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My Faith: The danger of asking God ‘Why me?'
August 4th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Faith: The danger of asking God ‘Why me?'

Editor’s note: Timothy Keller is senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York and author of The New York Times best-selling book "The Reason for God." His book for church leaders, "Center Church," will be published in September.

By Timothy Keller, Special to CNN

(CNN)–When I was diagnosed with cancer, the question “Why me?” was a natural one.

Later, when I survived but others with the same kind of cancer died, I also had to ask, “Why me?”

Suffering and death seem random, senseless.

The recent Aurora, Colorado, shootings — in which some people were spared and others lost — is the latest, vivid example of this, but there are plenty of others every day: from casualties in the Syria uprising to victims of accidents on American roads. Tsunamis, tornadoes, household accidents - the list is long.

As a minister, I’ve spent countless hours with suffering people crying: “Why did God let this happen?” In general I hear four answers to this question. Each is wrong, or at least inadequate.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

The first answer is “I guess this proves there is no God.” The problem with this thinking is that the problem of senseless suffering does not go away if you abandon belief in God.

In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said that if there was no higher divine law, there would be no way to tell if any particular human law was unjust. Likewise, if there is no God, then why do we have a sense of outrage and horror when suffering and tragedy occur? The strong eat the weak, there is no meaning, so why not?

Friedrich Nietzsche exemplified that idea. When the atheist Nietzsche heard that a natural disaster had destroyed Java in 1883, he wrote a friend: “Two-hundred-thousand wiped out at a stroke—how magnificent!”

Because there is no God, Nietzsche said, all value judgments are arbitrary. All definitions of justice are just the results of your culture or temperament.

My Take: This is where God was in Aurora

As different as they were, King and Nietzsche agreed on this point. If there is no God or higher divine law then violence is perfectly natural.

So abandoning belief in God doesn’t help with the problem of suffering at all.

The second response to suffering is: “While there is a God, he’s not completely in control of everything. He couldn’t stop this.”

But that kind of God doesn’t really fit our definition of “God.” So that thinking hardly helps us with reconciling God and suffering.

The third answer to the worst kind of suffering – seemingly senseless death – is: “God saves some people and lets others die because he favors and rewards good people.”

But the Bible forcefully rejects the idea that people who suffer more are worse people than those who are spared suffering.

This was the self-righteous premise of Job’s friends in that great Old Testament book. They sat around Job, who was experiencing one sorrow after another, and said “The reason this is happening to you and not us is because we are living right and you are not.”

At the end of the book, God expresses his fury at Job’s ”miserable comforters.” The world is too fallen and deeply broken to fall into neat patterns of good people having good lives and bad people having bad lives.

The fourth answer to suffering in the face of an all-powerful God is that God knows what he’s doing, so be quiet and trust him.

This is partly right, but inadequate. It is inadequate because it is cold and because the Bible gives us more with which to face the terrors of life.

God did not create a world with death and evil in it. It is the result of humankind turning away from him. We were put into this world to live wholly for him, and when instead we began to live for ourselves everything in our created reality began to fall apart, physically, socially and spiritually. Everything became subject to decay.

But God did not abandon us. Only Christianity of all the world’s major religions teaches that God came to Earth in Jesus Christ and became subject to suffering and death himself, dying on the cross to take the punishment our sins deserved, so that someday he can return to Earth to end all suffering without ending us.

Do you see what this means? We don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, or why it is so random, but now at least we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be.

It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he doesn’t care. He is so committed to our ultimate happiness that he was willing to plunge into the greatest depths of suffering himself.

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Someone might say, “But that’s only half an answer to the question ‘Why?'” Yes, but it is the half that we need. If God actually explained all the reasons why he allows things to happen as they do, it would be too much for our finite brains.

What we truly need is what little children need. They can’t understand most of what their parents allow and disallow for them. They need to know their parents love them and can be trusted. We need to know the same thing about God.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Timothy Keller.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • God

soundoff (3,664 Responses)
  1. lamb of dog

    Wow. This is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever read. I'm actually physically laughing. This sounds like a plea for people to stop thinking.

    August 5, 2012 at 4:38 am |
    • Pavlov The First

      What we really need is the problem of people believing in an impossible god to go away.

      August 5, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • anonmuys

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIQR9OuJ388&w=640&h=360]

      August 6, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • Truth

      Your gonna ignore the video aren't you. Your missing out on Truth.

      August 6, 2012 at 12:43 am |
  2. lamb of dog

    Why doesn't he follow his heart and go with the first answer? It makes the most sense.

    August 5, 2012 at 4:32 am |
    • Pavlov The First

      The problem is he's following his heart and ignoring his brain.

      August 5, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • Nathan

      Your heart is a blood pump. Why follow it? Do you mean "follow his intuition" or "follow his view of the way he wants truth to be"?

      August 5, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  3. 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

    What a joke! This article amounts to "god works in mysterious ways" and is a plea to look no deeper.

