered seven days before dying. It was kind of strange that god should do this, since in Deuteronomy 22:22 god clearly commanded that adulterous couples should be executed and in Deuteronomy 24:16 said that children should not be put to death for the sins of their fathers. God's ways are mysterious beyond all insanity.
In Joshua 7:15 and 7:23-25, a man named Achan, during the battle of Jericho, took a pretty mantle and some silver and gold that god desired. (The scriptures, which teach that god already has the whole wide world in his hands, does not explain why god desired gold, silver, and a pretty cloth.) God told the Israelites to find the culprit and burn him. (Kind of strange the omniscient deity didn't already know whodunit.) When Achan confessed, not only he--the actual thief--but his entire family ("his sons and his daughters") and even his livestock (oxen, asses, and sheep) were stoned and burned to death at god's command.
God, by the way, had allowed the people of the city of Ai to slaughter the Israelites in a battle, because Achan had secretly committed this "sin," of which the other Israelites were guiltless. God never warned the Israelites of their danger; he simply let them be killed to prove to them he was angry. God's anger ended only after Achan and his family and livestock were butchered ( Josh. 7:26). *"Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For his mercy endures forever" (1 Chron. 16:34).*
In the *Iliad*, the Greeks also suffered a bloody defeat from the wrath of the gods, but at least they knew Zeus was unhappy and that it was the pride and anger of Achilles and Agamemnon that were behind the Trojans' successes. The Olympians didn't seem as mischievous as the Judeo-Christian-Muslim god.
There is a strange story in 1 Kings 20:35 about a prophet who told another man, "by the word of the LORD," to strike him (the prophet). Ancient legal texts show that assault and battery were illegal and were punished by courts, so naturally the man refused to strike the prophet. At god's command, the prophet then put a curse of death on the man who had refused to hit him. Sure enough, as soon as the man left the prophet's presence, god sent a lion to kill him.
Invoking god after a group of children mocked his baldness, the prophet Elisha in 2 Kings 2:23-24 called two bears out of the woods to rip apart 42 of the young miscreants. Apparently god doesn't like people who are "hairline- challenged" to be ridiculed, since he (allegedly) created baldness along with everything else on the earth, such as the well known and long-standing irreverence of small children. It's a wonder that god hasn't killed every child ever born. Maybe some power protects children from divine wrath. (Could it be... Satan? Could that be the real reason god does not like the devil? He's humanity's guardian angel? We need the Church Lady to answer this one.)
Of course, in the book of Job, god made a casual bet with Satan that Job, described as a "blameless and upright" man, would remain so even under severe adversity. Satan was then allowed to ruthlessly slaughter the innocent servants and family of Job to test his uprightness. Sometimes, it's kind of hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys in the Bible.
In Numbers 12:1-2, Moses' sister Miriam and brother Aaron criticized Moses for marrying a Kushite (black) woman, and god punished them by afflicting them with leprosy. That is, he punished Miriam with leprosy; for some reason, Aaron was let off the hook. Anyway, they--or at least Miriam--were not punished for being despicable racists, ancient versions of Adolf Hitler, Orval Faubus, George Wallace, and William Rehnquist, but rather because they dared to criticize Moses. No mention was made of the worse immorality of bigotry.
One of the stranger scriptural stories is in Exodus 4:24. Moses (allegedly) had been given his holy marching orders at the burning bush to go back to Egypt and free the Israelites. As he returned to Egypt... well, let the Bible speak for itself: "At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him (Moses) and sought to kill him." Moses' wife cut off their son's foreskin with a flint knife (ouch!) and touched it to Moses' feet, calling him "a bridegroom of blood--because of the circumcision." And "so he (god) let him (Moses) alone."
Christians like to claim that theirs is a god of love and mercy, replacing the vengeful divine patriarch of the Jewish scriptures. Is this true? Well, let's see.
Acts 2:43-46 described how early Christians lived in a communistic fashion, all selling their possessions and jointly sharing everything in common. But Acts 5:1-10 tells how a couple, Ananias and Sapphira, sold a piece of their property and gave some, but not all, of the income to their Christian comrades. Peter confronted them, accused them, in essence, of not being good Christian communists and thereby offending god. God killed both Ananias and Sapphira (no surprise, we would say after compiling this list of his homicides).
