Give praise where it’s due, and only where it’s due.

I have a system.  I go through all the news sites in my reader every day first to soften me up for when I get to the religious blogs I read.  Otherwise I might not get past lunch without a concussion from all the face-palming.

First up in my religious reader today was Mark Shea and his post “Praise Report!”  Mark got a letter from a disabled reader:

I am a middle aged man with a disability who became the victim of a home invasion back in January. After that, my family and I were gravely concerned about my physical safety. My brother, in an incredible act of generosity, stepped up and took out a loan to buy a condo unit that had been modified for a person with a disability. Compared to what I had before, the place is a palace, and tonight I am writing this from my new home. I am amazed at the kindness and generosity of God manifested in the kindness and generosity of my brother. See how God provides!

Mark was ecstatic at how the lord could be so good:

Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ! Way to go, Body of Christ!

Dear person who wrote the original letter,

I’m glad your brother is so generous.  But if your god is as good as you say he is, he shouldn’t need to leech the credit for tremendous charity provided by others.  It is certainly in god’s power to provide you with a condo without putting your brother on the line for a loan.  Your brother’s sacrifice was his, and he deserves the credit for it.

While god did not provide you with a condo, he did provide you with a disability (assuming you believe god exists, which I don’t).  No human can be on the hook for that one (as with the loan your brother took out and the human understanding of architecture that allowed the building to be built), that’s all god.  God, however, while never creating a single building, was very much the architect of human disabilities and disease.  This was apparently more important than medicine, which he left us to invent.  You may say that god doesn’t want us to be sick so he gave us the means to invent medicine and condos with modifications to assist with disabilities.  But if he wanted people to not suffer and die from illness, and if god wanted you to move around more effectively, why make the afflictions in the first place?

This is why I hate religion so – it allows you to see kindness in humans and to think the same god who made that kindness necessary is kind, rather than culpable.

And what of the break in?  Clearly, god can override free will, because you believe god moved your brother to generosity.  It’s curious why you assume god would plant good will into your brother’s heart but not into the heart of the man who broke into your home.  If god is really looking out for you, like you claim, why allow your house to be robbed in the first place?

It’s also curious you think god would move people in such a way that your brother would be punished for the burglar’s actions (taking a loan out is a burden, even if it’s for a good cause) and not the burglar.  The god you are praising, at best, has a sense of justice that resembles a pitiless universe – the universe we’d expect to see if no compassionate being were overseeing the whole project.

Look, I’m glad you’re taken care of.  But the source of your relief is the same as the source of your strife: humanity.  We should strive to make humanity better, and to make individual human beings responsible for their own actions.  Your brother’s kindness was a direct response to god’s inaction, as has been every innovation and every act of charity in the history of human kind.

If you’re not going to blame god for your disability, don’t thank him for your brother’s good heart.

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