the problem of evil


a solution, somewhat

for those who are not so philosophically inclined, the problem stated simply, reads

  1. If an omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient god exists, then evil does not.
  2. There is evil in the world.
  3. Therefore, an omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient god does not exist.

I am not here to give a new or novel solution but present the solution suggested by Rousseau in Emile as given in the essay of the Savoyard Vicar and ask for your views on the same, whether it is adequate and answers adequately the problem as stated above.

He has the Vicar say

There exists no other evil in nature than what you either do or suffer, and you are equally the author of both. A general evil could exist only in disorder, but in the system of nature I see an established order, which is never disturbed. Particular evil exists only in the sentiment of the suffering being; and this sentiment is not given to man by nature, but is of his own acquisition. Pain and sorrow have but little hold on those who, unaccustomed to reflection, have neither memory nor foresight.

and that

God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. He cannot be mischievous or wicked without hurting himself. A being capable of doing every thing cannot will to do any thing but what is good. He who is infinitely good, therefore, because he is infinitely powerful, must also be supremely just, otherwise he would be inconsistent with himself. For that love of order which produces it we call goodness, and that love of order which preserves it is called justice.

which is to deny the very existence of evil and to reduce it to our passions or judgments. That is to say, evil is a product of our imagination and if we were only to think right, the problem wouldn’t exist. In this view, then, natural evil as elucidated in Rowe’s evidentiary argument doesn’t exist, that is, the death of a bird in a forest fire is not an evil.

The Vicar says of man (moral evil), that

His powers, however, are at the same time so limited and confined, that the use he makes of his liberty is not of importance enough to disturb the general order of the universe. The evil done by man falls upon his own head, without making any change in the system of the world, – without hindering the human species from being preserved in spite of themselves.

In essence, the Vicar has argued that evil, in so far as it exists, is only in our heads and even if we conceded this much it is too minute to affect the nature of things.

Do you agree with the Vicar or is this solution problematic?

 

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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

74 thoughts on “the problem of evil

  1. Particular evil exists only in the sentiment of the suffering being; and this sentiment is not given to man by nature, but is of his own acquisition.

    Brilliant. Regarding the solution, that will take some doing. The concept of “evil” is so entrenched in the collective human psyche that it will require much time and evolution to uproot it. I do believe that given sufficient time and evolution, evil will fade into history along with its opposite – the concept of “good.”

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  2. Scottie says:

    Hello Mak. I am not good at philosophy and logic problems, but here my take. I think the Vicar is wrong. My reasoning is that evil is synonymous with bad. Well bad things are not my imagination, bad things happen. Now I am not saying that the bad is driven by any supernatural being. Just saying bad things happen. Hugs

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  3. Tish Farrell says:

    Burning our brains again,Mak. All I can say is that nations professing to be Christian, run by oligarchs who also claim to be Christian are perpetrating one helluva lot of evil across the planet.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Substitute facts for beliefs and what becomes of this?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Christians will just say that anything this god wants is “good” and thus what we would term evil is “good”. aka “might equals right”.

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  6. john zande says:

    i can’t quite comprehend the solution given. Is he really suggesting that evil does not exist? In many ways, this is true, “evil” doesn’t exist, which is why the problem of evil should always be framed as the problem of suffering, and we include animals into our equations then there is no solution. ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      His solution is that evil is a figment of our imagination.
      Animals suffer no evil because they can’t rationalise what is done to them

      Liked by 1 person

      • john zande says:

        Should probably tell that to the millions of pain receptors animals have…

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        • Yeah. I kinda think animals get the idea that pain sucks really, really bad.

          Liked by 1 person

        • makagutu says:

          Whether they see the pain as an evil is what the vicar is questioning

          Liked by 1 person

          • john zande says:

            Which is why we should always call it the problem of suffering.

