Prayers for Parking Spaces and the Problem of Evil

A post at imago*futura got me thinking about just how reprehensible American Christians make God out to be when they attribute their finding of a parking spot to answered prayer (and this post on the topic from about a month ago by Randal Rauser). The belief that God micromanages the universe for the benefit of people could in theory be correct or incorrect. But the belief that God micromanages the universe for the benefit of American Christians asking to be spared from inconvenience when seeking to spend their relatively great wealth on luxuries, while leaving the prayers of Christians in other parts of the world for an end to drought or famine – for daily bread – unanswered, is belief in a God who is not merely unworthy of worship but a perpetrator of atrocities.

On a related note, BCSE shared an excerpt from an opinion piece by Andrew Brown in the Guardian addressing the bogus arguments used by proponents of Intelligent Design. This is how the piece concludes: “But his crucial argument seems to be ‘The atheist sees design but refuses to accept that there can be a designer’. If I wanted to refute that, I wouldn’t send him to Richard Dawkins, but the American Carl Zimmer, whose book Parasite Rex is a glorious, terrifying, and intermittently disgusting romp through the roots, the intestines, and even the eyeballs of almost all living things to discover what else lives inside them. These parasites are unquestionably designed for their purpose, and designed with extraordinary ingenuity. They kill millions of children every year. I really cannot imagine that anyone, knowing the facts of their existence, could believe they were designed by a loving creator for a moral purpose. Evolution is not God’s enemy but his greatest alibi.”

What do readers think? Many religious believers and atheists alike view the progress of science and the spread of naturalism as undermining religion, disagreeing only on whether this is a good thing or a bad one. But a third option is that input from science and naturalism can transform religion from belief in an interventionist God who designs parasites to devour their victims alive and blesses some with convenient parking while cursing others with starvation, into something else entirely. And if there is a to be a form of religion that can make sense of life in the world as we currently understand it (and presumably understand it even better in the future), it will have to be one that recognizes that simply attributing all things to God is not a way of honoring God, as some seem to think, but makes him out to be a monster.

  • hugh boyle

    ‘  But a third option is that input from science and naturalism can transform religion from belief in an interventionist God who designs parasites to devour their victims alive and blesses some with convenient parking while cursing others with starvation, into something else entirely. And if there is a to be a form of religion that can make sense of life in the world as we currently understand it (and presumably understand it even better in the future), it will have to be one that recognizes that simply attributing all things to God is not a way of honoring God, as some seem to think, but makes him out to be a monster ‘

    You’ve hit the nail precisely on the head , so to speak , James . Spot on .

    Regards .

    .

  • hugh boyle

    ‘  But a third option is that input from science and naturalism can transform religion from belief in an interventionist God who designs parasites to devour their victims alive and blesses some with convenient parking while cursing others with starvation, into something else entirely. And if there is a to be a form of religion that can make sense of life in the world as we currently understand it (and presumably understand it even better in the future), it will have to be one that recognizes that simply attributing all things to God is not a way of honoring God, as some seem to think, but makes him out to be a monster ‘

    You’ve hit the nail precisely on the head , so to speak , James . Spot on .

    Regards .

    .

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

    That should pretty much tell you that these “Christians” are not aware of how Jesus taught people to pray. We can safely assume that they lack knowledge of many other teachings as well, so how can you put faith in the teachings of the Christ when you do not know them? How can you claim to be a Christian when you do not know what it entails?

  • Anonymous

    on the other hand, children dying from parasites is as much a matter of poverty as it is of biology – i don’t think your or my kids are at risk from such things.  the death of children through poverty is at the very least directly a matter of human evil – whatever your belief about creation/evolution.

  • Mike B.

    What do you think of the opposite phenomenon, let’s say, of a Christian attributing his difficulty finding a parking spot to Satan (perhaps it makes him late for Church if we want to give the devil some sort of plausible motivation)?

  • Gary

    If we live at most 100 years, compared to living an eternity,  are we being taught a lesson to recognize our limitations? Everyone that is alive now, will be dead in 100 years. Is a parasite or a Christian preacher going to make us live a different life? I assume it is up to us how we live. If there is nothing after death, then so be it. Pretty much doesn’t matter. If there is life after death, then maybe a religion, modifying our current life,  will be something to at least hope for. Other than nothingness. The blog, “But a third option is that input from science and naturalism can transform religion from belief in an interventionist God who designs parasites to devour their victims alive”…I am still trying to figure out why an electron exists nowhere, other than with a probability. If quantum physics tells us existence is a probability, why trouble about a parking space, or a parasite? Does eleven dimensions await us, since we have no concept of exactly what that means? I would suggest living life to its fullest, and try to be ethical about it. Other than that, we all await death with anticipation or fear.

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  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Mike B., like most other aspects of life that we regard as evil, I don’t think that it is necessary to invoke Satan in order to account for parking issues. It is simply a Christianized expression of the frustration all are prone to feel under such circumstances. But the real evil is that we are prone to get VERY frustrated about something like that, which can scarcely be compared to the miles some people have to walk to get water…

  • Gary

    Since I just saw it recently, I’d also recommend a movie…may not be parasites, but nice evolution of virus. They have to live too. And human reaction to it. Revenge of nature, when humans think they dominate over nature :-)  “Contagion”. I bet no one will touch their face before they wash their hands, after they leave the theater.

  • Anonymous

    Reminds me of Tony Campolo’s famous saying: “I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

  • Douglas Young

    ‘one that recognizes that simply attributing all things to God is not a way of honoring God, as some seem to think, but makes him out to be a monster.’

    Respectfully I disagree. God is by nature unknowable – if knowable then the divine is nothing much more than a reflection of our own psyche.

    The existence of the killer microbes has nothing to do with the nature of God, which is ineffable. 


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