For people who believe in a more jealous, easily hurt God, even asking this question is the ultimate blasphemy and disrespect. They will think that the person who asks this must be the most arrogant asshole alive, if not lost and utterly pathetic! The believer might probably hope their pride will goeth before a really painful and embarrassing fall! One day, God will make that bigheaded fool pay, pleading on their knees but too late! Too late shall be the cry!
If you fall into this category, I would advise you to leave now.
No need to put yourself through the stress of another article on Newsvine that makes you feel persecuted, concerned for God’s feelings, or fearful for me because of his rage and the sadistic things he will let happen to me. Or even makes you just as angry and eager for those sadistic things to happen especially if there is a front row seat. Take your leave and go browse in less stress-inducing pastures. I don’t want to contribute to negative emotions on your part.
For people who believe in a more resilient, self-sufficient God, asking this question is like a four year old asking a perfectly innocent question to an adult over 50, like “Grandpa, you smell funny! How come?” They are confident that God, like most grandparents is beyond offense as a result of being tempered by age and a wealth of experience.
For people who either do not believe in God or are still seeking, the question is not only valid but probably has already played a crucial role in the skeptical position they currently hold about the Judeo-Christian God.
Nothing opens your mind and heart up to this question like experiencing real pain and tragedy in your life. It was my experience of physical, sexual and emotional violence in my pre-teen and teenaged years that made me more aware and sensitive to what such things must feel like for other people. Suddenly, watching scenes of violence in movies was more visceral to me. Reading violent literature conjured up imagery into which I could actually insert myself. And the bible, which was the most predominant form of literature in my life, began to have a very different impact on me.
I began empathizing with the people being slaughtered or forced into slavery by the Israelites following Yahweh’s command. I saw that little Midianite boy seeing his parents slaughtered before his eyes before he is gouged with an Israelite sword. I saw his virgin sister screaming as she is dragged off to be a slave or forcibly married (Numbers 31: 1-54). I saw Pharaoh of Egypt, who after seeing the first few plagues, realizes this Hebrew God means business and wants to let the Israelites go, but for some reason cannot. His mind is torn, he is paralyzed with an obstinacy he cannot even comprehend because unbeknownst to him, Yahweh has deliberately hardened his heart. Why? Just to be able to show off with a few more sadistic tricks, including slaughtering innocent firstborn children. (Exodus 7:4). I wonder how the mothers of those children felt the next morning? Did this inspire love and respect in them for this Hebrew God? What about the Amalakites lined up on the ground as the Hebrew armies ran swords through every second one counted? Can you imagine lying there, hoping in that deadly game of “Duck, Duck Goose!” you are not the goose?
These Old Testament accounts would be related by the pastor with such passionate relish. See what Almighty God does to anybody who opposes him? This is what he will do to the unbelievers!
But as sexual, physical and emotional abuse filled my life, I could not put it into words but I knew I could no longer pray to this God, just as I could no longer confide in my father who tried to get obedience through fear.
I am not unique in this. Jews in the concentration camps at the height of the Nazi final solution suddenly found the visceral nature of the unspeakable suffering they were enduring sparking deep questions about Yahweh’s “goodness”. I guess when you are the one being rounded up and exterminated, it puts a whole different spin on accounts in Judges, Samuel and Kings of the Israelites doing the same to the surrounding nations. When it is your daughters being slaughtered in front of you, suddenly you are the Moabite, Amorite and the Canaanite.
Now for those devoted to the Judeo/Christian/Abrahamic faith, this is inconceivable! God represents the ULTIMATE in what is good. Man is a fallen, creation without even the wit to understand God’s superiority in every way.
It was only after I left the Christian faith for a quest for a more universal truth, that I discovered that this premise is actually very recent and unique to the Middle Eastern-originated, male-monotheistic religion.
In other cultures (Persian, Greek, Nubian, Egyptian, Hindu, Shinto, Inca, Mayan, Ibo) with many Gods and Goddesses there was more, dare I say honesty about the nature of their deities. They were not always good. They were far more complex than that. There are even accounts when humans were nobler and more loving, merciful, moral than the more powerful Gods. In those cultures POWER does not necessarily equate MORALITY. MIGHT is not automatically RIGHT. Zeus, Oshun or Athena make glaring errors and nobody has to buy into a counter-intuitive pretense about it.
But in the Judeo/Christian/Abrahamic faiths, believers must engage in a fearful, sycophantic defense of their God’s goodness. They in turn become more sociopathic in the process and able to relate sadistic, hateful things that this God has done or will do, with a big smile on their face. They try to convince you that something your gut feeling tells you is evil, is actually, “loving”. So why should we be surprised when religious organizations in service to such a God feel emboldened to treat others without a shred of empathy and expect to be considered holy and loving?
There was a point in my spiritual life when I began to feel like a battle was going on in my head. It was a battle between two personalities. One was the Christian battered wife struggling to defend her abusive husband of a God. The other was the skeptic, her twin sister who was getting a little stronger, smarter and empowered every day by the healing power of unconditional love given by friends, teachers, mentors outside my family and church.
Battered Christian Me: Okay, so what if his wrath is fearsome? If I bow before him, he will bless me.
Strong Powerful Me: It is never right to use the fact that you are more powerful to instill fear in order to get devotion and obedience.
In the end, the skeptic won. And I’m so happy it did.
When I read about victims of abuse who have forgiven their abuser; when I read of the life of people like Ghandi, Nelson Mandela and the human capacity for self-sacrifice, overcoming personal affront, insult and injury to transcend to something nobler; when I read the Universal Rights Of Man or even the judicial system of modern, Western societies that would never punish a child for the crime their parent committed, or demand capital punishment for a woman who cannot prove she was raped. It is clear that we humans are fairer, more compassionate and more humane than Yahweh.
Even in a frivolous Hollywood movie, Batman Begins. When Batman (Christian Bale) is asked by his secret warrior brotherhood, on his final test, to execute an evil-doer, he refuses. In fact, Batman never kills his enemies and the reason? If he does, what separates him from them? Somebody has to be the better person, even if it means giving chance after chance after chance for redemption.
So what makes Yahweh better than the Hindu woman he allows to burn forever in hell for not buying into his solution for a botched scenario he instigated because she is comfortable with her own beliefs?
Just the fact he is more powerful?
And what kind of person knowingly defends, praises, bows before such a deity if not someone who is either fooled, cowed into submission or is complicit in a similar treatment of their fellowman right now?