Friday, July 15, 2016

Why does God let bad things happen to good people?

A woman complained to me the other day, "I have lived a good life. I try to do the right thing. I have made many sacrifices for my family and friends and yet bad things happen to me. My mother died last year from a heart attack at 63, and my brother who was only 32 was killed in a car accident 3 months ago, and now my best friend has breast cancer. I can't understand why God would do these things to me. I've stopped going to church because this whole religion thing seems so fraudulent. To be honest, I'm angry with God for taking these people from me. What kind of a God does such things?"

People who are functioning with this mindset are at what James Fowler describes as the third stage of faith, conventional. People in the conventional stage not only play by the rules, but they believe in the importance and significance of the rules. They believe in some code such as the ten commandments, the constitution, and/or some other ethical code.

Following the rules and believing in the rules provides a psychological and cognitive structure which binds anxiety in the individual and governs interactions with others. Rules make for a predictable and more secure context within which to live one's life. People who find these rules, and the structure rules provide, comforting and useful cannot understand how atheists and secular humanists can be good people and have good lives because they seem to be living without the rule book.

The woman who questions above believes that she has followed the rules and appears to believe that following the rules will prevent negative events. The fact that what she believes are negative events have occurred has created for her a crisis of belief. The God she has believed in she now thinks has failed to follow the rules. Her God has betrayed her and she withdraws her belief and commitment to him.

The woman's belief in the rules is a normal stage of faith development. She not only obeys the rules but she believes and upholds the existence of the code. It is a distressful realization that following the code does not guarantee what she perceives to be safety. Even further, she may realize that some of the rules are not just and appropriate. She has failed to recognize until now that her belief in the code is a social construction which is based on convention not on some divine revelation. Her belief in the divine revelation of the code is superstitious and magical. Hopefully she will come to realize that "God" did not allow her mother and brother to die or her friend to get breast cancer which threatens to take her friendship from her. These are events on the ego plane which God has no power over.

Hopefully, after her anger over her sense of divine betrayal dissipates she will come to understand that her belief in a God who distributes justice is childish. God knows nothing of justice, but only of love which Jesus taught and demonstrated over and over again. Something which, at this woman's stage of faith development, she was not able to grasp.

Humans create all kinds of ego drama which God knows nothing of because this drama is not of God. Humans have separated themselves from the love of God and develop all kinds of rules about how to protect themselves from their guilt and shame of doing so by appeasing what they unconsciously believe is a wrathful, vengeful creature. When their appeasing behavior doesn't appear to work, they become angry with that creature thinking he didn't keep his side of the bargain.

Out of this crisis of belief, comes a dawning realization that life is not governed by rules of convention. Doubt and questioning begins to emerge in the person's mind and they find that they are losing the faith that others have taught them. They no longer feel that they fit into the group of believers of which they have felt a part.

This doubt, this questioning, this rebellion is what Osho calls the first step on the spiritual path. The person starts to search for a faith of her own and is no longer willing to just accept the rules she has been taught by others. What, if anything, do you think authority figures have told you that isn't true? Do you think they really believe what they are teaching themselves? If you don't believe what they are teaching is true, then how do you proceed?

I replied to the woman above who asked, "'What kind of a God does such things?' that's an excellent question. What ideas do you have about that?"

She said, "No God I can continue to believe in. I'm too angry at him."

I said, "Good! I'd be angry with him too if I were you. Your belief in him and his rules have really let you down. Once you have come to terms with your grief over your mother's and brother's deaths and your fear about your friend's illness, you can reflect and consider what you are learning from these very painful experiences about life. There are other ways of looking at and understanding these experiences if you are interested."

She said, "Maybe some other time. This is just not a good time for me."

I said, "Okay. When you are ready, if you want to talk more about these things, let me know."

"Thank you," she said.

"You're welcome," I replied.

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