The Poisoned Cup of Theodicy

The world has seen and heard enough about the misery and destruction in Haiti this past week that I don’t think I need to dwell on it. But I do want to take some time to address the perennial question of theodicy, which comes up in the aftermath of every disaster like this.

To an atheist, for whom the Haiti quake was nothing more than the result of tectonic plates slipping – a disaster caused by impersonal natural forces and random chance – there is nothing to explain. The laws of the cosmos are not conscious of human beings and don’t take our needs into account. No human action caused this disaster to occur, and no one bears responsibility for it. If we want to live comfortably and safely in this world, it’s up to us to learn its rules so that we can mitigate their worst consequences through science and technology, and when disaster does strike, it’s up to us to care for each other.

Such is the atheist’s view, and it is comforting, in a sense. But to people who believe in a personal deity who set these laws in motion and foresaw their consequences, there’s a much more glaring problem. In a post titled Why Did God Allow Haiti’s Earthquake?, Christian pastor Dave Schmelzer reflects on the topic.

Schmelzer does have a dead-on and even, dare I say it, scriptural response to Pat Robertson’s vile mouth:

The heart of the great biblical book on suffering—Job—critiques Job’s false friends who are determined to figure out why Job is suffering. It’s as if they can’t live in the tension of seeing someone else suffer without establishing that somehow the sufferer deserved their suffering, so we, the onlookers, are safe.

I have no argument with that. But there’s another section of Schmelzer’s post that caught my attention:

The best thing I’ve read on this subject is Gregory Boyd’s God at War. Boyd says that it’s our Greek influence that makes us need answers to suffering and evil. The issue, he says, isn’t intellectually figuring out evil. That will lead to two bad outcomes: torment (as Bart Ehrmann discovered) and complacency. To Boyd, the world is a thick spiritual battle. When we confront suffering and evil, our task is not to analyze the suffering and evil, it’s to fight it.

What I find most interesting about this is Boyd’s claim that we shouldn’t try to find an explanation for evil that’s compatible with Christianity. Attempting this, he says, can have only two outcomes, both of them bad: either we become convinced that God is malevolent or indifferent, which plunges one into despair (or leads to deconversion, as happened with Bart Ehrman), or we become convinced that God is justified in causing it, which leads to the Robertson-like callousness which believes that only evil people suffer.

Now, I’m not denying the logic of this argument. Those do seem to be the most common outcomes when Christians contemplate the problem of evil. But what I want to point out is his conclusion: therefore, Christians should stop trying to find an explanation for evil. They should just stop thinking about the topic, because it does damage to their faith if they dwell on it too closely.

Schmelzer endorses this conclusion himself:

“Why” never offered anyone any comfort, any power or any answers… So let’s not over-analyze “why God allowed” Haiti’s earthquake.

This is a rather surprising view, inasmuch as it categorically dismisses the possibility that apologists’ attempts to justify evil and suffering could ever assist faith. It seems he agrees with us atheists that conventional Christian explanations for evil are insufficient.

But it’s not just evangelical Christians who take this view. A Mormon blog calls the project of theodicy a “poisoned cup”, and says:

I find myself increasingly ambivalent about the whole project of theodicy. On one hand, I want to reject a fideism that insists on belief in the irrational as a mark of true faith. Hence, I want a religion that at least holds out the possibility of increasing my understanding of the ways of God and the nature of the universe through the use of reason. We shouldn’t have to crucify our brains in order to believe. And yet there is also a part of me that wants to maintain the mystery of evil… Ultimately… the most important reaction to suffering is its alleviation rather than its explanation.

This blogger, obviously an intelligent person, doesn’t want to have to shut off his mind in order to believe. And to his credit, he rejects the Robertsonian argument that black people were justly excluded from the Mormon priesthood as punishment for sins they committed in a previous life:

I would much rather ascribe the priesthood ban to the tragic failings and racism of good and great men like Brigham Young rather than warp the cosmic narrative of the plan of salvation to make an injustice just.

