My Non-Problem of Evil – Mon 26th Mar 07

I’ve just been flicking through the TV channels and I came across a documentary that I paused only briefly on.

It was showing people who have been massively deformed; their lives and the lives of their families.

I have a very low threshold for watching this sort of thing. It’s not fair.

Nature and luck have cruel consequences. I admit I am choked up just from a few seconds of watching it. It makes me feel incredibly depressed and sad. Full of pity and sympathy. Indescribable admiration for the people who give up their lives to take care of other people who have a lower quality of life.

I also find myself angry. What am I angry for? It’s sounds stupid so let me explain: I feel angry at God. A strange statement indeed considering I don’t believe in god. It would be like feeling angry at Santa Claus. But when I trace my emotions deeper, it’s not anger towards to magical being. It’s anger that so many otherwise nice people are deluded and lied to into thinking that this wonderful father-creator of theirs actually LOVES everyone and takes care of people! I am filled with rage when I see people who have done fucking NOTHING wrong in their lives; have hurt no one; have caused no one pain or suffering, not only be the victims of unfortunate genetics or accidents… but when religious apologists weave their web of double-talk, nonsense, mythical ramblings, and not only suggest that “god” loves people, but that suffering is a necessary part of life and part of His master plan?!… I am almost lost for words.

This is a problem indeed for believers. A dilemma referred to as the Problem of Evil. Let me break it down simply.

God is all-loving and all-powerful.

Evil evists (which I will also take to include natural “evil” which causes much suffering but isn’t actually caused by people e.g. earthquakes, tsunamis etc.)

Therefore, either “god” is not powerful enough to prevent evil and suffering, or God chooses not to.

I am not going to get bogged down by the hundreds of different apologetics offered by theists to try and explain away a problem that they (almost hilariously) have created for themselves: any being that has the power to prevent evil but chooses not to, is evil.

Oh hang on a sec, don’t theists claim that God is also all-knowing and all-wise, and didn’t he create the universe? If any theists are seeing something large and looming over their head, Mr. Damocles is looking for his sword back…

So even though [enter your god’s name here] knows everthing past, present, and future, he chose to create a world that HE KNEW would have evil in it. He also KNEW that he would allow it to happen. He also KNEW that he wouldn’t do anything about it.

Theists have one more lifeline: it’s all part of his great mysterious masterplan. You have to have faith.

Yeah you know what, even if I didn’t use rationalism and common sense to guide my judgement, any “faith” I have dies a little more every time I see a starving child on the news, or babies born without hearts, or children without faces, half a million people wiped out because of a freak of nature, an old woman battered and raped in her own home for her pension money; I could go on…

What’s the danger of religion, of faith? People ask the question every day. Even if religious people NEVER hurt anyone (directly)…even if they never take a life or fly a plane into a building, fundamentalists of all faiths not only accept this “god” of theirs, but love it! They give their time, effort, money (and more) to a make-believe creature that IF it did indeed exist, is the most hateful evil immoral abomination that could be conceived. Tell me there is nothing wrong with that!

Fortunately, I’m an atheist. So I don’t need to play tricks with my mind and kid myself that Uncle Jesus/Allah/Yahweh upstairs really loves me. I can see pain around the world and feel real sadness and despair that another human is suffering for no reason. I don’t need to “explain” evil because there is nothing for an atheist to explain. And before anyone gets metaphysical on me, you can sink karma in a barrel to the bottom of the ocean too: good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad. But good things also happen to bad people, and bad things also happen to good. To quote Bob Carroll: “one might just as well conclude that there is no rhyme or reason why anything happens to anyone.”

I know there is always a desire to come up with a “big picture” when faced with inexplicable loss, pain, joy, luck etc. If you’re being tortured it might be easier to imagine you’re a martyr, fighting the holy fight for what you believe in. You may thank your God when your sports team gets an “impossible victory” or when you win a 14-million-to-1 lottery. But guess what? Someone HAD to win the lottery.

People will always win lotteries. People will always get lucky and unlucky. Some people will be born into a beautiful caring family and some people will be born and live for a few days at best. It’s not a perfect world. But no “god” EVER did ANYTHING to make this world a better place. HUMANS make this world a dump at times, and HUMANS can also make it a paradise too. If you sit around blaming God or thanking God you will never accomplish anything.

When I saw those people before on TV I couldn’t watch it because I felt great grief and pity. But you know what? I think I actually feel more sorry for people who are trapped in a belief system that doesn’t let them see the real world and that – might just be the saddest thing of all.

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3 Responses to “My Non-Problem of Evil – Mon 26th Mar 07”

  1. ZenTiger Says:

    Nice post. Strong words. Are you sure you are not trapped by your belief system? Things happen, and then people add the meaning they want. You’ve just added your meaning to your reality.

