Does religion hurt or help society?

Job's childrenHow religions deal with suffering

"He said the first truth: Yes, there is suffering. Life hurts," says Minka Hauschild.

With these words, the Buddha began his first teaching letter.

"The second: 'There are causes, there are reasons that life hurts', the third: 'Yes, it is possible to lessen suffering or to dissolve suffering'."

Buddhism is very close to life when it comes to suffering:

“The first noble truth simply recognizes that life simply has pain in store for us. Being born hurts, learning to digest, going to school, going through puberty, then we get older, we get frail, we are in pain, we lose what we love and we get what we don't want. "

The painter and yoga teacher Minka Hauschild has delved deeper and deeper into Buddhism over the past 30 years. She meditated under the tree in Bodghaya, India, where the Buddha was enlightened. She has circled the sacred mountain of the Tibetans, the Kailash, several times, in her role as a tour guide, but also as a pilgrim. Minka Hauschild has internalized the teaching of Buddhism on suffering:

"... and 90 percent we do with the drama, what we stage. With our fears, with our apprehensions, with our inner whining, with our self-pity, with our self-accusation, with the feeling that we have failed, with the feeling that we are to blame, feeling ... I don't know what. "

"For me chocolate is only bittersweet"

As a German from a middle-class Protestant family, Minka Haushild still knows the quick prayer with his - sometimes childlike - wish from God, from heaven, from somewhere that help may be given to her in an emergency. But no sooner has she thought of such a wish than she brushed it aside again and found herself with what Buddhism says: Suffering is part of life.

The infinitely diverse conditions of existence, especially the coexistence of humans and animals, produce it. And after all, people can choose whether to aggravate an undeniable need by whining or to let them pass by in serenity. Minka Hauschild considers the complaint about suffering to be nothing more than a habit that does not help:

"We can do something about that, we can just leave it. We can leave it."

That sounds good - and yet it seems a difficult exercise.

How head-steered and rational do you have to look at your own life if you want to divide the complaint out of your own emotional balance in a difficult situation?

Minka Hauschild - and many other Western Buddhists - make this their task. The painter thus copes with a life that she has to develop again and again, that does not lead anywhere on a trodden path.

How much softer, on the other hand, does the promise of Christianity sound:

"The point of the Christian faith is: In suffering we are not forsaken by God, but [...] that God is close to those who have a broken heart, a broken heart and the point is then indeed in the cross of Jesus, where yes Our faith says, even if Jesus himself was of the subjective opinion, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?', God is still objectively with him and does not leave him alone and then leads him through death a new life, "says Nikolaus Schneider. He is a Protestant pastor and for several years was the highest representative of Protestantism in Germany as the Council Chairman of the Evangelical Church.

When he talks about the Christian understanding of suffering, the struggle with his own fate always resonates: Even after years, he and his wife Anne Schneider suffer from the fact that their youngest daughter, Maike, died of leukemia at the age of 22. They quarrel with their god and still endure the loss, even if it has fundamentally changed the taste of their existence:

"And we learn, in all suffering, to feel joy again, but let's say, to put it in the picture: For me chocolate is only bittersweet. So there is no longer this full sweetness. Because this experience just me accompanied through life. But that's okay too, because that's how I notice how much I loved my daughter and how much she loved me, and that's also the way this relationship lasts . "

Omnipotence and powerlessness

And this love is not the only thing that sustains. Nikolaus and Anne Schneider have described in several books and interviews that they felt God's closeness when they accompanied Maike into death.

"Suffering not as an expression of punishment and forsaken by God, but suffering as a reality of life, but also the expectation that God is also close to us in this reality - in this dark reality."

That is the promise of Christianity. God is also present in suffering. He has gone among the people, he knows their need and suffers with them.

From this, many theologians in the past decades - especially under the impression of the Second World War - have concluded: This God also demands that people stand up for the suffering of others, that they become politically active and change structures that promote injustice and thus suffering.

"As a rabbi, especially when dealing with other people, the first question that is important to me is," Where does suffering come from? What is the cause of suffering? "Says Daniel Alter.

And why does God allow it? If he is omnipotent, he should be able to prevent the misery of the world, regardless of whether nature is causing it or humans are causing one another. That is why suffering is often viewed as counter-evidence for the existence of God - and the monotheistic religions have to deal with it.

