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July 23rd, 2008

Comments on an argument about “suffering” and God’s existence

A common argument presented against the existence of God in the West is: If God exists why does He allow great suffering to take place?

Philosophers, theologians and thinkers have been pondering on this for centuries, so my comments below will not resolve this issue! I will make one simple point, from among many that could be made.

How do we know that God hasn’t prevented much greater suffering that could have happened but didn’t because He prevented it? Obviously this question can never be answered, as we can’t know something that doesn’t happen.

Someone recently put forward as an example a most deadly disease, as to why it occurs if God exists. But suppose that particular disease didn’t exist. Then someone would mention whatever is now the second most deadly disease and present the same argument. And if that disease didn’t exist, they would mention the next one, until a stage would come where someone would say: If God exists, why do people catch colds and coughs?

My point is that if colds and coughs were the worst disease, we would feel the same about it as we now do about what are the worst diseases now.

To some in a developed country it would be suffering if their car broke down and they missed enjoying 1 day out of their 2 week holiday. Human beings adjust what they feel to be “suffering” according to their circumstances. Just like time and space are not absolute measures, but relative, as Einstein discovered, it seems that the same applies to suffering.

Zahid Aziz

3 Responses to “Comments on an argument about “suffering” and God’s existence”

  1. July 24th, 2008 at 12:27 am
    From Abdul Momin:

    I have developed a similar argument although somewhat in the reverse direction. Some of the same people who object to God’s existence because He lets people die of deadly diseases, also say that there is every possibility that there are more intelligent species than humans out there in the universe (as if this by itself disproves God’s existence!)
    My counter argument is that yes there is every possibility that there are more intelligent species than humans out there in the universe (suppose 1 million years more advanced than humans) Than there is every possibility that an even more advanced species exists (say 2 million years advanced) and so on. Finally we could say that an infinitely advanced being might exist who would be considered the Creator of the universe.

  2. July 24th, 2008 at 11:05 pm
    From Tahir Ijaz:

    In a hypothetical case of no diseases, the main suffering would be why so many have ‘nice’ noses whereas others have large noses. Of course many already suffer now with self-esteem issues based on looks.

    So to stamp out any possibility of suffering, Allah would have to make everyone identical in form (if to be given at all), and presumably no one would die. In fact, in a way this creation is in place, called ‘Angels’

    However Angels are robots carrying out commands and don’t experience happiness either. Happiness is one side of a coin, the other side being suffering. They go hand in hand. Can’t have one without the other. The higher the level of consciousness, the greater the awareness of suffering and happiness.

    Suffering is what drove biologic evolution, and overcoming human suffering is the basis for ongoing scientific exploration.

  3. July 31st, 2008 at 9:12 am
    From Usman Malik:

    Tahir Ijaz rightly points out that suffering (or the presence of an environment hostile to the organism) is required for biological evolution; which is the mechanism (as staunchly believed by many Agnostics and Athiests) responsible for us ulitmately debating this very issue; in other words for humans to have evolved to thier present state out of simple molecules.

    Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi (in his Urdu book Muaraf-ul-Haq) draws a spiritual parallel with biological evolution using this very concept; i.e. just as suffering drives evolution in a biological sense so it drives spiritual evolution in much the same manner.  It is not difficult to draw the parallel; both types of evolution entail an organism developing certain traits which enable it to withstand the “suffering”,  and gradually, as such traits accumulate, ultimately a “new creation” is born.

    Note from Blog Editor: The Urdu book referred to above by Usman is online at this link. (Link opens in new window.)

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