AT the first test of the atomic bomb-whose role in World War II is being noted this month-all in attendance were awed by the force of the explosion. In his book, Under the Cloud: The Decades of Nuclear Testing, Richard L. Miller reports how Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Manhattan Project, as it was called, responded to what they had seen. ''As Oppenheimer watched the unfolding scene, a thought flashed through his mind, a passage from the Hindu Bhagavad Gita: 'I am become Death, shatterer of worlds' '' (New York: Macmillan, Inc., 1986, p. 37).
Can man become death? Can he be the tool of evil? These questions were being debated long before the splitting of the atom, but the awesome power of the bomb cast them in a new light.
When we look at violent events reported by the news media, the answers to these questions may at first seem obvious. We find accounts of mortals killing other mortals, sometimes without even knowing why. Intractable wars continue on their courses, seemingly without any hope of solution. These accounts tell us little of the spiritual nature of man, which is our true identity. Nor do they convey the unbreakable relation we have to God, as His ideas, and the power for good that accompanies genuine spirituality.
Instead, we are taught to believe that man is helpless, the doer of evil instead of good. We focus on the material scene, where carnal desires and the expectation of violence-and its repetition-are emphasized. Within this context, good may well seem limp-a kind of weak sister to powerful and dynamic evil.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, corrects this mistaken view in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She writes, ''God is not the creator of an evil mind. Indeed, evil is not Mind. . . . Evil is not supreme; good is not helpless; nor are the so-called laws of matter primary, and the law of Spirit secondary'' (p. 207).
These spiritual facts were powerfully proved by Christ Jesus, the master Christian. In the face of evil and hatred of the most malignant kind, his love for humanity was unquenched. Jesus understood so clearly man's spiritual nature and man's unlimited potential for good, that he refused to give any power to evil. He knew it as simply the lying impostor of God, good. Consequently, he knew that the man God created can do only good, never evil, and he was able to prove this.
Jesus' knowledge of good was not, however, the result of a sunny disposition that overlooked the faults of humanity. He was well aware of the evil that comes as the result of human willfulness, hatred, jealousy, and revenge. In fact, his crucifixion was plotted and carried out by those under the influence of such carnal emotions.
Rather than ignore these sinful thoughts, the Master took strength from the fact that goodness is far more than simply the sum total of human goodness, powerful as that is. He knew that the source of all good is infinite because it is in God, not in people. He told one individual, ''There is none good but one, that is, God'' (Matthew 19:17).
At first glance that might seem to leave us outside the realm of goodness. In reality, however, man's inseparability from God places him totally within the power of good. As the image, or idea, of God, we can express only the nature of good in every aspect of our being. Sometimes it may take a lot of prayer and work to see the evidence of this spiritual fact in our lives, but the effort is definitely worthwhile, for it has the power to free us from the effects of evil.
Jesus' reliance on and faithfulness to these facts freed him from the tomb and literally destroyed the power of death. He proved for all time that man-God's spiritual idea-cannot be the bringer of death, because his purpose is to express God, who is divine Life.
As we consider the commemorations of dropping the atomic bomb, then, we can prayerfully affirm the mighty reality of good in our own lives, even at times when it may be difficult to do so. We know this good is so powerful that it broke open a tomb sealed by hatred of the worst kind. This same good, with its source in God, is with us all, and our willingness to turn to it-instead of to violence-will bring peace to our world.