The Barbaric God of The Bible

[Written by John W. Loftus using a different email address he no longer has access to. First published in Feb 2006]

One thing is sure to me. The Triune God in the Bible simply cannot be describing the God who exists. That God is a barbaric God. He is a hateful, racist, sexist God.

Consider these stories: In the Flood story we’re told God wanted to destroy all mankind. In Moses’ day God wanted to destroy all of the Israelites. In Joshua’s day God wanted the Israelites to kill all of the inhabitants of the Promised Land. Saul was told by God to destroy all of the Amalekites. According to Jonah, God was going to destroy the people of Nineveh. God also destroyed and scattered the northern tribes of Israel because he was displeased with them. God allowed the accuser to destroy Job’s health and family life just to win a “bet.” In the New Testament, God will destroy all unbelievers in the lake of fire. He’s a pretty barbaric God, if you ask me. This God is simply the reflection of ancient barbaric peoples.
Christians think the Militant Muslims are wrong for wanting to kill free loving people in the world, and they are. But the only difference between these Muslims and the Christian Biblical God is that they simply disagree on who should be killed. They both agree people should be killed; they just disagree on who should die.
God decreed that a man who picked up sticks on the Sabbath day was to be stoned to death (Numbers 15:32-36). God commanded that anyone who curses his father or mother was to be put to death (Exodus 21:17). Witches, and those of differing religious views were to be killed (Ex. 22:18,20). These are pretty stiff punishments, eh? This God declares that a slave is the property of another man (Exodus 21:21). God commanded men to divorce their foreign wives for no other reason but that they were not God’s people (Ezra 9), and women were helpless if they weren’t married in those days.

God asked Abraham to kill and sacrifice his son Isaac. As I've said, if we heard a voice today telling us to do that, we would not think this voice was God’s, although Abraham wasn’t horrified at the suggestion. Enough!

Ludwig Feuerbach is surely right; God did not make us in his image, human beings made God in their image. The ancient people of the Bible constructed their views of God based upon their own barbaric nature.

So when I say I would never worship the God of the Bible if it were proved that he truly existed, this is the kind of God I'm talking about here. He would be unworthy of our worship.

The truth is that nature’s God does many things that if we did them we’d be indicted for crimes against humanity. This is what John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) argued: 
 “In sober truth, nearly all the things which men are hanged or imprisoned for doing to one another are nature’s everyday performances. Killing, the most criminal act recognized by human laws, nature does once to every being that lives, and in a large proportion of cases after protracted tortures such as only the greatest monsters whom we read of ever purposely inflicted on their living fellow creatures. Nature impales men, breaks them as if on the wheel, casts them to be devoured by wild beasts, burns them to death, crushes them with stones, starves them with hunger, freezes them with the cold, poisons them by the quick or slow venom of her exhalations, and has hundreds of other hideous deaths in reserve such as the ingenious cruelty of a Nabis or a Domitian never surpassed. She mows down those on whose existence hangs the well-being of a whole people, with as little compunction as those whose death is a relief to themselves."

"Next to taking life is taking the means by which we live; and nature does this too, on the largest scale and with the most callous indifference. A single hurricane destroys the hopes of a season; a flight of locusts desolates a district; a trifling chemical change in an edible root starves a million people. The waves of the sea, like banditti, seize and appropriate the wealth of the rich and the little all of the poor. Everything, in short, which the worst men commit either against life or property is perpetrated on a larger scale by natural agents." [Nature and the Utility of Religion, 1871].
To those who ask how we could question God, listen again to John Stuart Mill: 
“In everyday life I know what to call right or wrong, because I can plainly see its rightness or wrongness. Now if a god requires that what I ordinarily call wrong in human behavior I must call right because he does it; or that what I ordinarily call wrong I must call right because he so calls it, even though I do not see the point of it; and if by refusing to do so, he can sentence me to hell, to hell I will gladly go.” [Reproduced in an appendix in Richard Taylor, ed., Theism (Liberal Arts Press, 1957), pp. 89-96].


Bahnsen Burner said...

A worldview which opposes man's right to exist for his own sake, is not a worldview that is fit for rational individuals. The biblical worldview opposes man's right to exist for his own sake. As you mention in your piece, the bible encourages the view that human beings can be someone's property. I can find no condemnation or prohibition of slavery anywhere in the bible, and some believers today are shameless in their admission that their biblical worldview condones slavery. I quote two of them here:

"As to slavery, i believe you are correct: slavery is perfectly biblical--always has been, always will be until Christ comes again and sets up a society that is free of all work, hardship, suffering, and servitude of any kind."

