At first, I did. Going to a Roman Catholic school from the age of 5 to 12, God ruled much of my life, and I was very frightened of him. He was all-seeing, all-knowing and able to STRIKE YOU DOWN, and condemn small girls to Hell or worse if they were wicked – talked in assembly, ran in corridors, or didn’t pay attention. Yes, God scared the shit out of the small me.
It worried me greatly how easy it was to fall foul of God. Even newborn babies were not safe from his wrath: if they died, through no fault of their own, with the original sin on their souls (if he was all-powerful and could do anything, why couldn’t he have arranged for souls to be clean when they were first issued?) then they were automatically doomed to stay in Limbo.
If God who, it was drilled into us eight times a day at least, was loving, kind and merciful, I wondered why he wanted us to get out of bed of bitter mornings and kneel in an icy chapel with blue fingers, saying the same thing day after day after day. Why did he give me hay-fever every year? Why did he let let my parents divorce? Why did he let my friend’s father be killed in a car crash? Why did he allow these things to happen? Did he like making people miserable? What happened to the loving kind part? Or maybe it was personal – perhaps he just hated me? My fear of him developed into mistrust and dislike.
My God was a fearsome bearded figure who had me in his all-seeing, accusing eye and followed me with a perpetually pointing finger. As I grew up he faded into a vague being, towards whom I felt occasional resentment, and to whom in very rare moments in extremis I screamed for help. When life went smoothly, I didn’t think of him at all.
But recently I’ve thought about the concept of God a great deal. And that’s because the news is full, every day, of terrible things. Small girls kidnapped and never found. Old people abused and starved in nursing homes. Avalanches, earthquakes, tsunamis, diseases, famines, forest fires, wars, all bringing immeasurable suffering to people who have done nothing to deserve such misery and must also scream for help that doesn’t come. Mindless hooligans kick and batter harmless people to death for fun. Helpless animals are tortured for entertainment. Popes, cardinals, bishops live in palaces, while people sleep under sheets of plastic or in doorways. I could rant on endlessly.
I can’t believe in an “omnipotent” god who can stand by and allow natural disasters or human cruelty and hatefulness full rein.