Shaking the Faith

03/31/2015 02:45 pm ET | Updated May 29, 2015

We continue to be traumatized by the unspeakably horrible tragedy of the Germanwings plane hurtling at 400 miles per hour into a mountain in the French Alps, blowing all 150 passengers instantly into bits, all because a crazed young co-pilot achieved his mission of fame or whatever by this act of mass murder.

The question arises, with increasing intensity, as a series of terrible human tragedies take place, one after another, as to how, if there is a God, such events could be permitted to happen.

I evoked this dilemma of a God indifferent to human suffering in a conversation with a priest during a seminar at Harvard shortly after 9/11. The essence of his reply was the following: "You have to think in terms of two kinds of God - one interventionist, the other not. Personally I believe in the second one."

The priest's reply is not a wholly satisfactory one, for the question remains as to how God, if he exists, and even though he doesn't guide the course of the world by his providence, how can he in goodwill, permit such atrocities such as the willing destruction of an airline last Tuesday, to take place?

Whatever the case, the majority of believers seem to rely on the assumption that there is a God of providence who intervenes in the affairs of the world. From Andrew Jackson to George W. Bush, the majority of American presidents - including the most notable such as Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt - seem to have had the conviction, in various degrees, that there actions were guided by the hand of God. Some even gave to understand that they had a personal relationship with God, as when George W. Bush asserted that God had urged him to invade Iraq.

Though there is no proof that an impenetrable God cares about the vicissitudes of our lives, our wishes and our prayers, the beliefs continue to exist, though less than in earlier times, as tragedies continue to afflict those who, an instant before, seemed to have been blessed by God.