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Austin Cline

God is a Psychopath

By May 6, 2007

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A common atheist critique of Christianity is the incredible brutality that is generally associated with the Christian god. From the bloody atrocities in the Old Testament to the even more atrocious doctrine of eternal damnation in hell, there is little that can be offered to salvage anything like positive reputation for this deity. Most Christians are loathe to acknowledge this, but occasionally one will stand up to say aloud what so many have surely pondered quietly in the dark.
"What sort of God was this, getting so angry with the world and the people he created and then, to calm himself down, demanding the blood of his own son?" Dr John said.

"And anyway, why should God forgive us through punishing somebody else? It was worse than illogical, it was insane. It made God sound like a psychopath. If any human being behaved like this, we would say they were a monster.

"Well, I haven't changed my mind since. That explanation of the cross just doesn't work but sadly, it's one that's still all too often preached."

Source: Telegraph (via Kill the Afterlife)

These comments come from Jeffrey John, the Dean of St. Albans who was forced out of his post as Bishop of Reading in 2003 when it was revealed that he was gay. He wasn't sexually active, but many Anglicans didn't care the mere fact that experienced attraction towards men was sufficient to declare him unfit for such a high church post.

I wonder if his experiences as a gay man in such a homophobic atmosphere have played any role in his willingness to take a stand against Christianity's traditional but brutal conception of God? It's possible, but ultimately irrelevant to the quality of his argument: punishing someone else in order to forgive us for our misdeeds is exceptionally immoral and the manner in which the punishment had to be meted out not only makes this god even more immoral, but also far more violent. Such a god is a psychopath, at best, but what does this say about the Christians who insist on defending that god?

Bishop Broadbent said: ..."You cannot read the Old Testament and New Testament and blank out an entirety of language and concept and understanding that means that we are guilty sinners, we need our sins to be paid for and we need Jesus Christ to die for us. That is what the Creeds say, it is what the Bible says and you cannot rewrite them. You cannot understand Jesus Christ without understanding Old Testament atonement material."

Bishop Benn added that "the truth that Jesus died as our sin-bearing substitute carrying the punishment for our sins on the cross is the glorious heart of the Gospel. It displays the love of God: Father, Son and Spirit, for us. To deny or vilify that is a tragic denial of the power and heart of the Gospel. I hope Jeffrey John will speedily reconsider and repent of his attack on apostolic Christianity."

Complaints have been made that John's comments are heretical, and perhaps they are he is making statements that are contrary to traditional, orthodox Christianity. The problem isn't with John, though, it's the fact that traditional, orthodox Christianity demands that we worship a violent, brutal, insane, psychopathic deity in order to avoid having this deity exercise that insanity by brutalizing us for all eternity in its spacious torture chamber. It's no more "glorious" that someone else was crucified for our misdeeds than it is "glorious" that people are to be tortured for eternity for nothing more than mere disbelief.

Comments
May 7, 2007 at 2:04 pm
(1) tracie harris says:

Every time we encounter an object (including an “idea”), our brain adjusts it’s neurological synapses to accommodate the new info. There is strong evidence that during childhood, we experience extreme growth in this area that is never repeated once we outgrow those early years.

It is no wonder that for children who have this cemented into their heads at an early Sunday School age, it sometimes takes the will of a mental jackhammer to break through that religiously laid foundation.

What damage is done by teaching children that doctrines such as this are the result of a being that represents the attributes of “moral,” “merciful,” and “loving”? And _what_ confusion comes from then teaching them that these same actions are nothing but immoral, criminal, and cruel when executed by _any other_ being?

No wonder Xians are such masters of mental compartmentalization. And no wonder critical thinking is mentally beaten out of them (“Don’t trust to your own wisdom–it’s folly next to god’s omniscience,” or “Satan loves to get ahold of Xians and distort god’s docrtrines in their heads.”)

Telling children that mass murder, infanticide, and torturous sacrifice of innocents is “moral” and “loving”; but ONLY when _god_ does it (anyone else who does it is a sick puppy); and questioning it will land you a one-way ticket to torture or destruction, may be _legal_–but I’m not sure I can honestly say I don’t find it to be mentally abusive.

I see it as somewhere on the level of screaming at your child for an hour or so every few days that he or she is “stupid” and “ugly.”

May 15, 2007 at 12:13 pm
(2) pat goudey obrien says:

I know the official way of looking at the “sacrifice” of Christ is that the God of Israel was looking for something like the “offering” sacrifices that were made for generations at the temple, and he made his own son the offering.

