What If God Removed Evil

Human suffering and evil is perhaps the most powerful of all the arguments against the existence of God.  Having reflected on this complaint in the past, even in it’s most convincing form, I find the problem of evil to be an emotional reaction more than a reasoned objection.  Personally, I don’t think we can attribute human suffering and evil to God per se.  Sure, it can be said God permits suffering, and has caused some people to suffer as a consequence of their decisions and behavior.  My concern is that skeptics who offer this complaint don’t fully take into account man’s own role in the suffering of humanity.

Man’s desire for power.  Despots rule poor nations with an iron fist.  While the people starve and go without proper medical treatment the nation’s elite dine in class with access to well-trained physicians.  Generations of dictatorship creates a society of suffering (North Korea, the USSR, Iraq under Hussein, Libya under Gaddafi, and many more).  In order to keep people in check, rulers need to keep the people dependent on the regime.

Man’s own immorality.  Rape, murder, robbery, assault, drunk driving, alcohol and drug abuse, torture, et al. are conscious acts of inflicting evil and suffering upon another for their own purposes.  People want things they don’t have and aren’t always willing to get them honestly.

Man’s negligence.  Not everyone pays attention, to say the least.  It’s one reason there are so many warning labels on everything.  Think about it, there is a reason for every warning label.  For every time you’ve wondered ‘who’d be dumb enough to do that?’ there was someone dumb enough to do it.  Allowing yourself to become distracted, whether it’s leaving your infant in the tub to answer the phone or door, or texting while driving, or showing off while performing a juvenile stunt, accidents happen, and they can have dire consequences.

Man’s stubbornness.  One of my favorite comedians from years ago was Sam Kinison.  He was brash and uncouth and in my teenage years, that was part of the appeal.  One bit he had has always stuck with me.  In it he mocked the charities which gave food aid to third-world countries (2 min. video clip HERE – graphic language).  His “solution” was to recognize that they need to move to where the food is.  They live in areas which are not conducive to growing crops or providing livestock.  Moreover, people choose to live on fault lines prone to earthquakes, areas prone to mudslides, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, wild fires, and a number of other locations in which natural disasters happen on a regular basis.  The vast majority of the inhabitable world is left vacant which lead to questions like, ‘why do you still live there?’

Acts of nature.  Disease spreading insects, unprovoked wild animal attacks, cancer.  These, at least on their surface, don’t seem to be avoidable.

Let’s think for a moment about the mechanics of removing human suffering and evil.  And yes, some of it has to do with free agency.  Much of human suffering is inflicted as a direct or indirect result of other people abusing their freedom.  Human free agency would need to be utterly revoked and God would need to remove our ability to make the wrong kinds of decisions.  The ability to make mistakes, lie, hate, become distracted, depressed, or angry — all removed.

The body uses pain receptors to make us aware when something is happening to, or within, our bodies that shouldn’t.  Complete intervention would be necessary in order to ensure no accidents happen either.  We can’t have anyone fall while mountain climbing or hang gliding.  No sinking boats because we can’t be having anyone drown.  Our entire physiological makeup would need to be reconfigured such we are resistant to disease, injury and pain.

The biosphere would also need tending to.  Entire ecosystems can be ravaged by even the smallest introduction of a single foreign organism or removal of one which is essential.  It’s my understanding that most organisms are so interdependent on each other that the butterfly effect might not be realized until much later.  Could certain diseases, bacteria, viruses, or insects responsible for suffering really be removed without consequence?  It’s hard to imagine they could.  Entire kinds of animals would need to be “rewired” also.  Biting and venomous species would need to be prevented from attacking or defending themselves against humans.  Snakes, spiders, mosquitoes, wasps, bears, big cats, etc. would need to either be changed to not attack, or man or the animals would need to be intervened upon to not cross paths, even accidentally.  Squirrels would have to be prevented from darting across the street in front of cars.  We wouldn’t want someone swerving off the road, or slamming the breaks and getting rear-ended.

Death affects more than the deceased.  Family and friends often go through emotional suffering.  I know a woman who was so distraught when her son died tragically, she closed herself up inside her home for months.  Even after slowly emerging from her depression, just hearing her son’s name was so painful she burst into tears.  Either death needs to be removed, or our ensuing grief.

It’s quite a bit that would go into making our existence evil and suffer proof.  Would a suffer proof be feasible?  Would you want to live there?

