People tell themselves that God exists and no matter how much suffering we do and much evil we do he lets it all happen for he will bring good out of it. Behind that is the arrogant and cruel assumption: the evil is only for a little while and I will see the good fruits God has grown from it. That is not true which is why it is irresponsible. Nobody feels the same about it if they remember that if God has a plan the plan may not be able to be about them and it could be centuries in Heaven before they reap anything.
DOCTRINE THAT GOD NEVER DIRECTLY HURTS IS NONSENSE
In Catholic doctrine, as God makes all things and holds them in being there is no such thing as anything being at a distance from him. Though God can cure a heart attack (primary cause) he may use doctors (secondary cause) instead. These are described as primary and secondary causes. They are not direct and indirect causes. They are simply two different ways in which he acts as direct cause.
“The truth that God is at work in all the actions of his creatures is inseparable from faith in God the Creator. God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 308).
The Bible frequently ascribes “actions to God without mentioning any secondary causes. This is not a ‘primitive mode of speech,’ but a profound way of recalling God’s primacy and absolute Lordship over history and the world” (CCC 304).
The comfort many get from thinking God never directly hurts them or that he attaches the punishment to the sin instead of just punishing is a mistake.
MEANS AND ENDS
If God allows suffering for a reason, it follows that he is using us as means to do his will. He is using us like tools not people. The Church says he does it for our greater good. But that does not mean he really respects us. Manipulating others for their own good is degrading them for their own good. It is still disrespect. So we are not entitled to go as far as to say God loves us because he has our greater good in sight. We are only entitled to say he uses us as objects for our good.
The argument then that God has to let us suffer for he loves us is ridiculous. It goes too far. To call it love when it is not love is insulting and unfair.
It honours God better to say he lets suffering happen because we deserve it. So that explanation has to be the one we must prefer.
What if you want to honour God?
Imagine God uses your suffering to do good. If you think God isn’t love but just okay and then is it so bad to think he only lets suffering happen to those who deserve it because they deserve?
If you think God is love then is it so bad to think he only lets suffering happen to those who deserve it because they deserve it?
Either way you are trying to honour God. Better to be accused of giving people what they deserve than of hurting them to do a greater good that may not even benefit them! And their being benefited does not make it right or wrong.
A loving God cannot treat a good person and bad one alike so he is the version of God that needs you most to say people suffer because they deserve it. Is it better to say that if a suffering person seems good that because you cannot see the heart that they may have sins they are being punished for? Or is it better to say that God lets them suffer for a purpose and it is a mystery? In other words, you have two mysteries. Which one is the best? Which one is the most respectful to God? Even if the loving of God and man go together God still comes first for he alone is perfect good and also because there would be no man without God. There is something wrong with suggesting a person is doing evil for a good purpose. It may be true but if it is wrong then it insults the person. So it is better to risk insulting man than God. The mystery you must choose is the one that suggests the victim of misfortune has deserved it.
If we love God most we must love people less than him. If we love him alone and use people and be kind to them to please him we love him not them. So if that is the morally right motive then we have to hurt people to love him we should. We should be hypothetically speaking willing to torture our neighbour if God asked for that. So we should think our suffering happens because it is our due punishment. Why? Because holding that God torments innocent you to make you a better person is terrible and God punishing you in order to make you a better person is better. At least you deserve it then. At least you are being treated like an adult though it is far from pleasant.
Jesus taught that when some evil people suffer it does not mean that those who are spared don’t deserve it for they do deserve it (Luke 13:1-5).
If God lets suffering happen for a good reason then I suffer and die as a means and not as an end. If I abandon belief in God, I will find that I am left with the degraded understanding of human beings that it gave me. That will linger. Those who condition me to believe in God need to take responsibility for the permanent damage done to me. Poison can linger after the cause is removed.
If there is no God then I suffer and I die and others suffer and others die and I do not wish or need to justify it. It is such a terrible thing that I should not need to even think about justifying it. This principle overrides any argument that allegedly or possibly solves the contradiction between a good God letting evil things happen. The person whose outlook is, “I will not make myself feel better about their suffering by trying to justify it or saying it should happen. Instead I will take the pain of knowing that it is down to indifferent blind nature. I will help them” is vastly superior to any believer in God.
DOES FREE WILL EXCUSE GOD PERMITTING EVIL?
We have very little free will – if any! Suppose we have free will. We don’t have enough to justify the likes of Hitler being allowed to implement mass genocide. We won’t get the chance to do what he did so why should he have had it?
