I am always amazed to hear people talk about the goodness and the greatness of “God”. It is apparent that those who speak about “God” in such ways have NEVER read the Bible.
Here is a quick overview of the Old Testament for those who have yet to read it:
Consider first God’s moral character, as revealed in the Bible. He routinely punishes people for the sins of others. He punishes all mothers by condemning them to painful childbirth, for Eve’s sin. He punishes all human beings by condemning them to labor, for Adam’s sin (Gen. 3:16-18). He regrets His creation and in a fit of pique, commits genocide and ecocide by flooding the earth (Gen. 6:7). He demands fear from Abraham and to test him, asks that he kill his son (Gen. 22:12). He hardens Pharaoh’s heart against freeing the Israelites (Ex. 7:3), so as to provide the occasion for visiting plagues upon the Egyptians, who, as helpless subjects of a tyrant, had no part in Pharaoh’s decision. [So much for respecting free will – the standard justification for the existence of evil in the world?]
He kills all the firstborn sons, even of slave girls who had no part in oppressing the Israelites (Ex. 11:5). He punishes the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great great-grandchildren of those who worship any other god (Ex. 20:3-5). He sets a plague upon the Israelites, killing 24,000, because some of them had sex with the Baal-worshiping Midianites (Num. 25:1-9). He orders David to take a census of his men, and then sends a plague on Israel, killing 70,000 for David’s sin in taking the census (2 Sam. 24:10-15).
He sends two bears out of the woods to tear forty-two children to pieces, because they called the prophet Elisha a bald head (2 Kings 2:23-24). He condemns the Samarians, telling them that their children will be “dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open” (Hosea 13:16).
This is but a small sample of the evils celebrated in the Bible.
Look at what God commands humans to do. He commands us to put to death adulterers (Lev. 20:10), homosexuals (Lev. 20:13), and people who work on the Sabbath (Ex. 35:2). He commands us to cast into exile people who eat blood (Lev. 7:27), who have skin diseases (Lev. 13:46), and who have sex with their wives while they are menstruating (Lev. 20:18). Blasphemers must be stoned (Lev. 24:16), and prostitutes whose fathers are priests must be burned to death (Lev. 21:9).
That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
God repeatedly directs the Israelites to commit ethnic cleansing (Ex. 34:11-14, Lev. 26:7-9) and genocide against numerous cities and tribes: the city of Hormah (Num. 21:2-3), the land of Bashan (Num. 21:33-35), the land of Heshbon (Deut. 2:26-35), the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites (Josh. 1-12). He commands them to show their victims “no mercy” (Deut. 7:2), to “not leave alive anything that breathes” (Deut. 20:16). In order to ensure their complete extermination, he thwarts the free will of the victims by hardening their hearts (Deut. 2:30, Josh. 11:20) so that they do not sue for peace.
These genocides are, of course, instrumental to the wholesale theft of their land (Josh. 1:1-6) and the rest of their property (Deut. 20:14, Josh. 11:14). He helps Abijiah kill half a million Israelites (2 Chron. 13:15-20) and helps Asa kill a million Cushites, so his men can plunder all their property (2 Chron. 14:8-13).
Now, consider also what the Bible permits:
Slavery is allowed (Lev. 25:44-46, Eph. 6:5, Col. 3:22). Fathers may sell their daughters into slavery (Ex. 21:7). Slaves may be beaten, as long as they survive for two days after (Ex. 21:20—21, Luke 12:45-48). Female captives from a foreign war may be raped or seized as wives (Deut. 21:10-14). Disobedient children should be beaten with rods (Prov. 13:24, 23:13). In the Old Testament, men may take as many wives and concubines as they like because adultery for men consists only in having sex with a woman who is married (Lev. 18:20) or engaged to someone else (Deut. 22:23). Prisoners of war may be tossed off a cliff (2 Chron. 24:12). Children may be sacrificed to God in return for His aid in battle (2 Kings 3:26-27, Judg. n), or to persuade Him to end a famine (2 Sam. 21).
Pretty repulsive stuff isn’t it?
Thanks for reading,
- Anderson, Elizabeth, “If God is Dead, is Everything Permitted?,” in Louise Antony, ed., Philosophers without Gods (Oxford University Press, 2007)