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God Allows Suffering

Religion God Suffering

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#1 QueenTiye

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 09:23 AM

This thread comes by way of three separate sources: one is my own spiritual exploration, in which I believe the explanations that are explained by my own faith work "well" but are a new way of thinking for me, the second is last night's episode of "House" in which Dr. Gregory House has an awesome quote in which he says "I find comfort in believing that this is not just a test" and the other, the Palestinian "hate" thread in which a poster inquires about believers "accusing" God of tormenting His followers.

So, this thread is open for discussion of the speculative/spiritual/philosophical variety.  That is - assuming that there is "God," however you choose to define God, why does suffering occur?

I highlighted that part because this isn't the thread for the type of comments like "There is no God" nor a thread for people to make hurtful comments to/about those who do believe, whatever their beliefs are.  Even if one is not a believer, I believe that one can participate in the thread from a speculative pov... and for the record, I don't have any objections to anyone who's definition of "God" is the "order of universe" as opposed to a "deity."

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#2 Hawkeye

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 09:30 AM

I always figured it was because God gave us free will. And sometimes our free will leads to suffering.

Thats probably a little too simplistic, but I'm not a particularly religious person and I haven't given it that much thought. I'm sure others will come in and suggest more complete answers :)
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#3 MuseZack

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 09:53 AM

Assuming for a moment that God actually exists, there are a few possibilities as to why a Diety would allow us to suffer:

1:  God set up the universe but lets it run in a basically hands-off fashion.

2: God is not actually all-powerful.  One variation of this is the Manichean heresy, which posits suffering as a side effect of the eternal battle between a good God and an evil God (this seems to be a borrowing from Zoroastrianism).

3:  God is not actually all-good.   A scary prospect, yes?

4:  If we suffer, it's because we somehow deserve it.  "Original sin" is partly an effort to justify this, but it does stick in the craw, especially in regards to children.

5:  It's all part of God's mysterious plan which we humans are too puny to comprehend.

Did I miss any?
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#4 Godeskian

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 10:05 AM

Actually Zack , you covered the three I wanted to bring into the debate.

One addendum to point 4. This isn't just original sin, but things like 'our godlessness caused God to punish us with the Tsunami' type of thing you get after most of the big disasters

I'd like to add a point 6. We suffer because one cannot appreciate good untill one has suffered evil.

I've had this oen trotted out to me a few times.

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#5 QueenTiye

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 10:06 AM

MuseZack, on May 18 2005, 10:53 AM, said:

Did I miss any?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


yes...;)

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#6 QueenTiye

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 10:07 AM

Godeskian, on May 18 2005, 11:05 AM, said:

Actually Zack , you covered the three I wanted to bring into the debate.

One addendum to point 4. This isn't just original sin, but things like 'our godlessness caused God to punish us with the Tsunami' type of thing you get after most of the big disasters

I'd like to add a point 6. We suffer because one cannot appreciate good untill one has suffered evil.

I've had this oen trotted out to me a few times.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I'm not sure that I'm hoping for "debate" here, although I'm not completely opposed to it either.  Just open discussion and sharing really....

Which 3 did you wish to mention that Zack already did? Was 4. one of them?

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#7 Godeskian

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 10:10 AM

regarding point 3. There is a general assumption that God is good

This is true in most monotheistic religions at least. Pantheistic ones, such as the Greek or Roman groups tended to have bad apples as well as good ones. For purposes of the point, i'll be concentrating on the three big Biblical ones, Christianity, Jewish faith, and Muslims.

The only source we have for God being perfectly good, actually comes from God himself. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that this was one of the earliest forms of spin available.

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#8 Godeskian

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 10:13 AM

QueenTiye, on May 18 2005, 04:07 PM, said:

I'm not sure that I'm hoping for "debate" here, although I'm not completely opposed to it either.  Just open discussion and sharing really....

Fair enough, but I think it will be a fairly short thread if folks can't debate the validity of the opinons put forth.

Quote

Which 3 did you wish to mention that Zack already did? Was 4. one of them?

2, 3 and 4.

2 because various interpretations and translations of the bible suggest that the Christian God was only one of many, and not the only God to have created human followers.. (not least of which because Adam and Eve's children found wives)

3, because as I said in my post I was writing when you responded, we have only God's word that he's perfect good. There is by definition no source of independant verification of the almighty.

4, I already covered.

Defy Gravity!


