God’s mistake?

Today I want to look at God — that’s quite a subject. I want to talk about creation. The best figure I have for the total of all human beings is 116,761,402,413 (a). The current total of human beings is 7.9 billion. Of these 31% are Christians, 25% are Islamist, 15% not religious, 60% other religions. (b)

Catholic teaching is quite clear: connection to Christ through baptism is essential. I have told the story of how my wife, who had a 12 week miscarriage, struggled with great difficulty to baptise her child, and then to look forward to their meeting in Heaven. That has now happened. Of course there are particular routes: for example martyrdom or sheer inability. (c) But in the end we have to accept that much the largest proportion of created human beings have been failures. It may be that there is a form of existence for virtuous people who have not been baptised. And their secondary rate of existence in Limbo will continiue into infinity. But they remain failures.


Far be it for me to criticise the Almighty (and jolly good reasons not to) but if a new businessman had such a rate of failure I would suggest that he took another job. What do you think?

(a) https://www.prb.org/articles/how-many-people-have-ever-lived-on-earth/
(b) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_religious_popularsalvation-outside-the-catholic-church
(c) https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/is-there-really-no-salvation-outside-the-catholic-church

About Quentin

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29 Responses to God’s mistake?

  1. David Smith says:

    Quentin ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/09/10/gods-mistake/ ) writes:

    // But they remain failures. //

    My first thought was that you were simply trying to provoke protests, but on subsequent reading, I assume you’re referring to getting into heaven. The issue of what the Church teaches about who can make it into heaven seems, like so many things, to be fuzzy. I tried twice to append five URLs in which the question was discussed, but each time WordPress refused to accept the post. I’ve resorted to putting the URLs into an external file, here:

    http://luda.net/miscfiles/urls.rtf

    Hope that worked.

  2. John Candido says:

    David, if my memory is correct, it’s Quentin and not WordPress who has set no more than two links per post because he was getting unsavoury links from anonymous individuals who are hell-bent on vandalising Secondsight.

    • Quentin says:

      John, frankly I have forgotten. But we certainly don’t want discussion based on outside links. I make references in my introduction just for those who want to explore, or check, more fully.

  3. ignatius says:

    Quentin’s reference (c) catholic online is sufficient for anyone interested as it covers most of the bases in terms of the discussion and is worthy of perusal. The subject is a profoundly interesting one because it raises, in effect, the frontier between mysticism and dogma. In other words the delicate but crucial border between what can be consciously, rationally and actually described of the relationship between human freewill and the mercy of God. I say this because the deep longing of the heart and soul is impossible for human beings to quantify.

    For myself, when this kind of discussion is promulgated it is helpful to bear in mind that only the person, religious or not, who wholeheartedly, knowingly and scoffingly spurns God, doing so by thought action and deed, right to the end of their life, only this person may be facing loss of the likelihood of salvation. That’s as far as I read it anyway.

  4. Geordie says:

    The Crucifixion, death and Resurrection of Our Lord was and is to save all mankind. Salvation is dependent on the acceptance of Christ as Saviour through baptism. Does this acceptance have to happen before we die or can it occur after death?
    The trouble with human beings is that we try to make God fit into our idea of what should be done. God can do exactly as He pleases. He could have created the universe in an instance and made it look like it took millions years to evolve; or perhaps evolution did happen. All of mankind must reach heaven through Christ but we must trust God, who is infinitely just, that He will give all men and women and unbaptised babies the opportunity to acknowledge Christ; just like the good thief. Our idea of justice is no match for God’s justice. St John Vianney (I think) said we cannot be more generous than God.
    Our Lady of Fatima asked us to pray the words “…and lead all souls to heaven, especially those who have most need of thy mercy”. Why did She ask us to pray like that, if it were impossible?

    • ignatius says:

      ” Our Lady of Fatima asked us to pray the words “…and lead all souls to heaven, especially those who have most need of thy mercy”. Why did She ask us to pray like that, if it were impossible?” As it says, all things are possible for God….but that doesn’t mean we understand them. It’s ok to try though and the Church, guided hopefully by the Spirit has been pondering the issue now for 2,000 years. As far as I can see the basic question goes something like: Does (a)God alone decree salvation or (b) does it depend on human cooperation. If (b) then the next question is what does this co operation look like?. The rational use of questioning is perfectly fine, it is perhaps a main way for us fallen creatures to examine behaviour and truth. But it is only a beginning.

