Why innocent children are allowed to suffer? e.g. Hamzah Kham, his siblings and much more thorough the world.

(167 Posts)
Hopemore Sun 06-Oct-13 03:11:51

I just find it so hard to keep my faith strong when I see innocent people suffering so badly.
I try to be good, helpful, generous.
I try to cause no harm, etc
But that is not enough for me, I need to have faith.
But it is hard to keep strong, it really is.
I don't want to be an hypocrite, I really want to have a solid faith but sometimes I think I just can't have it.
Not because of my life, I am grateful for everything I have, but I feel 'angry' for so much suffering in the world.
Sorry if I don't make any sense.

1919 Sun 06-Oct-13 10:02:55

May I ask why you feel bound to faith when it conflicts on some level with your moral compass and experience of the world? You can be a good, moral person without religious belief; morality does exist outside of religion.
The universe is indifferent, people suffer regardless of whether we perceive them to be 'good' or 'bad'. Of course this is not a reassuring world view either but why should it be? No doubt suffering is terrible but we can only strive to act according to our morals and reduce it as much as we are capable.

crescentmoon Sun 06-Oct-13 11:32:26

well, faith or no faith OP, at some point instead of putting increasing resources into constantly fishing people out of the river, we have to walk upstream and find out why they fall in.

and examine for ourselves whether all those individuals and their children who fall through the net for the sake of individualism, 'choice', materialism and the orthodoxy that 'capitalism is the only way to go', whether it is worth it to us as a society.

on a global level too,its much easier to blame starving african children on a God or even just the indifference of the universe, than to examine the human influenced climate change that causes Asia to flood and Africa to starve.


...and our own individual contribution to that. i ask, on my own behalf, for forgiveness for that.

but one god, no god, loads of gods, lets take that out. is a continuously growing economy based on rampant consumerism worth it? on children? on human relationships? on a social level? on people here? on people abroad? on a political level? on an environmental level? alot of people say its worth it, even if it takes the human race to worldly hell.

Hopemore Sun 06-Oct-13 11:45:39

I like to congregate for God. I like to follow Jesus preaching. That is what make me happy. I don't party, I don't drink, not because it s sinful, I used to like doing that, but always been very much spiritual, I've been to lots of different religions, looking for the one I identify myself with most. For me it is just a necessity, possibly escapism, when I am not linked to a spiritual group, I feel lost and unhappy.
But when I question God's love I feel weak in my faith and therefore an hypocrite. So it seems I can't be happy with or without religion.

Gingerandcocoa Sun 06-Oct-13 12:03:13

Hi Hopemore. The wonderful thing about God is that he hates pain and suffering and sin so much more than we do. The horrible suffering we see in the world today is caused by men and sin and not by God.

Sometimes it does feel like God is just watching and not doing anything - but that's not true. He has already rescued men and humanity through the death and resurrection of Jesus. And so a great salvation is available for all those who suffer today.

The Bible is full of examples of where God rescued the needy and the oppressed. It's just that God's time is different from our time. Sometimes it looks like God is not doing anything but it's just not time yet.

And of course the Bible teaches us that there will come a time when God will judge all people - those who cause suffering included.

And finally - it's important to remember that institutions like hospitals, orphanages, and concepts like human rights have all been disseminated by Christians - because of the teachings of Jesus and his love for the poor & the ones who suffer.

So believing in God is in no way contradictory to hating the suffering in this world - and to doing something about it. It is exactly what He wants us to do!

Hopemore Sun 06-Oct-13 12:13:40

It is just so confusing - to me -
I can't even describe how I feel.

1919 Sun 06-Oct-13 15:38:37

Gingerandcocoa your view of sin and suffering is repugnant to me.

The wonderful thing about God is that he hates pain and suffering and sin so much more than we do.

Humans recognise independently of religion that suffering is terrible and try to lessen it where possible through providing aid and support.
I don't think that an entity which hates suffering but does nothing to stop it is wonderful in the slightest (an entity which condones murder, oppression and violence, even less so).

The horrible suffering we see in the world is caused by men and sin and not by God.

What is your evidence for this?

The Bible is full of examples of where God rescued the needy and oppressed.

It's full of examples of oppression, violence, jealousy, anger, racism and misogyny on the part of God.

God will judge all people- those who cause suffering included.

and then 'sentence' them to eternal suffering?

Institutions like hospitals, orphanages, and concepts like human rights have all been disseminated by christians

Human decency precedes religion. On the other hand, religion has been responsible for the justification of a lot of harm and suffering.

Hopemore Sun 06-Oct-13 16:32:30

It is just like if he created everything, so sure he created evil too.
English isn't my 1st language so is difficult for me even to express myself

fizzoclock Mon 07-Oct-13 11:24:14

1919 - I think it might be difficult to both disbelieve in God and to blame God for evil. How do you hold those two parts of your point together?

Hopemore - It is hard for anyone of any faith position (including atheism) to understand the horrors of situations like the ones you mention. I think for Christians we often question God and that is fine and good really. It's part of our relationship with him.

My own thought is that God does do something about suffering. He sends Jesus. Jesus' death on the cross is like a full stop to sin because the love of the Father and the Son is not broken by the sin Jesus suffers under. The torture and killing of Jesus don't end the story. Instead Jesus is raised from the dead. God's love doesn't allow sin to have the final word, he promises he will end suffering and make all things new.

I guess in terms of the suffering you are talking about that means that the horrendous torture and death of that young boy are not the end of that story. God does not let his mothers sin win out but God promises that all things (including that little boy) will be made new, pain and suffering will end. He also promises mercy to the boys mother if she wants it. Sin looks like it has won out now, but actually we believe God's love and mercy will have the final word.

I think that's really hard to hold onto when we constantly see suffering beyond words and the horrors human beings inflict on each other. The Bible promises that we wait in order that more might be saved. I guess whilst we wait Christians believe we should be working towards the restoration of the earth that God promises. Whenever we are horrified by suffering, the answer is to get in there and start doing something about it. Send money to feed Syrian refugees, volunteer at your local home start/sure start centre, offer food to the homeless etc.

Gingerandcocoa Mon 07-Oct-13 18:53:25

1919 I am sorry I have obviously offended you with my views.

I think fizzoclock has probably explained my point much better. I believe that the goodness that's inside of men, the compassion towards the poor, the notions of right or wrong have been put in our hearts by God and not by some random gene we inherited from monkeys. Human decency may precede religion but it does not precede creation / intelligent design / evolution / whatever you call it.

headinhands Mon 07-Oct-13 19:30:48

the notions of right or wrong have been put in our hearts by God

How come there is evidence of empathy in other primates? How come sociopaths have no sense of right or wrong? How come what's deemed right and wrong is often culturally and historically specific i.e. the issue of slavery?

and not by some random gene we inherited from monkey

We didn't descend from monkeys, we share a common ancestor.

Human decency may precede religion but it does not precede creation / intelligent design / evolution / whatever you call it.

Not sure what you mean, can you explain?

1919 Tue 08-Oct-13 07:15:52

Fizzoclock I do not believe in God therefore I do not actually believe he is jealous, or misogynistic or anything because he doesn't exist! I think there is a case to be made that the fictitious God depicted in the bible is flawed in many ways and so I am questioning blind belief in an idea which seems contradictory .

How could human decency precede the supposed 'creation' of humanity itself? That's logically impossible whether you believe in intelligent design or not. What does this prove?

If morality is innate (and put in us by God) I would probably follow that therefore babies must be at least as, if not more compassionate, moral and good than adults. I don't know if this is true.

You evidently do not understand evolution.

Gingerandcocoa Wed 09-Oct-13 19:01:05

headinhands and 1919, I'll try to explain myself a bit better...

How come there is evidence of empathy in other primates? How come sociopaths have no sense of right or wrong? How come what's deemed right and wrong is often culturally and historically specific i.e. the issue of slavery?
Your argument is only valid if I had claimed that God created men but not animals, which of course is not the case. If God created EVERYTHING then surely he can put the notions of good and bad in both man and animals. Also the fact that sociopaths or those without any understanding of good and bad just reinforced the fact that for most people, it's in us. We only know shadow because of light.

If morality is innate (and put in us by God) I would probably follow that therefore babies must be at least as, if not more compassionate, moral and good than adults. I don't know if this is true.

That's funny that you mention babies, because I remember reading about some recent research showing that babies actually know right from wrong.
Of course it's just a research, but there you go.

How could human decency precede the supposed 'creation' of humanity itself? That's logically impossible whether you believe in intelligent design or not. What does this prove?
I didn't say that. I said that human decency preceded religion, not creation. Religion, whether judaism, christianity, whichever one you mean, came after creation. Human decency came with creation.

Also when I say creation I don't really mean creationism. I'm not claiming God created the world in 7 days. Whichever way he chose to create us, whether via a big bang, then evolution, whatever, what I am saying is that he designed us and made us - and whatever is good in our hearts is from Him.

Of course, if you don't believe in God then this discussion has little use. Your comment you evidently do not understand evolution is spot on. I really don't. I understand micro evolution, but there is zero, absolutely no evidence of macroevolution in the world (evolution from one species to another). I love this video about this debate as it really funny, but I'd caveat that it is made by a Christian guy so no need to watch it if it makes you uncomfortable. www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0u3-2CGOMQ

headinhands Wed 09-Oct-13 20:31:34

So why would god put a little bit of his values in primates? Does that mean they can be a little bit christian? Will they go to heaven? Did he put a little bit of his spirit in fleas and head lice too? Or that worm that lays it's larvae in another animal's eye, even humans, and then the larvae hatch and eat their way out of the eye rendering the host blind. Is there some of his spirit in viruses and bacteria too?

