This is an essay from my last book:
Today we’re going to go over another atheist question:
If God is so benevolent, why does my (or someone else’s) life suck so badly?
To answer this question I’d like to direct your attention to a character that you may have heard of in modern Western literature. I want to talk to you about Batman. Yes, I want to talk about that Batman aka the Dark Knight aka the Caped Crusader aka Bruce Wayne.
This character is a man who has devoted his life to the pursuit of justice and the preservation of life. Both of his parents were shot in front of him when he was 8 years old during a mugging. This event scarred him so irrevocably that he has been unable to forge any meaningful or functional relationships ever since. He adopted three boys who all have suffered a similar trauma (traumatic loss of parents). One of them was kidnapped, beaten with a crowbar, and then blown up. Every woman Batman has ever tried to be serious with has died, gone crazy, or tried to kill him. He tried to form a relationship with another crimefighter named “Batgirl”. Then she was shot in the stomach and crippled for life. In short, Batman’s life sucks.
Why do you need to know this? Well, Batman has a very large fanbase. Millions of people worldwide read graphic novels, watch movies and television shows about Batman. Mankind appears to love this character, but at the same time, it is Batman’s fanbase that controls his fate. If you have ever enjoyed a story about Batman, then you are a part of Batman’s fanbase. You are also Batman’s God. Batman was created by men and is controlled by other men for the express purpose of entertainment (and turning a profit). Humans, men and women, fans, writers, even corporate executives all have a say in Batman’s existence. Batman cannot speak unless we write it. He falls in love with whoever we tell him to. In fact, the adopted son he lost, was killed because his fanbase did not like the character. The crippling of female friend, Batgirl, made for a stirring plot twist. Bob Kane felt that it would be really great if this character’s parents were shot in front of him. We the people have made Batman’s life a living Hell.
Now, this fact could easily be explained because Batman is a tragic character. Western literature is filled with tragic characters, created to show the common citizen the consequences of poor behavior. Shakespeare’s MacBeth is a tragic character that killed his lord, the king. What has the character of Batman done to us, his Gods, that would warrant his tragic existence? Remember that Batman has dedicated his life to justice and the preservation of human life. He dealt justice in a city where justice is scarce, yet he refused to kill criminals. He refused to kill any human being, no matter what they have done to him. His secret identity, the wealthy Bruce Wayne, was a playboy, but he was also a philanthropist and an owner of a multi-national conglomerate dedicated to advancing medical technology and agricultural research. He was averse to weapons development, the exploitation of his workers, and discrimination on the basis of race or gender. Do you know any CEOs in our world that could say the same? Batman is not a bad person. Batman is a good man. There is no moral lesson we could learn from trashing this man’s existence. We, his Gods, just enjoy watching Batman suffer.
Then to add insult to injury, Batman is one of the founding seven members of a group of crimefighters. These members call on him from time to time to help defend the planet from various global threats. Of those founding crimefighters, Batman is the only one without powers, but he is the one with the strongest drive and the sharpest mind. The other crime fighters have great powers, like super strength, super speed, etc. How did they get those powers? Either by accidents or by birth. How did Batman get his strong drive? Years of training and his parents were shot in front of him. Nothing focuses your mind like being emotionally stunted from horrific tragedy. These are the friends we give to Batman: a bunch of well-adjusted people who have been blessed at random with wonderful powers, as if to accentuate how awful Batman’s life is.
However, we, the Gods of Batman, are not through driving home this point. We, the fans, love to see Batman partnered with one crimefighter in particular: Superman, the personification of everything Batman lacks. Batman has no powers. Superman is the most powerful superhero in the comic book world. Batman was an orphan. Superman has two parents. Batman was incapable of forming meaningful relationships. Superman is married. We, the people, the Gods of Batman, force him to see his own inadequacies through his coworkers and friends, but that is not all.
