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AdLib On January - 17 - 2010

Some Haitians are using this Sunday to praise God…even though they believe He caused the earthquake. Now, having a bit of familiarity with God (we first met when he needed someone to help him learn how to use his iPhone), I can say from first hand knowledge that he is bewildered by how people see him as “all good” and yet think he would also kill thousands of innocent people indiscriminately.

This brings up what has been a long endured frustration for Him and a bewilderment for me, why God is seen as both glorious deity and everyone’s 4 year old little brother who can be blamed when something gets broken.

Let me begin with this question. Why does everything that happens on Earth have to be the result of an intentional decision by God? Can’t it be just something that happens while he was in the backyard mulching? I mean, maybe a lawyer could make a case of the defective manufacturing of Earth but otherwise, why should a natural disaster be blamed on God?

Do we blame God when the fill valve in the toilet stops working? Or when we come out to our car to find a pigeon Jackson-Pollacked the front windshield?

I certainly understand the all or nothing philosophy that some believe. God is all powerful so he must control everything. Then when something goes wrong, why am I spending an hour on the phone with some customer service rep in India?

And in order to make that first proposition work, that God is both all-good and controls everything, a second proposition is required. There are a few that fill the bill, “God works in mysterious ways”, “He has a plan for us”, “He must still be pissed off  about being played by George Burns”.

The question that follows is, “If God does not cause the terrible things that happen on Earth, then does it mean He does not cause the good things that happen either?”

The answer is important since a lot of lottery winners, survivors of incidents and players on winning teams will be at a loss for words in the future. It just doesn’t have as much of a ring to it to say, “I’m so excited to win the Superbowl! I want to thank my Mom and my coach and most of all, I want to thank the random cascade of events that are sometimes directly or indirectly influenced by the exercise of free will, for making this all possible!”

Can there be a God if He isn’t responsible for everything that happens on Earth and if so, will his insurance rates go down?

My suggestion is that one need not abandon one’s religious beliefs to release God from these charges on his own recognizance. Otherwise, philosophers may ponder for years, “How big would a courtroom have to be for God to fit in it and be sued for Punitive Damages?”

Written by AdLib

My motto is, "It is better to have blogged and lost hours of your day, than never to have blogged at all."

60 Responses so far.

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  1. Chernynkaya says:

    Hiya, God! Guess what? You ARE God. So am I. Good to see you!

    Tat Tvam Asi! Thou art that!

    Ehyeh asher ehyeh (I-shall-be that I-shall-be)

    I bow to the Buddha in you.

  2. Questinia says:

    If God gave me enough money and the inclination to get double D breast implants can I say “Thanks for the mammaries”?

    Ker
    …..plunk.

  3. Questinia says:

    Because everything God does has meaning.

    Did you ever really study the Pollock splatter on the windshield? It said “How do I download ‘A Mighty Fortress Am I’ from iTunes?”. God is proud and doesn’t want to just come out and ask. God needs to learn to become more humble.

    Keep it green, God… and not just with mulch.

  4. AlphaBitch says:

    Hey to all: Just stopped by -- what a GREAT article this is, and what wonderful discussion it has generated. I call myself a Christian, because I choose to follow the teachings of Jesus (who admonished us not just to love our neighbors, but to also love our enemies -- no other prophet did this, to my knowledge). I have problems with Paul -- a great amount of distrust that no amount of research or comparison of teachings alleviated (instead, it made it only deeper).

    I belonged to a Tri=Faith Dialogue group, where I learned many things about my own faith by listening to teachings from other faiths. For example, in the Qur’an, Mary is one of the most highly regarded women. In fact, she is mentioned more often in the Qur’an than in our own Bible. Mary is also believed to be an Essene, a sect of Jews that I was never taught about in Lutheran Sunday School. The Essenes wore white linen, lived apart from society, were for the most part vegetarians and perfected the practice of healing the sick. All this I learned from a Rabbi! Does this sound somewhat like Jesus? Many Muslims believe he was Essene because of Mary’s family’s ties to Qom.

    Today I count among good friends a nun (high up in her order), an Imam and two of my best friends are Jewish (no Rabbis yet, but I have learned scores from my friends. I have fewer friends in my own faith (Protestant)than in other faiths.

    I do believe in a higher power/Great Spirit/God or anything you wish to call it. I’ve been lucky enough to have a “road to Damascus” experience myself; although unlike Paul, I do not profess to have answers or rules for anyone other than myself. I cannot nor will not deny that experience; it is what is my faith, not just my belief.

    Why do things happen? Shit happens. It’s that simple. But I have found -- from my own life -- that when shitty things happen, I often am presented a chance to react to them in a positive manner, or a negative manner. And how I choose moves my soul in a direction that can bring me closer to my God, or move me further away.

    It’s easy for me to be very judgmental, angry, self-righteous. Like choicelady (btw: you are one of my faves, lady!), I work for justice while trying to show charity.

    I believe when we face challenges, we can choose love OR fear. Not both. I pray every morning: Use me today, God, as Your hands and feet to do what YOU would have me do. And I close my eyes at night with the thought: Thank You, God, for this day (whatever it might have brought). I believe my thoughts and actions ARE my “prayers” each day; and unlike Paul, who believed that all that was needed for salvation was faith, I trust James, Jesus’ brother, who said that faith without good works is nothing.

    Thank you all for this wonderful post. It’s good to see respectful discussion on such a thorny (pun intended) topic!

    • kesmarn says:

      What a wonderful post, AB. That’s all I wanted to say! :-)

    • choicelady says:

      Back atcha, AlphaBitch. Which, written out of context, sounds AWFUL, but meant with respect and love! I always enjoy your posts.

      What amazes me about all of this is how incredibly, deeply, passionately kind everyone in this discussion is. It’s the nature of the Planeteers, to begin with, but we’ve just walked through the thorniest of issues with massive willingness to learn from one another and to do so without a shred of judgment.

      Wow.

      • AlphaBitch says:

        AB *snarls* lovingly at you! Because I am short on time (always, it seems), I don’t know exactly what group you work with -- have you made that public knowledge? I DO know you always have the type of comments that make me pause, and reflect. Good things. I’d like to know more about your group. I do know you are based in CA, that’s it.

