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life is random

I wasn't going to blog at all today, but I've got something on my mind. Something that won't leave, no matter what else I try to think about. Maybe writing it out and engaging in some kind of discussion about it will help. Or not.

This weekend, something tragic happened just a few short miles from my house. Tragic things happen every day, in every city, in every country. Stories just like this one. But there's something about the story being local news that makes it feel personal. More intense.

What happened was this: a family had just left a wedding celebration. They were riding home in a limo (they were all either in the wedding party or immediate relations of the bride and groom). They were met head on by a drunk driver, who was going the wrong way on the Meadowbrook Parkway. The limo driver was killed. The seven year old flower girl was killed.

What they don't tell you in the paper or on tv is that the mother of the seven year old sat on the side of the road holding her seven year old daughter's head. Cradling her head. For almost an hour, while police and firemen cut the rest of her family out of the vehicle.

My boss (the judge) arraigned the drunk driver yesterday, in the hospital. The guy has minor injuries. I can't get into the details of what a stupid, selfish, fucking moron this person is, but suffice it to say, I hope he dies a brutal prolonged death soon.

So here's this guy who killed two people including a seven year old girl, severely injured three others and destroyed a family and he's n the hospital with a broken ankle. Meanwhile, this mother is going to spend the rest of her life reliving the moments when she held her daughter's head in her lap. Can you imagine? No, you can't possibly imagine. Not one of us can come close to imagining hte depth of sorrow this woman and her family is feeling today.

So how do people of faith continue to proclaim the virtues of god? How do you exist every day saying god is just and god is good? How can you believe in god when things like this happen? Why do people constantly say things like "God saved my little one from dying in that accident" or "God told me to feed the homeless" or "God led me to not get on that plane today, he saved me from being in that crash" when it can't possibly be? Because if God is going to save one little girl from dying, why can't he save the rest? And I know people have to die, that's the way of the world, but what kind of god would let a mother sit on the side of the road at 2am after her sister's wedding, cradling the remains of her little girl in her arms while the child's killer lives to tell the tale? Don't even tell me that god gives you what you can handle. Because that makes it sound like a gift and losing a child is certainly not a gift, nor should it be seen as a test of faith or a testament to god's mysterious ways. It's just proof on top of more proof for me that the world is so god damn random and there is no great being looking out for us, hearing our prayers, seeing to miracles, or helping us help ourselves. There is just randomness. No fate, no destiny, no pre-written paths or intervention from above. Just randomness.

[file under "things to be deleted after I get it out of my systerm"]

Comments

The one thing that keeps me going in the middle of these sort of things is the realization that this loser will also be carrying the memory of what happened through what remains of his life...and that he was the one who caused it.

If the guy has a sympathetic and caring bone in his body, that realization is probably the worst punishment he can suffer.

As for the God thing - I tend to take it as a "there is evil in the world, and bad things happen." I guess that means I don't believe in an omnipotent God who will step in and save people from things like this. But I do think there's a higher purpose to the universe. I guess for me it's more of a call to reflect on my own personal behavior - I can't necessarily change or influence what another person is going to do. But I can step in after they do it and try to do what I can to console or pick up the pieces.

I know, that doesn't help much, but somehow it helps me.

I have held my late son's body in my arms.

Even though his death is, to say the least, the worst thing my wife and I have experienced, it pains me to say that it was not the very worst thing imaginable. Stories like this one are a reminder of that.

I agree with you, Michele, that there is no fate, no destiny. But there is more than just randomness. Between fate and randomness, there is choice and there is action.

The fact that it was this family (instead of some other) to suffer and die may have been random, in a sense, but the fact that this man chose to turn his car into a 2000 lb lethal weapon and let it loose on humanity was not random.

You know, I struggle with that too. How can God allow that? How can God allow 30,00 people to die from starvation daily. How the hell do men like Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein and Robert Mugabe rise to power to crush good people. This world is, quite frankly, fucked up.

But what if God actually does exist, and is in charge, and has some sort of plan beyond what we can see. What if the world is fucked up because humans are shitheads, and have done all the screwing up. If God exists, then so does anti-God, or evil. And what I know from the Bible, Christianity expects this. It says that man has fallen, man doesn't walk with God, and the world is evil. Evil rules the world right now, and I don't think a person alive will deny that.

I'm with you - there is so much evil that I don't understand why God could save one person but not another. But maybe God is less about big miracles like that, and more about changing people to strive to be virtuous people.

I don't know. I think the reason I always land on believing in God is because I don't want there to be hopelessness and things that are bad but aren't really evil - just random.

A God out there means that something is going on beyond what I can see. Unfortunately it's way beyond what I can see, because things like you mention surround us and break my heart.

Sorry, this isn't really supposed to be persuasive or answer your questions. It's my thoughts that were brought about by your rant. Delete if necessary.

Delete if necessary.

Not at all. I thank you for sharing.

The answer I hold to is quite simple: a matter of perspective. God knows what happens next.

As to why? Well, whether you believe in Him or not - and I haven't quite convinced myself that I do not - He has for whatever reason given us all the will to choose our actions. The good or evil that men do is exactly that - God stays out of it, preferring to judge when it's all over. Or not. I don't believe in divine intervention in anything. I don't believe God has "told" me to do anything or saved me from anything, but neither did he "kill" my departed loved ones.

The blame, the responsibility for our acts, where such things attach, is ours alone.

