To paraphrase Fulton Sheen, "There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate God. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be God, which is of course, quite a different thing."
CNN iReport's contributor "TXBlue08" is one of these millions. Her essay "Why I Raise My Children Without God" reads like an inverse catechism: she meticulously lays out false premises about God, and then affirms her lack of faith in such a God.
Well, good for her! If I had been taught to believe in the God she describes, I'd run away screaming, too (and I'd be a lot less tolerant of believers than she claims to be.) She seems to have learned about God in the way many atheists and agnostics do: through sitcoms and comment boxes and fundamentalist kiddie songs.
She says, for instance, that believers teach that "we must behave because God is watching us." Well, that demonstrates imperfect contrition, and is sufficient only because of God's mercy; but we're supposed to strive for perfect contrition: "behaving" (and consequently being sorry for our sins when we don't "behave") because we love God and do not want to betray Him. We are pursued by God as by a lover, not as by some kind of vindictive Santa Claus. Her very common, basic misunderstandings about God could be cleared up easily, if she's interested.
But many of her arguments against the reality of God are some variation on the idea that God isn't fair. She says, in many different ways, "It's not fair that bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. Therefore, God is not good; therefore, there is no God." It seems like an inescapable problem for believers: the Bible says that God is good, and yet the world is so, so bad. Human suffering, she says, "goes against everything Christ taught us in the New Testament."
Well, there have been whole books -- whole lives -- devoted to making sense out of human pain and suffering. If the essayist rejects a trivial and petty God but is truly interested in getting some answers about how wise and holy people have faced these questions and come out with a deeper faith, then she ought to read C.S. Lewis , or Immaculée Ilibagiza, or St. Augustine, or the stories of any of the martyrs.
She's right, though, when she says that God isn't fair. Goodness isn't fair.
I'll tell you what is fair: evil. Evil doesn't care who you are, how good or bad you are, how important or trivial the thing is that you're enjoying: evil is perfectly willing to wreck it in any way it can, in a perfectly impartial way. Evil will give you a paper cut or will strike down an entire nation of children with famine. It doesn't want to take into account you and your circumstances. It doesn't discriminate. Evil always tells the same story. "It doesn't matter who you are," says Evil, "I hate you. I want you to suffer. I want to you to die, and I want you to stay dead."
Indisputably, this is the way the world is, and I don't know if there's anything I can say to make you feel better about it. But here's what I do know: the way the world is does not, as TXBlue08 says, "go against everything Christ taught us in the New Testament."
What Christ taught us in the New Testament is that what the Father of Evil wants is to turn the world into a dung heap. The New Testament observes that, as soon as we have the spiritual wherewithal to make the choice for evil, we start gorging ourselves on it. It teaches us that evil is fair -- evil is indefatigable -- evil hates us all equally, and desires everyone's downfall with the same fervor. Evil is an ocean full of hungry sharks. Some of us are swallowed immediately, with suffering, grief, and pain; others get by with jabs and nibbles as we drift our way down, away from air, away from light. What evil wants is to engulf us all, to make us into nothing: to drown us, to devour us, or merely to wound us so that our life blood slowly seeps away until it is gone.
Anyone can see that there is evil in the world -- and if there are small, tolerable evils, then it makes perfect sense that there will be monstrous, intolerable evils, too. Why not? Evil is the kind of thing that will take the ball and run with it. If there's evil at all, it will be of every type, of every magnitude, from the pampered Westerner's paper cut to the hot agony in the belly of a starving toddler.
We will all die. There is evil in the world, and we will all die. This is what Christ taught us in the New Testament.
As long as you don't read the whole thing.
Ever hear of the Resurrection?
The Resurrection is not fair. Goodness is not fair. It's something wildly harder to make sense of.
I understand evil. It makes sense to me. I understand the crucifixion. The crucifixion is fair: there is evil in the world, and evil can't have Jesus. Kill Him. Problem solved. Perfectly fair.
What I do not understand is goodness. What I do not understand is the Resurrection -- His Resurrection, our resurrection. Why is there goodness in the world? Why the Resurrection? Why is there love, and why should God love me, want me? Why are we all, no matter who we are, made to want love? Why do any of us get it when we don't deserve it? Why should I be forgiven? Why do I work so hard against my own happiness? And when I do, why does the risen Lord call and call to me, reaching down into the water with strong arms, with a lifesaving grip? Why does He want to pull me out?
It's not fair. Thank God, it's not fair.