Mike, one of the people who's coming into the Church with me at the Easter vigil, said today, at the last RCIA meeting before the Saturday (10th April 20:00), that he thought that it was somehow easier for Christians whose faith was under attack, whether through persecution, or from difficulty of life in general, to feel close to God. The documentary that James, Rob and I watched a while ago certainly seems to support the verdict. What the World thinks of God I believe it was called. In any case, the affluent nations were the ones who thought that the existence of suffering and evil disproved the existence of God, whereas the more war-torn and famine-stricken among the nations surveyed didn't have so much of an issue with the fact.
Now it may be objected against faith in God that it eases the suffering of the believer or it may be objected that suffering disproves the existence of God, but someone thinking rationally can't have it both ways, at least as a an explanation of a general trend of belief. This, I think, is worth considering. G.K. Chesterton had a lot to say about this type of self-negating two-pronged attack on Christian belief. C.S. Lewis also said (The Problem of Pain):
If the universe is so bad, or even half so bad, how on earth did human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good creator? Men are fools, perhaps; but hardly so foolish as that.Well, I think he's got a point.
Well, back to Mike's idea about the relative ease of nations being conducive to belief or not - frankly I disagree. I once heard, Word Alive I think it was, when I went with Will, an idea about a passage in Revelation 13 that I think has legs, to coin a phrase:
And I saw a beast rising out of the sea*[. ... I]t was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. [...] Then I saw another beast which rose out of the earth. [...] It excercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast[.]The first thing to say is that though I myself assumed for ages that Revelation, as a book of prophecy, clearly dealt with the future, i.e. the end of the world, it's a self-confessed vision of "what must take place after this.", "this" being whenever it was that St. John received the vision. Basically, it can, and has, been read as a vision of the current state of things, rather than 'merely' the end of the world. What was I saying? Oh yes - that the first beast, the first great symbol of the enemy of Christianity is overtly warlike, and deals physical damage, the second is of the same nature as the first, but makes the earth worship the beast that attacks the righteous. That is to say that it's attack is an attack on the belief of men rather than on their bodies.
Am I stretching are point, are are you way ahead of me? Anyway, all that I mean is that the Apocalypse presents us with a model for understanding how Satan may attack us physically, with persecution and violence, or he may attack us spiritually and mentally, with anti-Christian culture and suchlike.
I think I'll stop.
* Sea can be read as a methaphor for chaos. I am given to understand that, as a nation without ports, Israel wasn't the biggest fan of the sea, it being large, wild and dangerous.