Evil happens, it's faith in God that helps pull many of us through. Naive? Perhaps, but it works for me. It is easier to NOT believe in God when things like this happen than to continue to have faith in Him. That's what Evil/Satan is counting on.

I've become convinced over the years (mostly by the two years that I drove an ambulance) that the drunken drivers are being protected by Satan (or some other force for evil.) Hopefully the legal system will fall on him with guilty verdicts to a pair of felony vehicular homicide charges.

Michelle,

I do not blame G-d. G-d did not cause the accident an idiot drunk driver who should be locked away until he dies caused the accident. G-d gave free will to each person to act, and unfortunately people choose to act in utterly irresponsible ways. If G-d is to interfer in the actions of men, then there is no free will. It's not fair. But then, life hardly ever is fair. I know this rationale sucks, but its the what I believe.

The debate about "why does God allow Evil?" is pretty much confined to Christianity. The ancient Greek gods, for example, were hardly paragons of virtue, and would destroy entire cities just for the heck of it. The Old Testament god, likewise, was not exactly a kind or merciful deity, and was often outright mean (consider Job.) Asian religions incorporate dualities and ideas of karma. Its pretty much only the Christian religion, with its idea of a god who is both omnipotent and all-good, that runs into problems explaining why evil exists. (And even then, its only particular branches of Christianity that have this problem--the Calvinists, for example, had no problem explaining evil).
In summary, you cant really have a god who is both omnipotent and all-loving and caring, because frankly, any god who allows the world to exist as it is, cannot be called all-good. Which is why I'm not a Christian.

I don't mean to just echo previous comments, but evil happens because of human choices. This asshole decided that he could drive home, and this tragedy happened.

As far as the faith thing my own personal philosophy revolves around 2 things. First, it's easy to maintian faith and to act properly when things only go well. Secondly God wanted us to truly love him/her so he/she gave us free will. Unfortunately many people use their free will to do evil or stupid things, often harming innocents.

In times like these the thought of a loving God looking down on us, and an afterlife wrapped in his/her eternal embrace is quite comforting to me.

I don't pray and meditate to change God's mind, I do those things to change MY mind. God's mind is just fine the way it is.

It's my job to try and get my life in line with what God wants and I believe God wants us to be happy, joyous and free. It's when I try to live outside of that I find problems.

Even if I'm living a perfect life, which I don't, that doesn't mean that some other asshole who doesn't give a shit about God's way isn't going to come along and trash me.

Free will is a bitch. Adam and Eve didn't get half the kicking around they deserved.

Having said that, I also acknowledge that I can be just as full of shit as the streetcorner preacher, but it works for me.

I am a Christian. I believe in God and his Son.

Why do these things happen? There's a simple answer: I don't know. We'll never know until we're face to face with Him and ask.

God allows people to make choices. Unfortunately, those choices often end with disastrous consequences. Why blame God? He wasn't the one who got so drunk he couldn't tell he was driving on the wrong side of the road.

Who knows what will come of this? Perhaps this terrible tragedy will in some way prevent further tragedies down the road.

However, I think we sell ourselves and our what we make of our lives short if we write everything off that happens in life to just chance or randomness.

something like this just happened in my area. The main difference being that it happened to a mother and her two children that she was driving home from soccer practice. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon and the driver (who of course survived) had a BAC of 0.46. For those who don't know, most people die at 0.4.

The driver is still in the hospital and being charged with 3 counts of whatever that will leave him in prison for the rest of his life if convicted.

As for God, you can't just cite stuff like this and ask a Christian why it happens - they'll just fire back with "God gave us freewill, and Satan is the cause of all evil" it's an argument that nobody wins.

I don't believe in God because I feel it's a copout - it seriously hinders the search for truth. If every time you come upon something you don't understand and just say "Oh, that's God" then you'll never bother to figure out why it happened and how to fix it if need be (see: Stem cell research).

I with you, Michele, burn against the drunk driver who committed such an abominable act.

What I can't understand, though, is why you so reflexively look at every one of life's injustices as another ‘Aha! See, God doesn't exist!’ moment. It’s a recurrent theme in your blog. Every time it reasserts itself, I ask myself, “Where’s that coming from?”

I don't know what has wired you that way, Michele. Even your own estimations of where life has brought you, and why it is so, must prove woefully incomplete. Try as we might, and think what we will, each one of us remains very largely a cipher even to one’s own self. We are each far too complex to plumb the depths of all the whys and wherefores that have made us who we have become. In any event, suffice it to say that injustice elicits just such a reaction from you as your post demonstrates. What saddens me is the fact that somewhere in the course of your life experience, you have been wired to thus direct (or misdirect) the channel of your anger.

If I was Dr. Phil, I would ask you, “How’s that working for you, Michele?”

Your anger is initially directed toward the drunk driver, which is all well and good. In the end—however—your anger turns, as it inevitably will, in scorn toward God (or—as you would assert—to the concept of God). In any event, your anger finds its ultimate target in the same God that you claim doesn’t exist. Where’s the sense in that?

I don’t begrudge you the anger you feel at life’s injustices, for it is an anger that I myself feel, one that I share in common with you. I would, however, suggest that the anger you rightly feel might be better directed than against God and the concept of God.

While I do not agree with your conclusions regarding God's existence or non-existence, or with the upturned fist you often shake toward the heavens, I very much understand and sympathize with the difficulties injustice presents in a cosmos overseen by a just God. Be assured that even for religionists, whose theology seeks to allow for such concepts as free will, sin, Satan, etc., the weight of woe occurring within this world remains an exceedingly bitter pill.

