Evidence for God: Suffering
Fair enough. I do agree that it is a fairly hard concept to grasp and I don’t think that even Christians fully grasp the idea of God. I’m not sure what reason I would give you that would be very compelling, as there are many reasons out there. Some are probably more compelling than others. I definitely don’t think that “how could you believe a universe so complex could exist without a creator?” type thing is very strong at all.
And I may have worded what I said wrong about knowing deep down. I meant that as much as I want to believe he doesn’t exist sometimes when I’m angry, I know (deep down) from all the experience I had in apologetics class that he does exist and there is endless evidence to his existence. Does that make a little more sense? I didn’t mean it was JUST pure faith. I don’t really think that you can have complete faith in anything unless you know somehow for a fact that what you believe in is actually there.
Now, I think I’ve heard a variety of strong arguments for the existence of God, but since I’m already a believer in God, it’s a little bit easier to believe the arguments and think that they are sufficient, but coming from an Atheist standpoint, I am not sure what would be the strongest.
I suppose we can start with the argument about suffering. That seems to be one of the biggest atheist concerns: “If God exists and is what Christians claim he is: all powerful, all knowing, etc. why would he allow suffering? why wouldn’t he make his world perfect and protect his people from evil?”
Well, this may not be the strongest evidence I have to his existence, but I figured it’s a good start since alot of people wonder that question. Now, I still have some issues with suffering because I’m human- No one likes to suffer obviously. But, have you ever thought about how if nothing bad ever happened, what would make us appreciate the good? The good things in life would almost become boring because if only good stuff happened, it’d just be a neutral every day thing. But, Because we get sick, we appreciate being healthy. Because we get sad, we appreciate happiness. Suffering brings on a greater good. Also, God is a jealous God. He created suffering so we would turn back to him. He did not make us robots to where we are all perfect and all follow him, but rather so we can choose to believe in him or not. He wants us to choose him. Therefore, if he made us all perfect, we would have no need for a higher power. We would just live our lives nice and perfectly and never have to believe in God. He uses suffering to get closer to us. “It’s clear from testimony that many people who endure suffering do not curse God but rather cry out to Him. Only after suffering, only after disaster, did Old Testament Israel, do nations, do individual people turn back to God. [...] Pain and suffering are frequently the means by which we become motivated to finally surrender to God and to seek the cure of Christ” (http://www.toddtyszka.com/pain.html).
I don’t expect that to be enough of a reason, but I will wait for your response before I begin anything else so that these emails don’t get unbearably long and difficult to follow. Looking forward to it! :)
This is not the angle of discussion I expected, so that’s a nice surprise already! Let’s see if I can do your writing justice.
Thank you for the clarification about pure faith. When you discuss your belief, you appear to be using the “trust” definition of faith, as opposed to the “blind belief” definition. This is a good thing for the purposes of our conversation, as it gives us more to talk about.
I was very surprised that you began with the problem of suffering (a subset of the problem of evil). Generally, suffering is used as a proof that God does not exist, as opposed to a proof that God does exist. And, in fact, you seem to be refuting the negative proof rather than presenting a positive proof. That’s fine, but note that I don’t personally think that the problem of suffering can be used to prove that God does not exist (although it might be used to show that some specific descriptions of God’s properties are incorrect or inconsistent).
Now let’s look at your argument in a little detail.
It is true that the existence of suffering makes us appreciate good things all the more. But how much suffering is necessary for this purpose? I would argue that a baby born with an exposed spine who lives for weeks in horrible pain before finally dying introduces so much suffering into the world that no number of parents happy that this was not their baby makes up for it. Couldn’t God have arranged for us to suffer enough to appreciate His blessings without introducing such unmitigated horrors?
Looking at this another way, do you believe that it is moral to cause unwilling innocents to suffer if a greater good will result?
Could God have made suffering to draw people to Him? Perhaps, but I think that the concept of God being all-good suffers a bit for it. Certainly people who act in this way are seen as manipulative, not good, but I understand that God doesn’t necessarily fit into human categories.
But if God wanted to draw people to him and at the same time wanted to give us free will instead of making us perfect robots, couldn’t He could do it with blessings just as easily as with punishments? What if people who believed in God lived twice as long, or were better artists, or always won at bingo? It seems like carrots would work just as well as sticks — if not better, as modern animal trainers know — and wouldn’t give us as many philosophical difficulties.
I scanned the Web page you quoted from, and found the myriad explanations for why God permits suffering to be interesting, but a bit difficult to take as a whole. For example, the author argues that pain and suffering exist because of the sin of Adam and Eve, and the fall of Satan, and to glorify God. As a whole, it sounds more like fishing for an explanation that will stick instead of gathering evidence. Perhaps the argument just needs to be written more directly.
I could see it making sense for sin to lead to suffering — for Adam and Even to have to go out and work instead of living in paradise, for example. But it is very hard for me to see how disease, natural disasters, and birth defects are meaningful consequences of sin, particularly when they often strike innocents (unborn babies, for example). And to those who take Genesis literally, I would ask why God would punish all the world’s snakes for the behavior of Satan — to me, this seems like a good example of the wrong creature suffering for a sin.
Let me turn this around a bit and ask: do you think it’s right, as a human, to try and relieve or prevent suffering? If suffering is, in a sense, good, then isn’t relieving suffering either thwarting God’s will or implying that God created more suffering than is necessary? Aren’t there some people who would have turned to God if they had contracted polio as a child but who never found faith because of the polio vaccine?
These may sound like flip or rhetorical questions, but I do not mean them to be. I think they are actually worth considering.
I look forward to your response!
In: Evidence · Tagged with: Problem of Evil