    August 5, 2012 at 1:49 am |
    • exlonghorn

      You DO know that's how most theists discussions go, don't you?

      August 5, 2012 at 2:08 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Yup! Just wanted to state the obvious for the delusional believers – that would be all believers.

      August 5, 2012 at 2:14 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Imagine if James Eagan Holmes used that as an excuse in the trial.

      "Mr Holmes, why did you murder those innocent people?"

      "I work in mysterious ways."

      Surely every Christian in the country would be seeking his immediate release.

      August 5, 2012 at 3:52 am |
    • lamb of dog

      god told me to do it.

      August 5, 2012 at 4:40 am |
  4. Rational Libertarian

    This doofus brings up the Book of Job, the main book that points out the fact that, if the Abrahamic deity exists (he doesn't), then he is an evil, petty, jealous and angry poop nose.

    Then he comes up with possibly the most inane paragraphs ever published

    "But God did not abandon us. Only Christianity of all the world’s major religions teaches that God came to Earth in Jesus Christ and became subject to suffering and death himself, dying on the cross to take the punishment our sins deserved, so that someday he can return to Earth to end all suffering without ending us."

    So telling a ridiculous story about your religion's protagonist somehow gives it credence? BS. The only reasonthis guy is a Christian is because he was brought up that way. If this was Iran, he'd be screaming "Death to America" all day long, when he wasn't bent in prayer facing Mecca.

    August 5, 2012 at 1:41 am |
    • FreeThought

      @Rational Libertarian: amen 😉

      August 5, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • RaisedWithChrist

      Your statement about if he was born and raised in Iran might be true, but if you (the commentor I'm replying to) were born and raised in Iran as well I'm sure that you wouldn't be able to post this without facing consequences.

      August 11, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  5. exlonghorn

    Silly,

    "I feel like"...not exactly the best way to form an argument that is not readily dismissed. Just sayin.

    My faith doesn't have shortcomings because a recognition of its own shortcomings is actually built-in. Atheism readily accepts the idea that there are simply things that are currently unknown about the universe. This includes the possibility that our perceptions are flawed, and you suggest (without data, observations, etc.). However, all evidence thus far points to that not being the case. Most important we don't make the leap to believing in things we cannot say we've tested, observed, or otherwise backed with verifiable study. We simply speak the truth...we don't know.

    Again, your arguments against secular thought are based on philosophy. Philosophy by it's very nature is inconsistent. Gravity is not. Translation and language can fluctuate over time. The speed of light does not. Religious books are subject to the limitations of the authors, who are flawed humans. Avogadro's number is not.

    And your premise is incorrect. The secular view is – that you can have meaning without direction." That's not the Atheistic view. Quite to the contrary, it is important to live with both meaning AND direction. However, that meaning and direction is set by the individual, not a deity. More important than this, we did not "randomly" evolve as you suggest...where did you get that idea? I am concerned you missed a course on biology somewhere along the way. Reason is a beautiful evolution because it allows humans to survive and live through a deeper understanding of the universe focused on answering the question WHY? WHY does grain grow, and can I make it grow better? Why does my vision get blurry, so I can fix it and live longer? Or you can waste reason by puttering in circles about things happening because it's "God's Will".

    And yes, I DO believe we create our own significance and meaning in this life. Why on earth would I care to leave that to someone who threatens me, asks me to to put blind obedience in him in front of everything else, and provides nothing more than an even GREATER hollow promise of some amorphously-defined eternal life? NO thanks. I'll pass...and couldn't be happier about it.

    Again, faith fills a psychological need in people. As we continue to evolve and learn, I hope that psychological void becomes ever smaller. In the end, maybe we will learn that we need each other more than any imaginary deity needs us, and we should act, think, and behave accordingly.

    August 5, 2012 at 1:30 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Hear, hear.

      August 5, 2012 at 1:42 am |
    • Ting

      August 5, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Tom

      The atheist argues that there is no supreme being, that the world is entirely physical...material. Yet if you ask an atheist whether he perceives certain things or acts to be "good" or "bad" he will almost certainly acknowledge that this charity or these actions are "good", or that this action is "bad." But this is illogical and hypocritical. In a purely material, physical world there can be no qualities of "good" or "bad." Therefore the atheist's position is illogical.

      August 5, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • exlonghorn

      Why is it that in a world defined by physical laws, you can't also have emotion, reasoning, and consciousness? You are just blankly stating that it's not possible, but you aren't explaining WHY it's not possible.

      August 5, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • Nathan

      Nice answer – right on the mark.