I'm not blaming God (I don't believe in him so that would be impossible). I just want to know why other people will put it all on god (it was god's will that katie died) or say it's part of god's plan (god has something special planned for katie in heaven). If god has a great plan for everyone, then why is the drunk driver an agent of satan, but the limo being in the path of this guy a plan of god? Other kids are spared in accidents like this and you hear people say "god was watching over our child and saved her." So god thinks some kids are worth saving and some are worth decapitating?

He's either interventionist or not. You can't have it both ways. You can't sit in church and pray for world peace or a cure for cancer or lottery winnings and then tell me that god could do nothing about this girl dying the way she did. It's either/or. Can't be both.

Itís a recurrent theme in your blog.

I think I blogged about this three times in four years. Hardly recurrent.

I don't know what has wired you that way, Michele. Even your own estimations of where life has brought you, and why it is so, must prove woefully incomplete.

Wired me? Are you saying that I'm wired wrong because I don't believe the same things as you?

Clark, do you have any idea how condescending you come off when you comment about this?

I am not angry at god. How can I be angry at someone/thing I don't believe in? I'm just bewildered by people who think that a seven year old being decapitated while sitting on her mother's lap on her way home from a wedding is part of some master plan. Boggles my mind.

But I guess that's just part of my bad wiring, eh?

You are the very definition of sanctimonious, Clark.

I don't understand what's so hopeless about a world without God. I mean, if God's existence predicates the existence of evil, then what's so bad about not beleiving in a God and instead believing in our own ability to change circumstances and create human good. Dignity.

Of course, this woman couldn't really have done anything to prevent her daughter's death. But the other driver could have taken into account not only the dignity of humanity around him, but also his own by not drinking and driving. He didn't, and his lack of forethought, carelessness, and arrogance got the better of him.

I don't know if there's a God, and most of the time I don't care. I know there are things that everyone can do every day to try and make things better. Yeah, you can't control every cause and effect relationship that has an effect on you, but you can control some of them. As a matter of fact, you could argue that you have the ability to affect the lives of others more than you have the ability to affect your own. There's something about people though, that makes them think they are the only thing that matters in this world. People forget that their are millions of people living lives out there and we harldy ever even offer to hold the goddamn door for eachother, let alone take into account what a foolish decision like drinking and driving might do to those other people out there.

"God is either interventionist, or He isn't."

I'd be interested in a believer's response. My guess is that it has to be something like "God's purposes are ultimately unknowable."

Sometimes God is all that some people have to hold on to. While I may not share their belief, or have as strong a faith, I don't question it. I have seen faith do some pretty amazing things. Whether it's God working through them, or their belief in God strengthening them, it works for some people.

Drunk driving is such a brutal crime. I'm glad he was charged with manslaughter.

God doesn't really care one way or the other about what happens on this plane of existence.

Michele,

I hope you don't delete this "after you get it out of [your] system." You raise a really good point.

I think the answer to your question - from a Christian perspective - is more radical than what some of your commenters have suggested.

Most Christians (and certainly the Orthodox and Catholics) believe that God gives people free will, the corrolary of which is that people can choose to do evil. Thus you have sin - the choice to "do evil." Christians believe that the choice to sin is the cause of death - a kind of disruption in the universe.

Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of sinners, by which all people may be "saved." "Saved" means being saved from death: Christians believe that even if the body dies, it will be restored just as Jesus Christ rose from the grave. So even if you die, you will live again and your body and soul will be "rejoined" and healed at some point in the future.

So if some prick runs down a family and brings about the horrific situation you describe, the "Christian" perspective is that this girl (was she beheaded? Gah!) will live again (if she was baptised), regardless of the way she died. Not to make light of the gravity of this situation but it's almost as if death isn't a big deal, because for the Christian it's merely transient.

This is one of the radical central ideas of Christianity that nobody thinks about. It's only comforting, however, if you believe that the dead will rise again. It's also why Christians are supposed to bury their dead instead of cremating.

The dead rising from the grave... Appropriate for your blog. :)

If god has a great plan for everyone, then why is the drunk driver an agent of satan

Who said he's an agent of Satan? He could be the greatest guy in the world who made a tragic and deadly mistake.

He's either interventionist or not. You can't have it both ways. You can't sit in church and pray for world peace or a cure for cancer or lottery winnings and then tell me that god could do nothing about this girl dying the way she did. It's either/or. Can't be both.

Having dealt with this question so often, I came across this writing several years ago (it was written shortly after the 9/11 attacks):

We like to think of ourselves as God's children. How would responsible parents treat their own children? You allow your children freedom, you don't want to overprotect them. You want them to grow, to discover themselves, to make their own mistakes and learn from them through exercising their free and independent will. Of course you don't want them to become mindless automatons, unable to think and decide for themselves.

But at some point, wouldn't you have to intervene? Wouldn't you step in if your children suddenly started maiming, torturing, and killing each other? Freedom must have limits or it is only license, hardly something to be valued at all, and certainly nothing that can "justify" God's inactivity.

As I've said, I don't think we can really answer this question, at least not completely. But we can find clues, something about the way the world is constructed, that can at least give us the hope to persevere in spite of having to endure unjustifiable tragedy.

