Despite Human Suffering, I still believe in God

It just doesn’t stop. From tornados in Kansas to firefighters in South Carolina to pipelines in New York City to bridges in Minnesota, it just doesn’t stop.

I pray for those that suffer, but I also pray for those who pray. It seems that people are under attack in America for simply wanting to lead lives that are centered around belief in God. I worry that although religion can and has been misappropriated for some of the worst evil known to humankind, it has also been a force for incredible good, and this is often overlooked.

For the sake of full disclosure, I have led a very easy life. I grew up in a normal, middle class household, and I did not suffer through tragedies that afflict many families. I had all four of my grandparents when I graduated from college, and three of them when I turned 30. When one of my cousins fell ill, my grandfather said he would take care of it. “Nobody is dying in this family. We don’t die early in this family. That happens to other families.”

We were blessed. More importantly, we were lucky. Having said that, I am under no illusions about how fragile everything is, and I have seen plenty of pain in others I care about, and my prayers for them have not always been answered.

All I know is that there is an irrational fear in this country of anybody and anything that is deemed “religious.” It does not make sense. Secularists and atheists feel that religious people want to create a theocracy where religious people want to impose their will on those who do not believe in God. If anything, the pendulum has swung in the other direction.

Religion teaches tolerance and love of others. Some choose to ignore this, but that invalidates their interpretation, not the religions themselves. Lately it is the secularists that are trying to impose their will on people who simply want to live their lives as they believe God commanded them.

I am not a Christian, but I see Christianity under assault in this country. President Bush has been criticized for his faith based initiatives. Faith based initiatives is not about proseltyzing. It is about giving money to people and institutions that do an effective job of saving lives.

Churches, Synagogues and Mosques are led by people who want to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, shelter the homeless, help drug addicts recover, and give people near death a fighting chance to live. These people do this because God tells them to do so. This is something positive, yet many consider it something to be shunned because it is motivated by God. Why should this matter? If the goal is to make the world a better place, then let’s help people who do this on a daily basis!

I remember when John Ashcroft was hired as Attorney General in 2000. His confirmation fight was bitter. This was a man who was campaigning for reelection to the U.S. Senate when his opponent was killed in a tragic plane crash. Mr. Ashcroft immediately pulled all his advertising off of the air, refusing to campaign. The election was running 50-50 before the crash and afterwards. He lost by a razor thin margin, and despite voting irregularities, he showed significantly more class than the long since discredited democratic presidential nominee. Mr. Ashcroft refused to contest the results.

Mr. Ashcroft, in retaliation for his graciousness, was the subject of a bitter confirmation fight for Attorney General. This was because he is an Evangelical Christian, aka a religious man. When asked what he would do if his religious beliefs ever conflicted with upholding the law, he responded, “I would resign.” How much more honorable can a man be? That is the epitome of being principled. He was not going to impose his will on anybody else, but he was not going to be imposed upon unfairly either. It was sheer bigotry to suggest that a man whose beliefs are grounded in religious law cannot also uphold American law, especially since American law was founded on religious law. The founding fathers were religious, and deists were Christians through and through.

Christians are not the only religion under assault. Despite everything the Jewish people have been through, religious Judaism is being attacked. Ironically enough, much of this attack is coming from other Jews.

I have had the pleasure of having friends that belong to an organization known as Chabad. Chabad has been referred to as “ultra-Orthodox.” This is the same kind of sneaky slur that is used when political conservatives are referred to as “ultra-Conservative.” It is an attempt to imply that these people are extremists.

I have been to Chabad many times, and all they have ever done is welcomed me into their homes, offered me nice sabbath meals, ask me how my life was going, and ask me if there was anything they could do to help. Once, when I was financially strapped, they gave me a loan, which I repaid. Sure, they ask me for donations, but what organization doesn’t?

The point is that at no time have these so called “extremists,” ever demanded that I live my life the way they live theirs. Sure, when I am in their home, I obey the Chabad doctrines, but that is the polite way to respect anybody’s home. They do not ask me how I live my life in my home. Would they like that I be more religious? Sure. Have they ever given me an ultimatum that failing to do so would bar me from the religious community? Absolutely not, not one time.

Chabad runs a drug treatment center, and it has gotten many people clean and sober. These people were not all Jews. They were just people who needed help, which is exactly what religious organizations are supposed to do.

The reason why many people have a hostility towards God and religion is because it forces people to take introspective looks inside themselves, knowing they might not always like what they see. It is easier to ask a religion to change its entire doctrine than to change one’s own bad habits.

One fellow who always understood this was Pope John Paul II. Catholics were often angry that the Pope did not become more progressive, that he did not bend with the times, and adopt fresher standards. As Rush Limbaugh points out, the Pope’s response was basically that as the Church, “We are the standard. It is you who have to change. We are not going to change so people feel better about their own sin.”

