"Where Was God?" For Aurora, the Question Shouldn't Matter August 07, 2012 17:52 5 Comments

The massacre in Aurora, Colorado a few weeks back has given life to a number of important conversations, but most of them are being held between two sides that will never come to a decent conclusion.  The most obvious one is gun-control - the debate cut quickly to the heart of the Second Amendment as vitriolic demagogues for both sides of the issue attempted to read the minds of men born almost 300 years ago.  Talking heads for 24-hour news networks pick and pry into the mind of a man who could commit such atrocities while others argue that this evil person should not be given the media attention he surely desires.  And the religious mouthpieces of the world's faiths scramble to answer a question on the lips of many - where was god on July 17th? What was he doing?

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="640"] Twelve crosses comprise a makeshift memorial near the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater. Source: CNN[/caption]

Now, it would be entirely characteristic for the news blog of an atheist site to fall in step with this line of questioning - if you browsed most corners of the internet where the question was raised or where attempts to answer it were being made, you'd find a seemingly endless deluge of comments and rants from the nonbelievers of the internet.  And that's fine - the internet seems to be our place.  As we have no church, no real face, no spokesman to appear on Fox News and respond to these postulations (as if such a person would be allowed to even open his or her mouth on Fox News).

But I really don't think it's fair to do so.  And I certainly don't think it's fair for simple human beings, no matter what connection they believe they have with their god, to be tasked with answering such a horrific question.  Many have tried their best to say something on the subject, but I can't help but feel its a mistake to do so.  Obviously, there's the evident danger of stirring the hornets' nest; the sting of a thousand comments from Atheists and Agnostics is the only conclusion when one hops online, says something akin to "God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and willing and able to intervene in human events, but because of Satan and free will and natural law, oops, sometimes his plans go awry."  These people are willingly opening themselves up to genuine questions concerning this "god" and his seemingly random behavior; questions that are only ever answered circuitously.

But there's also the danger of forgetting why they feel the need to make such statements at all.  People were murdered, gunned down in a senseless act of cruelty, cowardice, and madness.  Hundreds of thousands who have placed their faith, their routine, their lives into the hands of what they've been indoctrinated into thinking is a merciful, loving entity that somehow helps you find your car keys when you're running late or guided the hand of the surgeon who removed their appendix hit a brick wall when struck by what, for lack of a better term, was a force of evil.  They cried out "why!?"  They cried out, wondering where that benevolent maker was, not as shots were being fired, not as paramedics scrambled to help, but minutes, hours, days before a madman attacked innocents.  The attempts of men and women with no greater connection to the spiritual forces that may or may not exist to explain this deity's absence, to claim that god was working through Christian Bale as he visited the hospitalized, belittles those who we've lost.  It negates the fact that these were human beings, the same as us all.  Sons and daughters lost parents, girlfriends lost boyfriends, a person lost another person whom they loved.  No amount of postulating on the location of God, whether or not it exists, is a comfort.  Really, just save your breath for five minutes before performing damage control for the institution you so desperately cling to when the world stops making sense.

If you are a non-believer, however, I urge you to refrain from asking this question when tragedy strikes, at least until the dust has settled and people have been helped.  The desire to use the evils of the world as a platform to spread a godless ideology should be ignored – it smacks of apathy, of an inability to recognize human tragedy and suffering, and paints us to be the moral-less heathens that we are seen as.  Any true humanist who really understands that this is the only life we get should not let their first impulse in the face of catastrophe be to attack the institutions that may be giving those grieving hope and comfort, no matter how much we feel we are in the right.  The debate as to where god was during a disaster can wait.

by Kyle Van Son, 08/06/2012