First of all, we get into trouble when we start thinking of God as a "person." Being people ourselves, it is almost impossible for us not to do this. We think of God as a "being" (or "Supreme Being"), perhaps without a body, but with a will and even feelings like our own. Yet somehow this supreme "being" does not even act with the sense and responsibility that you or I would in the face of grave injustice. Of course we would intervene if we could when a serious crime is being committed! At that point, who cares about the criminal's freedom?

What we are really trying to do with all this theology is find a way to preserve our faith in a world where evil exists. I don't think we can do it with an appeal to freedom. But we can do it with an appeal to love.

I respect that each one of us needs to think of God in a way that makes God most real to us. I can speak only for myself, and not tell anyone else how to think of God. But I cannot think of God as a person and at the same time preserve my faith. To me, God is Absolute Goodness, or Goodness Itself. The fact that there is goodness in the world, that we can sense it and distinguish it from evil, is testimony that a Higher Power does indeed exist.

The highest expression of goodness is love. And the ironic and terrifying paradox of human existence is that without unjustifiable tragedies, without injustice itself, without deep suffering in all its manifestations, we would never know the highest forms of love.

The love that most of us know most of the time is self-interested: we love those who take care of us, those who are related to us (well, at least some of them), those who look like us, those who think like us, and who love us back. All these forms of love enrich life tremendously, but they all involve getting something in return.

I believe we are called also to a higher love, which we can know only through suffering.

The Bible tells us over and over to "love the stranger." But how can we love someone with whom we share no natural tie or sympathy?

Only though deep suffering. Suffering teaches us "com/passion," which literally means being "with the suffering" of others. Through knowing pain ourselves, we can identify and feel for the suffering of others. If we didn't suffer, sometimes on a terrible scale, we would remain complacent. We would be content to stay within the world of those who love us naturally, never awakening to the needs and to the being of the stranger, the one who is not like us, the person we would never think about because we would have no reason to care.

Suffering makes us think, it makes us question, it forces us to search for life's meaning, but it does even more. It transforms the heart - if we let it. It makes us aware not only of our own pain, but of the pain of others. It brings the pain - and the being - of others into our hearts. This awakens in us a higher love, one based not on self-interest but on awareness. Non-self-interested love is the awareness of the individuality of others, and this awareness cannot come to us without the experience of pain.

There is no greater love than love of the stranger, of the one whom we never expected to offer anything in return.

But, one may ask, Why do we have to pay so high a price? Why, for example, must seven thousand innocent people [note: revised estimates since the original writing have put the total at three thousand] die in a single terrorist attack?

I don't know the answer. No one knows. All I can say is that if we could suffer only on our own terms, the possible transformation of our suffering into love would not be as deep, and could never be complete.

We can't just impose our own terms on the world and then call it theology. An existentialist perspective looks at the world as it is, as it actually exists, instead of speculating about what we think it should be like. To say God allows suffering because God wants us to have unlimited free will is a speculation. But to say that the deepest forms of love are actually made possible by the existence of evil is something we can observe and experience.

I could tell many, many stories from my hospice work about love that would never exist were it not for seemingly unendurable suffering. But here is just one story from the World Trade Center. While people were rushing down the stairs to get out before the building collapsed, a quadriplegic woman was left behind, immobilized in her wheelchair. A man noticed and stayed with her, refusing to abandon her to the terror of being alone at such a moment. I don't know whether either of them got out alive [note: neither of them did]. But certainly an expression of love like that endures throughout eternity. Certainly it touches the heart of God.

When I see goodness in the midst of such pain, I know that nothing can separate us from the love of God. The one thing that keeps me going is holding on to evidence of goodness in the world. Recently I saw on television some new film of people who witnessed the disaster. A woman watching the buildings collapse became hysterical, her face the picture of terror, but a man who stood next to her just held her in his arms. That is goodness. So many people who before had been total strangers, now linked through having shared this experience or having lost loved ones, have met and bonded for life. That is goodness.

It is also love of the stranger. That is the highest goodness.

None of this really "answers" the question, "Why did God let it happen?" Indeed, the question itself is flawed, because it is impossible to ask it without thinking of God as a person. We don't have an answer here, but we do have a clue. "God let it happen" is really a symbolic way of stating the following: that the universe is so constructed that love in its greatest and fullest depth could not be revealed without the experience of terrible suffering and pain.

This may not dry our tears, but perhaps it will help us find just a little more courage, help us just a little to make sense out of what can only seem totally senseless to human understanding. We need to know that in spite of everything, the world does make sense. We don't need to know just exactly how or why, we only need to know that it does.

Don't know if that helps, but it explains it better than I can.

Jay, can you cite that please? I'd hate to have something excerpted here and not have the author get credit.

I've always believed that free will means that God doesn't directly intervene in the actions of humans. What most people describe as miracles are just statistical abberations. When studying anything there will be a few observations that are vastly different from the expected outcome.

In my mind most people have the wrong idea about prayer. They tend to think of God as a wish granter, who'll give them whatever they think they want. Prayer should be a way to ask for strength and peace from their very source.

Those who most often say 'God has a plan' want it to be their idea of God's plan. Maybe the idea of creating beings with free will in order to love them and be loved by them is not enough of a plan for some.

I'm just bewildered by people who think that a seven year old being decapitated while sitting on her mother's lap on her way home from a wedding is part of some master plan. Boggles my mind.
One thing I've learned recently is that human beings are more irrational than they would like to believe. Things like emotions and faith bear this out.

