Slip Slidin’ Away

Occasionally a phrase or song gets stuck in my thoughts and can’t be easily dislodged. A recent conversation with a new acquaintance brought this Paul Simon tune to mind and now it plays on a repeating track in my mind. Let me tell you how this all came about.
My new acquaintance, let’s call her Judy, revealed to a group of us that she is a three-time cancer survivor. After basking in the rejoicing of her friends at this remarkable fact, she added the de riguer proclamation that she was thankful to god for healing her. Ordinarily I would let a comment like this pass for fear of provoking a confrontation, but lately it seems important to speak my mind, and so I spoke up and said that god had nothing to do with it, that it was due solely to natural causes, modern medicine, and her own personal resiliency. I pointed out that, if indeed god were to get credit for it, then god would also have to be given the blame for all those who are not healed and suffer and die. You can’t have the one without the other, and since I didn’t think she wanted to blame god for all that other grief and suffering, then she should admit that god had nothing to do with her healing. Surprisingly, Judy understood and agreed. She said that it was true and that she felt that her attitude, research, diet and staying involved with her treatment were responsible.
Another member of the group tried to insert the standard line that those who believe in god would say that it was all part of gods plan, and that for the others it must have been their time to “go.” It was at this point that I wanted to start singing “slip slidin’ away.”
At the point when believers in god are faced with this kind of dichotomy, they slip from reasonable conversation to a place of discourse where reason no longer has purchase. The only answer to the problem of why their supposedly all-powerful, all-knowing, supremely-loving god allows all the horror, misery, pain and suffering that exist, is that god has some mysterious plan which accounts for it. And there they go “slip slidin’ away.” It’s no use asking how they know about this plan, any more than asking them how they know there is a god. They will insist that the reason they believe it is not because someone has previously told them it is so, but at the same time are unable to identify how they could possibly know about it without someone having told them. It’s no use asking them for evidence of its existence. They will say that they don’t need evidence. They just know it. And in this strange universe of thought, otherwise highly intelligent people can’t seem to see the illogic of their statements.
One question alone should disabuse them of this thinking if they profess to be reasonable people. “How could any being be described as loving whose plan allows for the widespread rape, torture and killing of little girls in the Congo (DRC), at least if that being had the ability to prevent it? We would vilify a president who would allow such a thing to occur if he had the ability to stop it. We would ridicule anyone who tried to excuse him by saying that he must have a plan that explains it. How can we then not ridicule someone who says the same thing about a god? And how could anyone revere and worship such a god? In fact, why would someone want to imagine that such a god exists? Not me! Not anymore!