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Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

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Filed under God's Nature

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A reader once wrote to me to ask:

"I have a quick question, and I apologize if it’s awfully trite, but I haven’t been able to find a satisfactory answer after (admittedly,
not-so-exhaustive) searching.  Here it is:
 
From the standpoint of the Catholic Church: does everything happen for a reason?
 
If it does, it smacks a bit of predestination; if it doesn’t, does that mean that God is out of control or doesn’t care? Say a flower grows on a mountaintop and it dies, and no human ever saw a trace of it or knew it existed; how much of that is an effect of an ecosystem going through its natural cycles, and how much is God putting a flower on a mountaintop?"

St. Thomas Aquinas answers the claim that God does not govern all things this way:

"On the contrary, Augustine says (De Civ. Dei v, 11): 'Not only heaven and earth, not only man and angel, even the bowels of the lowest animal, even the wing of the bird, the flower of the plant, the leaf of the tree, hath God endowed with every fitting detail of their nature.' Therefore all things are subject to His government.
 
I answer that, For the same reason is God the ruler of things as He is their cause, because the same gives existence as gives perfection; and this belongs to government. Now God is the cause not indeed only of some particular kind of being, but of the whole universal being, as proved above (44, 1,2). Wherefore, as there can be nothing which is not created by God, so there can be nothing which is not subject to His government. This can also be proved from the nature of the end of government. For a man’s government extends over all those things which come under the end of his government. Now the end of the Divine government is the Divine goodness; as we have shown (2). Wherefore, as there can be nothing that is not ordered to the Divine goodness as its end, as is clear from what we have said above (44, 4; 65, 2), so it is impossible for anything to escape from the Divine government.
 
Foolish therefore was the opinion of those who said that the corruptible lower world, or individual things, or that even human affairs, were not subject to the Divine government. These are represented as saying, 'God hath abandoned the earth' (Ezekiel 9:9)."

However, I’m not really sure that my reader is asking the question that St. Thomas is answering. I suppose part of my hesitancy depends on what my reader means by “for a reason”.  If he means, “Does everything that happens occur because God permits it and incorporates it into his ongoing act of creation and redemption?” then yes: everything happens for a reason.  God is not surprised by events as though he is not omniscient.  Nor is God at a loss at what to do about a created order that got away from his control when he was distracted.  The created order has never gotten away from God’s governance and he has always been in control.

At the same time, however, God has always allowed a certain sort of autonomy to his creatures (and not merely creatures with free will).  Critters do what they were created to do by God, but they do it in a way that is proper to their nature.  Moreover, Creation is not a one-off event that happened with the Big Bang and then was left to bounce around like billiard balls ever since.  God is the very present author of Creation right here and now.  If God wanted to get rid of Creation he would not have to do anything: he would have to stop doing something.  Indeed, even what we call “chance” is something which falls within God’s governance that leaves room for the freedom of his creatures.  So, for instance, a prophet speaking under inspiration tells Ahab that if he goes into battle, he is going to die—and the prophecy is fulfilled by an archer who draws his bow and fires “at random”, killing Ahab as prophesied (1 Kings 22:34).

This has big implications for things like the tussle between creationists and materialists who both imagine the evolution somehow disproves that God could be behind the creation of various species.  Similarly, it impinges on Einstein’s old discomfort with ideas like quantum indeterminacy and his famous remark that “God does not play dice.”  It would appear that, given the biblical data, what we call “chance” (which is a word for what we, not God, are unsure about) is one of the tools God uses in the unfolding drama of Creation and Redemption.

However, if my reader is asking “Does God positively will sin and evil and make people damn themselves so that some larger purpose of His can be accomplished?", then the answer is no.  God does not will sin—ever, though he permits it and turns it to our good (if we let Him.) When we sin we truly do something nonsensical and without reason.  We assert our nothingness and push ourselves away from God who is the Logos who holds all things in being and in good order.  Sin is the attempt to act without reason (though, to be sure, we always provide ourselves with excuses that appear reasonable).  If God the Logos did not incorporate our nonsensical acts into His creative and redemptive plan, they would spin out of control and carry us into nothingness.  But, thanks be to God, he is Lord of all and nothing escapes his Providence, so even our unreasoning acts of sin are turned by Him to the glory of His Name (though, if we remain impenitent, it will do us no good and we could send ourselves to Hell thereby).
 
 
Originally posted at National Catholic Register. Used with permission.
(Image credit: Unsplash)

Mark Shea

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Mark Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. He has written more than ten books including his most recent works, The Heart of Catholic Prayer: Re-Discovering the Our Father and the Hail Mary (Our Sunday Visitor, 2012) and The Work of Mercy: Being the Hands and Heart of Christ (Servant, 2012). Many of Mark's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Mark currently lives in Washington State with his wife, Janet, and their sons. Follow Mark through his blog, Catholic and Enjoying It!

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  • Doug Shaver

    Isn't this supposed to be an apologetic site? I suppose believers will enjoy reading this, but I see nothing in it for a skeptic to respond to.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I assumed this OP was going to be about the principle of sufficient reason and whether it can be justified. There could be dialogue on that.

      • Doug Shaver

        I assumed this OP was going to be about the principle of sufficient reason and whether it can be justified.

        That's what I was expecting, but I didn't see it. The PSR was just assumed, not defended.

  • Loreen Lee

    Just because I think the Principle of Sufficient Reason was much better formulated by Spinoza and Leibniz than Aquinas: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/sufficient-reason/#pagetopright

    • Doug Shaver

      I don't accept the PSR. However, assuming it is true, it does not follow that we can correctly identify the sufficient reason for everyone we want to explain. Neither does it follow that if we can imagine only one possible sufficient reason, there can be no other sufficient reason.

      • Loreen Lee

        The next time a child asks me "Why". I shall not feel obligated to give them the NECESSARY first cause as presented by Aristotle and adopted by Aquinas as the first cause of everything. Instead, I shall feel it is alright just to give hem a SUFFICIENT reason. One of Aristotle's other four causes: material: I have a computer. efficient: I know how to type. formal. and sometimes how to think and final- I hope I have made my point here that there is Sufficient Reason to feel there is a confusion between what is necessary and merely efficient.

      • William Davis

        I can definitely understand not accepting it. I CHOOSE to accept it because it helps me imagine the universe in a more complex and meaningful way. I see no way that it hinders me, and it is likely more a useful mental tool than anything factual.

    • William Davis

      I'm going to check this out. I've always loved physics, and remember reading a really bad poem Einstein wrote to Spinoza. Einstein apparently believed in Spinoza's God for whatever that is worth (no this isn't one of the million internet Einstein hoaxes ;P)

      • Mike

        Einstein also went to a catholic elementary school and perhaps had a statue of the virgin mary on his desk.

        • William Davis

          He was a Jew, but he did go to Catholic school. His views of religion mirror my own, however, so I doubt he had a statue of the virgin Mary on hist desk (sorry). He wrote many things on the subject, but this probably sums it up

          ". . . I came—though the child of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents—to a deep religiousness, which, however, reached an abrupt end at the age of twelve. Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic orgy of freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression. Mistrust of every kind of authority grew out of this experience, a skeptical attitude toward the convictions that were alive in any specific social environment—an attitude that has never again left me, even though, later on, it has been tempered by a better insight into the causal connections. It is quite clear to me that the religious paradise of youth, which was thus lost, was a first attempt to free myself from the chains of the 'merely personal,' from an existence dominated by wishes, hopes, and primitive feelings. Out yonder there was this huge world, which exists independently of us human beings and which stands before us like a great, eternal riddle, at least partially accessible to our inspection and thinking. The contemplation of this world beckoned as a liberation, and I soon noticed that many a man whom I had learned to esteem and to admire had found inner freedom and security in its pursuit. The mental grasp of this extra-personal world within the frame of our capabilities presented itself to my mind, half consciously, half unconsciously, as a supreme goal. Similarly motivated men of the present and of the past, as well as the insights they had achieved, were the friends who could not be lost. The road to this paradise was not as comfortable and alluring as the road to the religious paradise; but it has shown itself reliable, and I have never regretted having chosen it."

          I could not have said it better, and this honestly did mirror my own thoughts as I rejected the religion I was brought up in and began to pursue science. I only read up on Einstein later as an adult, I was kind of amazed at the similarity of thought (though I'm definitely no Einstein). Maybe there is just inherently different about many people who gravitate to science. I fail to see how the creator of this universe would be interested in us, but I certainly am interested in Him, whether he exists or not. If nothing else, it helps to model your thoughts in science...in a way, science is trying to imagine the mind of the creator.

          • Mike

            I said perhaps (i think that's the word i used) bc i read a passage in a book by the Nobel winning writer Milosz in which he wrote about visiting einstein at his house in order to get his advice on whether to stay in the US or go back to europe and in that passage milosz seems to say that einstein had a statue of the virgin either in his house or on his desk - i am not saying this meant he had any feelings towards Catholicism btw; maybe he just liked the look of those statues their sense of solace or whatever.

            In case you don't believe they apparently knew each other:

            http://brbl-dl.library.yale.edu/vufind/Record/3683966

          • William Davis

            I apologize for being a doubting Thomas, but I tend to be highly skeptical of Einstein claims because he is so often drawn into misinformation. He is Hitler's metaphorical opposite in many cases, lol. Anyone your claim doesn't seem unreasonable, especially since you source it, so I'll accept it as a tenable fact unless I find something concrete that contradicts it. (That's my over complicated way saying "Sure" ;)

          • Krakerjak

            Why are you apologizing for doubting? This makes no sense! unless you are trying to ingratiate yourself with someone or some ideology.

          • Krakerjak

            Why apologize for doubting anything.?

          • William Davis

            I like Mike, and don't want to be unnecessarily offensive. Some people take doubting them personally, I don't know Mike well enough to know if he does, so it is reasonable to err on the side of caution. I used to be unwilling to apologize simply because I was full of pride. A dose of pride is helpful, but too much is self destructive. The Bible is quite right about that.

          • Mike

            No i agree about einstein "facts". after i read the passage i had to do some internet searching to see if it was even remotely plausible. anyway "there are more things under the heavens than are contained in our philosophies" or something to that effect.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The attraction for the real and adherence to it once found is probably the most basic characteristic of Catholic metaphysics. So you, Einstein, and orthodox Catholics have a lot in common.