Of course, that's not a bad thing. As others have said, what faith lacks in objective scientific proof it more than makes up for in its ability to do wonders.

I just want to make it clear that I'm not trying to deny anyone their faith, and I'm not putting down all people who believe in god. I'm talking about a specific subset of believers who say specific things in a situation like described above.

I have the same questions that you do, and this has always been my biggest stumbling block with Christianity and other well organized, all knowing religions. If God is loving, why do children suffer? Especially murdered children? How could a loving God allow that?

It's also a problem I have when people start talking about Karma, too. How does Karma explain why a baby gets cancer?

Sorry Michele. I hit post before I even got to post the URL.

It's here. The person who wrote it is a music therapist.

It's also a problem I have when people start talking about Karma, too. How does Karma explain why a baby gets cancer?
The most basic explanation is that karma isn't restricted to one lifetime. Every action has consequences that may not be realized until several lifetimes have passed.

Then again, no one truly knows how karma works.

I think that Ian does relate a good point - part of believing in God [the God of the Bible/Christianity, i should specify] is believing that He has a master plan, and understanding that this world and the life we live is not an end.

No matter how horrible things that happen in this world are, we have to remember that it's not the end, and under Christianity there is so much more.

The whole point of the Gospel is that man has fallen far beyond what God created Him for, and thus God intervened with His son, so that we could gain back what we have lost. God desires not just that we strive to live like he wants us to on earth, but his full desire is that we live with Him in eternity. And in that sense, no matter what happens here on earth, this is not the end.

This is oversimplified obviously, but I think that's what my thoughts are.

So say this little girl isn't Christian. Maybe she's Jewish or protestant or something else. Is she still part of the Christian god's plan?

Also, are we supposed to greet the decapitation of a seven year old girl with joy because it means she is going to live with god in heaven?

I just blame Ted Rall and get on with my life.

Wired me? Are you saying that I'm wired wrong because I don't believe the same things as you?

Stop! I did not say that. Don't you know that I understand that everyone’s experiences serves to ‘wire’ them? Please, Michele, do not misunderstand me on this point.

Another clarification, by "wired" I in no way refer to the ‘hard-wiring’ of biology or genetics, but by what I guess can be best termed the ‘soft wiring’ of life experiences and one’s interaction with them. In my comment, I in no way implied you're 'messed up.' I have never thought you were ‘messed up,’ and even if I did I would not be such a jerk as to tell you you were. In any event, I’d be far better served to mind my own frailties than attempt to divine and lecture you upon yours.

Clark, do you have any idea how condescending you come off when you comment about this?

Perhaps it seems such, but my personal understanding of condescension involves a looking down one's nose at someone else. If that’s what you took away from my earlier comment—that I looked down my nose at you—I am truly sorry, and I have failed in accurately conveying to you my view of you.

We can each view the other’s view on God as garbage—it does not follow that we think the personhood of the other is garbage as well.

I would like as much as possible to separate the discussion of cosmology from the worth or value of those who take differing views upon cosmology—any inference to the contrary in my previous comment is owning to my own failure in explaining myself. As far as possible, it’s my hope that we can leave personality and its attendant recriminations out of the weighty discussions of God and the universe.

I believe in my concept of God perhaps as strongly as you believe in yours, that does not mean I'm being any more condescending in differing with you as in you differing with me.

Perhaps I'm self-deluded—stranger things have happened—but I don't see myself as looking down at you. In fact, in many ways I look up to you. I happen to disagree with you strenuously upon cosmology and related points, but it's painful to me that you feel I disrespect and devalue you as much as you seem to feel that I do.

I'm just bewildered by people who think that a seven year old being decapitated while sitting on her mother's lap on her way home from a wedding is part of some master plan. Boggles my mind. But I guess that's just part of my bad wiring, eh?

As regards to boggling the mind—the world, life, reality, call it what you will, it boggles all our minds, Michele, religionists included. The unboggled have no mind to boggle. I would not have you believe I think you're a lesser, worse, more defective person for not believing as I believe. Such is simply not the case, whether you choose to believe it or not. In any event, let us not be snarky toward each other, our friendship means a whole lot more than that.

If I count myself as being in any way measurably different from you in terms of personal belief, I would describe it as being “fortunate,” or—in religious parlance—“blessed;” even here I do not count my self as having a special worth meriting such “fortunate” or “blessed” status.

You are the very definition of sanctimonious, Clark.

Please consider, Michele, all that you are charging in making such a statement.

The definition of sanctimonious is "affecting piousness; hypocritically devout." Perhaps that is a more serious charge against my character than you meant to convey. If so, I should like to know it. If not, please confront me for my own sake with those instances where I have been hypocritically devout and affected piousness in my conversations with you. If you are unaware of such hypocrisy, such affectation on my part, you would do well to reevaluate whether I am guilty of the charge you have raised.

In closing, it's much more important to me that you understand what I’m saying to you in this comment even than my previous one. I want you to understand that I mean nothing ill toward you; that I respect and value you more than you know; that my faith does not cause me to look down on you any more than if I had no faith at all; and that I mean all I am saying here despite my disagreement with you on such a passionate issue as basic cosmology.

