Updated 5/9/17. Many people have wondered if, or even claimed, that the existence of suffering in the world is evidence that either God does not exist, or that God is not love. For instance, the following quotes from David Attenborough, the famous, intelligent and personable British naturalist and TV personality, typify this POV:
“I don’t know [why we’re here]. People sometimes say to me, ‘Why don’t you admit that the humming bird, the butterfly, the Bird of Paradise are proof of the wonderful things produced by Creation?’ And I always say, well, when you say that, you’ve also got to think of a little boy sitting on a river bank, like here, in West Africa, that’s got a little worm, a living organism, in his eye and boring through the eyeball and is slowly turning him blind. The Creator God that you believe in, presumably, also made that little worm. Now I personally find that difficult to accommodate…” http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/494183-i-don-t-know-why-we-re-here-people-sometimes-say-to
My response is that when Creationists talk about God creating every individual species as a separate act, they always instance hummingbirds, or orchids, sunflowers and beautiful things. But I tend to think instead of a parasitic worm that is boring through the eye of a boy sitting on the bank of a river in West Africa, [a worm] that’s going to make him blind. And [I ask them], ‘Are you telling me that the God you believe in, who you also say is an all-merciful God, who cares for each one of us individually, are you saying that God created this worm that can live in no other way than in an innocent child’s eyeball? Because that doesn’t seem to me to coincide with a God who’s full of mercy’. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/03/24/1048354544138.html?from=storyrhs
Attenborough has said he considers himself agnostic on the issue of God’s existence. To make this kind of argument against the goodness of God is ironic when he’s done so much to educate people about the beauty of nature and the importance of conservation and harmony, and clearly appreciates it in wonder and awe himself. This kind of argument against the existence and goodness of God is also a logical fallacy (it fails) for a number of reasons.
Believers in God are as capable of seeing the beauty in the natural world and the cycle of life as naturalists are. Attenborough, on the other hand, seems to find reason to doubt that the innumerable pros outweigh the alleged cons of the natural world – he himself says he has repeatedly cited these moralizing judgments of God and his universe as an argument against the existence of God in perfect love and true justice. Again, ironic, coming from a life-long world-traveler and environmental advocate with a scientific background.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge
They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:1-4
Why do you complain to him that he responds to no one’s words? For God does speak—now one way, now another—though no one perceives it. Job 33:13-14
Atheists may claim that the existence of moral social norms and personal faith in God, and the existence of moralizing atheist scientists like Attenborough, can be explained as evolutionary adaptations of successful societies. This is true, but that does not disprove or eliminate the certainty/probability/possibility of God’s involvement.
Claiming suffering is bad ergo God is bad presumes to judge God, the alleged creator of all. If God is true, then he decides what’s good or bad – not his creations. This is the error Job made. God’s first verbal answer to him was, “Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?” Job 38:2. In the Bible, God keeps speaking for four chapters, pointing out that he made the Universe, the Earth and all living things, and human aren’t in a position to question or call him out, since he’s the creator. Job 38-41
The basis for passing judgment on God obviously comes from God, the creator of all, the source of ‘reality’, meaning it’s absurd to judge God. It would be an ‘impossibility’ – if God had not allowed this. If God chooses to hold himself above or below or outside the standards of a law he may impose on nature and the human race, that still does not put us in a position of being able to claim hypocrisy on God’s part.
Also, if God is love and consciousness, and the author of everything under the sun, including ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – why not ask God why suffering exists? If you can handle the truth?
If Attenborough were to ask the proverbial little boy with the eye-worm if he would rather suffer the worm or not exist at all, and if the boy were to choose existence, would Attenborough deny him that?
Will he deny Nick Vujicic‘s choice to live courageously without limbs, inspiring millions with a love for Christ and people larger than life itself? Does he believe that Nick would not gladly choose to have two worms in each eye, plus other ailments, in exchange for the chance to keep breathing and speaking the words of the Holy Spirit to hungry souls, if God granted him that? Nick is a Christian, a man of God, one who has beheld and received the salvation of God only glimpsed and hoped for by the prophets, and he lives life with a faith like Hebrews 11.
And what if the boy and Nick, and you and I and Attenborough, all chose to visit this Earthly plane in order to have the experiences we’re having? In that context, there is no ‘wrong’; life is all educational all the time, in all its gory glory.
This Amusement Park Horrorshow University of a life is as ephemeral as a video game in the context of infinity and eternity, but more realistic and perhaps more enriching. So what if this Universe is a simulation, and God’s some twisted fuck just fucking with us? Or what if life is a joke?
Perhaps we need to return here to this material dimension thousands of times to get it right, leaving us wondering if we’re getting it right at all, as we seemingly test the limits of God’s infinite grace and patience. Or maybe we just dig the suffering. The pain here is primo; you can’t get this Hell-Raiser quality and quantity of ‘good suffering‘ anywhere else in the Universe! And it’s free!!!
It’s said that to be able to feel anything at all, to even have the chance to feel, is a blessing. What about this? If our preference is to have a world where only ‘good’ feelings occur, where only things you judge ‘pleasant’ occur, still, who are we, really, to judge a corner of the Multiverse where bad things and feelings happen, where ‘bad’ people cause pain and suffering to others – ‘ironically’ demonstrating that they do care about others – and some people seem to even ‘perversely’ enjoy pain and suffering?
And I don’t think that we need pain to know what pleasure is, or vice-versa. You can feel good, great, better, even better than that and so on, and compare each ‘better’ state to the last. But wouldn’t it better be to just derive maximum enjoyment and purpose from where we are here right now in the middle of perfection, experiencing it fully, feeling and seeing it for what it is? Rather than wishing it were different and comparing it to something else?
I am saying that there may be more to suffering than misery. Can I be proved wrong? Suffering builds character – it tests and proves us, allowing us to see and grow beyond our own falsely-perceived limits. As Paul said God told him when he prayed for relief from a proverbial thorn-in-the-side, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9
If you were an immortal, indestructible, perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful being – might you want to take a vacation from yourself once in a while, once in an eternity, and pass what seemed to be a hundred or thirty years as a human being, experiencing ‘love and pain, pride and shame‘, hope and disappointment, limitations and aspirations, faith and doubt, etc. forever?
Especially knowing you could leave this place and go home – and come back here – anytime you want? What if that’s what Earth is? Again, there’s a growing body of evidence the Multiverse is a simulation. If this is true, then the reality of the worm in the kid’s eye has no greater significance in truth than do the logical fallacies of atheists…