We live in a world of secular governments and pop culture. However, surprisingly, religion is on the rise on the global front. But in the U.S. and some European countries, society is largely “secular-centric” where religion is almost never discussed in the mainstream media except to feed into political party polarization and sensationalism. According to a Pew Research Center study, religious topics represented less than 1% of all news media coverage and most of that content was focused on religious extremism and politics. Other studies show that some journalists are actually afraid to tackle religious topics in mainstream news media. Thus, the principles of any religion are never really talked about on the evening news. Hence, the act of living in religion of any faith in such countries is often regulated to one’s immediate family or else non-existent.
The reasons people sometimes reject religion in this case very often has to do with the one or all of the following:
1. Biblical and Sacred Text Literacy
The Bible is quite a collection of 66 books of poetry, philosophy, history, prophetic visions, letters (epistles) and narrative of witness. Most study bibles contain approximately 3,000 pages. Hence this amazing book is not always well understood as many people simply don’t read the whole work and when priests, ministers, poets and politicians cite excerpts of its content, the context and intention of the original writing is not always conveyed correctly. So is it any wonder why many of today’s modern public church-goers as well as non-believers, don’t really have a sound foundation in Biblical literacy and thus, a true understanding of the word of God?
2. The Rituals of Religions Are Not In Place
When was the last time you prayed? Is this something you do at all? According to another Pew Research Center study, approximately 76.5% of adults in the U.S. practice some sort of religion 22.8% of believers don’t follow any religion. The study further reports that 23% religious followers don’t pray at all. Such studies are based on questionnaires and they require participants to be truthful of course (and they do factor in margins for errors). However, such studies do provide us with an understanding that the ritual or practice of prayer is one aspect of religious understanding and reverence that is not well in place.
3. Losing Faith: The Questioning of God:
- Is God Really in Control?
- Does God Intervene in our lives? How?
At some point or points in everyone’s life, something very difficult and devastating happens to us and we can and sometimes do get quite angry and question God’s purpose or whether God is there at all. I don’t think anyone has not felt this at some point. Why? Because during such stressful moments, we can forget the nature of our own understanding of God or maybe we just don’t know the very religion we claim to believe in. When we lose faith during times of intense personal suffering, we must remember that religion does not promise a perfect life in an imperfect world. This is a failure to understand and acknowledge that the “long game” of all Abrahamic religions involves living a life filled with trials, judgements and a return to origin point of our soul. This does not equate with a living in world absent from suffering. This principle is simply not well understood by many.
4. Why are we really here?
I don’t think there is any one of us that hasn’t asked about the purpose of life. And while, we are constantly told that God loves us and has a plan for us, the fundamental curiosity fueled by our freewill forces us to question the reasons for our required worship of God.
Since Christian scriptures only cite reasons related to honoring and worshiping God as the purpose for our existence, we frequently come to question this seemingly sinful, vain but Godly purpose.
I will be discussing the above topics in depth within future posts but I think the most difficult question is the one below that is also the subject of great debates for centuries and is the what I refer to as “The Religion Killer”.
5. Why Does God Allow Evil to Exist?
The question of why God allows evil to exist always undermines religious understanding. It is probably the most perplexing question to believers and it serves as argumentative fuel for non-believers alike. The answer to this question, as with the answers to the other questions above, cannot be proven nor disproven solely with human reasoning.
However, we can speculate or examine why God might allow evil to exist, but we should first take a step back and look at a more fundamental question as to the domain where God might exist.
The idea of a monotheistic God predates all the Abrahamic religions by many centuries. Probably the most important speculative illustrations of one God or designer of the universe was presented in Plato’s Timaeus dialogue. In this work, the Timaeus character describes his view and the hierarchy of a designer God is in a perfect state of being. In fact, this key point is one area of confusion about what God or a perfect deity might be.
