manicstreetpreacher assesses the latest pathetic attempts by believers at squaring the ultimate circle.
Further to my recent post on Pat Robertson’s theory behind the Haitian earthquake, I notice that the world’s more “moderate” believers are trying to make sense of how an all-powerful, all-good, all-loving, omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God would allow all this to happen. Evil Burnee, Paul S Jenkins, has posted to some well and truly dire attempts by the faithful to dream up excuses for their imaginary God, such as on Thought for the Day when “theodicy’s guilty vacuity was brought to a new low” by Giles Fraser:
…at a moment like this, I prefer to leave the arguments to others. For me this is a time quietly to light a candle for the people of Haiti, and to offer them up to God in my prayers. May the souls of the departed rest in peace.
The Earth’s thin shell was quaking and cracking millions of years before human sinners evolved, and it will still be wrenched and convulsed long after we are gone. These geological dislocations have no human-behavioural cause. The believers should relax; no educated person is going to ask their numerous gods “why” such disasters occur. A fault is not the same as a sin.
However, the believers can resist anything except temptation. Where would they be if such important and frightening things had natural and rational explanations? They want the gods to be blamed. After the titanic eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, the Muslims of Indonesia launched a hugely successful campaign to recruit terrified local people to Islamic repentance. Following the more recent Asian tsunami of 2004, religious figures jostled to provide every possible “explanation” of tectonic events in terms of mere human conduct.
It reminds me of the time that ultraconservative Catholic hack (and seemingly now a human punch bag for the Hitch!) Dinesh D’Souza attempted to make religious capital out of the Virginia Tech massacre of April 2007 with this god-awful post on his AOL blog:
Notice something interesting about the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings? Atheists are nowhere to be found. Every time there is a public gathering there is talk of God and divine mercy and spiritual healing. Even secular people like the poet Nikki Giovanni use language that is heavily drenched with religious symbolism and meaning…
To no one’s surprise, [Richard] Dawkins has not been invited to speak to the grieving Virginia Tech community. What this tells me is that if it’s difficult to know where God is when bad things happen, it is even more difficult for atheism to deal with the problem of evil. The reason is that in a purely materialist universe, immaterial things like good and evil and souls simply do not exist. For scientific atheists like Dawkins, Cho’s shooting of all those people can be understood in this way – molecules acting upon molecules.
If this is the best that modern science has to offer us, I think we need something more than modern science.
Have no fear by visiting the piece itself: it’s well worth reading virtually every commenter tear D’Souza a new one! The post also found its way onto RichardDawkins.net where the responses there were not exactly complimentary either…
One good thing that did come out of D’Souza’s reprehensible piece of trash was this beautiful response by an atheist professor at Virginia tech:
We atheists do not believe in gods, or angels, or demons, or souls that endure, or a meeting place after all is said and done where more can be said and done and the point of it all revealed. We don’t believe in the possibility of redemption after our lives, but the necessity of compassion in our lives. We believe in people, in their joys and pains, in their good ideas and their wit and wisdom. We believe in human rights and dignity, and we know what it is for those to be trampled on by brutes and vandals. We may believe that the universe is pitilessly indifferent but we know that friends and strangers alike most certainly are not. We despise atrocity, not because a god tells us that it is wrong, but because if not massacre then nothing could be wrong…
I am to be found on the drillfield with a candle in my hand. “Amazing Grace” is a beautiful song, and I can sing it for its beauty and its peacefulness. I don’t believe in any god, but I do believe in those people who have struggled through pain and found beauty and peace in their religion. I am not at odds with them any more than I am at odds with Americans when we sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” just because I am not American. I can sing “Lean on Me” and chant for the Hokies in just the same way and for just the same reason…
With or without a belief in a god, with or without your asinine bigotry, we will make progress, we will breathe life back into our university, I will succeed in explaining this or that point, slowly, eventually, in a ham-handed way, at risk of tears half-way through, my students will come to feel comfortable again in a classroom with no windows or escape route, and hell yes we will prevail.
You see Mr D’Souza, I am an atheist professor at Virginia Tech and a man of great faith. Not faith in your god. Faith in my people.
As wonderful as that article is, I can do no better than this beautiful poem by former Christian preacher turned atheist, Joe Holman:
I am God. I know your pain.
I was there for every trial you’ve ever faced.
I was there when you fell and hurt your knee at the age of three.
I was there when you were shunned on the playground more recently.
I was there when your mother was in the hospital. I stood by and watched as the doctors worked to save her life. I appreciated the prayers you sent Me to spare her.
I was there when mother died, as her immortal spirit drifted back to Me.
I was there when your family mourned her loss and cried with unceasing tears.
I was there when your father passed, when he forgot who you were, when you closed the lid to his casket.
I was there when dear Aunt Olga was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
I was there when she bravely went through test after test until her condition was finally confirmed.
I was there when she lost her will to live. I watched as the family pleaded with her to continue treatment and not to give up; I waited where her tears fell.
I was there when your Uncle Hank died.
I was there when you told your first lie.
I was around the first time you touched yourself; on that day, all the angels cried; on that day, you lost your innocence.
I was there, in the corner of your room, watching you sin. I testified to your inner-man that you fell short of My Glory, as a sinner, an impure and fallen man, another of Adam’s reproachful sons, wicked from birth.
I was there when young Ben, your childhood friend, was killed in the car wreck. I was in the driver’s seat of the other car, watching, looking on as a drunken man fell asleep at the wheel. I did not wake him, but said: “Sleep, you foolish man. Sleep.”
I was there when your best friend from high school decided to take his own life. My holy eyes saw the blood from his slit wrists run down through the cracks of the hard wood floor.
I was there when you wept at his funeral. Jesus wept too.
I was there when you sobbed uncontrollably, leaning on the casket of your bosom friend, pushing away the comforts of your spouse.
I was there when your youngest child was born, when it was said of the doctors: “Your son’s spine did not form correctly. He will never walk and will need surgery to live.”
I was there when the doctors performed the operation.
I was there as their hands took the scalpels, as every incision, every cut into his newborn flesh was made.
I was there, and I am here. I am God: “and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28: 20)
When the Asian tsunami struck on Boxing Day 2004, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was famously misquoted in a screaming headline by The Sunday Telegraph as saying that the disaster had made him doubt the existence of God. Williams of course immediately pointed out that this was a ploy on the newspaper’s part to grab the reader’s attention: the Archbishop was actually addressing his flock’s concerns with so much suffering.
A pity. For a moment there I thought that a clergyman had finally said what we heretics had known all along: shit just happens.
Tags: Archbishop of Canterbury, Asian Boxing Day tsunami 2004, Cho, christianity, christopher hitchens, Dinesh D’Souza, earthquake, Giles Frasier, Haiti, Joe Holman, making excuses for god, Notes from an Evil Burnee, Paul S Jenkins, Radio 4, Radio Four, Religion, Rowan Williams, shit happens, theodicy, Thought for the Day, Virginia Tech Shooting, where was god