Where is God?


During this bad and unhappy 12 months and more, people, even the most religious, have asked “Where is God”. The question mirrors that posed after many catastrophes, the Holocaust, Syria, among others. And I think perhaps the best answer (and not all Unitarians will agree) comes from a Rathfarnham man, Roy Sadlier, in a letter to The Irish Times on May 4th 2021.
          He was responding to a query from a Canon Ian Ellis who asked “where does God enter the frame as this Covid pandemic rages”.
          Sadlier suggests that the answer might be that God does not exist, and therefore he does not enter the frame at all!
          The God of the Bible, he says, is an interventionist God, who can and frequently does intervene in earthly affairs (often to extremely malevolent effect, including by spreading pestilence).
          The fact that he visits pestilence (among a whole host of other unsavoury things) upon people, prompts the question of what role such a God (if he exists) might have in the current pandemic and belies the claim that he (again if he exists) is entirely benevolent.
          God is an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, interventionist God when the outcome that he was petitioned for occurs, but when the outcome he was petitioned for does not occur, it’s a mystery, he must be having IT issues, or, as was argued in The Irish Times last year, he expects us to defeat Covid 19 ourselves.
          As prayers for very good causes often go unanswered, one must conclude that there is a word for phenomenon of when a prayed for outcome occurs.
          It is called a coincidence.
          I am, once again, reminded of Epicurus: if God is unable to prevent evil, then he is not all-powerful. If god is unwilling to prevent evil, then he is not all-good. If God is both willing and able to prevent evil, then why does evil exist?
          This is the knot, says Rob Sadlier, which a belief in an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, interventionist God creates for itself.

Paul Murray (read in Church Sunday 16th May 2021)
Dublin Unitarian Church