Monday, August 13, 2007

Madeleine McCann's Parents Ask - "Why did God allow this?"

Madeleine McCann's mother said her faith in God has been shaken by the abduction of her three-year-old daughter.

Kate McCann said fear about what might have happened to Madeleine, who was taken from her bed in the family’s holiday apartment 102 days ago, led her to question her belief in God. “You find yourself asking, ‘Why do this to Madeleine? Why have you let this happen?’” she said.

But Mrs McCann said these “darker moments” of doubt were short-lived. “You realise that God hasn’t done this, somebody else has done this. I find myself asking God to help us find Madeleine and keep her safe”, she told the BBC’s Heaven and Earth programme.

The Catholic couple have spent much time since Madeleine’s abduction in the small Anglican church in Praia da Luz, the Portuguese resort where the family were on holiday. “We have drawn on our faith much more since this happened, [but] our faith has always been there,” Mrs McCann said.

Gerry McCann said his faith had been a constant throughout turbulent ordeal. “If the worst has happened all we might be left with is a faith in the knowledge that she is in a better place”, he said, adding that they had “thought through” everything that could have happened to their daughter.

The title of the article was "McCann's Question Their Faith".
Is this really what theists are imagining when they say they've "questioned their faith"? I ask this sincerely because, if so, then this explains why so many theists will make the argument that atheists have become unhappy with God or angered by God. Is it really accurate for them to say that they've "questioned their faith"?

“You realise that God hasn’t done this, somebody else has done this. I find myself asking God to help us find Madeleine and keep her safe”, she told the BBC’s Heaven and Earth programme.

The sad thing is that her first statement is true, but she didn't carry it to the next conclusion. God didn't allow Madeleine to be kidnapped... God doesn't exist. When you think about all the time that people have, allegedly, spent in prayer or masses for Madeleine, I have to ask if that time might've been better spent looking for her?
If she (Madeleine) is found, God, the Pope, and the McCann's faith will undoubtedly get the credit. And, if Madaleine isn't found...who gets the blame?


Erp said...

I suspect theists come to atheism in many different ways but one is realizing the problem of evil (how does one have an all powerful, all good, all knowing god that allows x where x is cruel to happen). I think it is generally agreed that Charles Darwin lost what remaining faith he had after his daughter's death, and, I suspect he was not alone in losing belief after something terrible happens. Atheists are not just found in foxholes; they are made in foxholes. What has been shaken for the McCann's seems to be whether god is all good but they have not followed through to the conclusion that they have to give up either god's power or god's will to do good (admittedly if Madeleine is found alive and well [which we all hope for] the problem will be evaded this time).

Also though I never followed up on it then, you commented earlier why so much publicity in this case and mentioned other similar cases in the US. However this was a British case and as such was unique within the time frame as a case of an apparent stranger abduction of a young child (the other missing children on the UK missing children web site were either taken by relatives or older and probable/possible runaways).

Lynn's Daughter said...

Yeah, it's kind of amazing. If something wonderful happens, it's "god working through others" but if something awful happens, it's just people doing something. Why can't it be both? Or neither? Strange logic.

Chris said...

I've run into this quiet a lot, myself, having come from a preacher family. It's like Mr. Deity says:

"If somebody prays to me, and things go well, who gets the credit? Me, right? But if they pray to me and things dont go well, who gets the blame? Not me!"

It's disgusting, really, and frankly it's pretty damn offensive. I find it offensive coming from an outside observer, even. For instance, if I'm watching a medical show, and the doctors, after a long and difficult surgery, save the person from certain death...what do I normally hear? "Thank you, Lord!", or something to that effect. No, the Lord didn't do anything, neither did God, or Allah, or Buddha, or whatever else you want to call him. Those doctors did. They are the ones who spent years going to medical school, learning the history of the condition your loved one just recovered from, learning the methods to treat it, spending years watching experts perform it right and practicing themselves...and that's just the one doctor, that doesn't even include all the other doctors, all the operators for the various machines to diagnose or treat them, or the biochemists who developed all the various drugs being used, or the engineers who made the machines they're hooked up to, and on and on. Do these theists honestly believe that the Lord would, or has, let somebody who hasnt had all this training do as well a job? Why does he always seem to work through those who have spent all this time practicing how to do it? As I type this, I realize this is yet another example of theists dumbing down their God in their constant struggle to keep him relavent to the real world, fitting him in somewhere. Really, if the people themselves are doing all this, where does it leave God? By insisting that God must play a role in all this, they're forcing him to play such a small role, he might as well not be there at all.