        My “work” (never paid, unfortunately) with Afghan students, and now refugees, has great meaning and gives so much back to me. I can’t imagine doing something that didn’t, but hard times may mean a return to real work (isn’t that a bit like “real” America?) for me……

        I’ll never quit my meaningful work, though. Even if I have to prostitute my time for money. It’s when I get to *see* the face of God. It’s what gives me hope, and courage.

        I always loved the quote “Without justice, there can be no peace” which I believe came from MLK. “Knock ’em down when you have to”, my daddy would say, “but never forget to give ’em a hand back up.” (I came from a scrappy background with lots of boy cousins and only one sibling, who was a decade older. I was taught to stand up for myself, a lesson I am eternally grateful for.) Still a life motto, I guess.

  5. KevenSeven says:

    When Pope John Paul II got shot, he thanked The Lady of (Whatever, for those not Catholic, there are any number of “The Lady ofs xxx” out there, each one representing Jesus’s virgin mother) for causing the bullet to avoid any vital organs.

    Two questions arise:

    Why this particular Lady Of, rather than another? Was JPII looking to curry favor with this particular city?

    And if she could manage to cause the bullet to miss vital organs, why could she not prevent the bullet from hitting him at all?

    And remember, this guy was infallible. I’d like to try out that infallible thing. That sounds good.

    • kesmarn says:

      Good MLK day to all!

      And there’s nothing like attempting to write on theism, the problem of pain in the world, Catholicism, and the origins of the universe itself in the fifteen minutes I have before I have to leave the house! Throw in sleep deprivation and a work shift that was involuntarily extended by two hours last night…well, you get the picture.

      To cut to the chase, though, I have to say that I have not thrown in the towel on Catholicism, however big a fool that makes me. The pedophile priests, the abusive nuns, the Inquisition, the persecution of scientists in years past, etc.--I’d have to be crazy to say that stuff didn’t happen. But I also know that the Catholic church has fed, clothed, healed, consoled and educated millions of people throughout the centuries. It has given us brilliant theological thinkers from Augustine to Merton.

      To me, to say that the silliness or even perfidy that has afflicted the Church (indeed, any church) for all these years is not in itself a reason to chuck the whole ball of wax. One might as well point to a country (which shall remain unnamed) which has tortured through the centuries (from suspected witches to suspected terrorists), has held slaves, has disenfranchised women and people of color, has driven off and even slaughtered the native inhabitants of its territory, has initiated wars of aggression, etc. etc., and say that anyone who still feels any loyalty to that country is either a fool, a criminal or some unfortunate combination of both. “But what about all the good this country has done in the world?” one might ask. And that would be a very legitimate question.

      As for “Mary worship” in Catholicism. Well, Mary never actually has been an object of of worship among the faithful. But in some ways, she actually can be taken as a role model by 21st century women. Think of it. When she got the offer to accept or decline the job of mother of the savior, she could have said: “Let me talk to my rabbi, and I’ll get back to you,” which is certainly what any good Jewish girl of the era would have been expected to do. But she didn’t. She stood on her own two feet and said: “Fiat.” No need to consult with a male father-figure. That’s a pretty strong young woman.

      On the infallibility thing. Of course, it’s silly. And often misunderstood. It never has meant that when the Pope says: “Red shoes are better than white shoes,” he couldn’t possibly be mistaken about it. The official definition has been that when he spoke ex cathedra, after prayer and consultation with the cardinals, what he said was accepted dogma. I personally don’t buy that one, but…whatever. I really don’t care enough to want to defend that concept.

      There are a bazillion Catholics out there who respect Church history but don’t take their marching orders from Rome. I, and a lot of others, don’t buy priestly celibacy, the refusal to ordain women, the notion that it’s wrong to use birth control, the notion that homosexuality is a sin, and a whole boatload of other doctrines. But I’m also not going to let people who do believe all that stuff tell me that I’m not allowed to call myself Catholic.

      As in so many other areas, there are a lot of us who aren’t willing to cave in to the goofy right wing of any religion or country. Which means we’re going to be pretty busy people over the next, say, millenium or two…

      Now I really do have to run! Back later, I hope.

      • kesmarn says:

        Even though it looks as though I’m replying to myself, I wanted to reply to both boomer’s and c’lady’s great comments, and this seemed to be the easiest way to do that.

        For starters, boomer, there’s absolutely no doubt, based on your posts here, that you ARE a good person--and have been a good person whether in or out of the Catholic church! I’m about as far as anyone could be from declaring myself one of those “believe-as-I-do-or-go-to-hell” people. I’m cool with atheism as well, as long as it seems to be the result of an earnest search for truth, and not the result of a “lets-all-poke-religious-folk-in-the-eye-and-watch-how-saintly-they-are-then” prankish attitude.

        And, as far as your friends’ reaction to your divorce, boomer, I say “shame on them!” Let the ones who are without sin, cast stones. I do think, though, that sometimes there’s another factor at work in these situations: namely, plain old human awkwardness. If people sit with either you or your ex at church, they’re perceived as siding with one or the other--so they sit with neither. Same with dinner invitations; if they’re unsure of which of you to invite, they “solve the problem” by inviting neither. Sigh. Human nature at work…

        c’lady, I loved your rabbi’s joke about the mothering of deities! It’s like the other one I heard recently about atheism being a non-prophet religion. Groan… 😀

        Like you, I’ve had a great time hanging out with Progressive nuns. The order that runs the hospital system where I work is amazing. We have a group which meets about once a month to pray, share a potluck and discuss various social issues. These women all have their day jobs--as college professors, hospital administrators, chaplains or whatever--but they also volunteer at homeless shelters, teach classes to prisoners, and help single moms get educated and independent. They’re incredibly funny and very balanced people. Not at all the weird fanatics that are often the pseudo-comedic media face of Catholic sisters.

        The nuns (and my family as well) are also close to the Muslim community in the area. Here again: a group of people who work utterly without fanfare for the common good. They have housed and fed bunches of people in this recession-ravaged area. Muslim doctors have donated their services to the poor. And not to “burnish their image” in the community, but simply because their faith moves them to do it.

        So, yes, boomer and c’lady, I think we’re all in agreement that anyone can be a decent, altruistic person whether within or without a religious framework. It’s really about the sense that any given person can end up in the appropriate place after a sincere search for truth. Maybe that’s why the Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts” has been so enduring. It ends: “…to turn, turn will be our delight till by turning, turning we come round right.”