"There is often the idea that God created suffering. If I were to put it simply, I would say that suffering did not occur because of God, but in spite of God."

Daniel Alter is a rabbi and is involved in projects of Jewish-Muslim dialogue.

"For example, I am sometimes asked" How do you, as a merciful God, bring God into harmony with terrible things? "The prime example - the paradigm par excellence - would be the Shoah, Auschwitz, [...] as the standard for horror, the standard for suffering. [ ...] And I don't think that God allows such things. Because this suffering is not done by God, it is man. Of course, one can argue that God would allow it, but God does not suffer. The suffering man does and man creates. God created this world and if we stick to the example of the Shoah, he created man with the possibility of being good or bad, bad or a positive person. That decision is not in God Hand and that is, for example, a decision that people make that may result in suffering for other people. "

The question of God's justification, the question of theodicy, has not only been raised since Auschwitz - but it has been intensified since then.

"No soul is burdened with what it cannot carry"

Devout Muslims participate less in this discussion. It seems they do not reveal their Allah, whatever happens on earth. Christians and Jews, on the other hand, can no longer speak of God without naming his connection to the suffering of creation, however cautious, ignorant or questioning these utterances may be.

The Bible tells of one who has gone through the depths of suffering: Job. However, God himself had in a way played with Job. God left this man's belongings to the devil in a pact:

"The Lord said to Satan: Behold, everything that he has is in your hand; only do not lay your hand on him."

God himself had become a little curious as to whether the decent person from the land of Uz would remain pious if catastrophes robbed him of everything that made up his prosperity, his children and his flocks. But Job held out after bad weather devastated his family and destroyed his animals.

"Then Job got up and tore his clothes and pulled his head and fell on the ground and prayed and said, I came naked from my mother's womb, I will go back naked. The Lord has given it, the Lord has taken it; the name The Lord be praised. In all this Job did not sin, nor did anything foolish against God. "

All three monotheistic religions know this Job as the archetype of human suffering. In the meantime, however, Job's children and grandchildren have found their own way of relating to suffering. While Muslims seem to be more able to bear it, Christians and Jews rebel against it.

For Jews - even more than for anyone else - the Holocaust is the crime, the suffering, the misery, next to which every other difficulty pales. Despite the monstrous events, Rabbi Daniel Alter and millions of other Jews do not lose faith in their God.

The shadow remains perceptible, however, because Daniel Alter and the other people in the generations after the extermination of the European Jews can never see their own suffering completely detached from this experience of the Jewish people:

"Then my own suffering or what I sometimes feel as suffering just seems small and quite insignificant, so that this is often relativized by these examples and I actually feel it a little less painful myself, you could then now to put it casually, it then helps me to pull myself together and to deal with what I perceive as pain or suffering differently, "says Daniel Alter.

His role models also help him to achieve this. Daniel Alter works again and again in Kenya and learns from the strength of the people who cope with their poverty there. But he also takes an example from the Shoah survivors:

"When I get to know them and then meet warm-hearted and open people who can relate to other people without hatred and without bitterness, then that is also something very formative for me. This is a very strong example of how to get along with How to deal with suffering and how to overcome suffering. "

The means seems to be to stay focused on life and all its demands and to turn to the present again and again without bitterness.

Islam also knows beliefs that make this attitude possible:

"Man is an autonomous, responsible being. On the other hand, God says: No soul is burdened with what it cannot carry."

Heavenly wages magic as consolation

Duran Terzi was one of the first professionally trained teachers of Islamic studies in German schools, a devout, friendly man.

He values ​​something about his religion that surprises the non-Muslim reporter: Duran Terzi describes Islam as a simple religion - and that is precisely why he considers it so successful: His teaching, especially the interpretation of suffering, is for people from a wide variety of peoples Understandable cultures.

Duran Terzi: "God will not burden anyone with anything in terms of suffering and happiness, with which he actually cannot find the right path."

According to Islamic belief, people are able to endure the suffering that happens to them. Because suffering that they couldn't bear does not happen to them at all. You have a tool to deal with it: patience.

