20 May 2021

The works of God

God, according to his devotees, does more than occasionally appear on pieces of toast.  People have been known to thank God for winning a football game, or for successful surgery, or for surviving some disaster such as a tornado that wiped out the rest of the neighborhood, or even for finding a lost set of keys.  Even in the modern world, apparently, miracles abound and prayers are often answered.

Such claims suggest, though, that God has very peculiar priorities.

Slavery existed in this country for several generations.  Most of the slaves were Christians, having been converted to the religion of (conveniently) "resist not evil" and "turn the other cheek" by their enslavers.  No doubt many of them, in the course of entire lives spent in forced labor and degradation and brutalization, prayed to the Christian God for deliverance from their lot; certainly all of them deserved it.  Yet generation after generation, no such deliverance ever came, except in occasional cases of escape or manumission -- acts of individual human effort or mercy.  The end of slavery was finally achieved via a bloody war and the Thirteenth Amendment, with no sign of any supernatural intervention.

During the Nazi holocaust, millions were murdered purely due to their ethnicity, or in some cases due to being disabled or homosexual.  And again, many of them must have prayed to be saved, and none deserved their fate.  Yet God, whose miracle-working power (displayed again and again before the eyes of the world during Biblical times, according to Christian mythology) could easily have stopped the whole thing in an instant, did nothing.  Turning water into wine to keep a party going 2,000 years ago was sufficient reason for a public display of that power, but stopping a genocide was not.  Eventually the mass murders and other atrocities ended because Nazi Germany's military might was laboriously beaten down by that of other countries, at staggering cost in death and misery and destruction.  Not a scintilla of evidence of even the subtlest divine intervention can be discerned.

And yet the God who never visibly interfered in those horrors casually reaches down to help you find your car keys?  Or to help one side win a football game?  (How does he choose which team to support?)  Perhaps the clearest sign of God's non-existence is his failure to strike down the people making such claims with lightning bolts out of exasperation at their sheer self-importance.

Does the tornado survivor thanking God believe himself to be more worthy of such divine aid, not only than his neighbor whose family was obliterated, but even than the tormented slave on an antebellum plantation or the child facing his last moments in a Nazi gas chamber?  On what grounds?  As for the person who comes through risky surgery, his survival is due to human technology and skill developed over many decades with no noticeable sign of supernatural assistance.  I'd also note that centuries ago, when we had less technology and more faith, the rates of survival in such situations were far lower.

A world in which God routinely intervened for our benefit, as so many believers claim that he does, would look very different from the world we actually see around us -- especially its history.  A world in which anything like the God they believe in existed at all would look very different from the world we actually see around us.

You found your own car keys.  Give yourself the credit, if you want to make that big an issue of it.


Blogger Jack said...

I can remember being taught as a young child that we had to thank some sort of god for everything positive that happened but could never blame it when bad things happened. The bad things were always our fault it seemed. This short of teaching seems about as difficult to reconcile with positive mental health as just about anything I can think of. I guess it is at least consistent with the nonsense about us being punished for the "sins" of our ancestors unless we grovel before Jesus.

20 May, 2021 03:54  
Blogger Victor said...

Faith doesn't allow for logic.
As a matter of fact, faith and logic are mutually exclusive.
They don't even mix as well as oil and water.

I do, at times, try to inject some logic into the believers' POV.
Purely for my own amusement, you understand, and not some fruitless effort to enlighten the faithful.
I'd have a better chance of teaching trig to a fern.
For instance:
My father died during Easter week nine years ago.
And at his funeral, the faithful adult son of some religious family friends pulled me aside, and he assured me that my father was especially blessed in that he died during Easter week, because that meant he automatically goes to heaven - no questions asked.
So I looked him in the eye, and said, "So, you're telling me that if my father died during the other 51 weeks, he might be fucked?!?"
The look of confusion on his face almost made me LOL.
It was like that moment in Star Trek, when Kirk and Spock danced, uttered some nonsense poetry, and short-circuited the robots who ran that planet.
I didn't mean to hurt the guy's feelings, but I couldn't help myself.
It was like when you see the pitcher throw you a batting-practice fastball down the middle of the plate on a 3 -0 count with the bases loaded!
Ya just can't not take a swing!

