My cousin recently shared the following Facebook post from a friend of his:
¶”—-God is THE COOLEST!!!! Check it… I woke up at 2:46 a.m. with the strange feeling that God wanted me to do something. I asked Him, in my delirium, “What do You want from me, Lord?” And 30 seconds later I received a text from a teen girl from my church,… asking to talk. Turns out she and her sister helped lead their friend to Christ and had asked God to wake me up (I usually sleep through text messages) so that I could talk them through it. End result: a 9th-grade girl gave her life to Jesus tonight!! BLOWN AWAY at how cool He is!!!!!!— You can’t convince me that this was a coincidence.”¶
For a Christian – this is a powerful and moving story. There is no doubt that such events do nothing more than strengthen faith – as the poster states: “You can’t convince me that this was a coincidence.” She’s absolutely correct in that regard – no one can convince her that God did not work through her in converting a 14 year old girl in accepting Christ – why try?
From a non-believer perspective, it can go a couple ways. Some read stories like this and simply shake their heads – another strange story of Christian faith and move one. For people like myself, I read this and get annoyed – not a lot – but a little bit.
Why? My perspective is that if she is indeed correct and God is real (which I obviously disagree on), and god takes time to intervene, in the middle of the night no less, to “save” the soul of a 14 year girl rather than spend that time, energy, and effort saving the hundreds of thousands of lives that will perish on a given day from starvation, illness, or tragic accidents that could have been avoided had god intervened.
The old adage that God works in mysterious ways and it is not for us to judge his motives or work is, in my opinion, baloney. This is the central argument of free will. Let’s say for a moment that Christianity is indeed correct in its dogma and doctrine. If judged solely on the merits, it is reasonable that many people would come to the conclusion that the infallible, all-knowing, god of the bible is in fact fundamentally flawed and suspect.
I say this based solely on the god described in the bible – with no other influence involved.
As Richard Dawkins points out in The God Delusion:
As Richard Dawkins points out in The God Delusion:
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Link
None of these characterizations need elaboration – all are clearly discoverable by a reader of the bible.
I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people. Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists. – David Silverman
Obviously many people read the bible and are heavily influenced by pastoral messages on Sunday that god is great and that he loves his creation. This is a wonderful message to receive and very uplifting! The idea that the being that created the universe and all of life cares about my circumstances and listens to my prayers and worship is intoxicating. However, the god I read about in the bible is one full of human flaws and attributes – he’s jealous and vain – and those are a couple of his better qualities!
I read these texts with the understanding that the god described in the bible is not real. The reason this god is so full of human traits is because humans created god in their image – not the other way around. We – and more specifically – the nomadic tribes of Israel instilled in their deity the characteristics that justified their socio-political goals. Yahweh was the perfect god for a people looking for a plot of land to settle while “displacing” the inhabitants of said land.
If I were to accept the biblical narrative as factual, and the god of the bible as real, when I read inspirational stories of his intervention on behalf of saving the soul of a 14 year old girl, rather than be inspired, I would be very upset that god’s priorities are such that he allow tens of thousands to starve, that lives are far less important than souls. The point being that if such a god existed, its’ priorities – indeed, its’ very morality – is not what I consider worthy of worship.
Thankfully, I do not believe in that god – so rather than being upset by an otherwise inspirational story such as this, I’m just mildly annoyed. I found it annoying, even when I was a Christian, when people proclaimed gratitude to God for anything. That sounds like a loaded statement – so let me explain.
In a disaster scenario – from a car accident on the freeway to the 9/11 attacks, there is almost always a person, who against all odds, that survives. Our vernacular, or the way we’ve been conditioned to think, describes this event as a miracle – and miracles are attributed to God; therefore, ipso facto, God intervened on this individual’s behalf and saved them from their fate.
Similarly, when terminally ill patients make a remarkable recovery that doctor’s cannot explain, we resort to the language of our bronze-age ancestors to attribute the event to a divine intervention. 2,500 years ago, sacrifices would have been made to Athena for such an intervention.
The problem I have with attributing the luck of fate to a deity of any sort is that rejoicing in the good fortune of individuals completely diminishes the tragedy that befell the majority.
I actually find solace in the counterview. Rather than random acts of intervention I prefer Einstein’s view on the subject:
“The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. … For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstition. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong … have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything “chosen” about them.” Link
Or the greatest mind since Einstein, Stephen Hawking:
“I believe the simplest explanation is, there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization that there probably is no heaven and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that, I am extremely grateful.” Link
Or the upcoming Einstein of his age, Neil degrasse Tyson on things that science cannot currently explain:
“…If that’s how you want to invoke your evidence for god, then god is an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorance that’s getting smaller and smaller and smaller as time goes on. So, just be ready for that to happen if that’s how you want to come at the problem. So, that’s just simply the god of the gaps argument – that’s been around forever…I don’t even care if someone wants to say ‘you don’t understand that – God did it.’ That doesn’t even bother me. What would bother me is if you were so content in that answer that you no longer had curiosity to learn how it happened. The day you stop looking because you’re content that god did it, I don’t need you in the lab. You’re useless on the frontier of understanding the nature of the world.” Video
Regardless of belief in a god or higher power, the idea that such a deity intervenes on your behalf at a given point in your life to me completely diminishes the pain and suffering hundreds of millions of people in this world go through on a daily basis.
Thanking god for naturally occurring events – rain or sunshine, a rainbow, the northern lights, etc. is at least consistent with the idea of god as a creator, therefore, responsible for that which you see. Applying the same logic, god is also responsible for earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions that in some cases kill hundreds of thousands of people. If a person somehow escapes death during these moments, do we really want to attribute God’s grace to saving them in the face of the thousands that he didn’t see fit to save?
This presents, in my opinion, the fundamental flaw with religion. A personal god would not allow his people to suffer daily. He wouldn’t save one cancer patient while thousands of others suffered and die. He wouldn’t allow thousands to die tragically while saving one in the rubble.
If god is fickle enough to intervene on singular events, saving a couple here and there while millions of others meet their grim fates, then that god, in my opinion, truly isn’t worthy of devotion. Based on the odds alone, you’d have better luck hitting the lottery.