The God of Suspect Praise

Check out the articulate author of The Parish blog and his reasoning behind his newfound agnosticism/atheism(?). I can soooooooo relate to this. Here’s an excerpt:

Let me be clear, I’m not saying “I’m a good Christian and I’m disillusioned because the church is full of hypocrites.” I’m not a good person. I find Christianity or Buddhism or Judaism or any other serious attempt at faith or ethics to be exceedingly difficult. I am saying that there might be a God, and there might not be a god, but until and unless something impinges upon my senses, I’m prepared to disbelieve almost any claim at this point. Why would I believe if there is no demonstrable difference between believing and disbelieving? If the answer to the question of “who is Jesus?” is a matter of heaven or hell, it’s a God not worthy of worship (leaving aside the absurd idea of worship). The hot, hairdresser wife asked me the other day about this newfound disbelief. She wanted to know why I felt free to disbelieve and construct a humanistic ethic. “Because, if there is a God, he has far more to answer for than we do,” I said, somewhat glibly. On reflection though, I think it’s true–at least it’s true if theists are correct about God. I also think I borrowed the phrase, but I can’t remember from whom.

And there’s the rub in a nutshell. IF there is a God, He (sic) does have far more to answer for than we do.

25 thoughts on “The God of Suspect Praise

  1. It’s pictures like that which make me wonder how someone can say, “There’s evil in the world because we’re all sinners and deserve it.” What parent would ever let a child suffer in that manner if s/he had the power to stop it? And even if the ‘we deserve to suffer’ is true, what does that say about a God who is supposed to be so much better and more perfect than us?

    In some ways, I wonder if those who so quickly mock the reason of, “I have a hard time believing in God some days because of the suffering” mock so quickly because if they don’t, they’ll have to consider what I’m saying. And if they consider it, they know their opening the door for their entire framework to collapse.

  2. Heather,
    Yes, it was brought home to me yesterday when I had lunch with a friend of mine whose brother was killed in an accident a few months ago. She said, “I’m done with God. You can’t tell me that assholes who beat and starve their children can live long, full lives without God’s intervention and my brother, who’s a good father, dies senselessly.” She was bitter and angry, and I don’t blame her a bit.

    You’re right about those who mock. If they ever thought about suffering of the innocent seriously, they would have to consider it more deeply. Any compassionate person would.

    Good to see you over in these parts! 🙂

  3. There are many Mark Twain comments which I like. This one fits this discussion:

    “It is plain that there is one moral law for heaven and another for the earth. The pulpit assures us that wherever we see suffering and sorrow which we can relieve and do not do it, we sin, heavily. There was never yet a case of suffering or sorrow which God could not relieve. Does He sin, then? If He is the Source of Morals He does–certainly nothing can be plainer than that, you will admit. Surely the Source of law cannot violate law and stand un-smirched; surely the judge upon the bench cannot forbid crime and then revel in it himself un-reproached. Nevertheless we have this curious spectacle: daily the trained parrot in the pulpit gravely delivers himself of these ironies, which he has acquired at second-hand and adopted without examination, to a trained congregation which accepts them without examination, and neither the speaker nor the hearer laughs at himself. It does seem as if we ought to be humble when we are at a bench-show, and not put on airs of intellectual superiority there”. – Mark Twain

    We have also witnessed in the last few days another fine example of the absurdity of the “God is in control” statement. Greenville, Kansas. A town completely wiped off the map by God if you do believe God is in control. Now why would God do this? Either God is sadistic and has no concern for human life, (the old he has a better place prepared for us argument), or he is not in control of anything down here on earth. The longer I live the more I am convinced that if God exists at all, he does not control anything here on earth. Nothing, Nada. If God is in control of this stuff, then he is cruel, sadistic, abusive and could be charged with negligence in any court in the land, just as Mark Twain says.

    I know that in the next few days you will see and hear someone in Kansas say: “With God’s help we will rebuild our lives”. Hmmmmm, I have to wonder why God didn’t help divert that Tornado in the first place? He sure didn’t help out much beforehand did he? Why would you expect him to help now?

