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Suffering in Religions of the World

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Introduction

Suffering in Religions of the World The question of suffering is one that all religions have for millennia mystified over. From scholars such as Leibniz and Augustine to the poverty stricken masses in 3rd world countries, the presence of evil and suffering in this world ultimately leads one to ask the question 'why does a loving God allow suffering?' This is a question that transcends time, place and culture and each religion has a different set of doctrines that set out to explain why suffering occurs. The two major religions that deal with suffering in their teachings are Christianity and Islam, and the list of authors who have studied the concept of theodicy in particularly in Christianity is long and distinguished. In the Christian faith the question of 'why does God allows suffering?' is one that was raised centuries ago by Paul and has been central to Christianity ever since. For Christians to comprehend suffering the understanding of the life and death of Jesus Christ is fundamental and to understand this, the concept of original sin that Christians believe is inherent in everyone must be explored. Early explanations of suffering in relation to original sin can be found in the New Testament. Genesis describes the fall of Adam and the need of a mediator to reconcile this separation with God. ...read more.

Middle

The most widely held attitude of Islam is to think of the control of God in a predeterminist sense. That is to say, wrong doing is not in man's hands therefore God must have willed it. Within Islam there is strong opposition to the determinist school of thought known as Qadariyya, however for the majority of Muslims the problem of suffering is not an academic problem but a way of life. The Koran marks the end of a revolution for Muslims; Allah has spoken clearly and for the last time and will not be heard again until he speaks as a punisher and judge. The Koran teaches to accept suffering as chastisement for sins already committed, and it is emphasised that suffering will remit these sins. It is little wonder then why Muslims are so accepting of suffering in the world. Constant emphasis is seen in the Koran of the religious significance of created natural order, indeed the holy book contains ten times as many verses on the 'signs of nature' as it does on religious law, and hence it is believed that God reveals himself in nature. Today 1/5th of the human race is Muslim, and the vast majority of those people are concentrated in 37 countries of the world. It stands to reason therefore that Islam is the only religion that adopts itself to countries it overruns and produces distinct impressions of the faith in different places and ages. ...read more.

Conclusion

Following the 1755 disaster, divine retribution became a prominent explanation of human suffering. The clergy told the people of Lisbon that they were a sinful city and that the earthquake was an act of God's anger (T.D Kendrick.) Lisbon's population along with the rest of the western world were forced to ask themselves if God was really all loving in the light of such devastating effects. It is said (T.D Kendrick) that the Lisbon earthquake brought an age to an end: the optimism of the first half of the 18th century seemed to vanish in the aftermath of the earthquake. The Leibnizian theodicy and enlightenment thinking in general became almost satirical, not least due to the work of Voltaire, who openly attacked Leibniz tradition when asking how the 'best of all possible worlds' theory be accounted for when innocent thousands of people suffer. During this great period of confusion the reconciling of God's love and omnipotence on the one hand with suffering on the other was open to much theorising and debate, not just for theodicists but for sociologists, historians and people in general experiencing suffering of any kind. Not all, however, were as strongly condemning of Leibniz thought as Voltaire was and many people still adhered to Liebnizan theory. Rousseau, Kant and many other academics since have sought a rationale of suffering within the Leibniz tradition as many still do today. ...read more.

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