I think a lot of religious conversation might be really unnecessary.
Least shocking opening sentence ever right there. Really? Conversations about religion? Unproductive and futile? Surely not!
I mean something a bit more interesting, though. I’m still having the occasional back-and-forth with strange Twitterfolk about their assorted odds and gods, often with people whose preferred deity is said to be all about love and kindness. Which is a good start; people who not only believe in God, but also think he’s justified in acting like a total dick to huge swathes of the population, tend to be less easy to engage with.
Generally, then, I’ll be asking questions about what these people think, how they fit God into their world, and I’ll ask something about how they square their loving god idea with, say, the thousands of children who are dying of starvation, malaria, and AIDS every day.
And that’s where it always seems to get stuck.
It’s not like they don’t think they have any answers to offer, sometimes they’ll keep replying for a while… but my responses are still only limited to either “Yeah, but why?” or “Seriously?” And we just keep circling the same, increasingly futile point, getting nowhere.
Which I maintain isn’t my fault. I reckon it’s just that there is no good answer to the most glaringly obvious flaw in the hypothesis that there’s someone out there who loves us all and has unlimited power over the world. There really never has been a good answer. So, the reason my discussions keep coming back to the problem of evil, is that any theology which tries to go any further is kinda redundant until we’ve got this part straightened out.
Most recently, I heard how it would be inappropriate for God to intercede and intrude on our free will. It would be “oppressive”, in fact, just as if you always stepped in to stop your own children doing anything wrong, and never allowed them to learn from their own mistakes. But it’s not an analogy that reaches very far. If your infant child was starving to death, and it would cost you nothing more than an infinitesimal expression of your will to save them, and you didn’t, that’s called criminal neglect.
Well, it’s criminal neglect if you’re a human parent doing that to a human child. If you’re an all-powerful deity doing it to countless human children, it’s called “mysterious ways”.
“Free will” is a complete failure to respond to the problem of evil. No six-year-old with leukemia got that way because of bad choices they made. Nobody’s free will caused an earthquake or a flood which killed thousands of unrelated people. Or, if it did – if you think natural disasters, including those which kill people too young to walk, are some sort of divine punishment for other people’s decisions – then your god is a psychopath.
If not, he’s still dangerously, maniacally complacent. Which – although they might not phrase it as such – really is what a lot of believers seem to think.
For any kind of god-belief to make any sense at all, you either have to ignore the horrors of the world, let go of either his omnipotence or benevolence, or just assume that, by some unknown method, it all makes sense and is for the best.
There’s no direct evidence for this, of course – it goes directly against what seems like the strong evidence against any such being, in fact. But there must be a way for it to all make sense, because God definitely does exist.
So, the evidence for that proposition – the evidence which lets you get away with maintaining a benevolent God as a probable entity, in spite of the problem of evil – must be pretty fucking watertight.
I’m waiting to be impressed.