Character building as an answer to the problem of suffering/ evil

The traditional arguments for the existence of God have been fairly thoroughly criticised by philosophers. But the theologian can, if he wishes, accept this criticism. He can admit that no rational proof of God’s existence is possible. And he can still retain all that is essential to his position, by holding that God’s existence is known in some other, non-rational way. I think, however, that a more telling criticism can be made by way of the traditional problem of evil. Here it can be shown, not that religious beliefs lack rational support, but that they are positively irrational, that the several parts of the essential theological doctrine are inconsistent with one another, so that the theologian can maintain his position as a whole only by a much more extreme rejection of reason than in the former case. He must now be prepared to believe, not merely what cannot be proved, but what can be disproved from other beliefs that he also holds.

John Leslie Mackie

In this post, we have a Christ lover telling us that maybe, just maybe, there is a theodicy we haven’t considered. She starts by making the outlandish claim that maybe people are responsible for the suffering they undergo. Having volunteered at a children’s hospital for several months, I must at this point ask why would those babes have cancer? Was it, as we have characters in the bible ask, their sins or those of their parents?

I sympathize with her friend. I sympathize with her loss. Most of all I pity her. Why would she, in the face of negative evidence of a loving and powerful god, would she continue to pay homage to such a god.

I am at a loss to what words mean to the theist. She writes

The most reasonable inference from all the evidence we have is that God is perfectly good and loving and nothing is impossible for him.

and I wonder what do the theist mean when they say their god is perfectly good and perfectly loving? I am not perfectly good or all-powerful but I have always tried to ease the pain of my fellows. To conclude that suffering, gratuitous suffering, points to a perfectly good and loving god is positively irrational and a suspension of reason.

She tells us

Were there no one to feel “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of,” so the definition of compassion, we would all be lacking this superlative virtue.

and I must ask what stopped a powerful god from creating us with these qualities if it thought they were important? What stopped their god from creating a world where these qualities wouldn’t be necessary? A world devoid of suffering. And it is not true that all suffering has led to building of character. There are several instances of people being disillusioned by their own suffering or those of others. For every person who learns a thing from suffering tens of others learn nothing.

Inquiring minds would want to know, to what end is this learning? Who benefits? Is she willing to suffer endlessly for a reason she doesn’t know just because others may learn from her suffering? If she isn’t willing, what makes her think others should be used as test cases for a god? Does an omniscient god want to learn something it doesn’t already know? And what happens to those who don’t learn from their suffering; like the 10 year old girl repeatedly raped in Paraguay by her step dad? Whose fault was it she was raped? What lesson are we to learn from her suffering? That a perfectly loving and good god stood by and watched helplessly as she was violated?

I think anyone who believes and can voice

If God’s purpose in afflicting the undeserving is to move those around them to action and character development, then it seems to me the sooner we act and develop the sooner the affliction will be removed.

needs to spend time with a counselor. There is a part of their humanity that has gone to the dogs. I mean no disrespect for the dogs.

She writes in conclusion

I am firmly convinced that God has good reasons for allowing suffering in the world.

I say in retort that I am firmly convinced this world is not under divine governance. That suffering is part of life. Further, that the universe is indifferent to our suffering. If anything is to be done about suffering, it is up to us to find a solution to it. No amount of prayers have solved the malaria epidemic in Sub Saharan Africa. Sleeping under mosquito nets, clearing breeding grounds for mosquitoes, development and availability of antimalarial drugs have done all the work. I will not stop anyone from praying. No. I will only remind them it is a waste of time.

I will close by reminding the good christian that the character building argument is not new. It is wanting as a theodicy and it leaves the problem of evil where it found it, unchallenged, that is.

I will say with Ingersoll

“Injustice upon earth renders the justice of heaven impossible.