An essay donated by Susan Humphreys
Mourning a loss. A time for reflection
I put my old dog down today.
She was born the year I moved into this house, August of 2000. She stopped eating yesterday and an X-ray at my Vet's office showed she had a massive stomach tumor. I have never had a Labrador live beyond 13 so I knew her time was coming. But it is still difficult to handle.
At times like this it makes me stop and think and reflect about what is and what isn’t, about where I am and where I am going, about the whys and the wherefores. At times like this I kind of wish there was a God, but I know in spite of what some claim that there isn’t and I can understand why some insist that there is. It would be comforting to know that I wasn’t alone, that there is sense in what often seems to be a nonsensical world. The age old question of why do we -- and in this case other critters that we love -- have to suffer pops into my head.
This question has spawned a whole field of theological study, Theodicy and a great number of thoughtful books. The first book I read was “When bad things happen to good people?” by Rabbi Harold Kushner. A more recent book for younger folk is “The Shack” by William P. Young. The answers both come up with for the question aren’t satisfactory for me. Nor are the answers the theologians propose any better. I wrote another essay about this for this web site quite a while back.
Yesterday the Syrian Peace talks got off to a very shaky start. There are more threats aimed at the upcoming Olympics in Russia. A student fired shots at another school. I am reminded of an old Simon and Garfunkel song, “Silent Night” that they wrote many years ago, the names and places have changed but not much else. People are still killing people.
This past week I have been following a web site “yearwithoutgod.com” and have joined in the online comments about the web site author's postings. I first heard about this on the “religiondispatches.org” web site with an essay entitled “Gambling with God: Ryan Bell’s Atheist Bet” by Linn Marie Tonstad. There were several other articles about this that can be found by googling “Ryan Bell”. Some proclaimed that he was leaving his job as a Seventh Day Adventist pastor and “trying on Atheism” or “living as an Atheist” for a year.
My first response was good grief, how does he think Atheists live that is so different from the way he has been living. In one of his posts he mentioned giving up prayer and not thanking God for everything. I wondered if he would also give up Fox news, and Christian talk radio and gospel and Christian rock programs and start watching the News Hour on PBS and listening to classical music. Would he start going to museums, and symphony concerts? That is what I do and I am an Atheist. What books would he read? Then I thought: shoot he doesn’t have to do any of this, or pretend to be an Atheist, to do all of these things that I do.
The discussions came around eventually as it seems is often the case to where a Christian asked us Atheists, “What if you are wrong?” This is the query of Pascal’s Wager. There are some interesting essays about this on this web site. You can also google “Pascal’s Wager” and find several web sites that explain the wager and the problems with it. So I won’t go into any more about this here.
One of the problems with the wager in my opinion, is that it is based on the assumption that either this Perfect God that is all knowing and seeing won’t be able to know if you are serious or not, whether you are simply “hedging your bets” AND that he won’t be insulted by your thinking that you can fool him!
I responded to the man who asked us “What if we are wrong?” with, IF we are wrong we are wrong. IF God is a Perfect Being either we will all be saved because he loves everyone equally or none will be saved. IF God isn’t a Perfect Being and has favorites, IF he hates homosexuals and wants to persecute them by denying them the right to marry the person they love, IF he wants to harm women by denying them access to contraceptive birth control, IF he thinks that only Christians are worthy of his love and that people that practice other religions or no religion are inferior and unworthy, IF he would want to keep us from learning about Science and History, human psychology and sociology, IF he demands blind obedience instead of our thoughtful self-determined actions, than quite honestly such a God isn’t worthy of being worshipped.
It would be better to spend an eternity in Hell with “good” people then in a Heaven with people that persecute others and try to claim they are simply doing “Gods Will”. And quite honestly if Buddha and Lao Tzu and Gandhi and a host of other great thinkers aren’t allowed in then Heaven is no place I would want to be.
YES it would be comforting at a time like this to know that “God is in his heaven and all is right with the world”. But I know that isn’t true, all is not right with the world. There is suffering and a great deal of it is caused by human inhumanity towards other humans, stupidity, greed, desire for control over others, fears and outright HATE of all of those that aren’t just like us. AND I know that my sorrows are nothing compared to those of others who have lost a child or of a child that has lost a parent or of a person who has suffered from a serious accident with resulting disabilities. But dog lovers will understand where I am at today.
It would be nice to think that I will meet my old mama dog again in heaven. If there was any reality to this idea I will be swamped when I get there. In my 63 years I have had many wonderful dogs and several cats, three horses and innumerable rabbits. How could I possibly hug all of them? AND I have suffered through each loss. AND I will suffer again.
I am not alone. I have friends that will offer comforting words when I tell them, AND I have two other dogs, the sons of the dog I just lost, and four cats. We are all stuck inside today, the temperature is still hovering around zero. One cat is already acting squirrelly, signs of cabin fever. Another keeps asking to go out and when I open the door he pokes his nose out and turns around and gives me a dirty look! In another few minutes he will go to another door and we will repeat the process. Sometimes I think he thinks that the weather will be nicer on the other side of the house! So life goes on, the good and the bad. That is just the way life is.
Fortunately, for most of us, the good times outweigh the bad.
- Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," Anchor, (2004). Available in Hardcover, Paperback, & Kindle formats. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
- William P. Young, "The Shack, Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity " Windblown Media, (2007). Available in Hardcover, Paperback, & Kindle formats. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
- G.W. Leibniz, "Theodicy," Echo Library, (2008). Available in Hardcover & Paperback. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
- John S. Feinberg, "The Many Faces of Evil: Theological Systems and the Problems of Evil," Crossway, (2004) Available in Paperback ($31 + postage), & Kindle ($8) formats. A good example how purchasing a Kindle reader will more than pay for itself over time.) Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
Originally posted: 2014-JAN-30
Latest update: 2014-JAN-30
Author: Susan Humphreys