    But why do you think Christians sit around blaming or thanking God and doing nothing? Many, many Christians are active in charity work. Their view of reality does not preclude positive action.

    I think you are on to something when you say: “But no “god” EVER did ANYTHING to make this world a better place. HUMANS make this world a dump at times, and HUMANS can also make it a paradise too.”

    That’s exactly the deal with free will. Use it as you please. (Warning: There are consequences, and they may not be evident until much later)

    You may not understand why God chose to give people free will, but if for a moment you accept that this was an important part of his plan, then it also explains why there is a “hands off” approach to running your life.

    Although, I gather there was this one time God did something to make the world a better place, and we are supposed to reflect on that over Easter.

    It’s not a perfect world, but beauty can be found in the most unexpected of places, and we can all contribute to that. Have a nice life.

  2. evanescent Says:

    Greetings ZenTiger.

    Your comments are in quotes:

    >”Nice post. Strong words. Are you sure you are not trapped by your belief system? Things happen, and then people add the meaning they want. You’ve just added your meaning to your reality.”

    I wouldn’t agree that I have a belief system. My worldview is rationalism, and a corollary of that is my atheism and skepticism.

    You’re right, things do just happen. I can accept that bad things happen to people for no good reason as just the way the world is. I don’t actually attach a “depper” meaning to these events apart from the obvious.

    >”But why do you think Christians sit around blaming or thanking God and doing nothing? Many, many Christians are active in charity work. Their view of reality does not preclude positive action.”

    This is true and they’re to be commended. Not all Christians sit around doing nothing but one understands charity less when one believes that this world is supposed to be this way. If God doesn’t want to help people and wants the world to be this way, why should humans change what god has deemed acceptable?

    “I said: “I think you are on to something when you say: “But no “god” EVER did ANYTHING to make this world a better place. HUMANS make this world a dump at times, and HUMANS can also make it a paradise too.”

    >”That’s exactly the deal with free will. Use it as you please. (Warning: There are consequences, and they may not be evident until much later)”

    As thinking agents, most humans have “free will” in the sense that we can control and understand our actions, and appreciate the consequences of them, yes.

    >”You may not understand why God chose to give people free will, but if for a moment you accept that this was an important part of his plan, then it also explains why there is a “hands off” approach to running your life.”

    The Free Will Defence doesn’t appear to be a strong rebuttal to the Problem of Evil. It doesn’t change the fact that God COULD have made the world without evil if he wanted to. Or he could have made a world where people could freely CHOOSE to commit evil (to test us) but no innocent person could suffer as a result.

    For the innocent to suffer (which happens everyday) is the exact opposite of justice and fairness. What exactly are we being tested for?

    If we are allowed free will for a reason, a test, it is only fair that every human know and accept this, otherwise god is not playing fair. But since no one can agree on what God is or even prove he exists, this doesn’t seem to hold much water.

    Free will is not a magic ethereal quality that humans have. It is the limit to which we can control and understand our actions. Our free will is limited every day in some ways: by physics, the law, other people, our conscience, and our understanding.

    A psychopath may choose to kill someone and have total control of his actions, but not understand that it is wrong. Is this person free?

    Alternatively, a mental patient may know that stealing or urinating in public is wrong, but may be powerless to control their actions. Is this person free?

    Our actions in a given situation can only be considered free if we have control over our actions and the consequences of them (ie we know right from wrong) or in your case: what God requires. But if the “test” is secret to us, how can any divine test be fair?

    Finally, even if all the above is put aside, there is still the problem of suffering in the world that isn’t caused by human free will. Specifically, the disformed people I mentioned in my original post. These people were harmed by a freak of nature. Whose free will is being tested here? Even if humans had to be allowed to commit evil, that doesn’t explain non-human “evil”. How does a loving god excuse this?

    >”Although, I gather there was this one time God did something to make the world a better place, and we are supposed to reflect on that over Easter.”

    If you believe that particular story, God sending his son to earth to die was always moving for me as a theist.

    But when you consider that he had to kill an innocent to appease himself for the crimes of humans that didn’t know they did anything wrong in a test he put them to thousands of years ago, in a situation and world that he created and knew the outcome to in the first place – it makes no sense.

    He could have just not created Satan – problem solved.

    >”It’s not a perfect world, but beauty can be found in the most unexpected of places, and we can all contribute to that. Have a nice life.”

    I totally agree. This world can be beautiful, and people can be beautiful. But we can only make this world better if humans help other humans.

    My only caveat is that the world SHOULD be perfect if a perfect God made it. And clinging to a belief in any God is not likely to bring about better change for humans. Time to shake off the shackles of the mind I believe, and live a better life without god(s).

    All the best to you ZenTiger!

  3. Antique Says:

    Hi. Me very much to like here. I shall advise this site to the friends.
    I am sorry for my English. I only learn this language.


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