Archive for the ‘prayer’ Category

A wonderful rebuttal to the “Why Doesn’t God Feed All the Starving Children in the World?” question.

Question With Boldness

Every once in a while a post or a tweet grabs my attention and I simply cannot contain my response to 140 characters. This was one of them: “3 Strange But True Reasons Why God Doesn’t Feed All the Starving Children in the World” from the apologetics website “Not Ashamed of the Gospel”. This should be good, I thought. “Strange”, so they probably won’t be reasons I’ve heard before, and “true” so there must be some pretty good evidence to back these reasons up! Sigh. Wrong on both counts. And thus we have my second response post.

So, what are the strange but true reasons God doesn’t feed all the starving children?

Reason #1 : It’s Not God’s Responsibility to Feed the Starving Children of the World

Of all the times that I have read the Bible from cover to cover, I can’t think of a single Bible verse in…

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The Sin of Complacency

Posted: August 12, 2015 in atheism, prayer, religion
Tags: , ,

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There are many noble causes in the world. Many reasons to get involved. Many problems, inequalities, and injustices. Unfortunately, much of that is unavoidable. While the world as a whole maintains a kind of balance through natural cycles, rarely is anything evenly distributed and rarely is anything “fair”. By simple luck of the draw, some people are born with much… and some with nothing. It is a myth that anyone and everyone can become a millionaire if they just work hard enough. The deck is stacked. Those who are already rich have more resources at their disposal. More options. More choices. And those born into poverty rarely get out of it.

It is, however, a natural desire for people to want to remedy such blatant inequalities. Some feel it more strongly than others, but we all feel it to some degree or another. We are driven to help one another and build a sense of community, because together we are stronger. We achieve far more and reach far greater heights working together than could ever be accomplished by one person alone. And seeing another person struggling and in pain elicits an emotional reaction. We feel empathy. We CARE. But we also have a tendency to get too comfortable…

One of the great things about religious organizations is their ability to mobilize people and invigorate them to get involved in a cause. Gathering around the message of an inspiring figure, people will often reach out to help the poor, the needy, the destitute, and the afflicted in an effort to follow that example. But if the struggles aren’t made starkly apparent, the ability to connect and feel the empathy that drives people to act is often lost. If people don’t SEE a problem staring them in the face, if people don’t have personal experience with an issue, if people have no way to relate to someone, if people get too comfortable, they become complacent. And nothing breeds complacency more than the religious teachings of an afterlife.

If you live in a developed nation, you probably have many luxuries you don’t even think about. Health care. Food. A roof over your head. Financial security. An education. Water. The problems of war and starvation probably seem distant. You’ve likely seen pictures or videos of gaunt children or ravaged towns, but you cannot relate. You cannot connect. And so, you tell yourself there’s nothing you can do for people so far away. You have your own struggles. You are working hard enough as it is to keep food on your table. Any efforts you would make would be pointless anyway. These problems are impossible to rectify and will always be around. There will always be war and suffering and starving children. And… that’s okay, because this life is only temporary.

Instead of facing the problems, we walk away. We go on with our lives. We ignore it. We’ve gotten so good at ignoring problems that we don’t even recognize the ones in our own backyards. Even in developed nations we have hunger, homelessness, racism, poverty… Even in developed nations we have children born into homes that cannot provide for them. Even in developed nations we have sex trafficking, rape, child molestation, domestic violence, police brutality, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, hate crimes, murder, extremist groups, terrorism, suicide, and much more. Until one of these problems have a direct impact on our lives, we refuse to acknowledge it, because acknowledging it would upset our balance.

Instead… we pray. We turn everything over to a deity and expect Him to solve all the world’s problems. We comfort ourselves with small, random acts of kindness that don’t inconvenience our lives and prayers for intervention on the behalf of those struggling individuals we don’t want to trouble ourselves to recognize. We comfort ourselves with the thought that we’ve done all we can, and the rest is up to God. And we comfort ourselves with the thought that all these inequalities are part of some great plan and will all be worked out in the end. We create a mythical concept of “justice” and believe all discrepancies will be reconciled through some form of karma. And through all of this, we conveniently take the responsibility to act off our own shoulders.

Belief in the afterlife breeds complacency, because it causes people to care less about the here and now. It causes people to assuage their guilty conscience while they continue to enjoy the fruits of their privileged positions in society and ignore the needs of those less fortunate. With this complacency, often comes the justifications. When it is suggested that someone contribute to a cause or submit their profits for redistribution to charities or taxes for the common good, they become possessive and defensive, insisting that they’ve worked hard for their small comforts and they’ve “earned” their position in society. Ignoring the luck and chance that helped them climb up a rigged totem pole over the backs of others unable to “catch a break”, they insist that those living in poverty are just looking for handouts or a free ride.

The real problem though is that wealth and opportunities will never be evenly distributed. The resources of the world are finite, and no person can rightly claim that they’ve “earned” anything more than another. This blatant inequality will only continue to get worse the longer people ignore it and fail to act. Prayers aren’t accomplishing anything. God isn’t doing anything. The world doesn’t HAVE to be like this. If only we will open our eyes, let go of our complacency, and organize around a common goal, we could truly make a difference. We can make a better world.

