• MysticMonist
    227
    If God exists and He is all good and all powerful why does He allow evil? If there is no satisfactory answer to this question does it disprove God?

    MountainDwarf raised this question and I thought it deserved its own thread.

    I think my initial response that I can't answer is inadequate. We at least need to form one or more possible ways that God could allow evil in order to reasonably claim His existence. We don't know exactly why evil happens but we at least need to conceive of how it might while God exists.

    One possible answer is expressed in Chapter 11 of the Baghavad Gita. Where Arjuna asks the God Vishnu why all these men in his army have to die.
    Vishnu replies that it's just their bodies that die and if they weren't to die today then it would be another day. Their earthly suffering is inconsequential when compared to the spiritual gain. God is far more concerned about bringing us closer to him and less about our earthly comfort, even to the extreme that a violent and painful death isn't that big of a deal.

    "All the sons of Dhrtarastra along with their allied kings, and Bhisma, Drona and Karna, and all our soldiers are rushing into Your mouths, their heads smashed by Your fearful teeth. I see that some are being crushed between Your teeth as well. As the rivers flow into the sea, so all these great warriors enter Your blazing mouths and perish. I see all people rushing with full speed into Your mouths as moths dash into a blazing fire. O Visnu, I see You devouring all people in Your flaming mouths and covering the universe with Your immeasurable rays. Scorching the worlds, You are manifest. O Lord of lords, so fierce of form, please tell me who You are. I offer my obeisances unto You; please be gracious to me. I do not know what Your mission is, and I desire to hear of it.

    The Blessed Lord said: Time I am, destroyer of the worlds, and I have come to engage all people. With the exception of you [the Pandavas], all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain. Therefore get up and prepare to fight. After conquering your enemies you will enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasacin, can be but an instmment in the fight. The Blessed Lord said: All the great warriors-Drona, Bhisma, Jayadratha, Karna-are already destroyed. Simply fight, and you will vanquish your enemies."
  • unenlightened
    3.6k
    The eternal cry of the toddler: "Why do you let me fall over, cruel Mummy?"
  • Pacem
    40
    This matter was my master thesis and i can only say one thing: There is no such problem. In classical theistic responses, such as Aquinas put forward, there is already no thing such "evil". Evil is nothingness. For instance, blidness is an evil thing for eyed creature; but blindness is actually nothing because it is deprivation of seeing. In the same way, ilness is the deprivation of health, death is the deprivation of life and so on and so forth. On the other hand, for non-theists, there must be no thing like the problem of evil and actually there is not; they only use it as a counter-argument. As ontological, for both-sides, there is no such thing. In short, according to me, this so-called "problem" is one of the biggest pseudo-problem in the history of philosophy.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    If God existsMysticMonist

    This question needs to be addressed first, because if God does exist, then there must be an explanation for evil, whether we know what that is or not. Put another way, if God exists, then whatever arguments from evil that purport to show that God does not exist must necessarily be wrong. The way this debate is waged puts the cart before the horse.
  • MysticMonist
    227
    pseudo-problem in history of philosophy.Pacem

    You pointed out my obvious error. I'm really discussing the problem of suffering. Suffering is not necessarily evil. In fact I would say they aren't the same.
  • tim wood
    2.5k
    In the same way, illness is the deprivation of health,Pacem

    In this (and similarly in your other example) is hidden a double use and meaning of health, mutually incompatible, as follows. Health in one sense is an absolute; you have it or you don't. In this respect health is a deficiency, absence-of, in respect of illness, disease, or injury. But there is also the sense of health as in the having, presence-of, some capacity less than the state of the whole, as in not having health in the absolute sense just defined, but instead being "otherwise healthy."

    The question arises, is "absence-of" a nothing? Certainly if I'm sick, I'm well aware of health and my lack of it. At the same time I am aware of and grateful for the (relative) health I do enjoy. Even "relative" becomes vague. I'm an old guy. I am aware of what I was that I am no longer. I am in health, but not the same health I once enjoyed. This consideration calls for further elucidation of the meaning of "health," including consideration of its meaning being subject to and contingent upon the intention intrinsic to its usage in context.

