Last night, I flipped through HBO On-Demand and made the mistake of ordering “Paradise Lost,” a documentary following the case of three Memphis teens charged with murdering three 2nd-grade boys (I was not convinced of their guilt and it turns out that they were later released – that part is fascinating). First, let me say the I do not recommend watching this film, especially if you have children. I had a sick feeling in my stomach from the opening gruesome crime-scene footage until I feel asleep – which was difficult to do.
I have always been interested in murder-mystery shows and have been fascinated by the extraordinary advances in forensic science used in criminal cases. This was different. This was disturbing.
Since the crime took place in the south and strong Christianity is prevalent, interviews were saturated with references to God, Jesus, and the Bible. Statements regarding Satan’s work and God’s wrath were mostly cited, but a few about the merciful afterlife came up as well.
The Bible, the catechism, and Christian theology all claim that God is:
- All Good
- All Knowing
- All Powerful
Conversely, there is the “problem of evil” (theodicy) which argues that there cannot be a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God if evil exists. I would go a step further and add tragic events causing innocent people to suffer, such as natural distasters, tsunamis, hurricanes, cancer, car accidents, a child drowning in a swimming pool, etc.
If God is all-powerful, he either causes horrorific tragedies in innocent people’s lives or sits back and cares to do nothing to stop them. There is no third option. If he does not have this power, he is not God. If he is all-knowing, then he knew the three Memphis 2nd-graders were about to be tortured, mutilated (including genitals), and murdered – left naked in the mud like pieces of trash. This was “His plan” for the three boys who were as innocent as anyone could be. If you believe there is a God, Allah, higher-power, intelligent designer, or whoever that has a hand in the universe and you still think he is GOOD or has power and control in our lives, watch the beginning of Paradise Lost and tell me how you can reconcile that statement. Say these words aloud, because a believer in a divine being must be prepared to face the truth – “My God caused or allowed the brutal torture, sexual mutilation, terror, and murder of three innocent 8-year old children, followed by their little bodies being left in the muddy ditch like trash. And I still worship him, respect him, love him, and believe he is all-good.” Now drive by a school playground and watch the kids play. Now look at your own children. Now repeat the above statement. Now look at yourself in the mirror.
If there is a God – which I do not believe – there is no way I would ever worship him, let alone want to spend eternity with him. Well, maybe out of fear, because seeing what God did to those kids demonstrates that we are basically alone to fend for ourselves – God cannot or will not protect even the most innocent. How can people weep with love, surrender, and respect for a God who so vile, impotent, and unmerciful? God is evil, dispicable, and downright sadistic if he had the knowledge and power to protect those boys but sat by and watched their brutal suffering.
Christians immediately go to the “great cop-out” that we cannot know God’s reasons, but they are always good. I will address this in a later post, but say only that this is straight-up bullshit because they seem to know his intentions in most other areas of your life. What possible reason could God have for this crime? To give everyone perspective on loving kids? To show us how bad we are because of Adam and orignal sin? Is there no other way to teach us a lesson about life or the world? What is his rationale?
Christians may also refer to Satan leading people to evil. However, God created Satan and has the power to destroy him, so this is a lame argument.
Christians may say that we have inherant evil due to Adam and Eve’s sin. This is a great example of sons paying for the sins of their fathers, an idea the Bible says ought not to happen (but God supports the notion of innocent people paying for other’s past sins throughout the Bible). And to say that three children were slaughtered because Adam disobeyed God’s wishes about a tree thousands of years ago hardly seems good, merciful, loving, or just.
Demonstrating God’s eternal mercy and goodness, it now turns out the the three teenage boys were likely innocent of the crime, and new evidence coming forward since the time of the original trial all point away from the teens and the alleged motives they had for commiting the murders. So, three additional families were destroyed, not to mention the physical and mental suffering they endured in prison (one of them repeatedly raped and held in solitary confinement).
This movie sealed the deal for me emotionally on the subject of the existence of God. There are terrible things in this world, and we are on our own. Either that, or we need to fear the fact that there is a powerful, divine, sadistic, child-raping and murdering God out there who can strike any one of us at any time. What does God have planned for you?