Sunday, 7 September 2008

God Is With Who Exactly?

The BBC showed a drama this week. Based on a true story in the Auschwitz concentration camp, the Jews facing death put God on trial for murder, collaboration and breaking the Covenant to Jews. They found him guilty on all three counts.
I expected the resulting conversation with those of a more religious nature to be about justifying Gods actions in the 2nd World War. Instead it has been about the accusation that the imprisoned Jews came to that God 'not only broke his Covenant with the Jews, but he had signed one with the Nazis instead'. That the Nazi's thought that they were doing God's work was what stung the religious most it seems.
On the belt buckle of the German soldiers was the legend "Gott Mit Uns" which translates as "God Is With Us". Hitler made pronunciations of doing Gods work throughout his political career, in Mein Kampf he explained that "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord".
Absurd, they say. God was and is on our side, not allied to one of histories greatest mass murderers.
William Churchill was a famous atheist and made no claims of assisting God, it was the Third Reich that claimed they had God their corner and were driven by the thought that they were 'doing Gods will'.
Bush and Blair in 2003 both claimed they were on a mission from God when they launched the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq while Bin Laden cites God in everything he says so which side is God on this time? Is he brutally guiding our missiles and cluster bombs that slice down families of frightened innocent civilians in their homes or is he mercifully protecting those same civilians and guiding the ammunition coming back the other way?
Possibly he doesn't side with anyone and just lets us all get on with it which goes against the idea of a Covenant and Commandments and you may as well throw away that prayer mat because the big guy isn't listening.
The Jews in the camp decided that God, believed to be all powerful, loving and just, had abandoned them as he could have stopped Hitler but never in which case he holds no power or he could but chose not to so he can't possibly be just and caring as they died agonising and painful deaths in their millions.
How can the religious decide just whose side God is on? It must be more complex than 'ours, because we are the good guys fighting the bad guys', that's just ignorantly arrogant and is said on both sides of most conflicts.
Was God with the religious Hitler and his Third Reich after all as they claimed or was he with the Atheist Soviets and Churchill?
If it's the former, we were wrong to fight against him and if it's the latter, not praying or spending your existence lauding an Almighty works just as well.

27 comments:

iMuslim said...

God is Just, loves justice, and is with those who strive for just causes.

Even non-believers.

That is a concept I have been taught.

One of the early Muslim leaders once gave a speech to his army before going into battle, advising them to be just and noble, because the only thing that would grant them victory over the enemy is if they were committing fewer sins.

Many Muslims wring their hands over the state of their lands, but fail to see the injustices they are carrying out against their own neighbours. They call out to God for justice, and fail to realise that perhaps He is answering their prayers.

That is why a contemporary scholar advised us to pray for God's Mercy, because the truth is, with all the wrong we do, we may not be able to handle His Justice.

iMuslim said...

Another concept in Islam, is that God does use bad people for good ends. It's all part of a bigger picture.

You said it yourself that none of the parties involved in WWII were truly "good guys". History is written by the victors, remember?

Life is so short and fleeting. How many billions of years has this universe existed? So many signs around us to show us how futile our attempts are to build empires that last for a blink of an eye, in relative terms.

So one party becomes rich and powerful today... only to be toppled tomorrow. They die, for their riches to be inherited by others. How much death, destruction and oppression - for what?

"By the charging steeds that pant
and strike sparks with their hooves,
who make dawn raids,
raising a cloud of dust,
and plunging into the midst of the enemy,
man is ungrateful to his
Lord
- and He is witness to that -
he is truly excessive in his love of wealth.

Does he not know that when the content of the graves burst forth,
when the secrets of hearts are uncovered, on that Day,
their Lord will be fully aware of them all?"

The Holy Qur'an, Surah 100

Lucy said...

I struggle with the idea of God being 'just' in this case or in any case with regards to war and conflict but especially in this example. What crime could the Jews have committed for it to be 'just', or 'fair' that they suffered like this? Babies and young children were killed alongside the good, bad, religious and non-religous adults at Auschwitz and have died in wars before and since. They have no concept of wrong or right so was not 'just' to them. Unless it is collective punishment in which case we get into the realms of God demanding sacrifices and him not caring about who he takes which is far from just and caring.

effay said...

