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Atheist Experience
Why Did You Do This, God?

Here is a News Article that might be of interest...<br /> <br /> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------<br /> Faiths Ask of Quake: Why Did You Do This, God? <br /> By Peter Graff --- Dec 30, 2004 10:27 AM ET<br /> <br /> LONDON (Reuters) - It is one of the oldest, most profound questions, posed <br /> by some of the most learned minds of every faith throughout the course of <br /> human history. <br /> <br /> It was put eloquently this week by an old woman in a devastated village in <br /> southern India's Tamil Nadu state. "Why did you do this to us, God?" she <br /> wailed. "What did we do to upset you?" Perhaps no event in living memory <br /> has confronted so many of the world's great religions with such a basic <br /> test of faith as this week's tsunami, which indiscriminately slaughtered <br /> Indonesian Muslims, Indian Hindus, Thai and Sri Lankan Buddhists and <br /> tourists who were Christians and Jews. <br /> <br /> In temples, mosques, churches and synagogues across the globe, clerics are <br /> being called upon to explain: How could a benevolent god visit such horror <br /> on ordinary people? <br /> <br /> Traditionalists of diverse faiths described the destruction as part of <br /> god's plan, proof of his power and punishment for human sins. <br /> "This is an expression of God's great ire with the world," Israeli chief <br /> rabbi Shlomo Amar told Reuters. "The world is being punished for <br /> wrongdoing -- be it people's needless hatred of each other, lack of <br /> charity, moral turpitude." <br /> <br /> Pandit Harikrishna Shastri, a priest of New Delhi's huge marble and <br /> sandstone Birla Hindu temple, told Reuters the disaster was caused by a <br /> "huge amount of pent-up man-made evil on earth" and driven by the <br /> positions of the planets. <br /> <br /> Azizan Abdul Razak, a Muslim cleric and vice president of Malaysia's <br /> Islamic opposition party, Parti Islam se-Malaysia, said the disaster was a <br /> reminder from god that "he created the world and can destroy the world." <br /> <br /> Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, a leading British Muslim cleric from Leicester in <br /> England said: "We believe that God has ultimate controlling power over his <br /> entire creation. We have a responsibility to try and attract god's <br /> kindness and mercy and not do anything that would attract his anger." <br /> <br /> END OF TIME? <br /> <br /> Many faiths believe that disasters foretell the end of time or the coming <br /> of a Messiah. Some Christians expect chaos and destruction as foretold in <br /> the Bible's final book, Revelations. <br /> <br /> Maria, a 32-year-old Jehovah's Witness in Cyprus who believes that the <br /> apocalypse is coming said people who once slammed the door in her face <br /> were stopping to listen. "It is a sign of the last days," she said.<br /> <br /> But for others, such calamities can prompt a repudiation of faith. <br /> Secularist Martin Kettle wrote in Britain's Guardian newspaper that the <br /> tsunamis should force people to "ask if the God can exist that can do such <br /> things?" -- or if there is no God, just nature. <br /> <br /> "This poses no problem for the scientific belief system. Here, it says, <br /> was a mindless natural event which destroyed Muslim and Hindu alike," he <br /> wrote. "A non-scientific belief system, especially one that is based on <br /> any kind of notion of a divine order, has some explaining to do, however." <br /> <br /> It is a question that clergy have to deal with nearly every day, not just <br /> at times of great catastrophe but when providing consolation for the daily <br /> sorrows of life, said U.S. Rabbi Daniel Isaak, of Congregation Neveh <br /> Shalom, in Portland, Oregon. <br /> <br /> "It is really difficult to believe in a God that not only creates a <br /> tsunami that kills 50 or 60 thousand people, but that puts birth defects <br /> in children," he said. "Often the first question people ask on an <br /> individual basis is that question that that Indian woman asked. Why is God <br /> doing this to me?" <br /> <br /> In one modern view, he said, God does not interfere in the affairs of his <br /> creation. Disasters like the tsunami occur for the natural reasons <br /> scientists say they do. <br /> <br /> "This is not something that God has done. God hasn't picked out a certain <br /> group of people in a certain area of the world and said: 'I am going to <br /> punish them,"' he said. "The world has certain imperfections built into <br /> the natural order, and we have to live with them. The issue isn't 'Why <br /> did God do this to us?' but 'How do we human beings care for one another?"' <br /> <br /> Greek Orthodox Theologian Costas Kyriakides in Cyprus expressed a similar <br /> view. "I personally don't attach any theological significance to this -- I <br /> listen to what the scientists say," he said. "God is always the fall guy. <br /> We incriminate Him completely unjustly." <br /> <br /> ------------------------------------//-----------------------------------------<br /> As someone said above, I find it difficult to believe in a God (whose <br /> representatives seem to indicate that this God is all-powerful, all-knowing, <br /> and all-loving) would do, or allow, such terrible things (natural diasasters, <br /> birth defects, murders, etc.). How can this be reconciled? Here are some theories: <br /> <br /> (a) If we all die and meet in the great hear after in happylanb and <br /> all those folks that suffered greatly in this world --- from being killed in <br /> natural diasasters, or had birth defects, or were murdered like Anne Frank, etc.. ----<br /> find themselves to be whole and happy to the extent that they do not wish to<br /> complain to God, then I guess I couldn't myself (since I've had it much easier<br /> in this life than all those poor folks). So, if all choose not to judge God,<br /> will he do the same for we peons he created into these circumstances?<br /> -or-<br /> (b) Perhaps God says...look before I was God of this universe and created it,<br /> I was a peon in another parallel universe where there was a God that I had to <br /> suffer with and join his fan club or else, so I'm giving you the same deal I got. Well, I guess I couldn't complain under these circumstances also. <br /> -or-<br /> <br /> So, What do YOU Think? How do you reconcile it?