  5. David Smith says:

    In other words, nobody knows, but the Church will both help you think about it and confuse you further. For comfort, choose an expert to your liking. One of the references I came across but didn’t include in my list was a little article by an American Jesuit who happily confessed to breaking into tears in public when he watched a video of Francis comforting a child who had asked whether his deceased non-Catholic father would be allowed into heaven. I don’t remember what the Jebbie said the Pope said, but it almost certainly was about as clear as Francis normally is. There are always plenty of people to tell almost anyone exactly what he wants to hear.

  6. David Smith says:

    I wonder whether this issue – Who goes to heaven? – may belong to a category of issues which could be categorized as lying in a grey area, for which a lot of reading is available but no definitive conclusion is possible.

    The existence of dogma and the catechism rather predispose us to expect clear and categorical answers to all possible questions. That strikes me as a fallacy of oversimplification. There’s lot of that these days in popular dialogue. We live in an age of information overflow, which probably leads to categorizing and oversimplifying as defense mechanisms. That’s understandable and hardly bad in itself, but it’s important to recognize it for what it is and to avoid the trap of believing that all questions must have clear and categorical answers.

    • ignatius says:

      David writes: That’s understandable and hardly bad in itself, but it’s important to recognize it for what it is and to avoid the trap of believing that all questions must have clear and categorical answer
      I think it is true that we suffer from a surfeit of words. This is what happens when we try to articulate the mystery of faith. It’s perhaps helpful to understand that creeds and dogmas exist more to rule out than to rule in. By this I mean that creeds, dogma’s and catechisms pass on as best they can the meaning of the encounter between human beings and the Triune God who is the object of our faith. The opposing, and probably more dangerous approach goes something like this:
      “Hey you, God is who we say God is. Never mind who God is, just better believe it sonny, or else..”

  7. galerimo says:

    Until you get to the third paragraph you might be forgiven for thinking the author of this piece was out to commit blasphemy 😉

    Claiming to talk about creation and mentioning only humanity is outrageous.

    I live in a country that lays claim to the oldest living human culture in the world.

    And this survival – the toughest instance of which, is recent British human invasion, is attributable to connection with the God given environment.

    Land. Country. God’s creation.

    Their ability, for 60,000 plus years, to participate in and stewart God’s creation to the point of survival, is the greatest single act of collective worship, to the One who has gifted us all with a share in His creation.

    Humanity really is very insignificant in the great scheme of things.

    We are far from being either the most numerous or certainly from being the most important occupant of this earth space.

    The most abundant life form here is bacteria.

    And given the huge capacity of our species to destroy ever other one, then you have to agree with those who profess this religion you describe.

    This amazing God who gives meaning and purpose to all, through His generous and gratuitous gifting of reality through Jesus His Son has got it right.

    Good old God- damning to hell all those billions and billions of the human species because their heretical, stupid or ignorant parents failed to wrap up their newborn in a baptismal robe and carry them off to their local parish church where the stamp of exclusive value could be poured all over them in the regenerating waters of baptism by a man, with the right credentials.

    And by the same token- even though our current phase of humanity is only 200,000 years old – all the other horrible bastards who go back 6 million years before them – can escape their punishment for not showing up with their godparents either- those miserable wretches where also “blessed” by being created by this loving Father, in God’s beautiful image too.

    God saw to it and they got they come uppence!

    God certainly got that right.

    Aren’t we the lucky ones.

    Phew!

    Thank God, for our wonderful parents, who got us, as the song goes, “to the church on time”

    Thank God for creation – sorry about that- should I say – thank God for Our Religion? And how it makes us unlike the rest, the majority of men!

  8. John Nolan says:

    The Old Testament patriarchs and prophets are venerated as saints in both the Eastern and Western traditions; they are listed in the Roman Martyrology, together with their feast days.

