Thursday, March 30, 2006

40 Days of Lent - Day Thirty

Atheist Day!
The Numbers, or Why I Don't Believe On The Days I Don't Believe

Back on Day Seven, I wrote:
My friend Bob once said "I read a poll that shows most Americans believe in God. That just shows how out of mainstream culture I am, because I don't know anyone who does." I sheepishly (and not in the "The Lord Is My Shepard" sense) raised my hand and explained that my belief pretty much depends on what day it is. If there is a God, I think it supersedes our puny earthling attempts to comprehend It, and I don't think It is actively involved in our affairs at all. But that's all for another posting, another day.

Every believer has their moments of doubt. But revelation came for me when I was reading some statistics about the standard of living of people on Earth. There were just some simple numbers but they changed everything for me (some stats I found online are below). The large number of people suffering becomes an abstraction and makes the mind shut down. Despite the luck I've had in this life, despite the weird experiences I've had that make me think that there's something beyond us, I just can't reconcile the concept of a God with the suffering that several hundred million people endure every day. This isn't a situation that started yesterday, but has pretty much been a fact of life on this planet from the start. From the dawn of time, suffering has been the rule, peace has been the exception.

I can remember in school Mr. Kurpis explaining the Judeo-Christian concept of one God as "omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent." "And omni-benevolent" he would add. Okay: all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present and all-good...wait a minute. I just can not accept a supreme being as "all-good" that lets so much of his creation suffer. Not suffer in the way of "I'm so upset - Jimmy didn't ask me to the prom!" or even "what do you mean I've lost everything?" But I mean ongoing torment without respite. Perhaps there is a Prime Cause, and It may know everything, have ultimate control and be everywhere. But I don't think It is too concerned with how human beings feel. More numbers: three out of four isn't bad.

Any being that permits ongoing suffering on such a scale does not deserve worship. People have filled countless books trying to reconcile the contradiction of a good God who permits so much bad. I have a simple explanation and it's only two words.

No God.

World Hunger facts (outside the U.S.)
852 million people are hungry

Developing nations
815 million people are undernourished
1.2 billion people live on less than $1/day
153 million children under age 5 are underweight
11 million children under age 5 die every year, over half of hunger-related causes
1 in 6 people is hungry
1 in 4 people lacks safe drinking water

Industrialized/developed nations
9 million people are undernourished

Transitional nations
28 million people are undernourished

Today's reading from the Faithful Words Promise Box:
The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer.
- Psalm 6:9

(It looks like the Promise Box is a little bit of a smart a**)
Appearantly SpellCheck was designed by Republicans. "Undernourished" wasn't recognised. Suggested replacement? "Underemployed."


Mom said...

Your statistics are frightening, but the conclusion you draw from them (in my opinion) is incorrect. How could a knowing, loving God permit this? Well, that certainly does let mankind off the hook, doesn't it? What part do those of us in the "civilized" world play in poverty, hunger, disease? And how does God change that? How does he change us?
You know, the Church has called the theory of "Dualism" a heresy. The idea that there is a separate force of evil equally potent to that of good is anathema to the clerics but, the more I see of the world, the more it works for me.
I always loved the simple statement from St. Peter to Christ: "Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief."

Julie said...

I you believe in the Christian God, you must also believe that he gave us free will. Unfortunatly, many people use that freedom to cause great suffering to others either activly or through indifference.We also have the choice to believe or not, to help others or not, etc.

That Bob said...

You are learning, Grasshopper. No God. Not now, not ever.

erin said...

See, I knew those theology classes I had to take would be useful for something.

Apparently, the new(er) thinking among theologians is: there is no logical explanation as to why people suffer. God does not control suffering, nor does She/He make people suffer to teach them a lesson (so the whole "God won't give you more than you can handle" theory goes out the window). The theory is that, instead of God controlling your life and making you suffer, God takes on your suffering and suffers with you. My one professor found this theory to be comforting; however, I'm still on the fence about the whole thing. But, that, along with free will, is the current explanation on why God "allows" suffering.

Or, Bob is right.