My first post presented a serious question for serious consideration. It also advanced a couple of proposed answers --- constructed to be somewhat convoluted and/or satirical to provoke thought. Over the past few weeks there have been a number of attempts by professional writers to address this most serious of questions. Many (e.g. nationally syndicated op-ed writer Cal Thomas in the Washington Times, Michael Novak on the National Review Online, etc.) took the basic hard line stand of first, how dare YOU question the existence of the God I SAY exists --- THEN how dare YOU question God (i.e. basically the Book of Job model). Of course these type of trite and non-responsive op-eds on the subject were to be expected. However, there were a few good and thoughtful essays. Below I present one for those of you that wish to give this subject the more thoughtful consideration the question deserves.<br /> -----------------------------------------------------------------------------<br /> <br /> Disaster Ignites Debate: ‘Was God In the Tsunami?’ by Ron Rosenbaum<br /> (New York Observer 1/10/05)<br /> <br /> <br /> "Was God in the Tsunami?" I woke up to that question in my Yahoo inbox four days after the waves struck, a posting from Beliefnet, a popular discussion list I subscribe to. It was the morning when the death-toll estimates had gone into six figures for the first time. It would be interesting to calculate the number of deaths from a catastrophe that trigger the moment when people start asking "Where was God?" questions. But it seemed to me that morning marked the beginning. It was a week that would end with the Archbishop of Canterbury himself declaring that he had doubts about God.<br /> <br /> As surely as the tsunami followed the earthquake, the questions—the perennial, never-satisfactorily-resolved questions—of theodicy followed the tsunami. Theodicy, of course, is the subdiscipline of theology devoted to the attempt to reconcile the idea of an all-powerful, just and loving God who intervenes in history—the God most Western religions believe in—with the recurrence of catastrophic slaughter from "natural" causes such as tsunamis and man-made evils such as genocides.<br /> <br /> The same morning "Was God in the Tsunami?" arrived in my inbox, I checked on my favorite Web site, Arts and Letters Daily (aldaily.com), which links to the most notable essays and reviews of the day, and found a box that linked to no less than four articles with headlines such as "Faiths Ask of Quake: ‘Why Did You Do This, God?’" and "To God, An Age Old Question." It was just the beginning.<br /> <br /> Let me concede that yes, there are many paths to faith, but it is an underappreciated scandal that, philosophically, the "age old question" of theodicy has not been satisfactorily answered without resort to vague evasions ("It’s all a mystery," "We just can’t understand God’s plan," "It will allow good to manifest itself in the hearts of the survivors," "We live in a fallen world," "The dead are better off in heaven"). A failure that asks us to just have faith that it’s all for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Yes, Voltaire misconstrued in Candide, probably deliberately, Leibniz’s Theodicy: Leibniz was claiming that God created the best of all possible worlds consistent with free will—the freedom to choose evil without which choosing good means nothing special. The best of all possible worlds consistent with the nature of human nature, in other words—and its predilection for choosing evil. The question Voltaire should have posed is whether a better, less murderous human nature—consistent with free will—could have been created by Leibniz’s God. <br /> <br /> Of course, the inadequacies of traditional theodicy are not a problem for those like my colleague Jim Holt, one of the best translators of arcane philosophical controversies (Kripke on naming!) for non-specialists. Mr. Holt once wrote that the evidence suggests that "the world is not presided over by a deity who is all-good and all-powerful, but rather by one who is 100 percent malevolent but only 80 percent effective." He arrives by a different route at the answer offered by some extreme Gnostic sects who believed this world was presided over by a malevolent demiurge posing as God.<br /> <br /> And the inadequacies of theodicy are not a problem for those who don’t believe in an all-powerful God. Harold (When Bad Things Happen to Good People) Kushner is one of those who thinks the problem of God’s tolerance of catastrophic evils is solved essentially by making God a weakling—loving, but not really in charge, despite all the boasting in the Bible about God’s powers, including the tsunami-related powers of raising and lowering the waters at will (remember that whole Flood thing?). Kushner is there on Beliefnet advising people to read the 23rd Psalm, which seems to me a wildly inappropriate choice, promising as it does that God will always be at our side to lead us beside still waters. So it’s all good, except for the 150,000 who didn’t exactly get the still waters that day. <br /> <br /> I recall the asperity with which this easy out (Kushner’s "God is not all-powerful") was dismissed by Yehuda Bauer, the former head of the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, when I asked him about it in Jerusalem. "There’s no way there can be an all-powerful and just God," Mr. Bauer said. "Because if he’s all-powerful, he’s Satan [considering the recurrent prevalence of genocidal evil in the world]. If he’s just [meaning just but, as per Kushner, too weak to make the world just], he’s a nebbish …. I don’t need a God like that." <br /> <br /> It’sremarkable, though, how Kushner’s cop-out has become the contemporary evasive answer to questions of theodicy. Inside my faded paperback copy of When Bad Things Happen …, I found a bookmark that had evidently been there when I bought it. It’s from the Full Circle bookstore, 50 Penn Place, Oklahoma City, Okla.<br /> <br /> I had evidently bought the book when I went down there right after the Federal Building bombing to do a story (for The New York Times Magazine, June 4, 1995) on how the culture deals with questions of theodicy in the aftermath of catastrophe. <br /> <br /> "Full Circle," indeed. Rabbi Kushner’s well-intended book didn’t do the job for me back then, and it doesn’t do it now, although it has become an almost unquestioned meme. Poor God—He means well, but He seems to have lost the superpowers he had in the Bible. Some sort of spiritual Green Kryptonite slipped him by Satan, I’ll bet. So He’s struggling and weak and nebbishy and we have to buck Him up. <br /> <br /> But for those who don’t try the easy way out, the great conundrum of theodicy was recapitulated on the Arts and Letters Daily Web site by its editor, Dennis Dutton, in his lead-in to the links: <br /> <br /> "If God is God, he’s not good. If God is good, he’s not God. You can’t have it both ways, especially after the Indian Ocean catastrophe." It’s a version of the challenging syllogism posed by J.L. Mackie in a 1955 issue of the journal Mind, an argument which contemporary theodicies have been trying, without notable success, to refute ever since. <br /> <br /> The lack of success seems to have lent a tone of desperation to some. I was struck by the police-interrogation tone of one of the links: "Faiths Ask of Quake: ‘Why Did You Do This, God?’"<br /> <br /> "Yeah, Tough Guy, why’d ya do it? Your prints are all over the crime scene, Big Guy. You have the right to remain silent …. " You can almost hear the late, great Jerry Orbach, who’s now presumably in a position to put the question, kicking a chair in the squad room to get the Divine Perp’s attention. <br /> <br /> Then there was a link to "Tremors of Doubt" in The Wall Street Journal by David Hart, an Eastern Orthodox theologian, which had the virtue of conceding that the conventional consolations of pop theodicy "about God’s inscrutable counsels" or that "all this mysteriously serves God’s good ends" are "odious banalities," and that even believers can’t assume that theologians have answered the theodicy question adequately.<br /> <br /> It was only the beginning of the orgy of theodicy that followed, if one may use a profane term for a sacred quest. Foolish things were said by men of all faiths (almost always men, by the way; it’s what feminists used to call Male Answer Syndrome): the rabbi in Israel who pronounced the tsunami "an expression of God’s great ire with the world"; the Buddhist sage who said it represented God’s resentment of the "huge amount of pent-up man-made evil on earth"; the mullah in Indonesia who said that it was "a reminder from God he created the world and can destroy the world." <br /> <br /> And the media kept headlining the search for answers: "Why Does God Allow Terrible Things to Happen to His People?", an essay in The Times of London asked. And there was an essay that addresses the question not to God, but to those who believe in Him: "How Can Religious People Explain Something Like This?" (Martin Kettle in the U.K. Guardian, the rare essay that suggested there were no good answers.) <br /> <br /> And then, at the end of the week kicked off by "Was God in the Tsunami?", this shocker: On Sunday(!), Jan. 2, the London Telegraph dropped the bomb "Archbishop of Canterbury: This Has Made Me Question God’s Existence." What’s next? "The Pope Says: ‘I Am a Wiccan!’"? (It’s true that the archbishop waffled a bit and called for prayer, but he did say his faith was "upset" by the catastrophe.)