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Meditation 56
Who to thank? Who to blame?

by: JT

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A certain B Willi [1] wrote to me saying:

“...for some time now I wondered just where this planet was heading as far as events transpiring here and now. People are constantly saying this world is going to hell in a hand basket.[2] Only too true. If there is indeed Someone above watching over us, why are these things happening?”[3]

B Willi seems to feel that a deteriorating world indicates the existence of a supreme being may be questionable. But in my view, the world situation is actually improving over time. Should this make me more likely to believe in a god?

Why do people tend to credit good things to their god, and let him off the hook for bad events?

A recent New York Times Magazine article looked back 20 years at the crash of Air Florida flight 90. Seventy-four people died. Five survived, including one stewardess. Her view on her survival - “It was like God reached out and grabbed me,” and she became religiously active after being non-observant. This bothers me. If she credits her God with saving her, [4] then who is to blame for the 74 deaths?

Three years ago, a 13 year old boy in Saskatchewan had bone cancer in his leg. Medical opinion was that chemotherapy and amputation was the only chance of a cure. His fundamentalist Christian parents felt otherwise, that prayer was the solution.. The issue went to court. By the time the judgement came down overruling the parents, the cancer had progressed too far to proceed with the treatment.[5] So the parents raised money from the community to take the lad down to a Tijuana laetrile and bible clinic. Just about simultaneously with money running out, the clinic pronounced the boy completely cured (Praise Jesus!) and sent him home to much rejoicing and thanks to God. Within a month he was dead of the original cancer. And did that God get blamed by any of the believers who participated in this nonsense?

Though I have to admit that not every believer lets God off the hook for evil. A few of them seem to accept he just sits back and lets it happen, or even encourages it, and sometimes just chooses to look the other way. According to Jerry Falwell speaking in mid-September last year (13 Sep 2001) on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club," hosted by Pat Robertson “God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve,". "Jerry, that's my feeling," Robertson [6] responded. "I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror."

We live in a world where good things happen, and bad things happen. Some of these events can be attributed to human actions, some to the laws of nature, [7] and some to statistical probabilities. None of them require the participation of a deity.

 

  1. I don’t know if B Willi is a real name. My reply to his provided e-mail address bounced as “unknown user”
  2. I’ve never liked this phrase. Just what is a hand basket anyway? I prefer, in the words of the John D Loudermilk song “It’s going to hell in a sled, my friend. It’s going to hell in a sled.” Much more graphic imagery.
  3. The idea that things are getting steadily worse is not new, it has been around at least 2,500 years, yet few of us would want to live in the society that existed then. Frankly I would not even want to return to the years of my childhood some 50 years ago, even as an adult. The good old days weren’t all that good.
  4. She actually lived because she was sitting, secured by a seat belt, in her assigned stewardess seat, in the rear of the plane which broke away. Not saved by any god, but by good fortune, and by following regulations.
  5. This happens too often for my liking. This year’s case from Alberta is a teenage Jehovah’s Witness refusing the blood transfusions which are part of her cancer therapy. And by the time the court ruled, she was on palliative care.
  6. For more on Pat & Jerry’s statements over the years, take this quiz at funnystrange.com,
  7. Not to be confused with Natural Law - either the religion or the political party.