Thursday, September 06, 2007

Dear Father

A believer kneels to pray . . .

Dear Father, they say that you are all-loving, all-powerful and all-knowing. But Father, try as I might, I can not reconcile this with what I see in the world around me.


Dear Father, if you are all-knowing, why did you not warn us of 9/11 if you knew it was going to happen? Any person, with any prior knowledge of the attacks, and with a shred of moral fibre, would have warned the authorities. Why did you simply sit by when you knew what the terrorists were planning? By willingly withholding such vital information, are you not partly responsible for the lives that were lost that day?


Why do you not intervene when you see all the rape, crime or murder? Police forces around the world – some of them stretched to breaking point from lack of resources – are trying their best to stop people doing horrible things to each other. But you, an all-powerful God, do not seem to provide any assistance.


I’ve been taught that you look after the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, and that we should not be concerned about our basic needs because you care far more for us. But Father, do you not care for those thousands of individuals who die annually in Africa from disease and chronic starvation? Why do you meet my needs, but not theirs? Aid organisations work around the clock to fight what seems like a loosing battle, but I do not see you helping them in any way.

I’m beginning to think, Father, that you are either incapable of helping, unwilling to help, or ignorant of what is going on. If you are unwilling to help, how can I have any respect for you: an all-powerful being that can make all the difference, but willingly chooses not to do so?


How can I love you, Father, if this is what you are?

Amen

44 comments:

Laughing Boy said...

I understand why atheists feel this way.

They believe life is all there is. Once you die it's all over. Anything that causes suffering in this life is bad. When life ends, all possibilities cease. Anything that shortens life, anything that causes us to feel pain or sadness is bad. If God exists He just wants His human pets to be happy and contented.

To obtain this view, the atheist has considered, in a very elementary way, a couple aspects God—omnipotence and goodness—while ignoring all the other concepts that necessarily go along with the Christian concept of God—free will, sin and its consequences, eternal life, ultimate purposes, etc. With this distorted view of God as a foundation, the atheist is dumbfounded that anyone could believe that such a god exists.

I understand. A god so conceived is either nonsensical or evil.

Rodolfo said...

Beautiful post. This is exactly how some of my prayers went. Bible god's "mysterious ways" seemed more and more evil as the years went by. Drove me nuts.

Jason Hughes said...

Laughing Boy said: A god so conceived is either nonsensical or evil.

First thing you ever said that I agreed with...

:D

Laughing Boy said...

... but I do not see you helping them in any way

The primary way God works in the world is through the agency of other humans who are living out their commitment to God and his command to care for the poor. Below is just a small fraction of the religious-based aid organizations who are helping in Africa—in the name of God, in the power of God, and for the glory of God. I guess He could put on a magic show for those who demand such things, but in the meantime, donate via one of the following websites:

Abaana
Catholic Relief Services
World Vision
Salvation Army
Map International
Adventist Development and Relief Agency
Food for the Hungry
Samaritan's Purse
Worker Ants
Christian Mission Aid
Christian Children's Fund
Christian Reformed World Relief Committee
American Jewish World Service
B'nai B'rith
Baptist World Aid
Mission To The World
United Methodist Committee on Relief
Episcopal Relief and Development

CyberKitten said...

laughing boy said: The primary way God works in the world is through the agency of other humans who are living out their commitment to God and his command to care for the poor.

Why? Why can't or won't He do things himself. Why does He need to work through people to get things done?

pixie said...

Many Christians pray the same prayer. Job challenges God (ch 29-31); the Psalmist in Ps 74 cries: 'why have you abandoned us like this, o God'. Even Jesus feels abandoned at the cross. Yancey in his books 'Prayer' and 'Where is God where it hurts' states the same agonized questons. He also describes how many Christians have come to the point where they put their trust in God, knowing He can be trusted, he sees, hears, feels and will bring everything to completion. Many Christians have found powerful comfort in Gods presence in their suffering. We would love God to sort out everything here and now but He apparently has chosen not to do that, to use us and to take us completely seriously. So we have indeed the freedom to mess up in a big way. Who says it's easy to be a Christian???

Jason Hughes said...

Laughing Boy said: To obtain this view, the atheist has considered, in a very elementary way, a couple aspects God—omnipotence and goodness—while ignoring all the other concepts that necessarily go along with the Christian concept of God—free will, sin and its consequences, eternal life, ultimate purposes, etc. With this distorted view of God as a foundation, the atheist is dumbfounded that anyone could believe that such a god exists.

I understand. A god so conceived is either nonsensical or evil.


There are more issues here than in Senator Craig's family, that's for sure...

The very first issue, of course, is this basic premise that omnipotence is an "elementary" concept when really, it's the basic and necessary concept: No omnipotence, not a god. Without this tenant, any type of god isn't--well, a god!

Further, the second "elementary" concept stated is the "goodness" factor--and let's face it--most people wouldn't want to worship something they didn't consider good, now would they? Again, the supposed "goodness" of the Christian god is also a basic and necessary concept--one that, without it, he wouldn't really be the god Christians make him out to be!

These two concepts that you are so quick to say are "elementary" are THE driving forces behind the worship and faith of the Christian god: Supposedly, he created (hence, all powerful, aka omnipotent) everything, including man, out of love and for his glory; and then he supposedly let his kid die so that we could all worship at his feet in heaven for eternity (hence, goodness). Without either one, you don't have the Christian god so many are willing to proselytize, worship, and convert others for! To say that boiling god down to his supposedly "elementary" qualities is not "an accurate assessment" is to miss the point. After all, without either hearts or brains, we wouldn't have life, and hence, we wouldn't be human; even to only have one would not be a life.

Hence, for a god to not have both omnipotence and goodness means he isn't a god--at least, not the god you make him out to be. At the very least, he's a supernatural being on a ego trip that can't control anything. At the most, he is a psychological imagination that speaks to our deepest fears and wildest hopes--that this life isn't all we have...

Saying that we aren't factoring in "enough" of god to form a picture of who he is isn't the problem--it's the fact that god can't logically or reasonably live up to what he's supposed to be that is the core issue, the real issue--and if god can't meet the basic requirements (omnipotence and goodness), there really isn't much more to discuss, is there?

CyberKitten said...

Nice post Jason.

Laughing Boy said...

cyberkitten said...Why? Why can't or won't He do things himself. Why does He need to work through people to get things done?

It's not that He needs our assistance. If God did everything for us how would we benefit? The 'education' of the human race is a factor in all of this.

CyberKitten said...

laughing boy said: It's not that He needs our assistance. If God did everything for us how would we benefit? The 'education' of the human race is a factor in all of this.

But He doesn't need to do *everything* for us... Maybe he could reduce the number of "Acts of God" though... That'd certainly improve things - or are hurricanes and earthquakes for our 'education' too? Funnily I have never found that kind of wholesale slaughter very educational......

Of course as He apparently moves in 'mysterious ways' isn't it rather difficult to know what lessons God is trying to teach us? Personally I think his pedaogogic skills suck.

Laughing Boy said...

jason hughes said... there really isn't much more to discuss, is there?

I think there is, but, as you said, there are lots of issues involved. Let's take it a step at a time and see.

This seems to be where your argument begins:

P1: In order for a being to exist it must possess all its essential attributes.
P2: An essential attribute of God is His omnipotence.
P3: If He is omnipotent He can feed all the hungry (or any other demand you can think of).
P4: He does not feed all the hungry.
C1: Therefore, He is not omnipotent.
C2: Therefore, lacking an essential attribute, God cannot exist.

Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Laughing Boy said...

Of course as He apparently moves in 'mysterious ways' isn't it rather difficult to know what lessons God is trying to teach us?

Sometimes, yes. But God does not leaves us completely in the dark. I really don't know why this level of suffering is necessary for God's purposes. But I do know that our happiness in this life is not God's primary objective. It may be way down on the list. Given that, we can't use human happiness as the litmus test for God's existence.

FCSuper said...

"Given that, we can't use human happiness as the litmus test for God's existence."

Who's talking about happiness? The comment was regarding ability of the diety to caretake for its creation.

CyberKitten said...

laughing boy said: I really don't know why this level of suffering is necessary for God's purposes.

Your not alone in that!

I see several alternative answers to that question:

Either God is not aware of our suffering, He doesn't care about our suffering or He can't do anything about our suffering.

If our suffering is part of a larger plan and necessary for that plan to come to fruition, the question you need to ask yourself is this:

Does the end - no matter how glorious - justify the means - no matter how painful - to get there?

laughing boy said: But I do know that our happiness in this life is not God's primary objective.

Oh... I think that's pretty obvious!

laughing boy said: Given that, we can't use human happiness as the litmus test for God's existence.

No we can't and I never suggested we could or should. But we can look at the amount of suffering in the world and wonder.....

Jason Hughes said...

Laughing Boy said: Let's take it a step at a time and see.

This seems to be where your argument begins:

P1: In order for a being to exist it must possess all its essential attributes.


Well, er... Yes, for something to exist, it must have its essential attributes... So far so good...

P2: An essential attribute of God is His omnipotence.

This is a basic and necessary concept for the Christian view of god, yes. The fact that he's all-powerful (and, by default, al-knowing as without knowledge you really can't have al-power...) However, other religions of the past (and perhaps some in the present) view their gods as NOT all-powerful, having faults, deficincies, flaws.... That sort of thing. A key Christian tenent, though, is that their god is all-powerful, and thus, is how he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, however he wants. This is why "he ways our higher than ours" and "we can't know his plans" and all that other stuff... Which also begs the question, if his ways are so much higher, and we can't know his plans and reasoning, how is it that you *know* he HAS a plan, or that human suffering is part of it? You can't--you can only guess based on a.) your feelings and emotions about the subject b.) your human reasoning based on what you feel and what you've read in c.) a book written by men, and their feelings, thought, and emotions based on this same god (supposedly), which claims that d.) it itself was inspired by the god... All pretty circumstantial at best, flimsy as hell at worst. All this to say, though (as that was a tangeant), god's supposed all-powerful nature is necessary and basic because without it, he's not the Christian god... He may be another god, but not the one the Christian faith holds forth...

P3: If He is omnipotent He can feed all the hungry (or any other demand you can think of).

But with that, the question of his goodness is begged--if he *doesn't* feed all the hungry, heal all the wounded, cure the diseased, as cyberkitten stated, it begs not only "Do the ends justify the means," it also begs how much he actually *cares*?

When something happens to someone we love, we do *everything* we can think of the ease the pain, suffering, what-have-you. We call, write letters, get them to a doctor, pick up the prescriptions at the pharmacy, make them food, feed them, cloth them, bath them... *People* do this. Not god. And although you can say people are doing it *for* god, then we must ask: A.) are the people doing it for god properly motivated? B.) Is god that helpless he needs people to do his grunt work? (after all, he couldn't even write his own book apparently...) C.) Why wouldn't people already be doing as much good as they could without having a diety to look to that makes them (compels them, commands them, whatever)? D.)If people *are* fallible, by your own beliefs admissions, and people will screw things up regardless of their intentions (taking into acount this sin-nature concept), why wouldn't god just do it himself, being the all-perfect, all-powerful being that he is? And while a small argument could be made in the line of "tough love," we then have to ask, how tough is too tough?

P4: He does not feed all the hungry.
C1: Therefore, He is not omnipotent.

Either he is not omnipotent, or he is not "good."

C2: Therefore, lacking an essential attribute, God cannot exist.
If he lacks either one, than yes, he does not exist--at least, he does not exist in the package in which most Christians try to sell him. If he does exist, his basic nature and essential attributes as put forth by the Christian faith need to be reassessed, re-evaluated, re-examined, and ultimately rewritten...

The point you failed to grasp (seemingly from my reading of your summary) was the "goodness," and how it relates to the "all-powerful" factor....

bint alshamsa said...

Jason,

I'm not going to claim to be an expert on these issues but I'd like to add a thought or two, if you don't mind.

This is a basic and necessary concept for the Christian view of god, yes. The fact that he's all-powerful...A key Christian tenent, though, is that their god is all-powerful, and thus, is how he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, however he wants.

I dunno. I hear this from time to time but I think it may be an incomplete assessment of Christianity. When I look at the Bible, I see a God that is quite different from this. I think it does describe Him as having certain "limitations". If He is Love, then I think that effectively excludes certain abilities.

The fact that He is described as being the Creator also doesn't mean he's necessarily all-powerful. If you give me enough clay, I can create a rather nice vase but I don't think that this means I am able to do anything beyond that. Maybe I can and maybe I can't but the act of creating something doesn't prove I have unlimited powers.

Though some Christians may feel that they could not worship a God that wasn't all-powerful, there isn't anything in the tenets of Christianity that make this feeling necessary. Over the years I've come to see that there isn't "a" Christian faith; There are myriad Christian faiths. I suspect that there may be as many takes on Christianity as there are individuals who claim it as part of their identity.

I don't think this means that God's basic nature and attributes need to be "reassessed, re-evaluated, re-examined, and ultimately rewritten". Perhaps this might be beneficial for those who are disturbed by the notion that humans often have beliefs that seem somewhat contradictory (to others) but I don't think a re-writing is really necessary because plenty of people are able to reach satisfactory conclusions given the tenets already spelled out and any rewritten assessment is bound to result in just as much disagreement as already exists.

Skywolf said...

Maybe I can and maybe I can't but the act of creating something doesn't prove I have unlimited powers.

But Christians (at least in my experience) don't believe that God is omnipotent simply because he's the creator of the universe, they believe he's omnipotent because the Bible says 'God is omnipotent'. (And omniscient, omnipresent, and bursting with unconditional love.)

So I think an omnipotent god is one of the central tenets of the Christian religion. Maybe it doesn't need to be, but it certainly seems to be.

bint alshamsa said...

Hey skywolf,

You know, I hear what you're saying and I think that it's probably true that some Christians believe that God is omnipotent. However, when you have a religion that huge, I think it becomes next to impossible find a single reason for why large numbers of individuals within it believe something or even whether they believe in it at all. For instance, I was brought up to believe that there was no Trinity, or at least none that saw God as equal to Jesus who was also equal to the Holy Spirit. Expressing that idea alone is enough to get one kicked off of some Christian discussion boards. Though there are millions of people who identify themselves as Christian but not Trinitarians, there are millions of others who do believe God=Jesus=Holy Spirit. So which one is the "correct" Christian belief? How many people need to hold a particular belief in order for it to be a central tenet of Christianity?

