Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Beyond Skepticism: Knee-Jerk Knocking of Spiritual Experiences

While I can understand and appreciate skepticism, I have grown impatient with those who belittle spiritual experiences that came as apparent answers to prayer or expressions of the mercy and kindness from God. I've seen many cases of that on this blog and elsewhere. I refer specifically to those self-styled intellectuals who, in response to an apparent blessing or miracle that someone experienced, put on a sneer and ask why God would help some individual solve their little problem when much bigger problems remain in the word. The latest example on this blog came in response to my post about Elder Groberg's experience helping a Tongan woman in Peru. Here was the response:
What an amazing coincidence that Elder Groberg has turned into a miracle. I think a more amazing story would be to have all those starving mothers in Africa open their eyes during their prayers and find food enough to feed their malnutrioned children. Guess God cares more about a Tongan on vacation in Peru though. Sigh...
I've encountered this response in many forms. Any miracle, any blessing, any answer to prayer can be dismissed on the basis that there is a waiting list of much greater problems that God has not yet solved, so how we possibly accept a minor miracle in an individual's life?

How can God help some Tongan woman find her daughter, or some lady in Kansas to find her keys, or some widow in Wisconsin find peace, and not help the masses in Ethiopia find food to survive? It's an old question still worthy of discussion, but merely asking the question is not a reasonable argument to dismiss what others have experienced.

It is fine to not accept a spiritual experience of another (there have been plenty that I've doubted), but to mock such reports based on the knee-jerk recitation of Big Problems Elsewhere (the BPE rejection) is intellectually lazy.

People die. In fact, almost everyone ever born has died and suffered. Some more, some less. Some terribly. This is part of mortality, and we have a responsibility to alleviate such suffering. But what basis is there for expecting God to solve all the big problems - problems that have often been caused by man - before being willing to respond to the earnest prayer of an individual? And what basis is there to say that He doesn't care for and love those who die or who suffer? Is divine love possible only if our personal list of demands has been completely satisfied?

To those who mock spiritual experiences by citing forms of the BPE rejection, I would ask this: "If you are so concerned about those who suffer, what are you doing to help? Or do you live a life of selfishness and indifference, in which you are part of the problem? Could it be that your rejection of God makes it impossible for Him to work through you, and that you are one of those people who make others doubt God because of the suffering you cause, or allow to happen? So what should He do about you? Snuff out your life, or take away your freedom to choose, so that you become a zombie-like robot helping the sick and poor for a change?"

Those who allow God to work in them inevitably minister to others. And those who minister to the poor and the suffering learn much more about the depth of sorrow and tragedy and pain in the world. Who knew the misery of the poor in India better than Mother Theresa, fully immersed in it daily in her valiant effort to minister and help? Her full recognition of the depth of human suffering did not turn her away from God in the least. She was daily an agent of God, more aware of Him and closer to Him than the rest of us.

To turn to God and to know Him is to turn to the suffering and to know them, and to help them. Who knew suffering better than Jesus Christ, the full embodiment of the Love of God? He who took all the pains of humanity upon Himself, at infinite price, not only perfectly knows our pain, but has done far more to free us from it than we can ever imagine. Yes, we may suffer from disease, poverty, and sorrow during this brief flash of mortal life, which is unfortunate, but it is not the ultimate tragedy.

Wonderfully, Christ has paid the price to liberate us from death, allowing us to enjoy the incredible joys and riches of immortality. Worse than the physical suffering we may endure, we through our sins fall and hurt one another and shut ourselves out from the presence of God, but He has paid all - far more than we can imagine - to cover the price of our sins and liberate us from sin and spiritual death, that we may be purified in his blood and return to the presence of God, to enjoy eternal life and joy beyond all mortal imagination, if only we will follow Him.

God has done far more than lift a finger to help us. He has lifted up His Son, and allowed Him to voluntarily give all, infinitely all, to redeem us.

We are immersed in evidence of God's love and kindness to us, in the majesty of the Creation, in the gift of life, in the gift of His Son, in the guidance He has given to a rebellious world to lead us to love and bless one another. It is not His fault that we choose to kill and oppress. It is not His fault that we often neglect those who are needy, or victims of tragedies. Yes, He could prevent each tragedy, and stop each crime, and cure each disease, and eliminate all sources of pain, but we must not confuse lack of love with His wise plan that puts us here in messy mortality to be tried, to be tested, to have opportunities to love and bless and serve, or to have opportunities to steal and maim and kill. His plan calls for that most terrible and frightening gift, freedom to choose, freedom to follow Him or reject Him, freedom to do good or evil, freedom to ignore the suffering or freedom to sacrifice and show compassion. Without such terrible freedom, we could not become who He wants us to be, who we are meant to be, beings like Him. There are reasons why this world offers so many opportunities for compassion, for service, for patience, for enduring, for faith, for sacrifice, for humility, and for all that is opposed to such virtues as well. This is where each of us, in whatever setting we find ourselves, show who we are and who we wish to become.

Yes, many children die before they can make such decisions - and pure, they return to the presence of the Lord and will resurrect and become glorious adults in the kingdom of God. How merciful the Lord is, though their short flash of mortality may have seemed grisly and tragic. It is not our few years here that ultimately matters, but our eternal destination. This life is vastly less than 1% of our existence; indeed, compared to the expanse of eternity that awaits, our mortal span occupies vastly less than whatever minute fraction you can imagine. No matter how painful, it is temporary and brief, and worth enduring all for the eternal end that we choose during this mortal trial. And during this brief time of trial, it is worth doing all we can to serve and love one another, for that is what matters most in the end.

For those who can, there is an urgent need to serve others, to help them in this mortal journey and to bring the love of God to them, rather than sitting in our recliners and complaining about Big Problems Elsewhere that supposedly prove there is no loving God. And once you get off the Whiner's Recliner and strive to follow Him, you'll inevitably find that even your weakest efforts to serve others might sometimes put you in the awkward position of seeing tears of gratitude from someone whose prayer you just answered (or rather, whose prayer was answered by God with you as an instrument in His hands). Those are moments to cherish, no matter how great the other Big Problems Elsewhere are that you haven't gotten to yet.

Now there are atheists who, not understanding God, still are filled with a love of mankind and naturally give expression to the divine inclinations within them, loving and serving others, tackling big and small problems here and elsewhere. These are good, noble people who perhaps have not been properly taught or have been put off or even deceived by the failings of organized religion. I have great hope for them and believe many will be with the finest Christians in heaven - though they will at some point need to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But I have much less patience for those who close their eyes to God and use suffering as a crutch to prop up their lack of faith, not lifting a finger to help others as they condemn the Christian God for allegedly not lifting a finger Himself. Moan as they may about human suffering, I feel they are blind to the depth of human misery, more focused on their own pain and their own selfish needs. They may claim to be sympathetic, but there is more for them to understand through accepting God and working for Him rather than against Him.

There are miracles that occur daily, and whether they be small or great, we should rejoice when there is an additional encounter with the Divine. The evil of vicious men in one land in no way obviates the fruits of faith in the lives of those who turn to God anywhere in the world.

God is real. He loves us deeply, as does His son, Jesus Christ, who came to redeem us. They hear and answer prayers, though often not according to our timetable, and rarely in response to our list of non-negotiable demands. His love extends to Kansas, to Peru, to Ethiopia, and His call for us to cease from doing evil and begin to do more good is a global call as well. Rather than complain about how little we think He has done, let each one of us do more. And let us turn to Him in prayer as we seek to do His will, that He might guide us and help us be true instruments in His hands. As the scriptures sy, or almost say, the whiners are many, but the laborers are few.

Yes, there is suffering and pain and tragedy enough - enough to keep all of us busy in trying to serve God and our fellow men. And the best place to begin our service is to understand and embrace the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, that we might have power to most truly and deeply bless our fellow men.

41 comments:

Doc said...

Outstanding post Jeff!
I have begun to get very tired on these arguments online. So many of the smarmy and faithless play it like a trump card. While the question of why misery exists is a very real problem many of us struggle to work out, the reality of a God that hears and answers prayers is something each of us needs to experience to know him.

JayBee said...

Indeed, an awesome post, and, to my mind, inspired. Thanks, Jeff.

Anonymous said...

