Where was God during the London Terror Attack?

Three men walk into a hotel to spend the night. The hotel clerk tells them that the hotel has only one room available, and that room costs $30. Each of the three men contributes $10 towards the bill, the $30 is paid, and the three men go up to their room. Later, the hotel clerk realizes that he overcharged the men, and that the room’s actual cost is only $25. He gives the bellboy $5 to return to the three men. On his way to the room, the bellboy recognizes that the three men will have difficulty splitting the $5 between them, so instead the unethical bellboy gives each of the three men $1 and keeps $2 for himself as a tip. So, in the end, the three men paid $9 each for the room which is $27 and the bellboy kept $2 for himself which is $29. What happened to the final dollar?
A few years ago, my brother in law’s father, a devout atheist, posted a really nasty meme on his Facebook page. I don’t remember the details, but it basically accused God of being part of the rape of a child because God didn’t do anything about it. The reasoning, such as it was, suggested that a good father would not stand aside while a child was raped, and so God, who is all-powerful and all-knowing, must have been complicit in the rape since he chose not to intervene.

I’m sure that any number of people who have read that meme would nod sagely in agreement. Certainly, at first blush the meme seems to ring true in the same way that the three men at the hotel problem seems true. (Trust me, if you pose the three men at the hotel problem to a number of people, less than 1 in 6 will get it right. I know as I have shared it many times.) But the problem isn’t that the meme is true, Just as people approach the three men at the hotel problem with certain assumptions which make them miss the answer, many approach the child rape meme with various assumptions that are not only not necessarily true, but are likely false.

Evil? What evil?

Frank Turek, a Christian apologist who I have recently mentioned when I wrote a blogpost about his video on the question to pose to every atheist, has recently posted an article on Townhall.com which addresses one of the assumptions found in the meme. He addresses it by looking at the London terrorist attack which left eight people dead from knife wounds earlier this month. In God and the London Attack, Turek begins with the same assumption that the meme does:
If you had the knowledge and power to stop the terrorist attack in London, would you have done so? Of course. In fact, if you could have stopped it but didn’t, we would call you morally deficient. We would partially blame you for the attacks!”
Excellent. There is nothing better than taking the best arguments put forward by those who oppose you and addressing them head on. That’s what C.S. Lewis did in his book, The Problem of Pain. Truth, after all, isn’t easy. It requires that you don’t spend all day knocking down straw men arguments. Rather, finding truth requires that one ultimately review and respond to the very best and strongest arguments against you and addressing those arguments. And this argument, similar to the raping of the child meme on Facebook, addresses an argument commonly raised by atheists over a whole range of evil done in the world because it touches such a raw emotional chord. “If God existed, he would have stopped the Holocaust.” “If God existed, he would have stopped 9/11.” “If God existed, he would have stopped the London Attack.” These arguments, and others like them, are advanced by atheists against God’s existence whenever a tragedy occurs.

Turek’s article addresses one assumption: the assumption that evil can exist without God. As Turek puts it,
While I can’t present a complete answer to that question in this short column, the one thing the attacks cannot prove is that there is no God. In fact, if the attack was truly a grave injustice—if it was truly evil—then it shows that God actually does exist.
Turek is correct. Those who disbelieve in the existence of God regularly assume a worldview that can only come from God. Without God, there is no good or evil – only existence. Without God, all of moral philosophy can ultimately be boiled down to the 90s bumper sticker, “S__t Happens.” There is no reason to call the terrorist attacks evil because evil is simply a mental construct that can be disregarded. This is the assumption that Frank addresses in the article (and which he expands upon in the talk I have posted, below), but it is not the assumption I wish to address. I want to address a different assumption, and that is the assumption that God is somehow complicit because he didn’t stop these great tragedies.

Removing the Angst

“If God existed, he would have stopped the London Attack.” “If God existed, he would have stopped the rape of the child!” Whenever I see these types of statements, I find myself wondering “why stop there?” Why mention only big outrageous attacks or matters that we all acknowledge are great evils? How about, “If God existed, he would have stopped my mother from getting a sore throat.” Or how about, “If God existed, he would have stopped the fifth-grade bully from stealing candy from the second-grader?” Or even, “If God existed, he would have stopped that man from stepping on my toe.” Am I getting petty? Yes, I am. Admittedly. But that’s because the Facebook meme and the blaming of God for terrorist attacks are examples of another assumption that we cling to. Somehow, God can and should be held responsible for all of the big evil done in the world, but we instinctively blanch when stretching it to start blaming God for every little trouble we experience. You had a bad hair day? Blame God. He should have stopped that. A pen broke and left an ink stain on your shirt? Why didn’t God leap in to stop it? You stepped in a puddle and got your sock wet? God could have stopped that, too. He is, after all, omniscient and omnipotent. He should have done something!!!

