When Bad Things Happen to Good People

          Of course, this is a question that comes up a lot; my daughter just attended a funeral for a little girl who had cancer and suffered sickness and pain for most of her four year life. Many of the family and relatives were Christian, and someone answered a slightly different question, ‘why was she taken from us’ by suggesting that we don’t know what nightmares a longer life might have had in store for the child. The young folks telling me the story were appalled and thought that made no sense, but that seemed fair enough for to me. I certainly wouldn’t wish any prolonging of the pain of terminal cancer on anyone. I think the person conjecturing may have meant that any other sort of pain and nightmares may have been waiting for the girl even if this cancer had been cured, but true enough. Who knows? The idea was, that we don’t know, but God surely knows better.

          My point is, we can’t possibly know why people are taken, and that was a smaller question than the one suggested in my title, why bad things happen to good people and vice versa. Of course, we can never answer these questions – but maybe we can learn something by exploring them.

          This from a previous post of mine:

“Our children, human children are born helpless, can’t even lift their heads, can’t so much as roll over, so our babies’ first experience of us is of all-powerful, all-providing beings. If we add punishing to that, the child’s experience is of an all-powerful, all-providing being that is also vengeful and punitive, one that must have things all their own way.

Sound familiar? After some months and years of this world, the only world the child has ever known, if we introduce the Judeo Christian (and Islamic) God, then this will fit the child’s worldview. That God will make sense to a child who lives in that world –

– So in this sense, punishment lays the groundwork for religion. This is why the religious, and the fundamentalist religious are so tightly bound to their belief: they have always known the basic narrative of the Punishing God to be true.”

          In the arc of a real, human life, we experience our parents or other caregivers before we experience God, and this prompts me to question whether the question posed by this post doesn’t also hearken back to that time in our lives. Is it possible that this question, and the sense of unfairness that it represents dates back to our earliest childhood? Is it possible that this was an important question when our parents were the Gods, before we were introduced to the universal God?

          Perhaps we were punished for things that were either completely innocent, or more commonly at least for things that we didn’t understand to be “bad” and deserving of some sort of punishment. Maybe that is why this question appeals to the atheists among us as much as it does to the religious.