Thursday, April 8, 2010

Why is there Evil? pt. 2

Once again, my heathen horde, we're tackling the Problem of Evil as excused by (You can read Part 1 here.)
We've all tried to make life work without God. Why do we do that? Probably because we've all bought the notion that there's something more valuable, more important, than God. For different people it's different things, but the mindset is the same: God isn't what's most important in life. In fact, I'd just as soon do it without him altogether.
Once again, the author is trying to make independence into a value judgment - that something is more important than God. (And since the God of the Bible is a jerk, even if such a being did exist, I'd tend to agree.) But when I was a Christian and perhaps, oh I don't know, studied for a test, rather than relying on prayer to get me an A in class, that wasn't because I'd analyzed the situation and decided that studying was more important than God - it was more that prayer didn't tend to yield the same grades as studying. Perhaps the real reason so many believers don't "cast their cares on Him" is because doing so often leaves someone in a precarious and undesirable situation. (Y'know, like having a two year old die because God doesn't magically remove yellow jacket venom.) If prayer actually worked, I'm sure Christians would rely on it more to this author's liking.
What is God's response to that? He allows it. Many people experience the painful results of others' or their own choices that run contrary to God's ways...murder, sexual abuse, greed, lying/fraud, slander, adultery, kidnapping, etc. All of these can be explained by people who have refused to give God access and influence over their lives. They are going about their lives as they see fit, and they and others suffer.
I'm with you on the idea that much of human suffering is caused by other humans (although I do have to wonder how opposed to God's will this list of actions is, when you consider King David was called "a man after God's own heart" and did, um, ALL of them.) However, God's not really off the hook for allowing these things - He is, after all, supposed to be ALL powerful and ALL loving. surely whether or not somone "allowed" God to have access into their lives wouldn't have such an impact?

Tell me, how DO Protestant Christians deal reconcile such a God with the Catholic pedophilia and cover-up scandal? I mean, they can obviously claim Catholics aren't "real" Christians, but that doesn't absolve God of his guilt, his complicity. If He exists, God is an accomplice to every rape, theft, kidnapping, and murder (and not just the ones He ordered in the Bible.) And please, don't give me that nonsense about "free will." The free will of a victim is violated in the instance of every rape; if God is okay with that person's free will being suborned, why not the rapist's? What kind of God cares more about the free will of a repeat offender priest raping children than about the free will of the children who do not wish to be raped? (An evil god, or an imaginary one.)
What's God view on all of this? He's not smug. In fact, God could rightly be viewed as leaning forward, compassionate, hoping we will turn to him so that he can bring real life to us. Jesus said, "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." But not all are willing to go to him. Jesus commented on this when he said: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing."
Not all who turn to Jesus, weary and heavy-laden, GET the promised rest. In fact, I usually felt despair, loneliness, guilt, persecution, and rejection from God when I believed in such a megalomaniacal being. And again, the situation is being turned to humanity's unwillingness, as if what we were willing to do or not do ever had anything to do withe capabilities of an ALL powerful god. It also blames the victim and ignores child victims. I was a completely devoted Christian at age 7 when that dirty septuagenarian man first took off my panties and licked between my prepubescent lips. Where was God then? Was it my "unwillingness" to turn to Jesus that allowed me to be so harmed? No. I turned to Jesus in all I did, but he was fictional and unable to help me, no more useful than any other imaginary friend a child of that age may have.
Again, Jesus brings the issue back to our relationship with him. "I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Again, following Jesus did not keep me in any kind of light - my life was in shambles from the time I was born into an intensely religious and highly dysfunctional family till I was homeless at 25, the month before I became an atheist. My entire career following Jesus is marked by pain, abandonment, and lack of protection; it's only been as an atheist, as I've learned to protect, heal, and care for myself that my life has improved and I've come out of the darkness Christianity kept me trapped in.
But what about when life is unfair? What about those horrible circumstances that hit us in life, caused by someone other than ourselves? When we are feeling victimized, it's useful to realize that God himself endured horrendous treatment from others. God more than understands what you are going through.
So, since God designed a plan where He'd be crucified (or, y'know, His son who is also Him) that means He understands what it's like to be molested as a little girl in a religious culture that treats female virginity as purity? He knows what it's like to lose a child to crib death, or cancer, or a fatal car accident (one who will not rise again in three two days time?) He knows what it's like to live a life in constant pain, like a person with Tay Sachs disease, or what it's like to have your heart broken by an unfaithful lover, or what a lifelong disability feels like? Because I doubt it.
There is nothing in life that could be more painful than what Jesus endured on our behalf, when he was deserted by his friends, ridiculed by those who would not believe in him, beaten and tortured before his crucifixion, then nailed to a cross, in shameful public display, dying of slow suffocation.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, passion of the Christ, crucifixion is bad, yadda yadda - freaking Holy Week! We get it. But it is categorically false and absolutely ridiculous to say "There is nothing in life that could be more painful" than that. Besides all the things I listed above, there's Cystic Fibrosis - a lifetime of slow suffocation. There's debilitating mental illness, like schizophrenia. There's post-partum depression and post-partum psychosis. And of course, there's God's preferred method of execution - stoning. (WARNING: That link takes you to a graphic and painful video of a woman being stoned to death. If you're more merciful than God, it will probably tear you up to watch it. Yet He, supposedly, continually sits idly by - when He's not ordering it Himself, that is.) Apologist, please, the crucifixion just wasn't that big of a sacrifice and on some level, you know it as well as I do.
He created us, yet allowed humanity the freedom to do this, to fulfill Scripture and to set us free from our sin. This was no surprise to Jesus. He was aware of what was coming, foreknowing all the details, all the pain, all the humiliation. "And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 'Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day."
Of course, the author glosses over the idea that Jesus knew this would happen because it was His/daddy's idea and not merely because he was psychic. Those Scriptures He wanted fulfilled? Yeah, He was supposedly behind them. Sounds more like a masochist than a martyr to me.
Imagine knowing something that awful was going to happen to you. Jesus understands emotional and psychological anguish. The night that Jesus knew they would arrest him, he went to pray, but took some friends with him. "And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, 'My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here and watch [keep awake] with me. And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, 'My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as thou wills." Though Jesus confided in his three friends, they didn't understand the depth of his torment, and when Jesus returned from prayer he found them asleep. Jesus understands what it's like going through pain and extreme sadness alone.
Expectant mothers can make it through the torments of labor and childbirth, because they know it's coming and they know something good will come as a result of it. Anyone who has ever made a sacrifice to a cause did so because they believed some good would come of it. Chemo patients withstand that particular hell because, again, they *hope* something good will come of it. Your Jesus was not the only one to ever suffer knowingly, and He had the benefit of knowing He'd be god afterwards, worshipped forever, and that His "sacrifice" would have the power to save millions of souls for eternity.

