Monthly Archives: July 2014

Guest Post: God Cannot Help

Below is a guest post from Shanan W., who expresses frustration that many of us have felt. How do we handle these sorts of conversations with friends, frenemies and family on social media and in person? Should we ignore them? Point out inconsistencies?

Thank you for sharing, Shanan!
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I don’t typically get into arguments on the Internet, because honestly, I think they are rather pointless. However, when the Malaysian airliner was allegedly shot down on July 17th over the Ukraine, I couldn’t help but respond to one particular post. Snippets of the post were as follows:

(All but first initials redacted to protect those involved.)

K: (After several “God help us” posts, and this is a paraphrase, because the original post seemed to be removed): 1) God cannot help. 2) Deepest sympathies to the families of all of the victims. Please wait for all facts to be gathered before coming to conclusions about what really happened.

R: K that is your twisted opinion. You are misguided if you think God cannot help!

My Response to R: Whose God? Which one is going to help? Yours? Where was this God when the plane went down? Why is it God can help after the fact, but doesn’t get the blame for the act to begin with? Why is it “God works in mysterious ways” when bad happens, but then God is the first thing people look to if they need comfort. God: Created in the image of man.

KS: (different person from K): Why do these posts always end up with jerks insulting each other?
My gosh just get over yourselves! Not every one [sic] had the same views or opinions.
Shame on you Shanan Winters for insulting someone’s personal beliefs!!!

Now wait just a minute, here. I didn’t send that response to someone who offered up a sincere prayer. KS asserts that not everyone has the same views or opinions. That is correct. But R was the first one to insult someone’s opposing view (which, again, was not in response to anyone’s sincere prayer). Why is it that the non-believers are the “jerks” and why is it “shame on us?” This conversation went on for a few more rounds, and never once did I or any of the other non-believers who got involved stoop to name-calling or shaming. What kills me is the irony of the fact that KS didn’t realize that she called herself a jerk. In a follow-up, she asserted that she never once insulted someone based upon their views. Oh really? I guess “jerk” and “shame on you” are terms of endearment?

Let me state that I would never respond in a derogatory manner to someone’s heartfelt prayer for the victims or family members of a tragedy. I may roll my eyes quietly behind the scenes and then express sympathy in my own way, but I wouldn’t outright insult someone else’s sincere wishes. I wouldn’t have said anything at all, except that R decided to blast K for her assertion that God cannot help.

What it boils down to is this: It is acceptable in our society for strangers to “shame” us and insult us for our lack of belief. Yet, for the most part, non-believers assert that people can have their beliefs all they want. We just tend to get sick of sitting in the wings, listening to everyone go on and on about them, especially when they outright attack a non-believer verbally. But when one of us speaks up, it’s somehow shameful. But that’s ok… hypocrisy is hypocritical.

I guess the moral of the story is, don’t reply unless you believe the same thing they do? Honestly, I’m kind of done with that thinking.

The fact is, this allegedly-shot-down aircraft is a horrific tragedy, and people reach for that which comforts them to ease the fear. In many cases, it’s a prayer to God. In our case, we simply feel saddened by the senseless loss of life, and wish there was more we could do to help.

My one wish for humanity is a growth of intellect, and that all people would reach for peace instead of violence. My main beef with the “God” argument is that it seems to cause more wars than it stops. It justifies retaliation and perpetuation of violence, as long as the other person’s “God” doesn’t match the aggressor’s. If religions preach peace, why don’t we have it? The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results. We’ve been trying religion for a long time now, and it’s not getting us very far. I’d love to see humanity evolve beyond superstition, learn how the natural world works, and realize our place within it.

I do hope that the investigators of this airline crash are able to pull together the pieces and figure out what happened. It doesn’t bring back the deceased, but it can offer a measure of closure for the impacted families. I hope that they can find peace in the days, months and years to come. I hope that the people involved, if it was an attack, can find better, more constructive, and less violent ways to resolve their conflicts.

And my sincerest wish is this: for those who would invoke the name of their God in this tragedy, please do so out of love and peace, and not as an act of wanted vengeance.

Was I wrong to reply? Maybe. It’s not the best forum to express this specific frustration. It might not be the optimal time or place. I just couldn’t help it.

(All comments on this thread, along with the original story, can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/12news?hc_location=timeline under the post “BREAKING: Malaysia Airlines plane crashes in Ukraine with 295 people on board, Reports coming in that it was shot down.”)

The Devil is Good for Business

With the Pope and the devil in the news again, I thought I’d talk a bit about the two.