Each and every one of us needs to get educated about the problems in the world and ways they can get involved. Each and every one of us needs to speak up about inequality and stand up in the face of discrimination. Each and every one of us needs to utilize the resources we have to expose wrongs, fight injustice, and lend a helping hand. Each and every one of us has at the very least a talent that can be re-purposed and re-directed for the good of all. We are all in this together, and complacency will only be our downfall.

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Prayer is an essential part of the life of a Christian. It is seen as an opportunity to communicate with our maker, our creator God, our Heavenly Father. For some, prayer comes easy. My younger brother, for example, always has words that flow freely when he bows his head in prayer, and he is always so selfless. Always thinking of others. Always asking for blessings for the sick, the elderly, the missionaries… He thinks of everyone who’s crossed his path and asks for blessings for them by name. His prayers are wonderful and heartfelt.

For me, prayer was more difficult. While I had a wonderful imagination, it was difficult to “talk” to someone I couldn’t see, and it was even more difficult to think of what to talk to him about. He was God. Which meant He watched over me everyday. He knew my struggles, he knew my accomplishments. He knew my sorrows and pains, and he knew my joys and goals. He knew my thoughts and dreams. He knew me better than I knew myself… So what was the point?

I struggled so much with prayer, and when I struggle with something it becomes a puzzle. A challenge to be overcome. So studying and understanding the purpose of prayer, how best to pray, etc became a kind of obsession. I came to understand that prayer was more for our own benefit than it was for God’s. While he already knew what we went through every day, he wanted to hear from us, and sharing with him would give us an opportunity to express gratitude and look upon our day with introspection. Essentially, it was a form of meditation.

I came to understand the benefit of taking time out of a busy life to turn inward. To reflect on my *self*. To dialogue my experiences, my challenges, and my plans. To visualize my success. To verbally acknowledge my mistakes. And yet… I still struggled with the concept of telling all this to “God”. I had trouble framing my meditation into the form of a prayer, picturing myself speaking with someone and sharing my innermost thoughts (even though God already knew them). So my journey of understanding continued as I strove to piece together the puzzle.

The next piece was one I really struggled to wrap my head around. Prayer is seen as an opportunity to ask for blessings. While God delights to bless His children, some blessings have specific requirements we must meet before He can dish them out to us, and one of those basic requirements is to ask Him. Of course, getting any kind of divine intervention isn’t easy. It needs to be a humble request. A righteous request. It has to be something God already desires to give us and is just waiting for us to ask Him. It needs to be something that will be for our greater benefit. It needs to be something we’ve struggled to obtain on our own and we just need a little something “more” to get it.

The story of “Where the Red Fern Grows” provided a wonderful example I really related to as a child. The protagonist in the story was a young boy who wanted a pair of hounds. His family did not have much and could not afford to get him a dog. He prayed and prayed and prayed, and felt like his prayers weren’t being answered. He spoke with his grandfather about his disappointment, and his grandfather told him that he needed to do his part to meet God halfway if he really wanted his prayer to be answered. After thinking about it, the boy determined that his part in meeting God halfway was to earn the money that would pay for the hounds, and God’s part was to provide the dogs.

So, this boy set to work. He took every job a boy his age could work and he ran himself ragged, until one day an add for a pair of red bone pups came up in the paper, and he asked his grandfather to take his money to order them. He got his dogs. I saw this story as an inspiration and felt that I should treat prayer likewise. When there was something I desired so badly that I would do anything to obtain it, I had to push and work and struggle to do everything in my power to earn it, pray, and God would do his part to see it was provided.

There weren’t many things in life I really wanted that badly. I can think of only three specific examples in my life where prayer like this came into play. The first was while I was rather young. I’d constructed a diorama for a school project and spent an enormous amount of time into seeing that it was the best I could make it. When it came time to bring it to school, it was pouring down rain and that rain would ruin my project if I stepped out of the car to bring it into the school. On the ride there, I prayed my heart out for the Lord to see to it that the rain would stop, at least long enough for me to get my project into the building, because I’d done everything I could do and the only way my project would remain intact was if that rain stopped. Well, that rain stopped when we pulled up, and I ran inside, and when the school door shut, it started pouring down rain again.

In example number two, I wanted nothing more than to attend my college of choice and pursue a degree in veterinary medicine. I knew my parents could not afford to pay for my schooling, and I knew I did not have any particular sporting or other extracurricular talents that would get me scholarships. What I did have was book smarts. So I worked my butt off to get straight A’s in high school completing higher level courses and AP classes so that I would have an excellent academic record. I then applied for every scholarship I could find. I wrote essay after essay. Filled out survey after survey. And I prayed and prayed. I received a full-ride scholarship to my college of choice.