            Liked by 2 people

          • keithnoback says:

            Isn’t suffering an attitude though? I imagine Sisyphus learned to love his stone…

            Liked by 1 person

          • john zande says:

            Tell that to the tortured, the hungry and the thirsty and the aged and the diseased and the hunted and the… 😉

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          • keithnoback says:

            I appreciate your incredulity, but…consider 3 men who are each taken to a room, laid on a table, and have a metal spike driven into their bones.
            One returns to his cell, in terror.
            One walks out into the waiting area, pleased that he was able to donate his bone marrow to another person in need.
            The last is proud of his new, decorative stud, and his ability to withstand the procedure.
            Where do we find the suffering? What are its determinants?
            It isn’t even like pain, in the sense that we can relate suffering directly to specific causes, though both are purely private, first-person phenomena.
            Unless suffering is not really a phenomenon,

            Liked by 1 person

          • john zande says:

            What are its determinants? Something unwelcomed.

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          • keithnoback says:

            So suffering is how we feel about an experience, not some property of the experience itself.

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          • john zande says:

            Suffering is any negative emotional state which derives from adverse physical, physiological and psychological circumstances.

            This’ll be a little long, but the following is from my book, On the Problem of Good. Yes, it’s a parody, yes it’s an exercise in Poe’s Law, but what’s written is all real. I’ve taken out all the references, but I assure you every word is backed up with published papers.