To add to the confusion and disagreements, we also have a book that has been translated, paraphrased, made into rap lyrics, and, when convenient, completely ignored by people who supposedly believe in it. I don't think I've ever seen a version that says "God is omnipotent" but I'm not ruling out the possibility that there is one that does say this or something that some might see as the equivalent to it. Not that you're obligated to do so, but I'd like it if you could kinda tell me what passage you're referring to with regards to God's omnipotence.

Jason Hughes said...

Rev 19:6: And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

Jeremiah 32:17 (NKJV): Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.

Luke 1:37 (NKJV): For with God nothing will be impossible.

Psalms 115:3 (NKJV): But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.

These are generally the verses used to point out god's "obvious" omnipotence. And yes, while there may be a plethora of Christian sects and groups, I do believe it is the fundamental groups and "literal" bible interpreters (of which from I won't say Laughing Boy definately is, but I suspect) who make the most out of this sticking point (omnipotence), and thus, it is a key tenant in this particular reading of the bible and Christianity.

While there are some more "liberal" or even just plain different branches of YHWH's multiple religious cults, I think if you asked most of them point blank if they view ther god as all-powerful, 8 out of 10 liberal or nontraditionalists would say yes, and 100% of the fundies would say yes--thus, for them to entertain the idea that their god may not be all-powerful would be a huge and deafening blow to their faith.

I can't elaborate any further at the moment (lunch breaks are only so long), but I'll check back later tonight...

bint alshamsa said...

Thanks Jason,

The versions that I use most often render a couple of these verses a bit differently. None of them use the term omnipotent. Since the original writers are dead, I'm not sure if it's even possible to determine which rendering comes closest to expressing what they were trying to get across. But for the purpose of this conversation, I don't think it matters. The fact that these versions (that you found for me) exist shows that there are at least some Christians who believe God is omnipotent. However, I don't know if I'd judge what's central to the faith by what some fundamentalists tend to say or believe.

When it comes to what most Christians would say if you asked them whether God was omnipotent, I think the answer you'd receive depended on how you worded it. I I think that if one took the time to explain the question in detail, you'd get answers that are a lot more complicated than just "yes" or "no".

If the questioner explained that the inability to do evil was, for the purpose of this question, considered a limitation of His power, then plenty of Christians would say that God's power is limited. Not all of them, of course, but a enough to significantly skew the results. And I think that it would probably take more than entertaining an idea in order to deal a deafening blow to their faith.

Will said...

I remember when the tsunami hit Asia and 250000+ people died on boxing day 06. After watching it on the news a christian setting next to me said - imagine all the testimonies. I was shocked. A quarter of a million people had just died and she doesnt care/respond about the terrible loss of life?

notabarbie said...

Well, Will, that pretty much says it all doesn't it?

Laughing Boy said...

jason hughes said...The point you failed to grasp (seemingly from my reading of your summary) was the "goodness," and how it relates to the "all-powerful" factor....

I grapsed it alright. I just wanted you to make it clear. Why? You said unless God can pass the omnipotent test He is not worth considering. But in order to consider the omnipotence issue you understand that one must also consider goodness. So now you are acknowledging that a concept, regardless of how fundamental, can't be considered in isolation from other important characteristics. So you have rightly added goodness to the mix. But then you decide that it's ok to stop with those two. Why is that? If God is to be considered honestly He must be considered in totality (as much as possible). If we confine ourselves to a small set of attributes we should expect to find some things very problematic.

The problem of suffering is one of those things. If, for example, the concepts of sin, eternal life, redemption, free will, and justice are ignored, then the Christian worldview has no good answer for human suffering.

It's like a person saying they have decided that chess is a nonsense game when the only rules they know are how the pawns and knights move.

CyberKitten said...

laughing boy said: If, for example, the concepts of sin, eternal life, redemption, free will, and justice are ignored, then the Christian worldview has no good answer for human suffering.

...and how exactly do those concepts 'explain' human suffering? How do they explain children dying of cancer? How do they explain people dying in hurricanes or during 'collateral damage' incidents? How do they explain much of what we see every evening on our TV screens?

bint alshamsa said...

Cyberkitten,

As one of those people dying of cancer, I can give you my view of how those concepts help me make sense of the world. I know it might not be satisfactory to some but, so far, it's helped me make it through. I was born and raised here in New Orleans, so I've also experienced the catastrophe that was and is Hurricane Katrina and Rita, as well. To be honest, when I was going through these experiences my belief in a God was much stronger than it is now.

Anyway, I know you're asking that question to Laughing Boy but if you're interested, I could add my two cents.

CyberKitten said...

bint alshamsa said: To be honest, when I was going through these experiences my belief in a God was much stronger than it is now.

I've heard things like this said before - which I personally find fascinating. If you're happy to talk about it I'm sure that we would be interested in your 'two cents' on the subject.

Laughing Boy said...

cyberkitten said......and how exactly do those concepts 'explain' human suffering? How do they explain children dying of cancer? How do they explain people dying in hurricanes or during 'collateral damage' incidents? How do they explain much of what we see every evening on our TV screens?

#1: Sin.

Death and suffering are the result of Sin. (Capital 'S'.) The consequences of sin are unavoidable.

#2: Justice.

Can God (or if He can, should he) circumvent the laws of nature to protect humanity from the inevitable results of their own freely chosen acts? People are depraved by choice. They act accordingly. What do you expect? Does a 'good' judge let convicted criminals go free? No. A good judge insures that unlawful acts get just punishment.

#3: Love.

What's the most loving thing a person can do? Help a person in need, especially a person who can not repay the kindness. If nobody was in need, how could we help, how could we be good?

#4: Eternity.

All people suffer, but it doesn't seem to be justly proportioned. Children die. A 4-year-old was killed near my home last week, I pass the makeshift memorial every day. Good people suffer. One of my best friends from school died this year from ALS. Some of the worst people on the planet live in luxury. If this life is all there is, these inequities would pose serious problems for a worldview that proposed a good and just God. Christianty does not see this life as the be-all and end-all of our existence. Therefore, suffering in this life can bring about good even if it that good is not realized in this life.

***
There are other aspects of God's nature and His revelation that I could mention, but it's your turn. What's your explanation?

Jason Hughes said...

As I said, you missed it the first time around, as, in my first comment, I said: "Further, the second "elementary" concept stated is the "goodness" factor..."

The reason why only omniscience and goodness are key factors is because the other topics (i.e., sin, eternal life, redemption, free will, and justice) stem from the concepts of his supposed goodness and all-powerful status--in other words, these concepts are based on the key conditions of his being all-powerful and over-all good. You must factor in these two key components in order to derive your concepts of "sin" (as separating yourself from god's goodness and perfection), "eternal life" (as a gift stemming from the sacrifice of his kid's Roman-assisted suicide, a tribute and allegory to his goodness and power over death [omnipotence]), and so on and so forth. Without the two components of supposed all-power and all-good, the rest is secondary. And if your god fails, cannot live up to, and/or cannot logically or reasonably explain away his passive-aggressive stance toward allowing such "evil" and generally "bad" conditions on this planet when he is claimed to have all the power and all the goodness to make such things not happen, then god is a non-factor in life.

