Unless this is the first part of this you've come across, skip the introduction.
Is the God of the Bible an immoral egotistical arrogant tyrant in his prejudiced demands to be worshiped as the one true God and his condemnation of those who worship other gods? Is he an insanely angry bigot? Crueller than the cruellest earthly dictator in his bloodlust and hatred and barbaric desire for killing and violence? A ruthless baby and child killer? Bursting into enraged childish temper tantrums at the most minor provocation and inflicting deadly punishments on people for trivial offences? Is the Bible a malicious and intolerant book of hate literature which should be treated with contempt by anyone with an ounce of compassion because it incites irrational acts of barbarity? Did it directly incite the "burning times" when Christians in their supposed zeal for biblical commands tortured and killed anyone accused of being a witch? These are all charges commonly brought against the God of the Bible and the Bible itself by many sceptics, with similar vehemence as that just displayed. Are they true?
If you're feeling a bit depressed or anxious today, you may find some of the content on some of the pages here particularly upsetting. Section 1 of this website contains self-help articles that it might be best to visit first. Topics covered include depression, serious worry, panic attacks, phobias and OCD, marriage problems, raising difficult teenagers, self-harm, anorexia, grief, bullying and teasing, coping with a life-threatening illness, and recovery from rape. You can find them here: Free Self-Help to Recover From or Cope With Some Problems.
Note: This series is entirely unsuitable for children. Part of it contains passages of violence and sickening descriptions of cruelty from the news that many might find offensive and distressing. In fact, I recommend that this is only read by the most insistent Bible critics and the Christians most disturbed by the allegations!
Part of the series contains quotations from several news stories. When reading about the harsh way the Bible says God punished the people in his anger, it's easy to get a very one-sided impression of an enraged God pouring vengeance on a people who were actually living fairly decent lives. Although it's true that it indicates that the punishments were to a large extent non-discriminatory and so innocent people would undoubtedly have suffered, the impression the Bible gives is that the societies the punishments were inflicted on were corrupt to the core - societies where violence, murder, ruthless oppression of the vulnerable, sexual abuse and several other varieties of sin were rampant! And according to the Bible, these were societies that refused to police themselves! The quotations from the news stories, though discussing incidents that took place in a different era, that were of course committed by others, and perhaps often in different ways, are meant to bring home to people the kind of impact such crimes would have had on the many victims suffering such things in those societies, and the depths to which societies can stoop. The idea is that they can help people imagine the kind of thing the Bible says was going on in the biblical societies threatened with God's punishment. Thus, the punishments the Bible says were inflicted on the societies in Old Testament times that behaved in such a manner will seem less unjust to the open-minded.
It may be that some of the stories describe things which vary considerably from what was going on then and may be much worse, but apart from anything else, they will be a corrective to the assumption that certain practices must have been harmless, such as the worship of other gods and occult practices, and also a corrective to any glib refusal to take any provocation into account when declaring the God of the Bible truly unjust.
In fact, it seems it's people who persistently commit just such violent and unscrupulous acts that the Old Testament was written for. A New Testament passage claims that certain Old Testament punishments were meant as examples/warnings for future generations not to do evil things. It may be that many who won't be convinced to stop catastrophically harming others by declarations of the love of Jesus and beautiful passages meant to inspire people to do good, as can be found in the New Testament, can be scared into stopping by the descriptions of punishments being meted out to wrongdoers that fill the Old Testament.
The links to the news stories are not provided, because of the high possibility that many will soon be broken. To read the articles in full, you can put the names of the titles or a distinctive phrase from the story you'd like to read more of in quotes in Google, and if it's still somewhere on the Internet, you'll probably find it.
I found it very distasteful to put the quotations from the stories together, but felt compelled to do so because of the virulence of the accusations with which the God of the Bible is condemned by some, and the potential that this could cause Christians to lose their joy in Christianity, and to doubt or lose their faith, - although perhaps some belong to a toxic brand of Christianity that would make losing their faith a good thing. I know of people who say they were once Christians, but who lost their faith in disgust when they learned about the cruelty allegedly inflicted by God in Old Testament times. Some will go on to frequently express strong feelings of contemptuous anti-Christian hostility. A greater knowledge of the provocation that the Bible indicates led to the harsh Old Testament punishments may lead people to a greater understanding of why they were considered necessary, though they seem severe whatever the provocation!
