Sunday, September 21, 2014

Why doesn't God end our suffering?

Waking Life (film)

Many people look at the conditions on Earth, with many people suffering from famine, plague, wars and brutal dictatorships and ask: if God exists why doesn't he stop our suffering?

This question presupposes that there is no value to suffering and that to end it would be preferable to allowing the situation on Earth to play out according to the behavior of the actors involved.

In many religions there is a strong belief that a creator God created the human race with free will.  This means we were created to make our own choices, not to be the puppets of some creator God. This, of course, is a two-edged sword.  If we have free will then we are free to make choices which are life-enhancing as well as those which are life-negating and ultimately destructive.  Luckily for us, we are helped in this decision making process by two wonderful characteristics we possess: the ability to feel pleasure and pain.

The existence of emotions and the ability to feel pleasure and pain are essential if we are to be guided towards behavior that is constructive for ourselves and others and away from behaviors that are destructive.  Actions and thoughts which are life-promoting generate pleasure in a psychologically healthy human being.  However, actions and thoughts which are life-negating generate pain.  The existence of pain acts as a warning sign to tell us to stop what we are doing that is causing this pain.  Only our indifference to pain will result in us continuing in our destructive behavior.  Pleasure, on the other hand, acts as an encouragement to continue the activity which gives birth to it.  Thanks to satiation, such activities are usually not undertaken to excess.

On the planet at the moment many people ignore their emotional suffering and persist in destructive behavior.  This causes suffering for themselves and others.  When conducted on a large scale we have a humanity out of balance and destructive behaviors which threaten life as we know it.  The solution to this is clearly for people to pay greater attention to their emotional state so that they can engage in activities and thoughts that promote a pleasurable state and productive, life promoting behaviors.

With regards to the role of a possible Creator, the existence of suffering on Earth says one of two things- either that the existence of suffering is a necessary part of human evolution towards a wiser state or that God has no power to end the suffering.  Either way, we are left to clean up our own act, free from any obvious divine intervention.  Of course, if a God existed which granted us free will then to intervene to end suffering on Earth would be a violation of our free will.  After all, humans have created the conditions on Earth and it is us to us to fix them.  Otherwise, how will we ever evolve to become constructive co-creators with God rather than undisciplined ne'er-do-wells dependent on the intervention of a higher power?

Sharka Todd

See also: Is suffering necessary?

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