Indeed, bint alshamsa stated that a "limit" to god's power could be an inability to create or make evil.... But god's passive-aggressive stance alone is enough to know, even if he does "pass the buck" as it were (even as creator of everything) onto his creation, it boils down to two basic points:

1. Being an observer of evil and doing nothing about it is the same as committing the crime yourself... Perhaps even worse, as knowing that if you did act it would stop the evil, and still doing nothing, you have committed two evils...

2. God knows (or, at least the people who invented god knew) that unless you have a bad to compare him against, you would have no clue as to what good was. Therefore, for god to have all his glory revealed (as it were), he could hem and haw (or, that is, any Christian could) that he wouldn't be able to do evil or create evil, god nonetheless wouldn't be able to be viewed as good unless he allowed evil and bad for his creation to compare against, thus allowing evil (and passively-aggressively creating it) in order for him to look good...

Either way, god turns out petty, shallow, and egomaniacally challenged...

In chess, it won't matter one lick if you know which pieces move how unless you know the basics: it's a game, and there are two sides...

Who said there are only two sides? The guy who created the game (i.e., god). Who said you can only move within certain boundaries and in certain ways in order to obey the "rules"? The guy who created the game (i.e., god). Why is there only black versus white? Ask the guy who created the game...

And while some of us have moved beyond chess (and, in fact, have decided to stop playing the game altogether) and decided to look beyond the black and white checks to the not-so-simple black-and-white world beyond, some of you insist that we are all still playing....

And we are breaking the rules...

Why?

Rodolfo said...

#1: Sin.

Death and suffering are the result of Sin. (Capital 'S'.) The consequences of sin are unavoidable.

This never made any sense to me. Original sin supposedly occurred during Adam and Eve's happy days. Was Eve allowed by bible god to finally have children only after having eaten an apple? Are children considered a consequence of original sin in the Christian world-view? Pretty disturbing. And why does death have to be a consequence of sin? When a loved one succumbs from an incurable disease isn't it much better to think of their death as an end to their suffering instead of a consequence for having sinned?

Skywolf said...

Bint Alshamsa said: Not that you're obligated to do so, but I'd like it if you could kinda tell me what passage you're referring to with regards to God's omnipotence.

I think Jason pretty much covered it, really (thanks, Jason!). I can't remember the exact passage, and haven't really got time right now to rifle through my old Bible trying to find it, but I also had that verse about God being the great 'I Am' in mind. That certainly implies that he is everything, does everything, and knows everything, if I remember it rightly. But, as you said, versions of the Bible differ so greatly that there's no real way to define passages across the board. Which is one of the reasons why the view of it as the unchanging, inspired Word of God seems like such nonsense to me. Even multiple translations into the same language can't seem to agree...

And while some of us have moved beyond chess (and, in fact, have decided to stop playing the game altogether) and decided to look beyond the black and white checks to the not-so-simple black-and-white world beyond, some of you insist that we are all still playing....

And we are breaking the rules...

Why?


I loved this, Jason. Very well put.

CyberKitten said...

laughing boy said: Death and suffering are the result of Sin. (Capital 'S'.) The consequences of sin are unavoidable.

So what about those who have yet to Sin? How does Sin explain the suffering & death of very young children - presumably too young to Sin. If they have 'inherited' their Sin from their ancestors (Adam & Eve) then God is Unjust (with a Capital U). Should we be held responsible for the actions of our Ancestors? Is it Justice to punish the living for the actions of the LONG dead? If you can argue that we are responsible for their actions & should therefore be punished for things that happened before we were born... well, you're a better man than me.

laughing boy said: People are depraved by choice. They act accordingly. What do you expect? Does a 'good' judge let convicted criminals go free? No. A good judge insures that unlawful acts get just punishment.

Again this does nothing to address the death and suffering of the innocents who die and suffer every day. Why do they deserve punishment? What have they done 'wrong' apart from being born (or not if you take into account the number of pregnancies that never make it to full term). How is the death & suffering of innocents the act of a Just God?

laughing boy said: What's the most loving thing a person can do? Help a person in need, especially a person who can not repay the kindness. If nobody was in need, how could we help, how could we be good?

So people must suffer so we can help them? The only way we can be Good is for other people to suffer & die? If that is the case maybe we should give up on the idea of Goodness. Can we not help people without them suffering first? Is that not Good?

laughing boy said: If this life is all there is, these inequities would pose serious problems for a worldview that proposed a good and just God. Christianty does not see this life as the be-all and end-all of our existence. Therefore, suffering in this life can bring about good even if it that good is not realized in this life.

So, if only we took the LONG view of life then suffering in the here and now would seem to be worth it? In other words "The End justifies The Means"..? Suffering & death *now* might mean a better life for future generations.... Or suffering & death *now* will be compensated for in the 'Afterlife'....? Isn't that just another way of telling people to grin & bear it? To tell people to stop complaining.... that there will be jam for everyone tomorrow... just not for those who are suffering and dying right *now*?

laughing boy said: There are other aspects of God's nature and His revelation that I could mention, but it's your turn. What's your explanation?

My explanation for death & suffering....?

Well, all things die - it's just a matter of when.

There are bad people in the world who cause death & suffering.

There are accidents, diseases and disasters. We live on a dynamic shifting world so should not be surprised that earthquakes and hurricanes happen. When people are in their paths they die and suffer.

Death & suffering are part of life. We can't do very much about the Death part - though we can postpone it if we're lucky, smart or rich enough.

We can reduce the amount of suffering in our own lives & in the world. Science & medicine in particular has reduced human suffering and will presumably continue to do so. I imagine that we'll have Death & suffering for quite some time yet... but we should do what we can to reduce their impact. That's all we can really do.

Laughing Boy said...

jason hughes said...

Without the two components of supposed all-power and all-good, the rest is secondary.

Perhaps, but saying that God cannot be all-powerful and all-good because there is suffering in the world is an argument you can't support. Neither can atheist philosophers, which is why they abandoned it more than 40 years ago. See "The Miracle of Theism" by J. L. Mackie. (1982)

1. Being an observer of evil and doing nothing about it is the same as committing the crime yourself.

Are you absolutely sure there can be no morally-justifiable reason why a person would not intervene to stop some evil act?

2. ...thus allowing evil...in order for him to look good

Regardless of whether God exists or He was invented, the theologically-acknowledged source of evil is the will of free moral agents. Even so, seeing what evil is probably creates a more deeply ingrained sense of good. We appreciate our health when we understand sickness. I doubt that evil exists for this reason, I don't think there is much biblical support for the idea, but if it's necessary for us to see evil to know good, then it might be worth it.


skywolf said...

But, as you said, versions of the Bible differ so greatly that there's no real way to define passages across the board.

Really? I have many versions and they don't differ greatly at all. Can you give examples?

***

I have to go but I hope to respond to other comments soon. Thanks.

Skywolf said...

