• Strange Notions Strange Notions Strange Notions

Why Would God Allow Suffering Caused by Nature?

Wheelchair

NOTE: Today we begin a four-part series by philosopher Fr. Robert Spitzer addressing the question, "Why Would God Allow Suffering Caused by Nature?" Instead of focusing on the existence of moral evil, or suffering caused by the free choice of humans, he examines why an apparently good God would create an imperfect world replete with natural disasters, physical disabilities, and unavoidable heartache. The series will continue on each of the next three Fridays.
 


 
It is somewhat easier to understand why God would allow suffering to occur through human agents than it is to understand why He would allow suffering to occur through natural causation. After all, it would seem that if God creates the natural order, He could have created it perfectly – so perfectly that there would be no possibility of human suffering. He could have created each human being in a perfectly self-sufficient way, so that we would have no need. Or, if we had need, He could have created us with a perfect capacity to fulfill those needs within a world of perfectly abundant resources.

So why did God create an imperfect natural order? Why did He create a natural order which would allow for scarcity? Why did He create a natural order that would give rise to earthquakes and volcanoes and tsunamis? Why did He create a natural order which would permit vulnerabilities within the human genome that allow for blindness, deafness, or muscular degeneration? Why did He create a natural order which would permit debilitating diseases?

The brief answer lies in the fact that a perfect natural order would leave no room for weakness and vulnerability; yet weakness and vulnerability induce many positive human characteristics, perhaps the most important human characteristics, such as (1) identity transformation, (2) stoic virtues, (3) agape, and (4) interdependence and human community. This list of characteristics represents the most noble of human strivings, the propensity toward greater civility and civilization, and glimpses of a perfection which is unconditional and even eternal. Though weakness and vulnerability seem to delimit and even undermine human potential, they very frequently detach us from what is base and superficial so that we might freely see and move toward what is truly worthy of ourselves, what will truly have a lasting effect, what is truly destined in its intrinsic perfection to last forever.

A perfect world might leave us content with pure autonomy and superficiality, and would deprive us of the help we might need to deepen our virtue, relationships, community, compassion, and noble striving for the common good. The “perfect world” might deprive us of the impetus toward real perfection, the perfection of love, the perfection which is destined to last forever. We will now discuss each of the above four positive characteristics of weakness and vulnerability induced by an imperfect world.

Human beings tend to move through four levels of happiness or purpose:

(1) happiness arising out of external physical and material stimuli;

(2) happiness arising out of ego-satisfaction and comparative advantage (such as status, admiration, popularity, winning, power, and control);

(3) happiness arising out of making an optimal positive difference and legacy to the people and world around me; and

(4) happiness arising out of being connected with and immersed in what is perfect, ultimate, and eternal in Truth, Love, Goodness, Beauty, and Being (for those with faith, God).

It so happens that the lower levels of happiness/identity are more surface-apparent, immediately gratifying, and intense than the higher levels. They tend to more easily attract us and hold our attention from without (instead of requiring discipline from within), so we more easily gravitate toward them. However, they are much less pervasive, enduring, and deep than the higher levels of happiness/identity. For example, making an optimal positive difference to others and the world with my time, talent, and energy (Level 3) can have effects far beyond my ego-gratification (Level 2), so it is more pervasive than Level 2. These effects can last much longer than the acquisition of a new car, the enjoyment of an ice cream cone, and the enjoyment of status and power – so they are more enduring than Levels 1 and 2. Finally, they are deeper than Levels 1 and 2, because they involve my highest creative and psychological powers (i.e., my powers of intellection, moral reasoning, ideal formation, love, spiritual engagement, etc.).

The difficulty is that only one of these levels of happiness/identity can be dominant. The others will become recessive. Thus, if the desire for physical pleasure and material goods is dominant, the desire for ego-satisfaction, optimal contribution, and spiritual connection will be recessive. We will therefore live for what is most surface-apparent and immediately gratifying, but neglect what is most pervasive, enduring, and deep (and therefore, what could express our most noble purpose in life). Alternatively, if we want to move toward what is most pervasive, enduring and deep, we will have to allow Levels 1 and 2 to become recessive; we will have to let go of them (enticing as they are); and this is where suffering frequently comes in.

We cannot say that human beings require suffering in order to move from the more superficial levels of happiness/identity to the higher (most pervasive, enduring, and deep) ones, for human beings can see the intrinsic goodness and beauty of making an optimal positive difference to family, friends, community, organization, culture, and even, for Christians, the kingdom of God. They can be attracted to this noble, beautiful, and even transcendent identity as a fulfillment of their higher selves, or even their transcendent eternal selves. However, this more positive impetus to move toward the more pervasive, enduring, and deep identity can be assisted by suffering, weakness, and vulnerability; for it is precisely these negative conditions which can break the spell of the lower levels of identity.

Physical pleasures (Level 1) can be so riveting that they can produce addiction. The same holds true for status, esteem, control, and power. In my own life, I have seen how powerful (and even addictive) these lower levels of identity can be. Yet, I truly desired (and saw the beauty and nobility of) the higher levels of happiness/identity. Though this vision was quite powerful in me, I found myself transfixed by the lower levels – almost unable to move myself beyond them. This is where the “power of weakness and vulnerability” came into my life.

Experiences of physical limitation and the failure of “my best laid plans” broke the spell of unmitigated pursuit of ego, status, and power. I had a genuine Pauline experience of having to look at life anew – to look for more pervasive purpose in the face of a loss of power – to reexamine what I was living for in light of a loss of control. I became thankful for my weaknesses and the imperfect natural order which gave rise to them. Without them, I would have been unqualifiedly locked into my addiction to ego, status, and power – even though I saw the beauty and nobility of optimal contribution and love. I would have been addicted to the superficial amidst the appreciation of the noble – what an emptiness, what a frustration, what unhappiness – until weakness broke the spell. The irony is, weakness and suffering gave me the freedom to overcome the far greater suffering of living beneath myself, of avoiding noble purpose, of consciously wasting my life.

As noted above, there are probably people who do not need suffering to make a move from, say, Level 2 to Level 3 and 4. I was not one of them. Suffering was my liberation, my vehicle, my pathway to what was most worthy of my life, and what was most noble and perduring in me. I suspect that there are others like me who can use a dose of suffering, weakness, and vulnerability every now and then to call them to their most noble, perduring, and true selves. For these, the imperfect world is indispensable. Being left to the so-called perfect world would have led to superficiality and spiritual deprivation (a deeper pain).

This liberating power of suffering is not restricted to physical or psychological weakness. It applies most poignantly to the anticipation of death. I once had a student who asked, “Why do we need to die? If God is perfect and He intended to give us eternal life, why does He make us die in order to get there? Why not just allow us to continue living without all the mystery about the beyond?” I initially responded that eternal life is not merely a continuation of this current earthly life, and that death provided the transition from this life to the “new” life.

She responded, “Well, why isn’t the ‘new’ life a continuation of this one? Why wouldn’t God create us immediately in the ‘new’ life?” I indicated to her that the goodness, joy, and beauty of the “new” life did not essentially consist in a perfect, natural order (although this would be part of it), but rather in the perfect love that would exist between God and us, and between all of us in God. I further indicated that this “love” would consist in a perfect act of empathy with another whereby doing the good for the other would be just as easy, if not easier, than doing the good for oneself – where empathy would take over the desire for ego-satisfaction and autonomy – where communion and community would not immolate the individual personality, but bring it to its completion through others and God.

The student almost intuitively agreed that this would be perfect joy, which led her to re-ask the question, “Well, why didn’t God just create us in a situation of perfect love?” My answer revolved around the fact that love is our free choice. God cannot create us into a “world of perfect love;” we have to create the condition of love for ourselves and others by our free decisions. As noted immediately above, our decision to love (to live for a contributive identity) can be assisted considerably by weakness and vulnerability; but even more importantly, it can be assisted by the anticipation of death.

As many philosophers have noted (both those coming from a transcendental perspective, such as Karl Rahner and Edith Stein, or a merely immanent perspective, such as Martin Heidegger and Jean Paul Sartre), death produces a psychological finality which compels us to make a decision about what truly matters to us, what truly defines our lives, sooner rather than later. It really does not matter whether we have a strong belief in an afterlife or not; the finality of death incites us to make a statement about the “pre-death” meaning of our lives.

Most of us view an interminable deferral of fundamental options (such as, to live for love or not to live for love; to live for integrity or not to live for integrity; to live for truth or not to live for truth; etc.) to be unacceptable because death calls us to give authentic definition to our lives – the finality of death says to our innermost being that we must express our true selves prior to the termination of the life we know.

Death might be the best gift we have been given because it calls us to our deepest life-definition and self-definition, and in the words of Jean Paul Sartre, to the creation of our essence. If we believe in an afterlife, we take this authentic self-definition (say, love) with us into our eternity. But even if we do not believe in an afterlife, death still constitutes an indispensable gift of life, for it prevents us from interminably delaying the creation of our essence. It calls us to proclaim who we truly are and what we really stand for – sooner rather than later. We cannot interminably waste our lives in indecision.

In light of death, the choice of one’s fundamental essence (say, love) becomes transformative and “life-giving.” Death gives life – an authentic, reflective, and free life through a more pervasive, enduring, and deep purpose in life.

Next week, Fr. Spitzer will explore why the attainment of virtues requires an imperfect world.
 
 
(Image credit: ###)

Fr. Robert Spitzer

Written by

Fr. Robert Spitzer, PhD is a Catholic priest in the Jesuit order, and is currently the President of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith and the Spitzer Center. He earned his PhD in philosophy from the Catholic University of America and from 1998 to 2009 was President of Gonzaga University. Fr. Spitzer has made multiple media appearances including: Larry King Live (debating Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow, and Deepak Chopra on God and modern physics), the Today Show (debating on the topic of active euthanasia), The History Channel in “God and The Universe,” and a multiple part PBS series “Closer to the Truth." Fr. Spitzer is the author of five books including New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy (Eerdmans, 2010); Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues (Ignatius, 2011); and Healing the Culture: A Commonsense Philosophy of Happiness, Freedom and the Life Issues (Ignatius, 2011). Follow Fr. Spitzer's work at the Magis Center of Reason and Faith.

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • David Nickol

    How can this view be reconciled to the Catholic idea that the lives we lead now are not the lives we were supposed to lead? They are the lives we lead as a result of some primordial sin by our "first parents." The human race was not originally created into a world of suffering and death, but into a beautiful garden, with "face-to-face" encounters with a God who would take care of every need. A world of suffering and death was not God's original plan, but is the result of a plan that went awry.

    • TomD123

      A number of things I think can be said:
      1) Our first parents were in a world of death and suffering i.e. animals suffered and died and the world as a whole was presumably (and evidently) similar to ours is now. It was a preternatural gift that our first parents were free from death (and I think suffering too however I am not sure that this is definitive teaching) The beautiful garden and "face to face" encounters are probably largely symbolic to represent the spiritual state of man more so than the specifics of the physical state. That said, it is Church teaching that man had certain preternatural gifts like freedom from death.

      2) Remember that before the fall, life would have been very different in terms of morality as well. The reason is that man was not in any way prone to sin (although he obviously was capable of sin- and in fact did). So given this, it might slightly change the analysis given because we are considering a fallen man at this point- so maybe its better for fallen man to experience suffering but not pre-fallen man. I don't know its just a speculation.

      3) God sees things from outside of time. So we have to be cautious when talking about his "original plan" as if his plan changed.

      All speculative- of course its a mystery- but this may provide some help

      • David Nickol

        1) Our first parents were in a world of death and suffering i.e. animals suffered and died and the world as a whole was presumably (and evidently) similar to ours is now.

        Is this Catholic dogma or doctrine? I think it is an argument of skeptics and nonbelievers that the world Adam and Eve lived in (had such "first parents" actually existed) would have had to be much like our own, since science has shown that disease, predation, injury, earthquakes, and death all existed before human beings evolved and before there could have been an Adam and Eve. So it seems a little strange to co-opt the skeptics' arguments and use them as arguments in favor of the religious view.

        The beautiful garden and "face to face" encounters are probably largely symbolic to represent the spiritual state of man more so than the specifics of the physical state.

        I will grant that it is much more reasonable to argue that the story of Adam and Eve should be interpreted symbolically, but then of course it can be interpreted to mean pretty much whatever one wants it to mean. It is easy to interpret it so "symbolically" that it means something like "in order to live a fully human life one must give up the total dependence of childhood." But it seems Catholicism insists there is some historical (not merely symbolic) truth to the story.

        The reason is that man was not in any way prone to sin (although he obviously was capable of sin- and in fact did).

        It is difficult to imagine the Adam and Eve of the story could have resisted temptation any more feebly and given in any faster if they had been prone to sin! They come across as naive children, not human beings with preternatural gifts.

        3) God sees things from outside of time. So we have to be cautious when talking about his "original plan" as if his plan changed.

        On the one hand, this makes a great deal of sense. On the other, this is the kind of caution you (I mean anyone, not you personally) can urge when someone makes a point you don't like, and throw to the wind when you are yourself speaking of God's plans. It is extraordinarily difficult to say anything about a God outside of time. For example, if we tell sinners God will forgive them if they repent, it can be objected that God is outside of time, and forgiveness requires a before and after. So strictly speaking, it cannot be said that God will forgive sinners if they repent.

        • TomD123

          I think that you make good points. Of course, I don't know if anyone has all of the answers as some of this stuff hasn't been specifically revealed by God nor is it necessarily accessible to human reason alone, hence it remains mysterious. In any case, I should clarify a few things:

          1) It is not so much a skeptic view that the first humans lived in a world of suffering and death etc. The traditional theological view (as taught by theologians like St. Thomas) was that material things in virtue of being material have a natural tendency to fall apart, hence living things tend to die. The tradition isn't that the world was a place free of death before the fall, rather there is no reason to think in itself it was much different than the way the world is now. Obviously, this is confirmed by looking at the natural history of the earth and life on the earth. I do not believe that this is Church doctrine, although it is the standard view of theologians (again, long before any modern science) and to me personally, a more plausible account theologically because it seems to go against God's nature to suddenly change the very laws of nature because of original sin.

          Now, how can we reconcile this with the story of Adam and Eve? Well the story speaks for instance of a tree of life. Adam and Eve were not naturally immortal. There was this tree they had to eat from. Whatever the literal truth is, I think it is clear from the text, and it fits in nicely with the standard theological view, that freedom from death (and whatever degree of suffering too) was a preternatural gift. Hence, it can either be considered a special miracle God gave to the human race or something within the natural order that is far beyond what we know about (e.g. analogous to some sort of special medicine to live forever). These speculations may sound odd, and this is understandable given we do not know the specifics and have no direct historical record of our first parents. However, given what the traditional theological view is in interpreting Genesis, there is nothing about modern scientific knowledge per se which goes against the story of our first parents because even prior to this knowledge, theologians believed Adam and Eve to be in a world much like ours, it is just that they were singled out for certain special gifts (at the very least immortality).

          TBC

          • TomD123

            2) There is history in the story of Adam and Eve. Namely, the history of the first humans who were in God's friendship and given many gifts (e.g. grace, freedom from death). They then disobeyed God in a serious manner and lost these gifts. That is generally what has been regarded as historical. If granting that the text should be interpreted symbolically was merely an ad-hoc maneuver to avoid the implications of modern knowledge then I definately see a problem bc then we could interpret any Scripture any way we wanted. The problem is that since traditionally, long before modern science, there was no consensus on how to interpret this story or the rest of Genesis, it is reasonable to hold that the nature of the writing itself suggests that it ought to be taken symbolically.

            The Bible is full of symbolism because it is primarily meant to teach us moral truths. So we shouldn't just say "symbolism" when we want to reinterpret the Bible. But if the books itself and the historic interpretation of them are open to a symbolic reading, then we shouldn't dismiss this as entailing that any reading of the Scripture is possible. There can be a correct meaning even in the case of symbolism.

            TBC

          • TomD123

            3) We do not know how long it took them to actually sin. It could have been days, months, years. The Bible does not tell us the exact sin they committed either. It is generally regarded as some sort of pride and disobedience. So its hard to drawer the implications of them being "child-like" from this passage.

            4) When I say that God is outside of time here, I am actually just pointing out that in creating this world, God knew man would sin and thus suffering would result. Hence, although God does not positively will evil, it would be incorrect to treat the question as though God made the world thinking it was all fine and then was shocked by Adam and Eve doing wrong. My point isn't to try to brush the problem under the rug but just to show that speaking of God's "original plan" can be misleading. The first reason is that God does not change (cuz Hes eternal) and therefore does not have an original and then a second plan etc. The second and more important reason is that since God knows everything before it happens, He knows when He creates what choices people will make and what results will follow. And this would be true even if God was not outside of time but simply had perfect foreknowledge within time.

            With regards to forgiveness, you are right to say God doesn't forgive in the sense of God is mad, then God forgives. Forgiveness considered from God's perspective is the constant and unchanging act of God's will to forgive all who repent. From our perspective, this involves being in a sinful state, then repenting, and then receiving the gifts of forgiveness (grace).

            Finally, saying God is eternal is not meant as an ad hoc move to make things more mysterious to avoid possible theological difficulties. There are independent reasons for holding this to be true. A few short reasons would be that if God was in time, He would in a sense be dependent on time which goes against His absolute necessity. Another is that time is a contingent feature of the physical universe which exists apart from God.

          • Susan

            There is history in the story of Adam and Eve. Namely, the history of the first humans who were in God's friendship and given many gifts (e.g. grace, freedom from death). They then disobeyed God in a serious manner and lost these gifts.

            Respectfully, you are recanting a story and asserting that it is history. On what basis can we call it history? Do historians consider it history?

            That is generally what has been regarded as historical.

            By whom and by what criteria?

          • TomD123

            This is in the era which historians would call prehistoric. Hence historians would not know the details of the story. We have to rely on something beyond human research, namely, Divine revelation. I believe the story (and its historical implications) on the teaching authority of the Church.

          • Andy Rhodes

            Given that some kind of cosmic fall for homo sapiens from a healthy state is required for the concept of salvation, I think that Christianity should provide solid evidence that this earlier condition existed and then fell apart. Religion often makes grandiose assertions and as a former devout believer I cooperated with those ideas and social systems. Honest people must attempt to demonstrate "extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims".

            The issue of radically disproportionate punishments is another major problem in the Bible. Among the worst examples of these is the super extreme consequence of banishment from intimacy with God and Edenic conditions for Adam and Eve because of one rebellion and then the automatic inheritance of it to tens of billions of people later. Beyond that we have to look at things like the Flood (whether it literally happened or not), death penalties in the Torah for non-capital crimes and everlasting hell for a finite lifetime.