      August 5, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Nathan

      This is a reply to "Tom" who replied to "exlonghorn". Tom, it is your argument that is fallacious. You set up premises and come to a conclusion that has nothing to do with the premises. Atheism might be "illogical" to you, but not for the reasons you state, your "good" and "bad" premise. There is no universal "good" and "bad." Human tribes, cultures, and civilizations have evolved a codified "good" and "bad" in the laws of their lands. In my view, this has a lot to do with human evolution, survival, and thus reproductive success. There are still "primitive" tribes who find it morally OK to kill someone for reasons that "civilized" societies might deem "bad." Even "civilized" societies find it morally justifiable to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people for something the government of the country these people happen to live in "might" do in the future. One such case is the Iraq War. Millions of self-identified Christians who sing "America, America, God shed His grace on thee" and proclaim "... one Nation under God..." go on with their lives and think little of the killings that their [Christian] government has done.

      August 5, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • FreeThought

      @exlonghorn: nicely said =) I was just about to reply to Tom when I read Nathan's response too which was good. The problem with religious people that you cannot use logic. It's amazing what religious people assume about Atheists, and I never stop being amazed and appalled (sadly).

      August 5, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  6. Reality

    Taking "god" down a notch and maybe even concluding that there is no god:

    o From Father Edward Schillebeeckx, the famous contemporary theologian from his book , Church: The Human Story of God,

    Crossroad, 1993, p.91 (softcover)

    "Christians must give up a perverse, unhealthy and inhuman doctrine of predestination without in so doing making God the great scapegoat of history" .

    "Nothing is determined in advance: in nature there is chance and determinism; in the world of human
    activity there is possibility of free choices.

    Therefore the historical future is not known even to God; otherwise we and our history would be merely a puppet show in which God holds the strings.

    For God, too, history is an adventure, an open history for and of men and women."

    August 5, 2012 at 1:13 am |
    • FreeThought

      @Reality: a great book on god and suffering is (scholar on christianity) Bart Ehrman's "God's problem"

      August 5, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  7. therealpeace2all

    Reblogged this on peace2alldotme.

    August 5, 2012 at 1:04 am |
  8. therealpeace2all

    FROM THE ARTICLE:

    " Likewise, if there is no God, then why do we have a sense of outrage and horror when suffering and tragedy occur? The strong eat the weak, there is no *meaning*, so why not? "

    I'm still perplexed at the inability of the majority, if not all 'believers,' to be able to comprehend that for those that don't believe in a Deity... that life 'still' can and does have a tremendous amount of *meaning* and *fulfillment.*

    Life becomes that much more precious... to do good... to do right... to be kind and loving to others.

    To just a-s-s ume that society would absolutely fall into utter moral chaos, were it not for God to give meaning to our lives, is nonsense.

    There are 'many' people that absolutely do 'not' believe' and live their lives as good and as well as anyone else.

    Peace...

    August 5, 2012 at 1:04 am |
    • exlonghorn

      Very well said. I find much greater meaning in recognizing how cool it is that I'm here, briefly, with a consciousness that will vanish the day I die, and the elements that are currently me will return to the universe, to be recycled into something else. While my memories, thoughts, opinions, and att1tudes will simply cease to be, I will always be a part of the universe. Energy and Matter cannot be created or destroyed. Conservation of energy. Thanks Leibniz and Lavoisier. 🙂

      August 5, 2012 at 2:20 am |
    • Nathan

      I agree with your statements in general; however, I am perplexed when you say, "Life becomes that much more precious... to do good... to do right... to be kind and loving to others." What does "to do good" and "to do right" mean? We generally have, in this country, a notion of what being "kind and loving to others" means, but where does your definition of "good" and "right" come from? Did you just invent them? Is this your individual view of "good" and "right"? Mine might be different, even opposing, so are mine wrong and your right, or vice-versa? Even if we could agree on common definitions of universal "good" and "right," in the final analysis of life, the bottom line, what difference does it make if we help others or not? Why isn't it "every person for him/her self? There is no judge; there is no final evaluation of what we do in life, so why not get all that you can according to what you want, and then die, rot, and be no more?

      August 5, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Nathan

      Response to "exlonghorn" who repsonded to "therealpeoce2all". Picking a nit here, but my favorite polymath, Leibniz, can't take credit for the "Conservation of Energy" – that goes to Mayer and Joule. Leibniz hinted at the idea as did others. The Conservation of Mass can be credited to Lavoisier as you have done. I am bothered by your opinion of what happens to "you" when you die. You say, "I will always be a part of the universe." Prior to that, state that "... consciousness that will vanish the day I die, and the elements that are currently me will return to the universe, to be recycled into something else. While my memories, thoughts, opinions, and att1tudes will simply cease to be,...". Pray tell, if consciousness vanishes, and if all the elements that are you return to the universe (I assume you mean chemical elements that are not integrated as a person since consciousness is gone), then what is left as the "I" in "I will always be part of the universe"? No, under your death scenario, it is "dust to dust" or more popularly, it is "stardust to stardust." "You", the essence of what you call "me" or "I" will totally disappear. Crudely put, life is "from sperm to worm."

      August 5, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Nathan

      Hi -Nathan...

      Yes, there are times when we may disagree about some of the particulars of what 'good,' 'kind,' 'right', etc... means. I don't think we need to debate whether or not if the police were to come into your home and bash you on the head and k-ill you is 'not' good. Unless, you somehow are getting ready to k-ill your city block, and the police have no other choice ?

