I woke up thinking about God and the problem of evil and suffering
(Now, first off, I know that lots of people don’t use the word God for fear they will back themselves into superstition. But these same people will say “the universe” or “all that is” as a back-door way of saying the same thing. “God” is just a word; what’s the sense in being scared of a word? We know you’re not talking about an image of an old man with a beard sitting on a cloud.)
People ask, why does God permit evil? Why does God permit suffering? Why does God permit this, that and the other?
Do they ever stop to think, maybe the real question is, why does God leave us in freedom? It’s the same question, or rather it is the question that precedes their question. If we weren’t free to do evil, or to make mistakes that cause pain to ourselves and others, would we be free?
So why does God want us to be free? What’s in it for God?
Short answer: How do I know? I barely know when to come in out of the rain. As Henry Thoreau said, rightly, I don’t know as much as I knew on the day I was born.
Longer answer: If the outline of the way things are that the guys upstairs have given us may be relied upon, the other side depends upon us, and we depend upon it. (In fact, they say that the very concept of a separation between this side and the other side is only a construct, not the fixed gulf it seems.) And in that case, we, in time-space, are acting as agents for the other side, able to do things here that they can’t do there. As my fiend Michael Ventura once pointed out, that’s the whole point of fairy tales, that the other side depends on us.
Well, depending on free agents is one thing; depending on conditioned beings-robots, so to speak, looking at things in terms of free will or its absence-is quite another.
Maybe God doesn’t want robots, and maybe the other side can’t use robots. Maybe we are faced with evil and suffering not because anyone on the other side wants us to do evil, or suffer evil, but because in the nature of things it can’t be helped. In the nature of things, to be free means to be free to choose, and to able to choose means to be able to choose evil, or choose foolishness.
If we in the world are faced with evil and suffering-and we are-it is more sensible to blame the nature of freedom than to blame it on God. And it is more sensible to rejoice in our freedom, and resolve to learn how to use it, than to wish we were robots.