The way I am working is looking at the world and seeing what there is, it seems Christians work backwards in that they look at the reality, and then ask how 'can I fit it into my belief that there is a loving god? Hence the 'god made the animals therefore that explains why primates sometimes display empathy.' What about organisms that display no empathy? Where and why is there a cut off point?

headinhands Wed 09-Oct-13 20:34:18

as for the sociopaths, you seem to suggest that there are some people that god didn't put empathy in? Why would he do that? Would he hold them accountable for their actions? Would that be fair? Why would he not put it in them and then allow them on earth knowing what they are capable of?

Gingerandcocoa Wed 09-Oct-13 21:40:12

Those are all very good questions. I wish I could tell you a definitive answer to all of them, but of course I can't.

I can't tell you why God chose or didn't choose to do this or that - He is God - i am not! God created all things - from men to dinosaurs to bacteria. How much of Him he chose to put in each of them, and why, who knows?! Knowing or not the answer to this kind of question makes no different to the argument of whether there is a God or not.

I have absolutely no idea why sociopaths are the way they are. Again, this does not prove or disprove the existence of God. I don't know whether God will hold sociopaths accountable or not for their actions. I know that God hates sin and he will judge all of us after we die. The difference, is that God sent Jesus to die for us (and Jesus is the key in all of this), so that we could have our sins forgiven - sociopath or good-doer, we've all sinned and all need to be forgiven.

All of us will stand before God. Whether we believe in God or not. Not believing in God does not gives us a free pass. But exactly who God will choose to forgive or not, luckily it is not up to me to know!

I'll leave this thread now - happy to continue the conversation if you'd like to PM me.

1919 Thu 10-Oct-13 00:16:59

I think you misunderstood me. I know you were not implying that human decency precedes our existence because obviously that's ridiculous. I was questioning why you were making the statement in the first place because it really doesn't prove anything outside of its own logical accuracy, let alone a creator from which we derive our 'goodness'.

I'm finding it incredibly difficult to debate when you're relying on blind faith and not justifying your beliefs with actual evidence. You are explaining what you believe not why you believe it to be true.

Evolution, broadly speaking is about as much of a scientific fact as is possible. I have clicked the link to your video (contrary to what you assume, I do not find listening to differing beliefs uncomfortable or personally offensive) although I can't get it to start so I'm unable to comment.

I do not know whether you will read this but talkorigins.org has a lot of information about evolution. This section seems relevant : http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

If it is not up to you to know, please do not make sweeping judgements about the nature of our existence and morality without providing evidence. Personally I think we should strive to know as much about the universe as we can and not rely on a 'God of the gaps' type system to explain what we do not currently understand.

fizzoclock Thu 10-Oct-13 10:34:03

1919 - I guess your earlier points about God's nature make me think of a parent-child relationship... Parents create their children and love them unconditionally. They give them boundaries and rules to help them grow and mature. Some children despite this 'go off the rails' become addicted to drugs, commit crime, hurt those closest to them.... Would you suggest the parents should have kept those children at home in strait jackets at the first sign of trouble or perhaps from birth? Or do you think those children have grown up, they should have free choice and be able to make their own decisions even if they are destructive and hurt others? Isn't the best option for the parent to remind the child that they are always there always loving them and ready to help them make a new start as soon as they choose? I think most people would say the second course is the right course to take. I think that's what God does.

On the point of 'human decency' preceding creation that is actually what Christians believe in that we believe God is love. The definition of God is all that is good. So anything good in us does precede creation because it is of God.

fizzoclock Thu 10-Oct-13 10:41:00

Also I guess on the subject of rationality.... Faith is beyond rationality. I mean in the sense that rational argument should be able to take you so far as to say God is a rational possibility. But the very idea that rationality (which is defined by and limited to the scope of the human mind) should be able to define God who must be a being beyond and in excess of human capabilities is irrational.
Faith is a step beyond rationality in the same way that love is. We have good evidence that love might exist from family relationships, perhaps even brain scans, but love isn't able to be pinned down by rational thinking. We believe it exists because we feel it. We believe in God because for believers not only do we see enough evidence for it, but, the final step of faith is that we also 'feel it' we know God and God's love just as we know and trust other intangible things.

BangOn Thu 10-Oct-13 10:46:45

What Crescent Moon said.

Trying to remember where that quote about fishing people out of the river comes from - one of my heros, I think. Caroline Lucas? Tony Benn? Keir Hardie?

Hopemore Thu 10-Oct-13 11:07:29

I understand what you say fizzoclock but how to explain that God as a 'parent' would let one of their children - innocent and vulnerable - suffer (only as example) in order to let the other children exercise their free destructive will?

Why can't he stop this?
Let people harm themselves but not others. At least not so painfully.

fizzoclock Thu 10-Oct-13 11:33:30

Hopemore - yes I know really this is hard stuff. I guess these are the thoughts which make sense to me and the rest I take on trust because I have faith. I think I was just trying to illustrate that we ourselves prioritise freedom and free will over safety and an end to suffering. We release prisoners when we think and hope they are rehabilitated. It would obviously be safest not to do that but we do because we think it better to hope for goodness than to oppress others in order to ensure safety. I think we reflect something of God's point of view when we do that.

I also think that God has placed a limit on suffering and that he will restore all that human beings manage to destroy.

Hopemore Thu 10-Oct-13 11:38:20

Do you believe in:
Life after death?
What happens after we are gone?

crescentmoon Thu 10-Oct-13 12:04:33

hey bangon,

the fishing people out of the river comment is a paraphrase of the Reverend Desmond Tutu of South Africa, whom Jack Monroe of the Food poverty blog "A girl called Jack" quoted at the TUC conference early last month (she quoted him at the end of her speech). it really stuck in my mind too, and it made me think of the philosophical differences between different religious and philosophical traditions.

crescentmoon Thu 10-Oct-13 12:17:09

sorry the last sentence was meant to read 'the differences between the different religious and philosophical traditions'. to me, especially, the differences between the faith tradition of Jesus (pbuh) (fishing people out of the river) and the faith tradition of Muhammad (pbuh) (making sure people dont fall in).

fizzoclock Thu 10-Oct-13 12:24:06

I'm a Christian so I believe in life after death and the promises of the Bible of a new heaven and a new earth.

I think God delays final judgement so that as many people as possible can choose to say yes to God. I think God simply allows us to choose God or to say no thanks. For those who say no thanks I think that's it they choose 'hell' which is everything that is not God. Anyone who wants to can be part of God's life and new creation.

I think sometimes we over complicate the idea. Basically my understanding is that God is love. Anyone who wants to say yes to God's love can but if anyone wants to reject it then it's not really possible for them to participate in God's life life and the restored creation that he promises because they are basically characterised by the rule of self-giving love.

I think purgatory isn't a biblical idea. I think the Catholic church might even have dropped the idea too? Reincarnation is a Hindu belief. I guess both purgatory and reincarnation suggest human beings working for God's favour. I believe God doesn't require us to work for his love he simply loves us as we are his children.

headinhands Thu 10-Oct-13 13:30:07

How can you reject something that you have no evidence is even real? How can god hold you accountable for rejecting him by choosing another god when there is as much proof for all of them?

As for being part of gods new creation. It didn't go so great the last time according to the bible, why trust him again?

headinhands Thu 10-Oct-13 13:39:11

I also think that God has placed a limit on suffering and that he will restore all that human beings manage to destroy.

Sorry but that sort of comment really irritates me. As humans we have managed to ease a lot of suffering through what we have learnt through medicine and so on. God did none of that. He didn't give us vaccines or instructions for effective sanitation or develop drought resistant crops! You have absolutely no evidence that god has a limit on suffering. He doesn't seem to mind being the author of it himself according to the bible. If a parent starved their child to death you would never think 'oh I'm sure there was a good loving reason why they let that happen' so how are you able to suspend those ideas on goodness when judging how a loving god watches dreadful dreadful things happening.

headinhands Thu 10-Oct-13 13:50:12

Faith is a step beyond rationality in the same way that love is. We have good evidence that love might exist from family relationships, perhaps even brain scans, but love isn't able to be pinned down by rational thinking. We believe it exists because we feel it. We believe in God because for believers not only do we see enough evidence for it, but, the final step of faith is that we also 'feel it' we know God and God's love just as we know and trust other intangible things.

I understand love to be just a label that we use for that feeling we have when we think of our children, spouse etc. I don't need to think love is a separate entity somewhere to enjoy that feeling when I am with my husband. I also know that the love I have for him is to do with a mixture of familiarity and brain hormones etc and that it's all in my head. There's nothing supernatural about it. Evolutionary psychology goes some way to explain why early humans that had higher levels of oxytocin would be more likely to reproduce effectively.

I know he gets wheeled out whenever love is mentioned in these threads but this is rather brilliant at explaining it

headinhands Thu 10-Oct-13 16:05:49

Just because we have a feeling in our head that we call love for something, doesn't mean that that something actually exists. If it does then you have to accept that all the other gods that humans have worshipped throughout time exist.

Gingerandcocoa Thu 10-Oct-13 18:58:37

headinhands in regards to your comment: How can you reject something that you have no evidence is even real? How can god hold you accountable for rejecting him by choosing another god when there is as much proof for all of them?

Here is what the Bible says about it:

^Romans 1:20
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.^

I guess Christians choose to believe that creation is in itself evidence of God. We look around and see how amazing the human body is, how every little part works together and we just cannot believe that this was caused by chance. Think about this, imagine a Boeing 747 in a scrapyard, all dismantled. Then a hurricane comes by and by sheer luck, after the hurricane passes the result is a completely assembled, fully functioning plane, ready to fly! Unlikely, isn't it? So that's how we feel about the earth, animals and human beings. Of course, it's theoretically possible that it's all pure chance that we're all here. But it's so very unlikely, that we find it much more reasonable to believe that someone created this.

The other piece of evidence is Jesus. It is widely accepted that Jesus existed, and I don't think even atheists dispute that. Jesus' life, teachings and his resurrection are extremely well documented. There are about 5,500 known manuscripts of the New Testament. If you compare this against manuscripts of classical writers who lived around the same time as Jesus (for example, Aristotle, 5 manuscripts, or Julius Caesar, 9-10 manuscripts), you can see that the evidence is as good as it gets. And the differences between manuscripts of the New Testament are extremely small, there are variations in about 1/1000th of the NT.

