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Thu Dec 27, 2012, 11:19 AM

Why, God? (A thoughtful response by a priest about God and evil events)

When my friend Robin was dying, she asked me if I knew a priest she could talk to who would not be, as she put it, “too judgmental.” I knew the perfect man, a friend of our family, a priest conjured up out of an old black-and-white movie, the type who seemed not to exist anymore in a Catholic Church roiled by scandal. Like Father Chuck O’Malley, the New York inner-city priest played by Bing Crosby, Father Kevin O’Neil sings like an angel and plays the piano; he’s handsome, kind and funny. Most important, he has a gift. He can lighten the darkness around the dying and those close to them. When he held my unconscious brother’s hand in the hospital, the doctors were amazed that Michael’s blood pressure would noticeably drop. The only problem was Father Kevin’s reluctance to minister to the dying. It tears at him too much. He did it, though, and he and Robin became quite close. Years later, he still keeps a picture of her in his office. As we’ve seen during this tear-soaked Christmas, death takes no holiday. I asked Father Kevin, who feels the subject so deeply, if he could offer a meditation. This is what he wrote:

How does one celebrate Christmas with the fresh memory of 20 children and 7 adults ruthlessly murdered in Newtown; with the searing image from Webster of firemen rushing to save lives ensnared in a burning house by a maniac who wrote that his favorite activity was “killing people”? How can we celebrate the love of a God become flesh when God doesn’t seem to do the loving thing? If we believe, as we do, that God is all-powerful and all-knowing, why doesn’t He use this knowledge and power for good in the face of the evils that touch our lives?

<snip>
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/26/opinion/dowd-why-god.html?src=ISMR_AP_LO_MST_FB

This is one of the most sincere and cogent responses I have ever read.
This is a question that many grapple with. Even if you are not religious, it is still an insightful look at belief and the essence of an all powerful being.

28 replies, 1598 views

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Arrow 28 replies Author Time Post
Reply Why, God? (A thoughtful response by a priest about God and evil events) (Original post)
Are_grits_groceries Dec 2012 OP
wyldwolf Dec 2012 #1
uponit7771 Dec 2012 #2
gcomeau Dec 2012 #3
Shadowflash Dec 2012 #7
MicaelS Dec 2012 #13
Shadowflash Dec 2012 #14
NYC Liberal Dec 2012 #17
MicaelS Dec 2012 #18
NYC Liberal Dec 2012 #19
Shadowflash Dec 2012 #20
cthulu2016 Dec 2012 #21
Zoeisright Dec 2012 #26
Are_grits_groceries Dec 2012 #4
Moonwalk Dec 2012 #8
wyldwolf Dec 2012 #10
Moonwalk Dec 2012 #6
TreasonousBastard Dec 2012 #5
Moonwalk Dec 2012 #11
KatyMan Dec 2012 #16
TreasonousBastard Dec 2012 #25
phylny Dec 2012 #28
xchrom Dec 2012 #9
msongs Dec 2012 #12
OneMoreDemocrat Dec 2012 #15
Arugula Latte Dec 2012 #22
ZombieHorde Dec 2012 #23
Egalitarian Thug Dec 2012 #24
Ichingcarpenter Dec 2012 #27

Response to Are_grits_groceries (Original post)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 11:34 AM

1. Let's suppose there is a God and he is all knowing, all loving, etc. etc.

If we agree to that for the sake of this discussion, then our suffering means nothing to him. He is so far superior to us that our sorrows and troubles and tragedies mean as much to him as stepping on an ant means to us.

In my opinion, if one believes in God then he/she must also believe he is a callous son of a bitch.

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Response to wyldwolf (Reply #1)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 11:40 AM

2. or someone who has already mentioned that people have freedom of will and it will interject when it

...wants to?

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Response to uponit7771 (Reply #2)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 11:44 AM

3. If Newtown *WASN'T* "when it wanted to"...

...then you forfeit any right to label that entity caring or loving or assign the property of it giving the smallest crap about people. Bottom line.

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Response to gcomeau (Reply #3)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 11:58 AM

7. Exactly.

For the sake of argument, let's say there is an all loving, all knowing, all powerful and benevolent god.

