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Waiting for God

A year or so ago, a friend of my wife had a daughter born with anopthalmia. That’s no eyes, to you and me. I recall asking how a just and merciful God could allow such a thing?

Six months ago, my wife gave birth to our second child. Two eyes, two ears, 10 fingers and toes and, it has transpired, no known affliction, defect or disease. I look at my new daughter and cannot be anything other than convinced of the existence of a greater power.

In the aftermath of the tsunami, the eternal theological question is again posed: what sort of God permits the slaughter of blameless humanity on such a scale? As John Rudkin observed in The Telegraph (hat tip Norm):

On the abundant available evidence does it not seem that, if there is or was a God, it is now malevolent, mad or dead?

As each news bulletin heralds an upwards revision of long past obscene totals, alternative conclusions are easy to avoid. Faced with such a human calamity, my preference would be for a colossal hand to have reached from the Christmas night sky to cup each wave and assuage the fury of the sea. But is this truly the role of an Almighty? To intervene wherever and whenever disaster beckons? Precisely what would the prevention of each and every natural catastrophe demonstrate about the existence of holy omnipotence, when the 5-year old next-door still has leukemia and when widowed Mrs. Jones from Acacia Avenue still has to rebuild a life shattered by a lorry on the M25? Or must the world be rid of all sorrow before religious faith can be rationalized?

I spent the better part of today watching the England cricket team come agonizingly close to an improbable victory. Despite saturation coverage of the tsunami devastation from the broadcast news media, I managed to stay with the entire afternoon session without thinking about Sri Lanka or Phuket for a second. For two hours, I had no conscious thought about any one of the millions of people on the sharp end of this latest ‘act of God’, yet had one of my immediate family been in danger, however remote, my day should have been very different.

Those, like Rudkin, who reject the notion of a God who permits the possibility of naturally occurring phenomena that visit wholesale destruction of innocent life, implicitly predicate a belief in a greater being on the absence of such events. I ask you, who are they kidding? Confirmed believers aside, isn’t the price we demand for our conviction a perpetual insulation against the unmentionable fear and unimaginable pain that come with premature loss of our loved ones? Keep us safe from this, and belief in the unscientific and unprovable remains a possibility; expose us personally, and our faith will be obliterated as if hit by a 60ft wave travelling at the speed of a jet plane. Earthquakes, floods and famines on other continents might produce a tear, but remain untouched by the cataclysm, and only those with no religion to lose will berate a malevolent deity.

There are many decent arguments against the existence of God, but the disaster that befell SE Asia in early hours of Boxing Day is not one of them, any more than the isolated stories of incredible good fortune can be cited as evidence of His existence. For every victim who blames God, there is a lucky survivor thanking Him and a desperately searching family member praying to Him. These are people I shan’t be second-guessing in a hurry.

Anyhow, the theologizing can wait. Whether it be because you believe it will save your mortal soul or just because you feel you ought to do something, go here to see how you can make a difference.

No excuses and definitely no notes from your libertarian mothers.