          • Susan

            some of this stuff hasn't been specifically revealed by God

            Which of this stuff has been revealed by your deity and how do you know?

          • TomD123

            We would know by looking at Scripture, Tradition, and Church Teaching

          • Susan

            We would know by looking at Scripture, Tradition, and Church Teaching

            Why do you think any of these things are revealed by a deity rather than say, humans claiming that the things they utter are divine revelation?

            Respectfully, it sounds like human stories to me. What distinguishes it from human stories?

          • Michael Murray

            What distinguishes it from human stories?

            We know because when we read the Koran in the original Arabic it is clearly a work of such profound beauty that a human could never have written it without the inspiration of Allah.

            Oops. Sorry. Wrong stories.

          • TomD123

            The evidence that the stories are from God. For instance, the manner in which they fit into natural theology, the way they make sense of the world are starting points. Then, miracles are a major component of the evidence.

          • Susan

            We would know by looking at Scripture, Tradition, and Church Teaching

            OK. If you know, then tell me. Which of this stuff has
            been revealed by your deity?
            Explain when and where... and how.

          • TomD123

            I don't know all of the specifics. I do know that the Church teaches that God has revealed that there was a specific act which was a primordial sin that has lasting effects. God has revealed that. I believe God has revealed that in a number of places in Scripture. I trust these things because the Church teaches them. I believe in the teachings of the Church for a number of reasons as I mentioned above.

            Also, "your deity" is incorrect. In principle, there can only be one God. Hence, you either believe that God exists or He does not. But if He does, then that's it. He's not "mine" nor is He just the god (among many) that I chose to believe in. Its all or nothing- God or no God, not a choice between many. My belief in Christianity is distinct and it is belief in a specific revelation of God, not a distinct God.

          • Andy Rhodes

            I think that we have to keep in mind that Christian doctrine teaches the physical resurrection of all human bodies in the future, along a material new heavens and new earth. This means that the comment from Aquinas that material things tend toward disarray likely is not universal in the Judeo-Christian God's creative framework. Personally, I think it makes much more sense to acknowledge that all of these concepts are religious and not connected to the "real world" except by aesthetic inspiration or analogy. There is a reason that so many theologians have thought that physical death came into the world through sin - because that's what a straight-forward reading the of the Old and New Testaments reveal. Modern believers have more sophisticated interpretations that aren't as radically contradictory to science. But, it's hard to justify such a misleading biblical revelation from the ultimate mind of God. Why wouldn't God communicate more effectively and accurately?

      • Susan

        It was a preternatural gift that our first parents were free from death

        Why would your deity create so many life forms to suffer and die for hundreds of millions of years in order to give one species a preternatural gift of being free from death?

        That there is no evidence for this preternatural gift makes your assertion even more difficult to swallow. .

        • TomD123

          The evidence for the preternatural gift is in God's revelation.

          I don't know why God does what He does. That said, I do know that the world wasn't just created for man. It was created to manifest God's glory and to share in His happiness with men, angels, and possibly other rational creatures as well

          • David Nickol

            The evidence for the preternatural gift is in God's revelation.

            Where is the evidence that God gave Adam and Eve preternatural gifts?

            Since the story of Adam and Eve is in figurative language, how can we conclude anything about Adam and Eve as persons? How can we even conclude there were such persons?

            What other stories in the Bible are about real persons but are told in figurative language?

            Was there a Garden of Eden? Were there two special trees—the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life? Did a serpent really talk to Eve? Was the offense of Adam and Eve really the eating of forbidden fruit? If Adam and Eve had snuck back into the Garden after being expelled and eaten from the Tree of Life, would they have lived forever?

          • TomD123

            Some of these questions we do not know. What we know is taken from the way in which the early Church interpreted the stories, the sense of Scripture itself, the other parts of Scripture, the greater and immediate context of Scripture, etc. Ultimately, it is the decision of the Catholic Church. Catholics regard this decision as infallible because we believe Jesus founded the Church and gave it the special protection from error.

            As for specifics, the Church hasn't been entirely clear however generally theologians hold that there had to be a historical first sin otherwise original sin wouldn't make sense. Secondly, since the New Testament talks about sin entering the world through one man, and because most theologians have interpreted Scripture as telling us that original sin is passed down "through generation and not imitation" we hold that there was a literal Adam and Eve. The Church teaches they were free from death as a preternatural gift.

            Since I have reasons to believe the Church is infallible, I take the fact that the Church teaches something as evidence in fact, as conclusive evidence for that truth. This is not irrational as I just said, I have independent reason for believing what the Church teaches to be true.

    • Erick Chastain

      Adam had perfect chastity, so he had no need for growth in virtue. However, when he made the choice of original sin, he lost this. Then to restore perfect chastity in Adam and his descendants, God allowed death, etc (so they could grow in virtue, qua Fr Spitzer).

      • David Nickol

        Adam had perfect chastity, so he had no need for growth in virtue.

        You write as if chastity were the only virtue. Wikipedia identifies seven heavenly virtues as follows: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility.

        Then to restore perfect chastity in Adam and his descendants, God allowed death, etc . . . .

        I don't see how death, in and of itself, has done much to promote chastity.

        It seems important to me to be clear that God didn't "allow" death. Death is a creation of God. The Fall is often discussed as something that happened to the human race as a result of their sin. However, things didn't just "happen." They had to be imposed by God. Humans didn't "lose" anything as a result of the fall. It was taken from them. If humans had "preternatural gifts," they didn't lose them. God took them back.

        • Erick Chastain

          of course Adam had the rest of the virtues as well. But chastity is most relevant for explaining the lack of concupiscence.

          There were things taken from us, by our own choice to not be virtuous (in other words, we took them from ourselves). Our original sin took from us perfection in virtue, which led to our being subject to the evil one's influence. Before the fall, we were not his subjects or under his influence in any way. Death is not a creation of God. It is the work of the evil one. He created the evil one, sure, but only as a potentially evil being.

          • David Nickol

            Death is not a creation of God.

            Of course it is. How could it not be?

            It seems to me quite clear that Adam and Eve were created mortal. Otherwise, why is God so concerned that they not eat from the tree of life?

            Unless you subscribe to the fundamentalist view, it has to be the case that death existed from the dawn of life on earth. Virtually all living things eventually died from the origin of life on earth up to the time the first humans on earth could possibly have lived (and, of course, this continues today). Not only did innumerable individual living things die before "Adam and Eve" could possibly have existed, but innumerable species went extinct. Death is just as much a part of nature as life is.

          • Erick Chastain

            By Death I meant human death. Adam and Eve could not possibly have been mortal if they had perfect virtue. For example, Mary could have been immortal if she had not elected to die because of her perfect virtue (due to the immaculate conception) in order to be assumed into heaven. At least within catholic theology human mortality is due to a lack of perfect virtue.

          • mriehm

            Death is required for evolution to work. In fact, aging evolved - those early life forms that aged and died had an evolutionary advantage (at the DNA/species level) over those that did not. All life forms age and die. Always have, always will. Mankind evolved. Ergo humans have always aged and died. No exceptions.

          • TomD123

            This doesn't show that Catholic theology is wrong however. The Church teaches that freedom from death was a preternatural gift. Even though humans are naturally subject to death, it does not follow that there is no possibility of God preserving them from death as a special gift.

          • TomD123

            I don't think this is correct. Human nature is such that we die, regardless of virtue. It was a special gift from God for our first parents that they could be free from death. They disobeyed, meaning all people since are subject to death

          • Erick Chastain

            So by this reasoning was Mary mortal by nature? That is, did she have to die even if she did not choose to do so? She is our model of perfect virtue. We can never attain perfection of virtue like her because we were born with original sin and she wasn't.

          • TomD123

            I think she was subject to death just as anyone else is. Did she die? I do not know, as it is entirely possible that God gave her a special gift to preserve her from death, but not necessary. Jesus was sinless but He died and the reason that He could die is because He was human, That said, of course Jesus and Mary were both free of certain effects of original sin

          • mriehm

            In fact, death is a necessary evolutionary trait.

          • Erick Chastain

            Ok, so answer this question for me. If senescence evolved, and we know that there exist immortal lines of cells (HeLa cells for example), why is death a necessary evolutionary trait? Now we're just talking about biology. In fact, living organisms don't need to die, because these immortal lines of cells exist.

      • mriehm

        If he had perfect chastity, why was he equipped with reproductive organs? And since humans evolved within the animal world, and since in their evolutionary drive to further their genes animals can be a randy lot, how is it that a sexual step function occurred between Adam's parents (who had sex) and Adam (who initially didn't)? Exactly how did Adam and Eve manage to control their raging youthful sex drives, which are a product of evolution? And did Adam manage to control his subconscious in avoidance of wet dreams?

        There is a dichotomy between evolution and Eden.

        • Erick Chastain

          Actually God tells Adam to be fruitful and multiply, but of course this can be done with perfect chastity (chastity isn't the same as no sex, common misconception). I think that answers most of your objections. As for "wet dreams" and what not, since Adam was perfectly synchronized in both reason and body, his reason had supervenience over bodily processes, even while asleep. In fact, it is possible to prevent things like "wet dreams" from occuring, by still having the ability to reason and be aware even while being asleep. This state is called lucid dreaming, and even we can do it (as demonstrated here: http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v17/n6/full/nn.3719.html ).

          • mriehm

            Had the Fall not occurred, what would have been the state of the world after dozens of generations of fruitful but death-defying humans?

          • Erick Chastain

            Pretty great, actually. Because humans then couldn't die. I suppose the rest of the earth might die out though. But with our perfect reason we could probably have done amazing things, explored the universe without worrying about cryostasis etc. Amazing things!

          • mriehm

            Well, some 6000+ years after the Fall we still haven't managed to shed this little planet of ours. With the population doubling every 20 years and in the absence of death, our no-Fall population would be approximately 2**300. A tad crowded to be sure.

            I guess that the good thing is, that since no-Fall humans would not suffer, nor die, they would never starve to death, nor feel sharp pangs of hunger, so the feeding problem is managed.

          • Erick Chastain

            you got it! Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, amirite?

          • mriehm

            Well then I'm glad for the choice that Adam and Eve made. I would miss pizza.

            (Posted with all humour and no snideness.)

          • Erick Chastain

            I like pizza too. But I would like immortality better lol.

          • TomD123

            It isn't as though humans would have necessarily stayed on the world until the end of time though. Theologians generally held that they would be basically assumed body and soul into heaven at some point

          • mriehm

            I have no doubt that theologians assumed such poppycock, back in the days when "heaven" and "the heavens" were largely synonymous - i.e. when heaven was still imagined to be a physical place.

          • TomD123

            See, that in no way addresses my response, it is just a form of mockery.

            There are two points to be made: first of all, even if you are correct and that is what the theologians held, it does not change the plausibility of what I am saying. Humans theoretically could be moved body and soul from earth to another location, even one outside of the universe. There is no logical contradiction involved here hence the speculation retains whatever force you think it loses by the fact that the theologians held "the heavens" and "heaven" to be synonymous.

            Second, I cannot say which theologians did and didn't believe in a physical heaven, but it is simply untrue to say that all of them did or that it was the standard teaching. First off, the theologians all held that the soul was immaterial and therefore not bound in space. Second, even with risen bodies (as would be the case with Jesus and Mary or if there had been no fall all humans at the point of their passage from this life to the next life) they do not think that heaven is within the universe. In fact, St. Thomas didn't even seem to think they were really bound to a specific "place" in the sense that humans are now.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      "A world of suffering and death was not God's original plan, but is the result of a plan that went awry."

      I don't think Spitzer is arguing that God put suffering and death into human life because it was necessary for man's perfection. Rather, his musings are along the line of "If God would only permit evil because he could draw a greater good out of it (Aquinas' view), then what goods for man have come about through suffering and death?"

      • David Nickol

        I don't think Spitzer is arguing that God put suffering and death into human life because it was necessary for man's perfection.

        As I read him, not "necessary for," but so often helpful that they are worth having.

        Reread the second, third, and fourth paragraph of Fr. Spitzer's post. He's answering the question why God created an imperfect world. And he says, "The brief answer lies in the fact that a perfect natural order would leave no room for weakness and vulnerability; yet weakness and vulnerability induce many positive human characteristics . . . ." The paradox (or maybe just self-contradiction) is that Spitzer is saying God didn't create a perfect world because an imperfect one would be better. As I have said a couple of times now, if an imperfect world is better than a perfect world, what does perfect mean?

    • Jonathan Brumley

      I agree with Tom that, because of His foreknowledge of human choices, we can't talk about "original plan" and "revised plan" when talking about God. Our world of suffering and death is not "the result of a plan that went awry". The consequence of the fall is part of "the plan within the plan", and that plan is _the_ plan.

      God's contingent will before the fall was that Adam and Even would choose love without the need for suffering. By forbidding the tree of knowledge of good&evil, He gave the opportunity for growth in love and virtue, in relationship with Him, without the need for suffering. But in foreseeing original sin, He predestined an even greater plan for redemption of sinners - that we might obtain an even greater end through suffering and the grace of Christ.

      The Easter Vigil expresses this sentiment: "O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem" - which translates to "O happy fault that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer."

  • David Nickol

    We cannot say that human beings require suffering in order to move from
    the more superficial levels of happiness/identity to the higher (most
    pervasive, enduring, and deep) ones . . . However, this
    more positive impetus to move toward the more pervasive, enduring, and
    deep identity can be assisted by suffering, weakness, and vulnerability . . . .

    But how often do "suffering, weakness, and vulnerability" break people rather than make them stronger?

    • Erick Chastain

      Don't misunderstand Fr Spitzer here, he's not saying that suffering makes us stronger. That was Nietzche ("what does not kill me makes me stronger"). Maybe you can argue with the Nietzche-atheists about your assertion that he was wrong about that. Fr Spitzer is actually talking about growing weaker, more frail, more vulnerable, so as to be open to the truth that nothing in this world can serve us in a non-transient sense. In fact, what you call "breaking" is the recognition that the ordinary pleasures of this world are broken and the anguish that comes from that is enough to incapacitate people. But us broken people look at the world then as in a state of denial, and grow in happiness again when we realize that there are more enduring things than friends or family or a PNAS paper/Nobel Prize.

  • I thank the editors for publishing this piece which I think goes to the heart of the kinds of discussions I understand is the purpose of this site.

    That said, I disagree with just about everything written above. To recap the problems of evil, the challenge to theists is that if God is all powerful and all good, there would be no gratuitous suffering or evil in the world. Theists respond that human caused suffering is necessary to allow for free will. I don't accept this explanation, but lets grant it for the sake of argument. The next question is then, what is the purpose of all the desperate suffering that millions of humans experience daily which seems to be gratuitous. Keep in mind, even even one incidence of suffering is not absolutely necessary for God's higher purpose, it is gratuitous and an all powerful all good God would have prevented it.

    The answer proposed here is difficult for me to draw out, but it seems to be that if god created a world in which humans were incapable of suffering due to natural causes, he would also be precluding some kind of personal/social/spiritual growth.

    The obvious counter is that we can easily imagine a multitude of terrible suffering that could be gone in a wink of Gods eye and change really nothing in terms of our capacity for personal growth. Deaths injury from lightning strikes is an obvious example. These things are so unlikely that they were considered by many to be only possible through a God. For hundreds of years they would strike the tallest building in town, usually a church. If god had seen fit to inspire someone before Ben Franklin with the insight to invent the lightning rod, think how many churches would have survived? If no one was ever hit by lightning, do you really think that our ability for personal and spiritual growth would be in any significant way hampered? If Alzheimer's disease just never arose, do you think we would we would be living in a utopia without the capacity to grow and learn, help others etc? Right down to a person who one day has a slight headache, do you think if this didn't happen we would be no incapable of significant growth?

    • David Nickol

      It has long seemed to me that there is a much higher potential for human pain than for human pleasure. I think it is fairly common in medicine to ask patients to rate pain on a scale from 1 to 10 (or 0 to 10). If we rate pleasure the same way, it seems to me one can experience a relatively brief period of time (seconds or minutes) at the very top of the scale, but when it comes to pain, some unfortunate people spend days, months, or even years with severe pain.

      We are told that pain is valuable because it is a signal that something is wrong and needs to be attended to. That is sometimes quite true, but of course many people suffer from chronic, severe pain when they know what is wrong and are doing their best to deal with it. Pain can serve a purpose, but one of the great problems with it is that you can't turn it off after it has served that purpose.

      • Erick Chastain

        chronic pain actually is very useful for learning in the long run how to forgive others and be patient with them. For example, my mother after months of chronic pain was very patient, and forgiving of anything I had done to wrong her. Before then she wasn't.

        • David Nickol

          chronic pain actually is very useful for learning in the long run how to forgive others and be patient with them.

          No doubt some people may deal with misfortune—such as chronic pain, loss of a loved one, illness, blindness, and all the other things we fear and dread—in such a way that they become a "better person." But I find it disturbing that you would say, "Chronic pain actually is very useful . . . ." Would you really prescribe chronic pain as a learning experience for the betterment of anyone's character? Would you try to prevent modern medicine from alleviating chronic pain? Chronic pain often leads to depression, and depression can lead to suicide. Chronic pain is a physical evil. It doesn't make anyone a better person. How a person chooses to react to chronic pain may be beneficial to them in some way, but the pain itself is not.

          • Erick Chastain

            Certainly chronic pain isn't a good which one should will on anyone. If it happens to someone though, they can learn from Christ how to bear it patiently for the sake of the salvation of others (through offering it up in prayer in union with his passion). For those who repudiate Christ chronic pain is senseless, sure, and this can lead to depression. But this is why spreading the Gospel is so important.

          • David Nickol

            For those who repudiate Christ chronic pain is senseless, sure, and this can lead to depression. But this is why spreading the Gospel is so important.

            You are not implying, are you, that only Christians can choose react to, and to cope with, chronic pain in such a way as to become a "better person"? Or that only those who "repudiate Christ" can become depressed (or even commit suicide) as a result of chronic pain?

            I would say that most (if not all) chronic pain is "senseless." If Christians can find a way to deal with chronic pain, it is not because the pain is "meaningful." I find hints in your messages that you believe "everything happens for a reason." If you are hit by a car and suffer chronic pain as a result, it is because God wanted you to be hit by a car, and the chronic pain is supposed to be for your own good. If you "repudiate Christ" you will just suffer and perhaps grow discouraged and depressed. If you accept the pain as a "blessing" from Christ, you will become a "better person." I cannot accept that at all.

