Sunday, June 30, 2013

Reflections on "The Problem of Evil/Pain"

“Christianity is called the religion of pity….A man loses power when he pities. Through pity that drain upon strength which suffering works is multiplied a thousand fold.  Suffering is made contagious by pity; under certain circumstances it may lead to a total sacrifice of life and living energy”    Friedrich Nietzsche, The Anti Christ

I was recently skimming over the book, “Has Christianity Failed You?” by Ravi Zacharias.  There is a point in the book where he discusses the "The problem of pain"/"The problem of evil" and he responds to this problem by suggesting that through the pains and trials of our lives, we end up drawing closer to God. He even quotes a friend of his in India who often prays for America, “It must be hard to trust in God when you already have so much.”

What I’m gathering here is that the underlying theological response to “The Problem of evil/pain” is that it exists so that one might become more dependent on God. A person’s faith in God would end up strengthening their lives as they experience trials, tribulations and persecutions. Thus, the Christian response to the Problem of evil/pain is that yes—it obviously exists, but it is here to improve our relationship with God—to recognize our own weakness as we consider the big picture of our plight through this earthly experience that will one day usher us into eternity.

Now, in a way, they are right.  In a way, the Problem of Pain might end up making a Christian believer turn inward and reflect more upon the faith that they have. There is no reason why a person’s belief wouldn't act as a type of placebo effect—where the individual could draw positive strength from it.  This might help improve their situation and provide them with the mental fortitude to keep going (instead of kill themselves or resorting to “life is meaningless”.

I want to suggest that while there are pains in the world, one doesn't have to have faith or belief in God to get  through the rough times. There are plenty of individuals who have made it through without any particular faith. To assert that a person requires a deep faith to get them through a tough circumstance discounts all of the testimonies of all who have made it through the rough patches without deferring to god, or, belief in god(s).

You can draw strength from your own self—through the recognition that you have the power and will get through it. To quote Nietzsche again, “Pity stands in opposition to all the tonic passions that augment the energy of the feeling of aliveness: it is a depressant.”

There are many individuals who have taken this journey and succeeded. They recognized that indeed, they could dredge up a sense of power and responsibility in themselves. Once you feel you have that power, wouldn't you now be more apt to go about taking physical steps to improve your situation?

I would think that when you defer your sense of power to an authority (or anything outside yourself)—while it might strengthen you to some extent to know that you have a guide—it might actually weaken, or obstruct your sense of strength that you can derive from yourself. Tethering your self worth to a non-existent being might not be the best approach either.


  1. Good stuff, and an interesting read, as always!

    The fact that theologians have spent so much time and trouble on these "problems" of pain/suffering/evil, and the fact they go through such Jesuitical convolutions of (il)logic to come up with answers, is surely a strong argument against the existence of any kind of deity, especially an "intelligent designer".

    They're not a problem, in that sense, for the sensible atheist: pain and suffering are just something to be avoided, both for oneself and for others, and there's no such this as evil - merely a whole lot of different reasons why some people inflict pain and suffering on others.

  2. It seems that people in ancient times found many ways to solve such problems like this and have develop many reasons on how they did it. You can see this when you look at it culture to culture. While many ideas came about how they have overcome pain and suffering are simliar in many instances, the details will vary. The Norse have one outlook in their original religion while the Japanese in their feudal era have another through Bhuddism, Shinto, and Zen practices in overcoming such issues. It is not until humanity started spread to develop more and look and share into as many of these veiws as possible did we start to see that pain and suffering was not overcome by something outside of ourselves but some we have overcome. The thing is the many of us are just now realising this while most of us are still raised on these old ideas.

  3. In this context it is also worth to read Emil M. Cioran, who said e.g. to the Bible quote of the 7th Day, when God saw that it was good: "He should have taken a closer look."