          • This is one of the things I love about this site. The recognition of broad common ground between Catholics and non-Catholics. The common adherence to the real, respect for reason, appreciation of the sublime and recognition of a development of knowledge about the world. There is also much in common between the Catholics here and us non-Catholics in our conception of justice and our desire to improve the world in which we live.

            I've appreciated much the discovery and reinforcement here at Strange Notions of this common ground. It's one of the reasons I keep coming back.

          • William Davis

            I agree, though I confess I don't know as much about Catholic metaphysics as I would like. I was an atheist for a few years, and still understand their point of view, but it is a completely pointless point of view. Even if God doesn't exist, it is almost certain from our studies of the human mind that we are somehow hard wired to believe in God, or at least the metaphysical. Why fight your nature? I think atheism (though I'm sure many would disagree) is a reaction to how much belief in God has been abused and misused throughout human history (and still is today). One has to counter that with how much good belief has done, especially Christianity. I think very highly of Buddhism as well, but I tend to be a very analytical and abstract person, so it is no wonder I would be drawn to abstract belief. Not everyone (perhaps even not many) are like me in that way, so my views won't work very well, with them. I suppose I'm getting at an inherent need for religious variety (though this can obviously be dangerous). All atheism teaches me is that I must be very careful as to what I believe, and how I apply it to my life and actions.

          • Krakerjak

            I was an atheist for a few years, and still understand their point of view, but it is a completely pointless point of view.

            You obviously did not learn anything in those few years. Judging by your attitude.

          • Doug Shaver

            I think atheism (though I'm sure many would disagree) is a reaction to how much belief in God has been abused and misused throughout human history (and still is today).

            The conspicuousness of religious misbehavior is not irrelevant to anyone's atheism, but I don't see it dominating the thinking of most atheists. The hypocrisy of believers is not an argument against what they believe, and most of us get that.

            Why fight your nature?

            Because resisting or controlling certain parts of our nature is what social progress is all about.

            One has to counter that with how much good belief has done, especially Christianity.

            There is nothing good or bad about belief per se. If you're going to claim that certain particular beliefs have been beneficial, you should identify those particular beliefs. And Christianity is not a particular belief. It is a large set of interrelated beliefs, and certain subsets have done quite a bit of evil in their wars against other subsets.

            All atheism teaches me is that I must be very careful as to what I believe, and how I apply it to my life and actions.

            Atheism as such cannot teach you anything. You might learn something from the reasons some of us offer for being atheists, but there are plenty of atheists to whom I wish you would pay no attention at all.

          • William Davis

            Fair enough. Breaking apart Christianity was overly complex for my point. It is entirely possible that a small percentage of us man NOT be hardwired to believe in God, that would explain a lot wouldn't it. Personally, I don't think belief in an abstract God, or a truly compassionate God is part of your nature that needs to be fought. Our nature tends to be both selfish and altruistic, and my own mental model is to cultivate the altruistic (good) and the selfish withers. The Buddhist model of the self seems to be pretty accurate to me. If you think about it, if you are wasting energy fighting parts of yourself, you can't cultivate what is good. You could probably blame Christianity for this flawed view of the self, here I don't think I'm off the mark (sin nature and all that).

          • Chad Eberhart

            I think you're on to something here. Catholicism always made me bitter and resentful because i was always trying to "ascend" to the "Truth". Trying my best to have myself shaped by the liturgy and the teachings of the Church, but in the end it just split me in two between "the Truth" about myself and my feelings. Not a good space to be in psychologically. You can spend your life fighting yourself - as you can see in a lot of the biographies of the saints (many are pretty weird and rigid people) or you can make peace with yourself and try the best you can without eternal perdition haranguing you every moment of the day.

          • William Davis

            My experience with fundamentalist Protestantism is still the source of some anxiety for me to day, mindfulness has helped me more than I can ever give thanks more. I still wake up in a cold sweat every once in a while thinking I'm going to hell for not believing something I simply CANNOT believe, but it passes quickly. Hell was beaten into me as a child. When I think about it still ruffles my feathers a bit, the idea that a loving God could torture beings for eternity for being what he made them to be is beyond mad in my opinion. I was angry about it for a long time, but I learned to forgive for a selfish reason, staying angry not only hurts my relationship with my parents, it hurts me too. "Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned." No truer words have been spoken. I also like the quote
            “The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.” Siddhartha Gautama was a wise man.

          • Chad Eberhart

            Thanks for your words William. I grew up Southern Baptist before converting to Catholicism so I know what you probably went through. Even though my parents are religious we get a long a lot better now that I'm no longer religious. Ironic, no? I'm just a lot happier and a less rigid thinker and that seems to make me more fun to be around. It's like I'm back to being who I am again.

          • Doug Shaver

            It is entirely possible that a small percentage of us man NOT be hardwired to believe in God, that would explain a lot wouldn't it.

            I doubt very much that the hardwiring is so specific as to tell us there is a god. I think we're hardwired to make certain kinds of inferences, when dealing with certain kinds of data, that support the kinds of beliefs that religion emcompasses.

          • William Davis

            That sounds right.

          • William Davis

            "All models are wrong, some are useful." Stereo-typing is modeling, and it can be useful. One simply cannot forget the flaws in doing so. My expression is about why I was an atheist for a while, and the cause of atheism for many I have talked to, but certainly not all. I guess I need a parenthetical disclaimer when I stereotype, just for the record.

          • Doug Shaver

            Stereo-typing is modeling, and it can be useful.

            Yes, it can, when a certain characteristic actually is typical of a certain group. But the reason stereotypes have gotten a bad name is they have so often been wrong about how typical the characteristic actually is.

          • Krakerjak

            Beware the Catholic Trojan Horses.

          • Horatio

            I could not have said it better, and this honestly did mirror my own thoughts as I rejected the religion I was brought up in and began to pursue science. I only read up on Einstein later as an adult, I was kind of amazed at the similarity of thought (though I'm definitely no Einstein). Maybe there is just inherently different about many people who gravitate to science. I fail to see how the creator of this universe would be interested in us, but I certainly am interested in Him, whether he exists or not. If nothing else, it helps to model your thoughts in science...in a way, science is trying to imagine the mind of the creator.

            You make it sound as if you think an interest in science and real religious belief are mutual exclusives.

          • William Davis

            I think my religious belief are real, and they are the only thing that make sense to me and are logically consistent. I'm sure you think the same thing about your religious beliefs, and I don't fault you for that. Perhaps there is some inherent difference in our brain structure that explains it, it impossible at this point to be sure. We all tend to make the mistake that everyone should think the same as we do, but I think the world would be a more worse and boring place if that were true. It would probably greatly hamper creativity and innovation as well.

          • Horatio

            I agree with you inasmuch as Diversity of Mind can be a good thing & we are collectively enriched for having our Einsteins as well our Roger Bacons and our St. Francises.
            There may even be a tangible neurodevelopmental basis in the cases of people who are extremely empirically-minded, and for whom real religious sentiments never manifest. But I think these individuals are exceptionally rare. For the vast majority, I think something takes the place that religion occupied in the spirit. But science cannot fill that hole, or it must be warped into something it is not in order to try. The conflation of religion and science is what is responsible for fundamentalist anti-science attitudes as well as for materialist anti-religious attitudes.

      • Loreen Lee

        Good luck. I've been through many changes in my understanding of just what Spinoza's god is. That's usual with philosophical concepts. It takes forever it seems to make the 'right connections' sometimes, and it is most often necessary to relate them to other philosophies of the period. My point of referring you all to Leibniz and Spinoza is because the term 'Principle of Sufficient Reason' wasn't introduced until Leibniz coined the phrase. I certainly don't believe it would have been known to Aquinas. I referred to some confusion regarding this in another comment.

        Anyway, hopefully it won't take too much of your time. Maybe my link will be sufficient. He's called a pantheist by some but you might also look up the word panentheist which is a 'new term' but it actually might be a better description of Spinoza's god's relation to the universe. Have fun.

  • Mike

    Well Mr. Shea has banned me from posting on his blog at Patheos so i wonder if i should even be commenting on this little ditty! ;)

    • Kevin Aldrich

      He banned me, too. I don't know why.

      • Mike

        Me either really; i disagreed with him on a particular issue and got banned. I even told him i agreed with 100% of the substance but only about 25% of the style! Maybe that's what annoyed him. Oh that and i suggested that maybe he was being too cynical ;) - maybe i hit a nerve!

        • William Davis

          Sounds like he probably got the lowest grade on "handles criticism cheerfully" on his report card.

          • Mike

            Maybe but i have a soft spot for him either way.

      • David Nickol

        I don't know why.

        Well, we can say with some degree of confidence that it happened for a reason. Or maybe not. And no matter how cruel or unjust the ban, the world will be a better place for it in the end.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Not the world. God does not permit evil so "the world" will be a better place.

  • Krakerjak

    Does everything happen for a reason/purpose?

    Not to be confused with the chain of causality I presume. I assume the question is asking does every event that occurs have an actual purpose? Hidden or obvious.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    "..and the prophecy is fulfilled by an archer who draws his bow and fires “at random”, killing Ahab as prophesied."

    Items like this confuse me since they seem to suggest that God interfered with the archers freewill. The archer chose to point and fire the arrow in a certain direction. He may have chosen that direction carelessly and he may have not known the result, but it was still his choice. How can you say that God made that happen without saying that God interfered with the archers choice and thus, his freewill?

  • David Nickol

    This seems to me to be more a statement of faith that although God is in total control of everything (including, I take it, the apparent randomness of quantum events), he is not responsible for bad things that happen. Perhaps part of the problem was that the question wasn't well defined.

    In my experience, the people who say, "Everything happens for a reason," tend to say it in a misguided (in my opinion) attempt to console those who have suffered some kind of serious misfortune, such as a serious illness or the loss of a loved one. The implication is that if, say, your 5-year-old daughter is sexually assaulted and murdered, what may seem like a tragedy actually occurred as part of God's grand plan, and you should accept it as best you can, knowing that God caused it to happen to achieve some goal. You may never know exactly why it happened, or what the goal was, but you should will yourself eventually to accept the conclusion that it was "all for the best."

