Letters: There is actually more comfort in things that are provable
God's existence is neither verified nor disproved by the good or bad done in his honour. Guilt or innocence by association in this way only ever obfuscates the issue. In fact, the good and bad done in God's name are by-products solely of the beliefs associated with man-made institutions.
And while God, the unknowable, abstract, conceptual notion of a deity, cannot be judged by the good or bad done in his name, religions most certainly can be. Religion is not abstract. It has teachings, makes claims, and promotes actions, to which there are real-world consequences.
These actions, whether you consider them sacred or not, can and must be judged by the standard of our 21st-Century moral and ethical values – values that have, of course, been propagated from the pulpits, but are no more derived from any of the world's religions than is neuroscience or philately.
There is an incongruity between religion and God when it comes to existence.
Although it seems ludicrous to suggest, they are separate questions, to be dealt with separately. It is probably because of this that people think of God as the unknowable, enigmatic solution to the indignities, suffering and downright (philosophical) absurdity of the human equation. Is it rational? Certainly not, but if God brings hope in the face of suffering, consolation in the face of loss, and meaning to an otherwise indifferent universe, then great.
The caveat, however, is that even in the face of all this – the 'comfort and mystery' etc – reasoned arguments, empirical evidence, and systems of rigorous thought utilised as tools in the quest for objective truth can be and are far more fulfilling, precisely because they are provable: they are literally as real as it gets. In this model of living, no supernatural entities are needed to understand things like suffering.
At its most fundamental level, the argument for God will always be about a God of the gaps – forever residing just beyond the ever-moving frontier of history. As long as human beings are uncomfortable with not having all the answers, God will always be invoked – if not the God of Christianity, Judaism or Islam, then future gods invented by our descendants. Because no matter how many gaps there are or will be, religion will make sure that when God is removed from a gap he now inhabits, there is another primed and ready for tenancy.
The catch here is that this isn't a weakness in science, but a weakness in an argument for God.
BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA
LET'S ALLOW CHILDREN TO FIND GOD
Whether people believe in the existence of a god or not, there is one thing that is real about God – and that is the concept of him. It is a concept that every human being has to confront in his or her lifetime.
It is also a concept that needs many years of reflection – but unfortunately different versions of the concept of God are imposed on children in a hurried manner, just as soon as they are born. This has the effect of both devaluing children as thinking human beings, and also making God a stranger – usually a strange old man living far away in a distant heaven.
No-one, no matter who he or she is, whether a great religious teacher or a great atheist, should impose their concept of God or lack of God on young children. Children should have some choice to consider God at an age when they can think for themselves.
CLONLIFFE ROAD, DUBLIN 3
IF ANYTHING, BIG BANG IS PROOF
It never ceases to amaze me that atheists spend all their time rubbishing other people's beliefs. The truth is, religion, no matter what form you believe in, is based on nothing more than faith – and all the scientific counter-evidence is just condescending claptrap.
Atheists can neither tell us what caused the Big Bang, nor what was there before it. If God made the universe, how else would he have done it? Only with a big bang out of nothing, from which every single thing – not only this microscopic earth, but mind-boggling trillions of planets and suns – came from.
I think it was Rob Sadlier who said that the children who died in Auschwitz are testament to the non-existence of God. I would like to quote Steve Collins at his slain son's funeral in Limerick, when he said, "I talked to God and God said, 'Why are you so sad?' I said, 'My son was killed,' and God said, 'So was mine.' I said, 'But, God, your son lives.' And God said, 'So does yours.'"
SIXMILEBRIDGE, CO CLARE
IT'S FAIR ENOUGH TO PAY FOR WATER
I am following with interest the debate regarding the introduction of water charges – and I find it interesting that there is no mention of the many thousands of households already paying for domestic water.
I am a subscriber to a group water scheme supplied from a county council source, and for 35 years I and many others have paid for domestic water and I'm happy to do so.
We all need a good supply of water, and if consumers do not wish to subscribe for their consumption, who do they expect will pay to install and maintain a supply to their homes?
I predict that when water charges are in place, consumption will drop considerably, as people begin to cut back on the squandering of this most valuable resource.
KILTIMAGH, CO MAYO
WELL DONE, WHISTLEBLOWERS
It is an age of information – and disinformation. It is an age of deceit. And Ireland, being divided loosely into cliques of inscrutable loyalties, makes it an age of insider privilege, influence, and naked menace. Thank goodness for whistleblowers.
THE REASON WE DIDN'T EAT FISH
Thomas Whelan (Letters, May 14) said that Irish people in the 19th Century did not eat fish because "the local landlord had to be paid first before anybody could launch from the shore". There was also another reason. The main fishing boat in Ireland was the curragh, a small boat constructed of wicker and animal hide. These boats were unsuitable for deep-sea fishing and were extremely dangerous, particularly off the volatile west coast. Yet these boats were the best a native could hope to acquire, if they could at all. There was another problem in that the vast majority of fishermen couldn't afford salt in the quantities needed to preserve their catch. Even for the inhabitants of Claddagh, who were out-and-out fishermen, the destitution caused by the famine reached such a point that many out of desperation sold their fishing nets.
PAUGHANSTOWN, DUNLEER, CO LOUTH
TAKING GOOD ADVICE ON AFRICA
Africa's smallholder farmers have a vital role to play in that continent's economic growth and development. It is heartening, therefore, that this week's report from the Africa Progress Panel (APP) should focus on the role of small-scale farmers.
The 2014 report reinforces the belief that Self Help Africa has held for 30 years – that rural farming communities are vital if hunger and poverty are to be eradicated.
The APP, which includes our own Bob Geldof among its membership, is a hugely influential body. We must hope that international governments and decision-makers heed their recommendations and provide the necessary support, so that Africa's enormous potential can be unlocked, and its people can look forward to a future free from hunger and dependence.
CEO, SELF HELP AFRICA