Belief in God is nowadays seen as an antiquated view. After all, hasn’t God been replaced by Science? Everything, so we are told, can be explained by science or if not it will be understood by using the scientific method.
There was a time when people felt as if they were in the hands of God. Whether you got any food, shelter, whether you succumbed to disease and so on was in the hands of God. Sometimes diseases or severe weather were considered to be God’s wrath. Nowadays we feel we have conquered these diseases and understand the weather. There is no need for a belief in God, or so people say.
In his book ‘The God Part of the Brain’ by Matthew Alper, he remarks that in the past people would consider weather as something that was sent down by the gods. If it rains then that was good fortune; if there was a drought it was bad fortune and the gods would have to be appeased. Of course this is a gross misunderstanding of the complexity (and variety) of beliefs that existed in ancient times. However, nowadays, he says, we understand that rain is caused by low pressure patterns and drought caused by other complex interactions that take place in the atmosphere and we can understand this by using scientific methods. Therefore, he says, we don’t need a belief in God to understand these things.
Except, what he is talking about is the how of weather. Not the why of weather. This may be how rain is formed but why did it rain on my farm but not on my friend’s farm who needs it more? Science is good (sometimes) at explaining how but not why.
A car crashes on a highway. The driver lost control round a bend and crashed into a tree. He walks away unscathed. His passenger is killed. Why? You may say that we can deduce the speed of the car and the impact and the effect this would have on the bodies etc, but it doesn’t say why the passenger is killed but not the driver.
There is what I call ‘The Atheists’ Question’. It takes many different forms:
- If God exists why do bad things happen?
- How can a God who is all good produce a world in which bad things happen?
- Why do children suffer with incurable diseases?
- Why is there so much suffering in the world?
- People praise God when they they survive a calamity but didn’t God do that to them in the first place?
And so on. They are all really the same question. The world, it would seem, can be divided into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and there is an inability to comprehend why there should be ‘bad’ things happening. I have yet to meet an Atheist who, having asked this question, then attempts to answer it. They seem to think that the only logical answer to these anomalies is that God doesn’t exist but we cannot answer the Atheists’ question without asking the question ‘Why are we here?’. If we are here simply to enjoy ourselves then it would appear if there is something wrong. However, if were created for another reason then what was it and how does suffering fit in with it?
Some years ago there was a TV series called ‘Scare Tactics’. It was produced for a US college-age audience. The premise is that a victim is set up and put in a situation that seems to be life threatening. For instance, a girl who thinks she is going to be frozen in a cryogenic chamber, or a person who thinks they have been exposed to a lethal dose of radiation, and so on. Eventually it is revealed that they are on Scare Tactics and there was no danger at all. On TV each segment lasts only a few minutes but the actual duration is probably a few hours. After the show is over there is obvious relief. Probably not only does the victim dine out on the experience but in many cases it could be life changing and a positive experience that makes them no longer fear things in the same way. It may be that two people who have been on the program compare notes and it becomes apparent that one person’s experience was far more frightening than the others. The person who had the less frightening experience may even be slightly jealous of the person who had the more frightening one.
In many ways our experience on Earth is like this. We have experiences that seem hard, frightening, traumatic etc. But when we return to where we came from we will see that we were here to learn. If we had a relatively easy life, we may even be jealous of someone who had it very hard.
The philosopher Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if he discovered, after death, that there is an afterlife. Russell said he would tell God, “Sir, you did not give me enough evidence.” The reality is that after death he would meet his Creator and he will remember why he was created. He will realise that the evidence was staring him in the face all his life but he refused to see it.
By Philip Braham on July 4, 2018