Friday, February 24, 2017

Why does god allow bad things to happen?

I suppose I should start out by explaining the reason for this particular journal, as well as its inaugural post.  I was raised in Texas as a member of a loving, Christian family.  My childhood for the most-part I recall as being a happy one.  Around the age of 14 however, I began my break with the church.  What started at doubts of the Christian faith, or the existence of a god in general was, less than productive.  Dr. Frank Turek in a debate with the late Christopher Hitchens, of whom I am a great admirer, said of Hitchens' book, god is not Great; How Religion Poisons Everything that the message was "There is no God, and I hate him."  This statement very well described the beginnings of my emancipation from the faith I was born into.

Along the way I've held my beliefs over the past 5 years more-or-less in private.  Being married to a Christmas and Easter Catholic with a wealth of confessing Catholic in-laws, these beliefs, were they voiced publicly would not visit their consequences on me, but rather I fear, on my children.  Therein lies a challenge for me and within that challenge lies the reason behind not only the creation of this journal for whom anyone with similar or disagreeing thoughts is welcome to visit and participate in, but this first entry altogether.  

You see, with the Senatorial confirmation of Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education, the concerns for the quality of education my children will receive have grown to heights I hadn't even considered.  They are after all only two years old.  However Betsy DeVos and her husband having bought their way into running, or ruining depending on how you look at it, the public education system in America is concerning to me for a reason other than her obvious lack of experience.  In 2001 in an interview the Devoses backed a bill in the Michigan state legislature, which was defeated, to allow public money to be spend on religious schools.  The Devoses claimed their efforts in educational reform weren't for the betterment of education itself but rather to "advance God's kingdom," and that the educational reform they were seeking would lead to "greater kingdom gain."

My two wonderful sons will be in school before the first, and if we're lucky the last, term of President Trump is over and the idea that nonsensical religious ideology might be taught in their classes is not only worrisome, but a bit insulting to boot.  Then came the following video from father Mike Schmitz, which has been making the rounds on social media on my in-laws posts.  I gave it a watch, I recommend you do as well.

