Monster God

1024px-Lightning_strike_jan_2007God in the Old Testament, committing and commanding genocide, is authority for the fuckwits who say God would send floods or freezes because of gay marriage. How can I read that, and not be disgusted?

What does God want? What is necessary.
What does God make? What is.

You know the stories. God sends the Flood, and the ten plagues of Egypt, and commands Israel to completely destroy the Amalekites and others. God demands human sacrifice of innocents: Isaac, and Jephthah’s daughter. Am I merely rationalising? Ashamed to admit my Christianity is worthless and harmful, and that I would not be Christian had I not been brought up in the faith, I plough on in my error because of confirmation bias and belief perseverance?

There is an ancient Jewish story of the angels exulting as the parted Red Sea flowed back, drowning Pharaoh’s army, and God rebuking them, for God’s children were dying. The Bible is descriptive, not prescriptive: God is said to visit the sins of the fathers on the children not because he is a monster, but because we observe it happening. The Bible ascribes everything to God.

It helps, for me, that I do not believe the story of the Exodus to be historical fact. The first reference in Egyptian sources to the people of Israel comes in Mereneptah’s stele, around 1203 BCE, the city of Rameses in Exodus 1:11 is generally identified with Piramesse, founded by the previous pharaoh Rameses the Great, and Jericho was abandoned before 1530 BCE. 800px-DetroitlightningUssher’s biblical chronology places the Exodus in 1491 BC. There is an Assyrian record of Omri, c.880 BCE.

These are legends from oral tradition. Before Omri, Israel might have been henotheist- they worship Yahweh, but do not deny that other Gods exist. Elijah’s defeat of the prophets of Baal is a story of the end of this way of belief. Elijah’s sarcasm shows we can dish it out, as well as the atheists: Cry aloud! Surely he is a god; either he is meditating, or he has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.

What is necessary? For the people of Israel, that they survive as a people. They have laws to build their community, and a single faith to unite their culture. The insistence on having no Gods but YHWH strengthened this culture, and preserved it as an entity through its time under the empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome, even through the Diaspora to today.

I believe in progress. I observe that as civilisations rise and fall, human knowledge, wisdom and ability to live peacefully and creatively in community increase. The Bible ascribes this to God.

I love Psalm 137:

Happy shall they be who take your little ones
and dash them against the rock!

My darkest rage has not been as dark as that. The psalm shows it acceptable to God. Insofar as I cannot empathise with the Bad People- Hitler, paedophiles, UKIP councillors- I cannot love myself.

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