Thanks, everyone, for welcoming me to the boards, and it's great to read your responses. A couple of follow-up points:
I agree with the points regarding corrective "punishment," and so perhaps "punishment" is not the best translation - maybe it should be "rehabilitation."
Perhaps, then, "jealous" is not the right word either, to describe God's feelings for us. Maybe "protective" is a better word.
Yes, the Bible did make me feel good when I'd read it, but for most of my life I didn't actually read it - rather, I read books that quoted (accurately) from it, but quoted a lot of the "feelgood" passages from it. When I recently read it, a little over a year ago, from cover to cover, taking exhaustive notes (a five-month process), it seemed more like a message trying to exploit human fear: "Believe in me, or else! Do as I say, or else! If you're on my good side, you'll be rewarded, but if you're on my bad side, incur my wrath!"
And, as I absolutely do not believe that God would operate that way, my own conclusion is that either 1) those statements are flat-out false; or 2) I am not interpreting them correctly.
The problem, for me, with statement two, that I am not interpreting it correctly, is that there is simply SO MUCH in the Bible that I find troublesome or unnecessary (maybe 98% of it), that it is hard for me to understand how I can possibly misinterpret that much.
Here's an example: let's say a person from a foreign country writes a letter to you, and before his/her signature writes the salutation: "I LOATHE YOU."
In reading the entire letter, which includes affectionate passages such as: "you are my dear friend," "I can't wait to see you again," "you warm my heart," "my life is complete with you in it," etc., you conclude that the person MISTAKENLY wrote the word "LOATHE," really having meant to write "LOVE."
If, however, the majority of the letter contained statements like: "you disgust me," "I wish I had never met you," "you make me sick to my stomach," and "I curse the day you entered my life," then it would seem more likely that "I LOATHE YOU" would be consistent with those sentiments.
Unfortunately, that's how I see the Bible. A scarce few feelgood passages drowning in a sea of hateful, vengeful, exploitative demagoguery That's why, while I remain open-minded for someone to show me where I am going wrong in my assessment.
And, by the way, despite all of this, my faith in an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God remains unshaken. I have a strong faith in God DESPITE the Bible, not BECAUSE of it.
I look forward to more dialogue :-)