One of only 3 possible things happened in Newtown that day.
Either 1) This god actively slaughtered all those children, 2) God chose to stand aside and allow those children to be slaughtered or 3) This god was powerless to stop the children from being slaughtered.

Those are the only 3 options if this all-powerful god does exist and in every one of those cases this god is certainly not worth any praise or worship. This god is either an evil and sick bastard or is too weak and powerless to confront and stop evil.

That's it.

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Response to Shadowflash (Reply #7)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 01:04 PM

13. For the sake of argument...

I'm not religious, but I'll play the part of a religious person for a few minutes. I have discussed this with religious co-workers, people who know their faith a lot better than me.

God gave us Free Will. He gave us the knowledge of what is Right versus what is Wrong, aka "Sin". He transmitted his words of what is Right and Wrong to us via His Prophets, His Commandments and His Son.

So if he gave us all these things, taught us as a parent should teach us, is it his fault when we disobey him and commit evil acts? Is he supposed to stop us every time we start to do something wrong? Then what's the point of Free Will?

Maybe he is not stepping in because he's saying "Here, I gave you the knowledge of Right and Wrong, now it is YOUR responsibility to do something about it. It is YOUR responsibility to prevent evil acts. Don't try to foist the blame on me. I taught you Right and Wrong, and you chose Wrong. Now you have to live with the consequences of your actions, or inaction. Now what are you going to do?"

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Response to MicaelS (Reply #13)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 01:14 PM

14. That could be the case. Absolutely.

If this is the case and god allows good people to die horrible and violent deaths at the hands of evil people through no fault of their own then I'd certainly say that he (it) is not worthy of the loving and benevolent title and, at the very least, is indifferent to us and our lives.

Again, not worth worshiping if he is leaving you to the mercy and whims of evil.

And what about natural disasters? There is no 'free will' involved if you are killed by a tornado or struck by lightning (unless you are outside!) yet god would stand by and let people die?

Not worthy of any sort of praise in my book.

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Response to MicaelS (Reply #13)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 01:47 PM

17. But god apparently does intervene all the time.

Whenever some horrible tragedy is averted, by some lucky chance (a shooter gets pulled over and arrested, for example), there is no shortage of people claiming this was their god's doing. And, similarly, what about miracles? Nobody goes around claiming miracles interfere with "free will". A

Second, since god created sin and evil in the first place, then it shares the blame. If sin didn't exist as an option to begin with, nobody's "free will" would be infringed. Humans can't fly because they don't have wings. Is that an infringement of free will? No, because flying isn't a choice to start.

Imagine if people did that. Imagine if I saw someone being mugged or beaten or raped on my way home from work one night and I said "I'm not going to do anything about it. This criminal has made his choice and I am not going to interfere with that choice." Would I be praised and worshipped as god is? Would people make excuses for me? I highly doubt it. I would hold god to the same standard. If it is within my power to easily stop a wrong from being committed with no risk to me, most people would probably say I have a moral obligation.

So if he gave us all these things, taught us as a parent should teach us, is it his fault when we disobey him and commit evil acts? Is he supposed to stop us every time we start to do something wrong? Then what's the point of Free Will?


Do you think if a parent sees their child (young or old) doing something wrong, they shouldn't step in? What if human parents adopted that attitude?!

Besides, what about natural disasters, the averting of which would have no effect on people's free will? What about disease and famine? Stopping those doesn't have any effect on free will. If god exists then it created hurricanes, tornadoes, cancer, parasites, etc.

If god gets to share credit for the good that happens in the world then it also must share blame for the bad.

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Response to NYC Liberal (Reply #17)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 02:07 PM

18. Some parents do adopt that attitude.

Do you think if a parent sees their child (young or old) doing something wrong, they shouldn't step in? What if human parents adopted that attitude?!


It all depends on the severity of what the child is going to do, and the child's age. If it's a small child, and the child has been told repeatedly not to do it, then maybe suffering a small amount of pain now, will teach the kid a lesson for the future. As in "The burned hand teaches best."

If the child is an adult and you disagree with the choices they are about to make, such as they are going to engage in risky or dangerous, but not illegal behavior, just precisely what are you going to do to stop them? Ask them, lecture them, beg them? Sure, but what if none of those work? But what if they want to take up skydiving? Or drive racing vehicles? Or buy a gun and you hate guns? Or become a sex worker?

