This Thing about Angels

So, I recently ran upon a story about a car wreck in Missouri, and about a “mystery priest” who prayed with a critically injured young woman and afterwards disappeared before anyone could thank him. Here’s the basic outline of the story:

Emergency workers and community members in eastern Missouri are not sure what to make of a mystery priest who showed up at a critical accident scene Sunday morning and whose prayer seemed to change life-threatening events for the positive.

Even odder, the black-garbed priest does not appear in any of the nearly 70 photos of the scene of the accident in which a 19-year-old girl almost died. No one knows the priest and he vanished without a word, said Raymond Reed, fire chief of New London, Mo.

“I think it’s a miracle,” Reed said. “I would say whether it was an angel that was sent to us in the form of a priest or a priest that became our angel, I don’t know. Either way, I’m good with it.”

What’s interesting to me is my thoughts on reading this article, and how different these thoughts are than the thoughts I would have had not all that many years ago. I grew up in a community where everyone believed in angels. I grew up hearing stories of people’s encounters with “angels among us.” I remember a time when I would have snapped up a story like this and slapped the label “miracle” on it. I believed in miracles completely and without a doubt.

But today, my reaction is so very different. I don’t have anything against the idea of a God. If there is a God out there, it wouldn’t bother me (unless there’s eternal torture in the mix, of course). The thing is, if there were a God out there, a God who sends angels dressed in black to pray with critically injured young women, I’d have some pretty big questions for him.

Why didn’t God stop the wreck before it happened?

Why don’t God send people to comfort every critically injured individual?

Why did the girl’s improvement correlate perfectly with the arrival of a new team with new equipment?

Why couldn’t God just heal her?

Why would God send an angel to help one critically injured woman when millions of people are starving around the world?

Why doesn’t God step in to stop genocides?

Why didn’t God send someone to keep Archduke Ferdinand from being shot? Preventing WWI and the death and destruction it brought would have been that easy! Is helping calm a single critically ill young woman more important than saving the lives of millions?

When I present these questions, I am told to just trust God, that he knows what’s best and that sometimes he doesn’t intervene because we need to learn and grow through times of struggle. But I can’t do that. I don’t see any reason to do that. Is there a reason I should smother and ignore my questions? I’d like to think that if there were a God out there, he or she would be the sort of individual who would value questions rather than dogma. Besides, honestly, the sort of God whose picture is painted through these stories of angels among us is a jack-in-the-box sort of God, an entity more interested in doing cheap parlor tricks than actually changing people’s lives for the better. I don’t want that kind of God. And here is where I am told to stop trying to make God in my own image. But what does that even mean? All I hear is “shut up, stop asking questions, and accept what we we believe about God as true even if it doesn’t make sense to you.” And I’m sorry, but I can’t do that.

And so, when I read an article like this, I don’t come away with warm fuzzies like I used to. Instead, I come away with questions, and I find myself wondering how others can read the story and see only an encouraging miracle. Did they drop their questions at the side of the road one day and forget to go back for them? Whatever it is, reading Christians’ gushing responses to this sort of story make me feel like they and I live on completely different planets.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Beth

    “Besides, honestly, the sort of God whose picture is painted through these stories of angels among us is a jack-in-the-box sort of God, an entity more interested in doing cheap parlor tricks than actually changing people’s lives for the better. I don’t want that kind of God. ”

    As a believer in God. I agree with you. I don’t want that either. I ask the same questions you ask when these things come up.

    • Hat Stealer

      Out of curiosity, what responses do you come up with?

  • Pofarmer

    This happened not far from me, things are all abuzz. They are looking for a priest, when the description is just a guy in standard clerical garb, could have been a Presbyterian, or a Lutheran, or any number of denominations. It was sunday morning, he probably went back to his car so he could get to services. At least, that story is a lot more probable than angels.

    • David Kopp

      The question is, would he be honest enough to show up, or would he use his anonymity being correlated with angels to encourage religious belief? I’m cynical enough that I’d think the second option is more likely…

      • Niemand

        At the very least, as far as I know, no one has come forward and said, “That was me. I’m not an angel just a person trying to help the only way I could.” Take that for what you will.

      • Gillianren

        My grandfather, who was a Methodist minister, would have stepped forward; I think he would have thought it was blasphemous to have pretended to be an angel. Sadly, I have known other religious leaders without my grandfather’s integrity.

      • Kodie

        Maybe he doesn’t want to take credit or make it all about him because he knows he didn’t really do anything and he left before she was rescued from the car. If people want to go on thinking it was a real angel, that wouldn’t be my problem. The news likes to interview “heroes” and people like to remain anonymous for certain reasons, mostly like they don’t want to take the spotlight away or gain local fame or attention for doing something that people should ordinarily do. And then there is the thing where if she does end up dying, that he might be sued if people knew who he was, in which case, I hope he would come forward but that’s another reason to keep your name out of the papers.

      • Semipermeable

        Yes, this. The news would put this person front and center. Their names would be public and googled by every bored fool and their mother.

        Details of their life could appear all over the net.

        A lot of people wouldn’t want that kind of attention. It isn’t their fault that the public paints every shadow as an angel.

        Personally, I think anyone who wants fame must be bonkers.

  • Anon

    ‘he knows what’s best and that sometimes he doesn’t intervene because we need to learn and grow through times of struggle.’
    Having been hit by a car I learnt the following things
    1. Cars hurt
    2. Some people are terrifyingly stupid
    I knew both things before. I spent two months recovering from the bruised ribs and I have a knee which aches when I go up and down too many stairs.
    Frankly, I think the price was a little high.

  • kraut2

    “And here is where I am told to stop trying to make God in my own image.”

    And i thought he had made us in his own image….logically we should see him in our image?

    “I am told to just trust God, that he knows what’s best and that
    sometimes he doesn’t intervene because we need to learn and grow through
    times of struggle.”

    This is the most vicious, cruel and insane argument a so called Christian could make. We are supposed to learn (what exactly?) from the often unimaginable suffering endured by: the inmates of the Nazi Konzentrationslager, the Russian Gulag, the German and Russian POW’s in each others camps, which were exploited to the max and starved, the “life” of the Jews in various Ghettos during the Nazi occupation in Poland, Romania etc. during WWW2 ,the killings in Rwanda, the methods of Vlad the impaler (a very christian defender), the raids of the golden horde, the torture of prisoners in the dungeons of the inquisition – only done to save the souls, the exploitation of South American Indians in the mines of the Spaniards, the sufferings of the women trapped and killed in the Magdalen Laundries, the suffering of the Natives in residential Schools run by a variety of religious organizations in Canada, the killings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki with being irradiated alive..not death was bad, survival was, the soldiers fighting on both sides during all the wars, the suffering and extermination of >30% of the population in German lands (the nation did not really exist) during the Thirty Year War, a very christian war, as usual, the millions starving from failed harvests, drought, tsunamis, parasites that invade your body to make it their home …….

    The evidence from that points clearly to the non existence of any god.

    And with such week evidence: My interest into the existence of god and his little goblins, i.e. angels…is actually non existent.
    Even if he existed – why should anyone worship or show interest in something that evidently cannot or would not influence the history or biology to provide for a less overall painful human existence…just wait till you get beyond 55, and you know when arthritis hits, your back starts deteriorating, your teeth are not up to snuff anymore and your sex live becomes less important than watching TV or going fishing what i am talking about.

    • Lamorna

      Agreed….your words have been my greatest reason to doubt the idea of a loving God. It is us that have the power to make life/our world decent or foul in our thoughts,deeds and lifestyle. I wish you well, no more pain and much happiness.

    • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

      I personally think the “God allows bad things to happen to teach people things” was thought up by extremely sheltered people. I often think theologies are the product of people who just haven’t experienced much – perhaps because theology by definition gets made in places like monesteries and seminaries.

  • Semipermeable

    As someone who was raised largely without religion, I do take hope from stories like this. That even in awful, gory situations there are ordinary people who will stop and do what they can to comfort people in need. If they are angels, that actually devalues what happened. An angel is a supernatural being that is supposedly perfect, it is no surprise that one might try to help someone.

    But a person walking by? They actually had to overcome fear, insecurities, aversion to blood and self interest to help someone. I don’t know if this priest was a figment of people’s imaginations or a real person, but if they are a real person then it is humanity, not angels that deserve the mark for compassion and decency.

    I also take comfort from the fact that emergency responders got there fast enough and were able to help the victims. The system worked and that is no small thing either.

    • luckyducky

      I agree that the story is much more powerful for me if it is just a person because it illustrates the kindness that we are capable of. Attributing that to supernatural powers not only devalues it but probably contributes to the bystander phenomenon — not only does one have all their personal fears and hang ups that are a barrier to getting involved but the standard “surely someone *else* will help if help is needed” is given a supernatural upgrade.

  • Vi

    I’m pagan, and my answer to these questions was, I think, much easier because I don’t believe in perfect, loving gods. Last year, I got to see John Green speak. Green is a young adult author right now, but before he was working to become a priest. (He gave up) I think he’s episcopalian. Anyway, he was talking about suffering because his most recent book was about teenagers who were dying of cancer. He said that ultimately, he didn’t have any good answers to these questions, but he still believed. Unfortunately, I don’t remember if he said why.

    • Semipermeable

      I read some of his books. In looking for Alaska, the main character reflects Green’s experience at a boarding school. When something happens to the manic pixie dream girl, the main character is in a religion class of some sort and basically consciously decides that he simply does not want to accept that people die and are gone, so there must be some sort of afterlife. I think this is close to John Green’s own views based on some of his videos.

      It wasn’t evidence based, but a fairly clear cut coping mechanism to deal with death.

      I have enjoyed his books and videos, but I am kind of uncomfortable with some of his offhand remarks.

    • The_L1985

      I honestly believe based on experiments in the 90′s that some of us are just hard-wired to believe that there are one or more deities out there. I know that’s the case for me–I’ve tried to just not believe and it hasn’t worked yet.

  • Niemand

    I got yelled at by Mark Shea on his post on the subject for questioning why no one thanked the first responders and why god didn’t do something more definitive. The way he yelled at me made me think that he doubts the reality of angels and didn’t want anyone’s skepticism messing with his belief.

    • Richter_DL

      Isn’t that always the case?

  • Mira

    I just saw oodles upon oodles of confirmation bias when I read/heard this. People were freaked out because the equipment wasn’t working properly. Of COURSE they wanted a miracle. Someone was dying. Sheesh. Doesn’t make it one, though, ffs. asdfasdf I came up with the same questions you asked, Libby Anne.

    • Kubricks_Rube

      Obligatory link:

      Fuck me Sam, what are the odds
      That of history’s endless parade of gods
      That the God you just happened to be taught to believe in
      Is the actual one and he digs on healing,
      But not the AIDS-ridden African nations
      Nor the victims of the plague, nor the flood-addled Asians,
      But healthy, privately-insured Australians
      With common and curable corneal degeneration

      This story of Sam’s has but a single explanation:
      A surgical God who digs on magic operations
      No, it couldn’t be mistaken attribution of causation
      Born of a coincidental temporal correlation
      Exacerbated by a general lack of education
      Vis-a-vis physics in Sam’s parish congregation
      And it couldn’t be that all these pious people are liars
      It couldn’t be an artifact of confirmation bias
      A product of groupthink,
      A mass delusion,
      An Emperor’s New Clothes-style fear of exclusion

      No, it’s more likely to be an all-powerful magician
      Than the misdiagnosis of the initial condition,
      Or one of many cases of spontaneous remission,
      Or a record-keeping glitch by the local physician

      No, the only explanation for Sam’s mum’s seeing:
      They prayed to an all-knowing superbeing,
      To the omnipresent master of the universe,
      And he quite liked the sound of their muttered verse.

      So for a bit of a change from his usual stunt
      Of being a sexist, racist, murderous c—
      He popped down to Dandenong and just like that
      Used his powers to heal the cataracts
      Of Sam’s mum[...]

      Now I understand how prayer can work,
      A particular prayer in a particular church,
      In a particular style, with particular stuff,
      And for particular problems that aren’t particularly tough,
      And for particular people, preferably white,
      For particular senses, preferably sight,
      A particular prayer in a particular spot,
      To a particular version of a particular god.
      And if you get that right, he just might,
      Take a break from giving babies malaria,
      And pop down to your local area,
      To fix the cataracts of your mum.

      Hallelujah!

      • Gemgirl

        Best Tim Minchin song EVER!

      • NeaDods

        True story – I was at the Atheist rally at the mall and walked north to get lunch. When I got back, there were a whole load of Christian protesters outside the protest area and the guy on stage was singing “Thank you God for healing Sam’s mum” and I wondered what the heck had happened to all the atheists!

  • Smilodon, God’s cat

    One of my favorite song writers is a guy from Maine – Dave Mallett. He’s got this song called Angel Standing By. The last lines of it are:

    In your very hour of need
    Sworn to such a secrecy.
    Hell, it even could be me
    There is an angel standing near you

    There is an angel standing by

    I think what he’s getting at is, don’t look for an angel standing by, BE one.

  • Bryan

    I’m really sorry that you don’t understand the simple precept that God doesn’t intervene in every situation. Just enough to remind us He IS!

    • ako

      So the divine intervention is done out of entirely selfish motives? God doesn’t care about all of the people being left to die, just about whether he can use them to generate publicity?

    • Gillianren

      But why, if He’s omnipotent, doesn’t he act like it? I understand that people believe in an interventionary deity who only intervenes in petty little moments like this one (not that it was petty for the woman, but on a global scale), but why do you believe that?

      • guest

        Just how is an omnipotent person supposed to act? It seems at least plausible that an omnipotent being would enjoy the challenge of accomplishing his/her/its goals while using the least amount of power necessary.

      • Gillianren

        So instead, He does little things that literally any person walking on the street can do, and that’s supposed to be proof that He exists? Not buying it.

    • Kodie

      So you are totally ignorant about statistics.

    • Conuly

      And we are supposed to worship an entity that could save us from rape and murder and disease and suffering but refuses to do so most of the time, only intervening once in a while to coerce us into being more religious?

      Tell me, have you ever read anything by Terry Pratchett?

      • Niemand

        Tell me, have you ever read anything by Terry Pratchett?

        “I don’t call that much of an argument,” said Dorfl through the steam. (Paraphrased because I don’t have the relevant book with me just now.)

      • Conuly

        I was thinking of Small Gods, but Feet of Clay is good too.

        My favorite is The Truth, but that’s not exactly relevant to this discussion, is it?

      • Anat

        The Truth Shall Make You Fret!

        Love all things Pratchett. I cycle my favorites. Night Watch and Thud! are awesome, as is Small Gods. And Carpe Jugulum. I’m one of those odd fans that likes the Moist books and is looking forward to Raising Steam this fall.

      • NeaDods

        Going Postal is my favorite! I’m sorry that Pratchett said at this year’s North American Discworld Con that he’s not going to do the Moist book on taxes.

      • Conuly

        That’s a pity. Truly, we are going to lose him too soon.

      • Conuly

        Well, Moist is six kinds of awesome!