          • Erick Chastain

            No, non-christians can of course see purpose and meaning in suffering. Soldiers who aren't christian, for example. I just meant that for those who are non-christians and don't see any meaning in suffering, giving them the Gospel could help them to use their suffering for good.

            If you got hit by a car, God didn't want you to be hit by a car. He allowed it to happen. It is the difference between positively willing something, or allowing it to happen by giving the human behind the wheel of the car a free will and that human being being so far from God he is careless. The chronic pain isn't for your own good. But God can bring good out of this unnecessary thing imposed on you by careless drivers. You won't always become a "better person." It isn't all about personal growth. It is about helping others using your pain by offering the pain as a sacrifice for others' salvation.

          • Danny Getchell

            Millions of people begin to suffer from painful cancers every year.

            Millions of others do not.

            Does God have any role in determining which is which, or is it a matter of chance??

          • Erick Chastain

            The cause of cancer is the laws of biochemistry/selection pressure on tumors, so not chance. God ordered created things to him. But he does not interfere with their causal influence on each other. Thus he allowed it to happen by giving causal powers to human cells.

          • David Nickol

            The cause of cancer is the laws of biochemistry/selection pressure on tumors, so not chance.

            This can't be correct from a Catholic point of view. What you are describing is determinism. (I have somewhat of an open mind when it comes to believing in determinism, but a Catholic cannot.) First, a person who makes a free choice, say, not to smoke may avoid cancer by his or her own free will. Second, cancer caused by, say, a cosmic ray that triggers a mutation is indeed caused by chance.

            I am no expert here, but I think you are mixing up proximate causes with ultimate causes. Socrates died because hemlock interferes with muscle movement making it impossible for a person who has ingested a lethal dose of the poison to breathe. However, had Socrates not ingested the poison, he would not have died. So you can't say the reason Socrates died was the laws of biochemistry. To the extent that Socrates made a free choice, he was the cause of his own death.

            But he does not interfere with their causal influence on each other.

            So are you saying it can't do any good to pray for a sick person to recover? Or to pray for a hurricane or a tornado to dissipate or at least veer in a direction where it will do the least damage? If God does not interfere with causal influences, how can there be miracles?

          • Erick Chastain

            This is a thing one can only understand if one reads about primary and secondary causes. The following article, which I referred you to before, describes this: http://www.dspt.edu/cms/lib07/CA02001169/Centricity/Shared/pdfs/Academics/Ad%20Gentes/2012_winter_Ad%20Gentes_web.pdf

          • Max Driffill

            This clearly isn't true if you believe in miracles.

          • Erick Chastain

            why not?

          • Danny Getchell

            You're missing the point of my question Erick, but perhaps I've phrased it poorly. Let me try a different wording.

            Suppose that my brother is diagnosed with a painful and terminal cancer, and I remain healthy. There are no environmental or lifestyle factors (things my brother could have done or not done) in play.

            Is there any choice made by God (whether active or passive) which determines our specific fates: that my brother dies of cancer and I do not???

          • Erick Chastain

            He allowed the cancerous tumors to continue acting according to their nature for your brother. For you he changed the nature of the cancerous tumors so that they took up again the causal powers they had as healthy cells (which they never lost, but instead were downplayed by the causal powers of cancerous cells). So God didn't add any new causal powers or interfere with any causes, just changed the nature of the thing.

          • Danny Getchell

            So, should I be pleased that God tweaked my cells to avoid the cancer, or should I be disappointed that I was denied the opportunity to experience all that "suffering for good" which is in store for my bro??

          • Erick Chastain

            Also, of course everything happens for a reason. The laws of physics, lol. Are you denying laws of nature? I guess evolution doesn't exist either. But, does everything happen because it is in a blueprint that God drew up in advance down to every decision or natural cause? No. He left open room for purely natural causes and free will. Then with these constraints was able to make good of what happened as a result. If you are curious about what critical, reasoning christians say about creation and God's providence, look at http://www.dspt.edu/cms/lib07/CA02001169/Centricity/Shared/pdfs/Academics/Ad%20Gentes/2012_winter_Ad%20Gentes_web.pdf

        • mriehm

          Some people don't require pain to reach such plateaus of understanding. So your mother must have done something very bad to warrant that method of teaching.

          • Erick Chastain

            I have yet to meet a person who lived an easy life that developed the capability to be perfectly compassionate and infinitely patient, even loving, embracing and helping enemies. Keep in mind that the standard I was talking about was super-human, not the ordinary kind.

          • mriehm

            Well you've done well to define the standard as being "super-human" - neatly repudiating in advance any earthly example I might give. Nicely done!

          • Loreen Lee

            This reminds me, (rhetorically) about a passage in scripture, where someone asks Jesus i the reason someone who he is healing was suffering because he had 'done something bad'. Jesus replied that no, the answer was that he was 'ill' so that he could be an example of the salvatory effects of the healing power of Jesus, (or words/thought/ to that effect.)
            It thus reminds me of an interaction of understanding that is on-going between for example, the Buddhist explanation of suffering, i.e. cause and effect of karmic law, and 'suffering endured for a purpose', which is to my understanding closer to the Western salvation explanation. In both of these examples, I believe a common element is that each in its own way involved a development of awareness or consciousness.

          • mriehm

            Were there a reason for suffering, I could understand. But of course there isn't. In this world, random bad thing happen to random people, and there is no pattern of meaning or justice behind it. It just happens.

            And I avoid use of the word "evil", because it implies intention, and it implies the supernatural. There is nothing "evil" about Ebola, Parkinson's, malaria, or for that matter humanity being wiped out by an asteroid strike or a nearby supernova event. Were such a catastrophe to occur, it would have no more meaning than the hundreds of thousands of dead from the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Bad things happen on the individual scale, and on the community scale, and on the world scale, and the universe is indifferent.

            If there were a pattern of justice to it, I could believe in higher powers. But there isn't, and so I can't.

            The Eastern concept of reincarnation and karma is another theological approach to the problem. It has the very unfortunate consequence of inducing indifference in humans - "that person is suffering because of what they did in their last life, and so there's nothing we can do."

            The Christian approach, while equally unjustified and unbelievable, at least results in a better social response to those who suffer.

          • Loreen Lee

            I fully appreciate the distinctions you have made. This especially with respect to the cosmic vs. human explanations of suffering. In my 'study' of Buddhism I found very often that it did not give me the ability to distinguish between them. Perhaps in the case of Buddhism the cosmic explanation is applied to the human 'samsara', while in the case of Christianity the reverse happens, and conscious attribution is applied to natural events. Just wondering..

          • Maxximiliann

            Here is why suffering exists: http://bit.ly/11EyvgO

    • Kevin Aldrich

      "The challenge to theists is that if God is all powerful and all good,
      there would be no gratuitous suffering or evil in the world."

      I don't see how this is so. God can be all powerful and all good and yet have a sufficiently good reason for permitting suffering and evil.

      • He can, it just seems to many of us that some of the suffering is without purpose or reason. Whether it is fatal childhood disease or a statue of the pope killing someone.

        I'm not buying that God is interested in curing an aging doctor's radiodetmititis, but lets the children of thousands of praying catholic parents die of leukaemia.

      • Danny Getchell

        Kevin, if you have the ability to alleviate the suffering of a fellow human, are you permitted as a Christian to decide not to do so, because you believe that in the long run, the suffering will be better for him, or for the larger world?

        And if the answer is "no", how do you know by alleviating that suffering you are working toward God's ends, or against them??

        • Kevin Aldrich

          The answer is no because it is not up to me to decide.

          By alleviating that suffering, I know I am working toward God's ends because of the parable of the sheep and the goats (Mt 25:31-46).

    • Luke Everett O’Brien

      Brian, here is an introductory article from elsewhere that you might find more satisfying, or at least worth reading if you are interested

      http://newapologetics.com/ten-questions-and-answers-on-the-why-of-human-suffering

      • I didn't find it answered my criticism. If seen these apologetics for years. Free will does not justify the suffering of millions caused by things that are utterly uninfluenced by human decisions. Lightning, meteors, hurricanes, genetic disease.

        I simply do not agree that original sin or continuing sin causes the hundreds of thousands of deaths by storm alone. That an 6 week old's death in an earthquake is caused by some other people's sins. If this is the case, what a desperately terrible situation. Rather than have it so that we can trace the suffering caused by our sin to the source? Without this, when Katrina devastated the gulf coast, was Pat Robertson then correct to speculate on what sins caused it? If not, what is the point of all this suffering? If we can't learn from it or even know what we did that caused it, why not stop the deaths of millions? Why not in the very least stop the statue of one of his popes teetering and crushing a man to death when he came to pay worship you.

        • Luke Everett O’Brien

          Brian, it would certainly seem that way. Note that because something is "caused by sin" this does not mean that it is no longer evil or hideous, the suffering the manifests itself meaninglessly and mercilessly on whomever still remains an atrocity. Also, I would add that although people can learn from suffering, the suffering still remains meaningless in itself (that is apart from the redemption), as all suffering is. I agree this has more to it than simply "free will", it has to do with Gods irrevocable and complete gift to humanity (this does not mean suffering and death are gifts from God), the interconnection between human persons, and complete unwillingness to compromise gift on Gods part. It means that all that can be possibly be given away by God to finite beings is irrevocably given away, this included making each human maximally important to the well being of every other in such a way that we are all interconnected. Even if the potential misuse could cause disaster, it is given away never the less, as God will not allow fear of evil to compromise his gift.

          This of course is still just getting into it, and is simply a way of showing how things can possibly fit together and is not an argument for its truth

          Here is another introductory article that touches on similar points in case you are interested, although I know I might be over doing it ;)

          http://newapologetics.com/the-theodicy-of-divine-chastity

          • I think you do agree that it looks like there is gratuitous suffering even given the afterlife etc.

            Unless you have some reasons why God would allow such suffering, I think you are left with skeptical theism.

          • Luke Everett O’Brien

            All suffering in itself is gratuitous and meaningless, however God will not negate his gift due to fear of its abuse, as this would be a compromise. Apart from the redemption, all suffering is meaningless and gratuitous. This does not entail skeptical theism, as Waves of meaningless (apart from the redemption) and gratuitous suffering are to be expected if the Catholic view is true

          • I don't think all suffering is gratuitous, do you really? A child suffers when she is vaccinated, the vaccination, is sufficient reason to cause the child suffering. Not sure you grasp what I mean by gratuitous. It means unjustified. Are you really saying that God allows us to suffer without justification?

          • Luke Everett O’Brien

            I am saying on the Catholic view, suffering was not apart of the original plan to begin with. No amount of suffering is approved of by God or has *intrinsic* meaning in itself. All suffering/detriment is an incidental byproduct that resulted from an abuse of power. Would God approve of suffering because it can amount to some good? no as this would be a compromise. I am saying on the Catholic view all suffering is not in accordance with Gods original plan, no matter how small and he still does not approve of it in any way. Wouldn't it be better get a vaccine without pain in the first place (or not even to need them)? Now can some good result from suffering, such as say learning from it? Sure however it does not follow that suffering is then intrinsically meaningful in any way it only means that some good can be brought from it, although it would have been better for there to be no pain at all, for surely it would be better to learn without pain

            Even if certain goods come as the end result of suffering, it would be better to simply have the end result without the pain
            .
            Only through the redemption, can suffering gain maximal importance, however apart from that is is only meaningless disaster and detriment.

          • David Nickol

            I am saying on the Catholic view, suffering was not apart of the original plan to begin with.

            But we know that by the time human beings came on the scene, suffering was common among animals. How were human beings going to be exempt? What if Eve stubbed her toe against a rock, or a coconut fell on Adam's head?

          • Luke Everett O’Brien

            The immunity to suffering and death that would have been present in the human sphere would have been preternatural gifts from God. This Original state it called “Original Justice” in which all of humanity would have been providentially in harmony such that there was no lack or
            conflict, regardless of what was going on in the animal world.

            In regards to animal suffering here is a quote from Fulton Sheen

            “Notice also that the world is out of joint before man arrived in it. Somewhere in God’s universe there is a crack, a fissure. Something has gone wrong, and it has gone wrong because someone did not use freedom rightly. Someone used freedom in the sense of ‘the right to do
            whatever you please’. Look back over the evolution of the universe. See all of the prehistoric animals that have come into being and passed away. Everywhere in the unfolding of the cosmos there have been biological sprouts that came to dead ends. Everywhere, there are blind alleys. But you ask, “Why should the sin of the angels affect the universe?” Well, one reason might be that lower creation was put under the supervision of some of the angels. And when they rebelled against God, the effects of it in some way registered in the material universe. Nature became dislocated. Look at a complicated machine: Disturb one
            of the big wheels, break a cog, and you will also disturb all of the little wheels. Throw a rock into a pond, it will affect, in some way, through ripples, even the most distant shore. It could be, therefore, the fall of the angels accounted for maybe the chaos that was on the earth as described in the Book of Genesis. There is every indication that something went wrong before man was made.”(Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Original Sin and Angels)

            (The site that I posted a link to has more to say on this matter, in fact that is where I got this quote fom

          • David Nickol

            There is every indication that something went wrong before man was made.

            This is pure conjecture on the part of one man. It is not Catholic doctrine. It is (in my opinion) a rather desperate attempt to rejigger the doctrine of the Fall to accommodate modern scientific findings by attributing many effects that were once attributed to the Fall of man back to the "fall of the angels." We now know that what had been attributed to the Fall of man (death, disease, predation, etc.) existed long before man came on the scene.

            See all of the prehistoric animals that have come into being and passed away.

            Anyone who thinks it could or should have been otherwise completely misunderstands the theory of evolution.

          • Luke Everett O’Brien

            You are correct that what is quoted it is not positively stated/ taught in fundamental Catholic Doctrine (unlike original justice)

            This is not an argument for the truth of Catholic doctrine or Catholicism in general, it is simply a theodicy that accounts for all the data, which is a good first step. the Catholic church does positively teach about a state of original justice (which contradicts the content of this article), and the fall of angels prior to the fall of man. This state of Original Justice concerns humans (not the animal kingdom).

            Evolutionary theory fits in just fine with what one should expect on the Catholic view, that is life coming about through a death infested blood bath. As fallen angels if they were to exist would be intent on bringing about the negation of mankind, and their lack of cooperation would put a kink in any process that it depended on.

            Death disease and infestation of "Man" are attributed to the fall of man, this does not entail the anything in the animal kingdom

          • Right, I'm not sure you understood the evidential problem of evil, but I think you do now.

            The challenge is basically to ask you, as a Catholic, why God does not save the life of a two year old with a painful and fatal disease. We can agree that he is powerful enough, that he knows this is happening, that he doesn't want the child or parents to suffer. The question is why does God not save this child's life? Not why is the child dying.

            I think we can also agree that the painful death of a two year old is not justified by the child or parent's later redemption as all could still be redeemed AND not spend a year watching their precious child die painfully. I think we can agree no two year old deserves to die because anything she did in life, or as justice for one of the parent's sins. I think we can also agree that we cannot think of any reason why God would not intervene here. He saves people all the time with miracles, through holy sites and saints.

            The skeptical theist position states that god doesn't intervene because he has good moral reasons, we just can't imagine what they are.

          • Luke Everett O’Brien

            I will be leaving one last post here and continuing discussion else-ware. If you would like to continue after this last post let me know and I would be happy to do so via another forum as this is all off topic here.

          • Luke Everett O’Brien

            “Right, I'm not sure you understood the evidential problem of evil,but I think you do now.

            The challenge is basically to ask you, as a Catholic, why God does not save the life of a two year old with a painful and fatal disease. We can agree that he is powerful enough, that he knows this is happening, that he doesn't want the child or parents to suffer. The question is why does God not save this child's life? Not why is the child dying.”

            I understand, and thank you. The “evidential problem” is used as a probabilistic inductive argument (and it shows that those making it actually care about people). It asserts that the co-existence of an all powerful, good God and the amount of evil and disaster we are constantly afflicted by highly improbable. After all it seems like the so called “god” is not helping at all, does not exist, does not care, or is somehow approving of evil and violating our dignity so it seems he either does not exist or his existence is trivial.

            “I think we can also agree that the painful death of a two year old is not justified by the child or parent's later redemption as all could still be redeemed AND not spend a year watching their precious child die painfully.”

            We can agree in part

            The “redemption” is not some prize one gets after running a gauntlet, that certainly would not be enough, and if it was it would still entail a previous state of the given person being permanently diminished at some point in their past
            and hence they would not “redeemed in the first place.

            God does not approve of evil or let it happen because it can be “redeemed” as this would be approving of evil as a means to an end. And it would also negate the entire meaning of the redemption in the first place.

            The reason there would be apparent suffering that God is not helping with is because it would be logically impossible for him to intervene on the account that he is perfectly opposed to evil and diminished. This bit is what is discussed in the articles I linked.

            "I think we can agree no two year old deserves to die because anything she did in life, or as justice for one of the
            parent's sins."

            100% agree

            "I think we can also agree that we cannot think of any reason why God would not intervene here. He saves people all the time
            with miracles, through holy sites and saints."

            The only reason he would not be able to intervene would be if it involves him compromising with evil/diminishing as a means to an end. The gist of this was discussed in the articles. In regards to miraculous healings, that is a more detailed question, but can be summed up in relation to Gods irrevocable delegation of actual power and influence to finite beings. Who become necessary intermediaries, finite beings necessarily also play a role in miraculous
            healings, if there is a break in community and lack of cooperation via finite beings then what is mean to be a gift from God through finite beings will never be actualized as it otherwise could have been. This includes healing amongst
            other things.

            “The skeptical theist position states that god doesn't intervene because he has good moral reasons, we just can't imagine what they are.”

            Understood, I do not grant this position (that is skeptical theism as I have heard it), nor does the defense I sited (which can be found via the same source I linked to) entail
            it. In fact from what I have seen I think we can know what those reasons for apparent non-intervention are. They are outlined in the articles I linked.

            Skeptical theism from what I have seen also usually seems to entail and “end justifies the means” approach, which assumes that not all suffering is gratuitous and/or
            that that God is just fine with suffering because it is possible for some positive outcome to obtain

            This type of diety is not worthy of consideration either, and is not in accordance Catholic doctrine

            The defense I briefly mentioned, does not entail skeptical theism, and serves as a defeater for any inductive/evidential argument against Catholicism. It also does not involve committing to any of the following notions: God approves of evil as a means to an end, God has some unknown reason for allowing it and we don’t or cannot know
            why, and/or, some amount of evil is not gratuitous…

            I can provide a link to the formal argument if you are interested (hint: is it from the same source as the other links)

            Now as one can gather although this serves as a “technical” defeater. It still leaves the existential reality if suffering and the “why” to be dealt with. This was the
            purpose of the introductory articles I posted as they deal with these issues specifically.

