Believer wonders why God’s letting the world go to hell

I’ve always maintained that the Achilles Heel of any Abrahamic religion is the existence of bad things happening in the world that shouldn’t be happening were a loving and omnipotent god in charge. I refer here not to “moral evils,” in which people do bad stuff—religious people can always fob that off as collateral damage from God’s Great Gift of free will to humans—but to things like cancers in kids, earthquakes and tsunamis, animal suffering, and so on. There is no clear reason why these would happen on a good God’s watch (yes, I know some theologians have confected unconvincing explanations), so religious people have to do a fast shuffle to comport these with their notion of a deity. This week in PuffHo, though, we see a minister realizing that this doesn’t really make sense (click on screenshot below to go to the article).

 


The author is Susan K. Smith. a reverend who, for the emolument of zero dollars, gets to put her lucubrations on the PuffHo site (I think they’re getting more and more desperate, judging from the paucity of updates on the back pages). Smith surely has the cred to claim she’s a believer; as her author’s page notes:

I am a writer/author, a former pastor, musician and social activist, and am also the founder and executive director of Crazy Faith Ministries, a non-profit which is dedicated to teaching the concept of faith as a spiritual force (not religious, necessarily) in order to do social justice work and to fight against forces that seek to keep people stymied. I am a graduate of Occidental College and Yale Divinity School, and earned a D.Min from United Theological Seminary, studying under the late Rev. Dr. Samuel DeWitt Proctor and the Rev. Charles Booth. My latest book is “The Book of Jeremiah: The Life and Ministry of Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.,” and I am currently working on a book about the life of Rev. C.T. Vivian, who was a major voice and participant in the Civil Rights Movement.

I’ll be brief here: Dr. Smith is perplexed because God, even though partnering with humans to make the world better, has recently allowed a lot of bad stuff to happen. I quote:

I grew up believing that God wanted order and peace. Even though bad things were going on in the world, I was assured by Sunday School teachers, my parents and relatives, that God didn’t make bad things happen. That was comforting.

But I struggle, still, with a God that allows bad things to happen, who allows peace to be supplanted by utter confusion.

The whole world, it seems, is upside down, swimming in chaos, much of which has been and continues to be caused by this president and by a slew of accusations of sexual impropriety by rich and powerful men.

The relationship of this country with its allies is certainly shaky; it feels like America is becoming more and more estranged from her allies and that she is losing her moral authority and respect. The call of British lawmakers this week for the invitation to this president for a state visit to England to be rescinded because he retweeted fascist, racist images of Muslims. While foreign lawmakers come down on America’s leader, however, the US Congress is strangely silent and pliant.

It goes on and on; she gripes about what the Republicans are doing, about “America’s sexist and patriarchal system”, about Kim Jong-un and his missiles, about Trump, and about Flynn’s guilty plea (but that’s good!). At the end, even though claiming that we’re supposed to help God improve humanity, she’s deeply puzzled about why God’s letting us go to hell in a handbasket:

But God allowed it to happen. God did not cause it to happen, but God allowed it to happen, just as God allowed and always allows the worst storms to impact the people who can least withstand their winds and rain.

Some of us are taught [JAC: the implication here is that “what we are taught” equals “truth”] that we, the children of God, are co-creators with God, meaning God needs us to help God keep the world in order. That is why the work of organizers and activists is so important, because they keep the thumb of righteousness and fairness on the chest of injustice which fights to have its way.

But we, the co-creators, seem remarkably impotent to stop or even slow down the descent into chaos we are experiencing now. This is a scary time, and God, who I was taught could do everything and anything, seems not to be interested in changing the course that we are on.

It remains to be seen how all that is going on will shake out, but it feels like God is allowing chaos to triumph over community, and that is very, very troubling.

The answer is simple, and was voiced most eloquently by the Alabama philosopher Delos McKown (I love this quote):

“The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.”

And of course the invisible and impotent is less parsimonious than the non-existent. I left a comment on Smith’s post—the only one there.

Or—and I just thought of this—here’s another reply: “Why not just cut out the middleman and assume there is no God?”

