The Problem of Pain

“All the objections are there. The only thing that has changed is a desire to believe,” I said to a Catholic friend.

He advised me, “Search your heart and try to ascertain, if you can, what your objections really are and why you have them.”

For years, my primary objection  has been a common but powerful one.

This objection probably more than any other has driven believers to non-belief and kept the curious from committing: the problem of evil. How can we justify the presence of such evil in the world with the notion of a benevolent, omnipotent, omniscient deity?

The Hitler and other state-sponsored mass murderers spring to mind most readily, but it is the Holocaust that is the most difficult to comprehend. Six million men, women, and children killed because of which God they, or in the case of secular Jews, their mothers, grandmothers, or great-grandmothers, pray to. Such a calculated act of sheer brutality can only leave us shaking our heads.

I don’t claim to have any insightful twist on this very old argument. The only way I might alter this is with my focus on the suffering of children. Many theodicies exist; there are countless ways of explaining evil. But these explanations — it’s free-will; justice comes in the afterlife; we don’t know the ways of God; the wheel of karma will bring vindication — but none of these brings any solace whatever to a child suffering. A Rwandan Tutsi child could make no sense of a neighbor hacking her to death with a machete. Jewish children ripped from their parents’ arms and led into gas chambers had no use for even the most sublime theodicy.

Though I don’t claim to be widely read enough to say definitively that none exists, I’ve yet to encounter a solution to the problem of evil that is even close to compelling.

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2 thoughts on “The Problem of Pain

  1. Martin T. says:

    Since you’ve been listening to Peter Kreeft then check his audio answer. I’ve read his book on suffering several times. Fr. Benedict Groeschel wrote a book in response to PF’s book that is supposed to deal with what PF doesn’t. Suffering has two components, one is the intelectual question that PF talks to the other is a wordless scream, “Daddy, how….”? The only answer to the other one is to stare at a crucifix and contemplate that He is there with you.

  2. The Itch says:

    I began listening to it, Martin, but it was towards the end of my time among the leaves: I didn’t get to finish it. It’s still on my iPod, though.

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