Ask An Atheist: A Loving God?

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By Jim Downard

Many people believe that an omnipotent God “designed” and created the earth. How can this God be considered a loving God when the “design” included random indiscriminate landmines like earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and diseases? An omnipotent God could have just as easily created a functioning planet void of landmines. – Wayne

Wayne brings up the perennial minefield of theology, the theodicy issue.  If the god(s) are moral and nice, why do they allow things that aren’t moral or nice?  The Greeks didn’t have to worry about this problem too much, since their pantheon was a glut of all too-fallible and (let’s say it) human gods.  But faiths focusing on fewer gods and wanting them to be ever so nice slam into the existence of evil and of physical travail.
Darwin wasn’t alone in the 19th century to grapple with this issue (why would a god “design” nasty parasitical organisms, or let his sweet little daughter die of a terrible affliction?) nor end up reluctant to embrace the cuddly cartoon of “God” that couldn’t address such matters.

Some imagine malign forces as a sower of ill in the world, from Zorastrianism to Christianity.  The current (and quite entertaining) “Evil”series on TV exemplifies this approach, replete with demons and the like, but that only punts the question down the field, for the free reign being allotted said demons would still have to be allowed by the Big G.  It’s rather like the second Narnia movie, where one might ask had Aslan (the thinly-disguised lion analog for Jesus) gone on vacation for a thousand years, not to have noticed things falling apart at the hands of humans during his absence?

God as absentee landlord doesn’t set well with most of a theological disposition, but from a secular point of view, so long as we exist in a natural world in which organisms (including people) have a wide range of behavioral options available to them, including being a nuisance to some other organisms, the theodicy problem won’t go away.

So get out your popcorn and watch the perpetual dispute go on.

About Jim Downard

Jim Downard is a Spokane native (with a sojourn in Southern California back in the early 1960s) who was raised in a secular family, so says had no personal faith to lose.

He's always been a history and science buff (getting a bachelor's in the former area at what was then Eastern Washington University in the early 1970s).

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