      Then... i think we would all agree that it was good that they stopped you, yes...?

      Are you just unable to comprehend that there are people that actually are loving, kind, good, etc... (and) don't believe in a God ?

      Also, some people actually are o.k. with thinking that this is it. When they actually die... it's "lights out." And... hence my comment about "life being that much more precious" as this is it, so... they often take extra care to appreciate the finite moments of life.

      Your comment also a-s-sumes that everyone would, without question, do whatever the heck they wanted because they don't believe in a god. Obviously, not... as many, many atheists are good upstanding moral and ethical people...and... 'do good for the sake of doing good.' They don't need the threat of the wrath of Jesus to know it's not o.k. to barge in and steal from your neighbor, r-ape, pillage, and plunder, etc...

      Needing to believe that there is something after... and you will be judged for it, is just not for everyone, in terms of their beliefs.

      Bottom-line, anyway is that your Christian beliefs along with some kind of judgement with 'hell' etc... is pure unverified speculation.

      -Nathan... Thanks for the discussion. I'll check back in to see if you want to continue.

      Regards,

      Peace...

      August 5, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • FreeThought

      @therealpeace2all & exlonghorn: love what you say! Atheists and non-believers don't need a book or a mythical god to be afraid of to be behave well. Good Atheists are good to others because they want to be part of a happy and functioning society. I read a quote of a man saying that god helped him not cheat on his wife. Well, I don't need a god to not cheat on my husband. I love him and I believe that is not how you treat people.

      August 5, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @FreeThought

      Thank you for the compliments !

      Peace...

      August 6, 2012 at 1:15 am |
  9. JustThe FactsMaam

    "silly23342 said – I don't think you are really responding to the author's logic. All he is saying is if you say there is senseless suffering, because there is no God–we then you can't even call it suffering. You have to respond like Nietzsche and be ok with death."

    Sorry, but the author has no logic. Suffering exists in nature. There is no evidence for any of the Gods of history, and human emotions towards suffering are just that: human emotions – not evidence for gods. Only humans, who have self consciousness, recognize the "problem" of suffering. Gods do not help us solve this problem, and neither does Nietzsche (Nietzsche is not all there is to atheism). Over human history, we have refined our notions of what is moral behavior. This did not come from gods either. Did the Jews not realize that killing others was wrong before the 10 Commandments? Of course they did! Is fear of God the only reason that you don't kill others? Then I don't want to know you. When you say "we hate suffering" you are referring to human morality. It is something that has evolved over time – it was very primitive in the Judeo-Christian Bible, where genocide, child ra-pe and slavery are approved of, even commanded by the Biblical God. Today we recognize these things as immoral. There is no reason for suffering – the universe does not does not care about us, nor does it owe us justice. These are human concepts. As exlonghorn says, only humans have made things better for other humans through development of science, technology, better laws and better societies. None of this comes from religion. In fact it could be argued that the greatest progress has come as a result of freedom from religion.

    August 5, 2012 at 12:36 am |
    • exlonghorn

      JustTheFactsMaam, all is revealed when you ask a theist the following question:

      How did you arrive at your belief in God and the Bible (Koran, etc.)?

      Almost without fail, the response will center on either an event in their life...typically something traumatic...or it's what they were taught as a young child. Importantly, their belief has a basis in psychology and philosophy, not any science, logic, or other "hard" science. This is the first step in working with a theist.... recognize you're facing a psychological challenge, not a rational one.

      One way to approach this is to get people thinking about religious claims in the same way they already know they should approach claims made by used car salesmen, door-to-door solicitors, and politicians. Ideally, it shouldn’t matter whether a claim occurs in the arena of religion, politics, consumer products, or anything else — we should approach them all in the a fundamentally skeptical, critical manner.

      If religion really is a crutch as many atheists like me believe, then it is unreasonable to imagine that you’ll accomplish much by trying to kick the crutch out from under someone. A wiser course of action is to get people to realize that they don’t need that crutch after all. They’ll never truly be rid of that crutch unless they toss it aside themselves.

      August 5, 2012 at 12:51 am |
  10. Answer

    Another one about to die. So good to hear.

    August 5, 2012 at 12:12 am |
  11. Surakij Vuthikornpant

    Ohh.....and the most entertianment & most exciting & most funniest part of "outsmart movie" always in the end,when all of puzzles reveal.

    Did you ever watch "Leverage" from TNT network or AXN or something like that?

    See,that's most funniest part of outsmart movie. ^^

    August 4, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • Godiseveywhere

      God does exist http://www.shepherdschapel.com

      August 5, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • exlonghorn

      If GOD put up a web address, it might be worth a visit.

