Yesterday's post dealt with doubt and faith in a positive sense. I wasn't really satisfied with it. In fact, I wrote and rewrote it several times and edited it many more times. It's hard to say something when you don't exactly know what you are trying to say. I find myself a part of a cosmos - that is, and orderly, harmonious system - and in possession of a mind capable of analyzing it. Purpose or accident? Is there a grand mind behind it all or is it all just a lucky accident? I can't say for sure. But I hope.
Then last night before bed I was reading a book that contained many stories of people's lives and beliefs. I randomly turned to the story of a woman who survived the Holocaust. Telling her story many years later (the book was published in 1990), she told of how her faith in God was damaged by all she experienced and saw while imprisoned at Auschwitz. She said she tries to have faith in God but that it is difficult. She is haunted by the specter of evil.
The feeling that washed over me as I read, like black waves crashing against a crumbling shore, took me back to the troubling years when I first seriously allowed myself to question my youthful, faithful worldview. I began to read every book I could get my hands on concerning the problem of why God would allow so much suffering in the world. As if to underscore the doubts I was already experiencing back then, I met while in college a young lady - who became a close friend for many years before she moved away and out of my life - who, along with her two younger sisters and their baby brother, had been sexually and mentally abused by her father.
She used to tell me stories of the abuse. It was therapeutic for her. But for me, it further eroded my faith in an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God. The anger against a person I didn't know at all would burn inside me. But also, it burned towards a God who would part a sea in order to allow a bedraggled band of his chosen people to escape an angry Pharaoh and his army, but would do nothing to aide helpless little children. It made no sense to me.
I came into possession of The Pessimists' Guide to History, which collected account after account of "catastrophes, barbarities, massacres and mayhem" down through the centuries. I still have that book and dip into it every now and then in order to keep perspective. I am haunted by the specter of evil.
My thoughts about the possibility of a Supreme Mind behind the cosmos are conflicted because of the very real, very palpable existence of extreme evil therein. Both the beauty of the cosmos and the ugliness of aspects of it pull at me from opposite directions. I can sit here in the comfort of my home, situated in a relatively safe and secure land of plenty, and think "life is great." But when I lift my gaze beyond, it is more difficult to think that. At least that view tempers those feelings.
There seems to be no simple and certainly no completely satisfying answers. The problem of evil is real and it can be devastating.