May 2 was designated the National Day of Prayer, as it's held every first Thursday in the month of May. People are asked to turn to God in prayer and meditation.
Pastor Greg Laurie, the Honorary Chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, wrote an article on FOXNews.com saying, "We have largely forgotten God, but the good news is God has not forgotten us. ... If we want to see our nation turn back to righteousness, then we must pray."
My critical thinking question for Pastor Laurie: Look around; are you sure God has not forgotten us? I find it ironic and sad that after the Boston Marathon bombings, or other major tragedies where scores of people are killed or injured, that religious leaders encourage everyone to pray. Just exactly to whom are we supposed to be praying and for what? If the so called omnipresent and loving God is watching out for us all the time, then why did He allow the bombing and other events to happen in the first place? Why does he allow little children to suffer needlessly? Why does He allow these things to happen?
I've asked people this question for years, and again after the Boston Marathon bombings and the responses I've received thus far are weak. "It's just God's will and we don't question his authority," one person told me. Another said, "it clearly says in the Bible, in John 16:33, 'You will have suffering in this world,' so God has already warned us." The most delusional of all responses I've received, "it's ok, don't worry about it, God loves you."
Imagine if you had an extramarital affair, and you came home and told your wife about it. "Honey, I cheated on you, but it's ok because I love you." That wouldn't go over too well, but because we're talking about God, it's supposed to be taken differently?
I attended a Lutheran Church regularly until I was 17 years old. I studied to be confirmed for three years. I've read dozens of books detailing all the major religions, interviewed hundreds of people on this subject, from the faithful to the new atheists. I've shared the stage with some of the biggest televangelists in the world, and for the past 36 months, I've watched hundreds of hours of video footage from some of the greatest minds in America discussing and debating whether or not God exists, everyone from Christian apologetic Dr. William Lane Craig to evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.
After investing all of this time and energy searching for an answer to whether or not God exists, here's my conclusion: I don't know.
I know you were probably hoping for a better answer, but that's the best I have. I don't know if there's a God, but here's the thing: neither do you. And neither do William Lane Craig, Sam Harris, Billy Graham, Richard Dawkins or Pastor Greg Laurie. No one knows for sure what happens when you die, and if they tell you they do, hang on to your wallet because the pitch is coming.
I personally hope there is a God. Not the God of the Bible, but a loving, caring creator that would guide us to the next realm, if such a realm exists. I hope there's a heaven, too. Not the one in the Bible that's the opposite of hell, but a peaceful place to rest without war, poverty, or human suffering. And no income tax would be a bonus.
My dad died a few months ago, and I miss him. I'd like to see him again and maybe even hit a few tennis balls together. As comforting as all this would be, I'm not betting on it. I think it's unlikely. But no one knows for sure, and I'll hope for the best. I'll remain open-minded and welcome credible evidence if it's ever presented. I would welcome that as much as anyone.
If there is a God, you won't find Him in the Bible or the church, but inside your own heart. I'd suggest searching there first. A God that allows his people to suffer needlessly is not a God worth worshipping. Instead, we need to look inside ourselves and band together as human beings to end the misery that visits so many.
It's time to stop praying to an invisible man in the sky and start taking steps to reduce human suffering. As far as establishing a moral code without the Bible as our guide, that's simply common sense. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Don't hurt anyone, take their stuff, or infringe on their rights. Obey the laws established by society. If you can give someone a hand when they need it, do so. You're not obligated to, but throwing in a little charity would be a bonus. We all need a little help sometimes.
There's your moral code. No need to carve it in stone or hand it down from a mountain. Just remember to be fair and nice to yourself and others. Did we ever really need a supernatural being or a book to tell us these things? I think we'll be just fine on our own. All we need to do is start thinking for ourselves.