Really? I have many versions and they don't differ greatly at all. Can you give examples?

Well, I was responding to Bint Alshamsa's comment regarding the lack of the word 'omnipotent' in the versions of the Bible he (she?) has used. I think when we're dealing with a term as huge and central to mainstream Christian belief as the all-powerful nature of God, it can be considered a great difference in translation if one version defines God as omnipotent and another makes no such use of the term.

If Bint is willing and able to question the nature and breadth of God's omnipotence whilst using the Bible as a religious text, doesn't that say a great deal about the variation in translations, given that mainstream Christians declare God to be omnipotent according to the Bible?

CyberKitten said...

laughing boy said: Are you absolutely sure there can be no morally-justifiable reason why a person would not intervene to stop some evil act?

Not that *I* can think of. Presumably you have an example?

laughing boy said: I don't think there is much biblical support for the idea, but if it's necessary for us to see evil to know good, then it might be worth it.

But I thought you said that we all have an 'innate' sense of right and wrong given to us by God? So why do we need the example of Evil in the world to 'know' what we *already* know? Is the exmple of Evil like a refresher course? If so it does seem rather excessive!

Laughing Boy said...

Skywolf: The word 'omnipotent' does not appear in the bible, but the concept is clearly evident throughout. Omnipotent is a word that was later developed to stand for that concept. According to my dictionary, 'omnipotent' first appeared around the 14th century. That's about 13 centuries after the last of the New Testament documents were written. Other words that don't appear in the Bible are Trinity, Atheism, Divinity, Incarnation, Monotheism, yet all these concepts are clearly communicated using other words. The variety of ideas people have about certain biblical concepts is not due to differences in translations and versions, but interpretation. If you say there are a wide variety of interpretations of the Bible I'd have to agree with you, but variations in the texts of versions (NASB, ESV, NIV, KJV, etc.) of the Bible are theologically insignificant.


cyberkitten...Presumably you have an example?

Off the top of my head...

Say you see a dangerous-looking character about to jump out of the bushes in the park and attack a female jogger. You're moral responsibility would be to alert her. But if you and the jogger were part of an undercover operation to arrest such offenders by getting video-taped evidence, then yelling out to the woman, and scaring off the attacker, would scuttle the plan. Such things happen everyday in law enforcement; criminals are allowed to commit some degree of evil in order to seal their fate in the courtroom.

I'll give it some more thought, but in general, arguments that make absolute statements such as, "never under any circumstances is there any morally-justifiable reason for not acting to stop some evil," are very difficult to sustain.

So why do we need the example of Evil in the world to 'know' what we *already* know?

I don't think we do, I was just entertaining Jason's idea, which, AFAIK, he thinks is the standard biblical position.

Jason Hughes said...

LB said: Perhaps, but saying that God cannot be all-powerful and all-good because there is suffering in the world is an argument you can't support.

I've been supporting it thus far in a fairly interesting argument against you... Until you have a logical, reasonable explanation for the apparent contradictions (being all-powerful gives god the power, being all-good would prevent him from allowing any type of evil... yet evil persists...), then I don't see how you can say I can't support it...

God is supposedly omniscient. Therefore, when he created this planet, he knew the suffering that humans would endure as a result of the sin of those original humans that he would create. He would have known that it would have been better for those humans to never have been born (in fact, the Bible says this very thing), and surely this all-compassionate deity would have foregone the creation of a universe destined to imperfection in which many of the humans were doomed to eternal suffering! A perfectly good being who creates beings which he knows are doomed to suffer is impossible.

LB said: Neither can atheist philosophers, which is why they abandoned it more than 40 years ago. See "The Miracle of Theism" by J. L. Mackie. (1982)

Please tell me you've read more up-to-date books... Further, while Mackie is a brilliant, logical, and concise author, the book *is* a bit out-dated in light of further advances in science and knowledge... And if "everyone" had abandoned it, then I certainly wouldn't be bringing it up, would I? :D

LB said: Are you absolutely sure there can be no morally-justifiable reason why a person would not intervene to stop some evil act?

Are we talking about people? No--we're talking about your omnibenevolent god who is supposedly *incapable* of doing evil due to his all-good factor... People can justify anything under the sun if you give them enough time and rope!

No, we're talking about the fundamentalist Christian perspective that there is an omnipresent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent god in the sky who is allowing evil despite all his omni-ness...

LB said: Regardless of whether God exists or He was invented, the theologically-acknowledged source of evil is the will of free moral agents.

Here is why your argument is weak. Even if we were to allow the necessity of freewill for evil to exist, would you not agree that your god is theoretically perfect? Yet this "perfect" god created a "perfect" universe which was rendered imperfect by the "perfectly created" humans? The ultimate source of imperfection is god, and god can therefore not be perfect, because the humans he created are seen as imperfect. To reiterate, what is perfect cannot create anything imperfect, so god must be imperfect to have created these imperfect humans. A perfect god who creates imperfect humans is impossible...

Additionally, god could have created humans with freewill who did not have the ability to choose evil, but to choose between several good options. And further, if humans are miniature images of god, our decisions should likewise be perfect! If something is perfect, nothing imperfect can come from it, let alone the "evil" of which is claimed is not part of god!

LB said: I have many versions and they don't differ greatly at all.

Of course they all vary! Otherwise, they wouldn't be called "different translations..." Just because you happen to *read the same meaning* into several *different translations* doesn't mean they don't differ--it simply means your worldview isn’t greatly changed, or even impacted, by the obvious differences you read. You are either ignoring the differences, or reading into the differences in order to obtain (retain?) the same meaning you previously held from a different, earlier reading...

This is getting a bit long, so I'll go for now and check back later...

nemo said...

I didn't read all the comments but i just wanted to give my view points on a few things:

God does feed the hungry and heal the sick and whatever else your heart desires IF ITS IN ACCORDANCE TO HIS WILL and YOU HAVE FAITH THAT HE WILL.

Meaning that you must have faith that he will do it else he wont. Meaning that you must be living your life purely and not in sin - following his laws as you do the laws of the country you live in. Meaning that if you follow His will, he will take care of you. So all those who do not know anything about God (those in the uncivilized parts of the world), they are relying on the charity (love) of others (Christian or not) to be helped when they are in need.

That's how God works. Because if he just kept sending food their way they would have no need or desire to work and just sit around all day doing whatever pleases them (which would eventually lead to more sin) waiting for the food to arrive. Everybody has basic roles to play in life, and our role is to work for a living and to serve and help others. If God did all that for us, we would (as is our nature) be ungrateful and take it for granted and take advantage of it. Not give him the proper thanks for it either. We are called to help others. To do our part.

You want to know why people are hungry? Or why people are suffering? because there are not enough people sharing and helping. And probably because those people are not having faith in God but like some of you are ignoring him and his laws altogether.

God helps those who ask in faith believing that he will. So if you already from the start have doubt that he is even there, then dear atheist, you have no chance anyway of seeing His light in this world and receiving the blessings of his providence. It all starts with faith in Him. Without that he wont be revealed in your life.

That is why it is our duty as Christians to teach the Word of God also so that more people may benefit from knowing God. In the end its all your choice, you choose to turn from God then don't whine about whats going wrong in the world. You have chosen to be part of the problem.