My mom did this to me earlier this year, and it really pissed me off. I found out I got a really huge scholarship for my final year at school, and called her to tell her the good news. All she would say was "Thank the Lord that he did this for you, oh, thank you". The Lord did this? I was the one who spent all these years at school, I was the one who spent all those nights studying, all those hours cramming, all those hours in class. I didn't get a free ride, I wasn't just sitting there letting the Lord learn for me, I was doing all the work. By giving God all the credit, she demeaned all the work I put into my schooling, made it sound as if it was him doing all the work, that I didn't play a role in it at all (after all, if I did play a role in my education, I should have gotten some recognition) What was more insulting was that in order for me to pay for some of my tuition, I needed to use some of the money my recently deceased Dad left me. If it was the Lord who provided this, then the Lord was the bastard who not only killed my Dad, but let him suffer all those years through cancer and the after-effects of the treatment. I told my mom this. I told her all the hard work I went through for years in order to get to this point, and not only that, get here with the GPA and everything else to have gotten the scholarship. After all those excited praises of the Lord, how did she respond? "Oh...good work too, Chris" GAAAA!!!

Sorry, this was another subject I guess I needed to rant on as well. :) But yeah, I see this line of thinking all the time, and it's offensive and demeaning to those who actually did put in learning / training / effort / money / etc to get the job done that God is being praised for.

God's a mooch.

Gramomster said...

The one that really gets my goat is the folks who have litters. Not the Duggar-type one or two at a time brood, but the 7-at-once type litters. When 7 embryos take, and the parents are offered selective reduction, to offer the 2 or 3 embryos the best chance, they refuse, saying, 'God gave us 7, we will accept this great gift yada yada yada'. Okay, I don't know about you all, but first off, all I see is 7 three year olds. Not really a gift in my mind. And no, god did not give you 7 babies. Modern science and medicince gave you 7 (potential) babies! Sheesh!!! And then, if/when 1 or several don't make it after the inevitable preterm birth, god 'took them home, but we can always treasure the short time we were blessed with them, yada yada yada.'

Poor little things. Born to live short little lives, likely in discomfort, because mom and dad couldn't bear to give 3 a good chance over giving 6 or 7 a slim chance.

Give credit where credit is due. Science! Not god. And don't have friggin' litters! If humans were meant to have litters, we'd have the requisite number of boobs. Where's god play into that math, eh?

aimee said...

"You realise that God hasn’t done this, somebody else has done this".

Ummm yeah, that would be you, the parents!

Chris, honestly, great job on getting your scholarship!!! Being in school myself, I know how hard it is. I was in an argument not too long ago on a Catholic blog. I was complaining about how football players point their finger to the sky to thank god for that catch, or for the touchdown. And I got bombarded with crap like, "Well god gave them the talent to be able to make the catch"!

WTF!!! I beg to differ. It has to do with all the training and coaches. There be might some natural athletic talent there, but it sure as hell didn't come from the sky daddy. The people said as much about things like scholarships too. God gave them the brains and blah, blah, blah. I mentioned it was more than okay to pat yourself on the back for doing the work and take the credit they deserve. They jumped all over me like a pack of freaking wolves for that. How dare I say that god didn't have something to do with their success in life.

Gramomster (love the name by the way :)
I agree quit with litters of kids!

Poodles Rule said...

I had also heard something else about this story the other day on the radio. It seems that some Portugese newspapers have written that the parents and/or their friends might be looking suspicious, it seems there might be blood traces found on the walls of her room. It could be nothing, but worth noting.

shaun said...

I love that, to theists, God is above blame. Really, if one believes that God necessarily created everything, he also created the evils in the world. If God is omniscient, he KNEW that this kidnapping would take place. Yet God is above reproach here. What's funnier is that theists will twist and contort their theologies to fit their notions that God is nothing but good, such as the "free-will" spiral that just becomes logically unsound. Complete phooey.

To me, this is just more evidence that God does not exist - especially God of Christian theology.

Anonymous said...

So the abduction had nothing to do with them leaving the children unattended while they went out to dinner, then?

Russ said...

Occasionally, I've been able to make a theist understand my atheism by considering times of trauma. I point out that ambulances don't stop at houses of worship of any ilk while attempting to maximize the likelihood of survival of the patient. They cruise right past all churches, mosques, and synagogues as they speed to their charge to the best care available: all natural 100 percent supernatural-free human -derived medicine.

The medical assistance sought has the same effect regardless of the religious bent of either the physician or the patient.

Once in a while a theist will see my point, but sadly, most take the hyperlink into apologetics mode and employ the timed-honored tactic of obfuscation, confusing themselves as they refuse to see the world as it is.

AlisonM said...