<br /> <br /> One thing a reading of these essays reminded one of is that natural disasters are both more and less problematical for defenders of the faiths. On the one hand, earthquakes and the like don’t involve man-made evils and thus the question of the depravity of human nature—and the difficult question behind that question: whether humans are at fault for their depraved nature, or whether the deity who created them could have done a better job creating humanity consistent with free will. <br /> <br /> As my friend Errol Morris puts it: The difficulty with man-made evils is not "man’s inhumanity to man," the problem is precisely "man’s humanity to man." The wickedness of humanity is not an aberration, but more like the norm. <br /> <br /> No, man or human nature can’t be held responsible for earthquakes and tsunamis—except in those bloodthirsty theodicies which persist in seeing the punitive hand of God punishing man’s collective sinfulness by the slaughter of innocent children not old enough to sin. A hard-to-defend but scripturally habitual response from a wrathful God for the sins of a sinful human nature He created but is somehow not responsible for.<br /> <br /> Nor are natural disasters as much of a problem for Deists, or for those who believe in a god who stopped intervening in human affairs after the creation of the universe or the creation of man. Catastrophic evils might call into question what is meant by the "intelligent" in "Intelligent Design," but not Design itself.<br /> <br /> But for those who believe in a God who has intervened in history, as he is portrayed in Western scriptures, a God who can raise and lower the waters, punish and save at will, has miracles at his disposal, and should be able to separate the sheep from the goats, the saints from the sinners: For that sort of God, the indiscriminate slaughter of 100,000 saints and sinners—children and parents alike—presents more of a problem.<br /> <br /> If God is responsible for the fall of a sparrow, it’s hard to exempt him from other, more dramatic natural developments. Sure, you could say it’s not His fault: He left us in a broken world, a fallen nature to reflect our own inner Fallen Nature. A vale of tears, whose horrors better prepare us to value the heaven that awaits us (well, some of us).<br /> <br /> But in general, in this view, we’re better off dead—or, as some respondents on the Beliefnet comments section had it, the tsunami victims were lucky, they’d received a gift: They’re in heaven ahead of time.<br /> <br /> Let me return to "Was God in the Tsunami?", the Beliefnet missive written by Rodger Kamenetz, a Jewish Buddhist or a Buddhist Jew (it wasn’t quite clear—he had equal reverence for both traditions, it seemed). On the plus side, the author made the important point that any attempt to defend the deaths of tens of thousands of children not old enough to sin as part of "God’s Plan," as His collective punishment for man’s wickedness or some other variation on the blame-the-victim theodicy was an obscenity (my word, not his). <br /> <br /> And he gets points for citing King Lear—not Lear himself, but Gloucester’s bitter complaint that "We are to the gods as flies to wanton boys. They kill us for our sport," It’s not the only answer in Lear, but it’s one that fits the bare facts.<br /> <br /> But then Mr. Kamenetz (whose essay has the alternate title "Was God in This Disaster?") lets himself get distracted by the Talmudic and Buddhist mystification. Proving once again that not all "wisdom of the sages" is equally wise, or must necessarily be approached with the same reverence.<br /> <br /> He gives us a story he says is from the Talmud that has Moses getting to heaven and learning that one Rabbi Akiba is the wisest interpreter of God’s words and actions. Moses asks God what Rabbi Akiba’s reward will be. "God shows him a vision: Akiba tortured by the Romans in the marketplace, his flesh stripped from his body." Moses asks God why this incomprehensibly horrific fate for such a wise man. "God answers with a riddle," we’re told: "It arose in thought."<br /> <br /> Say what? "It arose in thought." That’s the best he can do? A Bill Clintonesque "because I can" boast?<br /> <br /> Is it just me, or does this story not exactly speak well for God? I guess you could say it "arose in thought" for the Roman soldiers, so you could put the blame on them, but the way it’s told here, it seems clear it’s God showing off both his power and his self-mystifying inscrutability.<br /> <br /> A God who encourages watching torture—as in the theology of Aquinas, who imagined that one of the pleasures that God would offer the souls He saved would be gazing down from Heaven upon the cruel and prolonged tortures of the damned in Hell. Recreational sadism from Heaven’s luxury skyboxes (Summa Theologica, Question 94).<br /> <br /> This was one of the logical outcomes of certain orthodox Christian doctrines that used to drive William Empson crazy. Read Empson’s Milton’s God, his last, most lacerating book, almost totally devoted to denouncing the God of Paradise Lost—Milton’s massive effort at overcoming the contradictions of theodicy. And arguing from a study of Milton’s posthumously published and ambiguously heterodox De Doctrina Christiana that Milton had doubts, too. (Actually, it’s almost impossible to find a copy of Empson’s Milton’s God; someone should bring it back into print.)<br /> <br /> But to return to "It arose in thought": That’s not a "riddle," that’s a rebuff. In cruelty, it goes beyond the God of Job with his brusque "none of your business, buddy" brush-off. I wonder if the author of "Was God in the Tsunami?" is aware of how impoverished a God this sorry "riddle" gives us?<br /> <br /> Perhaps recognizing that this isn’t going to resolve any doubts or offer much consolation, he makes his Buddhist move. He’s met the Dalai Lama, he wants you to know, and "One time I asked the Dalai Lama how he would respond to a parent who had lost a child. And he said—these aren’t his exact words—that when you lose a child you are constantly thinking of that child in your imagination."<br /> <br /> The implication being that the child is really not lost at all—in fact, he or she is still right there in your life, in a low-maintenance way, I guess you’d say. In the imagination, of course, but "constantly" there. Maybe more present than when he or she was alive. I wonder how well this works when he tries it out on parents who have lost children.<br /> <br /> The comments on the listserv in response to the essay were mainly divided between atheists and believers, both factions, in their own way, absolving God from responsibility. For the atheists, if he doesn’t exist, he couldn’t have done it; for the believers, God has no responsibility for the catastrophe, just for the goodness displayed by the rescue workers in the aftermath, and the few "miraculous" stories of survival.<br /> <br /> This is something I find particularly annoying: a God who can intervene to save a handful out of a hundred thousand and gets credit for all the goodness displayed in the aftermath of the havoc He wrought. <br /> <br /> "Why this need to defend God?" someone (that would be me) finally posted on the Beliefnet comment board in response to the multiple alibis for God that others were posting. All so eager to rush forward and exonerate their version of God from any connection to the slaughter. It began to smack of "they doth protest too much": The disaster somehow gets transformed into a display of God’s wonderfulness. In a way, doesn’t this sort of thinking suggest a kind of Stockholm syndrome? He’s the only God we’ve got, He’s got us imprisoned in this hell of a world—so, after a while, we worship Him.<br /> <br /> One of the most glaring instances of this sort can be found in a quote in a story the Post carried on Jan. 2.<br /> <br /> It was the heartwarming story of a baby boy born prematurely while his mother fled upland from the waves as they hit the coast of India. <br /> <br /> Yes, it was the heartwarming "MIRACLE OF LIFE" that the Post headline had it.<br /> <br /> But then I have to admit that I cringed when I read the words of the baby’s father (who had given him the name "Tsunami"—I’m sure the parents of those who lost babies will think this is really cute).<br /> <br /> But the thing that made me cringe was this quote from the father of Baby Tsunami: "It’s all God’s grace!" he said.<br /> <br /> I can’t really blame the guy for saying whatever he says at a moment like that. He’s got his baby. But think of the implications. Either he believes that his family has special grace, and that the tens of thousands of other families who lost children suffered the torment of a lost child because they deserved it, because they lacked "God’s grace." Or he believes that God looked down and saw tens of thousands of imperiled children and decided that this one deserved the special intervention of his "grace" and the others didn’t. <br /> <br /> If you believe that God intervened to save this one little life, you have to believe that He chose not to intervene to save the lives of all the other children. He wanted them dead. <br /> <br /> I would propose a truce between believers and unbelievers so they can stop fighting over the credit for the goodness of the rescue workers, whether it should be assigned to God or to man, so that we can remove God—and the critique of God—from the equation entirely for a while and save our energy to support the recovery unencumbered by this perennial debate, however important and profound.<br /> <br /> Here’s the terms of the truce: Unbelievers will stop pointing out the inadequacies of the believers’ theodicy, their justification for God. And believers will stop claiming credit for God for everything good that happens, unless they are willing to condemn Him to a perp walk for all the crimes committed on earth, many in his name. <br /> <br /> -----------------------------------//-------------------------------------------<br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> So, there. That was very informative and interesting.