I’m sure Dr. Smith would welcome more comments to help her with her dilemma. If you want to help, just click on the balloon button at the bottom of the post (you can click on the screenshot below to go to the post). Maybe only a small nudge will take her over the border into nonbelief. . .

83 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted December 3, 2017 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    The puzzle to me is why humans invent this bullshit and so many believe it. I’m reading God’s Brain in hopes of finding a clue. I don’t have high hopes of an answer, though. But maybe…

    • Greg Geisler
      Posted December 3, 2017 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      It is baffling. Daniel Dennett examines the phenomena in his great book Breaking The Spell. Agency-detection seems to make the most sense—if one is deeply ignorant of the natural world then the best explanations are those that assign agency to some mysterious forces.

      I’ve often suggested to believers that if they could take a time machine back two thousand years (or even two hundred) and witness the profound ignorance of human beings that they would likely be ashamed to return to the 21st Century.

      • GBJames
        Posted December 3, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

        Breaking The Spell is indeed a good book. And agency-detection certainly plays a part. But it as an explanation since surely other potential prey animals would likely have this kind of mechanism in place as well. Tiger and McGuire pitch the idea of brain soothing, something they say religion offers to the stressed-out mind. I’m not yet convinced, but I’m only part way through the book and shouldn’t prejudge.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted December 3, 2017 at 11:09 am | Permalink

        Agency detection is argued even more vigorously in Stewart Guthrie’s “Faces in the Clouds”.

  2. lkr
    Posted December 3, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Rev. Smith seems not to be the kind of Christian who wallows in the OT. If she did, she’d see the Y*** LOVES chaos. So substitute Trump or Kim for “And the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart…” and you would have a current update of who god wants…

    • Posted December 3, 2017 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      Perhaps Rev. Smith should switch to worship of Ekajati, the wrathful goddess of Tantric Buddhism who makes all of your troubles ten thousand times worse. That’s a bit more consistent with reality, at least.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 3, 2017 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

        Ekajati sounds like a friend of Sithrak, the Blind Gibberer, who hates everyone equally and unconditionally.

        • busterggi
          Posted December 3, 2017 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

          That’s fair,

  3. bakagooner
    Posted December 3, 2017 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    I cannot find your comment on the page .Did they delete it ? The cowards

    • GBJames
      Posted December 3, 2017 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      I’m not seeing any comments at all.

      • Laurance
        Posted December 3, 2017 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        I found the comments by clicking on the grey balloon at the bottom, and I added a comment. But I didn’t see Jerry’s either.

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted December 3, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

          When I click the grey balloon which would normally be the comments link, a box for “conversations” opens, but there’s nothing in it.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 3, 2017 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

        Do you (or others) see any comments on any part of HuffPo’s website?
        I frequently have to punch holes in my firewall and/or other internet security to get to see comments, and with the reconstruction of the underlying scripting model in Firefox last week, I wouldn’t be surprised to see advertisers struggling to try to get their user-tracking working again. A click-dependent site like HuffPo is probably going though a world of re-programming at the moment.

    • cyan
      Posted December 3, 2017 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

      I see four comments, but not JC’s.

  4. AC Harper
    Posted December 3, 2017 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    She feels aggrieved by Trump? Compared with the Black Death or Spanish Flu or Ebola, Trump is merely a local irritation.

    Little mention of tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, only storms that affect poor people.

    No mention of the billions of people who support other faiths.

    Perhaps her god is miffed over American exceptionalism?

    • BJ
      Posted December 3, 2017 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      Exactly what I was about to post! Oh, things are so much worse now than during WWI or WWII, or the medieval ages, or…

      To think that somehow this is the moment where god seems to have abandoned humanity most is so absurdly self-centered and ignorant that the thought could only come from someone like this author.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted December 3, 2017 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      So no one can complain about Trump because it was worse during the Black Death? Give me a break.

