Tuesday, December 8, 2009

In Defense of the Problem of Evil and Suffering

The fool hath said into his heart "There is no God". The wise said it to the world.

I have been tagged in a note by a friend of mine in Facebook titled The Problem of Pain: Atheism's Most Potent Weapon Against The Christian Faith and the one who tagged me wants to know what my reply is. I really wanted to reply there right away but the space in the comment section is not enough for my reply. Also, I thought that it is much better to reply here so that more people can see the defects of the arguments in the note. The whole content of the note can be seen here.

I will be quoting the some of the important parts of the note and post my reply below the quote. I will also include some points that is not related to PoE. So, here goes nothing!

All through science and history, if rightly understood, support the fact of God. This evidence is so strong that, as the Bible says: "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God" (Psalm 14:1).

Most atheists, therefore, without any objective evidence on which to base their faith in “no God”, must resort finally to philosophical objections. And this problem of suffering is the greatest of these.
Science and history supports the fact of God? This statement is not really supported. This is baseless. Simply saying that "science and history supports the fact of God" does not mean it is true. The author should've backed it up with, er, evidences/proofs from science and history. Also evidences from science (Evolution), history(atrocities/sufferings), geology(date of volcanoes/lava) even shows that there is probably no God.

Now atheists do not really need evidence to show that there is no God. That would be illogical. (I mean, do you need proof that Santa Claus doesn't exist?). It is impossible to prove the negative. The burden of proof lies upon the claimer and transferring the burden of proof would be illogical. Since theists claim that there is a God, then they need to show proofs. If the theists can't show any proofs for their fact of God or that their evidences are logically invalid, then atheism stands. Also, the intelligent theists (these are mostly number 2 in Dawkins' Spectrum of Belief, not the fundamentalists) I know shows that their God is true using philosophy.

That is, they say, how can a God of love permit such things in His world as war, sickness, pain, and death, especially when their effects often are felt most keenly by those who are apparently innocent? Either He is not a God of love and is indifferent to human suffering, or else He is not a God of power and is therefore helpless to do anything about it. In either case, the Biblical God who is supposedly one of both absolute power and perfect love becomes an impossible anachronism. Or so they claim!
Yes, how can there be a loving, powerful, and omniscient God if evil and suffering exist? There are also other much better version of the Problem of Evil than the one above.

Logical Problem of Evil
  1. God exists
  2. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good
  3. A perfectly good being would want to prevent all evils.
  4. An omniscient being knows every way in which evils can come into existence.
  5. An omnipotent being who knows every way in which an evil can come into existence has the power to prevent that evil from coming into existence.
  6. A being who knows every way in which an evil can come into existence, who is able to prevent that evil from coming into existence, and who wants to do so, would prevent the existence of that evil.
  7. If there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good being, then no evil exists.
  8. Evil exists (logical contradiction)
Evidential Problem of Evil (version by William L. Rowe)
  1. There exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
  2. An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
  3. (Therefore) There does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being.
Another version here.

I can think of three possible answers to the problem. 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.

This is a real difficulty, but atheism is certainly not the answer, and neither is agnosticism. While there is much evil in the world, there is even more that is good. This is proved by the mere fact that people normally try to hang on to life as long as they can. Furthermore, everyone instinctively recognizes that “good” is a higher order of truth than “bad”.
If atheism or agnosticism is not the answer then what is the answer? Christianity? The thing is that the problem of evil and suffering really shows that a loving, powerful, and omniscient God (Christian God) doesn't exist. We can see this from the atrocities(wars/terrorism), calamities(floods/hurricanes), biological defects(autism/down syndrome), confusions, (and many more) we, including believers, experience every year.

There is more good than evil? I think not. We could have our own interpretations though of how much evil and good in the world but I have never known any evidence that shows either both is better than the other. The fact that people normally try to hang on to life as long as they can still do not show that there is more good than bad. It is just normal for human to cling to life as long as they can and I cannot see any relationship between them.

We need also to recognize that our very minds were created by God. We can only use these minds to the extent that He allows, and it is, therefore, utterly presumptuous for us to use them to question Him and His motives.

"Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25).

"Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, why hast Thou made me thus?" (Romans 9:20).
Whose God from the thousands created our mind? :D Again, baseless. Ok, so let's assume that God created our minds. But why would God not allow us to use our minds? Why would he not allow us to question him and his motives? Just because it is written in the Bible? Why should one believe in a book full of errors and contradictions? God telling us that we should not question him or motives would show that he is taking away our freedom to think for ourselves.

