Atheist's Attacks

Answering Humanist's Accusations Against the Bible

Christian Resources

Is God Sadistic?

The earth swallows people... fire consumes them... bears maul them... What is God doing?

Dear Humanists:

If you've been reading these responses, and in particular this page, you may begin to discern something about the character of God... with God there are consequences you cannot escape.

One of the major reasons God did the things described here (the earth opening, consuming fire, bears, lions, etc.) is to demonstrate that, if you reject God, there are serious consequences. If you consider the amount of time the historical record of the Bible covers (about 1,500 years), and the number of times God directly judges individuals and delivers the the just consequences of their rejecting Him, those instances are very rare. But they are sufficient so as to make it clear that rejection of God brings death.

Dear humanist, right now you are experiencing God's grace. He is withholding His judgment, giving you second chance after second chance to turn to Him. Please, repent and turn to God now. Trust Him as your Savior from the consequences of your sin... to save you from the consequence of your disobeying God. Please. Do it today.

SADISTIC ACCUSATION #1: The God of the Bible displayed his sadistic tendencies by employing a variety of other means to torment and kill people.

He caused the earth to open and swallow entire families (Numbers 16:37-32); he used fire to devour people (e.g., Leviticus 10:1-2; Numbers 11:1-2); and he punished the Israelites with wars, famines, and pestilences (e.g., Ezekiel 5:11-17).>

He sent wild animals such as bears (II Kings 2:23-24), lions (II Kings 17:24-25), and serpents (Numbers 21:6) to attack people; he sanctioned slavery (e.g., Leviticus 25:44-46); he ordered religious persecution (e.g., Deuteronomy 13:12-16); and he caused cannibalism (Jeremiah 19:9).

The humanist author is now trying to pile it on, without providing any explanations for the examples he brings up. Maybe he is thinking that if he brings up enough accusations one of them may be interpreted in a way that might make God look bad.

What we have are ten accusations that God has "tormented and killed people." There is no context nor explanation accompanying any of these. We are to blindly accept the assumption these are sa-distic, and use our imaginations to fill in the reasons why.

Answering all of these will result in a long chapter. If you do not want to read it all, here is a summary. Each of these punish-ments was just and appropriate for the crime. We have repeatedly seen this same thing in the humanist accusations. God is not sadistic, He is fair and His punishments fit the situation and circumstances. Now let’s get into the details of each accusation.

Numbers 16:37-32, Leviticus 10:1-2 & Numbers 11:1-2

I think there is a typo in the verse numbers on the humanist’s web page. I think they are referring to Numbers 16:31-35. Here is what it says:

As he finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. All Israel who were around them fled at their outcry, for they said, “The earth may swallow us up!” Fire also came forth from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense.

Leviticus 10:1-2

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.

Numbers 11:1-2

Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord and the fire died out.

Once we have the rest of the story we will see that these punishments come on people who have directly disobeyed God.

God set the tribe of Levi (Levites) aside for service to Him. The Kohathites were Levites who, when the camp moved, had the job of carrying the furniture and other items used in the Tabernacle. They did not like their work and began to covert the duties of the priests. Korah stirred up a group of 250 men who challenged Moses and Aaron's right to the priesthood. It was an open rebellion against Moses and more importantly against God. Here is what Moses said:

Moses said, “By this you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these deeds; for this is not my doing. If these men die the death of all men or if they suffer the fate of all men, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the Lord.”

That these people were "swallowed" by the earth was a one-time, supernatural event that demonstrated that Moses was speaking the truth of God and they were in rebellion against God. Such a dramatic death was necessary so the people, a people who had just come out of 400 years of only knowing idolatrous Egyptian gods, would know the true God and His power. Remember one of the major problems Israel had, after being in Egypt for 400 years, is that they did not know God. They were familiar with the Egyptian gods and they still believed in those gods. They needed to learn about the truth, power and authority of the true God.

Consuming People with Fire?

The humanists do not say why this is a problem. That makes it difficult to address their (unknown) concern.