Islam is also under the microscope. I believe that Radical Islam is a scourge on humanity, and should be destroyed. I also believe that true followers of Islam, many of whom I happen to personally know, despise the Islamists. Islamists have tried to hijack Islam in the same way they hijacked airplanes. The 9/11 hijackers were not religious men. They gambled in casinos, slept with prostitutes, engaged in drug running and gun running, and other anti-religious behavior. I personally doubt they fasted on Ramadan or prayed five times per day. The Koran respects Jews as “the people of the book,” and no honest observer of Islam hates Jews or Christians. When the towers went down, decent Muslims everywhere were horrified, and angry that people pretending to follow their religion committed such atrocities.

There is a lot of suffering in this world, and much of it is unavoidable. What matters is that we care about people and try to improve the world. There are so many Rabbis, Priests, Reverends, and Imams who want to do good deeds. We should support them instead of fighting them. Religion teaches people not to murder, steal, or commit adultery. It instructs us to honor our parents. People who obey these rules are simply better human beings than those who do not.

Rather than attack religious people, let’s embrace them and accept their help. Rather than burn bridges, we should build them. I can think of a bridge in Minnesota we can all start with. It will not be easy, but with the help of God, and good people everywhere who follow his teachings, it will be rebuilt, and it will be worth it.


16 Responses to “Despite Human Suffering, I still believe in God”

  1. The antisocialist urges readers not to be mislead by Black Tygrrrr’s inaccurate closing statements. When, in 1787, the Constitution was being drafted, among the fifty-five who drafted it, there were a large number who were extraordinarily religious – protestant, specifically, who if they’d had their way would would have excluded Catholics, et al, from holding governmental posts – but the best theoreticians among our founding fathers, whatever their personal views (and there were those routinely denounced as atheists during the debates), were vehemently against any religion in the Constitution. These men were fought against tooth and nail by the religious, but these men – “secularists,” as they were called, pejoratively, by the religious enemies – won. They won because of their unwavering belief in reason. And their ability to reason.

    In Moral Minority, author Brooke Allen documents in detail that the main Founders – mean like John Calhoun, James Madison, George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jeffereson – were all “skeptical men of the Enlightenment who questioned each and every received idea they had been taught.”

    Jefferson edited a version of the New Testament, removing all references to miracles or supernatural occurrences. Washington edited all references to Jesus in the presidential addresses written by others for him. Franklin and Adams both questioned Jesus’s divinity. Madison expressed strong disapproval over the appointment of chaplains to the Congress and the armed forces. This is only the beginning.

    When asked why there was no mention of God in the Constitution, Hamilton answered wryly: “We forgot.”

    If you’re interested, the antisocialist urges this:

    Also a history book called The Godless Constitution, by Issac Krammnick and R. Laurence Moore, both of Princeton University, demolishes in detail the notion that America is a Christian or even a religious nation.

    None of which, understand, is motivated by a private ax to grind against Christianity qua Christianity; it is, rather, motivated by the antisocialist’s love of freedom: the freedom of each and every, and the absolute right of the individual to choose how he or she wants to live, whether moral or not. Please remember that everything from Sunday laws to censorship laws to religion in public school laws (including teaching of creationism as science) to anti-abortion laws to illegalizing gambling, or prostitution, or marijuana, to proposed gays in the military legislation to outlawing gay marriage to laws about what you may legally do in your own bedroom with your wife or husband to many, many other things as well are all born out of the misbegotten notion that the United States was meant to be a Christian nation.

    The principle of individual rights is the foundational principle of the United States.

    This means that every person can rightfully live however he or she wants, religious or not, as long as he or she does not infringe upon the rights of another in so doing. Government’s only function is to protect that right.

    That is all.

    It does not mean morality, of any kind, can legally be legislated into the lives of Americans. Anyone interested in American politics should learn this fact first and foremost before he or she goes on to learn anything else.

    Ignorance of individual rights is eroding the principle that this country once stood for. And as a wise woman once put it: “The concept of rights is such a profound intellectual achievement that few people today grasp it in its entirety.”

  2. GeorgeH says:

    I believe in God.
    I just don’t believe he is moral or trustworthy enough to be in my neighborhood.

  3. micky2 says:

    Antisocialist said;
    Also a history book called The Godless Constitution, by Issac Krammnick and R. Laurence Moore, both of Princeton University, demolishes in detail the notion that America is a Christian or even a religious nation.

    How can this even come close to being true ?

  4. sexualtrex says:

    I got your message from the other day and linked to your website. I’d appreciate it if you could do the same for me. Thanks.