20 May, 2021 05:45  
Blogger Victor said...

Loved your previous post on trolls.
And your Sunday compilation is a wonder to behold!
It keeps me informed and entertained the whole day!
And sometimes more!
Love ya, Infidel!!!

20 May, 2021 05:48  
Anonymous Concept Capital Group said...

Definitely love this post. Thanks for sharing!

20 May, 2021 07:05  
Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

You know some people NEED their Sky Daddy (TM) to deliver them from evil and punish them if they don't comply with his incredibly psychotic demands. It's the mother of all codependent relationships.
Let them have him.


20 May, 2021 07:44  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Yeah, it's crazy, eh?

20 May, 2021 08:46  
Blogger Mary said...

Perfect! Says exactly how I feel.

20 May, 2021 09:09  
Blogger W. Hackwhacker said...

"He works in mysterious ways" is what I always heard when something cruel and appalling happened.

Great post.

20 May, 2021 09:50  
Blogger Mike said...

Great post. And Victors' first line says it all. "Faith doesn't allow for logic."

20 May, 2021 10:45  
Blogger CAS said...

I presume you know of Tim Minchin. Your post reminds me of his song Thank You God.

Here is a sample:
Thank you, Sam, for showing how my point of view has been so flawed
I assumed there was no God at all but now I see that's cynical
It's simply that his interests aren't particularly broad
He's largely undiverted by the starving masses,
Or the inequality between the various classes
He gives out strictly limited passes,
Redeemable for surgery or two-for-one glasses

You'll find this masterpiece here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi8HT6Ux8FM

20 May, 2021 14:24  
Blogger Kwark said...

Hmm. . . Well, over the years I've been assured by a variety of folks, all self described "good Christians", that bad things happen to those who deserve it. So obviously black slaves were being punished, down the generations, for something. See, it's so easy. No thought necessary. In fact thinking about this is probably a sin punishable by bad things.

20 May, 2021 17:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Perhaps the clearest sign of God's non-existence"

Have you ever considered the possibility that God is evil and that he wrote the Bible in order to make humanity worse?

"Turning water into wine to keep a party going 2,000 years ago was sufficient reason for a public display of that power, but stopping a genocide was not."

According to Deuteronomy 20, God orders genocide, and considers it good. Why would he want to stop a genocide?

20 May, 2021 22:25  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

It's hard to believe in god, so I don't. it just doesn't make any sense that such a being exists.

21 May, 2021 13:33  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Jack: They don't want you to have mental health. They want you to constantly feel guilty and unworthy so you'll be easier to manipulate.

Victor: Dying during Easter week automatically gets you into Heaven? That's a weird one. I'd probably have reacted the same way. Or asked, if Hitler had died during Easter week, would he have gotten a free pass too?

Thanks for the kind words! I appreciate it.

Concept: Thanks.

Sixpence: Yes, let them have him, for all the good he'll do them.

Debra: It certainly shows an amazing lack of self-awareness.

Mary: Glad we're on the same page.

22 May, 2021 00:15  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Hackwhacker: Thanks. Yes, they've got an assortment of clichés like that which they can trot out when something they believe in utterly defies common sense.

Mike: Thanks. I do find that applying logic to faith tends to run it off the road pretty quickly.

Carol: Yes, I know of Tim Minchin -- this masterpiece is a favorite.

Kwark: So obviously black slaves were being punished

Gosh, what on Earth could they have done that was that bad?

Anon: If God existed he would certainly be evil -- though an evil God who really existed would have done a better job of making everything bad (wouldn't have allowed us to invent electricity or vaccines, for example). But yes, Hitler was acting rather like God told his followers to act in the Old Testament, so maybe he did get into Heaven after all.

Mary K: That's the obvious conclusion, and clearly the correct one.

22 May, 2021 00:27  
Blogger Dave Dubya said...

God's selective use of tornadoes has always been fascinating. He seems to prefer unleashing them on the Bible Belt for some reason.

I remember Wolf Blitzer being taken slightly aback after asking a tornado survivor if he was thankful to God for sparing him. "No. I'm an atheist. I was just lucky."