While reading this post, I found my car keys, a check came in the mail that I wasn't expecting, my mother's cancer was cured, and peace has broken out in Iraq.

Thank God!

Anonymous said...

How amusing for you.

BB said...

Jeff, I am grateful for your objective perspective! Don't give up on the non-believers.

Bookslinger said...

For those who want to help Africa, donate to the International Rescue Committe.

The smarmy may ask why God isn't saving people in Africa from starvation and from genocide. But some day God will ask all of us, including the smarmy, what we did to help save people in Africa from starvation and genocide.

Other worthy charities:
Indigenous People's Technology and Education Center:
        http://www.itecusa.org/

Orphanage Support Services Organization, supports orphanages where I served a mission in Ecuador:
        http://www.orphanagesupport.org/

One of my favorites:
      http://www.christianchildrensfund.org/

Christian Children's Fund used to have Sally Struthers as spokesperson.

Other good ones with low overhead and fundraising expenses (as a percent of donations) are:
        http://www.savethechildren.org/

To read ratings of charities, see their overhead/fundraising expenses, see:
      http://www.charitynavigator.org/
      http://www.charitywatch.org/
      http://www.give.org/

Mormanity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mormanity said...

In the interest of fairness and kindness, let me first point out that there are some very fine smarmy people. Some of my best friends are smarmy. I have a lot of respect for many of the smarmy and feel that they are an important part of our society.

Having said that, I'd like to add a touch of balance now by further slamming them.

A related problem with some of the smarmy is not just that they often won't lift a finger in response to needy strangers who beg for help, but that they won't lift a finger in response to God who begs them to open their eyes and search for Him. They refuse to pray. They refuse the testimony of eye-witnesses. They refuse to see a thousand evidences pointing to the hand of God, often relying on some excuse like the BPE rejection to dismiss Him.

To instantly dismiss John Groberg's story and hundreds of similarly touching miraculous personal experiences of Latter-day Saints and others in response to faith and prayer as merely "amazing coincidences" reflects a petrified mindset rather than thoughtful deliberation. Much more intelligent to say, "Well, I wasn't there and don't know what to make of it" than to start chanting the BPE mantra.

These unusual spiritual experiences are more than just occasional spice in our mundane lives. Some of these experiences are at the foundation of our faith. The Restoration is rooted in the majestic spiritual experiences of Joseph Smith and other eye-witnesses, including the experience of the Three Witnesses who all saw an angel, saw and felt the gold plates, and heard a divine voice declaring that they were beholding a true ancient record of scripture. This wasn't just an amazing coincidence that they all thought they saw or heard something - it was a powerful, tangible experience that changed the lives of these honorable and respected men, who would stay true to their testimony to their dying day in spite of later being offended by Joseph or the Church and parting ways.

Every one of the actual witnesses who saw and felt the gold plates of the Book of Mormon, nearly 20 in all, never denied the reality of that experience and their testimony of that sacred volume. No theory of fraud or hyponotism or deception can adequately account for the consistent and powerful testimony of the eye-witnesses right up to their deathbeds, even after some had left the Church and had no possible incentive to appease other Latter-day Saints. Amazing coincidence??

You don't have to accept their testimony. A reasonable response would be, for example, to say that it's interesting and difficult to fully understand. You can say that God and angels are just too far outside your paradigm to jive with such stories. Yes, that's OK. It's your decision. But in my opinion, it's just silly to dismiss the reality of God and angels and the power of whatever the many witnesses experienced on the basis of a BPE rejection: "If God could send an angel to show people some plates, why doesn't he send angels to feed people in Africa?" Maybe he wants you to be that angel, but you've refused to help. Don't blame God.

Alan said...

To me the argument of why God doesn't fix some misery therefore he doesn't exist can be reworded as such:

If I were God, I would do {insert fix misery} and since it hasn't happened there must be no God.

It turns it into quite the arrogance that you know what is best for everyone everywhere and can't accept someone else running the show (God) who knows more than you and has a different plan than you.

Bookslinger said...

Alan hit the nail on the head. His point is part of the bigger concept that many atheists and agnostics can't accept the notion of a God who allows suffering and tragic death.

I'm starting to feel a little guilty. We, who claim to have some degree in faith in God, need to be careful about looking down our noses at those with little or no faith. Sure, the smarminess of some irritates us. But the smarmy ones in question are merely people with little or no faith, whose attitude is just a bit irritating. Let's be a bit more charitable. For who among us doesn't need more faith?

None of us really understands Heavenly Father very much. None of us live 100% according to what's been revealed in the scriptures so far. None of us is really doing all we can to alleviate suffering in the far corners of the world.

Lack of worldly goods and food won't keep someone out of the Celestial Kingdom. But lack of faith will. Those with little or no faith are actually in greater need than those who lack worldly goods and food.

So let's be charitable towards those with little or no faith, just as we should be charitable towards those with little or no worldly possessions or food.

That raises an interesting question: How can we charitably share our faith with those who need it, along the lines of charitably sharing our worldly goods with those who need it?

And in regards to those with an irritating attitude: how can we charitably share our faith with those who aren't looking for more faith?

We should always be good examples so that when someone's attitude changes, they won't be reluctant to come back to us to ask sincere questions.

Anonymous said...

As a convert I would like to thank you Mormons in confirming that God does answer prayers and thank you for saving me from a life time of suffering. I am not sure about God answering the small things of life but I am a living witness that He has gotten the big ones right in my life. Although, God may not answer all of our prayers He does comes through on some of the small ones to reinforce the commandment to pray always. It easy for me to be cynical about God not taking the time to answer my small problems because when He answers some of my big ones I feel obligated to work through the small ones on my own. And whom among us does not cry out for help for even the smallest assistance when we are being crushed under life's heavy burdens.

Why would God bother to answer a small matter when there are so many large important problems in the world? Why would you bother with some small unimportant matter when there are so many large important matters in your life? You Mormons are the only ones that have been able to answer for me the tough question: "Why do we suffer?" Because we lived before this life we knew all the suffering that we would have to endure and with fully informed knowledge, agreed as adult spirits to endure it all. Many times God does not interfere so that we can keep our agreement we made before we came to this earth. That agreement is only a contract with God to endure and gain a payment when we return. Why does each persons suffering different? Because no two people are the same. Why is the suffering so long for some? Because there is something to be said about enduring to the end and keeping our word. Why is some suffering so intense? Look at what horrible suffering Christ had to endure and at what great heights he rose to. What heights will we rise to? Why are we not told about something wicked this way comes? Because there are many trials, tests and lessons that are best dealt with without a foreknowledge, in order to see how we will deal with them. Today we run away tomorrow we stand strong.

Because little children are innocent, they are sacrificed as Christ was, they will receive the same reward as Christ. Knowing this or any of the explanations that other religious people have for why God does or does not remove suffering; does not take away our obligation to do all we can to be our bothers keeper. Christ said it is easy to help a family member or a friend, but he commanded that we help a stranger. More that this He raised the bar so high we are obligated to bless our enemies. Talk about demanding the hardest and highest standard. If you are a slave be the best slave you can. If you are asked to carry someone's burdens a mile carry it two. If someone slaps you on the right side of the face turn the other side to him. If a person sues you for your coat give him your cloke also. As Joseph Smith said, "If you seek your justice in court you have your reward."

Try being betrayed and damage at the hands of family, friends, and members of the church, then let the critics try to live up to the highest standards that Christ demands. Who are they to say that God would not answer some small prayers. If a child asks for a egg will his father given him a scorpion?

Let the cynics criticize against God, because each time they do the great past spiritual experiences that God has blessed me with comes flooding into my mind and builds stronger my testimony of all the prayers He has answered. And if they choose not to pray then they miss out on what could be the greatest event of their lives.

This life is about us rising above our problems to help others. God is not on trial here we are.

ujlapana said...

And now, a word from the smarmy.

I refer specifically to those self-styled intellectuals

Hmm. Is this better or worse than a so-called intellectual? At any rate, still differentiated from a true intellectual, such as yourself, right? An ad hominem a day keeps the reasoning away!

It's an old question still worthy of discussion, but merely asking the question is not a reasonable argument to dismiss what others have experienced.

