Wave that beggared my belief
(Top Posts - Distance From Belief
in theism - 010405)

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January 4, 2005

by Allan Laing
http://www.theherald.co.uk/features/30806.html
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Complete article:

GOD, if there is a God, should be ashamed of
Himself. The sheer enormity of the Asian tsunami
disaster, the death, destruction and havoc it has
wreaked, the scale of the misery it has caused,
must surely test the faith of even the firmest
believer.

Like many people, I have been thinking a lot
about God over the past few days; wondering
where He was exactly when those tectonic plates
shifted with such devastating effect on Boxing
Day.

I was particularly interested to read the opinion
of Richard Holloway, the former primus of the
Episcopal Church in Scotland, in yesterday's pa-
per. I was baptised and confirmed in his church.
Like most children of my generation, I accepted
the existence of a higher being, completely and
unconditionally. For a while, at least.

Then I went the wrong way along the road to
Damascus. I lost faith. It disappeared gradually,
over a period of years. I had too many questions
and too few answers. How could a loving God
create a world in which hurt and suffering, wars
and disasters, occurred with such painful regu-
larity?

My late father, a good churchman, tried his best
to provide a reply. His traditional Christian faith
was solid, based on the premise that life was a
perpetual battle between good and evil. He be-
lieved in the existence of both God and the Devil.
Sometimes Satan simply got the upper hand, he
said. I was not convinced. Never have been, if
the truth were told.

Nothing that has happened over the past week
has served to alter my scepticism. Indeed, I'd
go as far as to say that, if ever there was proof
that God is a figment, then it came with that
colossal destructive wave. It beggared my be-
lief, literally.

I may be wrong but I get the impression that,
like me, Bishop Holloway (a man I have always
admired and respected) now questions the very
reality of God. He wrote that it was nature, and
not some higher being, which was pitilessly in-
different to our needs, as the tsunami had clearly
demonstrated.

I agree. If, for no other reason, than that the alter-
native does not bear contemplation. In the light
(in the dark?) of the merciless damage caused
by last week's earthquake, I hope I'm right. That
there is no God. For, if there were, then He'd have
to shoulder the blame. In my book, He would be
as guilty as sin and I'd want nothing to do with Him.

What's more, if He exists then He has a wicked
sense of timing. "I know what I'll do," He says.
"It's a big bad world down there so I'll give them
all something to think about. Death and destruc-
tion on a massive scale. and all on the day after
Christmas."

It worked once, after all. (It can only be a matter
of time before a 21st-century Noah's ark is dis-
covered floating somewhere in the middle of the
Indian Ocean.)

And yet, the faithful will argue, look at the display
of compassion that has swept around the world.
Consider the unprecedented outpouring of emo-
tion and the way it has manifested itself in huge
charitable donations.

Is that not clear evidence that the hand of God is
at work?

No. Not really. Granted, people of faith are no
strangers to a generosity of spirit. But they don't
have a monopoly on goodness. It's not their ex-
clusive property. Goodness comes from the heart
and from the mind. It doesn't come from the soul.

What is happening right now has nothing to do with
religion (be it Christian, Islam or whatever). It has,
however, everything to do with that finest of human
emotions, compassion. A desire, a willingness, a
heart-felt obligation to come to the aid of those help-
less victims caught up in one of the worst natural
disasters of modern times.

You don't have to go to church or believe in God to
feel tender sympathy for those in desperate need.
All you have to be is a decent human being.

Writing in yesterday's Guardian, Tom Wright, the
Anglican bishop of Durham, said there was "a sense
of a very strange, dark presence of God being at the
heart of the storm''. This, he argued, was not to make
the world all right for those who just happened to say
a prayer at the right moment. It was (for Him) "to be
with us in the mess".

God, if there is a God, certainly moves in the most
mysterious ways his "wonders" to perform. A death
toll of 140,000 (and still rising) is one helluva price
to pay to let the rest of us feel His presence and
allow humankind to indulge in a redemptive exercise
of mass compassion.

A single event has seldom been so shocking or so
awesome. Not since 9/11 has a story so dominated
the news. Given the monumental scale of the tragedy,
nothing else matters.

This will not last for ever, of course. At some point
in the not too distant future the story will disappear
from the front pages (and, from a purely journalistic
point of view, it will be interesting to see when that
happens and, indeed, who blinks first).

For the meantime, I fear that God, if he exists, has
some serious explaining to do.

Here endeth the lesson.

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