          • I'm afraid I don't see curing a child's leukaemia is compromising with evil. A doctor is not compromising with evil when he provides a cure, why would god be? God need not compromise, he can just eliminate disease. Why not? Goodness he knew we were going to discover antibiotics and vaccines which could have saved millions. Instead, his rules prohibit wearing mixed fabrics and which milk is okay to boil goats in.

            I can't cut and paste with the device I am using on this site, but the crux of your argument here is in the paragraph commencing with "the reason there would be apparent suffering..." I don't understand that sentence, could you rephrase it?

            You say god has an irrevocable delegation? So God is not powerful enough to revoke his own delegation? Are you saying that when god heals through a miracle at a holy site, he has delegated this power? To what, a statue of the virgin?

    • mriehm

      I think God created the angels but was immensely bored with them, all so perfect and everything. Satan provided some interest for a wee while, but even that proved dull, when he couldn't give his evil a rest from time to time. So monotonous!

      So black and white. So dull.

      So He created the physical universe, full of chaos and randomness and meaninglessness. He created it such that, out of that chaos, sentient life would evolve. Living in an imperfect (impartial; often-cruel) universe, this sentient life would reflect the universe, with chaos and cruelty and beauty and randomness and heartbreaking sacrifice and unjust death and empires and art and despair and hope and everything in between.

      Much more interesting!

  • David Nickol

    If an imperfect world is better than a perfect world, what exactly does perfect mean?

    • TomD123

      No world by definition can be perfect since only God is perfect in the strict sense.

      The real question is whether or not a world with a certain kind of imperfection is better than a different kind of imperfection. For instance- is a world with physical suffering a better world than one without physical suffering? Well it depends on the other kinds of imperfections and what God's ultimate plan for man and the rest of His creation is.

      • David Nickol

        No world by definition can be perfect since only God is perfect in the strict sense.

        Are you saying that a perfect creator cannot make a perfect creation? As I said above, what exactly does perfect mean? It seems more likely to me that we would expect a perfect creator to create only perfect things, and yet you imply a perfect creator can only create imperfect things.

        Does this mean human beings, after they have died and gone to heaven, or more importantly, after the resurrection of the dead, will live in an imperfect world?

        I am guessing you want to argue that only God is perfect, and since he can't create himself, any creation is necessarily "not God" and consequently not perfect. But I don't accept "not God" as the definition of perfect.

        • TomD123

          Your last paragraph somewhat sums up what I would say. Perfection can be considered absolutely or in some respect. So a perfect watch is not perfect in the absolute sense, only as a watch. Perfection means being complete in every way. In the absolute sense, that is, in the sense of being, only a necessary being can be truly perfect hence only God can be truly perfect and could not create a perfect creation.

          However, things can reflect this absolute perfection by being by having certain kinds of perfections or degrees of perfection. This isn't strictly speaking perfection but it is analogous to God's absolute perfection. Hence a perfect creator can create things that in various ways participate in or reflect the perfect creator by being instances of certain types of perfections (or being capable of attaining these perfections) even though in themselves they are not the fullness of perfection.

          For a human, perfection in the relevant sense is moral perfection which we can all strive towards. At the end of the world, we will still be imperfect in the absolute sense, however, heaven as heaven will not be lacking. Humans will be perfectly happy, although still not God. They likewise will be morally perfected, yet not in the sense that God is.

    • Erick Chastain

      We had a perfect world and decided we didn't want it (original sin). Giving us perfect reason and will is good for us. What could have been improved?

      • No one consulted me on this particular decision. I didn't get a vote.

        • Erick Chastain

          Indeed, but considering that Adam was more perfect in reason and more resistant to temptation than any of us, you wouldn't have chosen better. He made the choice for us and changed humanity forever. Why I say we is in recognition, with humility, that I am no better than Adam in my decision-making capabilities.

          • God gave us a hopeless task, we failed, and he punished us with death. There's a word for parents like that.

          • Erick Chastain

            It wasn't hopeless for Adam. Maybe for you or me because of our concupiscence. He made a choice and there is a possible universe in which he chose the right thing. Good parents allow their children the freedom to live their life how they wish. What you are advocating as good parenting is equivalent to me forcing my children to be Catholic. But many atheists consider that child abuse. So are you being inconsistent here?

          • It would seem a great deal more fair to me if everyone got the Adam-like choice from the vantage of the perfect start (God can surely suspend concpiscence), and the ones who pass get to stay in paradise, and the ones who fail get to go to Earth and go through all the struggle and hardship.

            Instead, one man makes a bad choice, and because of that bad choice, no one else could have made the good choice. Oh, and kids get cancer.

          • Erick Chastain

            I agree it wasn't fair before Jesus came. But express your frustration at Adam, because it is his fault. And he knew full well what he was doing and its implications for him and his descendants according to catholic theology: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1094.htm#article4

            Of course, we don't have to be too angry at Adam nowadays since God manifested as a human to reverse original sin, and thus we now are immortal again even in a bodily sense (in the long run).

          • God set up the system in the first place. The fact that he'd blame us for what Adam did puts the responsibility for childhood cancer squarely on his large shoulders.

          • Erick Chastain

            He didn't blame us for what Adam did because we ourselves would do it if given the chance, by our own nature. It is our fault just as much as it is Adam's. So hypotheticals of "if I were Adam, I would've done differently," are not applicable. You can't be Adam, I can't be either.

          • David Nickol

            He didn't blame us for what Adam did because we ourselves would do it if given the chance, by our own nature.

            If I understand you correctly, anyone in Adam's place would have done the same thing Adam did. If anyone in Adam's place would have made the same decision as Adam did, and if it was inevitable that Adam made the decision he did, then he was not free. If a decision is freely made, and always made in the same way—for example, if you offer a thousand people a choice between rotten eggs and their favorite flavor of ice cream—then the situation is rigged.

            I think it is not going out on a limb to say that it is definitely not Catholic teaching that Adam could not have made a choice other than the one he did, or that another person in his place would not have made a different decision.

            I think you are not talking about the Adam of the Bible, but rather an invented fellow of the same name given qualities to bolster the doctrine of original sin. Since even the Catechism acknowledges the story of Adam and Eve is in figurative language, it makes little sense to "flesh out" the characters of Adam and Eve and try to say what they were really like. What we know about Adam and Eve is similar to what we know about King Lear or David Copperfield—what is in the text, and nothing more.

          • Erick Chastain

            Adam had a free choice. I'm not saying he didn't. What I am saying is that we have original sin, so to say that we could ever be pre-fallen in nature and make Adam's decision would be a false hypothetical. Pre-fall Adam and us are incomparable. So we can't complain "that guy made a bad choice, I would've done differently in his place." No you wouldn't because you have a fallen nature. A version of you without a fallen nature could, perhaps, but that version of you doesn't exist! In fact such a version couldn't even be called you, they would be so different in nature.

          • David Nickol

            He didn't blame us for what Adam did because we ourselves would do it if given the chance, by our own nature.

            It seems to me that Adam (and Eve) had to have committed what the Catholic Church came to call mortal sin—an offense so serious that it cut them off (or they cut themselves off) from God. It seems quite wrong to me to claim that anyone put in the same situation would have committed a mortal sin. It would mean the situation was one in which no one was really free to make the right choice.

          • Susan

            He didn't blame us for what Adam did

            Exactly what did Adam do?

            we ourselves would do it if given the chance, by our own nature.

            The story is that the catholic deity created everything out of metaphysical nothingness, which suggests that this alleged deity is culpable. Baby cancer is a significant problem that doesn't seem appropriate to lay at our feet.
            Hypotheticals are not applicable except for your hypothetical "we ourselves would do it if given the chance". Why is yours applicable?
            Exactly what would we do given the chance?

          • Erick Chastain

            Adam committed the sin of pride of his own free will. Then his nature became corrupted, so he could die (before he was immortal). Because he was culpable for introducing death to humans, he is culpable for Baby cancer. Because we are already prone to sin, we would be easily tempted to pride.

          • He didn't give us the chance to take the test. And if the reason is that he knows we would have failed anyway, that every single person ever born would have failed the test, then he gave us an unfair test.

            I teach physics. If half of my students fail a test, it's probably their own fault. If 100% of my students fail the test, then it's probably my fault as a teacher. What God did is even stranger.

            Imagine I write a test and give it to the smartest student. She fails. I then decide to fail the entire class. Some of the students object. I answer "Well, Stacy is the smartest student in the class. She failed the test, and if she failed, none of you stood a chance. You all would have failed anyway. And, really, Stacy's test grade is as much your fault as it is Stacy's." I'd be fired. Maybe God should be fired?

          • George

            what did adam actually wish for? and why do many christian talkers turn around and instead say adam and eve were deceived?

            I don't see the purpose of the devil in christian theology. there doesn't seem to be a crucial role in what supposedly happened when the free will and informed rebellion of the supposed first parents is emphasized.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Paul, could you clarify what you mean by "we" and what the hopeless task was?

          • According to Erick, I was tested when Adam was. Since Adam was more resistant to temptation than I would have been, Adam's failure is my failure by proxy. I failed without even being given a try.

            I do have to ask, doesn't this literalistic understanding of Adam's sin and the introduction of evil into the world sound made up?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't see the task of a human being "hopeless" because of the Incarnation of Christ.

            "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that
            whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him."

          • I like an alternative but related narrative better, one that I think better encapsulates the spirit of John 3:16.

            The world is not the way it should be.

            Some power desires to make the world better, but is insufficiently powerful to fix everything immediately.

            This power is connected to Jesus in some way that will someday partly fix the world.

            That's the sort of Christianity/theism I hope to be true.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't see Erick's reading of the fall as literalistic. Rather is is a theological reading of a story.

            Chapter 3 of Genesis sounds to me like a myth that is meant to be believed literally and which contains many deep truths about human beings which are independent of whether or not original sin happened that way or not.

            An awful lot of true things sound made up to me, from quantum physics to where babies come from (before I knew).

          • It's true that strangeness isn't a good reason for denial. Provide sufficient evidence for Adam and Eve's existence (like a contemporary account from a witness) as well as some tested mechanism for how their actions initiated physical disasters and disease, and I'll believe it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I guess you could ask the serpent, but I think he's a liar.

          • To add in inquiry: What deep truths about human beings do you think the story of Adam and Eve reveals?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Here are some things I think the first three chapters of Genesis have to say about creation and stewardship, without hardly getting into the temptation and the fall.

            1. God is the sole creator of the universe.
            2. Everything God has created is good.
            3. The universe has a design and a purpose.
            4. The human race is singular and the summit of creation.
            5. The earth is for our use.
            6. Stewardship is man’s God-given mandate to direct wisely
            the development of the earth.
            7. Original sin has disrupted the harmony that ought to
            exist between humanity and the rest of the natural world.
            8. The world should be positively transformed through work.
            9. The goods of the earth belong to everyone.
            10. Solidarity should obtain among all people.

          • That's a good list. Thank you.

          • Susan

            An awful lot of true things sound made up to me, from quantum physics to where babies come from (before I knew).

            But evidence. Strange or not, the models of quantum physics and babies are supported by evidence.

            An awful lot of false things sound made up too. The Loch Ness Monster, vampires, ghosts, alien abductions....

            No evidence.

            Many true things might be strange but strange things aren't necessarily true.

            a myth that is meant to be believed literally and which contains many deep truths about human beings which are independent of whether or not original sin happened that way or not.

            What do you mean exactly?

          • Kevin Aldrich
          • Susan

            By deep truths, I meant something like this:

            You've provided no reason to accept the first seven as true.
            The last three are social contracts. I'm on board with them, but I'm not sure what you mean when you call them "true".

            There is no reason to think that one creation myth is special. It is a creation myth among many. Among many, many if we count the thousands which have been lost to history.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I was not attempting to prove to you that they were true.

            Whether Genesis is unique is a different topic and it is one I did not raise.

            Isn't you supposition that there are thousands of lost creation myths a pure supposition. If they are lost, why do you assume they ever existed?

          • Susan

            I was not attempting to prove to you that they were true

            You referred to them as "truths". What did you mean?

            My comment about Genesis being one more creation myth was a response to your claim of "truths". If I misunderstood what you mean by the word, please explain and feel free to ignore the creation myth point.

            Isn't you supposition that there are thousands of lost creation myths a pure supposition.

            It is. It's not necessarily true but as creation myths seem to be almost as common as language in the cultures with which we are familiar and we know cultures and their languages have existed and disappeared in huge numbers, it seemed reasonable to assume that there were many creation myths that disappeared along with the many cultures that no longer exist.

            It's possible that the only creation myths ever invented by humans are the ones that survive today.

            As humans are story tellers, I doubt it but will not press the point.

            I'm happy to stay with the main point that Genesis is just another creation myth and there are many creation myths.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't have the energy or time right now to argue how Genesis is a unique creation story--I have seen this argument made, though.

            I know you will not accept the following, but it attempts to explain how and why religions arose in the ancient world.

            Having the power of reason and intellect, we ponder abstract questions about ourselves, how we came to exist, how the world came into being—the meaning of life. Simply by observing the created world and reflecting upon it in this way, we grow in the awareness that there is a power and intelligence in the world beyond what our physical senses can perceive. We deduce that there must exist a supreme being, a Creator, who transcends the visible universe and who reveals himself through his creation. This is how all the religions of the world began to develop; and this is why virtually every culture in the world throughout history, no matter how primitive, has come to embrace belief in God (or gods) and develop religious rituals in order to celebrate and express that belief. Obviously, different peoples and cultures arrive at various understandings about the Deity (or deities) they affirm, but they all tend to acknowledge an intelligent, transcendent, and creative power—and it always begins with that search for answers to our deepest
            questions.

          • Susan

            I don't have the energy or time right now to argue how Genesis is a unique creation story

            Then, there is no reason to take the Adam and Eve story seriously. Quite reasonably, it is just another creation story. It is a story humans made up and any discussion that elevates it above that without doing the work to justify it is putting the cart before the horse.

            Simply by observing the created world and reflecting upon it in this way, we grow in the awareness that there is a power and intelligence in the world beyond what our physical senses can perceive.

            Ghosts, vampires and evil eyes.

            No. There is no justification for the phrase "grow in awareness". For that, we need evidence. And definitions of "power" and "intelligence". You can't just say we have feelings... therefore, your catholic deity.

            We get things wrong all the time. We can make stronger, still provisional assumptions (the earth orbits the sun, which is a star among hundreds of millions of stars in the Milky Way, which is a galaxy among hundreds of millions in our galaxy cluster, which is a cluster among hundreds of millions in the known universe)... that sort of thing. Wild but true.

            That is growing in awareness. Because there is evidence.
            You have referred to Adam and Eve stories as "truths" and implicitly as "divinely revealed".

            In any reasoned conversation, there is no reason to proceed backwards from your conclusion, no matter how comfortable you have grown with that approach.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            One truth that Catholics find in the first two chapters of Genesis is that all of material creation is in itself good (and human beings in themselves are very good). Whether or not this is objectively true, it has all kinds of potential for contributing to a happy life.

            Natural science cannot comment on this "truth," since it does not have the resources to make value judgments. Philosophy does, however.

            The Aristotelian/Thomistic synthesis has the principle of ontological good, which means that everything that has being is good simply because it has being, because it is real. One consequence of this is the idea that evil is nothing but the privation of some good that ought to be in something but is not.

          • David Nickol

            What does it mean to say that the ebola virus or the plague bacillus is "good"? Or the loa worm, the AIDS virus, or the malaria parasite? In what sense is a tsunami good?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think you know the answer from grade school. These living things are good in themselves because they have being. They are just not good for us.

            I don't think you can really refer to a tsunami as a thing. It is more like energy traveling through water. Energy is good in itself and so is water. Again, it is not good for you if you are a human being in its path.

            Aquinas puts it this way:

            Every being, as being, is good. For all being, as being, has actuality and is in some way perfect; since every act implies some sort of perfection; and perfection implies desirability and goodness. Hence it follows that every being as such is good.

          • David Nickol

            I think you know the answer from grade school.

            In the future, if you think I have asked a question that I already know the answer to from grade school, high school, or college, or any other source, feel free to ignore it.

            If anything that has being is good, then it seems to me good has no meaning other than "having being."

            For the record, while I would not claim my grade school education was fundamentalist, as best I can recall, we were taught that Adam and Eve were real persons, and that the Fall was the reason pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and parasites could harm us. While evolution was not denied, it wasn't taught, so there were no questions or answers about death and disease before the existence of humans. I certainly don't remember being taught (particularly in grade school) that all things (or all living things) are good in themselves because they have being.

            It seems to me that if a pathogen or predator that kills humans serves some other purpose in nature besides killing humans, then it might in some sense be good. But something like the small-pox virus that has only one "purpose" in nature—to infect and frequently kill human beings, can only be thought of as "good" if death itself is good.

            I had a friend in high school who insisted everything was perfect. A burnt-out lightbulb, for example, was perfect, because it did everything a burnt-out lightbulb was supposed to do. A dead battery (or a dead cat) was perfect because it was unequivocally what it was, and consequently was perfect. It sounds like he and Aquinas might have been able to reach agreement.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You could ask a hen what good human beings are and she'd probably say none.

            Good has more meaning than having being, but Aristotelian/Thomistic philosophers (and others) would say that all the transcendentals are convertable, so deep down being, good, beauty, and truth are the same thing.

          • David Nickol

            You could ask a hen what good human beings are and she'd probably say none.

            In Catholic thought, I don't believe a hen's-eye view of the universe is a particularly valid one. It seems to me that the universe is all about/for human beings. If any and every viewpoint is valid, then of course there are a near-infinite definitions of what good is. If you ask the small pox virus what people are for, you're going to get a different answer than if you ask people what people are for. But in determining what is good and not good, we don't consult hens or viruses.

          • Michael Murray

            Hens should be happy with vegans.

          • Susan

            Whether or not this is objectively true, it has all kinds of potential for contributing to a happy life.

            Now, we are down to saying that being is good without defining the term good. You are claiming a connection without showing your work.

            Also, by "truth", you don't mean objectively true but that's not important if it contributes to a "happy life". I won't even bother asking whose happy life as you made "truth" claims.

            It should be noted that you failed to support any of the first seven of your list of "truths", nor have you supported them in all the time I have spent here. Maybe pick a different word than "truth". It's ill-defined and misleading.

            Also important... you have not explained why the Genesis creation stories are special. The catholic arguments at SN generally proceed backwards from that conclusion without doing any work to justify the conclusion.

            all of material creation is in itself good

            What do you mean?

            (and human beings in themselves are very good)

            What do you mean?

