Accidents

This week brought one of those moments which makes you stop and think for a while. It was the news of child’s death only a few streets away from me – the sort of private tragedy which occurs many, many times across the world in a single day. From what I hear, it was also a case with nobody at fault and no-one to blame: in the blink of an eye a young child jumps out of a pushchair and is crushed by a reversing car.

The story is second- or third-hand and might not even be true, but it’s plausible enough. It’s the sort of situation I think everyone can easily imagine themselves in – going from normal to tragic in an instant, and a life suddenly ending so unexpectedly and undeservedly. For the rest of their lives, the parents might wonder what they might or could have done differently, and the driver equally condemned to wake up each morning with the image of the accident burned in his or her memory. And yet – as strong as the grief might be – it’s just not possible to get rid of accidents. Yes, you could theoretically imagine a society where no-one ever sped, or drove while drunk, or even drove cars at all, and followed every possible precaution: but you can never eliminate the unexpected, blameless yet terrible accident.

And yes, I am forced to question those who believe in a god: because you do not believe in accidents. You cannot. If you believe a being is all-knowing and all-powerful, it knew of that child’s death – because it knows everything – and could have prevented it – because it can do everything. Maybe you can convince yourselves that the choice to let the child die is a legitimate one, and that’s fine (perhaps), but that’s what it is: a choice. You cannot believe in god – at least the god described by the major religions today – and believe in accidents. Accidents are unexpected, and a god would expect everything.

Maybe that’s comforting. Maybe accidents are scary and uncontrollable, and it’s easier to believe that everything has some underlying reason. Though I’d rather believe in accidents than a being who, with the luxury to save a life, chooses not to.

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