    How can I as a father, neglect the pain, suffering, abuse, starvation and even torture of my children and in some cases even be the source of this suffering and yet still be called a loving father? How could I still be righteous? How could I then be the judge of all that is good or evil?

  4. Noogatiger,
    Ahhh, the cool voice of reason as usual! What will be even more obnoxious are those who will thank God for sparing them from dying in the tornado, calling this a miracle. Which of course means that all the prayers of those who died (if they prayed) were not listened to by God. Sheesh.

    I really like the Twain quote. I’m going to use it again.

  5. I actually know people whose home was destroyed by a tornado in Florida. They thanked God that their lives were spared – the 17 year old girl across the street didn’t make it though. I was shocked by their “thankfulness”. I wonder if they thanked this god for putting them in the hospital with a broken back. They kept on an on about how good he was – I just couldn’t believe it.

    I thought the Twain quote was good too, I’ll be using that.

  6. Mike,
    Oh my gosh that’s awful! The poor girl’s family is either thinking what we are thinking or, sadly, thanking God that their daughter died quickly. (shudder). Thanks for commenting Mike.

  7. **They thanked God that their lives were spared – the 17 year old girl across the street didn’t make it though. I was shocked by their “thankfulness”.**

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s shocked by this. It’s always a little appalling to hear someone say, “God was so good and spared my life!” when there are seventeen others who died. So God was not good by letting them die?

  8. Ouch.

    I have written only the last two days on the lost or abducted girl – taken in Portugal.

    Some question why the parents left their children alone for a minute. I find we have no time for that type of Monday night quaterbacking.

    I know I have lost people, well before that time.

    I can only believe they ascend before I do. And yes, that is after much anger at God and bitterness.

    But free will must come with a price, we created this world we have today,now perhaps we have to redesign.

    I am so very sorry for anyone suffering at the loss of another, it cuts too close, but I don’t want to give up, for if we do, what do we leave behind?

  9. SurfaceEarth,
    Yes, I read your post about that little British girl. So sad. It makes me so angry too. I’m not sure I buy the “free will comes with a price” mantra though. It shouldn’t happen, period. Some pervert out there has her. I blame him and assholes like him who don’t have any control over their prurient desires. And it’s if they can’t control it. Some repress all desires using religion, others let them loose unrestrained. Where’s the middle road? I think it’s because society and nature are breeding a strain of predators for whatever reason biology sees fit to unleash such monsters on the rest of the population.

  10. I used to buy into this free-will think lock, stock, and barrell.
    However lets analyze this a little more shall we?

    I give my children free will as well, within limits, just as you would probably say God does with us, right. I mean most Christians would say God punishes those who believe in him for their sins, right.

    However, here is the problem. If, in the name of free will, I do not protect my children from starvation, or offer them any help with disease, or shield them from tornadoes or hurricanes or floods or snow storms or volcanos or allow them to roam whenever and where-ever they please right into the face of danger and they die cold and hungry and tormented, then what would happen to me as a parent? Could I still possibly be called a loving parent?

    So why is this scenario OK for what is supposed to be a righteous, loving heavenly father? Where is the love?

    There is just something wrong here?

  11. Noogatiger,
    And THAT in a nutshell, is why I can’t believe in the God of the bible or any religion that claims it can explain all this natural disaster nonsense in with a paternal metaphor! You would be the grossest of negligent fathers if you did that, so we are back to “‘God’ has a lot to answer for.”

  12. Along with what Noogatiger says, the only problem I have with free will is that one comes at the cost of the other. Take the girl who was abducted/lost that Surfacegirl referred to. Her free will would say that she doesn’t want to be abducted, and thus it has been ‘trumped’ by the free will of the abudctor. So to me, the free will example doesn’t work in that case, because the girl didn’t have it.

  13. Lots of great points.

    I didn’t mean to imply that free will is an excuse for behavior, least of all the most contemptible kind. What I mean is that it is hard to just blame God outright when many of us down here can many times do things to help ourselves.