  5. Gayle says:

    You’ve written a great post hear, Eric, and it’s absolutely true. I’m quite happy that I live in the South. The town where I go to church is quite small, but there are an abundance of churches. You can’t drive five miles anywhere around here without spotting two or three churches alongside the road. Christianity is not anywhere dead in the south, thanks be to God!

    Blessings. Keep up the great work!

  6. cranky says:

    Good post and very thought provoking. Personnaly, I feel a physical pain when someone takes the Lord’s name in vain. I lower my head and say a prayer. I have never felt that I needed to impose my religious views on others. At the same time I will not allow myself to be bullied non-believers with their beliefs. What is it that non-believers are so afraid to hear?

    If I live my life in accordance with the Commandments, how am I hurting others?

  7. micky2 says:

    It just blows my mind when people like antisocialist place a post that is bogged down in history that is selectively pursued just to fit some agenda, I honestly dont know what it is, other than to nit pick at maybe some fact that someone got wrong.

    Antisocialist, no matter what you say or think, America is a very religious and/or Christian country. And there is the First Amendment
    The morals we have in our society were not derived and handed down by cavemen.
    They were brought about by centuries of masses adhering to Gods wishs and the ten commandments.
    When the constitution and bill of rights were written, our fore fathers new damn well that the population consisted mostly of Christians. And whatever laws were written should be consistent with the feelings and beliefs and morals of those people.

    On the other side of the spectrum , you should take into account the population that exists in this country today. This is 2007 , not 1787. And as it stands there is a movement taking place to alienate those that wish to worship their God, because they dont adhere to the collective mindset of those that have more faith in global warming than ten basic rules.
    We are not alienating them because they choose not to worship, they are alienating us because we choose to worship. Plain and simple.

    I think you entirely miss the authors point.
    Life is rough , but it does not diminish my faith.

    You can find more assholes outside of the church than you can in it, got it ?

  8. David Baker says:

    The darkness hates the LIGHT, so they try to extinguish in any way they can. Fortunately, living in darkness does not promote good sense, and living in the LIGHT allows us to see right through B.S. Too, misery loves company, and when non believers see believers happily following their CREATOR’s laws (which naturally leads to success, when the darkness is not allowed to persecute us too much. But, even then, when we think of where we will be in 10,000 years, and how much time we have left there, what could be wrong, other than trying to bring others into the LIGHT?). Eternity is a long, long, long time.

  9. Hello micky2. You certainly needn’t take my word for it: if you think mine is a “selective persuit” of history, I challenge you to take a closer look into the issue. Start by glancing at the link I posted above. Or better yet read a book like The Godless Constitution, or Moral Minority, or any number of others. These are mainstream history books, carefully documented and easily verifiable, without an agenda, unless, of course, you call the straightforward presentation of facts an agenda, and I have a feeling you might. “But the blessed don’t care what angle they’re regarded from, having nothing to hide.” Prove me wrong, instead of casting vulgar aspersions. Explain to me why the word “God” doesn’t appear in the Constitution. This will, however, require actually reading some American history, and there’s always the risk then of getting “bogged down” in pesky facts.

    Have you ever heard of Roger Williams? He was an extremely devout Baptist instrumental in getting religion separate from government. Here is a quick quote about him from Seacoast Online, a religious history website:

    “Baptists in America can trace their history back to Roger Williams. A separatist from England, Williams believed the civil government should not interfere with a person’s ‘soul-liberty.’ He was the first to use the phrase ‘wall of separation’ in relation to civil and religious matters. The Baptist Church in New Hampshire was one of the organizations that pushed for disestablishment of religion in the state, resulting in the Toleration Act of 1819.”

    If you call this selective citing, we’re at a definite impasse. We’re at an impasse anyway, but even more so then. Incidentally, just because a person believes in the separation of church and state, doesn’t mean that that person is not devout in his private life. It simply means that he thinks government should not be involved in private religious matters. Do you think government should be?

    In any case, the principle of rights is incompatible with theocracy, and that is why we do not live in a theocracy. We live in a republic, where the right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness are absolute and inalienable. All the wishful thinking in the world will not make this historical fact go away. I’m very sorry.

  10. micky2 says:

    Antisocialist, You may be more educated than I am, but I am smarter than you. You are clearly at an intellectual disadvantage if you expect me or anyone besides your friends to believe you. The quote below is a perfect example of someone with an agenda.
    This a perfect example of selection with bias;
    “Also a history book called The Godless Constitution, by Issac Krammnick and R. Laurence Moore, both of Princeton University, demolishes in detail the notion that America is a Christian or even a religious nation.”

    Your description alone makes it clear crap. Some of Jules Vernes’ writtings are historical, but fiction.
    I would dare you to walk out on the street in America and talk to people and prove this ” history book to be true”, but you would probably end up in some agnostic professors office. at UCLA or some ulta left campus.
    Take a look at the first item in the first amendment.

