Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The weekly Daley: A spiritual dilemma — or not

From page A6 | May 24, 2013 | 23 Comments

I’ve checked out an interesting online discussion that’s been attracting a lot of noise this week. Why does God allow tornadoes that kill children and adults in Oklahoma? It’s not a new discussion of course. Why does God allow horrific events like the massacre at Newtown’s elementary school or Super Storm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina to mention just a few of the more recent calamities — not to ignore probably millions of large and small tragedies that happen every day all over the world?

Since there is no God, loving or vengeful or otherwise, it’s a ludicrous conversation, some say. Others go through mental and emotional gyrations to assure that God allows such things when He or She or It needs a bunch of “new angels or another little quarterback or ballerina in heaven.” That conjures an image of God playing a giant, cosmic video game, picking off specific individuals to fill vacancies in heaven. (Why heaven would have vacancies is yet another mystery for another time.) Still others suggest that using such a concept to try to comfort loved-ones does a huge disservice to what they really need — acceptance and acknowledgement of their grief — not a justification for why they shouldn’t grieve.

Others who apparently figure they’re in the know say God doesn’t interfere with natural disasters because they are in the natural order of things. And if H/S/I was going to interfere, a reasonable question might be, why allow natural disasters to occur in the first place? Exactly. And if H/S/I didn’t want children to be slaughtered by madmen, why does H/S/I not put a stop to madmen who are inclined to slaughter children? Exactly.

Questioning the motivations of God has sustained campfire talks for ages. And for most of human history, it wasn’t God at all. It was a host of gods, large and small, trivial and significant, magnificent and garden-variety, petty and even playful. We didn’t decide there was just one God until we became all sophisticated and modern. Modern being a relative concept (in time and space) that began a little over 2,000 years ago in what we call the Middle East, as best we know. Back then God was a jealous God who sent plagues and locusts and drought and famine and the other Horsemen of the Apocalypse, parted the Red Sea and drowned an entire Egyptian army in hot pursuit of the fleeing Hebrews. There was a God who stood right up for H/H/I people — well, not Egyptians obviously.

That was the Hebrew and later the Christian God of course. I know more about that God than I do about other gods that boast millions or billions of believers. A strong belief in God is probably deeply coded into my DNA since my great grandfather and my father both were men of the cloth, as they say. They’re both long-gone, so I can’t ask their spiritual opinions on tornadoes in Oklahoma or gun-toting madmen. But if I could, I suspect they would stand by the notions of “free will, the natural order of things and by the way, don’t try to figure out God, because He can’t be figured out by the puny likes of us, and frankly, He gets a little p-o’d when we keep questioning His motives.”

“Well, what the heck kind of answer is that?” I’d probably say.

I read Victor Frankl’s “From Death Camp to Existentialism” aka “Man’s Search for Meaning decades ago, and I believe Frankl mostly got it right. Basically and simply put, there’s no grand design and no Grand Architect. We’re here by a chance of nature. “This life is all you’ve got and there’s nothing after it, so do your best to make it meaningful.”

Whether or not God causes stuff to happen or simply let’s things happen or whether or not stuff just happens unrelated to God or non-God has tickled and stumped theologians and regular folk for centuries and is likely to keep them and us intrigued for centuries to come. And some will say, “What the heck kind of answer is that?” And I can only say, “Exactly!”

Chris Daley is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. His column appears each Friday. 



Discussion | 23 comments

  • Jack MartinMay 24, 2013 - 3:39 pm

    While I enjoyed Mr. Daley's examination and the various tangents, the answer to the question is simple: It is free will. As for humongous storms and natural disasters? Also free will. There was no death in the world until man (Adam & Eve) sinned. From that moment, everything in Creation, including the earth itself, began the slow process of dying. Our planet and indeed our entire solar system, behaves PERFECTLY in accordance with known laws of thermodynamics with respect to a system that was set into place and allowed to run itself down. This is evident in the recorded history of large earthquakes, massive storms and even celestial events. Few large earthquakes and hurricane-size storms EVER occurred beyond 300 years ago. Now they are common and magnitude 8 earthquakes are increasing exponentially, all over the world. This is consistent behavior in a system that is losing energy - i.e., dying. And yes, Christophobes, it all goes back to man's free will and his decision to disobey God. Why does God allow individual men to commit murder and other acts of violence? Again, free will. He did not create us to be a bunch of mindless automatons. He wants us to come to Him voluntarily. And in the fullness of time, these hideous acts of violence we perpetrate on each other will be useful for showing us that we are not capable of governing ourselves without His guiding hand. So I wrote a lot more words than I planned, but it boils down to free will. We have it. We've abused it and there are consequences to those decisions.

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  • Kirk W MacKenzieMay 24, 2013 - 4:13 pm

    Jack -- No death before Adam & Eve sinned? How do you explain all the dinosaur skeletons, below the KT Boundary, before any human remains ever showed up?

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  • Ken SteersMay 26, 2013 - 6:32 am

    Kirk, come on. Do you honestly believe everything they tell you?

