Ask any believer in one of the Abrahamic religions – Christianity, Islam, or (a bit less so) Judaism – if God is good. We all know what their answer will be.
Ever since I became a Christian myself in 1972, and doubly so after I left the religion in 1994 and repudiated it several years later, I’ve looked hard for an answer from Christians from various camps (RCC and a bunch of Protestant denominations), from both learned and lay, including pastors, priests, and theologians, about the so-called “problem of evil”. I’ve asked everyone who seemed worth asking and read everything I could get my hands on.
The most direct and honest response I ever got was from a priest taking confession in St. Stephen’s in Vienna (2013), since he was the only priest available at the time. I wasn’t Catholic, nor was I a Christian of any kind at that point, but if the confessional was the only place I could go to ask my question – which was especially painful at the time, having just read Judith Herman’s amazing book, Trauma and Recovery – well then, to confession I would go.
Confession wasn’t being taken that day in a little closet like you’d expect, but in a small room at the back of the Cathedral. The priest was visibly relieved when he realized I wasn’t there for confession but just to talk, LOL! He came out from behind a screen, we sat down across a small table from each other, and we had a good chat.
I asked him if God is right there while a child gets raped, watches the whole time, hearing the child’s desperate cries for help.
He said that he is and he does.
I asked him how, then, can Christians say that God is good?
At first he began with some of the standard responses which, when boiled down, basically tell us that the real answer is both unknown and inexplicable.
God only knows
God makes his plan
The information’s unavailable
To the mortal man
— “Slip Slidin’ Away” by Paul Simon, 1977
I pointed out that if I or he were there and did the same thing that God does, we’d be morally and criminally guilty.
I asked why God gets a pass, then?
I asked him if he knew of any Christian who had found an answer, how God could be good while willfully committing criminal neglect and abandonment thousands (more like millions) of times every single day.
No. No one.
It was somewhat symbolic, but that capped it for me. Stake in the ground.
Christians have no fucking clue about arguably the single most important question about their god, after almost two thousand years of claiming to know the truth.
I’m still open to alleged answers, though. I’m actually still looking for them, unicorns though they now seem to be.
The other day, I realized that I’ve never asked an Orthodox Christian. So I posed the question to Archbishop Lazar Puhalo (retired) of the Orthodox Church in America, co-founder of the Monastery of All Saints of North America. He’s on Facebook as Vladika Lazar Puhalo, a very intelligent, learned, and serious person.
Here is a PDF of my question, along with a discussion I had with one of his followers. (You can see the post on Facebook here, unless it gets removed.)
[NOTE: Yes, indeed, the pissant removed the conversation. Here is what you’ll see there now.]
I got two responses from Archbishop Lazar. Twice he made clear that he has no answer, no “solution”.
You may as well just make up your own clever answer because if I cannot give you an honest answer, I will give you none.
… and …
Millard J Melnyk you will have to apply your own ideology and arrive at your own tentative answer.
Here is my response:
He failed to explain anything, did not admit his assumptions, nor did he object or disagree with my assessment of his comment.
I think it’s quite clear that I’ve got this thing nailed.
However, the woman who responded shared a good video, Courageous Conversations: Paul Young – “If God is Good, Why Do People Suffer in this World?” At least Young has some experience with the subject matter, which makes him far more real and non-philosophical (good thing) than most Christian thinkers have been. I especially liked his point about God submitting to humanity.
He’s still far, far from hitting the mark, though, which is an opinion shared by Marilyn McCord Adams.
Adams’ book Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God tactfully castigates the whole of Christian thinking to date for evading the question of horrendous evils. In other words, Christians have ignored horrendous evils and focused on the easy part, lesser evils, which can be explained away because they trigger so little moral offense that some of us will tolerate them being excused.
Young exhibited less of that evasion in his interview – after all, he suffered some – but still, the degree of magnitude of the evils he’s talking about still falls way short of the realities being suffered by billions every second of every day.