      • boomer1949 says:

        kesmarn and choicelady —

        I’m not saying I had a miserable experience because as the years went by, we belonged to a progressive-way-before-it’s-time- parish.

        I volunteered, was a Eucharistic Minister, played flute in the folk group, ironed altar cloths, taught CCD and Children’s Liturgy of the Word, went to nursing homes to give Communion. Our daughters attended and graduated from Parochial Schools; the youngest graduated from Xavier University in Cincinnati. So it’s not as if I sat at home and felt sorry for myself — far from it.

        I could continue with a litany of things, but don’t want to plead a case based on activities. Besides it was never about the activities. It was about a community, giving, being with good people, being accepted as a person before being judged by my looks or personality. It was a nice place to be in my life. It truly was.

        But, as most of us have learned, life isn’t one continuous “warm & fuzzy” ride. Shit happens. It did then, it does now, and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future. What’s the saying? “Same shit, different day” — spot on.

        That said, this is what I neglected to include in my first comment…

        We were members of the same parish for almost 25 years, nurturing some very solid friendships (10-15 couples I would guess). Our kids grew up together. As a group we followed our favorite pastor around the city as the Bishop moved him around. We were tight and close-knit.

        This was why it hurt so much, quite deeply actually, when my divorce was finalized. My friends (our friends) dropped both of us like hot potatoes. Stopped communicating, stopped sitting with either of us at Mass, stopped calling, stopped including, began excluding. And we were in a progressive parish for God’s sake. I can’t begin to imagine how either of us would have been treated had we been in a traditional parish. Perhaps like Lepers in a Leper Colony?

        I’m no theologian. I never could quote scripture, recite the Litany of the Hours, the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, the Act of Contrition or any other prayer strictly from memory. Okay, I must confess, I did have the Lord’s Prayer and Profession of Faith down pat. 😆

        I’ve done my best to be a good person, to live a good life, to do the right thing — simply because it was and is the right thing to do, to put others before myself, to be charitable. So when the shit hit the fan, I hit it too.

        Maybe my name should be cynic1949, not boomer1949.

        Regardless, I’m not saying I don’t believe, because I do. I believe there is a higher power somewhere and when I scream “why me, why me” at the top of my lungs, I am heard. I just don’t believe that being heard needs to be confined to the insides of a church, synagogue, or mosque or for the ears of a Minister, Priest, Rabbi, or Imam.

        As Gwen Ifill says in her promo for The PBS Newshour:

        We don’t tell you what to think, we give you the facts so you can decide for yourself

        .

      • choicelady says:

        Kesmarn and boomer -- both and. My closest allies in the world of faith are some wonderful nuns for whom the parts of faith are charity and justice, not the rules. I love that aspect of Catholicism or ANY faith group -- reclaiming Paradise.

        If we could unpack the rule book from the heart guide, we could be a lot further along the trail. My first and most important intellectual influence was a former Jesuit whose sense of justice was profound. His wife was once a Poor Clare nun who was equally devoted. But they were forced to choose between the order (how interesting a term) and life, and chose to live together, work for justice, have kids, and everything.

        I love the women of the Bible at the end -- the women were who kept the faith, stayed at the cross, cleaned and entombed the body. So why are they second class citizens in the church -- and pretty much all Christianity? I am not a believer in the DaVinci code but do believe Mary Magdalene was a disciple, not a prostitute reformed. She is the one I greatly admire, more than the ethereal Mary, Mother of God. But to do so, I really do have to have some historical and theological revisionism, which, I am happy to say, is transpiring to restore her to her rightful place. The others I cannot follow because they are not fully human. Though I do like the image of Jesus’ mother saying, “Let me ask my rabbi and get back to you.”

        Horrible joke -- why do we absolutely know Jesus was Jewish? He believed his mother was a virgin, and she believed her son was god. (MY best friend, a rabbi, told that to me.)

        The problem I have with the Catholic church is one I had with the Episcopal church. My late former father in law was a priest who used his bully pulpit to weigh in AGAINST the ordination of women. Why? It drove me from the church, and I’ve had a revolving door relationship with it ever since. In when they do things humanely, out when they don’t. Music is boffo though!

        The most base form of religion is not to be found in the Catholic church where beauty, wisdom, and kindness abound. It’s in the extremists of outlying Protestanism that labels itself “Christian” thereby saying the rest of us are not.

        Does anyone read Pat Robertson’s book on the new world order and actually BELIEVE that the federal reserve is run by a council of DEMONS? Is Bernake a demon or a front man for the real things? Where are they? What do they look like? This is INSANITY -- yet people believe it. Look I understand the real world is screwed up and we have lost anything LIKE meaningful democracy, but honestly -- is this the best they can do?

        Parts of Catholicism really bother me, but parts of ALL religions bother me. I had one of our otherwise progressive members tell me once that he could never trust Muslims because Islam had no place for redemption as Muhammad (pbuh) had no role as savior as Jesus does. Huh? That of course means that despite his progressive views on secular issues, he distrusts ALL the world’s religions and buys into personal redemption as the core of Christianity which, IMHO, it was not intended to be.

        I do think each of us wanders through all this in the light of what matters to us individually, and each of us finds what is good wherever it feels solid and right and true. It is not necessary to be theistic to be absolutely a great person or to be outside organized religion to be absolutely a great person. It is only necessary to be where you are most comfortable and comforted. Then you’ve begun rebuilding paradise on earth.

    • choicelady says:

      Dear Kev- After I stopped laughing, I realized how this sort of thing leads so many of us to have such contempt for faith and certainly rule-laden organized religion. You have asked precisely the right questions -- if the Lady of X avoided vital organs, yes, why not the SHOOTING?

      I thought the saddest thing was Sister Teresa’s struggle with her faith. She could not understand why God abandoned her and all the poor whom she “saved”. The answer was so clear to me -- she let the rules of her church dictate that she proffered charity, not justice. She admonished the poor but never the rich. She perpetuated the myth that poverty is just bad choices by the poor, not systemic power disconnects that smash the poor, grind them into the dirt, and allow the rich to exploit them. Had she confronted the rich, her church would have abandoned HER. So God did not let her down -- her church did. And she never saw it.