    Mark Shea seems to be saying that God would not will the sin of the murderer, but he has such total control over events that, if those affected by the murder will allow it, God will bring even greater good in the aftermath of the murder than would have occurred without it. Some here have claimed that God never permits evil that he cannot bring a greater good from, which implies to me that if God didn't see the opportunity of bringing a greater good from this hypothetical murder, he would have prevented it. This seems to me to come perilously close to willing the murder, since if God can't use it to make things better than they were before, he would prevent it.

    Right from the beginning, according to the Catholic view, no matter how horribly people behave, God is capable using the situation to make things come out better than they otherwise would have.

    It is more comforting to me to believe that, if there is a God, he is pretty much a hands-off God (for reasons I can't begin to fathom) than a God who is constantly deciding whether or not to allow certain actions and prevent others, and who is manipulating the consequences of evil actions to bring good out of them.

  • William Davis

    This article is missing something important. Why do people do and suffer from things beyond any creatures control. Why do thousands die from floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, infectious disease (science has this mostly under control now, but it was huge problem even 100 years ago, and we still aren't safe) ect. I like the Sumerian idea that the gods killed everyone in the mesopotamian flood because the people were making too much noise and the gods couldn't sleep. At least I can sympathize with having my sleep messed up, it makes me cranky too. At least in paganism you had good and bad gods to help explain good and bad events.

    • William Davis

      The problem with the Genesis account of the same story (to me it is clear that all of this mythology originated with the Sumerians) God bringing a flood makes no sense when attempting to just kill of the wicked. What about the innocent women and children? Surely he could have just spoken the word and the wicked would have fallen over dead, leaving the innocent behind.

      • Krakerjak

        Perhaps god also likes a good story tinged with lots of drama just as I do. I just watched Noah last night on Netflix. Russell Crowe. Entertaining to say the least.....Perhaps gods also get bored and appreciate that form of entertainment?

      • Doug Shaver

        What about the innocent women and children?

        There weren't any. According to the story, there were no innocent people except Noah and his family.

        • William Davis

          Don't believe that for a second, because I know the origin of the flood myth and the original myth said. Read Eridu Genesis.

          • Doug Shaver

            It doesn't matter what the original version of the story said. You can't complain about Maria dying in West Side Story just because Juliet died in the story as Shakespeare told it.

          • William Davis

            The problem is that this was a REAL historical event, who knows how many people died horribly by drowning. Is the holocaust "just a story?" And if so, would you think it is right to say all those Jews got what is coming to them because they were wicked? That is surely what the Nazi's thought. The lack of compassion of some people is deplorable.

          • Doug Shaver

            this was a REAL historical event

            No, it wasn't. None of the events described in Genesis actually happened.

            Is the holocaust "just a story?" And if so, would you think it is right to say all those Jews got what is coming to them because they were wicked?

            I have read a lot of fiction in which the Holocaust was part of the story. If any of the authors had said that every Jew in Europe deserved what happened to them, I would say his story was, for just that reason, unbelievable.

          • William Davis

            Their was definitely a big flood in Mesopotamia around 2900 B.C. It likely covered an area 400 miles long and 40 miles wide, obviously not the whole world. Scholars debate that their could have been more than one flood that generated the myths in the region, but they were very real. You might want to do some more research. I have seen some theories that the Ziggurats may have been built tall to try to escape the flood waters that may have come back more than once over the period. My comments are obviously directed at those who take the Bible literally. Check out this link that goes into a lot of depth about what we know.

            http://ncse.com/cej/8/2/flood-mesopotamian-archaeological-evidence

          • Doug Shaver

            There was definitely a war in the United States during the early 1860s. From that fact, we cannot infer that anything in Gone With the Wind actually happened.

          • William Davis

            You really don't get it do you? I feel sorry for you.

          • William Davis

            Has Gone with the Wind been considered the Word of God for 2000 years? Has Gone with the Wind been used as a moral guide for billions of people?. Even metaphorically, the problem with the Genesis story is what it implies about God's morality in the Hebrew Bible. I agree with Marcion (an early heretic) the God of the Hebrew Bible should have been abandoned or considered a lesser deity than Jesus. Perhaps there could be a deity who made both. I think Marcion is right, but I also think the metaphysical necessary being from philosophy cannot be described as a personal God.
            The early Jews thought God explained everything and caused everything to happen (remember the topic of this discussion, you complained this topic doesn't make sense as an apologetic topic, what I'm saying is that it shows one of the deepest problems with Christianity ), and caused everything that happened. This implies some nasty things about God. With the Sumerians there were gods who disliked man, and gods who cared about man. Using God as an explanation for everything, this dichotomy holds up better, in other word there are moral advantages to the much older pagan story.
            I can recommend a book called God's Problem by Bart Ehrman, but you have to be capable of empathy to get the argument. The fact that I'm having to explain all this indicates to me that you have no empathy, some people don't. For those people, the argument makes no sense, but it is a major problem for some of us that have Christian compassion (though I'm definitely way short of Jesus's example, but most of us are).

          • Doug Shaver

            Even metaphorically, the problem with the Genesis story is what it implies about God's morality in the Hebrew Bible.

            I don't deny that there is a problem with the morality exhibited by God in that story. But the problem is not that God kills innocents, because the story as written does not concede that anyone who died was innocent. The problem is with the notion that it is even possible for the entire human population of this world, except only eight people, to be so wicked as to deserve annihilation. Any morality consistent with that notion is a bad morality.

            what I'm saying is that it shows one of the deepest problems with Christianity

            It's a problem, all right, but not just with Christianity. I've heard atheists say that the best thing that could happen to this world would be for every last human being to die.

          • Caravelle

            That's a perfectly reasonable point of view, but the cyanobacteria and all their descendants (including chloroplasts) go first. It's time justice was done for the Oxygen Catastrophe.

            Conveniently, that would also fix the other problem.

          • William Davis

            Fair enough. Many Christians I'm around excuse their own racism because the racism of Jews and "God" in the Hebrew Bible. A racist individual can easily justify the extermination of everyone as "wicked" and that is what this story is about. The Sumerians looked at the story different because it was they who were killed. It was easy for the Jews to dismiss them as wicked because first off, they aren't Sumerians, and second, everyone who wasn't a Jew was wicked and worthy of death (hopefully I don't have to bring up accounts of genocide in the Hebrew Bible). The fact that Christianity sprung out of a racist religion is a fatal flaw for me, but not for everyone. I don't think Buddhism falls into any of these pitfalls, and their may be more religions that do not.

        • William Davis

          Just a note, it is clear in the Bible that children can't be evil until they get old enough to understand right from wrong, if you are interested I can quote passages. Also read the Epic of Gilgamesh for a later flood myth much closer to Genesis (but at least 1000 years older if not more). Everyone who reads should read that, as far as we can tell it is the oldest story ever written, and created the epic genre used by Homer.

          • Doug Shaver

            Just a note, it is clear in the Bible that children can't be evil until they get old enough to understand right from wrong

            If you mean the Bible as a whole, then nothing is clear. If you think the Bible in its entirety is consistent about anything (aside from the bare assertion of God's existence), then you've been listening to too many apologists for inerrantism.

          • William Davis

            You've got me here I guess :P

      • Caravelle

        What about the innocent men ?

        Oh wait, you were giving the classes of people who are considered to lack full moral responsibility for their actions, making them innocent by definition, which obviously doesn't include men. My bad.

        • William Davis

          Let's try those who have no control over their lot in live. These would include slave men, and the lower classes.

    • Krakerjak

      If we remain impenitent, it will do us no good and we could send ourselves to Hell thereby

      William Davis: This article is missing something important. Why do people do and suffer from things beyond any creatures control.

      I will not say that god wills any of this misfortune to befall his beloved children. But perhaps it is "allowed" by him to bring us us to "repentance" so that we may not suffer eternity in everlasting torment in hell.for masturbating or wearing a condom while having relations with our common law partner.

      • William Davis

        Yeah. In my opinion masturbation and the condom are two of the greatest divine gifts to man, and a massive boon to both morality and marriage. I can't help God made me a sex crazed lunatic (at least that getting better as I age). At least we now have solutions to that particular hormonal problem of youth. I'm generally not sarcastic, but since you brought it up, these ideas are worthy of contempt (in my opinion).

        • Krakerjak

          You sir are worthy of being beneath contempt for your dismissive attitude as per other persons comments in which you are wont to express your superioriority. So gfys

        • Krakerjak

          Nothing worse than a reformed Catholic.

    • Loreen Lee

      Well Christianity does have its angels and devils!!!!

      • William Davis

        As you mentioned with PSR and Aquinas, we often make the mistake of reading present views into past authors. The problem with suppose that Satan as a cause for evil is that Satan simply means "adversary" in the Hebrew Bible. If you look at the word usage, the philistines use "satan" to describe David. In Job "Satan" seems to be God's close friend, and likely sits on his council. It isn't until you get to Jewish Apocalypticism that the Christian view of Satan appears. I agree with Ehrman that both John the Baptist and Jesus were Apocalyptic prophets, but even the view of Satan in the oldest gospel, Mark, could still be a metaphor for the evil inside oneself. Jesus even calls Peter Satan. In other words, this idea of Satan doesn't seem to be "invented" until near the time of Christ.

        • Loreen Lee

          Good exegesis. I was so happy to read this enlightening perspective. I've heard so many different accounts of Satan, including that of Milton's Paradise Lost, but yours is the first to make sense of for instance the Book of Job. Thanks. I also think of Angels in a way that is consistent with this idea you present. An early way of talking about and structuring forms of thought or ideas. The second hierarchy being maybe such things as science, or philosophy, etc. etc. The other two levels are a little more obvious leave you to 'speculate'. Thanks again for a very constructive comment. :

          • William Davis

            Lately I've been on a bit obsessed (I tend to be a bit obsessive compulsive with things I'm interested in, which both a strength and weakness) with ancient Sumeria which, as far as we can tell, invented Western religion, irrigation, the plow, the wheel, writing, and legal codes. There view was that the minor deities were literally children of the creator deity Enki (this may not have been the very oldest view, but our information gets so limited and proto-cuneiform so hard to read I think it is hard for us to tell). Therefore these were the children of God, even though they were still divine. This is probably the proto-type of angels in the Hebrew Bible. It even talks about the son's of God having children with human's in Genesis, and the offspring are the Nephilim. The oldest story written, The Epic of Gilgamesh, has Gilgamesh as 2/3 God. He was also a mighty hunter and builder, so Nimrod and the Tower of Babel come to mind (all Sumerian cities had a Ziggurat as the temple). The relationships are massive, and I won't go to detail here, not far back in my comment history I went on a rant with someone trying to use Original Sin to press the idea that we deserve whatever we get from God (a concept which really upsets my sense of justice) if you're interested. I figure if I'm really going to study religion I need to start from the beginning. I have to do more research on Egypt and Hinduism before I get back to reading the Bible. Thanks for the conversation and listening to my rambling :)

          • Loreen Lee

            I love your rambling! I'm a bit of a rambler myself. On the post about God's hiddenness and mankind's disclosure I 'felt the need' to give as an example a recent intuition I had had, that was an example of what could be considered a revelation: i.e. some wide comprehensive insight. But I ended up not being able to explain my 'revelation', and still can't. I don't look for academic epistemological definitions, but rather a personal understanding/experience of what 'is'.