This is an eloquent and laudable honesty, far superior to the usual apologists’ approach of enshrining contingent historical prejudices as eternal truths. And yet he, too, counsels fellow believers to cease trying to explain evil and “simply let the mystery be” – as though the project of theodicy was a blister, or an unhealed wound: something that we only make worse by picking at it.

What’s remarkable is that both these writers, in their own ways, implicitly acknowledge that the argument from evil is irrefutable. There is simply no moral way to reconcile belief in an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving deity with the fact of evil and suffering in our world. This is just what atheists have been saying since the time of Epicurus. But rather than take the obvious next step – that the argument from evil is unanswerable because the atheists are correct – they instead advise their fellow believers to stop thinking about it.

Is this not remarkable? It’s as though, for people in these religious traditions, an entire continent of their inner mental world has to be cordoned off and declared a forbidden zone. Their mental landscape is littered with locked doors, fences of barbed wire, and sternly worded “Keep Out” signs – all delimiting the sphere of dangerous ideas which they’re advised never to examine.

Can anyone dispute that atheists have nothing like this? Is there any idea we place off-limits for examination, any question we deem too dangerous to ask? Is there any place where we say the free mind must never travel? And if your answer is “no”, as it inevitably must be, then I have a followup question: Which kind of belief would need to be protected from scrutiny: a true belief, or a false one?

Atlas Shrugged: Sixteen Tons
A Christian vs. an Atheist: On God and Government, Part 11
SF/F Saturday: Terry Pratchett’s Death
Weekend Coffee: March 28
About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Yahzi

    I was once having a discussion about the afterlife, and how little sense it made.

    The response I got was, “You’re not supposed to think about it. It’s just supposed to be there, in the back of your mind, to make you feel better.”

    Religion is about feeling, not facts. And that makes us atheists the ultimate buzz-kill.

  • BJ Marshall

    Like so many other things, the Trinity for example, Christians punt to it being “a mystery.” I heard this a lot from my Catholic parish. A friend and I were in a Small Christian Community and would joke around anytime the group couldn’t answer a question, it was “a mystery.”

    Atheism has no corollary. We are comfortable saying “I don’t know,” but that doesn’t stop us from looking into it.

  • CzarGarrett

    I’d say atheists and intellectuals in general don’t have boundaries, but individuals do.

    Is a hardcore pacifist going to consider napalm as a solution to an issue? A staunch libertarian willing to allow a government entity to control something? No, because as an individual, they’ve placed the idea off-limits to themselves.

    Which is why, to my observations, much of the atheist movement works- there are people from a lot of different backgrounds working together. While most everyone has decided against any sort of divine, or at least the worship thereof, that’s probably the only truly common theme. Some atheists are politically right while many are politically left. Some are from Western nations, others from Eastern countries. Writers, scientists, dancers- everyone gets involved.

  • dave

    “Here there be Dragons”.

    As for your question, only false beliefs need protection.

  • Polly

    This truly is the thing about religion that I cannot abide in myself. More than simply unwarranted belief it’s the necessity of telling my mind to STOP. I really did FEEL the limits. And then I felt them come crashing down and the whole universe open up to me. There’s nothing like intellectual freedom. There’s nothing as uplifting or empowering.

    For the believer there’s a pragmatic reason why the mind should be confined within certain limits: your questioning may cost you your eternal soul. Also, if god is real, then there really is NO POINT in questioning evil. As George Burns, playing god, said: “There is no unknown, I know.” It sounds comforting and no doubt it is for many, but, for me, it’s anything but.

  • Joanna

    I think most people have social, cultural, and personal mental “keep out” zones that aren’t related to religion.

  • jack

    A popular Bible verse among Christians is this rendering (maybe from the Living Bible; I’m not sure) of Proverbs 20:24: “Since the Lord is directing our steps, why try to understand everything that happens along the way?” Our local Xian radio station used to broadcast this repeatedly, complete with inspirational background music, as filler between shows.