So the evidence is there, but of course as fizzoclock has put it there is the element of faith, and that is so important. The main point I wanted to get across is that the Christian faith is by no means blind.

MostlyLovingLurchers Fri 11-Oct-13 10:37:54

The other piece of evidence is Jesus. It is widely accepted that Jesus existed, and I don't think even atheists dispute that.

Rather than have the discussion again here, you may want to take a look at this thread. There is plenty of disagreement as to whether Jesus was a historical figure.

curlew Fri 11-Oct-13 10:40:36

"Think about this, imagine a Boeing 747 in a scrapyard, all dismantled. Then a hurricane comes by and by sheer luck, after the hurricane passes the result is a completely assembled, fully functioning plane, ready to fly! Unlikely, isn't it?"

Yes, well, if that's how evolution by natural selection worked, then I agree, it would be a bit unlikely..........

Hullygully Fri 11-Oct-13 10:56:17

But it's so very unlikely, that we find it much more reasonable to believe that someone created this

Why is it so very unlikely?

Hullygully Fri 11-Oct-13 10:57:07

I agree Jesus existed.

He and plenty of other ordinary mortal men and women have advocated love and kindness.

So what? Doesn't prove the supernatural.

curlew Fri 11-Oct-13 11:09:03

I am prepared to believe that Jesus might have existed. I don't think the evidence is any stronger than that. But that doesn't mean he was the Son of God, or supernatural in any way.

And I don't understand how people can say "this scientific process is so unlikely that it's more reasonable to believe in the supernatural". Surely that makes no sense at all?

fizzoclock Fri 11-Oct-13 14:44:52

I meant a limit on the time of suffering not each event. Christians believe suffering is the result of sin which is the result of free will. So we are back to the earlier points on this thread. I don't think each incident of suffering occurs for a loving reason. I think it is exactly the opposite, suffering is an afront to the plans God has for human beings. I think God can bring good through suffering but that is a side issue. It is definitely not because the suffering is good.

By the love analogy I meant that for Christians we take external evidence, plus the internal evidence of our own experience of God and faith and added together those cement our faith and trust in God. It's similar to love but obviously not exactly the same.

I guess the way you feel about love (a collection of random things we pop a label on) is also the way you feel about God (a handy label for things we don't understand). I don't agree.

Hopemore Fri 11-Oct-13 21:59:55

So, what was Hamzah Kham sin then?

RationalThought Sat 12-Oct-13 00:21:38

Jesus' life, teachings and his resurrection are extremely well documented. There are about 5,500 known manuscripts of the New Testament.

There are many manuscripts, often the earliest ones, that contradict the current biblical account of the divine nature of Jesus, his works and the events after his death. It is accepted by all reputable biblical scholars that none of the gospels, or indeed the other books in the current New Testament, were written earlier than 70 AD.

Similarly, there are numerous ancient manuscripts that document the life of Siddhārtha Gautama (Buddha), who predates Jesus by 500+ years.

Christians believe suffering is the result of sin which is the result of free will.

When a baby is killed in an earthquake. Who's sin is responsible for that?

Why would a loving benevolent god have created a world with so many natural disasters that disproportionately impact upon the poor?

I think God delays final judgement so that as many people as possible can choose to say yes to God. I think God simply allows us to choose God or to say no thanks.

Why would a loving benevolent god create a world where the majority of people will never have the chance to learn the "truths" that are vital for their salvation? Billions of people have never had (will never have) the chance to "choose God".

expatinscotland Sat 12-Oct-13 00:24:03

Because there is no such thing as God. Life is much easier to bear when this truth becomes evident.

Either god can't help the starving children or he won't.

Ask yourself if you had the ability to stop them suffering would you do so. Could you bear to not do so? Could you say "I know the little ones are suffering but it's ok because some people in other countries did something wrong" or "it's ok because a percentage of those that die today in agony will end up in heaven eventually"

It's a safe bet that everyone here reading this is a better, kinder and more decent person than that.

sarahtigh Sat 12-Oct-13 15:31:18

70AD is well within time frame for accurate reporting of an event it is a mere 40 years past date of jesus's death; it has been far longer since end of WWII

sarahtigh, 40 years is a long time if it's not written down. We have proper records of WWII not just vague memories of grandad talking about it when we were growing up. Also you can still find remnants of WWII bombs and such. No one seems to be able to find any record of Jesus, the census, the killing of the firstborn, the dead walking about, the blackened sky or anything else that supposedly happened.

More interesting is that there are a number of other gospels not included which contradict wildly the ones Paul's church decided to keep. The ones that were kept also contradict each other of course.

sarahtigh Sun 13-Oct-13 11:02:32

I was not commenting on the stories just that 40 years is not a long time and would not of necessity make the recordings inaccurate

my fathers memories of WWII are not vague he was 20 obviously he would not know all the details of what was happening everywhere but even though he has not written it down his memories of what happened to him and what he saw would be accurate

curlew Sun 13-Oct-13 13:19:34

"his memories of what happened to him and what he saw would be accurate"

But not necessarily factual.

sarahtigh Sun 13-Oct-13 14:51:07

I am not actually discussing scripture or proof of it but as a general statement that real life witnesses of significant events can be generally regarded as an accurate source of information.

most 60-70 year olds remember accurately what happened when they were 20-30 if it was of great significance to them, while there is a possibilty it may not be factual the overwhelming chances are that it is and that they remember accurately of course it may only be one side of the picture but that does not make it untrue or not factual it just means other facts may need to be taken into account.

very very little ancient history as any contemporary records the inscriptions on tombs of pharaohs etc are regarded as good evidence of some things they are known to be self promoting, oral tradition when it is relied on to pass info on can also be accurate

If you think about it the whole christian religion is based on pretty much what 4 anonymous writers said they had heard from people who claimed they had been there.

We don't even know who wrote the gospels and we don't know who they asked about what happened. We don't know how long after the events they lived - though we are sure it was quite a while.

Even now lots of Christians assume they were disciples of jesus. They say to me "but they were there so they should know". To be fair I think I was taught that they were when I was young.

Oh and I agree that lots of history is just as unreliable. However most history is not so critical. It would be nice to know just what happened in the past, but it isn't vital that we do. We don't kill people now for doubting what Alexander did or pass laws that we all have to wear an eyepatch because Nelson did. (actually I'm told that Nelson didn't which just shows how easily the stories change)

fizzoclock Mon 14-Oct-13 11:54:23

Hope- 'Suffering is the result of sin' i.e. Hamzah suffered as a result of his mothers sinful (wrong) behaviour NOT that he suffered because he was sinful.

A Christian view of sin is things which get in the way of a right relationship with God and others. Our bad attitudes, unforgiveness, all the way up to this woman inflicting horrendous cruelty on her own son. We all sin on some level and our sins tend to cause others pain and suffering.

I tend to buy myself things that I sort of need but can live without instead of giving all my spare cash to charity. My selfishness and need/want for new boots = less money to feed starving Syrian refugees. That's a simple example but we all are constantly putting ourselves first and not seeking the good of others which is what sin is.

When suffering like this impacts you I genuinely think the best response is to do something however small which will alleviate the suffering of someone else. Small acts added up = big change.

curlew Mon 14-Oct-13 14:09:23

"Hope- 'Suffering is the result of sin' i.e. Hamzah suffered as a result of his mothers sinful (wrong) behaviour NOT that he suffered because he was sinful."

But God could have stopped that suffering. Why didn't he?

headinhands Mon 14-Oct-13 14:47:03

I understand what you're saying but still don't see that as morally fair. If one of my children repeatedly hit another with a brick how would it be morally right for me to watch and do nothing. How reasonable would I sound if I defended myself by citing free will. Why is it right for me to prevent someone hurting another yet right for god to not prevent harm?

Have we discussed disease? Congenital birth defects? How is that the result of sin?

fizzoclock Wed 16-Oct-13 16:41:19

I guess with the brick analogy.... I still think that God does, has and will do something about sin and suffering and that is through Jesus and in the renewing of the heavens and the earth. If God intervenes further now that = an end to the current time of free will and choice that we have. That means those who have chosen to hit their sibling over the head with a brick are stuck with that choice and are judged for it. They have no more time to reconsider/reform etc.... We even given murders that choice. I think from God's bigger perspective there is a mercy in standing back although I know it doesn't feel that way.

I do completely get the massive issues with the problem of suffering. I'm not trying to say that there is a perfect argument which deals with it, merely that there are good and sufficient arguments as to how God and suffering are compatible. I think if rationality could sum it up we would not need a God. Obviously faith is required in God's otherness and perspective beyond our own which allows for suffering to happen. I have that faith in God's justice, love and mercy and so I trust in that where my own knowledge and limited human perspective reaches it's limits.

I think not believing in God requires a different kind of faith in this being it. That the suffering you see now has no redemption and that the end of the story is suffering and death.

SweetSkull Wed 16-Oct-13 16:47:41

But this discussion is going back in circles
Mercy to the guilty and suffering to the victim

headinhands Wed 16-Oct-13 17:56:04

When you say our current time of free will I assume you believe that god never intervenes in situations on earth? That doesn't tie up with the NT promises (assuming you're a Christian). As for 'mercy in standing back'. That's an abominable phrase. How could it ever be merciful to watch someone do vile things to a child. And remember sometimes a person will end another persons life. So it's okay for them to take away someone's potential salvation?

I don't feel I have faith. I'm choosing to only believe what there is evidence for. I'm not saying 'there is no god' I'm saying there is no reason to believe that a loving god exists. Maybe one who is hands off and uninterested but I don't even have any evidence for that but then there wouldn't be.