The ancient question first recorded by Epicurus:

"How can a Good God allow pain and suffering, and why does he let bad things happen?"

Philo, in Hume's "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion" has this to say, "Epicurus's old questions are yet unanswered. Is He willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is impotent. Is He able but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?"

Many Christians and Jews alike shrink from this question, and even think it is evil to ask it.

I am a Christian, and yet I think it is a good question, and that it SHOULD be asked. We have every right to ask it. Why would a good God, if He existed, allow suffering?

I have spent twenty five years on this question, and will never be finished with it, since I keep an open mind, I do not look for an answer, and then close my mind when I find one. On the other hand, once I find THE answer to a question, I do not go on blindly searching as if I did not find it. One can thirst for a truth, but once it is found, one is no longer thirsty for it, but still must hold that answer up to the scrutiny of others to make certain it can stand up to the light of day.

Yes, God is all powerful. But too often when I say this I find the rational minds of some people become rather irrational in their questioning. They ask foolish questions, like, "Is God is all powerful, can he make a rock so heavy even He can't lift it?" Or, "Can God make a square circle?"

These type of questions are called "non sequitars", and it is foolishness to use such arguments. They are a waste of time and energy and mark the debater as a fool.

But the original question is still a legitimate one. Surely if God is benevolent, and all powerful, why is there suffering and pain?

The first problem is that this question is used as evidence that there is no God, though the very premise of the question is admitting an ignorance of the subject. In other words, ignorance of the answer to a question is hardly conclusive evidence against the reality of a God.

