Monday, May 30, 2011

Reason to love Randomness #1: Bad things happening to good people

Last night Oom Eddie's car was stolen outside church.  If you are somehow new to this blog and can't be arsed to click on a link, Oom Eddie is the kindly gentleman I rent a room from.  As I mentioned before, Oom Eddie is one of the kindest, gentlest, most giving people I know.  I can think of no one who actually lives out the commands of Jesus the way he does.  I recently discovered that the reason our meat supply got so suspiciously low all of a sudden is because he started giving away packages of frozen meat to people who stop by begging for food.  Now having your car stolen sucks 5 kinds of ass but Oom Eddie is taking this pretty hard.  He is usually asleep by 8 but last night he was up till way past 11, alternately blasting Gospel and Simon & Garfunkel.  Turns out that against all reason he sees this as a punishment from God.  If you think that's weird, wait till you hear why.

See, due to his tender heart, the man likes to create work for the unemployed.  As such he gets his car washed so regularly I'm amazed it still has paint on.  Last month he had the house painted even though for the most part it certainly didn't need any paint.  That's when the trouble started though.  See the guy he hired to paint (and paid pretty well I might add) kept on showing up after all the painting was done demanding more work.  Now Oom Eddie is not a rich man and painting the house emptied his coffers and seeing as how the painting was pretty much just busywork in the first place there was nothing else to do around the house.  So, though I assume it was very hard for him, he told the worker in question (Elias) to go away because he had nothing left to give him and nothing for him to do.  Fast forward to last night.  Now, with the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus weighing heavily on his soul, he has come to the conclusion that God is punishing him for not helping Elias more.

All this reminded me of why I so happily embrace the random universe we live in.  I don't torture myself like this when something shitty happens because I don't think everything happens for a reason.  Well, technically everything does happen for a reason but my point is that most of those reasons have sweet screw all to do with me.  Tectonic plates move, pressure builds, earthquake happens.  It's not the anger of God or Karma or the retarded Law of Attraction, it's just the wheels of the universe turning.  Occasionally said wheels fling some shit your way.  It happens.  It's not to say that we aren't responsible for some of the things that happen to us.  But while some people get heart attacks because they live on deep fried bacon grease, others have heart attacks because of a genetic flaw.  So spare yourself as much shit as you can but live with the knowledge that you cannot stop it all.  Once you make peace with that it just hurts less.

Not I very popular message I grant you.  That's why things like The Secret, The Prayer of Jabes and the entire Word of Faith movement is so enduringly popular - people will grasp at any straw offering them control over an indifferent and uncontrollable universe.  For many, the illusion of control is better than the reality of no just how little we truly control.

Which is all a very roundabout way of saying that Elias is working on the tiles in the kitchen right now...


GumbyTheCat said...

This kind of stuff drives me nuts. People aren't supposed to be afraid of God. Their faiths are supposed to be the bridge. But people always blame themselves when bad things happen and think that God is angry with them about something. The bridge is only as strong as it's allowed to be, and Christianity tends to make weak bridges because even after "salvation" there is always the spectre of God watching everything you do - or in Eddie's case what you don't do.

Even in my believing days I never fully subscribed to the notion of a god who watches every little thing every person does and rewards or chastises them appropriately. If he did, good things wouldn't happen to bad people, and bad things wouldn't happen to good people. People of faith are supposed to grow spiritually, but this ever-watching eye-in-the-sky reward/punishment system so many people believe in reduces God to some dude trying to teach his dog to sit and roll over. Do it right, get a doggie biscuit. Do it wrong, have your car stolen. Doesn't make sense to me, never did.

You may wish to remind him that it is absolutely impossible for one person to shoulder all the burdens that surround him. Shouldering the whole burden was Jesus's job, not ours. If we could do it all ourselves Jesus would be irrelevant right? I do not believe for one second that BibleJesus expected anyone to be all good things to all people. Mother Teresa couldn't do it all, and you'll find few Christians outside fundie "Catholics are hellbound idol worshipers" fanatics that would say she's not in heaven right now.

I feel for Eddie. His religion is failing him when he needs it the most, because it (Pauline Christianity) is set up in the minds of its believers to do exactly that in times of crisis.

If people paid more attention to the teachings of Jesus rather than the words of Paul, maybe devout Christians wouldn't go through the turmoil Eddie is going through right now.

But what do I know?

Eugene said...

I don't know if this is a feature of Christianity. This sort of mindset seems to permeate all of humanity, from the capricious gods of old who dish out cruelty for the slightest mistake to modern new age hippies who believe in getting karmically bitchslapped. Somehow we all believe that on some level we are important enough that everything that happens to us can somehow be caused by us.

Maybe our brains are just broken or something.

Also, I think Christopher Hitchens may have something to say about the goodness of Mother Theresa!

GumbyTheCat said...

LOL. Yeah, I know. I have his book about Mother Teresa on my Amazon wish list. I have read a few snippets from that book and understand his general premise. It should be an interesting read, but as much as I love Hitchens, I am not going to blindly accept what he says on the subject (the Pharyngula crowd, of course, is in lock-step with Hitchens). Despite the fact I've managed to free myself from most of the entanglements of religion, dissing Mother Teresa like he does seems kind of extreme and in poor taste. It's like taunting kittens or something. But then, I may feel differently after reading his book.

Good point about this fear of a vengeful god being an old feature not limited to Christianity. I don't think our brains our broken, I just think we're wired a certain way. Some of the grooves in our mental vinyl LP's are pretty deep due to constant playing.

I just read a very good post over at Greta Christina's blog where she writes about Camping's Rapture nonsense. Even as a longtime atheist and skeptic, she still confessed to having a momentary and involuntary fear "what if he's right?" Of course, after two seconds of rational introspection, she realized Rapture and Camping are loads of hooey, but she still had that involuntary momentary pause. Several atheist commenters had the same experience.

It seems that thoughts that play on our fears and other emotions are rooted deeper than thoughts that employ reason. Which seems logical, seeing that "fight-or-flight" and other emotion-based psychological responses were more useful to much earlier generations of man than thoughts based on logic and reason.