      • Whirlwitch

        Moist is pretty awesome, but Sam Vimes, Granny Weatherwax and Tiffany Aching are the best.

      • NeaDods

        Granny Weatherwax! Witches Abroad & Lords and Ladies are also in my Top 10 Books Ever list. I’m ambivalent about Tiffany. I adored the first three books, but am having trouble dealing with the last one being so much later and so different than the others. (And also that the Big Bad was so terribly awful and horrible and how-will-she-do-this when it’s something most of the other witches had faced, *unlike* the villains in the first three.)

        Vimes… this is going to sound strange but the Witches books are the ones that I love most to *read* but the Watch books are the ones that I love most to *hear.* I listen to the audios over and over and over – usually doing from Men at Arms through Snuff every year.

      • Conuly

        I don’t know, I think I prefer Agnes to Tiffany.

      • NeaDods

        i don’t know, there’s that whole conversation about what constitutes actual news, in which both people arguing happen to be right!

        Have you read Nation? One of the characters is a pagan priest and one of the lead characters gets in the dig “tomorrow I stay and pray and you go out and do the work.”

      • Conuly

        I haven’t read it, actually, I really should.

      • NeaDods

        You should. You really should. It’s sort of distilled Pratchett; all his usual tropes and humor and ideas presented in a manner that I can recommend it to people who would ordinarily otherwise refuse to read something with witches, dragons, etc.

      • Gillianren

        I like that the witches and wizards don’t believe in gods any more than they believe in tables–because they know that gods exist.

      • NeaDods

        *perks up* if the conversation’s turning to Pratchett, I want to be part of it!

  • Charlie

    I am a Lutheran and trained through the church as a middle school teacher at a Lutheran teacher. While I do not have the same training as a Lutheran pastor who faces these questions more often, I will try to answer your questions.

    First – death was never planned as we were created perfect. With the fall of Adam and Eve, sin entered the world. God allowed it to happen since He had given us free will (we’re not His robots) – yet He had a plan for Salvation. Ultimately – He knew He would have to send Jesus, His son, to save us by His living here, suffering, innocent death and victorious resurrection. God never promised us easy lives without suffering, but that we’d have eternal bliss and heaven with him. Jesus is the way the truth and the life.

    As to your questions …

    Q) Why didn’t God stop the wreck before it happened?

    A) He could have. But it wasn’t His will. What happens, even in our weakness, can give Glory to God. Would this story have made the news if not for the “miracle priest”? People now are discussing God – and I pray this may bring some to Christianity and faith, leading to salvation for more. The woman was saved. The story said she was Christian, she asked rescuers to pray for her – so who knows what God as in store for her life. Maybe she will cure a disease saving billions of lives, or prevent a war saving millions. Or maybe she will have a family and that family will be blessed. The other driver also survived, maybe by their arrest they will have learned a vital lesson, and be able to be a blessing and positive example to others.

    Q) Why don’t God send people to comfort every critically injured individual?

    A) I think to an extent he does. We are supposed to take care of each other. I volunteered for 10 years with the American Red Cross. I went to disaster sites, worked in shelter, first aid stations, and fed rescue workers on scene. I know people who work in hospice as counselors, I know chaplains who work with the military and the Michigan State Police. There are tens of thousands of trained workers who dedicate their lives to comforting those in distress. I think it falls short due to sin, when people want to decide to turn the blind eye, to not give their money and time to charities, to churches, etc.

    As to why God doesn’t send angels to every emergency as in this case. I don’t have an answer for that. He is still present everywhere. Before my dad died of oral cancer and was on hospice, we still felt God’s peace when we prayed, when our pastor visited. Yes, we cried. We suffered watching my dad suffer. At his funeral, we also talked to some of his friends who hadn’t been to church in decades, and they were able to hear the Gospel preached.

    Q. Why did the girl’s improvement correlate perfectly with the arrival of a new team with new equipment?

    A. I’m not sure I understand the question completely. From what I understand, the arrival of new equipment allowed the fire fighters to extricate the girl, providing better care for her. The arrival of that equipment timed perfectly to the prayers of the people and the care from the priest / angel. A prayer answered.

    Q. Why couldn’t God just heal her?

    A. He could have. He can. This can also be a learning experience, she can recover fully, and be able to be a witness for Christ. The bystanders, the camera people, the firefighters can also now be witnesses of this (as the chief has already made public comments to affirming the priest / angel, the power of prayer to Jesus, the girl’s belief in God and asking for prayers). See also the answer to number 1.

    Q Why would God send an angel to help one critically injured woman when millions of people are starving around the world?

    A. I think the same answer to number 2 applies. The Lutheran Church does have a branch called Lutheran World Relief. They send food, medicine and aid to Africa, third world nations, and in times of disaster. They responded to tsunami’s, famines, etc. But they do rely on humans to volunteer time, money, prayers, etc. There is a Lutheran organization that sends medicine to third world countries to help stop the spread of Malaria. The Roman Catholic church has many charities that send aid, medicine, food. The Baptist church does as well. These have prevented in my estimate – probably millions if not more of deaths. They also proclaim the saving message of Jesus – what He has done for us. In turn, those that receive the physical blessings then can share the Gospel they heard, blessing countless more. These groups also provide education … in how to prevent the diseases, how to farm using modern practices, and about Christ and His saving work. How He lived perfectly (since we are unable to), how He suffered for us, endured temptation, ridicule, torture, and death. (Yes He could have opted out, but chose to obey the Father, to do this out of His love to save the world, then rose in victory …. He isn’t a God of the dead, but a God of the living).

    Q. Why doesn’t God step in to stop genocides?

    A. It pains God to watch us suffer. It isn’t His desire that we suffer. Yet Satan helps cause it (as does our sinful condition that Satan helped set in motion by playing Adam and Eve’s free will against them …. as we also give into temptation) – Satan then uses these disasters to get humans to doubt God. To question Him, to doubt if God exists or if He does, does He care and love us.

    God does love us. I think many genocides, once discovered have been stopped. Granted, they have gone on to long. If the USA had stepped into WWII earlier, the holocaust would have been ended sooner. (Yet in the Holocaust, there was a Christian (I believe he may have been either Catholic or Lutheran) pastor – he refused to endorse and support Hitler from the pulpit. He was arrested as a traitor and put in a concentration camp. He continued to preach the Gospel of Christ to the prisoners (Jewish and Christian) of the concentration Camp. It’s impossible to tell how many heard the comforting words of Christ through this pastor. How many were blessed with faith by the Holy Spirit because this pastor was arrested and preached in the difficult situation. This pastor was executed (for his faith) just days before the American’s liberated the camp. This pastor today enjoys a pain free celebration with his creator in heaven today.