In the process of discussing this on Puhalo’s Facebook post, I came across a book I’d never noticed before by Gordon H. Clark, 2nd edition published in 2004, God and Evil: The Problem Solved. Funny, though – you’d think that a “solution” that momentous would be on the lips of every Christian, everywhere. I ordered a copy, only paperback available, so I’ll have to wait a bit to find out.
I received Clark’s book and his “solution” is as clear as it is simple.
Just become a Calvinist!
Whatever God does is good by definition. And everything that happens is God’s will, otherwise God could not be “sovereign”.
Get a load:
I wish very frankly and pointedly to assert that if a man gets drunk and shoots his family, it was the will of God that he should do so. The Scriptures leave no room for doubt…
God is sovereign. Whatever he does is just, for this very reason: Because he does it. If he punishes a man, the man is justly punished; and hence the man is responsible.
But those who hold to the sovereignty of God determine what justice is by observing what God actually does. Whatever God does is just. What he commands men to or not to do is similarly just or unjust.
— Dr. Gordon H. Clark, God and Evil: The Problem Solved (Trinity Paper No. 46), 2004
Not exactly the kind of “solution” I was hoping for.
So the score stands at several quintillion of evil travesties to zero justified travesties.
God might do itself a favor and just concede, already.
I’ve always resented the fact that Christians insist on calling this abject self-contradiction in their narrative a “problem”. Child rape is a “problem”. Genocide is a “problem”. War is a “problem”. Global poverty, starvation, and diseases are “problems”.
Like maybe a challenging puzzle would be to a cosmic psychopath.
“Gee, I wonder how I solve this one?”
Notice that no one who has tried to find a “solution” to the the “problem of evil” had the slightest intention of solving evil. To Christians, this is all theological, philosophical, theoretical. Their primary concern about evil has never been to overcome real evil with real good in the real world so that real children and women and elderly and disabled will be protected and safe. Just see what kind of hemming and hawing and ridicule (oh-so-politely of course) you’ll get if you propose eradicating evil from Earth.
Any takers? Not on your life – or millions or billions of lives, for that matter.
No, the true problem that Christians have with their “problem of evil” is the fact that they have a huge fucking quandary in their story, one that they’ve struggled and failed for thousands of years to understand, (let alone plausibly explain,) and the “solution” they’re looking for is not a solution to the actual problem of evil in the world.
Instead, they’re looking for a solution to the gaping problem in their narrative.
This has nothing to do with the reality of God and evil. The “problem” lies wholly and solely in their story about God and the evil raging in the world.
Just like a selfie and your real face in real space-time are not remotely the same things, stories and what they are about are not remotely the same things, but Christians choose to focus on and work to “solve” a glitch in their own rationality, betraying their unconcern for the real problem — and therefore, their disingenuousness and hypocrisy — which only serve to contradict their claim to be “God’s servants”.
They’d be happy for a “solution”. They’d love to find one. But it would serve neither God nor humankind. Rather, it would serve the collective Christian ego, which I’ve had my fill of for many lifetimes.
What about a solution to the actual problem, the problem of how to eradicate the evil actually raging in the world?
No interest from Christians. In fact, no desire. For them, it’s all about their story, and their story is not intended or designed to rid the world of evil. What’s worse, when goaded, they dig in their heels in full denial that ridding the world of evil is remotely possible. They act like the idea of overcoming evil with good is preposterous poppycock… that is, until “Jesus comes back” or the “final judgment”.
No faith. No understanding. No heart.
Even if Christians did have a “solution” to their problem, (it’s only a problem to them, mind you,) it would solve nothing for those being hurt, harmed, devastated by evil.
The Christian “solution” to their “problem of evil” would prevent no evil. None at all.
Christians have no intention of finding a solution that would prevent any evil at all.
And so, the solution they seek would serve only one primary purpose: to enable people to tolerate evil so that it can continue raging on.
And just guess whom that would (and does) serve? Certainly not the poor.
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.
— James 5:1-6, New American Standard Bible, 1995
So, to my knowledge, there just isn’t any serious, sincere conclusion that we could reasonably reach other than that Christians believe far more certainly and deeply in evil and its power than they do in God and good and their power to overcome evil.
