How Should God Be?

Skeptics often cite some circumstance in the world to argue that God doesn’t, or likely doesn’t exist.  Some of the circumstances cited are particularly puzzling to me.  Here’s an example of what I mean:

(RamblingImagination.wordpress.com) — If God were real, why aren’t his blessings spread evenly to all of his followers? The “World Food Programme” states “One out of four children – roughly 146 million – in developing countries is underweight.” According to “World Food Programme,” the world’s population of hungry people were more than that of the populations of the U.S., Canada and the European Union combined. There is, without a doubt, children in many of these countries who know of God, since many religious institutions send missionaries to underdeveloped countries all the time. Wouldn’t God give the child in a third world country, who praises God every day, the same blessings that he gives someone who lives in Beverly Hills, who praises God every day? I would like to point out now that when I use the word “blessings,” I am speaking of those bare essentials that one needs to be healthy, not flatscreen TVs, money, or other luxuries.

What first came to mind when reading the above passage was that I don’t know of any religion which boasts that its adherents will not experience hunger or suffering, or receive equal blessings .  If my memory serves me correctly, neither the Bible, Qur’an, Vedas, Bhagavad Gita, Book of Mormon, or any others claim that believers will not suffer.  Why then would this be seen as a liability for the existence of God?  I think it is a loose reference to the problem of evil (See: The World Is Full Of Awfulness), but the accusations are misplaced.  How can it be a liability for one or any religion if none make the claim?

Moreover, many people who decry the poverty rampant in third-world countries fail to consider a significant reason for it: third-world countries are overwhelmingly run under dictatorships, and not benevolent prosperity minded dictators either.  They are frighteningly oppressive.  When financial and food aid is provided by nations like the United States, it is often confiscated by the government.  Impoverished nations aren’t poor by chance or accident, they are poor by the will of their government.

I generally like to offer skeptics who protest the evil and suffering in the world a couple of things to consider.  Keep in mind that (save for the isolated natural disaster) human’s generally suffer at the hands of other humans.  Third-world poverty is inflicted on those people by their government.  Rape victims suffer at the hand of the rapist, and the murdered by their murderer.  This complaint against evil and suffering omits human freedom from the equation.

To the skeptic who replies: “Although we have free will, God supposedly is in control of what we do and plans for us to do what we do.” I must ask: How much of your freedom are you willing to relinquish to eliminate evil and suffering?  (From Oh The Humanity) — Who decides how much suffering is too much?  What is the right amount?  How should it be reduced or eliminated?  Where is the cut off, and how is that decided?  Should God allow any evil or suffering?  But what would that look like?  If we are asking God to rid us of evil and suffering, we must use His definition of evil, not ours.  Is the skeptic prepared for that?  According to God’s standard, every white lie is evil.  Every missed opportunity to do something good is evil.

We surely cannot separate the act from the actor.  It is the heart of a man from which flows his actions.  Have you lied?  I have.  How many times?  People who lie are liars.  Are liars good people?  Ever said something hateful or felt hatred for a person?  Is hate good; do good people hate?  When you ask God to eliminate evil from the world, take a step back and contemplate where that might leave you.  We need to think carefully about the things we ask God to correct.  Evil is more than “more evil than me”.  We cannot overlook our own evil when making this objection, we all are part of the problem.  Remember, be careful what you ask for, you just might get it, and may not like it when you do.

QUESTIONS TO READERS:

  • How do you determine the attributes of God?
  • How do you determine how God should be, or should act?

Comments

  1. “Why then would this be seen as a liability for the existence of God?”

    It’s a liability against a god I would want to worship or thank. Maybe the deity you believe in allows children to suffer and starve. I don’t believe that (or any deity) exists due to the lack of evidence…but if I did believe that deity existed, I certainly wouldn’t be its fan.

    “Keep in mind that (save for the isolated natural disaster) human’s generally suffer at the hands of other humans. ”

    Except we’re not arguing about suffering caused by other people. We’re talking about natural disasters. These aren’t isolated to the hundreds of thousands and millions who suffer and die due to these random, ‘isolated’ events.

    “I must ask: How much of your freedom are you willing to relinquish to eliminate evil and suffering?”

    I don’t know. I must ask: is there free will in Heaven? If there is, then obviously we can have free will without evil and suffering. If there isn’t, then either free will isn’t that great, or Heaven isn’t that great.

    Which is it?

    ” I have. How many times? People who lie are liars.”

    By this logic, people who tell the truth are truth tellers.

    Sorry, but you are conflating ‘good’ with ‘perfect’.

    • Are you saying that unless the world and life is perfect and God exists he is not worthy to be worshipped?

      Sure, some atheists decry the fallout from natural disasters, but many are referring to man made evil when complaining about evil and suffering.

