Why Would a Cosmos-Creating God Play Games with Humanity?

…and allow many thousands of clergy to pose as the referees? 

The Game: The creator-god lays down many (often cruel, conflicting) rules for human behavior—in different scriptures—but neglects/declines to provide clear evidence that he/she/it even exists. 
The Referees: Countless clergy who claim to know the real rules, yet are unable to show their followers clear evidence that their god(s) exist: “Just take our word for it.” And this has gone on for millennia. Look around at the world today: what a mess religion is—because the referees don’t agree.
The writers of the New Testament figured out that people wanted a god who is obvious. In Mark’s opening chapter he wrote that the voice of god boomed from the sky to announce that Jesus was his son. It was the most natural thing in the world to believe that god(s) lived in the sky. Carl Sagan has pointed out that Democritus in the fifth century BCE, said the following:
“The ancients seeing what happens in the sky, for example, thunder and lightning and thunderbolts and conjunctions of the stars and eclipses of the Sun and Moon were afraid, believing gods to be the cause of these.” (p. 174, The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God)
Carl Sagan (1934-1996) was a careful, honest seeker for evidence that can show us what the Cosmos is really like. He offered a good example of how religions get started:
“One thing we do if we believe there is a god of the thunderbolt and do not wish to be hit by a thunderbolt is to propitiate the god of the thunderbolt, to do something to calm him down, to explain that while there may be other targets of thunderbolts deserving of his attention, we are not among them. And then we have to do something to show our respect for him, that we are not talking back to him, that we humble ourselves before him, that we are reverent before him.” (pp. 174-175, The Varieties of Scientific Experience)
Sagan was part of a robust tradition of looking at reality carefully. Galileo (1564-1642), using telescopes of his own invention, determined that the earth is not the center of the universe—it orbits our home star, as do the other planets in our solar system. The church convicted him of heresy—based, of course, on the Bible’s ideas about the earth’s place at the center of god’s creation—and condemned him to house arrest. Galileo’s mistake was curiosity, having an inquiring mind. In my article here last week, I noted that Christianity thrives because of the failure of curiosity. For many centuries, the church got away with suppressing curiosity, but with the coming of The Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries, inquiring minds ignored the church in an endeavor to learn as much as possible about reality. 
But even today, curiosity doesn’t kick in with so many churchgoers—when aspects of the faith might be jeopardized. In my article last week, I indicated that knowledge of where we are in the cosmos is lacking. How many people grasp that our Sun is one of hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy alone—and that getting across this galaxy, at the speed of light, would take 100,000 years? Moreover, we know that there are many billions of other galaxies. The author of Mark’s gospel—with his god yelling from the sky—had no clue. The church that censored Galileo had no clue. It is only in the last couple of hundred years that this reality has become known, the full details emerging only in the last few decades. How many humans—especially those who attend church—have grasped where we are in the Cosmos?
This knowledge has major, devastating implications for religious beliefs firmly anchored to the Bible’s understanding of humanity at the very center of god’s attention. Is it really likely that a creator deity who oversees billions of galaxies pays close attention to our planet—and to the behavior of eight billion humans? 
In the absence of reliable, verifiable, objective evidence about the nature of god, alternate versions of god—that is, not what Christians insist what their god is like—are possible, as Sagan has suggested:
“Suppose somehow it were demonstrated that there was a being who originated the universe but is indifferent to prayer…Or worse, a god who was oblivious to the existence of humans…These alternate kinds of gods are hardly ever thought about or discussed. A priori there is no reason they should not be as likely as the more conventional sorts of gods.” (pp. 148-149, The Varieties of Scientific Experience)
It is also important to grasp what we have learned about what’s going on out there—and again, as Sagan notes, the implications are not favorable to the Christian concept of god:
“There is certainly a lot of order in the universe, but there is also a lot of chaos. The centers of galaxies routinely explode, and if there are inhabited worlds and civilizations there, they are destroyed by the millions, with each explosion of the galaxy nucleus or a quasar. That does not sound very much like a god who knows what he, she, or it is doing. It sounds more like an apprentice god in over his head.” (pp. 158-159, The Varieties of Scientific Experience)
There are Christian apologists—theologians specially trained to defend the faith—who attempt to deal with these realities. What can they say that could elevate their Bible god to a new level, to make this god compatible with the Cosmos as we now understand it? One of their lofty-sounding claims: “Our God resides outside time and space.” Neil deGrasse Tyson has pointed out that this amounts to acknowledging that their god doesn’t exist—and it truly qualifies as theobabble: say something that sounds grand, but doesn’t make much sense. And, of course, they don’t tell us where we can find reliable, verifiable, objective evidence to substantiate this claim.   
Sagan spoke honestly that there is chaos as well as order in the universe. Which is the case also on our planet, and provokes the suspicion that the creator-god is playing games with humanity—shockingly cruel games. This god gave us diseases to deal with, but neglected to tell us from the very beginning that these are caused by microbes. It would take many millennia for very smart humans with inquiring minds to discover microbes, and the role they play in making us sick. Why would a wise, caring god—as opposed to “an apprentice god in over his head”—chose to play this kind of game? How does that make sense? Was it beyond the Christian god’s skill level to include a massive book in the Bible on hygiene and how to keep healthy? Before the discoveries of modern medicine, infant and child mortality rates were high throughout the ages. A cruel game indeed. For a detailed discussion of this issue, see Tim Sledge’s Chapter 3, “The Germ Warfare Question” in his book, Four Disturbing Questions with One Simple Answer: Breaking the Spell of Christian Belief.
It was also cruel to place humanity on such a hazardous planet, prone to earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, draught, wildfires. Millions of humans and animals have been killed, maimed, and disabled by these calamities. Deeply religious people tend not to see the problem: “Our house collapsed in the earthquake, and two of our family are in the hospital, but—God be praised! — our Bible was unharmed!” Or they try to deflect attention from the major theological problems posed by such events. When an earthquake in central Italy killed hundreds of people, Pope Francis assured survivors that the Virgin Mary was present to comfort them. But we wonder why this Catholic goddess, the Queen of Heaven, had not shown up to prevent the earthquake. Maybe devout folks don’t even expect theology to make sense.
Unfortunately the person celebrating the survival of their Bible, and the Pope, were subject to early-in-life brain manipulation. Again, Sagan has described what happens:
“…any preexisting predisposition to religious belief can be powerfully influenced by the indigenous culture, wherever you happen to grow up. And especially if the children are exposed early to a particular set of doctrine and music and art and ritual, then it is as natural as breathing, which is why religions make such a large effort to attract the very young.” (p. 152, The Varieties of Scientific Experience)
“You have to ask, ‘What is the evidence?’ And it’s insufficient to say, ‘Well, there is this extremely charismatic person who said he had a conversion experience.’ Not enough. There are lots of charismatic people who have all sorts of mutually exclusive conversion experiences. They can’t all be right. Some of them have to be wrong. Many of them have to be wrong. We cannot depend entirely on what people say. We have to look at what the evidence is.” (pp. 152-153, The Varieties of Scientific Experience)
And this is precisely where the thousands of clergy posing as referees in the god-game fail to deliver: they do not show us where we can find reliable, verifiable, objective evidence for the god(s) they claim to represent.  
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, now being reissued in several volumes, the first of which is Guessing About God (2023) and Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (2021). The Spanish translation of this book is also now available. 
His YouTube channel is here. At the invitation of John Loftus, he has written for the Debunking Christianity Blog since 2016.
The Cure-for-Christianity Library©, now with more than 500 titles, is here. A brief video explanation of the Library is here