Blog break 15: Free will, god, faith & suffering


I hope you all had a fine Sunday. Lurking has lately became a pastime of mine and I keep finding gems that the best I can do is to share with you. It is with this in mind that I share three posts; two good ones and one not so great. First, the great posts

In absolving god from hell, the author presents three scenarios why god cannot be absolved from the responsibility of hell and why the christians who believe anything different from this are not aware of the contents of their bible or do not know about the god as portrayed in their good book. Go read it!

Do atheists have faith is a question that most of us have addressed in one way or another but seems to raise its ugly head whenever you are engaged in a debate with a theist. I wonder most times whether the people saying this have just come out of an ant hole and can’t help themselves or whether it is the best line of attack they can think of? Go read it and the comments are as interesting as the post 😛

And for the not great post, a question is asked why does god allow suffering? which apart from making the wrong assumption that there is a god, tells us there is some grand reason, a reason we don’t know why god allows us to suffer.  The good catholic tells us

There was only love and harmony between man and his Creator. When man sinned, he destroyed the harmony that existed between all things and gave up his protection from suffering and death. Man’s world was no longer pure since it experienced the frustration of original justice.

Before we delve into this matter deeply, isn’t possible that a god who is claimed to have created the universe by saying let there be couldn’t use the same invocation to end sin in the world? The christian apologist wants us to buy the line that sin of A & E, two personages who didn’t grace our planet, was so great that the best their god would do was to banish them from the garden of Eden, have guards at the gate and then curse the land from whence they were to get food and on top of that curse childbirth! Is it that christians consider just small portions of the picture or they look into the picture and then decide to ignore the parts they don’t like? And what justice is it when for the first crime, if the bible is to be believed, is punished in a way that no parent I know of would do to their children? What is the christian understanding of justice?

Is it remotely possible that the theists who write some of these posts don’t read anything else? How would they keep repeating the same free will defense to absolve their supposed god from all responsibility? Let us for a brief moment posit that god was offended and decided to punish man, why for the life of me, should a cow deliver its calf in pain? What sin did a cow commit if ever there were any cows when Adam was naming animals in Genesis 2?

I don’t know about you, but I find no beauty in a toothache or in having a migraine, so this statement

 We believe that there is an element of beauty in human suffering because it came from God

really doesn’t address why we suffer. It devalues human suffering and pretends that a god, whatever it means for the believer, who is so separated from us would know what it means to suffer. To even say there is a beauty in human suffering because it comes from a god either fails to recognize there is suffering that as far as we can possibly tell serves no purpose. Besides, it paints a god who, for lack of a better word, is a sadist and capricious. For tell me, what loving parent would allow children to die of starvation while he watches? What kind of parent would stand and do nothing when a small baby is abused or sacrificed as they did among the Aztecs? What god if ever there was any such thing stand and watch men and women burnt at the stake in his name? Please don’t tell me about god! If there are any gods, they are not lovers of men. And I don’t need to suffer as a reminder of my impending death, no, the death of others is enough knowledge enough, adding suffering to the picture makes no sense at all.

I don’t know how when I have a toothache my friend also feels the pain. Unless am missing something, how does one interpret

[…], when one of us suffers, the rest of us also feel that suffering

and is this really what we want? I guess not.

I think these people who purport to speak for god really have a great job to do. They have to show us why their god, who we are told intervened in men’s affairs, have in the last thousand of years decided to STFU and let men run roughshod over each other, killing, rapin’, maiming each other without even a hint of a cough from this said god? Am interested in knowing why the religious apologist doesn’t find their god to be ultimately responsible for evil in the world either by commission or through negligence. In fact I dare say that if a god as described in the bible were to exist, I would volunteer to try it for cruelty, murder, genocide, negligence and encourage the jury to bring a verdict of guilty with the highest possible punishment! Thank goodness, there are no gods!

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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

19 thoughts on “Blog break 15: Free will, god, faith & suffering

  1. I uploaded this to another WordPress site, let’s see if it will work here:

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  2. Question: if god exists, and is omnipotent, why would he choose to look old?