Comments

  1. ” Could certain diseases, bacteria, viruses, or insects responsible for suffering really be removed without consequence? It’s hard to imagine they could. ”

    Must be unfortunate having very limited omnipotent powers, if you can’t handle getting rid of diseases.

  2. – We couldn’t live without suffering? Heaven must be an insufferable torture.
    – I see you have conveniently renamed “Acts of God” to “Acts of nature”.
    – As NAS points out, God is either all powerful or not.
    Epicurus gave the definitive rebuttal: Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
    People create relatively Utopian societies. Look at the primarily socialist and atheistic societies of northern Europe. There’s Christian violence (Breivik) and Muslim violence (Cartoons issue) and of course natural death and the occasional natural disaster, but if the world were Iceland and Sweden and Denmark, we should have less to complain about. Take out some Christian and Muslim violence and it would be even harder to find complaints. And all this is just with little old us humans. We certainly don’t claim to be all good or all powerful.
    This is God’s idea of preventing suffering: http://fffmks.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/god-watching-tv.jpg
    What excuse do you imagine for that kid not having a garden spontaneously sprout around him?

    • So then youd prefer to see a world with no freedom, no possibility to truly choose or lie. No possibility to have an accident. A Complete robotic existence. That’s preferable?

  3. What Jason and NAS conveniently ignore is the chronology of events of Creation. God created all and said it was “good”. He gave choice to his human creations and they chose poorly. Had God not given choice, no suffering would exist. To sit back from our perspective and to judge the results of His actions is rather presumptuous.

  4. JB – “a world with no freedom, no possibility to truly choose or lie. No possibility to have an accident. A Complete robotic existence.”
    M’Art – “Had God not given choice, no suffering would exist”

    Both of you posit nonsensical dystopias as a result of simple or even complex freedoms. I ask again, what did the starving 3-yr-old in Ethiopia do to deserve her suffering? Whose choice created that child’s suffering?
    In what way does freedom create suffering due to natural disasters or disease or the entirely unintented flight of a javelin from a teenager into a nice old man’s neck? (http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/48799462/ns/sports/)
    The idea that choice begets suffering is a dogma of the church that has no basis in reality. Choices can create suffering, but they need not create suffering. And suffering often arises from no choice at all.

    • The 3 yearold in Ethiopia is a victim of the government. Bill Clinton used to send food and the government would show up with machine guns and kill anyone who tried to get it.

      People choose to live in natural disaster areas, they don’t have to, and this was addressed in the post.

      The idiot who threw the javelin before the other guy was watching as well as the idiot who stands in the general area of where the javelin will land and isn’t paying attention are to blame. Negligence.

  5. Government? What government? There is no functional government in any of those areas. And there’s no reason to think that all the food sent would have fed everyone even if it was honestly distributed.

    Natural disasters, including typhoons/hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, and even lightning strikes, happen everywhere. You might avoid one natural disaster, but there’s probably another waiting around the corner (geographically and chronologically). And are you really suggesting people, many of whom are children who can’t even choose their location, all move off every coast, fault line, tornado alley, river, and blizzard center in the US? Is it even possible? This isn’t even accounting for heat waves or extreme cold which can kill just like those other natural disasters.

    You may attribute the javelin throw to negligence. That having been said, any bystander with an ounce of compassion would have moved the javelin or the man to save a life. Or do you and your god think a gruesome death is a just punishment for a momentary lapse of awareness? Do you think the teen and adult spectators that witnessed that horrific scene deserve the psychological trauma? What did they do to deserve their suffering?

    • Ethiopia has a disheveled government who was ruthless with its people.

      Children who live in disaster prone areas have their parents to thank.

      And it seems like you kind of agree with the premise of the post, that God would have to remove our will and ability to make bad choices in order to have a world with less evil.