            I would love to be able to hear all about your research. I've been reading into things since the sixties, and I guess would be regarded as a cherry picker, sometimes finding it easier to remember what fits into what I hope will be a personal, individual, structures comprehension of some sort. So my reading is a 'learning aid', and as I don't have to prove any academic qualifications, etc., I can simply be a 'love of wisdom' or more appropriately an amateur. Perhaps this fits in with your perspective. In ay case, would love to compare notes, at any opportunity.

            I have read a bit on early Greek mythos, Hesiod, and so long ago I can't remember the Bahavagita. The modern Hindus pride themselves that theirs are the earliest recordings. About 2500 was what is called the Axial age, which included developments from Buddhism to Pre-Socratic philosophy and the Second Temple. I have actually speculated that the origins of Christianity begin at this time.

            On Creation stories, both Pandora and Adam and Eve differ from say Buddhism, in that mankind is held responsible for the 'sin' or 'difficulties' in the world. This actually may be considered, another speculation, the better choice to the law of Karma, although I have heard lectures make the case that if we held people as less responsible for even 'crimes', we might develop more compassion. I shall not argue this out, but the differences can be seen in some of the contrasting tenets of Western and Eastern philosophies. I have mused that it is the concept of God, which tied humanity to the cosmos, rather than the concept of maya in Buddhism, which I look at a a philosophy/psychology, and the best!!. But the Hindu religions from which this evolved did have a cosmological trinity. In any case, it's a fascination study, yes?

            I sincerely hope to hear from you again.

          • William Davis

            I agree about revelation. Many ideas I've come up with seem to come out of nowhere. As a modern my I realize this is from my subconscious, but I can definitely see how the ancients would think it was from God. Obviously I can't be sure they wrong, but we know a lot more about the mind works, and can demonstrate the power of the subconscious experimentally.

          • Loreen Lee

            Yeah! When reading Guy Finley for instance, I am still open to the possibility of a 'higher power' the way it's described in religions. This is because I cannot understand how the neurons could produce a what? more integrated experience, perspective? But even saying this is possibly a step towards a 'scientific understanding' of development or evolution of consciousness. But I for one still have to ask, yes, but how could simple material neurons produce a higher awareness. The issue remains. Thus my ongoing dilemna as to whether transcendental ideas are 'ideals' or 'realities'. I remain between naturalism and religion because of this and other dilemnas!

          • Guest

            ...

      • Marc Riehm

        Yes, but viewing the devil as being behind all negative events, and god as being behind the good ones, is a very shallow worldview based on magical thinking.

        • Loreen Lee

          Just in case someone wants a broader treatment of the concept magical thinking: http://skepdic.com/magicalthinking.html On the other hand such concepts as devils and angels could be a way of talking about the sub/unconscious thoughts as the comment below. They are not discussed in this article which in the last paragraph makes a distinction between religion and such things as superstition.

    • You're getting at the problem of evil here. the only response would be that God has his reasons, though they be unknown and possibly inaccessible to us. I would say that this results in a conception of morality that renders our moral intuitions essentially worthless. If such a design is ultimately ideally good, but feels extremely immoral to me, of what use are my moral intuitions?

      • William Davis

        Morality is half art, half science. It is like writing a computer program, there are an infinite number of way of achieving the goal (theorizing the goal is a functioning society) but some way definitely work better than other. There are also certain rules, but almost always some exception to any rule me make.
        I'd propose that the creator either didn't know what he wanted, or has formulated a giant petri dish waiting for some end result, and it up to us to get their. If we don't, maybe some other instance of life will. This idea fits into natural selection and evolution, at least somewhat. Do I have any evidence to back this up? No, but I'm also not making any implication that contradicts anything we know, nor am I demanding subservience to my view. I think theology should be a playground for the imagination, less about "true" and false. It don't think our minds are advanced enough to have a clue about what the truth is about these things, so why not imagine. Think about it, with modern cosmology based on the theory of relativity, we've explained so much, but also raised more questions than we have answered. I just pulled this from Wikipedia " According to the Planck mission team, and based on the standard model of cosmology, the total mass–energy of the known universe contains 4.9% ordinary matter, 26.8% dark matter and 68.3% dark energy.[3][4] Thus, dark matter is estimated to constitute 84.5% of the total matter in the Universe, while dark energy plus dark matter constitute 95.1% of the total content of the Universe." What is dark matter and energy? We don't have a clue. If you really understand Heisenberg's uncertainty principle it implies that our observation of a property of a subatomic particle actually AFFECTS reality. Some argue that it is the instrumentation itself, but some experiments show it is the observation. In other words we are uncertain about the implications of the Uncertainty principle, lol.
        Anyway the idea that we have "killed God" as Nietzsche put it could be a new beginning, and leaves of free to reinvent him, or perhaps understand him better.

        • Are you a catholic?

          • William Davis

            No, I was brought up protestant, but around 12 (as with many people) it dawned on me that the things I was being taught didn't really make logical sense to me. Most of my years have been spent focusing on science, but it dawned on me a few years ago that I wanted more meaning in my life, and this isn't something that science can really give me, so I've been playing around with ideas and learning a lot about religion and philosophy the past few years. A lot it plays back into the social sciences and psychology, but the sciences by their nature strip the meaning out, and just talk about what is provable. Meaning can't be proven, so it falls into the category of art.
            I'm a bit crazy, and some of the ideas I come up with feel like they drop out of the sky. My training in science tells me these are coming from subconscious, but I can definitely see how people in the past would have thought these to be "divine revelation." To me contemplating these things is very rewarding, and it isn't really necessary to be right, as long as the ideas have positive affects on my actions and make me happy. If the need to constantly be "right" makes you miserable, isn't it a problem? Anyway I enjoy believe things in the gray area of knowledge, and our knowledge is much more limited, in my opinion, than many want to believe. Haven't people throughout history thought they knew all their is to know? Haven't they always been wrong? What makes us any different? We've been liberated from mentally dominating religions of the past, we can either fret over what we have lost, or bask in the mystery of the universe and make our own way.

        • Caravelle

          Some argue that it is the instrumentation itself, but some experiments show it is the observation.

          That's interesting, do you have links to those experiments ?

          • William Davis

            Here is a good summary, there is a lot of good things in books, internet info is harder to come by:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_entanglement

            I first learned about it from listening to lectures by Dr. David Johnson (who is actually a doctor of Philosophy itself, ironically) on metaphysics and the implications of both quantum mechanics and relativity on metaphysics. Here is a link to the lectures:

            http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/exploring-metaphysics.html

            The great courses are excellent. This particular course also goes into proofs of God (he tears them all down, but that is ok, there is really no philosophical idea that doesn't have objections) the nature of selves, the existence of souls (I'm certain there is no such thing as the soul, if there is an afterlife it would have to be some sort of resurrection. This was Jesus and Paul taught anyway), ect. Well worth the money.

          • Caravelle

            You said that our observation of a particle affects reality, and that this wasn't due to the interactions between the particle and the instruments but due to the observation itself. This is contrary to what I'd heard, which is why I wanted to know which experiments demonstrated this. I'm not sure how a general link to quantum entanglement helps here; I know what quantum entanglement is, and I couldn't find an obvious answer to the question on the page. (I did find fascinating stuff I didn't know about time though, so thanks for the link)

            Even if you don't have a direct link to an account of the experiments, do you remember what they're called, what they did, what the setup was, who did them or when, anything to help me track them down ?

          • William Davis

            Sorry, I've been working with limited time. Specifically what I'm referring to is

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Von_Neumann%E2%80%93Wigner_interpretation

            which is one of many attempts to answer

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Measurement_problem

            Here is a list of experiments

            https://www.sciencenews.org/article/75-years-entanglement

            Sorry I'm short on time. Probably the right answer is the no one really understands what's going on here, philosophers like the Von_Neumann-Wigner interpretation, obviously we all read our bias into uncertainty. I wish I could find a better link to the specific experiment process, but I'm working on limited time. As you can see we start to get into all kinds of weird things when trying to interpret quantum entanglement. Someone who has an opinion will often present it as fact, but even Einstein didn't know what to make of it in the end.

          • Caravelle

            Thanks ! But as your links show, this just one interpretation of quantum theory among others, and no experiment distinguishes it from other interpretations, Many-Worlds in particular. Moreover, while philosophers may like the Von Neumann-Wigner interpretation, quantum physicists apparently don't, and they're the experts on the question (the Wikipedia page mentions a poll at a Quantum Physics conference that found 2 out of 33 people who accepted it... and that conference included philosophers, so the number among physicists could have been zero). Even Wigner apparently has moved away from that interpretation.

          • William Davis

            Fair enough, you're showing me I need more research here. Quantum mechanics is one area of physics I have spent too little time on (been more into cosmology and biology). thanks for the discussion.

          • William Davis

            "The question is actually quite a bit difficult, and no clear answer is understood, because it really depends on the depth intended in the question itself. Many here will be quick to tell you that "collapse" is a decoherence phenomenon-- a quantum state can involve many possible measurable outcomes at once because of the "purity" of the state, which encodes "coherences" between these various outcomes in such a fundamental way that you have to conclude they are all sort of "rolled up" into the current state of the system. Those coherences allow the state to in a sense "contain all the outcomes at once". But coupling that state to a much more complicated system, like a macroscopic measuring device or the brain that interprets the outcome, wrecks those delicate coherences and puts the quantum state into a more mundane type of combination of the outcomes-- the combination that says "the measurable has taken on one of the definite values, we just don't know which until we look." None of that requires consciousness, or even an observer, at that superficial level of description.