    Q Why didn’t God send someone to keep Archduke Ferdinand from being shot? Preventing WWI and the death and destruction it brought would have been that easy! Is helping calm a single critically ill young woman more important than saving the lives of millions?
    A. This answer is a combination of all the other ones. Yes, God could have. But as humans we also have free will / choice. Just like God may not stop the robbery, arson, violence, etc. We suffer through these because of sin. Sin wasn’t in God’s original design. Yet, God can and does work through our sin (as individuals and as a human race) to bring physical blessings and more importantly, to bring faith in Him. The Bible says God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. When we are strong, we often feel pride and don’t turn to God. When we feel weak, scared, sick – we pray and turn to Him. We seek Him. God wants us always to seek him. He won’t cause bad things to happen, to wreck havoc on us. But, due to sin, He may allow them to happen … the consequence of our bad choices (in the story here, the consequence of someone drinking and driving). God doesn’t abandon us though. He will help us every step of the way. In this case – rescue workers were on the scene. A priest (or an angel) was on the scene. There were no fatalities. People are discussing God, His Word and hopefully the Holy Spirit can spread the Gospel through this …. through our blogs and comments, through the girl’s witness, through the testimony of the firefighters. Even if it was “just a priest or pastor” and not a spiritual angel – prayers were answered, comfort brought. If you research it, there are stories in WWI and WWII of “divine interventions” – of a bullet that hit a solider but hit his Bible and it stopped the bullet. Of a soldier saving other soldiers – but the soldier’s identity is unknown …. an angel? God is present in battles. God’s angels are present with us. God also uses us, as Christians to help each other. To volunteer. To join organizations both Christian and secular. Again, in 10 years with the Red Cross (not a Christian organization) – God was able to use me to bring comfort. My church has a disaster team that has gone to Alabama and the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, has gone to cities hit by tornados and floods. We donate financially after the earthquake hit Haiti. We have a sister congregation (another Lutheran Church) in Haiti that offers both physical and spiritual blessings, thanks to the loving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have missions that bring food, clean water, medicine, and the Bible to those in need across the world.
    God is still all powerful and all knowing. We don’t always understand why bad things happen in the world or in our lives. Yet, God does and will work in those situations. He will comfort those who call on Him. He never abandons the faithful. He works through these to bring faith to more and to spread His Word. The fact that “God so loved the world, He brought his only son into the world to save the world.” (John 3:16.) His birth, life, death and resurrection was for us, to achieve what we are unable to. We give thanks to Him, no matter the circumstance, for what He is able to do. I pray the Holy Spirit can use this to bring faith to others. To bring peace, understanding, and comfort to those directly involved in the accident. God’s blessings.
    Charlie

    • thatsnonsense

      So your answer is basically “Because shut up, that’s why.”

      There’s no reason why an omnipotent, omniscient god should have created a world full of suffering. He could have just created people whose free will would NOT lead them to hurt each other. This is easy enough to imagine.

      Your “answer” is just mealy-mouthed platitudes that never addresses the actual question. You just want people to turn off their brains and blindly trust your awful, stupid, evil “god”

    • Kodie

      You don’t understand why but you made up a lot of answer that seem to satisfy your questions adequately. As for “why doesn’t god send someone to comfort everyone”, yes there are agencies of people who comfort whoever they can, but volunteers don’t just appear out of the woods. You are human beings who want to help in any way you can (or think you can), but that doesn’t alleviate global suffering. God doesn’t send you to appear out of nowhere for everyone who is suffering. The answers you gave were incomplete and completely excuse-making for your deity. You want him to be good even though he seems to be selective. If he doesn’t select you to help, then one is supposed to believe he has overlooked the case for your own good and growth – not because he doesn’t give a fuck about some people.

      Are you certain?

    • Conuly

      Wait, wait, wait, I’m still hung up on answer #1. You’re saying that your god deliberately allowed suffering to happen so that he could be a tangential and public part of the solution for the sole purpose of getting more worshippers? All so a handful more people can “achieve salvation”?

      And this is loving, because the alternative is bad? But since your god made the rules and this whole plan, can’t he change the rules so that salvation isn’t necessary? Or why not be more direct – go on TV to everybody in the world, say “here are the rules, take them or leave them!” Wouldn’t that also get people discussing God, but more reliably?

      • NeaDods

        You beat me to it, but I’m going to be more or less repeating this in my comment back.

    • Lorelei

      So your God watched my father sexually abuse me, then sent the pastor to tell me that it was God’s will, because if Jephthah sacrificed his daughter as a burnt offering and it was pleasing to the Lord (Judges 11-12), then wasn’t sex a little thing?

      Thank you for enlightening me!

    • Olive Markus

      I couldn’t get past #1.

      So, why couldn’t God be at least as good and saavy, as say, Batman? You could prevent every “evil” you are aware of, show up in full costume garb, announce to the world the awesome thing you’re about to do, do it, and get the praise WHILE ALSO doing something good for once. Would it make Batman a good man or a bad man if you saw that he sat there and watched an atrocity happen (while being fully capable of stopping it), then announced to the world that it was his will that it happened so that he could show up and get publicity? Really??!!

      Is that the best you can come up with?

      You’re going to worship a God who doesn’t even live up to basic comic book hero status?

      And as far as Satan goes… if you believe that Satan is more powerful than God, and God can only sit there and cry while we suffer at large, then you’re saying Satan really is a god. You’re admitting that you believe there are actually two deities and that God is the less powerful one, if you’re going to stick with that story. Atrocities happen to believers in the same way that atrocities happen to nonbelievers. And atrocities done IN THE NAME of your God are too numerous to count. You think atrocities only happen because of doubt? I can give you examples of many people in my immediate family who don’t doubt God for a second but who have endured more than their fair share of suffering. Your explanation is ridiculous and cruel at the same time.

      And, ah, Free Will!! One can be a very good leader and not oppress free will if he really were all-knowing and all-powerful, couldn’t one? He could bribe a shitty, horrible person with an eternity in heaven and 102 virgins every single day if only they promised not to commit atrocious acts of genocide. That’s not taking away free will, that’s giving an incentive. There are an infinite number of solutions somebody supposedly as powerful as your God could come up with.

      I doubt God’s existence. If he really cared about my well-being and feared that something awful was to befall me because of this doubt, it would be real fucking simple if he just showed up right in front of my face (preferably while others were around so that I didn’t just think I was hallucinating) and say, “Hey, girl, look. I’m real. No need to doubt my existence anymore, mkay?” EASY. Seriously. Easy. No impingement on my free will whatsoever and he supposedly (according to your “logic” saved me from atrocity). A God who was actually that decent, chill and logical would probably have my vote, if he existed.

      Oh, and as others have already mentioned, the Free Will debate isn’t even remotely settled.

      Your explanations are really only poor excuses that don’t stand up to grade-school level scrutiny.

    • http://Thechurchproject.me/ Tracey

      I’m curious to know, Charlie, if you are still listening to the conversation here- which Lutheran denomination are you?

    • NeaDods

      Charlie,

      Plenty of people have had their responses and I’m going to be repeating a lot of it. But I figure I have an angle… you see, I WAS a Lutheran too. Now I’m an atheist. And that worldview is the reason why!

      1) He could have. But it wasn’t His will. What happens, even in our weakness, can give Glory to God

      So… God lets terrible things happen for his own glory. Ever heard the phrase “it’s okay if you’re a ____,” which is applied when someone says one thing and does the opposite, such as “It’s okay if you’re a Republican” when Newt Gingrich was banging on about Clinton’s infidelities when he was also banging his secretary?”

      Its! Not! Okay! It’s not okay if it’s a person hurting someone else for their own sociopathic reasons; it’s not okay if it’s a god! He can’t get people discussing him by doing something really really *nice* as a miracle instead?

      As for the rest of your answer, it’s all conjecture without data and I’m ignoring it as same. Get back to me if she or someone she touches or her great-grandchild does something wonderful. Until then, that’s wishful thinking on your part.

      2) As to why God doesn’t send angels to every emergency as in this case. I don’t have an answer for that. He is still present everywhere.

      Citation needed for presence; your impressions are not data, and your conclusion contradicts itself. You have no answer BUT things work out the way you want? This is neither rational nor persuasive. As for the rest of your answer, what you’ve proven is that people are out there helping when people are hurt, not that they are being directed by any deity. As someone who supports non-religious charity work, I *guarantee* you that all the people helping are not motivated by god.

