August 12, 2008

A big problem for me

I have studied religion a lot, including seven years of seminary training. Then from 1963 to 1968 I was a Catholic priest with strong faith in God and Jesus, and the Bible as the Word of God. But now, 40 evolving years later, I am deeply troubled by the problem of widespread suffering. (I have experienced a little of it, but not much, yet.) Free will and human cruelty can explain the holocaust, wars, crime, and much more. But what about hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, cancers, other diseases--which cause so much suffering, including to innocent people such as young children? I cannot reconcile these with the commonly-held view of God as an all-powerful loving Father. (I am also troubled by the Biblical account of God commanding Abraham to kill his son Isaac as an act of worship and then at the last minute saying, "No, don't kill him; I didn't really mean it." I strongly disapprove of this alleged behavior of God.) So I am now an agnostic. If there is a God, he does not make sense to me, and I cannot see him as an all-powerful loving Father. There is too much contradiction. Do I believe in the Bible? Actually, yes--part of it--the book of Ecclesiastes. That author says basically: This life is probably all there is, so enjoy it as best you can. Make the most of it. And try to relieve human suffering.

P.S.  I have found an interesting website that is relevant to this.  I invite you to check it out:  
whywontgodhealamputees.com

19 comments:

Andy said...

Hello Ed -- this is a serious philosophical problem for believers. Indeed, natural disasters, disease, war -- none of these can be reconciled with a view of God as almighty in the sense of imbued with absolute power as well as entirely benevolent. The Pope gave a speech which touched on this topic, if only indirectly -- the one which caused so much anger among Muslims. He argues that God exists within the system of natural law and science, hence is not omnipotent in the sense of God as characterized by Islam, for example. I'll send it to you. Hope you are well.

bishopb7 said...

hi ed...i was a cristian for years and i also became agnostic.i think it takes courage and humility to simply say "i dont know" i rather adopt this position instead of filling in the blanks with temporary answers. am very flexible about it..and if am wrong and there is a god and the bible is all true..then god will understand my confusion..after all he created my brain:)

xsosdid said...

Ed, are you removing comments that disagree with your opinions? If so, what is the point of posting in a blog?

C said...

Ed, can you imagine the consequences if you are wrong? For your sake, I hope you find the truth in the Catholic church before you die, and seek forgiveness. All I can say is, you had better be 100% certain you are right. Because if you are wrong, you're screwed!

George said...

C. No, not really, Ed is fine; for God know one's heart. If Ed has sought the truth with in a spirit of truth and openness, what else can a person do? Blind belief belongs to members of cults. The Catholic Church would be the last place I would look for truth, for that church has a history of mind control, revision of original Christian manuscripts, inculcating fear in its adherents, the Inquisition, forcing native peoples to give up their religion or die, and recently the widespread child sexual molestation disgrace. If God is to be found anywhere, "He" certainly is NOT to be found in the Roman Catholic church. I will give that Church credit to being forward thinking on science in general and evolution in particular, but that does not nullify their total perversion of the truth.

George said...

Andy. You are so right. The "problem of evil" (pain and suffering of innocent people, and much more) is God's credibility problem. If God is limited as you say the Pope said, then by definition the Catholic God is not God for one of God's claimed attributes is limitlessness. The Pope contends that God CANNOT intervene in nature rather than WILL NOT intervene, so the Catholic God is limited and thus not God. Why would a creator God devise a universe where his hands are tied so that "He" cannot relieve suffering or grant answers to prayer, even if selectively? The Pope does not make sense at all; he only strives to advance the Roman Catholic church as the "superior" one and only "true church and religion" as he stated in the recent past. He is without credibility and certainly without authority of millions and millions of other Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and adherents to other equally meaningful belief systems.

C said...

George, so often, people make comments about the Catholic Church when they don't have a true understanding of what it teachers. (Although they may think they do). I would suggest listening to the Catholic answers Q&A call in show at http://www.catholic.com/radio/about.asp.
It is a great resource for hearing Catholic responses to your comments and any future questions you may have. I will pray for you as well as Ed.

Oh, one more, on EWTN, Monday nights at 8 pm EST, Marcus Grodi hosts the Journey Home. A great show on how atheists and others from other denominations find their way to the Catholic Church through the gift of grace. Their journeys are incredible both with difficulty and reward. You can also listen to them on the internet at www.chnetwork.org.

George said...

C, Thanks for the references; I've availed myself of a couple of them. There are dramatic, amazing stories of people going to/from the Catholic religion and to/from many other denominations and religions. For example, the messianic Jews coming to various Protestant religions; people going from Catholic to Buddhism and proclaiming that they finally have found "truth." Other examples abound. The Catholic Church performs many good works in its disaster relief efforts as do many other denominations and religions and secular organizations. I will pray for you too. Thanks, G.

