Thursday, May 21, 2009

Problem of Evil

I always hear during Sundays in our Church (*when I go with my family) other church members/leaders/pastors/evangelists shout "God is good all the time! All the time God is good!" I can't really understand how they end up shouting that phrase. I guess they are not that aware of what is really happening in this world. Maybe they only see the good things in this world OR maybe they consider a certain tragedy or suffering as "good".

I mean look at the news in TV, we always hear about floods killing tens to hundreds of people, plane crashing, rape, abortion, diseases, storms, wars, and other kinds of sufferings. Would these tell us that a good, loving, moral, and powerful God exist? How can there be a loving, moral, and powerful God if evil and suffering exist?

Whither is God during these times? (Assuming GOd exists as believers claim) I am sure that some believers tried to contact or connect or pray to God for some assistance and help but where was God? Or is there really some one powerful, loving, and moral up there that listens to the cries of the dying and suffering people below? If God is powerful then he can prevent evil and sufferings like floods, diseases, storms, wars, rape, and the like. But he was never there (although some believes he was). If God is moral and loving then he will not allow (or at least prevent some of) these evil and suffering. But he didn't. If God is worth of worship then, again, he will not or at least prevent some of the evil and suffering.

I can only think of three possible answers to the question above. Either (a) God don't exist, (b) God exist but he is not loving and powerful, or (c) God exist and he is loving and powerful but don't want to help. You know what item (a) means. Items (b) and (c) would tell us that God (Christian) is not worth of worship. Simple as that.

*Yes, I go to Church once in a while. But I go not because I worship or praise or or believe or love God.


Jobo the Bored said...

Now believers, especially Christians, would by now thought of the apple-eating-incident-at-the-Garden-of-Eden as a reply to the argument of evil and suffering. But that eating-of-the-apple-incident (well assuming that story is true) would also tell us that God is not worth of worship. Is it just to punish your grand grand grand grand grand grand grand children for the sins you committed? Well you know the answer.

Danny Boy, FCD said...

Bart Ehrman tried to tackle the problem of suffering but failed. Thus he became an agnostic. I'm currently reading his book God's Problem where he tries to use the bible's varied answers to the problem, and points out that it cannot.

Jobo the Bored said...

Theists really have a hard time facing this problem/argument.

I'd like to read that but I guess I can't find that in the local bookstores here in Davao.

Danny Boy, FCD said...

No National Bookstore in Davao? Their branches in Metro Manila is virtually overflowing with copies.

Jobo the Bored said...

We have National Bookstore here but there's very few books about philosophy/atheism. The last book I bought was 33 Strategies of War. Maybe I'll try to buy that book (God's Problem) when I finish reading 33 Strat...

jong said...

Try taking those churchgoers who shout "God is good all the time!" to Africa so they could see young emaciated children who are probably HIV positive lining up behind a cow, waiting for it to pee so they could drink its piss (you read that right - because of extreme thirst and lack of water they have no choice but to drink bovine urine). And tell them that since those children probably never even heard, much less believed, in God, their souls will burn in hell when they die of starvation or disease or a combination of both, while vultures feast on their still-warm bodies, starting off with their soft entrails.

Now if those fundamentalists say that the suffering in Africa is at least partly man made (due to greed, corruption and war) and should not be blamed on God (since God gave man free will), show them pictures of tsunami and earthquake victims and ask them if tsunamis and earthquakes are in even the smallest ways partly caused by man.

The problem of evil has been discussed by many philosophers and scholars, and they are saying basically the same thing:

1. There exist intense and unnecessary evils and suffering in this world.

2. God, as the fundamentalists believe, is all-powerful and all-benevolent.

3. Since evil and suffering still exist, God is either (a) all-powerful but not all-benevolent (can end suffering but doesn't care enough to do so), (b) all-benevolent but not all-powerful (wants to end suffering but is powerless to do so), or (c) doesn't exist.

Now I claim to be a Christian and I do believe in God. It's just that I no longer believe in the same way as those fundamentalists do. I am a truth seeker just like you, and I don't think that the same God who gave us intellect would demand that we forgo it in favor of blind faith.

Lastly, although I am not as smug in my beliefs as those fundamentalist Christians who think that they have all the answers or those atheists who think that they already "have arrived" intellectually on the (non)existence of God, I try to continue my quest for the elusive truth, questioning existing theories and coming up with new theories that more closely explain reality, and then questioning them also. It's not unlike the scientific method actually.

I just hope that one day I would be like the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung who, when asked later in life if he believed in God, puffed thoughtfully on his pipe and then answered, "Believe? Believe is a word we use when we think something is true but when we don't have a sufficient body of evidence to prove it. No, I don't believe in God. I know there is a God."

Jobo the Bored said...

I am just curious, how do you still end up believing in God despite the problem of evil? As a Christian, how would you respond to the problem of evil? Ehehe..

jong said...

I'd like to point out that I used the word "believe" and not "know" as Carl Jung did, and I am not trying to convince the atheists and agnostics that there is a God. I just believe. (However, when I go to church I do not shout along with the other people that "God is good all the time!"). But since you asked me why I believe in God, I'll try to answer as best as I can.

