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manbearpigg

Problem of Evil

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How do you reconcile your two conflicting explanations for natural evil in this thread? At one point you told me that unnecessary suffering was a mystery, His ways are so far above our ways, to paraphrase. In other posts (like this one) you claim that natural evil is simply what it is, i.e. the nomic regularity argument.

Which is it? Is it a ineffable mystery, or is not mysterious at all?

When did I say unnecessary suffering was a mystery? I referred to Romans 9 and "who are you, O man, to talk back to God", but that wasn't in the context of the existence of evil, but rather in the question of salvation. In reference to evil, I have only ever claimed that God's will for us includes evil in this world (natural and moral) and the argument that God should stop it if he really were God is predicated on the assumption that if God exists his primary aim for us is that we be happy and content in this world. As such, my simple answer to this is what if that assumption is wrong? What if God has a different purpose for us? And as an eternal being, if we believe God created us for eternal life, then eternal life is what God has in mind, not this world where our physical bodies will live (if you are very very lucky) for 100 years. What is 100 years or less compared to eternity?

~ PA

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Buddhism (to me) is much more realistic/scientific than many other religions I have had the chance of studying.

It strictly adheres to the natural law of cause and effect, which in its creed tells you to get rid of the cause in order to rid the effect.

There is a lot of religion in Buddhism, but I would say its origins were a philosophical movement before philosophy was invented. Its basis is not revelation but introspection and reason.

I don't see how the Problem of evil affects a philosophy that does not preach (but does not deny) a GOD or some form of it.
Precisely. You can take a naturalistic approach and say that while a volcano may seem evil to some, it enriches the soil for later generations. Buddhism, however, did not exactly take that route. There is karma, which is seen as naturalistic and automatic, not god-driven, but still something quite outside modern materialist (physicalist) thinking.
Even Buddha himself was just the first to reach Nirvana and escape the cycle of rebirth, not a deity.
You probably already know this, but so there is no misunderstanding by others, "Buddha" is not a name. The Buddha was Siddartha Guatama, and legend has it that he was not the first Buddha and that there will be others.
I believe that in Buddhism evil (greed/desire), is a natural offshoot of human existence. The only way to rid yourself from such faults is to rid your own existence from this reality and achieve a higher plane of contentedness and understanding.
Well that's fine, but we have many lifetimes. You don't have to do it all in one go.
The ONLY problem i have with buddhism is that you must eliminate ALL desires... which includes sex...

Can't really be all that gung-ho about a philosophy that limits my sex drive...

Desires are only one of the things to deal with; you must also deal with delusions and revulsions. I would point out that these are not sins to be guilty about, but forces we evolved to achieve biological objectives, and there is nothing wrong with them. It is just that in the end they always bring about some sort of suffering -- maybe grief, maybe frustration, etc. Once this is understood, each person can choose with their eyes wide open.

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So you now agree that the potter-analogy has merit? At least that's a change from the first time I brought it up...

Nope, because, the pot and the characters from a book cannot do what humans can, and that is question their creator .. The point made in ref to the potter and his pot ( in Romans 9 ) was about asking its creator why? So humans shouldn't ask god why, who are you to ask? That was the main point for that weak analogy.... I said that before, I also pointed out in a previous post, that the potter and god only have one thing in common, they created something.. Other than that, the analogy is pointless .

Edited by Beckys_Mom

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When did I say unnecessary suffering was a mystery?

Suffering is transitory. Eternity is eternal. In that context, while suffering may be transitory, so also is joy only transitory. What is the point of a transitory joy if God has an eternal purpose in mind.

This is the afterlife argument; "The afterlife has also been cited as justifying evil. Christian theologian Randy Alcorn argues that the joys of heaven will compensate for the sufferings on earth,"

Scientifically the greater good cannot be established. Theologically, though, it can. The greater good is eternity. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world but condemn his eternal soul

This is the greater good argument, which you propose is heaven. "Greater good responses to the problem make use of this insight by arguing for existence of goods of great value which God cannot actualize without also permitting evil, and thus that there are evils he cannot be expected to prevent despite being omnipotent."