It may be the only time in history the LACK of facts is used to make a judgement on the existence of anything, let alone God.

The second problem is that obviously the atheist believes that human beings should be little more than mechanical automatons, unless of course, they have not thought the matter through. because if God were to take away suffering from the world, and there was no pain of any kind, the logical result would be a world with neither bad, nor good.

If there were no poor people, there would be no generosity of those who give to them. Without pain there would be noone comforting others, there would be no charity, there would be no compasion, and no love. Because if there is no discomfort, love is not needed by anyone. All is already provided for.

Apparently that is the only world a loving God would have created, in the eyes of an atheist, and I do not say this unkindly, I am simply observing the facts.

The third point is that without pain, adventure would have no thrill, because there would be no chance of ever getting hurt. All the things we do for fun, would no longer be fun, because the chance of failure, the chance of a miss, and the chance of harm is all gone. Once again the kind of world the atheist thinks God should have made seems rather boring. Incredibly so.

In fact, such an existence would be ONLY that, existence. And nothing more.

Fourth, There would be no freedom. Nobody would be allowed by God to do anything that would be the least bit dangerous, because after all, a Good God would not allow pain or suffering. It is like the parent who allows their teenage son to drive. It is possible for him to go out and get hurt in a car accident. You might as well make the case that the paent is responsible for the son getting hurt, because it was in their power to keep him at home, and not allow him to drive. But we would nwever think of blaming the parent for the son's accident. But atheists say there is no God, because He alloows us to be free.

Fifth, the atheist makes a gross misstep when he says that surely a loving God would stop all the suffering it was possible for Him to prevent. There are times when one must allow suffering for some higher purpose. A parent for example, allows their child to suffer some things so they do not remain infantile, but for the sake of GROWTH. For the sake of growth, parents do not always step in but alloow their children to grow through making mistakes and suffering accordingly. So not only would the God an atheist would choose allow no freedom, and would have us all be automatons just existing, but would keep us existing on an infantile level.

Sixth, I must point out that we probably know less than a trillionth of a trillionth of what there is to know. From such a vantage point, just exactly how do we judge a being that is presupposed to know everything? The answers I have gotten to this quuestion are circular. I have been told that we are not judging a God because he does not exist, though the very question by its very nature presupposes His existence, so one cannot both ask the question and then be so foolish as to say they are asking someone who does not exist. I have also been told that it is rationale to make a judgement based on the information at hand. But that is exactly the point. There is no information, the question is asked from a vantage point of ignorance, not information.

Last point.

God WANTS us to care about suffering. He WANTS us to reach out to others. Humanity's FINEST hours have been in the middle of tragedy. When we see people go through a tragedy, and like a wave society and individuals rise to the occasion, and show generosity and compassion in great and many ways.

>These type of questions are called "non sequitars", and it is foolishness to use such arguments. They are a waste of time and energy and mark the debater as a fool.

There is actual importance to such questions. They show the concept of omnipotence is illogical to begin with. Pure omnipotence does not exist.

The consequence of this is that omnipotence must be qualified in a discussion: What do you define as omnipotent-since true omnipotence is impossible? How many restrictions on god's power are we willing to allow, and still feel honest calling god omnipotent? I'm asking rhetorically, since you illustrate the point perfectly below. Your post assumes one restriction after another on both god's power and his benevolence. This is what such questions are meant to call to our attention.

>The first problem is that this question is used as evidence that there is no God

If someone does this, I agree they have missed the point. The Problem of Evil does not claim to negate god; it only claims to negate a god that is both omnibenevolent and omnipotent. You sidestep the problem below by simply redefining omnibenevolent as containing some malevolence and redefining "all powerful" as having limits and restrictions. You are just saying that your god is not impacted by the Problem of Evil because the problem of evil only impacts all-loving and all-powerful gods; and yours, according to your post, is neither. Yes, a partly evil, not-all-powerful god can exist without requiring a response to the Problem of Evil. And atheists who claim otherwise fail to comprehend the implications of the Problem of Evil.

>because if God were to take away suffering from the world, and there was no pain of any kind, the logical result would be a world with neither bad, nor good.

There can be no such thing as an omnibenevolent god if "good" can only exist alongside "bad." God would have to be somewhat malevolent in order to have any benevolence. So, omnibenevolent is out the window at the onset. In addition to negating god's omnibenevolence, this also hits a restriction of god's omnipotence:

Restriction on god's authority #1: God lacks the power to make himself omnibenevolent. In order for a god to be good, it must also be evil.

Restriction on god's authority #2: God did not make the world without evil, containing only good. You seem to be claiming he cannot do so. Since he did not do so, he either lacked the power, as you suggest, or he preferred a world containing evil. This comes right back to the Problem of Evil: Did he lack the power or the benevolent will to accomplish this?

[As an aside: Genesis 1:31 states that creation was all good. Your statement above indicates that is impossible. It either had to have some evil, or it had to be neither good nor bad.]

>If there were no poor people, there would be no generosity of those who give to them.

Restriction on god's authority #3: God couldn't allow us to be generous without others hurting for it. Either god could have accomplished this without hurting people (if he were omnipotent) or he preferred to use a way that hurt people (exhibiting malevolence).

If what you say above is what you believe, then god is both benevolent and malevolent-like all other beings. He sees a benefit to acting malevolently, causing pain and suffering. If he is omnipotent, he could accomplish all of what you claim he does using malevolence, without using malevolence. Why didn't he do so? He either couldn't, or didn't want to (not omnipotent or not omnibenevolent). If I can accomplish my goal either through hurting others or without hurting others, and I am omnibenevolent, it requires I choose the path of not hurting others-if I can. And if I can't, then I'm not omnipotent. It's very simple.

Also, with regard to your point that good can come of evil: If good comes from evil, that doesn't then make the evil act or thing good. Just because the world learned a few good lessons from the Holocaust, we don't go around saying the Holocaust was "good." It was evil, but we learned from the evil. It's still evil. God either causes or allows evil, but either way, he uses evil, which is malevolent-IF he has the power to accomplish these things without using evil. And if he doesn't, he's not omnipotent.