I believe in God because I believe in the Big Bang, the cosmological model on the origin of the universe supported by the most comprehensive and accurate explanations from current scientific evidence and observation. In a nutshell, the Big Bang theory states that in the beginning there was this infinitely small, infinitely heavy, infinitely hot thing that exploded and expanded into the universe that we know. Now science can explain the series of events that happened 0.00000001 seconds after the Big Bang, but not at zero hour (or zero second for that matter), because right before this infinitely small, infinitely heavy and infinitely hot thing exploded there was a singularity, and the laws of relativity break down at singularities, just as math sort of gets screwed up when it comes to infinities. In short, the Big Bang begs for a Creator.

Now Stephen Hawking and James Hartle came up with this "no-boundary proposal" on the origin of the universe. They postulated that the four-dimensional space-time is like the two-dimensional surface of the earth - finite in area but with no boundaries. If you have an amphibious vehicle with unlimited fuel you can drive and sail all over the earth's surface but you will never reach a boundary or end, as if the earth's surface area were infinite. Using imaginary time, Stephen Hawking was able to prove that the four-dimensional space-time of the universe could be finite but with no boundaries, just like the surface of the earth. And if this is so, then the universe wouldn't have a beginning or an end; it would just be. And there wouldn't be any singularities, and hence no need for a Creator.

However, Hawking himself also said that the no-boundary proposal only works when using imaginary time, and in real time in which we exist there will always be singularities, including the Big Bang.

Again, I am not trying to prove to the atheists and agnostics that there is a God, much less by using only the argument of the Big Bang singularity. All I am saying is that while it is impossible to scientifically prove the existence of God, it is just as difficult to conclude with all certainty that there is no God. That is why it's called Faith. And I dare say that only the agnostics do not have faith, because the true atheists also believe (but not KNOW) something; although they are infinitely more aware than the blind-faithed fundamentalists, in a way atheists still hold on smugly to a belief, that of the NON-existence of God.

So just as there is the problem of evil, there is also the problem of the Big Bang singularity. And I do believe in God - just not in the same way that the fundamentalists do.

And I don't shout along that "God is good all the time" as if there is no suffering in this world.

Jobo the Bored said...

What you posted is a version of the First Cause Argument but I read it called the Big Bang Argument for the existence of God. I have two replies on your comment. One philosophical and the other scientific.

If the universe was started/caused by a creator, then who started/caused/created God? Know that God also begs for a creator. This would lead to infinite regress. Now I would guess that you would argue that the first cause (God) is exempted. If we suppose that God is always existed then why not suppose that physical matter always existed? It is far way simpler than the Divine miracle.

Next (scientific), according to the Law of the Conservation of Mass-Energy, both mass and energy can neither be created nor destroyed. If mass-energy cannot be created or destroyed, and if the universe is composed of mass-energy, then we can conclude that the universe, in one form or another, in one density or another, always existed.
"At the Big Bang, the universe was incredibly dense and unimaginably hot. The elementary particles, which now consti-tute the chemical elements, could not exist under such extreme conditions. Immediately following the Big Bang, therefore, the rapidly expanding universe is believed to have been composed solely of energy, with matter condensing later, after further expan-sion allowed for cooler temperatures. Regardless of its form, how-ever, the universe—which is the sum of all mass-energy—could not, according to the mass-energy conservation law, come into existence ex nihilo in the way demanded by creationism. According to this well-confirmed scientific principle, our universe of mass-energy was never created, and cannot be annihilated."(from David Mills' book). Oh btw, Stephen Hawking have described a naturally occurring phenomenon known as "vac-uum fluctuation," in which matter is created out of what appears to be perfectly empty space.

Thanks for the comment :)

jong said...

Hmmm...I guess there'd be more questions for every answer. Until there is some unified field theory...

We both believe in the scientific method, right? And what we now hold as true we continuously take through the cold test of science. After all, we have not yet arrived, and we are on a continuous journey in the first place.

Jeremy said...

What you have posted reminds me of some reading on the 'god is asleep' paradox.

My basic summary of this concept is that the basic nature of god being omnipotent (all knowing and all powerful), and all good.. Is contradictory to him being 'asleep' and allowing evil to take place.

By this therefore god must be either not omnipotent, or... if he saw evil coming, part of his plan involved both good and evil in some sense. This concept of gods plan involving both good and evil leads to contradictions with literal and traditional interpretations of such books as the bible.

Most of the discussions I have had about this issue with relgious people ends up with them introducing the alleged satan incident. However, amy reply here is that any 'trickery', by satan would of course undermine the omnipotence of god. and supports the above arguement anyway.

As a final note, I might offer that my personal philisophical view is that if we were all pre-programmed robots that could not make any of our own decisions then the world would be boring. So i personally like this life, for an experience if nothing else. I just hope that we can reach a technological and sociental level of greater perfection, removing such things as wars.

From this philosophical view, although I dont believe in most traditional senses of the word religion, I accept a creationism in conjunction with the big bang theory in some sense, and I support a good/evil god.

Post a Comment