Sunday 25 September 2016

Finding hope when troubled by doubts

Philip O'Neill Edith Road, Oxford

Published 29/04/2014 | 02:30

Beliefs: A faithful touches a cross during a vigil at San Giovanni in Laterano Basilica in Rome. Reuters
Beliefs: A faithful touches a cross during a vigil at San Giovanni in Laterano Basilica in Rome. Reuters

* Rob Sadlier's letter (April 24) rightly shows that my recent contribution to your pages appears to have dodged the implications for belief in God of the world's suffering.

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The extermination of six million Jews, the death of an innocent child as a result of reckless drunken driving, and the loss of hundreds of young people in the South Korean disaster at sea are all events that challenge our faith to the core. The heartfelt cry of those caught up in these experiences is often, "where was God?" To tell the bereaved that it was the will of God is meaningless and offensive.

In the face of these challenging realities, all we can say to the question, "how did God allow it?" is, "I don't know" or "there is no God".

This is where hope comes in. Hope is not the desire for things to turn out well but the belief that, whatever the outcome, it will make sense.

A lack of hope, particularly in the face of human suffering, is unbearable. The most I can say is not, "what is God doing?" but "what are we doing?"

Nobody can prove the existence of God or the non-existence of a deity.

What I can do is say why I believe in some kind of reality at the heart of my experience of life. People with similar experiences may come to different conclusions.

The philosopher Thomas Aquinas is often attributed with the provision of five proofs for the existence of God. He provided five ways to consider the question of God, not five proofs.

Even science no longer deals with proven certainty but with various levels of probability.

The most I can do is provide reasons why I believe. What I believe is another matter. The 'why' question and the 'what' question are regularly confused.

Borrowing from mathematics, I see God as the X to be determined – the unknown at the heart of things. When troubled by doubts, my default position is that, more than likely, there is a God.

Philip O’Neill

Edith Road, Oxford


* Declan Foley (Letters, April 26) tries to answer those who ponder if there were a God at all, in the midst of tragedy. He claims that enormous damage was done to many non-European nations by conquerors in the name of earthly and heavenly regents. I beg to differ.

It is true that non-European nations are passing through states of bloodletting, sectarian, ethnic, social and religious adversities. However, this should not blind us to the salient fact that such attitudes were/are alien to the noble mores upon which religious scriptures were built.

Past and recent horrors have demonstrated that Europe itself was/is not immune from religious and ethnic strifes and crises. The mass slaughter of six million Jews, the oppression and genocide of Armenians during the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans, the genocide of Muslims in Bosnia, entrench negative stereotypes about divine religions, but who said that religious doctrines indoctrinate their adherents to dehumanise, demoralise, despise and loathe each other and others?

Does Christianity allow child sexual abuse in places of worship, and the following cover-up? Does Christianity endorse the ethnic cleansing of indigenous aboriginals in Australia?

Doesn't Islam safeguard the freedom to worship without coercion and the inviolable rights of the disenfranchised; and promote tolerance and the sacredness of human life?

Does Judaism promote the Judaisation of the holy land, the annexation of Arab and Muslim territories and the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians?

The conflicts we witness are not religious-based. They are fuelled by greed and power. The world at large is going through a critical juncture.

This is the time to reject extremism and isolationism. This is the time to heal divides, promote benevolence and pluralism and reach out to others immersed in anguish and despair.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London NW2


* I recently saw a quote from Bob Hope, which may be of interest to those of us of a certain vintage: "I was still chasing women in my seventies . . . but only downhill."

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, D9


* Ten years ago, on April 21, 2004, I was proud to be present with 100 international observers at the release of whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu in Ashkelon, Israel. In this prison he had served 18 years, 11 of these in solitary confinement.

I witnessed at first hand the extreme hostility he faced as he emerged from the prison gates. We, his supporters, were pelted with eggs, water bombs and urine bombs.

Since his release, he has been confined to Israel, forced to live in an area the size of Munster where he is hated by the population.

Vanunu is a truth-teller who told the world about Israel's stockpile of nuclear weapons.

As I recall his sacrifice, I am reminded of other brave whistleblowers who have suffered similarly within their own communities for telling the truth, not least the two brave gardai John Wilson and Maurice McCabe.

All whistleblowers are honourable people. They deserve to be cherished by any nation that values decency and integrity.

Justin Morahan

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16


* Now that city clampers have been set the target of 60,000 cars in 2014, motorists can expect to fork out more money for the City Council. What's more interesting is that they will get €2,000 bonus if they achieve that.

So, not only – save for really blatant parking offences – has clamping become an easy and sneaky way of extracting money from motorists' pockets, clampers are now further motivated to make a bigger kill.

Concetto La Malfa

Dublin 4


* Adlai Stevenson, the great American diplomat and orator, once said that a hypocrite is someone that cuts down a giant redwood tree, then jumps on the stump and makes a speech about conservation.

In the political arena, we have our version of the tree cutter. Every year, at the taxpayers' expense, our Taoiseach and ministers traverse the globe celebrating St Patrick's Day and St Patrick. However, a substantial number of these ladies and gents, if they had their way, would remove St Patrick and what he preached.

For instance, Ruairi Quinn's attempts at removing religion from schools; Eamon Gilmore withdrawing the Vatican diplomat; Mr Kenny playing with his mobile phone in the Pope's presence, and so forth.

Now, lest it be thought I was discriminating against the anti-Christians, I would suggest a 'jolly boys' and girls' outing' be arranged.

North Korea springs to mind because there they will see a religious free state and be taught a few tricks to how it's achieved, and where everybody will be equal – that's equally miserable and hungry.

I started with a quote so I will end with another, this time from Khrushchev: "Politicians will tell you that they will build a bridge were there's no river." Remember this when you are looking at your ballot paper.

Michael O’Callaghan

Whites Cross, Cork

Irish Independent

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