The Problem of Evil and Suffering Revisited

As of now, I believe that the problem of evil and suffering is one of the chief arguments against Christianity in addition to arguments from biblical errancy, atheological arguments, and the problem of supernatural claims needing supernatural evidence. In my opinion wasn't always this. The problem of evil and suffering wasn't always the biggest problem I have had for being a Christian. I think that the reason why this is so is because most Christians seem to paint this argument as a sheer emotional argument, not an intellectual argument. That is, they like to point to human conceptions of fairness, dignity, or perceptions of what ought to be and not what is. I think that this is the reason that the argument from pain and suffering never led me to ask whether Christianity was true, intellectually, but did kill any faith I had in any god of love. Christians believe that the existence of God is more or less factually-based, and so any argument from pain and suffering can only be, at root, an emotional argument based on selfish and limited human ideals of the way that the world ought to work. I guess this is the reason I never struggled with the argument of how Christianity could be true. Yet, my deep clinical depression never led me to consider that pain and suffering could be a logical or evidential argument against God because I was convinced that Christianity was true intellectually. Instead of seeing the evidence of pain and suffering as evidence for the nonexistence of God, I took pain and suffering, particularly my own, as evidence that God had something personally against me.

The Problem of Evil and Suffering

What led me to finally start questioning a lot of the arguments in favor of Christianity was biblical errancy. This is because the Christian perception of pain and suffering as purely an emotional argument controlled my thinking, even for a few years after I left the faith. It wasn't until I read the chapter on pain and suffering by Loftus that I finally began to see that the argument from evil and suffering could and did have a logical structure to it. If I became convinced that pain and suffering had a logical structure to it, I might have left the faith sooner. Another thing that I noticed is that some Christians don't even seem really bothered by suffering and evil in this world. When people bring up suffering and evil, these Christians, never really having experienced much of the pain and suffering in this world firsthand, tend to get self-righteous and judgmental regarding nonbelievers or skeptics and even accuse them of selfishness. When we offer suffering and evil as a reason to disbelieve that any god exists, we are often greeted with an arrogant judgmentalism, ironically accusing us of arrogance in thinking we could selfishly design a world much better than any god could. Other Christians are, in fact, acutely aware of evil and suffering and when they go to explain it, it almost seems like they're apologizing on behalf of God and trying to rationalize away his behavior. They seem aware of the problem of pain evil and suffering and actually concede that it has strong force and try to give a very gentle explanation, probably aware that the problem is a genuine one.

Indeed, it is genuine and powerful. I was foolish enough to not consider that it had a strong logical basis to it for a number of years and I am glad that I finally saw through my shortsightedness and embraced the argument as powerful as it is. I recall reading about the famed agnostic Charles Templeton, a former minister and good buddy of Billy Graham, finally had his faith destroyed by the problem of suffering. He saw a mother cradling her dead child, looking up to heaven, as if expecting an answer from the Almighty, when all that was needed was rain for the child to survive. I still am not entirely sure why this problem never impacted me as much as it has numerous other people. I am not entirely sure why I never really delved into it deeply enough prior to reading Loftus' chapter on the subject. But I now consider it to be a very devastating argument, one, like the starlight problem, that has never been solved by Christian theologians successfully. I look forward to reading Michael Martin's treatment of it in greater detail whereas, beforehand, I was never really impressed by it, my thinking still held hostage by prior fundamentalist assumptions.

Indeed, I noticed something interesting. It seems to me that the more conservative and fundamentalist one is in terms of theology, the less impact the argument has on them. I think I have been noticing that the more extremist of fundamentalists are the Christians who accuse people really bothered or affected by the argument as being selfish to complain about it, arrogant enough to demand an answer from God, and thinking that they can design a better universe where the problem doesn't exist. Worst of all, they are usually the ones who usually accuse people of bringing up evil and suffering as having ulterior motives of selfishly wanting to live a life of sin. In contrast to these classical fundamentalists, the more moderate Evangelicals actually seem acutely aware of the problem and seem almost to apologize for the problem in their explanations. They realize that it is a very serious problem, that people have been very affected and hurt by the problem, and that it poses a tremendous threat to the Christian faith. What is more is that they feel the need to cobble an explanation together which seems to be a tactic admission on their part that there is no real answer because God hasn't explicitly revealed it and the best they can do is take educated guesses at the motives for God's decisions.

