I’ve been thinking a lot about a discussion that resulted from a post I wrote last month. A very brief summary is this:
I asked: “I don’t understand how Jesus’ death has to do with me since it wasn’t my sacrifice to give. What’s my ‘action item’ here?”
A Catholic-turned-atheist responded: “Your action item is to attend Mass — which is like being at the Crucifixion — and receive the Perfect Lamb sacrificed to God the Father for our sins.” But he added that he is no longer a believer, in part because of questions like, “If Jesus loved us enough to suffer and die for us then why didn’t He love us enough to stick around and tell us about it? Why would He zip up to heaven after only 40 days?”
Ersza responded: “Why doesn’t Jesus go door to door? Because no matter how much proof we had, how many miracles, people will refuse to believe….Miracles are only a temporary proof, and fade away. What happens if you have a miracle today. Will you believe today? How about tomorrow? Do you need another miracle tomorrow? And the day after? No, that’s not how it works…If we base our faith on miracles and ‘proof’ then we have to believe he only loves the ones who get the ‘proof’ or we have to demand, like spoiled children, that each of us get the exact same amount of ‘proof’.” [This is an excerpt. I really encourage you to go read her whole answer, which is excellent.]
I’ve been thinking about the points that were brought up here quite a bit. My first thought when I read Anon’s question was that it’s a mystery. We don’t always understand the mind of the Creator. But, the more I thought about it, I realized that most of the “If God exists why doesn’t he do XYZ to prove it?” type questions are really not that much of a mystery. In every example I could think of, once I thought through it, it was clear why God did not do that.
Using myself from a few years ago as a test, I tried to think of what God could do to prove his existence to Old Jen. I realized that the only thing that would have cut it is if, say, on demand I could ask for something amazing. If, for example, I had said, “God, I’ll believe in you if I float up into the clouds right now!” and I had actually started levitating, it’s safe to say I would have believed. (For a couple years until I started second-guessing my memory, anyway.)
The other thing that would have been good is if I could have asked him to reveal to me some sort of knowledge that only God would know, like perhaps explaining some of the mysteries behind quantum physics.
But if God did this, if he indulged our requests that he act like a birthday party magician and do tricks for us on demand, each individual would have the powers and knowledge of God, accessible by the magic words, “God, I would believe in you if…”
After the whole floating in the clouds experience faded from my mind and I wrote it off as a sleep deprivation induced delusion, like Ersza predicts, I would start doubting again and demand something else. After I told myself that my subconscious just came up with those great insights on wave-particle duality because I’m a genius, I’d demand more knowledge to quench my doubts. I’d become like some supervillian from a sci-fi movie, wreaking havoc on the world as I grew more knowledgeable and powerful by controlling God with my doubts. I’d become more and more like God, but without the all-good nature.
Needless to say, this wouldn’t work. If God’s policy were to do whatever it takes to prove himself to each individual, he’d essentially become a slave to humans, moving heaven and earth depending on our whims.
And since he can’t go this route and become the tool of humans given his supreme and all-good nature, he has to draw the line somewhere. If he wants us to know him he would reveal just enough evidence and then step back and let us do what we will. And the more I look around the more I think that the evidence is all around us. It might not be exactly what I would choose, but it is enough.
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