Nobody's dismissing the experience, just the use of that experience as valid evidence for a whole host of supporting assertions that were not experienced. In other words, a Hindu will acknowledge that you feel happy when you believe that God has forgiven you of a transgression, but she will not then have to acknowledge that that means Christ came and died on the cross to create a mystical exchange system for sins.

to mock such reports based on the knee-jerk recitation of Big Problems Elsewhere (the BPE rejection) is intellectually lazy.

Agreed. Mocking is not appropriate in polite society. But rejecting is perfectly fine in this instance. Because BPE demonstrates that when people cry out to God, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Self-styled believers seem to be asserting that good things only happen when you pray for them. If not, then they must acknowledge that good things come whether or not you pray and that bad things come whether or not you pray. So, prayer outcomes are a terrible indicator of the presence of God. The irony is that while believers may admit as much, they will still point to their own personal experiences with "answered" prayers as evidence of God.

we have a responsibility to alleviate such suffering

Agreed, although this responsibility is not very effectively demonstrated in the Bible or Book of Mormon, where God directly inspires people to cause suffering. The God of Abraham does not lead by example, here. No less than two chapters into the Bible, he introduces torture to the world by punishing Eve's bad decision with the infliction of pain. (Not just Eve, but all women--interesting sense of justice.) Is there a purpose for this pain? Obviously not--today women use medication to numb the pain, and still deliver healthy babies. Praise be to medical science!

And let's not forget the story of Job, in which God kills all manner of people and inflicts great physical suffering on Job in order to...win a bet. Niiiiccccce. Oh, but then Job gets back a new, bigger family in the end, so it's all good.

But what basis is there for expecting God to solve all the big problems - problems that have often been caused by man - before being willing to respond to the earnest prayer of an individual?

Well, a lot of BPE's are not caused by man, but by natural conditions--horrible diseases, natural disasters, birth defects, etc. The point being made in this case is not that God should go out of his way to attend to these things before helping you with your lost keys; it's that God is obviously ignoring the prayers of the faithful as well. Even if you believe that only Mormon's know how to pray well enough to be heard, bad things happen to devout Mormons, too. Priesthood blessings don't always work. They do get reinterpreted pretty quickly though, as in, "My 16-year-old was just had a heart attack, but his Patriarchal Blessing said he'd get serve a mission and get married and have kids; this must all have meant in the next life." (Even though an admonishment to see a doctor about congenital defects would have been more valuable advice, thank you very much.)

And what basis is there to say that He doesn't care for and love those who die or who suffer? Is divine love possible only if our personal list of demands has been completely satisfied?

You act like the problems of the world are somehow morally equivalent to wanting a Gucci handbag instead of one from Sears. Last year three children died in a trunk of a car, not more than 20 feet from the headquarters of the search. Did no one pray? When children are born with severe birth defects, causing them constant pain and torturing their parents, is it because no one thought to pray? When tsunami's sweep villages out to sea, is no one praying? If God can take the time to direct you to your keys, why does he not take the time to have a kidnapper's car break down in front of a police station? Distraught parents aren't praying with enough faith to save their child from a night of sexual molestation, torture, and brutal murder?

If you are so concerned about those who suffer, what are you doing to help? Or do you live a life of selfishness and indifference, in which you are part of the problem?

This is a beautiful red-herring segue into an ad hominem attack. Really.

Those who allow God to work in them inevitably minister to others.

Inevitably? Is flying an airplane into a building, or running into a coffee shop and blowing yourself up ministering to others? Lots (as in, more than 12 million members) of people would agree that this is an example of being an instrument of God. (In fact, another 12 million might agree about the coffee shop, no?)

Who knew the misery of the poor in India better than Mother Theresa, fully immersed in it daily in her valiant effort to minister and help? Her full recognition of the depth of human suffering did not turn her away from God in the least. She was daily an agent of God, more aware of Him and closer to Him than the rest of us.

I'm glad you brought her up. In fact, she did very little to alleviate suffering; rather, she centralized suffering and tried to perform death-bed conversions. But at least she was consistent! If God is omnibenevolent and omnipotent, suffering must be good! I encourage you to do some more research into her actual work in India.

It is not His fault that we choose to kill and oppress.

Did you run that past the people of Jericho, Ai, or Gibeon? Or Nephi's arch-enemy, Laban?

And once you get off the Whiner's Recliner and strive to follow Him, you'll inevitably find that even your weakest efforts to serve others might sometimes put you in the awkward position of seeing tears of gratitude from someone whose prayer you just answered (or rather, whose prayer was answered by God with you as an instrument in His hands).

Awkward indeed, since you can't really point out that, no, Jesus didn't inspire me to do this, Shiva did.

Now there are atheists who, not understanding God, still are filled with a love of mankind and naturally give expression to the divine inclinations within them, loving and serving others, tackling big and small problems here and elsewhere.

If understanding God is the important differentiator here, it's 6 million (faithful LDS) vs 6 billion atheists, right? Even our close cousins the Calvinist and Methodists have a totally different idea of God than we do, after all. Thank goodness you true believers aren't burdened with all the charitable work ;).

But I have much less patience for those who open their mouths to God and ignore suffering going on around them as God's Will, thereby alleviating their guilt about owning a BMW.

God is real.

If only it were as simple as saying it. Alas, to say God exists, and meddles in things, brings in an immediate BPE issue, because He seems to be very capricious in his meddling. But making statements is easy: Unicorn horns heal any disease. There, I said it. But that only means something as it interacts with reality.

And the best place to begin our service is to understand and embrace the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ

I honestly don't see the connection between serving others and polygamy, masonic rituals, misogynistic power structures, etc. I don't see churches that do those things out-serving churches that don't. The best place to begin service is by learning to notice opportunities to meet the needs of those around you, and to stop talking yourself out of acting on those opportunities. That can grow to greater things, depending on your nature as a person. I used to give God credit for all of this. Now I don't. This realization has led to a greater effort to serve my fellow humans, and to maximize the happiness that I create during my short sojourn on this planet. I see the people around me as ineffable and glorious enough.

Rich said...

ujlapana said:
"Nobody's dismissing the experience, just the use of that experience as valid evidence for a whole host of supporting assertions that were not experienced. In other words, a Hindu will acknowledge that you feel happy when you believe that God has forgiven you of a transgression, but she will not then have to acknowledge that that means Christ came and died on the cross to create a mystical exchange system for sins."

It's also not ment to be the sole stand alone proof of God but a part of the evidence for those who believe. Just because a Hindu will tell you that doesn't mean that her happiness doesn't come from Christs' mystical sin exchange system, as you call it. If you truely repent of your sins you will be forgiven, regaurdless of belief. Its about obedience to a principal that is meant for mankind not a few elect.

ujlapana said:
"Is there a purpose for this pain? Obviously not--today women use medication to numb the pain, and still deliver healthy babies. Praise be to medical science!Well, a lot of BPE's are not caused by man, but by natural conditions--horrible diseases, natural disasters, birth defects, etc."

Does that include the doctor who prescribed the medication that caused the horrible birth defect in my daughter? praise be to medical science!

"If you are so concerned about those who suffer, what are you doing to help? Or do you live a life of selfishness and indifference, in which you are part of the problem?

This is a beautiful red-herring segue into an ad hominem attack. Really."

So when you might have some responsability in adding to suffering, its now a red-herring? Maybe its because you only complain that God sits by and allows suffing while you sit by and allow suffering? Maybe you can't fix it all and you surely believe, rightly so that God has the ability, but who said it was up to him to fix everything? Where does that leave our free agency? Sure it is by you Free will that a tsunami happens but it is your free will to then choose to help or not right? I think the big misunderstanding comes in that many people believe God should have created the best possible world void of suffering, or at the least greatly reduced suffering, instead of what we have. The only reasoning behind that is that God is powerfulenough to do something about suffering, knows how to end suffering, and should be omnibenevolent and want to end suffering, so since there is suffering then this triple omni God doesn't exsist. But you leave out the part about there being a reason for our exsistance, and it isn't about complete bliss and lack of pain and suffering. It is about learning to make choices and see the consequences and learn to become a free acting being who chooses to do the right thing always.

"If only it were as simple as saying it. Alas, to say God exists, and meddles in things, brings in an immediate BPE issue, because He seems to be very capricious in his meddling. But making statements is easy: Unicorn horns heal any disease. There, I said it. But that only means something as it interacts with reality."