A perfect state of being is not changeable per Timaeus because perfection would not require changes. Good and evil are thus, characteristics or properties ascribed to phenomena in states of “becoming”. So, to clarify, the state of being is distinct from the state or states of becoming. More simply stated, the state of becoming relates to changes that occur in time and space as with humans whereas only a god can be in an unchanging, perfect state. The “Demiurge” is one such omnipotent deity per Plato’s text. The primary difference between the Demiurge of Timaeus and the God of Abraham however is that the Demiurge is solely described as the overall creator of the universe, but a secondary god or gods are more interactive with the lower-level humans and with the events that occur on Earth.
The reason why Plato’s Timaeus is important for our discussion about good vs evil and where God might stand on this is to point out first whether Plato’s Demiurge could have been a speculative albeit incomplete portrait of the God of Abraham.
Although God is frequently referred to as “good” with sacred texts, this degree of “good” is not really subject to change. In other words, God cannot be less good. His “good” is the apex and is imbedded within his unchangeable identity.
As stated above, the “good” or “evil” which is changeable in the world of man, is not an attribute of a perfect being but rather one of becoming as it is solely within the domain of human experience. We need to remember that only humans are subject to changeable “good” or changeable “evil” or at the very least, a lesser hierarchy of imperfect good vs evil must exist at the human level. As such, a change in state is on a continuum and is thus subject to increments and decrements or negative states. These changeable states of good and evil are thus, functions of finite man’s changing states of existence. Man simply does not exist in paradise or a state of perfection and thus is subject to negative states of becoming.
Man’s finite life is subject to the eventuality of decay and death. Death in of itself, does not necessarily equate to evil. However, when death is considered premature or else the result of violence, most of us often view death as a malevolent, unexpected event within the domain of evil.
Man is also subject to corruption, envy, jealousy and of course, the seven deadly sins and hence, this also raises the shadow of evil.
So, in order to reconcile the original question of why the God of Abraham might allow evil to exist we can only deduce within our limited understanding that evil is a function of our imperfect state of becoming which includes disease, corruption and premature death as well as our ability to choose between good vs evil.
God gave us the gift of life, but he also allows choice and with an imperfect world and imperfect humans, evil becomes a necessary “evil” to live on Earth.
Is God Really “Good”?
If you are a Christian, you must believe that God is “good”. Our Bible is ripe with declarations of this in numerous sections and verses. However, when dealing with this question from solely an apologetics to combat a secular philosophical argument, we can take to a further degree solely using secular reasoning excluding the assumption that God is “good”.
There are often heated debates about whether God exists but the proponents of each side of the argument seldom ever explicitly define the difference between a phenomenon such as God, the properties/attributes of God. An object or a phenomenon contains attributes or characteristics. The sky for example is the color blue with blue being a property of the sky.
However, in this example, the question is whether the sky and the color blue inhabit the same domain and also whether one inscribes the other. In other words, can the sky exist without its color blue? We know this is the case and likewise, we can ask “Can blue exist without the sky?”. This is likewise affirmative.
So the next, more relevant question for this discussion is whether God can exist without being good or evil? Well if we solely use the aforementioned reasoning of Plato’s Timaeus, we can indeed have an omnipotent designer or “Demiurge” God who is perfect and thus one who has transcended the lesser attributes of good and evil. However, here is the kicker that no atheist can adequately argue against. Life, nature and human experience moves forward in time and space in extraordinarily unique balance thus if any God created the universe and our chronological, linear experience within it, the domains of time and space could simply not exist in disorder. There would essentially be no universe or Earth as we know it.
So what does order vs disorder have to do with good vs evil?
The attribute of “good” when abstracted from any being or thing indicates some attribute on a relative scale. So with relative scales, we have both productive and destructive things that can be created by accretion or the putting together of things. Both life cells as well as cancer cells are formed via accretion for example. However, getting back to whether God is “good”, we have evidence in human experience that the bulk of our world and much of our universe as we understand it was formed via progressive accretion across eons of time. Such things are not regressive and do not live in chaotic time nor space so we can only speculate that an omnipotent God would have no logical reason for creating randomness outside our world of experience such that would hold the world in its current state of order. Thus, we can conclude that the order of the “good” and progressive nature of human experience is aligned with the existence of a “good” God.