As an agnostic, I find enough evidence in the physical universe to leave a reasonable doubt that some force may exist somewhere out there that fits some definition of the word, God. This leaves me in a position to wonder why even a vaguely defined, theoretical God would allow so much suffering in the world.
I don’t have any trouble wondering why God would commit any of the atrocities directly ascribed to him in religious texts, because I’ve come to the logical conclusion that the religions invented by our ancestors are simply mythologies that have stayed on the shelf past their expiration date. So I can write off stories of God directly committing genocide as simply ancient tribal leaders projecting their agenda into theocracy. However, I can’t write off abject poverty and war crimes in the modern world.
There’s no denying the pain and suffering in the world, but technically that doesn’t prove God doesn’t exist. At worst, it proves God is cruel. Granted, some people simply refuse to believe in a God that would allow its creation to suffer as we have, and again, anyone who continues to hold out the possibility that God could exist, must confront the question of why their God is so cruel.
I find it hard to resent the theoretical creator of the universe for the suffering in the world, because if God is truly omnipotent and omniscient, then that means God knows and experiences everything that happens. If that’s true, then God has experienced every drop of pain that has ever happened: every shooting, every beating, every disease, every tear. And God hasn’t just experienced every instance of human pain. For every other living creature besides us, life ends by getting eaten by something else. Life is all teeth, nails, cold and rain. There are no doctors and no mercy. Imagine if God was looking through the eyes of every animal that ever got torn to shreds. In that scenario, the question, “Why does God let bad things happen to my loved ones?” pales in comparison to the question, “Why would God go through all the pain in the universe to bring us here in the first place?”
Even when I imagine a universe where God doesn’t exist, I still find myself coming to the same conclusion. Consider that, if the universe is all that exists, then life is the universe incarnate. Our blood and tears are the universe’s. So why would the universe sublimate life, if it meant damning itself to every ounce of pain that has or will ever exist?
Granted, I may be wrong about all of this. Maybe there is no God, and our insentient universe had no purpose in facilitating the rise of life. We’re all just inevitable cosmic anomalies that blipped into existence at the butt-end of infinity. Our lives are the product of a mathematical probability in a multiverse that may only exist theoretically. All of our pain is meaningless, and our feelings are irrelevant. Looking for justice in the universe is just deluding ourselves into experiencing a baseless sense of peace until our bodies break down and we die in the rain.
This explanation ties up all the loose ends nicely, and the simplest answer is usually the correct one. My problem with this theory is that it’s based on the premise that the universe exists for no reason, and the way we know the universe exists for no reason is because we can’t find a reason why the universe exists. I know so little about the universe that I personally don’t feel qualified to stand behind such a hard line statement as flat fact.
I don’t know how or why the universe was created the way it was. All I can do is look at what’s here and try to connect some dots. I know that in this universe, there exists elegance, consciousness, pain and happiness. I know I value my life, and I was born with the ability to hope, love, want, cry, play, create, and above all, be. And I know joy because I’ve known pain. It doesn’t take a poet to see that “the summer would not be so sweet were it not for the winter.”
It’s also worth noting that, even though humans have experienced unspeakable misery on this planet, we were given the tools to make life better. We were given hands, eyes, bi-pedal legs, opposable thumbs, and most importantly, brains more powerful than any supercomputer. We were not left alone to die in the rain. We were given everything we need to create a world where joy eclipses sorrow. We’ve just chosen to use our gifts to hurt each other. So when I see pictures of corpses of children riddled with bullets, I feel ashamed to blame the same higher power that gave us everything we need to end those atrocities.
For me, personally, there’s been enough joy in my life to warrant the pain, but I’ve had a relatively painless life. The bigger question is, is the cumulative pain of every living creature in history worth the positive aspects of existence? If it wasn’t, I couldn’t imagine why life would exist at all. A logical, sentient creator wouldn’t create that kind of experience for itself, let alone another being. If this universe is nothing more than an automated accident, I suppose I should just count myself lucky I wasn’t born in a more hellish universe. However, there’s nothing illogical about how this universe operates; it seems contradictory for such a logical universe to exist, if its existence is illogical. Maybe someday I’ll grow up and become a nihilist, but for now, my theory is that whatever higher power brought us into being isn’t cruel. Rather, the universe is as it should be for a greater good that I don’t fully understand.
However you felt about this post, you may feel the same way about these:
- Why: An Agnostic Perspective on the Meaning of Life (Free Ebook)
- An Old Man From Jersey Explains Life (Free Ebook)
- It’s okay to be lost
- The value of life
- Reality is amazing
- The cosmic perspective
- The relationship between sanity, reality, truth, religion and science
- Enlightenment Through Logic
- The Map of Everything
- The prime prerogative
- The value of knowledge
- Life is an existential dilemma: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4
- The danger in telling people life has no meaning
- Reading for truth
- 11 ways mainstream academic philosophy has come to resemble religion
- Deep thoughts by the wise janitor
- A biker looks at social conformity
- A biker looks at bad weather
- A biker looks at the road
- A biker explains why we ride
- A biker wonders again why he rides
- A biker looks at crying
- Ethics without religion -you’re already doing it
- My secular theory on ethics
- Another attempt at explaining my secular theory on ethics
- Reasons to be kind outside of religion
- Karma ghosts
- The non-believers’ 7 deadly sins
- My theory on sexual morality
- Demonizing pleasure is a failed experiment
- Cost/benefit analysis of hedonism
- Should you let friends borrow money?
- Why and when you should have a problem with authority
- Why it’s bad to be conceited
- Self-subjugation is not a virtue
- No action is an island
- The Tao of Booze
- The drug talk
- Why you should be sober
- 6 accurate and 6 inaccurate ways to judge people
- 8 steps to becoming a genius
- My approach to thinking/problem solving
- The science of thought
- Your ability to think obligates you to
- How to think critically
- How to solve a problem using a team
Atheism and Agnosticism
- Agnostic nihilism
- Agnostic atheism
- Do agnostics fear death?
- An agnostic take on God
- An agnostic take on Pascal’s Wager
- An agnostic take on intelligent design
- So you don’t believe in God. What do you do now?
- Should reason be considered a legal religion?
- Reason vs faith: part 1, part 2
- Predictions on the New Atheist movement
- Meta Atheists V.S. Pop Atheists