      August 5, 2012 at 12:28 am |
  12. Surakij Vuthikornpant

    Hello,dear.
    Please allow me toi ntroduce myself.
    My God name's "God",sir.
    My name's Mr."Surakij" Vuthikornpant,sir.
    About answer of your question.
    "Why me?"
    For easiest explanation of answer of your question.
    There is rarely vocabulary that appropriate in Abrahamic tradition,"Judiasm,Christianity,I-salami",
    But did you ever hear about "Karma"?
    "Karma" is wisdom in Buddhism,Karma" is some kinds of "causes and effects".And I can assure you,"Karma" really exist."
    As well as "my "God"" really exist.
    And if ask me,

    “Why did God let this happen?”

    Again,talking about causes & effects,or "Karma",I can assure you my "God" was not causes "those troubles" you mentioned for sure..

    1.) About Tornado (please specific which one?) & global warming that increasing frequency,that is "Karma" again,since 1950,so much gree house gas released & destroying of forests,etc.
    2.) About Syria,causes everybody know,because of Bashar Al – Assad & Russia who protecting Assad who let Syria massacre happen.

    I quite sure,my "God" can do everything if we want to.
    To be honest,did you ever hear about "trials" or "tests" ?
    Actually,it quite like "a big time gambling" more than "a trial" or "a test"..
    If "human-beings" fail to help each other,"together we doom,we doom",withh self-anihilate + global warming,"the Apocalypse,the Judgement day".
    But if "human-beings" success to help each other,"together we cool,we cool",to resolving conflicts & injustice peacefully together,"the redemption",.

    That was why "minimum interfere" with "human's freewills".

    Believe it or not?

    I ultimately ultimately believe faithfully in "Spirit of Humanity" in all of us,can help everybody walkthrough any difficult times together & will prevail all of difficult times.

    The day that everybody realize "Spirit of Humanity",

    Hundreds centuries of discords,violence,wars & conflicts,caused by discrimination,caused by inequality....."end" ...that day.
    And into the beginning of era of “Culture of Peace-Makers”,while pursuit of Peace,through the ways of "true repentance",the ways my God guides,through uncertainty of the future,the places with a lot of possibilities, where Peace ,gloriousness and joy are waiting.
    And I ultimately ultimately believe faithfully in “Spirit of Humanity” that we will share peace to another,people we know,people we don’t know unconditionally,similar we share omniamorous infinite love of “God”unconditionally ,to people we know,people we don’t know unconditionally infinitely,to all living unconditionally infinitely.
    Always ultimately believe faithfully,always.

    So which one will gonna be?
    Failure to help each other & "together we doom,we doom?"
    Or Success to help each other & "together we cool,we cool?"

    August 4, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
  13. GodIsLoveIsBlindIsRayCharlesIsGod

    So, you are a survivor of cancer and you think that makes you closer to god. My dad was diagnosed with malignant melanoma when he was twenty-eight years old. At the time, there was very little chance of him surviving it. They cut a large hole out of his back and removed his lymph nodes under his arm pits. He still bares the scars. Shortly after, my god-fearing mother left both of us. My dad raised me himself as a single parent and an agnostic. He let me figure out for myself whether there was a god or not. My mom, on the other hand, would try to ram god down my throat every time I visited her. She eventually got breast and cervical cancer later in life. She had a double mastectomy and a good portion of her cervix removed which has lead to other complications. Despite this, she still holds on to her belief in an all-loving, all-powerful god. As for your statement " Suffering and death seem random, senseless."...it is. Both of my parents are still alive despite the odds and despite their different beliefs. And out of all that they produced a militant atheist who, at forty years old, believes the world is better off without religion.

    August 4, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • Helpisoutthere

      God Sent Pastor Arnold Murray http://www.shepherdschapel.com

      August 4, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Generally, the only factors that matter in a case of serious illness are early detection and effective treatment. There is not a single reason to believe that there is a supernatural power effecting any of it.

      But off topic, I'm glad both your parents survived.

      August 5, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Nathan

      Very good counter example to the pastor. I disagree with your final statement about the world being better off without religion. I do not support religions in general; however, I see a lot of good in them as well as a lot of bad. Like a cultural mutation, religions are needed by a predominance of humans at this point in the evolution of our species. When not needed for survival, religions will fade away. Think about the good that religions do for billions of people. They help the poor and sick; they provide a social fellowship for like-minded groups of people; they help tremendously in natural disasters; they give some people a sense of hope and purpose in life; they provide answers to many of life's perplexing questions; and they provide an overall moral fabric that various peoples weave to fit their distinct cultures, and so on. Yes, much of what they teach is false – just plain wrong – at odds with the facts. You've heard the term, "its better to be lucky than good." Another one is, "it is better to be dumb (ignorant) and happy, than "aware and unhappy." While I believe one can be "aware (know the facts) and happy," I believe most religion adherents go by the former, "ignorant (of the facts), but happy in their religion). Their religion provides just too much for them for them to give it up, thus they just avoid exposure to anything that will diminish their religious faith. All those things are "of the world" and "of the Devil" to them. It will take many generations for religion to not be needed for survival for the masses.

