In a recent letter to the editor to a local newspaper, I noted that theistic belief is irrational because natural evil serves as a defeater to Christian belief. The recent devastation in Japan should be “evidence enough” that there is no all-powerful and all-loving god who created the universe with the welfare of humans in mind. I was, of course, limited in space, so I couldn’t type everything I wanted to type and include in the newspaper. For some unknown reason, my 250 word letter was limited to about 125, so my answers to common objections to my shorted argument were not included.
The person who responded to my article had this to say,
In times of crisis, faith also is vital
In response to the letter to the editor from Justin Vacula titled “Natural disasters require our help, not our prayers” (March 17).
Christians do believe that God created the universe and, yes, God has a perfect will for all of us. However, he does allow things to happen, even tragedies such as in Japan. Why this had to happen is a mystery. That is not saying God is without any feelings or emotions. The essence of God is “unconditional love.”
During this Lenten season, it is a good time to reflect on the Crucifixion. God loved us so much that he allowed his son to die an ignominious, cruel death so that we might be saved.
Some say there is no hell; but if that is true, why would Christ die on the cross? From what would he need to save us?
Many praying Christians are led to donate their time and money to help out the cause. It is a biblical truth that God calls us to tithe and give alms.
In closing, I would like to offer this quotation: “For those with faith, no explanation is necessary, and for those without faith, no explanation is good enough.”
The first sentence the author offers is a fragment, so the author isn’t off to a great start at all (unless the editor is not at fault for this).
The author suggests that the destruction is a “mystery” that “God allowed to happen” and the “essence of God is unconditional love.” The “mystery answer” to the problem of evil is not an answer at all, but rather an explaining away. If you think that the reason for this wrongdoing in Japan is mysterious and insist that God loves in spite of deaths of thousands, you’re forced to fall into utter moral skepticism about any possible destruction and think “Hmm…this is just mysterious and there may be some sort of greater good that can be had for event x.”
Even if some greater good would be had, it’s silly to think that this is the only possible way that an all-powerful and all-loving god could achieve whatever end he intended; God could simply achieve this greater good without having a universe without natural disasters. If this greater good can’t be had, then God’s plan is a horrible one and he obviously isn’t all-loving.
At this point, the objector might tell me something like “Well, you just want a perfect universe, but how can any good be had if there were no “natural evil”?” I’m not asking for a perfect universe at all, but rather am saying that we should not expect an omni-god to make a universe that is like this. Earthquakes and other natural disasters aren’t needed for compassion or some other greater good. If an omni-god created the universe, it should be radically different and without (or with less) deadly viruses, deadly natural disasters, stillbirths, etc.
This idea of “god loved us so much that he allowed his son to die…” is absurd. Love for someone is not demonstrated by sending your son on a suicide mission/”allowing” him to die. Imagine if I approached someone and said, “I love you so much and I want to forgive you for slighting me, so I’m going to kill my son because this is the only way that I can possibly forgive you.” Acts like this from any human would be sick and disturbing, so why should an act like this from God be suddenly indicative of love? God could certainly have forgiven humans in some other manner besides having his son be crucified in a bloody death…and then require love for salvation.
Forgiveness through another human being, otherwise known as vicarious redemption, is quite disturbing. If we slight another human being, forgiveness is had when a person is genuinely sorry, gives an apology, and ceases to act in an immoral fashion. Theists try to say that the crucifixion makes sense because humans offended God, so God can forgive them through other humans, but this doesn’t work either. How can forgiveness happen “through a person” without that person forgiving the other individual? Imagine that a husband kills his wife. The wife, in a supernatural realm, can never forgive and will never forgive the husband, but according to many Christians, God can forgive the husband without the wife forgiving…and then he goes to Heaven. Heaven, again according to Christians, is supposed to be a joyous place where people/souls/whatever live in harmony, but this can’t be fulfilled if people/souls/whatever do not forgive others.
The author mentions that some people think there is no Hell and asks from what would we need to be saved from if no Hell exists? Many Christians are in vast disagreement on this idea because there are no coherent, widely accepted, or consistent answers on this point. Some Christians believe there is no Hell. Some define Hell as “absence of God.” Some think that Jesus’ death was symbolic. Some think that Jesus’ death was to allow people to enter into Heaven. Some think that people go to limbo. Some people think that people go to some other transition before Heaven. Some people think that anyone can be forgiven of anything as long as they repent. Some people think that atheists will go to Hell just for not believing…….. Even theologians don’t agree on these issues. Regardless, this question has nothing to do with the problem of evil and just seems to be preaching.
Heaven or Jesus dying doesn’t excuse evil. Shall the sufferings of about a hundred years or less be just a blip in existence and be all better like a mother kissing a son’s boo-boo? With this defense of “Jesus died, so it’s okay” (which the author may or may not be implying) just doesn’t work. If it did, we’d plunge into quite a horrific mindset and say to victims of crimes “Oh, you got raped, but it’s okay! God will make everything better in the end!” We obviously don’t act like this because we understand that horrific events that happen on Earth have dire consequences and really do matter. Why shift gears when defending the idea that an all-loving god exists?
Many Christians indeed do give money to help victims of disasters, but religion causes the “moral compasses” of many believers to be skewed. Some people think that sending solar-powered Bibles to people or sending stained glass windows is a priority when people need food, medical help, and water. This is a huge problem. Secular people with good intentions aren’t wasting time praying or sending religious items to people; they are donating what the people need.
The quotation that the author offers in the closing paragraph is quite ironic because it’s showing that his/her faith is baseless and that the common sense way of needing explanations and good reasons for believing are needed. Faith needs no explanation, the author says, so this surrenders all rational thought and admits that the author has no concern with finding evidence and good justification for establishing the belief. I need good reasons for accepting extraordinary claims and in matters that are not supernatural, I’m sure that the author does to. He/she is, for some reason, operating in the wrong matter and not using his/her cognitive faculties properly. If a salesman went to the author’s door and claimed to have magic weight loss pills, questions would certainly be asked or the claims would be dismissed automatically. Why should no explanation be needed when the supernatural is concerned?
I don’t accept belief in the supernatural because the reasons are not good ones, the believers have not been able to offer good arguments, and the morality of vicarious redemption (in the case of Christianity) is not one that would be had by an all-loving god, and many other reasons. Supernatural claims have not been demonstrated to be true, so I’m not going to accept them until really good reasons are presented. Explanations have constantly failed time and time again, so my rejection of supernatural claims is profoundly justified. I am willing to change any and all of my beliefs given that the evidence and arguments are presented, but all at the moment are profoundly lacking.
There’s also a great problem in distinguishing potential claims of the supernatural from advanced technology or something that we don’t understand. How can we possibly distinguish the supernatural from “I can’t explain this” or advanced technology? When the believer can answer this question and provide evidence/rational argument for supernatural claims, I’ll change my belief. Until then, I’m not going to believe. This demand for justification and evidence should be the mindset of many more people, but it’s sadly not. In day to day life, we operate in this manner, but some people, for some reason, are willing to lower the standards for justification and “turn our brains off” when God is concerned. The author is right with the last statement; no explanation is good enough because all of the explanations offered are profoundly lacking.