Our intrepid journalist muttered, "lucky indeed", as he promptly moved to the next clip.

22 May, 2021 07:33  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

I recall that after one of the big earthquakes in the San Francisco area -- I think it was Loma Prieta -- some of the fundies said it was God punishing the gays, since San Francisco was a rare center of gay tolerance at the time. Then it turned out that none of the gay bars in the city had been damaged, but many churches had, which raised questions about just what message God was trying to send.

22 May, 2021 08:07  
Blogger Papa Wheelie said...

The purpose of 'works in mysterious ways' is to stop the conversation, not further it. In their minds it's a slam drunk, homerun, touchdown for the win.

22 May, 2021 11:02  
Anonymous Annie said...

This is a fine piece on a topic that's hard to fathom for those of us who do very well, thank you, without divine assistance.

I am reminded of a joke I heard years ago, with the central character as a man. It just resurfaced with a woman as the recipient of "God's grace." In each case, the individual had gone to great lengths to start a new life (plastic surgery, etc), only to be struck down and wind up in Heaven. S/he asks God for an explanation for this inexplicable action. Response from On High: "I didn't recognize you!"

22 May, 2021 14:31  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hey, Infidel735. My name is John and I have read your article for a long time. Noteworthy for me was the day my dog, Louie, knocked over my roofing ladder on November 6th, 2020. I fell over 20 feet onto a concrete sidewalk and fractured my skull, ribs, pelvis, clavicle, and back.As well as damaging my lungs, throat, and dislocating my right ear. They called my wife twice during my 6 week ICU state about cancelling my tubes, but she said 'no'. After my ICU stay, 5 weeks in Essentia Rehab, I was able to return home. I walk,talk and am still am still able to identify Republican/Nazi's as 'bad'. Regarding your article, I am still unconvinced of any spiritual connection but do believe that some unstated 'Cosmic Consciousness' exists. My father was a Presbyterian minister, 8th grade teacher, antique collector and built two of his own houses. He believed in God and love and empathy were the connecters that bought all things together. I don't know if he was right about everything, but he was easy to spend time with. Keep up the good work. I'll read again.

22 May, 2021 15:29  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"wouldn't have allowed us to invent electricity or vaccines, for example"

-Can't have anti-vaxxer nonsense without vaccines. And what monster wouldn't be glad when deaths come from contaminated vaccines .

Can't have either lightning strikes or internet trolls without electricity.

22 May, 2021 17:23  
Blogger Lady M said...

Yep - one of my favorite quotes by Epicurus:
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

22 May, 2021 20:25  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Wheelie: That's true -- most religion is meant to stop thought and replace it with obedience.

Annie: Thanks. God's aim often appears to be rather poor. Maybe he's myopic.

John: Thanks for the comment, and I hope you've fully recovered from those terrible injuries. I know that some religious people are decent people, but that doesn't tell us anything about the truth or falsity of their beliefs. As for a "cosmic consciousness", it's hard for me to be sure what that even means, but for any reasonable interpretation of it, I just see no evidence for such a thing.

Anon: We're still much better off having vaccines and anti-vaxxers than no vaccines and no anti-vaxxers. Same with the internet and trolls.

Lady M: Epicurus did such a good job at calling out the logical fallacies in their bullshit that early religionists actually used apikoros as a general word for "heretic".

23 May, 2021 04:18  
Blogger yellowdoggranny said...

the Goddess thinks it's all bullshit.

23 May, 2021 05:56  
Blogger SickoRicko said...

Hello Infidel753 - I ran across your blog recently and liked this post so much I was going to copy-n-paste the whole thing onto my blog (inserting a few irreverent memes) but decided it would be more polite to ask if you mind. I would surely credit you and your blog. Mine is a gay porn blog with a twist: I bash politics almost every day with memes I've collected, and religion on Wednesday and Sunday. I also post images of beautiful scenery, animals, food, houses, and skyscrapers on a rotating basis. The naked men account for an average of about 60% of my daily postings. Please let me know if this would be agreeable with you. Yours, Rick

20 June, 2021 16:59  

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