"Was God with the religious Hitler and his Third Reich after all as they claimed or was he with the Atheist Soviets and Churchill?"

Why is NOTA not possible? (Or perhaps this concept is more properly understood as AOTA.)

"With" is a word with many connotations.

Just thoughts - I don't profess to know the answer, otherwise I'd be...God.

Cody Bones said...

Lucy, great post. Remember that there is an argument that says that God's greatest gift is free will. Just a thought

Noah "Nog" M. said...

Lucy,
-Hitler's religion is a big subject. He might have pretended to be a "Christian" in public, but from what we know of the private Hitler, he was far from a doctrinally correct Christian of any persuasion.
-More people have been killed by atheists in the 20th century than by theists. Who is science with?
-God isn't with any particular nation state. He doesn't have any overriding concern for the Americans or the British or the Germans or the Jews or whoever.
-Read Mark Twain's "The War Prayer".

-Nog

O' Tim said...

Excellent post, and interesting comments by all. I am not a believer in an active, benevolent, father-figure god, but rather a spiritual force that is dictated by the thoughts, acts and even instincts of all creation. Yes Cody, I would argue that "God" is an adamant supporter of mankind's free will. As the overwhelmingly dominant life force (at least here on this planet) We are therefore the chief steward and mover-shaker.

The Twain piece is superb, to which I would add the sardonic wisdom of Bob Dylan, who wrote, "If God's on our side he'll stop the next war."

Cheezy said...

The problem with thinking that there is a God who is actively intervening in human affairs is neatly summed up by that great 'friend' of the theist, Richard Dawkins, in discussing God's 'role' (or lack thereof) in 9-11:

"It seems that control of the plane which crashed near Pittsburgh was probably wrestled out of the hands of the terrorists by a group of brave passengers. The wife of one of these valiant and heroic men, after she took the telephone call in which he announced their intention, said that God had placed her husband on the plane as His instrument to prevent the plane crashing on the White House. I have the greatest sympathy for this poor woman in her tragic loss, but just think about it! As my (also understandably overwrought) American correspondent who sent me this piece of news said:

"Couldn’t God have just given the hijackers a heart attack or something instead of killing all those nice people on the plane? I guess he didn’t give a flying f~ck about the Trade Center, didn’t bother to come up with a plan for them"


PS: I'm inclined to think that it doesn't matter whether Hitler was a Catholic, an atheist, or a particularly self-loathing Jew, as only ignorant people infer generalities from particulars and tar everyone of the same faith with the same brush...

lettersA2Z said...

we're in a bit of a hole the way i see it. religion, and the belief in god is so widely accepted, almost blindly, that it leaves a loophole for extremists like hilter and 9-11 hijackers to claim they were doing gods will. with logic like that no one can claim to be wiser.

whether they truly believed it or not i couldnt say. ive seen people on trial for crimes as serious as murder announce that satan made them do it. to me that is ridiculous unless they are completely mentally unstable. having said that, for someone to say their actions, good or bad, is gods will shows dangerous lack of understanding of the concept of god. or you just want to do something without having to give a legit justification.

and this applies to vp palin saying something about the bible being her only guide.

whats the best way out of this hole?

Anonymous said...

Lucy,

Part 1: God and people

Projecting the thoughts and actions of humans onto God makes for interesting writing and creates lots of situations for sarcastic remarks.

What you seem to miss in your view of God (the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian version) is that we people were created with the ability to choose. Believers can do bad things (sin), and non-believers can do good things (not necessairly piety). Every now and again humans happen to do things that God would have us do. Sometimes out of piety. Sometimes out of pure coincedence.

Part 2: Religion, leaders, and history
You have used creative license, taken words out of context and proportion, and spun a very damning yarn that supports your views instead of actuality.