Call the police if they are about to do something illegal, or hurtful to themselves, maybe. If they're going to attempt suicide, sure. But, are you going to call them if your adult child is going to snort cocaine, or do IV drugs?

How far as a parent are you willing to go to prevent your child from doing something you believe is wrong?

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Response to MicaelS (Reply #18)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 03:08 PM

19. Are human parents omniscient, omnipotent beings?

You cannot really make a comparison. If a parent were omniscient and omnipotent and know if their child was going to rape someone and, from anywhere in the world, could stop them with a snap of their fingers, I absolutely would expect them to do so. I would expect any person who had that power to use it. And I would condemn anyone who did not.

God had no problem "interfering" with free will when he "hardened Pharaoh's heart" so he could slaughter countless first born children. (Funny sidenote: in that story Yahweh openly acknowledges the existence of many gods.) He had no problem doing it when he got pissed off about the Tower of Babel and scattered people and "confused their languages".

And again: what about natural disasters and diseases, both of which god must have created? How do cancer and tornados fit into the mix of "free will"?

If the belief is that god created everything -- the universe, the laws of physics, logic, morality, etc. -- then it has a special responsibility. And if it wants to shirk that responsibility then I will call it out.

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Response to MicaelS (Reply #18)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 03:39 PM

20. That is not a equivalent analogy

It would be more like when your 9 year old, whom you've told to stay out of the road a dozen times, wanders onto that 8 lane highway. If you sit back and say 'well, he knows right from wrong and has free will, if he gets killed then it's his fault'.

This is the correct analogy and if ANY parent did that the parent would be prosecuted and locked up. Not worshiped or praised.

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Response to MicaelS (Reply #13)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 03:42 PM

21. Actually, he did not give us the knowledge of what is Right versus what is Wrong

We stole it.

That was what the fruit in Eden did -- gave one the ability to know right and wrong.

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Response to MicaelS (Reply #13)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 04:01 PM

26. Then what good is he?

What's the point?

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Response to wyldwolf (Reply #1)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 11:45 AM

4. Did you read this?

The answer he came up with is that God is expressed through our compassion and love. That works for me in many ways. Whether I believe or not, how we act is summation of our humanity.

For the record, I was churched to death. I came to the conclusion that God doesn't control our every move, and he could if he is all-powerful. We have free will. That takes many forms both good and bad.
My other conclusion was that God does care. He even sent his son to check us out and that was a hot mess. After that, we were left to our own devices, and he picks up the pieces through faith. Controlling the peeps on Earth would be like herding rabid cats.

Now, who knows what I believe. Maybe I'll puzzle that out. Maybe not.

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Response to Are_grits_groceries (Reply #4)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 12:06 PM

8. So god is simply the spirit of love and compassion? That's very nice....

...but doesn't that take the human ability to show love and compassion away from people? Leaving them only with cruelty and meanness? I mean, why is all the bad stuff (murdering kids) going to be blamed on us mortals, but all the good stuff (showing compassion and love) is going to be credited to god, not to us? I mean, it's very Catholic--"I didn't do this good thing, god did it through me..." but when it comes to sins, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! All my fault!"

Sound like a lame deal to me. Credit where credit is due. If someone is good and heroic and compassionate and loving...shouldn't they get the credit? Why should we give it to god, instead?

Which is all to say: if god created us--especially in his own image. If he is all and everything, then he doesn't get to skip out on the bad stuff and only get credit for the good stuff that comes out of us.

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Response to Moonwalk (Reply #8)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 12:09 PM

10. excellent points. I'll break it down this way

... when someone I know comes through surgery successfully, I always hear, "thank the lord."

And I reply, "no, thank the surgeon!"

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Response to wyldwolf (Reply #1)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 11:57 AM

6. As One who doesn't believe in god, I wouldn't go so far as that....

The problematic aspect of god is whether he is active in mortal lives or not, and how far that goes. Did he set everything in motion and just let it run? If so, then he is, at worse, an observer of all this free-will stuff, not callous but certainly not omnipotent. Omnipotent means he can do anything he wants and there's no reason for him not to do it--he isn't restrained, like us, by gravity or trying to teach our kids a lesson...because he's god. He can instantly enlighten the bad person and make them into a saint (see St. Paul). So why not do that with crazy gunmen before they mow down children?

