A middle-aged man dreaming of the day when he can stop begging for scraps and write for a living.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Problem of Evil

Today I ran across a discussion that rehashed the Problem of Evil, specifically some problems I had early on with how an all-powerful, all-knowing and benevolent god can create an entire universe knowing that the fate of its creation is to have 99% of it suffer in eternal torment that it inflicts on them. Some Christians try to reconcile this by saying that their god isn't truly omniscient, or doesn't exercise his omniscience all the time (ref: Mr. Deity). Others claim that he willingly refrains from exercising his omnipotence in order to preserve free will and so forth. None that I've met are willing to concede that if he exists he saw the wholesale death and suffering of humanity and did nothing to correct it because he either doesn't care or wants that result.

The problem, as far as I see it, lies in magical thinking. You have this god who is supposed to be looking out for you and your best interests. The world doesn't really seem engineered to give you the best life experience; every day is a struggle and it often seems that events conspire against you. But this can't be possible if your life is being overseen by a loving, all-knowing and all-powerful god. Therefore there must be another reason for it, one that is beyond your comprehension because the alternative is that one of your assumptions about your god is wrong and if you follow that thought process you might discover that all of your assumptions are wrong and you might have to abandon the idea altogether. So we fall back on our default assumptions and assume it'll all make sense later on, probably after we're dead. "Jesus, take the wheel."

It's one way to cope, although the cognitive dissonance it necessarily creates is never comfortable. But Christianity has an answer for that, too: "Blessed are those who suffer for doing what is right. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them." Of course, in doing so you run the risk of ignoring obvious solutions to temporary problems in the name of validating your religious beliefs. Simple, easy things like making the world a better place instead of assuming it's pointless since your god will wipe it all away to create a new earth to live on.

Naturally, different Christians will have different answers for how they attempt to reconcile this problem. Some will deny it's a problem altogether. Others will present different variations or apologetics. Nevertheless, I haven't seen any answers that don't fall back on magical thinking. Their god created the world by magic (divine, but still magic), therefore the answers must be magic as well. You just have to have faith that it's true.

And of course, SMBC Comics offers the simplest explanation possible.

1 comment:

Dee Wayne said...

I just addressed The Problem of Evil in my latest YT video (part 3 of my review of God's Not Dead). I'll edit and post later this evening. Anyway, I totally agree with what you've written here. It encapsulates the problem quite well. And I don't think I could have picked a more fitting comic to illustrate the whole thing. Very well done! Consider yourself bookmarked, my friend!