We got into a good discussion on humility and does God have a plan for our lives? and do we want Him to? and why does His "plan" include pain? It was very interesting.
Also, I wanted to show you all this blog entry by forgottenmachine on the topic of God letting evil things happen. I think it's an interesting discussion, and certainly one that's been on my mind while reading The Problem of Pain. Now, I have a hard time reconciling a loving God with the horrors of this earth, but I can sort of accept it. What I can't accept, however, is something like the tsunami. God gives us free will, we're evil, we hurt each other, fine, fine, I get it. But something like that, not caused by us, that wipes out hundreds of thousands of people, I absolutely cannot understand. God couldn't have intervened and stopped it without messing with our free will? Um, wrong. So the only viable alternative argument is that God wanted it to happen for a reason. I can't even imagine what that reason might be. And yes, it's true that God gives life and can take it away, and yes, maybe they're better off if they're somewhere happy, but still. Is anyone else seriously bothered by this?
And then I hear some Christian arguments that just make me angry, like:
"God let/made it happen because it's one of the signs of the end of the world."
"I don't know why it happened, but did you hear this great story about the [Christian family, pastor, church group, insert privileged group here] who was miraculously saved?"
I love this whole idea of God only looking out for certain people He created. I guess you could argue that Christians are the ones asking for His protection, but I don't like that argument. It's not a person's fault if they're praying to the wrong God (and isn't it incredibly arrogant of religions to assert their God over all others) or if they don't believe in God at all (can you blame them? I feel that there's a lot of evidence for the existence of God, but I can also see how someone wouldn't see that... and even so, it's not painfully obvious which God is the God.)
Which brings me to another piece of doctrine that makes me mad. Christianity is fairly exclusive, don't you think? I went to a Christian college briefly and one of my professors said that Christianity is extremely inclusive and extremely exclusive at the same time. Inclusive because anyone - regardless of background, class, race, sex - can accept Christ and be saved. Exclusive because... well, you have to accept Christ to be saved! And that's really what the religion comes down to. Catholics have that lovely baptism by desire doctrine, but for all of us Protestant folk, we just have to wake up every morning knowing (well, believing) that many, if not most, of the people we encounter during the day will spend an eternity burning in hell. Because they were child molesters and rapists? No, not necessarily. Because they were responsible for mass genocide?? Nah, don't have to be. All they have to be guilty of is choosing the wrong religion, or not choosing a religion at all. So if you grew up in a Hindu family, and you really don't know anything else, hate to break it to you but you're screwed royally. Same for all you Muslims, Buddhists... la de da. The list goes on.
And not to mention that Ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Africans, Native Americans, Anglo-Saxons, etc. who, according to the Bible, didn't even have the option to be saved until Christ came (salvation was only for the Jews back in the Old Testament days). And when Christ did come, did half of these people know about him? And how did many of them come to learn? Well, Christianity was preached to the Africans as they were enslaved, beaten, and raped. It was preached to the Native Americans as they were being killed and their land was being stripped from them. Is it really fair to expect these groups to adopt this new religion, considering the circumstances surrounding their "enlightenment"?
I once asked Mentor how a person can remain sane while believing that people of other faiths go to hell. He laughed at my choice of the word "sane." (Perhaps it implied that Christians are insane. I really hadn't even thought of that, and it's not what I meant, I swear!) I ask you all, how can a person remain sane while believing that?? Then he said that maybe God makes a way for people who haven't heard of Jesus to be saved anyway - something my mother likes to theorize about. Which is a possibility. I just don't like even saying that Jesus is the only way. I realize that's essential to the religion, but geez. It's so... I don't know, ethnocentric? Is that the right word when it comes to religion?
(Note: Just to clarify, the brand of Christianity I am constantly agitating against is that which I have been brought up with. I am aware that there are more liberal denominations out there. I just address my own because it's my background. If anyone wants to share more about their background, please do.)