The reason most people give for that "Why?" ("Why did god let this happen?"), however, is that they believe god does have reasons for, say, letting a manic murder 20 children...we mortals just can't understand why because we're not god. The problem with this is that it negates his omnipotency (see above), and that includes the fact that god should be able to explain why he let this happen. It doesn't matter how unfathomable he is to us as a deity, he is a deity, omnipotent, omniscient, and that leaves no room for the excuse we'd give to our kids of: "It's complicated. You'll understand when you're older..." Sorry, god can or should be able to do better than that.

In the end, however, the whole scenario seems rather spiritually absurd. There is eternal life united with god after our time on Earth....so isn't death a good thing? And what is the point of life on Earth anyhow? That is the REAL question someone is going to have to answer me before I'd be able to buy any of it. And usually, the only answer any spiritual leader has to it..."god alone knows." It always comes to that. Bow your head and trust in god. It's all part of his big plan.

Translation: Please don't stop believing in god and coming to our church because you've realized that god suddenly makes no sense at all....



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Response to Are_grits_groceries (Original post)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 11:49 AM

5. Interesting view...

I've read lots of apologia about why God looks on as we suffer and die but this priest, who has undoubtedly read more than I have, has come to the conclusion that God's refusal to interfere isn't the important thing.

When bad things happen (and they always will, God or no God) God, or whatever one's religion, becomes the framework for dealing with it within your own community. This can, of course, be done without the benefit of the supernatural, but having this eternal framework to deal with makes it much easier.

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Response to TreasonousBastard (Reply #5)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 12:27 PM

11. Actually, NOT having an eternal framework makes it easier...

...at least it did for me. Something pretty bad and random did happen to me. If I believed in god I'd be weeping and wondering "Why? Why?" I'd think I'd done something horrible to have deserved this terrible thing, or that I was being tested (toyed with?) some great puppet master. I'd have to come up with excuses: "I'll know why it was all for in the end...surely it'll transform me for the better..." Etc., etc. ad nauseam.

I didn't do any of that. Can you understand how *FREEING* it is to say, "Nothing is toying with me or has a plan, nothing is angry at me, or trying to punish me. My goodness or badness is not at issue here. All this is...is bad genetics, the ways of the universe, and the fact that shit happens. So. I will do my best to get through this and hope I come out all right in the end."

I'm sure religious people wonder what atheists get out of atheism. I can't speak for others, but I get a feeling of maturity, adulthood, and relief that I never have to tie my emotional and psychological self up in knots by wondering "why" this or that happened. I know exactly why it happened. And I know exactly what we humans need to do to stop it happening again.

Bringing in the divine, IMHO, all too often muddies the waters (i.e. god wasn't there, so the kids were killed; or god was there and the tragedy brings out love and compassion....). Pondering on the divine "Why" of it all keeps us from placing the blame--and the credit--for all human actions on ourselves. And this, in turn, allows us to be passive and procrastinate rather than act to change things.

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Response to Moonwalk (Reply #11)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 01:40 PM

16. Excellent post.

I'm sure religious people wonder what atheists get out of atheism. I can't speak for others, but I get a feeling of maturity, adulthood, and relief that I never have to tie my emotional and psychological self up in knots by wondering "why" this or that happened. I know exactly why it happened. And I know exactly what we humans need to do to stop it happening again.


Relief that you no longer have to worry if one fleeting lewd thought is the reason you didn't get a certain job, or if the reason your car broke down is due to the fact you didn't go to church on Easter...

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Response to Moonwalk (Reply #11)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 03:56 PM

25. Good point, but I haven't heard much lately asking...

"Why did God let this happen?"

The biggest question I have is how did the pissed-off, warmongering, always visible and interfering, vengeful God of the Old Testament turn into the invisible, peaceful, longsuffering God of the New Testament.

However that's answered, and it won't be any time soon, while one God sitting up there might be able to know about every feather on every bird, why would said God bother? Things happen and gods aren't into micromanaging everything on the planet. The Greek gods tried that, and generally made a mess of things.