      3) I’m not sure I understand the question completely. From what I
      understand, the arrival of new equipment allowed the fire fighters to
      extricate the girl, providing better care for her. The arrival of that
      equipment timed perfectly to the prayers of the people and the care from
      the priest / angel. A prayer answered.

      You do not understand the question, which was “if the prayer is at the same time as the ordered equipment arrived, why is it the prayer that summoned it?” not “Why was the new equipment able to get her out?” If they happened at the same time, the prayer did not magically poof the equipment into existence. If the equipment was ordered before the prayer, the prayer did not bring the equipment. And even if the pryaer happened before the ordering, the equipment was ordered because the previous equipment failed, not because someone prayed for them to get new equipment. This is not a prayer answered, it is “post hoc ergo propter hoc” which is a logical fallacy.

      4) He could have. He can. This can also be a learning experience, she can recover fully, and be able to be a witness for Christ

      So he could heal her miraculously, which would then guarantee that she feels a miracle happened and wants to be a witness for Christ, but *instead* he’s going to let nature and man’s medicine take their course… and despite that being exactly the same as no deity doing diddly at all or even existing, she is to be a witness for the one who… did nothing for her, actually.

      5) I think the same answer to number 2 applies.

      AKA, people help other people when terrible things happen. This is not a proof of divinity, even if some of those people believe in a divinity and spread their particular brand of holiness along with the actual, practical help. Do you realize that other religions also have emergency outreaches? Do you realize that there are charitable outreaches that do the help without the overlay of missionary work? (Doctors Without Borders and Engineers Without Borders. Wonderful groups.)

      6) It pains God to watch us suffer. It isn’t His desire that we suffer.

      And yet an all-powerful divinity doesn’t do anything about it, be it stop them in an undeniable miracle or smack down Satan who is surprisingly strong considering that only one of them is an all-powerful omnipotent deity who already read the end of the book and knows he wins.

      Golly. It’s almost as if there are no divinities and instead just natural disasters and some evil people doing things for their own purposes!

      7) God wants us always to seek him. He won’t cause bad things to happen, to wreck havoc on us. But, due to sin, He may allow them to happen …

      So god himself commits sins of omission? Despite not wanting to? Despite it hurting him? In what universe does this make sense?

      When we feel weak, scared, sick – we pray and turn to Him

      Speak for yourself. When troubles come, I do not rush back to the church of my childhood for the very reasons you cite – because I looked around and saw *people* helping, not phantom priests and hidden hands of divinity.

      You take comfort in people “discussing God” as if that means they are suddenly worshiping him when they didn’t, as opposed to looking at the story as a cynical religious manipulation that denigrates the people actually there doing the rescue work because it wasn’t them *really* doing the work, apparently.

      God is still all powerful and all knowing.

      Citation needed.

      We give thanks to Him, no matter the circumstance, for what He is able to do

      …. which is, objectively speaking, nothing. Leave me out of your “we.”

      I pray the Holy Spirit can use this to bring faith to others.

      Has it worked?

  • Sophie

    I believe that sometimes people are just in the right place at the right time and that they do what is needed. If other people need to call them angels because it comforts them then I’m ok with that.

  • Caravelle

    I highly doubt preventing WWI would have been as easy as keeping the Archduke from being shot. IIRC the big powers wanted a war (well, France and Germany at least), and between that and the secret alliances that drew everybody in, the assassination was an excuse more than a cause.

  • That Other Jean

    I wish, if in fact there was a minister/priest who prayed for the girl in the wreck, he would admit to his presence at the scene, in order to put a stop to the “angel” stories. If the praying man in clerical garb originated in the victim’s head, because that’s what she needed to hold on until emergency workers got there, I’m fine with that, too–after all, it’s entirely possible that God, whatever that means to anyone, also originates in our heads. For myself, I’m not interested in a god who could send an angel to help a single person in a car wreck while ignoring the millions who are dying of starvation, disease, and natural disasters.

  • Niemand

    Why didn’t God send someone to keep Archduke Ferdinand from being shot

    Well, god might have a point here: the assassination was more the excuse than the reason for WWI. But why didn’t the omnipotent and omniscient god set up European history in such a way that no one ever thought of waging a major war there? Or anywhere else for that matter. Why do humans have to see war as a solution to their problems? I’m sure the universe or human biology could have been arranged in such a way that some other solution that didn’t involve death could have been seen as the obvious one. Sure, it’s less sexy than appearing as an angel, but more effective.

  • Richter_DL

    Or maybe she hallucinated as she was experiencing massive blood loss and/or trauma. Of course, that doesn’t affirm everyone else’s faith. Kind of disgusting how this personal tragedy is taken advantage of in the name of reaffirming belief.

  • alwr

    There would have been a World War I anyway. Something else would have triggered it. Even an average high school student who stayed awake for half of her history class could explain that fact.

  • Conuly

    I would stay away from WWI. Aside from the fact that it was pretty bound to happen anyway by that point, you can make the argument that breaking up the great empires was a good idea and the whole point of the exercise. (Not sure why God couldn’t come up with a more peaceful way to do it, but nobody ever answers that question.)

    • TurelieTelcontar

      Well, or God could have made William II, the German emperor, mentally retarded in a way that Bismarck continued to be his regent. While Ferdinand’s death was pretty much only the excuse, having Bismarck ruling the German empire instead of William might have made a difference..

  • http://neitherheadsnortails.blogspot.com/ Kris Thompson

    I’ve BEEN that “angel.” I have, quite literally, been called “a gift from god” and a “guardian angel” by grateful folks who can’t seem to fathom that PEOPLE are capable of goodness, of kindness, of intervening without some super-hero ghostie in the sky. I stop at accidents–I’ve stopped at more than I can count; I have some medical training, it’s only right that I stop to render aid. I don’t give my name unless asked, and I POOF when my usefulness has passed. I have held the hands of frightened, badly injured people, I have nodded and smiled while they prayed and begged whatever deity for intervention. But when that girl stepped into traffic and was thrown 20 feet by the pick-up truck that smacked her? “God” didn’t intervene.

    I did. Paramedics did. Police officers did. Emergency room physicians, Surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists did.

    Angel my backside. Goodness, the silliness never stops.

  • TLC

    I am a definite believer in angels and miracles. I have been healed by prayer more than once. I believe I have exhausted several guardian angels in my lifetime, and a few more, I’m sure, have begged for mercy! ;-)

    But I am baffled by this story. The only “miraculous” element seems to be that the priest/cleric did not appear in any of the photos. I’m not surprised he was allowed to approach the scene — everyone probably assumed he was called there. But did anyone take photos while they were praying.? If there’s a photo of the group praying as other saw it and the priest doesn’t appear, then yes, I’d consider the possibility that it was an angel.

    However, what saved this girl is the fact that they rolled the car over, tried again with new equipment and new rescue workers, and got her out. I’m not sure I’d call that a miracle. They had decided to do this BEFORE the priest showed up. And she was still severely injured with much recovery ahead.

  • lollardheretic

    For those who don’t want to believe, don’t believe, but there are several commentators who call believers “silly” or some variation thereof, and that’s just not cool. I believe in God and I believe in free will. We live in the world we created. If we were better to each other, we’d have a better world. (Big, massive, collective we.) Here’s a radical thought: what if there is a God and he let us have the world we wanted. So all the snarking at the “silly” people who believe in God, is just as hurtful as the nastiness that the believers snark at atheists. The world is awful when people are awful. The world is good when people are good. It’s pretty much that simple.

    You can’t have both. You can’t have God make the world perfect AND let people do what they want to do–which seem to be the dichotomy presented by Libby Anne–either got fixes things or he doesn’t. One is consequence free. The other is consequence ridden. I get not understanding why God doesn’t save people/ help people. I don’t know why either. But I do know, for me, I’d much, much rather have choices than perfection, even when I suffer for my choices.