  • Greta Christina


    On the Daily Show recently, Christian author Jim Wallis commented on Pat Robertson and Haiti by saying, quote, “He clearly hasn’t read it (the Bible)… The God I believe in is with those who suffer. He doesn’t punish those or create evil for those who are already suffering.” (emphasis mine)

    And then, in his very next breath, he said, “Haiti was a collision of poverty and the earthquake.”

    I’ll repeat that: Haiti was a collision of poverty and the earthquake. In other words… Haiti was God dogpiling a massive earthquake onto desperate poverty. Haiti was God creating evil people who were already suffering. What kind of cognitive dissonance does it take to both acknowledge that and deny it in a sequence of just two sentences?

    I wrote an Atheist Meme of the Day recently, saying, “Any religion that asks people to stop asking questions and just have faith is a religion without good answers. Atheists don’t tell people to have faith in God’s non-existence: we encourage people to ask questions and think about their beliefs. If your religion is telling you to stop asking questions, ask yourself: Why would they ask that of me?”

    That’s exactly what refusing to consider theodicy is doing. It’s saying, “If we seriously think about this question, we may have to question our faith… so let’s stop thinking about it. We’d rather keep our faith than know the truth.” How messed up is that?

  • Siamang

    This is one of the things that contributes to the “heavy suitcase” of religion.

    Feels so good just to put that thing down.

    How many wasted cycles of my brain were spent reconciling irreconcilable things I knew to be “God’s truth”.

  • JulietEcho

    If you believe in the Traditional Christian God (TM) and your brain keeps working, cognitive dissonance can only take you so far – you have to add liberal scoops of denial and ignorance if you want to make it all the way to heaven.

    I couldn’t turn off my skepticism, and I wouldn’t want that.

  • Rick M

    Dave Schmelzer had a follow up post to the Why Did God Allow Haiti’s Earthquake?

    No, Seriously, Why Does God Allow Suffering?,

    Schmelzer recognizes that the original post wasn’t quite satisfying,

    A couple of you pushed back on my Haiti post that merely saying that “why” God allows suffering is the wrong question doesn’t get us far enough. Wrong question or no, it is a question that begs an answer, you said.

    Why is there suffering in the world? If you’ll forgive the small-scale crudity, in my world the most-compelling answer is “because shit happens.”

    He reiterates his explanation in a huge bold font – SHIT HAPPENS.

  • Erika

    It is fair to criticize religion when it declares that certain things are just inherently mysterious, not to be understood by us earthly beings. It is fair to criticize individuals who ignore the tensions in their beliefs just because those tensions are threatening.

    However, I also think that it is fair for an individual to say, “I am willing to believe this even if it is a mystery to me, even if it is at odds with my other observations. Holding this belief causes less tension in my belief system than the alternative.”

    I suspect that most religious individuals who have seriously considered the problem of evil still believe in God because they believe that accepting atheism introduces more tensions than it resolves. They have considered the problem of evil and realized they have no good response to it, but they have also considered the position of atheism and decided that it also does not satisfy them.

    For those individuals, we should not focus on the fact that they have no good solution to the problem of evil (although we should certainly criticize bad explanations). Instead, we should focus on the concerns that make atheism problematic. Do they believe you cannot be good without God? Do they worry about the origin of life and the universe? Maybe, if we can address these concerns, the next time they consider the problem of evil, they will conclude that the position of atheism resolves more tensions than it raises.

  • Katie M

    “Is there any idea we place off-limits for examination, any question we deem too dangerous to ask? Is there any place where we say the free mind must never travel?”

    I say no. There are no forbidden questions-and thus no forbidden answers.

    “And if your answer is “no”, as it inevitably must be, then I have a followup question: Which kind of belief would need to be protected from scrutiny: a true belief, or a false one?”

    Religious beliefs, IMHO, don’t NEED protection-they WANT protection.