            It [suffering] is built into the very nature of all things. It is immediate, it is inescapable, and it is everywhere. It is growing, and it is growing without interruption or meaningful regress.
            Suffering is not however some emergent, ultramodern phenomena there to be experienced only by those organisms who have reached a level of biological sophistication which an inattentive human mind might equate with sentience.
            The truth is far more offensive.
            Although not cognitively aware of the sensation of pain, plants (from 3.5 billion years old algae to angiosperms) not only experience suffering in the form of chemical panic felt by the entire organism via electrical impulses transmitted across the plasmodesmata, but it is now known that they live in fear of their ferociously peculiar understanding of pain.
            Located deep inside the plant genome, isolated within the first intron MPK4, lay three ancient genes (PR1, PR2, PR5) that have revealed to researchers that MPK4 is devoted to negative regulation of the PR gene expression.
            This gene expression is anticipatory.
            It is expectant.
            It is preparatory.
            It is suspicious.
            It is, in a word, fearful.
            If translated to the human experience, the PR gene expression is what a human observer would identify with as a deep-rooted, physiologically hardwired anxiety; a most ancient paranoia. It is a neurosis that rages against the night, against annihilation, and it is upon this antediluvian bedrock of fear and apprehension which all terrestrial life is raised; a gentle but persuasive insanity that has been replicated and expanded upon through increasing orders of biological complexity.
            Albeit monstrous on such an elemental scale, the paranoia that aggravates and stirs and twists and bends algae is but an antique abstraction to a 1.5 billion years old protozoa which, despite not possessing a single neuron, is endowed with enough material complexity to resist and fight back against all assaults launched against its existence. To all who care to look, this animated behaviour to a menacing world demonstrates that this gelatinous blob of sensible organic material knows it is suffering. If it did not know this, if it was not acutely aware of the danger in real-time, the protozoa would not, after all, react and defend itself with equal, or ideally greater violence.
            And up through the evolutionary paradigm the pattern to complexity (being synonymous with evil; with suffering) repeats with a ruthless efficiency.
            A 550 million years old, 302 neuron-equipped roundworm’s capacity to experience suffering might be strikingly more complex to the protozoa’s, yet its scope to interact with pain (both real and imagined) is little more than a faint whisper to the genuine fear known to a 400 million years old, 250,000 neuron-endowed fruit fly. And while the remarkable 2012 Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness firmly asserts that the fly is keenly aware of pain (and all the emotional abstractions associated to it) it could never possibly comprehend the host of complex miseries, disastrous diseases, generous phobias and predatory threats available to the 210 million years old short-tailed shrew whose every lively moment is molested by an unending hailstorm of aposematic-triggered fear. Beyond that perpetual storm raging inside its 52 million neuron-equipped mammalian brain (roughly 10% of its body mass), the shrew is assembled around an amalgam of wet, energy-hungry, forever decaying organs and systems including a central nervous system (prone to diseases from arachnoid cysts to encephalitis), a circulatory system (disposed to diseases from haemophilia to cardiomyopathy), pulmonary and respiratory systems (liable to diseases from embolism to bronchitis), a digestive system (given over to diseases from diverticulitis to cirrhosis), an endocrine system (subject to diseases from osteoporosis to adrenal cancer), an immune system (susceptible to diseases from discoid lupus to ulcers), and a lymphatic systems (menaced by diseases from cancerous lymphoma to lymphangitis).
            In its turn, however, the shrew could never grasp even the outer reaches of the torment and torture and pains and threats and diseases and fears there to be physically and emotionally experienced by a single 200,000 years old, 100 billion neuron-equipped human being; an astonishing organism driven carelessly insane by, of all things, an oversupply of choice.
            Without any historical ambiguity or hint of equivocation, it is clear to all who look that evil is not an aberration.
            It is not a blister.
            The world has not gone spectacularly wrong as many have been (and remain) dangerously determined to believe, and despite the existence of a million and one imaginative theodicies pleading the case for some more palatable alternative, is it not simply the case that the increasing volume and variety of evil in this world baffles only because it contradicts the things Plantinga’s believers want to believe? Is it not the case that Creation is simply running contrary to how Plantinga’s believers think Creation should run?
            If the truly impartial observer of this world steps outside that contradiction and surveys the nature of this contrivance—this complexity machine—with a genuinely neutral eye then there is no puzzle and what once bewildered simply vanishes like water vapour evaporating over an estranged Namibian pond.
            The evil which is amplifying through Creation is there for a purpose, and if it is there for a purpose, there by design, growing, then that evil exists because the architect of this world wants it to exist. And if the architect wants it to exist then that architect—a being that existed before the phenomenal universe, creating it out of the plenitude of infinite power—must not only draw some manner of critical pleasure from its existence, but more importantly, craves its augmentation over time.
            By no possible definition could such a being be called good.
            By no possible definition could such a being be even called scrupulously indifferent, aloof, or staggeringly apathetic.
            The natural tendency of Creation to move always towards increasing orders of evil precludes both possibilities, and if that being cannot be called good (or at the very least meticulously disinterested) then what remains by way of an explanation for this world must be some flavour of unrestricted malignancy.
            The alternative thesis—that God is maximally good but thoroughly incompetent and has lost total control of his creation—is a proposition simply too fantastic to entertain for any period longer than the time it takes to drink half a cup of tea.
            God, by definition, is maximally competent.
            God, by definition, is maximally efficient.
            There are no mistakes.
            There can be no mistakes, no missteps, no lapses or miscalculations.
            What exists, exists because it was arranged for by the Catalogue of Catalogues that is the mind of God. Evil exists because it is meant to exist, and to even suggest it is the result of some personal ineptitude or imbecilic blunder in the design is athletically—historically—preposterous.

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          • keithnoback says:

            You are side-stepping the issue. The question is what makes something “negative” or “adverse”.
            My contention is that those terms refer to categories of activity, that categories are made of their instances rather than having essential and transcendent existence, that “negative” and “adverse” are not things with locality and boundaries, and that “negative” and “adverse” are not properties of things which pop out in a particular type of circumstance.
            You seem to be saying that suffering is merely avoidant behavior (and any of its psychological correlates) right down the line.
            If you are saying that, then I think the Vicar has you. Avoidance is your problem, not the world’s.

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          • john zande says:

            Side-stepping nothing. You didn’t address the content of the comment.

            What can more ‘transcendent’ that the struggle to survive?

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          • keithnoback says:

            I feel like I already addressed it: Pain is not suffering, reducing suffering to anxiety is a lateral move.
            What am I missing? – these conversations are usually instructive, so that’s a serious question.

