Monday, December 17, 2012

Where was God?

One of the more obnoxious reactions to the tragic school shooting in Connecticut is the meme going around on Facebook that supposedly answers the question: Where was God? Or, how could God allow this to happen?

The T shirt gives the answer: He (this version of the Creator is definitely a a He) is not allowed in schools. 
Ah. Pardon me for thinking it was a good idea to separate public institutions from privately held and not universally shared beliefs. 

I strongly suspect HeShe was in the same place where HeShe is when a USA drone hits a wedding party in Afghanistan. HeShe is on the sidelines, shaking cosmic head, wondering why our species doesn't make better use of its free will.
Besides, where is HeShe during epic natural disasters? 

I am an agnostic, rather than an atheist. One of my favorite quotes is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can supposeI practice Reiki. It feels like it works, in a way that suggests a version of The Force is with us. The relationship of such practices to Placebo will be another blog sometime, and I must do one on the need for the Secular Sacred.

But the attitude of believers to prayers with specific requests baffles me. Don't we have enough evidence by now that it doesn't work that way?

A while back my dear Christian friends were praying for a baby who had been born with a heart defect. The baby did well after surgery. This was taken as a sign that God had heard the prayers, and wasn't He wonderful for saving the baby. But no blame was attached to the Deity for not giving the baby a perfect heart to begin with. 

Any positive outcome is taken as proof of God's goodness, but we are supposed to meekly accept all the horrors of the world as His Divine will, not to be questioned. For every earthquake victim who is rescued after days of prayer there must be others praying just as hard who perished in the rubble. Thy Will be done. Fine, but in that case why bother with the petitions in the first place?

Earth is not, and never has been a 100% safe place. As naked apes on a finite and unstable planet we face enough challenges without making each other miserable and without inventing capricious deities who need to be placated. 

In his epic and brilliant novel "The Years of Rice and Salt" Kim Stanley Robinson follows a group of souls through a number of incarnations, Tibetan Buddhist style. At some point the scientist in the group comes to the conclusion that "Any improvement in the tenor of existence will have to be anthropogenic".  Amen.  Folks, the making of a better world is up to us.

I have nothing against people who believe in old religious traditions. Religion seems to act as a magnifier, bringing out either the very best or the very worst in people. Like the girl with the curl on her forehead: when it is good, it is very very good, but when it is bad it is horrid.

I worry when tragedy is blamed on failure to placate a god. It is a small step from there to blaming the people who must have angered the gods. That leads to priests burning heretics and witches alive, or throwing Christians to the lions, or murdering infidels or having a pogrom. Take your pick. 

Meanwhile, I shall continue to try live up to my own motto.
With thanks to Ram Dass, Voltaire and the Dalai Lama:

Be here now. Cultivate the garden. Just be kind.

As said before, any deity for whom that is not good enough I don't want much to do with.


Piper's Pal said...

There is absolutely no evidence that an anthropomorphic deity exists. There isn't even a basis for scientific speculation. Whistling in the dark feels good but that's about it.

Just read an article where a philosopher and a scientist speculate that we are really living in a computer simulation. Makes as much sense as the explanation posed by the religious amoung us.

I'm with you, an agnostic who refuses to state categorically that there isn't a force behind our reality. But I'll not live my life in the hope of an after-life in some mythical paradise.

Prayer can work if it is aimed only at self-improvement. The conscious self is not the sole occupant of our brains. The 19th century philosopher William James coined the phrase "sudden psychic shift" to explain such drastic personality shifts as that of Saul to Paul(road to Damascus story in bible). Intense, emotion-driven prayer can drive change.

Anyway, it's snowing here so I'm going to take Piper to the park to play. We went up the mountain earlier and she had a blast. Have a great day, take care and be safe.

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Yes, there is more to the issue of prayer. "The conscious self is not the sole occupant of our brains" is brilliant.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I am not sure I understand your question you left in my comments on my blog. I do not have the feature where you can subscribe to my blog by being emailed every time I make a new entry.
Blogs I read regularly I copy their address and add them to my list of blog sites I visit regularly located in the left margin. You do not seem to have this feature. I suggest if you want to follow my blog you should copy my address and save it among your bookmarks (favourites). I hope this is enough information

I have visited some of your articles and find them interesting.
I am an old hippy sort myself and moved to a small northern community many years ago. As a Unitarian minister, I share some of your religious idea.

I will revisit your blog site occasionally and hope to have you visit mine.

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Thanks, I have that "Blogs I follow" feature on my daily life blog. I am still perfecting the Blogger sites. I was on Multiply first.

Should Fish More said...

Found your blog through Troutbirder's. Thankfully, I haven't read any comments like the one's you reference. The ones I have read basically say one of two things: a variation of 'guns don't kill people,...', or 'limit/ban guns'.
Does not appear you take either position? Do you have a suggestion on how "Folks, the making of a better world is up to us." might happen in this instance?
Hope you have a happy holiday, however you celebrate it.

Ien in the Kootenays said...

"Fish", the God meme was on Facebook. I saw it on the page of several Christian friends. I have a gazillion ideas on how to improve the world, :), all pretty radical. We can start by not waiting for alien brothers or angels to do it for us. And we have to start paying attention to real bottom lines. Money is a man-made system to facilitate exchange, nothing more. The real bottom line is the carrying capacity of the planet. More another time.