Friday, April 2, 2010

Why is there Evil?

Hello my faithless Anteaters! Sorry I've been so sporadic as of late. (I'm still working with BF on understanding what I mean by "Please don't talk to me before 2 pm so I can work." to wit, Don't talk to me before 2 pm so I can work.) But hey, the weather is beautiful here in Florida and I'm out in my backyard "office" with a fresh new counterapologetic on the Problem of Evil or PoE. This was one of the hardest issues for me to reconcile as a Christian, and with good reason. Obviously an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful god cannot exist within the framework of the world we live in. Here's Why.
Why do people get cancer? Why are there earthquakes that destroy entire cities? Why do people have to work so hard just to have enough money to barely feed their families?
Because the universe is cold and uncaring, resources aren't evenly distributed, we haven't yet conquered disease, and because people aren't paid a living wage perhaps?
Subconsciously, we probably ask ourselves questions like these quite often. But consciously we rarely do. We're so busy living our lives we rarely stop and wonder WHY?
Uh, speak for yourself, please. I have *always* asked myself these questions, subconsciously and consciously.
But then something happens to wake us up. Our parents get divorced. The girl down the street gets abducted. A relative gets cancer. That wakes us up for awhile. But then we can often sink back into the denial. That is, until another tragedy hits, another incongruence. Then we're likely to think, Something isn't right here. Something is really, really wrong. This isn't how life's supposed to be!
Again, I never required something to happen within my own life or immediate circle to wonder these questions. Simply turning on the evening news is more than enough to trigger such questions, or passing by a homeless woman on the street, or simply being aware of how people around the world live (often on less than $1 a day, and in sever malnutrition.)

Also the statement "This isn't how life's supposed to be" suggests there is some proper way for life to be, and that the life we have doesn't match it. I don't buy that, because I don't see the evidence. Who says life is "supposed to be" any particular way? Obviously I'd prefer that life were more fair, that no one went to bed hungry, that every person had opportunities for work, education, and self-improvement. But when has what I would prefer been what was "supposed to be" in any global sense?
So, WHY do bad things happen? WHY isn't this world a better place? There is an answer to the WHY question, found in the Bible. But it's not an answer that most people like to hear: the world is the way it is because it's the world that we, in a sense, have asked for.
Screw you! I didn't ask for my aunt to die of a congenital heart defect at 10 weeks old, or for my godmother to succumb to her third bout with breast cancer, or to live in a world where pedophiles are protected by religious institutions. The people of Haiti did not ask to lose their children, parents, homes, and limbs in a devastating earthquake.
Sound strange?
"Strange" isn't the word I'd go with. Maybe heartless, cruel, or victim-blaming.
What or who could make this world different than the way it is? What or who could guarantee that life is pain-free, for everyone, all the time?
Well, in Reality Land no one could make a pain-free guarantee, and frankly pain sometimes serves a purpose (ie, telling you not to push your body further before you cause injury.) Even if we can't create a pain-free world, we can certainly lessen the suffering people go through, by providing comprehensive social services, giving all children (male and female) quality educations, by developing new medicines and medical techniques, and by removing the stigmas around mental health, counseling, and talking about painful subjects like rape survival.
God could. God could accomplish that. But he doesn't. At least not right now. And we're angry with him as a result. We say, "God can't be all-powerful and all-loving. If he were, this world wouldn't be the way it is!"
"God can't be all-powerful and all-loving?" Got it in one.
We say this hoping that God will then change his position on the matter. Our hope is that putting a guilt trip on him will make him change the way he's doing things.
Way to guess (and mis-guess) my motives. This isn't about guilt-tripping your imaginary god; it's about recognizing the logical impossibility of such a being existing, given the reality we reside in.
But he doesn't seem to budge. WHY doesn't he?
Because God is imaginary (along with all the other gods.)
God doesn't budge -- he doesn't change things right now -- because he's giving us what we asked for: a world where we get to treat him as though he is absent and unnecessary.
Quick insta-poll Anteaters: Did any of you ask for this? I didn't think so. (Can you say "victim-blaming?" Because I can!)
Remember the story of Adam and Eve? They ate the "forbidden fruit." That fruit was the idea that they could ignore what God said or gave them, and strike out on life apart from God. For Adam and Eve sort of hoped that they could become like God, without God. They consumed the notion that there was something more valuable in existence than God himself, something more valuable than having a personal relationship with God. And this world system -- with all of its faults -- came as a result of the choice they made.
*sigh* I'm gonna have to read you your own Bible, aren't I? Genesis 3:2-6 from the King James (because it's not copyrighted.)

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Okay so let's look at Eve's motivation (since Adam's isn't really given.) She "saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise." That's not exactly the same as wanting to ignore God, or be apart from him, now is it? It certainly doesn't say anything in the Bible about Eve weighing the relative benefits of a relationship with god against eating the fruit. Someone's reading a whole lot into those 4 verses that simply isn't there; that's pretty typical of Christianity. After all, if they didn't do that, God's punishments would seem even more out of proportion than they do in the above re-reading.
Their story is the story of all of us, isn't it? Who hasn't said -- if not audibly at least in their hearts -- God, I think I can do this without you. I'll just go this one alone. But thanks for the offer.
I've got a couple of objections here. Obviously, Adam and Eve's story isn't any of our story. None of us were born in paradise, innocent and ignorant and set up. (The apples were monitored!*) As a mom, I have to say I despise the idea that God wouldn't want his "children" to learn how to do for themselves. I've learned to ask my son, "Do you want help?" instead of reaching out to do something for him - even if he's struggling. It's more valuable for him in the long run to learn how to zip up his own jacket (and he's mostly mastered that one by now.) Actually, Little Man is quite capable and independent for a 4-year-old, in part because I do let him figure out how to do things for himself. While he can't spread the cream cheese on a bagel, he can get out the bagel, cheese, plate, and knife - and that fills him with pride I wouldn't dream of snatching from him. I cannot grasp how this behavior from Adam and Eve, or from any of us, would be seen as "sin" by any kind of reasonable parent-god.

Part 2 coming soon! (I wrote it today but stupid Blogger lost it.)
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]