What i don't understand is why so many people who don't believe make it their mission to talk about this every day?

Its a spiritual issue. If you don't think that God exists then why are you trying to come up with logical or even scientific answers for something that is not scientific but spiritual and cannot be measured in a lab or with some human experiment?

There is a spiritual part to life, its a very real issue. If you are not on the one side you are automatically on the other. Meaning if you are not for God you are against Him. My fear is for those who choose to spend their days discussing whether or not God exists instead of giving a try at having faith that He is there and hears them and will answer their prayers (without doubt). Your prayers - if anything like the one on this blog - are not prayers but pleading, blaspheming, and full of doubt. Why should God answer those who have already in their hearts given up that he even hears them and in their minds - and even publicly are insulting Him?

Try to put yourself in that position... would you answer and do everything a "friend" wants you to when they are not grateful for what they already have? If you knew they were insulting you behind your back and spreading lies about you? If they don't even appreciate when you do do something for them... Would you carry on doing whatever they asked of you? i think not.

Don't expect God to be a bad teacher... he is only showing us how we are living wrongly and need to change our ways in order for things to change around us.

God being God set the rules for us and warned us of the consequences, you break the law you suffer the consequences, why is it so difficult to understand?

When things go wrong in the world its too easy to blame it on God when in reality each one of us can do something to make it better, but we don't. If we don't help ourselves and each other then why should God help you? Its called taking advantage, its called wanting a free ride, its called ungratefulness, its also called SIN.

God doesn't reward sin with good. Sin has its own reward... because sin pushes God away leaving space for the "evil one" to take hold of your life and cause chaos eventually.

Its very real. And very serious. And it's your choice. Don't complain about the consequences to bad choices you have made.

God is always ready to help you out whether your prayers are for yourself or for others, as long as you have faith in Him and in your heart you are pure in thought and your intentions are good. Remember God, being God, can see your inner thoughts and motives, you cannot fool him and then cry when he doesn't respond within your time expectations.

TO JASON:
God being all-good does not prevent him from allowing all evil as you stated.

Parents discipline their children, they warn their children, they reward good actions and also the bad ones with not so nice rewards.

God is our Father and therefor disciplines us according to the rules he set out for us in the beginning. We are the ones who broke the law so we suffer the consequences. You must realize that God (the way we see him in Christianity and even in the Muslim religion and probably others as well) is the only God. He is the Creator and therefor he set out the rules for us in Eden. Only one. We broke that, there was a consequence. Death would enter the world as a result. After that God started placing more rules as time went by because we just kept getting out of hand (kind of like the world is now), but in those times the people knew God personally, they heard his voice clearly, you can imagine that they told their grandchildren and great grandchildren about God and how they talked to Him. The more they moved away from God, doing as they pleased, they obviously must have had less contact with Him... to the point we are today where very few people actually hear His voice as you hear your own because so few are actually still walking with God. But my point is that these people had a full knowledge that God was there and they chose to disobey. Do you think that today people would react any different?

God set the laws like a government sets theirs. Whoever breaks the laws suffers the consequences. Same in the world as with God. God would not be Just if he didn't stick to His laws and discipline those who cause havoc, spread lies and generally don't follow the laws.

You cannot say that God would prevent all evil if he were good... because if God was good (as he is) he would have to be just, and he is.

You don't know the lives of those you all claim are "innocent" victims (of hurricanes, 9-11 and so forth). By whose standards are they innocent? by yours?

God's standards are the only ones that were set right in the beginning and they are the only ones that will count. That is the importance of reading the bible and praying with faith that He will forgive you for you have broken the law of a Just God and he will stick to what he has promised.

The question is not whether God exists. He does, whether you believe it or not. (but thats something you will have something to say about) The question is are you also one of those so called "innocent" who will suffer the consequences of ignoring God's law?

And again, if they were "innocent" and were living right by God then they are fortunate to have been taken away. Why do atheists see death as such a bad thing? Now, if they were not truly innocent by God's standards then ok, mourn for them, but don't blame God of taking innocent lives when you know nothing of those people's lives or where they stood with God. Only He and they know what was going on in their thoughts and where their heart truly was.

God is Good, but God is also Just.
We would best take a mirror and look at our lives before spreading lies about a God who will keep his promises.

Anonymous said...

*sigh* These debates will go on untill the human race comes to an end, except if people will start to realise that WE create our GODs in OUR image.

If you want your god to be omnipotent, then he is, by definition - because YOU created him that way!

If you want him to allow evil, then that's what he'll do.
Get that? It doesn't take science or anything to figure it our, only a bit of common sense.

Reminds me of a famous quote: "What do you mean a one-man religion? There is no aother kind!"

Enjoy the debate, it'll keep you guys busy forever...

http://zavibes.com

Will said...

The meaning of life from the Xtian pov is that we were created to worship God. Some of the Angels failed in this regard because they lacked character. To build character you need a non heaven and freewill hence our existence.

From my pov - we created God to give us comfort that death is not the end, evildoers dont get away with it, good deads dont go unnoticed, answers to difficult questions, etc.

Just apply occams razor and you get the answer.

Rodolfo said...

I think that these debates are different in one way. For one thing it's being held in an online forum. The content is much the same but the amount and variety of people it will reach is the question. Religious people who devote their lives to spreading the gospel won out in the popularity contest. These debates need to be heard and so far the most honest and open way to do them have been online. There are still people out there that are undecided or may not even have noticed a new debate going on and they are the ones that hopefully will come across a blog like this and learn a thing or two about these issues.

"Strange is our situation here upon Earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. However, there is one thing that we do know, that we are here for the sake of others. Above all, for those upon whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, and also for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy--Albert Einstein

DO GOOD.

Jason Hughes said...

Nemo said: I didn't read all the comments
Always a good way to jump into the middle of a conversation, wouldn’t you agree?

I’ll let someone else actually handle your mumbo-jumbo to the general public, and stick with what you addressed directly to me in the hopes of keeping this slightly briefer than it would otherwise end up being…

Nemo said: TO JASON:
God being all-good does not prevent him from allowing all evil as you stated.

Parents discipline their children, they warn their children, they reward good actions and also the bad ones with not so nice rewards.


Yes, a parent thinks up an appropriate punishment for actions that go against “the rules.”

Nemo said: God is our Father and therefor disciplines us according to the rules he set out for us in the beginning. We are the ones who broke the law so we suffer the consequences.

So you have no issue being the scapegoat for Eve supposedly want *knowledge*? You take no umbrage at the fact that god purposefully made the first power couple ignorant of good and evil, and now god is punishing *everyone* for Eve doing something wrong when she didn’t even know eating the damn fruit would be wrong—that she didn’t even know it would be wrong to disobey god?!?!?!?! I’m really hoping you see the obvious contradictions in the story as it was related to you in Sunday school… If she didn’t know right from wrong, good from evil, she wouldn’t have known it would be wrong to disobey god, and therefore, god is NOT just in punishing her, let alone Adam and all subsequent humanity FOR SOMETHING GOD HADN’T EVEN GIVEN THEM THE KNOWLEDGE FOR!!!!