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#9 QueenTiye

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 10:30 AM

Godeskian, on May 18 2005, 11:13 AM, said:

QueenTiye, on May 18 2005, 04:07 PM, said:

I'm not sure that I'm hoping for "debate" here, although I'm not completely opposed to it either.  Just open discussion and sharing really....

Fair enough, but I think it will be a fairly short thread if folks can't debate the validity of the opinons put forth.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Its the word "validity" that is causing issues for me.  I guess I'm ok with discussing why one explanation or another doesn't work for me, but I'm not that interested in discussing the "validity" of people's beliefs.

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#10 Godeskian

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 10:34 AM

QueenTiye, on May 18 2005, 04:30 PM, said:

Its the word "validity" that is causing issues for me.  I guess I'm ok with discussing why one explanation or another doesn't work for me, but I'm not that interested in discussing the "validity" of people's beliefs.

Then permit me to rephrase. This is your thread, and i didn't intend to overstep. I'm not talking about a 'you suck, your version sucks' type of debate, but a simple discussion on why, one explanation is more or less likely depending on the religion or faith someone follows, not to mention their own personal opinions.

Defy Gravity!


The Doctor: The universe is big. It's vast and complicated and ridiculous and sometimes, very rarely, impossible things just happen and we call them miracles... and that's a theory. Nine hundred years and I've never seen one yet, but this will do me.


#11 QueenTiye

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 10:37 AM

Godeskian, on May 18 2005, 11:34 AM, said:

QueenTiye, on May 18 2005, 04:30 PM, said:

Its the word "validity" that is causing issues for me.  I guess I'm ok with discussing why one explanation or another doesn't work for me, but I'm not that interested in discussing the "validity" of people's beliefs.

Then permit me to rephrase. This is your thread, and i didn't intend to overstep. I'm not talking about a 'you suck, your version sucks' type of debate, but a simple discussion on why, one explanation is more or less likely depending on the religion or faith someone follows, not to mention their own personal opinions.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Fair enough! :)

While we're on the topic of discussion - care to elaborate on any of the ideas you endorsed?  

And, Zack, care to elaborate on any of your suggestions?

QT

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#12 G1223

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 11:24 AM

For me. God can only help us in the most spiritual of ways. He can give guidence and he can help people with grief. Comfort the ill and try to help people acceptance those who are different. Inspire poeple to change their ways.  God cannot end suffering nor force acceptance of diffences or any of the above.
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#13 Enkanowen

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 11:36 AM

I'd like to voice an opinion of someone who does not believe in the existence of an individual, conscious god.  I believe that there is a force which is ultimately powerful, but I do not believe it has a conscience like we would. It encompasses all and nothing all at the same time. Zen Buddhism really works well with this concept, so do certain forms of Paganism (and the idea of witchcraft).

I do not believe that any force is responsible for our own suffering. It is we who are responsible. We who cannot see beyond our own beliefs and truly become a tolerant race. Ultimately the three causes of suffering are religion, race and greed. People try to use their gods as an excuse to hurt one another. They also tend to believe themselves superior over those of another skin colour. And on top of it all, people have become so greedy that any means to an end are acceptable.

Then, those same people realize the suffering and question their gods why they would allow such suffering. It strikes me as a very peculiar predicament.

#14 Ogami

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 12:17 PM

Thread title:

God Allows Suffering, Open Dialogue on why?

Because the God that created the heavens had a lot more to worry about than evolved mammals on an insignificant planet off an insignificant arm of an ordinary spiral galaxy. Is there a God who created everything? Perhaps. But I sincerely doubt He/She/It would care about the travels on this planet of a tiny tribe of nomads on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. To see the size and scope of the universe, and think God cares about this particular dust mote seems ridiculous to me.

Just my opinion, nothing more.

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#15 Bad Wolf

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 01:09 PM

MuseZack, on May 18 2005, 07:53 AM, said:

5:  It's all part of God's mysterious plan which we humans are too puny to comprehend.

Did I miss any?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Let me add that "why" is a managment question and when it comes to the universe I am woefully inadequate to fill any managment positions.  :)
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#16 sierraleone

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 01:16 PM

God wants us to earn our stripes?
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Rule#1: Believe the Autocrat.
Rule#2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
Rule#3: Institutions will not save you.
Rule#4: Be outraged.
Rule#5: Don't make compromises.
Rule#6: Remember the future.
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#17 Ilphi

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 01:21 PM

I can only present some of the arguments I was taught in the Judeo-Christian tradition; I'm afraid more exotic religions (from my perspective) will have to wait for someone wider read to present some of their argumenst.