      Besides, given that Trump’s Evangelical base sincerely believes he was put in place to do God’s work, it’s a valid question for a believer. However, you’d think the series of natural disasters hitting the US might give them pause about what God thinks of Trump. :-/

      • BJ
        Posted December 3, 2017 at 11:53 am | Permalink

        I can’t speak for AC Harper, but I think his/her point was the same as mine in my response post: she may feel aggrieved by Trump, but to think that somehow Trump and the other circumstances of today’s world are what should prompt a questioning of god’s existence is absurd, self-centered, and shortsighted, considering the far more terrifying and deadly past.

      • Posted December 3, 2017 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

        God has chronically selected some pretty crummy kings or other heads of state. Abraham, Moses, Solomon, David, Netanyahu, Trump, et al. None perfect. Our presidents have not been without flaws. All had them.

        I find it hard to believe in the omnipotence and benevolence of God given the lack of perfection so readily apparent in his creations that purportedly were made in his image. Those of us who are doing terrible things are following in the footsteps (oops! No feet!) of our “maker”.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted December 4, 2017 at 9:43 am | Permalink

          If there is a God, he hasn’t changed from his OT persona, despite Christian thought. The Jews are right about Jesus, even if Jesus was real.

          • Posted December 4, 2017 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

            Agreed. If Jesus existed he was a Jewish man living a Jewish life. The Jewish church led by James, brother of Jesus, was based on Jesus’ teachings and was strictly for Jews. If you wanted to join, you converted, including circumcision for males and dietary laws forall(probably holidays, too). The changeover to son of God and God came about later through Paul and the gentiles and those who came after them.

            The picking and choosing from OT and NT is
            mind-boggling. Even Jefferson did it, but in a very academic way. He revised the NT in accordance with what he read in four versions of the NT in different languages, and then left out the stuff he didn’t believe in, like the miracles. He thought Jesus was a great philosopher. Read the Jefferson Bible.

            • busterggi
              Posted December 4, 2017 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

              Not as mind-boggling as the picking and choosing from apocrypha and pagan religions – most of modern Christianity is nothing like the versions followed even two centuries ago.

  5. DrBrydon
    Posted December 3, 2017 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    The whole idea of salvation never made any sense. God creates us. Then he sets up a test for us. If we pass, he’ll keep us. Sounds like measure once, cut twice.

  6. Posted December 3, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    It seems remarkably blinkered that ones’ faith can be shaken by the relatively mild instability of current times. There were far, far worse problems just a few decades ago. Her god is nearly as impotent as this the reverend is short-sighted.

    • Posted December 3, 2017 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      “Her god is nearly as impotent as this the reverend is short-sighted.”

      Good point.

      • Posted December 3, 2017 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        Gawd’s powers are limited only by the human imagination, I always say.

        • DrBrydon
          Posted December 3, 2017 at 10:45 am | Permalink

          +1

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted December 3, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink

          There’s a meme out there I like; with whatever amusing picture it has the words “You say your god can do anything? Have him say hello.”

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted December 3, 2017 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

            I like that muchly

          • Filippo
            Posted December 4, 2017 at 6:08 am | Permalink

            As Steve Allen was wont to say, “He knows where I live.”

  7. JohnE
    Posted December 3, 2017 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    The conundrum presented by the “problem of evil” is exacerbated when you factor in the assertion by christians that god’s love for us is infinite — greater than any human love we can imagine. Funny, but I can’t imagine that my woefully inferior human love would ever permit children to die of cancer, women to be raped and murdered, or any of a thousand other horrors that occur every single day. Of course the christian answer would invariably be that I just don’t understand god’s ways, oblivious to the irony that they have no problem whatsoever claiming to “understand” all of the good things they attribute to their deity. How is it that the good things are so easily understandable, and the bad things are not? Sounds suspiciously like a form of special pleading to me.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted December 3, 2017 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      Another meme I’ve seen (sorry to quote so many, but they seem to be our time’s preferred method of conveying pithy bits of wisdom): “Think about all the things you would do if you were god–feeding the hungry, healing the sick, stopping wars. Now consider the fact that you worship a god who doesn’t do any of this.”

      Of course, the argument has been around since Epicurus:

      “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
      Then he is not omnipotent.
      Is he able, but not willing?
      Then he is malevolent.
      Is he both able and willing?
      Then whence cometh evil?
      Is he neither able nor willing?
      Then why call him God?”

