Ben Love over at Ex-Christinas.net writes a brief article about how we are on our own and how humanity is getting darker. This is a response saying that yes humanity is getting darker, and religion is causing pain and problems. Its complicated as our species has made progress in modern medicine and yet it has also constructed the Nazi death camps. I agree with Ben in the article. But I also want to state that I don’t believe we’re on our own.
“We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won’t do harm – yes, choose a place where you won’t do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine.”
“There will be no end to the troubles of states, or of humanity itself, till philosophers become kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands. ”
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Psalm 139:11-12 NIV
I am working on a post reviewing Cru’s Christmas and winter conferences. It has been more labor intensive than I imagined and wanted to get up something while I plug away on the Cru post. The other day at Ex-Christian.net I saw an essay from Ben Love called “We’re On Our Own” that needed a response. So I want to get this up for Friday. I have written a number of posts on atheism. I’ve written on both the late Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. I’ve written why I don’t believe evangelical Christians will be able to reach atheists. I’ve also explored what a faith crisis feels like in two separate posts here and here. Going forward in this post my comments will be in red.
Everywhere you look, people are being killed. Raped. Cheated. Everytime you turn on the news, or click on Yahoo, you see more war, more carnage, more tragedy…more death. To die is natural, but to die at the hands of blind rage is unnatural. The world is dark, and brutal, and cold.
Agreed its brutal, cold and dark. Its depressing to look at the news…consider what happened in the last two months alone. You had a mass shooting in Oregon at a community college, which was followed by horrific terrorist attack in Paris. That was followed by the San Bernardino shootings. There is more carnage destruction and pain yet to come. You can’t escape it…it’s overwhelming. There are times I want to weep when I read or watch the news. At the same time I wonder…what’s coming next? Will there be a terrorist attack on the New York City subway? A mass shooting in a shopping mall with large fatalities? I pray that neither does happen, but I can’t guarantee it won’t or prevent it either. My heart’s cry is that more evil is prevented from occurring and actually contained. But Ben I agree with you…the world is indeed dark and brutal and cold.
And yet, according to recent polls, there are at least 2.4 billion practicing Christians on this planet. Most of them, we must presume, spend a portion of their life praying. Praying for what? For peace. For goodwill. For the intervention of their God. Most of these Christians, we must presume, have petitioned their God about the current situation on Earth (as they have presumably been doing for at least 2,000 years). And their God (who allegedly said that when his believers ask anything in his name, it will be done) either doesn’t listen, or doesn’t care. But that wouldn’t make any sense. If he doesn’t care, then these believers are wrong about his love anyway and the whole point is moot. If he doesn’t listen, why did he lie to them when he said their prayers mattered? And neither can these Christians claim that their God has answered their prayers. There is no peace on Earth. There is no salvation. Reality is dark, and it’s getting darker. No one is answering any prayers (and the recovery of lost items or the finding of a parking space—these things don’t count; not when such bigger matters are being ignored).
You ask good questions Ben, and make some good observations. We need to ask why do Christians like myself pray? Ben…let me make a confession. I seldom if ever pray for myself. I spend most of my time praying for others. A guy who falsely accused me and some people that I have gotten to know. I honestly struggle with asking God for favors. Your reaction is quite good and I love your brutal honesty. You point out the problem of God not intervening. I struggled with this in my past and in all honesty I still do. I especially struggle with it in light of the Paris and San Bernardino terrorist attacks. Then on the flip side you have individuals like John Piper who claim divine intervention or God revealing his sovereignty in disasters. I want you to know Ben that John Piper is a fool. I and many others have little to no respect for the man. But if John Piper opens his mouth, ignore him. But how and what are the matters of God intervening? How is that determined and what does one say? The truth Ben is that the issue is complex. Much more complex than the simple Hallmark cards and what many Christians say. Here’s another dimension that I learned….many evangelical Christians are shallow, involved with forms of prosperity theology, or have a faith system incredibly skin deep. Give many time you will learn how secure their faith is. The Christians who proclaim God at work, watch what will happen when the doctor says, “it’s cancer…” or some other dreadful news. If anything Ben you should really feel empathy for such people because their time of suffering is coming. Just like mine is coming, and yours. No one can escape pain and suffering.
Prayer is complex and difficult. Where do I go in regards to one person who survived cancer and another one didn’t? That is not an answer I am going to give because there is no answer. Likewise why did some people survive the Bataclan Theater attack and others didn’t? Its like asking why did some people survive the World Trade Center attack and others didn’t. There are people who lived because they missed their train, or slept through their alarm clock. But the world is dark and its getting darker. Your observation is correct. But here’s what I also want to tell you. Get mad, get pissed. Go out into your back yard and ask “Where the fuck are you?!?” I’ve been there and I’ve done that, and chances are I will do that in the future. Be direct, scream obscenities and ask the hard questions. Struggle with the silence and the lack of God responding. I’ve done that too…I felt like that for half my thirties. Many evangelicals will spurn, dismiss and ridicule you. Ignore them, and shout obscenities at God. Be like Job or be like Elijah. It’s okay to ask the difficult questions. I encourage you to do so.
