If His ways are mysterious, then how can you know He’s good?

In response to Lindsey’s comment on my earlier post, the parallel between what the woman believed happened and torture seems pretty clear in my head. From her words, it seems to me that she was thanking God for having the power to deflect the arrow just enough to prevent it from causing the death of the little girl. The power to do this, though, comes in some invisible, insubstantial form. The God Who did this is also the same God who created the world and everything in it, including the person who shot the arrow.

The woman was offering her thanks to God for sparing the life of this little girl – the same God Who (the woman believes) created the little girl in the first place.

My first question, looking at these assumptions (a God Who wields both the immense power to bring into creation an entire universe, and the subtle power to nearly deflect an arrow in its path), is: why wouldn’t this God use his immense power in this case, rather than his subtle power?

And just asking that question, I can already hear the apologists begin their rationalizations. But I’ll leave that argument for others to make, and I’ll simply ask this: if a human being had both of those levels of power, and chose the subtle one – wouldn’t we consider that person a monster? Wouldn’t we view a person who could have completely prevented the accident in the first place, but instead chose to physically injure a little girl, cause her the emotional trauma of, y’know, being hit in the neck with a freakin’ arrow, and cause the financial and emotional burden to her and her family… wouldn’t we view that as a form of torture?

But somehow, when it’s God, people just assume that “He works in mysterious ways”. We give God, Who is supposed to be the source of our morality, a pass when it comes to actually applying our ideas of morality to Him.

And this leads in to why I am so strongly motivated to exposing the delusion (for I see it as such) of belief in such a God: because that same mindset affects me in a very real, direct way, and my hope is that by explaining it, I can show you how it affects you and everyone around you, as well.

The mindset that sees this way is one I have trouble understanding, and I see it in the way a certain sizable number of my fellow citizens do not wish to see our leaders held to the same standard of lawfulness that everyday Americans are held to – of which the most horrific example I can think of are our flagrant violations of the civilized laws against torture and indefinite imprisonment of people without formal charges. I don’t understand how presidents, regardless of their political party, are allowed to blatantly violate laws that specifically apply to them in regards to collecting intelligence on American citizens on American soil, or to ignore laws and treaties (not to mention simple human decency and the moral high ground) that ban torture and require known acts of torture to be prosecuted, to choose just two examples out of the many that come to mind.

The conservative movement has been building their power over the last 40 years. They’ve steadily built a constituency out of the same folk who believe in the same kind of God Who has the ability to have created us in a perfect state, but chose instead to doom some of us to eternal torture. And the conservative movement, who have collected primarily in the Republican Party (much like a pus collects in an untreated wound) but who also infect the Democratic Party to a degree (or at least their leadership), have wooed and inflamed those beliefs and transfered that moral blindness and obeisance to authority to themselves.

I view the rise of authoritarianism, and the rise of the Christianist Right, as linked (because they are, in myriad documented ways) and as a danger that must be fought. The election committee of our 43rd president for his second term campaigned in (among other places) the mammoth corporate churches, the ones with million-dollar facilities and CEOs and flashy media networks, in spite of the laws against separation of church and state. The Republican presidential campaign used enlisted men, in uniform, to speak in those churches to collect votes, another violation of tradition and prohibitions against the politicization of our armed forces. They were able to get away with this because authoritarian, evangelical Christians already accept the idea that “these laws are for you, but not for God”. Our 43rd president described his war of choice against Iraq as a “crusade”, a word with obvious and heavy-handed religious connotations.

That’s why I get so worked up about this. It’s not an abstract, philosophical point to me. Fundamentalism has brought about policies of torture, oppression, and death, for Americans and foreigners. So the least I can do is try to draw people’s attention to it. Sadly, yes, I realize, writing on my little blog isn’t a great effort, but it’s a small start.

And finally, you’re right, I’m never going to disprove God’s existence. That’s actually not possible, for several reasons, not least of which is that one can’t prove a negative. Likewise, God as He is worshiped in the real world, by real people, has been defined in such a way that it is nearly impossible to prove or disprove His existence. Of course, to me, that’s because the real world gives no evidence, positive or negative, of God’s existence or intervention; if all someone has to show me that says God exists is that a little girl didn’t die of an arrow wound in the neck, can I show them a story about a little girl who died when she crawled into a washing machine?

In both cases, a theist will see the hand of God. To me, if God did both of those things, He’s a sadist. The more likely explanation, though, is that both of those events, and the millions and billions of others that happen in the world, are the result of people’s misluck, carelessness, stupidity, and greed.

In other words, random events. In that, I think Lindsey and I agree, I think.

How about you?