    They were of course unbaptized. The ‘Old Covenant’ saints also include NT figures such as Joseph, Elizabeth, John the Baptist and Joachim and Anne.

  9. galerimo says:

    Before we issue any redundancy notice to God – “the failed business man”, others, whom we have invested with supreme power and authority, may also need to be called to account, for the state of our world.

    How about science for starters?

    Wasn’t this sacred cow supposed to have liberated us from the chains of ignorance and suspicion? Don’t we all worship at this shrine of demonstrable and verifiable data by which we have emerged from the dark, ignorant ages? And all in the name of progress.

    How good really are the science based technologies that have, allegedly, overcome the limitations and laboriousness of ordinary living?

    Never mind how many angels might dance on the head of a pin, lets enquire of our scientific fraternity “how many sustainable human lives can you squeeze between the poles of planet earth?”

    Is the best world you can offer us, one where so many of the fittest get to survive that it becomes an uninhabitable one?

    What is the point of all our scientific know how, if in the end we are doomed as a species?

    How come that ever since the days of our great enlightenment as humans we have “created” a world where we can no longer safely dispose of the vast amount of waste we generate, acquire more and more weapons of mass destruction, and pollute huge tracts of earth by burning endless volumes of fetid, fossil fuels?

    God, (if you’re still in the job!) protect me from joining the ranks of regressive conservatism but even if the central heating was not as good then, at least life in the fourteen and fifteen hundreds offered water that was drinkable and air that was breathable.

    I think our HR department needs to go back to the drawing board before they send God packing on account of so much failure.

    Science and technology both need some performance reviews and serious behaviour management programs.

    If we had set targets for them to deliver some healthy living on a habitable planet within 300 years of replacing God on the job, they too might be facing the boot.

    Thank you, science, for your advances in so many branches of learning and technology,
    Good bye and good luck.

    And don’t bother to close the door on your way out – there’s no more wood – we’ve run out of that too!

    • Ignatius says:

      Pretty obvious that our human hearts have wreaked the havoc, mine and yours too. Otherwise when Cain broke Abel’s skull we might as well blame the stone he used to do it with.

  10. galerimo says:

    Mind you, success is not an attribute that God seems to be very keen on.

    His Son teaches us that.

    “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”, might well be the start of a psalm of hope, but coming from Jesus at the time, it was a real cry of failure.

    After an all too short public ministry, still no Kingdom, no King, just a usual execution of a common criminal – this one believing He was sent by God to save His people. Ending in disaster.

    Not just failure – worse, folly. But this failed young man was raised from the dead by Our Father in the Power of the Holy Spirit.(Romans 1:4).

    And if that is failure, you can keep your success!

    But we are talking here more about failure on a global rather than a personal scale.

    If anyone could attribute such failure to God, it would have to be those of the Jewish faith in the face of the Holocaust, more that our contemporaries.

    Another young man, not heavy enough for strangulation to kill him, danced grotesquely on the gallows on which he had been hung, to the horror of his fellow Jewish prisoners forced to watch.

    “Where is God now”, someone cried from that crowd, declaring failure in abandonment. This time on a global scale for all Jewish people.

    But the Holocaust is a deeply Christian problem – how is it that, in the heart of Christianised Europe and the home of Protestant Reformation, this massive failure of humanity, the genocide of the Jewish people could be imagined, attempted and, to a shocking extent, actually carried out?

    It is a deeply Christian problem because of the centuries old Christian tradition of anti semitism.

    Our failure too in our Christianity made it easier for baptised Nazis to hunt down, humiliate, dehumanise and murder Jewish women, men and children.

    And we, not God, are to blame for that.

    • FZM says:

      I found it interesting to see how the Holocaust is commemorated and still tends to be understood in Belarus, where less emphasis placed on the Jewish identity of the victims. Often, especially in official spaces, they are not distinguished from the non-Jewish victims of the Nazi occupation, and are referred to as Soviet citizens or Belarusian citizens. This is still following the policy of the Soviet Union, where Fascism (as an expression of capitalism) was considered to be the cause of both the Holocaust and the generalised mass murder of Soviet civilians.