Ah but there are countless personal stories of God answering prayers, but I can't remeber the last unicorn horn I saw let alone someone being healed by one. Praying is only half the battle, it's listening that most leave out, and listening is the key. You also half to consider that, and here is the other thing nonbelievers hate to hear, God has his own purposes that serve a greated good down the road and we are unable to guess or know what they might be. It sure doen't help anyone in the tsunami to hear that for sure but maybe the next one that millions are saved from the next one because we now can better detect a tsunami and warn those in its path, which we lacked in ability of the last one, now they can leave and not be killed by the wave. I'm not giving this as an answer to every possible instance of suffering, but it certainly is something to think about.

ujlapana said...

Does that include the doctor who prescribed the medication that caused the horrible birth defect in my daughter? praise be to medical science!

Are you suggesting that your family would have been, overall, better off physically 300 years ago? Your personal experience is tragic; of course doctors don't understand things perfectly, so they screw up. But doctors have kept getting better at removing pain and extending healthy life. The same cannot be said for theists, who had from the dawn of humanity until the Enlightenment to improve things. It's only after the Naturalists began to have influence that life began to improve.

So when you might have some responsability in adding to suffering, its now a red-herring?
Um, no. It's a red-herring because it doesn't alleviate God of his responsibility or his culpability. To answer, "why does God cause apparently needless suffering?" with, "why aren't you fixing it?" is a red herring.

Where does that leave our free agency?
I suppose that leaves it just fine. Consider this: God has created all kinds of constraints on my abilities. I cannot fly. I cannot teleport. I cannot move things by thought alone. I cannot kill an animal by focusing "kill" thoughts on it. So why not add, "I cannot physically harm another human?" Would that force me to have faith in God? I don't see the connection. You could easily have a world in which people still suffer disappointments, but don't suffer great pain and anguish. They could understand great pain and anguish by examining the horrible cruelty that animals inflict on one another. They could even harm themselves through reckless behavior! But they could be wired so that they had a seizure when they tried to attack somebody. There would be less suffering, but still plenty of it. So God has not minimized suffering.

But you leave out the part about there being a reason for our exsistance
If you're a devout Mormon--indulge me in a little mind reading here--you believe that we always existed. Hence, our existence has no reason--it is axiomatic.

Ah but there are countless personal stories of God answering prayers, but I can't remeber the last unicorn horn I saw let alone someone being healed by one.
That's because you lack faith. Unicorns aren't trapped in the realm of worldly existence--they exist on a spiritual level, assisting the healing efforts of any who diligently seek their presence. If you have sufficient faith, and pray to a unicorn, it will heal you.

Try this test: prick your finger with a pin. Sing out for a unicorn to heal it. Then prick another finger. Get a priesthood blessing to heal it. Here's my prediction: Unicorn Horn 0, God 0. Ah, silly me--you can't test unicorns that way--they are a hidden species. Well, I could go on, but I don't want to throw pearls before swine.

God has his own purposes that serve a greated good down the road and we are unable to guess or know what they might be.

This is a concession that is logically consistent. Suffering is not, in itself, bad. It may be part of a future greater good. Ergo, if you see suffering, do not stop it. You may be foiling God's plan. A consistent, but not a popular, philosophy.

It sure doen't help anyone in the tsunami to hear that for sure but maybe the next one that millions are saved from the next one because we now can better detect a tsunami and warn those in its path, which we lacked in ability of the last one, now they can leave and not be killed by the wave.

So, God felt like it would take a 230,000-person death to help prevent another 230,000-person future tragedy? Um, how 'bout stopping the first one? Anyway, so God smites 230,000 to wake government leaders up. (That's funny, because He certainly introducted penicillin in a much more benign way.) Why didn't we set up better warning systems back in 1556, after the Shaanxi earthquake killed 800,000? What was God teaching us then? We won't go into the fact that a "prophet" is supposedly on the Earth, because at least in biblical times they used to warn people so that they could repent!

You know, the Smith's moved from Vermont to New York because of the "year without a summer" ruined their agrarian livelihood. That's how he ended up in the right location to get plates. That "year without a summer" was the result of a volcano that killed 100,000 people. I'll let you imagine what it's like to hold your crying toddler as mountains of ash slowly suffocate her, or as poisonous, searing gasses burn her skin and eyes. Oh great and mighty are the works of God--ushering in the new dispensation with a bang! (And yes, I have heard that said of Mt. Tambora, and the Restoration, over a Mormon pulpit.)

Mormanity said...

ujlapana said:
Last year three children died in a trunk of a car, not more than 20 feet from the headquarters of the search. Did no one pray? When children are born with severe birth defects, causing them constant pain and torturing their parents, is it because no one thought to pray? When tsunami's sweep villages out to sea, is no one praying? If God can take the time to direct you to your keys, why does he not take the time to have a kidnapper's car break down in front of a police station?

You make some excellent points, but I'm surprised that you turn to repeating the basic BPE rejection to support your position. These tragedies are sad, even gut wrenching to contemplate, but ultimately, they boil down to this: someone died that we didn't want to die. A yearning to rescue someone went unfulfilled. The answer to a prayer, or many prayers, was not what we wanted. But what possible relevance does that have to issue of God's existence? Can He only exist if our every wish is fulfilled, if every death is prevented, if every accident is made impossible, if every criminal is tamed before any crimes are committed?

Is it not possible that a loving God could have reasons to allow us to briefly experience a mortal world that can challenge us with the possibility of death, pain, sin, sorrow, and suffering? This is not Eden or Paradise - not yet. The yearning for a world without death (or without premature death) and suffering and sin does not eliminate the divine source behind this temporary stage of God's Creation.

ujlapana said...

what possible relevance does that have to issue of God's existence?

It's extremely relevant, not in arguing for or against his existence, but as to his nature if he does exist.

If he doesn't exist, it all makes sense. Point, Occam.

If he does exist, he cannot be averse to suffering in the way that we are, or he cannot have the power to stop it. This creates a weaker God than most envision, or a crueler God. (I think the Old Testament gives a lot of support for the latter, but that's for another thread.) If a more pain-free scenario exists, why would God not have pursued it (such as child-bearing and cursing Eve)? Our God, as opposed to other God's, also likes people killing animals to that he can smell them burning. So, if God doesn't mind suffering, why should we? Some would say that we shouldn't mind our own suffering. But then why prevent suffering in others--they shouldn't mind their suffering either!

So an omnibenevolent, omnipotent God can't exist, unless allowing suffering is benevolent. The theist chooses a logical impossibility (God=good, suffering=bad) or an unsavory conclusion (suffering=good).

It comes back to the foundations of morality. To the humanist, removal of pain and maximization of joy are fundamental tenets. To the theist, they are not--the fundamental tenets are the teachings of their God, which could be anything under the sun.

That's why theism, untempered by post-Enlightenment humanism, is so frightening. We see it completely unbridled in parts of the Middle East; we used to see it in LDS policies to blacks, now we see it in their policies toward gays and women.

ujlapana said...

Sorry, there is one other option for the theist--one that many theologians choose, but regular folks, in general, have a hard time supporting: the idea that God does not interfere with his creations at all. In other words, he doesn't stop evil and he doesn't push the good. Prayer serves as a means of acheiving inner enlightenment, but not changing the physical world (such as moving keys or jewelry or predicting the future). But this means you can't say that God answered a prayer when the doctor made you better, which most believers aren't comfortable with. Believing that God micro-manages your life feels much safer, but is illogical unless God likes suffering (which suddenly makes the micro-management much less safe).

Shawn said...

Logic and God, eh? :)

Life does seem vastly unjust whether or not God is engaged if your theological underpinning is based on 4th century Christianity or Islam. Some are born privlegded, some are slaughtered as prepubscents. Just one of the vast mysteries of God so the saying goes.

I don't buy that. Just like I find it difficult to accept that the collection of protons, neutrons, and electrons that we're constructed simply want to be an organized self-aware opinionated "organic system" polluting and philosophizing while not be violently rearranged by the power of some star or black hole.

What is "logical" is that we were omniscient beings (aka spirits) in a pre-existence. In order to progress, we needed more that what knowledge has to offer, i.e. experience. Having knowledge of the birthing process is vastly different that giving birth.

Through the pain, suffering, joy, and happiness, it is the experience that matters. Our righteousness (aka a "mystical exchange system for sins") is secondary if we are repentant.