The Hebrew word translated as “consuming fire” in our English Bibles literally means to utterly destroy or consume. It is refer-ring to complete destruction. God Himself is called a “consuming fire” (in English) in Deuteronomy 4:24 and again in 9:3. In every case the Bible is saying there was complete destruction.

Fire is also associated with God's wrath and frequently associat-ed with purification (refining fire), and that is what we are seeing in Leviticus 10:1-2 and Numbers 11:1-2. It is a refining fire that com-pletely consumes them.

Notice that this incident takes place during the Exodus. God's people have been freed from slavery in Egypt, but not from their spiritual slavery to idols. They long to return to Egypt (Exodus 16:3) and they even made a golden calf (Exodus 32). A calf was a major Egyptian deity. God had to make it clear that He is the ONE and ONLY God, and He did that through a dramatic display of fire consuming those who had rebelled against Him

God had laid out the law and the consequences of disobeying the law. The death penalty was the appropriate punishment for trea-son. God used consuming fire to dramatically demonstrate (making it memorable) the need to cleanse the people of their sin.

Punishing the Israelites with wars, famines, and pestilence

The example given here is Ezekiel 5:11-17. This is a prophecy that is a repetition of the prophecy in 5:2-3. The Jews had turned from God, had disobeyed God in spite of His kindness, and they had even defiled the sanctuary, demonstrating how totally wicked they were. A just punishment was coming. God would withdraw his blessing from Judah, and even withdraw His glory from the temple (Ezekiel 10)... without His protection the Babylonians would conquer Judah and lay siege to Jerusalem, and conquer it. Sieges often lead to famine and disease in the city that was under siege, and this was exactly what God was saying would happen. God is warning Israel through Ezekiel... but they refuse to turn away from evil and the prophecy becomes reality.

Ezekiel 5:11-17 - Wars, Famines, and Pestilence

The next example given by the humanist is Ezekiel 5:11-17. This prophecy is a repetition of the prophecy in 5:2-3, and similar to the one we discussed in chapter 30. The Jews had turned away from God. They had disobeyed God in spite of His kindness; and they had even defiled the sanctuary, demonstrating how totally wicked they were. God is warning them a just punishment was coming. God would withdraw his blessing from Judah, and even withdraw His glory from the temple (Ezekiel 10). Without God’s protection, the Babylonians would conquer Judah, lay siege to Jerusalem and con-quer it. Sieges often lead to famine and disease in the city that was under siege, and this was exactly what God was saying would hap-pen. God is warning Israel through Ezekiel, but the Israelites refuse to turn away from evil and the prophecy becomes reality.

2nd Kings 2:23-24 - God Sends Bears

This story about Elisha is a favorite one frequently used to claim God is unjustly cruel. Here are the verses:

Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number.

If you quickly read these verses, it seems as though God uses two bears to maul 42 kids who simply called Elisha a "baldy." How-ever, there is a lot more to the story. Let's go through this step-by-step:

First notice that the "lads" were not killed. The bears tore them up. Other translations say they were "mauled." While some of the 42 probably were seriously injured, none of them died. If someone says the bears killed 42 people, as is frequently stated, that is a misrepresentation.

Also, how old were these "lads?" Some Bibles even translate this as "children." However, that is not an accurate translation. The Hebrew word used here can be translated as "children," but a more accurate translation would be "young adult." These "lads" were most likely in their late teens or early 20's — old enough to know right from wrong and to be accountable for their actions.

What was the reason this happened? Because they called the prophet "baldhead?" That was a serious insult in those days. Howev-er, that was not the issue. The reason God sent the bears was be-cause they taunted him to "go up." To understand why this was serious, we need more context.

This is Elisha the prophet. Just before prior to this, God, using a whirlwind, took Elijah the prophet directly up into heaven. Elijah was a prophet who delivered God's words to the people. He spoke with the authority of God. When Elijah spoke on behalf of God, it was as though God Himself was speaking. Elisha was his replace-ment, and that means he also spoke with the authority of God.