And Dusman:
"Yes, slavery is biblical and I'd agree with my BLACK friend TreyFrog. OT/NT believers owned slaves and were slaves, the Mosaic law legislated slavery and and the NT gives principles of ownership re: slaves, slaves were instructed to submit to their masters in the OT & NT, both freedom and slavery could be considered a blessing, and some form of slavery will continue till the end of time. Slavery is considered to be neither "here nor there" by the Apostle Paul and is a recognized social institution in the NT. What is condemned as sin in the OT, and especially in the NT is the mistreatment of slaves.

Clearly this is a worldview that views man as a means to someone else's ends. The appeal to invisible magic beings can be used to justify anything. As one philosopher puts it: "If God exists, everything is permissible." Indeed, Mt. 19:26 admits as much: "with God all things are possible."


Zachary Moore said...

"The truth is that nature’s God does many things that if we did them we’d be indicted for crimes against humanity."

This is why the only two solutions to the Problem of Evil are the existence of an evil deity or atheism.

Bahnsen Burner said...

"This is why the only two solutions to the Problem of Evil are the existence of an evil deity or atheism."

It's clear that Christianity cannot overcome the problem of evil. But that's not the real problem. The problem is that Christians, because of their horrific worldview, have no problem with evil. That's why its apologists are so tickled pink when Bahnsen comes along and says that their god has "a morally sufficient reason to allow evil." Essentially, their god cannot tell the difference between good and evil.

Dan Dufek said...


Give us a break. Theodicy is not a problem for the Christian. Perhaps you should explain how you can label any action whatsoever.

The problem with atheists is they fail to embrace the nihilism that is the *logical* end of their worldview. At least Neitzsche was honest, if there are no absolutes anything goes.

You said:

"Essentially, their god cannot tell the difference between good and evil."

Nice assertion, however please tell me how you came to distinguish between good and evil?

Bahnsen Burner said...

streetapologist: "Perhaps you should explain how you can label any action whatsoever."

"Duh, I donno! Therefore there must be a god!"

Is that what you're looking for?

Anonymous said...

streetapologist wrote:
"The problem with atheists is they fail to embrace the nihilism that is the *logical* end of their worldview."

Quite the opposite actually. An atheist world view develops from the presupposition that both you and I exist. From that one given truth, we can both look at the world around us and agree on certain things. We can come to an apple tree, pluck and apple and say, "This is an apple." We can then pluck another and agree "This, too, is an apple." We can then move over to an orange tree, pluck an orange and say, "This is NOT an apple", and thus, logic is born... logic that can ultimately be used to evaluate evidence, invalidate myths, and discredit superstition and the supernatural.

If the atheist worldview were in fact nihilistic, we could never come upon a system of logic, as we could have no definitive agreement of what is and what isn't.

Which presupposition do you hold... that god exists, or that you and I both exist? Be careful if you say both, because then you would have to agree that logic is not necessarily of divine origin. If on the other hand you say your presupposition is that god exists, then you have, ironically, boxed yourself into a nihilistic worldview.

"please tell me how you came to distinguish between good and evil?"

I learned the rules of society sometime (i.e. "difference between good and evil") around kindergarten through interactions with both my parents and with other kids and adults, who, in turn, were taught by their elders. I'm curious to ask you the same question... How did you come to learn the rules of society?

The Mocking Spirit said...

how can christianity deny something as solid as the theory of evolution....! it amuses me how christian friends of mine take on their defensive if i even utter the word evolution

Evan May said...

the mocking spirit:

I honestly cannot read your comment without cracking a smile.

Steven Carr said...

Christians continue to solve the problem of good and evil by proclaiming that we are in the same position as God and cannot tell the difference between good and evil.

God thinks anything he does is good. It must be terrible to see the world like that, where you are unable to evaluate your actions objetively.

Anonymous said...

As an "atheist", I value the story of Job for debunking Christianity. Christians should see it as fiction, like "Bedazzled". Job lives in an imaginary land, and an imaginary Satan makes a bet with an imaginary God (LOL). The morality play is then set in action.

Atheists are so revolted by the premise, that they miss what the story is all about: that God rewards people using physical assets or punishments in this life. At the end of Job, he gets all his wealth back x 2, and a replacement family, and lives to 140.

The whole point of Job, is to assure people of this religious axiom that it works. At times Job questions whether evil people are punished, but his friends wax lyrically that they do, and must.

Job is ancient propaganda for an old version of Judaism. It has nothing to do with Christianity at all, yet Christians hold the book in high regard.