Further, you couldn’t PAY me enough to be a scapegoat for something my great-great-grandparents had done—how can you possibly be guilty of something they did? Are you freakin’ kidding me?

Nemo said: You must realize that God (the way we see him in Christianity and even in the Muslim religion and probably others as well) is the only God.

You must realize I don’t subscribe to a higher power—I *do* realize that you seem to think there’s only one up there. I know a few people who think there’s more than one, and I know a few who believe as you do, and I know other’s who believe as I do. So, no, I don’t realize your god is the only god, but I realize that’s what you believe…

Nemo said: He is the Creator and therefor he set out the rules for us in Eden. Only one. We broke that, there was a consequence.

See earlier answer to this silly statement.

Nemo said: Death would enter the world as a result.

So a supposedly just god punishes a *finite* sin with an *infinite* punishment? Not only am I glad you aren’t a judge in the legal system anywhere, how is that justice? How is that “being a just god”?

Nemo said: After that God started placing more rules as time went by because we just kept getting out of hand (kind of like the world is now),

You meant to say: “Man started making more and more rules in the name of god.” Of course, an omniscient god would have known Eve would disobey him, would have known the murder, mayhem, and destruction that our creation would cause, and therefore wouldn’t have put the whole thing in motion! But are you telling me an omniscient, all-powerful god actually thought making “rules” was The Answer? Even after he happened to notice his “more rules” weren’t working?

Oh, wait, yes, that’s right—they were for *our* benefit, right? Even though his omniscience told him they wouldn’t work?

Maybe it’s just me, but your god is starting to sound more and more like the eternal optimist with a neuron problem…

Nemo said: but in those times the people knew God personally, they heard his voice clearly, you can imagine that they told their grandchildren and great grandchildren about God and how they talked to Him.

So now our ancestors are a bunch of schizophrenics that heard voices…

Tell me, when someone standing on the street corner in New York or some other city claims to speak directly to god and his telling you “god’s message,” why don’t you believe this and why? Or maybe you do believe every street prophet you come across…

Nemo said: The more they moved away from God, doing as they pleased, they obviously must have had less contact with Him... to the point we are today where very few people actually hear His voice as you hear your own because so few are actually still walking with God.

So Andrea Yates *was* obeying god in killing her kids! Whew, glad you cleared that one up for me…

Nemo said: But my point is that these people had a full knowledge that God was there and they chose to disobey.

Yes, because that makes perfect logical sense. Can you hear that conversation?

Moses: Excuse me, burning bush, did you just say something?
BB: Yes—I am your god. I’m hear to tell you—
Moses: Wow… A talking bush? Did you ever?
BB: No, I’m not a bush, I’m only appearing to you as a bush because you couldn’t handle actually seeing me… I think we had this conversation earlier?
Moses: Oh—that’s you, YHWH? I didn’t think you could fit in there…
BB: Regardless, you need to listen up—
Moses: To a talking bush?
BB: It’s me—YHWH!!
Moses: Right, right, sorry… You were saying?
BB: That you need to get the Israelites out of Egypt…
Moses: I’m sorry, YHWH—I know you’re talking to me, you fit in a bush, and you can do everything, even smite me here and now, but I’m not gonna. Know why? Of course you do—you have all-knowledge!
BB: Aw, pretty please? There’s a promised land in it for you….
Moses: Nah. Actually, I have Zeus waiting for me in a nice lilac on the other side of the valley, and he promised me Helen of Troy. Lemme tell ya, she’s a goddess compared to Sarah!
BB: But, Moses—
Moses: Oh, and now I’ve got Ra calling from the sun on line three—look, I’ll get back to you, okay? Promise!!!

Yeah, I’m sorry… You were saying something about how people who could actually speak to a deity were disobeying him…

So if god shows up in your bathroom tomorrow as shower drain hair and tells you to set off a bomb in the subway, would you? Would you have the guts to disobey your “god”?

Nemo said: Do you think that today people would react any different?

Yes, we react differently—we lock them up in institutions, load them up on drugs, and explain to them how there isn’t a god speaking to them…

Nemo said: God set the laws like a government sets theirs. Whoever breaks the laws suffers the consequences. Same in the world as with God. God would not be Just if he didn't stick to His laws and discipline those who cause havoc, spread lies and generally don't follow the laws.

You cannot say that God would prevent all evil if he were good... because if God was good (as he is) he would have to be just, and he is.


I’m sorry, I still don’t see how an infinite punishment like hell for a finite “sin” like, oh, I dunno, let’s say, lying?, is a “just punishment.” Perhaps you can explain to me why, as people who didn’t ask to be born, being held accountable for a sin we didn’t commit (eating the fruit) punishable by death, and also being held to account to a sacrifice we didn’t ask for (Jesus’ Roman-assisted suicide) punishable by an eternity in hell, a place god supposedly wants no one to go to, is a “just punishment.” Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Nemo said: You don't know the lives of those you all claim are "innocent" victims (of hurricanes, 9-11 and so forth). By whose standards are they innocent? by yours?

I would say “innocent until proven guilty.” And I certainly don’t believe in killing people for trying to make the best decisions they possibly can with the limited knowledge about the world each of us are given—what kind of a “just” punishment is starving to death when fate gave you the unfortunate destiny of being born in Somalia during a 15 year drought? You would still say that’s “just”? If so, you’re twisted.

Nemo said: God's standards are the only ones that were set right in the beginning and they are the only ones that will count.

So you claim…

Nemo said: That is the importance of reading the bible and praying with faith that He will forgive you for you have broken the law of a Just God and he will stick to what he has promised.

I have nothing to be forgiven for by him (mainly because I’m not in the habit of asking figments of your imagination for anything), but mostly because of the above comments and reasons set forth both in this comment and earlier…

Nemo said: The question is not whether God exists. He does, whether you believe it or not.

That’s a question that won’t be answered here, as

A.) You can’t prove he does, and
B.) I can’t prove a universal negative (no one can), therefore, we just have to agree to disagree on this one…

And, just for clarity’s sake, you don’t *know* he exists—you are just exercising faith…

Nemo said: (but thats something you will have something to say about) The question is are you also one of those so called "innocent" who will suffer the consequences of ignoring God's law?

I’ll have something to say about anything even remotely silly coming from a fundie… And I cannot possibly suffer the “consequences,” as he’s not there, and if he were, I’d call him out for the egotistical, sadistic monster that you’ve all made him out to be—indeed, that he is, if all you say is correct!

Nemo said: And again, if they were "innocent" and were living right by God then they are fortunate to have been taken away. Why do atheists see death as such a bad thing?

Who said we see it as a bad thing? We see death as a fact of life—you see it as punishment for something your super-great-grandmother did! And since when is it “lucky” to die?! According to you—IT’S A PUNIHSMENT!! (or did you conveniently forget that in your ever-loving desire to see the streets of gold?) It’s not “death: that’s bad—it’s how people DIE that can be cruel and unnatural. And if your god can’t see fit to at least allow everyone a “humane” death in all his knowledge, power, and so-called glory, he is certainly not a god worth my time of day, let alone my eternal praise!!