    • Conuly

      So, if I happen to get my legs and kids crushed in a terrible earthquake, that only sucks because people are awful? If I make a fortune robbing old blind ladies, my life is awesome because I’m so wonderful?

      And why CAN’T perfection overlap with free will? Why can’t it be that nobody ever dies of hunger, even if they are lazy or greedy or incompetent? Wy can’t it be that rapists always stub their toes or something on the way to get the roofies and so don’t actually rape anybody (despite making the choice to do so) or that the “people” they harm aren’t actually, I don’t know, clever simulacrums?

      Why can’t God act more like Prime Intellect in the following story?

      http://localroger.com/prime-intellect/

    • Conuly

      In fact, the more I think about it, the sillier your comment is. Yes! Silly*!

      If choices and perfection can’t co-exist, does that mean there is no free will in Heaven? But you just said you’d rather have choices. Does this mean you have no intention of going to Heaven when you die?

      * Interesting fact, silly once meant something more like happy. Then it started to mean lucky, blessed, and from there it started to mean innocent, and from innocent it started to mean stupid, and from stupid it came to mean, well, silly. I think I may have skipped a few steps there, but it is a fascinating transformation in definition over just a thousand years and change!

      Edit: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=silly

      • Anat

        Of course one alternative is that we don’t in fact have free will. Which does not contradict our ability to make meaningful choices. It just means our choices are not ‘free’. They are the outcome of a combination of prior causes (external and internal) and random occurrences.

        Can we be held accountable for our not-freely-made choices? To an extent. After all, considering the possible outcome is part of what goes into making choices. But the one entity that can’t hold us accountable is the entity that set up the conditions that brought about our choices.

        Hmm, does God have free will? His apologists come up with so many things he can’t do. Maybe he really doesn’t have a choice about what he does or doesn’t do.

      • Conuly

        Indeed, people talk like free will is a settled subject, but it isn’t, not scientifically and not theologically either.

        The free will of the standard deity of your choice is a new one, though! Maybe he can’t choose whether to forgive or not either.

      • TurelieTelcontar

        Well, in ancient pantheistic times, neither omnipotence nor omniscience were a necessary characteristic of a god.

        Zeus repeatedly weighs the fate of Troy in a pair of scales. Achilles mother, a goddess, gives her son armour made by Hephaises, hoping it will protect her son longer than his normal armour, yet knowing he will die during the fight for Troy, but not able to do anything about it.

        As for nordic gods, Odin gave one eye for knowledge about the last fight, Ragnarok, but is still unable to prevent it.

    • Kodie

      We don’t have both. We have no god and people pretty much do what they want. Believing in god doesn’t make people better, and if you believe there is a god, his presence doesn’t make people better. We live on a planet that’s kind of dangerous. It’s only made safer for humans by humans – medicine, laws, and technology are our ways of saying this world wasn’t made for humans. We have to modify it to our own comfort, and progress is always being made because it’s still never perfect or good enough. Your internet was too slow 5 years ago and now it is maybe faster – 20 years ago, you didn’t have any internet, so why shouldn’t we be happy with dial-up? People can just die of cancer, and many do, but that’s not good enough. We can save many of them now, and we can save them more efficiently than we used to, too. That’s not god. God has nothing to do with humans looking around and complaining. Sure, what can come of complaining? People say you shouldn’t complain because it could be worse. People say you shouldn’t complain unless you get off your own ass and do something about the problems. The serious truth is complaining brings solutions because we could be satisfied but nobody is. Hardly anyone is smart enough by themselves to create the next solution. Did everyone invent the telephone or did one person read the general mood of society and thought, we can communicate faster than the mail. Or do you think waiting for the mail to arrive on by horseback or boat is good enough? Thank goodness people complain and we have trucks and airplanes – and telephones and satellites and internet and skype. A video-phone was science fiction, a wish which is also a complaint that something better doesn’t exist. You can carry that in your pocket now and leave the house while you chat with someone in another part of the world while looking at their face in real time! Complaining works!

      God is doing a shitty job, if he’s there. Everything you are thankful for is human-done, except nature, and nature can be beautiful but deadly, and often just inconvenient. Nature is mosquitoes carrying Eastern Equine Encephalitis. It’s not just pretty sunsets (the most colorful sunsets are enhanced by pollution made from humans too).

      You have choices, but you don’t have to bind the ability to make choices to god giving you that ability in trade for perfection! That’s is what is silly.

    • Anat

      Since we obviously can think of ways this world can be improved upon it is obvious we don’t have the world we wanted. Also, it is a fact that different people have different ideas about how this world can be improved upon, so it is impossible to have the world ‘we’ wanted.

      As for the world being ‘good’ when people are ‘good’ – I call BS. Natural disaster and disease are part of the world. They are not good. An intelligent and benevolent creator could have avoided them.

    • Anat

      The ability to make meaningful choices does not necessarily require free will. There are philosophers who claim we do not have libertarian free will. Some believe in compatibility of free will with a deterministic universe, some are hard determinists, some think free will is a meaningless concept.

    • Mary C

      I don’t think you’ve quite thought this through.

      What about natural disasters? Do you think people being mean to each other caused the Haitian earthquake? Or any other devastating natural event? If human free will didn’t cause those events, why does god let them happen?

      I highly recommend you read Richard Carrier’s book “Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith.” It is only 90 pages or so and directly addresses your explanations.

    • Japooh

      “If we were better to each other, we’d have a better world.”

      But this is the part you don’t seem to understand – this statement is true regardless of the existence or non-existence of a god. So those of us who do not believe really struggle to understand why a god is necessary for most of you, since the world we experience actually makes more sense without one.

      Atheists aren’t advocating for a “perfect god” as you seem to be implying – that’s a fundamentalist position if ever I’ve heard one. We are demonstrating that a god is not required for any of this.

      You spelled out exactly the problem yourself – god can’t be perfect and still allow for free will. Yet believers keep insisting that both are true.

  • Incongruous Circumspection

    Besides, this would prove that Catholicism is true, which would piss off a hell of a lot of people.

  • Barbara

    I am a theist. I have had too many experiences not to be, and I have found that my life is enriched when I am spiritually engaged.

    I am also, however, a skeptic. I rejected the Abrahamic religions long ago, for a number of reasons. The biggest of these is that I can’t accept their conception of deity: at best, it’s completely nonsensical; at worst, it’s deliberately cruel.

  • Matt Yonke

    I would recommend you to the writings of Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart on this question. His book, “The Doors of the Sea: Where was God in the Tsunami” is a very sober look at the question of evil and how a good God can be relevant in a world of such suffering:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Doors-Sea-Where-Tsunami/dp/0802866867

    For a taste of his thesis in the book, see this article:

    http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2008/05/tsunami-and-theodicy

    If you’re going to dismiss Christian answers to your questions, integrity requires that you read and understand the best Christian answers before dismissing them.

    • Kodie

      I know you think this is the best Christian answer, but it’s really the same. God can’t be held responsible because people keep making up new stories to get him off the hook. That’s not a satisfactory answer, they come from the butt. The truth is uncomfortable, and the questions are uncomfortable, the criticisms are uncomfortable, hey, I know – let’s make up something new to wave these problems and criticisms away.

      Sounds good to you? Sounds the best to you? You dare people to have the integrity to read this garbage before dismissing it? Circular arguments=

      “there is a god”
      “he loves us; he is good”
      “there must be some way to reconcile evil with this preconceived notion”
      “invent the devil” or “pass the blame” or whatever it takes to get your beliefs back on track where you already believe they should be, i.e. there is a god and he loves us and is good.