I argued that we do not have the knowledge base that God does and therefore cannot say we would do a better job at creation. And in the context of this discussion we can't say that God should have made a world without suffering, because we simply don't know the ramifications of that.
Well, as Bruce Almighty found out, you're willing to try, but without God's knowledge you cannot ever know that you'd be right in doing so.

This is what I mean by the mystery defense. We don't know what God's plans are (in this case). Funny, but this argument is missing from the wiki entry I've been quoting from. http://en.wikipedia....Problem_of_evil probably because saying "it's a mystery" is no answer at all.

At the very least, suffering was part of God's plan for salvation - through Jesus' suffering and death (and eventual resurrection). If we had no suffering, Jesus' death would have no meaning.

Yes, I've heard this argument before from a college chaplain. God takes on our suffering. In fact He suffers the fall of each sparrow, according to scripture. That's a heck of a lot of suffering over millions of years, just to get to reach the stage of modern hominids. Surely there was a better (more loving) way to bring this about. Surely.

Edited by redhen

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Nope, because, the pot and the characters from a book cannot do what humans can, and that is question their creator .. The point made in ref to the potter and his pot ( in Romans 9 ) was about asking its creator why? So humans shouldn't ask god why, who are you to ask? That was the main point for that weak analogy.... I said that before, I also pointed out in a previous post, that the potter and god only have one thing in common, they created something.. Other than that, the analogy is pointless .

I guess we can't agree then. While I admit the analogy is not perfect, it gets the point across, in my opinion. I know you don't agree with that, so let's just leave it at that.

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This is the afterlife argument; "The afterlife has also been cited as justifying evil. Christian theologian Randy Alcorn argues that the joys of heaven will compensate for the sufferings on earth,"

This is the greater good argument, which you propose is heaven. "Greater good responses to the problem make use of this insight by arguing for existence of goods of great value which God cannot actualize without also permitting evil, and thus that there are evils he cannot be expected to prevent despite being omnipotent."

So these arguments have names. I've never looked into these alternatives. Since I first researched it, II've always found the simplest answer (the one I've given) answer enough.

This is what I mean by the mystery defense. We don't know what God's plans are (in this case). Funny, but this argument is missing from the wiki entry I've been quoting from. http://en.wikipedia....Problem_of_evil probably because saying "it's a mystery" is no answer at all.

How is my comment stating "it's a mystery". I'm saying that as a human being, you are not able to categorically state that God should do something differently just because YOU think it would be better that way. That isn't about mystery.

Perhaps an example may help. I heard a story once, from someone I knew. Their baby kid was going through teething problems, crying and always in pain. One day the kid found a sure fire way to help the pain. He found something at just the right height for him to suck on, it was nice and cold and numbed the pain. Baby Joey (not real name) found this to be a great thing, but his parents would never let him, and would stop him from doing this. Why? Why would so-called loving parents intentionally cause their child to feel pain? Don't they love him? Don't they care that his teething is hurting? These may all be questions baby Joey is thinking of.

Baby Joey doesn't know what his parents know. Sucking on the rim of a toilet bowl may stop the pain but carries with it such health risks. But baby Joey doesn't have the knowledge base to understand about germs and such, he just knows that his parents are not allowing him to alleviate his suffering.

Back to the concept of suffering. To say that if you were God you'd do it differently isn't a "mystery argument". It's simply pointing out that as a limited human being you may not be privy to all the facts that God is, anymore than baby Joey was privy to the facts his parents had.

Yes, I've heard this argument before from a college chaplain. God takes on our suffering. In fact He suffers the fall of each sparrow, according to scripture. That's a heck of a lot of suffering over millions of years, just to get to reach the stage of modern hominids. Surely there was a better (more loving) way to bring this about. Surely.

Why? Because you declare that there must? Edited by Paranoid Android

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I know you don't agree with that, so let's just leave it at that.

You're right, I don't..

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So these arguments have names. I've never looked into these alternatives. Since I first researched it, II've always found the simplest answer (the one I've given) answer enough.

