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The problem of evil
by Graeme J. Davidson
13 August, 2008

Maybe God doesn’t have our best interests at heart. Or, if he does, he’s impotent to do anything? Or is he perverse enough to want us to experience suffering so we know the difference between good and evil?

....Before the US Democratic National Convention began, Stuart Shepard pleaded on an internet video for everyone “to pray for rain of biblical proportions”. Shepard, a former TV meteorologist and member of the conservative Christian group, Focus on the Family, desperately wanted a deluge that would block network coverage of Barack Obama’s open-air acceptance speech.
God must have a sense of humour or favour Democrats. The weather was perfect. Hurricane Gustav cast a cloud over the Republican National Convention instead.
....Bloggers said there was a God after all. Mike Moore of Fahrenheit 9/11 fame wrote to God pointing to the irony of Hurricane Gustav hitting the Louisiana coast when President Bush was about to speak to the Republican Convention. He also asked God not to hurt New Orleans again. God must have said, “Amen” to that prayer.
....That begs the question of why an all-loving and all-powerful God allows hurricanes to hurt and kill the people he’s supposed to love, and to destroy their habitat. Surely, the only Hurricanes a good God wants are those who win at rugby in a polite, loving way. And if horrific whirlwinds are part of God’s creation, he ought to steer them around boats and population centres.
....The same goes for floods, droughts and earthquakes. A good God would give us sufficient rain between 3 and 4 am when we’re asleep, followed by warm non-carcinogenic sunshine. And if tectonic plates have to move, God should make sure we have tremors of no more than 3 on the Richter magnitude scale, not a devastating big one. And then there are all those terrible food shortages, plagues, diseases, wars, crime, accidents, illness and agonising deaths. You’d think a good God would do away with all that. Instead, he leaves us to cope with the mayhem.
....Maybe God doesn’t have our best interests at heart. Or, if he does, he’s impotent to do anything? Or is he perverse enough to want us to experience suffering so we know the difference between good and evil?
....When HIV/AIDS began to decimate gay communities and needle-sharing drug addicts in the 80s, some conservative Christians claimed this was God’s punishment for their ungodly ways. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, several TV evangelists said God was punishing America for allowing abortion and gay relationships.
Osama bin Laden could relate to that kind of fundamentalist theology. It goes something like this: God gives us free will to do as we please, but he wants us to love him and love others. When we misbehave, God makes us suffer the consequences through misfortune, natural disaster or by using an agent like Al-Qaeda to punish us.
....It’s true that we humans are responsible for many of the tragedies in life. If we choose to drive too fast while intoxicated, we risk a life-threatening accident. If we build below levees not designed for extreme hurricanes, construct poorly braced structures that can collapse in a major earthquake, ignore the plight of the poor and starving or let corrupt politicians reign, then don’t be surprised when the inevitable happens.
....But what about we decent godly folk who have done nothing outrageous to deserve the Almighty zapping us? Why should we be victims of a drunken driver or lose retirement savings in a poorly run investment company? And, surely, sick or starving children and civilian casualties of terrorism and war don’t deserve the short straw?
....Job faces a similar problem in the Old Testament. He loses his family, possessions and health, but he doesn’t lose his faith. Apparently, God was testing him, and because of his faithfulness, God restores all the good things of life to Job. But even if we believe God tests us, it doesn’t explain why good and innocent people continue to suffer adversity and pain.
....Let’s face it. The notion of a God who is all-powerful and all-loving in the midst of suffering is a paradox that seems destined to elude a satisfactory explanation.




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