The god of the Old Testament time and again killed thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children. . . .It eludes me how humans can worship such an evil, vindictive creature.It might seem outrageous to quote a convicted, confessed serial killer on anything, let alone quote his incendiary opinion of God, which he might hold out of a self-serving need to justify himself. After all, he seems to say, if God killed thousands, then....
— Robert Charles Browne, from "The Confessor," by Chip Brown, in the current New York Times Magazine on the web [Browne claims to have killed 48 people in nine states over the past 30 years.]
Actually, Browne's opinion raises a couple of points we would do well to consider. First, he's talking not necessarily about "God," but about "the god of the Old Testament." If the Old Testament should, as I tend to think, be considered a work of literature, then the god it portrays may be no more than a literary character. That is, Browne's assessment doesn't bear on actual God. And his attempt to justify himself fails.
Second, Browne is of course right that humans actually do worship the character portrayed in the Old Testament. Those humans apparently don't think, however, that he's just a literary character, but really God (or Allah—see below). It may elude Browne how humans can worship God as so conceived (apparently Browne can't). But I think I can see how they manage it. They frame God's "vindictive" acts as morally justified retribution or punishment for disobedience. That is, the people whom God killed deserved it. But, worshippers believe, we won't deserve it so long as we're obedient and continue to worship.
And they do believe in God. That's their response to the natural human lust for more (their consciousness of transcendence). But how they come to think of God as "the god of the Old Testament" is more complicated. That "god" was conceived by the ancient Israelites, who considered themselves to be God's chosen people. Over time they developed a strong sense of community around their received oral and written traditions. And then along came Jesus, who was himself a Jew and endorsed those traditions at the same time updating it, thus ensuring that the Old Testament would become part of the Christian canonical scripture. Further, I understand that the Prophet Muhammad (an Arab related to the ancestor, Abraham, in common with the Jews) said that his message came from the same god, although the Qur'an refers to him as "Allah."
In other words, "the god of the Old Testament" is readily available to believe in, and humans around the world not only share the lust for more, they also tend to think and believe as their parents and their immediate neighbors do. Hence, most of them believe in "the god of the Old Testament."
The painting below (by Rembrandt) shows Father Abraham being prevented from sacrificing his son Isaac. (The Jews decended from Isaac, and the Arabs from Abraham's other son, Ishmael.)