We ourselves do not establish the standards of what is right. Only the Creator of all reality can do that. We need to settle it, in our minds and hearts, whether we understand it or not, that whatever God does is, by definition, right.
This is the first theodicy, or the attempt to justify evil and suffering. This is called The Standard Response (from William Lane Craig vs Walter Sinnott-Armstrong debate). God's goodness is different from human goodness. He is good by His own standards according to this theodicy. It admits that God could not be good in our own standards. This is not really good for anyone who wants to have a model to guide his life. It is hardly a God worth worshipping, except out of fear. Will he allow or cause more evil? Will this show that He is even better than before? Nobody can tell, if we cannot understand the standards by which God is deemed good.

Also this response justifies atrocities. Imagine a human tyrant who kills or rapes or lets babies die painfully when he could just save them easily. His followers claim that he is still a good
person, because he has a divine right to rule without being subject to common moral standards. Whatever they say, however, we have plenty of reason to believe that this tyrant is not a good person. God is no better if He lets babies die painfully for no adequate reason. (Walter Sinnott-Armstrong).

Theists could argue that God is not subject to our moral standards because God created us so we owe Him everything. But that does not give God the right to abuse or neglect us any more than it gives human parents the right to abuse and neglect their children.

Having settled this by faith, we are then free to seek for ways in which we can profit spiritually from the sufferings in life as well as the blessings. As we consider such matters, it is helpful to keep the following great truths continually in our minds.
But we can seek more profit spiritually and mentally from more effective, efficient, and fair ways like education. Letting babies die, for example, would be very ineffective and unfair because it would just result to more losses (families will be broken for example).


Since "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), there is no one who has the right to freedom from God's wrath on the basis of his own innocence.

As far as babies are concerned, and others who may be incompetent mentally to distinguish right and wrong, it is clear from both Scripture and universal experience that they are sinners by nature and thus will inevitably become sinners by choice as soon as they are able to do so.
In general terms innocence is a term used to indicate a general lackof guilt , with respect to any kind of crime, sin, or wrongdoing. According to the quote above, the basis that there is no such thing as innocent is the scriptures. Babies for example are not innocent based on the verses above. Is that right and fair? (You know the answer) But why should one believe in the scriptures specifically the Bible? Why should we believe in an ancient book that is full of errors and contradictions with unknown authors? Also, not all of us believes in the scriptures (Bible). Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and other religion have their own scriptures. Furthermore, there are innocent babies that were born in places that were not reached by Christian missionaries. It would be unfair for them to be termed as sinful just because missionaries were not able to introduce the scriptures to them.

Also, it is not really fair and just for us to face the consequences of the sins of our ancestors right? (Adan and Eve). Is it just for the authority to let you face the consequences of the sins of your great great great great grandparents? Of course not.

Lastly, basing your morality on the scriptures is not really a good thing. It is because it is very limited and it is not flexible. It is much way better to base morality in the commonality of human nature and that knowledge of right and wrong should be based on our best understanding of our individual and joint interests rather than in some scriptures written long ago.

The Lord Jesus Christ, who was the only truly “innocent” and “righteous” man in all history, nevertheless has suffered more than anyone else who ever lived.

And this He did for us! “Christ died for our sins” (I Corinthians 15:3). He suffered and died, in order that ultimately He might deliver the world from the Curse, and that, even now, He can deliver from sin and its bondage anyone who will receive Him in faith as personal Lord and Savior. This great deliverance from the penalty of inherent sin, as well as of overt sins, very possibly also assures the salvation of those who have died before reaching an age of conscious choice of wrong over right.
One, Jesus never died for us (according to your beliefs). He was resurrected after two point something days (almost three days). So he was never dead. Secondly, he never suffered. What is three days of pain for an omnipotent being? He even predicted it (because of his omniscience). He knew that someone will betray him.

Now our parents have sacrificed a lot their resources, time, and energy for us to have education and good life. And so are the Army. They sacrificed their time, energy, resources for us to be secured. But how come we do not have statues of them? We even disobey our parents sometimes. (More of JC's so called "sacrifice" here)

These are just some of the points being attacked at the problem of evil and atheism. I also included to answer some of Christian gibberish and straw man. All in all, the theodicies that is presented in the said essay still do not justify evil and suffering as shown above. Here is also some answers to some common theodicies.


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