Yuo could argue, and I do, that my outlook is more helpful. Rather than relying on a justice later and waiting for potential resolution later, I think that all we can do is prevent harm being done now or later.

niminypiminy Wed 16-Oct-13 21:33:01

I think that's a false dichotomy - that is, between having faith and striving to address wrongdoing and injustice and alleviate the world 's ills. I don't know any Christians who do not think we should do both. It's not either/or - it's both/and.

I suppose I'd like to know how it helps you to believe that the universe is a bleak, pitiless place, where there is no ultimate meaning, no redemption and no hope? I don't think there are really any answers to the problem of pain. The question is, what helps us to deal with life's griefs and horrors?

For me the answer is hope - not optimism - that somehow everything can be made right. I don 'to know how exactly that will happen. But I have what seems to me a well founded hope.

Now, you can reject that hope, or pooh-pooh it, and that's fine. But how does it help you to live with pain and suffering to believe that that the universe is indifferent, meaningless and pitiless?

niminypiminy Wed 16-Oct-13 21:33:54

That is a genuine question btw - I do really want to know.

headinhands Wed 16-Oct-13 22:02:28

It doesn't help me but why should it. The universe doesn't owe me anything it is what it is. That said I find it mind blowing how vast the universe and how rich the tapestry of life on earth. I also relish in the love of the people in my life, and use that love to extend love out to people less fortunate than myself. If I was going to start believing things (again) just because they 'help me' well there's no limit to what I could make up. No, I'd rather deal with what I feel is the reality of life

headinhands Wed 16-Oct-13 22:05:17

What makes you think there is no hope in my world view? I hope that we will cure cancer, abolish homophobia and get better at protecting vulnerable children, just like you do.

fizzoclock Wed 16-Oct-13 23:08:11

My faith is summed up in this verse - Romans 8:38-39 'For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.'

I know that suffering is not a subject where arguments can or should win the day. I think Christian faith in God is reasonable for a lot of the reasons on here but my point of view relies on this kind of faith in the absolute love of God for every single person.

niminypiminy Thu 17-Oct-13 07:29:48

I too hope that we can find cures for cancer, abolish homophobia and so on -- but these things don't really get to the problem of pain -- progress doesn't seem to be able to deal with the depths if human depravity, with natural disasters, with diseases and congenital birth defects caused by random genetic mutation. Progress isn't able to deal with (well, it certainly hasn't so far) the propensity of human beings to kill, maim and torture each other, to stand by while others suffer, to say 'pull up the ladder, Jack, I'm all right.'

Now, your answer suggests that because the 'universe is what it is' all this is just how things are, and that you are basically ok with that. It's easy to feel awe at the mind-blowing vastness of the universe and the richness of life on earth -- anyone can do that. I do it too. But I don't feel awe and wonder at pain and suffering -- and these things are as much a part of the universe as grandeur and rich variety are.

So. Either we simply ignore the problem of pain -- or kid ourselves that human progress can simply eradicate it (an idea that has no evidence to back it up) -- or we can, quasi-stoically, say that pain is part of the cosmos and that is how it is (which is ok until we, or someone we know, is affected by unendurable suffering). Or we have a response which helps us to have hope and equips us to try and do what we can to mitigate it, and to reach out to those who suffer.

Now, for me, Christian faith does that. As Fizzoclock says, I believe that nothing can separate us from the love of God, and that his love can, and will, ultimately mend everything. That doesn't stop me having to deal with the reality of life -- but it gives me resources for dealing with life's pains and sorrows hopefully. I am commanded to reach out to those in pain and suffering in the light of that hope and love.

The question I was asking was what helps you deal with life's pains and sorrows?

curlew Thu 17-Oct-13 08:06:56

"The question I was asking was what helps you deal with life's pains and sorrows?"

The knowledge that they are due to other humans behaving badly, the way the world works or sheer bad luck. And that there is not an omniscient, omnipotent supreme being who sees my suffering and could help but chooses not to.

If I see another human being in trouble I do everything I possibly can to help. I would expect a supreme being to behave at least as well as I do- preferably better.

headinhands Thu 17-Oct-13 15:37:24

I'm surprised you don't think we've managed to do anything about human suffering. Consider the millions of lives saved by antibiotics and vaccines alone. Studies of human fossils show that we are significantly less likely to die at the hands of another human than at any other time in our history. Even the death toll incurred during WWI and WWII doesn't come near.

headinhands Thu 17-Oct-13 15:42:32

When I say the universe is what it is, it doesn't mean I'm happy with suffering. It means I'm not attributing anything supernatural to the way things are. I do, however, thanks to evolution, have empathy which means I find suffering upsetting.

RationalThought Thu 17-Oct-13 16:19:40

"progress doesn't seem to be able to deal with the depths if human depravity, with natural disasters, with diseases and congenital birth defects caused by random genetic mutation."

What I have never been able to understand is why a loving god would have created a world with so many problems. Why would he/she want completely innocent people to suffer from so many external factors? Also, why would so many people never get the chance to hear the truth and therefore be disadvantaged in eternity?

For an omnipotent being he / she seems very flawed to me.

headinhands Thu 17-Oct-13 16:44:01

Humans do sometimes stand by and watch suffering and yet god does the same and yet we're supposed to believe he's morally superior?

niminypiminy Thu 17-Oct-13 18:37:05

Antibiotics are wonderful, and I owe my life to them. There has indeed been progress in some areas (though, of course, bacteria are coming back to bite us). What we have not managed to make much progress with is human beings' propensity to murder, maim, rape, torture, humiliate, betray, hurt and abandon other human beings. The record of the last ten years alone shows that. Faced with the catalogue of human iniquity, 'upset' seems rather inadequate. Horrified and appalled would be nearer the mark.

Of course, as we have said before, human beings have free will, and they use it to do terrible things. They use it to do amazing things. But the amazing things can only happen because we have free will. It's deeply risky: God created us free to hate and slaughter, because all our creativity, our capacity to love, to be selfless and care for others comes from our free will.

If God were to intervene to stop an atrocity, then we would not be truly free. Like a loving parent, God having given us life, sets us free to live it as we will -- we're free, as children must be, to make our own mistakes.

Do you think God doesn't care? He cared so much he died to save us from death. He willingly took upon himself the undeserved pain and suffering of the world. When we cry out, he cries with us. He's there with us in our darkest hours. I don't think he stands idly by at all. It's just that he won't break his own rules.

headinhands Thu 17-Oct-13 18:56:28

Studies of human fossils show that we are significantly less likely to die at the hands of another human than at any other time in our history. Even the death toll incurred during WWI and WWII doesn't come near.

headinhands Thu 17-Oct-13 18:58:39

Many Christians claim that god has intervened in their lives, so you don't think he does?

headinhands Thu 17-Oct-13 19:02:49

So if we need to have free will to love and be good what will heaven be like?

headinhands Thu 17-Oct-13 19:08:44

A loving parent spends years instructing their children hands on. A loving parent prevents their child from hurting themselves and others. Even if I could prevent my adult child from hurting others I would. As a society we generally work hard to prevent people from causing harm. If we copied god's model we wouldn't have prisons or laws or safeguarding in schools or police etc etc. We'd be like 'god will sort it out later, it's not for me to take away anyone's free will.'

headinhands Thu 17-Oct-13 19:13:43

So he made a rule that said he couldn't help an abused child? So he sits there thinking 'shucks, I wish I could stop this happening but I myself made a rule that said I can't intervene, and it would be a shame to break that rule because erm, I'd be really angry with myself', or something. Except many many Christians claim god has broken this rule.

niminypiminy If god can't intervene because it would wreck the plan does that mean you dismiss as fraud all claims that god has intervened? The catholic church (and others) will have you believe that he cures people quite often when he is in the mood.

Like scottishmummy said, once you realise there is no god, everything else falls into place and makes sense. Horrible things happen because there are horrible people. Good things happen because there are good people. On the whole there are more good people than bad people. We can know this because we have a more-or-less functioning society based on rules and mutual benefit instead of violent anarchy.

But do you know why most people are good and we have a society? Because that's what our genes need to replicate most successfully. We have evolved to be mutually supportive since we have very little else in natural endowment to survive this harsh world.

Life is cruel, nature has no mercy for the weak. From Hamzah Kham to the seal cub eaten by the orca, it's just life. It's not personal, it's not because of anything or part of any bigger picture. There is no meaning. Stop looking for one, it will drive you crazy.

headinhands Thu 17-Oct-13 18:58:39
Many Christians claim that god has intervened in their lives, so you don't think he does?

No, absolutely not. We're conditioned to look for patterns in things, it's part of survival - recognition of patterns leading to good or bad outcomes so we can repeat or avoid them happening again. It's not god intervening, it's people hoping for a result and giving god the credit when it works out. But tell me this... how many prayers don't get answered? Pretty much most, I'd say. This gets dismissed as "well, god must have another plan for me instead". You simply apply god's will to the outcome retrospectively.

curlew Thu 17-Oct-13 20:02:33

God wins either way. Great trick if you can pull it off.

curlew Thu 17-Oct-13 20:04:45

" The catholic church (and others) will have you believe that he cures people quite often when he is in the mood."

He's very selective in what he cures though. He's a sort of celestial homeopath- specialising in self limiting illnesses, vague feelings of unease and bad backs.

very selective in what he cures though very true! He has never replaced a missing limb at lourdes for example. It's as if......

expatinscotland Thu 17-Oct-13 20:23:34

Well said, curlew, headinhands and Annie.

niminypiminy Thu 17-Oct-13 21:10:11

I'm not sure how the fossil record can show that humans are less likely to die at the hands of another human now -- the fossil record (as I think Darwin said) is like a library of which 90% of the volumes have been destroyed, and the rest have been defaced. And I am still not clear how, even if this was the case, it is evidence of progress. Humans have got much better at killing each other using other methods -- such as, to take one example only, Zyklon gas. Human ingenuity in the production of suffering is almost limitless.