People say you can have free will to will any evil whatsoever even if you don’t have the power to carry out your evil will. For example, a person who cannot move at all can still have free will to destroy all the Jews but it will only be a special state. It will still be using free will. Is this correct? No. Willing the destruction of Jews when you can’t do it, is different from willing it when you can. There is the possibility that you don’t mean it. Only actions reveal your true will.
Do we have free will? The question should start with: “If a mobster is going to shoot my wife unless I get 100,000 dollars and I rob a bank to get it, did I freely commit this crime?” Nearly most if not all the bad things we do, the important bad things, are things we feel are hobson’s choices or near it. What use is God giving us free will when there is so much force involved? And you may have external matters forcing you but what if your genes and fears and emotions are forcing you too? They won’t feel as bad but they will be every bit as powerful at times as a threat from a gunman.
It appears that it doesn’t matter if you believe in free will as long as you believe in encouraging and influencing people to behave decently. But if the doctrine is not true then you are accusing people of deliberately doing evil when they are programmed to only feel and imagine that they have deliberately done it.
There is no proof for free will. When you have insanity you don’t know if your sane actions were free or not. We think we experience ourselves as free but that proves nothing.
It might be answered that you are free but misinformed by your illness when you do evil as an insane person. That really denies that there is such a thing as losing responsibility for evil through insanity. If your illness makes you think that prostitutes need to be destroyed and you kill them you are no better than the person who is not ill but who thinks the same thing!
The free will belief risks accusing people falsely. Indeed it is a false accusation if people do not have free will. Its accusing them of having the power to freely do evil and of having used it. Free will believers and non-believers in free will agree that nobody should be accused of something serious unless there is certainty that they have done it. If free will entails such an accusation then it is inherently biased towards evil and is no gift from God! Evil breeds evil.
If I believe I have free will that does not give me the authority need or right to say everybody else has it too or as much of it as I have.
The God belief makes more out of free will dogma than necessary and so its bad. The doctrine of God underlines the concept and belief of free will. If free will belief were a necessary evil then it should get the bare minimum of approval. Saying its a gift from God is too much approval. Giving a necessary evil more approval than it deserves and portraying it as the creation of a good God or worse a gift is an unnecessary evil.
I cannot change other people. What is the point then of being dogmatic about free will? Me believing in it is not going to change other people.
Free will or perceiving that you have it or don’t have it makes no difference if you are going to do something.
Free will does nothing to help salvage God from the accusation that he lets evil happen unjustly if he exists. The believers say it is to blame for the evil in the world. But it could be to blame if it exists. It is not IS TO BLAME but COULD BE. That is to say we could be to blame if we have free will but nobody has the right to say we are to blame.
The doctrine of free will is bad. The god or religion version of the doctrine is even worse.
IS EVIL FOR TRAINING US?
Religious believers that God lets evil happen because it is necessary for us to be able to do evil to have free will. They say that God uses our bad decisions and the evils that happen to train us in goodness. He uses the evils to produce a greater good. We may not know why God does the things he does and allows evil to happen but we must trust him. He knows best. But then why not hold that the supreme being is evil and lets good happen because it is necessary for us to have free will to be able to do evil? Maybe he uses our good decisions and the goods that happen to train us in evil. He uses the good to produce a greater evil. Even if that makes no sense because an evil God would be irrational he might think it makes sense. We may not know why he does the things he does and allows good to happen but we must be sure that he is doing his worst. He knows best how to achieve that. Knowing the best does not mean he will get it perfect or knows the perfect way to do it.
The idea that God uses suffering and evil to train us and develop our good characters is extremely nasty. If you can say that then you can tell a man to rape his girlfriend and beat her to within an inch of her life regularly to help her love him or love him more.
ROBBED OF A ROLE MODEL!
We accept that it is wrong to not to try to help if somebody is attacked and we can help. Not helping means we consent to what the attacker is doing. Yet Christianity assumes that God is right to let us hurt others to the extreme and to make horrible illnesses with which to torment us. It claims that it is okay for God to respect the free will of the attacker by not interfering but we should interfere if we can. That is a very strange and ridiculous suggestion. It is so unfair that it is an insult to the victims. It is damaging for us to have to condone the ways of a God like that. We are upholding him as an example for ourselves in a matter of extreme importance. We are making him an example for others.
To hold that a God who is a bad role model is a good one is bad. Its even worse to claim he is a good role model and then not do what he does – eg hurt people for “holy” ends!
Believers claim that God lets evil and suffering happen so that we might have the opportunity to do something about them. So the opportunity to help matters to God. The helping either does not matter at all or does not matter as much.
The implication is that it is better for a to suffer horribly than for b to get no opportunity to help.