            Natural science cannot comment on this "truth," since it does not have the resources to make value judgments. Philosophy does, however

            Philosophy would expect you to define your terms and support them.

            everything that has being is good simply because it has being, because it is real

            What do you mean?

          • David Nickol

            Paul, could you clarify what you mean by "we" and what the hopeless task was?

            Paul is responding to Erick Chastain who, if I understand his position, claims that Adam failed in whatever test he was put to, and being superior to all mankind by reason of having preternatural gifts, no man would have passed whatever test Adam failed. It seems to me Paul is interpreting Erick to mean that neither Adam nor anyone else could have lived up to God's expectations. I think Paul is correct in that interpretation. I think Erick is wrong. I think it is absolutely essential to Catholic thought that Adam (and Eve) could have made different choices than they did. I think it is also essential to Catholic thought that anyone else in Adam's place, preternatural gifts or not, could have made a truly free choice and not have transgressed. I think according to Catholic thought, anyone who freely makes a decision between right and wrong can always choose right. If that is not the case, then either the person is not choosing freely because of particular circumstances, or there is no such thing as free will.

            My own personal opinion, of course, is that there were not two people who were the "first parents" of the human race and whose transgression corrupted human nature. That God could have allowed the two utterly naive creatures in Genesis Chs 2-3 decide the fate of the whole human race is beyond belief. It would be too colossally unjust to believe even if science did not make the idea of "first parents" untenable.

          • Yep, you interpreted me correctly, and I think you interpreted Erick correctly.

            I agree with you also at the end. I think Adam and Eve story is made up because it sounds exactly like a made-up explanation for why there's evil. Maybe it's symbolic of some deeper reality, but there's no way it's literally true.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think your first paragraph is correct.

            I know you like to read Adam and Eve as naive, but I have never gotten that impression from Genesis and Catholic thinkers have not seen them that way either.

          • David Nickol

            Indeed, but considering that Adam was more perfect in reason and more resistant to temptation than any of us, you wouldn't have chosen better.

            How do you claim to know what Adam was like? Where in the Bible does it say this? Where in the Bible does it say Adam had "preternatural gifts"? Even if Adam was a historical figure (which is extraordinarily doubtful), all we can know about him is contained in Chs. 2-3 of Genesis. The elaboration of the story of Adam and Eve by the Church reminds me of something Mark Twain said about science, "One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact."

            If it weren't for the doctrine of original sin, the only people who would believe Adam and Eve were historical individuals would be fundamentalists. There is simply no other reason to hang on to the Genesis account of human origins from "first parents" other than to preserve the doctrine of original sin. There is nothing in Genesis that would hold up as evidence for the existence of Adam and Eve or the idea that the human race began with "first parents." The idea is totally discredited by science, and any attempt to save it is clearly in reality an attempt to save the doctrine of original sin.

          • mriehm

            Well said and bang-on the money. I have come to admire the fact, which I've learned primarily through this website, that Catholics don't completely bury their head in the sand against the onslaught of science.

            Catholic doctrine is willing to let go of the little things, and to downgrade former "fact" to allegory when needed, and to ignore the nastier bits of the bible, but of course the church will never give up the core doctrine of original sin and redemption by the son of God.

            When it's read as allegory, I rather like the account of Genesis - by setting down the path of knowledge, humanity left behind its prior, innocent, hunter-gatherer existence. But to read it in any sense literally is as misguided as reading the deluge in the same manner.

          • "I have come to admire the fact, which I've learned primarily through this website, that Catholics don't completely bury their head in the sand against the onslaught of science."

            Wonderful! I'm so glad you've come to see that Catholicism is not antithetical to, or afraid of, science.

            However, I'm not sure we'd use the word "onslaught", which implies that science is attacking the Catholic faith. This is far from the case. Faith and science are complementary and mutually beneficial, not enemies at battle.

            "Catholic doctrine is willing to let go of the little things, and to downgrade former "fact" to allegory when needed"

            Can you please provide one example of this? One case where the Catholic Church has "downgraded" a doctrine to something else? I'm not aware of any.

            Before answering, it should be noted that Catholic doctrine is not antithetical to allegorical interpretation. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church doctrinally prescribes an allegorical reading of the first chapters of Genesis.

          • Guest

            The notion that God approves of imperfection as a means to an end would be a downgrade from Catholic doctrine

          • "The notion that God approves of imperfection as a means to an end would be a downgrade from Catholic doctrine"

            I agree that God doesn't intend imperfection as a means to an end, but he can use it as such. Even still, that statement depends on a proper definition of the word "perfection." How do you define it?

          • Luke Everett O’Brien

            As in God would create things imperfect because there could be some "good result" hence approving of imperfection as a means to an end

          • Luke Everett O’Brien

            it sure would

          • Danny Getchell

            mriehm, this is why I think that Catholic apologists should publish a specially-printed bible, see below:

            https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/the_gods_of_israel_does_the_bible_promote_polytheism#comment-1318531206

          • "The idea [of Adam and Eve] is totally discredited by science, and any attempt to save it is clearly in reality an attempt to save the doctrine of original sin."

            There are two objections here merged into one sentence. The first concerns whether science has "discredited" the existence of Adam and Eve, and the second concerns the motives of those who hold the doctrine of original sin.

            First, science has not discredited the existence Adam and Eve, despite your unsupported assertion. Mike Flynn wrote an excellent article here at Strange Notions which demonstrates why contemporary evolutionary theory and Catholic teaching on Adam and Eve are compatible:

            Adam and Eve and Ted and Alice

            Second, I'm curious how you have discerned the motives of everyone who holds to the existence of Adam and Ev to conclude "any attempt to save [that belief] is clearly in reality an attempt to save the doctrine of original sin." This is not a logical necessity, therefore you would have to provide evidence to support such an audacious assertion. I don't see how you could possibly gather or marshal such evidence. If you have any evidence, I'd definitely be interested.

          • David Nickol

            I think the first thing that must be clarified is what, exactly, is the story (or idea) of Adam and Eve.

            The story as told in the Bible is familiar, but let's recap. The earth is as yet only dust. There are no plants and no animals. God takes some of the dust and forms the man, Adam. God then plants the garden of Eden and puts Adam there. He says it's not good for man to be alone, so he sets out to create a companion for Adam. He creates all the animals, but none is a suitable companion, so he puts Adam to sleep, takes one of Adam's ribs, and creates Eve.

            Eve has her fateful encounter with the serpent, eats fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and offers it to Adam, who eats it also. They realize for the first time that they are naked. They try to hide from God when he comes. They admit their wrongdoing, making excuses for themselves. God curses the serpent, Eve, and Adam, and then

            Then the LORD God said: See! The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil! Now, what if he also reaches out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life, and eats of it and lives forever?

            The LORD God therefore banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he had been taken.

            He expelled the man, stationing the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword east of the garden of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life.

            After leaving the garden, Eve conceives Cain and Abel, and continues having children, who populate the earth.

            That is what I call the story of Adam and Eve.

            The Catechism says the following:

            390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

            Now, the Catholic Church says the story of the fall (and presumably the entire story of Adam and Eve) is told in figurative language, and of course science has nothing to say about figurative language, so the question that must be answered is this: What in the story of Adam and Eve is historical truth, and what is figurative language?

            First, did God literally create the first human person—the man, Adam—before there were any plants and animals? Second, finding no suitable companion for Adam among all the animals, did God put Adam to sleep and literally take a rib from his side with which to create Eve? Third, did they live in Eden, from which they were later banished? Did Eve, at the prompting of a serpent, eat fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and give some to Adam, who also ate it? Did God curse all three and, fearing they might eat from the tree of life and become immortal, banish them from the garden? And did Adam and Eve literally become "our first parents," the two and only two human beings from whom every human being on earth for all of human history was descended?

            You tell me what constitutes the real story of Adam and Eve, open to historical and scientific evaluation. And I would be interested to know how you accommodate the following from Arcanum, an encyclical written in 1880 by Pope Leo XIII on Christian marriage:

            The true origin of marriage, venerable brothers, is well known to all. Though revilers of the Christian faith refuse to acknowledge the never-interrupted doctrine of the Church on this subject, and have long striven to destroy the testimony of all nations and of all times, they have nevertheless failed not only to quench the powerful light of truth, but even to lessen it. We record what is to all known, and cannot be doubted by any, that God, on the sixth day of creation, having made man from the slime of the earth, and having breathed into his face the breath of life, gave him a companion, whom He miraculously took from the side of Adam when he was locked in sleep. God thus, in His most far-reaching foresight, decreed that this husband and wife should be the natural beginning of the human race, from whom it might be propagated and preserved by an unfailing fruitfulness throughout all futurity of time. [Emphasis added.]

            If we take this statement by Pope Leo XIII as authoritative—and it does not seem to me he is using figurative language here—it is Catholic teaching that the forming of Eve from a rib taken from Adam is a historical matter.

            But let me repeat. I need you to tell me what the real story of Adam and Eve is—the historical part—so we can decide whether any scientific discoveries have rendered what really happened (allegedly) no longer credible.

          • David Nickol

            This conclusion does not follow by logical necessity, therefore you need to provide evidence to support such an audacious assertion.

            Could you not say the same thing about the following "audacious assertion"?

            Adam committed the sin of pride of his own free will. Then his nature became corrupted, so he could die (before he was immortal). Because he was culpable for introducing death to humans, he is culpable for Baby cancer. Because we are already prone to sin, we would be easily tempted to pride.

            My statement about people clinging to the reality of "first parents" was a statement of my own opinion. Statements such as the above about what Adam did how God reacted to it are presented as facts, and yet you don't call them "audacious assertions." I respect people's right to their own religious beliefs, so perhaps I should always understand statements like the one above as being statements of religious belief. I have no problem with reading the above statement as actually meaning, "It is my religious belief that Adam committed the sin of pride . . . ." But then in fairness, I think all of my statements, even if they seem to be in the form of statements of fact, should likewise be read as statements of opinion. Perhaps I could have said, "I can see no reason why Christians would argue for the historical reality of Adam and Eve other than to preserve the doctrine of original sin." If I had put it that way, what would be the other reasons for holding that Adam and Eve were truly the "first parents" of the human race?

          • Erick Chastain

            I am speaking from the catholic theological tradition. According to other traditions, you can only use the bible as a reliable source in a literal sense. If one allows the use of reason to interpret the scriptures, oral tradition from the church fathers, and the use of philosophy (eg the catholic tradition), then one obtains the following analysis, which concludes Adam could actually never err or be deceived: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1094.htm#article4 . Sure a fundamentalist couldn't conclude this. But I think fundamentalism is wrong, and dangerous.

            It would be great if you could substantiate the claim that no Adam existed, and provide evidence that it is totally discredited by science. In fact, we had this discussion a few months ago, and at least we squared the facts of Humani Generis with contemporary genetics, though you thought that I was stating a theological heresy. In any case our previous discussion shows it can be done, so you saying that it can't be done is simply begging the question.

          • Maxximiliann

            Regarding Adam, the Bible says: “Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7) Is this statement scientifically credible?

            Robert A. Freitas' work "Nanomedicine" states that the human body is made up of 41 chemical elements. These basic elements—carbon, iron, oxygen, and others—are all present in the “dust” of the earth. Thus, as Genesis states, humans truly are formed “out of dust from the ground.”

            How did those lifeless building blocks come together to form a living human? To illustrate the enormity of the challenge, consider the NASA space shuttle, one of the most complex machines ever devised. This technological marvel contains a staggering 2.5 million parts. It took teams of engineers years to design and put it together. Now consider the human body. It is made up of some 7 octillion atoms, 100 trillion cells, dozens of organs, and at least 9 major organ systems. How did this biological machine of mind-boggling complexity and superb structure come to be? By blind chance or as the denouement of an ordered mind?

            Moreover, what makes humans live? Where does the spark of life come from? Scientists confess that they do not know. In fact, they cannot even agree on an acceptable definition of life. To those who accept the idea of a Creator, the conclusion is obvious. The Source, of course, is God.

            What of the description in Genesis that Eve was fashioned from Adam’s rib? (Genesis 2:21-23) Before dismissing the account as myth or fantasy, consider the following facts: In January 2008, scientists in California, U.S.A., produced the world’s first mature cloned human embryos from adult skin cells. In fact, using similar techniques, scientists have cloned at least 20 animals. The most famous of these, Dolly the sheep, was cloned in 1996 from the mammary gland of an adult sheep.

            What will come of such experiments remains to be seen. But the point is this: If humans can use biological material from one organism to produce another one of its kind, could not the almighty Creator fashion a human from existing biological material of another human? Interestingly, surgeons routinely use the rib bone in reconstructive surgery because of its ability to regrow and replace itself.

            Consider now the Jewish ancestral lists recorded in the Bible book of First Chronicles chapters 1 to 9 and in the Gospel of Luke chapter 3. These remarkably detailed genealogical records span 48 and 75 generations respectively. Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus Christ, while Chronicles records the royal and priestly ancestral lines for the nation of Israel. Both lists include the names of such well-known figures as Solomon, David, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Noah, and finally Adam. All the names in the two lists represent real people, and Adam was the original real person on each list.

            In addition, again and again the Bible presents Adam and Eve as real human beings, not as mythical characters. Here are some examples:

            • “[God] made out of one man every nation of men.”—ACTS 17:26.
            • “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus . . . death ruled as king from Adam down to Moses.”—ROMANS 5:12, 14.

            • “The first man Adam became a living soul.”—1 CORINTHIANS 15:45.
            • “Adam was formed first, then Eve.”—1 TIMOTHY 2:13.
            • “The seventh one in line from Adam, Enoch, prophesied also regarding [the wicked].”—JUDE 14.

            More important, Jesus Christ, the most credible witness in the Bible, acknowledged the existence of Adam and Eve. When challenged on the subject of divorce, Jesus answered: “From the beginning of creation ‘[God] made them male and female. On this account a man will leave his father and mother, and the two will be one flesh’ . . . Therefore what God yoked together let no man put apart.” (Mark 10:6-9) Would Jesus use an allegory to establish a binding legal precedent? No! Jesus quoted Genesis as fact.

            Summing up the scriptural evidence, The New Bible Dictionary concludes: “The New Testament confirms the historicity of the account given in the early chapters of Genesis.”

            http://bit.ly/1b6TzxJ

          • David Nickol

            Where does the spark of life come from? Scientists confess that they do not know.

            Nonsense.

      • Loreen Lee

        Gee, It looks like I have a bent towards a naturalistic explanation that is not being explored here. In keeping with possible interpretations of 'evolution' could not the story of Adam recognize a development in consciousness, where by 'mankind/womankind' became conscious to the point where they were able to be 'aware' of the 'reality' of physical death. (For the first time) This takes into account an interpretation of Adam and Eve and representations of mankind in the sense that the individual is in the species an the species is in the individual; which in itself, is but one of the attempts to define what constitutes 'human consciousness'. Enough said. (Except that the concepts of life and death within the bible, I find, can alternatively, (it seems) refer to either the physical or the metaphysical/spiritual, whatever.

        • Erick Chastain

          the mechanics of it sound interesting. For example, homo sapiens sapiens becomes sentient and then from pride (which probably causes all sorts of CRF upregulation/oxidative stress) starts to be susceptible to death. We do know that senescence can be delayed by minimizing oxidative stress and other things linked to these kinds of emotions.

          • Loreen Lee

            I believe your analysis would require considerable detail to be convincing. Not to take it to heart. I believe it is not possible to present any viewpoint within these comboxes with the scope required to justify the topics discussed. I would hold that Aristotle's definition of man as homo sapien distinguishes the human from animals whose awareness would be considered even by the Buddhist as merely sentient. The difference is in the ability to formulate 'judgment' - possibly the characteristic that is at issue in the 'story' of Adam and Eve. I don't believe that in this context we have a complete analysis, either naturalistic/scientific nor theological/hermeneutic.

  • Elson

    Suffering is the common bond we all share , some suffer more than others and most suffering is undeserved. Everybody everywhere suffers. Human beings suffered in the past, and in the future, human beings will also suffer. Suffering includes all levels from the most privileged human beings to the most desperate and underprivileged ones, and all ranges in between. Everybody everywhere suffers. It is a bond we have with each other, something we all understand, but not something for for which we should be grateful , nor is it reconcilable with a loving, omnipotent god.

    It is an undeniable fact of existence and as atheists we don't have to explain it away, but Christians have to spin and concoct all manner of endless convulutions,and spiritual gymnastics, because it is in total contradiction to a deity who is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent who loves us uncondionally.

    The Catholic apologists are like worms on hooks, they can wriggle and squirm all they like but they cannot get off the hook.

    However, we can all as compassionate human beings do our best to alleviate one another's pain, and to console each other in the face of the human condition. If there are some who take consolation and hope from their religion we can't deny them that in the face of the reality that there may not be any ultimate meaning or purpose in life and that there may not be any kind of god, loving or otherwise. The evidence seems to point in that direction it cannot be denied.

    • Erick Chastain

      I take no consolation from my religion. In fact it only causes me to work harder and occasionally be the target of ridicule. If you want to understand what you are rejecting, you should try to live as a Catholic in good standing in this world for 30 days. Saying that Catholic apologists are wriggling on a hook isn't a counterargument, it is just an ignorantio elenchi fallacy (irrelevant conclusion). Let us reason, not resort to fallacies.

      • mriehm

        The reasoning is flawed.

        • Erick Chastain

          It is interesting you say "The reasoning is flawed" but provide no evidence or argument in favor of your conclusion. Because you did not provide any evidence that "the reasoning is flawed" and yet concluded that this proposition was true, your reasoning is flawed.

  • Danny Getchell

    Father Spitzer:

    Perhaps, in some future life when some of us have come to comprehend more of the true nature of God, we'll have the big picture view of why the Black Death, the K-T extinction and the 1919 influenza were all - in the final analysis - good for us.

    Our human minds just aren't yet equipped to wrap themselves around the goodness of it all.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Everyone dies, so a plague does not raise new concerns.

      • David Nickol

        Everyone dies, so a plague does not raise new concerns.

        A world in which everyone dies peacefully in their sleep at a ripe old age is quite different from a world in which young women die in childbirth, parents see their children die, and there are hundreds of ghastly ways to die (plague being one of them) before living out a full, natural life.