      • Posted December 3, 2017 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

        I have to admit I’m a fan of witty one-liners: “All-powerful, all-knowing, all-good: Choose two.”

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted December 4, 2017 at 12:36 am | Permalink

          OK, that’s a keeper!

      • Posted December 4, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        I think it is far worse than that (credit to Michael Scriven) – lots of stuff happens that a *six year old* would prevent if he knew.

    • Vaal
      Posted December 3, 2017 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      Funny, but I can’t imagine that my woefully inferior human love would ever permit children to die of cancer, women to be raped and murdered, or any of a thousand other horrors that occur every single day.

      Yes, I bring this up often to Christians.

      One of my favorite ways to discuss this problem with Christians is to simply put them in God’s shoes. “Ok, you’ve created humans, now, would your next decisions be to create cancer, rabies, plague etc? Do you do it? Yay or nay?”

      It’s similar when saying “Ok, let’s say YOU are now in charge of deciding my eternal fate as an atheist. And lets say I still just can’t believe in God, nor do my children. And we die in a car crash. Will you send my children and me to an existence of eternal suffering? If so, why? If not, why?”

      Obviously doing those things are something no good person would feel right doing.

      So the cognitive dissonance just emits in waves from the Christian who typically squirms every which way out of answering.

      Those who do answer usually admit they wouldn’t cause diseases or send my to hell. But then of course follow with “But I’m not God!”

      Which of course is the point. Ironically, the way the world looks when this mere mortal is making the decisions is one VASTLY better than the one that resulted in their God’s decisions!

  8. Historian
    Posted December 3, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Smith seems surprised that God is allowing chaos as if this is something new, particularly since she notes that people felt the same way with the rise of Nazi Germany. There are many examples from history when God seemingly allowed chaos to happen. Smith finds this development troubling. Why doesn’t God step in to end the troubles? She can’t take the obvious step to realize why this never happened in the past and will never happen in the future. My guess is she will find something to redeem her faith. She wants reassurance that something she has believed in her whole life is nothing more than a delusion. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see atheism in her future.

  9. Posted December 3, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    A new paradigm for theology. There is a Trump ERGO there is no God.

  10. Posted December 3, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Because the Abrahamic god is “all-powerful” and the creator of everything, they invented Satan to take the blame for all of the bad stuff that happens, so their god gets no blame. They even named Satan as “God’s adversary.” But if their god created Satan with a thought, he could uncreated him with another. That “He” does not do this is an indicator that Satan has way too much value to the religion as a blame taker to dispose of him.

    Satan is a Trumpesque distraction from reality, designed to keep people from seeing things as they really are: while watching the magician’s gesturing hand, the other is picking our pocket.

    Our religious dictates were designed to keep people religious and under the control of religious elites, and secular elites also, behaving obediently to the desires of the elites: go to work, do your job, and shut your mouth. If you do this, then those who were your enemies will be punished when they die and you will be rewarded when you die … but while you are alive all you have to do is shut up and do as you are told.

  11. Posted December 3, 2017 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    I’ve never followed the argument that the Abrahamic god doesn’t create evil but merely allows it. When questioned, “sophisticated” theologians claim that their god is the very fabric of reality, essential to manifesting everything. If that’s the case, that being is responsible for everything, including evil.

    Even the Christian scripture bears this out:
    Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted December 3, 2017 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      It’s always fun to quote this, then watch them dance around, “interpreting” the verse, or translating it differently.

      Walter Kaufmann: Where the heretic would say No, the theologian interprets. (The Faith of a Heretic, section 28)

      • Posted December 4, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        There are fundamentalist translations of the bible that *remove the verse*, as I found out when I “crashed” a Christian fellowship meeting at CEGEP once long ago. I ordinarily wouldn’t do this sort of thing, but a procreationist poster had been put up in the physics department, so …

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted December 4, 2017 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

          I’ve seen it “translated it away” (usually by putting “disaster” for “evil”), but never excised.