Edward Tarte said...

C, if by 'screwed' you mean that your God will punish my sincere rational approach to reality by torturing me forever in hell, then you rather than I are the one who has the problem, and it is a problem of huge dimensions. Watch my Hell video. Your church requires you to accept its teaching on this place of eternal torture, and to love its alleged creator who is unspeakably evil, unjust, and cruel. Watch my Dilemma video. If you accept hell and worship its alleged creator and overseer as if he were a loving father, then you are depraved beyond words. And it is extremely arrogant of you to tell me that I need to seek forgiveness.

George said...

Edward, I wholeheartedly endorse your commentary to "C", especially your comment on the arrogance of some Christians (and adherents of other religions). I personally believer that some kind of "God" exists, but this "God" is definitely NOT the God described my Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

xsosdid said...

Hi Ed, I've watched your video on hell and I'd like to respond to it and your post here.
I am a Catholic and you are not describing my religion accurately. In Luke's gospel, Jesus enters the desert to fast for forty days. While He is there Satan tempts Him.One of these temptations is, I think, informative for this discussion: it is the temptation that if Jesus would bow to Satan then Satan would give all the world to Him. In other words, the world has been taken from God by Satan. Hell, in my faith, is not God's product but the consequence of actions. Actions, to be truly free,must have consequences. You can't be morally free without consequences. You might think that God should make the consequences less, but that makes the freedom false. The only real freedom is to choose God or not: to be with God or to be free of Him - completely. My faith tells me that to free myself from God entails some terrible consequences. These consequences are not His doing but my own, should I choose that path.

George said...

Ed, forgive me for interjecting myself into this post.

xsosdid, even though your post is to Ed, and I am sure he will answer you in due time, I am so incensed and flabbergasted by what you say and believe, that I feel that I cannot let it go without a response. First, Jesus never went into the desert and was tempted by the "Devil." The "Devil" does not exist. This is an allegorical myth to relating the temptations of life to people of that day and what the best response is in the opinion of the writer, and I agree with the general moral lesson. If God is the creator of all things, and Hell is not God's creation, then you have a conundrum, or worse. If the world has been taken from God by Satan, the God is not omnipotent, thus limited, and, by definition, is not God. The worn out argument to justify evil and suffering from "Free Will" has been totally scuttled. Imagine a "creator God" who would create a world in which many billions of human beings die and go to Hell for everlasting torment (including innocent children and people who never heard of Jesus or the Hebrew God) just so some intelligent adults can have "free will". And, to boot, it is quite debatable if anyone has true free will due to biological and experiential dispositions. When are you going to snap out of your cult-like thinking and open your eyes to the truth and be liberated from your prison? This is Glenn Beck material.

xsosdid said...

If God created free will,then He created the ability to turn away from His love. The consequence of turning from Him is to live in the injustice that exists outside of Him. Therefore, there is nothing irrational in the notion that this world exists outside God's love because of the justice he instituted.
So it is obvious that this world can indeed be, and is, a world fallen from its creator, not because He is any less than perfect and all powerful and all good, but precisely because of the incredible nature of freedom that He envisioned as a characteristic of humanity.

George said...

xsosdid, I really can't believe it, but you just keep getting in deeper and deeper like the tar baby in Uncle Remus. The more you attempt to defend your position, the "stucker" you get. First of all, there is no absolute "free will"; it's an illusion. Every thought we have; every action we take is not truly "free." You call the God-awful suffering that goes on in the world being "apart from God"? My God, man, you've taken leave of your senses, the common type. The world hasn't "fallen" anywhere - you are now talking like the late Jerry Falwell (who's probably feeling pretty hot right now) and Pat Roberson and all the other lying televangelists. Maybe God is punishing the world because they watch TV, or dance, or listen to music, or God-forbid, are homosexual. Your professed beliefs are right out of the Dark Ages, and also reminiscent of the idiot Johnathan Edwards who tried to scare the beeJesus out of his congregation and just about did with his "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" sermon. Haven't you heard, the "freedom" argument is kaput! So, did "Adam and Eve" (Eve actually, not Adam) through one misjudgment put a curse on billions of people forever and ever when they were in the "Garden of Eden" walking and talking with God sometime just after 6,014 years ago this coming October 23rd when God created the entire universe in 6 days? October 23rd is my birthday, so I feel quite honored, and thanks to Bishop Usher for totally erroneous calculations. The Universe is about 13.7 billion years old; the Earth is about 4.65 billion years old; you and I and everyone on Earth are descended directly from the Great Ape who lived on the savannas of Africa some 6 million years ago. Modern Homo sapiens sapiens (Cro Magnons are our immediate predecessors)gave rise to symbolic thinking and complex language. Agriculture gave rise to culture and civilization some 8 to 9 thousand years ago after the last Ice Age. We have evolved from those "primitive" peoples who migrated all over the world. At what point in this process did God create a "soul" in each and every human animal including fetuses? Or, perhaps the concept of soul merely evolved along with other spiritual concepts starting with animism and becoming more intellectually complex over time. Dreams played a large part in the concept of the "afterlife" - people "saw" their dead relatives in dreams and thought they existed somewhere else, in the nether world. Various cultures invented creation myths (there are literally hundreds of them - all as credible as the two myths in Genesis). What kind of God would create a Universe that works as you say - with the possibility of eternal burning and suffering of innocent people - people who never had a chance to "accept" or "reject" God -- and what a stupid test to put to people anyway. Do you accept me or reject me. Those that accept get in the right line; those that reject get in the left line. Sounds a lot like the Holocaust where people were separated like that. Those in the wrong line went to their death in the showers. No, my good and well-meaning fellow blogger, your model is as bogus as a 3 dollar bill. You have been sold the snake oil and you have purchased it and gulped in down. Sorry.

