«

»

Feb 21

Where are you God? Is the atheist right?

 

All you have to do is turn on the TV and see that God doesn’t exist.. Right?

If you think of it millions of people are suffering every day. Earthquakes are taking homes and lives, people are starving from floods and tornados. Famine is at an all time high all over the globe and war is rampant between countries. Mom and dad’s can’t find jobs and grandparents are forced to come out of retirement to help their kids.. Again.

 

 

Men and women do not become an atheist simply because they find it irrational to believe but base their faith on what they see and feel.  The feeling that if God is really such a Being as we His children claim Him to be, He could not possibly remain silent. “God will do something, right” they say as they contemplate unbelief.

So after looking into the world how is one to understand why God allows suffering? The Christian believes that God is all knowing, powerful and is everywhere right? So why doesn’t he just make everyone and everything perfect? Why doesn’t he just stop all the suffering now? These are the questions that plague a believer and as far as I can tell unbelievers too. I don’t believe this to be evidence that God does not exist nor cares, but it is evidence that he does!

 

 

 

 

C.S Lewis described how he had originally rejected the idea of God because of the cruelty of life. Then he came to realize that evil was even more problematic for his new atheism. In the end, he realized that suffering provided a better argument for God’s existence than the one against it. He states:

 

 

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of “just” and “unjust”… What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? … Of course I could have given have given up my idea of injustice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies…. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. (Tim Keller, Reason for God pg26)

So the real question is, why do I believe that justice is right and injustice is wrong? Why do I fight to save a helpless woman in fear of a man? Why do I help anybody at all? These were now the questions that consumed me.

 

 

So, if we want God to stop evil and suffering, then He must stop all of it. We have no problem with this when it means stopping a catastrophe, or a murder, or a rape. But what about when someone thinks of something evil? Evil is destructive whether it is acted out or not. Hatred and bigotry in someone’s heart is wrong. If it is wrong, and if God is to stop all evil, then He must stop that person from thinking his own thoughts. To do that, God must remove his freedom of thought. Furthermore, which person on the earth has not thought something evil? God would be required, then, to stop all people from exercising their free will. This is something God has chosen not to do. Therefore, we could say that one of the reasons that God permits evil and suffering is because of man’s free will. Who else should we put in charge of stopping evil and suffering of the world? Man? We can’t even keep  taking care of our own cities in effort together.

So what do we look to for comfort? There is only one place in this world I know of  Jesus.

But that will be the next blog. Stay tuned for part two.

3 comments

  1. Avatar of Jerew
    Jerew

    So evil exists because of man’s free will, which we don’t want taken away. Fine. That’s an answer to the question. However, it’s certainly not the only possible answer, and you’ve given me nothing to suggest that it’s the best answer.

    Why is the all-or-nothing approach to eliminating evil necessary? This is a premise to your argument, but I don’t understand why it is necessary. For example, can’t God stop earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, drought, malaria, mental illness, kids with cancer, etc. without tinkering with free thought or free will? You assert that for God to stop a natural disaster that kills thousands of people, he would have to stop everyone on earth from ever having an evil thought about anything. I don’t see how this logically follows.

    To discuss whether there is or isn’t a god, I think it’s helpful to define the characteristics of said god. It’s difficult to make a comment about the existence of something which isn’t defined. For example, I can’t say that the problem of evil is an argument against god unless you specifically define god to be benevolent, omnipotent, and omnipresent. But it’s possible for there to be a god that isn’t those things. Maybe God doesn’t care. Maybe God created everything and then removed himself from human affairs. Maybe God doesn’t really like us all that much. Or maybe everything is a result of natural forces. Personally, I find this last explanation most convincing.

    Also, I got lost somewhere in the middle of the C.S. Lewis quote. Are we really asking why human suffering is bad and helping people is good? We all benefit (the human race is more likely to thrive) from living in a society with improved human welfare where we don’t have to worry about suffering and injustice ourselves and people help each other out. And as humans given the incredible but sometimes trying opportunity to spend a few decades on this lonely but amazing planet, it is only natural that we should develop some interest, affection, and compassion for those we are sharing this experience with. I don’t think this is my own private fancy.

  2. Avatar of Adam Jay Martin
    Adam Jay Martin

    I like the way you think. I appreciate someone trying to wrestle with it and think about why they believe what they believe, so thank you.
    My question to you would be, If someone said that God should stop evil and suffering, and God only stopped some of it, then wouldn’t we would we still be asking the same question of why it exists?
    Where would the line stop? The point is, evil and suffering are very subjective in thought. (Obviously earthquakes suck to all people, that suffering is pretty universal) What I believe to be evil or suffering may not be the same view is yours. What you want to stop may very well be different then what I think. Plus, who would get that grace? Does a child molester deserve the same grace as you or I? The point is, we cannot know why these things exist, and why he lets evil continue to exist.

