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The Question of God

Human Condition

Armand Nicholi: Freud says that it seems not to be the case that there's a power in the universe which watches over the well-being of individuals with parental care, and brings all their affairs to a happy ending. Earthquakes, tidal waves, conflagrations, make no distinction between the good and what we consider the evil. And when it comes to relationships between people, uh, the good often come away with the short end of the stick. How do you explain that? Freud says, "The notion that good is rewarded and evil punished by the government of the universe just does not seem to square with reality." But Lewis, in response, points out that the government of the universe is temporarily in enemy hands. Do any of these arguments make sense today? And have they in any way influenced your own personal worldview?

Jeremy Fraiberg: How can you believe in a Christian God when there are things in this world like little girls getting abducted, sexually tortured repeatedly and then hacked up into pieces. That just happened in Toronto, where I come from. I mean, this is unspeakably evil. And awful. And how could a good God let that happen?

Doug Holladay: He couldn't. The Old Testament documents seem to argue that the world isn't what it was intended to be. So I would say those things are because God's given free will, this world is on its own trajectory. But this is not Plan A, I'd say. This is Plan B, which is a broken world, that free reign of evil is everywhere.

Margaret Klenck: I wouldn't say that the spiritual worldview is that there are these two forces in the world, sort of Manicheism. I mean, I don't think we need to go to "All good God, all horrible devil." I think I can begin to get my mind around, and my heart around, a God who has a shadow, the way we do. A God who, because there's light, there will be dark. That there is a sense that this is all part of the entity. I don't believe that we're living in plan B. I think this is — I think this is plan. This is the plan.

Armand Nicholi: That God planned the evil?

Margaret Klenck: No, I don't picture a God sitting there with, like, a calculus and figuring all this out and saying, "Ah, and if I do this, this'll happen, if I do that, that'll happen." I don't relate to that God. I relate to a force that has set this in motion, and that enjoys the free will, not in a sadistic way, but in the way that I believe we're made in God's image, which is to be in relationship. If we can't be in relationship — if there's no evil, if there's no bad, if there's no sad, there can be no love, there can be no good.

Louis Massiah: I think I'm following what you're saying. It's not to say that we want evil, that we want bad, but confronting those forces actually helps us to rise to another level. Without struggle, you know, where would we be?

Jeremy Fraiberg: Hold on — this free will argument is really flawed in a number of ways. First of all, free will addressed only the third of the list of three things that Freud listed as being sources of pain — namely, the things that people do to other people. It says nothing at all about the decay of our bodies — people suffer horrible diseases, terrible pain, that has nothing to do with free will. Natural disasters, earthquakes, volcanoes, what does that have to do with free will?

Doug Holladay: If we are in fact living in enemy territory, then our life is lived in reality knowing there's evil in the world, and we've got these skirmishes all along the way. We're having fights where we have one victory — Nelson Mandela's released, this good thing happens, but there is evil, there's no question who's in charge of this world order. That is the spiritual worldview, as Lewis has articulated it. And it seems to me that if you don't get that, if I don't understand that the world is terribly different than God's plan A, then you're kind of surprised all the time by evil. I think Lewis is saying, "Don't be surprised by evil ... . "

Margaret Klenck: No, no, he's not surprised by evil... Nobody's surprised by evil. I mean, I think the point is —

Doug Holladay: No, if you just say everything's God, everything's good, I think the worldview that says there's real evil everywhere, and our job in life is to fight against that

Winifred Gallagher: A big piece of this for the religious person, though, whether it's Buddhism or Christianity or Judaism, or — the person of faith says, "Despite all this terrible stuff, I am putting my trust in the fact that it's still part of what will turn out to be a good picture."

photos of conversation participants