      When religion becomes preoccupied with Lady X explanations -- the very roll of the dice Einstein repudiated -- it loses any and all meaning for most people. Loss of faith comes from the high expectations that can never be fulfilled. You cannot crawl miles on your knees or pray enough EVER to stop the ones you love from dying.

      I once was a guest speaker (and dinner guest) at a women’s iftar -- the breaking of the fast during Ramadan -- at the Islamic Center in Los Angeles. We had three speakers -- a woman rabbi, a Muslim woman, and me as the insufficient Christian. We were discussing women as activists in our different traditions as well as the role of women in the faith. I noted, being not much of a theologian, that the other two had spoken of powerful women in both faiths -- REAL women, flesh and blood, brave and courageous. In Christianity, the New Testament, the women are superhuman. they are not real. They are visited by miracles, and Mary is perfect, without sin. All you had to do was ask my mother when I was 3 years old to know that was not MY lot in life! Christianity has sets of standards one simply cannot follow or, more likely, that you pretend to follow coupled with huge hypocrisy. (BTW -- after our talk, we broke the fast with the best dinner I ever ate. Get to know Muslims. They are magnificent, open-hearted, generous people with superb food!)

      The Catholic church used to have a program “Following Mary into the ’90s” meaning teaching Catholic women how to be more like Mary. How indeed! She was reputedly a virgin mother, the only one, who was taken bodily into heaven after an utterly spotless life. How is ANYONE supposed to be like THAT? It’s a recipe for failure.

      My biggest job, going around CA training people on doing advocacy for justice is having people believe justice IS a proper activity for Christians. We have such roots in charity, but that’s just the band aid. Justice requires change, confrontation of entrenched power and privilege. It’s very uncomfortable. So I tell the story of the village next to a river that suddenly sees (it’s always told differently) people, babies, someone in peril suddenly coming downstream in the water. The villagers rush in and save the (babies, whatever) and tend them, but the babies keep coming. Finally one villager says to the leader, “Maybe we better go upstream and find out why this is happening and stop it.” Charity is given at the riverbank for those in immediate peril. Justice is going upriver and stopping the wrong. I am the upstream person.

      So I have no room for Lady X and chance or whim. I don’t believe God does play dice with universe -- WE do.

      And Keven -- about that infallibility thing? You’re as good a candidate as anyone. All it takes is utter self delusion. Good luck to ya.

      • boomer1949 says:

        choicelady,

        I’m a long-time, divorced, and, as Kalima stated earlier “lapsed” Catholic; however, as a Convert, I am considered a slippery slope as it were.

        Back in the early ’70s, and as a requirement to marry, I signed my life and soul away to the Holy Catholic Church. Oh, and did I mention the Church demanded all my future children too? Everything had to be “approved” by the Vatican back then — sent to the Vatican for review and “official” signatures.

        Jeeze, wasn’t I good enough? I had been “good enough” as a Protestant for at least 20 years, why did the Church want my kids too? I came to the conclusion the kids were collateral — in case I screwed up.

        It wasn’t until I realized the “not good enough” had far less to do with God, the Angels, and the Saint Xs, but far more to do with a bunch of out-of-touch, old farts, trying to run my life by pretending to BE God, did I come to my senses.

        Telling me how to function in my marriage, telling me how to plan for babies, telling me how to live my life. What did that bunch of unmarried, celibate (HA!), out-of-touch, old farts, know or understand about my life (or anyone elses for that matter)? Nothing, zip, nada, zero…no clue.

        Because of the divorce, I’ve been on the “no fly” list since 1995. It bothered me at first, but everything coming to light about The Church in the last 14 years? I have no regrets.

        • choicelady says:

          Hey boomer -- should you be looking for a place to hang out that has the beauty of the Catholic cathedrals, great music, and a serenity but without the total hypocrisy, the Episcopal church might be nice. I love Christmas Eve there, Lessons & Carols, that sort of wonderful environment.

          The Episcopal Church: Catholic Lite -- all of the ritual, only 1/10th the guilt.

          However, that said, I do not belong to ANY church (Gasp -- you work for a faith organization -- how could that BE???) because one, I don’t have to, and two, I don’t want to. Faith, not religion, thanks.

  6. KQuark says:

    Your questions raise the very reasons I don’t believe in a supreme being in the traditional way at all.

    Einstein said “God does not play dice”.

    While I think the universe is exactly the opposite. Everything is based on raw probabilities and most importantly the fact that anything that is possible occurs.

    For example even if the probability of the Big Bang occurring is 1 in 1X101,000,000,000 it must occur over boundless time. If existence was impossible or 1 in 10infinity then we would not exist obviously.

    If anything the only god I believe in is that logic abhors nothingness more than existence. My logic tree is really quite simplistic if you accept that axiom.

    Why does the universe exist?

    Because obviously the opposite is illogical because it does exist.

    Why is there “good” and “evil”?

    Because all good or all evil offers not logical point of reference to what existence is.

    Why do creatures like us exist to see the universe?

    Because logically what’s the use of a whole universe if nothing can perceives that it exists.

    Why does love exist?

    Again because it’s possible and again gives us another reference point to perceive existence.

    Existence is the only purpose I need in and of itself.

    I say all this knowing my beliefs are just as “right” or “wrong” as the beliefs of others. In some ways I hope I’m wrong and there are things like just rewards and an entity that loves us all no matter what. Personally I’m thankful just to have this opportunity to exist and experience the wonders of Gaia and her creations and the universe beyond this world.

    • KevenSeven says:

      Logic abhors a whole lot of things…..

    • AdLib says:

      Why do creatures like us exist to see the universe? Because logically what

      • KQuark says:

        The Lindsey Lohan thing is funny.

        I really don’t know where you came up with the property concept from that quote. I did not even say we really affect anything by perceiving it in the grand scheme of things.

        It’s just pretty obvious to me that having a huge universe with nothing to perceive it does not make much sense since we are here to perceive it. It’s a truism. It’s as absurd as the whole tree falls argument because the fact is someone is here to perceive existence.

      • msbadger says:

        Thank you AdLib, for the laughs! Especially the last paragraph- you hit the nail with that! LOL!

  7. choicelady says:

    AdLib -- this is marvelous! It’s so much a part of my daily query, too, but yes -- things happen when God’s mulching. Or whatever it is God does when he/she is bored or needing a hobby.

    Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote the BEST assessment of this in his fantastic book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”. He asks why God would kill a child to punish parents for fairly mundane things? What kind of God is THAT? I also just get cold chills when someone survives a catastrophe and says, “God (or angels) was looking after me.” Or “We are blessed”. That SO implies that whoever does NOT survive is -- what? Not worthy? Sinful? Hated by God?

    Of course, if you’ve ever been around ultra right Christians, WE who do not believe will be “struck down” while, when one of them dies, “God called him/her home.” Yeah.

    Kushner makes your very case. God neither does or does not do anything. God is a presence, not a judge, jury, executioner. God may be the manifestation of love, peace, justice, good we all have within us, but that is SO powerful! Think about two totally unnecessary things: beauty and love. Neither, other than maternal care, is actually necessary for life. If those are manifestations of our ability to go beyond the selfish and material, is that not God?

    I am fascinated by (don’t understand a thing of) the order of the universe, with the underlying chaos of utter randomness. Is the boundary and intersection God? I am quite sure it’s not conscious and intentional, but -- how does order exist with chaos so we can walk on the dirt and know we won’t be blown away? KQ -- is that quantum mechanics? At any rate -- where mystery lives, there is God, IMHO.

    The capacity of people to know beauty, to be selfless and kind, to love without reservation, to create and to share all this with others -- if that’s not God, then what is? We indeed are more than just the sum of our parts as humanity. We are capable of creation of something fine and good. That may not require a sentient being beyond us, but we need to honor the incredible process and power of that, and we basically don’t have the language for it other than faith. We’re still pretty limited that way. Thanks now and then seems appropriate. Just to keep our hand in, so to speak.

    But a God of destruction for some and survival for others -- how petty a God that would be if it were His/Her whim. That version of God simply shows that we are limited, too limited, and incapable sometimes of thinking of things bigger, finer, better than we are or can currently be.

    God is indeed love. God ought to be what is best in us, not the pettiest. It’s why Pat and his ilk really have no conception at all of their own religious history, philosophy, writings, traditions. How arid are their lives. And how rich a life you must have AdLib to be able to think God mulches! I bet you’re right.

    Thank you, AdLib. Lovely, thoughtful, funny, joyous riff. Made my day!

    • Khirad says:

      Ah, but as Calvin said, “God adopts some to the hope of life and adjudges others to eternal death.” That’s how the fact that you’re saved and another (however pious) dies is explained away. His predestination is strikingly similar to Sunni Islam and quite a few Qur’anic verses. Though the Robertsons have other influences, Calvin is the big daddy of all that is wrong with fundies IMHO, though there are other equally odious thinkers, not to mention the books from which they cull some of these ideas have their fair share of bad parts, along with the good.

      • choicelady says:

        But remember, Khirad -- the most progressive among the denominations, UCC, United Methodist, Disciples of Christ, Unitarians -- all came from that same tradition. Calvinism is the fount of both the hyper individualism of personal salvation (although he began with the most dismal of views -- the Elect would never KNOW that until it was too damned late) AND what morphed into the Social Gospel pursuing the recreation of paradise on earth. There are also internal variants of Catholicism that have adopted the quasi-Calvinist view while Evangelicals and Pentacostals shunned Calvin for a kind of roll-your-own, get-right-with-God view. That started amazingly well with Roger Williams and Anne Hutchingson (founders of Rhode Island and original Baptist theology which was highly civilized) but got strangled and corrupted in the hills and hollers of the frontier during the Great Awakening (all of them) and the zealots of the mid-19th-C. awakenings and splinter movements such as those that arose in the “Burned Over District” the aptly named region around upstate NY. It was indeed ‘burned over’ with all the white heat of religious fanaticism. Still is.

        Calvinism gives me the creeps, but Puritans were NOT horrid people, were, in fact, amazingly egalitarian (save for religious freedom). The legacies of hate and repression and xenophobia and all the other phobias actually sprang more from the ‘charismatics’ and splinters of splinters deriving from Baptist theology than from poor old Calvin.

        There is not a single thread that leads to the Dobsons, Robertsons, Falwells, but you can tie a great deal of it to the fanatacism of these “personal salvation” tendrils that have dovetailed so beautifully with hyper individualist capitalism. Calvin is probably the least of the influcences.

        So there is the tiny theology historical lesson for today. There will NOT be a quiz.

        • Khirad says:

          I did stretch that a bit, did I not?! 😉

          No, of course, you are absolutely right. Do I get a free pass for being a little tired last night? Please? Christian movements aren’t my strength, but once you started mentioning all that it came back to me I had a great embarrassment for being so careless! It never sucks more than when you know you should have known better! I only hope the oopsies aren’t contagious!

          No, all I wanted was to use the Calvin quote, and then I took a great big reach. I’m actually glad you corrected me. This stuff is important to me and good lord did I miss the ball on that. D’oh! 😡

          And, oh yeah, the Unitarians made a big break with Calvin. But that’s the bigger point. Sometimes theological genealogy can be deceiving.

          • choicelady says:

            Nothing to forgive! I do this for a living, and I have barely scratched the surface of how all these denominations came to be. I have a dear friend who once noted that we have our own immediate lives, then a nation, a continent, a planet, a solar system, galaxy, universe -- and with all that it’s a little disingenuous to think God is a Methodist.

            What comes from the historical roots often does not resemble the origins 400 years later, so why should we be held accoutable for all that? Just good to remember that some things morphed into better things, and some just plain did NOT.

    • AdLib says:

      Loved your comment, Choicelady. We reflect on many of the same concepts.

      Yep, I’m just as annoyed by the disaster survivors who credit their prayers to God, indirectly saying those who died were less loved or listened to by God.

      As if God is sitting up on a cloud watching a disaster take place and saying, “Okay, who wants a Golden Ticket? You call that a prayer? I don’t think so! Come on! I can’t h-ea-r you!”

      And those Christian extremists you mention who would readily condemn the most altruistic, loving, generous and giving Jew/Muslim/Buddhist/Atheist/etc. as going to hell while admitting that child molesters/murderers/racists/etc. all go to heaven if they accept Jesus…may be surprised by their final destination.

