Monday, October 12, 2009

Theodicies

Our country was hit by two strong storms in the last few weeks. If my memory serves me right, there was only less than a week before another storm hit the northern part of our country again. These two storms caused a lot of casualties. It killed more than 200 people, displaced thousands of people from their homes, and destroyed a lot of properties. Not to mention the trauma that it left to the survivors especially to the young ones.

Instances like this is a challenge to the lives of the people who are affected. How will they move on with their lives when they have almost nothing left? How will they move on if their loved ones were killed? Where will they get money to start again? Where will they get help? I think all of these questions and problems can be answered and solved as time will pass by or if eventually some will help these people. Time will heal the wounds as a quote say. But a more important question still remains unanswered for a long time. Well many have tried but I guess their answers still faces a lot of criticisms and contradictions making the problem still a problem.

Where was the God that believers, mostly Christians, claim to be true/existing, loving, and powerful? Why God would allow this to happen? Well these questions are not really original and new but I think it would be good to ask this question again and again for more emphasis. I asked these questions subtly (subtly so that they will not be offended) to my theist friends and they all have their own explanations and theodicies. I wasn't able to reply and criticize them because of time constraints and that I do not want to offend, and  humiliate them. So below is the four and most common theodicies that I encountered and my reply and criticisms to these four.  

Punishment Reply. The people that suffered in the in the two storms were just punished by God because these people disobeyed God laws or that these people were very sinful. 

My reply: Not all of the people that were killed or suffered are sinful. There were children and good people too who suffered and died on the said storms. Theists could reply that this is just a result of the original sin. But I say that this is not just and it do not show that God is loving. I mean, is it just to punish the grand grand grand grand grand grand100x children of a person who committed a sin long ago?  You know the answer. 

The Heavenly Reply. These people and children may have suffered and died but they will be compensated many times in heaven/eternal life. 

My reply: But what's the point of them suffering here on earth? Why did'nt God put them straight to heaven even before they suffered? Heaven do not justify their suffering. This act is immoral even if heaven is so good because God could've put them to heaven or give them eternal life without suffering them. 

Soul making theodicy. This contends that God allows evil because this builds up a positive character to the victims. And this compensate evil and suffering. 

My reply: Is this how a loving God build up positive character to its followers? I think there are still many other ways that is less evil and crude. Also evil and suffering do not necessarily build up a positive character. Greater losses also occur. Families would break up, morale would go down, people would turn away from God. 

The Privation response. Evil is just the absence of good just as darkness the absence of light. 

My reply: Evil is not really a privation of good. If you are hurt, say you were punched or kicked in the ass, you know that it hurts. It is a positive sensation and not just the absence of pleasure. People who are numb or asleep do not feel pain, even though they experience the absence of pleasure and any other feeling. 

So where's your God now? 

11 comments:

innerminds said...

I think the problem of evil became a 'problem' simply because the theists put too many 'omnis' to their God: omni-benevolent, omnipotent, omni-present, and omniscient. Just take away one - only one of those 'omnis', and the 'problem' of evil can easily be explained.

Discreet Infidel said...

I think a more accurate definition of a theist God would be a being/entity that is worth of worship.

innerminds said...

Good point. Now tell me, if a 'Being' had only three of those four 'omnis', would that 'Being' still be worth of worship?

innerminds said...

For example, what if a Being is omni-benevolent, omniscient, and omni-present, but although it is very powerful and intelligent, creating one universe after another, it is not omnipotent. Now if it “enters” a universe, it loses a great deal of power (checked them at the gate of space-time) and it will be subject to the natural laws which it created. It could be there alongside the victims of natural calamities, grieving for its creation, but perhaps it could do nothing more than whisper a breath of hope and courage to the rescuers, helping them achieve heroic feats none of them thought they were capable of. Then it goes back to its realm beyond space-time and creates another universe while doing a few minor tweaks like moving a single particle a nanometer to the right, applying the lessons learned from the previous one.

Now I know this is all only hypothetical, but my question is, if, hypothetically, such Being exists, would that Being still be worthy of worship?

Discreet Infidel said...

@Innerminds:
This is how I usually define God (theist):
^All-good (God always does the best that He can)
^All-powerful (God can do anything that is logically possible)
^All-knowing (God knows everything that is true)
^Eternal (God exists outside of time)
^Effective (God causes changes in time)
^Personal (God has a will and makes choices)

@Your second question, is it still be worthy of worship? Based on my definition of God, I think not. I think everyone is capable to claim to be that kind of being.

innerminds said...

You mean everyone is capable of creating universes?

Discreet Infidel said...

'Anyone' can claim to be that kind of being.

innerminds said...

'Anyone' can claim to be capable of creating universes aside from being omniscient, omni-present, and omni-benevolent?

Discreet Infidel said...

Yes, anyone can "claim" it. :)

Now, I think the god in your example can't be omniscient and omnipresent (at least these two) inside the universe because he/she is subject to the natural laws of the universe. If his/her omnipotence is gone, then I think his/her omnipresence and omniscience would also be gone once inside the universe.

"It could be there alongside the victims of natural calamities, grieving for its creation, but perhaps it could do nothing more than whisper a breath of hope and courage to the rescuers, helping them achieve heroic feats none of them thought they were capable of."
-I think it would be better for this kind of God to warn the people of an upcoming storm or tragedy so that losses can be minimized. Or that warn a supposed-to-be-rape victim so that it can avoid the rape.

innerminds said...

Good point! (about warning the would-be victims of natural calamities instead of just giving hope and courage to the rescuers).

But what if this Being is totally helpless 'inside' the universe since it will be bound by the natural laws (not even able to 'whisper' a word of hope or warning to its creatures), but still omni-present and omniscient, feeling every pain and seeing every suffering. Would this Being be worthy of worship?

I guess not. That's why the deists - although they are grateful to a deity for giving them their lives, a world to live in no matter how imperfect, and reason to help them survive (as a race) the imperfections of this word - do not worship.

Jeremy said...

Your point that god is either not omni-potent or not all good/loving is correct.

Your point that this therefore contradicts christiantity in a traditional and literal interpretation is also correct, in my opinion.

Your point that people read between the lines of books such as the bible and make up stories to explain the existance of a christian god is also correct, in my opinion.

However, despite all this, I think you would do well from allocating effort toward constructive discontent, rather than just aiming discontent at the various religious institutions such as christianity.

IE, becoming a member of not for profit organisations to help attrocities rather than just blaming god for them. For me whether or not god is 'all loving' or actually 'half good and evil' or even 'doesnt exist' wont really effect my life.

My parents were mormans, I dont agree with most parts of that religion for a lot of reasons. I take most of my relgious inspiration from buddism personally. However the mormans have thier moments. For example, the morman disaster recovery program meant that before the Hurricane Katrina even hit the coastline, they had a fleet of trucks on their way to help.

Life for the most part is good, and we can only hope for those it is good, they make it good for others too, as a natural sociological process. This process doesnt necessarily have to involve the belief in an omnipotent creator that is 100% good. It only needs to lead to an appreciation of life and something to inspire people to help other people.

I am, however, curious to continue learning and exploring possibilities about what a creator might be like, while I am enjoying life.

Post a Comment