LAST Friday, after a long week of work, I got an unusual knock upon my door. I say unusual because our house, although part of a housing estate, is a little bit off the beaten track. When someone is knocking on the door they’re usually looking to inspect my TV licence, collect some sponsorship money or help to reacquaint me with Jesus. On this particular day, it was the latter.
The man was friendly and softly spoken and I could accuse him of nothing more than being a gentleman. He was also a Jehovah Witness who had some literature that he wanted me to read. “Do you believe in God yourself?” he asked. “I don’t,” I replied. “I just don’t see the logic in him.”
The man, from south Dublin, nodded and said he understood, but I could sense that he wanted me to elaborate, which I did without hesitation. “If there is a God,” I said. “How can he allow young children to die of cancer? How can he let the most heinous creatures on the planet enjoy a long life but steal it from a young innocent child?” The man nodded in warm understanding but I wasn’t finished yet.
“If there is a God…and he allows these things to happen…then he is a nasty, horrible being that I would not like to be friends with,” I said. “I would prefer to just believe that he doesn’t exist.”
The man reached in his bag and took out a magazine called “Good news from God!” There was a chapter, which he drew my attention to, called “Why does God allow Evil and Suffering?” I let him read it. “For a limited time, Jehovah has allowed rebellion against his sovereignty. Why? To show that no effort to rule without him benefits people. After 6000 years of human history, the evidence is clear. Human rulers have failed to eliminate war, crime, injustice or disease. (Read Jeremiah 10:23; Romans 9:17.)”
For me, it felt like a moment I had been waiting for all my life, but that’s possibly overstating it a touch. I went and got one of my own books and did some reciting of my own. “Genesis 1:28: God encourages reproduction. Leviticus 12:1-8: “God requires purification rites following childbirth” which, in effect, makes childbirth a sin. Genesis 11:7-9: God sows discord. Proverbs 6:16-19: God hates anyone who sows discord.” And one more I said, (he was getting a little bit frustrated at this point) “Deuteronomy 23:1: A castrate may not enter the assembly of the Lord. Isaiah 56:4-5: Some castrates will receive special rewards.”
“Listen,” I said. “You seem like a really nice man, and I think that everyone is entitled to believe what they want, unless of course it leads to the harming or exasperating of others.” I told him that the bible was as reliable as The Sunday World and how can a religion be based upon so many inconsistencies.
He went on to tell me –in fairness to him- how he believed every word of the bible. “Even Noah’s Ark?” I asked in surprise. “Of course” he replied. Ah here. “So you believe that Noah led two of every creature onto an ark to escape a flood?” “I do” he said with absolute conviction. “Have you ever tried to get a cat, nevermind two cats, to do what they’re told,” I said. “They had the help of God he replied. It was a miracle.” And then he reminded me of something else I wanted to ask him.
“Why have the miracles suddenly dried up?” I asked. “What do you mean?” he replied. “Well,” I said. The bible is full of stories of Jesus and God doing miraculous things – there are burning bushes, parting seas, healed lepers and messiahs walking on water – why has it all just stopped?” “What do you mean?” he asked with a warm smile (he really was a lovely man). “Well,” I said again. “What’s the last miracle that you’ve witnessed?” “You and I standing here is a miracle, would you not agree?” “Well I wouldn’t to be honest, it’s not really going to make Sky News is it? What I’m asking you is why all the miracles just suddenly stopped, and of course why we only have evidence of them from a bible that seems to have been written by about 500 people, all with different ideas about who God was.” With all of his well-meaning and genuine niceness, he didn’t have an answer for me on that one.
When the lights go out at night and we are left in a room with only our thoughts to keep us company, I can understand how people need to feel that there is someone up there who is watching out for us and is concerned for our wellbeing. Human are vulnerable and fragile beings, and for many people, if they didn’t have a belief, they wouldn’t have anything. And I understand that. I also understand how the majority of people only turn to that belief when they are in trouble and strife. Is it possible that for many of us, our belief in a God is down to a fear of being alone and a very real fear of death?
I asked the Jehovah Witness if he thought that people took the time to really think about the existence of God. He told me that of course they do, to which I disagreed immediately. “They just accept that there’s a God because that’s what they have been brought up to do. It’s convenient and it’s beneficial. What’s not convenient is actually thinking about the logistics of God and Heaven and the Bible…and the Devil. When you really think about all that stuff…and then you think about the sick children, then I believe you will be face with a very real and inconvenient truth.
I left the Jehovah Witness with one final word. “According to the bible, Jesus said: Love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34 – I know the bible more than most believers!) – if we can all do that, then isn’t that all that matters?”