My answer to the problem of pain and suffering when I was a fundamentalist was quite simplistic in nature. I would say that mankind hurt God when man sinned and so God allows the problem of pain and suffering to let mankind know just how hurt he feels. I used to liken it to a teenager who went out partying and stayed out very late, worrying her poor mother. So finally the mother decided to teach her teenager a lesson by staying out late one time, worrying the teenager. I once told this to a college instructor. "When the mother comes home late at night, the teenager protests, complaining about how worried she was about her mother, to which her mother replies 'Now you know how I feel'," I told him something like this (I am paraphrasing for a lack of exact wording). To which he responded "Oh! So you think God does this to teach us a lesson?" to which I affirmed my opinion. I simply left it at that although I came to believe that some evil and suffering is actually a necessary evil, a means to bring about good sometimes. If God didn't allow a woman to be sexually assaulted, I reasoned, we wouldn't be inspired to create laws to punish it. If God didn't allow pain in our lives, we wouldn't be grateful for the blessings. When pain and discomfort came growth and healing. I now realize that these explanations are silly and simplistic, not to mention cruel and inconsiderate but such is the nature of Christian apologetics.

Christians waste much time and ink on trying to solve and answer this problem but it is a problem that has gone on unsuccessfully answered. The problem seems unsolvable and I am pleased that a few Christians are intellectually honest enough to admit it. Some Christians will continue to try and solve the problem with the best of intentions while the arrogant of classical fundamentalists will keep acting as though there is no real problem and that it's all in the heathen's depraved imagination. Fine, call me a heathen, but the problem is real and it's the chief reason I could never be a Christian, whether again or for the first time! My other arguments follow from the argument from evil and suffering.

Matthew


29 comments:

Jason said...

What's your definition of 'pain and suffering'?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
this is what I am talking about when I say "manufacture an inconsistency".
Who asks "what is your definition of pain and suffering?" and to what purpose?

In my view this is just quarrelsome, aka eristic.

Jason said...

I don't believe I've ever meet a more defensive group of atheists!

I'm asking for a definition of the phrase in order to understand the true nature of the criticism against God & Christianity. Is pain and suffering defined as losing a pet in a fire or going bankrupt when you're 65 or losing a leg in a sporting accident or fighting cancer or something else?

Matthew said...

Jason asks:

"What's your definition of 'pain and suffering'?"

When I speak of evil I have in mind acts of malice by human beings against other human beings. A bank robbery in which people are harmed and injured is what I have in mind when I speak of evil. Evil comes in degrees, I believe, ranging from a greedy real estate agent lying to his clients so he can get more money than he deserves from the sale of a house to the horrible mass genocide that was perpetrated by the Nazis against millions of innocent victims.

Suffering, too, comes in degrees. It can be anything from the pain of losing a child or mother in the process of childbirth to a woman being brutally raped and beaten by some thug who got out of prison on paroll to the anguish of a mother knowing that a terrorist strapped on some explosives and went into a schoolyard and blowing up children, her son or daughter among the kids killed. It can be even simple things like being ganged up on by bullies or something rather severe like losing a loved one to Alzheimer's disease. Hell, I would even include the pain of breaking up with a loved one, feeling lonely, or the heartbreak of learning that you have been cheated on by an adulterous spouse.

These are examples of evil, pain, and suffering that I have in mind.

Matthew

IrishFarmer said...

Hey, Matt. I run the Exposing Atheism blog, and have a habit of using the writings here as a base for my own discussions on issues.

I responded to two out of three recent posts on the Argument from Evil, and this post by you is planned to be my third and last direct response.

I was hoping you'd be willing to check it out, give me any critiques you might have so that I can either rebutt the critiques, or modify my arguments.

I empathize with your depression as I suffer from pretty bad depression myself...even though I'm on anti-depressants. Sucks.