    To be frank with you, I was taken aback when I saw the comments and said, whoa….I did not mean that in a million years. Nor in the next million to come.

  14. Thanks so much Mystery. The situation with the little girl and how many other children suffering around the world saddened me greatly, as you know. Was distressed to see I may have poorly communicated what I meant by free will.

  15. SurfaceEarth,
    Do NOT be distressed. We understand you didn’t mean that. We all know humans are perfectly capable of doing the most heinous things.

    To me, the biggest “sin” in the world is hurting children. Talk about killing the spirit of love in the world!

  16. SurfaceEarth,

    **What I mean is that it is hard to just blame God outright when many of us down here can many times do things to help ourselves.** I can understand this viewpoint, and do agree. People can have the amazing ability to make things better for their neighbor, both in the neighborhood, nationally, and globally.

    But I do think the free will example can be a difficult one to use, at times, given my response to your example. Too often, it seems (generalization, I’m not targeting you, so I hope it doesn’t come across that way) that some Christians say that free will is the best thing ever. And that’s not always true, because one person’s free will can be used to hurt a second person against the second person’s free will. The ‘free will’ answer tends to be given in response to the doers of evil, and overlooks the victims.

    Now, I’m not saying you were overlooking the little girl, and apologize if it came across that way. You clearly were grieving for the situation, and had compassion for those involved.

  17. Heather:

    Thank you for your response. I understand what you mean about one’s free will trumping another’s, which is a quagmire I don’t know how to solve. I also appreciate that you had such a well thought out response, that in turn, continues to make me think.

    I am still thinking about the gift and/or curse of free will…starting to seem like a bunch of preschoolers on the playground with seventh grade bullies and no supervisors.


    Thank you for your kind words.


  18. SurfaceEarth,

    Thank you. I’ve been to your website and am very impressed. You’re very much a thinker. 🙂

    **I am still thinking about the gift and/or curse of free will…starting to seem like a bunch of preschoolers on the playground with seventh grade bullies and no supervisors.** It does, doesn’t it. There are never easy answers.

  19. I find myself regularly perplexed by this whenever I’m in town and see a severly disabled person. I think to myself “Why him and not me?” Don’t know. Then you hear the church-goers preaching on about how God loves everyone the same. Well, if God loves that person and is prepared to see them strapped down, dribbling and swaying uncontrollably in a wheelchair, then He is also prepared to see that happen to me, or my children. I find this on the limit of scary. Its very easy for me, healthy, white-middle class, to thanks God for my wonderful life, but that ignores some very significant realities doesn’t it. I have no answers on this one at all.

  20. **Well, if God loves that person and is prepared to see them strapped down, dribbling and swaying uncontrollably in a wheelchair, then He is also prepared to see that happen to me, or my children. I find this on the limit of scary.**

    Hmm. So basically, God only loves us as much as the ‘least’ of us — in this case, strapped down and dribbling. That’s kind of a sobering way of looking at it, and I’ve never put it in that perspective before. But it’s true: it is a frightening concept, because then you could almost be waiting for trouble to hit.

  21. To SurfaceEarth,
    I was just getting something off my chest about free will. It was not aimed at you.

    I have dealt with and confronted this free will thing for years, so sometimes I just react at seeing the words.

    My view is that we of course have total 100% free will, bounded only by the laws we create for ourselves here on earh, because I am not so sure there is anyone up there to stop us, or help us, or direct us. As internet creator – inconvenient truth Al Gore said, “There simply is no controlling authority”.

    Hey, maybe there is a God somewhere, I don’t know, and nobody else does. All I am saying is that if there is one up there somewhere, he is absent from his duties, and negligent off his creation.

  22. Noogatiger:

    Thanks for the reply note. As I said above to Heather and Mystery, I really found the other replies thought provoking. Made me realize also how easy it is to wrongly portray views on free will or the effect thereof.

    Appreciate your time very much.


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