A puzzling dilemma has been placed before me, and I am struggling to analyze it logically: On what do humans base their belief about God, whether that belief is that God exists or does not exist? Many individuals are happy to deny the existence of a God, because their lifestyles are such that they fervently hope there is, indeed, no God who can and will hold them accountable, eventually. This is simple self interest and I see no reason to address it... so long as I am not forced to suffer from the activities of those who make this choice. Ah! But therein lies the rub, as we shall see:

Many make the decision that there is no God based on the pain humans suffer from sickness, natural disasters, wars, etc. I heard one man say,
"I believed in God until I went to fight in Vietnam, but I could never worship a God who would permit such suffering as I both observed and experienced in that country."
I was left wondering whether he meant he had decided God didn't exist, or whether he was so enraged by the pain of his observations and personal experiences, that he refused to worship, as his God, any Supreme Being who would allow such suffering.

It is logical to some that if a compassionate God actually does exist, it is to be expected that He would automatically step in to alleviate the suffering of a starving child who has been deserted by one or both of his parents; and since He doesn't, at least not in the manner they expect, He must not exist. We experience outrage when we see orphanages in war-torn countries bulging with children, many of whom are outcasts, because they are national halfbreeds, fathered by soldiers from another nation.

Some reason that a compassionate God would never tolerate such "man's inhumanity to man," and if He doesn't care enough about the people on this earth to stop such outrages, they see no reason why they should worship Him. I am not sure such people deny the existence of God, as much as they are so angry with Him that they reject Him, personally.

Being forced to watch the suffering of innocent people causes distress to all decent humans, and well it should. Seeing a starving child causes observers terrible pain, and again, well it should. We hate the discomfort we experience when we see such things; and that is right and good. That discomfort makes us take action, whenever and wherever possible, which is what it is supposed to do.

But what about our own actions that harm others but don't make us at all uncomfortable, because they are fun? Do we want Him to stop those too? Where do we want Him to draw the line? Should He step in and stop people from having sex, if He knows that a child will be born, and then deserted, as a result of it? And how should He go about stopping such activities? Or do we want Him to stop others from having sex under those circumstances, but not us? After all, most of us really don't want Him to interfere with our own fun.

Is that really what we demand of a God? To keep us comfortable? Are we so naive as to suppose that we can create the parameters within which God must act? And when He refuses to fall in with our infantile plans, making us angry with Him, do we actually suppose that we have the power to make Him cease to exist, just by declaring that we don't believe in Him?

It seems to me that we want a God who will allow us to have as much irresponsible fun as we want, who will allow us to indulge in behavior that creates situations destined to cause others pain, but we want to be able to insist that He stop that pain before it makes us feel bad. That doesn't make a lick of sense.

In the South they have some hilarious, though pungent expressions, one of which is, "You don't have the sense God gave lettuce!" I think that is probably most apropos under these circumstances, because when this curious thinking is extrapolated to apply to the whole of humanity, it makes for a fascinating, though absolutely ridiculous, concept. It would permit despots to behave as viciously, as abominably as they might choose, but, magically, their subjects would be relieved of the suffering that would otherwise be a natural result of such behavior. It would mean that Idi Amin still would have been permitted to slaughter as many people as he chose (And he did choose!), but his victims would have suffered no harm.

That's a whole new concept!

Let's apply it to Bloody Mary, King Henry the Eighth's eldest daughter. She hanged anyone she considered a heretic. Actually, she hanged just about anyone she could get her hands on, and she got her hands on an astonishing number of people. She not only had them hanged; they were hanged in chains, and their bodies left to rot, as a warning to others who might have it in their minds to cross her.

I don't think we can classify her actions as irresponsible fun, because by all accounts, Mary wasn't much on having fun. But if we apply the concept of God's not interfering with the activities of No.1 (Mary), then dutifully stepping in to nullify the effects of those activities on No. 2 (her suffering subjects), we create a dilemma. How could Mary be permitted to hang her not too loyal subjects all over the place, which gave her some sort of perverse satisfaction, if God were to step in and save those subjects from being hanged. How could He arrange to permit Mary to experience the satisfaction she wanted to experience and still keep her subjects from suffering pain?

Those of us who think this is how it should be, don't want a God; we want a fairy with a magic wand. If we really do have the sense God gave lettuce, we must realize that He is not ours to command. We have no control over whether He does or does not exist, as we will one day discover, whether to our joy or our chagrin. Each of us may decide what he does or does not believe, but surely we must see that our personal beliefs have no power to affect reality.

Until next time,

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    Jaxon said...

    I would highly suggest for you, and any one else interested to read the book ""The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions." by self-professed secular Jew and mathematics/philosophies teacher David Berlinski.
    This tells the story of a Jew who was forced to dig his own grave prior to being shot by a German soldier. Prior to being shot, the old Jewish man advised the German that “God is watching what you are doing.” The Jewish gentleman pointed what i think is the real problem with atheism. "If you have the time please check the book out

  1. ... on August 5, 2008 at 3:59 AM  
  2. Anna Maria Junus said...

    Beautifully articulate post.

    I think part of the equation too, is that God wants us to solve the problems, because if He did it, then we wouldn't learn anything.

    If God steps in everytime there is an injustice, then there would be no reason for us to do so. Therefore we would not learn compassion.

  3. ... on August 8, 2008 at 7:26 PM