    One day ou may be down on your luck, and it will more than likely be a faith based organization that will put you back on your feet.

    You said;
    “It simply means that he thinks government should not be involved in private religious matters. Do you think government should be? ”

    Not at all, but if you try to convince me that religion does not play a role in our country or goverment, you seriously in need of getting in touch.
    Spiritual influences have more to do with our goverment than you think or you would like to realize. Although I do not believe this should be the case. Most of our presidential candidates have admitted that spirituality has played a role in the foundation of morals which apply to their decision making. It should be nothing but common decency that stands behind a politicians decision making .
    Fortunatly a lot of that common decency comes from people with spiritual backgrounds and the inlluence it had on them.

    “Prove me wrong, instead of casting vulgar aspersions”

    The real vulgarity here is that you have tried to somehow make the authors point one of deception. When all he is saying is that we should respect those that worship as much as those that dont. And that we should not allow people like you to demean the importance of faith based institutions in our country.
    I work with alcoholics and addicts on a regular basis and know for a fact that these institutions offer more help in America to more in need than any other facet besides the goverment, and that they take a huge part of that burden off the hands of our goverment. And so the goverment in return offers tax exemptions and and incentives for faith based organizations, period. This is a classic example of our goverment working “WITH” faith based organizations and the influence they have on our society.

  11. The antisocialist, as his name implies, is the biggest enemy of the left you’ll ever come across, micky2 – ever in your life. Glance at his website and you’ll see just how devoted he is to fighting these leftist liberal statist pigs, whom he loathes with all his heart and soul. In fact, he loathes the left about as much as he loathes the right , and for the exact same reasons: they are two sides to the same coin, and both ignore the absolute primacy of individual rights. For you to assume that he’ll wind up polling in a liberal institution is, to anyone even passingly familiar with the antisocialist’s politics, crazy, fatuous, unthinkable, unimaginable, impossible. And it tells us much about you.

    But, listen, the antisocialist does not wish to turn this comment box into a debating forum, and he apologizes to Eric for posting this much. Anyway, as you astutely point out, you’re much smarter than the antisocialist is. Mainly, micky2, he’s writing this one final comment to ask: may the antisocialist quote all your comments on his pro-freedom site, in an article he’s planning about one week from now? You can be very sure that he won’t change a word of what you’ve written – in fact, that’s critical to him. He will even take you up on your challenge, and also he’ll be able to answer all your comments in greater detail.

    Thank you very, very sincerely.

  12. micky2 says:

    Be my guest.
    But ,include this quote if you feel it is necessary.

    Why is it that you seem to fail to reckognize the validation, impact , importance and role that religion has played in constructing the morals and ethics and codes of conduct in this country? And its overwhelming role in our society today as it obviously plays a huge role in the ideals, ethics and morals of our goverment ?
    And why do you speek of yourself in the third person ?

  13. arclightzero says:

    I’m with Micky on this one… Not just in my wondering about the speaking in third person thing, but in the sense that I don’t think that it’s necessary or wise to separate the people from God.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I am hardly a religious person, although I do consider myself rather “spiritual” in the sense that I believe that there is something bigger and better out there and that there is more than likely something more than just this mortal life on Earth.

    With that said… I am a firm believer that our country was not designed to be godless. Quite the contrary, I think that it was designed to be a country with the absolute freedom to believe in God. The idea of a separation of church and state, as far as I interpret it, was intended to prevent the government from ever telling the people that a religion is right or wrong and to keep the government from every becoming a theocratic state. I do not think the intention was to keep children from praying in school so much as it was to keep the school from leading prayers or telling children what is the right or wrong religion. This current nanny state interpretation of the separation of church and state is a bunch of crap, although admittedly I take a very libertarian view on religion and government so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

    People need God. Beyond religion, God represents a myriad of things to people. Whereas I don’t believe that government should have their fingers in it, on that same line is the fact that government should never be involved in limiting it either. If God represents something good to people (as Eric has certainly demonstrated here), then that is wonderful. With everything going on these days, maybe we all need some good in our lives. The idea of God is around us everywhere we turn, even in our own government. For what it’s worth. morals and values are deeply rooted in right and wrong which is tied into God and religion in its own right.

    All in all, I firmly believe that we can have separation of church and state while still maintaining God’s presence in this country. It’s all a matter of interpretation, so I guess that makes this simply nothing more than my opinion.

  14. Mel Steffor says:

    I don’t believe that all churches have an interest in doing good. Yes, Jesus is about all good things. Some churches in others countries are training grounds for hate against other nations. I think they have false prophets. Then the history of the Catholic Church has nothing to be proud of either. I think God stands outside of all Churchs. Mel

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