The paradigm of the slaughter of the Canaanites by the Israelites fits in this model. (Let me know if this reference is confusing.)

So, according to LDS theology (which I believe), we elected to engage in a "free agency" experience. No irrefutable knowledge (or distraction) of who we were or what we know. No salvation from our stupidity or bad luck. But a conduit for believers who need a little extra help being in the world but not totally of it.

This also explains why small miracles occur. They are not problem solving events as our free agency and suffering in life are not meant to be solved. They are simple messages from God to (normally) a specific few believers the He exists and things are O.K. Thanks to Brother Groberg and that Tongan sister for the example. Big events like the parting of the Red Sea… Written off as a meteorological coincidence? Sure. Whatever. We weren't there. Personal experience of a desperately needed "miracle" that acts as a conduit to life changing behavior? A message from God for the believer. He exists. Serve others. Things will be O.K.

Just my 2 cents.

-Shawn

Shawn said...

By the way, theism centered on specifically on the teachings of Christ (i.e. actually walking the walk where the Beatitudes are concerned) is in no way frightening and has nothing to do with "post Enlightenment humanism". Is it fair to say the majority of humanists during the Enlightenment were avid theists? One of my favorites is William Tindell who one could argue played the pivotal role in draging Europe out of the dark ages.

I agree that flavors of theism projected by the corrupt and power hungry (like this goof ball in Florida click here) are frightening, as they tend to serve the temporal goals of their leaders and elite vs. truly serving God.

I believe that is why a lay ministry is critical to success of any theology's ability to actually come close to the will of God. This combined with small miracles that propel the faithful can truly lead to a better world by directly challenging those who would create suffering in the first place.

Ujlapana: I may not agree but I appreciate your posts. on a side note... if you stepped out on the "God does exist" branch for a second, how should God deal with those intent on creating suffering? Should He actively eliminate those (like Stalin, Hitler, etc) prior to atrocities being committed? Could that be considered fair if people were judged/punished without an action to justify the interference? Or should He have an engagement threshold were a little bad is ok but a lot means you're instantly stuck down and where would that threshold be set? Just interested in your opinion.


Sincerely,
Shawn

Russell said...

"If he doesn't exist, it all makes sense. Point, Occam."

There's already quite a fray here, so these two bits will probably be passed over.

But what DOES make sense? The only reason anything "makes sense" to anyone is because the outcome fits with their own assumptions about the universe. Besides, to call something unjust requires that you know what IS just. Do you have any comparison with which you can make this universe? Do you know what is just? Or do you have assumptions that you juxtapose on God and because he does not fit those assumptions, he therefore must not exist?

Just like EVERY religion, you too have made assumptions, unprovable ones. For you to REALLY know whether God exists, you would have to know everything, have searched every crack, considered EVERY philosophy, know every fact.

If that happened, something very strange would be true.

You, ujlapana, would be God.

Rich said...

"Are you suggesting that your family would have been, overall, better off physically 300 years ago?"

Actually yes because I wouldn't have a disabled daughter, who is the only reason we go to a doctor, besides regular checkups. Theism and medical science aren't the same. While medica; science is working to prolong our lives and make us healthy, theism is about making correct choices to return to God.

"Um, no. It's a red-herring because it doesn't alleviate God of his responsibility or his culpability. To answer, "why does God cause apparently needless suffering?" with, "why aren't you fixing it?" is a red herring."
Thanks for reiterating my point. "Apparent needless suffering" means that there is a possiblity for a reason for said suffering? Because there might be a reason for suffering to exsist neither makes it good nor necessary. Like I said we, as humans don't like culpability, so if we can push blame for everything elswhere it makes us feel better about ourselves. It's not a red-herring to answer your question that way because it is a relevant argument from a theistic point of view. There is suffering and I have a responsability to try and alleviate as much as I can, hence if I fail to do so I am responsable for not trying to alleviate what suffering I could. You only call it a red-herring because you don't feel it's anyones responsability but Gods. On another note, doctors give us temporary help with pain and I am glad for that each time I take an asprin for a headache or cold medicine, ect... Theism aims to alleviate eternal suffering.

"I suppose that leaves it just fine. Consider this: God has created all kinds of constraints on my abilities. I cannot fly. I cannot teleport. I cannot move things by thought alone. I cannot kill an animal by focusing "kill" thoughts on it. So why not add, "I cannot physically harm another human?" Would that force me to have faith in God? I don't see the connection."
That's because here there isn't a connection. God doesn't want to force anything on you he wants you to choose between right and wrong, accept the responsability for each decision, fix the wrong choices, and don't make the same mistakes. I really don't see whats wrong with that. He didn't give us the ability to fly, teleport, or use our thoughts to kill. He did give us the ability to, by our choices, harm oather human beings. This is free agency. Is the act of flying right or wrong? Is teleportation right or wrong? They would sure be nice but there is no moral choice involved in the act. Could I choose to do something wrong while flying? There's free agency. By contrast, is the act of harming another human being right or wrong? Can you see the difference in the choices you gave us? The really good one was killing an animal with our thoughts. That fits nicely.

"You could easily have a world in which people still suffer disappointments, but don't suffer great pain and anguish...."

I thought you didn't like the idea of God micromanaging our lives, but this world you describe is God micromanaging our lives. You would still see needless suffering and whatever suffering exsisted, there would still be considered terrible, there would still be something that was the worst imaginable pain and suffering, and you would still look to God to eliminate it. So this doesn't solve the problem in any way.

"If you're a devout Mormon--indulge me in a little mind reading here--you believe that we always existed. Hence, our existence has no reason--it is axiomatic."

I have to say I'm not real sure what you mean here, but I guess your trying to say that because we always exsisted ther is no reason for exsistance? Axiomatic meaning that our earthly exsistance is self evident? Certainly our pre-earth exsistance isn't axiomatic. The two don't logically follow to me. Ther is a reason for our earthly exsistance, within mormon doctrine, so unless I misunderstood your meaning here, or couldn't read your mind, I have to disagree.

"This is a concession that is logically consistent. Suffering is not, in itself, bad. It may be part of a future greater good. Ergo, if you see suffering, do not stop it. You may be foiling God's plan. A consistent, but not a popular, philosophy."

Not what I am saying at all. Suffering is bad The future good is outside of suffering being good or bad. If what you saying here is true then why teach the good samaritan, ask to feed the hungry, and many other things aimed at reducing suffering? So I agree that what you stated is not a good philosophy.

Let me go back to my daughter here for a minute. Since the doctor was the cause of her needless suffering, should I shun medicine? Should I run around cursing doctors for the evil they allowed to happen to me? Should I tell people how foolish they are to believe that a doctor can help when they cause so much needless suffering? While this may not be the perfect example I think you see where I'm headed. Yes, it's true that God is in a different league than doctors, and God really has the ability to stop all suffering, and I would guess the desire also, but the purpose for us to exsist on this earth requires us to experience things as they are. In the end we will all realize that this was necessary and the best possible way for us to become free acting beings that always choose right. Will will understand, perfectly, the consequences of our choices and actions.
I may not know what it's like to have a child die in my arms of any number of horrible manners, but I know what it's like to hold a child in my arms who is siezing an may no live through it, so please don't think I don't understand the kind of grief someone goes through. By the way I also stood there at age 15 and watched my dad die in front of my eyes. I am telling you, as many others can, that I have experienced many of these horrors first hand, and it's only because of what I know to be true that I am at peace over these experiences. At peace mind you, not that I think they weren't bad or that I am grateful for the better good my suffering will give me. I am here learning to control my actions, understand consequences, and try to help others as much as I can. Every choice we make probably affects someone else to some degree, I want to learn to make those affects good ones.

Pops said...

ujlapana wrote:

"It's extremely relevant, not in arguing for or against his existence, but as to his nature if he does exist.

"If he doesn't exist, it all makes sense. Point, Occam."

I have two points to make:

1. You can't use Occam's Razor as an excuse for believing that God doesn't exist -- there's too much evidence to the contrary. It's more like Dawkin's Hatchet than Occam's Razor.

Perhaps it's unfortunate that so much of the evidence is personal. That's God's choice, not ours.