Michelle, I don't know if this is what you are looking for but this is my perspective. Please forgive the rambling nature. God tells us Christians that our time on earth is neither our last stop or to be void of sadness and pain. Because of Man's disobedience of God, every person on this earth, sans one, has a sin nature that they will fall victim to. God wants us to come freely to him just as Adam and Eve freely disobeyed him. If you rid this world of sadness, then you at the same time rid everyone of the ability to choose. I have a son and a daughter on the way and I can't imagine the pain of losing a child that way. I also guarantee that I would rail against God for a long time. All I am saying is I have to know God has a reason, and the reason I don't know is I am not God. Lastly to your post, the simple answer is God simply says "believe me and accept me". A person doesn't have to work his way there. So anyone who makes that decision is going to heaven.

How should one greet the death of a child? Taking some small comfort in the thought that the person is in a better place is not the same as rejoicing.

Everyone dies. Some too early, some gruesomely, some in horrible pain. Death plays a huge part in most religions. The thought of an afterlife, or reincarnation, or something beyond death, means that we're different from that antelope that was just run down and eaten by a lion. We have eternal souls, we are special, we are part of something larger.

I asked one of y old pastors this some time ago. He looked at me square on and said "shit happens."
he continued, "Look, i've heard and helped more people than i can remember right now through just the same thing and many asked me and Him, How could He do this, why would He allow it, why would He cause this to happen (being part of His plan, as it had to have been ~ ed. i don't believe in pre-destination, but he was on a roll and i thought it best to just file this one). I said, 'I don't know, but to tell you the truth, sometimes, shit jsut happens.' Sometimes bad people win and soetimes good people lose, and to be honest, i think that's the way it should be. You don't want the good people to get cocky, safe in the knowledge that they are on God's good side and thus can't be hurt. Look at the apostles and the early church. They KNEW God existed because they (at lest the 11 remaining) had seen 2 different incarnations of Him, and still they got the short end of the stick, what with the boiling oil, the crucifixions and the stonings, and all. And they were His Boys, so to speak. Look at all the stuff Paul went through, and it only STRENGTHENED his faith. Heck for that mater, think on Job. No, There's a reason for it to happen, the hardest part is to survive to find out what that reason is."

Now, i think he was trying to work it out as he was going along, but that really seemed to make sense for me.

Shit happens. You can deal with it on your own, or you can let it kill you, but it' still going to happen.

Michele,

You bring up a great controversial point:

"Also, are we supposed to greet the decapitation of a seven year old girl with joy because it means she is going to live with god in heaven?"

Short answer: no. There are a couple of ways Christians perceive of this. One is that "yes, she will be in heaven with God" but the other is something like "She will continue to live when Heaven meets Earth on the last day, at which point her body and soul are rejoined." Ostensibly this means that her head is reattached to her body. What a bizarre sentence...

In Christianity, there is a certain insensitivity to death. Jesus Christ was tortured to death - and the Roman Catholic church tends to focus on His suffering. The Orthodox (capital-O) churches tend to focus on His resurrection from the dead, which strictly speaking is the more important thing.

No Christian will tell you that this isn't a tragedy and that "divine justice" calls for punishment of the killer. That dosn't mean, however, you have to be happy about what happened. Christians aren't happy that Christ was tortured to death, for example.

Now as for your second question regarding the beliefs of the child... That's a can of worms. I don't think it has anything to do with "God's Plan." But then, I don't ascribe anything in this story to "God's plan." I'd say this accident is a random act. I'd also say that random acts are not inconsistent with the existence of God.

I use to live right by the Meadowbrook. I heard about this accident and the first words out of my mouth were, bet the drunk guy has a broken bone and some scratches.
God protects kids and fools. I can't imagine the pain and horror the mother of the 7 year old has to live with. I know that it is worse then the drunk drivers feelings. He doesn't care. He will lose his license and continue driving without one.

A year or so ago, a woman driving drunk on Commack Road, by where the flea market use to be, struck 2 people crossing the street. All were drunk. The difference. The 2 men crossing knew they couldn't drive and were calling a cab. The woman was driving with a suspended license. It had been suspened like 37 times or something. She was found not guilty. The jury said it was an unavoidable accident. Bull - if she hadn't gotten behind the wheel of her car while drunk, she wouldn't have killed one of the men and put the other in the hospital for over 3 months.

And she got back in her car and drove away from court, with her license still suspended. And the ass that caused this accident, will do the same.

Feel free to delete my overlong comment. This is one think guaranteed to get me going.

I think you're right, Michele. Life is random. This isn't about God or Satan or whatever. It is that Life. Is. Random. We should live and love as well as we can, because anything could happen at any time for no reason.

I don't believe in god either, but I did hear a comforting way of looking at death during an interview with Reverend Run in which he was talking about his eulogy for Jam Master Jay-- he said that life is a test and that Jay finished his early. We shouldn't be asking why he is gone, but why we are still here. What else do we have to do to earn our way into heaven?

I thought that was nice.

Michele,

One of the ways I'm aided in my understanding of God and my (our?) relationship to Him is by examining the parallels formed between Him (the Father) in relation to us (the children) and me in relation to my children.

As much as I want to, I cannot and will not spare my children from all life's pains and ills. Were I to do so, they would be malformed from an emotional standpoint. They would possess no mechanism(s) with which to cope when times get rough and life gets to chewin' on that ass. It pains me to see my children hurt, physically OR emotionally. But they learn valuable lessons in both instances, so I have to keep my game face on, be compassionate where called to be, be hard where called to be, then shut myself in my bedroom and weep my everloving guts out for the ills they have to suffer.