Regarding free will, we as a society work hard to prevent people from causing harm, it is true. But we set limits on the power to prevent people from doing things. Liberty is a key value of our society. And, sadly, loving parents cannot stop their children hurting themselves and others -- can you stop your child from taking drugs, or self-harming, or refusing to eat? Can you accompany your child everywhere, making sure she never hits or hurts anyone? Of course you cannot. The truth is that parents can try to influence their children, but they cannot control their actions -- and, in fact, that would be a form of abuse in itself.

And how would God intervene in a situation of domestic violence, say? Where would he decide to start the intervention -- after the first blow, or before it? Or before that, at the first humiliating tirade? Or before that, at the first belittling comment? Or before that, at the point where the couple move in together? Or before that, before they meet? At any of those points, the violence could be always going to happen, or it could be not going to happen. At every point the people involved have free will about what they do. If God sorts it out for them they don't do the suffering -- but they don't have the possibility that the situation might not involve suffering. And they don't have the possibility of changing, or deciding to do something differently. They are simply toys, subject to God's whims.

I think God works from below, through us, rather than from above. He's not like a celestial puppet-master. I think much of God's action in the world is unrecognized as such. However, the most important intervention God has made is the incarnation -- becoming human, suffering and dying. And I think God continues to act in the world because where people reach out to others in love and compassion, God acts through them.

I still am wondering how it helps you (plural you) to believe in a pitiless, pointless, merciless universe: in the darkest of nights, in despair, and unendurable suffering, in the bleakest of lonely abandonment, where do get the resources you need to carry on?

expatinscotland Thu 17-Oct-13 21:25:33

Why are you assuming that non-believers are in despair, hopeless, suffering or feel 'lonely abandonment' because they don't share your belief system? Plenty of people have the 'strength to carry on' because it is enough for them to be decent, good people in a world where more people are good than bad.

headinhands Thu 17-Oct-13 21:26:12
headinhands Thu 17-Oct-13 21:33:36

I get my resources from myself and those around me. I draw comfort and meaning from my relationships with the people in my life. I draw comfort from knowing we're learning all the time and am immensely grateful for being in 2013.

headinhands Thu 17-Oct-13 21:35:32

As a human when would you intervene in DV by way of calling the police etc? I'm guessing it would be a lot sooner than god.

headinhands Thu 17-Oct-13 21:38:45

What would be abusive would be to give birth to a child then hand it over to a group of people you know/believe to be depraved.

It's not that it helps me to believe in this universe. This just happens to be the universe we have. Belief has no bearing on it.

If you were short of money I could say "But.. how it does it help you to believe you only have £20. Why don't you believe you have £20,000". But believing that wouldn't change anything would it.

And as I think someone may have said I don't expect the universe to have a purpose anymore than I expect a teapot to have a purpose. A teapot has a 'use'. I can use it to make tea or maybe as a doorstop, but it has no purpose of it's own. Purpose is like looking at the night sky and seeing a Great Bear made up by half a dozen stars. The bear isn't really there and those stars are not connected to each other.

I think in a way though that asking how non-believers cope IS a good question. Because if we really did live in a constant state of despair at not having god it would show. We're often quite happy and content. So maybe, just maybe, there's more to this not-believing than believers think.

niminypiminy Thu 17-Oct-13 21:44:03

Perhaps I was unclear: I meant, in situations where you are in despair, what are your resources?

I've looked at the Steven Pinker article. It's an unreferenced talk, which draws largely on people Pinker agrees with, and ignores the research of professional historians and archaeologists. Furthermore, it is tendentious, in the sense that it starts with a premise (that violence has declined) that it then adduces evidence to prove. Pinker is a renowned expert in the field of evolutionary psychology; he is not a historian. I don't doubt he would give my thoughts on evolutionary psychology short shrift: and I can repay the compliment.

niminypiminy Thu 17-Oct-13 21:49:27

I think you are not understanding what my question was getting at.

So I give an example (I've borrowed it from Francis Spufford's book Unapologetic). You arrive home to find that your demented (as in senile dementia) partner has smeared her own shit over the walls, and when you get cross with her, she weeps pathetically and tries to hit you. Your only respite would be to talk to the wittiest, most intelligent, wisest person you know -- but that person has just smeared shit over the walls. In that situation, as an atheist, what are your resources? Is believing that there are more good people than bad people a comfort? Would living in 2013 and knowing more all the time console you? Would it?

Sorry, I gave credit to the wrong person, I meant expatinscotland, not scottishmummy. Sorry, wrong Scot!!

When I am in niminypiminy, firstly I draw strength from myself, because ultimately, I have only myself to rely on. Secondly, I draw on those around me. But I certainly don't rely on any celestial being's goodwill to make it better.

I used to be an evangelical Christian. I went to church, I sang, I prayed, I spoke in tongues. But I still felt empty. I sought god with all my heart, my soul and my mind. I wanted, with every cell of my being, to know him, to serve him, to feel his hand in my life. I cried out to him to fill me with that comfort, that warmth, that sense of purpose that the other members of my church seemed to feel. They cried with happiness at the joy god apparently brought them.

All I felt was the uncaring coldness of a universe in which I mattered not one jot.

Then I gave up on god, and the second I took control of my own life, that I accepted there was nothing but me, that I had complete control over my own destiny... that was the moment when I knew true peace and joy.

In the example you give, where the partner has dementia, well, even as a Christian, unless you have dementia too, there is still no witty intelligent person to talk to. In my experience, god doesn't have witty intelligent conversations with people. It's just you talking things through with yourself in your head. How is a belief in god remotely helpful apart from letting you believe there's a purpose in the horrible thing that's happening to you?

Christians may draw strength from there being some imagined purpose. I draw strength from the simple knowledge that life has ups and downs. So while right now may be a down, statistically speaking, an up is bound to follow sooner rather than later. And since I take responsibility for my own destiny, I will work at improving my situation in any way I can rather than wailing to god to fix it for me.

Things just are. Why does there need to be more?

Tim Minchin says it very well in his poem Storm:

Isn't THIS enough?
Just.. this.. world?
Just this.. beautiful, complex
Wonderfully unfathomable.. natural.. world?
How does it so fail to hold our attention
That we have to diminish it with the invention
Of cheap, man-made myths and monsters?
If you're so into your Shakespeare
Lend me your ear:
"To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw perfume on the violet, is just fucking silly"
Or something like that.
Or what about Satchmo?!
"I see trees of green,
Red roses too",
And fine, if you wish to
Glorify Krishna and Vishnu
In a post-colonial, condescending
Bottled-up and labeled kind of way
Then whatever, that's ok.
But here's what gives me a hard-on:
I am a tiny, insignificant, ignorant bit of carbon.
I have one life, and it is short
And unimportant
But thanks to recent scientific advances
I get to live twice as long as my great great great uncle-es and aunt-es.
Twice as long to live this life of mine
Twice as long to love this wife of mine
Twice as many years of friends and wine
Of sharing curries and getting shitty
At good-looking hippies
With fairies on their spines
And butterflies on their titties.

"When I am in despair, niminypiminy", obviously. Because being in niminypiminy would be wildly inappropriate! grin

somethingawfulonit Thu 17-Oct-13 22:13:16

niminy, your resources are within yourself. You pull it all out of yourself. That's how 'faith' heals - it's nothing to do with a god, but it comes from within. You've heard it said, I'm sure, that the mind is an incredibly powerful thing. Well that's what they mean. Believe that you can swim, for example, and you probably will swim. Some people work the power of their own minds by praying to a god - 'dear god, let me able to swim' and because they have this huge faith in their god, sure enough, they can swim. But it's the same thing as the person who believes/has faith in themselves. It's just the method of harnessing their own potential.

Don't know if any of that is making sense, but an example would be this scientific study where some chicks were taught that a robot was their mother and somehow, it would appear, that they subtly managed to make the robot stay near them just out of the strength of their belief.

Speaking for myself, my 'external' resources would be the same as for a religious person. In that I could get help, sympathy, advice from friends, family, GP etc.

I wouldn't have the option to kneel and ask god for help, but even if he existed and I did, he wouldn't be clearing it up would he, and he wouldn't answer as such. If I believed in him I 'might' get a feeling that he had listened, but that would be the extent of it. It can be comforting if friends listen to your woes, but they at least nod now and then so you know they are truly listening.

Internal resources are harder to define. Because I'm atheist I don't have any kind of exhausting internal struggle over why this is happening. It's happening because we are organic beings who wear out and break down. There's no deep mystery. Just facts that have to be dealt with. The very idea that there should be a source of comfort - as though we are owed or were promised that - is meaningless so doesn't even arise.

niminypiminy Thu 17-Oct-13 22:21:30

Tim Minchin may be a funny man when you see him on stage, and I appreciate the sentiments behind his poem are heartfelt, but goodness, it's a bunch of crap as a poem.

Ok, that's fine, I think if you feel that the consciousness of your own will, and the idea that life has its ups and downs is sufficient to console you. That is really fine. I don't think it would get me through though. I think I need more than re-hashed stoicism. But it is horses for courses, isn't it?

I wonder how many of the atheists in this debate are ex-evangelical Christians?

niminypiminy Thu 17-Oct-13 22:24:11

And hope? Can you have hope if you don't believe in comfort or consolation? In a hopeless situation in which there will be no ups, where does your hope come from?

Why does it trouble you so much, those with faith, that those of us who lack faith can stare into the void, into our souls, into the darkest time and find fulfilment in ourselves? Is it easier for you to think we're deeply unhappy and feel we're "lacking" in some way? Or that we just avoid any kind of internal refection because we'll see the empty hole where god should be?

We're happy and we know peace precisely because we know how insignificant we are, how amazingly small the statistical probability that caused us to be. We know we're a miracle of nature, but then so is each and every microbe and ant. Everyone is practically a statistical impossibility. But here we are anyway, giving the universe a big V-sign and existing anyway.

