Theological roots

  1. I feel I'm a better nurse because I have my spiritual issues settled. One of the most important books I ever read was "When Bad Things Happen to Good People." I've studied the Bible extensively and everything this man writes, makes sense realistically without straying from Biblical truth.
    So I thought I'd share this outline from his book. The website gives more in-depth information. Of course, there's the book too. Enjoy!

    When Bad Things Happen to Good People

    By Harold S. Kushner (1981)--notes by Doug Muder (1997)

    Introduction, Why I wrote this book. Kushner wrote this book as a reaction to personal tragedy--his son Aaron had premature aging, which he died from. This provoked a crisis of faith for Kushner, who is a rabbi. He wrote this book for people "who have been hurt by life", to help them find a faith that can aid in getting through their troubles, rather than making things worse.
    1. Why do the righteous suffer? A summary of all the too-easy answers to the question of human suffering, and why they are inadequate.

    2. The story of a man named Job. Kushner presents his theological framework in the form of a re-interpretation of the story of Job. He lets go of the notion that God is all-powerful in favor of the notion that God is good.

    The next four chapters flesh out Kushner's basic ideas by looking at three different causes of human suffering. In each case he takes the position that God does not cause the suffering and could not prevent it.

    3. Sometimes there is no reason. This chapter covers random, circumstantial suffering, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Kushner attributes the orderliness of the universe to God, but holds that the ordering of the universe is not complete: Some things are just circumstantial, and there is no point in looking for a reason for them.

    4. No exceptions for nice people. Some suffering is caused by the workings of natural law. There is no moral judgment involved--natural law is blind, and God does not interfere with it. God does not intervene to save good people from earthquake or disease, and does not send these misfortunes to punish the wicked. Kushner puts great value on the orderliness of the universe's natural law, and would not want God to routinely intervene for moral reasons.

    5. God leaves us room to be human. Some suffering is caused by the actions of evil people. Kushner re-interprets the story of Adam and Eve to make the point that the ability to choose between good and evil is what makes us human. For God to interfere with our ability to do evil would make all of us less human.

    6. God helps those who stop hurting themselves. Some suffering we cause ourselves by the way we handle our initial suffering. We blame ourselves, or we take out our anger on the people who are trying to help us, or on God.

    The second to last chapter answers the question: Given that God isn't all-powerful, what good is He?

    7. God can't do everything, but he can do some important things. If God didn't cause our problems and can't fix them, why pray? Two reasons: The prayers of others can make us aware that we are not facing our problems alone. And God can give us the strength of character that we need to handle our misfortunes, if we are willing to accept it.

    The last chapter is a summary of what has gone before. It adds flourish rather than content.

    8. What good, then, is religion? Chapter 7 already answered this question. What this chapter really does is wrap up: "Is there an answer to the question of why bad things happen to good people? That depends on what we mean by 'answer'. If we mean 'Is there an explanation which will make sense of it all?'... then there probably is no satisfying answer. We can offer learned explanations, but in the end, when we have covered all the squares on the game board and are feeling very proud of our cleverness, the pain and the anguish and the sense of unfairness will still be there. But the word 'answer' can also mean 'response' as well as 'explanation,' and in that sense, there may well be a satisfying answer to the tragedies in our lives. The response would be Job's response in MacLeish's version of the biblical story--to forgive the world for not being perfect, to forgive God for not making a better world, to reach out to the people around us, and to go on living despite it all." [page 147]

  2. 7 Comments

  3. by   live4today
    Sleepyeyes......years ago, a Sunday School class that I attended studied that book. Great how he writes of those things that affect our lives and how we should embrace them. Thanks for sharing it here. :kiss
  4. by   psychomachia
    It seems as though this is a good book for defining the "purpose" of god/religion. For some people it may help to overcome what must be a "test of faith" when a terrible tragedy happens to them.

    For others, like myself and perhaps some of those who have posted on the "Atheist Professor" thread, it only confirms why some do not believe in an all-powerful CEO of the Cosmos.