            The problem is, that superficial level quickly breaks down when you dig deeper into it, and that's how you end up with "interpretations" of quantum mechanics, like Copenhagen, Many-Worlds, or deBroglie-Bohm. It also requires digging into what is it that you mean, in your question, when you use the word "causes." At a superficial level of the everyday doing of physics, a "cause" is a pretty clear and powerful idea. But when you dig into it, at the level of "what is really going on" in wavefunction "collapse", you quickly find that the everyday notion of a "cause" is unsuitable, and indeed it's not clear that there is any such thing as a true "cause" in physics at all.

            If you want to try and say further what you mean by "causes" wavefunction collapse, that could be an inroad to digging more deeply into the question. Suffice it to say that the answer to your question, I would say, depends critically on what we think physics is in the first place-- for example, we must ask if physics is supposed to be a description of what is really happening in the world, or if it is simply supposed to be how we as human beings interact with and make sense of our world, in ways that are not at all independent of our own unique goals and limitations. It is that latter place where the real question of "what consciousness is responsible for" in physics becomes inescapable, and is also an interesting point of entry into the key differences between the above interpretations."

            Read more: http://www.physicsforums.com

            This looks really good, haven't read it yet but I will later
            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-consciousness/

      • Marc Riehm

        These examples have nothing to do with "evil". The common definitions of evil are based on malevolence and intention. There is nothing malevolent about an earthquake, and certainly there is no intention behind such natural forces. So those who die from natural disaster are really dying from rolls of the cosmic dice - pure chance.

        Think of all of the untold billions of creatures that lived and died before mankind made its recent arrival on the scene. And those that died as a result of cosmic chance, like during the Cretaceous extinction event. Pure cosmic chance.

        When human lives are extinguished by tsunami or volcano or storm, it is also pure cosmic chance. There is no malevolence behind the event, and no intention, and no evil, and no meaning.

        • Sure, argument from suffering then. I would say it is malevolent, evil, or at least immoral to fail to save these billions if you love them, and can. The responses operate in the same way.

  • I think everything happens for a reason. I don't think anything* has a purpose.

    *Anything outside of intelligent animal activity and its products, of course

    • Loreen Lee

      Actually, although in the last post and common to much naturalist interpretation the idea is put forward that Kant did not believe there was purpose in the universe. This is simply not true. But I have come to expect divergent interpretations of all philosophers, and so often I just let them be. But Kant did make a case arguing from the example of sentient life to all aspects of the universe that it did, within the concept of order and beauty, point to a teleology, which explains why an analysis of this concept is part of his third book. I regret that I don't have the memory to give you the argument in detail. (Off to Google).

      • I'd be interested to see Kant's argument. Thanks.

        I hold to something like Spinoza's principle of sufficient reason. No teleology. Everything has an explanation.

        • Loreen Lee

          This is another take unfortunately, which conflicts with the understanding I just gave you. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critique_of_Judgment#Teleology But even here there is a mention of a 'self organizing principle', and reference to perhaps what I'm poorly interpretating as:a possibility that purpose is found in 'mechanism', as they put it: the example of hereditary. Anyway, tried to send you something specific rather than a full article. (Teleology is Aristotle's fifth cause. So I've got to reread the article on the 'real' principle of sufficient reason, again!! After all my purpose is to distinguish modern philosophy from that that still reverberates in my mind from my childhood.!!)

    • Loreen Lee

      Well, this link http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/sufficient-reason/#Lei was the original I quoted. Now this: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/leibniz/ has made me realize that the point that the sufficient reason relates back to the 'necessary', puts some of the remarks, not all I believe, into the same context. I might have had a confusion between necessary and sufficient propositions and the 'events': a distinction described in this link as well. But I still maintain, ever aware that it's a major problem I find in reading philosophy, that it can be confusing keeping track of all the subtle details. Anyway, I just found someone else, Parmenidies I think, who has had the thought that I have had: that Zeno could have been correct that 'space' does not move, but it is time/consciousness that provides the motion. I love 'crazy' ideas!!!! Anyway, with Leibniz, the sufficient reason doesn't seem to be identical with 'purpose'.

    • Krakerjak

      I think everything happens for a reason. I don't think anything* has a purpose

      What exactly do you mean by saying that everything happens for a reason?....said reason not to be confused with the chain of causality.

      • I mean that everything has an explanation of the sort that would satisfy a child's question of how X is explained (X = "blue skies", "speed of light", "heat", "water as a liquid at room temperature", etc.).

        None of these explanations involve some sort of universal goal or divine purpose in the behaviour of these things. The speed of light isn't what it is because the light particles have the goal of moving at that velocity, and those that move closer to that velocity are better than those who don't. Rocks don't fall because they have an end in mind.

        Nature does not behave as though She has a goal. As far as I can tell. Maybe I'm wrong.

        • Krakerjak

          Thanks for taking the time to respond....but as I alluded to in my comment I was thinking of "purpose" as in the original title of the OP...not an explanation or reason for the event happening.In my world I don't think of explanation of how as the same thing as purpose. To me purpose is something beyond how or why and to my understanding...Purpose trumps How. But really...thank you for responding. I always read your comments.

          Purpose according to the Oxford dictionary:The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

  • David Nickol

    Indeed, even what we call “chance” is something which falls within God’s governance that leaves room for the freedom of his creatures. So, for instance, a prophet speaking under inspiration tells Ahab that if he goes into battle, he is going to die—and the prophecy is fulfilled by an archer who draws his bow and fires “at random”, killing Ahab as prophesied (1 Kings 22:34).

    Does this mean there is no chance? Suppose an innocent person is "accidentally" killed in a drive-by shooting meant to kill a rival gang member. Suppose the driver of the car in which the gunman was riding swerved to avoid hitting a dog in the street just at the moment the gunman was about to pull the trigger, causing the intended victim to be saved and an innocent bystander to be killed. Was the cat there by chance? Was the cat there because God wanted the gang member saved, or because God wanted the innocent bystander killed? Or is it the case that sometimes when this kind of incident happens, God is sitting back and letting things happen by chance, while other times he is accomplishing some purpose by manipulating the cat into the path of the car?

    It would appear that, given the biblical data, what we call “chance” (which is a word for what we, not God, are unsure about) is one of the tools God uses in the unfolding drama of Creation and Redemption.

    Does this mean—and I am not being facetious—that God selects the winners of MegaMillions, PowerBall, and other lotteries? Does God determine which horses win at the racetrack? Will God determine whether the Seahawks or the Patriots win the Super Bowl?

    • To play Yaweh's advocate here, would not Catholics say that God knows all of those things will happen based on the systems he designed, and the choices humans will make? However, he does not intervene at all to preserve our free will, one way or the other.

      He is involved with the cosmos, not by manipulating it, rather the cosmos continues to be entirely sustained by him, in the sense that all this material and energy would not exist absent his involvement with it by giving it actuality, being-ness.

      I see no reason to accept any of this of course.

      • David Nickol

        To play Yaweh's advocate here, would not Catholics say that God knows all of those things will happen based on the systems he designed, and the choices humans will make?

        I think that is what they do say, but I don't see how it can be true. If God creates a universe in which he knows that certain specific individuals are going to choose, of their own "free will," to go to hell, then they would have been better off had they never been created, and free will doesn't mean very much.

        In other words, if God foresaw what was going to happen in all of the infinite number of worlds he could have created, once he chooses to create one of those worlds, he is making everything he foresaw about that world inevitable.

        • I agree, which is why I thing the argument from non-god objects is quite powerful. The theist must accept god was immoral in his choice of creation, or that he had no choice, or that our moral intuitions are completely unreliable as a guide to the good.

    • Papalinton

      "Does this mean—and I am not being facetious—that God selects the winners of MegaMillions, PowerBall, and other lotteries?"

      David, I have given some thought to this question over my lifetime. I throw away $20 buying a Lottlo and Powerball ticket each week. I know my chance of ever winning is incalculably slim, purely on the basis of probability. But there are a number of things I know for certain: (1) It is a known fact ticket holders have won Lotto or Powerball. (2) It is a known fact there have been quite a few winners over the years, some have even won multiple times. (3) And I know it will be a MIRACLE if I ever won the Lotto.

      But the category of miracles religionists misguidedly strive to have us believe do happen is analogous to my winning the Lotto without even buying a ticket. Now, that would be a miracle and I think it is a reasonable proposition that I would be rightly justified in believing there is a god should this eventuate? That is my humble benchmark for determining whether gods exist and are capable of intervening in the everyday affairs of people in this world. Anything less is superstitious conjecture.

  • I think the issues raised by this post are best framed within the story of original sin. Did God know his creation would sin, or just that we could sin, given the nature he created us with, but he was unaware or incapable of knowing what choice humans would make, given the free will he provided us with?

    What do Catholics believe?

    I would think if God was incapable of knowing what humans would do, it places significant limitations of any concept of omniscience and seems at odds to Mr Shea's view that there is no "chance" or "randomness" from God's point of view.

    If God did know that humans would sin, and more specifically that most of us would not achieve salvation, his choice to create us in the first place is morally questionable. (Of course recognizing the response of skeptical theism to this argument, which also has its consequences.)

  • Papalinton

    There are people that actually assimilate this apologetic from Mark Shea as some form of veridical statement or point of fact, coinciding with reality? In this day and age? In the 21stC?

    I am thoroughly disappointed if this article from Mr Shea represents the best of contemporary Catholic thinking because it does not contribute towards cultivating what would be construed 'serious' dialogue, in content or form; rather, it misguidedly perpetuates, nay, mistakingly prolongs an erroneous and ancient explanatory paradigm that no longer holds up to forensic and critical intellectual scrutiny.

    How seriously can we take this OP when, by invoking the old canard, pulling out the fear card, Mr Shea concludes, "...(though, if we remain impenitent, it will do us no good and we could send ourselves to Hell thereby)"? That is, "If you don't believe what I have just written, you will go straight to Hell, will not pass 'GO', and will not collect $200." Hardly a signal for serious discussion here. More like an invocation to supernatural superstition.

    I am sorry if I treated this article somewhat harshly but it really does not merit serious consideration.

    • Krakerjak

      How seriously can we take this OP when, by invoking the old canard, pulling out the fear card,

      I am in full agreement with your comment.

