When your kid gets cancer all kinds of questions start coming up. Not least because you start to have an incredible amount of time sitting around in hospitals whilst waiting for tests, results, operations and treatments.
The first decision you have to make is whether base your views on the fundamental that there is a god or not.
If you decide that there is not then things actually become far easier as all events are essentially random. Or part of a the butterfly effect that has no basis on reward and punishment.
If you go the god route then you have two choices…
The first is blind faith where you learn to accept everything as G-d has his reasons and therefore you lack the understanding to be able to question his motives.
The conversation arrives though where you take route 2, part 2 and start to question.
At times being a blind sheep is the easy option but for any intelligent, free thinking person that is not possible. Or shouldn’t be possible anyway.
Blind faith is about believing something for no other reason than the fact that you are meant to believe.
Many faults with this approach and too many to mention on this written page but:
1. If two people have blind faith for two different gods or religions then one of them is incorrect. However they don’t really mind if they are correct.
2. There is no origin for that blind faith apart from knowing that they should have it.
3. If something major changes in their life then there is no philosophical foundation and therefore little reason to stick with it.
So, we should question and probably start off with the assumption it’s a flawed edict by an unjust god.
But let’s (eventually) take a look at the question which consists of just one word: why?
1. Oops. G-d made a mistake. Not the first time this has happened.
G-d regretted the world and therefore destroyed it saving Noah and his family.
Kaballah describes how g-d created six other worlds before settling on this one.
At the holiest moment in Jewish history, children of israel worshipped the golden calf.
Innocent children and babies suffer and dies in their thousand all around the world every day.
2. G-d is not actually ‘good’ in our understanding of the word.
This actually makes quite a lot of sense. He simply has different aims than ours.
A man and a woman can have a very happy relationship even though one side is in it just to have children and the other is in it to have security.
We are told that G-d loves us.
We are told that we are created in the image of G-d.
We are told that our mission is to ‘improve’ or fix לתקן the world in the way of G-d.
So, G-d loves us and helps us to improve the world but we are not rewarded (or punished) for it in the way that e would expect.
3. We are being punished.
On a personal level this really annoys me.
Although it may seem like it is taking responsibility for your actions when examined a bit closer it is a very simplistic way of looking at things and actually shirks responsibility.
So, the basic theory behind reward and punishment is that if you do something good then you are rewarded. If you do something Even better then you are rewarded more.
If you do something bad then you are punished. If you do something worse then the punishment is larger.
It’s a bit like a job in the real world. If you work eight hours in a day then you earn 200 dollars. If you work ten hours then you earn 250 dollars.
The cause and effect here are incredibly clear.
But it becomes a bit hazy when you apply this to god.
If you help a lady across the road then you don’t necessary win the lottery that day.
But if you did, you wouldn’t necessarily have won double had you helped two old ladies across the road.
So, not only do you not consistently get A if you do B but you also don’t get 2A if you do 2B.
And this kinda sucks if you believe in reward and punishment as it is very clear that it is not a workable theory.
So therefore it seems that there is not a strong correlation between doing good and being rewarded. But theologically that is difficult to accept as it means that there is less inclination to do ‘good’ things and therefore gives god and religious leaders less control on us.
But let’s introduce a new concept of not having the ability to understand G-ds will.
In the same way that a mother may make an unwilling but tired child go to bed, G-d also acts as that maternal figure because he loves us.
And just as the child won’t realize why he is being put to bed against his will we also dont understand why he is doing by seemingly cruel things to us.
And that does make a lot of sense as long as everything works out alright in the end.
But for people who died in the holocaust things didn’t work out so well for them.
Kids who die prematurely also got the raw end of the deal.
And how about the righteous woman who suffers from incredible pain every single day of her life even though she has the name of G-d on her lips.
So, sitting here in the hospital seeing my son distressed recovering from brain surgery and about to enter a year of invasive treatment for brain cancer makes me wonder whether I am missing something.
My innate logic tells me that I would much prefer he didn’t go through this. Even if in some twisted way this is a test from G-d to see if he has qualities to become a king or a prime minister or a leading doctor both myself and I’m sure my son would prefer that this didn’t happen.
Life isn’t fair and when someone says that someone else ‘deserves’ happiness it makes me cringe. As if someone deserves happiness does that mean that someone else deserves unhappiness?
Also, as much as life is unfair, secular justice is even more unfair.
A child whose father is sent to jail is punished for the sins of their father by losing their father for the period of the sentence.
There is an idea that when G-d punishes someone those associates are also punished according to exactly the correct amount for what they have done.
We examined above the absurdity of meting out directly proportionally punishments but let’s for a moment accept that it is logically possible. And in addition that G-d is able to give the perfect punishment so that everyone is affected in the precise measure that they should.
This does however bring in additional problems such as babies who have never knowingly sinned in their lives or how it could possibly be that the radiance of one punishment on an individual could also solve the dishing out of punishments for others.
I guess some kind of conclusion is needed….
Firstly it sucks and I don’t think that you are just meant to take pain on the chin and say that it is g-ds will or that it is all part of the master plan. That imho is blind faith and I am almost certain that would not be wanted by an intelligent G-d.
Secondly, the most obvious answer is anecdotally the most likely to be correct. What is your gut answer?
Thirdly, there is no correct answer or one that can be understood. And in many cases it’s not even necessary to have an answer as it is happening anyway.