I don’t remember how old I was when I developed the dead babies problem. I think it was in early high school but it may have been middle school. The dead babies problem goes something like this:
Person 1: If you don’t accept Jesus and get baptized, you will go to Hell.
Me: What if you weren’t here to tell me that? What if I never got that word?
Person 1: That’s why Christians have to tell everyone. That’s why we proselytize and evangelize.
Me: What if I never met a Christian? What if I lived in some country where there were no Christians?
Person 1: Well, that’s a pretty evil place and you need to get out of there.
Me: What if I’m just a small child or a baby? Dying in some poor rural area of some 3rd world country with no Christians in it? I’m going to Hell.
Person 1: Um…..
Me: That’s doesn’t really sound like this “all powerful” and ” universally loving” God/Jesus person you keep telling me about.
And thus was born the dead babies problem as my teenage mind construed it. I’ve since had umpteen Christian recruiters, ministers, and preachers quote Bible versus and spin logic loops at me to try and explain this. But in the end, all semi-tehologically-conservative Christians/Muslims/Jews/Mormons/Buddhists, etc. think that my everlasting salvation/blessing/well-being hinges on the chances of my being contacted by one of their people and having the freedom and capacity to take them up on their offer to join them.
Eventually this led to my realization that whatever happens to people, whatever God/god/gods/goddesses there are that make whatever rules for divine favor…..they must be universal if they are to truly be all powerful and be “the” right one. In other words, all the same rules have to apply to all the people without chance being involved. So this means one or more of the following are true:
- No religion claiming to have the “chosen” membership is right.
- All religions are right to some degree (i.e. religions of the world are all instruments in the same orchestra).
- Something universal (religious or not) happens when you die regardless of who you are or where you are.
I have chosen option 3 for the most part. The rules must be universal and can’t hinge on knowing or not knowing. Hence the importance of ethical practices like “doing the most good for the most people” are important to me. And whatever divine power exists – God, Goddess, Science, etc there must be only one. You can’t have an “all powerful” who plays favorites, that makes the All Powerful sound petty and less powerful. So the divine must also be unknowable (put not un-observable per se) and singular even if that all powerful is just the Laws of Physics. So theologically, I was an agnostic Unitarian Universalist before I ever even heard those words.
There it was on my Facebook wall. A post from a friend the night of the election proclaiming that they were “praying this election goes in God’s favor.” It was one of the most theologically oxymoronic things I had seen in awhile. Keep in mind this is the same friend who having lost their job a few months before had proclaimed it to be “all part of God’s plan.”
So if God has a plan, and God is the almighty, all-powerful deity that you believe him to be, why pray that things go God’s way? Won’t God just do them the way he wants to? This is one of the many confusing things of popular Christianity that makes my head hurt in observing it. Either God has a plan or God answers prayers. Am I to believe that God sometimes changes his plans based on prayers? If so, it would seem rather arbitrary as to when he chooses to change his plans. I can already hear my pop Christian friends say “But that is the mystery of God that we can’t comprehend.”
Unless you are a Chicago Cubs fan. Cubs fans get the mystery. The Cubs recent World Series win was the sort of thing that inspires legends and movies. Cubs fans around the world apparently prayed that this would be the year and God apparently heard those prayers. Apparently the Cleveland Indians fans just don’t pray enough.
I also have a similar reaction when people pray for one side to be victorious in war. Or if they claim God is on one army’s side and not another. Given his 10 most revered commandments include that one about not killing, it seems unlikely that he would suddenly grant a group of people a free pass. (Although he himself seems rather reliant on the act. Then again, what parent hasn’t said “do as I say, not as I do.”)
So what is prayer? What good is there in asking that the odds, no matter how slim, go in your favor when you also believe that everything that happens is the will of God and done for a specific reason? I’m afraid I don’t have an answer to that. It makes no sense to me. There is a side of me that wants to believe that your God may occasionally grant such miracles to the most deserving. But if such a thing did happen, that “most deserving” would be the saints and top 1% of believers. Your momentary humbleness in the midst of a largely immodest and unrepentant life, seems a bit much to ask. In fact, it seems your God would be more willing to grant such things to those too humble to ask themselves or too busy living out their Christian values to take that moment to ask.
The problem is that logic loop in which prayer exists. When you pray for something, say a pony for instance, and you get a pony, then you are convinced of God’s favoritism towards you. When your prayer isn’t answered, you say it is part of some master plan and not some form of punishment. After all, God only punishes your enemies and non-Christians.
Having not asked that your God’s plan be changed in this election, I missed my chance to evaluate my status with your God. I’m left to believe that Trump must be part of your God’s plan. Or maybe America is just being punished. Or maybe, your God has nothing to do with elections. Just baseball.