It's not they all have technical names, I quoted these select parts of your post to show that you don't have just one answer to the problem of evil, but several. I'm not sure if that's valid.

1) The afterlife justifies any temporary current suffering.

2) It's for a greater good, which you speculate is heaven.

3) "that's just the way it is". The nomic regularity argument that posits that suffering is an inherent byproduct of natural forces. (That's actually a very good argument, for an atheist).

4) Gods suffers with you, and that somehow makes it tolerable.

Back to the concept of suffering. To say that if you were God you'd do it differently isn't a "mystery argument". It's simply pointing out that as a limited human being you may not be privy to all the facts that God is, anymore than baby Joey was privy to the facts his parents had.

Again, it's the same answer Job got.

"Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

4“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone 7when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy? 8“Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?— 9when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, 10and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, 11and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped’? 16“Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? 17Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? 18Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this."

Job 38:1-11,16-18

Sounds like a mystery to me.

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For PA; I would like to ask you the same question posed by the philosopher Anthony Flew. It's from the last paragraph of his essay Theology and Falsification. The bolded emphasis is mine,

Now it often seems to people who are not religious as if there was no conceivable event or series of events the occurrence of which would be admitted by sophisticated religious people to be a sufficient reason for conceding "there wasn't a God after all" or "God does not really love us then." Someone tells us that God loves us as a father loves his children. We are reassured. But then we see a child dying of inoperable cancer of the throat. His earthly father is driven frantic in his efforts to help, but his Heavenly Father reveals no obvious sign of concern. Some qualification is made —God's love is "not merely human love" or it is "an inscrutable love," perhaps — and we realize that such suffering are quite compatible with the truth of the assertion that "God loves us as a father (but of course…)." We are reassured again. But then perhaps we ask: what is this assurance of God's (appropriately qualified) love worth, what is this apparent guarantee really a guarantee against? Just what would have to happen not merely (morally and wrongly) to tempt but also (logically and rightly) to entitle us to say "God does not love us" or even "God does not exist"? I therefore put to the succeeding symposiasts the simple central questions, "What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of the love of, or the existence of, God?"

http://www.stephenja...sification.html

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Sounds like a mystery to me.

Maybe we are just arguing different parts of the same argument, but nothing in my argument is predicated simply on the fact that "it's a mystery, so go figure".

For PA; I would like to ask you the same question posed by the philosopher Anthony Flew. It's from the last paragraph of his essay Theology and Falsification. The bolded emphasis is mine,

I therefore put to the succeeding symposiasts the simple central questions, "What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of the love of, or the existence of, God?"

http://www.stephenja...sification.html

Being honest, nothing that happened could convince me of proof otherwise that God loves us. And this is coming from someone who has seen people he loves drown because God decided to collapse a sandbar where non-swimmers were taking a bit of a swim.

The argument against evil (presented by Antony Flew imagines that the characteristics of a "father" presented therefore must mean that God relates as a father-figure to us just as a father relates to his own son, or else the argument is not valid. Sorry, I do not subscribe to that. I do not think it relevant, and I do not think it accurate.

~ Regards, PA

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Being honest, nothing that happened could convince me of proof otherwise that God loves us. And this is coming from someone who has seen people he loves drown because God decided to collapse a sandbar where non-swimmers were taking a bit of a swim.

That just sounds... well it sounds utterly horrible.

If it was anyone else but god, you could be called delusional or insane. 'Oh he still loves me, he killed people he loves right in front of me but he still loves me!' Once more I pity you, not that you care.

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Being honest, nothing that happened could convince me of proof otherwise that God loves us. And this is coming from someone who has seen people he loves drown because God decided to collapse a sandbar where non-swimmers were taking a bit of a swim.

Thank you for your honest answer, it's what I expected. I just read another comment of yours on this thread where you state 'you can't stop believing what you believe".

The argument against evil (presented by Antony Flew imagines that the characteristics of a "father" presented therefore must mean that God relates as a father-figure to us just as a father relates to his own son, or else the argument is not valid. Sorry, I do not subscribe to that. I do not think it relevant, and I do not think it accurate.