"The ends justifies the means" is not commonly considered a statement of wisdom, but one of ruthlessness. You use this idea in throughout your post, however. The god you claim to believe in appears to be using ruthless tactics to bring about "good" ends. Is he incapable of using kind tactics to bring about those same ends? If so, he's not omnipotent. And if he can, but doesn't, then he's harming people unnecessarily, and he's not omnibenevolent.

>The third point is that without pain, adventure would have no thrill, because there would be no chance of ever getting hurt. All the things we do for fun, would no longer be fun, because the chance of failure, the chance of a miss, and the chance of harm is all gone.

This statement I actually agree with. And this is why I consider the concept of "Heaven" to be an unattractive idea. Ironically, it is most Christians (not atheists) who define this as the utopian world, one without any challenges, that's why Christians are shooting for Heaven.

If they truly prefer a world with suffering and challenges to one without, as you claim is reasonable, then I'd like to take a poll of how many of them would prefer to not go to Heaven after they die (but perhaps to rather take on Hell, the realm of ultimate challenge). The Christian concepts of Eden and Heaven are just as responsible for defining the perfect world of god as one without challenges, as anyone else's.

I enjoy challenges; but just because I think a person can squeeze a positive life-lesson out of a cancer diagnosis doesn't mean "getting cancer" is "good." Even if I can make peace with it, it's "not good" to find out I'm going to be painfully eaten away from the inside until I die. And a god who thinks this is the BEST plan he could possibly come up with-a plan that _randomly_ hands out painful and deadly sentences to undeserving people (particularly children)-is malevolent.

To repeat: Just because some "good" comes of "evil," that doesn't suddenly make the evil thing good. What if I had the ability to inflict cancer on children, and I was going around, randomly doing so; would I get a pat on the back from people--for creating such opportunities for others to be so good to these poor, hurting children? Or would they turn me in to the authorities (if a mob didn't kill me first) for my reprehensible behavior? What about a doctor who has treatments to cure cancer and is, instead, administering placebos to his patients? He didn't "give" the kids cancer, but he has the power to help, and doesn't. What do you think people would think of him? Benevolent guy? Should an all-loving, all-powerful god be less willing and less able to help people than OTHER PEOPLE are?

>Fourth, There would be no freedom.

This statement cements the Problem of Evil: If X is all-good, then X cannot be free. If god is only good, then god is not free. Omnibenevolence and omnipotence are mutually exclusive. Here your logic is in complete agreement with the Problem of Evil. Is god good or is he free to act?

If god CAN be all-good and free to act, then it is not logical for you to claim he can't make other beings that are also all-good and all-free; since he would be proof that they're not mutually exclusive traits.

Restriction on god's authority #4: God can't make people both good and free.

>There are times when one must allow suffering for some higher purpose. A parent for example, allows their child to suffer some things so they do not remain infantile, but for the sake of GROWTH.

Your example is flawed: Nobody I know claims that parents are omnipotent. God supposedly is omnipotent. If a parent could allow their child to mature equally well without enduring pain and suffering-why would any loving parent choose the path of pain and suffering? You are saying god is restricted. That we MUST suffer to grow; but an all-powerful god could have made a world where we grow, but don't have to suffer. You keep using restrictions on god's power to prove the Problem of Evil isn't a problem; but if god's power must be restricted to respond to the Problem of Evil-that confirms the Problem of Evil is correct.

Also, I fail to see how killing people in car wrecks helps them "grow"? Or how allowing parents to beat and rape their children behind closed doors-where nobody is aware it's occurring or can help them-helps the parents or their children "grow"? In fact, it does nothing to help the parents grow-and IMPEDES the child's growth. That child will likely have to endure years of therapy just to get back to a SOMEWHAT functional state. When someone actually gets away with murder-who "grows" from that? To say that suffering CAN promote growth on SOME occasions is a far cry from your claim that suffering is obviously intended to promote growth. You have to ignore myriad scenarios where growth from suffering is impossible (such as all the cases that result in death or severe mental disability-especially isolated deaths where bodies aren't discovered or killers are never caught, or the wrong people are convicted and executed). Then you have to ignore the myriad other cases where growth is possible, but doesn't occur because the people were too badly harmed to get past it, or where they lacked the skill set to find an optimist's path through their problem (some commit suicide-how's that for "growth"?).

"Suffering" DOES NOT equal growth anywhere near enough for someone to claim that's the "reason" for suffering. Some people are optimists and will do what they can to make lemonade from life's lemons-but even they wouldn't come onto this forum and try to explain to us that child rape is proof of a benevolent god trying to help us grow. When horrible acts of evil are held up as proof of extreme love-I have to take a moment. You accused Evolution in another section of taking any outcome and making it fit the system. What are you doing here? If child rape is proof of god's love to you-what would it take, exactly, for you to consider your god might not be omnibenevolent? Is there anything? No, there's not. Any act of god would be "good" to you-even if it was pure and clear evil. You admit it right here...

>From such a vantage point, just exactly how do we judge a being that is presupposed to know everything?

This is a statement Christians make a lot. I used to say this, too. What it actually means when you examine it, however, is that if it makes no sense to me, or if it seems wrong to me-I'm still going to accept it and promote it, anyway. It means I have no answer, explanation or understanding of what I believe-but that I don't feel it's correct or that I am at all obligated to investigate or verify my beliefs to make sure they're true. All that matters, when one makes this statement, is that I believe it-even if it conflicts with everything I know to be true. It is a hand-wave to say, "I don't have to be able to explain or understand what I claim to believe." If you believe this statement above, why bother writing to try and explain and justify what you admit you don't even understand yourself?

Also, another problem with this statement is this: If I say I can't understand god's actions-and they seem evil; aren't I at least somewhat obligated, if I believe in this god, to prove-if only to myself-that I'm not following an evil god? I have to understand why god is not evil if I am worshipping him and claim he's good. I can't say, "Yeah, sure seems evil...but I'm not going to question it. I'm sure it's good. I couldn't understand it anyway, probably, even if god did try to explain it."

