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November 6, 2016

Blame God - who else?

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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What is wrong with humanity? Why have people from time immemorial been clinging to the absurd notion that God is to blame for everything bad, from personal suffering to the seemingly never-ending evil in this world?

The real question to be asking in the here-and-now is: should a heaven-like Earth have been part of God’s design from Day One, or was it always meant to be an achievable state on the part of decent humans?

The three Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – subscribe to the latter, the hands-on approach if you will, expecting their adherents to do the hard groundwork toward peace and justice.

In various ways and expressions, they all understand humanity’s role as being that of stewardship, representing God’s will and design through freely chosen action and thought.

These same kindred faiths also make it clear that each individual is credited not for any checklist of lifetime achievements or successes, but for having tried their best in living out their beliefs.

Only God can judge. And only God has the power to reward those who try their best with blessings in this life and the hereafter.

In that vein, scriptural revelation helps a great deal and offers some explanation or reassurance when one is caught up in difficulties; to others, however, divine revelations down through history count for little more than theories or ancient myths.

It seems these days that the concept of a distant, cruel God, arbitrarily “allowing” wars and natural disasters in which the innocent (especially children) die and the livelihood of countless thousands is destroyed, has become popular.

It certainly makes the blame-game easier to play, since the idea of such an irrelevant God is not worth thinking about.

Another concept is modelled by those who suggest that if humanity deliberately chooses evil, then God – if he or She exists – should intervene directly to stop it.

Since this hasn’t actually happened in black-and-white textbook fashion, and since we ourselves often have difficulty in determining just how “intentional” evil has to get in order to expect divine “damage control,” the alternative seems to be a world designed and created entirely according to human parameters. Such a world would of course have a “perfect” God – a collective human one.

But the divine revelations of all three Abrahamic faiths have a radically different idea of how good and evil happen and seem to co-exist in creation.

They teach us that the essential goodness of the universe is a fact, not a wishful concept, and that we must constantly keep this principle in mind for our faith to have meaning.

All the evil in this world cannot and has not destroyed the goodness of a single person.

“What?!?” exclaim some of my academic colleagues. “You really believe in that revelation stuff?”

Indeed, I do, because “revelation stuff” can help explain the condition in which today’s world finds itself; after all, the choice between good and evil is a grave concern.

My faith of Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, teaches that humans were formed as the crowning glory of God’s creation, but through our collective choices of action and thought down through history, we have become its imminent destroyer.

We were created for eternity, yet we plan only for this world – many of us only for our own lifetimes – with no reference to our ultimate destination.

As a species, we have become intellectually and spiritually lazy when it comes to seeking and discovering the true purpose of our lives. In general, the typical human being is in a big hurry to accumulate wealth and power by any means necessary.

When taken beyond reason or moderation, our morality decreases exponentially in proportion to our support for political factions, countries, organizations, or ethnic and religious groups.

Taken to the increasing extremes we see in today’s sectarian and political conflicts, we lose any sense of shame or remorse at killing, destroying, or inflicting pain and suffering on those we label as enemy or the Other.

We have committed unbelievable crimes against our own species and seem to have gotten away with it.

Taking the United States as an example, the “land of the free” has an abysmal record of trying to upstage the cruelest of human-conceived images of God.

Under various administrations it has committed genocide of native peoples, slavery, the nuclear annihilation of entire populations, incited manufacturing wars, elected politicians on the basis of their supporters’ wealth and influence, used military might to bully weaker nations and secure cheap access to their raw materials, and trampled on the human rights of any group or individual perceived as a threat to the military-capitalist status quo (i.e. Communists, the Japanese, black civil rights leaders, environmental and social activists, Muslims, etc.).

The malice and power of evil are certainly evident in the world in which we live today; it’s no wonder people are tempted to “blame God” for the mess humanity is in.

We as a species can do all of the evils listed above, because we were created as capable of understanding the motivations and consequences of our actions, both good and bad. But we were not intended to be what we have allowed ourselves to become.

So, blaming God is simply nonsense; it’s an easy way out that leaves us in an apathetic neutral zone where we can do nothing, say nothing. Sad but true.

The evil powers in this cosmic struggle are strong and very determined. But here is where revealed religion offers hope; they are all creatures who originated from God, the supreme source of good.

So the struggle goes on, not because God cannot end it or magically “fix” everything, but because God wills us to use our inherent abilities to make good changes happen on the ground where we live.

By uniting our human energies to uncompromisingly fight evil of any kind, we are simultaneously embodying God’s will for goodness to prevail.

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