Blog Home GOOD, EVIL, RELIGION & DISABILITY

I recently got a thoughtful message from someone who works with severely disabled people asking why God allows this to happen.

This is my answer:

Zoroastrians typically see the world as a battleground of two opposing powers - a Good Power and an Evil Power. The Good Power seeks to create order and harmony in the world which leads to happiness. The Evil Power seeks to upset the good order and create disharmony which leads to pain and distress.

The Good Power and Evil Power both work through the activity of living beings and aren't omnipotent in the sense of being able to act arbitrarily against the laws of nature. Whether the Good Power or Evil Power has the upper hand depends on what people do.

Physical disabilities occur because the normal healthy development of a person has been interfered with in some way. Usually we see the Good Power at work during the growth of a person - bringing together all the conditions necessary for a happy outcome. Sometimes though the Evil Power interferes in a dramatic way to cause a disability.

We believe that the world is reasonable in the sense that everything that happens has a cause. However we don't believe that the world is fundamentally moral. In other words we don't believe that everything bad that happens to an individual person is justified or fair or has a higher purpose to it. Rather it is a sign that the Evil Power has got the upperhand. In some cases individuals can work to stop the Evil Power on their own - i.e. some kinds of disability may be due to obvious causes that the individual or their parents or others could have prevented. However often this is not enough and we need the collective effort of society to work for the Good with sufficient intelligence and determination. (This for instance leading to knowledge of the factors that cause disability and methods to prevent it and the determination to put them in place).

On the more general issue of religion:

All thinking humans have some sort of understanding of the world and their place within it. A religion is a cultural practice that helps shape a person's world-view and their values and thus their behaviour.

A religion is a tool to do a job. A good religion will make people act in the best way to support the Good Power and bring good order and happiness. What this best way is will vary depending on the character of the people and the situation they are living in. Thus we need diversity of religion as no one kind of religion will be the best for everybody in every situation.

Some religions were good responses to a situation people faced when they were invented but are now applied blindly and inappropriately. Other religions may simply be bad religions that weaken the ability of people to support the Good - perhaps to the benefit of others who want to take advantage.

In a weak sense everybody has a religion - i.e. a way of relating to the world. It is just a requirement of human nature. However what we normally call 'religion' is the most powerful practice we have of shaping people's views and attitudes. This power can be used in a bad way, but those who want to work for the Good need to use the most powerful tool they can get and this is a good religion.

Modern people with individualistic consumer values have a religion in the weak sense. This religion tells them they don't need to bother about the state of the wider society but just try and get a good job so they can pay for a better house, holidays and consumer products etc. This is a bad religion which is allowing the Evil Power to get stronger leading to a chaotic world with more wars, poverty, slavery , ill-health and unhappiness etc.

The answer to this situation is to work for the development and spread of a good religion suited to the people and the times.

Personally I have found Zoroastrianism and Mithraism (a more popular and more European form of Zoroastrianism) to be the best tradition to do this with.

Best wishes,
Marcus Z.


Original:

Dear Sir/Madam,
How are you? I hope that you are well. I have decided to write this letter to various religious leaders from various religious movements across the world in the hope that some answers may be provided to some questions that I have regarding disabled people. It is my hope that you will consider some of these questions and provide a response in order to further my understanding on the matter, and also so that I can share the answers with others so that they can use the answers to formulate their own opinions.
Recently I began to volunteer for a powerchair football team called Lisburn Lightning which is an amateur sports club. Powerchair football is a sport for the disabled who use powerchairs, or motorised wheelchairs, in order to play football. The majority of the squad have a debilitating condition such as spina bifida or cerebral palsy which not only inhibits their physical mobility but also their cognitive functioning. As a result the Lisburn Lightning Powerchair Football Club provides an arena for people to play football, as well as to socialise as some of the squad are socially immobile due to the restrictions dictated by their condition. From my time with the club I can already see that the club provides great motivation for the players and also a great sense of inclusion and purpose as well.
From a personal perspective, I have always been a bit sceptical about religion. The underlying principles of religion are well intended and meant for the betterment of mankind, however the practice of religion has caused more suffering than pleasure in my opinion. Certainly religion provides structure and order to peoples moral outlook, although the divisiveness of religion currently in the world, coupled with mankind's insatiable lust for greed, allows people to use religion as a justification for their actions and motivations. The fact that certain people appear to get incredibly rich from religious ministering while millions starve and die of treatable/preventable diseases is difficult to understand, but that is a topic which digresses from this letters intentions. Regarding the divisiveness in religion, each of the main religions appears to have the same fundamental tenants of being a good person and helping the wider community to prosper while being thankful to our God for the wonderful opportunity of life that has been afforded to us. But unfortunately this message is widely used in the belief that 'my particular religion is the correct one, all of the other religions are wrong therefore I must convert all others to my religion for the betterment of mankind'. This is further decompiled into the belief that 'my particular sect of this religion is correct, all of the other sects are wrong therefore I must recruit all others into my sect for the betterment of mankind'. Which again is difficult to understand as the fundamental tenants of each religion is to promote the unity of mankind, yet religious groups are quite happy to insist that their interpretation of religious scripture is the only valid one in the eyes of the God. However I am again digressing from the intention of this letter although I feel it necessary to give some insight into my understanding and viewpoint on the realm of religion.
So in the grander scheme of things, and in relation to the things mentioned above, why does God allow for people to be disabled? Why does God allow for some of us to have full control of our bodies and faculties, for others to have limited use, and for others to have virtually no use at all? In the religious texts we are to given the idea that having any sort of imposition is a test, and that all of life is a test. But why then are some given more of a test than others by being inhibited much more greatly? If someone has a mental disability and cannot comprehend or understand God, then do they fail the test or are they waived? If it is the latter then what is the point of the test if the test is unfairly weighted? An interesting question arises out of the able bodied person becoming disabled either through injury or illness; the person has become disabled either though fault of their own or no fault of their own. In either instance it is difficult to understand why God would allow this to happen, but even harder to understand when it happens to a good natured, law abiding, god-fearing person. Regardless of all of these points the most important point at issue for me is why are people born disabled? Why does God decide that some little ones have to face an uphill struggle from the very beginning? Do people born with disabilities get a greater reward in heaven (if they get there that is). Also, if all men are born equal, why are some born disabled?
I would like to ask you to share your religious knowledge concerning the questions that I have raised above. It would also be very interesting to hear your own personal opinions on the matter if you have any. And please also feel free to pass this letter on to your colleagues as they may have an interesting perspective on the matter. I feel that I have to ask these questions because I am yet to hear people ask them or even talk about the subject. Most people today do not seem to have any care about matters which have no impact on them, and many seem to 'turn a blind eye' and ignore what is happening all around us. So then I would like to ask you another question in how do we change people's ignorance, how do we make people show a bit more interest and compassion in the world around us? If we try to talk to them or tell them about issues which they are not interested in then we are told to stop preaching. How can we make people a little more conscientious about making the world a better place for everyone and not just for themselves?
Thank you for taking the time and effort to read this letter, I hope that you understand my questions, and also my inability to find any meaningful answers so far. If you should have questions then please do feel free to forward them to me. I thought that a letter would be more appropriate for a discourse of this kind as current electronic communications seem to lose any emotional meaning. People today hide behind digital media and do not wish their emotions or intentions to be shown, however in this instance I hope that my quest for answers is appreciated and understood.
Thank you again for your time - I look forward to your response.