April 30, 2017

Jesus and god and tornadoes and Canton

Going beyond any snark-in-brief I've posted in past such cases on Twitter, and going beyond a briefer post about a woman allegedly "praying and diverting away" a tornado in metropolitan Dallas a year ago, in light of the tornado in Canton, Texas, that killed at least five people yesterday, and per the header, there's nothing to do but jump in.

Why are you, if you are, praying to your Jesus for the people of Canton, when he was either not strong enough, or else not morally good enough, to keep that tornado from happening in the first place?

In theology, the issue is called "theodicy," or the issue of divine judgment.

In this case within theodicy, where alleged omnipotence directly conflicts with alleged omnibenevolence, it's calls "the problem of evil."

Or, as Rabbi Kushner put it, "why do bad things happen to good people?" More on that in a minute.

Now, some of you, conservative evangelicals or fundamentalists, will quote either Job or Paul's quoting of Job, of god saying "my ways are not your ways."

Well, the alleged inscrutability of god is nothing more than a dodge itself.

Because you now have a god either not omnipotent, not powerful enough to make his ultimate plans clearly known to intelligent humans, his alleged creation, or else you have a god not good enough to keep his intelligent human creation from avoiding psychological pain by being left unaware of god's ultimate plans through a tragedy.

And don't try to go meta on me. If you claim that god or Jesus trying to explain himself would cause further turmoil itself, re-read the immediately preceding paragraph, because it's what I would repeat to you.

But, this isn't just a piece for the fundamentalist or nearly so — whether within Christianity or the other Middle East-based monotheisms.

If you believe in a more liberal version of your faith, whether Christianity, Judaism or Islam, have you ever wrestled seriously with this issue? Do you still, even if not taking your scriptures literalistically, still believe in a god who is both all-powerful and all-good?

What if' you don't?

How much short of omnipotent, or omnibenevolent, can a monotheistic deity be and still rightfully be accorded worship, etc.?

Or, if you're a New Ager, how much short of omnipotent, or omnibenevolent, can a depersonalized Higher Power be and still be trusted or sought out?

And, New Agers of certain stripes who literally believe in it (ditto for Hindus and Buddhists) do NOT cite "karma." That's more offensive than conservative Christians' "original sin."

And, this isn't just logic chopping. Divine goodness or not, human confusion in the face of trying to puzzle out an alleged divinity's actions and more are all highly emotional matters.

Also, this isn't just about so-called natural evil. Human evil falls in the same place.

Substitute "child sexual abuse" for "tornadoes."

I write this in a mix of sorrow and anger.

I feel sorrow for (and sorry for) people who can't or won't open themselves up fully to the deep feelings behind the confusion — and perhaps anger — they feel themselves over where they're at religiously at times like this.

And, per Hume, since reason should be the slave of the passions, yet guide it, I feel a second sense of sorrow that this means people can't or won't reason their way to new insights because they refuse to be fully in touch with their emotions.

And then I feel anger at those within conservative Christianity in the US who attack non-Christians, and especially secularists as allegedly immoral (not true on divorce or adultery), anti-American (we're not a Christian nation), or that there's a "war on Christianity" (hyped by Bill O'Reilly of moral problems galore).

Jesus allegedly spoke about specks of wood in others people's eyes vs. wood planks in one's own. Paul talked about believers who could only take milk, not being ready for meat or other solid food. Please take note.

Within faith-based major thinkers, of the last century or so, I suggest starting with Unamumo's "The Tragic Sense of Life," available in text online here. I'm not here to convert anybody to secularism; I am here to challenge shallow, unreflective belief systems when they're thrust in other people's faces.

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