Some food for thought can be had if one considers that every single one of the atrocities reported in the news articles quoted on these pages would not have been committed by anyone who was genuinely dedicated to following biblical Christianity. And every one of the people committing them would stop doing such things if they discovered a new beginning in becoming committed to biblical Christianity. Any atrocities committed in its name have been committed despite what the Bible says, not because of it. To prove it, here are some links to Bible quotations informing Christians on the way they should behave, which not only prohibit such atrocities as the ones described in the news articles quoted here, but indicate that Christians should abide by much higher standards of behaviour. Promoting Christianity, seen as dangerous by some, could actually be at least a partial solution to the world's problems. Whole communities have in the past turned from warlike activity when they have become Christians and started following ideals for the Christian lifestyle like the ones found in the quotations here:
Some people may have been exposed to a brand of Christianity that makes it difficult for them to believe Christianity could be a power for good. But a reading of those quotes will prove that it is benign. Any group that promotes an unhealthy doctrine may well be distorting what the Bible actually says. Here's an example of how it can be done:
Therefore, those who make it their mission to try determinedly to pull the Bible apart by rooting out as many alleged petty contradictions as they can, defaming the God of the Bible as immoral, doing their determined best to convince people that Jesus never existed, and denigrating Christians as delusional and unthinking, etc. are in effect, though probably mostly unwittingly, aiming to destroy something beautiful, something that can be a powerful force for good in the right hands. Christianity can give people a brand new vision of life, offer them a brand new start, feeling that their record of wrongdoing has been wiped clean in God's eyes so they can learn to love themselves, see themselves as worthwhile, and thus can see a point in starting again with renewed dedication to living a good life.
Naturally, other interventions can give people new hope and raise their self-esteem. But Christianity is one with widespread appeal that shouldn't be dismissed.
When people feel God has forgiven them, it doesn't mean, as some would slanderously claim, that they no longer have a responsibility to try to make amends as far as possible for what they did. On the contrary, the Christian faith can often inspire people to do just that, where they had no interest in doing so before.
It can inspire people to transform their behaviour, or stop their behaviour degenerating into behaviour that would hurt others in the first place, partly because they can feel responsible to God - a higher authority they respect enough to want to obey - for the way they live, and not just accountable to themselves. The Christian faith can give them hope for the future, and security and confidence that they are loved by someone greater than themselves, God. The increase in self-worth this can bring can give people the motivation to treat others better. People who believe they are valued can be more likely to be respectful of others and thus less likely to mistreat them.
Christianity can give people a sense of belonging and identity, as a wonderful alternative to the sense of belonging and identity they may have previously sought in gangs or warlike nationalism etc.
It can give them meaning and purpose in life, in that the Bible urges Christians to spend their lives doing good. A sense of meaning and purpose in life can bring a sense of satisfaction that can strengthen people's desire to carry on what they're doing, and if they're doing productive things instead of ones that make them angry and hateful, it can be especially so. Thus, meaning and purpose derived from doing good has its own rewards, and thus can strengthen the desire people may have to continue to do so, and can replace the meaning and purpose gained from belonging to destructive causes, as well as the opposite of meaning - the sense of disillusionment with life that can lead to living selfishly and callously.
Falling in love with the character of Jesus as portrayed by the gospels can bring a desire to please him; and a belief that he loves them so much he was even willing to die so their sin could be cleansed can bring a deep gratitude which will strengthen the desire to please him. Thus, it can bring a heartfelt commitment to obeying his commands. The commands in the New Testament, such as those to live peaceful lives of non-violence and to care for others, are said to be Christ's commands. Thus, falling in love with the character of Christ as portrayed in the gospels can transform a person's attitude and lead them to lives of goodness.
Reflection on the New Testament commands can also give people cause to stop and think, and a desire to inquire into the reasons for the commands; and their reflection on the reasons for them can lead to a deeper conviction of the wisdom of many commands, which can subsequently lead to a deeper commitment to following them.
The sense of being loved by God and the Bible's imploring of people to love one another in practical ways can soften a person's attitudes, making them contemplate the way they're living and changing their mind-set from one of hatred or cruel indifference to people around them and a consequent wish to harm or use them, to a desire to do things to benefit them.
