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Saturday, 8 December 2018

Seagulls, chips and the question of God.

I read of a man beating a seagull after it stole one of his chips. He grabbed the bird by its legs and bashed its brains out on a brick wall. In the great scale of things, pretty small beer. Far more evil things go on in this world, but whether it’s seagulls or holocaust an assertion is made – an act of faith as much as anything else: There cannot possibly be a God to allow such things.

Without doubt, the holocaust and similar events far transcending the fate of a seagull have turned many into atheists. They pose the question:  how could God allow such a things to happen? And by doing so suggest that the presence of evil negates the existence of God. They highlight the apparent contradiction of God being both all-powerful and all good ie if God allows evil, he can’t be all good and, on the other hand, if he’s unable to prevent evil, then he can’t be all-powerful.

The traditional answer is that we were created with freedom of will and with it the responsibility of moral choice. We can choose to do good or bad things. Like bashing in the head of a seagull.
But, one could argue, there is nothing to stop God extending a feathered hand and protecting that seagull. The man lamenting the loss of a chip was given the choice to do a bad and foolish thing, but the seagull didn’t suffer from it.

The question then arises, what would happen if there were no evil in the world? And, on a social and political level, the further question. Who gets to define what is evil? — a pertinent point when drugs, microchipping and the possible spread of the Chinese concept of ‘social value.’ We all ready accept ‘credit scores,’ why not ‘conformity scores.’  Of course, if we were robots the concept of good and evil would cease to exist. We would do as we were programmed to do, truly ‘following orders.’ And in an alternative universe, God could have created us so. But creatures stripped of meaningful choice cease to be moral beings.

So, back to this world and the feathered hand of God protecting innocent seagulls. (Well, not so innocent. It stole a chip.) Where would it stop, this interventionist God? Are we to be protected from every consequence of a bad or foolish decision? From the consequences of every natural disaster or virus—God, clad in Lycra and cape, zooming from crisis to crisis? And if we lived in a world without crisis or challenge or meaningful moral choice, what exactly would we be?

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