One wonders what the real story was in this early Christian purge. Were Ananias and Sapphira a noncommunist opposition to Peter that were condemned in a Christian show trial? Did Peter have them murdered as Stalin had Trotsky eliminated?
As glasnost and other political reforms allowed the former Soviet Union to acknowledge communism's crimes and rehabilitate its victims, it's time Christians consider restoring the reputations of Ananias and Sapphira.
God can be quite ungrateful. According to the scriptures, Judas fulfilled a vital role in Christian history, for if he had not betrayed Jesus to be crucified, there would have been no resurrection and no Christianity. Judas's reward for doing his assigned task in history? Act s 1:18 says that he died a painful death for his "wickedness." (Not by suicide, as Matthew independently claimed.)
In Revelation 14:1-5, we are told that of all the billions of people who have inhabited the earth, each of whom allegedly was or is the creation of god, only 144,000 males "who have not defiled themselves with women" are to be saved from the innumerable horrors of Judgment Day. Revelation 17:8 tells us their names were written in the book of life from the beginning of the world, and no one else can be saved. Revelation 20:15 tells us that anyone whose name is not in the book will be thrown into a lake of fire. Why won't god give the rest of us a chance? It seems that Mother Teresa must burn in hell with everyone else, since she is not a man.
But Jesus would rather threaten people with horrible torture. For example, "The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth" (Matt. 13:41-42). *"How precious is your loving kindness, O God!" ( Ps. 36:7).*
Skeptics today still question those unrecorded "mighty works" of Jesus (John 20:30). If god really cared about people in the scientific era, you'd think he would send some solid, verifiable proof of all these miraculous claims that would pass modern scientific scrutiny. Dreams and revelations are hard to verify with Geiger counters, electron microscopes, X-rays, or chemical analysis. Scientists are open-minded. Show them that a miracle is a miracle is a miracle is a miracle, and a lot of agnostics and atheists would believe. Oral Roberts and Pat Robertson are not particularly convincing miracle workers.
If Paul was telling the truth in 1 Timothy 1:19-20, then acting under god's power, he condemned two men--Hymenaeus and Alexander--to Satan for blasphemy. Were they removed from the book of life, leaving only 143,998, or did others take their places to give us the full 144,000?
The Bible contains many other divinely backed atrocities. The Israelites allegedly massacred the entire populations of Canaanite cities with god's blessings. Israelites who worshiped other gods were brutally murdered, rather than being mercifully shown the truth. The firstborn children of the Egyptians were slaughtered prior to the exodus, even though most Egyptians would have been ignorant of the clash between Moses and Pharaoh. Under that monarchy, few Egyptians could have changed Pharaoh's will anyway, especially after god had, according to the scriptures, "hardened Pharaoh's heart."
God can be gruesomely comprehensive in his brutality, as the terms of his covenant with Israel make clear in Leviticus 26:14-39 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68, which vowed to smite the Israelites with famine, invasions, plagues, and numerous other horrors, including cannibalism. Even the Nazis were not as vicious as the vengeance promised to Israel if an iota of its covenant was violated. The penalty far exceeded the crime.
We could even ask why god, in Matthew 2, made such a fuss over the birth of Jesus, with a spectacular star of Bethlehem and other signs guaranteed to tip off the paranoid King Herod, who then massacred the children of Bethlehem in a vain attempt to stop the coming of the Messiah. If god is all-knowing, surely he was aware of Herod's homicidal predilections and could have made Jesus's appearance less threatening to the king, thereby saving all of those poor babies.
Fortunately for Herod's reputation, neither Mark, nor Luke, nor John, nor history (period) knew anything about the slaughter of the innocents, so actually Herod was probably guiltless of this particular charge.
If the Bible was written by men, as skeptics suspect, then what kind of mentality would conceive of these horrors, much less worship a god who allegedly commits them? And how dare Christians demand that nonbelievers bow down to such murderous ideas!
If these really are the deeds of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim god, then who is this deity, Adolf Hitler?
(William Sierichs, Jr., 316 Apartment Court Drive,
Apt. 14, Baton Rouge, LA 70807.)