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          • john zande says:

            Of course pain *is* suffering, how could you argue otherwise, but even more pervasive is the fear (anticipation) of pain. As written, Suffering (a negative emotional state which derives from adverse physical, physiological and psychological circumstances) is built into the very nature of all things.

            Am I missing something?

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          • keithnoback says:

            Well, I guess I just disagree.
            “Pain” isn’t what people mean when they say “suffering”, and I think there is a distinction to be made, besides.
            From that perspective, it seems that you are equivocating massively in the construction of your argument for pervasive suffering.

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          • john zande says:

            equivocating how?

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          • keithnoback says:

            Fear is suffering, so is anxiety, pain, aversion, the unexpected – you seem to be equating them. Do all these things somehow reduce to suffering? Vice versa? Are they members of the suffering set?

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          • john zande says:

            Of course they all come under the general banner of suffering. Hunger, thirst, fear, anxiety, mutilation; all are negative sensations. All negatively impact an organism. The emergency to persist is a ubiquitous background hum, a noise.

            Again, am I missing something?

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          • keithnoback says:

            Then how do we explain tattoo parlors, or universities?
            Not all pain hurts, and not all stress diminishes.

            Liked by 1 person

          • john zande says:

            I’d imagine there’s nothing to explain in these two examples. Both are done by choice. Suffering, true suffering, is imposed. One does not choose to be hungry, or hunted.

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          • keithnoback says:

            Then there are other components of suffering which distinguish it from pain, aversion, and anxiety.
            And, those components are basically an account of how we contextualize things like pain, aversion, and anxiety – how we put the story together.

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          • john zande says:

            Suffering is a word. Those things are not distinguished or distinguishable from the abstraction. They produce suffering. They are what makes suffering distinguishable from pleasure.

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          • keithnoback says:

            When you say indistinguishable from, I understand that as reducible to. Do you mean that, or do you mean they produce suffering, i.e. they are necessary but not sufficient?

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          • john zande says:

            Suffering is a word. It’s nothing but a word without the bits that make it real, whatever those bits might be.

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          • keithnoback says:

            Then suffering is a word for a category of experiences which are not merely painful, frightening, unpleasant, etc., but those painful, frightening, unpleasant experiences which we find morally objectionable.
            What are the contents of ‘morally objectionable?
            You’ve said imposition or unexpectedness of unpleasant experience, but I can think of many examples, both historical and personal, of imposed or unexpected unpleasantness which the subject would not classify as true suffering.
            That would militate against a realist sort of ‘suffering formula’. Just like the situation with the judge who said, “I may not be able to define pornography, but I know it when I see it.”: It’s all good until you get to the actual examples, and then you find out that there all sorts of disagreement.

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          • john zande says:

            I don’t think ‘morality’ comes into this at all. A drought, for example, is amoral.

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          • keithnoback says:

            But aren’t you saying that suffering is morally wrong – something that we ought to remedy?

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          • john zande says:

            If I’m debating a theist (positing a maximally good being) I’d say it would indicate a moral negligence on the part of their god. Natural “evil,” though, is amoral.

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          • keithnoback says:

            Hey! That’s my point. Evil, among other moral terms, does not refer to a property of things.
            Yeah, if someone wants to speak of evil as a property of world events, then that person owns the problem.
            But what do you think? At times you seem to interchange suffering with evil.
            Is that what you think, or what you accuse theist of?

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          • makagutu says:

            I have enjoyed this conversation between you and John.
            I think the vicar has a point. Without reflection, it is impossible to assign suffering to an experience. it would just be an uncomfortable experience, but that’s all. we will feel pain, but without reflection, we can’t get to suffering.

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          • john zande says:

            Theists bake this cake. They limit the problem of ‘evil’ to moral evil, ignoring natural ‘evil,’ which, of course, is ruinuous to their theodiocies. That’s why I always cast it not as the problem of evil, but the problem of suffering.

