Jesus, who is a remarkable prophet and an admirable historical figure, didn’t die for my sins. Because I’ve never sinned. Which is not to say that I’ve never made mistakes. I’ve made plenty, although not as many as the Catholic Church. No, I’ve never sinned because sinning, by definition, is violating the will of God. And God has no “will” to violate. God, if he/she/it exists at all, is coterminous with the Universe. God is not a “sentient” being, separate and apart, with feelings or thoughts. God doesn’t have will or intention. And the Universe, whatever else we can say about it, is clearly not directed by a sentient being with a sense of mission.
When people say they believe in God, they’re referring to the Abrahamic God. Of the five “great” religious traditions – Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam – the latter three are in the same tradition, the “Abrahamic” tradition. Now, Buddhism is not a theological religion, which is to say, that belief in “God” is not a part of the Buddhist tradition. And if you were a Hindu, the question wouldn’t be whether you believe in God but whether you believed in the Gods. So, belief in God is an exclusively Abrahamic concept.
The debate about whether God is all-knowing and wise should have ended with the Holocaust. The Holocaust, by the way, is inexplicable and incomprehensible. As a German, people sometimes expect that I will understand more about the Holocaust than others, but I don’t. I may know more about the historical circumstances that surround it, but it remains just as inexplicable and incomprehensible as it always was. And 100, 500, 1000 years from now, the thing that everyone will remember about the Germans, about my people, is that we committed the Holocaust. Because it is incomprehensible and defies explanation.
But what also defies explanation is why anyone would believe in a wise and all-knowing God in the wake of the Holocaust. Think about it: the “Christians” who were the camp guards, the SS officers, the railroad workers engineering the massive transports, believed in the same God, the same YHWH as the Jews they were seeking to exterminate. These camp guards, SS officers and railroad engineers celebrated Christmas and Easter and prayed for salvation from the same God as the Jews. If YHWH was the war god of the Jews, his “chosen people,” then his failure to protect them during the Holocaust was a failure of epic, of incomprehensible proportions.
There is no benevolent God. There is no wise and all-knowing God, listening to our prayers, helping us score touchdowns and win races, or saving us from cancer. Cancer’s abject randomness, its willingness to attack anyone anywhere, regardless of the goodness or quality of their life, should be evidence enough that there is no benevolent God.