For the most part, I stay to myself. On occasion, however, I get drawn into discussions when out in public. I was drawn into one such discussion the other day.
It was late in the evening at the local grocery store. With almost no customers, the 4 employees were having a little confab at the front of the store. As I entered, one of them said to the rest of the group (obviously tongue-in-cheek), "We better stop talking about Christmas. We don't want to offend our local atheist!"
I smiled, but otherwise ignored the comment and went about my shopping as normal.
When I was ready to purchase my items, the clerk asked me, "Atheist. Does that mean you don't believe in God?" Yes, that's what it means, I replied.
She then insisted on telling me why she KNOWS that God exists. You see, back in the day, she was unsure if she should marry her husband. She prayed about it and here they are 25 years later. (I should note that this wasn't a convincing argument at all because I know she's stuck in a bad marriage with a lout!) She told me that God had guided her to various jobs over the course of her lifetime. She told of how her son prayed earnestly before a big football game and, not only did the team win, but her son was the hero. She even added that there were two occasions in which she feared she might die and, after praying to God to protect her, she came through both situations with nary a scratch.
When she finished her litany, she looked at me like a defense lawyer who had just delivered the best ever summation.
"God sounds like a really trivial guy," I remarked. He has guided you with marriage and job advice. He even helped your son's team win a stupid high school football game. So, why is it that your God doesn't tackle important issues? Why doesn't he end poverty or stop wars? Why doesn't he rid the world of cancer or put a stop to the human-caused aspects of global warming? Why doesn't he regenerate the limbs of amputees?
More importantly, where was your God when a disturbed young man mowed down 27 people in Newtown, Connecticut? I'm sure several of those who died appealed to God for protection. Why didn't God come through for them?
A bit flustered, all she could mumble was "God works in mysterious ways. As to the 27 who were slain in Newtown, I guess it was their time."
Their time? If we want to utilize that rationale, I told her, then it would seem that your prayers were for naught regarding the two incidents you referenced earlier. Why do you say that, she asked. Well, it obviously wasn't YOUR time. It had nothing to do with your prayers. You didn't die either time because it wasn't on the schedule.
These sorts of discussions truly bewilder me. So many people have convinced themselves that there is this divine bloke who is willing and able to help them with so many trivial decisions, yet he is entirely AWOL when it comes to the major issues that bedevil society and the planet. Yes, he can help a young man win a high school football game, but he can't seem to stop a tornado or a missile!