  • Van Rijn

    >>> “Can anyone dispute that atheists have nothing like this?”

    Without question. Most of the other atheists and agnostics I know have very strongly held political beliefs. I’m really the only person I know who is a hardcore skeptic on both the theological and ideological fronts. It’s sort of depressing, really. It’s like they abandoned one belief system only to take up another. What’s sadder is that ideological beliefs can be (and are every day) tested in the real world, but many of them advocate the same failed ideas over and over. And I’m picking on all parts of the political spectrum here.

  • Zietlos

    Of course atheists have their internal barriers and walls. The question though is what type of belief would need to be protected from scrutiny? And to that I say, true or false, all types. Hypothetical example: I have a belief, a true belief, in the internal mechanisms of a weapon. Maybe a laser cannon, some futuristic thing. I REALLY don’t want others scrutinizing that belief, since then they may make one. This is, because of course, as a capitalist I want to make money off of it first.

    More simply and commonly, as #14 said, politics. Three things you do not discuss around my dinner table are religion, politics, and love. They just begin arguments with no solution, since my entire family have wildly divergent beliefs in all three. No [C.onservative R.eform A.lliance P.arty] member in Canada WANTS to know Harpo is an incompetent idiot worse than the South’s Bush Jr, so they protect their beliefs. On the Liberal side, no one likes being reminded of ADSCAM or e-health, they want to shelter and protect their beliefs. The other three parties are similar. I’m sure the States is the same, mentally ignoring things Obama does wrong if they’re pro, or ignoring many Bush-isms if they were against Obama.

  • Ed

    If we removed the God aspect from this post what would change? Many Buddhists are non theists/atheists and yet they too would consul focusing on what can be done in the moment to alleviate suffering. “Ultimately… the most important reaction to suffering is its alleviation rather than its explanation.” Who among us would disagree with that statement? I prefer to believe the Christians quoted above really are not that interested in defending their faith and belief in God, but genuinely wish to take a stance that emboldens them to do as much as they can for the well being of others. Sure there may be an element of cognitive dissonance at play here, but I believe for most adults the issue of suffering and its alleviation really does take precedent over articles of faith. Passing a child drowning in a shallow pond, few among us would fail to do something. We have a natural and innate desire to protect others when we feel able regardless of what we may or may not believe.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Excellent as usual! Calls to mind one of my favorite quotations from Nietzsche: “[I]f you wish to strive for peace of soul and pleasure, then believe; if you wish to be a devotee of truth, then inquire…” (The Portable Nietzsche, 30).

  • Tommykey

    This reminds me of a scene from the movie Shadowlands, with Anthony Hopkins as C.S. Lewis. If I recall, the scene is set in a church and Lewis is addressing the people gathered there. He describes some tragic accident in which a number of people died, and then rhetorically asks “Where was God?” He then goes on to declare that “Suffering is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” In other words, and I am interpreting this as an atheist, Lewis is basically saying that instead of asking why God allows suffering, we should be asking ourselves, “what are we doing to alleviate suffering?” Compassion and suffering end up being two sides of the same coin. In the absence of suffering, there is no need for compassion.

  • Lenoxus

    Is God a person (person-like being), or just a label for the unknown? If God is truly a person, than asking “Why?” is to take Him, His personhood and His power, completely seriously. After losing a child to a hit-and-run, or similar act of negligence, should a family just say “these things happen”, and accept the perpetrator’s excuse of “I act in mysterious, unknowable ways”?

    Of course, if God is just the Unknowable, that’s fine — but then don’t act like you nonetheless “know” that He is all-good.

    My favorite take on the issue is Stephen Law’s humorous God of Eth.

  • Valhar2000

    “Suffering is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

    You do realize that if a human, rather than “God”, advocated this sort of thing, they would be universally excoriated, right? This is an excuse, not an explanation.