Where did this take place? On the road to Jerusalem near Bethel. Bethel was a center of pagan Jewish worship. Idols had been set up there to get the Jewish people of the Northern Kingdom to stop going to the temple in Jerusalem. They supposedly could worship right there in Bethel... and they did. However, it was pagan idol worship.

Why was the taunt of "go up" such a big problem? They were demanding that he prove he was a prophet like Elijah, by demanding that he “go up” into heaven the same way Elijah had done. These were pagan followers of false idols who were mocking Elisha in a way that made it seem he was not a prophet. Making it seem he was not truly Elijah's replacement.

To mock God's ambassador is to mock God. In addition, to mock Elisha this way took away his authority and called into ques-tion his ability to speak for God. He was about to enter the main center of pagan worship for the Northern Kingdom. It needed to be clear—with no doubt in anyone's mind—that Elisha spoke for God. That is why God sent two she bears. That made it clear that Elisha truly was God's representative. The result was that it was obvious... undeniable... that Elisha spoke for God.

...and lions II Kings 24-25

For lions the humanist references II Kings 17:24-25. Here is what it says:

The king of Assyria brought men from Babylon and from Cuthah and from Avva and from Hamath and Sepharvaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the sons of Israel. So they possessed Samaria and lived in its cities. At the beginning of their living there, they did not fear the Lord; therefore the Lord sent lions among them which killed some of them.

Let’s quickly summarize our relationship with God. He created us; He owns us; He can do whatever He wishes with us. However, God is good. What He wants is for us to live with Him forever. That’ is why He died so we can live.

In the section of scripture referenced by the humanists, Assyria has conquered the Northern Kingdom , also known as Samaria. Most of the Jews living there have been relocated to other cities in the Assyrian Empire, and outsiders (Gentiles) have been moved in. However, the new people did not know God. They worshipped oth-er gods, and had no interest in the true God. The just penalty for this is death. The Bible does not explain why God uses lions, but He certainly has the right and the ability to do that. Moreover, by using lions God brought the penalty for their sin in a way that got atten-tion.

Humanists might say these people had their own religion, why not leave them alone? They were happy with their beliefs. However, that was not a good situation. Their believing in something does not make it true. Sorry, but that is reality. Believing in any god other than the one true God, the creator God of the Bible, leads to death. In this instance, God used lions to punish those who brought false gods into the land that belonged to God’s people. The news would spread and as a result, many would understand who God is and turn to Him, and have life.

...and serpents: Numbers 21:6

The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.

This happened while the Israelites were wandering in the desert after the exodus from Egypt. The people were complaining, and they were tired of eating manna. God had been taking care of them, providing for them, and protecting them from their enemies. How-ever, they had become impatient, and were complaining against God... no longer trusting God. Therefore, God sent fiery serpents. What was the result? Here is verse 7:

So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people.

Because of the poisonous serpents, the people realized they were doing wrong. They confessed, repented and turned back to trusting the Lord. Mission accomplished.

In addition, God provided a way for people to be cured should a serpent bite them. He had Moses make a bronze serpent and put it on a staff. Anyone who was bitten could look at the staff and be saved. Looking at the staff was an act of will, an intentional act a person had to do. This action demonstrated they believed the Lord, and their belief is what saved them.

Next up... God Sanctioned Slavery: Leviticus 25:44-46

Here is a question for humanists... what is wrong with slavery? It is survival of the fittest. So if I am fitter... I am stronger... what is wrong with my making you my slave? After all, we are just chemicals. What is wrong with one bunch of chemicals using another bunch of chemicals to benefit themselves? Please answer without using principles of morality from the Bible.

Slavery, defined as American early 19th century style slavery, is only a problem if human beings have worth. We are created in God's image (Genesis 1:27) and that gives us infinite worth. No hu-man has the right to enslave another bearer of God's image. We be-long to God and God only. With that foundation, let’s now talk about slavery. The humanist reference Leviticus 25:44-46:

As for your male and female slaves whom you may have—you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you. Then, too, it is out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have produced in your land; they also may become your possession. You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another.

