Let me make clear – I do not think there is a God that created this state of the world, as a first cause only (deist) or as theists would contend involved in the affairs of the world right now. I am not a misotheist that is angry at Him – I find ideas about God a product of human imagination hence my being an atheist. The following rant is squarely aimed at Homo sapiens that believe, as “All Things Bright and Beautiful” put it in a verse more commonly omitted:
The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
He made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.
The notion that God deliberately ordains suffering as a chance for piety and salvation by good works. This message was brought to my attention further as a child when picking up my younger brother from a respite run by nuns. On the wall was a poster which stated that God looked down from heaven, and chose a special couple to have a special needs child.
My blood boiled every time I saw that poster. People tell me religion is a great source of comfort. I fail to see the comfort that God deliberately chose you to be specifically tested with a child that will suffer more than any benign parent would ever desire.
Please spare me from such obvious fault in intelligent design being claimed beneficial for my soul – that even in the suffering of people “God saw that it was good” as a chance for people to possibly receive the gift of salvation.
If you truly believe God does this, and you love Him for it as it brings you that step closer to being One with the Almighty then you are in an abusive relationship where you blame yourself for not measuring up to the high standards that God clearly had for you.
I bring up the “God created Suffering for our salvation” idea because Tim Stanley briefly mentions it while defending Father Ray’s post. Father Ray, in nauseating detail, mentions the challenges he faces serving the community – and despite what he may wish they are to be met however unsettling as “… I have grown complacent in my lifestyle, I don’t want it changed, the message of the Gospels seem to be let the poor into it to mess it up a little.”
“The point of Fr Ray’s post was to remind us that we have a duty to suffer, and that the poor might actually be sent by God to test us as Christians.”
Maybe the mindset helps to deal with the troubles in this world – that a loving God sends the unwashed, the poor, the desperate, to test your faith. Ordains that you will have from birth learning difficulties, mental health issues, live in abject poverty. That newborns with bone cancer are given to specially deserving parents. This is not just a duty – it is a command. How do you buy into this, without immediately wanting a refund? Think before you buy.
Even when it comes to doing something good – respite for family carers, soup kitchens, finding shelter for homeless people, giving people the non spiritual help they need when knocking at the door at all hours – religion will find a way of devaluing the people involved, reducing others as a means in the cosmic hub for constant approval of a higher power for the next life.
Yet how much better would it be:
If compassion is your drive, not your duty. If empathy with your fellow Homo sapiens not a sacred text drove you to act. If you recognise the natural lottery is arbitrary and we as a society and as individuals do our darnedest to correct as best we can, that it is not consciously ordained to be thus by dimensional beings.
Then your acts of generosity, kindness and love have a meaning in this life.
Update 1:55PM latest twitter conversation between the journalist whose article here sparked Tim’s defence:
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog