Faith & Tragedy

On Aging
On Aging
Dec 30, 2018 · 5 min read

As much as I read spirituality- and religious-oriented books and articles, I am still unable to reconcile why indiscriminate tragedy throughout time has happened and continues to happen to unfortunate people around the world. It makes me fell atheistic, which is something I wish I would not feel inside. I’d much rather believe there is a benevolent eternal entity or entities who take us into a happy afterlife following an indiscriminate tragedy that strikes us down. I’d much rather believe that everything happens for a karmic reason instead of randomly, which is nearly impossible to fully accept. A religious person would say, “George, Ye have little faith,” but actually I do.

Most religious dogmas profess that notions about good and evil and why bad things happen to good people are mysterious and not worth the effort to try and figure out. Seeing a benevolent God as being there for us as a protector and consoler when tragedy occurs — and not the controller of catastrophic events — is much easier to accept. Regrettably, I can’t simply chalk it all up to mystery.

God’s Real Role
Rabbi Harold Kushner writes in his famous book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” that tragedies are “not the will of God. Tragedies “represent that aspect of reality which stands independent of His will, and which angers and saddens God even as it angers and saddens us.”

He also noted that if we can “bring ourselves to acknowledge that there are some things God does not control, many good things become possible. We will be able to turn to God for things He can do to help us, instead of holding on to unrealistic expectations of Him which will never come about.”

Kushner is saying that believing in complete randomness, uncontrollable by any omnipotent force, and the evil of chaotic tragedy that often comes with that, does not mean we do not believe in a God. It’s not God’s responsibility to control things; it is God’s image in us as humans that helps us when we encounter tragedy.

I can’t accept Kushner’s theory. There’s part of me that cannot see the logic of a God capable of creating a complex universe who at the same time is incapable of stopping indiscriminate tragedy. I’m also unable to accept that justice basically does not exist, that evil — such as genocide and unnecessary wars that kill innocent people, for example, go unanswered — that there is no karma. So, Hilter dies and that’s it — he does not have to account for the millions of innocent people he is responsible for murdering. I hope that’s not the case. If we all believed that, the world would be an increasingly horrible place that would never get any better.

If I’m not mistaken, I think Kushner was agnostic about the existence of an afterlife. So, basically God in us gives us the strength to overcome adversities and the propensity to do good and overcome evil, but whether or not there is an afterlife in which we must answer for and/or be rewarded for our free-will-oriented deeds is unknowable. Or, does evil dwell in the unknowable afterlife as well?

I can believe that some force beyond our imagination created a Big Bang that was the beginning of a totally random and chaotic universe that hurtles us through space to some unknowable end. While we are alive, as any good atheist will explain, we must simply make the best of it and help each other out so we live harmoniously — no religious dogma, blind faith, or spirituality needed. Put your faith in provable science and logic.

Transcending the Scientific
However, our deep thoughts and inner voices constantly speak to us in ways that very much seem to be outside of our physical consciousness — we feel, for instance, transcendence and wonder from experiencing something beautiful and eternal, something that comes from God that cannot be proven by science. Or are these thoughts simply part of our unique neuro transmitters. Suppress such feelings and emotions…. I think not. Therein is where faith resides.

God’s Imprint or Not
In “Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality” by first- rate NPR journalist Barbara Bradley Hagerty, we get a fairly comprehensive view of these seemly diametrically opposed feelings and beliefs, which ‘ll refer to here as scientific materialism versus objective idealism. Hagerty did some thorough investigative reporting on the topic of “neurotheology” — the study of the brain as it relates to spiritual experience. She asks the following: “Is there a spiritual world every bit as real as the phone ringing in the kitchen or my dog sitting on my foot, a dimension that eludes physical sight and hearing and touch? In the end, my questions boiled down to five words: Is there more than this?”

She visited with and interviewed professional scientists and mystics from around the world who are “wrestling with these questions. Sometimes they are called parapsychologists, a demeaning title that makes them sound illegitimate if not a little bit unhinged. But today’s iconoclasts have an advantage their predecessors lacked. They have technology. They can peer inside a brain as it meditates in prayer or trips on psilocybin. They can look for markers in the brain, and, like forensic detectives, they are studying the evidence left behind by ‘spiritual’ events that occurred out of their eyesight. They are trying to discern the fingerprints of the one — or the One — who passed through a person’s psyche and rearranged his life. They are analyzing these “spiritual” moments, in the form of epileptic seizures or psychedelic experiences, meditations in a brain scanner or out-of-body experiences. In the process, they find themselves in a world of mystery.”

She writes that at least half of Americans have experienced some deep form of transcendence beyond the ordinary. These folks have been “overcome and radically transformed by a sudden encounter with the spiritual.” Are such deep experiences merely our three-pound brains firing off neurons that simply cease when we die, or is there something more going on?

After an exhaustive study into such matters, she concludes that it’s really all about choice and hope because science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, adding that “if there is a God, He or She or It operates outside of nature and beyond the reach of scientific measuring instruments.”

So, in the end, contemplating why there is indiscriminate tragedy basically brings no solid answer, and, as is always the case, you can choose to believe or disbelieve that everything happens for a reason, and you can only hope that there is something beautiful beyond death that justifies everything.

Like Hagerty ultimately does in her book, I choose hope.

Thanks for stopping by,

Originally published at

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On Aging

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On Aging

Posts from George Lorenzo, writer and curator of Old Anima.

The Startup

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