Here is the problem. For us the word slavery brings up an im-age of race-based slavery in America in the 18th and 19th centuries. However, that is not what the Bible calls slavery. "Slavery" had a different meaning for the people in the Bible. A meaning mostly based on economics, not race. That is why some Bible translations use the term "bond servant" instead of "slave." The "slavery" of the Bible in no way resembled what we now think of as slavery.

Please note, the Bible strongly condemns slavery based on kid-naping. Kidnapping was the basis of American slavery. The Biblical penalty for kidnapping people to make them slaves was death. Amer-ican slavery was an abomination condemned by scripture.

He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death. - Exodus 21:16

The New Testament also condemns buying/selling slaves (1st Timothy 1:8-10). Here again we see that American slavery is not what the Bible talks about. When you see the word "slavery" in the Bible, it is not talking about what we in America typically think of as slavery.

Let’s get some context. Start reading Leviticus chapter 25 beginning at verse 39, and you will see that Hebrew "slaves" were to be treated as family, and only serve as slaves until a Jubilee year1. At that time, they were released from all their obligations.

It is also important to note that becoming a "slave" was volun-tary. The slave, not the owners, initiated it. In those days, there were no social welfare programs. If you could not support yourself, the best option was to find someone who would provide for your needs in return for your work. Many physicians and lawyers were "slaves" and in some cases, "slaves" could become very wealthy.

Leviticus 25-44-46 is referring to people outside of Israel who, unable to support themselves or possibly for other reasons, decided to become a “slave” of an Israelite. The Bible condemns forced slavery (Exodus 21:16), but provides a means for people to have shelter, food, and their other needs met by becoming a “slave.”

What happened if a slave ran away? Here is the answer in Deu-teronomy 23:15, they must be protected and not returned to their "master."

You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you.

This is not our understanding of "slavery" at all. For the people in Israel slavery was a way for the destitute to work for their food and shelter. In many instances, it was similar to the employ-employer relationship we have today.

On the other hand, pagan (Roman) slavery was brutal. Slaves were considered as the same as an ox that pulled a cart. The only difference was that a slave could talk. The problem was that the Romans followed their own pantheon of gods and rejected the God of the Bible... and how they treated slaves reflected that.

Next Topic: God Ordered Religious Persecution (Deuteronomy 13:12-16)

Why do humanists think this is a problem? They are regularly involved in religious persecution. They freely attack Christianity and the Bible. It is interesting that the humanist’s web site is heavy skewed toward targeting Christianity. For example, the information about Islam is basically friendly—and there are no attacks on the Koran. The same for Buddhism and Hinduism. Why is that? Might it be that Satan’s target is Christianity and God’s word? As Satan asked Eve in the garden, “Did God really say…?” Could it be that Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism are not attacked at the same level as Christianity is because they are part of Satan’s army?

The scripture humanists reference is Deuteronomy 13:12-16

If you hear in one of your cities, which the Lord your God is giving you to live in, anyone saying that some worthless men have gone out from among you and have seduced the inhabitants of their city, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods’ (whom you have not known), then you shall investigate and search out and inquire thoroughly. If it is true and the matter established that this abomination has been done among you, you shall surely strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying it and all that is in it and its cattle with the edge of the sword.

This is talking about Israelite cities given to them by God, whose residents were turning away from God and worshipping pa-gan gods.

We have seen this before... turning away from God and to other gods is a serious issue. As described here, the death penalty is ap-propriate for those who turn from God and worship idols.

The reason why the death penalty is appropriate is that those who turn away from God tend to lead others away from God. They lead others into spiritual death and an eternity separated from God. To stop it from spreading, and prevent the eternal destruction of large numbers of people, God commanded that those cities who have turned away from Him to be wiped out. It was the only way to save everyone else.

To a humanist this may not seem reasonable. That is because they do not understand how serious this is. Notice, the death penalty only applies to those who once knew God and turned away from God. These are people who once belonged to God, and have now become children of Satan. People who once had life and now are walking dead. They are people looking to seduce others into becom-ing walking dead. The death penalty is the only reasonable way to save others from being snatched away from life.

