Sunday, July 08, 2007



I have two statements about God's benevolence to share on this Sunday. One is from the local Methodist church, the one I've mentioned before that has the changing sign out front. Over the past week, the sign has said this:


The other is from NPR's All Things Considered on Thursday. An English translation has just been published of the recently resurfaced Holocaust-era diary of a Polish Jewish girl. The NPR item includes this excerpt:
The little faith I used to have has been completely shattered. If God existed, he would certainly not permit that human beings be thrown alive into furnaces and the heads of little toddlers be smashed by the butts of guns.

The statement in the first, a statement of faith, says that God loves you. You, whoever you are and whatever you do, whatever happens. It's the unconditional love of a father — of the Creator, who loves every one of His creations.

The observation in the second is not new, and is completely at odds with the first. And it comes not from faith, but from looking at the world around, from seeing what actually happens. It's not a fantasy that everything will be all right; it's a reality that terrible things happen, that people suffer, that evil and disease and poverty exist.

Those facts, readily observed every day, are entirely inconsistent with the concept of a benevolent God. Yes, I know the response that the faithful have to that: It's all part of God's plan. That just makes no sense. A “father” who truly loves his “children” would not inflict upon them the sorts of things that happen in the world, not as part of any “plan”. An all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving being could find a way to implement his plan that did not involve torture, starvation, and disease. If God needs to take little Johnny for some reason, the tyke can simply die in his sleep one night; there's no reasonable, benevolent plan that involves Johnny's suffering from leukemia for three years before dying.

If God had a plan to call home millions of Jews, and others, near the end of the first half of the 20th century, he certainly could have found a more loving way to do that than what happened then.

Want to try arguing for a capricious God, a mischievous God, a sadistic God, or a hands-off God, with the attitude that he created this and now is off with other things, well, give it a try. But the simplistic “God loves you” is just not consistent with any sense of reality.


Cuz said...

As I read I can't help but think
that God is taged with all the good, and all the bad in the world.

Maybe that's (his?) purpose or plan , however you put it.

Maggie said...

I am always annoyed when I see the bumper sticker, "Relax, God's in charge." I really want to follow those people home and ask them how a child living in Iraq right now (or a host of other places, or even people living in "good" places but in bad situations) are supposed to "relax." Well, your neighbor was kidnapped by the Sunnis/Shiites, tortured, and dumped dead in the street, but you should relax because God was in charge the whole time! Don't you feel better??? Grrrr. Don't get me started.

If somebody is a victim of belief (as Dawkins puts it in _The Selfish Gene_, I heart Dawkins!), and they want to say "The Lord works in mysterious ways," then they'd better not tell me they know ANYTHING AT ALL about those ways, i.e. that there's a heaven, or that they're going to be forgiven for their sins, or ANYTHING at all, because that's an absurd contradiction. (Not to mention that the things they believe are an absurd contradiction to the way the world actually is.) If HE works in mysterious ways, then you may as well live however you want, because you don't know anything about those ways. If they pretend there's a benevolent God, then, as you point out, they have some 'splainin' to do.

Dr. Momentum said...

Clearly you have a fundamental misunderstanding about God, which is not surprising, because humans do not have the capacity to understand God or his thoughts and intentions.

One important definition you need to include in your analysis is "God is love." So, by definition, whatever God does is love.

Convenient, isn't it?

Dr. Momentum said...

Speaking of children and "Relax, God is in Charge" -- there is a term for when people let God actually take care of the welfare of their children... "criminal child neglect."

You have forgotten that "God helps those who helps themselves."

In other words, God is like the person who waits until you're almost done with the dishes and then asks if you need some help.

Maggie said...

I do believe that the rationale is that God is a father figure teaching us a lesson. Who knows what kinds of lessons here will help us in the afterlife?

It seems like our God is a dirty narcissistic wife-beater and child-abuser, but what do I know? I'm just the kid. And I'd better learn God's "do as I say, not as I do" lesson, or I'm gonna get a beatin'.

(I sure wish I lived over in Frank's universe. Frank's a kid on my bus. Frank's God is a loving, intelligent, patient God. Frank never gets beaten and he always has money for lunch. Oh, well, you can't pick your God.)