The authors of the Old Testament were the Pat Robertsons of their day

I’m currently tweeting my way through the Bible. I’m currently in 2 Kings, which includes this lovely bit: “The Lord has decreed a famine in the land that will last seven years.” Gee, what does that remind me of…

The Old Testament is actually full of stuff about God sending plagues, famines, and so on because he didn’t like whoever was king or whatever. Now, when you’re talking about the The Plagues of Egypt, that’s probably just mythology, but as you get to the later parts of the Bible you start to get the feeling that maybe the stories are based on actual events, as told by people who assumed anything bad happening was God’s punishment.

So when Pat Robertson announces that such-and-such natural disaster was God’s punishment for something? He’s just following in the footsteps of the authors of the Bible.

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  • lpetrich

    My favorite bit of that is 2 Samuel 24, when God sends a plague because King David ordered a census of military-capable men. There is no hint of what God might have objected to, like preparing for some military adventure. Does God hate statistics?

    • Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

      God hates facts!

      • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

        I certify the deliciousness of this comment, and, should the opportunity arise, I shall paint it on a sign to wave.

    • wholething

      In the first verse of that chapter, God is mad at Israel so he incites David to take the census, then He kills thousands of people. 2 Chronicles 21:1 tells us that Satan incited David to do it, then God kills thousands. God doesn’t like to take responsibility for his anger management issues.

      “Better take a good look at the Good Book.” –Tim Minchin

      • Dunc

        “Don’t you know there ain’t no Devil? That’s just God when He’s drunk.”

    • CJO

      The issue with counting is that you’re only supposed to count the things that belong to you. Counting other peoples’ stuff is a form of “coveting” which is a mistranslation, but I digress. The Chosen People belong to God, so David is usurping God’s prerogative by numbering them as if the people belonged to him. See Exodus 30:11-2:

      The LORD said to Moses, “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the LORD when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them.

      It’s a little clearer that David’s plan is bad mojo in the parallel story to 2 Sam 24, 1 Chronicles 21, which begins:

      Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.

      And that, incidentally, reflects a clear theological shift, as we can see the later, Priestly, authors’ discomfort with the idea that God would ditectly incite David to precisely the actions that would lead Him to bring plague on Israel. The Deuteronomists appear to have had no problem with it, and no need for a personified Adversary to do God’s dirty work.

  • vel

    Hmmm, we’re still waiting here in central Pennsylvania for horrible things to happen to Dover, PA. And wasn’t some tidal wave supposed to hit that “decadent” west coast?????

    • Reginald Selkirk

      And wasn’t some tidal wave supposed to hit that “decadent” west coast?????

      I saw that movie. It didn’t make my top ten list.

  • Bronze Dog

    Reminded of a Babylon 5 quote: “I used to think that it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.”

    Of course, the idea of a fair world can be quite easily serviced to discourage people from alleviating or preventing suffering. Or to encourage people to oppress those who suffer. Or make oppression self-justifying.

    • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      Thank you for reminding me of that quote. It did indeed bring me comfort during the “bad times” of my life, and much more effectively than the usual platitudes ever did.

  • MNb0

    “you start to get the feeling ”
    That’s a very reasonable hypothesis. If the Romans hadn’t put an end to Israeli independence the whole messias thing wouldn’t have happened the way it did. That’s pretty well documented.
    In Europe the general consensus is indeed – also among liberal christians – that fundies worship the OT-god; or one them, because some people recognize several. It’s actually the meaning of the (in)famous “you know what, Richard Dawkins? You describe a god I don’t believe in either”. It was of course a dishonest remark in that particular context, but we still should take it seriously.
    Do you know who also worshipped the OT-god? Adolf Hitler. No, that’s not a Godwin. Just read

    Atheists should have a sound mistrust of such believers ánd of liberal christians who try to cover this up. In essence I don’t see much difference with Craig’s Divine Command Theory. Does anyone?

    • Jon Hanson

      You know a comparison to Hitler doesn’t have to be false for it to be a Godwin, right? I mean, Hitler was a vegetarian and for animal rights, but you’d think it’d be ridiculous if meat eaters and people for animal mistreatment brought this up, right?

      • anteprepro

        You’re right to say that it doesn’t have to wrong to be a Godwin.
        You’re wrong to imply that Hitler’s vegetarianism is equivalent to Hitler’s religious views in regards to pointing to it and linking it to “Bad Shit Hitler Did”.
        You’re still right to imply that the link doesn’t amount to much as criticism of the religion itself, though.

        • Jon Hanson

          See my reply below, I messed up my nested commenting.

  • Jon Hanson

    What do you mean when you say that I’m “wrong to imply that Hitler’s vegetarianism is equivalent to Hitler’s religious views”?

    Do you mean that you think his religious views shaped his evil actions more than either his vegetarianism or his views on animal rights? Because if that’s what you mean I agree, I think his actions against the Jews can be explained in part by examining earlier Christian anti-semitism. These of course are my views, I know Christians who have the opposite view, which is why argumentation is necessary. That was my main point, you can’t just toss out that Hitler believed x and expect it to impress anyone, especially people who themselves believe x.

    Re-reading MNb0′s link I’m actually surprised by how it disproves his original claim, so far there aren’t any references to the OT God, Yaweh, God of the JEWS. Instead I see a reference to Nazi “Positive Christianity,” which sought to replace Jewish elements of Christianity, like the Old Testament, with Nazi elements.

    One way or another I don’t like the whole argument that Hitler was a Christian, mainly because it then opens up the atheist to explaining away atheists like Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.

    • anteprepro

      Well, I think we’re in agreement then, as that is what I meant, and I agree that bringing up Hitler’s religion is not a very good argument and is essentially an invitation for the Mao-Stalin-Pol Pot gambit.

  • Art

    I suspect that God is really an underachiever. All the disasters happen pretty much where and when you would expect. Blizzards all happen in winter and more toward the poles. Hurricanes happen when the seawater is nice and hot. Tornadoes pop up during seasonal thunderstorms with wind shear. This is clearly laziness on the part of God.

    A blizzard covering the Philippines in two meters of snow, hurricanes forming when the seawater is cold, and tornadoes forming independent of wind and fronts would all be obvious signs of power. But that would require actual effort. God would have to drop his dick and get out of bed long enough to make it happen.

    God is clearly a slacker who is riding his record from fifty centuries ago. What happened man … you used to be cool.