Sunday, September 10, 2006

God knows how to be a scapegoat!

A letter to Pat Berger and the New York City atheists:

I was intrigued by the report on NPR (Weekend Edition Sunday, Sept. 10) that you responded to September 11 by embracing atheism. As you say, on the surface of things, it certainly would seem that such a tragedy could have been averted by a loving God, who would not want his creatures to suffer violent death. And, what could really seal the argument is the fact that the attack was implemented by religious extremists. Doesn’t that prove the point that God and religion are our worst enemy?

It must be evident from my wording that I’m not entirely with you in your conclusion, although I’ve had my moments of yelling at God and cursing some of his followers. I would be more convinced by your position were it not tied to September 11th, because it is not clear to me that this was the worst of tragedies—many saw God in the generosity of people’s response to it—or that it was unavoidable.

Oh, I’m not talking here about the Clinton administration or the FBI or anybody like that. I’m talking more about the policies by government and by the international business community that have exacerbated the growing rift between rich and poor, powerful and powerless in today’s world. It’s not a simple equation by any means. You could start with the First World War and the way the Middle East was carved up without regard to the various peoples living there, leaving the Palestinians, for example, in an ambiguous state. This war led to the Second War, which saw the culmination of a century of persecution of the Jews, and ended with their finding a homeland at long last, but which also saw the beginning of strife between Israelis and Palestinians.

As if the colonialism that reached its zenith after the First World War weren’t enough, the United States, having gotten its new molars in that war, proceeded to become the new colonial power, its companies reaching out to rape the rest of the world. How many thousands have died in our wars in Vietnam and Cambodia, and now, Iraq and Afghanistan?

Would any of this NOT have taken place had we all been atheist, as you would have it be? Somehow, I don’t think so. It looks to me like all those evil traits are present in all of us, much as we’d like to think they weren’t. Would the Palestinians be any less angry if they were not Sunni Muslims? Would the Jews be any less protective of their turf if they were Jews in culture only? Would the Shiites lie down and roll over in Iraq if they suddenly gave up on Allah? Or skip on up to Ireland. Would the IRA have no further beef with the North if its constituents were no longer Catholic?

Unfortunately, some of us still respond to injury with revenge, as did El Qaeda at 9/11. This response is not one sanctioned by the world’s established religions, and Muslims, Jews, and Christians all decry these actions as antithetical to their core beliefs. The Christian “Father, forgive them” could be echoed by the mainline of any of these faiths. Forgiveness, however, is more than you can really expect of someone who’s hurt; more than you’d probably get from the general run of us, even if we were all completely free of religion.

We have to repent for those of our religious numbers who misconstrue the teachings of their leaders to condone violence and vengeance. And it works both ways. Mao Zedong and Stalin, both atheists, had tens of thousands of people killed in the name of Communism. Yet, today one would still have to say that some good was accomplished by the Communist Revolution. A communist of today’s Russia might have to dissociate herself from the sins of those fathers, blaming them on the mentality of the individuals concerned rather than on the validity of the movement itself.

I agree with you, that it is hard to reconcile the existence of evil with the concept of a good God. In fact, it is hard to accept evil, period. We are all tempted to look for scapegoats, and what better scapegoat than God’s Self?

But, to tell you the truth, as one who knows God somewhat, Scapegoat is a role God is quite accustomed to.