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TrueTomHarley

Why Do Bad Things Happen, Updated for Atheists

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Witnesses are pretty good at explaining the cause of suffering and evil to the religious person. But explaining it to the irreligious is another matter. They choke as they get near Genesis matters, knowing that the one they speak with has long moved on from that area. And yet they have to go there, if they would convey an explanation that makes so much sense.

Can the material be presented in a way that will make sense, and perhaps even appeal, to the one whose first instinct is to reject Genesis as nonsense? That is the challenge I try to address in the following post, updated from one written long ago:

 

Was Diagoras the world’s first atheist? He is credited that way. Read up on him and you will find that he is remembered as Diagoras the Atheist. Isn’t he the fellow who used a wooden statue of Hercules as fuel to cook his turnips? If Hercules didn’t like it—well, let him do something about it. And how did Diagoras end up an atheist? Wikipedia tells us: “He became an atheist after an [unspecified] incident that happened against him went unpunished by the gods”

Why wasn’t it punished? Why didn’t God fix it? He’s God, after all. Isn’t he supposed to be all-powerful? We hear this all the time from atheists, agnostics and even believers. Why didn’t he solve Diagoras’s problem and stop the man from going atheist?

It’s because he’d never be able to do anything else. He’d be sticking band-aid after never-ending band-aid on a system of things that is inherently unjust, even designedly so. Instead, in keeping with his original purpose, he purposes to replace this system of things with one of his own design. Injustice in that system of things will be a memory only.

After all, what is the injustice that caused Diagoras such soul-searching? Only the one that touched him personally! Had he not witnessed hundreds of injustices in his lifetime? To say nothing of ones his society was built upon. We positively slobber over Greeks as cradle of wisdom, birthplace of democracy, mecca of free thinkers, and so forth, yet they enjoyed their privileged status only on the backs of others. That society embraced slavery. It treated women abominably. And weren’t Greeks the original pedophiles? The same sexual molestation of children so roundly condemned today was enshrined in respectable Greek society. Are these among the injustices Diagoras was concerned with? Did he even recognize them as injustices? Possibly, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Let’s face it, few situations of this world today are win-win. Generally, someone pays the price when we win. Hopefully, for politicians and Pollyannas, it is someone we don’t see in another land or another class. But there is somebody most often and we usually don’t even know about it. The system is designed that way. Get the sufferer as far away from the privileged one as possible so they don’t see the link and declare any such talk as but crybaby whining. Don’t think that any political party has a handle on the problem. It is inherent with human self-rule. A new system of things is in keeping with the Bible’s premise that humans were not designed to be independent of God.

Things might have turned out differently. The Adam and Eve and Garden of Eden account, brief though it is, demonstrates God’s original intent. “Further, God blessed them and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it,’” says Genesis 1:28. The very name Eden means “pleasure;” garden of Eden becomes, when translated into Greek, “paradise of pleasure,” and “subduing the earth” is code for spreading those conditions earth wide. Had humans, starting with the first pair, remained content to live under God’s direction, life today would be a far cry from what it is today. But almost from the start, they balked.

Consider Genesis chapter 3: “Now the serpent proved to be the most cautious of all the wild beasts of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it began to say to the woman: ‘Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?’ At this the woman said to the serpent: ‘Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat. But as for [eating] of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, God has said, “you must not eat from it, no, you must not touch it that you do not die.”’

“At this the serpent said to the woman: ‘You positively will not die. For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.’ Consequently the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something to be longed for to the eyes, yes, the tree was desirable to look upon.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses understand the “knowing good and bad” of verse five to be a matter of declaring independence. “You don’t need God telling you what is good and what is bad. You can decide such things yourself and thus be “like God.” The serpent even portrays God as having selfish motive, as though trying to stifle the first couple—a sure way to engender discontent. The ploy was successful. Those first humans chose a course of independence, with far-ranging consequences that have cascaded down to our day.

After a lengthy time interval allowed by God so that all can see the end course of a world run independent of him, he purposes to bring it again under his oversight. This is what the prophet Daniel refers to: “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.” (Daniel 2:44)

Jesus refers to it, too, in The Lord’s Prayer: “...Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:10) Does anybody seriously expect God’s will to be done on earth under the present system? Here and there, one can see a glimmer, of course, but to predominate? The time for God’s will to be done is when his kingdom comes.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God’s permission of injustice, even evil, is bound up with this trial period of human rule, soon to end. In a sense, the modern-day atheist counterparts of Diagoras have voted for the wrong party. They voted Republicans out of office in favor of Democrats (or vice versa) and they are now incensed that Republicans aren’t delivering on their promises! God’s kingdom is the arrangement that will end injustice. But they continue to vote for human rule. Does anyone think that humans will end injustice?

What the upset ones really want is, not so much an end of injustice, but an end to the symptoms of injustice, mostly the ones that affect them personally, just like with Diagoras. But human rule itself is the source of injustice. We’re simply not designed with the ability to “rule” ourselves. Is it “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely?” God’s Kingdom will not treat the symptoms of injustice; it will uproot the source. (February 2008)

 

There is also one for straight up Bible believers, who will not automatically choke on Adam and Eve, here. It came about through informal witnessing and I later wrote it up:

https://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/2006/06/why_do_bad_thin.html

 

 

 

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