    And this for "evil." To say that it's nothing is at once to make of its nothing a something. Heidegger: "The nothing 'noths'." And indeed it does. If evil is a nothing, then, what kind of a nothing is it? What genus/species, what its special features?
  • T Clark
    3.2k
    If God exists and He is all good and all powerful why does He allow evil? If there is no satisfactory answer to this question does it disprove God?MysticMonist

    I am not a theist in any sense that would make explaining evil a problem. If I were, here is what I would say:

    I remember my high school physics class. J.R. Starr was the teacher. 1969. Martinsville VA. We were studying light. We were talking about its dual nature. I was always good at physics, but I really didn't get it. I bashed my head against it over and over. Then - enlightenment - that's just the way it is.

    I've thought about that realization many times since then. I've come to think that, in order to be taken seriously as a thinker, you have to be able to hold two seemingly incompatible ideas in your mind at the same time without conflict.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    If I remember correctly a Catholic, or maybe just Thomistic (idk) perspective on this is to withhold judgement on this and to basically accept that God "works in mysterious ways".
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    I'm really discussing the problem of suffering. Suffering is not necessarily evil. In fact I would say they aren't the same.MysticMonist

    So to take your wording from your op, are you now asking "If God exists and He is all good and all powerful why does He allow suffering?"

    To me, suffering is connected with free will. God being "all good" also necessarily requires freedom: goodness as it relates to our human sphere of existence is a property that's inseparable from divine freedom. To experience moral goodness in this life is predicated on a state of freedom; not that the individual who experiences goodness is necessarily in a state of freedom themselves, but when goodness manifests in the human world, it does so from a state of pure freedom, and that state of freedom is often glimpsed through the veil of the experience of that goodness. So that divine goodness is predicated on freedom, and they're experienced together as the same experience for us.

    Human free will on the other hand, is an expression of that divine freedom on which goodness is predicated. But human free will is an upward movement from non-freedom to freedom, in contrast to the sort of primordial freedom of a good God. Human free will is a creative expression; the reaching up towards God's downward-stretched hand. That creative aspect of free will is the same creative will that's an aspect of the divine itself; the same creative will that brought about existence resides in us as well; creative free will is the divine element in humanity. Creative free will is essentially the mechanism of the deification of humanity; the human fulfilling its purpose through the spiritual evolution into participation with divinity. Not that man becomes God, but that man is fulfilled and perfected through creative free acts that pull him up into the divine life.

    God requires creative free acts from man because God has need for man, just as man has need for God. A God who creates a universe, imbues it with conscious, feeling, reasoning humans who are imbued with divinity themselves, but has no need of this process and this creation, would not be a good God. Humanity is the vessel through which the divine creative will is moving.

    Suffering, then, is also necessary within the context of free will. Suffering is a greater teacher than pleasure. Divine creative free will asks a lot from us; it's easier to shrink away from the call. The problem is that suffering is still truly senseless; it comes to whoever it will, regardless of whether someone is creatively striving with their free will. Suffering is ultimately predicated on the pure divine freedom, I think. Again, freedom and suffering are inseparable, even within the divine, if the gospels have any truth in them. A world in which freedom allows divine conscious choice, whether from the ultimate divine (God) or from his expression (us), is a world in which suffering is a natural outcome of conflicting choices. Suffering animates the world with life; a world without suffering would have no purpose, just as a world without freedom would have no meaning. So the question then becomes, what do we do with our suffering? Do we avoid it? Let it consume us? Or let it teach us?
  • MysticMonist
    227
    God "works in mysterious ways".darthbarracuda

    True, He does. (I agree with you that it is probably Aquinas) I don't know we can know exactly why or how God permits suffering. However I think if we can think of no rational scheme in which he should it is a red flag that something is wrong in our conception of God or in suffering or somewhere else.

    This question needs to be addressed first, because if God does exist, tThorongil

    I'd love to do another thread on this but I've made several threads already. I'll have to wait a few days. The short answer is I see it as an existential choice or even wager. I can't be certain either way as to if there is God. To me, it makes the most sense out of my experience and is the best objective wager (kind of like Pascal) to have faith. I completely get if someone never really has much in the way of religious experiences they have little incentive to believe.
  • Pacem
    40
    I don't know we can know exactly why or how God permits suffering.MysticMonist

    If we can, then "mysterious ways" is fucked up. :) It can even be a contradiction.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Their earthly suffering is inconsequential when compared to the spiritual gain. God is far more concerned about bringing us closer to him and less about our earthly comfort, even to the extreme that a violent and painful death isn't that big of a deal.MysticMonist
    This theme is found in other world mythologies too. It is a justification for violence, and makes it seem like peace requires the use of violence.
  • MysticMonist
    227
    To me, suffering is connected with free will.Noble Dust

    This was a fantastic response. Very well written. There's a lot there to ponder.