As to 'sussing God out'...it's many folks' fervent desire to know the mind and the heart of God, but we can no more do that than my family dog can know my mind and heart at any given time. Different species, plain and simple: Though Baxter can take certain cues from me, respond and understand to a certain degree, there is no way in hell that extremely lovable and wonderful mutt will ever sit here at this keyboard and bang out a dissertation. It's not within his capabilities to do so, and I don't expect that. What I expect is that he'll listen to me and respond appropriately when called upon to do so. (Please, please, please take this for the analogy it is and don't assume that I view humans as dumb animals...I'm just sayin') There are so many things that we take for granted as similarities between us and Him; however, our sense of time, our sense of justice, our sense of (fill in the blank) are not, in fact, God's. Why? Well, we're not omniscient. Lots of times we can't even see five minutes past the panic/euphoria/rage in our hearts and heads right now. We are human. He created us to be that way. He delights in us, much the same way we delight in our children. Think about it...we don't roll out of bed every day waiting to smite someone. It makes us sad and frustrated to have to re-introduce the same lessons to our children over and over. I imagine God is somewhat similar in this regard.

One of my favorite 'personalities' in the scriptures is David. He'd be medicated for his behavior nowadays, but he was the most real with God of anyone cited in the Bible. He praised God with unequivocally pure love, he railed at him from a place of manic rage. He screwed up boldly. He served humbly. In other words, he was verra, verra human; he was also terribly loved by the God he served.

Regarding the either-or gauntlet you've thrown....you know what? It CAN be both; nature is slap full of dichotomies. Plus, as I've stated above, there are places where we could do things, but that doesn't mean we should do things. I could run a whole lotta "if...then" scenarios by you as way of illustration, but all that nonsense is trite and I have a feeling that neither you nor I would have the patience for them.

In closing, there have always been the religious ignorant. The Bible is riddled with stories of them. If you've read it maybe you've noticed, but if not I'd like to point out that Jesus was kind to the outcasts of society, reserving his harsh words (and even anger) for those of the cloth who misdirected others and misused their authority. Jesus was the original Big Ole Punk Rockstar; he thumbed his nose at the system, flipping it inside out and shoving it back at them, all on God's authority (so see? one way suffering was alleviated....there were all these people liberated who had, for all those years, lived in a very strict, law-based society and the Christ shows up saying, in essence, "Let's get our ecumenical groove on, fellas. Jews, you're no longer over-lawed. Gentiles, you're no longer persona non-grata. WOO!") Christ as anarchist, when I think on it much, always sets me to smiling.

Today's version of the religious ignorant say things like, "Bless her little heart, this was God's plan." You have my permission to call those people FOOLS, Michele, absolute flaming FOOLS, because they are arrogantly presumptious enough to state that they know God's plan.

Nobody knows that 'cept for God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. You can tell them that I told you so. Then, when they come calling, I will tell them to stop being such pompous asses and giving the rest of us who love God with a passion a bad name. I'm really, really fucking sick of being labelled as ignorant and foolish for being a Christian because there are a handful of jagoffs out there showing their hineys.

You're doing just fine, Michele. You're asking questions rather than dismissing out of hat, even if you're doing it in frustration and anger. Bless you, no matter the side of the fence you land on, because you're at least bothering to explore. Lots and lots of folks from both camps prefer to just stew in ignorance.

And Barry: To believe in/have faith in God is to seek truth to a great degree. To come to a 'truth' is to examine all possibilities, exhaust by all means accessible anything that would invert said truth and make it null. A faith that cannot withstand this kind of questioning is no kind of faith at all. Thus the reason that many, MANY of those who would call themselves Christian are rabid and dogmatic with regard to their beliefs. Their faith falters under the microscope, therefore they must constantly talk it up with a fervency. On the offense, as it were, to avoid having to play defense.

And don't, dear Barry, presume to speak for all of Christiandom. It's just plain goofy, and you come off looking like an ass--especially in light of the fact that you, admittedly, are not part of that particular sorority.

Michele

I don't know why this happens. Sh*t, as I talk about here during the past two weeks at my office I have input FIVE vehicular manslaughter cases. And my MAIT officer told me to expect another one this week (and after a 3 day party weekend, I bet that won't be the last).

Personally, I don't believe in an interventionalist God, but I do believe in prayer just like I believe in psychiatry and psychology. We do what we can to seek those tools to seek the truth in ourselves. Most human beings need to know that life has purpose. Not that any individual can't find a purpose for themselves, but that life itself..the macro-life, has a purpose bigger then ourselves -- the yearning for transcendence.

The people you describe who mouth the platitudes of "gods plan" are cut of the same cloth as ones who, finding out a woman they know has just miscarried, "Oh, well, it was early, not like it was a real baby and you can still have another." They have moral tin ears in thinking such crap is anything other than outregeously insulting.

It's been 4 months since I lost my friend and colleague and we still can't make sense of the senseless.

Don't delete it.

Not going into the whole God thing, but a few other random thoughts.

I feel terrible for this family. As the father of a young girl, I can not imagine what they are going through. I can't imagine not seeing my daughter's smiling face in the morning, or hearing about her day at daycare, or not having any of the small things that I know would just kill me inside.

I passed the memorial on the Meadowbrook on my way to work this morning. Just sad.

My co-worker's wife knows the family, and his daughter was in a play with Katie a few years back. His wife is pretty shaken up at the whole thing.

I hope the driver rots in a prison cell for the rest of his miserable life, with only his thoughts. He made a decision to put other people's lives in his hands. He should have to live with it.