  • UNRR

    This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 1/26/2010, at The Unreligious Right

  • D

    @ Rick M. (#11): Am I the only one who noticed that Schmelzer’s “God allows bad things because shit happens” explanation boils down to “shit happens because shit happens?” Who the Hell thinks that explains anything?

    The only way this could have been better would be if he had mis-used the phrase, “to beg the question,” rather than pointing out that the question begs to be answered. Then I’d get to pontificate on how he mis-uses a fallacy while at the same time committing it!

  • Wednesday

    I’m reminded of a fascinating article about a mythos developed by homeless children in Miami. The stories are about a battle between God and angels against Satan and Bloody Mary – and God is losing. For these children, the resolution to the POE is obvious – God lets bad things happen because he’s powerless to stop it.

  • Rick M

    @D (#22) Schmelzer says shit happens because, “the Fall pretty much spoiled things forever by letting sin and suffering into the world“. This is pretty much the same as Robertson’s explanation of the Haitian earthquake – a human pact with the devil. Robertson says it was in 1804 by rebellious slaves. Schmelzer blames Adam & Eve in the distant past. I get a laugh out of the protests by fundie/evangelical preachers to Robertson’s remarks.

    It doesn’t occur to Schmelzer that Tectonic Plates Happen.

  • Dan

    I think the “Crucifolks” (a bogus band) sum it all up nicely with their song “Think With Your Heart” from Adult Swim’s Moral Orel:

    Reason is the enemy of faith, my friend
    A head that’s filled with knowledge
    soon is too bloated with its own weight
    to fit through heaven’s gate
    So think with your heart
    it’s the only organ for salvation
    think with your heart
    don’t deduce yourself to eternal damnation
    think with your heart
    ’cause you know that the almighty sees us
    think only with your heart
    whoever heard of the bleeding brain of Jesus?

  • Jerryd

    A woman wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper here recently responding to another letter about abortion. In this she intimated God’s anger over abortion had him causing earthquakes, floods and other catastrophes. She later stated she was praying and fasting to that “loving and merciful” God for forgiveness–presumably for Americans who have abortions or condone them.

    How warped does your brain have to be to not only believe that God allows evil, but, that while ascribing to him the traits of being “loving and merciful,” he actually commits evil via random acts of death and destruction upon the innocent as a way to punish the guilty who live in another locale?

    Imagine a parent seeking guidance for logical and moral behavior by mimicking that of God. Your child acts up, don’t explain what is wrong and ask her not to do it again. Don’t punish her. No go over a few blocks and burn down all the houses there while touting how loving and merciful you are. That will teach your child not to mess with you. And I’m sure the police won’t mind since you’ll tell them you are just following God’s example. Only the word “God” has such brain-paralyzing powers.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Raulston Nembhard writes: God becomes the target of every atheist whenever there is a natural tragedy anywhere in the world.

    No, Mr. Nembhard. God doesn’t exist. It is belief in God that is targeted. And your theodicy fails with all the rest.

  • TEP

    I suspect that most religious individuals who have seriously considered the problem of evil still believe in God because they believe that accepting atheism introduces more tensions than it resolves. They have considered the problem of evil and realized they have no good response to it, but they have also considered the position of atheism and decided that it also does not satisfy them.

    Although that is a false dichotomy. One does not have to become an atheist to deal with the problem of evil – in fact it’s fairly trivial to do if one is able to do away with the need for an omni-everything god. Simply posit a god of limited power. Problem solved. It’s really a simple problem to deal with, the question is why theists are so fixated on their need for their god to be omniextravagant, that they will not even consider altering their beliefs even slightly. That’s the thing that really puzzles me; limited gods are much easier to defend because they don’t run into the sorts of problems that omniextravagant gods do, so it is somewhat surprising that theists aren’t more willing to consider the possibility of a limited god – such an entity is much harder to falsify. But instead it’s an “omni-everything or nothing” approach.

  • JulietEcho

    Raulston Nembhard writes: God becomes the target of every atheist whenever there is a natural tragedy anywhere in the world.

