Alexander Waugh relates the following story in his book, God – The Biography. Randolph Churchill, son of Winston, had been annoying his friends by talking too much. They wagered he could not keep quiet for a week. Churchill, a keen gambler, thought he could win the bet by reading the Bible. But he didn't last long. After a few pages, he was heard to exclaim, "God! God's a shit!" If you read Waugh's book, then you will draw the same conclusion. For God is vindictive, blood-thirsty and, quite clearly, as mad as a hatter.

GOD: The Biography
Alexander Waugh
342 pp
£ 18.99 To people raised on Sunday School stories of God's omnibenevolence this might come as a bit of a shock, but the evidence is indisputable. As Waugh points out: God slaughtered 50,000 Israelites because a few of them dared to peek into the Ark of the Covenant; he has a penchant for feeding people to wild animals, especially, it seems, lions; he has, in his time, zapped angels for failing to say "Holy, holy, holy" in quite the right order; he is absurdly concerned about the dietary habits of his chosen people; and he has a real problem with nudity.

Where does Waugh get his information from? A myriad of sources: The Bible, especially the Old Testament; the apocryphal and pseudepigraphical texts, that, for one reason or another, don't show up in the modern Bible; the Qur'an; the testimony of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon religion; the internet; and Neale Donald Walsch, who God spoke to personally over the course of a number of years.

Waugh's scholarship is extremely impressive. It seems unlikely there is anything about God that Waugh doesn't know. Obviously, he struggles with some of the trickier theological issues. For example, nobody is quite sure how the Trinity works, and Waugh admits he isn't able to shed much light on the matter. But if you want to know how tall God is (1.298 billion km), whether he uses a lavatory (definitely not), or if he has breasts (possibly), then Waugh's your man.

The book is especially useful for non-believers. Not only are such people left in no doubt about their fate should they be wrong — it involves heat and gnashing of teeth – it provides them with plenty of ammunition to irritate those theists who haven't yet grasped the true nature of God.

Biblical contradictions? God revels in contradiction, you'll find plenty of them. Broken promises? Definitely, God and truth do not traverse the same path. Acts of kindness? None to speak of. Cruelty? It's never ending.

The thought then occurs that maybe Waugh's biography will annoy one or two religious people — perhaps the odd bishop, for example. After all, it is possibly a little disturbing to find out that the behaviour of the god you worship is somewhat erratic and, on occasion, not wholly admirable. But when you think about it, it is obvious religious people already know this about God.

Famine, earthquakes, the holocaust, cancer, torture, a continent dying of AIDS – these are hardly the things of a loving God. The only possible conclusion seems to be that theists, at least the ones who worship God, cannot mind too much about his immorality. So it is doubtful they'll be too upset by Waugh's research. Indeed, likely they'll be grateful for the information he provides about God's vital statistics, eating habits, musical tastes, and so on.

No doubt there will be a few naysayers, believers and non-believers alike, who will question the fruitfulness of Waugh's approach. They will point out that it is not possible to reach definite conclusions about God's nature simply by collecting together everything that has ever been said or written about God. Non-believers, of course, will make the further point — almost certainly via the mechanism of some story about how everybody used to believe the earth to be flat — that the fact people believe things about God does not mean God exists.

But the best advice is to ignore the naysayers, for two main reasons. If Waugh is right, then you can't afford to be aligned with naysayers. You, and they, will undoubtedly meet untimely and painful ends. And if he isn't right, read the book anyway – for Waugh's God, in his divine excess and absurdity, is a highly entertaining creation.

God is available from Amazon (UK).