      Ignore reality to pile mountains of manure to keep this conclusion intact.

      • Matt Yonke

        Kodie — With all due respect, I’m almost certain you haven’t read Hart’s book and I’d wager you haven’t thoroughly read the article either.

        His point isn’t to make excuses. His point is that evil has no meaning. Evil has no existence of its own so it can have any meaning.

        There is no good that will come of this evil that will make it “ok”.

        This is far from a novel explanation. It’s as old as the Early Church Fathers like St. Augustine, but it’s not given nearly a wide enough hearing.

        The real question that’s being ignored is, what is the meaning of all this suffering in YOUR worldview? I have a way, proposed by Hart in the book/article, to account for the suffering and evil. Do you?

        It seems like all your worldview gives us is that we simply live in an evil world where horrible things happen all the time. You assert that belief in God doesn’t make sense of the evil in the world, but I don’t see you offering an alternative explanation.

        What’s the meaning of it all in your estimation?

      • Matt Yonke

        Sorry, 3rd sentence of the 2nd paragraph should read, “Evil has no existence of its own so it CAN’T have any meaning.”

      • Kodie

        We’re animals living on a planet. We try our best (most of the time) to order ourselves for the least amount of harm, but there are things outside of our control. It doesn’t come from intention – tsunamis don’t “mean” anything other than the earth quakes at the bottom of the ocean, moving the water at a rapid pace in one direction or another, until it hits land, where people usually live.

        http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/brochures/tsunami2.htm

        Things seem to mean more to humans because we can put it in language. We can express grief and shock. We can, pushed to the end of our emotions, cry out to the universe to turn back time and do something else that isn’t destructive. Your version of “god” is to the acceptance stage of the 5 stages of grief (people actually go through grief in various stages and not in order or in a prescribed amount of time). There is no turning back time to undo the damage. We can only move forward and fix what we can. Nobody else is fixing it.

        You are making a giant leap between your beliefs and what you imagine my “worldview” is, where we might just leave things as they are to deteriorate and look after ourselves. Truthfully, we do this a lot too. A lot of people send money to disaster relief, and a lot of people don’t. Hurricane Katrina was a disaster that a lot of people ignored and relief came in short steps and didn’t help as many people as immediately as it could have. Comparatively, I think a lot of people gave to the Hurricane Sandy relief. This charity isn’t coming from god, it’s coming from judgment within the individuals and how they feel about victims of a disaster and how they will choose to spend their money. What is the “meaning”? When you look at someone who is suffering and in need of some home or food or work, it’s called empathy. It is triggered by our own perception of ourselves in their place and trying to give a fellow human what they need to get back to normal. But of course, in a lot of cases, people find some reason to withhold their charity.

        What does prayer do? Money buys people what they need to rebuild. Praying remotely for god to do something for them and cheering god when people give them donations is not “meaning” anything. I think your defense of god, frankly, makes you a sick fuck. “God can’t do what you want him to do, but he loves you, and you just have to live in this crummy world until you die, and then you get to go to paradise!” This means nothing to me, because god is imaginary. It’s an elaborate web of excuses to get your loving god off the hook in a world that is harsh.

        We just live on a planet. We’re the kind of animals who see problems and try to solve them, because, if not us, nobody will. Learn something about plate tectonics. If god created this planet ideally fine-tuned for life, why the hell are there so many cracks in it under all that water that covers most of our planet, making only a portion slightly inhabitable, but dangerous? Why do so many humans see fit to live near the water instead of far away from it? Why do they build houses on stilts so they don’t get flooded every time it just rains? What is the meaning in stilt houses? It means that humans do whatever we want, wherever we want, because we figured out the way to do it. Still not safe from a tsunami. What keeps people safe is detection and warnings to head inland. God doesn’t bellow, “look out for the gigantic wave headed for populated land, moved by the shifting crack in the earth I made!” Humans did something to fill in where god misses.

        So what’s the meaning of it all? It’s a matter of perspective, but in the long run, nothing. We’re just one life form of many who have succeeded so far. In the short run, we’re all in this together. There is no outside help present or on its way.

      • Matt Yonke

        Ok, good. I think we got to the heart of the matter.

        You said:

        “So what’s the meaning of it all? It’s a matter of perspective, but in the long run, nothing. We’re just one life form of many who have succeeded so far. In the short run, we’re all in this together. There is no outside help present or on its way.”

        Then why are you so incensed at Christians? You think our explanation is crappy, but your explanation is that this all means nothing. That means the suffering means nothing, the helping means nothing, the death means nothing. All of it. Big hill of nothing.

        If you think that’s the better explanation, that’s your choice and that’s fine, but by what standard do you haul other peoples’ belief systems into the dock when your own admits that everything is meaningless?

        It seems unfair to you that a God should act this way? So what? Life is meaningless by your own account. There’s no “fair” and “unfair” in a universe that means nothing.

        Give me a standard other than a transcendant God by which we can judge the accidents and actions of our universe and I’ll consider it, but right now, all you’re offering me is a universe full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Molecules banging against each other with no underlying meaning. In that world, why should I even take the time to argue with you?

      • Kodie

        If you think god is a big hill of something, show me. Don’t pretend you have a good answer or even the best answer, and don’t straw man me. It seems to me that you don’t like anyone dismissing your best answer. That comforts you, but it’s not real. Community is real. What humans can do for each other in this lifetime is real. What humans can take away from people and give to god is real. It’s real enough for the time being.

        But pretend there is some really great excuse why the god you believe in and I don’t is such a piece of shit (if he were real), the reason is because he doesn’t exist. Sorry if that takes meaning away from your existence, that you can’t accept that you are a mere animal, that this is a violent planet, and this planet was not made particularly for us to succeed, otherwise we wouldn’t have to modify and invent every inch of the way! You can’t accept that and can only fathom that you are the center of the universe and the star of an epic tale. Goodie for you.

        Shovel all you like, but you’re not really close to a good answer.

      • Barbara

        The problem isn’t the lack of an alternative; the problem is that you don’t like the alternative.

        It’s horrifying to think that there is no grand plan and no greater meaning. But the fact that it’s scary does not necessarily mean that it is not so, just as the fact of really wanting there to be a higher purpose and a standard by which to judge does not necessarily mean that there is one.

        Toward the end of your post, you’ve made the mistake that a lot of people do when considering the potential for meaninglessness: that we must retreat into nihilism, because there is no point to doing anything. But we can derive personal meaning from the fact of being alive, of being able to reason and to feel. We can derive personal meaning from our interactions with others, from the connections and relationships that we form, from the positive changes that we have the power to make. We can derive personal meaning from the beauty of this universe, because even if it serves no greater purpose, it’s still a spectacle. God doesn’t have to exist for us to enjoy being alive, and the existence of suffering doesn’t have to negate that enjoyment. We deal with suffering by helping those who experience it and by trying to alleviate it where we’re able.

        I do think you are correct that, in a world where we make our own meaning, there is ultimately nothing wrong with deriving that meaning from a belief in god. I’ve said downthread that I’m a theist — I’m just not the same sort as you, as I believe in multiple deities and I don’t believe that any one of them is transcendent. Troubles arise when that belief is used as an excuse, whether it to be to behave poorly; to avoid doing certain things; to devalue the accomplishments or actions of others; to devalue the existence of certain groups; to silence those who make us uncomfortable; to gain power or control; etc. There are people who use explanations for suffering as a way to /increase/ suffering, and that’s what most critics have a problem with.

