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Monday, October 23, 2017

God, Atheism and the Problem of Evil - Part III

Let us consider the concerns of the atheist regarding  the reality of pain and the nature of evil:

The atheist will argue that a god, or divine agent, one who allows people to suffer pain, even caused by natural events, could not be considered to be good.

This argument is predicated on the assumption that the experience of pain per se is analogous to the experience of evil. However, there are many events common to the experience of every person, events in which pain plays an essential role in forming experiences that we do not consider to be evil.

I contend that the capacity to experience pain is not evil. Creatures having been formed with these capacities cannot be hold this against the notion of God’s goodness, or the goodness of the natural world.

For instance, if I stub my toe, or smash my thumb with a hammer, I do not claim that God is evil!

That would be absurd.

The experience of pain is not evil, it is merely painful! Like evil, pain has both a beginning and end in time. It is temporary, and has no eternal value.

When I was a child, I burned my hand on the stove. I did not conclude that my mother was evil for cooking a pot of beans, the heated element of which was the primary instrument of my pain.

Though it was my mother’s activity, cooking beans, that created the possibility for my being burned, it was my action to touch the hot metal that led to my experience of pain.

Even though I had no prior knowledge concerning the conductivity of heat through metal, my decision to touch the metal was the decision that initiated the contact and so the responsibility for the incident was mine alone.

There is no one else to blame for this.

Set aside for a moment that the experience of pain is not intrinsically evil. One being cannot be held responsible for the pain another being experiences, simply because they established the conditions for that experience.

My mother established the conditions for the burn I endured, but she is not responsible for the fact that I touched the pot on the stove, not the first time I did it, nor the second.

My mother gave birth to me, without her I would not exist, regardless of that fact she is not responsible for any of the feelings that I endure, for which she is not herself the direct agent.

What is true in regards to the relationship between the agency of a parent and the agency of their offspring is true in regard to the agency of God, the creator of the universe and the creature.

The universe we live in was created in such a way that it produces planets teeming with organic life.

The theist will say that God is the creator of the universe.

The type of life our planet possesses can only be brought about in a very narrow range of circumstances.

For instance: without heat being generated in the core of our planet, and without the immense dispersion of molten rock from our volcanoes, life on Earth would not have evolved.

It is our planet's molten core, and the heat trapped deep within that are responsible for earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions, but without which we would not exist at all.

Animals are dependent on oxygen for their existence. The type of atmosphere that is capable of trapping oxygen also produces violent and magnificent storms.

People build their homes in places that are struck by natural disasters, the potential for these disasters are necessary conditions for the existence of life on Earth. It is not God that destroys the homes that are in the paths of tornadoes, nor is it God’s will made manifest in the area-of-effect of an earthquake.

These natural forces are the result of inevitable natural process, they are not the result of divine intention, neither are they the result of divine neglect.

The creator of the universe is in some sense responsible for establishing such conditions for the possibility of life. City planners, zoning commissions, and homebuilders bear a similar responsibility for where communities are developed.

The decisions that individual people make concerning where to live and how, are at work in a universe with many complex, chaotic and random systems, such as; weather, plate tectonics, bacterial biology, organic life, and even such institutions as economics, to name a few.

The creator of the universe cannot be held accountable for the decisions that free creatures make within these random systems, even if those decisions result in the experience of pain and suffering.

Forty-five years after the incident I endured with the pot on the stove, I no longer consciously remember the sensation of pain associated with that event

The pain is gone, and the experience led to my having an awareness of my environment whenever I am near sources of heat.

The experience of pain is not intrinsically evil.

Pain as a neurological process has many positive features for a biological creature.

The experience of pain programs our behavior, it teaches us to avoid potentially life-threatening situations, lending itself to our survivability, both as individuals and as a species.

Even if the experience of pain is so traumatic for the individual that it leaves that person permanently damaged. There are remedies available, responses to mitigate that pain. Oftentimes the wounds that are associated with extreme or prolonged exposure to pain can be healed through religious devotion, faith, psychotherapy, chemotherapy, and hypnosis. 

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