      A related but more subtle explanation of how liberal capitalism and aspects of Enlightenment thought was believed to give rise to the Holocaust is provided in Adorno and Horkheimer’s famous book ‘Dialectic of Enlightenment’.

      I am not a Marxist but it seems interesting that the emphasis in these accounts is on modern industrial society, rather than on inherently religious causes.

      The number of deaths due to violent conflict and political repression in the region in which the Holocaust took place in the 1914-45 period is significant; for example, in the Russian Empire, the First World War and the Civil War following the Bolshevik Revolution is estimated to have killed 10-12 million people. Stalin’s regime up until the outbreak of war is estimated to have killed 12 million, at least 16 million non-Jewish Soviet citizens died during the 1941-45 War, (including around 3 million Soviet PoWs who were starved to death in large camps), 6-7 million Germans, 2.5 million non-Jewish Polish citizens and so on.

      • FZM says:

        The historian Timothy Snyder has a good book called ‘Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin’ which looks at this region and traces the impact of both Soviet and Russian Civil War mass murder campaigns on the populations, who often later provided the recruits for the SS police formations that were involved in ‘Jewish actions’.

      • ignatius says:

        FMZ writes:
        “I am not a Marxist but it seems interesting that the emphasis in these accounts is on modern industrial society, rather than on inherently religious causes.”
        Yes I can see that. There is a similar narrative concerning the commodifying of agriculture, in the history of the Middle East and of modern Africa. If you are just tending your own garden and your neighbour his then it is likely you will need to cooperate. If on the other hand you are in possession of large barns full of grain then you may need to employ force to gain and protect your produce.

    • ignatius says:

      ‘But the Holocaust is a deeply Christian problem – how is it that, in the heart of Christianised Europe and the home of Protestant Reformation, this massive failure of humanity, the genocide of the Jewish people could be imagined, attempted and, to a shocking extent, actually carried out?’
      I sometimes think, Galerimo, you do this sort of thing deliberately. If you visit Auschwitz/Birkenau it becomes quickly and painfully obvious that a modern industrial State, metamorphosed into a tyrannical form and driven by the will to power can, for a relatively short period of time can, till overthrown, do pretty much as it likes to anyone for any reason it cares to choose. ‘Christianity’ and ‘discipleship to Christ’ are, of course utterly different things.
      In fact many Germans, Christian or otherwise ended up in those camps, or shot, for trying to help fight the monster that the German State became. Any form of ruling tyranny gets its way simply by threat of force and acts of atrocity. If you live under the shadow of concentration camps and tyranny, and you know that your family may well end up there should you lift a finger in protest, then what do you do? As is well documented by now the holocaust shows what happens when the human heart is owed by fear and lacks the means of organisation against a monstrous force. That the will towards murder lies in all of our hearts is a fact of all human life, mine and yours included.

  11. milliganp says:

    It’s patently absurd to say that a God who sent his Son to redeem us is not a God who cares deeply for all. The greater mystery is “Why did God bother at all?” rather than “why did God stipulate the means of salvation?”
    The Cardinal who claimed the honour of Getting Pope Francis elected once spoke of their being two models of the church:-
    1) The light on a hill – illuminating the world and showing the path to salvation (but which can be ignored)
    2) The leaven in the mass – a church that sanctifies the world and can (perhaps) save all through that sanctification.
    I think Francis subscribes to the latter model.

  12. galerimo says:

    Our readings that the Church puts before us this weekend (26th Sunday in Ordinary time) speak also about the perception we can have of God’s “failures”.

    Only the people in our camp should receive the Spirit. Only our duly authorised men can act for God.

    It is very uncomfortable for Christians to face the experience of abandonment shared by the Jewish people in the face of their Holocaust, knowing the deep roots of a Christian culture of anti-Semitism and coming from a society of reformed and baptised Christians – but, it remains a fact.

    Lots of others were murdered and of course rogue states behave badly and there is no diminishing either the horror of it nor the need to acknowledge others’ losses too.

    As God’s specially chosen race, the Jewish people will always occupy that place of primacy leaving us indebted to them for giving us Jesus and showing us how to respond to Him in many ways including a wariness about some corrupt religious leaders.