We have to show him his inadequacies through his enemies as well. Batman must always be driven to fight crime and never have a normal life. While some of his greatest villains have turned their lives of crime over into lucrative and legal careers, Batman must slave away defending a city that is quite honestly beyond redemption. Batman had tried to stop being Batman in the past, but events happened to bring him back in line with his Gods’ will. This brings us to the next insult: the Joker.
The Joker is a psychotic criminal with genius level intelligence. We, the Gods of Batman, demanded that one of Batman’s adopted boys be killed, but it was Joker who carried out the deed. Still, Batman would not take revenge by killing him. Such Christian virtue is rare today even among Christians. Joker was also the one who shot Batgirl in the stomach and crippled her. Cruel fate, dealt by Us, forced Batman into a restricted, disciplined life, devoid of joy and filled with sacrifice. Cruel fate for Joker was being dropped into a vat of acid, which led to a life of doing whatever the Hell he wants to do, and he smiles while he does it. He’s always smiling. Batman never smiles. His life is too hard for that. We made his life that hard. Joker, however, always sees the glass half-full, especially when he’s using it to gouge out someone’s eyes. We, the Gods of Batman, love to see Joker smile. We love to see him wear bright colors as we laugh at his barbarism. Joker is even in a committed relationship with a woman, a woman who he beats up. Do you see how We have blessed the sinner and punished the saint?
Yes, the character of Batman/ Bruce Wayne has been around since 1939. The longevity of Batman should be enough to show mankind’s adoration for this character, except for one thing: he’s dead. At the time of this writing the character known as Batman aka Bruce Wayne is dead. His oldest son, Dick Grayson, took up the title of Batman, but Bruce Wayne is still dead. Joker’s alive and well. Why? Because We, the Gods of Batman, all love the Joker. Of course, Batman/Bruce Wayne may come back to life. That happens a lot in comic books, but why should a good man be killed repeatedly just so he can be noticed by his Gods? We, the people, the Gods of Batman, have spent the last 70 years pissing on this man’s life.
Does that sound like a big deal to you? No, probably not. Why? He’s our creation. He does not have the same life blood We do. He does not draw breath as We do. He is a figment of mankind’s imagination, a puppet for Us to manipulate. Don’t worry. I feel the same way about Batman as you do. He’s a great tragic character. I firmly believe that killing off one of his adopted sons gave the character much more emotional depth. Having his parents shot in front of him when he was only eight was a great origin story for a character who obsesses over crimefighting the way Batman does. However, what I don’t do is piss on my creation and then complain when my Creator pisses on me. Is Jehovah more benevolent to His creations? Yes, but before you argue against that point, stop and see how you treat your creations own for a change.
But seriously, if you think you’re life sucks that badly, that’s not God, that’s clinical depression. Everyone’s life looks bad if you only focus on the bad parts. Did you see how I just made Batman’s life look horrible? Sure he’s surrounded by the overpowered and overprivileged, but they all respect him for his mind, as opposed to Superman who they respect merely because he can crush them with his toes. Also, he fights crime and saves lives. This is the meaningful existence many would kill for. Yes, he has emotional problems, but instead of burying himself in grief he uses his pain to motivate him to help others. Yes, the Joker beat and tortured one of his kids, but Joker couldn’t destroy the love Batman had for his other kids. Yes, Batman’s life sucks at times, but, ultimately, he’s been really blessed. He’s been blessed by us: the Gods of Batman. While we want Batman to be a tragic character, we delight in the fact that he rises above the tragedies and challenges of his life. That’s what makes Batman such a beloved character. That’s why we love Batman. That’s also why God loves us. He puts us in awful situations to give us the chance to show this greatest of human gifts. We created Batman in our image just like God created us in His image. He wants us to be more like Batman. He wants us to use our pain to help others. He wants us to love our enemies despite what they do to us. Yes, it’s tough and we don’t have any superpowers, but we should use what we do have, be it money, intelligence, or physical strength to help those around us. To be a Christian one must strive to be like Christ, but if you fall short of this, please…be like Batman.