Nemo said: Now, if they were not truly innocent by God's standards then ok, mourn for them, but don't blame God of taking innocent lives when you know nothing of those people's lives or where they stood with God. Only He and they know what was going on in their thoughts and where their heart truly was.

So—now he’s omniscient again? But still too stupid to realize that setting all this in motion was his own stupid idea, and that, even though he didn’t want millions slated for a one-way ticket to hell (supposedly) for something ONE human named Eve would do, he’s not accountable in any way, but we are eternally for finite sins in finite time during finite lives… Yeah, god!!

Nemo said: God is Good, but God is also Just.

Yeah, we’ve covered that… I’ll await your response… I’ll pose the question here again just in case you’ve forgotten it by this time: Perhaps you can explain to me why, as people who didn’t ask to be born, being held accountable for a sin we didn’t commit (eating the fruit) punishable by death, and also being held to account to a sacrifice we didn’t ask for (Jesus’ Roman-assisted suicide) punishable by an eternity in hell, a place god supposedly wants no one to go to, is a “just punishment.” Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Nemo said: We would best take a mirror and look at our lives before spreading lies about a God who will keep his promises.

Introspection is always good… until you project it onto an imaginary god…

Good luck with that…

bint alshamsa said...

Cyberkitten,

Sorry I didn't get back here sooner. I haven't looked at the comments posted since then because I don't want them to affect what my feelings are about this.

You asked:
...and how exactly do those concepts 'explain' human suffering? How do they explain children dying of cancer? How do they explain people dying in hurricanes or during 'collateral damage' incidents? How do they explain much of what we see every evening on our TV screens?

I grew up around cancer. My grandfather had it. So did my mother and several of her siblings. Then I grew up and got it too. Over the years I've come to see that death can sometimes be a sort of kindness. I've seen people who have bodies wracked with pain but they are holding on to life, even when there is absolutely no way they're going to recover. It's a horrible sight to behold.

Some of us just don't want to let go. Can you blame them? This life is the only thing we know and even if it's a pretty difficult one, the idea of nothingness can be worse than the pain. I'm speaking from experience about the pain. I gave birth to my daughter with no anesthesia and required 40 stitches afterwards and the pain I feel every day is greater than that unless I dope myself up with medication. Still, I'm not ready to let go. But I think there comes a point where letting go is what we need to do. Concepts like eternal life and redemption make it easier for some of us to do that.

I know children dying of cancer. During our monthly activity with them, you see children who look like death walking in front of you. I know this might seem unethical but if I had a three year old who was sick like that, I'd tell them that there was a heaven and a God even if I didn't believe it myself. It's a lot easier for them to focus on getting better or, if that's not possible, not worrying about having to stick around just so that mommy or daddy won't have to deal with never seeing them again.

Having lived through Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, some of those other concepts come in handy, to say the least. In the Superdome, there were thousands of people living in the dark, with the rain pouring in, while the waters rose so high that you could ride a motor boat through the streets of downtown, less than a block away. These people were held inside at gunpoint. There was no running water. After the toilets had become overfilled, and people could no longer hold it, many had to resort to simply relieving themselves on the bathroom floors. People with disabilities who were lucky enough to have made it to the dome were often stuck without the sort of care they needed to live.

Yet, how did the people deal with these conditions? Well, for one, they decided to "hold church". Women would get together and sing religious songs and they went through the halls of the Superdome singing religious songs, mostly those from the baptist and pentecostal traditions. They did this every day. They'd start out with just a few folks but as they went through the halls, more people would join in and others would add songs that they knew. It became like a roving choir.

Sure, the people could have all turned on each other or they could have decided that they had nothing to lose by attacking the police (who were greatly outnumbered). Instead, they held on.

There was some crime. The very fact that they were forced to be there was a crime! New Orleans is a very violent city. There is a lot of territorial, gang-related crime that has been going on for many, many years. But there wasn't any gang violence reported in the dome during that time. I think, though I can't speak for an entire population, the concept of sin explains why some people will engage in horrible behavior (like allowing thousands to die while you played golf with your buddies, Mr. President).

Justice and forgiveness also went a long way here. When I saw my old classmates, from high school and college, on television languishing from dehydration, I felt really desperate. My family was economically-privileged enough to have gotten out before the storm hit but we didn't know who had actually left.

My great-aunt had never left for a hurricane in all of her years living in the city. Did her daughter convince her to leave this time? We had no way of knowing because no one's cell phones were working. My cousin is a firefighter and we had seen on the news that his entire company was trapped in their firehouse and the water was rising inside of the building.

One of my uncles stayed behind to take care of the elderly people who lived in one of the apartment complexes that my grandparents owned. It was nearly a week before we knew whether he'd even lived through the storm. Even still, my father was able to get a friend who worked for the government to take a helicopter down into my uncle's neighborhood a few days in a row until they found him and picked him up during a time when other people in the city had reached the point where they'd been forced to make the decision to either drink the contaminated water flowing through the city or simply die.

It simply wasn't FAIR. One of my psychiatrists once told me, "'Fairness' isn't something that you should ever expect for yourself. It should only govern how you treat others." I've tried to live by that but, you know, it's a lot easier to do so when you aren't dirt poor. This suffering was unnecessary. It was totally preventable.

Understanding that fact, if my mother or father or child had died, I know the only thing that would keep me from going out and getting some good old-fashioned street justice is the fact that I believe there is a God. When I am wronged, I can seek redress in this system but the reality is that the real bastards, the ones that cause thousands of deaths with the stroke of a pen, are usually never made to pay for their actions.

How do you cope watching people who are guilty of crimes against humanity just walk around enjoying their lives? Well, for me, it's verses like Matt. 6:14,15 and Proverbs 20:22 and Matt. 5:46-48 that really help.

Instead of just seeking vengeance, it says we should consider how many people we may have wronged in our lifetime and how we'd certainly hope that someone would be willing to forgive us. The Bible says that love is the emotion that should guide how I treat others because I am just as much a sinner as they are. Instead of looking at what someone else does and deciding that I'm a much better person than them because I don't do those things, the Bible says that I really don't have any grounds for being haughty. Even if others think I'm wonderful, God knows all of those things I've done and seemingly gotten away with so perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to call for others to receive the worst punishments available.

Anyway, I don't want to take over this space so I'll leave it at that. It might seem simplistic to some but, like I said, it's what works for me.

CyberKitten said...

bint alshamsa said: Cyberkitten, Sorry I didn't get back here sooner. I haven't looked at the comments posted since then because I don't want them to affect what my feelings are about this.

Thank you for your comments and taking the time and effort to respond to my questions.

Slapdash said...

Wow, there's so much here. Interesting comments! I wanted to pick up on just one point. Someone earlier wrote:

"Should we be held responsible for the actions of our Ancestors? Is it Justice to punish the living for the actions of the LONG dead? If you can argue that we are responsible for their actions & should therefore be punished for things that happened before we were born... well, you're a better man than me."

I would just like to challenge anyone who thinks it IS just and fair that we today are punished for the sins of our ancestors to consider this: if you are a white American male, and you are told one day that because your great-great-great-great grandfather was a slave owner, you now owe four black families $100,000 in reparations (pick your number), will you happily accept this punishment for the sins of your ancestor? If not, why not?