sent in by Lord Hades
I wouldn't necessarily call it a crisis of faith, but lately I have found the resolve and courage to confront a very disturbing, yet liberating, issue within myself that I have carefully ignored and avoided over the last few years: namely, that I am not so certain, anymore, if I actually believe God exists, at least not in the ways that I have always been taught that He does.
The older I get, the less I find evidence that God exists in the ways that I have been taught to believe. It's an age-old circular argument that I have refused to answer, truly, because of what that answer would do to my perception of reality: if God exists, and He truly loves each and every one of us without prejudice or judgment, then why does He allow such horrible things to happen in our world? I understand the reality of war: people get killed by other people, even civilians. Even ants have wars. But when I read about the Holocaust, and the systematic rape of thousands of women and girls in the Sudan, and the torture and execution of countless Muslims by Croatian soldiers, it becomes harder and harder to make excuses for a God that is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.
If I understand correctly, God has power over everything in the entire universe, from the subatomic particles that comprise my body to the path comets travel as they plunge through the cosmos. So we start with an all-powerful being that is, reportedly, perfect and unerring and Good in ways that we could never understand; He is the embodiment of all Light, Love, and Justice in not only our world, but in every other world throughout all of Creation. If that is the truth, then why does He need us to worship Him? Why do we have to have faith for Him to move mountains? Why do we even figure into the equation of power? We often anthropomorphize God and claim that He desires companionship, that He desires our love and respect, and that He is like any other Father and just wants his wayward children to behave. Am I to really believe that a being capable of building an entire universe in a few days actually needs or even wants emotional gratifications that even animals are not bound by? In so many ways, this notion seems absurd. Isn't t it more realistic, when we think of our own evolution and development, that a being with such divine power would be beyond the need for emotional rewards such as love, affection, and obedience? The ancient Greeks and Romans told stories about gods and goddesses who behaved in the same ways: they demanded our respect, compliance, worship, servitude, and even lives. How does God, in the Christian sense of the word, compare to these pagan deities? It becomes more and more difficult for me to believe that such a divine being would really care whether or not I prayed to Him: to my mind, that would be like me expecting a molecule to worship me, and then becoming angry when it didn't t.
So we have a divine being capable of creating a universe for no other reason, truly, than to glorify Himself. Let s start with that. Now let s add human emotions and motivations to this being: according to the Bible and to Christianity, God is jealous (isn't t that also a sin?), vengeful (another sin?), and swift to anger (yet another sin?). He loves us (human emotion?), wants us to worship Him (isn't t this connected to Ego?), and will punish us if we commit sins (although His son already died for all of our sins, meaning that we have limitless credit). So now we have a divine being with total power, human emotions, and an Ego. Finally, let s add the problem: evil.
I have spent hours asking Christians questions that they couldn't t answer and it s been frightening to watch their eyes gloss over and their mouth twitch as they very conveniently explained: We don t have all the answers, but we have faith. You just have to believe! But then I argue: I do believe, and that s the problem! I believe that God is so powerful He could could've stopped that little girl from being raped and molested by her father! I believe that God is so great He could have saved a few million Jews from being systematically butchered! I believe that God is so perfect that He can erase evil from the universe with nothing but a murmur of His divine power, taking it from our flesh and spirit like a passing smoke, and leaving us purified without having to live an entire life of suffering and confusion! Yes, I believe, but where is God in all of this? Of course, when I ask this, Christians simply respond with a glazed look, a few quotes from the Bible, and a condescending shake of the head. Ask God, they say, Read your Bible! they say. I find it amazing that a Republican can answer almost every difficult question posed to him or her about President Bush and his failed War on Terror, and that a gay man can argue, with intelligence and evidence, that his sexual preference is biologically inherited and as natural as heterosexuality, but that I have yet to meet a Christian who can offer any sort of intelligent argument for their faith or their dogma. And, believe me, I don t think that people should be forced to argue over their beliefs or their faith, except when that system of belief is used to judge and segregate the entire world. So a Christian will tell me that I am living in sin because I am having sex with my fiancé before marriage. I ask her, Why? She responds: Because God says it s a sin. It s not taking place within the sacred bounds of marriage. So I say, Does it count that I love her? She says, No! Love isn't t enough! You have to be married! So I go away and get married by a Buddhist monk in Tibet, then come back and say, Okay, now I m married and we are having sex. Is that OK? She says: No! Buddhism is not Christianity! It s a pagan religion and closer to secular humanism and spiritualism than anything else! You are still committing a sin because now you are worshiping false gods! Buddha is not God! So then I say, But am I married? Can we have sex without it being a sin? And so it goes on and on until one of two things happen: either the Christian will glaze over and start quoting scriptures to me without any intelligent discourse on why pre-marital sex is actually sinful, or why Buddha couldn't t validate our marriage (I suppose love is only real if it s ordained by a Christian?).
But, I am getting off track, here. My point is this, and it s really simple: If there is a God that is all powerful and all-knowing, then He either decides to ignore the suffering of innocents or He simply is powerless to affect it. Either way, it means that I need to redefine my relationship to this God and how much of my life I am willing to trust in His hands. If God can t (or worse: won t) stop a little girl from being gang-raped in the Sudan and then bludgeoned to death by soldiers, how in the hell am I supposed to believe that He is going to stop my own son from being hit by a car or mauled by a pit bull or accidentally shot while he walks down the street? This has been the scariest thing for me: admitting that God does not protect us, maybe can t protect us, and that every day, every hour, we keep living is simply because of the choices we make in our lives, informed or uninformed, wise or foolish. I have reached the point where I believe there is too much suffering and evil in the world for me to keep praising a divine being that chooses to do nothing to address these evils. Children are molested, women raped, boys tortured, entire communities burned to the ground, nations gripped by poverty and famine, the poor oppressed, the weak abused and exploited, and all while God stares on: all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful.
In the end what shames me the most is realizing how many people, including myself, have used the mythology of God to validate their inaction and apathy. People hide behind God and blame Him for their own selfishness. I don t see armies of Christians sweeping through the Sudan, bringing relief and justice to the oppressed; I don t see churches donating thousands to alleviate hunger or poverty; I don t see Christians working to bring child molesters and rapists to justice. What I do see is a very convenient excuse for being self-absorbed: after all, if God is going to take care of everything, why worry about your neighbor?
My main issue is that, if there is a God, and He is all powerful, there is no reason, no hidden wisdom, and no mysterious truth behind the simple, brutal fact of human suffering and its seemingly endless cycles. Some of make choices to suffer because we are foolish, or selfish, or ignorant. But children? Do they truly choose to be abducted, raped, molested, tortured, and killed? Can a God that is filled with love, justice, and Light truly turn away from a single, screaming, bleeding child and still be trusted? What if it were my child? What if it were yours?
So, moving forward and facing my fears, my questions, I am redefining the ways in which I believe in God. There IS a Power in the Universe, but I am not so sure that I believe it s the God of Abraham that I was taught about.
Joined: I was born into it.
Left: I'm not sure that I have actually ceased - but I am wavering.
Now: Spiritualist, Mystic, Pagan
Converted: Again, I was born into it.
De-converted: We have to act if we want to live in a different world
email: hades3030 at yahoo dot com
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)