Here's the site. I'll be responding to you soon, so check it out tomorrow if you get time.

http://www.exposingatheism.blogspot.com/

As I understand it, most atheists don't like what I have to say about the problem of evil, because I take a strictly logical view of the issue and therefore ignore its main appeal, which is emotional.

For instance, if the Argument from Evil proves that God doesn't exist, then you've also proved that Evil doesn't exist. Because there is no such thing as Evil (with a capital E) in atheism, or even in theism (theism involving a god who is not good, that is). Therefore the reasoning becomes circular. If Evil is a null concept, then a Good God can exist. But if a Good God exists, then so does Evil, and so on and so forth.

Seeing as how this is the issue that put the final nail in the coffin, I hope you'll take an in depth look at the issue, based on what intelligent Christians have to say. I say "intelligent", because based on your writings it appears you've managed to bump into your share of morons.

Thanks for the thoughts in your post, and God bless.

P.S. I would say that I disagree with the statement, "Christians don't care about suffering." Statistically, Christians are much more likely to provide charitable aid to help those in need. They might not care in the way that you meant, but most Christians do care about the less fortunate.

Lee Randolph said...

HI Irishfarmer,
the way you described it, it is circular but you are missing some qualifiers and are involved in some equivocation.

For instance, if the Argument from Evil proves that God doesn't exist, then you've also proved that Evil doesn't exist. Because there is no such thing as Evil (with a capital E) in atheism, or even in theism (theism involving a god who is not good, that is)
You are equivocating the label or judgment of an act with some object called evil. You are mixing up subjective evil with objective evil. Objective evil has not been shown to exist. I would argue that most christians don't REALLY believe objective evil exists either since they are always looking for the silver lining in tsunami's and such.
- "Things just look evil from our perspectitve."
- "All things work for good."
- "God has in own morality and such, our principles of morality don't apply to god etc."

It might be true if we are talking about an objective Evil that had a relationship to god, if we are talking about a subjective evil, then no. If there were a christian god I would judge tsunamis as evil, and if there weren't I wouldn't. I would judge Ted Haggard as evil for misleading his congregation, and Hitler as evil because of all the stuff he did and homicide bombers as evil for what they do in either case. In principle, they caused harm in a number of ways. An act is just an act, the observer makes a judgement about its quality. Divine, Good, inconsequential, bad, evil.
There are instances when lying is justified, like if I am protecting a battered woman from her husband at the front door of my house looking for her. Some people in the world think homicide bombers are carrying out gods law.

If Evil is a null concept, then a Good God can exist. But if a Good God exists, then so does Evil, and so on and so forth.
This argument depends on the correlation between god, goodness and evil. There is no verifiable correlation, therefore, if there is no evil, it does not follow there is a god. God is irrelevant to the question. All that follows is that there are acts that are judged to be evil or not by the observer.

This is like the false dichotomy of 'balance' I have seen christians argue. If there is good there must be evil. Its like saying if there is black there must be white. This is also called the Black and White Fallacy, the false dilemma or disjuctive syllogism
AKA a fallacious reasoning scheme.

False dilemma from Wikipedia
Black or white fallacy from The Fallacy Files

IrishFarmer said...

You are equivocating the label or judgment of an act with some object called evil. You are mixing up subjective evil with objective evil. Objective evil has not been shown to exist.

I have a presupposition that absolute moral good and evil are measured against God Himself. According to Christian theology, God is the measure of Good.

If Objective evil does not exist, then you cannot ever disprove the notion of the Christian God with evil, since nothing is actually Evil. For instance, one might say that its evil to torture dogs, but without an objective standard for right and wrong, that's no more valid then saying, "Black holes are inherently evil."

In other words, subjective human opinion cannot logically address whether or not God is evil, except subjectively which is useless. One might find God's actions right, one might find them wrong. Which one is right? If both opinions are subjective, then neither is right.

I would argue that most christians don't REALLY believe objective evil exists either since they are always looking for the silver lining in tsunami's and such.
- "Things just look evil from our perspectitve."
- "All things work for good."
- "God has in own morality and such, our principles of morality don't apply to god etc."


Of course, if I try and rationalize seemingly senseless suffering in this world, that has nothing to do with whether or not objective morals actually exist, and actually the second item on your list assumes objective morality. How can all things work towards "good" if there is no such thing as good?