Again, where's your point in all this? Oh, it's by ignoring the very real suffering of very real people and focusing on the single bad day of a deity. Huh, what a crappy way to make a point! As for Jesus going through all this alone, was Jesus ever really alone? I mean, He was god right? Or God's son, or gee, it's so hard to keep straight. Regardless, He was a man constantly surrounded by followers and disciples, and while he may have suffered a bout of loneliness, it just doesn't compare to the lifetimes of it some people endure.
Here it is summarized, as John describes in his gospel: "He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God." "For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
Oh Christian, I know you love John 3:16, but why oh why don't you apologists EVER include John 3:18? Ahem, *throat clearing* He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Ah, so loving! Why do I bring this up? As a reminder that your god is not loving nor merciful; He cares only for belief - for praise. He doesn't seem to care one way or another if someone is moral, merciful, helpful, or good - only if they pay him the proper lip service.
There is no question that there is pain and intense suffering in this world. Some of it is explained by selfish, hateful actions on the part of others. Some of it defies an explanation in this life.
Defies explanation - is that how you're gonna brush aside natural disasters, disease, and global poverty? You know, those questions you used to open this passage up?
But God offers us himself. God gives us the knowledge that he has endured also, and is aware of our pain and needs. Jesus said to his disciples, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
My friend had two daughters born with a rare form of brain cancer; one has already passed away (she was four at the time.) Go ask my friend (a Christian woman) if she'd rather have "peace" about her daughter's death, or have her daughter alive, and she will tear you a new one, or else start crying. Peace through suffering is not what people desire, and is often the least we can do; alleviating suffering, working to make life more fair than it is, trying to prevent suffering - this is far kinder and vastly superior.
There is ample reason to be afraid, troubled, but God can give us his peace, which is greater than the problem before us. He is after all, God, the Creator. The one who has always existed. The one who created a universe on the backstroke.
The one who created a universe, but isn't moved to stop crib death.
Yet even in his power, he's also the one who knows us intimately, even the smallest, insignificant details. And if we will trust him with our lives, relying on him, though we encounter difficulties, he will hold us securely. Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."
If he's overcome it, why let us continue to suffer in it? Oh that's right, because we "asked for it." (Just like rape victims, eh?)
He went through our ultimate threat -- death -- and overcame it. He can take us through the difficult circumstances of this life, and then bring us into eternal life, if we will trust him.
Death isn't even in my Top Ten list of fears or threats I worry about - suffering is. And not by any means just my own suffering; I am moved to tears by the suffering of others - victims of human trafficking, rape, and medical neglect, or simply children who are not adequately loved by their parents. The difference between me and God (other than the fact that I am verifiably real) is that I am moved by this pain in others to do something about it. Yes, to help people through their pain, but also to prevent future pain.

We raised over $1,200 together towards building a well in the developing world, during a time of pretty serious financial distress for many of us, yet God - infinite in knowledge and love and ability - won't provide all the people of the world with clean water. He's either imaginary or he's a douche.
We can either go through this life with God or without him. Jesus prayed, "O righteous Father, although the world has not known you, yet I have known you; and these have known that you sent me; and I have made your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them."
The kind of love that watches from the sidelines as children are raped, cut up for witchcraft sacrifices, belittled, lied to, and told they are sinful, dirty creatures? The kind of love that does nothing to stop the rampant spousal abuse within the evangelical community, supported by His supposed Word? The kind of love that sends his son/self to go through crucifixion? Yeah, I think I'll pass. That sounds too much like hate to me.