... theoretically. No physical takers, please!
I'm trying to finish editing the chapter of the philosophy book on the problem of evil. It's a difficult chapter because it's a difficult issue. I wanted to hear anyone's thoughts on the following paragraphs, especially from any atheists or skeptics out there.
On the one hand, it is surely true that not all pain is ultimately bad. Sometimes pain can lead to greater happiness, like an unpleasant shot that helps you get over a serious illness. Of course, recognizing the potential pay off of pain is usually of little comfort when we are in the middle of the suffering. Nevertheless, we can find some truth even in Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous saying that “what does not kill me makes me stronger.”[i]
"Man [sic] is in the process of becoming the perfected being whom God is seeking to create. However, this is not taking place… by a natural and inevitable evolution, but through a hazardous adventure in individual freedom… If, then, God’s aim in making the world is the “bringing of many sons to glory” [Heb. 2:10], that aim will naturally determine the kind of world that He has created." (John Hick, Evil and the God of Love, 256)
From a philosophical standpoint, it is not clear that death in itself is evil or even that suffering is. They are usually undesirable to us, to be sure. But it is not clear that they are evil. As un-reassuring as it is, it is quite possible that the problem of evil sometimes looms larger to us than it should, simply because we do not have a good sense of the overall picture or of what is ultimately of greatest importance. We think our individual lives to be more significant than they really are in the vast scheme of things. We exaggerate the significance of our pains and pleasures.
And we should probably point out that our insignificance becomes infinitely greater if there is no God. If there is no God, then—while we may become infinitely significant to ourselves—we turn out simply to be biological machines meaninglessly concerned with our own fortunes and circumstances. If undirected, atheistic evolution is the ultimate explanation of what a person is, then there is no goodness—or evil—to the world at all. The fittest survive, the weak get eaten, and neither outcome really matters one way or another beyond the feelings of the few, insignificant animals involved.
Certainly it is the fallacy of subjectivism to think that something is true just because it is convenient for me. Yet the existence of God would seem to be the only hope for suffering having any real meaning at all beyond ourselves and those who care for us. Ironically, while the continuance of suffering raises the strongest objections to the idea of a God of love, it is only the notion of God’s love for the world that makes suffering significant at all beyond the chemical reactions in the brains of a half dozen homo sapiens.
[i] Twilight of the Idols.