Defining the Nature of God

As you know, I’m an atheist. Actually you could also call me a polyatheist because there are tens of thousands of gods I don’t believe in. But there is one god in particular that most of us allude to when we use the big “A” word. We mean Jehovah, Yahweh, THE LORD, the god of Abraham, Jesus’ dad, the god of the bible.

This god does triple duty for the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims. But who is he? How can we define him?

I’ve found that if you ask 10 people about God, you will get 14 different answers. Even believers will contradict themselves when they define the god they worship.

But if we distill it down, what do we get? What is the essence of this supposedly supreme deity?

First let’s look and see what God calls himself in his book. In Exodus you can find the following:

  • God is cryptic: God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14) – Isn’t that what Popeye used to say?

  • The second of the 10 commandments: You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me. (Exodus 20:5) – to the fourth generation! How spiteful!

  • God’s name is Jealous: Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. (Exodus 34:14) -

God is often defined by his attributes:

  • Unchanging – if God is unchanging then you can look at the old testament to get a good picture of his heinous character. It’s not very flattering. He’s barbaric, cruel and murderous.

  • Perfect – and yet there is nothing perfect about anything that is attributed to him. Isn’t that telling?

  • Omnipotent – If he’s all powerful why doesn’t he just fix some of his millions and trillions of mistakes by humane means? Why does he let such suffering continue? Why won’t he heal innocent children of birth defects, at least? Why won’t he do anything at all to help his creation?

  • Omniscient – Even in the bible he doesn’t really know everything. There are several instances where he is surprised by what is going on. And knowing everything but not doing anything about it is not really very good, is it?

  • Omnipresent – Again, there’s no evidence of this. If God is here with me now, it certainly isn’t tangible in any meaningful way.

  • Loving – this is the one I get the most from Christians. What is the evidence? Certainly not from “the good book”. Just read it in its entirety and count up how many people God murdered, not to mention the innocent animals that he insisted be slaughtered and roasted in his name to purge people so they could be acceptable to this hateful deity. If you look at God today, again, there is no evidence that he is loving. I can’t think of anything. What you do find is people being good to each other. Why not use Occam’s Razor and look at the most logical reason for human altruism. As an evolutionary advantage? As a cultural adaptation? Do we really need to add a supernatural element? I find it dehumanizing to thank God when a human does something heroic. Thank the person, not the invisible sky daddy.

  • Jealous – see below. He calls himself jealous. If he were perfect, he really wouldn’t need to be jealous.

  • Angry – see below. He is the epitome of angry. If he were perfect he wouldn’t be angry.

  • Murderous – So if you count up all the people in the bible that God murders, you get approximately 24,634,205. If you count up all the people in the bible that Satan kills you get 60. 

Another way to define the nature of God is through his actions. Again we can turn to his book. Now, I don’t have time to go through all 66 books and list every relevant quote for you. The Skeptic's Annotated Bible has already done it for me. You can find every instance of the following with links to them in context. I also recommend going to Bible Gateway to check different versions since the SAB uses the KJV which is a very poor translation.

  • Good Stuff: I don’t know how much of this list you could say is about God himself. But it’s nice to read. Let’s give God the benefit of the doubt and generously attribute every kind word in the bible to him. There are 477 good messages in the entire bible.

  • Injustice: 1473 entries. Many in the old testament are of God performing some kind of heinous action against man and beast.

  • Cruelty and Violence: 1251 entries. Some of these are God and some are humans. Either way it’s despicable and doesn’t show any evidence of a loving, benevolent deity.

  • Intolerance: 683 instances. How many of these have led to millennia of intolerance among followers?

Here’s another thing I’ve mentioned before. Why does a loving god need to create a place of everlasting torture? If I created the universe and everything in it, including humans which I somehow made flawed, I would feel great compassion towards them. I would do everything in my power as their god to help them. Let’s say I’m not all powerful (because if I were I wouldn’t have created such badly designed creatures – how about how humans eat, drink, talk and breathe through the same hole? Or how humans have their entertainment center right in the middle of a sewage system?), but let’s say I am all loving. I would make their lives easier, I would inspire people to better themselves through my tangible interactions with them. I would make a book available to them in their own language that made sense and inspired goodness. I would talk to them and let them know clearly and tangibly that I’m here helping them. Nothing would be cryptic. Nothing would be open to interpretation. There would be no hell.