      Dealing with heaven and our freedom in heaven is another whole discussion. On the christian view we are fallen beings who use our freedom often for bad things. In heaven, on the christian view we receive glorified bodies free from the effects of sin, which has an effect on our will to make decisions and choices without sin getting in the way.

      But this particular atheist is citing hunger, which more often than not is the result of man oppressing the people and the society for decades or centuries.

  2. “Are you saying that unless the world and life is perfect and God exists he is not worthy to be worshipped?”

    I’m saying that if there are specific things that happen in the world that are not caused by humans and would be simple to be rectified by an all-good, all-powerful god, and those specific things are not done, then that god is either not all good, not all powerful, or incompetent. Each disqualifies that god from being worshiped, in my humble opinion.

    “Sure, some atheists decry the fallout from natural disasters, but many are referring to man made evil when complaining about evil and suffering.”

    Well, I’m not. And the ones I’ve heard do not. And I’d be more interested in your response to fallout from natural disasters.

    “In heaven, on the christian view we receive glorified bodies free from the effects of sin, which has an effect on our will to make decisions and choices without sin getting in the way.”

    Then clearly your god should have created the world like this.

    • Natural disasters should be the least on the list of complaints from atheists. Earthquakes are caused by plate tectonics which is necessary to support life on earth. No one needs to live in tornado alley, that’s a poor choice of making your home. Same with flood zones and coastal regions which are prone to hurricanes. I live in in an area with virtually no chance of natural disaster.

      Natural disasters affect areas, they don’t target people. People make the poor choices to put themselves in harms way. Why is it God’s fault idiots live in an area where tornadoes blow through 8 times a year and then complain when their house blows away? Please.

  3. “Earthquakes are caused by plate tectonics which is necessary to support life on earth. ”

    If I were an all-powerful god, I could have created a planet that supports life without the need for earthquakes.

    “Natural disasters affect areas, they don’t target people.”

    I’m sure those people are thrilled to know that some deity has created a planet where over 3/4ths of the surface is uninhabitable (because it’s covered in water), and a huge portion of the rest is too dangerous to live without worrying about natural disasters.

    “Why is it God’s fault idiots live in an area where tornadoes blow through 8 times a year and then complain when their house blows away? ”

    Because your god created the tornadoes.

  4. “Are you proud of that response? Is it well thought out and reasonable?”

    Yes. Yes I am.

    Are you proud to live on a mostly inhabited planet that you believe an all-powerful god created for you?

  5. John writes: “Earthquakes are caused by plate tectonics which is necessary to support life on earth. ”
    NotAScientist replies: “If I were an all-powerful god, I could have created a planet that supports life without the need for earthquakes.”

    That’s a common response, and I used to have the same opinion. But then something from a CS Lewis book made me rethink that objection. Your sentiment stems from the common misconception that “omnipotent” means “can do anything”. That just isn’t true. Most Christians through history have NOT believed that God is capable of logical impossibilities. (Can God make a square circle? Can God make 2+2 = 5? Can God make a stone bigger than he can lift?) These are nonsense questions.

    All evidence we have suggests that life is supported on our planet by a knife-edge of probability. Small deviations in many MANY factors would make life on earth totally unsustainable and would have prevented it from flourishing in the billions of years of Earth’s existence. There is no reason to believe that God COULD have made a more “perfect” earth to support life as we know it. Take for example your two gripes: tornadoes and earthquakes. Without plate tecktonics (which causes earthquakes and tsunamis), the world would have been completely covered by ocean – never giving rise to land-based life such as us. Without an unstable atmosphere (which causes tornadoes), we would likely never have rain – which would preclude nearly all fresh-water that exists on Earth!

    So, it strikes me as rather arrogant that we can shake our fists in God’s face and say “you COULD have made a better world” – when we have absolutely no evidence to support this claim!

    Now, you MIGHT be arguing that God (if he is all-powerful and all-good) should intervene at every bad thing that happens and somehow prevent it. That is a completely different discussion altogether, and gets into the free-will debate.

  6. John,

    Seriously, listen to your replies to the discussion:

    People suffer – “well, most of it is at the hand of man.”

    Natural disasters – “well, people shouldn’t live in the places where they occur.”

    Wow. Really? Blame the victim?

    It seems that theists will bend over backwards to give your deity all of the credit and none of the blame for anything and everything that happens on this planet.

    It’s just odd that there really is no difference between a deity who doesn’t concern himself with any of this hardship and a deity who isn’t there in the first place.

    • Z

      I suppose the curb is to blame when you trip on it? Or the alligator when it clamps down on a performer who stuck his head in its mouth. Or the hot pan when you burn yourself? Spare me. Human suffering overwhelmingly is due to the actions of other humans.