Geez, seems like every comment from a Christian on here is of the flavor, "I'm not trying to change your mind, but here...let me see if I can change your mind." I agree with you on so many counts, Michelle, and it's comforting to know that there's somebody else out there who sees the world in the way I do. It seems to me that religion is (and always has been) a way to explain the unexplainable and justify the unfair. The Greeks didn't know why the ocean surged and roared, so they decided Poesidon did it. They didn't know why the moon seemed to glide across the sky at night, so they decided Artemis must carry it in her chariot. People today can't explain why a little girl would die while the drunk driver who killed her should live, so they chalk it up to "God's plan." I think it takes great strength to deny this cop-out explanation, and accept the fact that life it just unfair. Some people don't have that strength, or they are conditioned though society to believe in a God, and that's OK--whatever gets you through. But in my opinion (and it's admittedly the biased opinion of a fellow atheist), it's more admirable to want good for the sake of good, and to work for inner strength relying only on yourself and other things tangible, than to do so in order to please a higher being, hoping to be rewarded after death.

Jett...thank you for your post. It certainly gave this former Catholic (and just-for-a-few-moments-Mormon) something to think about.

All I know is I believe in something - something indefinable, but there nonetheless. I've experienced too many things in my life to believe that there is no higher entity or force. But I'll be damned if I know how it all works. I do relate to your analogy of God's role in our lives with the role we have in the lives of our children...that puts it in crystal clear perspective.

Cases like this point out the absurdity of the concept of a benevolent interventionist god. If ANY higher power really is an interventionist, then it's is clearly a sadistic plague upon humanity. I agree with Michele in seeing no other possible conclusion - if an interventionist god exists, then he/she/it is damn well evil to the core.

I'm an agnostic - I don't have a dog in the fight over whether one or more gods exist. But unless one DOES believe in an interventionist god, I don't see where religiosity matters in the course of human events. If free will exists, then its ramifications must also exist, as horrific as they sometimes turn out to be.

Believers and non-believers who accept the concept of free will ought to be able to agree that WE are responsible for the results of our actions - not god(s).

when i stay connected with a higher power of goodness through prayer it gives me strength. when i disconnect my life spirals downward. it could have something to do with my subconcious perhaps due to the way i was raised. it could be explained away by many things. but for whatever reason it works for me.

i hate that i need a crutch. it's admitting my weakness. but when the shit hits the fan my vulnerability and willingness to be open to the possibilties of the universe are what bring me hope and courage.

Some people don't have that strength, or they are conditioned though society to believe in a God, and that's OK--whatever gets you through.

Hey, thanks Amanda, that's so magnanimous of you!

...he said, his lips dripping with sarcasm.

Didn't mean to sound condescending, sorry if I offended you.

No biggie, sorry if my skin is too thin. It's a tense subject for everybody, I should have continued to stay out of it. My overall, incredibly nuanced position is: To each their own.

Sorry, upon reflection, that last comment sounded pretty condescending, too.

The point I was trying to make is that we all have our own ways of dealing with what life throws at us. My husband was born and raised a Christian, so he was taught to turn to God when life got rough. I took a more academic route, exploring different religions and philosophies, and came to realize that I just didn't believe there was any higher power. I realized that when I thought I was praying, what I was really doing was a form of self-reflection.

I don't begrudge my husband his methods of dealing with difficulty, and he doesn't begrudge me mine. Both have the same end result, and both are OK.

For other people I have known, the non-religious way of life wasn't working. A friend once told me she started going to church as an adult because she felt like there was "something missing" in her life. Relying on her inner strength wasn't working, so she tried something else. Again, same end result, so no harm done.

I don't usually go around advertising the fact that I'm an atheist, because the reaction I often get is one of pity. People assume that, because I don't believe in God, I'm some sort of lost soul drifting through life with no sense of purpose. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since I believe that this life is the only one I'll ever have, I want to make the most of it. I'm a strong person, physically, emotionally, and yes, spiritually (though not in the godly sense). I feel like when a Christian tries to "save" a strong, self-assured atheist, it's like someone trying to rescue a swimmer from the ocean. They paddle their boat of salvation over to the bather, only to find out that bather is not only an Olympic-caliber swimmer, he is also standing on a sandbar with his feet firmly planted.

This is the type of strength to which I was referring.

So the existence of God boils down to what he can do for me? How he can keep shit from happening? That's all you think that he means to people that believe in him?

Ahh..no, Ken. But thanks for playing the part of troll.

My heart is broken for this child's mother. And for the people who love this family.

Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore tackled the question on God so eloquently... to (brutally) paraphrase Promethea, 'if the universe could stop bullets for people, it would'.

In answer to the "all-good" myth of the Christian God.....

God created Evil, therefore God is not all Good.

"...God is not all Good."

Not true. He created choice. Lucifer chose to go against God and thus the first evil.

I'm too late for this discussion. Answering the question always seems wrong, somehow. When someone asks the question you asked, the only answer is to try to love that person.

I've been struggling with my faith, and with the issue of God's goodness. But I'm not ready to abandon my faith. I have no answer, though. I have experienced God directly (only partially of course), and let me tell you, it is as scary as can be. Wonderful, but scary.

I lost my faith in my teens, and got it back in my 20s, and now I'm in my 40s and still have my faith. In the end, if you love, there's hope for you. And for all of us.

I hope one day you get your faith back.