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Philosophical problems created by suffering for a religious believer.

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Introduction

One of the most major problems with belief in a God is reconciling this belief with all the suffering in the world. Religion believes in a God who is all-powerful and all loving (omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent). So a great problem is raised when looking at the way the world has so much suffering, some of it on an overwhelming scale and depth. Suffering comes as a result of two evils: * That caused by Natural Evils - caused by the environment/world. Things such as the effects of natural hazards such as earthquakes and tropical storms that cause mass death and destruction. * That caused by Moral Evils - caused by man. Things such as war, holocaust, murder and other crimes. The problems created by suffering are often generalised as 'The Problem of Evil'. This issue of evil and suffering causes philosophical problems for a religious believer because it logically seems impossible to believe in the existence of a good and powerful God on the basis of the existence of evil and suffering in the world. The basic idea is: * A good God would want to destroy evil, and stop suffering. ...read more.

Middle

Swinburne took the example of 'death', and argued that, despite the suffering it causes, it is never the less essential to freewill defence. This is because death means that life, and the chances that each life contains, are limited. But there are a number of problems with this freewill defence argument. First of all, it is hard to see how God's creation went so wrong if God created it perfect. As the philosopher Schleiermacher pointed out, the evil must have come from somewhere, but if God created the whole world, including us, perfect (as was clearly possible for an omnipotent being, and as Augustine claims) there could be no way for it to have gone wrong. Secondly, and most importantly, Augustine's argument has simply been superceded by science. Volcanoes have been on the surface of the earth for millions of years before humans ever emerged and are governed by natural laws that neither know nor care that they cause human suffering. The blind, uncaring nature of these natural laws and of nature generally make this look very unlike the sort of world God would create. And of course Adam and Eve never existed, so there was no original sin. ...read more.

Conclusion

Also, a big flaw in Irenaeus's model is how hundreds of earlier generations have had to go through much suffering so that later generations can achieve the perfection he thinks they ultimately will. This leads onto a broader flaw in both this theodicy and the main free will defence. Both of these assume that humans can eventually reach a state of high (maximum) goodness, where they always choose to do good out of their own free will. If this is the case, then why couldn't God have created us this way to start with? It would obviously be possible, and just a matter of duplicating the sort of humans we are bound to eventually achieve. It could be thought that the journey is more valuable than the actual arrival, but can the value of passing through a period of suffering actually be shown or pointed out It is difficult to see how a common saying about anticipation of something can justify millions of human deaths in events like the Holocaust. The concluding question is; Have these events really achieved something which balances out the atrocities/tragedies involved? While it is possible for good to come out of suffering, equally good people can come out of thinking, sensitivity and a good upbringing. ...read more.

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