These supposedly difficult questions are very familiar and have been dealt with many times over by many authors. They stem from a basically egotistical attitude which demands that God do exactly as He is told. A little more detail is given below, but I’m not going to wade through the other articles since I’ve seen all this before. It’s nothing new, let me assure you. I would encourage you to do some searching, either at my website or some of the ones I list, for answers to these questions. You may be especially interested in another post here, a rebuttal to the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People.
“However, such an interpretation can only derive from a highly selective reading of the Bible”
All too true-- for both sides of the argument. Critics of the Bible are just as selective in their readings as any Christians, or followers of any other given religion. Simply counting “good” verses compared to “bad” completely ignores the context of each instance, which makes all the difference in the world. I dare say that if I were to collect the writings of a number of atheistic authors, I could weigh their “positive” statements against the “negative” ones and paint a pretty pathetic picture of the average atheist.
The author of this particular document claims to know something of “God’s true character”, but like many Christians, he only sees what he wants to see. He places himself in judgment over God, demanding that God bow to his superior sense of justice, a very stupid and egotistical stance to say the least.
“Old Testament” section
The author (I will hereafter refer to as TA) begins with the account of Cain and Abel, but he wrongly assumes the reason for God’s displeasure of Cain’s offering: that God simply wanted bloodshed for no apparent reason. The more likely explanation is that God had made it clear from the beginning that sin required the innocent to pay for the guilty as a type or picture of the future Ultimate Sacrifice, God Himself in the flesh, Jesus Christ. That this is the real reason for God’s rejection of Cain’s offering is made plain in later writings.
Do not assume that everything God told people was all written down in the book of Genesis. Moses is the one to begin putting it in writing, and he was not obligated to write every single detail. He wrote what God wanted written, and we must not make assumptions about what wasn’t written. We know more details from later writings in the Bible, and these must be considered in interpreting what we see here in Genesis.
The author then leaves this account with a display of bias and hatred of his own: that “God also demands willingness to spill blood in his name, and prefers to be worshiped in ways which cause death and suffering”. One can only come to that conclusion by selectively ignoring the whole Bible’s teachings and only picking out the negative, ignoring context and period of history along the way. Clearly TA has already declared God guilty before the “trial” even gets off the ground.
Next TA makes this assumption under “Genesis 7”: that God was “angered by the sinfulness of man”. Where is his support for this assertion? The Bible says God was grieved, not angered. But grief doesn’t fit TA’s a priori condemnation of God so he exchanges it for anger.
Skipping over more erroneous assumptions built on the first, we come to the account of Pharaoh and Moses. Here TA makes the same mistake as the Calvinists, who use it as a proof text to support their philosophical commitment against “libertarian free will”. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, which shows that his heart was already bent against God, by Pharaoh’s own choice. God has the right to destroy those He created but sometimes chooses to use His avowed enemies for His own purposes. He is God and we’re not. So God took an already rebellious heart and made sure it would bend even farther. He did not override Pharaoh’s will regarding the fate of his eternal soul, as Calvinism insists, but simply used the choices of Pharaoh for His own purposes, which is His right as God.
Farther down in the article, TA calls it “evil” for God to say that anyone who doesn’t worship Him must die. Says who? Who is TA to judge God? Who does he think he is? Does TA have a perfect sense of justice that even God should bow to him? Seems to me that TA really wants God’s job, and hates God for not doing as he demands. This is an open mind? This person is qualified to judge God’s character? How about we let God judge TA’s character instead?
Enough of TA’s ego. I would prefer to see him get saved, but I expect instead he will choose to continue defying God. In that event I will be most interested in witnessing his turn on Judgment Day, when he points his egotistical finger at God and expects Him to cower in fear and shame.
TA, if you read this, you must realize that God does not quake with fear at your accusations. To quote Mr. Spock from ST2: the Wrath of Kahn, “You proceed from a false assumption”. Life on this earth is not a right, it’s a privilege. You read the Bible only to pronounce judgment on God at the first sign of Him not doing as you demand. That is not open-mindedness, it’s just bias and hatred. Please reconsider your attitude while there is still time.
It’s a choice God allows you to have in this life, even though you hate Him for not making us all robots who would be forced to worship Him. He does love you whether you believe it or not. That’s why he paid for our sins since we couldn’t. Why do sins have to be paid for? Because God is holy and perfect. God is holy and pure so the unholy and impure cannot abide in His presence. It’s that simple. Only God is perfect, so only God can say what it takes to attain perfection.
He gave us a free will because only the free can truly love. What we do with our freedom of choice is our responsibility. He told us the consequences so that anyone who defies Him is without excuse. What will you gain by hating God? And what would you lose by deciding to bow to Him? Is not swallowing your pride really worth an eternity of suffering?
You have two paths in front of you: worship God and live in eternal bliss, or defy Him and live in eternal agony. If you were God you could make the rules, but that’s not the case. You cannot escape His rules, and whining about them won’t change them. Why suffer and die just because you’re not God?