Sunday, December 26, 2004

Isn't God great???

Given that it's the holiday season, a season of giving and generosity and genuflecting (some before Mammon and others before that holy heartthrob J.C.), I can't help but think about this tragedy in terms of religion. I appreciate peoples' religiosity. I appreciate that they want to believe that God has the ability to affect their lives. But who wants a God that spends more time making sure that happy coincidences happen than he does preventing mindnumbing, heartbreaking tragedy? When more than 7,000 people die in tidal waves in Southeast Asia, it's hard to imagine that all that suffering is part of God's plan. And if it is, God needs a new plan, or we need a new God.

I mean, what are the options? Let's take an argument by cases. Let's say that God is omnipotent, and so had the power to prevent the tragedy. In the case that He allowed that tragedy to happen, and if we accept the humanity of those people that died, then He allowed, or even sanctioned, vast amounts of suffering. If we say that, no, those people are not quite human--as pawns in God's plan they didn't feel any pain and are rewarded in heaven, or something, then we do violence to the very concept of humanity and make charity and generosity and aid work all seem like one giant charade, since those people we're helping are not really human anyway. So if God is omnipotent, then either He is not benificent or some people are not human. If God is not omnipotent, then He is not really God at all. See the dilemma?

I guess the point of attack for Christians, and others who believe in a benificent, omnipotent God, is around that point of what we say about people hurt in natural disasters. Even if we argue that somehow man's free will lies outside the bounds of God's power, but we leave the natural world under his control, then we still have earthquakes and hurricanes and vast tornadoes to explain. So God does have some control over who dies and who lives, and over the magnitude of human suffering. (And, if you figure that God can control the weather, you'd think he would've had some choice lightning bolts for Hitler, the Khmer Rouge, Stalin, Charles Manson, so there's still that to answer.) So what do we say about Him and His disasters?

I'm comfortable with a God-as-creator concept, but not one that makes God some benificent ruler. I mean, if He is trying to be one, He is the George W. Bush of deities. And if God really is up there, poo-pooing everything I say, unfathomable and unapproachable, then I'm sure He can find it in His infinite good-will to forgive my wavering belief. I work hard to live a life that I think He would approve, though not for His sake, but for the sake of my fellow man and woman.


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