Belief that one is accountable to God for the way one lives can be a check on people's natural desire to live for themselves when they want to put their own desires above the needs or welfare of others because their desires are strong.
Belief in God's punishment can sober a person and make their commitment to obey Christ's commands to live lives of non-violence and caring more serious, since they can bring realisation that Christianity is a serious commitment, not a fashion accessory, a tradition, or something merely to be played with while in reality behaving as one wishes.
Naturally, turning to Christianity won't always have such wholesome effects, by any means; but it's more likely to do so where there is a focus on the guidelines for Christian behaviour linked to above, and a focus on making positive improvements in life rather than getting bogged down in the idea of guilt for sin, or in some minor doctrine taken out of balance with the whole.
It's true that there are passages in the Bible where it says God orders incidents of what can appear barbaric merciless violence. Some are not so abhorrent as a superficial reading without knowledge of the cultural practices of the day might suggest, but some certainly are. Most, if not all, can be matched, however, by the cruelty of many of the people the violence was inflicted on. Thus, we have the reciprocity principle in action. The violence was mostly said to be punishment for such wrongdoing, deterrents to prevent such cruelty and crime in the future, and chastisement to spur people to change their ways. Therefore, harsh though the punishments were, and though it's easy and perhaps highly reasonable to argue that they were far worse than any society could possibly have deserved, it can be argued that they were by no means wholly unjustified, and they were far more than the simple actions of a vindictive petty God having brutal temper tantrums in an insane, violently angry rage, as is so often charged.
The other parts in this series:
If you would prefer a less squeamishness-making article, you could read: An Attempt to Explain Gruesome Bible Passages.
Here are some clips from news articles that may surprise you, about how witch killing is fairly well-known in some Pagan cultures. The common conditions in societies where people are accused of being witches without much evidence and killed will be made evident, and they probably very much applied in similar forms in Europe in the Middle Ages when witches were being burned by the Church:
From a news story called ‘Project Prahari’ Aims to End Witch Hunt from The Assam Tribune online, 3 October 2002:
" GUWAHATI, Oct 2 - Very low level of education and lack of medical facilities lead to belief in witchcraft in different backward places of Assam, particularly in the lower Assam districts of Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon and Dhubri and many innocent persons became the unfortunate victims of this superstition in the last few years. However, the encouraging thing is that due to police efforts of eradicating the social maladies under ‘Project Prahari’, in one particular village, the persons, once involved in witch hunt are now encouraging others to root out this practice. The DIG (CID), Kula Saikia told The Assam Tribune that at one point of time, witchcraft was practiced even in Europe, but in Assam the basic factors which lead to the belief in witchcraft include low level of education, helplessness in a life-threatening situation, lack of medical facilities etc. He pointed out that due to lack of medical facilities in the remote areas, the people are forced to depend on quacks and when they fail to cure the diseases, the quacks put the blame on someone else and sometimes, the quacks themselves face the wrath of the people. There are also instances when witchcraft was used as an easy way to make money during dull season. ...
five persons - four males and one female - were killed by the villagers on May 25, 2000 as they were accused of practising witchcraft. The incident occurred after the deaths of several children due to various diseases. The villagers held a puja in the village where a lady from Kokrajhar, who performed the ceremony, identified the ‘witches’ and they were brutally murdered by the villagers. Eleven persons were arrested in connection with the brutal killing. When police first went to the village to launch ‘Project Prahari’, the villagers strongly justified the killing. “But we found out that lack of health care facilities is the root cause of the superstition, and immediately, we organised health camps apart from regular health check-up. The people were also given health education and gradually the people admitted their mistake,” Saikia added. ..."
From an article called Witchcraft Cops Fight Central African Sorcery Boom from Reuters, 28 August 2002:
"BANGUI, Central African Republic (Reuters) - After eating soup cooked with a human heart, 13-year-old Stephanie was told she would be able to transform herself into a cat and cast magic spells.
But Stephanie and the woman who inducted her into sorcery got caught when they tried to creep up on the villa of a member of the Central African Republic's presidential guard.
Now she trembles before Bangui's witchcraft police, who treat cases like Stephanie's as all in a day's work.
