Philip Yancey on What Good is God? (Part 2)

Guest post from Philip Yancey, author of What Good is God?: In Search of a Faith That Matters.

God’s Talent Pool: Part 2

Read part 1 first.

I may be naive, but I had no idea that such assertions would stir up such protests. A couple of thousand comments took me to task. What an idiot I must be! How can I possibly suggest that religion ever does any good! Don’t I know about the Crusades and the Inquisition? Religion does little but delude people, strip them of money, and further violence and ethnic division. Here are a few samples:

God makes waffle batter fluffy. His only power. Little known fact.

Whatever good religions do has absolutely nothing to do with the alleged goodness of an alleged god… Contrariwise, it is not difficult to show that following biblical injunctions is more likely to lead to harm than good. It seems people are good in spite of religion rather than because of it.

Religion and a nickel will get you a cup of coffee.

The question for evangelical ministers isn’t whether there is or isn’t a God or whether God matters. The question for their flock simply is; WHERE’S THE MONEY? SHOW ME THE MONEY!

if there is a god, he sucks. no good god would allow some of the things going on around us to exist. conseqently, if the there is no god we would have no one to blame. assuming there is a god he doesn’t do any of us any good at all.

I have asked the “what good is god” question many times. And I have always come to the conclusion that god either does not care, or does not exist. Evangelicals have only been around since about 1730. They are a cult, with no more credibility than the people who are devoted to Scientology or Latter Day Saints.

Faith Words author Philip Yancey

Author Philip Yancey

Some responses got personal, such as the writer who posted about me, “The guy looks like a wacko, like all evangelicals…” and another who wrote, “He needs his neck broken, I think. Too bad he didn’t die before writing such a pathetic book. What a waste of paper and medical resources.”

Lest you think these sentiments represent a radical minority, consider that before a debate on “Is religion good or bad?” between Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens in Toronto, the organizers commissioned a poll of 18,000 people in 23 countries. Final results: 52 percent of those surveyed concluded that religion does more harm than good. (The nation with the most appreciation for religion, was Saudi Arabia; the nation with the least appreciation for religion, ironically, was Sweden, at 19 percent. Ah, what short memories have those Swedes.)

Here are the poll results on the question Is religion a force for good?

Country % who agree
Saudi Arabia 92
Indonesia 91
India 69
United States 65
Russia 59
Italy 50
Turkey 43
Canada 36
Australia 32
Great Britain 29
Japan 29
France 24
Belgium 21
Sweden 19

(Source: Ipsos Reid)

In my own writing I’ve tried to be honest about the toxic effects of religion gone bad. And in my career as a journalist I’ve met my share of characters who seem more suitable for Worldwide Wrestling than for spiritual leadership. In fact, the CNN and Huffington Post responses caught me off guard because I’m far more accustomed to hearing from Christian flame-throwers who judge me soft or heretical.

Yet I must acknowledge that some of the oddest characters I’ve met, the larger-than-life ones with a surplus of ego and a deficiency of sophistication, are those who have accomplished most in the work of God’s Kingdom: organizing relief work, feeding the hungry, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus. That pattern simply replicates what the Bible shows so clearly: God used Jacob with his slippery ethics, David with his moral lapses, Jeremiah with his morosity, Saul of Tarsus with his abusive past, Peter with his bodacious failures.

Thinking back over the Christian personalities I’ve known, as well as those featured in both Old and New Testaments, I’ve come up with the following principle: God uses the talent pool available.

To adapt an analogy I heard recently, when the Pueblo, Colorado, Symphony Orchestra plays Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony—don’t blame Beethoven. On the other hand, the only way many Coloradans will ever hear Beethoven is through that struggling ensemble. Unlike Christopher Hitchens and the defenders of non-religion, I can still hear strains of the Good News wherever I go in the world, which is why I keep writing about it.

Philip Yancey

Philip Yancey, a journalist by profession, is a bestselling writer and speaker. He is known for his honest, thoughtful explorations of Christian faith, particularly in areas of questions, struggles, and mystery. His devoted readers have bonded with him on his own journeys through doubt and faith, and they count on him as a trusted companion in the search for a faith that matters amid the world’s deepest problems as well as its shining joys. Visit Philip online at


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