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Is All This Slaughter God's Fault?

If God is omnipotent, why is there such evil and horrific suffering in the world?


This question is known in the world of theology as The Problem of Evil. Apologists for God have tried for centuries to come up with an answer that will protect God’s reputation as good and merciful.


But wait: why is this Problem of Evil a problem at all? Why does it warrant such endless handwringing and embarrassingly unsatisfying “answers”? Where did the question come from, anyhow?


Consider the difference between God’s being an inscrutable First Mover responsible for launching and spiritually inhabiting all that we conceive of as “Creation” (a pretty praiseworthy accomplishment), versus God’s being “omnipotent”—which simply means “God can do anything and everything”.


Anything? Everything? Really? Just because you can hatch a Big Bang doesn’t mean you can do a bang-up pedicure or write a symphony or—more to the point—prevent a psychopath from gunning down schoolchildren or get people to stop incinerating the earth or stop ruthless wars of choice or see to it that the thousands of people who die of starvation every single night get three square meals each day instead.


The Problem of Evil is a self-inflicted wound. Whoever started calling this impressive Creator “omnipotent” put a curse on God’s “brand”. Once you decide to say that God can do anything and everything, might do anything and everything, could do anything and everything, should do anything and everything that we think would make life more livable—well, you’ve doomed God to be a disappointment to us. Over the centuries, scores of God’s PR agents have conjured up tortured theological rationalizations to explain the problem of evil, but they just flat out don’t work. There is simply no satisfying explanation for an omnipotent God’s obvious refusal to remove evil and suffering from the world.


Given the ubiquity of evil in our world, we are left to consider two alternatives. One is that God is not capable of removing it—that is to say, God lacks real-world omnipotence as we think of it. The other is that creating such evil is also at the very heart of God’s intent for Creation. Not a heartwarming notion.


So I'm all for realizing that it’s not imperative to call God omnipotent. We aren’t somehow obligated to imagine or claim such an attribute. “Omnipotent” is arbitrary, and it doesn’t fly.


I'd rather just thank God for creating this unimaginably vast do-it-yourself kit we inhabit and for somehow being present to us, and then get on with it. No more blame-shifting, as though the evil in the world is part of God’s mysterious grand plan. Such an insupportable narrative just enables those of us not currently suffering to blithely offer our “thoughts and prayers” to those who are, and then press on with our personal quest for more security and pleasure.


It's time instead to reaffirm our calling to tikkun olam--the healing of creation--because we are the ones who have screwed it up and we are the only ones--the only ones--with the power to heal it.

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Eliot, you’ve written another thought provoking essay that encourages us to examine our own responsibilities in helping “to heal the world.” Our tendency to sit idly by- hoping God or anyone but us can DO something- leaves us powerless and full of grievance.

Stand together; speak up; lend a helping hand ; vote!

In my youth, Martin Luther King, Jr. showed us what positive action looks like. Caroline Edwards, with the Capital Police Force, showed us what courageous action looked like on January 6, 2021.

Thank you again Eliot for sharing your thoughts!


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Eliot Daley
Eliot Daley
Jun 19, 2022
Replying to

Thank you for your thoughts, Sharon. I am in total agreement with your models of contemporary service to humanity,. By coincidence, the dinner-table conversation that stimulated my blog post included discussion of whose writing should be in a "New New Testament", and King's "Letters from a Birmingham Jail" topped the list...!

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Very thoughtful piece Eliot.. The world is not God's little playpen where "He" should make everything perfect. It is our training ground, full of challenges, uncertainty and opportunity, a lot of which is fearful and painful. We need to rise.

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Guest
Jun 18, 2022

"Can God make a rock sooo big that even He can't pick it up?"

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Eliot Daley
Eliot Daley
Jun 19, 2022
Replying to

No, She can't. 😊

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Guest
Jun 18, 2022

I think too many people perceive God as some kind of human....a man in the sky instead of a Supreme Spirit of which we all are a part. Traditional religions seem to always refer to God as "him", using the male personal pronoun. The very concept of God held by many...or most...might be at the base of this seemingly theoretical conundrum.

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Eliot Daley
Eliot Daley
Jun 19, 2022
Replying to

I agree that the anthropomorphizing of God (gender-specific, human-like, as in Michelangelo"s depiction on the Sistine Chapel ceiling) provide an all-too-handy way of imagining that God is a bodyguard standing at the ready to protect us and smite the bad guys. Comforting, but empty...


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


Eliot

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Great thoughts, Eliot. "We buttered our own bread, and now we have to lie in it." Whatever the source of the tremendous gift we've been given, it's up to us to keep it in good and working order. Neither blame-shifting nor blind faith are viable strategies to get us through this life and leave something better behind.

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Eliot Daley
Eliot Daley
Jun 19, 2022
Replying to

Thanks for your thoughts, as always Bob!


Eliot

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