    Worse, he falls back on the “if God intervened to prevent suffering, we wouldn’t have free will!” argument, which attempts to sidestep the POE while conveniently ignoring the kinds of events – like, oh, say, EARTHQUAKES – that have nothing to do with human actions or will.

    Or would preventing earthquakes and birth defects be negating the free will of Adam and Eve, who chose this problematic state of affairs? By all means, God’s sure doing us a favor by allowing those two (even if we pretend they existed) the freedom to choose suffering and death for millions, even after they’re dead for thousands of years.

  • keddaw

    Imagine the plates only shifted, volcanoes blew their tops and storms only happened in regions where it was safe (from a human perspective) to do so. What a wonderful proof of the existence of a loving God. But, with proof and without doubt what use faith. God has to allow natural disasters to allow us the chance to have faith to achieve salvation in the afterlife.

    Assuming we get there with all the meteorites, tsunamis, earthquakes, plagues and various other natural disasters that are out to get us.

  • D

    @ TEP (#28): It’s because their worldview runs on Capital-A Authority. Think of it as the biggest fallacious appeal to authority possible. God is the ultimate authority behind everything – morality is the way it is because God says so, humans are the way we are because God says so, existence exists (both “at all” and “the particular way it does”) because God says so. If God isn’t telling everyone where to go and what to do, then this isn’t a real life to them, it’s just a vacuous pantomime with no inherent meaning or purpose (purpose and meaning inhere in reality because God says so).

    In order for God’s authority to count, he has to be pan-omni, he has to be Anselm’s ontologically necessary “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.” If anything at all is not subject to the authority of the All-Powerful King of the Universe, then who cares about anything? I mean, we care, but those who buy into your false dichotomy (and it is a false dichotomy, they just can’t understand that because they’re victims of their own psychological foibles) don’t see it that way – they can’t. They need a metaphysical pat on the head; they need to hear, “There, there – you don’t have to worry, God’s in charge and he has a plan, so it’s all going to work out in the end.”

    Contrast that with, say, reality: nothing is for absolutely certain, everything is subject to change, and even the best of plans may come to naught because of shit we just didn’t know about. To some folks, this reality is the Worst Thing Ever, and it would truly be better to walk in self-deception than to walk in doubt (or so they think, but that’s exactly the problem). [Insert standard disclaimer about how it's more complicated than just this, but this is one of the ways it can happen, and blah blah blah.]

    @ Rick M (#24): Thanks for the clarification! Now it’s twice as hilarious!

    @ Ebonmuse (site-related): Maybe it’s just me (my workstation was recently upgraded to IE8), but the comment editor is bollocksed up. The scroll bar keeps jumping all over the place, I can’t see what I’m doing unless I’m typing.

  • Erigami

    This isn’t a problem for polytheistic religions. Even christianity wouldn’t have to worry about theodicy if they allowed god to be something other than all powerful.

    As to blind spots in atheist’s POV: I’d agree with Van Rijn. I have political beliefs (namely a belief in mutualism/socialism, the inherent value of creativity, and the importance of social justice) that I can’t really build a strong case for. That doesn’t stop me from espousing those views. If questioned why, I would have to say “because I think it’s the right thing to do, because it helps people”. I couldn’t go much deeper than saying that I think it’s fair, and to invoke the golden rule.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Here is an even more appropriate Nietzsche quotation to summarize this post, one which I was actually trying to think of, but couldn’t recall last night:

    God is a gross answer, an indelicacy against us thinkers – at bottom merely a gross prohibition for us: you shall not think!” -Ecce Homo, II 1

  • Thumpalumpacus

    When I was a practicing Baptist, we were taught that Hell is God’s only punishment, that nothing evil on this world is to be understood as “punishment”. Once I got old enough — and experienced enough myself — this non-answer prompted the questions that, unanswered by my pastor, led me to deconversion.

