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One of the topics that routinely torments believers is the issue of God and human suffering, also referred to as “Theodicy.”  If there is an omnipotent and omni-benevolent God,  how do we account for all the terrible things that happen in the world?  Throughout my ministry it has been the question that believers ask most often.  When illness, accidents, and other disasters strike, people often want to know, “What did I do to deserve this?” and “If God loves me, how could he let this happen?”

Of course there are no good answers–not that people haven’t tried to answer the question.  Throughout the centuries more ink has been spilled on this issue than on just about any other theological dilemma.

The issue of theodicy has played a role in my own gradual drift from faith.  The Fukushima earthquake and tsunami sealed the deal for me.  Although there have certainly been other devastating natural disasters in recent years, I guess this one made a bigger impression on me than the others simply because I have lived and worked in Japan.    25,000  plus lives wiped out in a matter of a few minutes.  There is simply no logical way to reconcile events like this with the existence of the Judeo-Christian God.  The Deist God who sits back and watches everything happen without intervening–perhaps.  But not the God of the Bible.

But when I finally realized that God plays no role in the equation of suffering at all, it was like a great burden had been lifted.   The solution to the Theodicy problem is getting rid of the Theos–and the “dicy” disappears.    Liberating.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. kittybrat
    October 26, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    I agree. There can be no reconciling the omniscient God with the omnipotent one when it comes to tragedy. Although the God of the Bible certainly has no trouble wiping out humans as if they were so many ants at a picnic.
    When one finally realizes there is no one in charge, it is a burden lifter indeed!

  2. Andrew
    October 26, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    25 million plus humans were wiped out by a simple virus back in the 1300s. This did nothing to hurt God’s PR, so I doubt a far more minor flood or earthquake is going to have any effect. The savvier churchmen of today insist that God doesn’t act on the natural world.

    God exists in the human imagination. This is why “God” will never die.

    • October 27, 2011 at 9:43 pm

      Yes, you’re right. Some more sophisticated and liberal theologians have tried to redefine God’s job description to no longer include natrual phenomena. But then you end up with a with an impotent God who probably can’t do anything else for you other than commiserate with your suffering.

      I’m not exactly sure God will never die. He seems pretty dead in Western Europe whenever I’ve been there. So maybe there’s hope.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  3. S
    October 27, 2011 at 12:06 am

    I also found that liberating. I had spent my life wondering what clues there were to keeping god happy. Don’t eat pork? Keep the Sabbath holy without fun or work? Tithing and to whom? Prayer, remorse, good works? It’s much better for me to think that shit happens and there is no malevolent or benign superpower ruling on a whim with a rule book that only it knows. Hell is other people- but then so is heaven.

    • October 27, 2011 at 9:39 pm

      Nicely said. Keeping people in the dark about what makes God happy is part of the scam of organized religion. And the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself is hardly revelatory. Our altruistic impulses clearly evolved long before anybody formally stated any version of the The Golden Rule.

  4. Julia
    October 27, 2011 at 2:33 am

    Paganpreacher, I have to ask, do you believe in a god at all? I’m just curious.

    I do believe in God, however, I realize that religion is man made rules. What I never understood about religion is prayer. In our bible study we always did prayer requests and some of the petty things people prayed for baffled me. Things like they had a test coming up for a college class, pray that their wedding day turns out perfect, finding a job, things like that. I used to wonder, how can you reconcile a God who cares about you finding a good job but doesn’t care about starving people in the world?

    I never really “got” prayer. I would pray for something and then think of all of the real tragedies in the world and I just couldn’t sit there and think that God cared about my small problems.

    I never asked this question out loud, but I’m sure, as always, Christians would have an answer for why God should care about the closing of their new house working out okay but not care about Ethiopia.

    • October 27, 2011 at 9:37 pm

      Julia, I guess I consider myself a hard-core agnostic at this point. I mean, if we were presented with some undeniable, empirical evidence for the existence of some higher intelligence “out there” somewhere that has some kind of control over this world, I’d have to reconsider my position. But I feel fairly safe in saying that the Judeo-Christian God absolutely does not exist.

      You’re absolutely right about the tendency of believers to focus on what God can do for them personally rather than for the well-being of the 3.5 billion humans who live on less than $2 a day. The most successful churches are the ones who promise to help you find your “inner champion.”

      And I don’t get prayer either.

  5. October 27, 2011 at 10:59 am

    I think theo idiocy would be a better term. Just the concept that God could create humans, knowing beforehand that they were going to hell, turned me since childhood. Doesn’t make any sense at all. God is all-loving; sorry, I gotta send you to hell for having sex with a beautiful maiden that you’re not married to.

  6. October 27, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    For some reason, it is more disturbing for me to think about the human suffering we cause for each other – genocide, starvation, etc. Millions of people killed over conviction that one is right and the other wrong – or from shear apathy. I don’t need a god to be responsible for natural disasters any more than I need a god to be responsible for personal favors or work promotions.

    “Hell is other people- but then so is heaven.” I have often thought the same thing. The Bible talks about the “kingdom” of god on earth. Heaven and hell are the same place, and it’s right now.

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