I haven’t bothered to blog anything in a long time, and I’d like to get back to the occasional observational humor piece. Maybe I’ll start another blog about running. Or not. First, though, I want to work through another issue.
Lately I’ve noticed a lot of requests from friends, acquaintances and extended family members asking people to pray for their sick or injured loved ones. I don’t really think there have been more of these requests lately, rather that I’ve just noticed them more. These requests are all obviously well-intentioned and come from a wide variety of faiths, although most from Abrahamic believers. Intentions notwithstanding, though, I couldn’t help but ponder their implications as I lay awake the other night, struck by insomnia (I suppose I could have begged my friends to pray for God to bless me with sleep).
If God answers prayers, which you would have to at least somewhat believe in order make or grant a request of prayer, why would He create the situation that requires prayers? Why allow the wasting disease, the car accident, the violent incident to occur? Does He hold us hostage until we meet an unspecified ransom demand of a certain number of Hail Marys? Or do we just have to pester Him until He relents? And who are we, His created, to second guess His will? If He desires that I should die, what right do my loved ones have to demand He change his mind? Jim Morrison said that “You cannot petition the lord with prayer,” and I see no reason to disagree with him.
This brings us to the Problem of Evil. Epicurus presented the Problem well before Christianity, and to my knowledge it has never been sufficiently answered.
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 he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
Or, even more succinctly:
- If a perfectly good god exists, then there is no evil in the world.
- There is evil in the world.
- Therefore, a perfectly good god does not exist.
Let us return to the question of prayer.
- Does God need us to inform Him of the tragedies in our lives so that He may prevent them? Then He is not omniscient or omnipotent.
- Does God want us to beg him for mercy, to save us from our injuries and illnesses? Then He is not benevolent. In fact, He is a capricious bully, twisting our arms until we cry “uncle” (and then usually breaking the arm, anyway).
I don’t really blame people for praying for the things they want and asking that others do the same. It’s a great way to feel like they’re doing something when they’re really doing nothing. But I have to wonder about whether they’ve thought through these inconsistencies. If you’ve worked them out, I’d love to hear the solutions.