      • Anat

        It is a better explanation because it is consistent with reality. A fairy-tale god isn’t better if it isn’t evidenced. If there isn’t a god it is not surprising that life isn’t fair. But we can make life more fair through our efforts. Why should we? Because we want to. Because it makes for a more stable society that we can depend upon. Because we can’t do it alone and helping each other out makes for a more satisfying life.

        But if there is a god and life is still unfair it is a failure of said god. At least to the extent that the god in question demands any kind of standards from us. If he/she/it/they can’t live up to their own standards then there is no reason for anyone to care about god’s standards.

      • Conuly

        If you’re going to dismiss atheist answers to your questions, integrity demands that you read and understand the best atheist answers before you dismiss them.

        Lack of a deity doesn’t make life meaningless. Meaning comes from within.

      • Anat

        That evil has no meaning is something that makes sense in a godless universe. How does it make sense in a universe created by a supposedly moral and caring interventionist god?

      • Pofarmer

        why does suffering have to have a meaning?

    • Olive Markus

      You realize that Libby Anne was a devout Christian for most of her life, right?

      • Matt Yonke

        I do realize that. But she was Evangelical, and Evangelicals give far different answers to these kinds of questions than Orthodox Christians do.

        I’m not calling sides, I’m a Catholic, but the Orthodox perspective on the problem of evil is well worth considering.

      • Olive Markus

        She was a Catholic for many years, as well.

        Please don’t assume that because we disagree with you, we’ve never read or studied your side.

        That you automatically assume that she lacks integrity and hasn’t looked at your side of things simply because she disagrees is a little condescending, don’t you think? As is your belief that an “answer” from somebody of your own religion is automatically the best.

      • Matt Yonke

        I don’t assume she lacks integrity. Calling people to live up to the demands of integrity is not the same as implying that they’re being disingenuous.

        Also, Hart is Orthodox. I’m Catholic. We excommunicated each other’s religions in 1054. I just think he’s got some great ideas about this subject that are worth looking at.

        My point about Libby was that she was listing off some pretty boiler-plate-philosophy-101 objections to the problem of evil. Hart goes WAY deeper.

        I’m just saying he’s worth a read and it might help explain where Christians are coming from better than other sources you or Libby might have run into.

        If you’ve got some atheist sources on the problem of evil, I’d love to check them out!

      • Japooh

        Once you remove a god from the equation, there IS no problem of evil.

    • Mogg

      That article doesn’t answer the problem of evil, it merely says that it’s not God’s fault. Which is a bit of a cop-out – he’s supposed to be the all-powerful creator who set up the whole shebang in the first place, right? But he can’t or won’t control his own creation, and/or won’t give any evidence (apart from a badly supported book of other people’s ideas about what he *might* think) that the suffering we see and experience is nothing in comparison to whatever else he’s planned.

      If that’s the best answer, I’d hate to see the worst.

    • Japooh

      If you are going to respond to a blog post, mere common sense and courtesy would require you to read it and understand what it actually says before you comment. Integrity would require you to respond with honesty.

  • J-Rex

    I think it sometimes gets difficult to believe in the supernatural and an omnipotent god and never really seeing any miracle for yourself. People sustain themselves through hearing stories from a friend of a friend who would totally never lie, so how do you explain that! It feels unfair and a little weird that they themselves never get to see anything, so the second that anything that isn’t immediately explainable happens, they’re excited to think that it might be Jesus or angels, and hey, even a demon story would be pretty cool.

    • J-Rex

      And just now my aunt posts on Facebook that an unknown person paid for her pedicure. God is so good!!!!
      …no, the person who did something nice for you is good.

  • Norm Donnan

    “Why doesnt God do what I think He should ?”.Good question and one I think leads to a lot of cultural Christians changing their belief. What this question forgets or ignores is the spiritual realm and how it operates. Whilst God is omniscient ect,we live in Satan’s kingdom.He intern is limited by the presence of the Holy Spirit.There is an order of things that God Himself limits Himself to for a time.The bible gives instruction on how we should live for our benefit,you get to choose whether you do or dont and you live with the consequences,like the laws of gravity,if you jump off a bridge,dont ask,”why didnt God save me?”you reap what you sow.If you Know God personally and not simply know about Him [which is religion] you will know you can trust Him,not to do things like you hope/wish He would but that Him being God,He knows what is going on.How do you hear Gods voice?[because He speaks in a whisper],walk close to Him. .

    • Anat

      Any evidence for the existence of a god in general, your god in particular, the satan, the spiritual realm and all the rest?

      So life as we experience it shows no sign of being just while being run by a just god who follows some inexplicably obscure sense of justice or life shows no sign of being just because it isn’t being run by any intelligent entity whatsoever – what makes more sense, I wonder?

    • Composer 99

      Well, this will convince the skeptics around here. /sarc

    • Whirlwitch

      “He intern is limited by the presence of the Holy Spirit”

      As fascinating as the idea of Satan having interns is, I’m not sure what you meant here, and I suspect you mistyped. Could you clarify, please?

      • LL

        I think (not at all sure) he means that “He, in turn, is limited by the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

        So, what he’s saying is that Satan is so powerful that he has made earth his Kingdom, and God is so weak that he can only “limit” Satan’s influence a tad by his presence. Which means that Satan is a god, and he is, in fact, the All-Powerful One, and perhaps the one we should have been worshipping all along… :)

      • Whirlwitch

        That’s the meaning I got out of it, but I couldn’t parse the “intern” – should have sounded it out.

        I don’t know the truth behind it, but I’ve been told the first Satan-worshipping happened when the medieval Church started ramping up the persecution of “heretics”. Folks who saw all the torture and execution going on in God’s name turned to his enemy Satan as being obviously the better choice. Can’t really fault their logic.

    • Japooh

      That’s not the questioning being posed in this post.

      • Norm Donnan

        Try reading it again. Its the main point to me

      • Japooh

        Well if you want to change the subject, you should really start your own blog, rather than using this one to promote your own topics. That’s just rude.

      • Norm Donnan

        sorry you feel that way

      • Japooh

        Lol, no you’re not.

      • Norm Donnan

        darn,you got me

  • Jimbo

    Instead of writing this post you should have just told your readers to check out the Wikipedia entry for “Problem of evil”. Why is everyone up in arms about this story anyway?

  • TheCarolineEntity

    Thanks for another great post! I grew up in a Southern Baptist background, slowly lost my faith over many years, but it’s only within the past year or two that I started asking those questions, like “how could a good God allow that to happen?” (I had a lot of others to ask first.)

    I think it took me so long because I was immunized against them at such an early age. They were presented as silly questions that nonbelievers would ask, along with all the right scripts that we could use to defend against them, without having to actually consider the question. All the answers were supposed to be so obvious and final that a ten-year-old could understand them. So it was only after I lost my faith for other reasons that I’ve been able to revisit them and think “wait a minute, these were actually all really valid questions!” I still have trouble thinking about them without mentally putting quotation marks around them and remembering all the rebuttals, though.

    • aklab

      In addition to what you described, I was also taught that people who asked these kinds of questions were just trying to avoid the real question of their own sin. *shudder* I feel dirty for even typing that. But yeah, that was the underlying idea: people who said “what kind of god would allow all this suffering?” were just trying to take the focus off of their own lack of holiness.

      Which of course I now know is an utterly monstrous viewpoint. Devoid of empathy and worse, not even allowing for the possibility of empathy or compassion in someone else.

  • Niemand

    It appears that the priest has come forward and been confirmed to be a real, living priest. Who never told the first responders that he would make their equipment work. He simply gave the blessings appropriate to his religion and moved on. Nor did he disappear: he thanked the person in charge of the scene and left in an entirely mundane manner.


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