Thursday, December 20, 2012


The link to yet another story about the mass shooting in Newtown Connecticut asked a simple question:

Newtown Tragedy: Would A Good God Allow Such Evil?
It's a question that a lot of people have asked over the years. I know that as someone who doesn't believe in deities, some people will consider it anything from inappropriate to insulting that I weigh in on this, but I think that this is the wrong question, and a better one is:
Newtown Tragedy: Why Do We Think That God Should Place Us Above Such Things?
"If God is all-knowing, all-powerful and benevolent, why does He allow such misfortunes?" The NPR story asks, before telling us that the word for reconciling this "paradox" is Theodicy, which is then defined as "attempting to justify God's goodness despite the existence of evil and suffering." But it seems to me that something is missing there. In a way, you have to go back to the Taxonomy of God that another NPR reader created and, consulting entry 5c. "God controls everything and everything that happens is a result of her will," reframe the central paradox as: "If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, benevolent and in direct control of Earthly events, why does He inflict such misfortunes upon people who do not appear to deserve them?" Otherwise, I don't see the problem here, as I don't understand why the simple fact that, as the bumper sticker says, "'God is good. Evil is real. And God is all powerful," logically leads to: "Pick two." Rabbi Folberg may believe that if "those three propositions as true, then they're logically inconsistent," but I don't. If one can accept that a benevolent God can murder every first born child in the nation of Egypt after hardening the heart of Pharoah (among other things), a simple failure to constant protect humanity from itself and/or the forces of nature shouldn't be considered a divine failure - especially if one believes in the idea of Original Sin. In other words, unless you're of the opinion that God micromanages the world to such a degree that events like the Indian Ocean Tsunami or the Newtown shootings could not have happened without specific divine intervention or permission, why must their occurrence mean that a god cannot be benevolent?

So, as far as I'm concerned, people haven't yet answered the question of why belief in a benevolent deity should mean that we never expect bad things to happen to us. You don't have to be a Bible scholar to understand that God had no problem with the world being unequal and unfair. Under such circumstances, the outbursts of the insane and natural disasters should be considered par for the course.

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