Monday, February 21, 2005

Of Bill Maher and suffering and faith

Have you even thought about how an atheist arrives at the conclusion that there is no God?

It's funny--I had been thinking about this topic recently after reading the "testimony" of an atheist. Then at church yesterday, our choir sang a moving song about having faith in the midst of pain and suffering. And now, this morning, I'm confronted with a story about Bill Maher's appearance last week on MSNBC, in which he called religion "a neurological disorder."

Guesting on Scarborough Country, Maher called America "a nation that is unenlightened because of religion." He went on to compare the Bible's teachings to fairy tales: "When you were a kid and they were telling you whatever you believe in religion, do you think if they had switched the fairy tales that they read to you in bed with the Bible, you would know the difference?"

Maher agrees with Jesse Ventura that religion is a crutch for weak-minded people. If so, hand me the crutch. In today's society, with its pain, suffering, and downright ugliness, I need something to lean on.

I'm not sure if Maher would come right out and say he's an atheist, but he definitely spouts the party line.

Besides being extremely bothered by what they see as inconsistencies in the Bible, such as areas where they don't think the four gospel-writers got their stories straight enough, atheists can't reconcile a loving God with the suffering and injustices we see around us everywhere.

So-called Biblical inconsistencies don't trouble me, but if we're honest, I think we've all struggled with the question of pain and suffering.

I don't think you could name one great man or woman of God throughout history who hasn't been touched by the effects of pain and suffering, some more than others. And if you haven't experienced it yet, you will.

But I could no more deny God's existence than deny my own heartbeat. On this side of heaven, I will never be able to answer the troubling questions. I can live with that, but I can't live without Him.

Job had more reason to deny God than most of us ever will. But in the end, after grappling long and hard with all the agonizing questions, it came down to faith. "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth."

Oh, and the song we sang in choir yesterday? Ron and Shelly Hamilton's "Tho' It's Midnight." Beautiful.

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