EXCUSING EVIL IS EVIL
The Church says that we can help the suffering of others so that we grow in compassion and courage and diligence. It says this justifies God allowing so much suffering to happen. It is true that the suffering we see people endure means an opportunity to help and grow. But to say it justifies that evil is itself evil. It is like saying, “Steal little Toby’s Christmas present, it will make him realise that life is not all sunshine.” It is evil for it does not justify the evil. It only figures as a pathetic excuse for it.
Whoever turns something that is not a justification into a justification is a fraud and an unfair person. We cannot condone it any more than we can condone a man hitting his wife. We take certain things for granted as showing somebody has a bad character and this is one of them.
Religion has thrived in the world because people like to see their misfortune and suffering as part of a plan made by a higher power. The thought that these trials may happen for nothing frightens them. This clearly proves that Jesus’ teaching about loving God with your whole being is anti-human. It in fact suggests that its a sin to love and fear God because you want to see suffering as part of God’s plan.
The other thing that is bad about an excuse is that a good one does not feel bad. That response to is is the reason why religion thrives.
Believers say that God wants us to have faith and faith is not knowledge. They claim that trust and knowledge are incompatible. This is one of their worst lies. It would imply that the man who knows his wife will not let him down does not trust her! The lie is at the root of the notion that God does not help us to see why he might let evil happen – he leaves us in the dark so that we might trust in him when all seems to have completely failed.
Trust though it has benefits is still a necessary evil. It risks being in error or your wellbeing. Trusting God has a plan when you are faced with terrible evil is just fighting evil with a form of evil. And is that evil necessary or unnecessary? It is unnecessary for it is a terrible thing to get wrong. A baby suffering while you say God is in control and bringing good out of it and thus right to create the suffering is too much to get wrong.
We know that there are many things we cannot understand. When we know Y is true and when we know X is true and X seems to contradict Y we know it means that we simply do not understand how to make the two things agree. That is not a contradiction. That is a paradox. A paradox is a mystery. You would thus need to prove the existence of God and his plan as much as you would suffering in order to make it a paradox. You cannot therefore until you can prove it you are as good as contradicting yourself. In your head you are contradicting yourself. You are still opposing truth as much as you would if you sanctioned an outright contradiction.
To say we cannot understand God’s ways implies that we have no way of knowing for sure that his ways are really good. Christians will object that God knows more than we do and so if he asks some people to suffer greatly it is because it will somehow prevent worse suffering. So they say that we would be sure if we knew. The view that God is good but we cannot understand his goodness makes it impossible to know if he is really good or not.
When God says he is good and all-loving, it follows that any answer to the problem of evil that says evil is a mystery is a rejection of God. Why? Because if God tells us he is so wonderful then it follows that the suffering in the world requires an explanation. And not just any explanation. An explanation can fit and still be the wrong one. To say that it is a mystery is to deny that he has a right to reveal an explanation or that we have the right to have it. It would make the concept of God oppose justice.
God has his reasons for his laws. Thus the believers can decree that say blacks should not marry whites and deny that it is racism. They can say that God wants them to decree this for reasons best known to himself. They may not permit such doctrines but they have to admit they do permit them by implication. They may not want to nod to them but they do. Implied or unspoken racism is still racism and is more insidious than shameless racism and gives birth to it.
BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS
Many feel, “The best way to reconcile evil with the love of God is to say that this is the best of all possible worlds and God could not have made it any different. He can make it no different any more than he can make 2 and 2 = 5.”
This view says that evil is an unavoidable defect of matter. If God cannot do anything more than he has done then the reason is that evil is a necessary side-effect of creating matter. That has to be what it is saying.
It does not give God the kind of “almightyness” most believers want him to have. You may as well have no God!
It involves denying the possibility of miracles. Now if this is the best of all possible worlds then God does not need to change how he has set it up to do a miracle. Plus if matter is so toxic spiritually a miracle can’t overcome that.
It seems that the advantage of the view is that it avoids condoning the evil or saying it is God’s will. It is something God has to stomach. But it is an excuse for there is no evidence that matter has to have such dreadful side-effects when some experience them and others live charmed lives. And there would be no earthquakes in a best world.
It is said, “It is better to endorse that view of evil and suffering and God than to simply say it is a mystery.” But it is still a mystery. And there is the matter of how it could be good to say that if nature is randomly and indifferently hurting people. It cannot be good – it is being part of nature’s cruel machinery. It is no better than looking a disease taking over a baby and saying, “What an adorable disease.” It is just another cop-out.
Religious people show total disrespect through their doctrines of God’s existence and God’s love towards human suffering.