OK... Sorry for taking so long!
I'm using Kalistria's
post, because the questions posed in the riddle essentially echo many of the sentiments voiced here. So I apologize for not replying individually...
Also, I apologize for essentially issuing a "rebuttal" to some of the ideas expressed. I didn't mean to, but the direction of the thread seemed to make it impossible for my own contribution to be anything but a rebuttal. In any event, I'm not trying to persuade anyone to think differently - I'm just presenting my own views, using some of the ideas expressed here as a springboard to my own bit of sharing. As always, I welcome everyone's comments!
Kalistria, on May 19 2005, 09:22 PM, said:
I'm surprised nobody has quoted the Riddle of Epicurus
as of yet:
Is God willing to prevent evil but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent
This must, of course, be true. To be unable to do something means that there is a limit to one's power. I can't dispute this statement. SO... I must now move on to the next point, having agreed that God IS indeed omnipotent, I do not deny Is ability to prevent evil.
Is He able but not willing?
Then he is malevolent
I started to argue this point, that God not being willing did NOT necessarily mean that God was malevolent, but the construct of this riddle makes the willingness at question a "general" willingness. So I will simply say, yes, God is willing. Obviously when people pray, they are attempting to get God to intervene in their lives. Sometimes people pray just to talk with God, but sometimes they pray because they need help. From their own perspective, NOT receiving the help (and for that matter, needing the help in the first place) is an evil, and God tells us over and over, in various different scriptures, to pray so that God can help us. Part of a revealed prayer by the Baha'u'llah, Founder of Baha'i Faith says "Thou, in truth, art the God of strength and power, Who art meet to answer them that pray Thee." I take the word "meet" to mean able, and willing. One might ask why do people have to pray to get God's help, but sometimes we have the testimony of various people who didn't EVEN pray but they recognized Divine intervention. So God apparently, sometimes God helps even when we don't ask, and we may or may not notice it, but certainly when we do ask, God is willing to help. SO, on to the next part of the riddle...
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
This, of course, is where I'll have to stop, because I've already said that God is both able AND willing - the last part of the riddle doesn't apply. So, whence cometh evil?
posted that the proposition of evil not existing is counterintuitive. And I have to agree. It is counterintuitive from our own perspective. But I believe, as my faith teaches, that there is no objective reality of evil. Evil is a negative property - the lack of something or another. Just the same way that darkness is the absence of light, so is evil the absence of good. Everything that has real existence is inherently good, but the absense of this quality or that quality that a thing is supposed to have is what we call "evil." And of course, its all relative - as Enkenowen
I believe pointed out earlier - we don't consider things "natural disasters" when they happen where people aren't
. We also don't consider it evil when we slaughter things and eat them, or when they do the same. BUT, we do consider it evil when things in nature do what they naturally do to our disadvantage. (I offer for example, the feral cat shooting thread, or even, on a much more "benign" scale, our propensity to create pesticides and weed killers - or even more basically - our tendency to call some creatures pests and some plants weeds!) Even our word sicknesses reflects the negative quality of that particular "evil" - we consider a sick person as having a dis-ease.
So first things first - our recognition of "evil" is highly selective. And even still, God is willing, I believe, to adjust things so that these selective occurances that we have designated as evil because we are suffering from them. SO then back to the original question - why doesn't God ALWAYS intervene? Whence comes evil? Why doesn't God set things up that everything stays in its right balance and never causes any trouble for anything else?
I believe that the answer is found BOTH in RitchieTyrant's
evolutionary pov (suffering forces growth), and Gelfitefishmon's
Buddhist pov, that we need to learn to let go of attachments in order to avoid suffering. And to that, I need to add my own Faith's pov, that we do have purpose for this life, and that purpose is not (in my opinion) JUST to avoid suffering. I keep reiterating that this is my pov, because I'm not a spokesperson for Baha'i Faith... I'm just a Baha'i, and a fairly new one at that. But this is what I have to offer....
First, from the point of view of suffering... my Faith, like the Buddhist faith, recommends detachment from all things. That is, the removal of our identification of any thing, any condition as something upon which we are dependent for happiness. Perhaps unlike current Buddhist interpretations (but I'm not sure) detachment in Baha'i Faith is about detachment from all but God. We are supposed to strive to get closer to God, and to let nothing, neither happiness nor sadness, nor any material thing nor any person, friend or foe, keep us from drawing closer to God. In that sense, all the vicissitudes of life can be looked at as those things that keep shaking our hold on things. As we become stronger in faith, we begin to "find our sea legs" so to speak - whatever comes doesn't shake us - and we don't experience them as causes for disappointment or suffering... our source of happiness is inwardly (God) motivated, and exceeds anything that exists external to ourselves. This may come easy for some but for most of us, it takes a lifetime, and even up to the point of death, there is danger to clinging to something as an attachment, instead of freely accepting whatever is decried by God. In that sense - suffering is an evolutionary process that leads us to detachment. Because I do believe in the afterlife, I believe that the more we succeed in developing this necessary detachment - which is the crown of spiritual achievement - the closer to God we will be and the better able to travel closer to God we will be in the next life.
SO.. that would make it seem that all of our earthly suffering and aim is "just a test" to help us develop the attributes necessary for life after death. This could lend itself to a hermetic view of life, one in which we increasingly withdraw from participation, run to the hills, and simply exist in communion with God and Nature...But at the start of this topic, I wrote that I admired House's statement that he found comfort in believing that this life is NOT just a test. I mention it because I don't believe that that is ALL there is to it.
Rather, I also believe, as the humanists do, that human beings have to solve human problems. Part of our suffering in this life, and the benefit of developing detachment in THIS life is that suffering motivates us to solve problems, and detachment motivates us to solve problems unselfishly. To be able to come together, as human beings, look at what ails us, and come up with solutions - this is the ultimate height of human existence, but we often see how we get waylaid in this goal by personal prejudices, partisanships, fears, personal hang-ups, favoritisms...these are all caused by our attachments. And so, as we continue through our own lives, facing up to whatever hardships we face, striving to let go our our attachments to things such that hardships are not sources of suffering for us but can be faced objectively, we also may apply ourselves to serving humanity more, and better - humanity as a whole evolves in THIS life, through our persistent striving to attain the spiritual virtues necessary for success in the next.
Well, there you have it...I welcome more comments, though it seems that I waited so long to post that this topic has peatered out. Anyway, I'm going to go catch the last of the sunshine - there's a real rainbow arching in the sky in my backyard!