Eric Hoffer wrote about Hitler and his use of "religion" extensively in the book "True Believer". His version of history is a lot more credible.

Part 3: Bush, the U.S., and Religious War
Saying that Bush pushed the Iraq invasion as a religious war is completely bogus. We in the U.S. have gone out of our way to make this about terrorism, not religion (yes we need the oil, but the Iraq invasion was because Americans felt vulnerable and nothing is scarier than a terrorist with a nuke. Russians are logical and predicable. Terrorrists suck). Very recently I saw a couple of Muslims (I presume) place mats on the floor and started praying. Nobody bothered them. Nobody really even paid that much attention to them. It was in Houston International Airport. For the record, Houston International Airport is in Texas. Texas, for the record, is in the middle of the "Christian Bible Belt" and Texas is "redneck". Houston is "redneck" central. If this was a "religious" war, those guys would have been destroyed on the spot...

Part 4: Bush, religious war, and creative license
Have statements about God been made in regard to the Iraq invasion? No doubt. By Bush? Probably. Will somebody write something in the future using as much creative license as you did in this post? No doubt. Will it be believed by many? No doubt. Will it be accurate?

Q

Cheezy said...

"yes we need the oil, but the Iraq invasion was because Americans felt vulnerable and nothing is scarier than a terrorist with a nuke"

Gee whizz. So, bearing in mind you "need the oil", would the invasion have happened if our leaders hadn't felt so spooked by all the nukes Saddam was a fixin'? Dya think? Hmmm.... Sounds like they might have been faced with a bit of a dilemma, in that case...

Zoe said...

Hi Lucy

Interesting and thought provoking post. The BBC programme has sparked a debate on how we all view G-d which must be welcomed. Postings from bloggers like yourself force further debate into a wider circle outside of the remit of the programme which we must tackle, however uncomfortable and at odds with popular belief the conclusions we reach may be.

Zoe
Independent Jewish Voices

Lucy said...

Cody - Free will is only acceptable up to a point. The only people who had any free will in the camps were the guards, the Jews had no choice whether to be there or not. I would guess they would choose to be safely elsewhere if they had a choice. Children and innocent civilians killed during wars have no free will to choose between dying or not, the choice of who to kill and how many is always with the attackers.

Nog - Twains War Prayer is a classic piece of writing, thank you for reminiding me of it. It was probably enough for the 'foot soldiers' to be frequently reminded that they were doing Gods work for them to believe it. Hitler, regardless of his own beliefs, instilled into them this belief which gave them a 'cause' as it were.

Q - You seem to have taken this as an attack on religion which it is not, it is a debate on how we, secular and religious, view God.
I have taken the position that there is a God (against my personal beliefs) and hoped to hear some answers to some questions that may be unpalatable and uncomfortable for those of a religous persuasion but need to be asked to make sense of it all.

Anonymous said...

Lucy,

Religion is worthy of attack. I don't equate God and religion. Religion is a human response to God and is very flawed, often manipulated, and frequently abused - AKA Hitler.

I would say the Christian view is that God is on everybody's side. God wants all of us to treat everybody with kindness and compassion. God wants all of us to believe and follow. Humans (per the Old Testament) are not able to abide by God's will. After one redo (Noah, et al), God decided to send a saviour. Jewish people believe that the saviour has not yet arrived. Christians believe that Jesus is the savior. Muslims believe Mohammed is the savior.

Q

Anonymous said...

Cheezy,

I don't believe oil was THE motive. I told you what I thought was the motive - terrorists with nukes.

Why would we need to take the Iraqi oil at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars when the Saudi's and Kuwaiti's will pump as much as we request? It isn't good business sense...

Q

Anonymous said...

Excellent post lucy. I stuck it in my blog sidebar. How many people has God killed?

Cheezy said...

"Why would we need to take the Iraqi oil at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars when the Saudi's and Kuwaiti's will pump as much as we request?"

Nope. For a start, it's Saudi- dominated OPEC that calls the shots on how much oil gets pumped (and thusly, what the price of a barrel shall be). And for most of Iraq's history, it's been in the interests of 'Big Oil' to suppress production from this country, not stimulate it.

