March 5, 2013

Problems With Jesus: The Character of the Christian God

Jesus Christ figure in London.
Jesus Christ figure in London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Aside from some of the questionable moral teachings allegedly delivered by the Jesus figure as described in the Christian bible, I have a few problems with the assumption that such a figure existed in the first place. Fortunately, my worldview does not hinge on whether or not someone like the biblical Jesus ever existed. As a result, I am able to take a step back and look at the matter without having a great deal of emotional attachment to either possibility.

The first of my concerns with the possibility of a historical Jesus deals with the character of the Christian god, as described throughout the Old Testament of the Christian bible. In brief, sending Jesus to die for our sins has always struck me as the last thing the evil sort of god described in the Old Testament would do.

I realize that there are many problems associated with the notion of an all-powerful god making a sacrifice of any kind. Since such a god could have accomplished the same ends without having to sacrifice anything, one cannot help wondering why this particular mechanism was selected. And of course, there is the question of whether such a benevolent being would have subjected the Jesus figure to the pain and suffering he allegedly experienced. But all of this can be set aside for now, as it is only somewhat relevant to the point I want to make here.

Consider for a moment the character of the god described in the Christian bible. In page after page of the Old Testament, we read about a jealous and bloodthirsty monster that engages in genocide and slaughters without mercy. This god punishes its human enemies through starvation and slavery. Human followers are commanded to engage in the most brutal sort of scorched earth warfare, the sort that leaves no animal behind. Virgins are captured and made into "wives." Nonbelievers and persons who worship other gods are to be killed. This evil being appears to have little more than contempt for much of humanity.

How are we supposed to reconcile this god with the god who supposedly made some sort of sacrifice to save humanity? To say that a change of heart occurred as we move into the New Testament - even if true - would perhaps be the biggest understatement ever uttered. The sort of sacrifice which Christians insist Jesus represented seems thoroughly inconsistent with the character of this god.

Are we really supposed to believe that the same god that callously exterminated humanity before decided to forgive us (but of course, only if we pledge our servitude) through Jesus? Unless we decide that the Old Testament god died and a new and very different sort of god appeared in its place, this seems quite unlikely.

I suppose if we interpret Jesus as form of enslavement (i.e., accept the most farfetched things about me or you will be tortured forever), we would have something consistent with the character of the Christian god. Maybe this was what the authors of the Christian bible intended, but if so, it seems to have been misunderstood by most Christians.

The sort of god described in the Christian bible sounds quite different from the sort of god that might have sought to benefit humanity through Jesus. This poses a problem with Jesus-belief. At least, it ought to for those who place any stock whatsoever in the god in which they claim to believe.

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