It might be true if we are talking about an objective Evil that had a relationship to god, if we are talking about a subjective evil, then no.

Ok, I guess I don't get your point. Are you saying its logically valid to judge God's actions based on your own subjective perception of right and wrong?

If there were a christian god I would judge tsunamis as evil, and if there weren't I wouldn't. I would judge Ted Haggard as evil for misleading his congregation, and Hitler as evil because of all the stuff he did and homicide bombers as evil for what they do in either case. In principle, they caused harm in a number of ways. An act is just an act, the observer makes a judgement about its quality. Divine, Good, inconsequential, bad, evil.

Yes, I'm very familiar with this concept, its called Moral Relativism.

But if your condemnation of any of God's actions (assuming He exists) is subjective, then what good are they? Let's say God revealed to us that He gave the Allies victory in WWII. The imprisoned Nazis on their way to punishment would probably think that God's actions were wrong. Its a bad example, but play along.

The point is, subjective morality cannot determine if a Good God is possible. Good with a capital G, mind you. If God isn't objectively good or bad, then the entire question is out the window. Its moot. Another way of saying that: If objective morals do not exist even if God does, then the question of His goodness is moot. Except from a meaningless, relative perspective.

his argument depends on the correlation between god, goodness and evil. There is no verifiable correlation, therefore, if there is no evil, it does not follow there is a god.

Ok, great, but that's not what I said. I said that the Christian God can exist. As in, its a possibility. Or another way of stating it: God is not disproven by the problem of evil as Matthew would have us believe, since there is no such thing as evil.

God is irrelevant to the question. All that follows is that there are acts that are judged to be evil or not by the observer.

Ok, but subjective judgements are irrelevant to the question too. If morality is just a choice, then judgement doesn't matter. Calling a tsunami evil is no more worthwhile than calling carbon atoms evil. Relativism strips all moral judgements of their value.

This is like the false dichotomy of 'balance' I have seen christians argue. If there is good there must be evil. Its like saying if there is black there must be white. This is also called the Black and White Fallacy, the false dilemma or disjuctive syllogism
AKA a fallacious reasoning scheme.


I don't see how this applies to what I said. So I won't bother with this statement.

John W. Loftus said...

der Scheinende is Frank Walton. I know his tactics, the way he speaks, and his comments elsewhere prove it to me. Walton is banned from DC.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Irishfarmer,
thanks for the thoughtful reply.
If I was too rash and misunderstood some of what you said, my apologies. I'm going to give it another shot.

have a presupposition that absolute moral good and evil are measured against God Himself. According to Christian theology, God is the measure of Good.
granted, but in principle, we have to say that god either doesn't care about what happens to us and he doesn't save the odd one or two hundred miraculously in a tsunami or he does care what happens to us and he does save the odd one or two hundred. In principle it doesn't make sense to kill thousands and save one or two hundred apparently randomly. To measure god like this, and I'm not sure you are, is not consistent. It makes him seem capricious.

subjective human opinion cannot logically address whether or not God is evil, except subjectively which is useless. One might find God's actions right, one might find them wrong. Which one is right?
If we base our 'evil' meter on harm, then we have a workable principle and its not useless.

Are you saying its logically valid to judge God's actions based on your own subjective perception of right and wrong?
Maybe not mine, per se, but on some universally agreed upon principles that span cultures, for example murder and torture. Generally, these are frowned on in all major cultures.
If we say that god created the laws of the universe, that would include logic and inference. We can generate principles based on those laws or principles of logic or inference that should be valid in principle. ;-)

And about the problem of evil proving god doesn't exist, I think it only significantly weakens the case for god. To disprove god reasonably would take a preponderance of different types of evidence of the sort that I am convinced exists some of which are described in articles on this blog.

John W. Loftus said...