  • Peter

    Why did the uniquely configured low entropy conditions of the early universe occur which led to at least one incidence of life in the universe and most probably many more? Was there a reason for this?

    Atheists say that life is just a temporary complexity which the universe undergoes as it follows the second law of thermodynamics and moves from the simplicity of a low entropy beginning to the simplicity of a high entropy eternal end. They argue that it is only through the creation of complexity that the universe can achieve a greater net entropy overall and move towards its high entropy future.

    But if complexity is a necessary outcome of the second law of thermodynamics, so too is life which emerges from complexity. We must live in a universe where life is a necessary outcome, for without the complexity it represents the universe would be unable to increase its entropy.

    Surely, if God wanted to design a universe which would create life, isn't this exactly the kind of universe he would design, one which leads necessarily to complexity and life? Would he not have configured it at the beginning with the precise conditions needed to make life a necessary and inevitable outcome?

    • Caravelle

      Surely, if God wanted to design a universe which would create life,
      isn't this exactly the kind of universe he would design, one which leads
      necessarily to complexity and life?

      This assumes that this is the only possible Universe which leads necessarily to complexity and life, which there is no reason to think. This isn't a matter of fine-tuning; the fine-tuning issue is that any slight deviation in the fundamental laws would result in a very different Universe that there's reason to think couldn't support life. But that says nothing of Universes that have completely different laws of physics instead of slightly tweaked versions of ours.

      • Peter

        There is no other universe that we know of, or can imagine, which is configured to make life a necessary component in its development.

        • Caravelle

          Right, so we don't know such a one isn't possible. So the answer to "if God wanted to design a universe which would create life, isn't this exactly the kind of universe he would design?" is "we don't know".

          It's not like we even know that God wanted to design a Universe which would spontaneously and necessarily create life; I mean, it's reasonable to think that now since that's the kind of Universe we observe ourselves to be in, but it's not the only option a priori. The ancients themselves didn't think that; they thought the different aspects of the Universe had been created each separately by God, including life and including intelligent life. Those concepts yielded a much more life-friendly Universe by the way - one where a significant proportion of the Universe by volume could support life, compared to the infinitesimal proportion that can do so in this one.

          • Peter

            Maybe there are other kinds of universes which God could have designed, but that doesn't detract from the fact that this is a perfectly good universe for the creation of life for the simple reason that the universe's evolution depends on it.

          • Caravelle

            Sure, this Universe is perfectly good for creating life.

            Well, there's the "universe's evolution depends on it" thing I'm not sure of; yes, life increases entropy production, but the universe can "evolve" fine at any rate of entropy creation; entropy increases as much as it can where it can but it doesn't have a target. Entropy increases on the Moon too. Is the universe failing to evolve because there isn't life there to make it increase faster ?

            More puzzlingly this suggests the idea that the Universe has a target, a specific evolution it's aiming for and without which it wouldn't "evolve" right. This makes perfect sense if you believe God created the Universe for a purpose of course; the puzzling thing to me is that you said in another comment that the end of the Universe was related to the Higgs boson instability (which could end the Universe at any moment), but in this comment you're suggesting the end of the Universe is heat death (i.e. entropy maximization). I don't see how those two are compatible; the universe's evolution depends on the Higgs boson remaining stable much more than it depends on life existing, especially if "the universe's evolution" means "maximizing entropy".

          • Peter

            First, life is essential for the evolution of the universe from low to high entropy. For example, on planet earth there was only a carbon dioxide atmosphere which is low entropy. So how would the universe evolve towards producing a high entropy atmosphere containing methane. There was no simple chemical solution, just a long series of complex solutions over millions of years, which we call life. So life is the way the universe evolves from low to high entropy.

            Second, although the mass of the higgs boson puts the universe on the edge of stability, it is estimated that it will not collapse for maybe tens or hundreds of billions of years. During that time the universe will continue to evolve towards high entropy in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics which dictates the direction of that evolution.

            You will note that I said that atheists claim that the universe will have an eternal heat death. I only claimed that it was moving towards it. It is quite possible that hundreds of billions of years in the future the universe will collapse from instability well before heat death is reached.

          • Caravelle

            First, life is essential for the evolution of the universe from low to high entropy. For example, on planet earth there was only a carbon dioxide atmosphere which is low entropy. So how would the universe evolve towards producing a high entropy atmosphere containing methane.

            I'd be interested in your source for a carbon dioxide atmosphere being low entropy and an atmosphere containing methane being high entropy.

            Either way you haven't addressed the implications for other planets with no life - is entropy increasing on them anyway in accordance with the evolution of the Universe, or is that evolution halted there by the lack of life ?

            It is quite possible that hundreds of billions of years in the future the universe will collapse from instability well before heat death is reached.

            But doesn't the idea that life appeared so that entropy would increase suggest God wants the Universe's entropy to increase ?

          • Peter

            First, planets with no life would have no low entropy atmosphere to be transformed to a high entropy atmosphere.
            Second, of course God wants the universe's entropy to increase because the natural increase in entropy is the mechanism by which life is brought about in the first place.

          • Caravelle

            I'd still like to know how the entropy of an atmosphere is calculated and how it relates to its composition. I'm sure you must have read or heard such a specific claim somewhere, you don't remember the source ?

            Second, surely it's the case that either God wants the entropy in the Universe to increase because He wants this to bring about life, or God wants life to come about because he wants this to lead to the increase of entropy in the Universe, but not both ?

          • Peter

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40eiycH077A#t=22

            God designed the universe for the creation of life and configured it so that the growth of entropy is a one-way process where life, both now and in the future across the cosmos, becomes a necessary and inevitable outcome of that process.

            The one-way growth of entropy is not an end in itself, just a means to an end which is the ongoing creation of life.

          • Caravelle

            Thanks ! I hadn't heard that particular description of the atmosphere. For those who don't want to listen to the whole talk (the relevant bit happens around the middle, but it's all interesting), here is a written version of the same idea :
            http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2010/03/10/free-energy-and-the-meaning-of-life/#.VMJwcPlH9C0

            The one-way growth of entropy is not an end in itself, just a means to an end which is the ongoing creation of life.

            Oh, I think I figured out what you meant - I misunderstood your statements that "life is necessary for the universe to go from low to high entropy" as saying that life developed for the purpose of making the universe go from low to high entropy (implied, the divine purpose, since God's the one with a purpose for the Universe in this context), but you were just saying that life is a necessary consequence of the Universe. OK.

    • Great Silence

      Why would He create this universe at all. For me, that is always the hurdle before i can get to the type of questions that you are posing. or, more completely, I suppose, why create this at all, and why continue to sustain it, even just for the next 24 hrs.

      • Peter

        The reason for God creating and sustaining the universe casts us into the realms of theology.

        • Great Silence

          What would we find in that realm? Is this not the ultimate "Does everything happen for a reason?" question? Why did we happen? Why do we continue to exist?

        • George

          Why? And which theology? Catholic theology?

          • Krakerjak

            which theology? Catholic theology? Yes...this is what we are discusiing No?

          • George

            now I realize my incredulous tone had no way of getting through with just what I typed.

    • I don't see how you can say this is the kind of universe a god would create! Unless in your understanding god did not design the laws of nature but is constrained in his creation by them. I would have thought the God Catholics believe in could have created a cosmos in which life was prevalent and thrived and beautiful. Rather what we have is one in which life is scarce and extremely vulnerable. Though beautiful, most of its beauty is not accessible to humans, e,g every landscape on every planet in the billions of billions of universes we can never visit.

      • Peter

        On the contrary, I am convinced that we have a cosmos which is bursting with fertility. All the ingredients are there in profusion. I believe that this will become apparent as we develop more powerful telescopes in the decades to come.

        Even if the beauty of distant planets cannot be appreciated by our species, I am sure that other sentient species will be there to appreciate it.

        • Well the majority of this planet alone is inhospitable to human life. The vast majority of the universe is space that cannot support life. most matter is in nuclear furnaces and black holes, in addition to whatever dark matter is. We will likely find more planets capable of supporting life but i don't think we will ever be able to confirm it. But even if every planet has sentient life this is a tiny tiny part of the cosmos.

          Are you suggesting that God created the universe for other species who have souls?

          • Peter

            Yes, it would be a terrible waste of the cosmos, especially the vastly greater unobservable part, if we were the only ensouled species within it. In fact it would be a direct contradiction of what we would consider a God of reason if creation were so empty.

    • David Nickol

      All very interesting, but what in the world does this have to do with the question, "Does everything happen for a reason?" I have no objection to threads that wander off topic. But you seem to have created your own personal thread in Mark Shea's territory.

      Do you have an opinion on the OP? It's a very interesting topic. I'd like to see more discussion of it.

      • Peter

        As great Silence says below, is not the ultimate "does everything happen for a reason" question that which asks why reality exists and continues to do so? Isn't that the fundamental question which drives the debate between atheists and theists?

  • "I have a quick question,

    Ok.

    and I apologize if it’s awfully trite,

    No problem. I once had the same questions, but I wouldn't have put them this nicely.

    but I haven’t been able to find a satisfactory answer after (admittedly,not-so-exhaustive) searching. Here it is:

    From the standpoint of the Catholic Church: does everything happen for a reason?

    Yes. But, I believe the Catholic Church teaches that it doesn't necessarily happen because God caused it directly.

    If it does, it smacks a bit of predestination;

    Predestination is a Catholic Doctrine. But it is more directly related to "predestination of the Elect" or those who are saved. Its based upon God's omniscience.

    if it doesn’t, does that mean that God is out of control or doesn’t care? Say a flower grows on a mountaintop and it dies, and no human ever saw a trace of it or knew it existed; how much of that is an effect of an ecosystem going through its natural cycles, and how much is God putting a flower on a mountaintop?"

    God is aware of every flower on every mountain top. I base this opinion on God having said:

    Matthew 10:28 And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.30 Even all the hairs of your head are counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

    I tried to answer the question point by point, but I think the question remains, "if God didn't cause everything, then who caused the rest?"

    As I understand the Catholic Teaching, its that God gave certain creatures reason and free will. Some of these creatures are powerful enough to be called "thrones, principalities and dominions". I believe these creatures also have the authority to cause some things to happen for their own reasons. Just as we, human beings, with our own reason and free will have the authority to do things within our power for our own reasons.