Where is the God of the parking spaces and the greeting cards when 150 human beings are being senselessly butchered in the name of religion?So where is this God? Where is the God of the parking spaces and the greeting cards when 150 human beings are being senselessly butchered in the name of religion? Where is the net result of 2.4 billion prayers? Where is the result of 2,000 years worth of prayer? If this God existed and deigned to answer prayer, this planet would be completely different. But look around. Look for those answers. There are none.
Ben there are not a lot of easy answers to faith. Its hard, difficult and messy. Many people have a simplistic faith and that only adds to the problems. Life is not about certainties and is messy in its own right. There are no easy answers. I wish I could tell you otherwise but I can’t stand the cheesy BS that is often served up. I can’t and will not turn around and give to you what has been fed to me. I love and care for you too much to insult your intelligence with that crap. So in the end there are no answers. This is just me speaking from my heart Ben.
We are on our own, people. There is no God out there. It’s time to finally come to terms with that, as a species. It’s time to stop praying and start taking matters into our own hands. The only ones who can save the humans are the humans. We must be our own salvation…
Our species is amazing Ben, it really is. Our human brain and the intricacies is deep. You, me and all the billions of people on the planet. Each is individually unique and gives testimony to the wonder of the human species. Look at what we have done as humans? We’ve built sky scrapers that touch the sky in places like New York City, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Dubai. Then look at what we have done in the name of science. We have launched men into space, and shot probes and satellites beyond our solar system. One day we are going to land men on Mars. That day is coming, and our species will be a testimony to it. Then look at modern medicine…we have eradicated small pox. And we have found modern treatments for many forms of cancer. People are living longer today and what would have killed a person in the 1800’s can be cured today. Our species is amazing. You see it also in technology, engineering, and city planning. Our species is incredible.
And yet…remember Ben…
The hands that can deliver a newborn infant from our species have also been responsible for building places like Treblinka, Dachau, Bergen Belsen, and Auschwitz. The hands that created new treatments in medicine also helped finds ways to turn execution of our species during the Holocaust into a science. And as horrific as that is…remember Ben…it’s just the beginning of what our species is capable of doing. Our species is responsible for starving millions in China under Mao Zedong or of doing mass purges in the Soviet Union. But wait….it continues….you also have the military junta in Argentina in the 1970’s and 80’s that conducted the “Dirty War.” People just disappeared. Our species is beautiful but its also deadly. It invents and finds ways to prolong life and finds creative and new ways to destroy it. It’s difficult and complicated. I wish it could be easy, but what in life is easy? Life is not easy, it’s hard.
Everytime I think of Paris I get so fucking angry. Religion did this. What is ISIS if not religion out of control? Religion has been killing humans ever since humans had religion.
Enough is enough.
So get your head out of your own ass. This ain’t no fuckin’ fairy tale. We are on our own…
It’s good to get fucking angry Ben. Who in their right mind would not be angry about what happened in Paris? And you’re right! Religion has been killing humans since humans had religion. Stop and think of all the actions that religion is responsible for….from September 11th, to the Paris attacks, to stemming AIDS education and awareness and elsewhere. Of course there is the Crusades and the wanton violence that came as a result of Pope Urban’s call to violence on November 27, 1095 with “God wills it!” How much suffering and pain has religion caused and is still causing? What about the Catholic church and evangelical churches covering up child sex abuse? Actually the very existence of this blog and all this writing comes from pain. This blog was born out of trauma and a false accusation that threatened my name, livelihood and ability to earn income. So I agree with you religion does cause problems and causes pain. And I am reminded of it with the few stories or emails that people have sent me or told me in person. So to quote you Ben, this is no fuckin’ fairy tale.
But are we on our own?
I’m not going to proselytize you Ben and tell you what you have to believe. You have probably been subjected to enough of that already. You are free to believe what you want to believe and I am not going to force anything upon you or any other atheist. For me however let me say this…are we on our own? I would suggest no. It feels like it especially with the silence and empty prayers not being answered the way I would like. But am I alone? I don’t believe so. I think faith and religion are kind of like our human species, much more complicated than we want to admit. Faith and religion is hard and difficult. But I think what gives clues to God’s existence comes in a blazing sunset over the Washington, D.C. sky, or what I witnessed in snow storms in Montana or Wisconsin. I think it comes in the kindness of a loving text message or email out of the blue. I think our species can reveal God’s glory even amidst the suffering. It’s hard and not the easy answer. And I am not expecting you to believe in the Lord, that’s fine. You can choose what you want to believe. Personally I believe Christians should repent of pressure and dishonest evangelism tactics. But that’s what I believe. I love reading the posts, blogs and stories at atheist websites as I find them deep and spiritual. A lot of Christians think I have lost it, and they can think that if they so choose. I know Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few and I read this post and it resonates. The sad part is that many Christens have contempt or blow off atheists or those who don’t think into their limited frame of mind. That said, and I know you’ll disagree with me, I don’t think we’re as far apart as you may think we are. I think we’re much closer to each other.
In closing I will leave you with a classic from Bruce Springsteen. You referenced all the problems and the darkness in humanity. Part of that darkness includes the AIDS crisis which is still an issue. One thing that angers me is that there are Christians who will be sympathetic to people in Africa or Asia who get AIDS, but if a gay male in New York, D.C. or Chicago contracted HIV through an internet hookup or something similar from a gay bar, many Christians would dismiss and not care. That’s sad, and it enrages me. So with that I will leave you with “The Streets of Philadelphia.” I love you guys!