Joseph McBride, posted yesterday on Facebook: “Some God-fearing woman said today that in this crisis we should take comfort that God means good for us. I asked her the age-old question of why then [does] He lets bad things happen to good people if he is supposed to be all-powerful. I am awaiting a response.”

Answer: I don’t believe in the concept of a sentient, all-knowing, all-powerful God any more than I believe in Santa Claus, but I’ll go there for the sake of your question. God allows bad things to happen to good people — hell, to all people of whatever stripe — because living through horror, pain and frogs falling from the skies builds character. Obviously not everyone emerges from horrid times in a better place and we all know how dysfunction often breeds more of the same, but the basic idea from God’s vantage point, which has always been that of an absentee landlord, is that terror, agony and adversity are ultimately good for the soul.

As Aeschylus and Bobby Kennedy put it, “Even in our sleep pain, which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair. against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

If you insist on defining God as some kind of sentient being with an interest or awareness of what humans go through on a daily basis, God is basically defaulting to the same rationale offered by Johnny Cash‘s absentee father, the “dirty mangey dog” who “kicked like a mule and bit like a crocodile”, about why he named his son Sue.

In short, God allows all kinds of brutality and anguish to define human existence in order to make us wiser and stronger. God to Cash: “So I gave you that pain and said goodbye…I knew you’d have to get tough or die.”

That said, and just to repeat: There is no “God” in any kind of moral or compassionate sense. The universe is obviously bound together by a certain unified energy and intelligent design, but human-behavior-wise it’s a total crapshoot.