Obviously, if God is omniscient and omnipotent he knew what would happen and could have done something about it. So, why don’t skeptics use little things like wet socks and broken pens to make their point? Obviously, because using bigger, clearer evils is a rhetorical device. The skeptic raises the spectre of the raped child to shock people. The skeptic asks why God didn’t stop the terrorist attack in London to get people angry at God. But if God could stop the London attacks (which He could have), he could also stop someone from stepping on your toe. But I don’t see many skeptics posting about that. They don’t write, “God knew that traffic was so slow this morning that you would be late to work. God, being all-knowing, knew that traffic was slow, and being all-powerful, he could have done something about it. But God allowed you to be late to work, so he must be responsible for your being late to work.”

When you remove the angsty, emotional part of the statement, you can see the argument for what it really is: an effort to use raw emotion to sway the reader. At heart, when the angst is removed, these arguments fall into three categories (1) an effort to blame God for the evil that your fellow humans commit, (2) blaming God for natural occurrences, or (3) blaming God for the problems we bring upon ourselves. The effort to accuse God for not intervening in the London attack falls in the first of the three.

Where was God during the London attack?

So, looking at it without the emotional weight, we can legitimately ask where was God during the London attack? We can answer it the same way that we would answer the question, “Where was God when you were late to work because of heavy traffic?” God is where he always is and will be until the Second Coming: Looking after you, caring for you, calling for you to love Him as he loves you. At the same time, he is allowing bad things to exist in this world because we collectively chose it and continue to choose it. Sometimes those bad things happen to you and those you love. That doesn’t mean God isn’t there nor does it mean that God doesn’t care. Just as no one in their right mind would stop believing in God when traffic makes them late for work, so to one should not lose faith because worse things like terror attacks happen.



Comments

Anonymous said…
BK: While I can’t present a complete answer to that question in this short column, the one thing the attacks cannot prove is that there is no God. In fact, if the attack was truly a grave injustice—if it was truly evil—then it shows that God actually does exist.

That is quite an admission. True evil can only exist if God does. There are truly evil things happening in the world, therefore God muist exist. If there were no evil things happening, if we all lived in peace and harmony, then that would make the existence of God less certain.

Is that really the Christian position?

No.

What Turek is doing is claiming the label "evil" for Christianity. He is asserting only Christianity get to call things evil, therefore if we are labelling stuff as evil, then Christianity must be true! Meanwhile, terrible things happen in the world, whether they get labelled as evil or not, and God chooses to allow them all.

Pix
Anonymous said…
BK: “If God existed, he would have stopped the London Attack.” “If God existed, he would have stopped the rape of the child!” Whenever I see these types of statements, I find myself wondering “why stop there?” Why mention only big outrageous attacks or matters that we all acknowledge are great evils? How about, “If God existed, he would have stopped my mother from getting a sore throat.”

Okay... but let's step back to this statement, earlier in the post (quoting Turek):

BK: If you had the knowledge and power to stop the terrorist attack in London, would you have done so? Of course. In fact, if you could have stopped it but didn’t, we would call you morally deficient. We would partially blame you for the attacks!”

So which is it? Would you stop the attack if you had the knowledge and power or would you be paralysed by indecision over whether the attack was bad enough to warrant you actually doing anything?

Here is the thing. We all agree that if you had the knowledge and power to stop the attack, stopping the attack is the right thing to do. It really is as simple as that.

Sure there is some cut-off as you head towards stubbing a toe where there is no moral necessity to intervene, but no one, not one person, thinks allowing the attack to happen is morally right. And further, we would expect someone as supposedly knowledgeable as God to know the perfect cut-off point. and we would expect that cut-off to mean God intervenes for that attack.

Pix
Joe Hinman said…
It's not right or wrong it's necessary. My theory of soteriological drama explains Please read.

Anonymous said…
I have read your theory. So here are two scenarios:

A) Terrorists decide to kill as many people as they can, so hire a van, and drive it into a crowd, resulting in numerous deaths.

B) Terrorists decide to kill as many people as they can, so hire a van. however, before they can drive it away, God strikes them temporarily blind. No one dies.

Clearly the second risks God revealing that he exists, but given the events in the gospels, we know that that is not the primary concern, and temporary blindness is considerably less than the Bible claims.

Please explain why the first is more loving. To me it seems less loving.

Please explain why the first would lead people to love God more. To me it seems the second would do that (I know I would not love a god who stands by and allows these things to happen).

Please explain how the first supports free will and the second does not. To me the second better supports free will as the victims also have free will subsequently.

Please explain how the first leads to a moral moral universe than the second. Again, to me it seems that the second would lead to a more moral universe.

Pix
Joe Hinman said…
say God does this every time someone wants to cause pain so no one feels pain everyone knows there is a God and pretends to worship him. But most resewn tit because they didn't seek for God it was forced on them. So they only give lip service and don't get saved. So God must refrain from circumventing all pain, He limits revealing himself to those who seek.
Anonymous said…
Let us break this down.

"say God does this every time someone wants to cause pain" Except I did not say every time, I said for a terrorist attack. I was thinking God had the wit to work out when the action is serious enough to warrant intervention.

"no one feels pain" People feel pain for many reasons besides the deliberate actions of others, so this is just plain wrong.