Political scientist Samuel Huntington wrote that individuals and groups “…define their identity by differentiating themselves from and placing themselves in opposition to others. While wars at times may have a divisive effect on society, a common enemy can often help to promote identity and cohesion among people. The weakening or absence of a common enemy can do just the reverse.”

Enemies are important, especially strong ones. Good leaders realize, at least intuitively, that a common foe can provide cohesiveness and goals for a group of people. After 9/11, for example, Americans were uncharacteristically united against the forces of evil. Whether it’s al-Qaida, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden or the Devil, the bad guy defines us through contrast. We are good and full of love; they represent evil and are full of hatred. We want harmony and peace; they want death and destruction.

It makes sense, then, that Pope Francis would reintroduce Satan as the Catholic Church’s grand cosmic antagonist. Given that the Church has been hobbled from decades of scandal, leaving it weakened and vulnerable, what better way to resuscitate an ailing institution than to identify the cause of its illness and to declare war against the universe’s oldest enemy?  The Pope has warned followers, “…there is no shadow of a doubt. A battle exists, a battle in which the eternal salvation of us all is at stake.” He has said that the devil wants to divide Christians, destroy the family and make love disappear. Satan doesn’t want people to be disciples of Christ nor does he want peace between nations.

Humans construct their identity by opposing and differentiating themselves from the undesirable other. This kind of black-and-white thinking underlies religion’s worldview. In order to know who you are, you also have to know who you are not.  If there is no evil “out there” threatening the Roman Catholic empire, what indeed does it mean to be a Catholic? Where do the sinful acts, the pedophiles, the abusers come from? Although this is a simplified worldview, the dichotomy makes it easier to deal with the ambiguity and unpredictability of complex human behavior. You’re either one or the other.

Lucifer not only provides a contrast to define what makes a good Christian, his perceived omnipresence and power invoke intense fear that keeps Catholics in check, that makes them stay the course in their faith. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).

Who will save them from the Prince of Darkness? God? No, God does not come to the rescue of possessed mortals. Only the Pontiff and his consort of exorcist priests can keep believers safe here on earth.  The devil is strong, but the Church, with its trained exorcists, is stronger. It keeps the great garden of faith weeded of evil and growing.

By referring repeatedly to Satan, the Pope is summoning and reinforcing an old narrative of good versus evil. He is rallying his troops and giving them focus. The Devil has been the reason for the winter of discontent. Now that the enemy is “out there” and in the holy sight, evil is no longer an intrinsic part of the Church but a separate, identifiable other. The war on Satan is how the Church is healing and redeeming itself. This is how it will reclaim its followers and its reputation.

The devil is good for the business of religion.

Do we have freedom from religion?

I don’t even know where to start. Yesterday’s ruling was a huge disappointment. By now, you all probably know that the SCOTUS opened the door for “people” (both living and nonliving) in positions of power to push their religious agenda on others. Hobby Lobby & friends are exempt from providing coverage for certain types of birth control they deem against god’s will. (You know, because they have a direct line to HIM or because they read HIS ever-so-accurate 2,000 year-old manuscript for living that he, without a doubt, authored or inspired or something like that.)

What I find even more appalling is, having contributed my two cents to the topic here yesterday, people actually said that we have freedom of religion but not freedom from religion. Crazy, I know. Then there are those who say, You’re a socialist! Buy a sex toy! Or some other asinine comment. (Yeah, people always take what you write personally, and they personally attack you in return.) They fail to see this is not about 1. Socialism or 2. The type of birth control women prefer. This is about religious employers making decisions for you based on their beliefs. This is about control and power and judgment. And what does god say about people who judge?

But the most appalling sentiment running through the comments is that people actually think that Hobby Lobby & friends have a right to decide what is best for you. The ACA was intended to be a fair and lawful solution to America’s healthcare woes. It was not mean to be a religious battle. In what should be a health decision made between you and your doctor and perhaps even your partner, your boss can now step in and say, “My god says it’s wrong, so it’s wrong for you, too.”

What’s next? Will corporations (and not just family owned) now claim insuring gays harms their religious sentiments? What about single moms? Will Hobby Lobby still pay for Viagra since the medication artificially induces an erection when god clearly does not want that? (Ummm…of course not.) What happens when a Muslim or Jew or devil worshipper decides to impose her beliefs on employees?

As Justice Ginsberg said, the Court has “ventured into a minefield.” This case was important not just to women but to all Americans, regardless of what they believe about god.

Right now, it’s apparent that we do not have freedom from our boss’ religion.