Let me preface what is going to be of necessity a preachy post by saying that I deeply respect everybody who is an atheist, an agnostic, a Pagan, a Muslim, a Hindu, a practicing Jew, a Buddhist, etc. Religious identification or lack thereof is a person’s way of answering the most important, crucial questions about the meaning of life, death, morality, ethics, and so on. Far be it from me to declare any method of addressing these vital issues as inferior or superior to any other.
What I want to talk about is that, often, people discuss Christianity without even trying to understand what it is, and that makes them look stupid. I’m sure that scientists and all the smart folks who understand evolution must be sick and tired to death of hearing ignoramuses proclaim, “Well, if the theory of evolution were true and people did descend from monkeys, we would see all those monkeys going through the process of becoming human right now. But we don’t, so evolution must be a load of rubbish.” It’s perfectly OK not to understand evolution. What is not OK is to address this complex theory with childish simplifications and consider yourself smarter than people who do understand it.
It’s the same with Christianity (and probably every other religion, but I’m not knowledgeable enough to talk about other religions, so I won’t.) Again, one is perfectly justified in saying, “Christianity doesn’t offer ME any useful tools for understanding the world.” It isn’t OK, though, to come up with some half-baked explanation about why this religion must be stoooopid without even stopping to consider the possibility that the generations upon generations of theologians and believers might have already heard these objections and maybe have even addressed them.
So here are some of these illiterate objections I’m truly getting tired of hearing:
1. If the Christian God is supposed to be benevolent and all-powerful, then why did he allow for things like Holocaust to happen? If he didn’t stop it then he might either be not benevolent or not that powerful.
The number of times I have heard this inanity (often proclaimed proudly by pretty well-educated people) is overwhelming. I always feel deep vicarious shame when I hear this statement.
Now let me tell you why this is a very stupid thing to say. And, once again, please excuse my preachiness. I always thought I could make a really good preacher, so maybe in my golden years I will try myself in this arena.
The Christian God (a.k.a simply “God” for the purposes of concision) does not deal in collectivities. He isn’t a social scientist. Groups, nations, social classes, ethnicities do not exist for him.
Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all (Colossians 3:11).
This tells us that the Holocaust, a genocide of a huge group of people by another huge group of people, does not exist for God. God relates to each person individually, establishing a personal connection, a personal conversation, and a personal rendering of accounts with each person. The sum total of all these millions of individual conversations come up to events that we cannot fail to see as atrocious when we analyze them from the perspective of history.
You don’t expect a cardiac surgeon to conduct a triple bypass on an entire ethnic group simultaneously, right? Or to offer collective diagnoses to large groups of people? So why do you expect a religion that denies the very existence of a collectivity and that is all about intensely individual experiences to be a useful tool for a social scientist or a historian? Conversely, do you tell a sociologist that all her statistics must be wrong because your own experience is different from what her numbers show? Of course, you don’t (I hope) because you must surely understand that a sociologist does not address individual stories but, rather, draws general conclusions about groups of people. Such general conclusions can differ profoundly from your personal story.
Christianity as a system of beliefs simply cannot be used to analyze groups. It doesn’t work on that level. That is not its purpose. People who expect it to explain history or any interactions between masses of people remind me of that guy who asked, “Doctor, will I be able to play the violin after this operation?”
“I don’t see why not, given that we will just be removing your appendix,” the doctor responded.
“Oh, the miracle of modern medicine!” the patient exclaimed. “I never learned how to play the violin and now I will know how to do it!”
(To be continued. . .)