2. You're right that we can learn a lot about God's nature by observation. Let me see if I can restate what you've said -- correct me if I get it wrong: if there were a God, and if he were sufficiently powerful, he would put an end to all suffering.

What you've missed is that there are alternatives.

The one I like is this: God is not a God of compulsion, but a God of persuasion. I won't attempt to articulate the reasons here, but God attempts to persuade his children to do the things that lead to happiness and progress. But he doesn't stop them when they choose otherwise, because that would defeat his purpose.

The suffering? I'm sure he's not too pleased about it. But he asked his son to descend below all things, to suffer the pains of all humans of all time, that he might gain the power to lift each of us up, both in our time of need as well as for all eternity. Which he did, voluntarily, of his own free will and choice.

I'm inclined to believe that suffering is not evil, but is an essential part of our mortal existence. Evil is choosing to inflict suffering on others, and on one's self.

Rich said...

Very well put Pops. I have stated something similar on other blogs before, other than your final thought, which I like by the way.

Pops said...

One other thing I forgot to mention -- I'm going to go out on a limb and assert that God himself suffers. Perhaps more than we can imagine. He suffers when he sees the horrible things we do to ourselves and to each other.

As I see it, one of the keys to being God is to have the power to eliminate the suffering, yet to not employ it when it would be wrong to do so. It's about having ultimate power and refusing to abuse it.

ujlapana said...

shawn
By the way, theism centered on specifically on the teachings of Christ (i.e. actually walking the walk where the Beatitudes are concerned) is in no way frightening and has nothing to do with "post Enlightenment humanism".

You're right--theism isn't always used in the pursuit of evil. But when it is, there is no recourse for discussion--that's the danger.

Imagine, if you will, the position of a wife who discovers her husband is cheating on her. Angrily, she confronts him. If he is a rational person, he will have nothing to do but apologize and plead for mercy. If he's less rational, as many are, he may try to make himself the victim--of circumstances, of a nagging wife, whatever. If he's a Man of God, he will claim that God sent an angel with a flaming sword commanding that he sleep around, and that his wife will burn in hell if she doesn't get with the program. So, you have a man do something more-or-less universally regarded as wrong, but you can't really help him improve because "God has spoken" in his mind.

Russel
Besides, to call something unjust requires that you know what IS just. Do you have any comparison with which you can make this universe? Do you know what is just?

I don't think I have sufficient hubris to say that I "know what is just." Does anyone? I have ideas, which I think are shared by many. I could be wrong, and obviously my errors could lead to errors in reasoning about God. Do you admit the same?

Or do you have assumptions that you juxtapose on God and because he does not fit those assumptions, he therefore must not exist?

It's not a question of proving that he doesn't exist. Non-existence is always a better starting point for a theory. I'm sure you agree; otherwise you would believe all kinds of crazy things. If a branch falls on your car in the middle of the night, was it the wind, a giant, a UFO, or an all-powerful being that defies all known laws of physics that caused it to happen?

For you to REALLY know whether God exists, you would have to know everything....

Not really--I'd just have to meet Her. Seriously, the challenge a theist faces is this--they act like God vs. Not-God is all there is to it. In fact, it's Not-God vs. Elohim or Thor or Shiva or Allah (maybe the same as Elohim) or Poseidon or various anismist dieties. Everything that "defies explanation" about your life (the time you found your keys, the time your cousin's cancer went into remision, the time you had a good idea, etc.) can be explained equally well by supernatural powers or coincidence/natural phenomena. Atheism suggests that adding the complexity of God acheives nothing. Theism suggests that God is required, but has a dismal record of agreeing on what God even means.

pops
You can't use Occam's Razor as an excuse for believing that God doesn't exist -- there's too much evidence to the contrary.

If there were "too much evidence to the contrary," then I suppose there wouldn't be many unbelievers, would there? There is "too much evidence to the contrary" to believe that humans can flap their arms and fly, or that aliens make crop circles, or that North Korea and the US are allies. Your "evidence" is that you pray for heads every time the quarter flips: heads, evidence of God, tails, God moves in mysterious ways. Hardly what most of us (yourself included, in non-religious situations) would call evidence. Evidence definition 1.a. is "an outward sign" -- which personal feelings are not.

In the rest of your comments, you've failed to address natural disasters, which do not involve free will. Unless the Earth has free will, which the necessity of a baptism by water (the Flood) and by fire (the 2nd coming) might suggest. But we're getting into some deep Mormonism at this point. Assuming the Earth does not have free will to abuse its denizens, God has created excess suffering. Ergo, God likes suffering. Ergo, we should too.

If God suffers, sign me up for Buddhism, because I'm missing the point of heaven ;).

ujlapana said...

rich

"Are you suggesting that your family would have been, overall, better off physically 300 years ago?"

Actually yes.


Well, we're getting excessively specific here. Skipping the fact that you, your daughter, or your wife would probably have died from an infected cut, tuberculosis, smallpox, the plague, typhoid fever, malaria, polio, or (insert your cured disease here) by now, the data is there--humans live longer, healthier lives than they used to. God is indifferent to this, of course, in that He was content to let this not be the case for the last 60,000 (or is it 6,000?) years.

A red herring is a distraction from a core argument. I assert that God, if omnipotent, allows suffering. You say that we should alleviate suffering. This as no bearing on God's culpability, because some suffering cannot be stopped by humans. Thus God's still in the hot seat.

Theism aims to alleviate eternal suffering.

Is that what hell is for?


"You could easily have a world in which people still suffer disappointments, but don't suffer great pain and anguish...."

I thought you didn't like the idea of God micromanaging our lives, but this world you describe is God micromanaging our lives. You would still see needless suffering and whatever suffering exsisted, there would still be considered terrible, there would still be something that was the worst imaginable pain and suffering, and you would still look to God to eliminate it. So this doesn't solve the problem in any way.


Not really. I don't know any human who gets paralyzed and eaten alive by the young of another animal. But I've seen it happen to insects on TV. I can imagine how horrible that must be, and it keeps the pain of a paper cut in perspective. I've lived a pretty pain-free life, and I realize it. I don't think that wrecking my car is the worst thing ever, because I'm aware of the much greater suffering of those around me.

Let me go back to my daughter here for a minute. Since the doctor was the cause of her needless suffering, should I shun medicine? Should I run around cursing doctors for the evil they allowed to happen to me? Should I tell people how foolish they are to believe that a doctor can help when they cause so much needless suffering? While this may not be the perfect example I think you see where I'm headed.

You're right, it's not. The problem is that medicine is not a pure-good vs. pure-evil monolith. It's people acting in all kinds of messy ways. But with lots of data to suggest that exposing yourself to them is better than not, if you're sick. Mormon God's not like that.

Yes, it's true that God is in a different league than doctors, and God really has the ability to stop all suffering, and I would guess the desire also, but the purpose for us to exsist on this earth requires us to experience things as they are.

Except that you believe that God does intervene, no? You believe that He does get down in the muck and cure cancer or lead you to your future spouse. Most faithful Mormon's believe that he even lays out your life-plan for your at 15 or 16 in a patriarchal blessing. A God that stands outside of the fray (on a day-to-day basis) and sees us suffer but knows that this will all turn out alright in the end is much more tolerable than one that capriciously plays favorites, or meddles in all kinds of, honestly, trivial details in life. (Such a meddling God, is even illogical, if we also assert that It is Good. Unless suffering is good--full circle.)

Every choice we make probably affects someone else to some degree, I want to learn to make those affects good ones.

A sound philosophy indeed.

Doc said...

ujlapana
If God suffers, sign me up for Buddhism, because I'm missing the point of heaven ;).

me
Agreed, you don't ;)

ujlapana
He seems to be very capricious in his meddling.

me
emphasis on the seems

ujlapana
I see the people around me as ineffable and glorious enough.

me
I'm glad to see you are touched enough by humanism to recognize the good in everyone. I would say it is a gift, but alas it takes faith to believe such. By all means go, exercise it. I will have no quarrel with that.

But you seem to have spent an awful, awful lot of time thinking about these things and working up a certain bitterness that can't be helping your goal much. Sitting around this area of the blogosphere railing on other's faith, well I just don't see it as productive or humanist.

Pops said...

ujlapana wrote:

"If there were 'too much evidence to the contrary,' then I suppose there wouldn't be many unbelievers, would there?"