~ Regards, PA

But you used the same analogy on page 14:

" I heard a story once, from someone I knew. Their baby kid was going through teething problems, crying and always in pain. One day the kid found a sure fire way to help the pain. He found something at just the right height for him to suck on, it was nice and cold and numbed the pain. Baby Joey (not real name) found this to be a great thing, but his parents would never let him, and would stop him from doing this. Why? Why would so-called loving parents intentionally cause their child to feel pain? Don't they love him? Don't they care that his teething is hurting? These may all be questions baby Joey is thinking of.

Baby Joey doesn't know what his parents know. Sucking on the rim of a toilet bowl may stop the pain but carries with it such health risks. But baby Joey doesn't have the knowledge base to understand about germs and such, he just knows that his parents are not allowing him to alleviate his suffering."

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To Paranoid Android:

To give my perspective on the tragedy you described:

(......And this is coming from someone who has seen people he loves drown because God decided to collapse a sandbar where non-swimmers were taking a bit of a swim......) (Paranoid Android)

I don't want to come across as callous, so I'll add a personal story after my comment.

I think you may be mis-speaking when you blame God for the collapse of the sandbar. The sandbar was doing what it was designed to do. God didn't purposely collapse the sandbar. Sandbars collapse, reform, and collapse again according to the vagaries of the river currents.

I'm assuming the sandbar was in a river, as they generally are. For three "non-swimmers" (without life jackets or a lifeguard) to willingly take a swim in a river where there may have been dangerous currents and undertows was an unwise decision.

My personal story: I live in a house that was built to replace a house destroyed by a tornado in 1946. The house sits on a hilltop above a long, broad valley that channels high winds directly to my property. It's a wood-framed house, just like the original house. Now, if another tornado comes sweeping up the hill (as has happened again already, though with less disastrous results) and destroys my house, I have no justification to blame God for the disaster. He will simply reply, "How many times did I have to warn you? Don't build a wood-framed house in a tornado zone."

This is my same view of "the problem of evil". Even with the 10 Commandments spelled out in stone, and hundreds of laws concerning sanitation and good behaviour, we often disregard our own conscience and innate wisdom and find ourselves (and our society) at a point of no return, and then ask "Where was God?"

As I said, I don't want to come across as callous. I'm a trained crisis counselor, and I have no doubt that the situation you describe was a horrible, life-altering experience. I wish you the best, and I trust you have sought some sort of counseling or guidance to help you with the after-affects of that tragedy.

Edited by simplybill

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This is my same view of "the problem of evil". Even with the 10 Commandments spelled out in stone, and hundreds of laws concerning sanitation and good behaviour, we often disregard our own conscience and innate wisdom and find ourselves (and our society) at a point of no return, and then ask "Where was God?"

That's a narrow view of the problem of evil. Yes, some philosophers/theologians use this argument; you shouldn't move to earthquake prone areas.There's some things we can do to protect ourselves, but that doesn't include the ebola virus, congenital birth defects, carnivores, there's a long list of things (in the broadest sense of the term) that cause gratuitous pain, suffering and death. It's inherent in nature/creation.

This seems to be contradictory to an all knowing, all powerful, all loving God.

Especially when He could have created the world and everything in it in six days, instead of millions of years of pain, suffering and death. That's the theododical problem. I know the psychological problem of suffering is significant, but it might best be discussed in the psychology forum.

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To redhen:

...."That's a narrow view of the problem of evil. Yes, some philosophers/theologians use this argument; you shouldn't move to earthquake prone areas.There's some things we can do to protect ourselves, but that doesn't include the ebola virus, congenital birth defects, carnivores, there's a long list of things (in the broadest sense of the term) that cause gratuitous pain, suffering and death. It's inherent in nature/creation.".... (redhen)

Yes, I see your point. There is pain we can avoid (which is what I was addressing in the earlier post), and then there's inexplicable pain we can't avoid; as you point out, I mistakenly used the narrow view to address the broader concept.