      August 5, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  14. exlonghorn

    silly23342, consider reading everything again. The author is stating the following cause-effect relationship:

    IF you abandon belief in God, THEN senseless suffering does not go away.

    A good method of testing logic is to reverse it and see if it still holds true...

    If you DON'T abandon belief in God, THEN senseless suffering goes away.

    Well, clearly that's not true, so the author's original cause-effect statement is therefore invalidated. Logical failures include: Clarity, Ent1ty Existence, Causality Existence, Insufficient Cause, Predicted Effect, Additional Cause, House-on-Fire. In this case, both statements fail several of those fallacy categories.

    My advice to you? Pick up a DIFFERENT book and learn something.

    August 4, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • kevin

      Nice piece of logical thinking!

      August 5, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • FreeThought

      @exlonghorn: you probably did not hear back from silly... – logic does not exist in religion, so I think you lost him/her.

      August 5, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  15. Dyslexic doG

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?”
    – Epicurus.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • FreeThought

      @Dyslexic doG: hadn't heard that one for a while; it's still nice to read =)

      August 5, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  16. Dyslexic doG

    Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived. Isaac Asimov

    August 4, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      BINGO!

      August 4, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • FreeThought

      @Dyslexic doG: that is why we need to have more christians read it! 😉

      August 5, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  17. Voice of Reason

    There was no god, there is no god and there never will be a god. You cannot prove otherwise.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      Amen!

      August 4, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Richard Hu, M.D.

      There was no Matrix, there is no Matrix and there never will be a Matrix. You cannot prove otherwise.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • "Devil's" Advocate Solipsist

      There was no Voice of Reason, there is no Voice of Reason and there never will be a Voice of Reason. You cannot prove otherwise.

      Everything, in the end, is a matter of faith.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • Richard Hu, M.D.

      There was no Matrix, there is no Matrix and there never will be a Matrix. You cannot prove otherwise – so long as you are in the Matrix. Empirical evidence doesn't seem to be the only standard for reality. This is good logic and can appeal to human reason.

      August 5, 2012 at 6:28 am |
    • A Witness

      There may have been a God, there may be a God now and forever, You cannot prove otherwise, There may not have been a God, there may not be a God, there may never be a God. I cannot prove otherwise. But we shall all know soon enough. "Jesus the One who says these things are true, says, 'Yes, I am coming soon.' Amen, Come, Lord Jesus!" Rev. 22:20.

      August 5, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • FreeThought

      @Voice of Reason: amen =)

      August 5, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  18. exlonghorn

    The author states "We don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, or why it is so random, but now at least we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be.

    It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he doesn’t care. He is so committed to our ultimate happiness that he was willing to plunge into the greatest depths of suffering himself."

    Funny, but the author clumsily skips right past the most obvious reason God allows evil and suffering to continue...he doesn't exist!

    August 4, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
    • FreeThought

      @exlonghorn: plain and simple.

      August 5, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  19. Hope made perfect

    The true and solid anchor for a person in pain and suffering is to turn to his maker, creator God.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • Alaska

      This world is a fallen place as is evident in the many narratives in scriptures.
      Hope comes only from trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • exlonghorn

      Alaska and Hope, what brought you to your beliefs in God and the Bible?

      August 4, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • silly23342

      Exlonghorn–What brought you to your beliefs in atheism? If you answer reason, Alaska and Hope have their reasons too. At the end of the day, everyone is looking at the "data", or the "evidence" and making a guess at it–you are saying atheism is the way, they are saying theism is the way. Either way you slice it, it is belief-you believe you are right, they believe they are right.

      You have to admit though–everyone believes something and I using the word believe to mean not fully able to know all knowledge about everything in the world, and so we guess based on the knowledge of what we know, and assume we are right until some other data comes into our life to prove us wrong.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • exlonghorn

      silly23342, it's incredibly poor debating skill to answer a simple and clear question with a question. And a question that was...by the way...not directed at you.

      Your comment starts off being invalid right from the start. I do not have a 'belief' in atheism. I have a belief that there is no God based on a mountain of scientific, philosophical, and anthropological evidence. I'm sorry but there is NO scientifically verifiable or repeatable experimental evidence in favor of theism. And let's be clear, the burden of proof lies with those making extraordinary claims...i.e., theists.

      Your thought process is what I'm curious about. Tell, me then, what brought YOU to your belief in God and theism?

      August 4, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • silly23342

      Dude, you missed my point entirely. The point is, we all have experiences that lead us to what we think is right.

      " I have a belief that there is no God based on a mountain of scientific, philosophical, and anthropological evidence."

      I appreciate this comment of yours because this was my only point. That you believe as well. The truth is billions more people in the world look at mountains of scientific philosophical and anthropological evidence and conclude differently from you. The point is I look at the same "evidence" you do–and conclude differently. So lets leave the name calling aside and agree that people on the opposite side aren't that dumb.