If I see someone doing what I label as evil, like raping children. And they ask me to support them, you can bet I won't as long as I perceive them to be doing evil. There's no way my reply would be that just because it seems evil to me, I'm just too ignorant to recognize it's really good-so I'll help them.

If you actually believe that your human capacity to verify your beliefs is that horribly flawed, the question becomes: How can you then trust or defend any of your beliefs? It's just as wrong to believe in a god as to reject belief in one, by your statement, since there's so much we don't know. How can anyone believe anything regarding a god if they don't trust their own judgments and observations in regard to that belief or that god? How can you argue that god is benevolent and wants us to grow, and then turn right around and say we lack the capacity to understand that god and his motives? Your god could be nonexistent or even be COMPLETELY evil in that case, laughing and reveling in the suffering of humans. You have no means to know-since you express that you can't trust your comprehension of this god. And your long defense here, that god is good, is totally made moot by the statement above, since you admit you don't believe it's possible for a human to understand your god or his motives.

If it turns out that you actually do trust your judgments and observations, then your statement makes no sense whatsoever, because we absolutely CAN, in that case, question and examine things we don't understand, and expect to gain understanding; and it's only ever logical that (A) we actually are able to understand what we claim to believe, and (B) that we make full efforts to verify that what we believe is accurate.

If you're saying humans lack the capacity to judge god, then your claim he's not evil is utterly without merit-by your own admission.

Based on what you indicate the responses to you have been from atheists, I have to say that it sounds like you've come across some pretty ignorant and illogical atheists. If they really are using the arguments you say they are using, then I'm not surprised you see the atheist position as ridiculous.

>God WANTS us to care about suffering. He WANTS us to reach out to others.

If he exists, maybe he should consider leading by example.

Rather than go on with this, I'm going to stop here and summarize: The problem of Evil only says a god can't be both omnibenevolent and omnipotent. You've presented a god that is neither omnibenevolent nor omnipotent. Your god may exist-but he doesn't negate the Problem of Evil in any way that you have demonstrated here.

Tracie,

I will respond to everything you said tomorrow, but you took my entire reply about suffering and pain and inserted the word "evil" for "suffering." Had I made a reply about "evil" I would agree with almost everything you said, except I would not have said any of this about evil, it was about suffering. And you substituted things like "child rape" for things like "growth." Gracious. It is like talking to my Mother in Law, I can say, "the price of apples is going up", and she will reply with, "I disagree, tea is cheaper than ever."

I will have the time to reply to all of it tomorrow.

You restated the Problem of _Evil_ by using the following quote:

"How can a Good God allow pain and suffering, and why does he let bad things happen?"

This defined "evil" as "suffering" and "bad things." I used the definition you provided.

Child rape qualifies as suffering, to me--and to most people, I would wager.

You indicated that suffering is a means to promote growth, and indicated this is a reason a loving god would allow it:

"For the sake of growth, parents do not always step in but alloow their children to grow through making mistakes and suffering accordingly. So not only would the God an atheist would choose allow no freedom, and would have us all be automatons just existing, but would keep us existing on an infantile level."

Above, you used an analogy, that states that god allows suffering for the sake of growth.

Please feel free to clarify if you feel you've been misrepresented; but this seems pretty straight forward to me?

To be fair, I just reread your post. Maybe I'm missing something, but here's what I see:

You also restate the redefinition of evil as suffering here (when, again, restating the Problem of "Evil"):

" I am a Christian, and yet I think it is a good question, and that it SHOULD be asked. We have every right to ask it. Why would a good God, if He existed, allow suffering?"

and here:

"But the original question is still a legitimate one. Surely if God is benevolent, and all powerful, why is there suffering and pain?"

I just reread your post, and it's all in regard to the response to the Problem of "Evil" -- and you only discuss why god would allow "suffering." If you don't equate suffering and evil, then you've done a bait and switch at this point--equating evil and suffering, and not saying you didn't mean to imply evil and suffering are the same thing.

You never once state any other definition of "evil" or questioned the redefinition of evil (that you provided multiple times) as "suffering"--you use it interchangeably yourself by responding to the Problem of "Evil" with responses that address only "suffering."

If you really believe that evil does not equal suffering, it would have been helpful if you would have provided your definition of evil--or indicated you disagreed that evil is suffering somewhere in your post--and then stated why you believe evil does not exist in the world, that you think only suffering exists, and that you don't believe suffering is evil, because evil is defined as X as far as you're concerned.

If evil is not suffering, and evil does exist in the world, then you have not addressed the question of "why does evil exist in the world if god is good?" at all. You've only addressed suffering, which you now seem to be saying is not evil. Why would you fail to address evil in response to the Problem of Evil?

Again, maybe I missed something, I'm not perfect, but I am trying to be fair in this discussion.

Tracie,

Not that I find this discussion fruitful, because it is going on a tangent that I am not finding particularly useful to any point, but I do want to put this in a nutshell.

Evil does not equal suffering. If that were so, the two words would be synonyms, and they are not, obviously.

OFTEN, suffering accompanies evil, but you are equating all suffering with injury and harm, and that is not so.

Suffering can be as broad as someone going through the discomfort of discipline and training in order to grow and become more successful, such as a person who is overweight having to jog several miles everyday until they have gotten thin, to a prson suffering harm or injury at the hands of another.

There is necessary suffering, and there is uneccesary suffering.

You speak as if everything in the world that created any amount of suffering must be wrong and abusive in some way.

Of course, all this come down to DEFINITIONS, and that is one of the problems with these kind of discussions, we all have different definitions, or we all proceed based on different assumptions.

I submit that nearly the entire conversation we have had thus far has been a discussion where neither of us has understood the other, or even the premise the other is advocating.

By the way I DO apreciate your honesty and fairness. IT is very refreshing!

>Evil does not equal suffering. If that were so, the two words would be synonyms, and they are not, obviously.