    Theirs is a particularly relevant place in the narrative around our perception of God appearing to be failing, as God.

    Just as we are reminded today how Jesus’ own followers thought they had a monopoly on God’s power and sought him to do it “their way”, we too may come to a place of humble acceptance; being that we are limited in our view as human beings: learning too, it is God who sees the full and final picture of our reality.

    Without denying or diminishing any of the reality of abandonment we experience where God is concerned, either as individuals or as race of people, it was our Jewish sisters and brothers who named Holocaust for us from their own experience within their particular religious tradition.

    For many too, their experience of Church is an experience of abandonment, a feeling of being let down, of failure on God’s part. How it is possible to come back from any of this?

    • ignatius says:

      “For many too, their experience of Church is an experience of abandonment, a feeling of being let down, of failure on God’s part. How it is possible to come back from any of this?”

      Actually many are now doing precisely that, coming back, I mean. And what a pleasure it is to see, standing at the front of the church or chatting at the door aftre Mass. How grateful we are for each other, to see one another , to be together to pray together. These posts of yours Galerimo are basically a personal lament and have little to do with tangible reality. For example:
      “Only the people in our camp should receive the Spirit. Only our duly authorised men can act for God.”
      This is quite frankly a distorted reading of 26th sunday as the gospel recounts:
      “Anyone who is not against us is for us”
      And the reading from Numbers gives us this:
      “If only the whole people of the Lord were prophets , and the Lord gave his spirit to them all”
      Both readings being a cry for more and more widespread abundance, not less and more exclusive.
      Also the church clearly and definitively states that heaven is not barred to any person who in their own way acknowledges God and seeks to walk humbly show mercy and act justly.
      As to this:

      “It is very uncomfortable for Christians to face the experience of abandonment shared by the Jewish people in the face of their Holocaust, knowing the deep roots of a Christian culture of anti-Semitism and coming from a society of reformed and baptised Christians – but, it remains a fact…”

      Simple history shows that the camps were in fact liberated and the regime overthrown, at the cost of millions of lives, A homeland, Israel, was then created for those wished to go. Of course there was shame that this was not done earlier but the contingencies of war were present. As to responsibility even a slight grasp of Moral theology shows that a person is only responsible for that for which they can assume personal responsibility, the sins of the fathers are not visited upon the children.

      Let us suppose, just for one moment that you were a civilian, struggling under the demands of wartime and aware that your government was committing atrocities. You were then approached to join the resistance but on the proviso that your own family could well be tortured and put to death as reprisal…where would your responsibility lie? where is the culpability?
      We collectively mourn the holocaust, of course we do. Knowing one or two whose lives were touched by its shadow I found myself compelled to visit the camps to seek deeper understanding..I am not the only one, millions visit those camps every year. Of course Europe and the West was ashamed at what it found and the poor German State struggled for years to find answers. Yes the slaughter remains etched in our history, as a failure of humanity, as does the Gulag, as does Ypres, as does Rwanda, and so on and on..but all these atrocities point TO the crucifixion and the resurrection, they point TO the cross not away from it. Frankly Galerimo I find your considerations on this subject mainly noticeable for their lack.

      • FZM says:

        IIRC the Holocaust was a top level state secret, this was why it was carried out mainly by special units of the SS/police organisation, and mainly in the occupied territories in the East. Hitler was apparently preoccupied with the idea that if what was going on was discovered, the Jews within Nazi occupied Europe could still be powerful enough to assassinate him.

        In the Nazi worldview the Second World War was provoked by international Jewry, who were highly influential in the governments of the British Empire and the USA, and completely controlled the Soviet Union. Many in the SS, led by Himmler himself, had a worldview in which Christianity, seen as an alien Semitic or Oriental belief system, had been imposed on the German tribes by forcible conversion as a means for Jews to degrade and exploit Aryans. German history was interpreted as a pattern of attempts to throw off the Jewish yoke and rediscover and reconnect with true Nordic religion, a pagan religion of blood and soil. The war had just become a new extreme episode in this struggle, as the Jews sought to destroy the new German awakening before it could liberate all Aryans from their control.