      What brought me to my belief in God was I was going to a Top 20 school in America, was drunk out of my mind most of the time, and had an mini-crisis–I asked, "is this it?" Is this as good as it gets? We randomly evolved from nothing, and eventually will become nothing again–but somehow inbetween we can have significance? Bull. It defines logic that we come from nothing, will go to nothing, but we have meaning and purpose somehow between. That is impossible.

      So if I didn't put a bullet in my head then, there had to be something more out there. After switching my majors to phil, I concluded that being secular was hollow, being religious was a pain, but being a Christian was different, because instead of what I had to do for God, God already did for me. It explained the data the most–and answered the questions of life's purpose the best.

      Hope that helps. Cheers.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • exlonghorn

      Silly, MY belief is based on something other than a 2,000 year old book full of fantastically outrageous claims translated across multiple languages and written by people we actually know very little about. If you're equating my belief in what we've observed, tested, and verified with your belief in what we have NEVER observed, NEVER verified, and whose tests have FAILED, then I guess you have an interesting way of viewing things.

      Thanks for answering my question. Like it is for many theists, faith is a coping mechanism, and not the result of a carefully considered logical process. You dismiss as impossible that living things are created, exist with meaning and purpose, and die. Why is that impossible? A plant is created through well-understood biological and chemical processes, it exists for a while, and then dies to be later recreated as something else...maybe a deer or oil. Does the plant have purpose or meaning? Sure. So how is the creation-existence-death cycle impossible? It happens every day. Just because we don't fully understand the entirely of the universe doesn't mean you should simply toss out that journey of discovery and of creating our own meaning and significance in THIS life. There is both great strength and a sense of empowerment that comes from truly taking responsibility for this moment in eternity that our collective elements have consciousness. Enjoy it...don't make yourself prostrate to it.

      And lets be honest, when you say Christianity "explained the data", you're making a philosophical argument, not a scientific or logical one. There's a HUGE difference. It's far too easy for theists to talk people into philosophical circles, causing them to lose sight of the scientific and logical shortcomings of their beliefs.

      My beliefs have no such shortcomings.

      August 5, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • silly23342

      Exlonghorn–

      Your "faith" doesn't have shortcomings? Lets be at least a little intellectually honest. Your belief in science, which I hold by the way as well–is predicated on the unproveable assumption that what we see in reality is really real. That is, that our sense perception is accurate. How do we know it is? What test do we have to assess we accurately see data? That is just one HUGE assumption. There are many many more.

      Personally, I feel like the secular faith takes many more leaps and assumptions then the biblical one. As you say, I at least have a historical recording that may or may not be true. The secular view is much much more amorphous–that you can have meaning without direction. That is a huge assumption. Plato didn't even agree with that. That we can randomly evolve over billions of years and the only thing our senses are really made to do is to help us pass on our genes to the next generation, but we are going to trust them to reason–with no other appeal except well–they seem to work? My friend, looking at the data–I really think the secular view as many issues.

      Lastly, you say "Just because we don't fully understand the entirely of the universe doesn't mean you should simply toss out that journey of discovery and of creating our own meaning and significance in THIS life."

      Think what you just said here. We create our own meaning and significance...do you know how hollow this sounds. Shoot, if we create our own meaning, it isn't really meaning. If all that we do no one will remember centuries from now, who the f cares? There is no meaning. I find this state of mind not just lacking, but really no one believes this. NO one walks through life daily thinking they make up their own meaning and significance. Thanks for the dialog. Over and out.

      August 5, 2012 at 12:58 am |
    • exlonghorn

      Silly23342,

      "I feel like"...not exactly the best way to form an argument that is not readily dismissed. Just sayin.

      My faith doesn't have shortcomings because a recognition of its own shortcomings is actually built-in. Atheism readily accepts the idea that there are simply things that are currently unknown about the universe. This includes the possibility that our perceptions are flawed, and you suggest (without data, observations, etc.). However, all evidence thus far points to that not being the case. Most important we don't make the leap to believing in things we cannot say we've tested, observed, or otherwise backed with verifiable study. We simply speak the truth...we don't know.

      Again, your arguments against secular thought are based on philosophy. Philosophy by it's very nature is inconsistent. Gravity is not. Translation and language can fluctuate over time. The speed of light does not. Religious books are subject to the limitations of the authors, who are flawed humans. Avogadro's number is not.

      And your premise is incorrect. The secular view is – that you can have meaning without direction." That's not the Atheistic view. Quite to the contrary, it is important to live with both meaning AND direction. However, that meaning and direction is set by the individual, not a deity. More important than this, we did not "randomly" evolve as you suggest...where did you get that idea? I am concerned you missed a course on biology somewhere along the way. Reason is a beautiful evolution because it allows humans to survive and live through a deeper understanding of the universe focused on answering the question WHY? WHY does grain grow, and can I make it grow better? Why does my vision get blurry, so I can fix it and live longer? Or you can waste reason by puttering in circles about things happening because it's "God's Will".

