Is God a Rapist?

Is God a Rapist? May 6, 2019

We need a #TheeToo movement

By Dan Barker

Co-President, Freedom From Religion Foundation

According to the bible, God not only commands and condones rape. He actually commits it himself.

Gustave Dore
The Benjamites raping the daughters of Shiloh, by Gustave Dore. From the Dore Bible, 1866.

But first — I get this all the time: “If you denounce God, aren’t you admitting he exists?”

Of course not. If you denounce the Big Bad Wolf, are you admitting that the Three Little Pigs exist?

There is nothing wrong with questioning the actions of a literary character. Jesus did this when he examined the behavior of The Prodigal Son, which is a parable, not a factual story. My book GOD: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction has the word “fiction” right in the title.

But since most Christians do believe that the god of the bible is real, it is fair to ask: If he existed, would he merit my admiration? Are Christians truly justified in worshipping God?

If, for example, the god of the bible describes himself as a rapist, shouldn’t that affect our estimation of his moral character?

Is the biblical god a rapist?

Turn with me to the book of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 13 begins with 11 verses comparing the Israelites to a ruined loincloth. That’s right — a loincloth. The cloth used to cover male genitalia.

“For as the loincloth clings to one’s loins, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord, in order that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory. But they would not listen.” — Jeremiah 13:11

Isn’t this a bit creepy? The Israelites are commanded to “cling” to God’s groin. They are his wife, after all — “for I am your husband” (Jeremiah 3:14), “you will call me ‘My husband’” (Hosea 2:16), “your maker is your husband” (Isaiah 54:5), “I remember your love . . . as a bride” (Jeremiah 2:2). But let’s not get too literal here. This unsavory image might be interpreted as a poetic passage that the ancient Israelites understood, in their graphically patriarchal culture, as a sexual metaphor for “loving God.” That is not rape. It’s kind of gross and insulting, a sexist remark that merits denunciation — a joke in bad taste — but no real harm is done in this particular verse.

Keep reading.

Because the Israelites did not cling to God’s loins, God said he would punish them severely:

“And I will dash them one against another, parents and children together, says the Lord. I will not pity nor spare or have compassion when I destroy them.” — Jeremiah 13:14

That’s pretty drastic. This pitiless destruction doesn’t look much like the “loving God” we hear about from the pulpit. It looks like an angry and abusive husband who batters his wife. But again, what does this really mean? How does a deity actually accomplish a physical massacre?

All through the bible we see that God, a spiritual being, has to use natural forces to execute his punishment — such as storms, floods, hail, locusts, pestilence, fire, drought. These natural forces include invading armies. Jeremiah continues:

“. . . the Lord has spoken . . . if you will not listen . . . my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock has been taken captive.” — Jeremiah 13:15-17

“. . . all Judah is taken into exile, wholly taken into exile. Lift up your eyes and see those who come from the north.” — Jeremiah 13:19-20

We know what this refers to. The Israelites were invaded and taken captive by the Babylonians in the 6th century B.C.E. God is telling his people that the marauding army “from the north” was his method of punishing them for not clinging to his groin.

Sexual assault

And what happens during wartime invasions? It’s not just the killing, torture, destruction, and looting. It’s also rape. God even tells his people that the rape was their own fault:

“And if you say in your heart, ‘Why have these things come upon me?’ it is for the greatness of your iniquity that your skirts are lifted up and you are violated.” — Jeremiah 13:22, New Revised Standard Version

It’s your own fault you are violated, you disobedient woman.

That word “violated” means “raped.” Here are some other translations:

“. . . you have been stripped and raped by invading armies.” New Living Translation

“. . . you have been raped and destroyed by the invading army.” Living Bible

“. . . your skirts have been torn off and your body mistreated.” New International Version

“. . . you have been stripped and violated.” Common English Bible

“. . . your clothes were torn off and you were abused.” Contemporary English Version

No matter how you translate it, this is sexual assault.

Some defenders of the bible, while admitting that God’s punishment indeed included rape, insist that this was not a direct action by God himself. Babylonians will be Babylonians, after all.

But if they keep reading, they will not be able to say that the rape was merely collateral damage:

“This is your lot, the portion I have measured out to you, says the Lord, because you have forgotten me and trusted in lies. I myself will lift up your skirts over your face, and your shame will be seen.” — Jeremiah 13:25–26

There you have it. God himself claims direct credit for the rape: “I myself will lift up your skirts.” (Verse 13:22, as we saw above, directly links the skirt-lifting to rape.) Obviously, since God lacks physical sex organs, he has to use the bodies of the invaders to punish the Israelites. But he wants them to understand, unambiguously, that when this violence is occurring, “I myself” am assaulting you.

The prophet Isaiah agrees. After crying, “Wail, for the day of the Lord is near,” he confirms that God uses rape as punishment:

“Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered, and their wives ravished.” — Isaiah 13:16

According to the bible, God is a rapist.

Gustave Dore, 1866
The Benjamites raping the daughters of Shiloh, by Gustave Dore. From the Dore Bible, 1866.

God will be God

Boys will be boys, and God will be God.

This is not a flippant remark. God’s sexually abusive behavior is indeed consistent with his character in the rest of the so-called “Good Book.” In the chapters “Misogynistic” and “Sadomasochistic” in GOD: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction, I give dozens of examples.

The prophet Isaiah, after complaining that “Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the Lord,” unleashes this malevolent threat of sexual abuse:

“The Lord said: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet; the Lord will afflict with scabs the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will lay bare their secret parts.” — Isaiah 3:16–17

This is undisguised sexual assault.

The Hebrew word for “secret parts” in that verse is poth, which means “hinged opening,” or vagina. Notice that Isaiah does not attribute the assault to an invading army in this verse. He says simply “the LORD” will lay bare their secret parts. That is Yahweh, the God of the bible, committing a shameful crime in order to punish the haughty “daughters of Zion” for being — horrors! — unsubmissive women.

FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor, in her book Woe To The Women: The Bible Tells Me So, devotes an entire chapter to biblical rape: rape in the city, rape in the field, rape of captives, rape as war booty, rape of the unbetrothed (where the victim is forced to marry her attacker), rape as retribution, rape as hospitality (in Sodom). The bible, which was written entirely by males, reflects the patriarchal attitude that women are the property of men.

And they created a god in their own image.

Why do people worship this brute?

The cavalier disregard of rape is but one example of how religious faith compromises moral judgment. Believers are so loyal to their leader that no matter what he does, he is admired and respected. Many evangelical Christians treat their favorite politicians the same way  with a morally blind eye. But if rape is good, what could possibly be bad? If a male can be praised after sexually abusing women, what does that say about the character of those who refuse to denounce such a character?

People who worship the God of the bible should start a #TheeToo movement.


The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit dedicated to keeping state and church separate and educating the public about the views of nontheists. For more information and a copy of our newspaper, Freethought Today, please click here.

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