  12. Posted December 3, 2017 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    All three main attributes of God, perfect benevolence, omnipotence and omniscience create irreconcilable problems.

    I find all-knowing the weakest one. God revealed himself in a deliberate half-arsed fashion so that only few, through local authority, have reasons to follow him.

    God knew in advance that his timing and location, and revealing himself to illiterates would sow discord, confusion and death for centuries to come. We have a God who saw no better way to preserve his perfect Good News than committing it to memory of a community of sheep herders.

    In addition he knew, in advance, that a myriad of similar faiths to His true one would spring up, and he knew that his correct version would eventually appear indistinguishable from the false ones.

    He also knew that some people, if by happenstance born into the right tradition, just have to follow their elders. Some kids are literally carried into the “correct” Church. Others not only have to free themselves from the “false” religion of their upbringing, and will mostly have to be adults until equipped for the task (many years in which bad things can happen to them) — they also have to do the impossible: somehow being able to tell from the outside which of the thousand upon thousans of faiths is the “correct” one.

    Such a design is such deeply unfair, and preposterous that it casts doubt on the conception of God, and at once calls into question all of religious activity.

    After all, if God really was benevolent and all-knowing and all-powerful, he created affairs where it cannot matter which religion one follows (or not follows).

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted December 3, 2017 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      +1

      Although clearly you’d make a crappy calvinist. Hardcore calvinists teach that god causes elect children to be born into families that will raise them to be christian, and not so for reprobate children. Biblical warrant for this most loathsome (and self-serving) of doctrines is found in the ninth chapter of the book of Romans, especially verses 6-26.

    • Vaal
      Posted December 3, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      Yes, noticing the the deeply irrational and unfair nature of revelation is something that *should* be an obvious clue to a believer, much in the same way the Unfairness Of Santa becomes a clue to a child growing out of that myth.

      I couldn’t help but notice when growing out of Santa Belief facts like these:

      1. Santa only seems to deliver presents to some portion of kids on earth; yet for some reason he skips many in different cultures.
      Why? How is that fair?

      2. Santa seems to give the most extravagant presents to the very kids who are least needy! Why do the kids in the rich area of town get showered with expensive presents, and the kids most needy in the poor areas, Santa gives the cheapest presents? In fact, Santa’s neglect of poor kids is so bad he leaves it up to Good People to create toy drives so poorer kids can have a present for Christmas.

      How does this possibly make sense if Santa is both good and magic. If Santa is magic, Santa could give toys to every kid. If Santa is Good, he would care about every kid and distribute toys fairly.

      Just like the way Yahweh gives some select few Christians who may have gotten the right theology a leg up, and just seems to ignore everyone else.

      Pretty much all the moves parents have to make in explaining the lack of evidence for Santa, and Santa’s strange behavior, are the same ones used for the Christian God:

      Santa only comes if you believe (faith) – people in those other countries don’t believe in Santa, so Santa says “have it your way.”

      If Santa gave toys to everyone, it would take away the opportunity for us to do good things on Christmas, like toy drives for the underprivileged. We can’t expect Santa to just fix the world and DO EVERYTHING do we?

      I know it may seem hard with all the Santas you see in the world, from malls to TV commercials, to figure out who believes in the real Santa. But we have a book that tells us about the Real Santa: The Night Before Christmas.

      And once a kid starts noticing the presents are really coming from the parents, Sophisticated Liberal Santaology arrives to save the day: When we ask Santa for gifts, we aren’t really demanding Santa give us a gift. That would just make Santa a Magic Vending Machine. Rather, writing Santa letters is just our way of communing with Santa; we are richer for doing these things ourselves, putting our minds to buying for others, than if Santa merely distributed presents at people’s request!

      And on and on….

      • Posted December 3, 2017 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

        Santaology sounds like Scientology

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 3, 2017 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      All three main attributes of God, perfect benevolence, omnipotence and omniscience create irreconcilable problems.