  6. It seems like you’re kind of frantically seeking some way that an all-powerful, all-good being has less culpability than people who are destitute, ignorant, starving, or just unlucky.
    And what about hell? God allows all the bad choices on Earth but the rules change after death? No free will then – you either suffer in hell or lose all free will in order to enjoy a blissful heaven. Do what you like and then the punishment comes later? Wouldn’t it make sense to allow just two or three bad choices and then institute the punishment? What could we call that… how about “prison”? Or a lesser punishment – “probation”. These is just some utopian ideal I’m considering whereby a powerful being could limit suffering during life rather than waiting until the end.
    But none of this saves the starving child. Did the child’s parents choose to be murdered or simply not to have enough food before they themselves starved? Maybe the child wandered off and starvation is some just punishment for a lost 3-year-old.
    None of this saves the elderly lady who dies from a heat wave or a teen killed by a fire that was caused by a lightning strike or victims of flash floods or tornadoes or any other disaster.
    A powerful God could prevent much of the suffering on the planet without impeding anyone’s free will. A just God could prevent nearly all suffering by impeding free will only when it caused suffering in others (basic laws that even humans understand). A good God would prevent suffering, if he existed.

  7. Again, Jason, you are referring to a God of your own making. That’s all well and good for speculation, but it doesn’t do a damned thing to answer your question (providing it is a question for which we could ever find an answer on this earth). You want a God that is beholden to you, obliged to fill you in on all the details of His Master Plan, as if you have the status to do so. Short of that, He is not worthy of your love and devotion. As if He needs it. As if He loses something of great significance by not receiving it. Good luck with that line of reasoning.

    You also concern yourself with how suffering is deserved. “Deserve” ain’t got nothin’ to do with it. It just is and it is a result of Adam’s sin. Now it is here and how we deal with it is more important than why we must endure any of it. The “why” is a big waste of your time. In the meantime, what are YOU doing to alleviate suffering? If you don’t require God to motivate you or to inform you of morality, what are YOU doing to soothe the suffering of…anyone? Concern yourself with that. God’s love and justice should work through each of us.

    In the meantime, I’m sure He’s quite remorseful that you are not pleased with the manner in which He decided to run His own creation.

  8. God created a perfect world. Sin brought in death, as well as a whole creation that groans. God set up the physics of all natural calamities, but the fact that they were allowed to cause havoc after sin entered the world is just God letting nature take its course. God doesn’t micro-manage nature, nor does he micro-manage people. God allows everything to go on the natural course, and will intervene if it is his plan to do so.

    The illnesses, travesties, hunger, abuse, etc are all due to sin coming into the world. Mankind is allowed to live as he pleases. The boy throwing a javelin lived as he please, made the choice to throw it without ensuring safety. God does not step in to correct mistakes. He allows us to live with them.

    Atheists have no rational explanation for any of this.

  9. M’Art – you’re in an abusive relationship. Your god (not one of my creation, one of your creation) beats you down and you declare that it must be for a good reason and that you’re really worthless anyway and he loves you. It’s no different than domestic violence. Don’t let yourself be punished that way.
    The good news is, there is no god. No one is out to get us. Suffering is a product of the natural (undesigned, far from perfect) world we live in. That’s the best explanation, and certainly more affirming than that a hateful god is punishing billions of people for something one or two people did 6000 years ago. What kind of justice is that? Again, this is your explanation to me of your rules.
    And if you just say “god works in mysterious ways” then you’ve given up and the discussion is over.

  10. Jason,

    You’ve ended the discussion when you first decided you weren’t going to believe in Him. Since then, you’ve had to come up with all sorts of bad arguments for why that is so.

    I didn’t create my God. He created me, as well as you and everyone and everything else. Do you really expect me to believe people like you rather than eye-witnesses to Christ’s life, miracles and death, and then saw HIm walking around fully healed days later and then proclaimed this news under threat of death? What proof is there that they were liars? What proof do you have that you know what you’re talking about?

    God isn’t beating me down. He’s lifting me up.

  11. Oh you’re totally right. Islam is the one true religion. I mean Mormonism. Wait… I mean the Moonie Unification church. Or were you talking about something else? I can’t tell since they all sound the same. You ended the discussion when you decided you were going to believe no matter what.
    I’m totally open to evidence in favor of your beliefs. I can even see some, but I think we’ve all decided that the Problem of Evil is best summed by Epicurus and serves as logical proof against an all-good, all-powerful god of any sort, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or otherwise.

    • Jason

      If you think all religions sound the same then you are admitting in public that you haven’t really thought carefully or been paying attention to what it is they claim.

  12. “You ended the discussion when you decided you were going to believe no matter what.”

    But obviously this isn’t true as I continue to await reasons to change my mind. You provide none. I remain open to any argument. You’ve provided none that hasn’t been made before. Worse, I never made any such decision. But you, Jason, have indeed decided not to believe.

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