Carl Reiner and God:
The Sad Ignorance of Atheist Man
By Dr. Tom Snyder, Editor
In his final interview before he died a few days ago, Carl Reiner, the comic television actor, writer and sometimes film director of comedies like THE JERK and ALL OF ME, had some thoughts about God for DISPATCHES FROM QUARANTINE, an online interview series from Silver Screen Studios.
Reiner explained why he’s been a committed atheist for most of his life.
“Man invented God, God didn’t invent man,” Reiner says in the interview. “If God existed, where was He during Hitler’s time? Sixty million people were screaming ‘Oh, God, please come in and kill this guy!’ Is God deaf?”
The simplest reply to Carl Reiner’s atheism in the face of the great evil that Hitler and his National Socialist regime is this: “Well, Mr. Reiner, you will find God in the faces of Christians like Corrie ten Boom and her sister, Betsie, who rescued Jews in the Netherlands, until they were arrested and put into a political concentration camp, where Betsie died on Dec. 16, 1944. Or, in the face of Oskar Schindler, whose Catholic conscience was pricked by the suffering of the Jewish people under Hitler and ultimately helped rescue more than 1,000 Jews (‘The Jews were being destroyed,’ Schindler reportedly said afterwards. ‘I had to help them; there was no choice’). Or, in the face of Pope Pius XII of Rome, who tried to save Jews before and after Hitler’s men took over Italy in 1943. Or, Mr. Reiner, you might find God in the faces of the thousands of American, British, French, and Polish soldiers who gave up their lives fighting against Hitler and his evil regime.”
Ultimately, the response to great evil such as that of a Hitler or a Stalin is not to ask, “Where is God” but to ask, “Where am I?,” followed by “Where are you?”
Reportedly, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Anti-Semitic bigotry that led to his administration doing little to stop the persecution of Jews after Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933. In fact, for the first five years of Hitler’s regime, FDR said little or nothing about this persecution, which became well known. And, guess what? Some of the Jewish leaders who were most supportive of FDR and his administration, such as the influential Rabbi Stephen Wise, “actually undermined Jewish activists who demanded the administration let more Jewish refugees into the US” (Matt LeBovic, “Historian: New evidence shows FDR’s bigotry derailed many Holocaust rescue plans,” The Times of Israel, 11/04/19, https://www.timesofisrael.com/historian-new-evidence-shows-fdrs-bigotry-derailed-many-holocaust-rescue-plans/). Where was God, you ask? Well, where was FDR, and where was Rabbi Wise?
Of course, theologically speaking, there are multiple other reasons to retain a strong faith and trust in God in the face of great evil like Hitler’s.
We live in a physical universe. There are certain unavoidable consequences of living in such a universe. Some of those consequences are very bad. If God were to stop by fiat a bullet coming to pierce an innocent person’s head or stop a gas chamber from working, he’d have to do so in every other case. Otherwise, there would be no justice. As Jesus says in Matthew 5:45, “God makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Bob Abernethy, during a series of interviews with Holocaust survivors on PBS, tells this story in “Holocaust Survivors: The Search for Faith,” https://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/2001/08/03/august-3-2001-holocaust-survivors-the-search-for-faith/13853/:
“A Hasidic rabbi lost his wife and 11 children in the Holocaust. Afterwards, he was asked, ‘Why did miracles occur only during biblical times? Why don’t they happen in our time?’ The rabbi replied, ‘The fact that there are Holocaust survivors who, after all they endured, can still keep faith, is itself, the greatest miracle of all.’”
Ultimately, this universe in which we are living, suffering, weeping, and laughing is the Best Way to the Best of All Possible Worlds. And, Jesus Christ is the Only Way to the Best of All Possible Worlds. Jesus isn’t some kind of distant, removed God who cares nothing for us or is powerless to do anything for us. No, on the Cross, where He suffered one of the most painful deaths imaginable, Jesus becomes part of our suffering and saves us from our sin and the sins of others that are responsible for that suffering, even in the darkest pit of Adolph Hitler’s gas chambers.
Also, Jesus is not unaffected by our suffering. As Dr. Mitch Glasser of Chosen People Ministries notes in his article, “Why Did God Allow the Holocaust, “In the Gospel of Luke, we read the following passage, ‘When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it’ (Luke 19:41), https://www.chosenpeople.com/site/god-allow-the-holocaust/. When Jesus did this, He knew all about the horrors that were soon to be visited upon the Jewish people of Jerusalem by the Romans before, during and after A.D. 70 when the Romans tore down the second Jewish temple and slaughtered many people.
In light of all this, it is well to remember what God tells Noah in Genesis 8:21, “The intentions of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Thus, maybe before he passed away, Carl Reiner should have examined his own life more carefully. What has he done to spread goodness and fight evil? What, for example, did he do during his life to stop the abortion murder of thousands of innocent little babies, another terrible holocaust that’s happening right this minute all around the world.
Ultimately, therefore, it is ignorant to ask questions like, “Where was God during the Holocaust?”
Instead of asking ignorant questions like this, we should take the attitude of Job in the Hebrew Scriptures, who replies to God in Job 42:6, “I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
– Source: Kate Aurthur, “In Carl Reiner’s Final Interview, He Talked About His Career, Meeting Mel Brooks and God,” Variety, 06/30/20, https://variety.com/2020/biz/news/carl-reiner-final-interview-1234694879/.
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