Project Conversion

Project Conversion

God on Trial

posted by abowen

I feel blasphemous just writing the title of this post, but it is June after all and this month we are occupying the fringe of religious thought.

God on trial though…asking–no, demanding–the all-powerful, all-mighty creator of the universe to stand for questioning? Who would think of such a thing?

Most of us do every day, actually.

Every time you doubt, question, or lose faith in the divine, a trial begins. “Oh God, why did you let my newborn baby die?” Or “How could a loving god allow that storm to destroy this town?” And the classic, “If God is good and all-powerful, how does he allow suffering to exist?”

These, my friends, are a court summons. My experience with Project Conversion is full of such calls to stand trial. As a Hindu in January, I asked how God could present himself as open-minded Shiva or Krishna to the Hindus and yet the very specific god of Abraham to the Hebrews. In February, as a Baha’i, I challenged God to show mercy to those suffering persecution in Iran. When March came along, God withstood my query as to why he might set apart the “Good Religion” for only one culture on earth. As a Jew, I pondered how God could allow the devastation of the Holocaust. In May, as a Buddhist, I let go of God altogether and I often wondered why he never made an attempt to ask me back home.

One objection I often hear is that because God is our creator, we don’t have a right to question him. When we question the divine, we challenge his very sovereign. My response to this is, did not the founders of every faith today at some point seek out God and question both him and the status quo of their day?

Questions bring forth a crucible of change often required for progress. If we didn’t challenge our understanding of the world and ourselves, we’d never grow. Such questioning of God then, in my opinion, is healthy; a lesson I took to heart from Judaism.

But what if we go deeper. Much of the conflict, strife and suffering in the world is rooted in religious differences. People have fought over religion for thousands of years, and even though the individual wars fade, the fundamental questions remain and resurface as the spectre of a new generation.

I would love to travel back in time to the establishment of the first and only religion, and then witness the first schism of faith. What would the first rebellion look like, the first disagreement over the nature of the divine? I can imagine the hot tempers, the insults, the reason, the fury of doubt. There’s often one thing missing in these great debates though:

God has never (as far as I know) shown up to settle the issue.

When my kids get into a deadlocked argument (which usually initiates a fist fight), I typically intervene. That isn’t to say that I don’t allow them to try to work things out, but sometimes they just aren’t capable, and rather than let them hurt themselves, I will provide mediation.

Nations have slaughtered one another over who/what God is. Families tear apart because no one can agree on what holidays to celebrate. People fall in love only to be disappointed because each follows a non-compatible faith.

Why doesn’t God mediate? There is the argument for free will, however I would bring up that my kids have free will and yet I step in for their safety and well-being. I wonder, if humanity ever unanimously came together and summoned God to stand trial–to set the record straight once and for all–not through some prophet or an exclusive “vision” to one person, but for all to see and hear…I wonder if he’d come to field our questions.

The reality is that, even if we knew we had that sort of power, humanity could never unite to bring about the trial. We also have the issue of faith over free will. Some might argue that once God shows up, we are no longer free to believe in him. I would respond that is isn’t hurting God much by knowing that we exist, however we are expected to base our  lives on a hunch that he in fact does and in our infinitely weaker capacity, we are chastised when we don’t show the proper faith.

I digress. The point here is that we’ve all put God on trial at some point. For many of us, the jury has convicted him and we no longer believe. Others have apologized to wrongly accused him in the first place. Many still have a hung jury. Because I have no spiritual guidepost this month, I honestly don’t know what to think. My mind is free to wonder and to question everything I’ve believed for the past five months.

So the question turns to you. When was the last time you put God on trial? What were the charges? What was the verdict?

Comments read comments(23)
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posted January 1, 2012 at 11:48 am


Sorry about that. I’ll dig around and see if I can’t locate it.

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posted December 31, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Huh…looks like the older comment sections got butchered in the transition to beliefnet. You commented: “Thank you Nick. The fact that you brought my own words to bear for this post is humbling.” I was trying to find my comment to review that selection, but apparently it got lost in the cloud. Oh well..

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posted October 8, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Putting God on trial. That’s why I’m here listening to you.

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