It's not terribly surprising, actually. We kind of expect to be treated fairly (even though life itself isn't "fair"), and even though theist apologists justify this kind of thing with all kinds of work-arounds, it's not what they've learned all along in church. In church, they hear about miracles, they hear about how god listens to prayers, they hear about faith and loyalty to the church is rewarded, and so on. When it comes to tragedies of their own, they can sustain themselves for quite some time remembering all the promises they learned from their church leaders, the stories on TV and newspapers in which god is praised, and the people who ended up with the result they wanted tell the world that they prayed, and lit candles, and the prayers of all the people who knew about the situation were heeded. Depending on the person's faith upbringing, this might hold them for quite some time. Eventually, though, the result won't occur, or the result will be unsatisfactory (such as finding a child's body instead of finding the child) and the theist is faced with a dilemma. Someone who is thoroughly indoctrinated will turn to explanations, the same ones that drive rational people nuts. But many will be struck, hard, with the realization that even though they "did everything right", it's not turning out for them the way it did for all those other people who got the miracles they wanted. NO FAIR!!!! The whole principle on which they based their hope has been dashed, all the things they were told to believe turn out to be lies, and that means. . .how many other things were lies all along? They don't want to try to understand a "higher purpose," they just want to know how come they found that woman's kid and not mine? I prayed and tithed just as much, if not more! How come his wife survived the same surgery that killed mine? Why did that person survive the fire/plane crash/bridge collapse, when I stayed up all night with my prayer group petitioning for my loved one, who ended up a casualty?

It's natural to question why, because worshippers are made all kinds of promises of rewards, and when rewards come, god gets the credit. If that's what you learn, that's what you expect. If it teaches people to be more vigilant about their kids and not trust god to do all the work, it's a good thing. It would be far worse if they didn't question their faith, and rather reinforced the "god works in mysterious ways" meme in international news, so parents could remain complacent and deluded.

aimee said...

Russ, I never thought of that before, great argument. They aren't even taken to the chapel within the hospital. Nope, straight into the care of medical doctors. Again, excellent point.

Mark said...

PM, I read your blog all the time and it's one of my daily "musts" but this is the first time I've posted a comment. This subject struck a nerve with me because it's something I've tried to argue with certain members of my family for years.

When a beloved aunt died a few years ago, many hours were spent praying for her recovery. Had she recovered, god would have, of course, gotten all the credit. But, unfortunately she died from her illness. What did the family say? It was god's will. How can you argue with beliefs like this? Healed? Miracle from god. Not healed? God's will. Just last week, my sister-in-law had a heart scare and we were all told to keep her in our prayers.

She's been a "child of god" all of her life. If god was her "father" shouldn't have have healed her because she's his child? Do we have to pray and basically beg for him to help her? If he wasn't planning to help her can he change his mind if there are enough prayers thrown his way? Is there a prayer meter that has to fill up to a certain level before he'll help? Maybe he's thinking, "Well, I wasn't going to help her but since I received enough prayers from her family strangers on her mother's prayer chain, I guess I'd better do something". Is this the act of anyone we would call "father"? Is this someone worthy of worship? I have listened to this stuff my entire life and it still makes me angry. The fact that grown up, supposedly logical human beings buy into this makes me want to vomit.

Thanks for letting me vent. And Chris, congratulations on your scholarship. I understand what you're feeling when your mom wants to give credit to God for things that YOU have done and God had no part in. I feel this way every Thanksgiving when my Baptist family wants to thank God for all we've been "given". I have busted my ass to get what I have. God didn't give me a damn thing. I'm sure many of you feel the same way because we've all worked hard for what we have. To suggest that the sky daddy gave it to us is insulting and offensive.

Russ said...

Mark said, "Healed? Miracle from god. Not healed? God's will."

To me, it's interesting to note that the accepted binary nature - yup or nope, yes or no, yea or nay - of possible outcomes of prayers means that anything in the universe is as capable as any god of responding to prayers.

Note that no matter what someone desires to have happen in their lives, it will always be the case that either it will take place or it will not take place. If either option is acceptable and if both options are always attributed to the target of prayer, then anything in the universe - animal, vegetable, mineral, idea, etc. - can function as the target of prayer. One need only have the right state of mind.

To see how this works, let's look at an example. Let's say you hear about a newly discovered species of fish and you want to test its power to answer prayer. You whip up a sincere heartfelt prayer: Dear Recently Discovered Fish Species, Please give me a trip to the Bahamas. So short, sweet and to the point that even a fish couldn't mistake your intent. Just enjoy the thought: you either are or are not going to the Bahamas and the Recently Discovered Fish Species is going to make it happen.