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          • kersten says:

            They do that because they know it is the only evil we may have some control over, although some believe even natural evils can be overcome by prayer.

            Liked by 1 person

          • keithnoback says:

            Sorry for the double up, but I ram trying to understand your position.
            I’m a hesitant anti-realist when it comes to moral contents (which something like suffering supposedly has) and it seems like you have concluded differently.

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          • john zande says:

            I’m taking a purely biological realists position. While true that I argue this position as a joke in the books, nothing is actually made up.

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  7. keithnoback says:

    I’m with the Vicar on this one, mostly.
    Just a minute though.
    Th followers of various religions the ones who are always on about Evil and sin.
    They started the whole Problem of Evil thing, and I doubt that they would be willing go all anti-realist on Evil in order to solve the Problem.

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  8. What? I always thought *I* was the problem of evil. When did that change?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Evil is in the eye of the beholder. Thus, when my immoral atheist ass eats Christian babies for dinner, it isn’t evil, it’s tasty. Well, it is to ME any way. And who else in this world matters but me?
    I’m with John Zande on this. I think phrasing things in terms of suffering and how to reduce that is a better of of looking at things as “evil” or not. Because, all jokes aside, I’m certain many Christians would really think of many of us non-believers as “evil” and clearly….well…clearly….Oh, eff it! They’re right. Never mind.

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  10. johnfaupel says:

    Rousseau’s Vicar seems to be on the right lines. Human beings certainly experience sensually-conscious pain and pleasure, along with conceptually-conscious dissonance and harmony associated with this pain and pleasure, but the whole idea that we are personally responsible for these feelings (and that society should punish or reward its citizens accordingly) is a derivative of the spiritual and secular moralists who think they know best how societies should be controlled. But the fact that they haven’t done a very good job should tell us something.

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  11. renudepride says:

    If evil, or the concept thereof, is solely the product of our imagination, fine. However, there are countless numbers of very imaginative persons in this world who can attest differently. Is evil innate? That I don’t know. However, as children, we all have to be taught the difference between what is “right” and what is “wrong.” Do I agree with the views of The Vicar? No. Where I live we currently have a very evil elected official who is spewing his hatred and corrupt views everywhere. Naked hugs!

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  12. shelldigger says:

    First thing that caught my eye was “There exists no other evil in nature than what you either do or suffer, and you are equally the author of both.”

    While I do find that can be true of ourselves on a personal level from time to time, it ignores the fact that people do suffer from the evil of others.

    Then this: “A being capable of doing every thing cannot will to do any thing but what is good.” Bullshit. Hot steaming pile of it. There seems to be some factual evidence lacking for the claim. Same can be said for the rest of the paragraph.

    The final bit should start by explaining these powers claimed, before we go off to supposing the whats and the whereofs of these supposed powers.

    In summary, I do hope the Vicar has better stuff than this load of hooey.

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    • makagutu says:

      he says evil is a result of judgment.
      without that faculty, there is no evil
      if someone does you harm, evil is in dwelling on it. in itself, the harm is not an evil. that seems to be the argument the vicar is making. sounds repulsive

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      • basenjibrian says:

        Sounds…convenient for the evildoers, to me. Such as Yahweh.

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      • shelldigger says:

        Sounds to me like someones mind is warped in a bad way. Repulsive indeed. I can’t even imagine how someone could possibly take that stance. It is certainly counterintuitive to my mind.

        But my mind is mine to mind, and doesnt care if anyone minds my odd little mind. 😉

        Seriously I believe the guy is bloody wanker. Perhaps a Catholic apologist? Or a despot apologist? Trump lover? Who in their right mind would take a stance thats pretty much allows for any sort of action that causes harm upon innocents (evil I would presume?), then places the blame of evil on the victim who might dwell upon it? I can’t even wrap my head around such idiocy, it is that idiotic.

