My Religious Paradigm (5) The problem of suffering

stephenlaw.blogspot.com

In re-thinking my current religious paradigm, I’ve suggested that there’s some evidence of intelligence and design in the existence and form of the universe, and that this means that the notion of a god is not an entirely unreasonable proposition. Whereas Darwin’s Theory of Evolution facilitates the setting aside of such a notion, it doesn’t necessitate it. The exception however, for me, would be the ‘traditional’ God who is declared to be all-seeing, all powerful and all good. My deal breaker, for that version of a god, is the existence and extent of suffering.   

Life is a wondrous, and yet horrifying, phenomenon. Life has to eat other life in order to survive, and therefore nature is ‘red in tooth and claw’, with the predators themselves liable to become prey. In every second of time, there are living creatures experiencing the terror and agony of being chased, captured, torn apart and eaten alive. An extreme instance is the wasp that inserts its eggs into a caterpillar. The larvae then nourish themselves by eating the caterpillar alive as they chew their way out of it. Which creator god I wonder, thought up that little bit of gratuitous horror?

In our world of fellow humans, 5 million children die each year, (10 every minute) as a result of hunger, poverty, illness and other needless causes. Millions of people have lost their homes, families and lives in too many pitiless, genocidal attacks. 6 million of the Jewish God’s ‘chosen people’ were ruthlessly oppressed and brutally murdered. What we shouldn’t do, is to respond to this with an insulatingly abstract, buck-passing debate about ‘the gift of free will’. We should empathise with, and feel something of the fear, anguish, pain and misery of fathers, mothers and children mercilessly torn apart, to be worked to death, shot, gassed, buried in pits or burned in crematoriums,. We should then ask ourselves, how could a God of all foreknowledge, power and goodness seem neither to share such feelings, nor to lift a divine finger, to prevent what he knew would happen, or intervene to end it when it did?

What kind of world would we expect to be designed and watched over by a God of all knowledge, power and goodness? Would it be one with unpredictable and regularly fatal volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, avalanches, mudslides, tornadoes, floods, droughts, famines and firestorms? This is what we might expect from a god who could well have had good intentions, but no precise foreknowledge of how what was started might continue and turn out, and no power to intervene remedially once the process was underway.

In my religious paradigm, then, the kind of god I could possibly believe in would not be a locatable person, but an ongoing process, involving intelligence and design, but only becoming self-conscious when the randomly operating evolutionary process it had designed, eventually produced sentient and linguistically complex beings. In which case, you and I are the eyes, ears and self-aware mind of ‘God’. 

As Genesis 3 put it, we “have become like gods, knowing good and evil.” We have the foresight to realise the utter destruction of our world, and of ourselves, that we are capable of irresponsibly barging or sleepwalking into. We have the know-how, and the power, either to bring such a catastrophe about or, instead, to prevent it happening. Does “original sin” fatally make us “totally depraved” and hopelessly beyond salvation, or is there a fundamental, altruistic, collective good deeply buried in us, which can spring into life, and be the means of our deliverance, before such a crunch comes?

8 responses to “My Religious Paradigm (5) The problem of suffering”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: