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As a believer, I did indeed see god as a warm, caring, approachable creature of purest intent, the very personification of love. 

That's because you learned about god from your culture (God), which is a completely different character than the one described in the bible (yhwh) or the one theologians conceive.  When you read the bible, you already had all the baggage of the cultural God uploaded into your belief system.  Whenever you read about yhwh, you applied God concepts to. 

yhwh ordered the genocide of a nation by the hebrews?  Oh, well, since God is good and just and merciful, then the Canaanites must have deserved it.

Adam and Eve were created by yhwh without the ability to make moral decisions?  Oh, ummm, God wanted free will.

Yhwh commanded Abraham to murder his son?  Heyyyy, it was just a little test of faith from God.  And he sent an angel to stop him anyway.

Yhwh allowed a satan to destroy Job's family?  Big deal.  He replaced them with a better one.

Most people cannot drop their preconceptions to see what the god of the bible really is.  They are unable to think critically about it.  But once you become an atheist, all that baggage falls away and it lets you read the bible in a plain and straightforward way.  You can look at how yhwh acts and determine his morality without the cultural bias. 

You then read about the Midianites and are appalled at the genocide and rape commanded by yhwh.  You read about yhwh wanting obedient automatons and wonder why yhwh put a serpent in the garden.   You read about Abraham and wonder who is the bigger monster - yhwh for testing him that way or Abe for going through with it.  You read about Job and see the point of the story is not blind faith, but rather, that yhwh is as random and capricious as nature, and a bully to boot. 

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