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The Problem of Evil: Where is Atheism When Bad Things Happen?
In the very beginning of the chapter, D’ Souza provides us with a quote from Christopher Hitchens that says “If Jesus could heal a blind person he happened to meet, then why not heal blindness?”. What Hitchens asks is perhaps one of the hardest question to answer, even for a Christian. Around the world, there are many people starving, dying and being brutally murdered. There are babies born without their limbs, sight or hearing. The terrorist attack on 9.11 marks one of the most terrifying and atrocious attack that we have seen, which resulted in an estimated 3,000 people killed. All of these horrible happenings can make someone question “well where is God? Is he sleeping?” Steven Weinberg says “The God of birds and trees, would also have to be the God of birth defects and cancer”. Weinberg also being Jewish notes “Remembrance of the Holocaust leaves me unsympathetic to attempts to justify the ways of God to man”.
The issue of evil and suffering, is one of the most strongest arguments against the “existence of God”. The reasoning behind this is “If God exists, He is all-powerful. If He is all-powerful, He is in a position to stop evil and suffering”. D’ Souza notes that “evil and suffering pose a serious intellectual and moral challenge for Christians”. On a side note, Hindus believe that suffering in our present life is due to actions in our previous one and Buddhism believes that suffering is “the product of egocentric desire”. When horrible events take place, it can be simply explained by the absence of God. Evil and suffering poses not only a intellectual and moral problem but also an emotional problem. When terrible things happen, it “wrecks hearts”. D’ Souza says “when I get sick, I don’t want a theory to explain it; I want something that will make me feel better”. While Theism offers a good explanation so that people can cope with suffering; atheism has no “consolation”.
D’ Souza tells us about the incident in April 2007, when a Virginia Tech student went berserk and killed other students in the campus. D’ Souza interestingly notes that during the aftermath and the mourning period; atheism was nowhere to be found. Instead, people were talking of God and spiritual healing. “Even people who were not personally religious began to use language that was drenched with Christian symbolism and meaning”.
The problem with materialism is that “everything becomes dark and meaningless”. Steven Weinberg even notes “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless”. Materialist solution would be “evil is not a problem, because evil does not exist”. While God offers another life to come, “atheism offers only extinction”.
Now, atheists will then rebuttal and may ask “well then are we supposed to tell people a bunch of fairy tales in order for them to cope with their suffering?” However, people that conclude that modern science is the truth because it works, doesn’t seem to work in time of evil and suffering. Rather, we can say religion works “which is to say it speaks to human longings and needs in a way that no secular language can”. Pragmatist William James explains,
“Atheists are like people who live on a frozen lake surrounded by cliffs that offer no means os escape. They know that the ice is melting and the inevitable day is coming when they much plunge ignominiously into the water. This prospect is as meaningless as it is horrifying. Christianity offers at least a prospect of the afterlife and the chance of salvation”.
While the argument of evil and suffering can point to the non-existence of God, it can also be used for the argument of existence. For example, why do we conclude that evil and suffering is “unjust”? How do we know that evil is wrong? How do we know what good is? “what is the source of that moral standard if not God?”. We can even see in the Bible, where Job angrily asks God why he was suffering and why his possessions were taken away from him? However, God replies indirectly by asking “what gives the creature the right to questions its creator?”
One way D’ Souza says we can answer Job’s question is: free will. “God does not want to reign over an empire of automatons. Freedom of choice means that we are free to do good and we are also free to do evil”. God didn’t kill the students in Virginia Tech, the shooter did. So how come God didn’t stop and interfere? If he did interfere, then “the shooter would be-by miraculous intrusion-disarmed, the shootings would have been prevented, and life would go on”. Basically, life would have went on as if God has not intervened at all. D’ Souza then notes that “God in this view becomes a kind of cosmic errandboy, who is supposed to do our chores and clean up our messed and then wish Him a very good day and return to our everyday lives”.
D’ Souza suggests that maybe God’s purpose is to draw people to Him, even in instances like the Virginia Tech. However, people would then blame God and say “so he causes these horrible massacres so that people can turn to Him?” But, God doesn’t cause these events; people do. While there is no right answer to “why do bad things happen to good people?’, we can say that “there are not good people. None of us deserves the life that we have, which is a gratuitous gift from God”.
1) Why is the problem of evil also a problem for atheists?
2) What do you think philosopher William James was getting at with his “pragmatic” defense of religion? What does religion offer that atheism doesn’t?
3) In answering Job’s questions in the Bible, God reminds Job he is merely a moral man who doesn’t create the universe and cannot comprehend the ways of God. This satisfies Job, but would it satisfy you? Is it a good argument to offer someone who is not a Christian? Why or why not?
4) How does free will help to explain why God might allow people such as Hitler, Mao and serial killers to inflict grace harm on others?
* admin님에 의해서 게시물 이동되었습니다 (2015-12-31 05:49)