Is There Any Place for Bible-god in the Real Cosmos?

All of our god(s) were invented in utter, total isolation

If the Bible is what the devout claim it is, we should be able to trust the information it provides about god, right? Alas, so often—far too often—that’s hard to do. How do modern Christians feel about these two verses, Exodus 29:17-18, i.e., proper worship procedure regarding animal sacrifice:


“Then you shall cut the ram into its parts and wash its entrails and its legs and put them with its parts and its head and turn the rest of the ram into smoke on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD; it is a pleasing odor, an offering by fire to the LORD.” 


I’m assuming not too many Christians would welcome this kind of smokey ritual on Sunday mornings. The author of this text believed that (1) his god was close enough overhead to smell the smoke from the fire; (2) his god had a sense of smell; (3) his god savored the aroma of burning animal flesh. Of course, this is a sampling of primitive, superstitious religion: one way to get right with a god was animal sacrifice. Another aspect of primitive religion is disguised here by the English translation. The word LORD in all caps is the rendering of the divine name; this god’s name was Yahweh—as reconstructed from four Hebrew consonants (add different vowels and you get Jehovah). Calling on the name of the god is a kind of magic, which survives to this day when Christians say, “…in Jesus’ name we pray.

These days, Jesus is about as close as Christians come to admitting that their god has a name, but in the Bible, god himself is called Yahweh. Moreover, there is no escaping this reality: Bible-god, at its inception, was a tribal god. At the opening of John Loftus’ essay, “The Scale of the Universe Undercuts the Belief in a Tribal Deity,” in the recently published book, Debating Christianity: Opening Salvos in the Battle with Believers by John W. Loftushe states:

“…we have to show that a tribal deity is what we find in the Bible. After that the rest is easy. A god like that, who is only concerned with a small tribe on a very large planet, must not know about the planet. Such a tribal deity looks indistinguishable from one created by a given tribe. Tribal deities were to be found everywhere tribes could be found. Since all of the rest of these deities were created by tribal people, then the odds are that the god of the Bible was created by the Israelite tribe.” (Kindle, p. 173)

Texts such as the one from Exodus quoted above, show the primitive, naïve quality of the god being worshipped. And the savage, barbaric nature of this god is overwhelmingly clear from its murderous rampages in the stories of Israel’s escape from Egypt and its conquest of The Promised Land. In the New Testament, Jesus-script mentions that, at the coming of his kingdom, there will be as much sufferings as at the time of Noah.

This tribal god has a big ego and ambitions, as reflected in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you…” There is nothing whatever to indicate that the author of Matthew’s gospel had the faintest idea what “all nations” meant, e.g., that the Americas and the Far East existed. And the tribal god was obsessed that he be obeyed. 

But the major problem that Christian theism faces is this: does the god described in the Bible—including the New Testament—match what we now know about the Cosmos? 

It was in 1924—just eighteen years before I was born—that astronomer Edwin Hubble made the discovery that would change forever our view of the Cosmos. He demonstrated that the Andromeda Galaxy is indeed a galaxy far beyond our own, thus disproving the belief that our galaxy was the Cosmos. It was indeed fitting that an orbiting telescope was named after him. And it was between 24 September 2003 and 16 January 2004 that astronomers aimed that telescope at a small patch of the sky, gathering light through 800 exposures over 11.3 days. The stunning result was a photo, called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, showing nearly 10,000 galaxies. These modern tools, which now include the James Webb Space Telescope, are allowing us to see the universe as never before—as never before even imagined. Edwin Hubble began this process just under a hundred years ago.

What are the implications for theology—especially for Christian theology that claims a creator god is keeping close track of every person on our planet? In fact, Christian theology is undermined—we could even say scuttled—in three ways. 

One: Does the vast universe look like it was created by tribal Bible-god?

We now know that there are hundreds of billions of galaxies, which means there are hundreds of trillions of solar systems, and even more planets. There’s not a hint of this in the résumé of Bible-god. In his essay, “Arguments from the Scale of the Universe,” (in the same new book) Loftus states:

“When we talk about the scale of the universe, we mean both its vastness and its age. When I look at pictures of the universe, I conclude that we human beings live on a mere small pale blue dot that will last a short while and then cease to exist. For nonbelievers like me, there is strong intuitive appeal that this universe is not what we would expect if theism is true.” (p. 147 Kindle)

Loftus builds on the observations of Nicholas Everitt in his book, The Non-Existence of God, who 

“…makes an argument based on these facts from the scale of the universe. He puts the question this way: ‘Is the universe as it is revealed to us by modern science roughly the sort of universe which we would antecedently expect a God of traditional theism to create? The short answer to this is ‘No’. In almost every respect, the universe as it is revealed to us by modern science is hugely unlike the sort of universe which the traditional thesis would lead us to expect.”  

“There is indeed a mismatch between the universe as revealed to us by modern science and the universe which we would expect, given the hypothesis of theism.” 

One Christian apologist, Richard Purtill, in his book, Reason to Believe, has summed up this kind of atheist misgiving:

“Christianity arose when the universe seemed a smaller and cozier affair. Now that science has shown us the true age and size of the universe, we can no longer accept the idea of a God who is personally concerned with our conduct or our consciences. If any creative power is the cause of the physical universe it has no interest in us. The idea of God explains nothing and changes nothing. For modern man, God is dead.” 

Purtill dismisses this as an unworthy argument, since the size of the universe has nothing to do with the interest that God may show in humans. Loftus points out that Purtill 

“…answers this difficulty by saying that since God is infinite, he can indeed pay attention to human beings on a tiny pale blue dot called earth.” (p. 150 Kindle) 

No. Theobabble doesn’t work, at all. God is infinite. How does Purtill know this? Where is the reliable, verifiable data to back up the claim that a god is infinite? This does not defeat our suspicion that Bible-god had no role in creating the vast Cosmos we contemplate today. Bible-god is the one who drowned humanity to punish sin; he’s the one to had no problem with the targeted murder of Egyptian children. Infinite doesn’t sound right for a god with such anger management issues. It really is a stretch to think that he behaves this way with creatures on billions/trillions of other planets. Better no god at all than this one.  

Two: Why didn’t a god who created a vast cosmos didn’t tell humans where they were in the scheme of things?

If the Bible is the revealed word of the creator god who launched the Cosmos, why is the Bible so deficient, so limited in its understanding of the world? As Loftus points out:

“The evidence from Christian history, based upon Biblical passages, is that they did in fact think the Earth was the center of a small universe with man the apex of creation. An overwhelming number of Christians prior to the rise of modern science believed they were on a fixed planet in the center of a very small universe compared to what we have more recently found.” (p. 165 Kindle)

I wonder, even today, what percentage of churchgoers have absorbed Hubble’s discoveries into their worldview. Do they grasp what we have learned about the Cosmos and our place in it? Have they come to terms with it? This is a puzzlement: Why didn’t the creator-god use the Book of Genesis to explain the our real place in the universe? What was his purpose in promoting belief that the earth—and humans—are the center of his attention? Why wait to have the stunning grandeur of the Cosmos be discovered early in the twentieth century? 

It's almost as if god didn’t want humans to make these discoveries! Centuries before Hubble, Galileo got into big trouble for looking at the sky through his primitive telescope, as Loftus points out:

“The church tried and convicted Galileo for his astronomical ideas and placed Galileo’s book on the banned list…Does that not count as slowing down the progress of science? … In fact, given the Galileo debacle as propagated by the Philosophes of an earlier day, precisely because God did not communicate to his people accurate information about the true size and scale of the universe, the Bible and the church lost credibility in the eyes of many people. The Galileo debacle has been used rightly or wrongly as disastrous for the credibility of the church and the Bible as a whole. Because God failed to tell us about the scale of the universe, it has led many to see the Bible as written by non-inspired superstitious people.” (pp. 166-167 Kindle)

Loftus offers another example of this god “not effectively communicating with his people.” 

“God not only did not create our bodies with a stronger immune system, he didn’t even give us instructions from the get-go on how to discover penicillin, much less even tell us that such a thing is possible and that we should look for it (because millions of people would needlessly die before we were to discover it). And that’s just one such discovery… The evidence is that there is nothing in the Bible that could not have been said by a human being living in that day and time…nothing. The Bible is a human product coming from superstitious ancient people.” (pp. 170-171 Kindle)

Three: Our ideas about god(s) have been invented in utter, total isolation

This truth hit me when I was in seminary, by which time I knew what Hubble had discovered. “You’re hung up on astronomy,” as one of my seminary pals put it. Yes, indeed. There may be thousands of advanced civilizations out there, whose smart thinkers may have been probing and researching the Cosmos for hundreds of thousands of years—maybe millions. What have they discovered about creation? What are their opinions about gods? Shouldn’t we want to find out their conclusions before we make confident dogmas about god? Theologians on earth don’t seem to care—and are not in distress about our isolation from other thinkers in the Cosmos: “Never mind, we’re pretty sure we’re right about our god. And you’d better take what we tell you on faith.” 

Humanity’s ideas about gods have been fueled by imagination, and by a lack of understanding of nature for thousands of years. It’s no wonder that hundreds of religions have arisen, been followed passionately, and then disappeared. All of this in our total isolation in the vast Cosmos.   

Life on our Pale Blue Dot will get a whole lot better when humans—Christians especially—expand their minds and get hung up on astronomy.


David Madison was a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years, and has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. He is the author of two books, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith (2016; 2018 Foreword by John Loftus) and Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (2021). His YouTube channel is here. He has written for the Debunking Christianity Blog since 2016.


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