here is an argument, dutifully employed by those whom, i think, have good intentions in their actions in working toward an equality or equity for all: “if god is [omniscient, all-powerful, loving, not psychotic, not a sociopath, and so on], then why doesn’t [usually he] do anything about the state of the world?” and then, often, “i cannot give my faith to or belief in a god that allows this to occur on earth.”
i don’t exclude myself from ever having thought this. about a decade ago, i made a conscious decision to not spend lengthy amounts of time entertaining this sort of thought, as far as “making my mind up” about having some belief or another, because even in my noob-ness in trying to understand political economy, i felt it didn’t do me any favors in acting materially in the world. a few years later, having the opportunity to get into a different field, in public schooling, i reaffirmed this disavowal to even consider it. my position was decided at that time: my goal was to act in ways to make concrete changes in the position i was in, and the consideration of something so abstract and seemingly inconsequential to serving people who counted on me, to my best ability, seemed pretty absurd in the day to day activities — securing funding for my job, making sure my car ran, where to sleep on any given night because of commute issues and long hours.
my goal in providing a bit of (however vague) background here is simply to illustrate how i felt i had the agency and ability to determine things for myself in the face of budget cuts and far-right governmental decisions being made over my head. of course i still gave thought to, “why would i believe in any of this?” and having had that back and forth with myself usually came at times when i felt utterly hopeless and yes, angst ridden.
i don’t think angst is something to be overcome, or at least in the way the “hip” narrative of how it’s childish, something reserved for adolescent know-nothingness, that is to be left behind. because — speaking from this narrative in which adults should counter angst — we mature, and from what i’ve seen in how this is typically employed for having fear and struggling with the seemingly endless issues and decisions we have to make on a daily basis, we should accept it, move on to what can be affected materially. even if it’s in our own individual way, and however powerless we feel in acting as one autonomous person against “the world” and “the human condition”, it is something. and this is the way things are, this is how they’ve “always” been done in shedding oneself of the universal angst.
the question of “why would a god allow this?” is working from at least one deeply embedded (western) premise: all that is has been done before and will lead to the same conclusions, even if a person asking this question wishes to see different conclusions. (this is a loaded claim and i will explore it further.) if we think of the abrahamic god, his (certainly his, here) presence was always already understood by the “true believers” when he asked of his subjects to perform any task, no matter how outrageous or antithetical to their well being it seemed at the time.
i have scare quoted believers here because to be labeled as such requires belief, and if we look at a very basic definition of belief, these all begin with a “feeling”. in its typically employed context — especially among protestant practice and evolution in the states and its backlash — this evidently does not signal a knowing or even necessarily examination of concrete proof that some set of tenets are worthy of belief, as the full definition goes on to clarify. the evangelical current that exploded in the 80s and its structuring around moving forward far-right policy to make the right the more “moderate” stance politically not only explains easier acceptance of “feelings” to be followed in the name of belief, but also the backlash we see in various left political groups in the form of agnosticism or atheism on to the more evangelical “new atheism” that aids, still, in carrying out, perhaps, a more sophisticated form of imperialism and modern-day eugenics practice in the name of genome tracking and biotech advances still tightly controlled.
to be sure, atheism and agnosticism do have their place in a politics that wants to move beyond an ideological narrative that has been built on the biblical understanding of an all-knowing god. i do not wish to seat this on an overly simplistic counter to this structural juggernaut that operates in a manner similar to god asking Abraham to kill his only son in the name of belief — meaning, i’m thinking through writing this out in an attempt to look past surface-deep rejections and realizations to how empty those rejections can be.
in any case, i think one way in which to do that is to understand that this conscious realization of rejection cannot only be in word or even deed — ie, fuck church, praying is a futile exercise, etc. it requires more of an acceptance that those who own the airwaves, one of many connections to the higher power (the state, the ruling class, the corporate monster, however you refer to this as) isn’t attempting to model a patched together assumption that they are all-knowing, it functions in the assumption it has this right.
the abrahamic god, however, grants to his subjects “free will”. and this has been deconstructed and reconstructed again as a problematic; i doubt i’m telling anyone anything they don’t already know. we see it covered in pop-science down to brain function or firing, usually reluctant to ever give up on the idea we are all similarly “wired” in some way. why is this even a matter to the touted purely rational types who seek to disprove or prove indeterminate action of individual people? i don’t think it’s a stretch for me to make a general assumption, here, that this type of pop reporting, needing to perpetuate its own existence to receive funding and support from said juggernaut, has a material agenda here!
but as god surely expressed according to the bible, people have the ability to go their own way. to disavow themselves from paradise. and we can apply any trite observation here to how the establishment dangles the carrot for us to hang on as believers ourselves in the name of this sort of control: american dream, investment schemes, the list goes on.
recalling the short background i brought up at the beginning of this post, the realization i have personally come to is that asking “why” the sketch of an abrahamic god doesn’t step in to account for the misery human beings suffer at the hands of others is that this is an impossible action for him to take, on our behalf. it is not only the simplicity of having agency, but that this question assumes an incorrectly informed set of beliefs in itself.
although it may be relevant to these thoughts i’m putting down, i don’t find it’s necessary to go even deeper into what omniscience or omnipotence means coming from a more gnostic understanding, though this is certainly a helpful set of premises to start from if we wish to examine the limits of culturally popular (manufactured or sold, if you like) forms of what belief is. instead of starting from the negative view that this sort of god does not exist and it is impossible, it could be very useful to apply logic that has historically dealt with these problematics transferred to a universal human condition and where the limits begin of asking “why” of the popular, protestant belief of god, and what that was in reaction to, as well.
but we can spare ourselves from wasting time on this false question to begin with, especially coming from a materialist understanding that this abstract question seems to confront, on its face. the state and its narratives have not been able to exert a singular, concentrated control as much as its “adherents” claim this right and its attempted path of prophecy. no matter the best laid of plans, people are able to act outside of it, and individuals make up its apparatuses. our own history and survival is proof of this.
i find the greater question might be this: what drives us to look for an outside intervening force to save us from ourselves? because typically this question asked in angst, in fear of our present conditions, and because of its poorly informed premises that subtract abilities humans have to be “good” or “bad”, it can allow for us to be content in nihilistic answers to an assumed universal human condition. this is not giving ourselves the proper room to explore the roots of belief or religion and its adaptations in the name of concentrated power, and it robs others of their full abilities to act as humans with agency.