I will not waste this miracle that is my life waiting on the whim of some jealous, petty, childish and deeply unfair god. I will not waste time worrying about what lies beyond this life but instead savour the joy, the pain, the boredom, the contentment, the shame, the exhaustion, the elation of this life.... every second is a miracle and it's mine to sculpt, to use, to make the most of. Mine alone. That's just so exciting to me, and I'm grateful to be alive. Just not grateful to a god.

curlew Thu 17-Oct-13 22:25:16

Which bits constitute the "bunch of crap"?

somethingawfulonit Thu 17-Oct-13 22:25:17

I don't know about evangelical Christians, but I would describe myself has having had a Christian faith at some point. And then I lost a child. I can assure you that I looked for a god, but he/she was not there. Is that what you mean?

niminypiminy Thu 17-Oct-13 22:28:20

<irritated> you lot don't like it when I ask you to explain yourselves, do you?

I guess I was asking about when it's not exciting to be you, when being insignificant and unloved is your entire experience of life, when you can't do any life-sculpting because you are utterly dependent on others, when our miraculous selves are simply an experience of pain?

Where does your hope come from? When you hope and pray that god will save you from your hopeless situation, but he doesn't (as is usually the case), how do you keep your faith? Do you twist yourself into knots to work out how the horrible thing that god failed to save you from was all in your own or someone else's best interests?

Bad stuff happens. But it's very rarely permanent. "This too shall pass", is where I draw my comfort.

niminypiminy Thu 17-Oct-13 22:32:50

No: my hope is founded on the resurrection.

And when the bad stuff doesn't pass?

curlew Thu 17-Oct-13 22:34:31

"And hope? Can you have hope if you don't believe in comfort or consolation? In a hopeless situation in which there will be no ups, where does your hope come from?"

Why do you need a god to find comfort and consolation? In fact, in a hopeless situation, isn't it better to face the hopelessness, rather than trust in a god who does nothing, even though he could if he wanted to?

I guess I was asking about when it's not exciting to be you, when being insignificant and unloved is your entire experience of life, when you can't do any life-sculpting because you are utterly dependent on others, when our miraculous selves are simply an experience of pain?

Sadly, this is what happens to some people. They have my every sympathy that the dice-roll of the universe was so crappy to them. But it's chance, that's all. Statistically speaking it has to happen to someone.

I would ask you how you can continue to have faith in and even worship a divine being who would heap all the crap on someone on purpose? How can someone whose entire life is misery and pain be expected to find comfort or consolation in the being who allowed this to happen to them. If anyone worshipped their human abuser this way we'd be horrified and urge them to LTB. Why on earth is it okay when god does it? What a bizarre notion.

curlew Thu 17-Oct-13 22:36:51

"No: my hope is founded on the resurrection.

And when the bad stuff doesn't pass?"

If it doesn't pass- then I know that another human being, or nature, or the laws of science, or sheer bloody bad luck has got me. At least I don't think there is someone who could help me but chooses not to.

niminypiminy Thu 17-Oct-13 22:48:06

I have to go to bed, and in any case we've got back to the point about 'why doesn't God intervene' which we've already been through. I've said what I have to say about that, and I don't think there's any use wearing out my eyes going over it again tonight. What I find interesting is that none of you has engaged with what I've said about Jesus -- about the suffering, human God, and about the resurrection.

I must say, the 'well it has to happen to someone' line probably sounds ok if it isn't you. So, if it's all bad luck and you're in despair, well, that's just the way the cookie crumbles. There's no hope, but don't let it bother you. Concentrate on progress and the wonderfulness of the universe.

curlew Thu 17-Oct-13 22:51:14

I notice you haven't explained why you think the Tim Minchin poem is "crap"..

I'm happy to address whatever you said about Jesus......let me go back and look.

curlew Thu 17-Oct-13 22:58:24

Niminy- I'm sorry, but I can't see a single point you've made that hasn't been addressed- could you point me to it? I am happy to answer any points you want answered.

I think the major difference is that a belief in God leads us to a belief in the eternities and an understanding that mortality is only a chapter in our existence.

Therefore a mortality of suffering is not the only story in our life. I believe in good things to come, some may come soon, some may come late and some may not come to heaven.

I think we should feel anger at the bad things that happen in this world. Those of us who do (whether you believe in God or not) are likely to do something about it. Believing in God is not an excuse not to do things and leave it to him.

I can't say I completely comprehend the nature of God but then I don't completely understand my husband either.

niminypiminy, can I ask you what hope a belief in god would give you in a hopeless situation, such as a life-limiting disease or a severe disability? Hope that things will get better in this life, or that the next life will be better?

How do you reconcile your belief that god doesn't intervene with the claims of many other Christians that they have been healed by god?

headinhands Fri 18-Oct-13 06:10:48

So what's behind this? Something along the lines of 'no atheists in foxholes'. (Although even if most people pray in the face of tragedy what would that even prove?)

As for the husband and senile wife, I imagine he would be doing/thinking what we would all be doing for the bulk I it. Cleaning, talking to friends, thinking about 24hr care, feeling very sad etc.

niminypiminy Fri 18-Oct-13 07:49:28

The poem by Tim Minchin may express sentiments that people agree with. That's fine. But it just isn't a good poem. It depends on stale and hackneyed images, it plays for cheap laughs with swear words, the only metaphor he can think of to express wonder is getting an erection, and it ends with a jibe that is at once crude and silly. It doesn't read aloud well, he can't use the music of the English language, he can't use it to put his thoughts in a new or arresting way.

Compare this, which is the second stanza of a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

For all this, nature is never spent,
There lives the dearest freshness, deep down things;
Although the last lights off the black west went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs --
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast, and ah! bright wings.

You might not like this poem, you might not agree with it, you might not understand it -- but it's a great poem. It uses all the poetic resources of the English language (sound, imagery, metaphor, rhythm, rhyme) to make it's thought arresting and new.

curlew Fri 18-Oct-13 08:22:04

Gerard Manly Hopkins is a fantastic poet. One of my all time favourites.

Tim Minchin would, I am sure, be the first to be horrified, or very amused, at having his performance "poetry" even thought of in the same breath.

expatinscotland Fri 18-Oct-13 13:43:40

'There's no hope, but don't let it bother you. Concentrate on progress and the wonderfulness of the universe.'

Again, you keep assuming that people who are non-believers have no hope.


I have been in despair, blah blah blah. My young daughter died last year after suffering from cancer.

I feel plenty of hope and get a lot of comfort from other people, who are here now, they are real, have hope for my surviving children, and enjoy what is left of life because it is very precious. The universe is wonderful, and I think Minchin puts it perfectly: this is enough.

This is it, this is what is real. I make the most of it and of all normal human emotions.

I don't need a story about someone who died and came back to give me hope.

I live in an immense - perhaps infinite - universe. Not designed, yet beautifully and amazingly intricate. From black holes to snowflakes there is always more to see.

I am part of a species that has gone from rooting in the mud for food to building space stations and electron microscopes.

When I am gone others will carry on. I am part of a chain with links going back millions of years and forward perhaps more millions. It's possible that one day our descendants will stand on other planets and look up at alien skies. That they will understand things beyond our comprehension today.

This is awe inspiring to me.

My kids do and say things they got from me. The people around me will also have been changed in some small way by knowing me. That influence will go forward in time and will be my small, but real, legacy - my immortality.

Since heaven doesn't exist I will miss out on an eternity of telling god how wonderful he is, but I am content.

curlew Fri 18-Oct-13 14:36:30

I too don't understand the no God=no hope line.

curlew Fri 18-Oct-13 14:37:13

Backonlybriefly- that is lovely.

ApplesinmyPocket Fri 18-Oct-13 15:22:52

Backonlybriefly, your post really says it all for me. Brilliant.

niminypiminy Fri 18-Oct-13 16:39:25

That is very nicely put, Backonlybriefly. I can't think of a more eloquent statement of belief in progress.

I'd love to believe in progress in that way. I'd love to believe that between rooting in the mud and electron microscopes was a continuous story of progress. I'd love to believe that knowledge will go on and on increasing, and that our benign influence will stretch on unceasingly into the future. I'd love to believe that the universe was all beauty and amazingness.

But, you see, I just can't. I can't believe it because the universe is also full of death, and pain and despair, and viruses and mutating cancer cells, and tsunamis and dying stars. I can't believe it because, although we can make electron microscopes we don't know enough not to slaughter each other in uncounted numbers. I can't believe it because people die in isolation, unremembered and unmourned. I can't believe it because this amazing world, our little corner of the cosmos, is being despoiled and plundered. I can't believe it because we may not have been as knowledgeable when we were rooting round in the mud, but we were not less wise.

It's not that I don't respond to the beauty and majesty your creed evokes. But I cannot believe that is all there is. It isn't all there is.

Thanks all. I'm glad I got that across as many religious people I have spoken with do imagine my existence as barren.

niminypiminy, I know about the bad stuff too, but what is the alternative? If your god existed it would be the same world with the same suffering, but at some arbitrary point god would take the good ones to heaven, torture or kill the rest and destroy everything.

Isn't that pretty bleak?

niminypiminy Fri 18-Oct-13 17:10:25

Well, it would be if that was what God was like. Happily, the God you don't believe in is the same as the one I don't believe in.

niminypiminy Fri 18-Oct-13 17:18:33

And whose creed is it that means they have to edit out large parts of reality in order to maintain belief in it? The idea of progress is wonderful, as long as you keep your blinkers on.

I'm surprised, niminypiminy, that it's the bad stuff that keeps you believing in god, while for we atheists, that's what keeps us not believing in him.

Please don't think for a moment we're in denial about the piles of shit in the universe.... the awfulness of the dark side of human nature, the wasps that lay eggs in live caterpillars, floods and volcanoes.... "nature red in tooth and claw".

