Friday, March 04, 2011

So They Tell Me God is Good

This is something that I'm sure many people struggle with, and it probably doesn't need my rant about it in addition to everyone else's, but it's been driving me up the wall lately, so here it is.

Recently, a relative of mine suffered a terrible accident. I shan't be going into any specifics, but I do assure you, it was quite serious. Thankfully, they lived. They are now going through the traumas of understanding their prognoses and comprehending all the horrible consequences of what has happened. Again, I assure you, what they are going through is not anything that would be taken lightly by anyone.

Through all this, the family has been receiving periodic reports of the process from my grandmother. These letters are basically outlines of the details of the dire situation. And they all end with the same tagline: "God is good."

And with each and every correspondence, I wish to reply, "What the fucking hell do you mean by that? If your god were 'good,' they wouldn't be in this situation to begin with! Your god would have altered the course of events, or the laws of physics! This would have never happened! Where the fuck do you get off in proclaiming this situation 'good'?!"

Of course, this is exactly what I'm not saying. I'm not out as an atheist to my extended family, after all, and this doesn't strike me as a wonderful time to bring the subject up, even if I weren't avoiding the topic out of respect for my parents' wishes. So I'm keeping my head down, and avoiding my family, as they would surely remind me of the clearly overwhelmingly awesome "goodness" of God, and would ask that I keep my relative "in my prayers," at which point I would either have to broach the subject honestly (which my mother has exhorted me not to do) or lie about it (to which I am morally opposed).

But beyond this, even if I were still a practicing member of the Church, I think I would be confused by this statement of beneficence. Yes, my relative is not dead... But really, there's not much else positive that can be said about the situation. So why do believers feel the need to bring attention to the fact that their god is either not omnipotent or not benevolent?

Really, what I'd like to hear would be "the ER doctors are good" or "the surgeons are good" or "the facts that science and medicine are as progressed as they are, and that we live in a region where they are understood and available, and that we can afford them are good." Don't tell me that your god is good. If your god were an actual deity as I am given to understand deities, and if it were as good as you claim, then what need would we have for surgeons and medicine and science and hospitals? For crissake, don't tell me that your god is good when all the good being done is being done by people.

Give those people their due. They save lives. God doesn't.


  1. Thank you for posting this. I have the same thoughts running through my head every single time someone in an accident or in ill health says their god is good.

    My mother-in-law is dealing with breast cancer. She's having her remaining breast removed next week and going through chemo. She'll survive because her doctors are awesome and well educated. But she seems to think it's angels and god doing the work. *sigh*

    It's really a slight to the doctors and the human will to survive.

    Keep ranting. It's good for everybody.

  2. I imagine the tag line "God is good" is meant as a reassurance: "you'll get well, because God is good."

    If you don't already believe that, of course, it doesn't work.

  3. That's as may be, Ridger, but it's still a bit misplaced, in my opinion. And I still find it astonishing how quick people can be to attribute healing and whatnot to their god, while failing to pay any attention to the prowess of their surgeons.

    Personally I prefer to see thanks and praise given to those deserving of it.

  4. I totally agree. See how much you recover from "God is good" without a surgeon.

    I just don't think your relatives are trying to tell you that the illness is good.

    I could be wrong: people said worse than that to my father - my mother's illness was a lesson to him. Puke. But sometimes it helps to deal with it if you can find a good reason for them saying it; then you an answer the underlying thought and not deal with the God bit at all.

  5. Oh, I don't think they are trying to say that either (though they may when all is said and done and my relative has learned things that can be attributed to God). And I don't have a problem with the underlying thought -- I'm reading it as "We believe that [my relative] will get better" -- but that doesn't keep me from twitching each time it's said.

    After all, words only mean what people understand them to mean, and they are usually understood as meaning what they are popularly defined as meaning. So what they're saying, when you get down to it, is "God is good," not anything else.

  6. Is that common where you live? I live in the UK and no one says that kind of thing, other than a small minority of close-knit religious groups. In fact anyone making an overtly religious comment outside of their little cult pays a price over here. You can just feel everyone else cringe with embarrassment.

  7. It's terribly common in the US. I'd say shockingly, but I don't really think that anyone's surprised by it. People believe that literally everything that happens to them or to anyone they know has happened because it's part of their deity's plan, and is all for the greater good in the end. I find it nauseating.

  8. The stats seem to indicate that religion in the US is declining, slowly at present, but gathering momentum. Is it possible that a tipping point will be reached before long, where a lot of people who don't currently feel able to be open about their disbelief will be encouraged (by people like you via the wonder of communications technology)? Things could change exponentially and the situation might be very different within just a few years.

  9. It's possible, but given what I've seen myself and heard from others of religious (and non-religious) attitudes in the states -- just anecdotal evidence, mind you -- there's a long way to go, and I would say it's unlikely to happen as soon as a few years.