  • Gunnar Thalweg

    I appreciate your answers. My answer to this question is, "It depends what you mean by reason" and "I don't think everything unfolds exactly as it is foreordained" and "I think we can mess up things" and "how this impacts God's knowledge is just way above my pay grade." I don't answer theodicy for the same reason. I get frustrated by evil and even very angry, but I do not know why a good God allows evil, except that He does, and He must have a good reason that I am sure He will share with me in good time--or not." Similarly, I don't think it worked out for good when my high school sweetheart and I threw away our first love to pursue our selfish lusts with others. We have met recently and have spoken on Facebook for a few years, after 25 years of no contact. We are both aware of what we threw away, have suffered enormously, and we have forgiven each other. But she says, "everything happens for a reason" and I say, "I coulda done without the broken heart." Maybe she disagrees, but sometimes she just likes to be positive. In any case, above my pay grade. It happened, we did it, we're responsible, and now we move on, best we can.

  • William Davis Doug Shaver • 2 days ago

    ….Even metaphorically, the problem with the Genesis story is what it implies about God's morality in the Hebrew Bible….

    What do you think it implies about God's morality?

    As for me, I struggled with the idea that God punished the entire world before I realized that I was putting God down to the level of a mere human who is subject to morality. But God is the Being who gives and takes away as He sees fit. He gives life and He takes it away.

    • William Davis

      I don't know if this makes you feel better or not, but the writers of Genesis were copying the old Sumerian flood myth and they changed the premise. The original premise was that people were making too much noise, and the gods couldn't sleep, so they were "silenced" by the flood. It is still terrible (there may have been more than one flood, and who knows how many died horrible), but at least I can sympathize with my sleep getting messed up, and after a while it can make anyone violent. Read Eridu Genesis (oldest version we've found) and The Epic of Gilgamesh if you are interested. I think there is an Akkadian myth too. All of these myths keep the premise of why the gods brought the flood, and agree that it was only 7 days and nights (much more realistic with what probably happened). I hope you understand if all of this is a big problem for me "believing" Christianity, however. That said, I think atheism is no replacement, and how we imagine ourselves is very important. Again I think Marcion was right to want to dump the Hebrew Bible, the prophecies of Jesus don't really fit him anyway, most were taken out of context. I believe in the message of compassion Jesus brought, but I don't like the Christian view of the "self." For me Buddhism provides a much more effective "middle way" (moderation in pleasure as opposed to Christian asceticism), though nothing is perfect. I live in the Southern U.S., and so many Christians use the Hebrew Bible to justify racism and bigotry that it makes me sick sometimes, so I hope you can understand my deep motivation to undermine at least that part, for the greater good of us all.

  • Doug Shaver William Davis • 2 days ago

    I don't deny that there is a problem with the morality exhibited by God in that story. But the problem is not that God kills innocents, because the story as written does not concede that anyone who died was innocent. The problem is with the notion that it is even possible for the entire human population of this world, except only eight people, to be so wicked as to deserve annihilation. Any morality consistent with that notion is a bad morality.

    The problem is not with God, but with your perception of God. If a man were to try to annihilate an entire population, he would be wrong. He has no right to do so.

    But God is not a creature. He gave those men and children their lives and He took it away. Even today, when anyone dies, innocent or guilty, it is God who takes their life.

    Who do you think God is that He should be subject to your notion of morality?

    • William Davis

      Who do you think God is that He should be subject to your notion of morality?

      He is the being that gave me my morality, if he exists. This is why Nietzsche called Christian morality "slave" morality because of this inherent lack of questioning. So you are implying that everyone who dies prematurely is wicked? If not, why do so many children die of disease? Why are people killed in things like Tsunamis and earthquakes? Billy Graham thought is was all judgement from God, but I were God, I would consider such notions blasphemous and highly insulting.

      It is also clear to me that Genesis was completely based on Sumerian (and later Babylonian) mythology. Just so you know, the Sumerians believe the gods created men out of clay to do their dirty work form them (to be slaves), so it is no surprise that some remnants of this idea carried into Christianity. The Bible man made book whose ideas can be traced to their predecessors. The only "invention" of the Jews was a sort of marriage to their one God. It is clear that the early Jews were henotheistic, they believed the other gods existed, that is why the first of the Ten Commandments is "Thou shalt worship no other gods before me". Notice it isn't, "There are no other Gods but me." I could bring up tons of evidence to prove this point if you are interested. I can also tie in Genesis to Sumerian mythology extremely well, but it takes a lot of words, and probably isn't appropriate for this forum.

      Just answer one question, do you think EVERYONE who dies in misery from natural disasters deserves what they get? Did the black plague only kill the wicked? I for one, do not think the children of the Sumerians were wicked when they were drowned in the flood, and I don't think Jesus Christ would think so either. Mathew 19:14 "Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." That is a Christian sentiment I can get behind, and it is indirect conflict with view of the early Jews who wrote the Torah. All evidence says they DID believe that everyone got what they deserved, at least at first. This is what gave way to Jewish Apocalypticism. The Jews had been doing everything their God commanded, yet still they were suffering. The Apocalyptic prophets brought "Satan" as an actual force of nature into the theology to "explain" why God did not have their back and was allowing them to be conquered over and over again. I believe Jesus was an Apocalyptic prophet, and he had a much more advanced morality than the Jews before him.

      All of this said, I'm in the process of reading the entire Bible now (along with some other things) and I am enjoying it. I love ancient stories. I also feel entitled to "judge" those stories with the mind God gave me. If you think about it, it is much better if either God isn't really controlling everything, or if you have powerful "bad gods" on whom you can blame everything bad that happens. This is how the pagans did it, at least to a certain extent.

      • He is the being that gave me my morality, if he exists.

        Ok.

        This is why Nietzsche called Christian morality "slave" morality….

        Let's slow down. We can get to all of that later. My question can be divided into two parts. You answered who you thought that God was. But the second part, I don't see. I don't see, in your answer, why you think that He is subject to YOUR morality.

        I see why you are subject to His morality. But not why you seek to bind Him to the same.

        Say for instance, that you're a peanut farmer and you set some rules on what you believe to be the best peanuts. Would you then set yourself under the rules for how to select a better peanut? You are not a peanut.

        God is not human. So, why should He be subject to the rules which He set up for humans?

        • William Davis

          Because I believe he wants me to think that. A few months ago, I asked God to show me the truth. I am aware of the tendency of the human mind to be biased, and it is almost impossible to escape that bias, but not completely impossible. I think the concept of "ask and you shall receive" is clearly written into Christianity. So I started reading Genesis, and so many things brought back memories of things I had learned in history about Sumeria, I began to compare both with a sort of mad fervor. When I was done, I felt as though I had been given divine insight. Of course the scientist in me is telling me that this was just my intuition, but I'm ignoring him and trying to go at this believing God exists to the best of my ability.
          In a nutshell, it felt as though I was giving a divine insight. God WANTS me to judge everything PEOPLE say about him, and he gives me every right to discredit what is problematic. Not only were these Jews borrowing from earlier pagan religion, they were blaspheming God's morality by pinning this flood on him. I don't think God intentionally causes much of anything, he made the universe right the first time, and sometimes there are "accidents." Perhaps there is a way that God intervenes in the mind of man for the greater good, such a thing is much harder to discount than the idea that he "brings floods." Perhaps this is why man seems compelled to seek God. Personally, I think if He has anything like human intelligence (which is unlikely but possible) we are a long way from being important enough for him to be interested in us. Being interested in him is very important for us, I think, and what we imagine about him, is also very important. Bad imaginings of God bring about bad actions by men.

          • William Davis De Maria • 23 minutes ago

            Because I believe he wants me to think that.

            So, you do believe in God? Because earlier you said:

            William Davis De Maria • an hour ago

            He is the being that gave me my morality, if he exists.

            If you don't even know if He exists, how can you claim to believe that He is communicating to you His will?

            Somehow, I don't think you're responding to me in good faith. If you don't want to answer the question about "why you would bind God to your morality?", just say so.

          • William Davis

            I believe in the necessary being, but I am uncertain about the nature of the necessary being. Perhaps Spinoza was right, perhaps not. I don't believe in the Christian God, and I'm trying to give you one of the main reasons. It isn't like Christianity has a monopoly on theology after all, at least not anymore. I think I'm being clear, but apparently my thoughts are so strange I'm confusing you, sorry about that. I'm very flexible when it comes to imagining the world, and find it handy to superimpose points of view on myself for thought experiment. So I can easily believe most anything temporarily for the sake of argument.

          • Ok. Well, let me try to speak as you do. For the sake of argument, believing in God as you do, why would you consider the "necessary being" to be subject to the rules which He established for perfecting human souls (i.e. morality)?

            The Necessary Being is not human, right?

          • William Davis

            Let, me ask you a question in return, what would the reason be for perfecting human souls? Why would he care? Is it to make us more like him?

          • William Davis De Maria • 2 minutes ago

            Let, me ask you a question in return,

            Ok, but I won't let you off the hook. I still expect an answer to my question.

            what would the reason be for perfecting human souls?

            In order that we might be united to Him.

            To perfect a human soul means to cleanse the soul of sin. Sin is an obstacle to union with God.

            Why would he care?

            That is a question the Saints have been asking themselves from time immemorial The only answer I can fathom is "because He loves us and wants us to love Him in return".

            Job 7:17What are human beings, that you make much of them, or pay them any heed?

            Is it to make us more like him?

            That too.

            God is love and He wants us to love as He does.

            Luke 10:27 He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

            So, why should God be subject to the rules which He set up for humans?

          • William Davis

            Because if God cannot be reunited with a soul tainted by sin, then God himself cannot sin. To intentionally murder thousands of innocent children by drowning (they have not reached the age of accountability) not to mention slave women and children, is SIN beyond the magnitude committed by anyone other than Hitler and Stalin. God cannot sin, so blaming him for the flood is blasphemous, and false. There is no way the newborn babies and 3 year old were wicked, no way.

          • Thanks for the reply.

            William Davis De Maria • 3 minutes ago

            Because if God cannot be reunited with a soul tainted by sin,

            Ok. I understand the dilemma.

            We use the term united to God as though we were somehow ever separated from Him, physically. But we are not. By definition, God is omnipresent. Therefore, God is

            Acts 17:28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being,’….