      What you atheists like to do is blame God for not preventing the consequences of your bad decisions. That’s just juvenile. That’s something children do. My 5 yearold used to blame me if she was running and tripped over something. I guess thats God’s fault too. You know, I have a head ache right now. If god really did exist, I wouldn’t have a head ache. Yeah, that’s the sound reasoning we can expect from atheists. Give me a break.

  7. “Human suffering overwhelmingly is due to the actions of other humans.”

    Except we’re talking about natural disasters. And again, if you believe in an all powerful god, he is responsible for those natural disasters. Not humans.

    Unless you don’t believe your god could prevent natural disasters. But then he wouldn’t be all powerful, so not any god as I understand it.

  8. “There is no reason to believe that God COULD have made a more “perfect” earth to support life as we know it.”

    Then I guess Heaven doesn’t exist.

    Good to know.

    • Well, NaS

      Heaven isn’t earth. But aside from that, Tumeyn addressed some of the objections you raised. Climate and geology is such to foster life, not prohibit it. Second I addressed natural disasters. People choose to live in areas overwhelmingly prone to natural disaster and are then surprised when their home slides down a hill, or is swept away by a hurricane. People choose to live near disaster areas.

      What you seem to be repeatedly saying is if God was loving he would remove all the negative consequences of our bad decisions. That God should be an enabler for bad decisions. Sorry, that’s a weak argument.

  9. “Heaven isn’t earth.”

    Correct.

    Which means that your god COULD create a place for humans to live where they wouldn’t be killed by natural disasters that aren’t caused by other humans. He just doesn’t care to.

    “People choose to live near disaster areas.”

    Show me a place on the planet that never has a natural disaster of any kind, and I will pay you 1 million dollars.

    “What you seem to be repeatedly saying is if God was loving he would remove all the negative consequences of our bad decisions.”

    Nope.

    He would remove random natural disasters that kill innocent people for no rational reason.

    I understand that undermines your argument and is probably not something you want to address…but that’s what I’m saying.

    • So God should just put a halt to natural climate and geological related phenomena because people should be allowed to live where ever they want?

      This is inane. I’m sorry but what you have offered in this comment thread is the most ridiculous you have ever been here. I honestly can’t even believe what you have said here was offered by an adult.

      I may have to remove myself from this discussion so that I don’t become even more disrespectful and condescending than I’ve already been.

  10. “So God should just put a halt to natural climate and geological related phenomena because people should be allowed to live where ever they want?”

    Do you understand things like economics and poverty? Some people don’t have a choice about where they live. And many are innocent children. To hell with them?

    “I honestly can’t even believe what you have said here was offered by an adult.”

    It seems you don’t understand what’s being said.

    Say I’m a contractor building a house for 4 families. They’ve given me their money, and have nowhere else to live. I complete the house, but only one room is safe. The rest are rickety, full of poisonous materials, prone to falling apart, etc.

    Whose fault is it if the family is in their room and it collapses and kills them? If I had built better, they would have been fine. At the very least, I’m partially to blame.

  11. NAS writes: “He [God] would remove random natural disasters that kill innocent people for no rational reason.”

    I share your complaint. I complain of this very thing in my prayers sometimes! But I don’t think that it is a valid reason not to believe in God. Here’s a couple of comments:

    1) Just because YOU can’t think of a rational reason doesn’t mean that there ISN’T a rational reason. The entire concept of “God” means that his intellect far, far, far exceeds our intellect.
    2) Just because it seems unfair doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care. The core of the Christian message is that God made himself a PART of the suffering and pain here on Earth. He isn’t distant God who casually observes his creation. He is a God who came to be a part of his creation and shared in its suffering. In fact, part of the message of the cross is that the suffering we observe here on earth is not meaningless. The core of the Christian message is that God has a plan to redeem (or perfect) his creation and that suffering is a PART of that process. But it isn’t the END of that process.
    3) In the absence of a God, it seems to me that we have no reason to think that the suffering in the world is “wrong”. After all, it is just a survival-of-the-fittest world, right? Perhaps you should spend some time asking yourself why is it that you find natural disasters, evil, and suffering to be so disturbing. I find the Christian response to be very intellectually satisfying: We find this world to be so frequently intolerable because this isn’t our home – we were made for someplace else. That “someplace else” is Heaven.

    • Thank you for that response Tumeyn, I think it encapsulates an ideal rejoinder to these objections. I only wish I had the patience and gentleness to have thought of it myself.

  12. ” But I don’t think that it is a valid reason not to believe in God.”

    Neither do I. And it’s not the reason I have.