There are several issues I have with this video and its message but I'll try to limit the count to 10.
  1. When Fr. Schmitz says that people assume bad things happening are part of god's plan he replies flatly with "not true."  My issue with this is, how does Fr. Schmitz know what may or may not be part of god's plan?  On what authority does he claim to have innate, privileged knowledge of the mind of a celestial authority that we as normal human beings cannot access?  When  you start a speech off by claiming to know what you cannot possibly know, you've certainly grabbed my attention and not in a positive manner.
  2. He goes on to assert that the moment god created anything outside himself that he gave up a degree of power for the sake of freedom.  The Old Testament tells us exactly what this god does after creating the world and it has nothing to do with the giving up of power whatsoever.  He starts off by forbidding his creation from going in search of knowledge, which is still appropriately the greatest threat to all religions, and whereupon he finds that his creation does indeed find said knowledge he banishes them from paradise.  He not only banishes them but sentences them and their entire species to a lifetime of pitiless extermination, racism, tribalism, plague, climatic crises on a scale that is still  outside our realm of comprehension and for approximately 98,000 years watches this with complete indifference.  Then about 2,000 years ago decides to help out by sending an eccentric preacher to be offered as a human sacrifice in a less-than-literate part of the Middle East (but more on that later).  This is about giving up a degree of power?
  3. At one point Fr. Mike goes off on a bit of a tangent and says that god created physics.  While this is not the point of the video, nor this post, my objection to this statement must not go unnoticed.  The Catholic church's record on scientific breakthrough and discovery has been well documented ever since they told Galileo not to look through a tube because if it were found that the earth does indeed revolve around the sun and not the corollary, that it might cast a doubt that the entire cosmos was made with us in mind.  Since then the church has maligned scientific progress and discovery as long as it could and when it finally became clear they had to accept it they thought, and I'm paraphrasing Hitchens here, come to think of it, that is true and in fact it shows that god is even more ingenius than we had thought him in the first place. This sort of reverse engineering to protect the religious' viewpoint is unconvincing at best, and more likely a cheap conjuring trick.
  4. One of Fr. Schmitz's least effective (comparatively) points says that god did not make death.  To me that statement is flat out idiotic any way you put it.  If you believe that god created life then I'm sorry but as a consequence you must also believe that he created death as well.  There is no getting around that.
  5. Fr. Mike goes on to say that god is about loving all his creations and says "not one sparrow could fall from the sky that god doesn't care about."  He's quoting Matthew 10:29 here.  Interesting to be using this particular gospel and chapter to prove a point about an all-loving god.  Let's read just a bit further in that book, shall we?  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.  Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me." -Matthew 10:34-38 NIV.  This seems to me quite selfish, not near as loving as Fr. Mike seems to want us to believe.
  6. Along the way Fr. Schmitz talks about god's perfect will versus his permissive will stating where you find life, love, joy, wisdom, truth, etc. that you have found god's perfect will and that where you find evil is his permissive will happening again because he gave up that power in favor of freedom.  Seems like a lot of work to ensure that your god stays this all-loving caricature of the god actually portrayed in the Bible.   To give all the credit and none of the blame sounds to me like a celestial dictator.  A divine Kim Il-Sung if you will.  Moreover this argument has been obliterated since around 250 B.C. when Epicurus posed the following, “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”  It's 2017 and an authority of the Catholic church is still spilling this drivel.
  7. Schmitz then has the gall to say that god did not will that Jesus died.  There would not be a new testament were that to be true.  None of this would have happened if certain people hearing voices in their heads hadn't foretold these events.  I say foretold, though, that lends a bit of credit to the truth of these things which in all likelihood, never took place.  Zechariah 9:9 tells us that the savior will arrive on an ass.  Going back to Matthew and I have to quote here because it's just too perfect, Jesus tells his disciples before making his way into Jerusalem to go get him a donkey.  "As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”  Now the gospel of John claims Jesus just found the donkey and got on it "as had been foretold" but either way you're stealing livestock because someone centuries ago had voices talking to them in their head.  When you know what the prophecies are it's very easy to arrange circumstances that make them appear fulfilled.  Schmitz says god saves us even though we killed him.  That's a pretty rose-colored, convenient view of what the Christian faith actually says which is god saves us because we killed him.  The two problems I have with this are number one, saves us from what, and again I'll have to paraphrase Hitchens, other than the original sin with which he so tenderly gifted us in the very first place?  Number two is that there is no problem that the human species has ever come across that will be solved by a human sacrifice, and the idea of vicarious redemption is a wicked and evil proposition that shouldn't be taught to children, nor used as a wishful thinking tool to comfort people.
  8. Furthermore, Schmitz refers to the murder of Jesus of Nazareth as "the worst thing to happen in human history."  I can think just off the top of my head several atrocities committed by Schmitz's order that were comparatively worse than the public torture and execution of an eccentric preacher.  The inquisition, the crusades, the stance in alliance with fascism and national socialism in the mid-20th century if you want a recent example.  The rape and torture of the children of it's own church by a clutch of hysterical, sinister virgins that still goes on today and that the Vatican is still holding from international justice (Fr. Mauro Izoli and Cardinal Bernard Law).  The teaching that AIDS as a disease may be bad but a condom is worse that was an official doctrine of the church until 2010 and is solely responsible for the death and suffering of millions. The anathema against the collective Jewish people for the crime of Deicide that wasn't repudiated by the church until 1964 by Giovanni Montini (Pope Paul VI), 20 years after the perpetrators of the holocaust had already stood trial in secular courts and been rightly punished for their crimes.  How can you make such a ghastly disgusting statement and pose as a moral authority.
  9. Schmitz continues to say that when someone is brutalized that it's for the greater good.  Well I'll share with you the case of Elisabeth Fritzl who in 2008 told police in Austria that she had been held captive in a dungeon-like basement by her father for 24 years during which he physically and sexually abused her resulting in 7 incestuous children whom he also attacked.  Now for Fr. Schmitz to say what he said means that yes that had to happen, and heaven did watch it with indifference because it knows that score will later on be settled and she'll have a better chance in another life.  I don't think that statement requires any further refutation.
  10. Finally, in an awe provoking attempt Fr. Schmitz reminds us of god's power by saying that god can take dead things and bring them back to life, which just begs the question that takes us right back to the beginning, "Why is that baby, that fell off the table due to a moment of tragedy, still dead?"  You've done nothing but lead us in a long circle and at the end the very same questions we had at the beginning remain unanswered.

Tenderness about a hurt child is not something to which I am immune.  Having to share these feelings is something we all hope never to have to even imagine.  But to advise wishful thinking rather than to eventually face reality seems to me, an immoral position to take, and this video and those like it only further the delusion that the consequences of our actions in this life are temporary and secondary to the greater good that will be the next life which we have no basis for believing exists in the first place.