      The early concepts of God were necessarily infused with the emotions and sensibilities of people of the time. So, God was conceived of in the mold of those who led religions and tribes. Back then, people and their religious orthodoxy could be very self-centered and harsh.

      The concept that a God who transcends our very comprehension would possess the emotional makeup of a high school cheerleader is a bit hard to follow. Insecure, angry and vengeful and wiping out people left and right, challenging good people to do awful things to prove they REALLY are devoted…I mean…anyone have a teenage kid?

      Here’s my proposition, if something is so beyond anything we can imagine, it is beyond anything we can imagine. Period. That doesn’t mean we stop imagining what it may be, it just means that we have to accept that trying to hang a white beard and white robes on something that transcends beards and robes is not the best investment of time. As is trying to hang basic human emotions, psychology and concepts on it.

      In religion, people who want power claim to know what is unknowable. How do I know this, I just know. And this is because, as Pat Robertson and all the other charlatans past and present know, knowledge is power. People will follow someone if they believe he or she KNOWS how to keep them out of eternal hell.

      Kind of like knowing a cheesy but supremely confident travel agent if you’re committed to visiting Idaho.

      People won’t follow the guy who says, “All of you who follow me will go to heaven! Probably! At least, you have a good shot! Unless I’m mistaken! In which case you might not go to heaven! I mean, who really knows?! Come to think of it, you could all be in a bit of a situation if it turns out the real God is Muslim! In which case, I wouldn’t hesitate to give each of you a personal and sincere apology for leading you directly to Hell! I would indeed be, very, very very sorry! Hallelujah!”

      So, in the religion arena, one must be as certain about knowing God’s mind as one would be about the Earth being round and revolving around the Sun…which most religious folks a few centuries back, who were very certain about how God thought, got a bit, as they say, wrong.

      As to God being a compulsive-obsessive control freak who has to do it all, burn my bagel in the toaster and destroy New Orleans, I think such a God would need some serious therapy.

      I’m envisioning a TV series on this, like The Sopranos. God is seeing a shrink for his need to control everything, his insecurity causing him to need to be constantly praised and make immoral decisions to kill innocent people indiscriminately through natural disasters…oh, and he owns a strip club.

      • choicelady says:

        AdLib -- we do create God in our own image, don’t we? And we do have a remarkable tendency to import to Him (and it is always a “him”) the WORST traits of all. Seeing God as you’ve described, as a narcissistic, self-induglent cheerleader, really sums it up!

        I am touched by the people of faith who see God as better than themselves and project infinite possibilities of good to which they then aspire. But you are so right -- who’d follow someone who said that everyone is good, all are loved, there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave or master. All are equal. Who’d follow a silly thing like that with no hierarchy of rewards?

        Oh. Wait. That IS what Jesus said. Huh. Fancy that.

        • AdLib says:

          One would have to go back around the time of the Hittites to find religions that worshiped Gaia or God as a female (pagan as they were later called).

          As one might imagine, these were less aggressive and hostile religions, more holistic…so The Hittites had little trouble conquering or decimating them.

          I remember someone saying that one person you won’t ever hear fundamentalist and/or Republican Christians quoting is Jesus. He sort of screws up their whole “Christian” agenda with that “meek inheriting Earth” and “wealthy man in heaven/camel through eye of a needle” stuff.

          It’s only Old Testament Hatin’ for them!

        • KQuark says:

          Not to sound droll, but God better be far far better than ourselves because our track record as a species sucks pretty bad.

    • KQuark says:

      Choicelady I always appreciate the wonderful aspects and depth you bring to this issue. I do not discount there could be a spiritual element even in my start existentialist view of the universe. Are there hidden energies where one promotes order and the other promotes chaos who knows all energies we have perceive so far can at least be manipulated for both purposes. The biggest thing I object to is the personified views of religion like people who think their religion makes them superior or people who claim they have a personal relationship to God. How can you have a personal relationship with God when A. they are an entity suppose to be so much superior to you (like a bacterium having a relationship to a person) or B. having a relationship to someone you cannot possible know since even believers say they know nothing about God’s purpose or plan.

      Regarding Quantum Mechanics and Chaos Theory. If you are talking about the uncertainty principle or the postulates that any possible thing that can happen will happen that is quite Quantum Mechanical thinking.

      Since you talk about the possibility of just being blown that that can happen with microbursts where a column of air just drops rapidly from the sky. I felt what seemed to be the outer effects of a microburst just one time in FL and it almost knocked me off my feet. I just remember feeling a very chilly wind on a pretty warm day fall on top of me.

      Here is a series of pictures of a microburst.

      I know your question was rhetorical but I thought I’d try to answer part of it anyway.

      • choicelady says:

        Thanks, KQ -- I have scant knowledge of all this but am fascinated the more I read. I do understand that microbursts (amazing you’ve experienced one!) lead to uncertainty, but I was thinking more about the high -- very high -- level of probability that we get up in the morning, put our feet down on the floor, and STAY there. This intersection of chaos and order is simply amazing.

        I will be chortling over the bacterium/human:human/God analogy forever. That is SO good a way to describe the conundrum we’ve imposed on ourselves! Nicely said!

        • KQuark says:

          I had a feeling I misinterpreted what you where asking. I should have asked for clarification. I’m sure there is some almost infinitesimally low probability you could fall right to the middle of the earth. But all the stars may have dimmed out waiting for that to happen even if you were immortal.

          In Quantum Mechanics they talk about even relative small systems going to virtual infinity quite quickly.

  8. Khirad says:

    Indeed, this has been a perennial theological debate for thousands of years, with too many different “solutions” even within respective religions to bring up. I really do have half the inking to expound upon them, but I’ll limit myself to say that I think an interventionist god proves hardest for those who espouse it to reconcile. Especially when a religion with dualism offers you an out, but only partially. Then comes the age-old debate why an omnipotent being allows evil: thus Free Will, etc… indeed the reasoning is often circuitous and I can forgive people who aren’t as intrigued by such sophistry -- as elegant and philosophically creative as I can find the treatises at times.

    I’ll leave myself to merely thanking others for their thoughtful comments already. I’ve got too much on my mind as of now as it is!

  9. Kalima says:

    I’m a lapsed Catholic, still believe in a higher power because to believe that we are the only life form in this vast universe is at the very best, naive.