    That’s the reason that, if I did believe a god existed, I wouldn’t be a fan of his. I don’t believe a god exists because of the lack of evidence.

    ” it seems to me that we have no reason to think that the suffering in the world is “wrong”. ”

    Then clearly you need to look harder.

    ” After all, it is just a survival-of-the-fittest world, right?”

    That’s the way nature works. But then, it’s survival of the fittest SPECIES, not individual.

    “Perhaps you should spend some time asking yourself why is it that you find natural disasters, evil, and suffering to be so disturbing. ”

    Because I don’t want it to happen to me.

    Kinda selfish. But then, I also have this thing called ’empathy’.

  13. Hello all. I am the atheist in question
    Firstly, this man and I have been having a debate about this on my blog for some time now, and while I admire his persistence, he simply will not take any answer. If you would like to read the argument, it begins in my post titled “God Is Probably Not Real: Reason 2” and continues in “Reason 1.”
    Second, I never gave permission to use either post. I’m not sure if it is fair ground, but regardless, it would be nice if you asked first.
    Finally, I would like to thank those who support my view. If you want to know my reasoning for the views, read my posts.

    • Rambling

      No, its fair use, you run a blog open to the public for appraisal and critique. I cited the relevant portion of your work unedited for purposes of commentary.

      Its not that I won’t accept any explanation (if that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black), I think you and other atheists are too easily swayed by trivial vacuous arguments.

      • You have to realize that if you’re going to put your opinions on the internet, you have to accept that people may disagree and put that disagreement in print as well.

  14. NotAScientist said…

    I’m saying that if there are specific things that happen in the world that are not caused by humans and would be simple to be rectified by an all-good, all-powerful god, and those specific things are not done, then that god is either not all good, not all powerful, or incompetent.

    Although I disagree with the tone of many of John’s statements, I reckon I lean more towards agreeing with him on this point.

    I, myself, like this dangerous, less-than-“perfect” world. I think it is a good world, as God pronounces it in the Creation story. I like storms and floods and lightning. I like tornados and hurricanes. Which isn’t to say that I like it when people get harmed as a result of these natural disasters. That truly is a grievous sad thing.

    And I’m not with John on the blaming the victim mentality. Poor folk, for instance, often find themselves unable to live anywhere else but the places they live and there are very few if any places on earth that are free from natural disasters. Certainly not enough for all of us to squeeze in to, I suspect. Blaming them for being “foolish” enough to live in a dangerous place does not seem rational or compassionate.

    Nonetheless, I guess my point is, THIS is the world in which we live. It is not a “safe” or “tame” world, but it is a glorious one.

    I may choose to climb a mountain to take in all the beauty of the created order and be taken away in mystery and joy. Or, I may slip and fall and damage or kill myself. I may stand in a storm to feel the awesome rush of wind and be amazed, or I might get hit by lightning. But in any case, I wouldn’t blame God for being injured by natural circumstances, and I don’t think I would want God to create an all-flat world with no sharp edges, where the water is only 3″ deep and where rocks have the cushiness of a fluffy pillow.

    I suppose I don’t really want to live in a safe and tame world. I’ll take my risks in a less-than-perfect one (if one is defining “perfect” as “risk-free”).

    I guess I’m just not sure that “perfectly safe and unable to be injured” corresponds with “good,” or even desirable. And the reality that this world is not perfectly safe and risk-free does not seem to correspond, to me, with being evidence that God does not exist.

  15. Unless the world becomes, remains, and forever stays a place where noone dies, nothing “bad” happens and everything is handed to people on a silver platter then people will always have an excuse as to why they choose not to believe in God.

    Even in the above stated case, it is my assumption, which in actuality is more of a fact due to an observation of the masses, that even if the Earth were a “utopic” place then there would be people who would still be unhappy and spiteful toward God because it would depend on who’s view of a utopia is being used; if it’s not “their view” then it’s not the right one.

    In other words, some people would hate being in Heaven because they hate God regardless of their surrondings!

    The Bible addresses the existience of evil. Choose not believe it? It’s on you.

    The Bible addresses the reality of the temporary existence of the planet; it wasn’t made to last forever. Choose not believe it? It’s on you.

    The Bible addresses the reality of eternity and the destinations it includes. Choose not to believe it? It’s on you.

    The “given arguments” concerning evil and their being a good reason to not believe in God was addressed long, long ago in God’s word. It’s called the book of Job. It’s stands as a witness that will not change its testimony toward those who charge God with evil. At the end of the day God still wins the debate.

  16. Misspelled “surroundings;” but you get the point.

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  1. […] alike, some of which are more persistent than others. One person in particular had some questions: truthinreligionandpolitics.com – ”How do you determine the attributes of God? How do you determine how God should be, […]

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