        • mriehm

          The historical death of women and infants in childbirth, and children as they're growing up, is one of the main reasons that I'm an atheist. Through science we have managed to reduce those death rates dramatically. But all the prayer in the world did nothing to help for millenia.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Gaudium et spes 18
          It is in the face of death that the riddle a human existence grows most acute. Not only is man tormented by pain and by the advancing deterioration of his body, but even more so by a dread of perpetual extinction. He rightly follows the intuition of his heart when he abhors and repudiates the utter ruin and total disappearance of his own person. He rebels against death because he bears in himself an eternal seed which cannot be reduced to sheer matter. All the endeavors of technology, though useful in the extreme, cannot calm his
          anxiety; for prolongation of biological life is unable to satisfy that desire for higher life which is inescapably lodged in his breast.

          So much for a nice long natural life.

          • David Nickol

            I don't see this quote as relevant, nor is it even entirely true. I have known elderly people who have been unafraid of dying and who have more or less welcomed death when the alternative has been year after year of utter dependency on caregivers.

            In any case, I find it difficult to believe that you really are of the opinion that since everyone dies, it doesn't matter whether they live to a ripe old age and die in their sleep or whether people (including children) die by the thousands in natural catastrophes. I understand you are arguing that since everyone dies eventually, cancer and plague and ebola outbreaks present no new difficulties in the debate over whether and why God permits physical evil. I don't think, for example, you would try to argue to parents whose child has died of cancer that everyone dies, so the death of their child is no more tragic than if he or she had lived to be 99 and died peacefully. But you certainly sound very cold blooded about deaths by horrific epidemics or large-scale natural catastrophes.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I've read that 150,000 people die every day. That does not seem to bother many people.

            But when a whole lot of people die at the same time and for the same reason, we have a more emotional response to it. I include myself in the group.

            But to me, any human death is the problem, whether it is at the end of the first day of an embryo's existence or after 110 years. Each one threatens a living person with "perpetual extinction," as the quote you think is not relevant puts it.

      • Michael Murray

        Everyone dies, so a plague does not raise new concerns.

        There was a comment Christopher Hitchens made somewhere that sometimes you don't need to reply but just underline.

  • GCBill

    I don't understand how contingent psychological facts are supposed to explain the ultimate necessity of evil, when these facts only obtain because God wills them.

    I hope that future installments will attempt to provide reasons why God would want to produce beings with minds such that natural evil would be necessary to perfect them.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Not necessary to prefect them absolutely, but a way in which they could be perfected in this fallen world.

  • Elson

    A few of the comments on here make reference to the bible as explanation for suffering,as though the bible is actually, the inspired word of the creator of the universe, and the authors of the comments, seem to think that we should understand that "word" as being credible, and as though it should obviously pass as reason and logical explanation for the fact of suffering of humanity through out the eons of history since time immemorial. To refer to Adam and Eve, and original "sin" in any sort of historical sense be it metaphorical or not, is not helpful.

    Granted....I can see that for those who have embraced the bible as being the actual unadulterated word of "God", the paradigm of suffering can seem be reconciling in a desperate sort of macabre juggling act, as it is a matter of survival of the Catholic status credibility.....otherwise it all falls down like a poorly built house of cards.To my way of thinking to "fully" embrace any religion is a form of escapism. Better I suppose than a full blown heroin or crack addiction as long as one does not go too far down the rabbit hole.

    A caveat.....no offense intended to anyone, Catholic or otherwise. Whatever helps you get through the night. I wish I did not have to add a caveat every time I think someone may be offended by a comment.

  • Jay Kruzuski

    The Catholic Church says:

    " Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin. "Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned" is thus "the last enemy" of man left to be conquered." (CCC 1008)"

    and the article says:

    "Death might be the best gift we have been given because it calls us to our deepest life-definition and self-definition, and in the words of Jean Paul Satre, to the creation of our essence."

    This is HERESY and there is no way around it.

    -NL, a friend of mine

    • David Nickol

      Interesting observation. I don't see how the two views can be reconciled.

      The problem with the Catechism's view of death, or so it seems to me, is that the Catechism almost seems to say that the fact that human beings die is beyond God's control. But since he created the world from nothing, he is the one who made up the rules about what would happen if his creatures sinned. If death entered the world because of Adam and Eve's sin, where did death come from? As I said elsewhere, I don't see how death can be viewed as anything other than an invention of God's.

      And of course one of the facts that is often overlooked in the story of Adam and Eve is that God banishes them from the garden because he does not want them to eat from the tree of life. Genesis 3:22:

      Then the LORD God said: See! The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil! Now, what if he also reaches out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life, and eats of it and lives forever?

      This does not sound like an omnipotent God. It seems clear that God must prevent Adam and Eve from eating from the tree of life, otherwise they will be immortal.

      • Jay Kruzuski

        Well it doe seem that Spitzer has anathematized himself by posting this article. Ouch.

        The problem of why is a separate question.

      • Luke Everett O’Brien

        David Nickol, here is a much more coherent introductory treatment of the topic, and one that is in accordance with Catholic doctrine, if you are interested.

        http://newapologetics.com/ten-questions-and-answers-on-the-why-of-human-suffering

      • Susan

        But since he created the world from nothing, he is the one who made up the rules about what would happen if his creatures sinned.

        Not just from nothing, but from metaphysical nothing. Carte blanche galore.

        The trouble with these claims about this particular deity is that the rules are supposed to come from metaphysical nothingness and yet suffering and death began hundreds of millions of years ago at least, and MOST of the suffering has had nothing to do with humans. Humans suffer and die too. But that doesn't make us special.

        The conclusion from which Spitzer seems to automatically work his way backwards, is that Yahweh is real.

        I see no reason to accept that conclusion, even provisionally.

  • Any god who could have created a cancer-free world, but didn't, for the sake of:

    "(1) identity transformation, (2) stoic virtues, (3) agape, and (4) interdependence and human community."

    Is either:

    A) A sadistic monster
    B) An idiot and utter incompetent
    C) Both of the above.

    Such a being isn't worth our worship. Isn't worth our time. Isn't worth a second thought. If this is the sort of god Catholics are arguing for, I'd prefer not to know waste my time with them. Why waste any energy trying to find out if some powerful idiot somehow created this universe?

    • Michael Murray

      Well said.

      The thing I find strange about the "God couldn't do this without doing that" excuse for His barbarity, besides his apparent lack of omnipotence, is that humans have dramatically reduced infant mortality and deaths from a lot of diseases as well as raising life expectancy without, in my opinion, obviously reducing (1) -- (4) above. So did God get it wrong ?

      Of course there is a simple and straightforward answer to the problem of suffering. There are no gods: we are in this alone. Once we all realise that we can just get on with doing our best to continue to reduce suffering. Even without a moral compass.

  • Luke Everett O’Brien

    Unfortunately this article (although the author I am sure has good intentions and is a Holy man) espouses a deity that is not in accordance with Catholic doctrine and is simply not worthy of human allegiance (due to it's being inept and compromising all over the place among-st other things).

    Below is a link to an introductory article from a source that has been of much help to me personally. All are welcome to check it out if they are interested

    http://newapologetics.com/ten-questions-and-answers-on-the-why-of-human-suffering

    • Elson

      I checked out the site. It looks interesting at a glance, but I am reserving judgement till I have time to peruse it further. Thanks.

    • mriehm

      This raises an interesting point. How is it that theodicy could still be debated? In this website I see many claims to the "proof" of this or that. If these matters are understood so infallibly, how can there still be differences of opinion about them, particularly between learned scholars?

      Keeping an eye on this website over the past year or so has been illuminating. The approach taken by Catholic scholars is much more intelligent than that taken by the fundamentalists. But, viewed historically, the Catholic view is wishy-washy. Foundational beliefs have changed dramatically over the centuries, as "new shit has come to light" (*). How is it that revelation could have been so flawed in the past? How can it be that it is still - and despite the assurances given on this website - so flawed, as evidenced by knowledgeable individuals still being at odds with one another?

      How will Catholic thought change in the future? Given that revelation is ongoing, which of the current beliefs held by the church will be discarded decades or centuries from now? And so which of your current beliefs are fundamentally, absolutely, wrong, despite the "proofs" declared on these pages?

      The fact that religion is based on unsubstantiated belief is of course a big problem. It leads to a plethora of concepts at odds with one another, and no objective way to select between them.

      (*) Reference to The Big Lebowski intended to be humourous, not offensive.

      • Luke Everett O’Brien

        Some very good points and no offence taken of course ; )

        I would add that on the Catholic view the fullness of revelation
        was complete “when the word became flesh” however our understanding of it is
        not complete. There are multiple reasons for theodicy debate. For one consider
        that most Catholics don’t know what Catholic beliefs actual entail. For example

        1759 "An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a
        good intention" The end does not justify the means.

        Now look at this
        article in stangenotions and many articles on religious theodicy, you might
        find a common theme (God is fine with evil because this or that “good” comes
        from it). Simply put most Catholics today believe in something that is contrary
        to what their beliefs actually propose (good thing there are atheist and
        skeptics, to point out the problems). The articles from the source I posted use
        all of the same traditional Catholic beliefs, but also explanation “how” and “why”.
        The “wishy-washy-ness seems to come when people really don’t know an answer so
        they try and come up with one or are simply un-informed and are taking wild
        guesses. The basic fundamental tenants of Catholic doctrine have never changed,
        however there are always those who compromise them or are simply uninformed it
        should be noted that our “understanding” will always be under continual
        refinement I should think. There will always be new questions, but then there
        must always be coherent answers for those questions.

        In regards to the
        issue of religion being unsubstantiated, I would agree that most religious claims
        are unsubstantiated or even simply internally contradictory (although I would
        say that Catholic doctrine when understood properly is never contradictory). I
        would add that the source I have posted also has a section called “the
        tractatus”, and is always willing to take on the burden of proof (Article III
        is meant as a positive proof for Catholicism, although it has not been fully
        explained yet). However in my opinion, it is usually better to explain what the
        beliefs actually are before arguing for their truth.

      • Danny Getchell

        As someone once said here, when Protestant doctrine changes, the church splinters. When Catholic doctrine changes, the church retcons.

  • Loreen Lee

    If Adam and Eve received divine knowledge by 'eating of the fruit', how come the bible only tells us about the evil they found, and not any good?

  • Michael Murray

    If you look in your garage and you can't see a dragon then there isn't really any need to invent tortured rationalisations of why you can't smell the dragon's smoke, see the dragon's flames or hear the dragon's roar. The correct answer is simpler than that.

    Apologies to Carl Sagan.

  • Loreen Lee

    I have an interest in finding correspondences between the various languages of philosophies and religious thought for instance. I thus couldn't help relate the four kinds of 'happiness' discussed in this post to the four ways in which it is possible to interpret the gospel (and I would extend this to interpretations of language and choice as well). These are the literal, the moral, the analogical and the allegorical or echatological. It is interesting that Kant also relates our concept of happiness to a sense of purpose, which is tied to the feelings produced in us by both beauty and our comprehension of the sublime. Kant actually analyses many forms of beauty, from that of pleasure, through to a moral beauty, (I forget them all) all of which I believe if I could take the time to work on it, I could also fit into this construct. The correspondence theory of truth has many detractors, however, I find these comparative associations most helpful and educative.

    • Loreen Lee

      On the way home this morning, I found a book on Greek Language left on someone's lawn. Without any intent to read it all, I picked it up for curiosities sake. 500 pages of analysis of Greek grammatical construct, selection in translation, etc. etc., all to prepare his students for a study of Plato, in depth.

      So on page 299 I find the excerpt 'Aristotle Contemplates Contemplation'. Quote: "In Nicomacheon Ethics Aristotle investigates the human pursuit of happiness. True happiness, he concludes, must be the contemplation of truth because that is the activity in which we exercise our highest virtue, wisdom."

      I think of the study of both Nietzsche and Heidegger of ancient languages, and marvel at the working of their 'genius'. I think of a post-modern conclusion that there is a truth in the 'reality' that language often 'speaks for us', rather than our belief that we 'speak the language'. I think of all the pluralities of interpretation that make up this world, and the difficulty in finding correspondences between them. (The most difficulty of course I believe is in the relation of fact to idea). I think of contemplation of contemplation as an exercise separated from the attempt to find wisdom within the act of 'living in the world', within day to day interactions with 'others', and I find cause for disagreeing with Aristotle's 'truth'. . I think of the 'fact' that I do not always have an awareness of the implications or meaning even of my own speech. Or indeed whether a complete understanding is indeed possible. I contemplate, but the 'truth' -escapes me, perhaps because I cannot impose 'my truth' upon another. .Nor can I completely contemplate my contemplations.

      I have a friend who constantly expresses his desire to study Plato. I'll ask him if the book is on interest to him.

  • Elson

    Time now for this article to slip into blessed oblivion before it causes more brain damage.

  • David Nickol

    It seems to me the two (I think) commenters who expressed the opinions that Fr. Spitzer's post is not in line with Catholic thinking are correct. I think the answer to the question, "Why did God create an imperfect natural order?" is that he did not. In Catholic thought, as I understand it—and I am happy to be corrected—everything that God created was good. To the extent the world was corrupted, it was due to the sin of Adam and Eve. There are immense problems with maintaining that, but to the best of my knowledge, Catholic thought does not try to explain the existence of disease, predation, injury, and death prior to Adam and Eve. Fr. Spitzer gets some credit for trying, but I think he runs into logical inconsistencies maintaining that God didn't create a perfect world order because, or so I take him to argue, an imperfect one is better than a perfect one!

  • Peter

    "So why did God create an imperfect natural order? Why did He create a natural order which would allow for scarcity?"

    God did not create a natural order which allows for scarcity. The world is bountiful for everyone. Scarcity is mad made or, more precisely, created by man's greed. In his 2009 Archbishop Romero Lecture, the late Fr Dean Brackley SJ, said:
    "One billion people in rich countries receive 80 percent of world income while 3 billion in poor countries receive 1.2 percent of total income. It is a world that is organised in such a profoundly unjust way that for several decades Popes have been calling for deep changes in economic policy and political institutions."

    • Michael Murray

      Evolution by natural selection, as created by God, depends for it's operation on scarcity. If there is no competition for resources there is no natural selection.

      • Peter

        Humans with brains are part of the evolved natural order as created by God. By applying those brains we have a world of abundance which, unfortunately, through man's greed, is not shared.

        • Michael Murray

          Yes but I am not talking about the scarcity created by humankind in the last few hundred years. I am talking about the scarcity created by your hypothesised God creator as the driving force for evolution in His creation.

          • Peter

            But humankind, also a product of evolution as created by God, has eradicated that scarcity. Thus the end result of evolution is the elimination of scarcity. The scarcity we observe today is an artificial scarcity created by the greed of the few.

          • Michael Murray

            This is irrelevant to your original claim:

            God did not create a natural order which allows for scarcity.

            God did create a natural order which allows scarcity. If there had been no scarcity there would have been no evolution by natural selection.

          • Peter

            Does the natural order not include humankind? If so, then there ought to be no scarcity in the natural order. If the arrival of humankind is the culmination of evolution, then so too is the elimination of scarcity. We have a natural order where scarcity is eliminated by the culmination of evolution.

    • mriehm

      Abundance is a modern phenomenon. We have (for the most part) overcome the natural threat of scarcity through our knowledge, ingenuity, and industry. But food scarcity, via drought or other fluctuation, has been a real threat to many people in many times and places.

    • Danny Getchell

      During the 1,500 years when the Church was an institution of supreme power, everyone except the secular and sacred nobility lived in a state of poverty.

      Technology and capitalism have done more to alleviate poverty in the last five hundred years than the Church has in its entire history.

      • Peter

        Not for the 40 percent of humanity which lives on 1.2 percent of world income.

        • Danny Getchell

          How does the rate of poverty in countries where Catholicism is the state religion compare with the rate of poverty in countries which are officially secular??

  • Dhaniele

    As a man of faith, I think I would choose a different starting point.
    Just as it would be foolish to ask people in a war zone why some houses
    don't have roofs and why so many windows are broken, as Christians we
    can look in the world in a foolish way. We have have to have the wisdom
    to immediately say that the "natural order" is now a fallen order and it
    is not at all what God intended when he gave mankind dominion over
    creation. When they broke their link with God, the rest of us were stuck
    with the mess that comes when creation falls under the power of "the
    prince of this world" as Jesus called him. Of course, we can speculate
    now on how God draws good out of evil, but it is really blasphemous for a
    believer to see God as responsible for the way things are now -- it is
    not what he intended at all. In his mercy, he helps us, but we are
    responsible for not even bothering to seriously ask his help until
    something bad has already happened.

    • Michael Murray

      That doesn't help at all for at least two reasons. First there was suffering before "the fall". Suffering is necessary for natural selection God's chosen method of improving the world. Secondly disease, earthquakes, tsunamis etc where all in existence before "the fall". Here is a 500,000 year old homo erectus skull showing signs of TB.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/18/science/18skul.html?_r=0

      • Dhaniele

        Before the fall, manknd had not received dominion over creation. It was a natural order only and one can legitimately discuss earthquakes, etc., at that period. The present situation however, is one in which Jesus speaks of Satan as being "the prince of this world." The world was not awarded to him by God but by humans.

        • Michael Murray

          Whatever happened after the fall is irrelevant to the basic fact that before the fall God had already quite deliberately created a world in which mankind, and all living things, suffered. Evolution by natural selection was operational before the fall and it requires suffering to operate.

          • Dhaniele

            There is a lack of clarity in your answer. The Bible indicates that when the first humans (homo sapiens) came into existence, there was a special arrangement for them described as a "garden." This special arrangement was revoked after their rebellion. As a believer, do you accept that basic idea?

          • Michael Murray

            What makes you think I am a believer in your religion ? This website is meant to promote dialogue between Catholics and Atheists. I'm an atheist. I'm just dialoguing and trying to understand your beliefs.

            By the way the evidence tells us that there was never a moment when the first homo sapiens came into existence in the way described in Genesis. Evolution is a gradual process. If you go backwards in time through all your ancestors they will look increasingly less like you but if you stop at any point the parents of that particular individual will look very similar to the individual.

          • Dhaniele

            This is a further clarification. Obviously if you an atheist, the question of why God would do anything does not arise since for you he does not exist. It would be better to stick to the question of the existence of God rather than trying to engage in the question of how he acts (if he does not exist!) One thing at a time. As far as atheism and the origin of man go, obviously for an atheist, a non-existent God could not intervene. However, then the believer has the age-old question. Where is the missing link? Where is the connection between modern man and any similar beings? The Piltdown man convinced a lot of people, but he was revealed to be a hoax after he had "proven" (for fifty years) the link between man and earlier apes. Thus, the question remains, where is the missing link?

          • Michael Murray

            There is lots of evidence for a clear path from early primates up to us. Things have moved on a bit from the Piltdown man hoax. You are on the internet -- have a look at wikipedia.

