Barbara G. Walker: Bible presents God as monster of vanity, cruelty

By Barbara G. Walker

Barbara G. Walker

Nonbelievers are often asked, “Why not accept the idea of God as a harmless one, a force for good, an inspiration to bring out the best in people?” But when I read the bible as a teenager, I found a lot of reasons why not. The biblical God is hardly harmless. He is incredibly cruel, irrational, vain, sadistic and untrustworthy.

In spite of saying “Thou shalt not kill” at one point, he orders endless massacres — whole cities to be wiped out, including men, women, children, animals, all. He demands that raped women must be killed, a brutality still carried out in certain Muslim countries. He orders you to murder any members of your own family who don’t sufficiently respect him (Deuteronomy13:6-9). He sends wild animals to kill children (2 Kings 2:23-24).  He is a jealous God, full of vengeance and wrath (Nahum 1:2). He brags that he has destroyed many nations (Zephaniah 3:6). He even admits: “I create evil” (Isaiah 45:7). 

In Genesis, he kills almost every living creature on Earth because a few people failed to praise him enough. He is the ultimate embodiment of male egotism; his appetite for praise is insatiable. He demands it every minute, from everybody, for all eternity. We have been told that one of the components of heavenly “bliss” is that we will join the choirs of angels in singing God’s praises forever and ever. Well, that might be entertaining for half an hour, but for all eternity? More like hell. The pagans had a better idea, that heavenly “bliss” would be like an eternal orgasm; but, of course, the prudish God would not allow that.

As a child, I was told about one of God’s worst crimes. He arranged to have his own son murdered, to induce himself to save some of the people from the hell of eternal torture that he created to punish the sins he knew they would commit, because he made them that way.

What kind of a father is it who kills his own allegedly beloved son? And why should it be so pleasing to him? But even this death would not eliminate God’s hell altogether, because the blessed ones in heaven needed to enjoy the sadistic pleasure of a perfect view of the tortures of the damned, according to St. Thomas Aquinas and other godly folks.

As a child, I wondered, “What was the point of killing Jesus?” If the all-powerful God wanted to save people, couldn’t he just do it, without all the folderol and pain of sacrifice? But no, hell must never be eliminated.  Apparently, God really wanted to intimidate his poor subjects with that vision of endless agony that only really sick minds could create, and that same imaginary fear made enormous profits over the millennia for God’s ever-greedy minions on earth.

I find it incredible that people can read what the bible says about this God’s character and still think him harmless, benevolent or anything close to lovable.

The bible presents him as a monster of vanity and cruelty, the “jealous God” that people were commanded to fear. The men who created and developed his character were like schoolyard bullies, relishing their ability to make others tremble.

They made a god that I found hugely unworthy. I wanted neither his heaven nor his hell, and felt much more comfortable after dismissing them. My future may be limited, like that of every other life form on Earth, but that’s better than either of God’s alternatives.

Barbara G. Walker is the author of the award-winning Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Man Made God, Belief and Unbelief, The Crone, The Skeptical Feminist, and 20 other books, and is a Lifetime Member of FFRF.