To be honest, I was hoping to avoid sharing my views on inexplicable, unexplainable pain, a topic that generally leads to heated discussions with no resolutions.

I'll give it some thought, and hopefully return with a sensible answer. Thank you for calling me on that.

Edited by simplybill

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I think what PA is trying to say is that his belief in God is not simply a personal choice on whether to believe God exists or not but is based on a personal experience with God, so whether he agrees with God's actions or not has no impact on his belief in God.

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The concept of good and evil were delivered to us by a system of morality created by humans. How would we know what truly is evil? Or good?

But from what I see, we like to point fingers at the people who could prevent vice from occurring. Like God, for instance. What we don't realize is that we have the capacity to do this ourselves, since according to spiritual sources, God is in all of us. But, do we do this? Only rarely.

What we see as 'bad' can also be seen as misconception. We see a robber, robbin' a bank. maybe we didn't know that the robber is really getting money to pay for his ailing daughter's ridiculously high medical bills. We wouldn't know, because the news media has us pressed to believe what we see on the cold screen with pretty colors.

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I never could understand why anything besides a thought out and with an unnecessary or illogical reason to cause suffering on something that is living by something that is living be called evil.

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That just sounds... well it sounds utterly horrible.

If it was anyone else but god, you could be called delusional or insane. 'Oh he still loves me, he killed people he loves right in front of me but he still loves me!' Once more I pity you, not that you care.

All I was trying to get across was that I have witnessed a tragedy, been intimately involved, and still I believe in a God of love. I don't literally believe that God intentionally looked down and collapsed the sandbar just to satiate his desire. I was using intentionally provocative language to convey that despite the tragedies I don't see a "problem with evil".

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To Paranoid Android:

To give my perspective on the tragedy you described:

(......And this is coming from someone who has seen people he loves drown because God decided to collapse a sandbar where non-swimmers were taking a bit of a swim......) (Paranoid Android)

I don't want to come across as callous, so I'll add a personal story after my comment.

I think you may be mis-speaking when you blame God for the collapse of the sandbar. The sandbar was doing what it was designed to do. God didn't purposely collapse the sandbar. Sandbars collapse, reform, and collapse again according to the vagaries of the river currents.

I'm assuming the sandbar was in a river, as they generally are. For three "non-swimmers" (without life jackets or a lifeguard) to willingly take a swim in a river where there may have been dangerous currents and undertows was an unwise decision.

Yes, I misspoke, intentionally, to get a point across. As mentioned, I don't literally believe God collapsed the sandbar.

That said, it was a beach on the east-coast of Australia, not a river. And yes, it was an unwise choice to go to a beach with no lifeguards. I personally have never made that mistake again. However, most of us thought it was safe to wade in the ocean close to shore.

Incidentally, this stretch of beach we later found out was known for this kind of thing, but the Council would not put up warning signs because if someone died the sign of danger would be an admittance of liability. That's lawyers, for you.

My personal story: I live in a house that was built to replace a house destroyed by a tornado in 1946. The house sits on a hilltop above a long, broad valley that channels high winds directly to my property. It's a wood-framed house, just like the original house. Now, if another tornado comes sweeping up the hill (as has happened again already, though with less disastrous results) and destroys my house, I have no justification to blame God for the disaster. He will simply reply, "How many times did I have to warn you? Don't build a wood-framed house in a tornado zone."

This is my same view of "the problem of evil". Even with the 10 Commandments spelled out in stone, and hundreds of laws concerning sanitation and good behaviour, we often disregard our own conscience and innate wisdom and find ourselves (and our society) at a point of no return, and then ask "Where was God?"

I'm inclined to agree to a large degree

As I said, I don't want to come across as callous. I'm a trained crisis counselor, and I have no doubt that the situation you describe was a horrible, life-altering experience. I wish you the best, and I trust you have sought some sort of counseling or guidance to help you with the after-affects of that tragedy.

I've gone through the grieving process. It happened all the way back in December 1998, and while I'll never forget it, I don't have any grief/loss issues associated with that event.