    I especially liked "world without suffering would have no purpose"

    They way you describe human freedom sounds familiar, what theologian or philosopher is that?

    "what do we do with our suffering? Do we avoid it? Let it consume us? Or let it teach us?"
    You've argued very persuasively that we should allow suffering to teach us virtue and lead us closer to God. I think the Gita is also right though. The response of the mystic to suffering should thus be two fold. It is not to be shunned or ignored but is an invitation to greater self-renouncation (letting go of the desire for the lacking thing) and to be light or to reflect God's light in the darkness of that situation.


    From our human perspective, there is definitely varying degrees of suffering. I wonder which way God sees it. Does He see all human suffering as petty almost foolish worry like the Gita quote in my first post, since everything from the stress of loosing my car keys to a lethal pandemic is insignificant from a eternal perspective? Or is it the opposite that as the Torah says and as Jesus shows in the gospel narrative that He cares for each one of us, knowing us by name, and sees the subjective suffering in our hearts even over small things?

    One more question about suffering and this my greatest beef with God. Why are we created so psychologically biased towards suffering? It's human nature that if everything is going well and there is one small problem or even potential problem, the mind fixates on that one thing. Obviously it's a survival trait, gratitude and contentment don't keep us alive to have more babies over being paranoid and lustful. Yet it is the greatest source of misery, I feel we are wired to be unhappy.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k


    But does peace require suffering?
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    But does peace require suffering?Noble Dust
    No, that's an underhanded way to say that peace requires violence, for suffering implies violence. That which causes suffering is violent. So peace doesn't require suffering in an absolute sense. In some circumstances suffering may be unavoidable though.

    The Christian revelation speaks against this mythological sacralization of violence.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    They way you describe human freedom sounds familiar, what theologian or philosopher is that?MysticMonist

    Thanks; probably Nikolai Berdyaev.

    It is not to be shunned or ignored but is an invitation to greater self-renouncation (letting go of the desire for the lacking thing) and to be light or to reflect God's light in the darkness of that situation.MysticMonist

    I haven't finished the Gita and have read through the major Upunishads once. I need to study both more to have a better response. Self-renounciation has never sat well with me, though, at least in the sense of full absorption into Brahman. But I do I appreciate the idea of seeing how you're connected with the rest of the universe; "you are the universe", that sort of concept. But I want to hold both ideas together; I'm connected to the world; the world is one organism of which I'm a member (as in arm, for instance), and yet I'm a conscious free agent moving towards divinity. The self needs to participate in that process, in my view, rather than become fully absorbed in The One, or the pleroma, or whatever.

    Or is it the opposite that as the Torah says and as Jesus shows in the gospel narrative that He cares for each one of us, knowing us by name, and sees the subjective suffering in our hearts even over small things?MysticMonist

    Again, I think both views can be held together. Both have truth to them. Actually, Christianity does hold both; "these present afflictions pale in comparison to the all-surpassing coming joy", and "God knows the number of hairs on your head."

    I feel we are wired to be unhappy.MysticMonist

    It doesn't seem to the case to me that everyone is like that. I don't think everyone fixates on suffering.
  • MysticMonist
    227
    If we can, then "mysterious ways" is fucked up. :) It can even be a contradiction.Pacem

    Yes the way the phrase "mysterious ways" is used commonly is complete BS. God doesn't use one earthly misfortune to bring about an earthly blessing later on in order to balance the books. The longer I practice as a mystic, the more I'm convinced that God doesn't care about our earthly success or worldly happiness with things such as promotions, healings, or martial happiness. At least praying to Him about such things has yielded me little results. Thank goodness too, if God were just a personal wish granter than it would fuel my already unbearable ego and self centeredness! Already religion tends to lead into being all about me, even with no statistically significant evidence for answering of prayers.