"I know that it's not a good thing to try and kill someone. But I trusted this woman because she is a friend of my aunt," pleaded Stephanie, an orphan. ...
With some 17 percent of the country's adults thought to be infected with the virus that causes AIDS, doctors believe many deaths attributed to sorcery should actually be blamed on unprotected sex or infected blood transfusions.
"If someone gets ill people believe it is due to bad spirits and there is little one can do to overcome them," said Marcel Massaga, head of the government's anti-AIDS program.
Other people suspect the bulging witchcraft case files may actually be due to people making accusations through jealousy or to eliminate rivals.
But few dare suggest witchcraft is not real in a country where incoming presidents tend to build new palaces and people firmly believe it is to protect themselves against the sorcery of their predecessors.
"People believe there is no such thing as an accident," said Ambrose Balze, a sociologist at Bangui University. ...
In M'baiki, a large town in the southwest, several women accused of witchcraft were recently buried alive. Others have been executed or had their houses burned down.
Penalties for witchcraft, or being found in possession of body parts for making spells, vary from hefty fines to death. ..."
From an article called Where Superstition, Black Magic Thrive from The Hindu, 29 April 2001:
"... Besides human sacrifice and black magic, the rural areas of the region abound in `tohni' or witch where women are beaten up or killed mercilessly after being declared `witches.' ...
Putting across his point, he says declaring a woman `tohni' is often done with a vested interest. A woman is driven away from the house or village to grab her property or to pressurise her to do something she is not willing to do. ..."
From an article called Witchcraft Problem in South Africa by the Associated Press, 30 October 1999:
"... The arson attack Sept. 20 in this dirt-road village 215 miles north of Johannesburg was one of a rash of witchcraft-related crimes in recent months that has authorities worried. Sharpening the concern is the arrival of spring rains, bearing destructive lightning and charges that witches conjured up the jagged bolts.
Such ideas are not new in this society, where belief in "muti" -- the power of magic -- is strong and traditional healers are a respected and established group. Hundreds of witchcraft accusations are reported every year and police have recorded about 600 killings in Northern Province since 1990. ...
On such fertile ground, a natural disaster or sudden death is easily blamed on sorcery, and a mob mentality takes over. Charges often result from family feuds, political rivalries or jealousy of a person who seemingly finds inexplicable wealth amid poverty. ...
In a broader sense, Kgatla said, the attacks can be seen as another of the violent ways to settle disputes in this society, where rivalries between taxi companies or political parties have claimed thousands of lives. The problem is so severe that five Northern Province villages are filled with nothing but accused witches and their families. ...
Sekhethi Lebogo, 85, said he was accused of being a witch by his wife's lover, beaten by a mob and chased away. Helen Makwiya's mother was accused of witchcraft by the son of a rival wife. A crowd poured gasoline on family members and set them alight, she said. Her mother, sister and aunt died. ..."
In an article titled Tribesmen Lynch Three for Witchcraft in India from Reuters, 17 April 2003, it says:
"AGARTALA, India - A mob of tribesmen lynched three members of a family for allegedly practicing witchcraft in the northeastern state of Tripura, police said.
The mob attacked a family which was blamed for diseases and hardships in the Tulatuli village some 40 km (25 miles) south of Agartala, the state capital, Deputy Superintendent of Police Anurag Dhankar told Reuters. ...
Witchcraft is prevalent in several tribal regions in eastern and northeastern India.
Police say tribesmen often attack people believed to be practicing witchcraft if there is an epidemic or a natural disaster. At least 15 such incidents have been reported in the last year in several villages in the remote state. ..."
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|Bible Part 1: The Bible, The Holy Spirit Today, People And Their Stories|
(Bible topics include the end of the world, sex and marriage, violence, anger and jealousy, whether Christians should gossip and tell dirty jokes, and some of the reasons why Christians suffer. There are also articles to help with various problem behaviours like alcoholism and anger management.)
|Bible Part 2: The Lives and Suffering of the Ancient Israelites, The Book of Revelation, And People's Religious Experiences Today|
|Bible Part 3: The Bible, Articles About Alleged Inaccuracies in it, And Stories of People who Became Christians|
(Bible topics include love and caring, the appropriate Christian attitude to personal wealth, prejudice, and false Christian teaching.)
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