      And yes, I DO believe we create our own significance and meaning in this life. Why on earth would I care to leave that to someone who threatens me, asks me to to put blind obedience in him in front of everything else, and provides nothing more than an even GREATER hollow promise of some amorphously-defined eternal life? NO thanks. I'll pass...and couldn't be happier about it.

      Again, faith fills a psychological need in people. As we continue to evolve and learn, I hope that psychological void becomes ever smaller. In the end, maybe we will learn that we need each other more than any imaginary deity needs us, and we should act, think, and behave accordingly.

      August 5, 2012 at 1:32 am |
  20. exlonghorn

    The danger of asking God ‘Why me?' is the fact that you're asking in that question in the first place. Do a rigid cause-effect analysis. the authors comment "The first answer is “I guess this proves there is no God.” The problem with this thinking is that the problem of senseless suffering does not go away if you abandon belief in God." This is the exact kind of faulty reasoning that underpins religious thought. The point is NOT to make senseless suffering go away (strawman). The point is that senseless suffering exists for ALL life forms, and that's all there is to it. Cancer happens. Accidents happen. Psychotic breaks happen. Fundies need to stop trying to hard to grasp at irrational coping mechanisms. If they want to truly stop senseless suffering, they should put down their holy book and pick up a science textbook. Study oncology. Study psychology. Study engineering. DO things to make your "prayers" a reality...don't just wish for them like some sort of cosmic lottery.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • Mike

      That is almost exactly what I was going to post. A good example of this so-called logic that you mentioned is when we discovered germs. People would ask "Why me?' when infected with something. Somebody would respond with something like "you didn't cook your chicken before you ate it." The response of "This doesn't cure this person of his sickness" is exactly what the author of this article is claiming when he poses his response to his first answer, which is "I guess this proves there is no god".

      August 4, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • silly23342

      I don't think you are really responding to the author's logic. All he is saying is if you say there is senseless suffering, because there is no God–we then you can't even call it suffering. You have to respond like Nietzsche and be ok with death. But the fact is, we aren't–so the crux of the issue, is that we hate suffering, we think pain is wrong–but we have no reason, if we don't believe in God, to be upset in the first place.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • exlonghorn

      silly23342, please consider reading everything again. The author is stating the following cause-effect relationship:

      IF you abandon belief in God, THEN senseless suffering does not go away.

      A good method of testing logic is to reverse it and see if it still holds true...

      If you DON'T abandon belief in God, THEN senseless suffering goes away.

      Well, clearly that's not true, so the author's original cause-effect statement is therefore invalidated. Logical failures include: Clarity, Ent1ty Existence, Causality Existence, Insufficient Cause, Predicted Effect, Additional Cause, House-on-Fire. In this case, both statements fail several of those fallacy categories.

      My advice to you? Pick up a DIFFERENT book and learn something.

      August 5, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • silly23342

      "If you DON'T abandon belief in God, THEN senseless suffering goes away.

      Well, clearly that's not true..."

      My friend, when you say "well clearly that is not true..."-that is not an argument, that is an assertion. Using logic, you didn't use logic. You haven't proven how NOT abandoning belief in God MAKES senseless suffering go away.

      The author was saying it does, because if there is a God, even if we don't know why evil exists, if there is a God, there is a reason, even if we don't know it.

      Now that is an argument. You have yet to offer a counter-argument. Just saying something isn't, is not a counter argument. You need to deal with the logic.

      August 5, 2012 at 1:01 am |
    • exlonghorn

      Let me remind you that I'm not the one advocating the statement "NOT abandoning belief in God MAKES senseless suffering go away." The burden of proof lies with you and the author. That's why it's a logical check...get it? I thought that was pretty clear. So, since he cannot prove the second statement, his logic fails by definition. Now do you understand?

      If there is a God, there is reason for suffering, and therefore WHAT??? You and I both predict that senseless suffering will exist. I say it's due to a combination of time, geography, resources, education, genetics, money, politics, and psychology, and other factors. All of it can be traced to very definable, and very complex, root causes (or we simply don't understand the mechanisms behind the root cause yet). This is good because going through the cause-effect process helps us get better. It helps us learn...to grow more food, create more medicine, cleanse more water, build safer homes, and much more. YOU on the other hand simply say there will be senseless suffering and "if there is a God, there is a reason, even if we don't know it". And that's it?? THAT is worthy of all my devotion, time, money, and critical thinking? To lay myself bare before something that MIGHT exist (your words) to no benefit to anyone other than the supposed deity itself? What, so I get a promise of eternal life? Well, this just might be the most selfish proposition ever. Now I've stopped caring about my fellow humans to reach and entirely selfish post-death utopia? I mean, it's all based on faith and not good works, right? Ask forgiveness, be truly faithful, believe, and we've taken care of ourselves.

      Nah, I think I'll actually work on this life now. My time here is limited by biology and chemistry. 🙂

      August 5, 2012 at 2:06 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.