xsosdid said...

George,
There is almost not a word of your post above that is relevant to Catholicism. It seems to me that you ought to simply take some time and learn Catholic beliefs, then you won't have to spill so much ink attacking things I don't believe.
I very much enjoy having an intelligent discussion about my faith, and I do not shy from challenging issues, however, your rant is simply misplaced, uninformed and bizarre in ways that I won't invest time addressing.

George said...

xsosdid. I have nothing good to say about the Roman Catholic church except (1) The RC church seems to be a bit more enlightened regarding science, including evolution, than other Christian denominations; (2) the RC church has a good disaster relief organization (along with Lutherans). It seems as though they have learned a lesson from the Galileo affair (it took them long enough) and the Inquisition, and from forcing indigenous peoples to convert to Catholicism at the penalty of death, and burning human beings at the stake (Protestants did this too), and performing various and sundry other tortures. They have NOT learned their lesson regarding rampant, widespread pedophilia which has been going on for many decades ruining lives, probably for centuries, and has been covered up by the so-called church "authorities" including various Popes. This should tell you something about your church and the way it really is. You can read dogma and doctrine until you are blue in the face, and swallow the "company line;" however, the test is, "Do they practice what they preach?" The answer of course is "No, they do not." The Roman Catholic church is one of the worse things that has ever happened to Christianity. The Pope, Cardinals and all the others dressed in their royal regalia and carrying golden scepters, wearing jeweled crowns, and drinking from solid gold and bejeweled chalices makes me sick to my stomach. Jesus would NEVER countenance such a vulgar display of wealth, power, and arrogance. You can have your religion; I want not part of it whatsoever. I seek truth as an lone, humble human being with an open heart and mind, seeking the reality of God and wisdom as I am able to. You seem to prefer "group-think" and conformity to rules and rigid dogmas defined by men who had ulterior motives and vision of grandeur, power and control over the masses. I have studied all the religions that I have been able to find material on for years, including Roman Catholicism and its offshoots. I consider all missing the mark and I do not wish to engage you in any discussion of Catholicism at all. I know what I need to know about it and do not wish to waste any more time on it.
Please address your posts to others. I will stay out of the commentaries and move on to something more enlightening.

xsosdid said...

George, if all those examples of human failure prove anything about the Church they prove too much: that despite 2000 years of fallen humanity, the Church still breathes the faith into countless millions. It proves indeed that the gates of Hell will not prevail; Her teachings still lead believers to sanctity. One need only compare those failures to the saintly people who still reach the Promised Land because of her teachings, to see that Satan's power has no hold on the Church, but clearly has the desired affect in your case - the power to deceive.
You have studied "religion" but not the Faith. You don't know it,and you are far more heavily invested in self-righteousness than you are in learning it,from what I've seen. But that too is the human condition. It would be good for you if someday you saw past it.
I will pray for you.

George said...

xsosdid (Michael), you are a lost soul I'm afraid. I've tried and tried to show you the Way, but alas you persist in your comfortable dark dungeon of dogma. Thank you for the gesture of praying for me, but just skip that part and pray for yourself. I have a direct line to God and "he" knows my "cell phone number." We talk all the time. From what I gather from your posts, you are projecting your own self-righteousness and elitist views onto others including me. I am God's humble and appreciative servant whereas you seem to be a puppet of the Church and slave to its false doctrines; what you call the "Faith." I KNOW the Faith, Michael; you don't have to tell me or instruct me in anything. It is you who need "schooling" in how facts inform faith and how reason tempers revelation. I hope one day you will come to your senses. I bid you adieu. George.

xsosdid said...

Peace!