No-- regardless of the Job story, God doesn't seem to care much how we deal with bad news, and certainly doesn't seem to be into testing every one of us. What God, particularly the Jesus version, does is give us a sense that no matter how rotten things get, it's never hopeless. He won't multiply fishes and loaves or heal the sick, but he watches while we do it.

Don't buy into that? OK, but it's a framework a lot of people do buy into, and it works for them.

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Response to Moonwalk (Reply #11)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 06:57 AM

28. I'm a religious person,

and I don't wonder at all what atheists get out of atheism. I don't really give it a thought. I assume atheists are living their lives the way they want, happily, I hope and expect.

I have no problem with the thought that God doesn't micromanage things on earth or in our lives. I'm comfortable in my belief, and have no problem understanding that people are responsible for the evil and the good. It doesn't bother me that people think of God as imaginary or mock my belief (here or elsewhere) - I shrug it off, there's no need to defend it. I never think of God as a puppet master, because honestly, what would the point of that be? I don't believe that God's will or divine intervention spared the little girl in Newtown who played dead while allowing the slaughter of the rest of her classmates. Humans are responsible for the evil here on earth, and human compassion and kindness are responsible for the good.

I feel very *free*, happy, and content with my life as well

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Response to Are_grits_groceries (Original post)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 12:08 PM

9. Du rec. Nt

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Response to Are_grits_groceries (Original post)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 12:36 PM

12. the christian god is a sadistic hating bully, incapable of love nt

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Response to Are_grits_groceries (Original post)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 01:31 PM

15. Great piece...

 

His honesty in saying that there is no way of knowing the answer and that the answer is always unsatisfactory is part and parcel of the faith one must have to believe in a particular religion. It must have been difficult for him to believe in his God in the face of such unknowingness, it's apparent that he's struggled with it.

I think his explanation is a good real-world view that actually places the impetus on us to get involved in others' suffering and not to simply helplessly wail and blame God for not stopping terrible things from happening.

Personally, I don't believe in his version of God but I do believe in something, I'm just not sure exactly what it is and it changes as I do.

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Response to Are_grits_groceries (Original post)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 03:45 PM

22. Reconciling this horror with belief in powerful or all-powerful deity requires one to

twist one's brain into a pretzel.

As Twain said, "faith is believing what you know ain't so."

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Response to Are_grits_groceries (Original post)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 03:46 PM

23. Perhaps the obvious answer is right.

There is no God. No one from above is looking out for us.

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Response to Are_grits_groceries (Original post)

Thu Dec 27, 2012, 03:54 PM

24. How is this in any way relevant or comforting to anyone except those that believe in

 

the imaginary, invisible man in the sky. Simply writing "it is still an insightful look at belief and the essence of an all powerful being" doesn't make it so, or insightful.

This belongs in the religion group.

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Response to Are_grits_groceries (Original post)

Fri Dec 28, 2012, 05:56 AM

27. God to Step Down at End of Current Term

HEAVEN — Saying that He could no longer accept getting credit for everything that ever happens in the entire world, God — the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful entity worshipped by billions worldwide — has decided to step down at the end of his current term.

The massacre of twenty-six people, including twenty elementary school children in Newtown, Connecticut, was apparently the last straw.

A source close to God said that He heard the various religious leaders at the prayer vigil thanking Him for His grace, His compassion and His love, and He just couldn’t take it anymore.

“He told me, ‘I did nothing. I stood by and let it happen. And yet they all heap praise upon me,’” said the source. “God went into a bit of a funk after that.” It was reportedly then that God decided it was time to fill out His term and make way for a more activist deity.

The problem appears to stem from a lack of communication between God and man.

“God has been causing floods, plagues, famines and whatnot since time immemorial, but in the past He would at least offer an explanation: towns were filled with sodomites, the world was beyond redemption, yada yada yada,” the source said. “Eventually He got tired of explaining himself.”

Instead, God just let it leak that He worked in “mysterious ways.”

“That was the beginning of the end,” the source said. “We could see He wasn’t going to be as ‘hands-on’ anymore.”

While God has pledged to remain neutral in the race to replace Him, He has dropped hints indicating that He would prefer it not be Cthulhu or L. Ron Hubbard.

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