Well, actually, there aren't.

There's a tremendous amount of objective evidence. Non-believers tend to explain it away in about the same manner that you describe for believers. This is because humans are faith-based creatures -- we choose our beliefs. Whether it's a belief in God or a belief that Columbus was a real person, it's our choice as to whether the evidence rises to the level of acceptability. Curiously, in almost all cases it comes down to trust in other people, whether it's what they've written, what they claim to have discovered, and so on.

With faith in God, it's possible to move beyond trust in what others say and obtain a more sure knowledge.

ujlapana said...

doc
But you seem to have spent an awful, awful lot of time thinking about these things and working up a certain bitterness that can't be helping your goal much. Sitting around this area of the blogosphere railing on other's faith, well I just don't see it as productive or humanist.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about these things--I'm glad it shows. (You'll have to demonstrate where I've been bitter, otherwise I will chalk this up to that famous Mormon persecution anxiety.) I am grateful to those who helped me find my way out of Mormonism--I extend the same courtesy out of love for my fellow man. But, I don't take it personally if you don't want what I'm offering.

pops
Well, actually, there aren't.

I guess we're leaving India and China out of this? It's only about 2.3 billion people, right? And ignoring the fundamental incompatibility of the Mormon and Islamic/Jewish/Christian God? By my last count, no more than 12 million people (and, honestly, quite a bit fewer than that) believe in the physically-embodied, married, formerly-mortal god of Mormondom. So the evidence doesn't seem to be "too much to the contrary" that Kolob exists.

There's a tremendous amount of objective evidence.

Please direct me toward some of this objective evidence.

Russell said...

Why Mormonism? Don't tell me that only WE deserve your loving skepticism when there are 2.3 billion Hindus and Buddhists who are also living a delusion? That's not to mention all the orthodox, practicing Catholics, Jews, and Muslims in the U.S. and the Middle East.

Why, the Mormons have become the quite the "chosen people" (albeit in a rather ironic way).

Rich said...

Life expectancy is also relative. I just read that life expectancy had a big leap with the invention of sewers a few hundred years ago. Well I also saw a discovery channel episode that revealed a city in 1500-2000 BC that had a central sewer system. Does that mean that they had a better life expectancy then? According to recent data it should. So do we have enough data and evience of every period of time to show overwhelming evidence that life expectancy has greatly improved since the dawn of man? What about countries now that have a high infant mortality rate? this brings their average down considerable where they may have many old timers. As always it depends on the data you choose to use to support you claim.

"A red herring is a distraction from a core argument. I assert that God, if omnipotent, allows suffering. You say that we should alleviate suffering. This as no bearing on God's culpability, because some suffering cannot be stopped by humans. Thus God's still in the hot seat."

Ah but it depends on who's relevance here. It is very relevent to the culpability of God in regaurds to suffering if it is my responsability to act in minimizing said suffering.

"Is that what hell is for?"
Do you mean to ask if hell is for those who reject the gospel and fail to repent to suffer the consequences of their choices? then yes it is. Or were you trying to point again to a God so horrible that such a place would exsist?

"Not really. I don't know any human who gets paralyzed and eaten alive by the young of another animal. But I've seen it happen to insects on TV. I can imagine how horrible that must be, and it keeps the pain of a paper cut in perspective. I've lived a pretty pain-free life, and I realize it. I don't think that wrecking my car is the worst thing ever, because I'm aware of the much greater suffering of those around me."

What's missing in this example is that you wouldn't have these things to relate to because the worst imaginable pain would consist of a papercut. There would be no animal eating another because that would fall outside our allowable P&S. You couldn't imagine anything worse than a papercut because that IS the worst. Your last sentance shows that you see the point but yet miss it. You are aware of much greater suffering so what you may experience seems to pale in comparison. What you are proposing is a world where these intense kinds of P&S don't exsist, we wouldn't have them within our relm of knowledge for comparison, so then the worst imaginable P&S now becomes your focal point to blame God.
God intervining isn't in the same league as God doing away with P&S completely. yes I do believe that God answers my prayers and intervines when needed. but this can also be in the form of a trial for me to have my faith tested.

At this point maybe you could suggest the threshold that God could give suffering. What to leave out or minimize and still give us our free will? Natural disasters are part of our world. Earthquakes are the result of plate tectonics, which according to our science seem to be pretty important to our natural world. So if we cut out earthquakes, and many tsunamis, we loose plate tectonincs. That could prove to be disasterous. This has been proposed on another blog and maybe it's relevant here. Describe the world as you think a 3-omni being should create that is logocally possible, that would include your reduced suffering, ect...
While there may be other possibilities, the fact remains that this is what we have to deal with. We could debate endlessly about what should and shouldn't be in our world. My worldview includes reasons for all that is here, including the suffering and the natural disasters. It doesn't include a God who doesn't care about suffering nor does it claim suffering to be "good". There are many mysteries of God, but there are so many simple things that are missed in the pursuit of mystery. Love your neighbor as yourself. to truley adhere to this commandment encompasses alot. You wouldn't allow yourself to needlessly suffer so why allow your neighbor? You wouldn't allow yourself to go without food, water, clothes, ect..., so why allow your neighbor to go without?
If it's Gods work and glory to bring about the immortality and eternal life of man, then why trivialize over things that don't bring about this end. Does it affect your eternity how or when the earth was created?

Ujlapana said...

Russell
Why Mormonism?
Isn't it obvious--I'm a Mormon myself. Of course I think all of the other religions are errant in their truth-claims, too--see how much we have in common?

Rich
Well I also saw a discovery channel episode that revealed a city in 1500-2000 BC that had a central sewer system.

Too bad God didn't reveal this idea to his "chosen" people back then. Less disease = more free time for thinking about theology, no?

Ah but it depends on who's relevance here. It is very relevent to the culpability of God in regaurds to suffering if it is my responsability to act in minimizing said suffering.
Only if you (or humans in general) could stop the suffering, if they chose to. But they can't. No matter how much you want to stop people from dying horrible deaths in volcanic eruptions, you can't. Babies that are born to live for weeks of constant pain before dying cannot be prevented (unless we're going to start discussing abortion now). As long as one instance of suffering exists in which only God could intervene yet fails to, the culpability remains. So it's a red herring.

Describe the world as you think a 3-omni being should create that is logocally possible, that would include your reduced suffering, ect...

This is what we used to call (before the phrase got mutilated to its current usage) begging the question. I do not see how a 3-omni being is possible per se. Hence, discussion of the world created by such a being is meaningless. I think the first step out of this mess for a theist is to say that God is not 3-omni, which Mormons used to teach, but now, "I don't know that we teach that."

As far as setting a baseline for suffering goes, I have considered the very points you bring up. If the worst suffering was a paper cut, that would be considered very bad. But let's posit a world where suffering can always be attributed to the free will of the sufferer. Then you've got an argument--God wants us to have free will, so he lets us harm ourselves. Suffering wouldn't cease, just like people don't stop smoking or overeating today, even though it will lead to suffering. In the current world, I can think of lots of not-caused-by-free-will modes of suffering.

Again, you don't have to convince me that God exists. Just that if it exists (and is 3-omni), why it is that you think that fact somehow inspires one to fight against suffering. God in the Old Testament/BoM certainly doesn't send that message.

Does it affect your eternity how or when the earth was created?

My answer to that would be yes, of course.

Rich said...

So its sounds like we agree then that suffering that is the result of our choices is not part of Gods culpability?
What are the chances that God tried to reveal a health code for his chosen people back then but it got lost, like many other things us mormons hold as truths? He did reveal to us the word of wisdom after all. We are not to be commanded in all things. We are expected to think for ourselves and act on conclusions. I'm not convicened that the life expectancy is so much greater now then it was in old testament times. i mean there were a couple of people that lived for a pretty long time. I also think, (Doctrine of rich alert) that there is a good possibility that we advanced in knowledge until the dark ages, or great apostasy when we digressed in knowledge. Recent discoveries, such as the one I mentioned, seem to uphold that idea.