"everyone knows there is a God" Is it bad if everyone knows God, but okay if a select few do? According to Christianity, Jesus came to tell people God's message, and charged the disciples with spreading that message to everyone. And yet, according to Joe, for some reason it would be bad if everyone got that message!

"everyone knows there is a God and pretends to worship him" So if people know God exists, they will only pretend to worship him? That is quite an admission, if you think about. Christians know God exists, do they only pretend to worship him?

Why pretend? Is there some compulsion of us so if we think a god exists, we have to worship it? Why can we not believe God exists, but not worship him?

"So they only give lip service and don't get saved." The claim here is that less people will be saved if God reveals himself. So what was Jesus doing telling people about God? Why did Jesus instruct the disciples to tell the world about God? Did Jesus not get the memo that telling people about God leads to people believing God exists which inevitably (if we believe Joe) will lead to less people sincerely worshiping God?

I find it telling that at the end of the day what this is about is people sincerely worshiping God. All that pain and suffering, every rape and murder, is justified because God needs our sincere worship. All that misery just to stroke his ego.

And, by the way, that is a good reason not to worship him even if convinced he does exist.

Pix
Joe Hinman said…
"say God does this every time someone wants to cause pain" Except I did not say every time, I said for a terrorist attack. I was thinking God had the wit to work out when the action is serious enough to warrant intervention.

why should he only do it for terrorism? Other forms of Inflicted Pain are just as bad

"no one feels pain" People feel pain for many reasons besides the deliberate actions of others, so this is just plain wrong.

context, if
God was to stop all forms of inflicted pain


"everyone knows there is a God" Is it bad if everyone knows God, but okay if a select few do? According to Christianity, Jesus came to tell people God's message, and charged the disciples with spreading that message to everyone. And yet, according to Joe, for some reason it would be bad if everyone got that message!

YOU ARE NOT EVEN TRYING TO REPRESENT MY WORDS WITH EVEN A MODICUM OF ACCURACY.I SAID THOSE WHO SEEK FILL FIND. BUT HAVING IT FORCED ON THEM AND ARE ALIENATED, GET IT?? YOU GET THAT? everyone should seek God. Those who d seek find, If you find god after seeking you internalize the values of God,if it is imposed upon you then it is aliening.



Joe Hinman said…
I find it telling that at the end of the day what this is about is people sincerely worshiping God. All that pain and suffering, every rape and murder, is justified because God needs our sincere worship. All that misery just to stroke his ego

where in any of that did i say God needs something? I said it's so we wont be alimented and not find God. OBVIOUSLY THEN IT IS OUR NEED NOT GOD'S!!!!!

ON EVER SINGLE PINT WORD FOR WORD YOU STEADFASTLY REFUSE TO ACTUALLY READ WHAT I SAY FAIRLY OR ACCURATELY
Joe Hinman said…
I AM SHOUTING. I AM SHOUTING!!!! SO LOUD BUT i DON;T HEAR A THING
Anonymous said…
JH: why should he only do it for terrorism? Other forms of Inflicted Pain are just as bad

Right. "just as bad". But last time you said "every time someone wants to cause pain".

Two different things there, Joe. Every time someone wants to do something terrible, such as an act of terrorism, murder, rape. And then there is every time someone wants to cause any pain at all, just as saying something cutting on a blog. The fact that you need to pretend that they are equivalent illustrates how poor your argument is.

JH: context, if
God was to stop all forms of inflicted pain


?

JH: YOU ARE NOT EVEN TRYING TO REPRESENT MY WORDS WITH EVEN A MODICUM OF ACCURACY.I SAID THOSE WHO SEEK FILL FIND. BUT HAVING IT FORCED ON THEM AND ARE ALIENATED, GET IT?? YOU GET THAT? everyone should seek God. Those who d seek find, If you find god after seeking you internalize the values of God,if it is imposed upon you then it is aliening.

Sure I read your unsupported assertion that if people are forced to know that God exists then that will lead to fewer people worshipping him.

I then contrasted that to the efforts of Jesus, and indeed most Christians, to convinced people that God exists. Christianity does its best to force people to believe God exists, and yet here you are saying that that is a bad thing.

Seems... inconsistent.

JH: where in any of that did i say God needs something? I said it's so we wont be alimented and not find God. OBVIOUSLY THEN IT IS OUR NEED NOT GOD'S!!!!!

The bit I was focusing on was "So they only give lip service and don't get saved." It reads as though getting saved is the ultimate goal. But, and this is the important part, the system was created by God. That would indicate that that ultimate goal for God is to get people saved. Saved for what? To worship God!

Further, the problem - you claim - with people knowing God exists is: "everyone knows there is a God and pretends to worship him" Again, the system was created by God, so the implication is that God wants people to worship him for real.

You said nothing about God needing our worship, but that is the necessary implication of your claims. The fact that you do not like the implications does not alter that. If you want to dispute, modify your claims or show how my reasoning is wrong.

If it is not about God getting as many people to love him as he can and to Hell with the rest, what is it about?

Pix

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