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  13. Barry says:

    I’ll go by the definition of evil that is frequently used within my faith tradition: evil is the exploitation of one person by another. As there is no doctrine of a Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent God, the so called problem of evil isn’t a theological one, but a human one.

    I will make this personal observation: evil doesn’t always cause suffering, nor is all suffering caused by evil. Conflating the two is harmful and irresponsible in my view.

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  14. Swarn Gill says:

    I know I’m late to this thread…but dammit parenting takes a lot of time. lol

    In some ways it helped to contemplate the words more, and also to read the comments of others. The conclusion I came to is that the vicar isn’t completely mad here. Or maybe he is, but at least not originally so. There is a lot of similar sentiment expressed in Buddhist thought. The biggest divergence here from Buddhist thought would be using his points about evil or suffering to prove that there is a just and good God. But he’s a Christian, what do you expect.

    I don’t think there is such a thing as evil and I’m on the same page as John here in regards to referring to it as suffering. When most people talk about evil, they mean it to refer to a state of being, like they are either possessed by evil, or were born such. We know this not to be true. We might judge acts as evil, but those committing the evil were certainly not born that way and through enough searching through their genes and environment during childhood we can explain their behavior. We also theoretically can modify or cure such behavior, since it is a physiological condition. We may not have the means to do so right now, but it’s quite plausible that we could actually cure people who do “evil” acts. In generally it seems fairly clear that what we deem as evil is a human judgment. We can also see this in the way in which people don’t judge certain behaviors as evil, even when they might actually be causing more harm than your general psychopath. For instance a CEO who cuts back on adequate health care, or cuts back on necessary safety standards if he owns a coal mine, might ended up killing more people than any psychopath. But he’s rich and a business man. Yes maybe the guy didn’t chain his victims to the wall and torture them, but in my opinion there is just as much cruelty in the deception of making workers think they are safe, when they are not. Lives are ended early regardless.

    Of course the 4 noble truths in buddhism, take suffering as a fact, a part of life, but the Buddha does teach that we can change our relationship with suffering. The other noble truths speak to them. Recognizing the non-existence of the self, recognizing the impermanence of life (since things our always changing, our desires can never be satisfied and this leads to suffering) and then finally following the 8-fold path to enlightenment (transcendence). If I were to give more credit to the Vicar than he perhaps deserve I am sure he sees God as a means to that transcendence, but his explanation for how the Christian God can still be supremely good and just, simply doesn’t follow unless he is willing to acknowledge that God is not completely omnipotent. Early Christianity incorporated more eastern philosophy in it, but God as is understood by modern Christian thought is supposed to be omnipotent and thus has the ability to prevent harm from happening. God as he currently stands in Christianity simply fails to stand up to any tests of logic.

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    • makagutu says:

      reading your comment, i think it is actually good to come to the thread late, Swarn. And yes, parenting is work, a lot of work.
      i don’t know whether calling it suffering defeats the initial argument? because the vicar would say you think you are suffering because you are reflecting on it. it is just an experience of pain- physical sensation and nothing more. suffering is reflection- it is saying this is not how things should be, but why should they not be that way?

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      • Swarn Gill says:

        I agree that calling it suffering doesn’t defeat the argument, only that I think the argument is better framed by using suffering over evil, since I think evil sparks connotations of other planes of existence and the “true nature of man” and I don’t think it’s all that helpful.

        But I agree with you. If suffering is a truth of life, then saying it should be otherwise isn’t very helpful. This of course doesn’t mean that the pursuit of alleviating suffering is meaningless. Being kind still has great value, but I think also changing how we view suffering also has value. Somewhere in the Dhamapada they talk about Buddha teaching that we tend to view the good and bad as two distinct things, but rather they are wrapped up in each other as one. Very much the symbology of ying and yang is how I visualize it. There are many practitioners of meditation who talk about how they’ve changed their relationship to pain and suffering and as a result experience much less as a result.

