God and Religion

My Search for Rationale

Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, all said to be "an act of God" because they are beyond man's control. These catastrophes often result in the mass killing of innocent lives, including babies who are too young to have committed any sin. So does "an act of God" also imply that these tragedies are sanctioned by God who has the power to prevent them but does not? How is this to be reconciled with a Creator that is the epitome of all that is good?

Ancient man resolved this dilemma by assuming that there were many gods, some evil and some good. Lacking any scientific evidence as to why natural disasters occurred, it is understandable that they be attributed to supernatural sources, since this provided an "explanation" for what was being observed. And so gifts were given to the good gods as a way of thanking them, and various rituals were performed to ward off the powers of the evil gods. (In some extreme cases, lives were sacrificed in the hope of meeting an evil gods death quota, thereby preventing the need for whatever natural catastrophe that particular god controlled.) But this religious approach eventually resulted in a hierarchy of hundreds of gods, each with their own domain and methods of appeasement. The situation became so confusing that specialists arose whose sole purpose was to sort out the proper rituals to be used in any particular situation. Then, gradually, as a way of simplifying this complex array of religious practices and beliefs, a new belief began to appear and became almost universally accepted. It was the belief that there was only one god, and that this god represented all that was good, and who triumphed over all that was evil..

The one-god approach simplified religion and eliminated many horrific rituals, even though it led to major disagreements over the embodiment of God on earth and some of the remaining rituals and beliefs to be followed. But the one-god approach also created some new dilemmas. For example, how can both good and evil events be associated with one god? And if God created man, why does He continually create new means (viruses and bacteria, for example) of destroying man? Plus, if God directly created all life in its final form, why do we see the continual evolution of various life forms? Why did He not create these new life forms in the first place? Which leads to the broader question: Just what did God create in the first place?

What if God did not create everything from stars to life forms directly, but instead created something much more basic. What if God created a few basic elements (electrons, protons, neutrons, etc.) each with its own unique set of magnetic, electric, and gravitational properties. And what if these properties were such that it caused these basic elements to combine into increasingly complex forms, including stars and life itself, without any further input from their Creator.* The net result would then be the evolution of life on our planet that is consistent with experimental observation. Furthermore, it would explain why bad things happen to good and innocent people: God has the power to intervene in all events, but in His infinite wisdom has chosen not to.

This line of reasoning has an important consequence, however. If God has chosen not to intervene in any event, then seeking His help for personal reasons or to alter a sequence of events will be in vain. Sadly, prayers to save a loved one will also be of no use. But even if this is so, nothing precludes our giving thanks in our prayers to all the wonderful things that we do have. And we can do so without knowing how we got here.

It is interesting to note that this line of reasoning produces the same present-day status quo that would result if it is assumed that basic elements in the universe were always here ( not created by God), and evolved into more complex forms in accordance with their inherent properties. Which raises the question: If God created the universe, and if God was not created but has existed forever, is it any less presumptuous to assume that the universe has existed forever? There is also the question: If we don't know how life was created, does it automatically mean, by default, that it was created by God, or does it simply mean that we don't know at this time how life was created? Early man attributed earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters to be the works of gods; but today these events can be explained by scientific means. So is it rational to attribute unexplainable events to a Super Power of unexplainable origin?

In the final analysis, it seems that either:
a) An everlasting God created the universe (either directly or by creating basic building blocks that combined to make the universe), but at some point choose to let it free run and evolve on its own without further input from its Creator.
b) An everlasting universe continuously evolves in accordance with the inherent properties of basic building blocks that make up all matter.

One final thought. The belief that there is a God who will come to your aid when you are in need of help is of tremendous importance. It can lead to a better life, and cure ills that are beyond the limits of science. The important issue is not whether there is such a God, or what His mode of operation is, but that you believe that He exists and will do right by you. And this source of power is within each of us.

* This concept does not preclude the possibility that God may occasionally create an emissary on Earth (Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, for example) for a specific purpose.