Ironically, 14 years later, on the exact same date, December 14, 2012, the other great tragedy of my life occurred when my dad suffered a fatal heart attack. Naturally, I've come to hate that particular date (first 1998, then 2012).

~ Regards, PA

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We need ways to deal with suffering, especially with grief, and I suppose the Christian way of saying it must be part of God's plan beyond our comprehension should not be discouraged when dealing with someone going through it. It does seem to help.

It is not intellectually satisfying. In fact, it seems intellectually dishonest and merely a way to avoid meeting the world as it actually is. It would also be a tremendous excuse for accepting the existence of suffering passively, when there might be things we could do.

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But from what I see, we like to point fingers at the people who could prevent vice from occurring. Like God, for instance. What we don't realize is that we have the capacity to do this ourselves, since according to spiritual sources, God is in all of us. But, do we do this?

Yes, free will is an acceptable answer to the problem of moral evil, but it does not address natural evil. The problem of natural evil was exacerbated by Darwin's theory of adaptation and natural selection, by establishing that gratuitous pain and suffering had been around a lot longer than the previously accepted age of humanity (and other species).

But even before Darwin, people, specifically Christians, had difficulties reconciling an all loving God with the cold, indifferent, random violence inherent in nature.

Lord Tennyson wrote these lines in his poem In Memoriam A. H. H., 1850;

Who trusted God was love indeed

And love Creation's final law

Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw

With ravine, shriek'd against his creed

I was going to post a video lecture of Bart Ehrman talking about theodicy, but after watching it again and other videos, he never talks about the pain and suffering of non-human animals. It's not surprising I suppose, Man is the apple of God's eye, every other species is there merely to serve man in some capacity. But that does not mitigate the fact the many of these species are sentient and feel pain and emotional suffering.

I'm not alone in this kind of thinking. Other, greater minds, have wrestled with the problem of nature, red in tooth and claw and have found no satisfactory answer to justify millions of years of unnecessary, gratuitous pain, suffering and death, for both humans and non-humans.

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I'm not alone in this kind of thinking. Other, greater minds, have wrestled with the problem of nature, red in tooth and claw and have found no satisfactory answer to justify millions of years of unnecessary, gratuitous pain, suffering and death, for both humans and non-humans.

The term "satisfactory" is rather subjective, isn't it? After all, what may not be satisfactory to one person may be quite satisfactory to another. The fact that this particular debate has reached 15 pages (and could easily go another 15+) when in contrast I felt the question was satisfactorily answered in a single post is proof of such subjectivity.

~ Regards, PA

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The term "satisfactory" is rather subjective, isn't it?

Secular philosophers are satisfied with the free will argument when it comes to moral evil. When it comes to natural evil, answers such as "it's God's punishment, "it's God's way of getting us to repent", "malevolent demons shift around tectonic plates", or simply "it's an ineffable mystery", while certainly are replies, I don't think they answer anything.

After all, what may not be satisfactory to one person may be quite satisfactory to another. The fact that this particular debate has reached 15 pages (and could easily go another 15+) when in contrast I felt the question was satisfactorily answered in a single post is proof of such subjectivity.

I submit that's because for some people, their conception of God's love is unfalsifiable. There is no evidence whatsoever that could persuade them to believe that their concept of an all loving God is incompatible with the evidential problem of evil.

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I'm not alone in this kind of thinking. Other, greater minds, have wrestled with the problem of nature, red in tooth and claw and have found no satisfactory answer to justify millions of years of unnecessary, gratuitous pain, suffering and death, for both humans and non-humans.
There is nothing in natural processes that prevents this sort of thing. Nature doesn't care about suffering because nature is not a thing that can care about anything -- or know about it.

This is why sometimes I wonder about this business of returning animals to nature. I wonder what they might say if they were able to understand it.

Natural selection is another thing often misrepresented as somehow being beneficent. It is a process that weeds things out -- by killing them. The less fit perish. Yes it can work to promote behaviors like cooperation, but also behaviors like parasitism and predation. It doesn't know good or bad, it just operates automatically under the logic of the way things are.

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