Here, I must point out that you, by partaking of prayer, have agreed to accept the following quirky little intellectual compromise: regardless of how the prayer coincides with you actually going to the Bahamas or not actually going to the Bahamas, you will ascribe it to the Recently Discovered Fish Species. Additionally, you are required to ignore the fact that since there are only two outcomes, both of which are acceptable to you and both of which will be ascribed to the Recently Discovered Fish Species, you have stacked the deck entirely in favor of the fish. You have accepted conditions under which the fish will be associated with all possible outcomes. The fish can't fail, but, as you are supposed to ignore, it has nothing real or imagined to do with the fish. Answered prayer is a mindgame you play with yourself.

Laudable alternatives to the fish as a target for prayer might include rock, fart, chair leg, potato, abstraction, skunk, axolotl, constipation, or upper leftmost pixel on your computer monitor. Anything you can think of. All things will answer all prayers as effectively as any imaginary diety if you only embrace those "can't fail" preconditions that make the target of prayer irrelevant. All things will answer all prayers if you play the right mindgame with yourself.

AlisonM said...

I think that praying to a fart might make you rather unpopular around other people. . .

Berlzebub said...

I think that praying to a fart might make you rather unpopular around other people. . .

A skunk is even worse. The smell takes quite a bit longer to go away.

Eight Hour Lunch said...

I think that praying to a fart might make you rather unpopular around other people. . .

Of course the fart has its advantages. It's usually detectable, immediately disliked for what it is, and God is far less pleasant.

Russ said...

AlisonM, Berlzebub,

As chuckle-worthy as these malodorous alternatives to an imaginary deity might be, they are nonetheless just as worthy to be targets of prayer due to their providing purely coincidental yes's or no's in response to solemnly-uttered wishes. The effectiveness of prayer lies solely with the one doing the praying and is completely unrelated to the thing the prayer is going out to. Therefore, anything can be successfully prayed to including both of those olfactory offenders, the effluence of flatus and our badly-scented binary-colored mammalian buddy.

Prayer is superstition pure and simple. Pick a thing to pray to. Pray to it. Occasionally, by coincidence alone, the stated prayer and events in the world will be the same. At the start, remember only those times when the prayer was answered the way you wanted it to be. As time goes by, twist things about so that all events in the world are construed as responses to your prayer as in: "Skunk did it. It's a miracle," or "My prayer was answered 'No.' Ah, well, I guess Fart knows best." Then, you truly have a prayer-answering machine that never ignores your prayer-stated wishes. Remember, as long as it is answering your prayers, even a fart or a skunk is a thing you can believe in.

AlisonM said...

Preachin' to the choir, russ. Heh. We humans always look for patterns, and frequently attribute chance happenings to a specific circumstance, hence the existence of lucky shirts, road trips that avoid certain roads, and prayer.

We're not the only ones. I give one of my cats a little tub of wet food when I sit down at the computer in the morning. She is convinced that not only do I owe her food each and every time I sit here, but also that if she can just lure me into the room, then the wet food will magically appear. She will attempt these maneuvers seven or more times a day, even though the number of times per day that she gets food has consistently remained at one.

Russ said...


You said, "Preachin' to the choir, russ. Heh."

Well, yes, I guess I am a bit, but, realistically, "preachin' to the choir" is unavoidable in a world where it is not the case that everyone knows and understands all things. In a very real sense, what to one person is "preachin' to the choir" is "I never thought of that before" to someone else.

When I don my preachin' robes here at PMomma's Place, though, I don't assume that, generally speaking, the target audience is ignorant about my liturgy - they, like you are usually quite well-informed - but instead are looking for and are open to another voice, another take on an issue or idea. The exchanges by commenters suggest that the comments here are read and mulled over, and the subsequent responses often reflect that a fresh view on an idea has been made available to that specific reader. To the original commenter, the concept might be completely settled, maybe even old, trite, hackneyed, but to one uninitiated in that perspective, the new light can be dazzling.

I have been actively studying religion and atheism for several decades and while I think I have some preachin' from which some persons could benefit, I come to Possummomma's primarily as a choir member. I want to hear that other voice, I want that variation on the lyrics, I want all those wonderful R&B, soul, gospel, jazz and classical improvisations on those ancient traditional themes. Put a high descant on "there exists no good evidence for the existence of god" and you might get "god is a delusion" or "god is not great." As I pick up the melody from another vocalist, I realize that the choir is the preacher.

As a human being, finite and limited in time, energy, resources and exposure to ideas, I cherish that I can come to this place at PMomma's and glean much fruit and harvest a great many pearls from those fellow preachers and choralists who have tread paths of enlightenment distinct from that of my own.

AlisonM said...

Bravo, russ. Nicely said.