As I’ve read through Chapter 2, I’ve noticed a few things about Dawkins. He’s repeatedly mentioned three things: he portrays the God “of the Old Testament” as a homicidal, genocidal, cruel god, repeatedly cites the uselessness of theology, even depriving it of classification as a subject, and makes extensive use of the sacred/secular split.
Here I will attempt to answer the cruel God objection, I will say a few things. As I’ve skimmed through the pages, I’ve noticed that Dawkins does quote the Bible. That’s good. But I have the feeling that he hasn’t read very deeply into it (possibly due to his lack of interest in theology). The reason being is that he looks too closely at individual events in the Old Testament (and the OT exclusively) and not at the whole picture (including the New Testament). He asks why God is obsessed with the smell of charred meat; a fair question. Remember in Genesis 2, when God says “‘but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die [emphasis added].” Why is this significant? What does God command Israel to do repeatedly in the Law? To sacrifice animals; which involves death, the penalty for disobeying God in the garden.
We also see, as we continue through Genesis, that God expects this to be continued. In Genesis 4 Cain brings fruits and vegetables, while Abel brings the best of his flock. God isn’t whimsical about which offering He decides He’s going to accept. He had previously set a precedent when Adam and Eve received tunics of skin instead of their fig leaves. Ask any theologian why this is, and they’ll point you to Hebrews 9:22, “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no remission [of sins].” But, of course, Mr. Dawkins wouldn’t accept the word of a theologian.
Anyway, I still have not addressed why God is “a genocidal maniac.” I fully understand Dawkins’ point and will admit that God certainly did tell the people of Israel to wipe out entire nations of people. But, as is usually the case, critics have neglected to examine the extended context of these events.
As we’ve seen from the Cain and Abel incident, God had a certain set of regulations for the conduct of humans, particularly in the covering of sin. This was passed down through Seth’s line, while Cain’s line continued down their path of materialistic pursuits, shunning the words of God.
A chapter in the Bible that most people skip is Genesis 5. It’s the genealogies, but we find some significant details there. It traces the line of Adam through Seth and we eventually get to Enoch. The peculiar thing about Enoch was that God took him after 365 years; he never died. But Enoch wasn’t just sitting around waiting for God to do something; Enoch walked with God. And Jude 14-15 tells us that Enoch was the first recorded prophet of God. He warned people of the coming judgment of God, if they chose to keep on the rebellious path they were on. Enoch wasn’t the only one though. Noah also was a prophet of God, and we all know what happened when people didn’t listen to him. Most Bible scholars place the Flood around 2300 B.C.
This is significant because the conquest of Canaan (probably the first instance of “genocide”) is placed in the late 1300’s B.C. This means that God gave those groups at least a millennium to turn from their evil ways and serve Him. These people weren’t ignorant of God either; they were all descended from righteous Noah, knowing of God from him.
Now, I’m aware that many critics may not accept these arguments, but that’s not my problem. They may quip that God has been very patient with us; why hasn’t He vaporized us yet? That, I don’t know. But don’t write off Christianity because we don’t have answers, because we generally have more than you think.