Yesterday's mass murder in America points to one of the seemingly limitless problems I have with the Jewish, Christian, and Moslem view that God has both the infinite willingness to do good and the infintite ability to do good. The problem is, why doesn't he? God knew the Connecticut shooter was on his way to that school, and he could have stopped him, but he didn't. If I, imperfect being that I am, had known, and could have stopped him, but hadn't stopped him, what would you think of me, and why should you think differently of a perfect God?
Christians offer various answers to why God permits evil and suffering. One is that we brought them on ourselves through original sin, so God is not responsible. Another is that God has given us the power to cure cancer, end war, enact gun control laws, provide universal healthcare, develop better warning systems for natural disasters, and so forth (ironically, surveys show that most American Christians favor war while opposing gun control and universal healthcare), and so, again, God is not responsible. Yet another claim is that suffering ennobles us, and is necessary for us to achieve our full potential for strength and compassion. According to this view, we wouldn't even recognize good in the absence of evil because we would have no basis for comparison. There's also the claim that the God for whom "all things are possible" couldn't hinder evil without hindering freewill, although why freewill is considered so important, I can't imagine. And finally, a great many American Christians believe that God not only allows evil and suffering to befall their country, he wills it to punish us for such sins such as re-electing Obama, taking prayer out of schools, and being "soft on homosexuality."
If such answers appeal to you, you are probably already a believer because, like transubstantiation, the virgin birth, and talking jackasses, only the faithful can make sense out of them, and this is only because they are unwilling to apply the same standards of rationality to religious belief that they apply to every other facet of life. If you are one of those believers, and you disagree, feel free to present your rational arguments.
While I will admit that suffering can sometimes be ennobling, I won't admit that it has any place in a universe that is run by an infinitely good and infinitely powerful deity. This is because such a deity would be able to achieve all of the the good that suffering inspires without anyone having to suffer. In other words, he could eliminate war, crime, cancer, diabetes, child molestation, cruelty to animals, and every other evil on the face of the earth while at the same time lifting us to the exalted moral state of angels. The fact that he chooses to leave us in this hellhole of undeserved misery that life on earth represents to quadrillions of lifeforms constitutes ample reason to declare his existence a fantastic fiction that has, in any measurable way, done more harm than good over the course of history.
One of the reasons I've been attending some of the events at an Episcopal Church of late is that I very much want to think well of Christians. I want to see them as being as rational and intelligent as any atheist, but then something like this school shooting comes along, and I hear their pablum about the miracles God performed in saving some while others died, and I feel like a quixotic moron for even trying to find rationality in Christendom. My only question this morning--a pessimistic morning for sure--is to wonder how self-servingly delusional religion has to be before it qualifies as mental illness?
*I have no idea who said this.