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  3. aguywithoutboxersRoger Poladopoulos says:

    Interesting recommendations for consideration, my blogging brother! As to “why does god allow suffering.” the same old arguments, repeated once again, to defend a supposedly benevolent yet violent deity. I do have one question: Would a truly gracious deity force the pain of clothing on all of his human creatures to punish two wayward creatures for tasting an apple? Much love and naked hugs, my friend! 🙂

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  4. Eric Alagan says:

    As usual, you pose tough questions, my friend 🙂

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  5. Mordanicus says:

    By creating a free will, god allows people to choose evil. Since god could have created the world otherwise, he could have prevented evil. Therefore the free will defense is a failure.

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  6. I find the claims of Christians who say things like “We believe that there is an element of beauty in human suffering because it came from God.” to be amazingly disgusting. They strike me as the pious comments from someone who is very comfortable and who wants to make sure those who aren’t won’t bother then.

    I’ve also seen Christians who claim that suffering is to teach others, meaning themselves. This also strikes me as someone who doesn’t want to suffer and wants to “learn” with no pain or misery on their part. I would never want anyone else to suffer for me in some selfish delusion that I deserved their anguish and would get “better” from it.

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  7. John says:

    From a cursory of the blog you’re criticizing that it’s written by a 12th grade apologetics student. It seems that if you’re really wanting to refute the free will theodicy that you could at least make the case against Augustine or perhaps John Hicks. Picking on a 12th grade amateur presentation of the free will theodicy seems disingenuous to your supposed task at searching for truth, not to mention committing straw man.

    Further, it seems odd that that you attempt a “philosophical” argument against a position that is presented from a strict theological perspective. You admit yourself that the author seems to make the “wrong assumption” that God exists. If your first principles do not match up, how can you critique the corpus of the work since it depends on the first principle of God’s existence? If you did grant God’s existence, are you granting it in the Christian tradition? If so, I don’t think you have much of a case here.

    Lastly, and this problem stems from your confusion between philosophical positions as theological ones, you seem to overlook different understandings of justice. Anyone with a decent historical background in philosophy and Christian theology understands that the two traditions approach and understand justice quite differently.

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    • makagutu says:

      John thanks for commenting.

      I would be glad if you’d show me how I confuse philosophical and theological understanding of justice and their approaches.

      I don’t think I indicated anywhere I was responding to the FWD. Should you have time, you may want to look at 1, 2 that I have written on the particular topic. And I am interested in being educated on what straw man I erected and correct my error. And the claim you make here that if you haven’t read such and such has been responded to by several people in the past. Do you think there is something about their presentation of free will that erases the problems raised by these 12th grade apologetic student and what are these?

      Nothing stops me from critiquing the work even if our first principles don’t match up. I could still allow for the existence of god and we would still have the same problems I stated. Why do you think, positing the christian god does away with the case?

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      • John says:

        Thanks for the quick response!

        For your conflation of philosophical and theological justice, I would refer you to this accusatory question you posed:

        Let us for a brief moment posit that god was offended and decided to punish man, why for the life of me, should a cow deliver its calf in pain? What sin did a cow commit if ever there were any cows when Adam was naming animals in Genesis 2?

        Strict philosophical justice can probably be defined as giving each his due, which means God would have been unjust in punishing cows for the sins of Adam and Eve. However, Christian theological justice, if my memory and little training serves me correctly, is defined as the fidelity to relationships. Therefore, in the instance of the first sin, the entirety of creation was frustrated because the sin violated original justice. This frustration is argued to have caused all kinds of alienations between creatures and their God.

        As for the straw man, it seems to me that you’re setting up the argument the author posits in “suffering can be beautiful” to both be the ultimate argument for her article. From this setting, you have attacked it in a literal manner to making this statement:

        To even say there is a beauty in human suffering because it comes from a god either fails to recognize there is suffering that as far as we can possibly tell serves no purpose.

        But here, I think the author, being a 12th grade student, fails to express herself cogently. Far be it for me to say what I think she means, but I think the Christian tradition would say that the beauty in suffering is not the suffering per se, but it lies in the virtues that can be built by the suffered in his own dignity.

        As for the FWD, I think that making the case for the value of free will is first and most necessary, per Augustine. This has metaphysical presuppositions that two people need to agree on prior to engaging in a FWD conversation. Likewise, if you grant the existence of a Christian God, you must conceded to his nature as believed the Christians, told by the Scriptures and their traditions. If such is the case, there is no sense i criticising the author’s held position in seeing value in suffering mainly because they believe that their God became incarnate and suffered for their sins. Thus, for the Christians, suffering with dignity is valuable.