The final example did not have a happy ending. During my third year of college, I met and fell in love with who I thought was “the one”. He reeled me in, however, with manipulation until I was wrapped around his finger, and he started becoming very physically abusive. Completely submissive to his control, we married and I became pregnant. When I was approximately five months along in the pregnancy, he had a severe tooth infection that woke him in the middle of the night in screaming pain and agony. He asked me to pray with him for God to take his pain away so that he could get some sleep before we saw the dentist in the morning.

I felt that we’d done everything in our power to relieve his pain. We’d already been to a doctor, been given an antibiotic and pain medication. Certainly God would answer our prayer and take the pain away. So, we prayed together and nothing happened. My husband became irate and insisted that either God was not there or He did not love him. I insisted that that was not true, that sometimes the answer to a prayer is “no”, and that if He wasn’t taking away the pain it was for a good reason. I defended God and refused to deny Him, and in return my husband became furious for disagreeing with him. He beat me, bit me, punched me, slapped me, and choked me in his fury.

For a long time, I held on to that experience as a testimony building experience. I clung to my faith and the fact that I’d defended God in the midst of adversity as a kind of badge of honor. I felt that despite what I’d suffered, I’d felt His spirit comforting me. Little did I know that my experiences with prayer could all be easily explained.. without God.

The first was mere coincidence. It happens. It really does. Must we attribute a superstitious explanation to every coincidence in our lives? The second was the result of my own hard work and determination, no divine intervention necessary. And the third – well the third was nothing. I suffered a beating because there was no loving God there to hear my plea.

As I started thinking about the claims of prayer more critically, I realized that there are far more unanswered prayers than answered. And many of the “answered” prayers are over trivial nonsense.

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I was thanking God for stopping the rain to save my diorama. And I was thanking God for helping me get a full-ride scholarship to college. Meanwhile, millions of children around the world were dying from starvation. Thousands of women were being beaten by their husbands. Hundreds of transgender and homosexual teens were being disowned by their families and left on the streets. What about their prayers? Was a desire to eat not more righteous than my desire to keep my school project intact? Was a desire for the violence to stop not more righteous than my desire for a free education? Was a desire to be loved for who you are and accepted by your family not more righteous than my husbands desire for a night’s rest without pain?

Why does God pick and choose so haphazardly who he answers? Why are His blessings so random? Why isn’t the influence of his intervention greater than that of scientific advancements in medicine and technology? Why can’t he heal amputees? Why doesn’t he stop rape? Why doesn’t he stop murder? Why doesn’t he intervene when a helpless child is sold into sexual slavery? Why?

I dug deep looking for answers to these questions after suffering the turmoil of an abusive marriage. Surely, somehow, someway, something would make it all make sense. Surely the loving image of a Father in Heaven desiring to bless his children wasn’t a lie. In scripture, I found claims that God permits evil and suffering to exist for a “greater purpose”. I found that His desire for us to have and exercise our free will trumped his desire to intervene when one of his children was suffering. I found that all of the pain we endure is supposedly “nothing” compared to the pain Christ endured in our stead. And I found that all our experiences are meant to make us stronger, more loving, more compassionate, and will be “for our good”. I found comfort in these answers… until I really took the time to analyze them with an example.

Pretend for a moment that you are God. You have more power than can possibly be imagined. You are omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. YOUR daughter’s boyfriend has just forced himself on her. She refused his advances and asked him to go home. In response, he slapped her, grabbed her by the hair and thrust her onto the bed. When she moved to rise, he slapped her again grabbed her wrists to pin her to the bed and started to remove her clothing. When she screamed, he covered her mouth and nose so that her eyes went wide with the effort to gasp in air and he cursed her out for wearing such suggestive clothing, for getting him all worked up and then telling him “no”. He then proceeds to undress and rape her.

As he does so, your terrified daughter is praying for someone to hear what is happening, to open her bedroom door and come in and save her. You could intervene. You’re all powerful. You helped one of your other children find their car keys that morning. You saved little Billy from getting hit by a car that afternoon. You helped another child remember all she’d studied so she could do well on her test. But not this time… This time you watch, and you cry. Because you won’t interfere with free will. Even though you “could”. You won’t.

Now tell me. What “purpose” could this rape possibly serve? Don’t you DARE belittle this girl’s pain and call it “nothing”. Don’t you DARE suggest it will “make her stronger”. Don’t you DARE…

Any sane, loving human witnessing a rape would tear that man off that girl and kick his ass. So why doesn’t God? There are countless, COUNTLESS atrocities that are transpired by evil men, and God sits back and does NOTHING. That is NOT a loving God. If he can help find car keys, he can stop a rape. But he chooses not to. The only plausible explanation is that He simply does not exist. And that makes it so much easier to explain –

No need to excuse these atrocities as part of some higher purpose, as part of some greater plan. No need to suggest that somehow it will all be made right “in the end”. No need to imply that the very real and horrible pain and suffering people endure is minute and unimportant. When you remove God from the equation, it becomes far easier to take a stand and say these deeds are WRONG. The pain is REAL. And we will do everything in our power to right those wrongs, to lift up those who suffer, and make the world a better place.