When I was much younger, I used to think and ask myself, “How can there be a God with all the evil and suffering in this world?” How can a God, who is supposedly full of love and forgiveness, be so callous and cold to allow such atrocities in our world, so often unpunished?
We see a savage dictator, like Bashar al-Assad in Syria, immune to repercussions and justice, using homemade barrel bombs on his own people. Innocent civilian people. Blowing up arms and legs off of little babies and children. I saw firsthand the suffering in eastern Europe caused by a territorial political dispute between Russia and Ukraine. Young men marching valiantly into battle, coming home by the hundreds in body bags, with nothing but empty patriotism and their cold decomposing bodies, washed in the tears of their mothers and wives, and devastated children. Exploding mortars raining down on residential homes, ripping through tissue like a hot knife through butter. Senseless wars. Never ending.
How can there be a God?
We’ve all thought these same things. It’s a difficult question to reconcile, and one that leads many to simply not believe in God.
But let me ask another question, or two.
Would you rather live in a world without diversity, where every single person is exactly the same – the way each person looks, their build, their intelligence; the same experiences in life for everyone? This way there is absolute fairness in this world, and nobody has any advantage over another. Would you rather live a life where your choices are dictated to you, so you don’t make any mistakes, or accidentally or intentionally hurt anyone, to always do what is in yours and everyone else’s best short term and long term interests – even when we can’t see it ourselves in the moment? The real question is, would you rather live more like a robot, without free choice; where decisions are forced upon you?
I suppose this kind of world would be pretty bland, boring, not really worth living. Am I wrong?
Could you imagine everyone having the same brown or blue eyes, the same hair color, same build and same height, the same capabilities and abilities? And further still, every single decision in your life being dictated and forced upon you – both small and large?
That’s not much of a life is it?
The conundrum in this world is that free choice leads to all kinds of evil and sorrow. And even if God was capable of over-riding this reality, to prevent us from ourselves, then what would be the point of God ever engineering mankind in the first place? He should have just made a bunch of brainless robots.
If we really are honest with ourselves, our world, and truly assess the evil and suffering on this planet, nearly all of it – virtually 100% – is caused by the individual and collective free will decisions and choices that each of us make, daily.
There are four categories why there is so much suffering and sorrow in this world:
- Those that are caused by our collective decisions and choices – big picture problems.
- Those that are caused by our individual decisions and choices, often because we are emotional, short-sighted, or only thinking about ourselves.
- Those caused by random accidents and events
- Those caused by genetic imperfections
Wars, government oppression, institutional failings, and injustices – these are due to our collective and cumulative choices. We implement failed systems of governance to create a non-perfect mechanism to allow civilization to flourish. We create arbitrary systems like money. Parse up God’s creation into individual parcels to be owned, not shared. The amount of suffering caused by these situations isn’t quantifiable. It’s immense. Billions of people suffer as a result of man’s poor collective choices and decisions. These have nothing to do with God’s actions or inaction.
In our own lives, we create our own chaos constantly. Our human nature to choose self-survival over collective good. Our human nature to choose self, over others, even often those we love or care about resulting in loves lost. Families broken. Innocents murdered. Chastity stolen. Mocking, oppressing, taking…our own words and deeds leave a lot to be desired. We do everything in our own power to elevate our own standing in the minds of others, society; sometimes, often, at the expense of another.
The consequences of these first two items account for nearly EVERY single bit of our human suffering in this world. Virtually all of it.
The last two items, random accidents and losing the genetic lottery are small slivers of the problem. Statistical noise.
Furthermore, many of the things that we label as accidents, really aren’t accidents. A true accident is something like being hit by an asteroid, or being struck by lightning – unless you’re an idiot golfing in the middle of a storm. Things like drunk driving accidents are caused by our decisions. A product failing and causing harm to someone isn’t an accident -usually because of our unquenchable drive to maximize profits and cutting corners on safety or testing. Someone being exposed to toxins and getting cancer isn’t an accident. Most of our health problems and diseases aren’t accidents. We – mankind – had a heavy hand in causing it. And our stressful lifestyles almost ensures we will die prematurely.
In the statistically rare event of a genetic mutation causing problems, such as a child being handicapped or retarded or deformed, is also often due to our choices. Mothers taking drugs or alcohol during pregnancy, or not taking care of our bodies properly with nutrition and exercise, because we chose to take the more convenient alternatives, significantly increases the odds of genetic problems.
The truth is, if we HONESTLY AND OBJECTIVELY analyzed our world’s problems, just about every single one is due to US. They are not due to God or His failings.
And on top of all of this, we have an unhealthy relationship and understanding of death. Everybody knows that ALL of us will die one day. It’s more certain than the sun rising tomorrow. And yet, nearly all of our quantification of suffering revolves death and pain.
We get angry at God when we lose a loved one, someone critically important to us in our lives. When someone young dies, before their time, it’s tragic. But 999,999,999 times out of a million, it was caused by a human factor, and nothing to do with God or just bad “luck”.
This, again, is the irrational side of humanity.
Changing The World
If you want there to be less suffering in this world, we can all do something about it, instead of blaming God, or expecting God to do something about it. It’s time we all stopped crying about how God “isn’t real” or “is a piece of shit” because He allows so much evil and suffering to exist in our world.
It’s time we own up to our own actions, or lack of action. You wouldn’t want to live a life if you had no free-will, free-choice. But we must realize that there are no such things as free choices. Every single choice, big and small, comes attached with a consequence – either good or bad – in our own lives and in our world.
If we all did one tiny little thing every single day to lessen suffering, it could be a completely different world. As I said in one of my much earlier blogs entitled Syrian Refugees and Six Degrees of Separation:
“It doesn’t take a whole lot to change the world. There are very few degrees of separation between any one of us and every other human being on this planet. Six degrees connects everyone to everyone else. Five small gestures can bridge the gap between Muslims and Christians, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, starving and filled.”