Read the bible, it’s just the opposite of compassion and love. I certainly wouldn’t punish humans for being so screwed up and making bad decisions. And to punish them with everlasting pain and torture for ALL OF ETERNITY is immeasurably, barbarically cruel. Even the worst human on earth doesn’t deserve trillions and trillions of years of suffering. Times infinity. But God is totally cool with it. He set this system up.

So if we look at the bible which is the “word of God”, what we find is a hateful, jealous, angry, murderous local deity who has no qualms about murder, rape, incest, misogyny, and even lying and “hardening hearts” to make sure people burn in hell. Not very worthy of worship, is he?


  1. Just out of curiosity, where do you get the number 60 for satan's victims? The number I typically hear is 10 (Job's children), although I think even that number is incorrect.

    When Samson asked god's permission to kill himself and murder all the philistines in the temple, we put that on god. When satan asks permission to kill Job's children (not explicitly, but god is omniscient), should that not be put on god as well?

    Besides, according to the mythology, god created both humans and satan knowing that sin would enter the world, thereby necessitating that everyone would die at least once. So that would put god's bodycount at everyone.

    But you already know all that. Really, I was just wondering where the figure 60 came from.

  2. Hi MJ. The typical figure is 10, you're right. I got 60 from Dwindling in Unbelief which I linked to above (the figure for God's murders is a link to that post.
    Unfortunately Steve Wells doesn't disclose where his figures came from. I believe this set is calculated to include unnumbered killings in the bible whereas the figure of 10 is directly attributed to Satan from the actual verses.

    I think you're right though, if Satan asked God for permission, then the onus is sort of on God. He's the real bad guy in the whole Job saga, anyway, really.

    I just don't understand why God created humans and Satan knowing that sin would enter the world. That's not the work of a loving, perfect god, is it?

  3. Heaven just sounds tortuously boring to me. Singing hallelujahs to God all day, every day for countless millennia? Ugh!

  4. Haha -- reading your first point about the god of the Bible being cryptic, I instantly thought of this post from STFU, Believers. Some kid posts to Facebook asking for clarification of that line in Exodus and his friend helpfully "clarifies" for him. It's a total disaster.

  5. OMFSM, I just lost my faith in the future of humanity! WTF? The spelling and grammar is ATROCIOUS. The logic is ... is.... I think I just ate my own brain. Seriously. Those kids are going to be our politicians someday. Terrifying!
    Unless they get raptured on Saturday. Then the world's IQ will raise exponentially. :P

  6. Exactly. It seems that you'd go crazy from that quite quickly and then it wouldn't be you anymore regardless. The same applies to Hell. I doubt much of the self remains after a couple years, probably quite a bit sooner. The crack cocaine version of heaven (eternal bliss) sounds much the same as well. But Hell has excruciatingly detailed descriptions while Heaven is mostly just vague allusions, hence why I think they bothered more with the stick.

  7. Yes, you're right, Frans. There are painfully detailed accounts of hell but just vague ones of heaven. Almost all stick! Good observation, as usual. :)

  8. As as Christian, my reply to this attitude was something on the order of, "Well, if it seems like drudgery to you, that just means you don't know the God I know. Worshiping him forever will be the greatest of all possible joys!" I really wanted to believe that, too. And yet, inside I knew I was lying. I was really thinking, "There's got to be more to it than that!" So whenever I hear believers return the kind of riposte I used to, I just smirk. I'm pretty sure I know what's actually going on in their heads.

  9. Interesting, Mike. Thanks. It seems like some kind of logical fallacy. No True Scotsman, maybe?

  10. Case in point:

    I used to be a big Keith Green fan. Still love the music.

  11. Hmm. Never heard of him before. That's quite a concept. I'm not sure how someone could ever live up to such BS.

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