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        • johnfaupel says:

          Agreed. Being a social species, we can’t help treading on each others’ toes sometimes, nor causing them to benefit from our actions. Whether these actions are more self-motivated or emphatically motivated has made societies assume they can categorise them as good or evil. Trying to understand what makes us help or hinder each other personally is surely a more profitable process of learning about ourselves than such strait-jacket categorisation, along with its socially associated control-mechanisms of reward and punishment.

          Liked by 1 person

        • makagutu says:

          the other day John asked me a question. Would you rather a world devoid of pain or this one with its possibilities of pain and joy?
          I told him this one/
          Alleviating pain or suffering would in the logical end be removing our capacity for reflection. We can all agree we need to reduce some things like poverty, slavery and all because they stop people from living to their full potential

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    • kersten says:

      Buddhism relies on KARMA or continuation after death in the same way as Christianity relies on the justice of God often only realised after death. Your example of the CEO could be extended to included any leader who declared war might be responsible for millions of deaths.
      Even more bizarre Hitler’s mother might be held responsible for the holocaust. We can only be held responsible for our own actions the domino effect is a dangerous doctrine.

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      • Swarn Gill says:

        Buddhism relies on KARMA or continuation after death in the same way as Christianity relies on the justice of God often only realised after death.

        Karma is not only about continuation after death, but also how actions in this life impact what happens to you in this life. In fact this is mostly what karma is about in the Buddhist tradition. Karma already existed as a concept in India beforehand, and what you speak of is more in regards to the teaching of Hinduism instead. I found this transcript to be a very informative one with regard to the Buddha’s views of what karma means. https://www.insightmeditationcenter.org/books-articles/articles/transcribed-talks/karma-and-intention/

        We can only be held responsible for our own actions the domino effect is a dangerous doctrine.

        I don’t know if I agree with that. I think there is quite a lot of evidence for environmental determinism. We also know that the development of the brain, and consequently our behavior is influenced greatly be the environmental stresses and cultural stresses that we grow up in. It seems quite unarguable that if I deprive a population of the basic nutritional needs of the people, even if I give them the bare minimum of calories, that on average that population will look a lot different than one that has more than the minimum calories along with all nutritional needs met. I find the idea that we can all just easily, on an individual level, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps to be a far more dangerous doctrine. James Fallon, who is a prominent neuroscientist does a lot of research on the background of various dictators and he has found that environment plays an important role on why they are the way they are. Many ruthless dictators do experience trauma at the hands of there parents, have attachment disorders, have undiagnosed mental illness or untreated trauma. Thus we might blame Hitler’s parents for the way Hitler was. James Fallon himself is an interesting case because he discovered accidentally by scanning his own brain one day that he also is a psychopath, but he isn’t chopping people up. He was raised in a loving supporting environment and thus is able to be a productive member of society despite having the deficiencies that shared by the psychopathic brain.

        As learn more about the brain and how it develops there is no reason to not make Hitler’s mother at least part of understanding how we don’t get more Hitler’s in the future.

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  15. kersten says:

    I agree karma also contains the idea that we reap what we show but does that really hold any water? Many sow excellent intentions and acts and reap disease or destruction , while others selfishly lead the life of Riley and lead long contented lives . Now of course Christians believe these pleasure seekers will get their come-uppance after death and some Karma advocates believe they will be born again as animals and have to struggle again to attain humanity. Notice humanity is considered the highest pinnacle of living consciousness probably because we are saddled with self – awareness.
    Some neuroscientists believe that free- will and the self are illusions and so the determination you mention is complete and we get to the dangerous situation that we are all blameless. The philosopher Daniel Dennent has pointed out the possible dangerous consequences of this view.
    The ruthless dictators you mention are often fat and we’ll cared for and it is the reason I do not believe in sanctions since they always hit the weak and the poor . The moral conscience in humans varies enormously just as does the intelligence , some are concerned only with the family tribe and not the human tribe.

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