Super Feats of Brutality and Incompetence

Super Feats of Brutality and Incompetence
by Dave E. Matson

The Old Testament is afloat in the savagery and cruelty of its primitive god. Many Christians would dearly love to jettison the whole Testament! Take Noah's Flood, for instance. God drowns everyone except Noah and his family in a supernatural Flood that covers the high mountains of the earth for over 150 days before disappearing without a trace 1. Children, babies, pets, and the innocent creatures of nature's realm fall victim to this kill-crazy god who wipes them out without a hint of mercy. Why this savagery? God has failed to make humans good enough and must now destroy them! He could find no remedy save wholesale destruction, a crude flood to kill man and animal alike. But, even the Flood was ultimately a failure as humanity's "bad genes" survived through Noah and his family. Modern humanity has long since improved upon every vice and atrocity known to the ancients. God has failed twice—three times if you count his primitive solution to the problem.

Theologians have racked their brains trying to explain why an all-powerful god should fail so miserably, even to the point of admitting that he regretted making mankind (Genesis 6:5-6). The working brain, by comparison, immediately recognizes that God does not belong in such a sorry scene. Common sense tells us that an omnipotent being would have found a much better solution than the Flood, a crude device limited to Bronze Age deities. Indeed, you or I could have thought of something better!

This scene of terror is repeated on a more limited scale for Sodom and Gomorrah. God determines that only Lot and his immediate family are worthy of being saved in those two cities. The rest, children, pets, anything nearby on the surrounding plain, is crudely destroyed with a rain of fire and brimstone. Once again, God is forced to use a method that could find glory only in the Bronze Age. Finally, as the family fled, Lot's wife committed the unpardonable sin of looking back and was turned into a pillar of salt! Later, Lot's daughters got their father totally drunk and (somehow) had sex with him so that they might have children. And, they were God's choice! Incompetence upon incompetence!

The working brain immediately rejects such nonsense as unworthy of God! It makes for a nice, Bronze Age story, an explanation as it were of the origin of certain tribes, but it couldn't possibly have anything to do with the sophisticated, all-powerful, all-benign, all-wise god that the Christian theologian has in mind. Common sense points to any number of superior solutions that God might have used, and, of course, God would hardly have turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt because she looked back! How silly! In truth, pillars of salt have been eroding out of the cliffs near the southern end of the Dead Sea long before the Bible was written. The Bible has simply embraced a local legend. Furthermore, God has demonstrated his incompetence, once again, in being unable to find anybody outside of Lot's immediate family to save. Any traveler who has been about in the real world knows that even in the worst ghettos, at the worst times, there are a surprising number of fine people. The ancient world was no different. And, what about the babies and animals? What was their crime?

The theologian will, no doubt, ask how it is that we are so familiar with God's mind so as to say what he would and would not do. Our first reply is to ask how it is that the fundamentalist theologian assigns such incompetence to God on one hand while declaring his infinite attributes on the other. While we don't pretend to have the mind that the theologian assigns to his god, neither do we pretend to know nothing about the real world. We have a pretty good idea as to what kinds of actions would go hand in hand with a powerful and wise being. In assigning superior thoughts and deeds to God, we do not have the contradiction on our hands that the fundamentalist theologian does. We do not have to explain why God acts "badly."

The fundamentalist theologian and his allies, in assigning a literal Bible to God, are every bit as presumptuous as the critic in their claim to know God's mind. The only difference is that the theologian stakes out territory that common sense shuns. The Bible-believing theologian assigns such strange deeds to his god that he feels obliged to defend himself by reminding us that anything might be compatible with God's "infinite" mind. Who are we to judge? Does the cigarette butt judge the ashtray?

The key word is might. Given that the deeds attributed to God 2 by the Bible-believer are often so contrary to anything we might reasonably expect, I think that "might not" is the more applicable label. Such deeds might not be compatible with God's "infinite" mind and goodness. The Bible-believer clearly has the inferior position in assigning deeds to God that are obvious atrocities when done by mortals. We are wholly justified in questioning any characterization of God that can only be defended by appealing to the mysteries of God's "infinite" mind.

What God supposedly does to the Egyptians is unthinkable. He hardens Pharaoh's heart so as to make sport of Egypt and a name for himself! The Bible says so! (Exodus 9:16, 10:1-2) God acts like a little child, doesn't he? He then has the gall to punish the poor Egyptians because of their pharaoh's hard heart (Exodus 7:3, 10:1). Of course, most Egyptians were merely innocent bystanders who had nothing to do with the Israelites' captivity. Of course, God punishes them anyway. The god of the Bible seems to delight in punishing innocents.

God kills the fish in the Nile by turning the water to blood (Exodus 7:17-21), sends lice to plague the Egyptians (Exodus 8:16-17), kills their cattle (Exodus 9:6), causes boils to break out on the innocent populace (Exodus 9:8-11), sends hailstones large enough to destroy their trees (Exodus 9:25), sends locusts to destroy their crops (Exodus 10:12-15), kills the first-born Egyptians, innocent or not (Exodus 12:29), and finally drowns a whole army of Egyptian soldiers who had no choice but to obey their commander's order to follow the Israelites across the Red Sea (Exodus 14). Thus, like a naughty child showing off, God got to do his "stuff."

Such idiocy brought glory in the Bronze Age, a primitive glory so brilliantly captured for the cinema by Cecil B. De Mille. After all, God trounced the gods of Egypt! He showed them all who was boss. Such action! Such an agenda today, however, would more likely be associated with the mental capacities of a supernatural brat. The working brain immediately rejects this whole bizarre episode as fiction, for it could hardly apply to an all-powerful god who possessed any concept of justice. Anyone with a lick of common sense could find any number of superior solutions to God's problem of extraditing his people.

1. Despite the claims of "scientific" creationists, there is no geologic evidence for a worldwide flood. Evidence of local flooding exists in Mesopotamia and those floods may be the seed for the ancient flood stories common to the region, which were adapted to Hebrew myth.

2. Isn't it more likely that the Bible is wrong in attributing such deeds to God, should he exist? Even if God can do anything, there is still the question as to what God has actually done. Good sense still applies.

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