"And patience - that is the term" sabar "- is understood dynamically in Islam. So patience does not mean: 'What a shame, bad luck, I've experienced, okay, I have to endure it' - just not give up in the sense of giving up. Patience means dynamic: 'I have to stand firm.' If we take the example of illness - if I get sick, I have to show patience, that means I have to make an effort for my health and recovery. Go to the doctor, follow the doctor's advice, if it doesn't work, continue with Stay on the ball, take another therapy, etc. - don't give up. That is patience. "

This patience then shapes people - because one thing applies to all worldviews and religions: They are convinced that people grow when they have endured and overcome suffering.

Duran Terzi: "And then we also have to develop further and suffering is also a factor, an important factor by which people not only measure themselves, but also develop. If that didn't exist, people would not develop further in many things either can. That's the way it is. "

The third belief of Islam is that the suffering of life is made good in the afterlife. So nobody suffers for free.

Duran Terzi: "An example: A woman and mother cross the street in the green and a drunk driver rushes and runs over them, you are completely innocent. And unfortunately that is a part of life because we are people of free will and a person, He who is with free will also makes bad things and mistakes. And that is then in the Islamic faith with the compensation, i.e. reward, heavenly wage magic that is called, in paradise, so this suffering is also compensated, compensated, and ultimately it is then for those affected are not injustice. "

Christians today no longer imagine the torments of hell and heavenly joys in the hereafter as vividly as in earlier epochs, when paintings often drastically illustrated the consequences of earthly transgressions.

Is God a Cynic?

But the theologian Nikolaus Schneider also expects a balance in an afterlife. May life be rounded off, torments balanced - and refers to Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

"Theoretically, I agree with Bonhoeffer, I can't imagine a theoretical concept of how one can soberly this world with all its abysses and its shamefulness, how one can deal with this world, without a belief in a God who then does will see to it again for justice, the court now also wants to correct and correct and the big criminals should not just get away with it - that is just an absolutely necessary idea for me in order not to despair in this world. "

Even for Nikolaus Schneider, it is undisputed that suffering can make a person mature - despite all opposition to it. But he does not believe that God sends suffering specifically to test people, even if some theologians assume that:

"There is, this tradition, both in the Bible and in many hymns, but that is not my theology. I think that is a misinterpretation. I have no image of God that he is such a cynic, who is now with people plays to see if they are really loyal to him. I have no idea of ​​God that God is now playing with us, that he is a cynic and that he is now death, perdition and all these monstrosities that exist in this world, that he sends them to punish or examine people. "

As a parish priest, Nikolaus Schneider accompanied many people in difficult situations and rebelled when he saw political decisions as promoting injustice. In view of his greatest suffering - the death of his 22-year-old daughter - he has also learned to appreciate the many good sides of his life more than before:

"But that these other sides do not question my previous life and do not simply destroy everything, but that this experience of sadness also carries with it, despite all the difficulties, to appreciate what is beautiful again in a completely different way - that I experience. "

The Buddhist Minka Hauschild - the painter and yoga teacher - tries again and again to find out about herself, to understand how she intensifies suffering by - and no one else - making demands on fate instead of simply accepting it:

"Because there is often a final thought attached to our desire:" If I have that now, then my life will finally be better, when I have completed my training, when I have the house, when I have an employment contract, when I do have the man I desire, when I am free from pain, when I am healthy - then everything will be better and secretly we hope that this improvement is permanent. But it's not."

Get up, shake yourself, carry on

Minka Hauschild makes it her practice in meditation to enjoy joys, to grow from suffering - and to make it clear to herself again and again that the suffering will always be there. If she can't escape it anyway, why get upset about it?

"As a freelancer I am always subject to great fluctuations. In painting - then there are exhibitions, then again none, there are successes, there are failures. I can ensure that my view of it is more relaxed. And that is just very good for me helped to carry out the apparently volatile lifestyle relatively easily and confidently - until today. "

How people perceive the inevitable suffering in life depends largely on their convictions and these are still shaped by religion. Seeing a meaning where rationally there is no one - that can expand the repertoire of dealing with everything that causes suffering - even with loss, death and grief.Rabbi Daniel Alter, for example, developed a resilience from an early age that, as he suspects, is also part of his Jewish heritage:

"At the end of the day, that's what I noticed a bit in childhood - falling down means getting up, shaking yourself, and going on."