God is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction:  jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
--Richard Dawkins

Atheists continue to flood the media and the Web with abusive and vitriolic attacks on God, the Bible, and believers--especially those of us who have chosen to produce materials available to the public supporting belief in God.  The above quote from one of the heroes of modern atheism, Richard Dawkins, is typical.  What is interesting is the flood of belligerent e-mails I receive from atheists simply repeating Dawkins’ phrases and using whole paragraphs from his books and articles without even giving him credit.  They also repeat his errors, of which the public is generally unaware.

Richard Dawkins is a brilliant biologist, and in his own field has contributed much to man's knowledge of biology.  However, the ignorance he radiates when he attacks the Bible is astounding.  There have even been other leading atheists who have been disturbed by some of his diatribes.  In Alister McGrath's book The Dawkins Delusion Michael Ruse is quoted as saying that Dawkins "makes him embarrassed to be an atheist."

The quote at the top of this page provides a good opportunity to sample the misconceptions that not only Dawkins, but the general public have about the God revealed to us through the Bible.  Let us examine why these words are not accurate descriptions of what the Bible portrays as the nature of God.

JEALOUS AND PROUD OF IT:  There is no question that God declares himself in the Bible to be a jealous God.  Passages like Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 32:16, 21; 1 Kings 14:22; Psalm 78:58; 79:5; etc., make no bones about God’s jealous nature.  What Dawkins and most atheists fail to comprehend is the love relationship that God wants to have with those who are uniquely created in His image. In the New Testament the Bible makes a comparison between marriage and that relationship (see Matthew 25:1-13; Revelation 19:7-8; 21:2, 9).  God wants humans to be faithful to Him, just as we want our mate to be faithful to us in our own marriages.  When God expresses jealousy it is the same kind of pain and hurt that we have or would have with an unfaithful mate.  If your husband or wife left you and began a new intimate relationship with someone else, would you be jealous?  Of course you would, in a very hurt and angry way.  Such jealousy is not vindictive or petty as a child’s jealousy might be.  This is also why Israel’s infatuation with other gods and pagan systems was described in the Bible as adultery (see Jeremiah 3; Ezekiel 16:15-16; Hosea 1).

ETHNIC CLEANSER:  In modern times we have witnessed the horrors of ethnic cleansing in which one group of people tried to murder every person in another ethnic group due to race, language, or religious differences.  Such arbitrary brutality and abuse is repulsive to civilized human beings.  In an attempt to vilify God, atheists try to equate the history of the Old Testament to the tribal wars of Africa and the Middle East of our day.  To see the problem in this, we need to examine the time period of the biblical events and the lifestyle problems and their consequences.

The biblical event most commonly and accurately cited by atheists is the total annihilation of the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15 by Saul and Samuel under the orders of God.  The Israelites were told to kill and burn every living thing including the women, children, and animals. This is far more than ethnic cleansing--this is pure sterilization.  When Saul saves the King and the best of the animals supposedly to sacrifice to God, he is chastised and condemned by God and the complete destruction is carried out by Samuel (1 Samuel 15:20-33).

Let us examine this incident more closely.  The Israelites had incredibly strict moral and hygienic laws that they were to follow fastidiously.  The charges of bloodthirsty, unforgiving, and the like by Dawkins are references to these strict laws.  No one with even a marginal understanding of medicine should question these laws.  Not drinking blood, quarantine, washings, and the avoiding of raw meat is not just being vindictive or being a bully--it is a wise set of hygienic laws, at a time when medical knowledge was very primitive.  Those of us who have children know that they sometimes consider our rules for hygiene to be petty, but we know there are good reasons for those rules.

The Amalekites were a war-like tribe of people who practiced barbaric acts.  Reading Exodus 17:8 we see that when the Israelites came out of Egypt the Amalekites denied permission for them to pass peacefully through their land.  In fact they attacked an innocent and poorly defended group of people.  In addition to this, the moral and hygienic practices of the Amalekites were atrocious.  There were no dietary restrictions and eating blood, cannibalism, and every conceivable sexual practice including bestiality and pedophilia were commonplace.  The natural product of such behavior is always an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases and other food and blood carried maladies.  These diseases would not have been confined to the adult male population, and would have even been proliferated in the animals.  In today’s world we are seeing a very similar situation with the HIV virus in Africa.  HIV infects animals, and in fact there is considerable evidence that the virus came to man from monkeys.

The sterilization of the Amalekites and their animals was the only way to stop the lifestyle diseases that they had caused to run rampant.  Modern medicine is struggling to find answers to the situation in Africa, and once again lifestyle choices make the job incredibly difficult.  Imagine what it must have been like thousands of years ago with a primitive people in a harsh world.

MISOGYNISTIC:  To claim that God is a woman-hater on the basis of the Bible is to ignore both the history of mankind as revealed in the Bible and the effect that the teachings of Jesus have had on modern culture.  Who are the most consistently strong and morally uncompromising characters of the Old Testament?  The records of Ruth, Deborah, and Hannah stand out as consistent and positive examples of what we should all be.  Heroes like David are fraught with mistakes in character, morals, and judgment, but are tolerated by God because of their good hearts.

