Saturday, November 13, 2010

Probability or Purpose?: How do your religiously infected friends explain this?

Zahra Baker was a 10 year old girl from North Carolina. Her parents divorced, her father had custody. A bone cancer survivor, she had her leg amputated and lost part of her hearing as a side effect, but by all accounts was a happy and well adjusted little girl. Missing for weeks, her prosthetic leg and part of her remains were discovered not far from her home. Her stepmother who admitted writing a fake ransom note is now the primary suspect in her murder, possibly aided by the child’s father.

I heard this report for the first time this morning. I was appalled that so much sorrow, pain, and horror could be condensed into the ten short years of that child’s life.

As a realist I understand it however. Divorce is rampant, with almost 50% of marriages ending in separation. Childhood cancer is a fact of life affecting approximately two out of every ten thousand children in the US each year roughly 0.02% of children. The horrific acts of abuse, violence, and inhumanity against children, while inexplicable to most of us, are an unfortunate reality. The murder of children under the age of 15 years old represents approximately 1,300 / 6% of US murders annually. A child has approximately 0.00014% chance of being murdered.

The odds of any one child experiencing what Zahra Baker went through are beyond my ability to calculate. Sadly, Zahra was the loser in a trifecta of astronomical statistical improbably. But that is exactly what it was

So how do religionists explain this? Can they dismiss this as a horrific statistical reality born of a convergence of random natural occurrences? No…they cannot… not even if they want to. Because according to doctrine their god has a “purpose” for every person. Their loving god, who watches over his creations with unlimited beneficence; a god who answers the prayers of believers, doesn’t play with random statistics. Everything is by it’s design, even Zahra's miserable life and death.

So what will they say if you were to ask them what god’s purpose was for this little girl’s birth, suffering and ultimate death? There aren’t a lot of options from which they can choose. While apologists have written several million words trying to explain away why their god permits these things to happen to innocents, it always boils down to the vapid platitudes that believers have adopted in lieu of thought to avoid coming to grips with reality: “God works in strange and mysterious ways.”, “It’s all part of God’s plan, who are we to understand it?”, “God needed her in heaven.”, “God wanted her to experience the ultimate pain in order to appreciate the ultimate happiness.”, “She’s in a better place.”, and the ever handy “Free will!” whatever the hell that means. Sometimes they will dig really deep and proffer that “God is a good and loving God.”, as though that explains/ excuses it all.

Want to know how deeply your theist friends have swallowed the Kool Aid of unquestioning religious non-think? Want to gauge exactly how encompassing is their self delusion and surrender to vacuous apologetics? Want to witness what complete abandonment of reality sounds like? Ask them to explain Zahra Baker, then stand back and watch the dance of denial.


itsme_crazydad said...

When I was theist, there was a boy in church who had spinal muscular dystrophy. I remember being told that his suffering and faith helped US have more faith. WTF?

Damn, I wish I had asked some common sense questions back then.

Leslie said...

Bravo, my friend. Bravo.
It disgusts me the things that the religious say when things like this occur. I try to avoid being around the religious now a days because I have a problem holding my tongue anymore when the crazy talk starts.
That poor, sweet little girl. What a sad, sad story.

Leslie said...

Bravo, Hump.
I find it truly amazing and sickening the things that the religious can come up with to explain away things that happen like this.
I try to avoid being around religious people now a days because I find it hard to hold my tongue anymore when the crazy talk starts.
That poor, sweet little girl. What a sad, sad story.

NewEnglandBob said...

Don't forget that some of it blame it on Satan. Yet another fictitious being they dream up to blame.

Enrico S said...

Well said my friend! I have a fucking lump in my throat thinking about this poor girl and the many many other children like her. I recently took my father into University of Penn hospital for his chemo. The childrens center is in the same building. There are people who look at these children and say it's gods will. WTF?

This post your wrote hit me hard buddy. Again, well done!

DSJulian said...

Two very elderly priests are talking about their imminent demise. The first says, "When I get to heaven I want to ask God why he let all those little children suffer." The second answers, "I'm afraid God is going to ask me that question."

Anonymous said...

New England Bob: Bingo. When they're up against the wall, out of ideas - out pops satan. One of the pope's right-hand guys stated that the reason that some vatican officials were paying for male prostitutes was that "satan was at work within the vatican walls". It's funny how they take the blame off themselves by using satan, then take the blame off god by using the same excuse.

What they should be saying - but can't - in cases like this girl is: "I really don't know why god would allow this to happen." Saying that would weaken their god, for god is supposedly all-knowing and all-powerful. He "hears every single prayer", but apparently ignored those praying for this girl's safe return.

Religionists are quick to thank god for stepping in and helping them with petty stuff (win a football game or win on a lottery ticket or win an Oscar) but when god had the chance to prevent a little girl from getting cancer, to prevent her from losing her leg and hearing, to prevent her from being murdered and dismembered - he was impotent.

They refuse to face the fact that the superman in the sky 'aint coming to anybody's rescue....because there 'aint no superman in the sky.

Dromedary Hump said...

Blaming the devil for this girls misfortunes would be very dangerous territory for theists to tred upon.

Isaiah 45:7 "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things]." (KJV) Thus since god created evil the child's fate was directly caused by god.

It also implies the devil is stronger than god if the girl's plight, from broken home to disease to death, was caused by the devil. Thus god could not be omnipotent.

Then it implies that the prayers of the faithful are either not answered, or answered in the negative by their loving god who loves children. Which then brings it back full circle to god's "purpose".

Finally if the devil is the cause of divorce, cancer, and all murder; it negates the known principle of abnormal cellular growth, and makes "god's gift" of free will defunct.

apologetics gets real tricky.

Of course, most theists are too ignorant to anticipate these issues. and when confronted with them will often get really pissed off and dismissive.

CannedAm said...

I can answer this question. I've had victims of childhood incest tell me that their faith leads them to believe that god has a purpose for their suffering if only to help others who have also suffered the same. (I would counter with why let anyone suffer, then?) I've seen them explain things like this as this was God's way of getting the word out that these were horrible people doing horrible things. If she didn't die, no one would know and "she's safe now".

How do they explain the people who KNEW she was abused? The people who saw the black eyes and socially accepted the "accident" claims and even though they doubted the stories did not call social services and report the injuries.

HOw can anyone see good in these events? How can anyone feel comforted believing that she's now at the feet of Jesus when her 10 short years were full of horrible sickness, and even more horrible violence and hatred? How does thinking that she's now at the feet of Jesus make all of that okay?

If I were to believe the myths...I've worked years and years with abuse survivors...I've worked with people in their 70's who are STILL traumatized, STILL hurt by things that happened to them as children...I would not be able to believe that that pain could be magically cured by a trip to heaven. If God cannot heal people of the hurt they experience on this earth while they are on this earth, how in all the wild imaginings of believers could he possibly heal them once they've left this plane?

Dromedary Hump said...

Thanks for that input. Coming from someone with your experience it is much valued.
I wish I knew the answer to your well posed questions. Sadly..I do not.

Alcari said...

your math is a bit off.
2 out of every 10.000 children is 0.02%

(per cent meaning "out of every hundred", after all)

Dromedary Hump said...

Quite right. I failed to move the decimal over two places on two of these calculations. fixed.