      For me, the most dubious of the triumvirate is “perfect benevolence”. If you accept that a “God” exists, then the most parsimonious next step of belief is that either your “God” is inconsistently benevolent or inconsistently malevolent, or switches between the two without an obvious pattern. Given that state, then questions of the level of omni- (-science or -potence) are already covered.
      Of course, that’s a very kind interpretation of a “God” – with inconsistency as it’s worst character flaw.

      • Kirbmarc
        Posted December 4, 2017 at 8:42 am | Permalink

        Greek or Nordic Gods, with all their character flaws (incest, serial adultery, pettiness, anger, envy, and so on) are far less vulnerable to the Problem of Evil than the Abrahamitic God.

        • BJ
          Posted December 4, 2017 at 10:22 am | Permalink

          Is there a single polytheistic religion that follows the pattern of the major monotheistic religions, with all of their gods being benevolent? I don’t know of any.

          So many of the polytheistic religions are at least entertaining. The gods of the religions you mention fight, fuck, and have family fireworks, funneling firewater and favoring fun and fracases.

  13. Curt Nelson
    Posted December 3, 2017 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    If it is so important that we believe in and worship God and he is so powerful, why doesn’t he just make himself obvious to everyone so we can be sure that such a being is real? His evident absence makes His story very hard to buy.

  14. claudia baker
    Posted December 3, 2017 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    It boggles the mind that people actually study and get doctorates in this crap.

    • Timothy Travis
      Posted December 3, 2017 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

      An enlightening exercise: go on the website of any university divinity school and look at their course offerings.
      U would think that good schools would be shamed by association with such.

  15. Posted December 3, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    It’s unfortunate for her that she’s being criticized by an atheist, since she can be summarily dismissed* by Christians with a reference to 1 Timothy 2:11-12:

    11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

    She may be getting it from both sides.

    * – Coincidentally, Google’s definition of summarily gives “she was summarily dismissed” as an example. 😉

  16. Michael Fisher
    Posted December 3, 2017 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    All I see is an opportunist who agitates/exaggerates in the hopes of gaining relevance [her HuffPo predicting Civil War II if Trump were elected] – it makes up for a lack of analytical ability & not having anything interesting or useful to say. She flourishes her “Rev. Dr.” handle at every opportunity despite being an ex-pastor. It speaks of someone with no substance who needs to big up her own self.

    Here she is doing a talk on how the Bible & the Constitution have been failing the American peoples. She uses all the pastor tricks to draw in the audience – like asking a question with a yes/no answer & raising her own hand as a “yes”. Tiresome drivel. [cued up to where it begins to get slightly interesting]: https://youtu.be/Y133ehptRoM?t=13m43s

    • claudia baker
      Posted December 3, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      “big up her own self”

      I’m so stealing that.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted December 3, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        LOL – it has a ring to it 🙂

  17. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 3, 2017 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Since the Bible is by multiple authors, it does not have a single unified point of view on many things, and at least some modern Jewish theologians have suggested God is not omnipotent (Abraham Joshua Heschel).

    The Bible seems to hints that creation has a certain level of autonomy, and has been thrown out of balance and/or whack by being mucked with. Why would a believer be surprised, with a Bible with a fair amount of apocalyptic literature?

    Decent Christian theologians not only avoid theodicy but advise avoiding it, saying you will only exacerbate people’s pain by doing it. Terence Tilley’s “The Evils of Theodicy” remains a favorite of mine.

  18. Posted December 3, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Religion satisfies many needs of man:

    to explain why things happen
    to know what’s good and what’s bad
    it gives the opportunity to exercise power over others, to punish others if they do not abide by the rules that are considered set by God
    to take the fear of death
    the desire to uphold the belief in justice, at the latest in the hereafter, everyone receives his just punishment or the reward for his earthly deeds.
    It creates a hierarchy: good believers vs sinful believers

    Then there is this advantage too:
    When people see that their fellow human beings are worse off than they are, it can be perceived as stress. But if everything that happens is God’s will, that’s fine. God has blessed me to be in better positions than others, he wants it that way and so you are allowed to feel good with this inequality.

