God’s Megaphone?

from his book, The Problem Of Pain

Does the Christian God use pain to draw people to himself? Assuming for a moment that such a God exists, does he use human suffering to make followers for himself?

There is no evidence in the Bible to suggest he does. To be sure, the Bible has a fair amount to say about pain. It claims that suffering is a means by which God either chastens Christians (Hebrews 12.7) or strengthens them (Romans 5.3-5), but this is exclusively for people who already believe. The Bible does not say non-believers are afflicted as a means of drawing them closer to God; the idea is unbiblical.

Let’s assume then that while this notion finds no support in the bible, Christians have learnt over the centuries, perhaps though extra-biblical revelation, that God does use pain in this way. What does this tell us about God? That he’s a being whose principal way of making human beings pay attention to him is by causing (or allowing) them to suffer frequently unbearable pain and anguish.

What sort of God is this? Not one who loves the world and cares for humans far more than he does mere sparrows (Matthew 6.26). He’s more an unpleasant, sadistic bully: the jock who backs you up against the wall, grips your balls and squeezes hard.

Maybe that’s how it is. The God who created the universe is just such a being; a moral monster, as commenter koseighty puts it. It’s easy to see how he might be: human beings suffer, yet there’s (supposedly) a God who loves them; therefore pain and suffering must at the very least be sanctioned by God, or, more likely, delivered by him. This, after all, is the story of the Old Testament. The God so arrived at though is a thoroughly human creation, a means of minimising cognitive dissonance by reconciling human suffering and a God who supposedly cares.

One more assumption is needed. Let’s assume this time that despite the odds, this character really exists. Does his strategy work? Does inflicting pain and anguish on people make them, as Lewis suggests, cry out to the One doing (or allowing) the inflicting and compel them to love him? It seems unlikely; I can’t find any evidence online of anyone claiming that pain or anguish brought them to God. From a personal perspective, I can honestly say that in times of distress or suffering I have never, post-deconversion, called out to God or any supernatural entity for help. I’ve never interpreted my suffering as his calling me closer and have never, since escaping Christianity, succumbed to his malicious charms. (What I did do occasionally, following my deconversion, was to convince myself that my suffering was a punishment from God – for leaving him behind, being gay or something I’d done. These feelings disappeared when I embraced fully the fact that the Christian God isn’t real.)

Where does this leave the Christian with, as Lewis puts it, ‘the problem of pain’? How do they reconcile a loving God who allows or even causes human beings to suffer? They can’t. Instead they spout empty platitudes that they think let their indifferent, imaginary God off the hook. Just look at the meaningless theo-babble religious leaders came up with in 2004 after a tsunami hit Indonesia, killing 227,898 people.

Leave God out of the equation, however, and there are far better explanations for why humans suffer. ‘Shit happens’ is far more convincing than anything the religious have to offer. Physical pain is the body’s reaction to damage. It is an imperfect system that frequently overreacts or fires up even after damage is repaired (I know this having fibromyalgia). That’s what it is to have, to be, a physical body. Anguish comes from random acts of nature, the violence and cruelty we inflict on each other and the death of loved ones, much of which is beyond human control. ‘Thoughts and prayers’ are useless in ameliorating this kind of suffering. Measures to restrict people’s access to weapons undoubtedly helps, as it has in countries with politicians with sufficient strength and intelligence to enact gun-control legislation. Without it, as in Ulvalde recently, more children will die, more parents will experience terrible anguish and another massacre is inevitable. God won’t stop it.

Suffering is not symbolic of something else; it is not ‘God’s megaphone’ or an opportunity for others to point those afflicted to Christ’s light (or any other bullshit that involves the supernatural.) Pain simply is. It is our lot as physical bodies to endure or alleviate it as best we can.

6 thoughts on “God’s Megaphone?

  1. Please tell God, if you ever find his sorry ass, that his “plan” is not working. I live with unrelenting pain every waking hour, without relief. I have felt no I impulse, want, or desire to return to the faith once delivered to the saints. Of course, I could be a reprobate and Gods is using pain to punish me for “rejecting Jesus” — a precursor of what awaits me in the Lake of Fire 🔥 for eternity. 😂😂

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    • I’ll be sure to tell him, Bruce, when I’m standing before the throne of judgment if he ever shows himself, which of course he won’t, on account of his non-existence.

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  2. It makes sense when you realize that god personas are narcissistic at their base but psychopathic throughout the stories. This also makes sense that being a pastor is one of the leading jobs for narcissists. Christianity for one, love bombs children and teaches them god is love teaches them beautiful things about Jesus. Once you get older (still a child) and can understand more, they throw the chains of sin on you. You are taught you were born sick and in need of a healer. From then on throughout your life you are kept in a state of control and walking on eggshells hoping the things you do won’t get you cast out into the lake of fire. They use fear tactics to lure people in or times of lose, anguish, grief, depression and other low emotional points for humans to reel them in. I was a Christian for 34 years, I’ve been recovering since. I’ve researched for well over a decade the history of Christianity, history of the bible, history of the time of the bible, how it affects the mind, and psychology. In researching narcissism has uncovered so much for me as to why I was hooked for so long. Trauma unhealed, begets more trauma in oneself and others they influence.

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  3. I mentioned recently that life is a chemical process (or rather, a collection of chemical processes) and that it shouldn’t be surprising to find those processes arise in a universe full of chemicals.

    Since then we have this article:

    Scientists announce a breakthrough in determining life’s origin on Earth—and maybe Mars
    https://phys.org/news/2022-06-scientists-breakthrough-life-earthand-mars.html

    Scientists at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution announced today [6/3/2022] that ribonucleic acid (RNA), an analog of DNA that was likely the first genetic material for life, spontaneously forms on basalt lava glass. Such glass was abundant on Earth 4.35 billion years ago. Similar basalts of this antiquity survive on Mars today.

    . . .

    “The beauty of this model is its simplicity. It can be tested by highschoolers in chemistry class,” said Jan Špaček, who was not involved in this study but who develops instrument to detect alien genetic polymers on Mars. “Mix the ingredients, wait for a few days and detect the RNA.”

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    • Spot on. Even if this wasn’t the case, it wouldn’t follow that ‘God dun it’. Yet believers leap to this conclusion (also their premise) every time. It’s clear from the article that RNA and eventually life in some form, in some small pockets of the universe, is indeed inevitable.

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