    God as I see him, doesn’t make things happen or prevent them from happening either.

    He guides us through the prayers we offer, we find the answers ourselves sooner or later or maybe for some, never. To me people who blame God for anything bad that happens in their lives or destruction in the world around us are just coping out of their own responsibilities of being in charge of the path they chose that can either improve or in the end ruin their own lives.

    A murderer says, “God made me do it” I say oh please, pull the other leg, it’s got bells on.
    People praying by shouting out loud in a church for Obama to fail, I say, God is not deaf and you have just sealed your own fate with your hatred.

    To Pat, who says he talks to God and that God talks to him I say, Pat, you say things out loud like you have a rabid case of verbal diarrhea, things that a true Christian would never even think. The voices in your head are your own voice and not the voice of God, he wouldn’t spend a nanosecond of his time on you, you go against everything that Jesus preached and tried to teach us, you are a disgrace to the the human race and I wish you an eternity of listening to your own BS over and over again.

    Asking for things like winning the lottery or being rich will not reach his ears. Prayers for unity in this world of endless turmoil might, if enough people thought more about others than they do about themselves.

    I have no time for people who either blame God or praise him for things that are on the cards to happen anyway. We can’t control nature, it is much more forceful than all the people put together on this Planet of ours, it always has been. Maybe instead of fearing God, they should be fearing what progress by man has done to this once plentiful earth instead of complaining about or using God as excuse for their own shortcomings. The world would be a much better place for all of us I believe.

    My apologies God, these people are weak and make me hopping mad. Now I will promise to pray much more if you will make me better, so tired of being sick. J/K that would be something I would and have said as a child, but never as an adult, sorry about that. :(

    • KQuark says:

      A non specific phrase like “higher power” is a much better explanation of what a god would be like for me to accept.

      It seems like people are excellent blame machines. I guess the reason I don’t need religion in many ways is because I don’t blame anyone or anything for even the worse things that happened to me.

      The only people I blame in the world are people that don’t want to progress as a species or those that want to hate. There’s enough blame for them to go around anyway.

      I also accept that in the natural world stuff just happens based on probabilities not because there is malfeasance behind what happens.

    • AdLib says:

      I don’t see how selfishness ever mixes with true spirituality and those who use God as a wishing well for parking spaces or to bring them wealth seem far less in touch with spirituality than atheists.

      People have exploited religion since the beginning, such exploitation is well entrenched in our civilization at this point and isn’t going anywhere.

      However. the enlightened can speak out against those who would use it to make themselves wealthy and give themselves power.

      Maybe the trickle down effect would be the message that spirituality isn’t about you as an individual getting things, it’s about perspective, you as an individual finding a connection between everyone and everything else and you.

      Even from a strictly scientific perspective, we are all indeed made from the elements and atoms that were once the stuff of stars. Our genetics prove we have an enormous amount in common with every person on the planet, let alone other living things.

      I think it would be the communal seeing of God/the Universe in every other human being that could bring people together and lead them to the next level of development as human beings and a civilization.

      Meanwhile, don’t ever feel self conscious about praying or wanting to feel better…you have many people who sincerely want that for you too.

      • Kalima says:

        My own journey with true spirituality started after I could no longer attend Mass on Sundays or in fact any day. I began to see that I didn’t need a Church to be a good Christian, the part about being kind to others and helping strangers had always been there in my heart and would continue as long as I drew a breath on this earth.

        I have seen people who attended Sunday Mass, go off to the pub, come home drunk and beat up their wives and children. The hypocrisy turned me sour.

        The teachings of Jesus seem so simple to follow, Love your neighbour as thyselves, his way of saying that we should respect others no matter which part of the world they reside in is simplistic in the beauty of his words. We possess it naturally as small children, see no difference in skin colour, are too busy playing or too young to understand about the difference of religious beliefs and are happy.

        Then we mature, hear the first stirrings of prejudice from family members, our peers who heard it from their families, we see and hear it in our streets, on the TV and the radio. For many of us it will never infect us and we will leave our childhood homes to start lives of our own, for some staying behind in the towns and cites of their birth, it will escalate, growing like a large open sore in the soul, it will consume them like a gigantic trap they can never escape and they will blindly continue with their hate of anyone who is different from them. This is how I see your teabaggers your Fundies clinging to a God they have created in their own image, a God that I do not know.

        Giving is better than receiving, kindness to others costs us nothing, peaceful understanding or the need for communication is worth so much more than fighting or endless wars and yet people never seem to learn.

        The world is in turmoil and so few of us are willing to try to make it right. The everyday news from around the world, makes my heart heavy and sad knowing that alone, there will be no way that I can change it or the way that people think.

    • choicelady says:

      Kalima -- you have the right to ask. You have the right to ask God and the right to ask us. You’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. That’s fine, and wanting some intervention to lessen the load is perfectly all right. If there IS a sentient Other, then ask. There are sentient others -- all of us -- so ask. It’s fine. We’re all here sending you energies and power and healing and at bare minimum greater comfort. So ask. It’s NOT childish to want to be relieved of being sick! It’s fully human to ask, and it’s fully human for us to care about you. So yes, ask.

      • boomer1949 says:

        choicelady,

        At one point or another, I think many of us “get sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

        One person’s share may be a chronic burden (as with dear Kalima), while another’s may be a fleeting nuisance and all one needs is a fly swatter to make it go away.

        And, you are absolutely correct. Whatever ones beliefs, we all have a right to ask for relief and some need to ask more often than the rest of us. Me? I just whine a lot.

      • AdLib says:

        Well said and I am with you on expressing these same sentiments to my good friend, Kalima.

        • Kalima says:

          I am extremely humbled my friend and thank you. I’ve never been very good about asking for things, especially help from others, I tend to plod on alone. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember and fear that it’s now a part of who I am. Even with my family near and far, I have always put myself last and it has never been a burden or even a hardship for me.

          I appreciate the sentiment though, I really do. :)

          • boomer1949 says:

            I was raised a “perpetual caregiver,” and trained to put the needs (real or imagined)of others above my own.

            Then when a time came that I really did need help, not only was I embarrassed to ask, but I also didn’t know how.

            • Kalima says:

              I really know the feeling boomer and like you, wouldn’t know how and probably couldn’t or wouldn’t ask even if I did.