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  • Kirk W MacKenzieMay 26, 2013 - 8:40 am

    Ken -- Everything I read, see, and hear goes through a filtering process, and gets sorted along the lines of: False, probably false, doubtful, undecided, could be true, probably true, and True. I find very few things to be absolutely True or False. When it comes to archaeology, I find most things to be in the "probably true" category. The notion that dinosaurs and their predecessors roamed the earth and went extinct well before humans showed up is as close to absolutely true as it gets without being something that I personally know to be a fact. The notion that the earth is only ~9 thousand years old, etc, is as close to absolutely false as it gets without personally knowing it to be false. So, the simple answer is: no, I don't believe everything "they" tell me.

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  • Ken SteersMay 26, 2013 - 8:14 pm

    Kirk? A rather convoluted answer to a straight forward question don't you think? Now maybe you could show a little empathy for those of us who have faith. Not all are as ignorant as you and Daley try to make out...

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  • PLMay 26, 2013 - 8:32 pm

    Ken, do you honestly believe everything they tell you?

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  • chris daleyMay 26, 2013 - 11:13 pm

    Steers - I re-read this column several times and didn't see anything that suggested you are ignorant. How about you and I get a cup of coffee sometime soon. I'm pretty sure we have more in common than not. Call me or email 344-5063;

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  • Kirk W MacKenzieMay 27, 2013 - 5:15 am

    Ken -- at least I answered your question. Jack has dodged my question. Maybe you can answer it...?

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  • EvelynMay 27, 2013 - 7:21 am

    Kirk MacKenzie and Chris Daley: Having read both the original article and Kirk's response to Ken's question, I really don't know what has caused Ken's state of offense.

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  • Phil VeerkampMay 27, 2013 - 8:59 am

    Oh great, Steers. Now you've done it. Called out!!! Daley may try to make you go cut a willow switch and bring it back to him. Call me. 622-3481 or

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  • DB SmithMay 27, 2013 - 9:39 am

    Daley is selective with his quotes and passes the buck a lot with "some say" and "others suggest". Where did the "new angels or quarterback or ballerina in heaven" selective quote come from? His words of "God playing a cosmic videogame" is offensive! "Others, others, others". Daley read and says "Frankl got it right" and he now believes that "we're here by a chance of nature and this life is all you've got". You're a real crowd pleaser Daley and yes I'm stumped at your judgement, timing and insensitivity with this article during "Memorial Day".

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  • DB SmithMay 27, 2013 - 10:46 am

    Now you've done it Daley! The wife just read your article and you've got her pissed off too. It's HELL around here when she's pissed off. We were wondering if your next press release would be sometime around Christmas? would probably refer to it as just another "Happy Holiday". Thanks a lot!

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  • Kirk W MacKenzieMay 27, 2013 - 5:24 pm

    DB -- please educate me on what is offensive about Mr Daley's timing on this article. Keep it simple, and spell it out...I'm not the quickest gate on the chip.

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  • DB SmithMay 27, 2013 - 5:37 pm

    Kirk, the offensive part to me and mine was "God playing a cosmic video game" and the timing is in regards to the content of the letter and the existence of God during a respectful time of remembering our fallen veterans. Whether you get it or not, I'll leave it at that.

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  • Kirk W MacKenzieMay 27, 2013 - 6:07 pm

    DB -- agnostics, such as myself, tend to speak of god as curios outsiders. We sound flip and disrespectful to believers. I can see how believers take exception to that. There are many agnostics -- not to mention atheists -- being honored today. They died for our right to choose our own religious beliefs. It's your right to object -- even boycott the MD over it -- to Mr Daley's article, and it's his right to write it.

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  • DB SmithMay 27, 2013 - 6:20 pm

    Kirk, Right on, so what's your problem. He has the right to write what he wants and I have the right to object. I explained my objection. Piece of cake. Upgrade that gate on your chip.

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  • Kirk W MacKenzieMay 27, 2013 - 6:42 pm

    DB -- My problem remains with Jack Martin's assertion that "There was no death in the world until man (Adam & Eve) sinned." I am still looking for a comment that reconciles that statement with the archaeological record.

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  • DB SmithMay 27, 2013 - 6:51 pm

    Kirk, Jack can speak for himself but I think it's a matter of clarifying "death". Hey it's been a busy day and now I'm gonna go slam a few beers and have faith that I'll wake up in the morning without a hangover. Remember our fallen on this Memorial Day and what we're able to have because of their sacrifice.

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  • Phil VeerkampMay 27, 2013 - 7:20 pm

    Kirk, you may be looking in the wrong place. It is not productive to look for, a comment that reconciles that statement (original sin/tree of knowledge/ apple) with the archaeological record. Ponder the question, "Can there be sin without knowledge?" Within modern law there is elevated sanction when "conscious and deliberate disregard" is demonstrated. Sin began when humans conscience developed. Partaking of the tree of knowledge was the blossoming of conscience - right and wrong - original sin. Prior to that the Liberals had absolute rule. The restrictive constraint of conscience came when we partook of knowledge. Was there death prior to that. Certainly there are fossils. Is there any regret?

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  • Phil VeerkampMay 27, 2013 - 7:21 pm

    dammit!italics off

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  • James E.May 27, 2013 - 7:25 pm

    Tomorrow is national Hamburger day. No, really.

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  • Kirk W MacKenzieMay 27, 2013 - 8:35 pm

    Phil -- You are of that rare breed that can cough up a pile of BS that smells good. Well done.

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  • Phil VeerkampMay 27, 2013 - 9:07 pm

    Kirk - BS? No. PHD. (piled high and deep)

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