Irish Farmer, you are conflating two separate problems. On the one hand is the problem of suffering for you who believe in a perfectly good omnipotent God. On the other hand there is the problem of objective morality for those of us who do not believe in God. If you press the second problem on me as an answer to your problem, then you are skirting the issue of your problem. It's that simple. you cannot respond to your problem by saying, "yeah, well you have one too," and I cannot respond to my problem by saying, "yeah, well you have one too." I have dealt with my problem here. When will you deal with your problem? Your problem arises from within the things you believe. If you believe God is perfectly good and omnipotent, then you need to explain why there is so much suffering in the world. This problem is used by atheists, but it's not an atheist argument, per se. A Christian could make the argument and ask his Christian teacher to give him an answer. Many Christians have become panentheists because of this problem irregardless of whether on not he even talked to an atheist or read what one wrote.

Jason said...

"When I speak of evil I have in mind acts of malice by human beings against other human beings."

Then in this instance, human beings are to blame for pain and suffering, not God.

"A bank robbery in which people are harmed and injured is what I have in mind when I speak of evil."

Same here.

"Evil comes in degrees, I believe, ranging from a greedy real estate agent lying to his clients so he can get more money than he deserves from the sale of a house to the horrible mass genocide that was perpetrated by the Nazis against millions of innocent victims."

Same again.

So if a discussion on pain and suffering is going to be had, acts of evil perpetrated by man against man should logically be excluded. How then can the existence of pain and suffering be evidence against God if it's caused by man?

Former_Fundy said...

IrishFarmer,

I have a presupposition that absolute moral good and evil are measured against God Himself. According to Christian theology, God is the measure of Good.

so are you a Presup after the mold of Bahnsen, Van Til, etc.?


If Objective evil does not exist, then you cannot ever disprove the notion of the Christian God with evil, since nothing is actually Evil.


IMO, this is not a matter of proving one position or the other. I don't beleive that either can be proven, thus I am an agnostic. However, I do believe that the problem of evil makes the existence of the Biblical God unlikely.


For instance, one might say that its evil to torture dogs, but without an objective standard for right and wrong, that's no more valid then saying, "Black holes are inherently evil."


Well, there are a number of actions that are just about universally believed to be wrong. It doesn't have to be evil with a capital E in order to be something that is genuinely seen as wrong by the majority of people .Now you may ask why the majority of people agree on it but whether it is capital E or lower case E really does not matter.



In other words, subjective human opinion cannot logically address whether or not God is evil, except subjectively which is useless.


Its not useless for the individual because ultimately everything we know and believe we know and believe in our subjective mind. There is no way to get outside of your own mind.

In addition, I get tired of the Objective Morality claim of Christians. If your morality is so objective, then why don't Christians all agree on what is right and what is wrong? Some believe that war is justified in some cases, other believe in Pacifism. Some believe drinking in moderation is okay; others don't. Some believe that lying under certain circumstances is okay and other's don't. I could go on and on.

Michael Ejercito said...

Why should there be a problem? God is Lord of Lords and King of Kings, not some bellboy who serves us at our beck and call.

IrishFarmer said...

I can't possibly respond properly to all of you guys in these comments. The HTML tags are too tedious.

If you'd like, we can actually move this discussion over to a forum, or we can go back and forth some other way.

In the meantime, I think I'm going to post specific responses on my blog so you can check that out and either e-mail me a response, if you want, or leave or comment or whatever.

But I hope we actually keep this discussion going, because its always interesting for me. :)

David B. Ellis said...

The whole debate over whether there is objective right and wrong (not to mention what these terms mean---a not insignificant problem in itself when looked at carefully)is interesting but not actually relevent to this issue.

The issue doesnt hinge on whether it would be wrong for God to design a world with massive but unnecessary suffering.

Its whether a deity which did so is cruel and malevolent rather than compassionate and benevolent---whether it actually cares about others.

This issue is of rather vital interest to any living creature whether there exists objective standards of right and wrong or not.

Trent said...

I have a question. It may not be philosophical enough for you guys, but it might be cool if you would give it a shot.

So, the problem of evil and suffering makes the likelihood of god negligible right? So, if god were omnipotent and good what would the world look like? Would there be less suffering or no suffering? Or, would there only be enough suffering to spur us on to our full potential or would we all be at our full potential without any pain of suffering.

