One of the greatest questions asked by religious people is why God allows suffering to exist. There are many answers given by apologists, but none seem to satisfy. Let’s look at a few of these answers offered and then I’ll explain why I think that they don’t really explain anything.
1) We suffer because God is testing our faith.
2) We suffer because we are being punished for sins we have committed.
3) We suffer due to demonic influences.
There are plenty more reasons that apologists offer, but since I can’t answer them all, and I’m not writing a book on this, let’s stick with these three.
We suffer because God is testing our faith.
This idea is that we must endure suffering to prove our faith in God. But, this idea raises an important question of it’s own.
– Why does God need or want our faith?
If God needs our faith, then he can’t really be all powerful since an all powerful being wouldn’t need anything. If God wants our faith, and requires our suffering, then, as Epicurus and Christopher Smotherman said above, then God must be malevolent, if not sadistic.
We suffer because we are being punished for the sins we have committed.
This assumes, first off, that we have sinned. Since no one is perfect, this could make sense. But what about young children, or infants? How can this possibly apply to them, unless of course, God is malevolent and sadistic?
We suffer due to demonic influence.
This assumes that there are evil spirits who cause us to suffer. They make bad things to happen. So, if God is all powerful and merciful, as we are told He is, then why would He let these spirits torment us? Not only that, if you assume that God created everything, and that demons exist, then God must have created demons. Once again, God is malevolent and sadistic.
Now I know that these arguments have been going on for thousands of years, but I think that it is good to keep asking ourselves this question, why an all powerful, merciful God would allow so many innocent people, especially children, suffer. By blithely accepting that this is how God planned it allows us to, if not abdicate responsibility to do something about it, then to at least minimize it’s effect on us. It anesthetizes us to other’s suffering.
It is this acceptance of the cause of suffering that is a true source of evil that comes from believing that suffering is part of some overarching, and inexplicable, plan by God. Instead we need to see suffering for what it really is: the varieties of circumstances that we are all subjected to and which we can, through our own mercy, hard work and technologies minimize and ameliorate.