  19. YF
    Posted December 3, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Recommended:

    The Psychological Roots of Religious Belief: Searching for Angels and the Parent-God

    Hardcover – November 1, 2004
    by Faber M.D., PhD (Author)

  20. Posted December 3, 2017 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Her little world is falling apart while the god of the USA is out of town and busy in Zimbabwe:
    https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/africa/2017-12-02-how-priest-helped-convince-mugabe-his-time-was-up/
    as we saw he took a lot of convincing. Does she also think the Trump god is going to listen to her god… right, Trump just fired HIM and is hiring another HIM, one that will listen to HIM ONLY.
    Now i wonder, has she ever hesrd of the Higgs Boson…

    • Posted December 3, 2017 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

      The Higgs boson is irrelevant. And physicists hate it being called the “g*d particle”.

      • Posted December 5, 2017 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        Maybe… it was a joke of sorts, but if I’m to give credence to what I have read on the Higgs Boson it is one of the fundamental reason why it is we can exist… you could say the same for our very ordinary star if you seek and need a god.

  21. mirandaga
    Posted December 3, 2017 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    “Have you considered the possibility that there might not BE a God?”

    Or she could just consider the possibility that God might be a Republican. That would explain a lot.

    • AC Harper
      Posted December 3, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

      Or perhaps God expected Hillary Clinton to win, so not omni benevolent nor all knowing.

  22. grasshopper
    Posted December 3, 2017 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Why not just cut out the middleman and assume there is no God?

    The concept of the luminiferous ether fell by the wayside after Einstein’s theories gained traction. In classical physics, the ether was required as the stuff through which electromagnetic waves “waved”. Einstein did not prove that the ether did not exist, but he concluded that it had no role in his explanations of time and space. Neither God nor the luminiferous ether are not necessary to explain how the universe is.

    • grasshopper
      Posted December 3, 2017 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      Edit :: Neither God nor the luminiferous ether are necessary to explain how the universe is.

    • Posted December 3, 2017 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

      That’s a very good analogy! I’m stealing that.

  23. Posted December 3, 2017 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to point out that the Problem of Evil is just as much a problem when it comes to “moral evil” as natural evil. Moral evil still remains a problem for the theist even taking into account the free will defence, because it does not address the problem of the suffering of the victims of those who use their free will to perpetrate evil acts. An analogy: imagine a school where the Head Teacher says, “I want you all to express yourselves and make your own choices in my school”; and then comes across a boy bullying another child in the playground. Should that Head walk on by, saying “I can’t interfere because it would take away the bully’s free will”? I don’t think so. Why is the bully’s free will more important than the victim’s? (I assume the victim would not choose to be bullied!) A Head Teacher who acted in this way would not be a good Head Teacher. They would be a bad Head Teacher.

    • Posted December 4, 2017 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      That, plus a person can freely and consistently refrain from doing vicious things. Given the deity’s alleged omniscience, it could just look into the future and see who would bully others – then not create those bullies, and create better people instead.

  24. Posted December 3, 2017 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    I have considered the possibility that a god exists, but that it is NOT benevolent. That would explain much. A greedy, jealous, narcissistic, untruthful god who delights in violence and in the suffering of others as long as IT gets what IT wants. I’m still an atheist, but if there is a god, it’s going to be that kind of god.

    • Wotan Nichols
      Posted December 4, 2017 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      This was one of the weaselly suggestions given by Michael Behe in Darwin’s Black Box: maybe the postulated Intelligent Designer isn’t nice like the god I believe in. Won’t I be just as surprised as all you atheists, if that turns out to be the case!

      • Posted December 4, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        It comes down to Occam’s Razor. Everything is more easily explainable without a god. But IF there is one, the only kind that fits the evidence are (1) deistic creator who has since moved on, or (2) a malevolent force.

        • mirandaga
          Posted December 5, 2017 at 1:25 am | Permalink

          “It comes down to Occam’s Razor.”

          The point of Occam’s Razor (“Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem” ) is that you shouldn’t bring any more things into an explanation than are necessary to account for the phenomena. If the phenomena you’re trying account for are matter and its motion and behavior through space and time—in short, physics—then you have no business bringing anything spiritual into your explanation. But, as Occam was well aware, that doesn’t per se establish that the spiritual doesn’t exist.