Just asking. SNS (sorry not smarter)

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Trent,
I can't speak for everyone, but I think it would be irrelevant to answer that question because I don't have a clue. However, if I look at some widely held principles about the christian god I can say that they would be applied consistently enough to nullify arguments against it.
for example, there should have been no slavery, christians should all want to follow guidance from the holy spirit and come to believe the same things, the 'relationship' that god supposedly wants to have with us should be more two sided, answered prayer would look less like luck, etc.

David B. Ellis said...

Slow agonizing death from genetic deformity for infants, it seems to me, makes the idea of a loving omnipotent being massively implausible.

Stubbed toes.....not so much.

The problem of suffering is so strong because there is massive agony in the world on a huge scale.

It is about real suffering.....not simple discomfort or minor nuisances.

Trent said...

So the "good god" would allow us to stub our toes but would not allow genetic issues or allow his followers to do anything that was blatantly against his plan.

Could you be more explicit though? I mean is there a scale of good versus bad things that a good god would allow or are there classes of evil that would be allowed or not allowed?

Jason said...

The 'painful genetic deformity in infants' argument is purely emotive and doesn't get anyone closer to a conclusion of the matter.

What if we knew that the infant with the deformity, had he been free of such an affliction, would eventually grow up to become a notoriously corrupt government who would end up killing millions of his own people? What if a paedophile suddenly developed an agonzing deformity?

Does the pain and suffering argument suddenly change to become conditional on who we think deserves and doesn't deserve this sort of suffering?

Tyro said...

Jason - are you saying that God is crippling these children with genetic deformities because they could be monsters but God lets Hitler, Mao, and Stalin slip through? Is God incompetent, is God approving of Hitler, or are these children destined to be even worse than Hitler? What's your argument, here?


It isn't purely emotive. When combined with observations of the rest of the world, we're left with those options:
1. A bumbling god who can't get things right
2. A god powerless to do anything, even though he wants to
3. A god that can and does act to prevent atrocities, meaning that god considers the Holocaust not worth stopping

Michael Ejercito said...

So, the problem of evil and suffering makes the likelihood of god negligible right?
The only thing that matters about God is that He is the Author of the Book of Life.

Revelations reveals what happens to those whose names are not written in the Book of Life.

Trent said...

Most of the time christians concentrate on wanting the evil and suffering defined. I think it would be much more productive to discuss what is benevolent.

I am probably wrong but seems like the definition of benevolent is that a world would be created where we would be isolated from pain and free from evil. It would be a bit like Leninist Russia. A place where we would all come together and work for the good of the state. Sorry if I took that too far but it does seem a bit like what i hear.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Trent,
So the "good god" ...would not ... allow his followers to do anything that was blatantly against his plan.
No, the followers of the good god would be so convinced and moved that they would not dream of going against his plan. The way it is now, God looks like 'luck', like he's not present in the relationship. Its easy to forget he's there in a way unlike your workmates, spouse, children etc.

I agree with christians that god doesn't force us to do anything because it violates the principle of freewill and it takes away some of my ammunition. Freewill to me is a powerful argument against God. Christians have the choice to follow the guidance of the holy spirit but they evidently don't which shows they are foolish or don't feel the spirit. But thats another argument for another time.

I'm not going to say I think god would do this or that specifically because I think getting down into the details and specifics of this or that occurrence and then squabbling over whether it is evil or not or whether it is the fault of god or not is not going to get us anywhere.

In my view in principle, a loving god that wants a relationship with us, and is all powerful could spend a little energy to make it look like he cares.
I'll let this website which is a memorial to anencephalic babies finish speaking for me.

Jason said...

Tyro,

"Are you saying that God is crippling these children with genetic deformities because they could be monsters but God lets Hitler, Mao, and Stalin slip through?"

Off topic and no, I'm not saying that at all. People are using the infant genetic deformity soapbox as proof God doesn't exist. What I'm asking is if a serial paedophile was suddenly afflicted with a genetic deformity, would people still be claiming the pain and suffering this person is experiencing is proof God doesn't exist?

When combined with observations of the rest of the world, we're left with those options:"

Or #4, a God who interacts with mankind in such a way you think is unfair.

Tyro said...

Jason,

People are using the infant genetic deformity soapbox as proof God doesn't exist.

