An agnostic theory on why God is so cruel

god's cruelty

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:

Biker Philosophy



Atheism and Agnosticism

8 responses to “An agnostic theory on why God is so cruel

  • Anonymous

    God is extremely evil. God is just as evil as all the abusive parents and other horrible people. God predestined the fall of man for his glory, which led to everyone being born sinful and certain people being born evil. Then god has an elect. Not to mention god predestined people to hell for his glory. You don’t have to be a murderer or a rapist to be predestined to hell. It can be any sin. If you’re not his elect, he will reprobate people to throw them in hell. I have heard stories of people doing sins that weren’t rape or murder, and God still reprobates them. He reprobates people who are evil on the inside, but don’t bother people, even though he technically caused them to be evil. You can love god and he will still throw you in Hell, without pity. God laughs at certain people’s calamity. God also will tell people not to pray for certain people. God is cruel and selfish!


    • wise sloth

      The God you’re describing is similar to the one describe in the mythologies our ancestors invented. Just because the religions of our ancestors are mythologies and their description of God is the product of their imagination doesn’t mean that there could still be some intelligent creative force in the universe that doesn’t think and act like a primitive human.


    • Anonymous

      There are several different possibilities here.

      My current opinion is that if God happens to exists, he/she cannot be BOTH almighty and a loving God.

      If God is almighty, then he/she is at least partly evil, because there is huge amount of suffering in the world.

      If God is fully loving and good, then he/she is not fully almighty, again because there is huge amount of suffering in the world. This is an interesting possibility and raises its own questions.

      If situation is like that, is there perhaps eternal fight going on between good and bad ? Or eternal 3 side fight going on between good and bad and simple unconscious dummy natural events ?


  • d jones

    I got tired of trying to make sense of it. If God wanted us to love, worship him, he makes it very difficult to do so.


    • wise sloth

      If God exists, I’m not convinced God wants us to love and worship Him/Her/It. That doesn’t really do either of us any good. Good human parents don’t sit around fretting about their kids worshiping them. They just want their kids to be the best people they can be for themselves. By becoming their best self, they justify their parents having them. I don’t see any reason why a theoretical God wouldn’t have the same parental viewpoint.


  • Linda Gerstmann

    Travis; If I was born into a world where all these confusing religions didn’t exist, and I was given the freedom to draw my own conclusions, I would probably deduce that there is a creator or creators of some sort, but that he/she/it/they are sort-of like the nutty professor and humans are a failed experiment. And is not at all interested in being worshipped. And is probably not all that interested in us. Which would explain why we were left to stew in our own juices.


  • Michael E. Henderson

    I’m surprised at your conclusion and the “theory” you hold.

    There is no way to prove that a god exists, and there is no way to prove that one does not exist. Very little is ever proved with 100% certainty, even in science. Some things can be proved, but most scientific “facts” are simply experimental outcomes consistent with the prediction of a hypothesis. I can prove that pure water boils at 100 degrees Celsius at one atmosphere, but I can only guess at the origin of the universe based on observation.

    The real question is not whether there is or is not a god. This is unknowable without an actual appearance. The question is first, is a god necessary?

    The more we know about the physical world, the less necessary a god becomes. When we knew nothing, and we looked at ourselves, the stars, and everything around us, the easiest explanation was that a god or gods did it.

    We first assigned spirits and human characteristics to all objects. Then we had gods for everything. A god of war, a god of the seas, the god of fire, etc. Then it was decreed that there was only one god who did everything. Which system is better? Which makes more sense?

    But now we know what the stars are, how they formed, and what their life cycle is. We know how babies come into being. We understand diseases and how (largely) to control them. Each bit of knowledge we gain chisels away at the need for there to be a god to explain the world.

    The next question is, what evidence is there of a god or gods? Originally, we saw the evidence to be our very existence. But now that can be explained without a god. So, is there any evidence outside of that? For example, is there any evidence that prayer accomplishes anything? There have been studies done that suggest that a patient does not improve by prayer. Every once in a while a story crops up where parents do not seek medical treatment for a sick child, but pray for its deliverance. They believe in an interventionist god with every fiber of their being, yet the child dies.

    I submit that you will find no evidence of the existence of any god.

    Without evidence of a thing, and without a need for the thing, then what is the basis for suggesting that the thing exists? It becomes purely a product of the imagination, which is what all gods are.

    As to the purpose of the universe, why does it need one? Just as if the conditions are right water must boil, when the conditions were right the universe had to come into being. It has no purpose.

    What purpose does man have? He has the same purpose as does the lowest creature: to preserve and perpetuate the species. That’s it. To assume that a god has a special plan for you or for mankind is an arrogant figment of the imagination.

    Now, look at the problems in the world. Every single one of them can be tied to our desire to survive and to reproduce our own kind; our own tribe. All wars and all atrocities stem directly from tribalism, which is a mechanism for survival, which is a mechanism for reproduction.

    Even the atheist cannot say “there is no god.” All an atheist can say is that since there is no need of and no evidence for gods, I do not believe in any gods.

    You, my friend, are an atheist. Why are you afraid to say it?


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