          • Posted December 5, 2017 at 10:11 am | Permalink

            Exactly, mirandaga. The practical application of the razor is to ignore overly complex explanations if there’s a simpler explanation that fits all evidence. Bringing God into the explanation of the Universe is more complex than necessary — now that we know about gravity, nuclear forces, etc. So until evidence of the divine shows up, it makes zero sense to posit one.

  25. friendlypig
    Posted December 4, 2017 at 1:31 am | Permalink

    I haven’t read all the posts so this may have already been posted. If the stuff that is claimed to be supernatural actually existed it would be natural, and bound by the laws of physics. You can’t have it both ways.

  26. Posted December 4, 2017 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    Nope, Jerry’s comment, not there. Only 5 comments so far.
    I took a screen cap of my comments.

  27. Mike
    Posted December 4, 2017 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    ” but it feels like God is allowing chaos to triumph over community, and that is very, very troubling.”They will not grasp the nettle ,whilst everything is collapsing around them,they will not accept the fact it has nothing to do with their God,as like other Gods he does not exist

  28. Posted December 4, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    >religious people can always fob that off as collateral damage from God’s Great Gift of free will to humans

    God is even responsible for what humans do with their free will. For instance, I have free will to kill, but not only with my thoughts. I also can’t fly. That’s because God set my power. But we still say I have free will.

    God could have allowed humans to have free will without the ability to harm others. It would be just as ‘free’ as the free will we have now that doesn’t include the power to fly.

    I often skip this angle because natural evil is an easier target. But there’s no need to cede moral evil to the believers. God’s on the hook for it, too.,

    • Vaal
      Posted December 4, 2017 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      Yep, there’s all sorts of ways that even the Free Will defense doesn’t cut it.

      If the Roman Catholics said “We didn’t do anything about the child abusers in our ranks because that would have been interfering in their free willed choice to abuse” no one, including Christians, would think that a sound, moral defense. In fact, it’s the mark of a good person, the hero, to save a victim from the clutches of someone doing evil.

      So it’s special pleading to turn this normal logic on it’s head for God. If God values the free will of the person doing evil over the suffering of the victim, God is not “good” in the sense we normally use that term.

      Also, as you mention, God has already limited our powers in a great many ways, so limiting it further to limit the harm we could do wouldn’t take away free will.

      Even if the Christian responds that if no one could harm someone else, the type of free will we would have wouldn’t be “morally relevant” they just induce another problem.
      Does God have morally relevant free will? Did Jesus have morally relevant free will? Because God doesn’t sin. And in the form of a human, Jesus never sinned. He only chose “good.”

      The Christian has already accepted in her theology that free will can coexist with a being whose character is such as to never choose to do evil. And since God can create any logically possible being, it follows God could have created beings who have free will but who by nature choose The Good. Making all the horror done by the type of beings God chose to create – humans – gratuitous.

      Of course, if the Christian wants to bite the bullet and say God doesn’t have free will (some actually will say this), then this undermines the idea that free will is of such value to begin with. If the very paragon of value, God Himself, is a being without free will, and especially if (as many Christian theologians tell us) God’s character is the standard of good, then free will can’t be some great value upon which people’s well-being has been sacrificed. We would be more “good” or “god-like” insofar as we DIDN’T have free will!

    • busterggi
      Posted December 4, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      The god of cartoons is so much more loving than the god of reality because cartoon characters get blown up, crushed, shot, etc and just get up for more while we die.

  29. KD
    Posted December 4, 2017 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    I think the argument is that how can God be all-powerful and all-good, given the state of world.

    This begs the question of what the good is, because you have to assume that the world is bad. Further, you have to wonder where this concept of the good comes from. I presume Sunday school, after-school specials and Disney movies, yes? Mostly mass entertainment schlock.

    Perhaps the world is good, which would imply that even life or death struggle, disease, sickness, war, and suffering must be good. Could it be that things really go to hell if there isn’t a healthy amount of existential competition?

    In terms of the good, might is right gives us a “good” first approximation. The theological consequences are obvious.


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