As noted in previous blogs, none of these comments are intended to suggest that Atheist views are correct or that Christian views are correct on key issues.
I strongly believe people need to find those beliefs that are most meaningful to them and to cultivate a deeper understanding of those views with as much sincerity, integrity, love, and creativity as possible.
For Christians and Atheists to debate one another as though one side is correct and the other is mistaken somehow misses the point. The flaws in the foundation arguments of both sides are serious enough that it is unlikely either side will ever prove to be more than partially right.
Instead of debating, what I feel will be helpful is an attempt to fully understand not only the concepts the other side has, but to understand the deeply rooted life experiences that led a person to the beliefs they feel are true.
Towards this end, please let me offer these thoughts.
Traditional Christian teachings state that God is love and that creation is the result of God’s outpouring of love. In short God created Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. Everything was great until Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command to not eat the apple.
Christianity teaches the violence, suffering, illness, and death all mortals experience were set in motion because humans disobeyed God’s law as revealed first in the Old Testament and then in the New Testament.
Evolution shows this is not the case.
Species war with one another often to the death. Also members of many species wage battles within the species often to the death.
Furthermore, the members of many species can only live if they hunt and successfully kill the members of other species which they then eat.
Disease occurs because our ultra-complex bodies are prone to bacterial or viral attack or we suffer from random accidents or natural disasters etc.
In short the violence and suffering in the animal and insect kingdoms are simply part of nature. They are as much a part of creation as beautiful sunsets. So if God created nature then…..God created the “kill-or-be-killed”, “eat-or-be eaten” violent conflicts of nature.
If a baby is born with birth defects and dies after a few painful moments, days, or years this is not because of human failings. A problem or mutation in the genetic sequence caused the baby to be so badly deformed it could not survive even with heroic efforts of many highly trained and dedicated professionals.
If someone later in life develops a mental illness such as paranoid schizophrenia or crippling bi-polar swings, this is not because Adam and Eve ate the apple. It is because a mutation in the genetic sequence caused the brain to badly malfunction in a way that causes terrible suffering.
Still Christians say “God created human life as an act of perfect love.” Many Christians who at least accept evolution say that, “God created evolution.” But evolution shows that many members of many species are simply born to weak to compete in the struggle for life and they struggle, suffer, and die. Where is the love that creates suffering infants who die days after death shattering the dreams of parents?
Yet still even liberal believers continue to sing “Morning has broken like the first morning…”
Still highly educated Catholic intellectuals wax poetic about “Creation being loved into existence.”
Go and see babies dying in the Natal ICU.
Listen to the tormented fears of the seriously mentally ill.
Watch as tigers kill young gazelles and rip the flesh off their bones so that their tiger cubs can have something to eat.
Tell me how you can reconcile these clear unmistakable phenomena with the notion that God is love and God created life on earth out of an act of supreme love.
But what Atheists miss are the moments when, as experienced by at least some believers, a person feels the movement of divine life and grace transforming their interior experience and changing their life in meaningful ways.
What Atheists miss is the sublime creativity that arises from a life time of receiving sacraments with an open and loving heart and mind. Calling such experiences merely the firing of neurons in odd ways is the kind of comment made by someone who has never had these kinds of experience.
Still, how can Jews, Christians, and Muslims possibly respond to the core challenge represented by the evolutionary biologist’s objective look at the reality of life in the animal, plant, insect, viral, and bacterial kingdom?
If God does exist, it seems we need to search for deeper understanding of the relationship between divine life and raw, violent, often terrifying suffering of creatures.
Please feel free to weigh in. All constructive comments will be posted.
Will Raymond Author of “The Simple Path of Holiness” an host of MeditationPractice.com