Now I like the idea of you world you posit, sounds real fair to me. I have a nagging problem there though. What of the ones who, of their own free will, choose to cause harm to another, rape, murder, or many other horrible acts? Now we have a problem that the free will to suffer actually is taking away anothers free will to not suffer still. So how do we resolve this, keeping the suffering a choice of free will of the sufferer, but also we can't take away the free will of the rapist/murderer? Everyone has to be able to maintain their free will, God wants us to have this so we can choose to follow him or not. So we can't remove a desire, or make someone that decides to harm another have a heart attack because that person now doesn't have free will. Free will must remain intact and all suffering then is still a choice, but I can choose to make another suffer. We also haven't mentioned emotional suffering to add to the equation. I thought the Old testament had that one story about a certain city without poor or hungry? That's where Isee we can do work towards reducing suffering. I will look for some examples of reducing suffering in both of those works you mentioned because right at this very moment none come to mind. But I suspect that we can find teachings that inspire us to reduce suffering. I'm not trying to convince you a God exsists, but trying to discuss what is believed about this God.

In the current world, I can think of lots of not-caused-by-free-will modes of suffering.
Yes I agree there are, but humor me by naming some so we can have something to go on.

Ujlapana said...

What are the chances that God tried to reveal a health code for his chosen people

Well, if you're of the Judeo-Christian bent, you believe that he did: no pork, no mixing milk and meat, etc.

I'm not convicened that the life expectancy is so much greater now then it was in old testament times.

Then do some more research. Obviously adults could live as long as they do today; however, they died much more readily from infections and diseases. The real hit came from infants, which most estimates I've read put as between 1/4 and 1/3 of children dying within the first year or two of birth. (That's a lot of one-way tickets to celestial glory, eh? Does God appreciate infantcide?)

What of the ones who, of their own free will, choose to cause harm to another, rape, murder, or many other horrible acts?

Easy--when you get angry, your brain gets muddled and your actions slow down. Such a simple change in our physiology would make the world a much better place. This is what I meant by limiting harm. In other words, for me to harm someone in the real world requires a certain amount of effort. It's easy to come up with a world in which less effort would be required, such as voodoo dolls actually working. It's also easy to come up with a world in which more effort would be required, decreasing suffering.

I will look for some examples of reducing suffering in both of those works you mentioned because right at this very moment none come to mind.

You will almost certainly find one or two. What you really should do (or I should do) is read the whole thing with a column of checks for "allows or encourages suffering" and a column for "encourages alleviation of suffering." I'm not sure that all checks should be counted equally though--the detailed account of the God-commanded slaughter of a sleeping man seems to outweigh a brief mention of "no poor among them."

In the current world, I can think of lots of not-caused-by-free-will modes of suffering.
Yes I agree there are, but humor me by naming some so we can have something to go on.


I've already done so above, but here are a few again:
1. Congenital birth defects
2. Diseases (particularly contracted from historically unavoidable vectors, such as mosquitos or airborn pathogens)
3. Natural disasters

Rich said...

I did some more research, and I find an incredible amount of info that shows life expectancy increased greatly since about the 1800s. Because we find diseases in ancient tombs that are the life expectancy killers we know of, naturally we assume that they had a similar problem with disease way back then too. I can see the logic there. But then I am seeing that there are a great many countries today that have a very low life expectancy, no better than the 1800s. These are surely poor countries so that follows the model. I sitll have to wonder about all those people that claimed living 100s of years. I also find that science has found our bodies to be able to reach the maximum age of 120 years. I even found a website that talked about a verse in genises where God limited our life expectancy to 120 days, coincidence? I should say that I am convinced that we live longer now then we have for a long time. What I'm still not convinced of is that humans have always hovered around 20-40 years of age for average life expectancy until recently.

Easy--when you get angry, your brain gets muddled and your actions slow down. Such a simple change in our physiology would make the world a much better place

Yes this would certainly make life better except for interfering with our free agency by not allowing us to freely act.

Rich said...

You will almost certainly find one or two. What you really should do (or I should do) is read the whole thing with a column of checks for "allows or encourages suffering" and a column for "encourages alleviation of suffering." I'm not sure that all checks should be counted equally though--the detailed account of the God-commanded slaughter of a sleeping man seems to outweigh a brief mention of "no poor among them."

Ok, so an entire city with no poor among them, briefly mentioned is far outwieghed by a man, who kills many innocents and causes much suffering to others being killed. Meaning that one Hilter staying alive to torment us and kill millions we allow to happen because we can't kill him to stop those acts, that killing Hitler prior to his slaughter is far worse and should recieve one hugh check mark for ordering his suffering, far outwieghs thousands of people saved from suffering and dying because they were poor. Got it

1. Congenital birth defects
good but I still have a severly handicapped daughter thenbecause this was a birth defect caused by medicine. Fetel alcohol sydrome still here, babies still born addicted to drugs, but hey at least we eliminated congenital birth deffects so we are better off.

2. Diseases (particularly contracted from historically unavoidable vectors, such as mosquitos or airborn pathogens)

so we are eliminating all disease including common cold? But can we keep germ warfare? that would be in the relm of my freedom to choose evil.

3. Natural disasters

Are natural disasters gone altogether? No hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, fires, ect... or just noone suffers as a result of nature? this I think could also include animal attacks on humans maybe?

Russell said...

It appears that this has descended to intellectual trash-talking.

But hey, whatever you like man.

Anonymous said...

Sell all you own and give it to the poor or else you are not true Christians.

Ujlapana said...

Yes this would certainly make life better except for interfering with our free agency by not allowing us to freely act.

It wouldn't interfere with your free agency any more than your inability to fly does. That inability makes it VERY difficult for you to drop rocks on your enemies.

a man, who kills many innocents and causes much suffering to others being killed.

Are we talking about the same guy here? Laban? Who does he ever kill? And if he were going to kill millions of people, then wouldn't God's pre-emptive strike be ruining HIS free agency? I thought you just said that that was bad.

Russell, nobody's making you read this...but hey, whatever you like, man.

Rich said...

Last time I checked I could fly, hang glider, airplane, helicopter, ect... It doesn't seem that not being able to fly is a problem. I also don't agree that the human inability to fly is interfering with free agency.
I guess now you are going to tell me that Labans first attempt ever at killing anyone was with the Lehi kids? He does sure seem like a great guy I guess, did I miss something in reading about Laban? Didn't he already exercise plenty of his free agency in making some bad choices? He didn't seem very repentant? So from further harming people and keeping the plates, therefore hindering the chance for us to have the book of mormon is different then NEVER having the opportunity to freely act because we are unable to do anything that harms someone. You chose Christ's plan once, pre-exsistance, did you decide you made a mistake? Lucifers is now better, forcing everyone to do everything right? That's where this eventually leads, because how do you draw the line at interference and allowing free acts and still be 100% fair in judgment? Why come to earth at all when God could have just given us our bodies and sent everyone where they would have ended up, because he already knew right? Not one single person would have every complained at being told, "I'm sending you to outer darkness because on earth you would have ended up there anyway, so just acept that as your eternal dwelling." Yeah I can't see that being a problem with anyone.

Anonymous said...

From. Believer of Ancient
Bibilical Abyssinia.
To. All believers God in West.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I came from the community in the high lands of remote mountains of Ethiopia, where the modernisim still not poluted the pure faith of
Judeo-Christianity, and secrets of
Ancient masteries still kept.
When I came America, the only Christian denomination, which I had seen the realy purity of the
Christian faith and its behavoir is one you call in America the Mormon.
Secondly, this so called Mormon has gave me answer about the quetion which we used to ask in our country. which was; we knew that all sources of Judeo-Christianity was Holyland Israel
and its vicinity. We knew that this geographical spot has its accesses to all three contenents.
its location in Middle East as part of Asia, its accesses to Europe through Greece and Turkey.
also, Egypt and Abyssinia (Ethiopia) to Africa. So, our quetion was:
What about great American continent? we there many civizations in America. according
the archealogical evidences.
So, God has not any plan for this
people who was in America at that
time? surely, god has communicated
to this people as he has done others and us!
We can found this information only in the book of Mormon.
Brothers and Sisters, I had not seen Joseph Smith, but have seen
millins he save. I have seen his
fruits. Bible says, in the Mathew
distinguish the true prophets and
false ones. to their fruits.
the bad tree never give a good fruit but bad one only.
look, and combare the Mormons to
others. they are the realy clean
and sweet people.
If want to communicate with me
personaly, please call me at
my phone: 612-332-0738.
Email. barr0491@metnet.edu