We draw strength in the beauty of the universe and the good that can come from man's soul. And we despair at the horror of both too. That they seem to come in equal balance makes it clear to me that there is no grand design, just chaos.

curlew Fri 18-Oct-13 17:28:45

There is progress. There is bad stuff as well. In my godless
world the tools of perfectibility are in our hands. We may not always use them properly, but the potential is there. I cannot imagine anything bleaker than believing in a god who could help me but chooses not to.

niminypiminy Fri 18-Oct-13 17:35:37

Ah, but God does help: look at the cross.

curlew Fri 18-Oct-13 17:42:01

I'm looking at it.
Tell me what I am looking at.

But the cross means nothing to me. Why should it? It only means what you choose to read into it. So apparently god died to take our sins. Kind of him, really, but I'd rather take responsibility for myself, thanks. I'll make my own choices, try to get it right, but when it goes wrong I'll apologise and try to fix it.

The premise of Christianity is that we're all inherently flawed and require the grace of god and the sacrifice of Jesus to achieve eternal life.

I agree that we're inherently flawed because there is no perfection in this universe, and the primal side of human nature lets us all down here and there. But it's nothing to be ashamed of, you just pick yourself up and try to do better next time. Such is life.

expatinscotland Fri 18-Oct-13 17:49:05

Well put, Briefly!

Thanks expat.

niminypiminy as others have said we know about the bad stuff. Wishing doesn't make it go away and we've established that god can't help.

Maybe you could give us a rough idea which god you believe in. Because heaven & hell are pretty mainstream beliefs and last I looked so was judgement day. When I was growing up the churches were saying that jesus was coming in the year 2000. They knew this because the bible told them so. They have been a bit quiet since so I guess it's been postponed, but there are plenty preaching that it's due any time.

I suppose most importantly I'd like to know if you believe that everyone who ever lived will be going to heaven. Because if not then it's not a very good deal for them is it. Could you bear to be in heaven knowing that others were not so fortunate?

niminypiminy Fri 18-Oct-13 22:51:08

Backonlybriefly, I don't think we've established that God can't help with the bad stuff. You've said several times that he doesn't and I've said several times that he does, and we've been round the houses on that. I don't think we are going to reach a resolution because we fundamentally disagree.

I don't know whether everyone who ever lived will be going to heaven. That's partly because I don't know everything that God knows, and partly because there are good arguments both ways. I hope that everyone will go to heaven, because I believe that to be in the void where God is not, in eternity, would be the worst thing that could happen to you. But I don't know for certain.

It sounds as if you grew up in extreme evangelical Protestantism. Not all churches predict the date of the Second Coming -- in fact, few of them do. Perhaps your view of Christianity is seriously warped. I don't know.

I need to bow out of this thread now, because it's taking up too much of my time, and I've got a lot on, and because it's making me feel too irritated. I've tried to post as thoughtfully and articulately as I can, and I hope something in my posts has meant something to someone reading it. I've done my best to give a thoughtful Christian response to questions, and to pose some of my own. That will have to do for now.

Well I meant 'can't because it would break his rules' that time, but I wasn't clear I agree.

It's not so much that I grew up in a strict religious environment, but that I'm older. Nowadays a lot of the traditional truths have been quietly shelved. I've watched religion retreat over the years as its followers found various parts difficult to defend.

A lot of christians - especially in the uk - now seem to feel that religion consists of just their 'relationship' with god - whatever that means.

In the US though they still speak of hellfire and damnation.

expatinscotland Sat 19-Oct-13 00:36:58

Back, I hope by my posting you realise how much you have helped.

expatinscotland Sat 19-Oct-13 00:53:35

nim is boils down to this to me: your god supposedly made some sacrifice, of his child. Yeah? There is not a parent alive here who wouldn't go first, so that makes us less than, not able to understand because He is God. Yeah? Well, he said we were all god, too, made in his image. Okay. Let's put that aside for a minute, we were so bad he made that sacrifice.


Well he got him back after 3 days.

Really? Do you know what people who have lost their child would do to get them back? Oh, but they are not god, I guess, not the same. Sounds like Tories to me. One rule for you, one for me.

I read this book I read one time put it best. It is called 'The Yellow on the Broom', a memoir of a woman who was born to a Scottish travelling family in about 1919.

Her mother had lost her only two sons, to pneumonia from whopping cough, among other children.

One day the 'Hallelujah hantle', missionaries, came to their camp.

They asked if she could read. She said no, the lass does, but answer me this, what is this about Abraham asked to sacrifice his son? I'm just an ignorant gan' aboot (going about) body, but even I would ken (know) the depths of someone's love for me without dreaming to ask such a thing. If that's your god you can keep him,' and then she dismissed them by saying she needed to get on with supper.

But really, really?

Either you intervene or you don't. Either you are all-powerful or you aren't.

Proclaiming you know people, to their core, you created them, and that you love them, but expecting them to deal with everything that is pure shit is abuse, not love.

headinhands Sat 19-Oct-13 08:10:55

Nimmy, even if studies did show we were getting more violent, that's not evidence for a loving god. It's not evidence for anything of itself. It's like posters who try to pull evolution apart. Even if evolution was disproved it doesn't mean the creation story is any less false.

curlew Sat 19-Oct-13 08:15:38

"I've done my best to give a thoughtful Christian response to questions, and to pose some of my own. That will have to do for now."

I'm really sorry, but I honestly don't think "Look at the cross" is a thoughtful Christian response.

And I'm also sorry that you're irritated by this thread, but it seems to me that if you make statements about god and belief then you've got to be prepared to defend them. And not be irritated by any form of challenge.

headinhands Sat 19-Oct-13 09:09:51

'Look at the cross'. That irritated me too. We're talking about children being abused and you're throwing out 'look at the cross' as a response and you can't understand how crass that seems?

So ...

If we accept that God has given man the ability to choose and act for himself and not to be his puppets we have to accept that he can not intervene. Divine intervention is more about the right place and the right time, in my opinion it is not about God making puppets of people. It's only is going to be a principle you can accept if you believe in God though. If you don't you'll have other views.

If we accept that God has asked us to become like him that means we have to learn and learn for ourselves. At some point as a parent you have to teach your child correct principles and then let them govern themselves. I am teaching my oldest child how to cross the road safety. At some point he will do it without me being there. Will it be my fault if he chooses not to listen to my instructions? As a parent we can teach and teach and teach but we can not stop every bad thing happening to our children. What we can help them do is put it into perspective and help them carry on. That is what I think God does for us, if we want him to.

If we expect God to intervene then surely he should intervene in everything. But that would make puppets of us all. When do you start to intervene, do you punish people for their thoughts, words or actions? Do you stop them being born? If you knew your child was going to fail their exams, would you stop them taking them, do the exam for them, force them to work every minute of everyday?

For those children who suffer any form of abuse, life is terrible. If I could stop it I would. I do what i can in practical terms to try and stop and stand up for such injustices. I have faith in an eternity when those injustices will be put right. I choose to believe in an eternity not spent simply worshipping God but in one where I can experience blessings I (and others) missed out in this life, where wrongs are put right and things are made whole.

As for God sacrificing his 'only begotten', in Christainity the belief is that the sacrifice of one was made to save the rest. He sacrificed his strongest child for the rest. Albeit temporally, and as God he knew that. That is not an easy option but unfortunately is actually a choice some parents have also had to make.

This is my opinion and my beliefs, they help me gain comfort in a world where such wickedness exists. I am aware many people will disagree with me, but that is up to them.

curlew Sat 19-Oct-13 10:19:13

The exact post was-
"Ah, but God does help: look at the cross."

So. God creates the world and everything in it. He decides what's sinful and what's not. The people he creates commit lots of sins. Instead of punishing them (on this occasion- the last time he drowned them), he creates a half human half god creature to sacrifice on humanity's behalf.

His creature dies in agony, but 3 days later is resurrected and is subsequently taken into Heaven to live in glory for ever. And God can now say," look, I loved you all sooo much I sacrificed my son for you. What more do you want, humanity? What do you mean, you want me to intervene to help your son the way I helped mine? Well, you can pray if you like, but my hands are tied. Free will, you see. Sorry about that. I might move in a mysterious way in a bit- or I might not. But don't worry, it's all part of a plan you're too stupid to understand. One day you'll see why it was the best possible thing for you to have your child die despite the prayers of thousands............"

curlew Sat 19-Oct-13 10:22:16

Nicknamegrief- then why did he say he would answer prayers? I could quote you loads of biblical texts where he specifically says that. Why say it if he can't/won't?

headinhands Sat 19-Oct-13 10:46:39

Ah the old parent analogy. The thing is god is with that child when they choose not to look when crossing the road, he's with the driver who'll be scarred for life. He's also with the 6 year old being abused by her dad. Watching and hearing her cry and doing nothing. That's the difference between me and your god. I couldn't sit and watch. And as for people who say 'he cries with us'. Ah, poor god, crying because he can't break a rule he made because he'll be upset with himself.

headinhands Sat 19-Oct-13 10:49:59

So if we can sin because of free will and we need free will to not be puppets what's heaven going to be like? Just a load of puppets or the same as here?

MostlyLovingLurchers Sat 19-Oct-13 10:54:17

If we accept that God has given man the ability to choose and act for himself and not to be his puppets we have to accept that he can not intervene. Divine intervention is more about the right place and the right time, in my opinion it is not about God making puppets of people.

What though is the rationale for god not intervening when things happen that are not of their own (or anyone else's) doing? I can (almost) understand the parent-child analogy in terms of allowing your children to learn by the consequences of their actions, but why would you not help them when they are suffering through no fault of their own, if you could? Life limiting illness is not always caused by people's actions is it?

As for god intervening in a right time right place kind of a way, what about wrong place wrong time? When you just happen to be in the path of a tsunami, when you just happen to cross the road as a speeding car comes down the road and hits you? Seems to be yet again a case of giving god the glory when things go right but not blaming him when they go wrong.

Easier ones first (IMO)...

