This is some real food for thought. What if it were true that, as the television show Ancient Aliens postulates, our planet was really visited by alien civilizations long ago? What if they used advanced technology to build intergalactic pit stops for themselves and assisted human beings in surviving catastrophes? What if they had wars or other disagreements among themselves? What if some of them did not have an altruistic attitude towards early humans, but rather had a rapacious, lustful attraction to them and exploited them sexually--do we have alien DNA or were we genetically engineered?
What is ancient aliens were mistaken for gods and confused the development of early religion? That's a concern.
But on the other hand, if we postulate a description of the nature of God--who was conceived in the Abrahamic period as a perfect, righteous, lawful being--can we sort out some events in history that were not God's working in the world, but more likely the meddling of selfish or even hostile others? Technology or no, there are some things that our human minds can understand without revelation, such as right and wrong. Deciding on what kind of God we will worship creates a standard by which we can decide which kinds of legendary actions back there in antiquity sound like God, and which do not.
You see, much of the Christian Church has it backwards: they take Holy Scripture, declare it to be true in its totality, and then try to reverse-engineer the theology. Thus we see the argument that "God works in mysterious ways," when things are recounted that are plainly repugnant to our morality. I mean, morality does evolve: as the poet says, "Time makes ancient good uncouth." But there is a difference between primitive-but-good morality, and actions that are still unacceptable. The story of Joseph's brothers deciding not to murder him outright but sell him into slavery instead was not God "working in mysterious ways." It was a completely reprehensible act that cannot be excused no matter how the story ended.
Years ago, when I took a college course in the Bible as literature, I came to an objective understanding that some of the deeds described in Scripture are plainly wrong to any reasonable moral code. And only when I came to this understanding could I rebuild the loss of respect that I had gone through in earlier years when I was told in sermons that the Egyptian people went through horrendous punishments because the Pharaoh would not set the Hebrew people free.
It leaves us with three explanations of the Plagues of Egypt: they were a chain of natural events, for which we can find the explanation. Or they may have been the work of higher powers, higher than our powers but not necessarily attributable to the Creator God. Or they may be a mythology that explains the liberation of the Hebrew people from the Egyptian empire, and did not really happen. Any of these three explanations is possible, but I believe that one thing we cannot say is that these cruelties were perpetrated on the innocent Egyptian bystanders by the God of Israel.
I say this because we, looking back on that terrible era, must accord to the Egyptian people the same importance and value that we give to the Hebrews. In short, the Egyptians were not expendable pawns in a game that God played without regard to men, women, children, unborn babies and animals. That is not the nature of the Hebrew God, nor is it acceptable to Christian morality. But it is an action attributable to aliens who were in the process of forming our culture for whatever reasons they had. In fact, you cannot call yourself pro-life and say that the death of the firstborn children of Egypt could have been caused by the God that we worship.
You won't hear very many Christians come out and say that. But by the same line of reasoning, we also rule out the idea that the God that Christians worship would cast millions of human beings into hideous torture for all eternity because they were not Christians, or because they did not belong to a particular denomination. And that is what hurts; that is what starts arguments between people who apply their critical skills to Scripture, and those who claim to believe the Bible in its entirety as literally true.
And yet it has already been said in the New Testament itself, when St. John the Evangelist wrote, "If anyone sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the perfect offering for our sin; and not for our sins only, but for the sin of the whole world." This flatly contradicts the denominational idea that one particular church group owns God, but it is not often brought up in conversation where neutral or agnostic individuals are told that they had better get saved in short order.
And we must also face the fact that Jewish theology no longer holds with the Law as given in the Book of Leviticus; Jews today do not sell their daughters into slavery or stone people to death in the streets. I believe that the importance of these facts cannot be understated, while evangelical Christians adduce proof quotes to reinforce their dogma.
Anyone who says that homosexuality is an abomination must be prepared to take action on other abominations such as men cutting their head hair or the eating of shellfish. Planting two crops in one field, or wearing two fibers in one's clothing must be as bad as homosexuality if the Old Testament is to be believed. Thus I say over and over that there is no such thing as Old-Testament Christianity. Jesus knew Judaism inside and out, much better than we do today. His consciousness told him that God must be not only just and righteous, but compassionate and loving; otherwise he is not worthy of worship. If one "abomination" can be rejected as obsolete, like planting two crops in the same field, another abomination such as homosexuality comes into question: it is not necessarily eternal and unchanging.
We cannot worship a creature that terrifies us with threats of torture; or at least, I can't. It is a psychological impossibility. We do not love God because he will punish us eternally if we do not; in fact, we cannot love God at all as long as his preachers threaten us with torture. What happens is that we will assent to anything because we are actually terrified of God.
Why, then, do we love God, if we do? We love him because he cared so much about his wayward human creations that he brought our consciousness to the level where we can begin to have some shadowy understanding of what it means to be sublime, or divine, or eternal. Christians love God because he helped Jesus enact a perfect human life in order to teach us what happens when we do everything right, but everything goes wrong.
Jesus was crushed by the evil of his day, but as we are beginning to contemplate the season of Easter, we see that Jesus was able to go to his death and come back again in a form that we could recognize and aspire to. God leads us to see that there is no death: that physical death in this world is only a transition from earthly life to another life. There is quite a bit of the next life that we have figured out, actually.
We know that St. Paul seems to be correct when he writes about "spiritual bodies;" Jesus appeared to his friends when they were behind locked doors, something he could not have done in life. He also seems to have stepped out of nowhere, something that I speculate may have something to do with Dark Matter. We can believe that people who cross over to the other life for a time will come back as the same people who went (although they may have had important "near-death experiences").
This is exciting; a lot of evidence points to the idea that there is no death, at least not death as we get it from non-believers. We do not ever "cease to be," as the saying goes. That is for each of us to deal with however we do, with our individual psychologies and emotional landscapes. Those who do not want to believe or hope will undoubtedly continue to refuse those activities, but they don't really have all that good reason to do so.
For more info: you might want to read the very famous and entertaining Letter Dr. Laura in which she was taken to task by an individual for her literalism. Find it at: http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/drlaura.asp