    One of my favorite quotes comes from Richard Dawkins, a Professor of Zoology at Oxford University and acclaimed author on genetics/evolution:

    "In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference." (River Out of Eden, p.133)

    Now I know that kind of definition probably doesn't sit well with those who hold religious beliefs, but doesn't that sound a bit similar to Rabbi Kushner's interpretation of why good / bad happens? I'm not trying to argue anything and I do respect your beliefs. I'm only presenting another view as to "why" things happen.

    One of the hardest parts of being an Atheist is having to define "what" you believe in. I DON'T believe in a god, but I DO believe in morals. Morality has nothing to do with religion since one can certainly be described as being of "good moral character" without a religious belief. This fact is often lost on those with a religious belief and is why atheists are often mentioned with the same disdain as Satanists, if not actually described as such. I would no sooner worship Satan as I would any other god.

    I'm glad you feel you're a better nurse because you have your "spiritual issues" settled. I feel that I too am a better nurse because I settled all my issues with religion a long time ago. I find that without a religious belief I have only myself to blame for my actions and would likewise hold others accountable for their actions, good or bad. I have no fear of heaven or hell, since I feel neither exists. What I do focus on is the "here and now" or the reality that I perceive with my evolution-given senses. I believe WE are the truly lucky ones since so many of our species never makes it to the point of being born - everyone alive has already won the "lotto of life" - and we should all be more grateful for being here.

    I could go on and on, but I think the point is obvious. One does not need a belief, or lack of belief, to be a good nurse or a good person. If you find that religion gives you the ability to cope with the uncertainty of life, then by all means you should feel free to practice your beliefs and defend them it attacked. However, I and other atheists only ask for the same consideration, even if our current President's father (GB Sr.) did not feel we were worthy of such respect:

    George Bush states that atheists are not citizens or patriots
    (GB Sr)

    When George Bush was campaigning for the presidency, as incumbent vice president, one of his stops was in Chicago, Illinois, on August 27, 1987. At O'Hare Airport he held a formal outdoor news conference. There Robert I. Sherman, a reporter for the American Atheist news journal, fully accredited by the state of Illinois and by invitation a participating member of the press corps covering the national candidates had the following exchange with then Vice President Bush.

    Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are atheists?
    Bush: I guess I'm pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in god is important to me.

    Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?

    Bush: No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.

    Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?

    Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on atheists. (click on the link to read more)

    I hope you can see why many atheists are critical of those with religious beliefs and are a little concerned since the "apple doesn't fall far from the tree" in the Bush family. Once again, I'm not attacking you and I will defend anyone's right to believe what they want, I only ask that others would give me the same right to not believe and understand that my lack of belief is as strong as someone elses belief.

    Thanks for the link psychomachia, and for the wonderful post

  6. by   pkmom
    bad things...good people... WHenever I'm tempted to throw a pity party I think about Job. It is frustrating to me when people ask why God allows bad things happen or even worse when they say that God made something bad to happen to "a good person." It happens, it happens to everyone, there are no exceptions, get over it. But of course, I wouldn't say that to someone who was hurting, that's just my motto to get past the day sometimes.
  7. by   live4today
    Originally posted by pkmom
    bad things...good people... WHenever I'm tempted to throw a pity party I think about Job. It is frustrating to me when people ask why God allows bad things happen or even worse when they say that God made something bad to happen to "a good person." It happens, it happens to everyone, there are no exceptions, get over it. But of course, I wouldn't say that to someone who was hurting, that's just my motto to get past the day sometimes.
    Ditto, pkmom! Job is my favorite person in the Old Testament to read whenever I am feeling down. He sure knows how to set someone straight again. I hurt just reading about the things he went through. It helps to always think of someone who has it worse off than we do, doesn't it? Thanks for sharing! :kiss
  8. by   Sleepyeyes
    I like the Psalms when I feel down...
  9. by   live4today
    Oh yes, sleepyeyes.....I love the Psalms, too! A couple of my all time favorites are Psalm 37 and Psalm 139. :kiss are things going for you healthwise? I've been remembering to pray for you each day. :kiss