Heaven is full of the people who use their will to make good choices. Our will is not free, there are consequences to pay for it.

Prayer is not about you getting what you want out of a situation. It's about understanding God's plan for you. There are lots of scriptures that talk about God answering prayers, but it doesn't necessarily mean he'll answer them with the answer we want.

Many things (and maybe even most things) that happen to you aren't about you being the victim of your own wrong choice. Where life exists so does death. Many of us don't pick and choose what happens to us, they just happen and suffer we do. I have met lots of people who carry burdens I feel I would break with yet they seem to bear them well. Some of them will have a belief in God that helps them do this and others will have something that is inherent in their nature. How we deal with with things says more about us than what we deal with. I would call it the refiners fire (but that's because I believe in God).

I don't know how God can stand and watch a child been abused, I don't know how he could watch the holocaust and other such things. But I don't have his eyes, I don't know what he is preparing for those people. It boils down to a personal belief that I choose to have because the thought that those individuals who commit such gruesome crimes can escape retribution and that those who suffer such things is too much for me. If I can frame it in an eternal existence then it can make sense to me and I can hope for things to come. Otherwise I think I'd find the grief of the world too much. So hands up, I don't have all or maybe even some of the answers but that is where my faith takes over.

headinhands Sat 19-Oct-13 11:35:09

Another flaw with the parent analogy is that we do not let our children have free will while we are teaching them. How does that tie in with god not affecting our free will?

headinhands Sat 19-Oct-13 11:38:28

Could those people in heaven decide to make bad choices?

curlew Sat 19-Oct-13 11:39:15

It's like listening to a woman in an abusive relationship "he's lovely really- it's my fault for winding him up. He's a wonderful father- he just gets a bit stressed sometimes. All we have to do is make sure we don't upset him and everything's fine. He loves us soooooo much, that's why he gets so angry with us"

I believe so yes.
Satan/ Lucifer/ the devil, was once the son of the morning...

If that was the case curlew then those who were 'righteous' would never suffer.

Sorry head no analogy is perfect.

Although I do believe that if we haven't been taught right from wrong then we can not be held accountable for the things we do.

headinhands Sat 19-Oct-13 11:47:19

So people in heaven have free will but only choose to do good, how come?

headinhands Sat 19-Oct-13 11:54:23

If we can have free will in heaven but somehow only do good, why the Jeff wouldn't god have done that now and avoided all the agony and suffering?

We only do good because heaven is for those who despite their circumstances choose to do good.

It is the reward. It is my belief that God will only reward those who have chosen to do good. They still do good because that is who they are. God has sent us to Earth to be tried, tested and proven. He gave us will so that we can prove ourselves good, wicked and so forth.

I also believe that we came to Earth to experience bad and good, so that we can learn the difference and make choices based on consequences rather than just being told what will happen. I think that we know what suffering is like because we know what pleasure and joy is like.

juule Sat 19-Oct-13 12:36:23

Why do we need to learn the difference? What are we learning it for? Is there an end purpose to the lesson?

headinhands Sat 19-Oct-13 12:43:48

So there are people on earth that don't do any bad stuff? So Jesus didn't need to die for them? Who did Jesus die for? So the people who Jesus died for, ie the people who do bad, they won't go to heaven anyway because heaven is only for the good people? Why couldn't he make us all good? If we can choose to do bad stuff in heaven won't it end up like another earth?

headinhands well spotted. If people in heaven have free will then they might abuse a child up there and god will let them.

Nicknamegrief You can say 'but they are the ones who made good choices before', but that was then. You can't be sure they always will.

oh and despite someone pointing out the difference you are still saying that for god to give up his son for 3 days is the same as a parent having a child die.

niminypiminy if you're still about would you care to explain why you now claim that god does intervene after telling us that he can't without taking our free will? Did you have a revelation?

niminypiminy Fri 18-Oct-13 22:51:08
Backonlybriefly, I don't think we've established that God can't help with the bad stuff. You've said several times that he doesn't and I've said several times that he does

The only person to have walked the Earth perfectly according to my beliefs is Jesus Christ.

His atonement in the garden of Gethsame is the gift that enables us to repent and is this grace that perfects individuals.

I can't be sure, but it's not up to me to make these judgements. Although if you stop doing good you aren't going to be staying in Heaven.

In my beliefs mortal death separates us temporarily from those we have lost on this Earth, to be reunited with them in Eternity. Obviously if you don't have the same beliefs you will view it very differently. I am only speaking on behalf of what I believe.

headinhands Sat 19-Oct-13 13:21:39

With regards to earth being a test to asses our character: what a twisted way to find out. Take marriage for example, one of the most important decisions you can make and one where you need to determine a persons character, how do you do that? If I told you there was this guy that had asked me to marry him, and I said that I had organised a load of bad stuff to happen to him so I can see how he handles it, wouldn't you think I was unhinged!

headinhands Sat 19-Oct-13 13:22:50

Why does god arrange bad things for children before they are even culpable?

curlew Sat 19-Oct-13 13:23:19

"His atonement in the garden of Gethsame is the gift that enables us to repent and is this grace that perfects individuals"

What does this actually mean?

headinhands Sat 19-Oct-13 13:25:14

Why about if the people you love aren't in heaven? So god will boot out people who do bad stuff to other people? Why can't he do that now? How will he be able to in heaven without it affecting their free will?

lisylisylou Sun 20-Oct-13 12:26:03

I have to be honest sometimes I think it's natural to think why does God let things happen. I haven't got answers but I gained a different way of looking at God after reading about people who have near death experiences and then being 'allowed' to come back. I felt after reading the experiences that each person is set a path in life to teach other people or to rectify mistakes from previous lives. He wants people to believe in Him as any parent would want their own children to believe in them. As any parent would for their child to show compassion, kindness, love and gratitude. If people don't understand how we should act then they keep experiencing different lessons to try to make them understand.

I genuinely believe from my own experiences after praying in my very lowest times in hospital chapels facing ectopics and miscarriages etc that he does answer but never in the way you expect. Sometimes as parents we make decisions about our kids that they don't understand and they believe that we are saying or doing the wrong thing just like He does.

I believe in God, Jesus and Christianity but I believe in my own way. It has taken me all of my life to understand my own belief in him and. somehow it has taken me full circle to believing in the power of prayer and Him. I do not think that he expects one person to change the world, but that each deed of kindness or charity adds up to helping others. Maybe it's a very simplistic view but over the last year believing in God has left me with a feeling of immense safety and trust. I do not readily give up my feelings of religion and I don't go to church. I just believe in my own way just like other people believe in their own religions!

headinhands Sun 20-Oct-13 13:35:31

Hi lisy, Can I ask which god you believe in? I can understand the appeal of reincarnation but on examination it's very 'victim-blamey' as in 'if you're suffering it's because you didn't learn something in a previous life'. It also does nothing to explain the loss of small children.

headinhands Sun 20-Oct-13 13:39:29

When you say 'believe in him' children generally do believe in their parents because they can see them, if you mean believe as in trust, again you'd have to specify which god you mean and how one would know they were trusting in the real god and how you'd know he was good?

curlew Sun 20-Oct-13 13:50:03

And if parents turn out to be not trustworthy, by, say, not helping their children in a crisis, or even just deliberately letting them fall off the pavement without catching them every single time, then children justifiably lose trust in them.

expatinscotland Sun 20-Oct-13 14:35:43

So my child got cancer, suffered horrendously and died full of wires, her blood pouring out of her like water because she couldn't hang onto platelets to teacher us parents and those round her a lesson? Because we weren't understanding and compassionate enough? Because we don't know how to act?Seriously? That has to be one of the most unsettling things I have read on here.

Ever notice how a lot of these tragedies and suffering disproportionally affect the extremely poor? But of course, the Jesus who loves them is just trying to teach them a lesson. How comforting. What if they are Buddhists, Muslims or Hindus?

expatinscotland Sun 20-Oct-13 18:11:01

Near-death experiences. PMSL! Right up there with palm-reading and astrology.

News flash: dead people do NOT come back. Ever. Dead is dead.

I'm afraid I find the idea that the Christian god allows free will is laughable. "Do what you like", he says, "except know that if you don't make the choices I tell you to, horrible things will happen."

I find this especially so of the notion that only those who accept Jesus into their hearts can enter the kingdom of heaven, despite there being a vast array of very similar-seeing and perfectly moral alternative religions out there, which people have been born and raised into.

Like putting a variety of tasty drinks in front of people and saying "please, choose a drink. Help yourself. Just to let you know, though, they're all poisoned and will lead to long and painful suffering except one. But, you have free will to choose the one you like best."

How is that free will? It's being held to ransom.

I would ask the Christians on here - can you accept that the only reason you're a Christian is because that is the faith in which you were born and raised? It feels normal and right to you because that's what you've always known. Can you understand that it feels equally normal and right to other people to have been born Muslim or Jewish or Sikh or Hindu etc...?

Once you truly step outside your own culture and religion and take a hard look at it, you may your religion for what it is: just a local cultural superstition, the same as every other religion. Some religions accept they are one of a variety of options, all equally valid. The Abrahamic religions, however, seem to think they are somehow better than all the rest and have dreamed themselves a particularly petty and jealous god who stamps his feet if you don't worship him. But again, who does it "right? The Jews, the Christians or the Muslims? Which one you are depends pretty much entirely on the circumstances of your birth.

I also find the notion that an infinite god with a whole universe to run cares for an insignificant speck like each of us narcissistic and arrogant to the extreme. So god helps you find the extra money for a holiday (seriously, I have seen people thanking god and attributing this to their prayers being answered) while 8yo girls are being raped to death on their wedding nights, others are starving to death and others still dying of cancer.

But good for you, for being the ones who god cares for enough to make your already cushy Western life even more comfortable. It must make you feel very warm and fuzzy inside.

Milkhell Fri 01-Nov-13 15:42:53

I enjoyed that Ginger

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