I try not to assume what anyone else means when they use the term "evil." I allow the user or the context to define the term. The reason I used "suffering" (specifically what I felt most people would consider to be inarguable examples of extreme suffering) in this case was (A) the clear implications and context of the Problem of Evil (PoE) define this type of suffering as the "Evil" part of the problem. And (B) as I've already described, you did not contest that, but actually seemed to go along with that definition by restating the Problem of "Evil" as a problem of "suffering," and then proceeding to use "suffering" throughout your post in response to the PoE.

I've spoken to many people who have very different personal interpretations of the word "evil." It is generally defined as whatever the individual feels or reasons is "not good" beyond a particular "threshold" that is personally defined. So, I wouldn't agree that it's obviously not synonymous with suffering--and especially not in a discussion of the PoE--where that's exactly what the term is used to mean (and specifically, the level of suffering that would make people question the existence of an omnibenevolent god). The implications and context of the PoE assume the worst sorts of suffering.

>Suffering can be as broad as someone going through the discomfort of discipline and training in order to grow and become more successful, such as a person who is overweight having to jog several miles everyday until they have gotten thin, to a prson suffering harm or injury at the hands of another.

This is what I meant by bait and switch. Although there are many things a person can call "suffering," if one is familiar with the context and implications of the PoE--which your post was intended to address--then s/he understands that the PoE is not using "evil" to mean "suffering" as something along the lines of the discomfort one feels when exercising. You've stated previously at this forum that you are experienced with questions of theology and apologetics. It appears I was confused when you changed the implications of the problem by substituting such a mild form of "suffering" (more below).

>There is necessary suffering, and there is uneccesary suffering.

In the world we inhabit, there is suffering caused by many things. You appear to be using "necessary" suffering to mean generally harmless sacrifices made by people in order to achieve personal goals (such as your example of athletes in training). It appears then that "unnecessary" suffering, for you, includes random suffering (such as being caught in a natural disaster) or suffering inflicted at the hands of malevolent others (such as rape or torture).

This may have been another source of confusion, as, again, I was working within the context of the PoE. The PoE is not concerned with humans in a human realm. It is concerned with humans in the realm of a presumed god who is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent. In such a realm, "unnecessary" suffering is proof of god's malevolence if he is able to stop it, and proof of his lack of power if he is unable to stop it; and "necessary" suffering (or "necessary" anything, for that matter) is proof of limits on god's power, since he is unable to affect the world in order to eliminate the suffering and still achieve the same divine goals. Any omnipotent god always has infinite alternatives with which to approach any situation. So, when we see suffering, if we believe in an omnipotent god, we know that he has chosen a path of unnecessary suffering (in which case he is at least somewhat malevolent). All suffering (from the most mild, self-imposed forms to the most horrific, cruel forms) is, therefore, "unnecessary" suffering in a realm in which an omnipotent god exists.

Again, I agree that the PoE in no way logically disproves gods exist, only all-loving, all-powerful gods. And not all theists have ever agreed that god must necessarily have one or both of those traits.

This is one of multiple reasons I find PoE to be a bit of a waste of time on both sides, if the goal is to prove or disprove the existence of a god. "Existence" of an item is not proven by logical, but by direct manifestation of the item in question.

>You speak as if everything in the world that created any amount of suffering must be wrong and abusive in some way.

The implications of the PoE are not unclear. The PoE isn't describing "breaking a sweat"--it's talking about the sorts of "suffering" that make a person ask why a loving, omnipotent god would allow people to endure such dreadful things. Straining in a workout is not the sort of "suffering" that gives people reason to pause in this way. I'm using "suffering" in the context in which the PoE addresses it. I had no reason to assume anyone responding to this strand would not be doing the same. Although, apparently I was wrong.

>Of course, all this come down to DEFINITIONS, and that is one of the problems with these kind of discussions, we all have different definitions, or we all proceed based on different assumptions.

Except that in this case the implications of the PoE predefined the context and definitions. I honestly don't mean for this to sound facetious, but I have yet to meet anyone who asks, in the context of the PoE: "Why does god allow people to run until they get a cramp in their side? Why would an all-powerful, all-loving god allow such horrors to be inflicted on people?"

>I submit that nearly the entire conversation we have had thus far has been a discussion where neither of us has understood the other, or even the premise the other is advocating.

That could be, since it never occurred to me that anyone familiar with context and implications of the PoE would have used such mild definitions for the word "suffering." If this is the definition you have been using, then your reply may have been addressing your personal thoughts and ideas on some sideline ideas(?), but it did not address the dilemma presented by the PoE. That's what likely confused me.

Thanks for taking the time to clarify.

At long last some replies to my post of years ago!

The posts --- I simply cut and pasted --- were from professional writers and they clearly and unambiguously were about the problem of evil (simply do a search on the word "evil" on the original posts!). Moreover, the exact term "theodicy" was used and *explicitly* defined:

"'...Theodicy, of course, is the subdiscipline of theology devoted to the attempt to reconcile the idea of an all-powerful, just and loving God who intervenes in history--the God most Western religions believe in--with the recurrence of catastrophic slaughter from 'natural' causes such as tsunamis and man-made evils such as genocides." How in the world can OpenMind, or anyone, say they were confused on defintions of the issue at hand when the above was included in the initial posts? My conclusion is that OpenMind tried to play word games when Tracie Harris' responded so clearly and appropriately.

I declare Tracie Harris the winner of this exchange.

Next.

Here I am again posting yet again on this.

Still no real answers given by theist over the years to this question.

Basically people are keep saying and doing the same things over again.

Here is a very, very sad quote that caught my attention in a News article "Heavy rains head toward cyclone-devastated Myanmar" by the Associated Press 5/14/08:

... "I prayed to the Lord Buddha, 'please save us from another cyclone. Not just me but all of Myanmar,'" said Min Min, a rickshaw driver, whose house was destroyed in Cyclone Nargis. Min Min, his wife and three children now live on their wrecked premises under plastic sheets...

Perhaps God, I mean Buddha, has a bet with Satan and is putting Min Min to the test just like in the Book of Job?

Why wouldn't you consider such a diety (that is claimed to be omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent) to be petty, insecure, mean, and just down right "small"? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Job

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