I have been discussing suffering elsewhere, for about the billionth time. It is the issue that never seems to quite be resolved in debates on theism.
We all see suffering about us. Some of it seems quite unexplainable. The person that has overeaten all their life, or abused their body with some type of drug and has ramifications when they are older can be written off by the theist as “results of sin.”
But the child starving to death, or being beaten for no reason is harder to explain. Diseases such as polio and small pox, which have been virtually wiped out through efforts of humans leave questions as to why a God would allow them in the first place, if He wanted humans to eliminate them.
And as I was having this discussion….again…it struck me. Many theists are resigned to suffering. If their God cannot eliminate it, with all of His power, and if their God does not want it eliminated, with all of his knowledge—who are they to do more than God?
In this respect, I have it easier than the theist. I will, desire and intend to eliminate suffering in all aspects possible, to the point of eliminating its cause, symptoms, results and effects. I understand that the development of nature IS cruel. This world was not “designed” for us to live in, we are adapting to its environment as best we can. Evolution has no “mind” to reduce suffering or pain, which is why we have knees that are more suited for quadruped, rather than bipedal, and suffer more knee injuries. Evolution doesn’t care.
In some ways I have it easier—I do not have to justify why the world is the way it is. I do not have to justify suffering. It simply is. All I have as my goal is to reduce the bad effects as much as humanly possible.
Can a theist do that? In the defenses to the Problem of suffering, I am assured that for some inexplicable reason, God has necessitated that people suffer. Either it is to protect free will, or create balance, so we appreciate not suffering, or it was a result of sin, and not even the intent of God in the first place.
God cannot step in, because it is a punishment He prescribed, or it would impinge free will, or he needs it for us to love him more when he sends joy. So….is the theist bound to reduce suffering? What if, in some way, that would reduce God’s punishment? Who is the theist to put themselves in the position of God? God can no longer send an epidemic of smallpox—was it a sin to wipe out that disease? Is that why God must continually introduce new diseases, such as the West Nile virus, or the Bird Flu, because pesky humans keep interfering with the perfectly good diseases he already had in place in order to buttress whatever he needs suffering for?
Or if suffering is necessary to appreciate joy, is the theist ruining the system? All those people that never get to experience joy, because they didn’t suffer. Or if it is necessary for Free Will, who is the theist to restrict free will by reducing the causes of suffering. Not even God, apparently, can do that.
In other ways I have it harder. See, I have to actually work at reducing other’s distress. The theist, understandably, believes they are in commune with an ultimate power. Something that can eliminate poverty, disease, even death. Theists further believe that this God actually cares enough to get involved, so if the theist prays, they do not have further responsibility; it is now in God’s hands.
I see that it requires humans caring for humans, theists believe that it is something more—a creature of unlimited power that will resolve the problem. I do not take the time to stop and pray, I must move immediately.
And as I have these conversations, where theists are defending for the umpteenth time why we must have misery, pain, and torment in this life, I wonder if they really are bent on reducing it?
I would imagine that people suffering from terminal illness and pain are not at all thrilled to hear how they are necessarily suffering for some reason because there is a God that is ready, willing and able to eliminate the affliction—just not for them.
So as we debate suffering, a small part of the back of my mind can’t help wondering. And now it is wondering out loud. If the theist believes that suffering is necessary, and that not even God can eliminate it—is their heart really into reducing suffering as well? Or are they going through the motions.
Sure, sure, I know their God ordered the theists to have compassion. But is that just a test? See how well they do, to get the biggest mansion? Are those that suffer simply guinea pigs to give the theists test subjects? How cruel is That!
Either God can eliminate suffering, and this is all just one big charade to play out some drama, or God cannot, in which case the theist could have little motivation they can do more than their own God.