        Cheers,

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        • makagutu says:

          John again thanks for your response.

          Your answer demonstrates the real problem I have with religious apologists. You write

          in the instance of the first sin, the entirety of creation was frustrated because the sin violated original justice. This frustration is argued to have caused all kinds of alienations between creatures and their God.

          You or anyone else will convince me that there is justice in punishing an observer because someone irked you, I mean even you, if you have kids, don’t beat the cat when the child drinks milk. It is beyond absurd to claim that this is divine justice unless your meaning of justice is different from what other people talk about when they talk about justice. For the record, I think justice as applied in human societies is revenge by another name.

          And no, I didn’t create a straw man. I have only inquired as to how suffering can be beautiful. Nowhere did the OP qualify their statement about human suffering being beautiful. The question to be answered, therefore, is how a toothache develops character and tell me, if you will, who you know, who enjoys a good toothache. Am patient, I will wait. And while at it, please tell me what dignity there is in a child dying of starvation.

          Unfortunately for me, no one has made a compelling case for free will to even be able to consider it as a response to the problem of evil. I have granted the existence of the christian god and if you say I must look at him as depicted in scripture, then the claim that he is all good, all loving and all knowing and other all-s that apologists attribute to him are negated by the same scripture.

          And as a final thought, I think it is true for almost everyone if they can understand why they suffer or see an end apart from release by death to their suffering they would view differently. No one I know of, would find joy in endless suffering to which they see no release other than death and to which they do not see the purpose it serves. And as I often say, give me the lesson without the fire if it is possible.

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          • John says:

            Hi,

            In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m agnostic and not a theist. However, what I’m pointing out is the difference in philosophical and theological understandings of justice. Your rejecting of a Christian’s understanding of justice would make sense if the Christians understood justice the same way secularism understands justice. The problem, as it seems, is that Christian theological approach to justice differs from secular philosophical justice. For instance, Aquinas’ understanding of justice is quite different from Nietzsche’s. Thus, I think it to be futile task to reject theological justice by conflating it with philosophical one.

            You are certainly welcome to reject the idea of a theological justice system, but for now the term justice is used at best analogically (but I think it’s more equivocally) by you and the OP. I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m saying you aren’t speaking the same language.

            As for the latter part about the omnipotent and benevolent God, I’m not completely convinced by the reconciliation by most Christian apologists, but from what I can understand, scriptural historical and theology can help; although I’m not quite read up on the matter to comment.

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          • makagutu says:

            John, hope you are well.

            Accepting that they are different, then all that can be said is we talk about different things when the christian talks about justice and it is only appropriate they give it a new name because I think you and me agree that whatever it is, it is not justice.

            Theology, if it is understood as the study of the nature of god, will not help in reconciling this problem. Theologians have had thousands of years of years to tell us what god is, I haven’t heard anyone tell us what it is. They, however, are free to try.

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          • John says:

            Makagutu,

            Greetings. Thank you for your greeting as well!

            Your point is precisely what I was pointing out. The problem, I think, is not with the way Christians or secularism use the term justice since many terms are used in many disciplines that have quite drastic differences. Consider the word ‘accident’ in daily usage versus the use of the term ‘accident’ in the discipline of metaphysics. Likewise, I think that Christians can still use justice to mean “fidelity to relationships” and secularism can still use justice to mean “give to each his own due”. However, if any conversation happens between Christianity and secularism, I think that it would do well for both sides to define their terms.

            You’re also right in asserting that theology can’t possibly answer the old Epicurus question: 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?”

            However, I think, here too exists a path of reason that allows for the Christian to reconcile their God to his nature whilst allowing evil and for the non-believer to mock the Christian’s reasoning. When the Christian begins with the frustration of justice from the fall, he is able to reconcile evil (the absence of goodness) to an omnipotent and benevolent God. However, because the non-believer does not begin with the definition of justice as the Christian propose, he certain would reject this reconciliation as absurd and filled with logical inconsistencies. I, for my part, see merit in both arguments, according to its own paradigm.

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          • makagutu says:

            John, I agree with you here that each side would have to define their times before the discussion can even begin.But there is going to be a problem if definitions can’t be agreed upon because we will be talking about entirely different things.

            I have never been agnostic. When I lost faith, I came from being Catholic to non believer and as such it is hard for me to see how the christian apologist’s rationalization has any merit.

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