David Hume in 'Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion' argues that either (i) God is not omnipotent (ii) not omnibenevolent (iii) or evil does not exist. It is counterintuitive to suppose that evil does not exist but since the notion of God cannot lack omnipotence or omnibenevolence, this means that God does not exist. Thus, various philosophers have presented theodicies (theories which try to explain the existence of evil while maintaining God's omnipotence and omni benevolence).


Irenaeus
Irenaeus believed that there were two stages to creation. First, man was first created as an immature being that had yet to grow and develop. Then there would come a period of change where man would respond to situations in life and eventually become a 'Child of God'. Irenaeus argued that we were created imperfect so that we could freely choose to become good and turn to God. We were made at a distance from God - a distance of knowledge - an epistemic distance. Moral evil was that result of our having the freedom to grow and develop into a child of God.

Irenaeus saw the world as a 'soul-making place'. Here we could complete our development into a child of God. Evil was necessary to aid this development. Natural evil such as famine had a divine purpose - to develop qualities such as compassion. Irenaeus saw evil as a necessary part of life, something that will eventually make us into better people. At death, some of us will proceed into heaven. Those who have not completed their development will continue their soul making journey after death but will then enter the kingdom of heaven.

Problems with this theodicy include: Irenaeus argues that everyone goes to heaven. This seems unjust as immorality is not punished. It is inconsistent with orthodox Christianity as it denies The Fall, and Jesus' role is reduced to a moral example. The quantity and extremity of evil seems unacceptable in soul making. Is evil such as the Holocaust necessary? Allowing evil to continue can never be an expression of love according to D. Z. Phillips in 'The Concept of Prayer'.

St. Augustine
St. Augustine's response to the problem of evil is the traditionally accepted one. Unlike Irenaeus he did not think that God was responsible for evil or that we are working towards perfection. Augustine based his theory on two key passages in the Bible: Genesis 3 (the story of The Fall) and Romans 5:12-20 (St. Paul describes how Jesus' crucifixion wipes out the sin committed by Adam and Eve).

Augustine believed that a good God created the world and at the time of creation it was good. Evil, according to Augustine is a 'privation of good', not an entity itself - just as blindness is a privation of sight. If the world was good when God created it then where did evil come from? According to Augustine, evil was a result of angels who turned away from God, misused their freewill and tempted Adam and Eve - this is the origin of moral evil. Since all humans are 'seminally present in the loins of Adam', we are all born with original sin. Augustine described natural evil as the punishment for sin or the 'penal consequences of sin'. At the end of time, Christian belief says that there will be a Judgement Day. At this time, the good will go to heaven and the bad will go to hell. Because evil is punished, Augustine argued that God's world can still be seen as perfect in the end.

Criticisms include: F. D. E. Schleicermacher in his book 'The Christian Faith' said that Augustinian theodicy was flawed. He said it was a logical contradiction to say that a perfectly created world had gone wrong, since this would mean that evil had created itself 'ex nihilo', which is impossible. Either the world was created imperfect or God allowed it to go wrong. If the world was perfect and there was no knowledge of good and evil, how could there be freedom to obey or disobey God, since good and evil were unknown? The fact that Adam and Eve and the angels disobeyed God means that there was already knowledge of good and evil. Is Augustine's interpretation of the tree of knowledge flawed?

Augustine's view that the world was made perfect and was them damaged by humans is contrary to the theory of evolution, which asserts that the universe has been continuingly developing from a state of chaos. The existence of hell as a place of eternal torment challenges the notion of an all-loving God. If hell was part of God's design for the universe and he knew it would go wrong, then why did he still allow it to happen? This implies a malicious God not and omnibenevolent one.

The Freewill Defense
Like Irenaeus, the freewill defence centres on the idea that for man to respond freely to God, he must be able to make his own decisions. This means that ultimately, a man may choose to do good or commit moral evil.

Supporters of the freewill defence such as Richard Swinburne have said that God cannot intervene to stop suffering because this would jeopardise human freedom and take away the need for responsibility and development.

Swinburne says that death is necessary since it means that humans are forced to take responsibility for their actions. If they were immortal and had infinite lives then there is no need for responsibility - if there is always a second chance then there is no risk. Thus, natural evil is necessary to facilitate death regardless of the suffering caused.