        There was a more ‘moderate’ version that was also quite common within the SS, that Jesus was a Nordic man, killed for resisting Jewish tyranny, who had originally founded a Germanic faith. This faith was subsequently corrupted and distorted by Jews to further their ends, but parts of it were still reflected in the New Testament and German Protestantism.

        Nazi propaganda was starting to spread these ideas into the wider population by the late 30s. There was also strong official emphasis on the idea that ‘all life is struggle’, nature will destroy weak peoples, and that excessive compassion was a type of harmful ‘slave morality’. Moral particularism, the idea that standards of morality did not apply to other peoples outside of your own folk-community, was also becoming common.

        As far as I can see these kinds of bizarre seeming beliefs go far beyond traditional Christian anti-Semitism, but do a fair bit to explain how something like the Holocaust could take place.

  13. David Smith says:

    galerimo (https://secondsightblog.net/2021/09/10/gods-mistake/#comment-64818) writes:

    // It is very uncomfortable for Christians to face the experience of abandonment shared by the Jewish people in the face of their Holocaust //

    You know, I’m growing tired of this obsession with the Holocaust, capitalized because it always refers to the historically recent tragedy of the grouping of humans called Jews. Hundreds or thousands of other groups have also been intentionally tortured and destroyed, as have millions of individual humans. *Every* life is precious. This endless, bathetic, and self-flagellating celebration of one single awfulness is a diverting and desensitizing caricature, a cartoon tragedy “we” use to comfortably cover all other awfulness.

    I’m not satisfied with that comment, but it will do for now. Bah, humbug.

    • milliganp says:

      The Jewish holocaust is one of those historical event, like the Atlantic slave trade, where those totally uninvolved are condemned to a permanent residual guilt. I would have thought the Jewish people would have stated question their divine selection with the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of Masada.

  14. ignatius says:

    FMZ writes:
    “I am not a Marxist but it seems interesting that the emphasis in these accounts is on modern industrial society, rather than on inherently religious causes.”
    Yes. There is a kind of parallel line of thought which points to the rise of commodity agriculture as a cause, particularly in modern Africa but extending back to the settlements of the Middle east and the rise of the city. If you are just ploughing your own strip of land you will probably need your neighbours help at times but if you are protecting your huge barn of grain you will probably employ force as a deterrent and means of further accquistion. I will look at the book you recommend..not too thick is it?

    • FZM says:

      It isn’t too bad, it is about 200 and odd pages. There are two translations apparently, this one is supposed to be much better and have good notes to explain terms and concepts they make use of drawn from psychoanalysis and Marxist theory:

      I was reading the older Verso translation which is cheaper to buy but bad (borders on making no sense in parts) and a hard read. There are interesting ideas in it, lots of things I would partly agree with or to think about more.

  15. David Smith says:

    milliganp (https://secondsightblog.net/2021/09/10/gods-mistake/#comment-64821) writes:

    // those totally uninvolved … holocaust … Atlantic slave trade … condemned to a permanent residual guilt //

    Honestly, I do not feel that. I suspect it has to do with the media continually pounding it in. I experience very little of the media. Direct connection? Perhaps it’s the same or something very similar with the Covid hysteria.

    I originally wrote “mass media” in the preceding paragraph, but the indoctrination in both cases comes from the culture on many sides. It’s become one of those “truths” that “everyone knows” and no decent person would question. Curious.

  16. David Smith says:

    FZM ( https://secondsightblog.net/2021/09/10/gods-mistake/#comment-64830 ) writes:

    // Moral particularism, the idea that standards of morality did not apply to other peoples outside of your own folk-community, was also becoming common. //

    Oddly, that seems to have come back in a way, this time on the political left. Belief and behavior that leftists would not tolerate in their own – Western – culture they simply ignore in others’.

    Come to think of it, though, wasn’t it rather common until, what, the past fifty years or so, for most people in the West to assume that other cultures simply did things differently and that, with the exception of the occasional Christian missionaries, there was no good reason to interfere? Did the West have a moral awakening fifty years ago, secular in nature but with a missionary zeal nonetheless, that impelled leaders to make a determined effort to convert the heathens to liberal democracy?

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