Sunday, November 27, 2011

In Which Sarah Responds to Joy's Comment

So, being a winner on a Saturday night, I'm responding to blog comments. Aww yeah, you jelly? 

Anyway, Joy is a friend of mine from college. She is a very devout Christian, and she also has some serious health issues (we did commiserate over food allergies quite frequently), so I can attest that she is telling the truth as far as her health issues go. 

On my post about Forrest Gump, Joy had this to say:
 I'm going to push back a little because I feel that polite feedback and disagreement is a healthy thing. If you feel i'm being impolite or too pushy say so and I'll back down. 
I firmly believe that G-d does answer prayer. I think he uses police, doctors, ect to answer prayer. Sometimes it might seem easier for him just to swoop down and make things right, but he doesn't. I don't have all the answers, and I'm learning to be okay with that. I guess that's where faith comes in, believing in what we cannot understand. Just over 3 years ago, the doctors told me I was going to die. Blood vessels in my brain were getting ready to explode. They had no answers. There was no surgery they could do, no medicine they could give me. My faith community rallied around me and we prayed. I'm alive today. The doctors have no answer for it. Not every prayer is answered that way, but sometimes they are. Other times, G-d uses people.
Anyway, you are definitely not too pushy, Joy. :) I do appreciate you commenting and opening this discussion.  However, I am going to have to disagree with you. 

To be honest, I think it's kind of sucky for God to not just swoop down and fix things. I mean, what's the point in making this huge creation, and then just totally screwing over large portions of it (e.g. third world countries, people born with diseases, etc.)? That does not seem very loving to me. 

I'm not claiming that I have all the answers. In fact, for everything we find out, it just creates more questions. Does that mean we will never know everything? Not quite. I mean, sure, humanity may die out before we solve everything about the universe (in fact, that's more than likely), but this idea that god has some secret plan for all of us and so we should stop asking questions because it will never be revealed to us...well, I just can't accept that. Why doesn't god want us to know his secret plan? What would be the harm in that? If god just revealed himself to everyone and used his big booming voice to reach everyone (like Voldemort in Harry Potter 7) and said, "Hey yo, I'm real, stop acting like assholes and killing each other, I want you to love each other, okay?" Like...wouldn't that stop all wars? Why doesn't god do that? Oh, because we have free will? But we don't have the knowledge that he does. That seems....not wise. (I am pretending, for the moment, that god is all-loving and doesn't support war and genocide, despite the entire OT.)

I will say, Joy, that I am happy you are alive and that your brain did not explode. But just because doctors didn't know what to do doesn't mean that god is real. For every story like yours, there are literally hundreds (or thousands) of stories where people prayed for god to fix them, and yet they died. Oftentimes in terrible, painful, drawn out ways. 

You also say that god uses people. I know there's that joke/story about the guy standing on the roof of his house when his city is flooded, and like three people in canoes float by and offer him a ride, and he says, "No, god will save me." And then he dies and asks god why he didn't try to save him, and god says, "I did try! I sent three boats by!" That...actually makes me really mad. I do try my best to help people every day. I do it because I think it's the right thing to do, and because I think we should all help people, because society is better for it. The idea that the credit for the good that I (or firefighters, or doctors, or police officers, etc.) do belongs to god is bogus. First, it wrongly implies that people who do good things are exclusively Christian and are guided by god. It also suggests that god is guiding all of our decisions. But wait, I thought we had free will? Christians do not have the monopoly on beneficial actions.

I am glad that you have a community that supports you. But what about the people who pray really hard and don't survive? Did they not pray hard enough? Did not enough people pray? Why did god's plan for them involve pain and suffering and then death? God seems kind of like a jerk, if that's his plan. 

Of course, the response is that he "works in mysterious ways." That's just not a response I can accept.


  1. There is an interesting parallel to this that the skeptic community often turns to regarding paranormal activity like UFOs and alien abductions.

    For instance, there were reports of livestock mutilation (mostly cattle, some horses and others) in fields. The carcass would be drained of blood, the internal organs would be missing, the wounds looked to be made with clean, straight, surgical precision, and there would be no evident footprints or tracks leading to or from the body.

    For many years, science was unable to explain these phenomena, and so it was attributed to alien experimentation. The issue with this, of course, is that science is not static - perhaps you can see where this is going. Eventually, scientists were able to come up with several hypotheses that were far more realistic than something as extraordinary as extraterrestrial involvement. They left a dead cow out for 48 hours and found that the bloating from the sun and the shrinking/expanding of the skin caused tears that matched the "surgical" description, and the typical behavior of flies and other insects eating the insides could explain the lack of internal organs, as well as degradation to soft tissues such as the mouth/genitals (isn't this a delicious visual?).

    The question remains, then, what seems more plausible? A common activity regularly observed on Earth such as bloating in the sun, or that a race of highly advanced, sentient beings were able to travel an insane distance through space just to land on our planet, mess with a few cows, and take off again?

    The fact that doctors were unable to explain Joy's (very fortunate!) survival does not mean that an explanation is impossible or that medical anomalies don't exist. Human beings can't seem to stand not knowing, and therefore must have an explanation *now*...But the thing is, we may not have the tools to understand the problem right now. Concluding that anything unexplained must be an act of God is an argument from ignorance and is a logical fallacy.

  2. I, too, am thankful you're OK, Joy. But let me propose a thought experiment that's a slightly different version of your story.

    Let's say a Hindu had the same condition you had, and recovered from it in a similar medically inexplicable way. Would he be justified in attributing this to the miraculous intervention of Ganesha? Why or why not?

  3. Sarah, I'm not at all surprised that you disagree with me. I'd be more surprised it you did. :)
    I too am puzzled/disturbed/confused by why so many parts of the world, so many people, struggle in horrific ways. I've watched people die long painful deaths, I've held children who were orphaned, children who were likely not to see their next birthday. I've seen the damage that abuse causes, and it's just not fair!
    I don't have answers, but that doesn't mean I won't stop asking questions.
    I don't believe that the initial plan for the world involved pain and suffering, but something happened and the plan had to change...I know you know the stories Sarah, so I'm not going to type out the whole meta-story. At least, not here.
    In response to iamologies, I don't believe that everything unexplained is an act of G-d. There are lots of things that I can't understand and no matter how much I study or how hard someone tries to explain things to me, I still see them as unexplainable. That doesn't mean they are acts of G-d, they just are. In a very poor example, the workings of my brother's truck are completely unexplainable to me - I get the basics, but when it comes right down to it, it just doesn't make sense. Yet the truck got me from home to school yesterday. Act of G-d? nope. Simply an act of something unexplainable to me.
    The next logical(at least to me) question then is why do I attribute some unexplainable acts to a higher being (in my case G-d) and not others? That is difficult for me to explain. Probably because I don't have a clear cut answer for it. I think it might have something to do with normalcy (a truck getting me from point A to point B is a pretty normal thing)of events over and against the anomalies (my brain not exploding in this case was an anomaly). But I also think it has to do with a gut feeling/instinct. I know that's not a good answer, but for now, it's what I have.
    In response to Adam Lee, if a Hindu had the same condition and recovered in the same medically inexplicable way and wanted to attribute it to his higher being, in this case Ganesha, then he would be justified in doing so. (I don't know much about Hindu religiosity, so I am making an assumption that Ganesha is a benevolent higher being).
    My responses have likely raised more questions and confusion than they answered and I think that's okay. I'm not sure I was out to answer questions as much as I was to clarify my thoughts respectfully.