    I can understand the explanation you like most (Naturalism) to be be the most convincing. If it was natural forces, it would explain a lot. Let me state something before I move forward. I don’t claim o have the answer. The problem of suffering is a tough one. I also think that suffering gets mixed in with the problem of evil debate, which I think it shouldn’t. Suffering does happen when evil is going on, but it is a result of evil not a partner. Suffering isn’t evil, so I will stay away from the suffering talk and focus on straight evil.
    Naturalism does not have an answer for evil. Sam Harris, famous Atheist states it well since he fully understands Naturalist worldview: there’s nothing more natural than rape. Human beings rape, chimpanzees rape, orangutans rape, rape clearly is part of an evolutionary strategy to get your genes into the next generation if you’re a male (http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/religionreport/science-fatwah-part-2-sam-harris/3384358)

    The point is, Naturalism cannot even answer the moral question let alone what is evil. If we take that worldview we must discount tons of views I believe they steal from theism for them to make the ay legitimate view on morals. And it’s not so much that Lewis was talking about what is right and wrong, but WHY we have a right and wrong. Again Naturalist doesn’t have an answer for this other than it is innate. But again that lack any ground as well. Later you state that it is natural that we develop interest, affection and compassion, but again why? It makes no sense for the naturalist to have that view. I would go back to the “rape” talk by Harris. He understands that it is a dog eat dog world for evolution and only the strong should survive,but yet you claim the opposite. Logically one one can be right..I beg you to really look at this worldview all the way through.
    I am not saying you can’t have all those attributes of compassion, mercy and grace… some Atheist look better than most Christians. But I am asking why you would have them.

  3. Avatar of Jerew
    Jerew

    I also like how you think and I also don’t claim to have the answers. That said, let me tell you how you’re wrong. :)

    “My question to you would be, If someone said that God should stop evil and suffering, and God only stopped some of it, then wouldn’t we would we still be asking the same question of why it exists?”

    You make a good point, and I can’t really disagree with you here. I would think that a distinction could be made between suffering caused by natural disasters that are objectively detrimental to human well-being and other, more subjective problems, and I would think that a loving and all-powerful god, if he really put his heart into it, could probably have created a place for us to live that isn’t constantly trying to kill us. But I can’t say with any certainty that you’re wrong. To be clear, though, my lack of a belief in a god is not a result of the existence of evil and human suffering. There are many characteristics of the universe that I find more consistent with the naturalist worldview, and this is just one of them.

    My main response to this question, though, would be that I really don’t think that what you argue is what Christians actually believe. Unless I’m reading you terribly wrong, you’re saying that God does not stop any evil or suffering. At all. If that’s the case, why do we keep hearing stories of divine intervention curing people from illness or saving people from injury or death? Just a few days ago in the Forum there was a story titled “Miracle boys: Divine intervention credited with twins’ miraculous recovery.” God is always getting credited for stuff like this. Like the time a runaway truck slammed into a preschool building where a class of young children would normally be, but it just so happened at that moment they were in a different part of the building. Praise the Lord! Right? So God either does intervene in human affairs or he doesn’t. He either does reduce some suffering or he doesn’t. If you’re saying he doesn’t, then that’s something we agree about. However, I think it’s fair to say that most Christians believe that he does, and if that’s the case, then the question would be what criteria he uses. Why save those twin boys but let so many others suffer and die at such a young age, and why save that one preschool class while letting another class of kids get gunned down by a man suffering from mental illness? But if you don’t believe that he actually does anything, then that’s a question for someone else.

    “The point is, Naturalism cannot even answer the moral question let alone what is evil.”

    So I think the question basically is why do we have moral values and where do they come from, and how could naturalism provide an answer. First, let me say that I’m not a moral philosopher and I’m sure others could answer this more eloquently. As much as us non-theists would love to say that evolution accounts for morality, that probably isn’t true. I could probably make some argument how, for our species to survive, it was necessary to reward reciprocity and cooperation and punish selfishness, but I’m not sure that I would buy that. There probably are some positive moral traits that have been selected for through evolution, but there are also negative ones, as you mention with the Sam Harris quote. His point was that culture has allowed us to seek long-term interests other than mere survival and in doing so we have developed a moral code that repudiates actions that are naturally selected for but which we find immoral.

    Even if naturalism couldn’t answer these questions, it wouldn’t necessarily require us to seek a supernatural alternative. We could just say that we don’t really know or don’t fully understand. You ask me why we develop affection and compassion for other humans. Others will ask, if there is no god, what would stop us from doing all kinds of terrible things? I just have to scratch my head and think, are these serious questions? Why would we want to do those terrible things, and how could we not care about human suffering? But that response sounds unsatisfactory. It’s not a proof, just an assertion. However, if you said the only acceptable response to these questions is a set of morals imposed on us by God, then you would be doing the same thing in just making an assertion, not a logical proof.

    As far as I can tell, moral codes are created by human societies as a means to ease the challenges of coexistence. We develop them through our experiences with living with others, and science and philosophy help inform the process. I don’t necessarily think there is such a thing as an objective, absolute morality, though I don’t exactly lose much sleep contemplating it. While it may not be objective, it’s not completely arbitrary. It’s a product of who we are.

    If you said there was an objective morality imposed on us by God, how could we possibly have access to that information? No one verifiably can claim to know God’s wishes, and anyone who does is most likely projecting their own values onto God. I also don’t think that having moral values imposed on us from the outside is of much value. Moral behavior means doing what’s right, not doing what we’re told. Of course, what we’re told could also be what’s right, but there has to be valid reasons to show that it’s right, rather than just attribute it to an authority. If there are valid reasons for it, then it would exist as a moral value with or without God.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>