Is our God terrible?


#1

In his must-read book, *The God Delusion, *which sets out the case for atheism (very amusing in parts, a rigorous challenge to all Christians) Richard Dawkins sets out his concept of the God of the Old Testament:

This God is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misgynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
**
Yes, this is hard. I do have problems with God’s instruction to Abraham that he kill Isaac (in our time we would be concerned about Isaac’s post traumatic stress disorder inter alia). Some, even within the Catholic Church, find the idea that God sent His own Son to death difficult to take.

And yet every prayer I pray starts 'Our loving heavenly Father…".

I would be glad to have comments on the nature of God as he is presented in the Bible, and how we get around some of the charges laid against him, like those above.


#2

Do we judge God?
Is this when we add adjective after adjective and call us humans every name in the book?
God is Who He Is. He is Holy. We are not. We are sinners. We only become Holy in Christ. So to call God homophobic (how could God be afraid?) is to completely misunderstand not only God’s nature, but the nature of sin, the nature of humanity, the nature of homosexuality itself.
To do anything BUT praise God is a lack of understanding.
Sin darkens the intellect says St. Paul.
Anyway, athiests amuse me when they try to judge God.
May God have mercy on us.

God Bless
Mordocai


#3

You’re looking at things from a materialist perspective and missing the bigger picture. No one knows what happened to the souls who were punished. Just like a Father punishes His children for their own good when they do evil, so did God punish His creatures. Sometimes it was corrective, sometimes to make an example. And just like a small child thinks his father’s punishments are terrible and mean, so do we in our spiritual immaturity think God’s punishments are mean.

Of course, we are not permitted from doing those things above because we are ourselves creatures and father’s reserve punishing thier children to themselves, they don’t just let their children punish each other as they see fit (unless he gives strict permission for it to be carried out.)

Remeber, death and suffering are just painful transitions. They are not the end of all existence.


#4

God is obviously a difficult thing to grasp, and it takes a lifetime to gain understanding. Often that isn’t enough. This is no different with learning how to drive, or cook, or learn a skill.

This is no different on the macro scale of understanding God. I have always considered the early writtings as such. When we as a people removed ourselves from the presence of God in the Garden, we lost that intimate knowledge, and in His love for us He has been telling us how to regain that despite our actions.

What is obvious to me is that as a people we don’t listen very well or at all, but yet He kept sending us instructions.

People like Dawkins, as smart as they are, in my view are like an adolescent still. They refuse to see to totality of the message and keep going back to what they (we) were told as children.

We have the benefit by learning from others, and to understand it we must look at it in that light. The lesson of Abraham was given once to humanity. Similarly it only took one action by Adam and Eve to put us here. Wonderfully it took only one act from God, the actual sacrifice that God asked of Abraham He did himself with his Son, Jesus to get us back.

Lastly, our mind/experience cannot grasp God fully. It is why Jesus used so many parables to describe the kingdom of heaven. People like Dawkins don’t like that. That want to put their hands in the wounds before they believe, and refuse to believe unless they can.


#5

Carol,
I found this most helpful in understanding the God of the OT, which is what Dawkins is focused on in this particular screed. Give it a read:
jimmyakin.typepad.com/defensor_fidei/2007/02/hard_sayings_of.html


#6

To start with, I don’t believe Dawkins’ book is a must-read. It’s been panned heavily by theists and atheists alike for taking an overly simplistic, uninformed view of how theists (Christians in particular) approach and consider God, among other flaws. It’s worth a read if only to attain a better understanding of a rising evangelical atheism in the world.

As for responding to those charges - let the first response be that it’s woefully incomplete. Dawkins cannot - is not capable of, due to personal reasons - grant that the Old Testament depiction of God also showed patience, mercy, kindness, love, consideration, and a host of other positive traits. He did not abandon His people despite transgression after transgression - the OT has many instances of regarding non-Israelis as a blessing from God and instruments of justice. He shows a profound care for the world not only by His interaction with it through Israel, but His creation with it to begin with and His desires for both Jews and Gentiles (Noahide laws, etc.) All this before you get to the New Testament, which Christians would advance as the central purpose for all of God’s previous acts, including creation.

This isn’t to say there are no acts of God in the OT which need to be discussed and understood - there are plenty. Israel’s interaction with other nations, etc. But even reading the OT in as negative a light as possible, Dawkins’ description of God is anything but complete, and that is by design.


#7

Just to add a note to everyone’s great comments, G. K. Chesterton characterized the depiction of God in the OT as being all about God–as the master, the creator, the one to whom humanity owed its loyalty, more than the God of love and mercy. Not that he wasn’t the God of love and mercy, but demonstrating that wasn’t the main intention of the authors of the OT, who portrayed God much more as the sovereign Majesty with absolute rights over his creatures.


#8

I agree. Dawkins may be a highly accomplished zoologist, but has a mean, mocking tone toward Theism that is more adolescent than insightful. There are many other books by atheists that are much more thoughtfully and maturely written.


#9

Grace & Peace!

Our God is Terribly Good.

Under the Mercy,
Mark

Deo Gratias!


#10

It depends where you are. In a womens’ focus group in a university town, where everyone is young and healthy and has a good interesting job, a gentle new mannish God is probably in demand.
On the battlefields of the Middle East you suddenly want one with thunderbolts.


#11

The God of the OT must be viewed through the God of the NT. A partial revelation is no revelation at all. So the OT must be read and understood through the fact of God’s incarnation, teaching, suffering, death and resurrection.

