“God is good”, you hear people say when things go their way, as though this mythological entity of questionable existence has allegedly made the decision to intervene and bestow moments of goodness in the lives of a blessed, chosen few. I don’t believe that God exists, but if I did, I would probably agree with my late mother, who – robbed by ALS of her ability to speak or eat – confided in me last year (using a text-to-speech app on the iPad that never left her side) that she believed in God, but that she did not believe he was benevolent. Less than six weeks later, she was gone – taken not by the ALS, but rather by an exceptionally aggressive bout with ovarian cancer that took us all by surprise and turned our world upside down.
It is difficult for me to accept the notion of a deity who may be charitably benevolent under extraordinarily mundane circumstances, while denying that same benevolence to others – even when lives are at stake. How can your God be good if he is seemingly charitable on a whim, yet indifferent – sometimes brutally – to suffering? If God existed, why would he rally behind you to ensure that you get something relatively trivial, while at the same time suddenly take the life of a father of three young children, a father who lost his own father only two weeks earlier? What kind of “good” God does something like that?
Your God is not good when refugees are suspiciously seen as terrorists instead of victims of war.
Your God is not good when hate so often seems to be on the verge of trumping love, when there are those who judge people by the color of their skin, their religion, their country of origin or their sexual orientation.
Your God is not good when he drowns a family in grief and then plunges them in even deeper, or when he seals a woman’s fate with one terrifyingly crushing disease but destroys her with another.
And do not speak to me of your God’s master plan or tell me that everything happens for a reason, for I can think of no valid reason for your God to wreak such havoc and devastation. I can think of no sane reason for children to suffer the heart-shattering loss of their father while grieving the loss of their grandfather, or for their grandmother to bury her husband and son within two weeks of one another. I find no comfort in master plans of bilious darkness or senseless loss, in destructive chaos and stolen innocence. If there is a comfort to be found, it is in the beauty of selfless deeds and acts of kindness; it is in the love we share and the space we hold for others in times of need – or in the space they hold for us.
If your God was truly good, I would like to think that he would not be so selective in his benevolence. I believe in benevolence, but I do not believe in God. Instead, I choose the tangible goodness of friends, loved ones and strangers. It is these blessed beings who truly accompany us during our journey, celebrating our joys and supporting us through our sorrows, helping to collect the shards of broken lives strewn about amidst a clutter of unanswered prayers.by Liza Rosenberg