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:
GOD IS NOT MAD AT YOU
HE'S MAD ABOUT YOU
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.