And this brings up an interesting point who claim that Christianity is just made up. Who, being raised on the OT God, would invent such a radically different (on the surface, at least) NT God? That alone is an excellent argument against the “invented Jesus” theories.


#12

Who would take the NT God and turn it into Mormonism? It doesn’t make sense, but Joseph Smith did it, and there are plenty of Mormons around today. Islam is a similar situation. Or that guy in Florida who claims to be Jesus. Or David Koresh. Being raised on a particular religion doesn’t seem to be a barrier to inventing your own crazy religion.


#13

Which still doesn’t explain why God needed babies to die.

There appears to be a disconnect between the OT God who apparently desired the deaths of thousands, if not millions of people, including infants and children and the God of Catholicism who is apparently opposed to using a blastocyst consisting of a few hundred cells for scientific research.

Leading by example is the most basic form of leadership. What sort of example did the God described in the OT set?

P.S. I’m not necessarily in favor in embryonic stem cell research; it’s just useful for demonstration purposes.


#14

It’s a mistake to automatically say that God desired the deaths of thousands. As an example: During World War II, did the allied forces desire the deaths of millions? Or were they put in a position that required them to pursue such a course of action for lack of better options? The distinction is subtle, but tremendously important and there.

Take it back to the OT. Is it clear that God desired the deaths of every enemy of Israel? Or was God demanding something that was an unfortunate necessity based on the situation? I think the case is far stronger for the latter than the former. Bringing it up to ‘the God of Catholicism’, as you put it - in the case of a just war, does God desire the deaths of those targeted in war by that logic? Or is war justifiably - even a necessity - and those deaths an unfortunate byproduct?

Playing off the OT and NT God as very distinct is more the result of loose (or in some cases, intentionally wrong-spirited) reading than anything else.


#15

Every time a couple have sexual intercourse they are potentially creating a new life, whose end must be death. God sets the death rate - one hundred percent - we set the absolute number.

However we regard life as sacred. It is wrong to deliberately shorten it, except in certain narrow circumstances such a s self-defence, and it is wrong to try to hold on to it for too long. If you don’t accept the concept of the sacred then you will reject this argument. But be careful. Most people who say they don’t believe in the idea of the sacred do in fact hold certain things to be too special to interfere with.


#16

What helps me is to look at the end result of Abraham’s test of faith: God did not allow him to go through with it, but:

… God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.(Romans 5:8)
My wife once asked me why God the Father asked Abraham to kill his own son, my response was that Abraham’s test was to show her and myself that He was willing to do for us what He would never make anyone do for Him.

God provided a lamb to save Isaac. He provided the Lamb of God to save you and me. St. John the Baptist agreed, for:

When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”(John 1:36)


#17

I want to expand on this particular point.

Keep in mind the importance of family within just about every culture (certainly all cultures I’m aware of.) I think the test also illustrates something important: The idea that God (and by extension, God’s commandments, values, etc) is in a place of prominence above all. If you have to choose between what is right and your family, the former should prevail. Overcoming nepotism in favor of justice or moral law has been quite a struggle for humanity.


#18

Amen!

Even in the OT God’s justice and vengeance and less warm and fuzzy traits are interposed with almost unfathomable levels of mercy.

Think of Abraham pleading and bargaining with him in regard to the people of Sodom - for the sake of a mere ten just people God would have been willing to save the thousands-strong populations of those two incredibly sinful cities! Sadly, so sinful and wicked were they that there weren’t even ten. Not even five actually.

Or Moses pleading for the people of Israel, who took a whole month or so to relapse into idolatry when Moses left them, after everything he had done to get them out of Egypt and look after them! And all their other grumbling!

and God not just condescending to bargain but relenting!


#19

Here’s my thoughts off the top of my head. Instead of focusing on God’s “bad” points, it might be helpful to consider what (and who) God was dealing with. For example, God is called an:

Now, since I haven’t read the book, I don’t know exactly what the author is basing this on, but I’ll go ahead and blame it on Leviticus and the Mosaic Law in general. But here’s the thing- you’re dealing with people who don’t have the first clue about things like germ theory, nutrition, etc. Barring having microscopes and biology textbooks rain down like manna from Heaven, you’re going to sound a little like you’ve got OCD to try and protect them from accidentally poisioning themselves right out of existance.

see christian-thinktank.com/qamorite.html for a good discussion about this subject.

do some research into what life was like for Hebrew women before God instituted Mosiac Law. To have a code of conduct towards women with uniform punishments for those who violated it is not misgynistic. Now, based on our standards today, a woman’s lot wasn’t ideal, but what was it like before God intervened?

Argh. I wish this word came with a million dollar price tag, so people wouldn’t be so cavalier about throwing it about. Disagreeing with the morality of the homosexual act does not make you afraid of homosexual people, which is what the word “homophobic” means. I find it hard to belive that God is afraid of anyone.

And on and on and on. As other people have pointed out, we cannot judge God based on our standards. But in addition, we cannot judge God based on 21st century, Western culture notions. We need to understand these people God was dealing with. We need to understand how our forefathers (and mothers, so I’M not called misgynistic by the book’s author, too) dealt with the world BEFORE God’s intervention.

I don’t know. A previous poster summed it up best when commenting on the amusing aspects of an atheist critisizing God.

C


#20

I’m not sure I follow his logic. How is Dawkins’ observation that he finds God an unpleasant fellow supposed to support the notion that he doesn’t exist?

I am reminded of a very good bit of advice I once received:
“There is a God. You’re not him.”


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