People are using these genetic deformities as evidence that a benevolent God doesn't exist. A god may still exist, but one which doesn't care about us.

What I'm asking is if a serial paedophile was suddenly afflicted with a genetic deformity, would people still be claiming the pain and suffering this person is experiencing is proof God doesn't exist?

What do you think this single observation should prove? It would show that God has the power to prevent harm and the will to perform miracles. Yes, it's nice that he intervened to afflict a pedophile, but what about all of the other pedophiles, rapists, murderers and psychopaths? What about the genetic defects, schizophrenia, altzheimers and the rest? Why hasn't God done anything about them? God has the power and God intervenes if he wishes, so what's left but to conclude that God doesn't care or that God approves.

Or #4, a God who interacts with mankind in such a way you think is unfair.

That would be item 3 - god can and does act to prevent things which God disapproves of, so the presence of the Holocaust and tsunamis means that God approves.

Do you think that God is fair? Better yet, do you think that a God which can stop these things but doesn't is benevolent or loving in any way?

Trent said...

lee,

It looks like you have a bigger problem with the followers.

Jason said...

Tyro,

“People are using these genetic deformities as evidence that a benevolent God doesn't exist. A god may still exist, but one which doesn't care about us.”

This is my point. What’s the difference between an infant suffering and a pedophile suffering? Surely if the former is evidence God doesn’t care, then the latter is evidence He does. It’s a discussion based on fairness and quite simply, God isn’t fair. However, God is still just.

"Yes, it's nice that he intervened to afflict a pedophile, but what about all of the other pedophiles, rapists, murderers and psychopaths? What about the genetic defects, schizophrenia, altzheimers and the rest? Why hasn't God done anything about them?"

The problem is you’re demanding that God show favoritism. In your ideal world, only the bad people would be punished and the good would be protected blessed. If this were the case, believing in God would only be practiced because of the resulting temporal protection. There would be zero connection to justification by faith and the whole point would be lost. Since this alternative is counter-productive, I would therefore argue that it is out of necessity our world appear random.

God favors character over comfort, so there goes any notion that we’re entitled to a life of ease. Add to this the necessary outworking of human free-will and the above-discussed necessity of the appearance of randomness, and we have a world just as we would expect: rampant with unfairness and filled with the successes of the wicked and ambitious in their pursuits, cheats, liars, and scoundrels cashing in at the expense of the meek, even within Christianity. However, in the end, all the unfairness is made right.

“That would be item 3 - god can and does act to prevent things which God disapproves of, so the presence of the Holocaust and tsunamis means that God approves.”

Bizarre. Are you saying inaction is a sign of approval?

“Do you think that God is fair? Better yet, do you think that a God which can stop these things but doesn't is benevolent or loving in any way?”

God can stop anything He wants but the fact He doesn’t doesn’t say anything to me about His love. If a man wants to stalk women and shoot them in their homes, I blame the man. If a government wants to starve its people to death, I blame the government. If a billionaire refuses to give any of this money to charity, I blame the individual. God has provided mankind with sound rules to live by but we continually choose to ignore them and God by extension. The only ones we have to blame is ourselves.

Iconoclastically Agnostic said...

Matthew,

I have read your original post and many of the subsequent responses. My experience with the "blogging genre" is next to nonexistent -- any grace you could spare for my ignorance would be appreciated. Furthermore, despite my self titled position of "iconoclastically agnostic", I have yet to venture into the arena of proselytizing my dogma (or lack thereof) -- thank you for entertaining my question.

"Instead of seeing the evidence of pain and suffering as evidence for the nonexistence of God . . ."

I am having a difficult time following this argument. I am not a Christian, nor am I making an argument for the existence of God; however, reason (granted my unlearned and inadequate "reason" leaves much to be desired) leads me to believe that the existence of pain and suffering speaks more directly to: the Divine's level of involvement with human depravity, the possible righteous “end-goal" reached through suffering alone, and/or the Christian's, perhaps, faulty understanding of suffering (e.g. the need for, benefits of, etc.).

In short, even as an agnostic, I do not see this "evidence" you speak of as being so clearly present.

Thank you.