It’s Christmastime and ‘tis the season for those holiday movies to reprise their appeals for kids who are on the cusp of becoming too old for Santa to “just believe” as the lyrics to Josh Groban’s song from Polar Express goes. To “just believe” in Santa is also a metaphor to implore a belief in God.
A belief in a god requires faith – a baseless, strong belief in something unseen. To have faith means that one must constantly make excuses for their god. Neglecting to make those excuses means accepting the fact that a god does not exist.
When a prayer goes unanswered the believer often makes the excuse that “God answers prayers in his own way and in his own time.” The alternative to that is to admit that prayers are seemingly answered randomly, much as they would be if God never answered prayers at all, or as if there was no god.
When evil people do things they should not, without reprisal, the believer is often comforted by a belief that the evildoer will get what’s coming to him in the end. That’s another excuse for God’s seeming procrastination in doling out justice. We don’t feel so bad that someone is getting away with murder if we believe that God will deal with them later. But we never really know for sure that’s what happens, do we? We just believe.
And why is it that so often those who do good works, who are kind and magnanimous, are sometimes stricken with serious illness or an untimely death? The believer makes an excuse for God, saying “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” Really? It’s so mysterious in fact, that it’s almost like God doesn’t exist at all. Bad things and good things seem to happen at random, but since there must be a god behind it all, it only stands to reason that he works in mysterious ways.
The believer is quick to extol the loving nature of God. “God loves us all so much that it breaks his heart when we do bad things,” is what I’ve heard parents tell their children. But what about the parents of children who are handicapped or have some kind of genetic disorder? Why does God allow those sweet, young children to suffer so much? The believers I know make up the excuse that, “God will not lay any more on us than we are able to bear.”
Is that right? Or is it just a way of comforting oneself and others for not being able to explain why suffering seems to be bestowed at random. It can’t be random if there is a god, so maybe he is a sadistic god who wants us to suffer, but he doesn’t torture us any more than we can stand. If so, what about those who are tortured into committing suicide? Was it too much for them to bear? Did God miscalculate? Or is it actually just nature behaving randomly, like one would expect if God didn’t exist?
The easy answer to all these questions is that nature really does operate at random. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people in the same proportion as the number of good and bad people. Is that God mimicking nature, or is it simply nature behaving randomly, as expected? Does God really need us to make excuses for him so that we can comfort ourselves in our faith, or is faith something we should perhaps not hold in such high esteem?
If an omniscient overlord does exist, then one should expect him to behave in a rational manner. But if God does not exist, then events will happen at random. Things actually do happen at random. We can accept that and go on with our lives, or we can continue to believe in an omniscient, all-loving god, and continue to make silly excuses for why he behaves in such a mercurial and capricious fashion.