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Meditation 220
Gods & Barbers

by Hugo

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I read the following story today:

"A man went to a barbershop to have his hair cut and his beard trimmed. As the barber began to work, they began to have a good conversation. They talked about so many things and various subjects. When they eventually touched on the subject of God, the barber said: 'I don't believe that God exists.'

'Why do you say that?' asked the customer.

'Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that God doesn't exist. Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people? Would there be abandoned children? If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain. I can't imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things.'

The customer thought for a moment, but didn't respond because he didn't want to start an argument. The barber finished his job and the customer left the shop. Just after he left the barbershop, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard. He looked dirty and unkempt. The customer turned back and entered the barber shop again and he said to the barber: 'You know what? Barbers do not exist.'

'How can you say that?' asked the surprised barber 'I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you!'

'No!' the customer exclaimed. 'Barbers don't exist because if they did, there would be no people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards, like that man outside.'

'Ah, but barbers DO exist! What happens, is people do not come to me.'

'Exactly!' affirmed the customer. 'That's the point! God, too, DOES exist! What happens is, people don't go to Him and do not look for Him. That's why there's so much pain and suffering in the world.'"

This story is misleading for two reasons. Firstly, it ignores the fundamental difference between God and barbers, in that barbers are not omnipotent - it is not within barbers' power to trim all the beards in the world.

Secondly, it seems to suggest that the reason for all suffering is that people do not believe in God. This is a ridiculous idea, and quite damaging. Belief in God does not stop suffering from natural causes (e.g. Volcanoes). This aside, it is possible to prevent some suffering simply by leading a good life, without belief in God. There are many people who believe in God and lead bad lives, even if they believe they are doing the will of God. Though this is Christian story, belief in God is used by religious terrorists of many different beliefs to justify killing.

This story neither demonstrates the existence of God nor gives it any purpose.