Archive for the ‘aids’ tag
I didn’t really intend this to be a separate post, as the following is commentary I made on a reply to this post, but I think it’s important enough, and interesting enough, to make it a separate post, and perhaps, I will add to it a bit. That said, read this, then read this:
While John Loftus’ argument against God appears is convincing when read at first, you should take a closer look at his logic. Suffering does NOT exist in the world because of the doctrine of so-called “original sin.”
Alexandre Dumas, in the Count of Monte Cristo, wrote the famous line, “A man is not capable of feeling ultimate bliss until he has felt ultimate despair.” Happiness cannot exist without unhappinesss. God knows that as well as Dumas. He wants us to be happy, so he allowed us to experience something that will help us learn and grow and have something to compare our happiness too. — Ian, poster
This is my unexpectedly lenghty reply:
Thanks for your comments, Ian. This is going to take a few graphs, so bear with me.
Have you read the entirety of Loftus’ book? Loftus may have brought up the original sin argument by Christians to account for the suffering in the world, but his predominant argument, to the best of my understanding, was about intense suffering in the face of an omnibenevolent god. The point about original sin was mine.
According to Roman 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
Ok, perhaps, according to your statement, “suffering does NOT exist in the world” because of original sin, but death certainly does. But which is worse? Is suffering included in “death?” The traditional doctrine goes thusly (I am speaking from one who was raised in a Wesleyan, and later, Baptist church):
Adam and Eve were created by God in a sinless state in the garden, where the very concept of sin was absent, at least as far as Adam and Eve knew. Satan tempted Eve with the knowledge of good and evil, thus leading to the fall.
After the fall of man, God cursed man, handing down the curse of birth pangs, imminent death by old age, etc. So, without Satan’s influence and without the introduction of sin, we can only assume Adam and Eve would have continued in their nearly perfect or perfect world free of sin and free from Satan’s influence, thus free of the knowledge of good and evil and free from birth pangs and free from certain death (But, they obviously had free will, so their fall may have been forthcoming eventually anyway). Regardless, if man hadn’t fallen, it’s conceivable, though unlikely given free will, that we would continue to this day to live in a perfect world, free of Satan’s influence, walking only in God’s light. But man did fall, thus casting us out of Eden, as John Milton’s imagery portrayed it in “Paradise Lost.” With this fall came not only sin, but death, given Paul’s quote above.
Now, death cannot exist without suffering on our part. Who on the planet has not suffered when a beloved son or daughter or mother or father has died? Death, in itself, includes some level of suffering inherently, and this is precisely what Paul was referring to. According to traditional doctrine, we live in an imperfect, fallen world, and as a result, death and suffering are inevitable.
I don’t necessarily agree on Dumas’ premise that bliss can’t exist without despair. (The very idea of happiness and suffering assumes we have a level of intelligence capable of such feelings). But it’s not necessary that we have both. We could have come into consciousness as a less evolved form of human, say 200,000 years ago. Say we are examining the first generation of species capable of the level of consciousness or intelligence to be able to be feel something called happiness or suffering. Say we are at the very birthplace of the being capable of experiencing such things. Then, imagine, as the being opened its eyes, looked up, and saw a comet heading for the earth. It’s mother was there looking down at its young frame. It then looked up at its mother, and in a matter of minutes, the mother was thrown backward by the force and killed, and the baby species watched the death, and then in the next moment, was killed as well. In the milliseconds before the mother and child were killed, did the child, freshly aware of its place in the world, suffer or feel despair? What did it think about, and what did it feel? Did it experience any point of happiness in its short existence? Perhaps something like comfort occurred, but to say it felt happiness or bliss seems to be a stretch. In those brief moments, it must have felt tragedy and nothing else in seeing its mother perish in the seconds before its own demise.
Do children in Africa dying from AIDS or starving from hunger feel despair? Certainly. Do they ever, ever feel what we call bliss? What about stillborn children? According to the evangelical crowd, they were humans with souls. Do they feel happiness or suffering? What about embryonic stem cells?
Dumas’ point, of course, is that one can not appreciate bliss without experiencing suffering, thus having a frame of reference for what happiness feels like. But one doesn’t need a frame of reference or a comparison. The ability to experience happiness and suffering are hard-wired. We don’t need one to recognize the other; we just feel them as the experiences come.
So, finally, back to the topic of intense suffering in the face of an omnibenevolent god, three scenarios seem possible to me. First, God is either concerned about the atrocities taking place on his watch, but is not interested in intervening. He is either concerned and incapable of intervening or either unconcerned, thus irrelevant to us. To say that God is concerned and wants us to be happy but allows intense suffering anyway circumvents his omnibenevolence. To say that God could sit back and watch his creation be raped, starved, mutilated, lynched and burned though generation after generation and do nothing, nothing whatsoever, for at least 2,000-plus years gives a disastrous testimony to his omnibenevolence.
To end, if he exists and is also omnibenevolent, he must be the saddest (to see his creation suffer so), powerless (to be unable to do anything about) being in the universe.