But, I always saw the sacrifice that this man was said to have made as one intended to teach something to human beings about their own nature, not as some offering on the altar of a God.

The man was taken and treated badly for his philosophy and he refused to abandon his teachings even in the face of torture and death. It was a lesson to humanity from that time forward that his teachings and admonitions to be better people and live peaceful lives together were more important than his own survival. He wasn’t sacrificed TO God, he was sacrificed FOR our understanding. And we didn’t understand. So it was for nothing.

Talking about a god that demanded his own son be brutally murdered to somehow “atone” for sins no different from crowning someone king for a growing season and then killing him to ensure fertility next time, or throwing virgins into the volcano to placate the angry fire gods. What garbage.

Turning the idea of Jesus — who was willing to die to model decent behavior for human beings — into an avenging angel returning to fry his enemies just flies in the face of the sacrifice he made His sacrifice was his willingness to die to show us how to redeem our human ways and be better people. My interpretation isn’t magical. It’s rational.

Of course, that’s not how the “atonement” sacrifice is presented, but it makes more sense to me and is how I’ve always interpreted it — at those times when I think any of that actually happened anyway.

May 15, 2007 at 10:02 pm
(3) John Hanks says:

G-d is not a psychopath. No one knows what G-d is. People who speak for G-d are psychopaths, so naturally they create a God in their own image.

May 16, 2007 at 7:16 am
(4) charelie borg says:

I dont know why john worries about people including thye ones that sinned against him. God is the ultimit Judge. If I was John (which I am not) I would concentrate on becoming one with God through being born again, which I gaurantee that it is a fact and its something that every one needs to do to be saved. Refer to Matt 3:11 and seal it with Luke 11:13.

May 16, 2007 at 10:50 am
(5) Ann A. says:

It’s kind of telling to me that “Charelie Borg”‘s comments are littered with wrong spelling, grammar, punctuation and capitalization errors. Ignorance is an attribute for those who believe so vehemently in this Xian nonsense.

July 12, 2009 at 6:41 pm
(6) Joram Arentved says:

Yes, John, This Creature IS A Psycho. It did not approve of my self-chosen status as an honest man, so I still don’t think, don’t know, if I can fail to tell you that there is
good news on its way to & from me, even what it is. For now, whatever It exists or not, it is an issue, whereon anyone, who knows, what common sense is, approves of it, is welcome+, please, to receive any of my further & most reliable information, personal, laboral, so that I can of course tell & e.g. help us all find out &, whoever’s who, our best answers to, what’s our future as honest humans. If any
Buddhist can fail to think about it unlike me,
it’s not MY conviction that I can fail to treat myself like an honest man, greetings, arentved@in.com, only there to be continued, though maybe bit by bit.

May 12, 2010 at 12:32 pm
(7) Richard says:

I’m not an atheist, but for some time I have recognized that God *is* a psychopath. That is expressly why no one can understand God! For example, How God treats his own creation is reflective of how he feels about himself. God apparently hates himself, as he wishes his creations to act how he *doesn’t*, him being an unchained, rabid maniac on the loose who does whatever he wants simply because no one is capable of punishing him. Scripture states all things were created for his pleasure, and in this reality God tortures and murders his son (or himself, if you believe Jesus was God in flesh), so he personally is a sado-masochist, taking pleasure in such atrocity, making a reality in which all humans are tortured by the stresses of life in this world, as an expression of his own desire to be punished and restrained.

November 4, 2012 at 1:30 pm
(8) broken says:

It is obvious that, to any human standard, God’s deeds are psychopathic. The bible is full of examples and only people who don’t read the Bible can say the contrary. Even the reason he gives us for this is clearly psychopathic – he compares us with inanimated pottery. But id doesn’t make God cease to exist. It really terrorizes me. It is just like there was a rapist with a gun pointed to me (worse, it is not a gun, it’s eternal torture) unless I accept the fact I am made to be a husband’s punchbag, that I stay shut, fake a smile and get along with this, an omnipotent psychopath, so no one can rescue me.

October 11, 2013 at 6:16 pm
(9) Paul vandinsky says:

There is very little to no evidence that a god even exists. So lets assume that even with the non existent evidence their was a 50% chance that god did exist. This still wouldn’t mean that it would be the christian god. In fact it could easily be a god we never even heard about. Considering almost all religions have nothing to back them up the fact that humanity ever believed in them does not make them more likely to be true. Thereby the chance of the christian god being true would be less than .1 percent even assuming that the true god is one of the 2000 humanity has ever believed in. So I wouldn’t be that frightened if I were you. Also remember that there is in fact evidence against the existence of the christian God.

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