          • Dhaniele

            Between the fossils that we have and homo sapiens, there is a huge gap wide enough to preserve the phrase "the theory of evolution" as regards humans. Any denial of this is pure fantasy based on an ideological premise. You'll have to get back to digging if you want to move beyond the theory stage. As far as your question about why Catholics are not concerned about the problem of suffering -- the article itself shows that they are. Moreover, my original reply indicates the classic (and still valid) answer.

          • Michael Murray

            Oh dear I thought I had escaped evolution denial by coming to a Catholic site. I suggest you just do some reading and try to put your own ideological premises aside. I'm not going to bother to further debate settled matters of science.

          • Dhaniele

            Please see my previous answers.

          • Max Driffill

            Oh dear.

            "Between the fossils that we have and homo sapiens, there is a huge gap wide enough to preserve the phrase "the theory of evolution" as regards humans."

            Actually there is not. We have a wonderful suite of fossil hominids that demonstrate quite nicely the rise of the genus Homo. There are not great leaps and the genetical analysis corroborates what the fossils indicate. What's more, is that the closer in geological time we get, the better the fossil record. The fossil evidence of our evolutionary history grows every year, decade by decade. The theory of evolution is as sound as the theory of the electron

            "Any denial of this is pure fantasy based on an ideological premise."

            Denial of evolution is the "pure fantasy based on an ideological premise." The evidence of evolution, and our understanding of its processes are not, and never have been contingent on the fossil record. A host of evidence presents itself with out the fossil record. Darwin and Wallace did not use the fossil record when they formulated their ideas.

            "You'll have to get back to digging if you want to move beyond the theory stage."

            And you need to come to an understanding of what it actually meanest that evolution is called a theory.

            For your edification:

            A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is acquired through the scientific method, and repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation.

            "As far as your question about why Catholics are not concerned about the problem of suffering -- the article itself shows that they are. Moreover, my original reply indicates the classic (and still valid) answer."

            Catholics may be concerned about suffering, it just appears that gods are not concerned about suffering, hence "the problem of evil" the article seems to be tackling.

          • Dhaniele

            Please see my other answers to you and Michael.

          • Michael Murray

            There are never missing links. There is a gradual change. Start here

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_human_evolution#Primates

            and scroll down.

          • Dhaniele

            Perhaps you are not familiar with considerable scientific writers that are puzzled (as was Darwin himself) with the fact that there is not gradual change in the fossil record. Perhaps if you google "evolution fits and starts" you might find some ideas on this.

          • Michael Murray

            Yes I have read about this a lot in the past. What are you suggesting ? That the jumps in the fossil record indicate the evolution by natural selection is wrong ?

          • Dhaniele

            As you mentioned, this is a Christian site, so of course many of us espouse Christian views. I give you just one example of what our approach is: "Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God, Even the hairs of your head have all been counted.
            Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows." (Luke 12 6-7). The basic idea is that God knows everything that is going on, sustains the universe, and intervenes when he sees fit. You can google "Bishop Sheen miracle" and see the latest example of what science cannot explain by the usual laws because God is the lawgiver and can intervene at will.

          • Michael Murray

            Ah God of the Gaps ! It always reminds me of the trash compactor scene in Star Wars. As science progresses the walls close in.

            By the way I think this is a Catholic site. That's a subset of Christians.

          • Dhaniele

            If there is no God, please explain to me the phenomenon of Zeitoun in Egypt where Mary, the mother of Jesus, appeared to thousands (believes and unbelievers) for months. The Egyptian government investigated this Christian phenomenon carefully and could come up with no scientific explanation. That is why the Bishop Sheen miracle is called a miracle. The experts admit they cannot explain it. In the 19 century, atheists hid behind the theory that "someday" we would discover the explanation for these things, but this is no longer a realistic rational option but again is a faith choice on your part.

          • Michael Murray

            Mass hallucination. Have a look at Oliver Sachs recent book on hallucinations.

            But even if miracles offer what makes you think they prove your God. Maybe they are extra-terrestrial life forms playing some silly game. Maybe someone has travelled back from the future to play some silly game. Me I would stick with hallucinations.

          • Dhaniele

            The idea that it is mass hallucination is again just a statement arising from your faith in atheism. There were photographs of it. Besides, the civil authorities thoroughly investigated it since it lasted for months. As far as the Bishop Sheen miracle goes, it could not be a hallucination since a significant number of medical people were involved. Your appeal to extra-terrestrials is a desperate attempt since even if they existed, they too would be bound by the laws of science. What we can see is that atheists cannot explain miracles, are not sure how life first appeared (nor of how the universe appeared!). Moreover, the scientific community has become aware of problems in the classic notions of Darwin which could confirm the Christian belief that God is the ultimate guide of history, including natural history. In short, atheism seems to be a pretty poor choice; agnosticism would seem to be more intellectually honest given the data now available. Here is another website you might find interesting: http://catholicstand.com/creation-science-can-say/

          • Michael Murray

            Sure. Science cannot explain everything. But that's OK. I don't mind saying I don't know why something occurs.

            Again I will point out that it is a fallacy to conclude that just because I don't have an explanation for something your explanation is correct.

          • Dhaniele

            Which is why I suggested it would be more intellectually honest to choose to be an agnostic. It is clearly impossible to prove there is no God (since he has no body) and therefore one must consider the possibility that he does exist, especially since there are these unexplained events like Zeitoun and the Bishop Sheen miracle (and thousands of others) that would find an explanation in God. If you have proposed extraterrestrials as a possible cause, why not God?

          • Max Driffill

            There is a vast gulf between not be able to prove that a thing does not exist and demonstrating that it is something worth considering.
            You cannot prove that unicorns do not exist. You cannot prove that there is not a man the size of an atom in on my desk at this moment. You cannot prove that Zeus does not exist. You cannot prove that bigfoot does not exist. So what? That isn't the same thing as saying these are reasonable plausible things. Not being able to disprove their existence doesn't constitute a form of evidence for their existence. Just so with with gods.

            If you make the claim X exists, the onus is on you to provide positive evidence of that claim. It will do you no good to say well you cannot prove that X doesn't exist.

            http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/The_Dragon_in_My_Garage

          • Dhaniele

            Leibnitz wisely asserted that everything has a sufficient cause, and Parmenides had concluded that from absolutely nothing, no reality can emerge (e.g. the big bang). As I stated above, the facts about Zeitoun and the Bishop Sheen miracle that occurred in an American hospital all point to some cause which fits perfectly with our description of God. If the "onus is on me to provide positive evidence" I would say rather that the onus is on you to provide some logical alternative rather than simply ignoring these facts.

          • Max Driffill

            Dhaniele,

            I guess since Parmenides said it, it absolutely must be so, there is no way that the front of human knowledge could possibly have advanced since the late sixth or early fifth century. Evidence collected in the intervening years couldn't possibly have any bearing on such questions. Further, Leibnitz can "wisely" assert anything he likes. That doesn't mean he was correct, or that the cause you propose is the right one.

            Also, and this is crucial, quoting authorities, with out detailing their arguments they make is simply an appeal to authority, and not really any kind of evidence (except of what youthink they said).

            I don't grant to you that any miracles have occurred. When these miracle stories are examined in detail, they almost always can be explained by more prosaic explanations (as is the case with those attributed Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu). On top of this one off events like alleged miracles can't really tell us anything. And anyway, given the manner in which these miracle claims are investigated by the Church, I see no reason to trust its reasoning, at all. It ignored all the salient details in its investigation of claims attributed to Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiua. (here is a sad post script to that story http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1562284/Mother-Teresa-miracle-patient-accuses-nuns.html)

          • Dhaniele

            My point about Parmenides is that he clarified a logical principle quite long ago that no one has ever been able to disprove, which is quite embarrassing for the atheists when we talk about the big bang since they are compelled to science fiction (as opposed to science). As far as Zeitoun goes, it is a very specific example that was investigated thoroughly by the state not just the Church, and thus I am still waiting for some rational explanation from you which is possible without God.

          • Max Driffill

            He didn't clarify the matter on evidence. He was inferring from his experience. The matter isn't settle as far as the physics is concerned, and there is some considerable evidence that nothing might be the very thing from which the universe did emerge, despite the incomplete inferences of a long dead greek philosopher.

            As to Zeitoun, the details of the account are not exactly consistent, the phenomena in question open to interpretation. I see no reason to grant that a miracle had occurred. One investigator not burdened by the religious convictions, or social context who visited during the time of the visitation reported seeing nothing but occasional flashes of light. This not an event in which the phenomena in question appears to have been recorded in systematic fashion. I don't see anything, other the psychology of the witnesses, in need of explaining.

          • Dhaniele

            What about the rather detailed photographs which among other solid things moved the Egyptian government to thoroughly investigate the matter? You find it quite easy to overrule (in accord with your atheist faith, i.e. belief lacking no proof in this case) the observation of the state authorities who were on hand and who would have loved to uncover a Christian hoax if there had been one. As for Parmenides, no one has ever disproved his assertion nor that of Leibnitz that everything has a sufficient cause. I am glad that you admit that there is "some considerable evidence that nothing might be the very thing from which the universe did emerge" because that is precisely what Christians call "creation" from nothing by God -- can you prove the contrary?

          • Max Driffill

            The photos are not that detailed.

            Also, gods are not nothing. Gods would represent something. From what did the gods arise to cause the universe? You cannot arbitrarily cut off the regression? If the universe (which began about as simplistically as a thing could begin when you consider its constituent parts at time t= 0.000000000001 after the big bang) how can one exempt gods, complex, goal having, agency having beings from the necessity of cause? Surely they need a cause as well? If you say gods don't need explanation for the existence, then you are damaging the case for them by your own logic.

            If gods, complex, multilayered beings of immense power don't need an explanation, then why should the universe? Why not skip the odd step, and excise gods from the hypothesis? Even Occam recognized this danger, noting that this was multiplying entities in an explanation. He was right by the way that there was no way to defend, soundly, the idea the gods would require an explanation. In any event, given that we have copious evidence for the universe, its expansion at the point of the big bang, a net energy content of the universe of 0, the more parsimonious expiation that fits all the known facts is that universe arose out of nothing, or something much like nothing with no help from an agent. By agent I mean a being with goals, and complex psychology. Until better evidence comes in, adding gods to the explanation makes no sense, and needlessly muddies thinking and explanatory power by creating more mystery, and confusion than resolves.

          • Dhaniele

            A
            number of the photos are certainly detailed enough to recognize that it is a
            woman with a halo who happens to be on top of a Church – detailed or not, they
            do need some scientific explanation which the authorities could not give – precisely
            because their cause is beyond science (God). Parmenides, by the way, assumed
            the eternity of the universe (as did all the ancient Greeks, and thus to speak
            of an eternal God does not contradict his basic insight. Thus Parmenides was
            just wrong about eternal matter, not the spiritual being who is God and who is
            the creator of matter in time (creation was something the Greeks hadn’t even
            considered much less denied). You speak of the “gods.” Aristotle, who lived in
            a polytheistic society, was convinced by his careful logic that the universe of
            change required an eternal cause of that change whom he named the “unmoved
            mover.” His reasoning is too long to explain here, but the idea spread among
            the great philosophers who came after him that there is an eternal unchanging
            cause at the base of reality, which, by the way, even Occam recognized. Thus,
            there is no eternal regression. You mentioned the complex psychology of the
            agent behind the universe, but mainstream philosophy in the centuries after
            Aristotle always recognized God as utterly simple; as Aristotle said: God is
            perfect act (not going from potency to act). Anthony Flew, the famous preacher
            of atheism, as you know, was driven by the complexity of DNA to admit that
            there was a rational powerful agent, whom he recognized as God, at the base of
            reality. In the short lifetime thereafter, he never took any specific religion
            to my knowledge, but his analysis of reality led him to the certainty that
            there is a God so much so that he felt compelled to go public with it, though
            he knew it would lead to ridicule. On the other hand, God, who is perfect act,
            as Leibnitz also saw, is the sufficient cause for the universe in all its
            manifestations, most especially its origin from nothing material.

          • Max Driffill

            They don't show a woman at all, much less one who is halo'd on top of the Church. The best of the images look highly processed. In any event they show a light. And that is all they are evidence for. A light.

            They aren't evidence of Mary returning to top a church (to what mysterious end one wonders).

            Anyway, you have not adequately explained why the universe, the only thing we have evidence of, isn't a sufficient stopping point in our look back at our origins. If gods don't require an explanation for their origin then why does the universe? If the question of who or what created god is invalid, then we can simply skip the step, and say the universe requires no greater explanation than itself. Or we could, since you dislike being chained to evidence, go back an additional step and say that gods were greater by other gods. Evidence though can limit such speculations and there is no evidence that we need anything other than natural processes, for the formation of the universe.

            Bringing up Flew is becoming quite the go to maneuver on this site. I'll spare recounting the controversies surrounding that. I'll also point out, that I had never heard of Flew until he made his declaration of deism, or whatever it is. I will note that he isn't a biologist, so his speculations on DNA are really useless.

          • Dhaniele

            There were quite a number of photographs; I used this to find them at
            Yahoo.com “Zeitoun Mary image halo.” The halo, by the way, is quite visible. The
            third site it suggested has something from You tube with the title “The apparitions of Mary at Zeitoun.” It is
            only four minutes long and has some good images. The fourth site has some still
            pictures. It also has this: Report of General Information and
            Complaints Department, Cairo, Egypt, 1968 "Official investigations
            have been carried out with the result that it has been considered an undeniable
            fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary has been appearing on Zeitoun Church in a
            clear and bright luminous body seen by all present in front of the church,
            whether Christians or Moslems." Even if it was only a light, it was seen
            by all on top of the church and that still requires a logical explanation for
            an atheist other than the one the authorities were forced by the facts to
            admit. As far as the universe goes, of course it requires some sort of explanation
            for its coming to be (since the big bang is the modern scientific view). That
            is why when the magician pulls something out of a hat, people ask how did he do
            that? We all know that from nothing, a rabbit cannot appear. As Aristotle had already
            realized, science is knowledge through causes, and therefore he concluded that
            the only cause for the world as we know it is an uncaused being who is the
            foundation for the world of nature. The universe, since we now know that it
            came into being at a specific time, requires an explanation. There is no need
            to ask when God began since there would be nothing at all if he did not already
            exist. Again, from nothing, nothing can arise. You remark “you dislike being
            chained to evidence” – yet from what I can see, I am the one who gives evidence
            and you resort to rhetoric. In other words, the shoe is on the other foot. If
            you had never heard of Flew before his declaration, you are not so widely read
            on the topic. As far as his not being a biologist, his arguments do not require
            that he be one to understand his objection that pure chance and evolution could
            not produce the results that have been given by modern research into DNA. As I
            mentioned, Mendel, the pioneer in this field, already disagreed with Darwin who
            knew nothing of genetics. Moreover, if one must be a Ph.D. in science to be
            included in this website, I think the comments section would be greatly
            diminished or even non-existent.

          • Michael Murray

            Atheist for me and many of the atheists who used to post here before being purged describes someone who

            "holds no beliefs in gods"

            Note that this is not the same as thinking gods are impossible. So maybe calling me intellectually dishonest is not so intellectually accurate.

            Why am I willing to entertain the possibility of extraterrestrials easily but gods with great difficulty ? It's basically Friar William of Ockham's razor. We have very well supported theories of a lot of the structure of reality. Existence of extraterrestrials requires no changes to any of this. Whereas God is not even well defined and when people do try to define he/she/it it becomes very quickly apparent it is going to over turn what we understand about the real world. For example God is a mind without a physical substrate, God can manipulate physical things but isn't physical, God is beyond space and time, etc, etc.

            If it is the Catholic God we are speaking off then it comes with other assumptions that we have no physical evidence for like immortal souls. Their existence contradicts things we understand very well. On the latter point I recommend this video by Sean Carroll:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vrs-Azp0i3k

          • Dhaniele

            I might add that you still have not given a satisfactory answer to the events of Zeitoun or the Miracle through Bishop Sheen. Just ignoring something does not solve the issues it raises. If you go through the Lourdes cures, which are on line, it is evident that there will never be a scientific explanation of them as many occurred right when people were watching them unfold, even doctors.

          • Michael Murray

            I've pointed you twice at the my answer. That you don't find it "satisfactory" is your problem not mine. So I left your God out. That would be because she isn't there.

          • Dhaniele

            I pointed out why your assertion of "mass hallucination" is not objectively justified by the facts. If that is fine for you, I would say rather that it is your problem not mine.

          • Dhaniele

            Yes, as many people, like yourself, currently understand it, it is wrong because the data do not support it as I have already explained.

          • Michael Murray

            Max Driffill explained this to you. Maybe reply to his post.

          • Max Driffill

            Evolution fits and starts? This phrase is does not describe evolutionary processes. Evolution is always happening because gene frequencies are always changing. At its root, that is all evolution really is, change in gene frequencies over time. Changes in genes, mean changes in gene products (we call these phenotypic effects). They are constantly occurring as offspring are not exact duplicates of their parents (except of course when they are, but even then asexually reproducing species also change over time). Offspring are not even exact duplicates of themselves, that is parents don't produce, except in the case of identical twins exact copies of offspring, each is different owing to a different combination of genes created meiosis. So variation is constant, as is selection.

            The fossil record can only catch slivers of these changes, but even still, there have been huge leaps and bounds in our collections, many "sequences" have ben dramatically fleshed out and demonstrate both large and small phenotypic change over time. And the change implied by the fossil record is as gradual as the changes we see in modern populations. Instead of googling ""evolution fits and starts" you might trek down to your local University library and interlibrary loan How and Why Species Multiply: The Radiation of Darwin's Finches. It is an excellent book that presents their 40 years of work on Galapagos islands studying, in real time, evolutionary processes.

          • Dhaniele

            Once again, I suggest typing on google "fits and starts" evolution, and you will see who the scientific community is debating the simplistic view of Darwinism as it is currently held by a host of people.

          • Max Driffill

            Why would I go to google and type in "fits and starts?" I've just pointed you to a summary of real, published research by two amazing evolutionary biologists who have studied evolution in real time, for the last 40 years?

          • Mr. Mummers

            Indeed, what is the missing link between me and my son? He looks so alike, yet somehow not quite the same. There must be an intermediate hominid precisely halfway between his genetic set and mine. Strangely, I look very much like my father but again, not quite the same. It has bothered me for years that there must therefore obviously be another intermediate creature of half the height difference between us. Otherwise, obviously, it must have been a magic invisible man that created me from a ball of clay. Makes more sense.

          • Dhaniele

            You use the expression "no evidence." Well, you will have to consider the DNA studies that concluded that all human beings are descended from a single woman, which is the reason the scientists called her "Eve" due the obvious suitability of the name.

