Every person who is religious should consider asking themselves the three following questions: 

1.  If there is a God, why does he or she permit suffering? I think it is safe to assume that any decent person imagined themselves in the role of creator, they would  leave out war, disease and cruelties of all types. Why, then, do those with faith believe in a loving, benevolent God who created a world filled with evil? This is illustrated In Dostoevsky’s classic novel The Brothers Karamazov, in a passage where Ivan describes the fate of a young boy who inadvertently injures the paw of a nobleman’s dog by throwing a stone. The incensed nobleman seizes the child, has him stripped naked and killed by being torn apart by a pack of dogs.  “If God exists”, says Ivan, “how can this horror be accounted for?” In debating the existence of God and immortality, Ivan says to his brother, "It's not God that I don't accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return Him the ticket."

2.  If God created the world, then who created God? This is a classic question which small children inevitably ask when the concept of God is first explained to them. It remains unanswerable in adulthood.  The notion that God was created out of nothingness is simply another way of saying there is no intellectually satisfying response.

3.  Why are all the other religions false? Most religious people are particular, and believe in their faith specifically, to the exclusion of all others. Often this requires everyone else’s belief system as not merely wrong, but ludicrous. The world created in six days and all the animals saved in Noah’s Ark? It’s right there in Holy Scripture?  The four Vedas of Hinduism? I guess it must be mere primitive superstition dressed up as a religion, albeit one with about a billion adherents. The Book of Mormon? Don’t get me started. In Orwellian terms: Our Bible Good, Their Bible Not.

Most surveys show that regular church attendance and other expressions of formal religion have declined in recent years. This is typically reported as a sign of societal decline, reflective of an increasingly immoral modern culture. Maybe. But perhaps some people are simply choosing the return the ticket.


 


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