In the New Testament we see Jesus having a special but non-sexual relationship with Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus.  We see Him having a unique relationship with His mother and with Mary Magdalene.  Our culture is so twisted that people have tried to suggest Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and some religious folks have tried to worship the mother of Jesus as a more compassionate route to God.  Attempting to portray God as a woman-hater when Jesus elevated women and ignoring biblical passages that declare "there is neither bond nor free, male nor female" (Galatians 3:28) are shallow and uninformed positions.  It is Christianity that has broken through the heavy bias against women, and the attempts to portray women as possessions instead of persons.  Women's rights and the importance of women have been elevated by the teachings of the Bible more than any other single influence on this planet.  We encourage our readers to look at two books we have reviewed in recent years that explore this area--Under the Influence by Alvin Schmidt and What Has Christianity Ever Done for Us by Jonathan Hill.

HOMOPHOBIC:  The Bible does plainly teach that there are those things which God does not want us to do.  Some of these are pretty non-controversial such as murder, lying, stealing, etc.  In the New Testament there is an emphasis on avoiding the abuse of man’s body which is portrayed as the dwelling place of the Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:15-20).  This includes a variety of things where judgment is involved, and sometimes bumps into the pleasure issues of sex, alcohol, and drugs.  There are those in the religious world who have tried to twist the Bible to condone homosexuality.  Even most atheists do not buy their approach which we would agree is not consistent with passages like Romans 1:24-28.

The question is whether this rejection of homosexuality constitutes homophobia, or fear of homosexuality.  The same concept that we tried to develop on ethnic cleansing applies here.  Homosexuality is a destructive lifestyle.  As an example, consider anal sex which is a common homosexual act.  The cells of the rectal area are not designed for the kind of abrasion that occurs in anal sex.  In contrast, the vaginal area is lined with squamous cells which are designed for abrasion and are not likely to be torn or ripped by abrasive activity.  The probability of transmitting a sexually transmitted disease in anal sex is astronomically higher as a result of this, and all statistics on HIV show higher rates among the gay population.

The use of alcohol, recreational drugs, and a variety of other practices are in the very same category.  We have had numerous articles over the years opposing the use of alcohol.  If we express opposition to drinking does this cause us to be classified as alcoholophobics?  Is opposing recreational drugs a valid reason to charge that we are drugophobics?  God's commands in the Bible are for our well being, and trying to insinuate some sinister motive or character weakness on the part of God because of these wise restrictions is immature and misdirected.

Christians are told to love their enemies, to turn the other cheek, to go the second mile, and to live at peace with all men (Matthew 5).  Pointing out the destructive nature of human choices is not abusive if it is done in the way God tells us to do it.  Physically attacking or hurting someone is outside the realm of how Christians are to conduct themselves.  No phobias of any kind can be laid at the door of what Jesus taught.  "Perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18).

SADOMASOCHISTIC:  Dawkins' allegation that God is sadomasochistic is also a mistake.  The notion of getting sexual pleasure by hurting someone else is the exact opposite of the "one flesh" concept of the Bible.  Genesis 2 concludes in verse 24 with the point, "Therefore shall a man leave his mother and father and cleave unto his wife and they shall become one flesh."  When 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 refers to husbands and wives finding sexual pleasure, the woman's needs are presented as being equal to the man's.  The foundation principle of Christianity is serving others and doing to them what you would have them do to you, and that is as applicable to sexual relationships as it is to any other aspect of our lives.

We do need to point out here that there are situations described historically in the Bible that tell of horrible things that people did.  These descriptions are probably what Dawkins and his friends are referring to.  These are cases such as one in which a gang rape occurs to the point of killing a woman (Judges 19:25-20:7).  The reporting of a historic event does not mean an endorsement of that event.  Humans do incredibly stupid, hurtful, violent, abusive things, and the Bible reports some of them, but that does not mean God endorses those actions.  God is never portrayed in the Bible as having a sexual relationship.  In fact, that violates the whole notion of what God’s nature is.  A person who rejects God and the way God has called us to live may practice the tragic and selfish abuse of another human being, but should we blame God for that?

The real questions that we need to ask are:  "Does God really do the things Dawkins is charging Him with?" and, "Why does God tolerate things He disapproves of?"  Dawkins interprets things that are done for man’s benefit as bullying, being controlling, and vindictive.  We would suggest that these things are to allow man to have the best in life in sexuality, in relationships, and in every other way.  God has been tolerant to a fault with man, even allowing things like polygamy that were in total violation of everything God wanted man to have (see Mark 10:6-8).

When man acted against God's plan, there were consequences.  The Bible tells us those consequences so that we can learn from them.  Rather than learn, turn, and follow the way God has called us to, some have chosen to stand and scream abuse at God.  This offers no solution to the problems of man, and reflects a lack of understanding about why we exist and how we can make this world a better place to live.
--John N. Clayton

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