      • Kalima says:

        That is so very kind of you choicelady and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

        A little secret, I have never, since I was a small child, asked God for anything directly for myself. I will ask for suffering family members, friends or often strangers but asking for myself, I find that it’s always impossible. My illness is chronic for more than 2 decades, but I probably won’t die from it and there are millions of more deserving people in the world besides me. It’s just the way I’m made. Thanks again.

        • choicelady says:

          You are equal in our eyes, Kalima. You are worthy of our care. If God can know, God knows. So we will continue to send our care and hope God can do the same. No one is left out in a universe of compassion. You are most worthy, never doubt that. Your compassion for others is the gift you give the world, and the world must return the gift to you now. That’s what we are here to help do. So many write of their care for you, and that’s how we balance the universe around you. Breathe deeply of the air around your life, and feel the warmth of that concern. You do matter to so many.

          • Kalima says:

            Your words have touched me deeply today as they have on many days and again I thank you.

            I don’t consider myself worthy yet but might by the end of this lifetime, who knows, but I’m eternally grateful for all the kind words and feelings that I’ve encountered here at the Planet. I am both proud and honoured to be a part of this wonderful community, have learned so much from each and every one of you, will continue to do so and looking forward to it too.

  10. boomer1949 says:

    The Interview


  11. javaz says:

    “Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion--several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven….The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.

    Mark Twain
    “The Lowest Animal”

    • AdLib says:

      Thanks for this, javaz. I am and have been since my youth a huge fan of Mark Twain.

      When thoughts and words can travel through generations and be as poignant as they were when they were written, that timelessness itself is a sign of truth and wisdom.

    • Khirad says:

      He seems to have outdone Mircea Eliade on Homo religiosus!

      Every time I’m at a bookstore or fair I search in vain for Letters from the Earth. I’m on a budget, you must understand, and have to ration my book purchases by priority. And yet, this one I need to one of these days push up that list and just amazon.

    • choicelady says:

      I always thought Mark Twain closer to real faith than most of his peers who believed in Social Darwinism, wealth as a manifestation of holiness, and an avenging God who brings things like the Johnstown Flood. Unfortunately, that is precisely what the religious right has revived. Faith with judgement and without grace is pointless and utterly self-serving. Twain was right.

  12. escribacat says:

    Adlib, you are really good at this God stuff. You don’t mess around, do you? This is a fascinating topic to me but always dangerous to hold discussions like this since most of us hold our spiritual ideas fairly close and fairly dear. Having said that, I am always happy to spout off (or examine) what my notions are. I can say that they are continuously evolving.

    For many, the whole point of believing in God is to have that magic advocate in your corner. Someone you can bargain with “in the foxhole.” However, the logic doesn’t work too well if God brings rescue, health and wealth but isn’t also responsible for the tragedy. There is only one way to have one without the other, and that’s Satan. Satan does the bad stuff while God does the good stuff.

    Which brings up that perplexing problem of: God, by definition, must be greater than Satan so how does Satan manage to do all these terrible things? Why does God let it happen?

    Which brings you to “God works in mysterious ways” and “It’s God’s will.” Which brings you right back to the beginning of the conundrum. Why would God allow such a thing and who would worship a God who did? My answer is: There is no God who saves Billy but lets Susie die, who makes Sam a brilliant artist and lets Johnnie get crushed by a car at the age of 2.

    I once knew a woman who always prayed for a parking spot (this was in San Francisco where getting a parking spot always felt miraculous). This little prayer she said whenever we set off began to grate on my nerves. I was far too polite to say so (hehe), but here’s what I thought: If God couldn’t be bothered to get 6 million people out of Nazi concentration camps, what makes you think he gives a shit about your stupid parking spot?

    I believe it was around that time that I realized that I no longer believed in “God,” as I learned “Him” when I was a Jesus Freak in high school. It does, however, make sense to me that there is a higher power, that there are things going on that we cannot can’t see or fathom (atoms, for example). It also makes sense to me that we, collectively, are some sort of “God” with extra powers we don’t particularly understand or know how to use. Carl Jung’s “collective unconscious” comes to mind as the best expression of it.

    It also makes sense to me that as a “single entity,” we (God) are healthy in some places and ill in other places. We can only heal our sick parts using the force of our healthy parts. We cannot let our sick parts take over the entire entity or we are lost. And the great nirvana that we may someday attain is that we have healed all our sick parts.

    As for how this relates to the horrific tragedy of an earthquake and all the innocent people who are lost or suffering — that, to me, has a lot to do with plate tectonics and nothing to do with “God.” But how we deal with it now, as the human race, has very much to do with how healthy or sick we (God) are.

    • AdLib says:

      Thanks so much, escribacat!

      It does have an element of risk to discuss God and religion but my feeling is that as long as one can express their POV without denigrating the reasonable folks who think differently (the extremists would freak at anything not conforming to their dogma), it’s not only cool but fruitful to have such conversations.

      A big problem with modern society is that we rarely can have such “big” conversations. We are gagged by political correctness, hair-trigger hostility by the fundamentalists and a corporate campaign to keep us focused on the trivial…which keeps us unfocused on what really matters and is going on…IOW, weak.

      That was the thrust of my Hole in the Soul piece.

      We are severely neglecting the awareness of the big picture of life, of our being human and existing for a brief period of time in this physical universe. So much we could do, we could discuss, we could see in each other, we could work together to build, IF…people around the world connected on a level far above the simple and superficial ones we take for granted today.

      In a way, spirituality could be the only thing that brings promise to our future as a civilization and religion, in the narrow way it is defined by fundamentalists of all kinds (terrorists, Republican Presidents and hopefuls, etc.) could be what dooms it.

      We share some similar perspectives, I do see a holistic nature to spirituality than a very narrow and linear one that defines God as an external and separate entity from the rest of existence.

      And as you know from my previous posts, I think the concept of God as a magical genie granting wishes or an emotionally troubled Superman who causes disasters than only rescues those who praise him the right way, deserves a bit of humorous invalidation.

      People will always have different definitions and beliefs/disbeliefs about God but by discussing and considering these big picture issues in good faith, by recognizing that in this harsh and violent universe, we are here on this fragile planet living fragile, brief lives together, there could be a deeper connection and compassion between those who live on this planet and it could lead to better lives and societies for all of us.


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