    Yet understood in the proper context, the Catholics are right. God and the ways He interacts with us is mysterious. It is beyond our full understanding. Paul says we go from understanding to understanding. I think Bahá'u'llá (Baha'i founder) put that even better. He says we journey from astonishment to astonishment. Either way it is, at some point, partially comprehendable.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    No, that's an underhanded way to say that peace requires violence,Agustino

    But peace almost always is a result of prior violence, politically speaking. Inner peace is a product of personal spiritual practice, which always involves suffering. Regardless of your interpretation of the book of Revelation, teleological peace requires some sort of spiritual and/or physical suffering, apparently.
  • MysticMonist
    227
    doesn't seem to the case to me that everyone is like that. I don't think everyone fixates on suffering.Noble Dust

    Hmmm... maybe you're right. I do remember thinking I was more or less happy until Buddhism taught me how much I was suffering. :)

    I don't know about how much I agree with the Gita or Hinduism apart from the piece I quoted. The same idea crops up other places but I remembered the Gita putting it most clearly. In Kabbalah, they teach the soul descends from perfection into suffering on purpose in order to reascend later in order to be united closer to God that pre-fall. You appreciate something more when it's gone sort of idea. Kabbalah is a lot harder to quote (or read).

    About self-renunciation: I had an insight today from Plato's Republic where he says the virtue/justice is the path to happiness. If I lived extremely simply eating cheaply and never indulging in luxury and spent the money instead on charity, in theory I'd be much happier. First, the joy from helping others would be deeper and longer lasting than sensual pleasure. Second, if I could live off a very austere lifestyle then I would become immune to the desire or worry of wealth. The only thing that would change if I lost my job or went bankrupt would be how much I could give to charity. Want to never have to worry about money again? Learn to live on $500/month, haha. Of course I couldn't persuade my wife to join me on this experiment, but I can realize my happiness lies in virtue and nothing else so I can let go of the fear of poverty. Because even in the deepest poverty, I still have the chance for virtue.
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k
    In Kabbalah, they teach the soul descends from perfection into suffering on purpose in order to reascend later in order to be united closer to God that pre-fall. You appreciate something more when it's gone sort of idea. Kabbalah is a lot harder to quote (or read).MysticMonist

    Interesting, that's similar to what I'm trying to get at here. I haven't studied Kabbalah at all, but I've always found it intriguing.

    Because even in the deepest poverty, I still have the chance for virtue.MysticMonist

    Yes, I agree. I haven't successfully achieved much along those lines personally, but it's something I want to pursue. This inner virtue seems totally lacking in culture at large right now; there's a poverty of the spirit that manifests in how people's happiness and sense of well being are predicated purely on the external state of affairs; politically, technologically...
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    But peace almost always is a result of prior violenceNoble Dust
    That is the way of this world (of Satan). René Girard describes this as the victimage mechanism which resolves the conflictual crisis that arises in the community due to mimetic rivalry, and would otherwise lead to mutual destruction, by the unanimous and collective murder of a victim. The transference of collective violence on the victim is responsible for the unity and peace of the community. Both ritual and prohibitions - and hence the sacred - emerge out of this murder, which is at the foundation of society. And all of mythology is the work of Satan - a lie that covers the founding mechanism as necessary for order. The sacrifice is seen as necessary for peace, and hence the victim is seen as guilty and responsible for the chaos of the community.

    "For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings" Hosea 6:6

    "Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and consent to the deeds of your fathers; for they killed them, and you build their tombs" Luke 11:47-48

    "Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies" John 8:43-44

    "Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdererd between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation" Matthew 23:34-46

    Jesus replaces this with forgiveness and shows that the victim is innocent, and sacrifice unnecessary. God does not require sacrifice - it is man that wants it (and through myth and religion transfers this desire to God in order to justify himself).
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    I can't be certain either way as to if there is GodMysticMonist

    Why not?
  • Frank Barroso
    38
    And all of mythology is the work of Satan - a lie that covers the founding mechanism as necessary for order. The sacrifice is seen as necessary for peace, and hence the victim is seen as guilty and responsible for the chaos of the community.Agustino

    Could you explain that, all mythology is the work of satan?

    Humans see it is necessary for a scapegoat. Historically, true.

    Under the assumption "God doesn't want us to sacrifice scapegoats"
    Why then does the human, the perfect creation of God, sacrifice the scapegoat?
  • Noble Dust
    3.2k


    You haven't addressed the question of whether suffering is necessary for peace. But I do agree with Girand; I got at some of that in my first op on the forum. But you lost me with the appeal to Satan.
  • Frank Barroso
    38


    If u had soccer balls on a hill, you'd find the soccer balls would clump together at the bottom of the hill.
    Imagine being the soccer ball.
    That hill was God.
    So,
    Can we call the infinitely many small random occurrences of the laws of nature that produced us, God?
    Or rather should we? Or even, perceive it as an old man?
  • MysticMonist
    227
    why notThorongil
    This topic deserves its own thread. I'm new here so I'm not sure of group norms. I've made four threads in five days. Too many or go ahead a post another one?

