A question of God and the problem of evil

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.


3 thoughts on “A question of God and the problem of evil

  1. The reason I stay away from the word “god” is because just like places, words take on a certain energy as they are used over time, and I simply do not like the energy that the word “god” has taken on. It is a word that in many instances is intended to instill fear and we should never fear the creator or the source of our being.

    That said, I agree completely with your thinking on this. It is always our choice whether we decided to put our energies toward “good” or “evil” pursuits.

  2. I do see your point, but there are other things to be considered here. To be unable to use the word God is to be unable to dialog with people who do. Some of them won’t want to dialogue with you anyway–they’ll know they’re right and you are wrong and perhaps damned–but others might, because they take God, and religion, and spiritual development, seriously.

    What’s more, to abandon the word God to those who use God as the Great Policeman in the Sky is the equivalent, in a way, of shunning the American flag because it has been hijacked by fascists.

    And most important of all, at least to me, is that abandoning the use of the word “God cuts us off from generations of our ancestors who meant something entirely different by it than the bible-thumpers of our day. It is to cut ourselves off from the wellsprings of Western metaphysical and spiritual traditions.

    So it seems to me, anyway. Thanks for writing.

  3. This comment is from Sherry, posted Sunday 6-1-08, but it got eaten by the system somehow, so I am posting it on her behalf.

    The thing that is saddest to me is that “God” the creator of life, the one who loves us beyond our imagination, the one who desires our good has been given a bad reputation by the very ones who claim to know Him. I do see what you are saying Richard and I think it is a point well taken……..bring up the word “God” to someone who has been scared by a wrong concept of God and communication is ended and so yeah to keep communication open you have to “back door” the word God. I personally, would like to take this time to apologize for times that christians have misled anyone to think that God is mean or bent on punishment. I apologize for the narrow mindedness that caused the crusaders to be totally irrational and a force of evil in the name of God. I apologize for the times I have thought I had an answer about God that misrepresented Him. The apologies could go on endlessly because of our freedom of choice, but I want to make it clear that not all people who believe in God or go by the name christian are intending to misrepresent Him, we just don’t always make the right choice.

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