Evil, Pain, Suffering, Theodicy

Everything Happens For A Reason

‘Everything happens for a reason’ they say. God is love and never gives us more than we can handle. God has His hand in everything. No matter what we are going through, He is there. He can do miracles. Nothing is impossible with God.

Here’s a story that you may or may not have heard before. It’s the story of Kelly Anne Bates via wikipedia:

On 17 April 1996 Smith presented at a police station and said that he had accidentally killed his girlfriend during an argument in the bath, claiming that she had inhaled bathwater and died despite his attempts to resuscitate her. Police attended Smith’s address and found Bates’ naked body in a bedroom. Bates’ blood was found in every room of the house, and a post-mortem examination revealed over 150 separate injuries on her body. During the last month of her life she had been kept bound in the house, sometimes tied by her hair to radiators or chairs, and at other times with a ligature around her neck.[1][2] William Lawler, the Home Office pathologist who examined her body, said: “In my career, I have examined almost 600 victims of homicide but I have never come across injuries so extensive.”[3] The injuries included:[1][2][3]

  • scalding to her buttocks and left leg;
  • burns on her thigh caused by the application of a hot iron;
  • a fractured arm;
  • multiple stab wounds caused by knives, forks and scissors;
  • stab wounds inside her mouth;
  • crush injuries to both hands;
  • mutilation of her ears, nose, eyebrows, mouth, lips and genitalia;
  • wounds caused by a spade and pruning shears;
  • both eyes gouged out;
  • later stab wounds to the empty eye sockets;
  • partial scalping.

The pathologist determined that her eyes had been removed “not less than five days and not more than three weeks before her death”.[3] She had been starved, losing around 20 kg in weight, and had not received water for several days before her death. Peter Openshaw, the prosecutor in Smith’s trial, said: “It was as if he deliberately disfigured her, causing her the utmost pain, distress and degradation … The injuries were not the result of one sudden eruption of violence, they must have been caused over a long period [and] were so extensive and so terrible that the defendant must have deliberately and systematically tortured the girl.”[1] The cause of death was drowning, immediately prior to which she had been beaten about the head with a shower head.[3] Openshaw said: “Her death must have been a merciful end to her torment”.[7]

The problem of suffering is one of the most common arguments against God. But it’s still one of the most devastating. Here is why:

God is omnipotent according to Christianity. This means he has all power. No force can stop him. What he wants to do, he can do without any hesitation. Whether Satan is at work or not, God ultimately is in charge and in control.

God is also the creator of all things according to Christianity. He designed our bodies. This means every nerve that sends pain signals to our brains was created by him. Psychopathic people were born that way because God allowed them to be, or created them that way. Torture techniques are only effective because God allows the pain.

I want you to think about Bates’ suffering. Her pain and agony. Picture yourself as a father or mother, watching this happen. Picture yourself having the power to stop it, and not doing anything.

If everything happens for a reason, why would I ever want to find out the reason for this, or live with the Being whose purpose and plan it was? Who’s really in charge here?

A popular argument to explain suffering and evil goes something like this: ‘true love cannot exist without free will, and free will cannot exist without evil, therefore God is good because He created free will’. The premise of the argument is built on the hypothesis that evil is necessary for free will to exist, and that God is limited by this fact. But if this were true, God would not be all-powerful, since the assumption is that He could not have created free will without evil being a necessary side effect. But an omnipotent God most certainly could have created free will without evil, unless we are willing to deem Him subservient to a hypothetical external law.

The only way to rationalize the existence of suffering is to conclude that God wanted it to exist. Anything less would make Him an impotent divine consequentialist. This is why I don’t believe I could ever again call God ‘good’, since he must have wanted rape, murder and torture to exist for the sake of rape, murder, and torture. An omnipotent God cannot claim that it is the ‘lesser evil’ when He sets the rules to begin with. He could’ve created a better world right here, without suffering, and still allowed free will and true love, because nothing is impossible for him. To say he couldn’t would be an insult to his omnipotence.

A common response is that God did create a place like that called Heaven, but that does not eliminate the fact that God still wanted this type of suffering to exist, even temporarily. Add Hell on top of that, and you’ve got a God with a serious sadistic streak. If Kelly Anne Bates did not accept Christ, then she is in Hell, where she will burn forever according to Christianity. What good father would knowingly let their child be blinded, scalded, tortured, stabbed and drowned, then throw them in fire where they would burn forever?

Not one I would ever want to have a personal relationship with.

Image by freeparking via Flickr.com. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic License.

Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.