  • Lenoxus

    D #31: That “greatest possible being” notion often strikes me as a point-in-every-direction phenomenon. It only works if you agree with the Augustine notion that evil isn’t a thing something can “be”. Otherwise, God is necessarily the most good possible being, the most evil possible being, the smartest, the dumbest, the biggest, the smallest, etc. In short, the “greatest possible being” can’t exist.

    Of course, all such a priori philosophizing is the only basis on which theists call God good in the first place. I’ve never seen a theological a posteriori breakdown of our universe that “proves” God is maximally good (say, derived mathematically from the durations and intensities of diseases and natural disasters, on the total scale of how bad they “could” be).

    I once ran across a piece on the ontological argument that actually had me convinced of its validity — but only if one applies it to all “possibilities”, which all cancel out. There is a perfect island, and a perfectly awful island, both of them infinitely huge and infinitely small. I don’t remember the full logic of the argument, though, so I could be mistaken about it (and probably am).

  • myview

    If I was god I would have warned everyone to get outside.

  • Danikajaye

    “No, Seriously, Why Does God Allow Suffering?”… I’m still sold that the best thing to be said is that it’s the wrong question, that comfort and God are not to be found in the question…. How helpful do you find the “why is there suffering?” – Dave Schmelzer

    GAK. It’s exactly the right question to ask. If you look into it with the sincere aim of finding an answer you will discover that the world is indifferent to human concerns. Natural disasters happen and they are neither good nor evil, just indifferent. When you realise that you can stop fluffing about with all the “God” stuff and start asking questions like “How do we monitor and predict the movement of the earths plates?” or “Is there an early warning system we can implement to help save lives?”. How about engaging your brain and realising no magical man in the sky is going to solve all the “shit that happens” for you? Only then can you get your arse into gear and start finding answers that will have real benefit to people.

    Imagine if Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin looked at children with polio and simply said “Shit happens, but take comfort, God loves you!”. What a lot of good that would have done the world.

  • Modusoperandi

    The heart of the great biblical book on suffering–Job–critiques Job’s false friends who are determined to figure out why Job is suffering.

    …and near the end, God basically says “Because I can”.

    Rick M “[Dave Schmelzer]…reiterates his explanation in a huge bold font – SHIT HAPPENS.”
    But that’s the atheist’s answer!

    Valhar2000 “You do realize that if a human, rather than ‘God’, advocated this sort of thing, they would be universally excoriated, right? This is an excuse, not an explanation.”
    Um, yeah. It’s apologetics.

    TEP “It’s really a simple problem to deal with, the question is why theists are so fixated on their need for their god to be omniextravagant, that they will not even consider altering their beliefs even slightly.”
    But what use is a limited god? “If you believe, you’ll get to go to our heaven, which lasts a while and is generally a nice place, although the air-conditioning is on the fritz and the beer is flat and bland” isn’t much of a pitch from the Saved, nor is the punishment for the “outgroup” all that bad if “…it’s like Safeway, but without a cereal aisle.” Nor is “It’s okay. God has part of a plan that probably won’t work out all that well for all involved.” all that consoling, even if you really want it to be. Plus, that version of god is quite possible wrong, which takes all the fun out of fundamentalism.
    That’s not proper monotheism, which is supposed to have the stern, all-knowing father-figure, rather than the somewhat drunk one who keeps losing the remote.

    Danikajaye “Imagine if Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin looked at children with polio and simply said “Shit happens, but take comfort, God loves you!”. What a lot of good that would have done the world.”
    Yes, but the same inaction, via “hospital” that was basically just a misery aggregator, won Mother Teresa a Nobel and put her on the fast track to sainthood!

  • Kennypo65

    Actually, god says to Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? etc. etc.(Sorry the full statement is a bit long-winded, look it up for yourself ’cause I ain’t typing all that shit.) He basically attacks Job for having the audacity to question him. This is because the guy who pulled the story of Job out of his ass and put it in the bible didn’t have a clue what the answer was.