    I'll try to answer this too in the new thread, it's a good question l.
  • MountainDwarf
    82
    If there is no satisfactory answer to this question does it disprove God?MysticMonist

    I think it depends on which God-concept we're discussing.

    However you want to define it, evil/suffering exists. If someone hits you in the bridge of your nose on purpose then you know suffering/evil exists. To say otherwise is to not have lived or to be stubborn.

    In classical theistic responses, such as Aquinas put forward, there is already no thing such "evil".Pacem

    Then Aquinas was wrong. And actually I'd love to know where he wrote/said such a thing.
  • javra
    768
    About self-renunciation: I had an insight today from Plato's Republic where he says the virtue/justice is the path to happiness. [...] First, the joy from helping others would be deeper and longer lasting than sensual pleasure. Second, if I could live off a very austere lifestyle then I would become immune to the desire or worry of wealth.MysticMonist

    This could be much ado about nothing—and it’s not directly oriented toward your post. Still—as a tangential to the thread—I wanted to express that although sensual pleasure all too often gets a very bad rap, imo it shouldn’t. I say this without yet knowing what position you yourself take on this topic.

    I’m thinking of everything on a spectrum from John Lennon’s song, “Love” (e.g., love is touch) to sexual practices, including those of Tantric sex. In many—though not all—religions, a divinity aligned sex (which in ancient Hindu practices could get very raunchy by today’s standards, for example) serves as a vehicle for attaining closer proximity to God. This “divinity alignment” could well be interpreted as the presence and pursuit of sensuality (as compared with things like sex devoid of any sensed intimacy). I’m aware that in today’s culture such attitude—to not even say spiritual truth / reality—is most often deemed contradictory to what in fact is … this regardless if one is spiritual or atheistic. Nevertheless, to me there’s something worthwhile about sensuality as one more facet of closer proximity to divinity … be this sensuality of a sexual nature or not: like in the sensual (sense-ual; as contrasted to percept-ual) pleasures of deep understandings that have at times been termed ecstasies. I’d even uphold that experienced love—from eros to agape—can itself only be an experience of the sensual.

    To be clear, while I don’t disagree with the notion that one can live well even when devoid of most carnal forms of sensuality (such as what can result from out of physical touch), I do maintain that an ideal, fully balanced life (which no one can be in perpetual possession of) would include a wide range of sensual experiences as means of closer proximity to God.

    I’ve brought this up because there’s a historical precedent in modern western culture that sensuality if of the Devil’s—from Savonarola to more modern notions of it being the Devil tempting one away from salvation. (no dancing in the streets, kind of thing) Then there’s a self-renunciation in Eastern spiritualties that seem to me to have almost taken over other paths after the West’s colonization of (parts of) the East. Yet, from Shinto to ancient Hindu to other ancient Eastern paths—as well as many ancient western paths—the being-at-home with sensuality as a means of closer proximity to divinity was once relatively widespread … again, be it expressed sexually or not, the focus was on new understandings of the divine gained through sense-experience (rather than percept-experience or reasoning).

    Thought it worthwhile to bring this perspective on sensuality into view.

    Hello, btw. So you know, I don’t personally subscribe to any notion of God as deity, though I do hold a belief in divinity, with what I here term God essentially being divinity’s pinnacle. The Neo-Platonist “the One” works for me, for example, as well as other notions of what is to me the same referent.
  • Pacem
    40
    And actually I'd love to know where he wrote/said such a thing.MountainDwarf

    Look at De Malo. You can also find some english translations of it.
  • Thorongil
    3.2k
    Can we call the infinitely many small random occurrences of the laws of nature that produced us, God?
    Or rather should we? Or even, perceive it as an old man?
    Frank Barroso

    No, you're just redefining God to what it hasn't and doesn't normatively refer to.
  • MysticMonist
    227
    No, you're just redefining God to what it hasn't and doesn't normatively refer to.Thorongil

    Spinoza would disagree. At least I think he would. I would definitely disagree. I'm not entirely consistent in what I mean by God. For me, God is a range of possible realities.
    I'll start a seperate thread tommorow.
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