The perennial Christian retort that God will put everything in order at the “last judgment” has all the validity and weight of a parent telling their child, “Sure I will… someday.”
And Christians wonder why they’re met with gall and bile and hatred from people who rightly see through their nonsense.
No, that’s not being reproached, reviled, hated, and suffering for Christ – but it is to be hated and suffer on account of the vile excuse for a “gospel” that they promote and the wolf in sheep’s clothing they so smugly call their “faith”.
It’s faith alright – in exactly the opposite of what they pretend to worship and preach that we must worship.
I’ve said it before and it’s even clearer and surer now:
The Christian faith as we know it is the faith of the antichrist.
It’s certainly not any kind of genuine faith in an all-powerful God that is so awesome and good that he and his children obliterate evil.
Or do Christians for some reason think that “overcome” means something less than obliterate?
Yes. Yes, they do.
Some thing far, far less.
And that is exactly my point.
The Child Liberation Foundation
According to the Child Liberation Foundation, as often as 102 MILLION times a day, 1181 times per second, a child who was trafficked and sold into sex slavery is raped.
What about that pandemic?
[NOTE: Inexplicably — although I’ve contacted them for an explanation, CLF removed their statistics page near the end of 2022. The link above goes to the last archived copy of the page before it was deleted. In looking for a similar set of numbers, I see the aftermath of a mass purge of statistics that were extant just months ago, coupled with multiple new sites quoting ridiculously low estimates.]
What about the hundreds and hundreds of millions more children in homes and other kinds of residence who suffer verbal, emotional, physical, sexual, and other kinds of abuse – even murder?
Note: The actual number is not remotely known, because Christians are not the only ones who want to minimize and ignore the gravity of the problem. Even according to the most plausible global estimate I could find, by the International Center for Assault Prevention, as many as 40 million children are subjected to child abuse each year. But that figure excludes children over 15 years of age. The true number of children and young adult dependents abused by their “guardians” and “caregivers” and “authorities” is surely far, far in excess of that pathetic estimate. With 1 in 3 girls (33.3%) and 1 in 5 boys (20%) in the United States suffering sexual abuse before age 18 – the U.S. being one of the worst countries on Earth for its treatment of children – it’s easy to see that at least a quarter (the actual combined percentage would be 26.7%) of the world’s 2.2 billion children have been sexually abused. That’s 587 MILLION children, which doesn’t include those victimized by verbal or emotional or physical abuse, nor the whole-cognition abuse we call “gaslighting” which is core to all familial and institutional indoctrination programs, including so-called “education”.
You who cowered to COVID and bowed to mandates have less strength and resilience than a five-year-old abuse victim who grows up to be a wonderful human being.
The all-knowing, ever-present, all-powerful Christian God is right there watching every single one of those rapes and beatings and terrorizings and murders, seeing and hearing every one of those children every second, doing absolutely nothing to stop them from being victimized.
So, I’m asking: in light of the horrors that happen all the time, every day, everywhere — not just to these poor, God-forsaken children – how can any Christian (or believer of any other religion) hold their head up without cringing, disgusted with themself in mortified shame, and swear that “God is good”?
The way I feel about it, I’d rather ask how in hell they avoid admitting that any such “god” is an evil, mutherfucking psychopath.
For me, these are not rhetorical questions. This is not a “problem” to be solved.
It is an atrocious, repugnant, hypocritical mountain of the worst, most vile and diseased kind of bullshit.
That’s where I stand, after more than 50 years of intense experience, familiarity, and study of the Christian religion.
So far, no one I know of has even come close to an understanding of this issue.
But I could be wrong. I could always be wrong.
If you think I’m wrong, then please, clearly explain to me, WHY this apparent FUBAR?
Because God certainly hasn’t.
After more than 5 decades, God’s time is up.
I have no idea how the Christian God could sleep at night, because all evil is done in the darkness, and most of that’s done at night, and it’s always night somewhere in the world.
And God is right there, or so we’re told.