The neo-cons, for all their faults, at least wanted to reverse this situation.

Information on this matter abounds, but here's a good start:

http://www.truthout.org/article/greg-palast-keeping-iraqs-oil-ground

Anonymous said...

Cheesy,

I thought I said that Saudi (which dominates OPEC) would insure that we get as much oil as we (U.S.) need.

Sorry, but I still don't understand what you think I don't udnerstand.

Q

Noah "Nog" M. said...

-"How many people has God killed?"
None. Death is a privation of God.

-"...Richard Dawkins..."
The last I checked, Dawkins still is neither a metaphysicist, nor a philosopher, nor an ethicist, nor a theologian. He's way out of his field.

-"I would say the Christian view is that God is on everybody's side."
Q has the Christian God down here. It isn't as if the "evangelicals" who vote based on who will bomb more really read the Bible.


--Nog

Anonymous said...

Was God with the Nazi's or not? If he is on everybodys side, then he must have been and how does that play with Hitler being the most evil man ever and spendind eternity in hell if God was working alongside him? Has he also been complicit in the work of all the mass murderers throughout History? My question would be if God created everything and everyone, why create such a flawed planet with so many natural disasters that kill indiscriminetly. Tsunami's, earthquakes, hurricanes etc.

annie said...

or, to quote an apropos f.z. lyric:

'hey, lets get serious...
god knows what he's doin'
he wrote this book here
and the book says:
he made us all to be just like him,
so...
if we're dumb...
then god is dumb...
(an maybe even a little ugly on the side)'

'dumb all over' frank zappa

Cheezy said...

"I thought I said that Saudi (which dominates OPEC) would insure that we get as much oil as we (U.S.) need."

Well, no. It's not quite what you said. You said that OPEC would either pump or not pump at the US's request.

But overall, you seem to be saying something like: "We don't need Iraq's oil because the Saudis will give us enough to keep our cars running". It's slightly - but not much - more subtle than that.

With that link I posted, I'm trying to point you toward a rather more pertinent aspect of oil. That being, the price of it. The price of it being mainly dictated, of course, by control of supply.

Follow the money, Q, and you won't go far wrong.

"The last I checked, Dawkins still is neither a metaphysicist, nor a philosopher, nor an ethicist, nor a theologian. He's way out of his field."

Best laugh I've had all day! I think that, when I'm looking for the answers to all the big questions, that's a pretty comprehensive list of people who I won't bother asking... Theologians being at the top of that list :)

Cody Bones said...

Jesus has a bracelet that says, “WWSPD?”




http://www.palinfacts.com/

Lucy said...

Judging by what i have read Cody, what she would do is probably shoot it. Anon actually brings up a very good question about the Tsunami and earthquakes. I know many people who asked some serious questions of their faith after the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004.

Cheezy said...

That's superb, Cody! I think my favourite is:

"N. Alaska is sunny half the year and dark half the year because Sarah Palin needed the reading light, then wanted a nap"

iMuslim said...

Lucy, my point was that if anyone claims they are doing God's will, when in fact they are going against His commandments to be just, then God is not in fact on their side.

And as others have said, humans have been given the ability to choose between right and wrong. If you don't believe in the Day of Judgement, then it becomes almost impossible to appreciate the nature of this worldly existence as being a temporary trial for every single one of us.

Some of us are given power over others: that is a test; others are in a position of weakness: that too is a test. No soul is burdened more than it can bear. The results come out on Judgement Day.

Q, just to clarify this statement:
"Jewish people believe that the saviour has not yet arrived. Christians believe that Jesus is the savior. Muslims believe Mohammed is the savior."

If you're talking about the Messiah, than Muslims also believe Jesus to be that promised figure, peace be upon him. If you're talking about people sent by God to deliver His message, than that applies to all the Prophets, the last of which was Muhammed, peace be upon them all.

Anonymous said...

imuslim,

I didn't know that...

Q