            Therefore, we are never, not united to God, physically.

            When we say, united to God, we mean that we are united to Him in love.

            then God himself cannot sin.

            No. God can not sin.

            To intentionally murder thousands of innocent children by drowning (they have not reached the age of accountability) not to mention slave women and children, is SIN beyond the magnitude committed by anyone other than Hitler and Stalin. God cannot sin, so blaming him for the flood is blasphemous, and false. There is no way the newborn babies and 3 year old were wicked, no way.

            But that happens today. God gives life and takes it away. Do you mean that every time a child dies, you attribute it to God's sin?

            I think that answers my question, though. It seems as though you believe that God is a man, subject to His own laws.

            Whereas, we don't. We believe that God is Sovereign and has established laws to which we are subject. But He is exempt.

            Just for a simplistic example. Its like when you tell your children, "your not allowed in my workshop". Obviously, you would be exempt from that rule.

          • William Davis

            But that happens today. God gives life and takes it away. Do you mean that every time a child dies, you attribute it to God's sin?

            Yes, and that is why believers can't wrap their head around it. Believers only see when sick people get better, they think God healed them. But what about all the people that do not get healed, are they implying they somehow deserve what they get. If God blesses me because I am just, doesn't that somehow mean that those getting a bad wrap are unjust? Isn't it just simpler if God isn't involved? The idea that the universe is just winding down like a clock is much more comforting than the idea that it is being manipulated by an unjust God.

            I find it fascinating how Christians mentally just walk right around this concept. When what I judge what is in the Bible, I'm judging what these men wrote, I'm not judging God.

            Why did Jesus make promises like Mark 9 "1 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with[a]power.” Mark 13 "26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he[e] is near, at the very gates.30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."

            Paul was certain Jesus was the first fruits of the resurrection, and that he would live to see the day when God set up his good kingdom on earth, taking away our suffering.
            2000 Years later, we are still here, and children are still dying. The only answer for me is that none of this was ever really true, but being compassionate as Jesus was has caused us to help those who are suffering, and that is all we can do. We also now know how the Torah got it's start, it was borrowing from mythology almost 2000 years older than itself, and that only serves to break the spell even more. I point out problems in the Hebrew Bible because they HINDER the work of Christ here on earth. We are in an era of change, we can either hide our head in the sand, or work to keep the message of Christian compassion alive without the mythology.

          • William Davis De Maria • 3 minutes ago

            Yes, and that is why believers can't wrap their head around it. Believers only see when sick people get better, they think God healed them. But what about all the people that do not get healed, are they implying they somehow deserve what they get….

            I'm a believer. I think its the opposite, though. I don't think that non-believers can wrap their head around the idea that God is sovereign and He can give life and take it away.

            I don't think non-believers can understand that suffering in the body is for the good of the human soul.

            Its as though non-believers would believe in God if they could be assured of a Prosperity gospel. But, that's not the case. In fact, believers will be subjected to tests which others won't endure because they believe.

            Hebrews 12:7 Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are without discipline, in which all have shared, you are not sons but bastards. 9 Besides this, we have had our earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not [then] submit all the more to the Father of spirits and live?

          • William Davis

            So the suffering of the children that died in the flood was for the good of their soul? How about those good Christians who died of the black plague. What about those who died from volcanoes, or painfully from cancer. I'm sure their souls were all greatly improved by this senselessness.
            I've learned plenty in my life from the school of hard knocks, and from my own suffering I have learned to be compassionate to those who do suffer. Confusing the "school of hard knocks" with all the senseless suffering and death in the world is not only ridiculous, but completely lacking in compassion. All these senseless deaths don't matter to you because you won't allow yourself to REALLY think about it. Imagine what it was like for mothers to watch their children drown first, and then succumb next as their was no where to go. Imagine what people feel towards God when their 4 year old gets run over by a car and dies. Imagine the horror of those burned to death by the Volcano at Pompeii, just because God "felt like it."
            The idea that suffering improves us is such a non-answer in these situations, it kinda makes me angry.

          • The idea that suffering improves us is such a non-answer in these situations, it kinda makes me angry.

            You got a better answer?

            Here's the situation.

            1. I know that God exists. No question in my mind.
            2. I know that God is good. Again, no question in my mind.

            So, what then, would explain the suffering in the world?

            God is good, therefore the suffering which we see in the world must be for our good.

            You get angry about it. But getting angry doesn't make it go away. It may even make it worse since it probably frustrates you, as well.

          • William Davis

            God doesn't meddle in our affairs, he left the universe to it's own devices. He doesn't change physics, he only works through people to help other people. Anger helps nothing, but I can't help when I experience it. I make it a point to let it go (and it's gone already). I know you are well meaning, but I hope you at least understand my point of view at this point. It is not from lack of understanding (I'm willing to debate to be more sure of that). Thanks for spending your time doing just that :)

          • William Davis

            I don't expect you to agree with my answer, but I hope you realize that Christianity does NOT have an answer for the senseless suffering in the world (this differs from judgement and correctional suffering)

          • William Davis

            At least we agree on one thing, Prosperity Gospel is a disgrace. Most of the Christians I've been around seem to only serve God because of what they think they can get out of him. If you are serving him for genuine reasons, I commend you for that. I cannot help that wisdom and justice are my most important attributes, and that my sense of justice is incompatible with the Christian God. I want to serve God because he is God, and because he is just. If he made me, he understands my point of view, and I believe with all my being that he respects it, if he does care at all. I really do try to be a person of principle, and in the principles of justice and helping the world to be a better place, we are on the same page. I love this passage from Luke 10

            25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.[j] “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

            29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii,[k] gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

          • I can't say that I haven't been there. But, I now recognize that God is far above humans. He is not subject to our morality and our ideas of right and wrong. God has every right to take anyone's life.

            Thanks for the conversation.

          • William Davis

            You too.

    • William Davis

      I suppose to sum it up (long winded answer was before) I'm quite certain that God would not "intentionally" do such a thing, so that means the story is false. I am much more certain about this than I am most things. So if Genesis is false, and was copied from Sumerian myth, then there is no original Sin. If there is no Original sin (it isn't in Genesis anyone, there were SPECIFIC curses, Paul was the first person to come up with that) I don't NEED to believe something I CANNOT namely that the resurrection actually happened to avoid going to Hell. Hell is something that God would not do, but a vindictive man would easily come up with. Jesus and Paul believed in destruction in the fires of Gehenna for the wicked, not Hell. I can understand destruction, that is what I expect to happen anyone. Death isn't so bad if you aren't overly attached to yourself, and actually care about other people and what you leave behind. In other words, God has given me peace, and I thank him for it. Sorry for all the words ;)

    • Doug Shaver

      Who do you think God is that He should be subject to your notion of morality?

      I don't think God is, period. I'm not judging his morality. I'm judging the morality of those who say he exists.

      • You have a standard of morality? Before you judge someone's morality upon your standard, shouldn't you inform them about your standard and explain what it is?

        Otherwise, its kind of like putting a blindfold on an archer and telling him to shoot at a target he can't see. He's doomed to fail.

        Oh, wait. You're judging people based upon someone else's standard, is that it? Whose standard would that be?

        Wait, wait. You're not usurping the moral standard set by the One whom you said, "I don't think God is, period." That would be totally illogical.

        But, I'll let you explain.

        • Doug Shaver

          I cannot present an intelligible account of my moral philosophy in the space of a single forum post. In the present context, it might suffice to say that if some people are suffering, and I have the means to alleviate their suffering without aggravating the suffering of other people, then that is what I should do.

          • Doug Shaver De Maria • 8 hours ago

            I cannot present an intelligible account of my moral philosophy in the space of a single forum post.

            Then, how do you expect anyone else to follow your idea of morality? More, how can you judge someone on your idea of morality when you haven't revealed what it is to them?

            In the present context, it might suffice to say that if some people are suffering, and I have the means to alleviate their suffering without aggravating the suffering of other people, then that is what I should do.

            You're judging people, right? Which people do you know that do not alleviate the suffering of others, when they can?

          • Doug Shaver

            Then, how do you expect anyone else to follow your idea of morality?

            I'm not asking them to.

            You're judging people, right?

            Only as much as everyone judges others. We all have opinions about how other people behave, don't we?

            Which people do you know that do not alleviate the suffering of others, when they can?

            You mean always, every chance they get? Every human being I've ever met or ever heard of.

          • I'm not asking them to.

            So, you're judging them based upon a code of which they're not aware?

            Only as much as everyone judges others. We all have opinions about how other people behave, don't we?

            I meant, as opposed to judging God. Because you said:

            In the present context, it might suffice to say that if some people are suffering, and I have the means to alleviate their suffering without aggravating the suffering of other people, then that is what I should do.

            The only One I know who allows suffering without assisting them, is God (See the book of Job). I don't know anyone who wouldn't assist someone if they could.

            And below, you seem to concur:

            You mean always, every chance they get? Every human being I've ever met or ever heard of.

            Unless you're including yourself in the number of uncaring human beings, that means that all human beings you've ever met care about those who suffer, right?

            Or did I misunderstand what you said?

          • Doug Shaver

            Or did I misunderstand what you said?

            Yes. My intended meaning was: It is true of all people that they do not always, every chance they get, help others who are suffering.

            That implies nothing about whether, or how much, or in what way, any particular person cares about the suffering of other people.

  • Gray

    I have an adult daughter almost 50 years old raised Catholic...through high school.....who though she has long since rejected the Catholic Church, seems to have confidence in whatever god there is, or whatever the sustaining energy or power of the universe ultimately is, seems to believe that everything happens for a reason. She has had a difficult life, the death of her fiance', but though she no longer has any faith in the Catholic Church....and only pays lip service to Jesus or his existence....and could not be considered a Christian any longer by any definition of the word.....she does still feel that everything happens for a reason.She is a decent person by the standards of anyone, not given to booze, drugs or promiscuity. For the past few years she has been going on "new age" philosophy and positive thinking, and though now unemployed still has hope for her ultimate destiny when she dies.....eternal suffering damnation or hell is not even a possibility in her mind, nor in mine.

  • Mirasol Arevalo

    It is a mission, there is a purpose and the purpose is to LEARN. If you cannot deal with it, deal it with God.

    • Mirasol Arevalo

      indeed make it simple, to learn makes you a better person and to learn is to discover that there is God.