          • Michael Murray

            You need to read what is meant by Mitachondrial Eve. It does not mean what you think it does. Not least because the person it is changes as the human population changes.

          • Dhaniele

            Please see my answer to Max.

          • Max Driffill

            My goodness.
            That isn't what the evidence shows. What it shows it that all our modern mitochondria can be traced back to a single woman living between 100-200,000 years ago. There were humans before her.
            "Mitochondrial Eve is named after mitochondria and the biblical Eve.[2] Unlike her biblical namesake, she was not the only living human female of her time. However, her female contemporaries, except her mother, failed to produce a direct unbroken female line to any living woman in the present day."

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

          • Dhaniele

            I am aware of this statement which is based not on fossils but on a FAITH in Darwinism. How one woman among hundreds or thousands could be the sole female to produce offspring that have reached our time is scientifically inexplicable given the fact that early humans were wandering about and hence many women would have been in isolated groups that would never have any contact with the descendents of "Eve" and thus could not be replaced by her line. Moreover, the elephant in the room is that no life has been found on Mars. According to the logic of contemporary disciples of Darwin there should be life there.

          • Michael Murray

            I am aware of this statement which is based not on fossils but on a FAITH in Darwinism.

            No it's not a matter of faith. It's really just a logical argument about the shape of trees of ancestors.

            How one woman among hundreds or thousands could be the sole female to produce offspring that have reached our time is scientifically inexplicable given the fact that early humans were wandering about and hence many women would have been in isolated groups that would never have any contact with the descendents of "Eve" and thus could not be replaced by her line.

            If that is the case then that is not Mitachondrial Eve but she occurs further back where the wandering groups and the other groups have a common ancestor.

            Moreover, the elephant in the room is that no life has been found on Mars. According to the logic of contemporary disciples of Darwin there should be life there.

            Can you find me a scientist who claims that because of Darwin's theory of evolution natural selection there must be life on Mars ? That would be remarkable as evolution has nothing to do with how life arises but how it changes after arises.

          • Dhaniele

            Please see my answer above. Moreover, since you are an atheist it is obvious that you have to find some answer besides God for the origin of life, and the Mars reference is certainly relevant.

          • Michael Murray

            Could you give a link please? Disqus never shows all the replies.

            My question remains

            Can you find me a serious scientist who claims that because of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection there must be life on Mars ?

          • Dhaniele

            Please see my answer to Max. We are discussing atheists not serious scientists per se, and even Darwinism is not the center of the discussion, as far as that goes. It is however relevant that Anthony Flew, who was a star in the atheists firmament found himself conscience bound to publicly renounce his atheism as he became more and more aware of the complex nature of DNA -- something that complex simply cannot arise by chance. In fact, the first research in this area of genetics was done by an Augustinian Monk, and perhaps this is also the reason why he was critical of Darwin' simplistic analysis. I might add here, that the topic is really atheism rather than Darwinism (which is often espoused by them). The fact it Darwin is rather like Columbus who thought he could reach China by going into the Atlantic Ocean. That is why the inhabitants were falsely named Indians. There was a basic insight by Columbus that was rather off the mark as it turned out, and the same is true of Darwin. He is not completely wrong, but the atheists' interpretation of him is wrong.

          • Michael Murray

            Ah I found it. I guess it is this one

            In pro-Darwinist circles, it is often heard that life came from outer space or arose somehow by chance. If this were true, one would certainly expect to find it on Mars.

            So not actually a prediction of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection but something some people who also believe in Darwin's theory also say. But they don't say life has to be on Mars. That is a prediction of yours. Why would you expect that life from outer space landing on an inhospitable planet would survive ?

          • Dhaniele

            By the way, I might add this since I discuss your postings at various places. I am still waiting for your rational explanation of the apparitions of Zeitoun (which the Egyptian government could not explain after much effort). Likewise, the case of the miracle baby healed by Bishop Sheen and many other like cases which are easily found on the web. These things have no scientific explanations because it is God, the lawgiver and creator, who at times does things that go beyond the ordinary rules of science.

          • Michael Murray

            By the way, I might add this since I discuss your postings at various places.

            Bear in mind we are in different time zones. I did reply to your question over here:

            https://strangenotions.com/why-would-god-allow-suffering-caused-by-nature/#comment-1470418304

            I would add to that the comment that just because I don't have an immediate answer to some purported miracle doesn't mean your answer is correct. That is a fallacy. Just because I can't say what causes a bright light in the sky doesn't mean my friends explanation that it's a extra-terrestrial space-ship is correct.

          • Max Driffill

            Uh. You are right it wasn't fossil evidence. It was an analysis of genetic variation in the genes of our mitochondria. I'm sorry you don't know much about the evolution hominids. During the time of the putative "Mitochondrial Eve" (100-200,000 years ago) our populations were quite small. Its not as unlikely that you think that one member from a small population would have mitochondria so well represented in later generations. You may want to look up genetic bottlenecks.
            Also there is no reason why there should be life on Mars. Nothing in the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis predicts that there should be life on Mars. I'm not sure where you get that.

          • Dhaniele

            In pro-Darwinist circles, it is often heard that life came from outer space or arose somehow by chance. If this were true, one would certainly expect to find it on Mars. When you speak of her mitochondria being well represented, it is all over the world! As far as they can tell, she is unique. Again, it is only falling back on faith in a theory that you can so easily cling to the notion that there MUST have been other women.

          • Michael Murray

            No Mitachondrial Eve (ME) is the most recent person who is an ancestor of everyone currently alive through the female line. That is why she is unique. As the population of people changes by deaths ME can change and be replaced by one of her daughters, grand-daughters etc.

            We know there were other women because we can measure the variability in human genes in the current living population and we know the mutation rate. The best evidence we have is that the lowest the homo sapien population ever was was around the tens of thousands with some recent theories suggesting low thousands. A single breeding pair of humans does not fit with the scientific evidence.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_bottleneck#Humans

          • Dhaniele

            That intermarriage of the seven billion people of the world could eliminate ME is impossible since all the people are descended from her and there is no alternative line. You might find some interesting thoughts here and maybe find a chance for further discussion: http://rationalcatholic.blogspot.in/

          • Michael Murray

            No you are misunderstanding. If quite a few of the current people alive died it may not be necessary to go back to ME to find the most recent common female ancestor -- one of her daughters, granddaughters etc might do the trick. That's why ME can change over time.

          • Max Driffill

            Dhaniele,
            you seem to have no real grasp of about any thing evolutionary biologists happen to think. Biologists don't know how, as of yet, life arose. We have several promising hypotheses, not all mutually exclusive for the phenomena, but the event lies far back in our geological past. Life may be able to arise via many chemical pathways, or it may be a very narrow set of processes and conditions that allow for life to arise.
            Life may have existed on Mars. It may still exist on Mars, it may exist on Titan and many other places in our Solar System. We simply don't know.

          • Dhaniele

            Although you correctly point out that biologists do not know how life arose, in atheists circles it is an article of faith that it arose without the intervention of God, and consequently we have been bombarded by article about life on other planets.

          • Max Driffill

            "....in atheists circles it is an article of faith that it arose without the intervention of God, and consequently we have been bombarded by article about life on other planets."

            This is also wrong.
            1. We don't know how life arose. This is not an article of faith. It also not an article of faith that there was no divine intervention. There is no evidence of the involvement of gods in any natural processes. We simply have no reason to assume gods, to infer gods etc. We have several hypotheses, none of which require gods. Science continues to work on the problem, until evidence allows us to sift through the ideas we will have to tolerate ambiguity.

            2. We have article after article on the possibility of life elsewhere in universe, in our galaxy and indeed in our solar system because it is a tantalizing problem that fascinates more people than just atheists. The reason why people find the idea fascinating is because the probability that there is life elsewhere in the universe is, or appears at present, to be closer to 1 than it is to 0.

          • Michael Murray

            By the way your comment

            which is the reason the scientists called her "Eve" due the obvious suitability of the name.

            would appear to be incorrect

            Origin of the name[edit]

            Cann, Stoneking and Wilson did not use the term "Mitochondrial Eve" or even the name "Eve" in their original paper; it appears to be a catchy term popularised by the media.[21]The name appeared in a 1987 article in Science by Roger Lewin, headlined "The Unmasking of Mitochondrial Eve."[22] The biblical connotation was very clear from the start. The accompanying research news in Nature had the obvious title "Out of the garden of Eden."[23] Wilson himself preferred the more euphemistic "Lucky Mother" [24] and thought the use of the name Eve "regrettable."[22] [25] But the concept of Eve caught on with the public and was repeated in a Newsweek cover story (11 January 1988 issue featured a depiction of Adam and Eve on the cover, with the title "The Search for Adam and Eve"),[26] and a cover story in Time on 26 January 1987.[27]

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

          • Dhaniele

            Whether or not the original discoverers called her "Eve" is really besides the point. The fact that it appeared in Science magazine in the article by Lewin reveals the appropriateness that should be evident.

          • Michael Murray

            Whether or not the original discoverers called her "Eve" is really besides the point. The fact that it appeared in Science magazine in the article by Lewin reveals the appropriateness that should be evident.

            No the fact it appears in Science magazine shows it was deemed to be a good marketing exercise.

          • Michael Murray

            Going back to my answer. I think it is clear. You claimed in your post about war zones that we shouldn't blame God for causing suffering that has resulted from the fall. I pointed out that there was plenty enough suffering going on before the fall to blame God for. That suffering was happening to the human ancestors of Adam and Eve.

            What is not clear about that ?

          • Dhaniele

            You have clarified your answer now with the statement: "That suffering was happening to the human ancestors of Adam and Eve." This is why I used the expression "homo sapiens." For Christians, homo sapiens and Adam and Eve are one and the same thing. As far as "war zones" are concerned, you have mixed me up with another posting.

          • Dhaniele

            To further the remark in the war zones, it was not about "suffering" per se. It was about an abnormal situation (for a Christian) that requires an explanation. The world as it is now requires an explanation for the disorder that is present in it particularly from the moral standpoint. Why is it easier to be bad than to be good, for example?

          • Michael Murray

            As I keep trying to explain what I want is an explanation for the suffering that is intrinsic to the world we live in and has been ever since life began. Suffering is a necessary part of evolution by natural selection. Your God's chosen instrument of natural development.

            To say nothing of the earthquakes, asteroid impacts, diseases etc that are part of the physical world your God created.

          • Michael Murray

            For Christians, homo sapiens and Adam and Eve are one and the same thing.

            Sorry I don't understand that statement. I assume you don't mean that Christians believe that there have only ever been two homo sapiens called Adam and Eve ?

            In any case genetic studies show that there has never been a point in the past where the population of homo sapiens alive at any time was smaller than tens of thousands.

          • Max Driffill

            Speaking of specificity and clarity, when were Homo sapiens put in the garden and at what point were they capable of something like rebellion? Could you point out at exactly what point Homo sapiens made their first appearance in the biota? Hint: you can't.

            The reason why is simple. Difference between parent and offspring are subtle and the origin of new species takes several generations of cumulative change (trending in a specific direction forced by local selection pressures, or by genetic drift). For an explanation of why, studying the phenomena of "ring" species is in order. Populations at the ends of a broad distribution may not be able to reproduce, even though every neighboring population of said species in between will be reproductively viable. Populations at the ends of the distribution have diverged enough that they can no longer reproduce when members of these populations are artificially introduced to one another. If you were to wipe out the intervening "links" you would have two different species instead of one species with a lot of genetic variation across its range. This is all that happens over time. The "links" drop off for one reason or another.

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

  • Helen Hawkins

    Since I work with children, I try to explain things as simply as I can. This is what I tell children when they ask, "Why suffering." Look at the beautiful silk flowers that you can buy. They do not wilt, they do not fade they do not die. Then look at the beautiful flowers of the field. They are alive. God could have made us all like silk flowers. But then, we would not be alive. We could have been puppets. Beautiful to look at perhaps. We are part of this physical world. This is what we deal with. It is beautiful, sometimes violent, and always a gift.

    • Mr. Mummers

      Indeed, how wise a God. To create creatures to die in pain and suffering, except for the angels of course, who are not made to die and suffer, or even be made of anything. Such brilliance, a whole world for dying creatures, while his other immortal creatures go on for ever. Maybe he got bored of not having children tortured to death.

    • Max Driffill

      The violence is always a gift?

    • Michael Murray

      Pretty much what I told my children when they got to be old enough to be aware of their and their parents mortality. Without the God and the gift part. Thankfully, due to science, I could assure them that most people live a long life. You are really only explaining dying though. Not natural disasters, Loa-loa worms, dying young, disease, harlequin babies and all the other gifts God has given us.

  • Linda Wolpert Smith

    These interminable arguments between atheists and believers will not be settled by science alone since science cannot demonstrate meaning. Reason, on the other hand, is never pure; rather, it is affected, even begins by taking into consideration, the reasoner's fundamental commitments.

    Pope Francis has offered this advice: Those who do not believe in a good God, or any god at all for that matter, can live good lives by, in general, working for the best good of all and, in particular, offering substantial assistance to those whose paths they cross - men, women, children, and animals - while caring for the land, water, and air on which we depend for earthly existence and good health.

    After death they will have their answer. My hope for them is that it will be, "Well done, good and faithful servant." But my hope is not theirs. Still they will have, at the end, the great and good satisfaction of knowing that the world was a better and not a worse place for their having existed.

    "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness; they shall be satisfied."

    • Michael Murray

      since science cannot demonstrate meaning

      But the understanding we get of reality by doing science paints a picture of reality that has no meaning in it for us. We make our own meaning. Better to admit that up front and get on with building a better world with less suffering in it.

      Pope Frances. Would he be the same person who is in charge of the Vatican which is refusing to help the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in its investigation of Australian priests involved in child abuse ? Maybe I'll not look to him for moral guidance.

      http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-05/vatican-wont-give-all-child-abuse-documents-royal-commission/5574192

  • Linda Wolpert Smith

    I actually do believe that our human experience through time is instructive. I study it and attempt to learn from it; learn, that is, the difference between good and evil.

    Your comment in response to mine has something of a "QED" quality to it. I suggest that we all "get busy building a better world". Why would articulating that goal refute my comment? We, atheists and believers, can work together "for the best good of all". In the end we will know the truth. That was my point.

    I respect human dignity, freedom, and the right to privacy and have no wish whatsoever to impose my beliefs or those of the Catholic Church upon anyone. If asked I will explain (not on a blog post) but only person-to-person, if asked.

    If any person is interested in the church, I think it is a good idea to study the teachings and not individual behavior. There are examples of heroic goodness; there are also examples of horrible sinfulness. But then we are all sinners.

  • Dale Johnston

    Trying to come up with reasons why God would allow suffering, whether it be because of his interference with humans in the Genesis story or by natural causes adds unnecessary layers of nonsense that is completely uncalled for. When you remove Gods from your worldview everything makes sense. We live in an amazing and dynamic universe. Sometimes it is wonderful, sometimes it sucks. It's not perfect or fair but if it was we would be bored to tears.

  • Jeff Warchal

    The fact remains that, in this world, we are on a pathway from life to death. Who is going to reverse this pathway? A mere mortal? Science and technology? I don't think so. See John 11, the Two Trees and the Two Gardens for an explanation to this reality.

  • Stephen Smith

    Cancer is caused by a man made object. Much like the oyster secretes to cover the grain of sand the cancer cells look to dissolve intrusive irritants. The cancer cells are working to hard trying to remove said foreign object.

  • Kraker Jak

    . .

  • Andy Rhodes

    What is the evidence that God knows what he’s doing? She created a Garden of Eden that collapsed after just one sin, thus ruining the entire cosmos. What kind of planning and love is that? He felt that he had to flood the Earth and kill everything on it to start over, but didn't change the DNA of the human species "infected" and "depraved". So the same pattern of rebellion against God was virtually guaranteed to happen again, even though God would continue to blame humans 100% for their actions regardless of the significant moral, intellectual and emotional weaknesses they received at birth. What could describe a more embarrassing track record of mismanagement and waste? She placed us on planet Earth, which is largely inhospitable to human life. Only through over 100,000 years of perseverance toward technological, social and moral development has our species learned how to survive consistently. Before the 20th century, the expected life span for all human history was 35-40 years or even lower. During that lifetime, people suffered from disease, famine, attacks by predatory creatures, ignorance, violence, fear, natural disasters, dread, etc., often limited like wild animals in the midst of a labyrinth of dangers and terrifying surprises, with no guarantee of anything beneficent or providential.

    Traditional monotheism certainly wasn’t obvious to 99% of world cultures throughout history, as only the three Abrahamic faiths and Zoroastrians believed that way. Comfort, guidance and protection deriving from a perfectly good, wise and powerful God eluded humans in their billions by no fault of their own – the genetic hardwiring of their brains didn’t lead them inevitably to see the world as being rooted in something other than pantheism, animism, polytheism, atheism, deism or panentheism. God made a cosmos that is built on the necessity of continual cycles in destruction-creation and life-death. Without the death of stars, there would be no galaxies or life in the universe. Without biological death and life processes integrated together, the Earth’s ecosystem would not function. The orthodox Christian assertion of a “safe” environment for human (or other) life in the Garden of Eden is completely implausible given these realities. God made a dangerous universe from the beginning. There’s no evidence of a biblical Fall away from an earlier utopian origin. The Bible says that in the future God will create a New Heavens and New Earth that is systematically designed to be without sin, death and severe pain and yet many people will be there who didn’t choose Christ – babies, the mentally handicapped and perhaps the unevangelized as well. So, why would God make our current universe so harsh and baffling? And why hide or make unintelligible the various essential revelations of God from most people for most of history?

    Given what I’ve said above, why would it be rational to trust that God is looking out for our welfare, here or in the afterlife? I can see goodness and wonder in nature, yet there is also a vast range in types of suffering, waste and tragedy awaiting living things on this planet. This is not because of sin. The universe has been like this since shortly after its existence was inaugurated 13.7 billion years ago. A conservative young earth creationist who wants to maintain that the cosmos began 6,000-10,000 years ago is stuck in the dilemma of explaining how the biology, physics, geology, chemistry, etc.(1) of such a recent start could match with with the radically contrasting record found in the field of natural history and all other areas of science which have been studied and verified for centuries, many times by researchers with Christian beliefs.

    (1) disagreementsihavewithchristianity.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/if-physical-death-entered-the-world-because-of-sin-why-does-science-contradict-this

    ==========================================

    The paragraphs above were copied from one of the articles on my blog site: disagreementsihavewithchristianity.wordpress.com. I'd love to hear feedback on any of the 20 articles there, if you feel like commenting in response.