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(13 Posts)
Mishap Thu 21-Nov-13 10:59:50

"If nothing was ever bad or harmful and God was a kind of magician, we would be less than human." I would find it helpful if you could expand on that Lilygran.

For people looking in from the outside, so to speak, we are presented with endless examples of those with a faith asking/pleading with god to make something/someone better - presumably they must be assuming that it is possible that he/she is able to do that. Are they in error? have they misunderstood the teachings of their church?

Religions certainly look as though they are steeped in the "God as magician" concept. Requesting/invoking god's blessing is a standard religious practice

Ginny's point about god being thanked when something goes well implies control.

Like buddhists I accept suffering as a given; I have no explanation as to why it is so, and I do not think that those with a religious faith know either. Certainly my religious friends do not know and say so very clearly.

Can I just say that I am not contributing to this thread in a challenging way, but simply because the place of religion in human life is endlessly fascinating.

alternativegran Thu 21-Nov-13 08:40:21

I just took the story to mean that there is no pat answer to suffering.

My Buddhist friends accept that suffering is a given, its incorporated into their religious life.

ginny Thu 21-Nov-13 08:39:54

. 'God' may or may not be the cause of good or bad. He / she may or may not help. He may create the disasters and then expect us to sort them out. ??? The more I try to make sense of these arguments the less I understand!

thatbags Thu 21-Nov-13 06:54:54

"let me take care of that"... so patronising.

alternativegran Thu 21-Nov-13 00:14:46

This is a quote from a conversation between John Horgan and David Steindl-Rast an elderly Catholic monk.

Steindl-Rast said that a passage in the Hebrew Bible suggests one possible theodicy. In this passage, God declared, "I am with you in your troubles." That line, Steindl-Rast suggested, could be interpreted to mean that God is not an omnipotent savior, who at any moment can deliver us from the plight that He has put us into; in some way God shares our suffering and our struggles. "God is in trouble," Steindl-Rast said. "And we don’t like that very much."

But Steindl-Rast seemed reluctant to dwell on the imperfections of God or His creation. He told me a story in which Saint Anthony asked God why He permitted so much suffering. God replied, "Let me take care of that. You take care of Anthony." The story expresses the faith that "if God is God, then probably She knows better,"

annodomini Wed 20-Nov-13 22:21:24

I think I understand the theology MiceElf and Lilygran are postulating. I used to accept all this myself. However, theology is, fundamentally about God or a god and if someone doesn't believe that such an entity exists, there isn't much point in using this theology to try to persuade him/her of your point of view. However, the new Pope seems to me to be following the precepts of liberation theology as put into practice by such clergymen as Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, martyred in 1980, during a very turbulent period in Central and South American politics.

Lilygran Wed 20-Nov-13 22:20:44

If nothing was ever bad or harmful and God was a kind of magician, we would be less than human.

Mishap Wed 20-Nov-13 22:11:00

"the idea of anyone having a religious belief is incomprehensible to you" - actually that really is not true at all. The religion itself is beyond my comprehension, not the people who believe or indeed why they do. Even our vicar, a good friend of mine, agrees that it is all beyond comprehension, and she and I share many beliefs in common.

I do understand that religious people's understanding of what their god is has moved on and is more subtle than the "old man in the sky", but the concept of god having control over what is happening in the universe is one that recurs in many religions and it is this that presents people with the paradox outlined above by the OP.

We have been given the " strength and intelligence and skills to develop ways of dealing with disasters", but this begs the question that is posed in the OP - if god has control (as is taught by many religions) why ask us to use those skills? It would seem simpler not to have the disaster in the first place.

I think that what you are saying, if I understand it right, is that god does not have control - that is fine as a concept but leaves me wondering why so many religions teach the opposite.

Lilygran Wed 20-Nov-13 21:38:00

St Teresa of Avila said, ' Christ has no body now but yours, no hands and feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world.' God gave us strength and intelligence and skills to develop ways of dealing with disasters.

MiceElf Wed 20-Nov-13 20:22:54

Mishap, I'm not in the business of helping anyone, or converting them or persuading them for that matter.

Just a few points. If your image of God is an old man / magician in the sky controlling nature at will and wishing destruction on humanity then I would say that that is a primitive idea long discarded / outgrown by most.

Most Christians (and I can't speak for all of those, let alone those of other faiths) see God as working with creation, with humanity in all its manifestation. Jesus as the suffering servant at one with the poor, the oppressed and those who suffer. As Pope Francis said 'the church needs to surge forth to the peripheries, the existential peripheries where people grapple with sin, pain, injustice, ignorance and indifference. Jesus is there knocking at the door waiting to be let out into the wider world'.

Now, I don't expect you, Mishap, to have any sympathy with this view, as the idea of anyone having a religious belief is incomprehensible to you. But to those who do, God is not 'out there' but here and now and we can work with God or not.

And please don't think that I am saying that those who do not have a religious belief are in any way lesser or more involved with social justice than those who do. That is a sterile argument.

And again, I repeat, as I have often said on this forum, rituals and the formal liturgy are not there for 'comfort'. It's in many ways quite uncomfortable to look inside oneself and ask where one is lacking in compassion or humility or whatever. And the idea of an afterlife (which always pops up on these threads) is another irrelevance. It really doesn't matter. God is beyond time and space so the question is meaningless. It's the here and now, and what we do with it that matters.

Mishap Wed 20-Nov-13 19:17:08

There is of course a logical inconsistency here which has exercised the minds of theologians and philosophers for generations, and to which there appear top be no one answer.

In the main it is dealt with by shifting the goalposts from the OT god of power, to something entirely different, which eludes me. I think the idea is that our understanding of god develops over the centuries. I have always wondered why he/she is so determined to be opaque - presumably he or she has the power to communicate with us what he/she is about, but chooses not to. I do not say this with any disrespect for others' beliefs, but a genuine sense of complete puzzlement.

I believe that god is made in the image of man and is a construct that helps us to understand our world and to feel secure; and that the rituals associated with these beliefs can be a comfort and provide a sense of continuity.

Many christians would see all calamities as having a "purpose" - but I know not what that might be.

I am sure that MiceElf will be able to help us here!

ginny Wed 20-Nov-13 09:49:23

Have wondered the same. It often seems to me that that when good things happen i.e. a good harvest God is thanked. Bad harvests, failure of expected rain and other devastating events would seem to be the fault of someone or something else.

mrsmopp Tue 19-Nov-13 22:29:56

If God has the power to control the winds and waves, why didn't He prevent the typhoon in the Philipines which killed so many innocent people and destroyed the homes and livelihoods of so many more?
How can a God of love allow this to happen?