BTW, this no longer applies today. We are under a new covenant in which we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, holding us se-cure in our salvation. In Old Testament times (Deuteronomy) they were under the law, including the prescribed ceremonies, and they could bring condemnation on themselves by turning away from God. That is not possible today.

Next Topic: God Caused Cannibalism - Jeremiah 19:9

I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh in the siege and in the distress with which their enemies and those who seek their life will distress them. - Jeremiah 19:9

We have talked about this several times. First, this is a prophecy about what will happen if the people of Israel do not change. As we have seen over and over, God warns people and nations about their coming judgment. If the people of Israel paid attention to what God was saying, and turned away from their sin, they would not ex-perience this prophecy. However, they did not listen to God.

In this prophecy, God is describing what will happen if Jerusalem comes under a siege. Food will run out and people will starve, some of them turning to cannibalism. Why does this happen? Be-cause God has withdrawn His blessings. He has withdrawn His pro-tection... and that has allowed Babylon (in this case) to put Jerusalem under siege. So yes, in one sense God has allowed the cannibalism because He is no longer protecting the Jews from the armies of Babylon. However, He is not the cause nor the source of this evil.

In this case, in verses 9:1-9 God explains why this will happen. The people of Judah are warned.

In this prophecy God is describing what happens during the siege of a city. Food will run out and people will starve, some of them turning to cannibalism. Why does this happen? Because God has withdrawn His blessings... He has withdrawn His protection... and that has allowed Babylon (in this case) to put Jerusalem under siege. So yes, in one sense God has caused the cannibalism because He is no longer protecting the Jews from the armies of Babylon.

Do these people deserve His protection? Read Jeremiah 19:1-8. They have forsaken God. Rejected Him. Turned to other gods, wor-shipping and sacrificing to other gods. So what does God do? He gives them what they want. They have rejected Him, so He leaves them on their own, withdrawing His blessing and protection. They turned their backs on God, so God turns His back on them. That is fair and just. The consequences are a Babylonian siege that leads to starvation. That is also fair and just. Why? Because it is the conse-quence of the people rejecting God and going their own way.

CONCLUSION: God is not sadistic. His actions and punish-ments are just and appropriate.

Next accusation: The biblical God is also guilty of inflicting punishments that are grossly disproportionate to the acts committed. In the American legal system, such disproportion violates the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishments.

Obviously, to punish people who are completely innocent, as seen in the preceding Bible verses, constitutes punishment that is horribly disproportionate to the moral culpability of the recipients.

It is interesting that they reference the U.S. Constitution as being a superior authority over God. The founders of our country, and the authors of the Declaration of Independence, saw it the other way around... God is the source of our rights and laws. Well, let's see if we can sort it all out. Click here..

Footote 1: Deuteronomy 15 requires that Hebrew slaves be set free after six years. When they were released they were to be given a share of the wealth their labor had created. {More on slavgery>
Footnote 2: This provides interesting evidence that the God of the Bible is real, and is the one and only true God


The Good News

Before you get the good news, you need to know the bad news. It's about you. God says:

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. - Romans 3:23

Sin means disobeying God, aka breaking God's law. God is perfect and perfection is required to enter heaven. It's a standard none of us can achieve. We all fall short. For example, compare yourself with just one of the Ten Commandments. Have you ever told a lie?

All liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. - Revelation 21:8. Or what about:

Have you ever taken something that does not belong to you, no matter how small? Have you ever looked at another person with lust? In Matthew 5 Jesus said:

Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.' Have you done that?

You have broken God's laws. You have sinned. There must be justice, and that means eternity in hell, the lake of fire, the second death. Unless...

Unless there was someone willing to pay that penalty on your behalf. Someone who will take on themselves the consequences you deserve. And there is. There is one person who can and will do that. That person is Jesus Christ. If you trust this is true (believe), and repent (turn away from disobeying God), Jesus' death is applied to your account and you are freed from the penalty of sin to be with God forever.