Critique of the freewill defence: Is God justified in allowing people to misuse freewill to such an extent that millions die? John Hick says that if we say that some evils are too great then we start going down a scale of evils until the slightest evil becomes too great e.g. if we start by saying that cancer is too severe then what about heart disease, flu or a headache? Hick says that we must either demand a world free of evil or accept the one we have.

Process Theodicy
To reconcile the existence of evil with that classical notion of God, process theologians such as David Griffin have changed the definition of God. They say that God did not create the world and so is not all-powerful. Rather, he works within the forces of nature to maximise the amount of good over evil - he is limited by physics.

Process theologians have two types of good and evil. Good is harmony and intensity and evil is discord and triviality. God tries to ensure that harmony and intensity outweigh the discord and triviality in the world. God sees human life as worthwhile and works to try and outweigh its evil. Whitehead described God as 'the fellow sufferer who understands'.

Some other solutions
Evil and suffering are an illusion - however, the Bible describes evil as something that is real, so how can it be an illusion? If evil is seen as an illusion or a privation of good then God can still be seen as good.

The positive value of suffering - evil can be seen as essential to life i.e. hunger leads to pain, which leads to the desire to feed, ensuring the continuance of life. It can also be seen to be a warning to an illness. However, the pain suffered can be disproportionate to the seriousness of the illness i.e. toothache is excruciating while the final stages of cancer are relatively painless.

Evil leading to greater moral goodness - evil is not a good thing but necessary for morally good qualities such as compassion to be demonstrated. If suffering did not exist then there would not have been a Mother Teresa. Again, perhaps the suffering in the world is still disproportionate?
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#18 Lord of the Sword

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 01:32 PM

Me and GOD have a perfect relationship: He doesn't come into my house, unless absolutely necessary; and I don't go into His, unless absolutely necessary. Works out perfectly for both of Us.

As to "Why" He would allow suffering...He's a sick deity...Just look at the Bible. He flooded the world because He was pissed. He allowed Satan to inflict all manner of sickness of one person (forget who) where the guy lost his wife, kids, ect...Just as long as Satan didn't kill him. All to see if the guy would renounce God. Yep...definately sounds like a good and kind deity to me. NOT.

He also definately has no parenting skills...The whole concept of original sin came about because of Eve eating the apple and talking Adam into eating it also. And because GOD told them they could eat any fruit BUT the fruit from that tree. Now I'm not a parent, but I've babysat my cousins enough to know that if you tell a child that he can not have something (a cookie, ect) that child is going to spend the next several hours trying to figure out HOW to get his or her hands on it.

Guess GOD didn't think of that.

As for the question of "Where was GOD on 9-11?" Well, here we have the Free Will come into play.

Free Will is a B*tch at times, but what are you going to do? Nobody forced those hijackers to committ suicide...they CHOSE to do it.
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#19 Cyncie

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 01:34 PM

Well, in my way of thinking it always comes back to the relationship between God and humankind. I believe that, in God's original plan, he created us for a relationship with Himself. Since He is the source of all good things, good things flowed from the intact relationship.

But, God created us with the freedom to choose or reject Him. Humanity rejected Him, and in that act the relationship was broken. In my understanding, the original sin was actually rejection of God... not eating an apple. The choice that was given to humanity, at its basic level, was between following God or rejecting Him.

With the rejection of God, the door was opened for evil and suffering to enter into human experience. We were cut off from the flow of good things that originate with God, Himself. The Bible is the story of God's efforts to restore that relationship, repair the damage, and allow humankind to once again experience His goodness, in at least some limited way, until the world can be restored.

So, suffering exists because the world is no longer in synchronization with God. I don't believe that God prefers suffering or causes it, but until the world is brought back into relationship with Him, suffering will continue, because it is the nature of our imperfect existence now. However, if we let Him, God can use suffering to teach us and help us to grow in our relationship with Him.  

Does God ever step in and prevent suffering? Perhaps. Then the question becomes, why some and not others. And, as Lil said, that's a managment decision that I'm not qualified to make.

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#20 Enkanowen

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Posted 18 May 2005 - 01:35 PM

Quote

As for the question of "Where was GOD on 9-11?" Well, here we have the Free Will come into play.

just to flipside your argument: the hijackers committed suicide in the name of god.

Edited by Enkanowen, 18 May 2005 - 01:42 PM.




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