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Thread: The Problem of Evil

  1. #11
    Moderator Azvanna's Avatar
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    Re: The Problem of Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Tahemet1491 View Post
    Hi Guys,

    How do you personally, or how does your tradition, help you to deal with this seeming paradox? How do you understand cruelty as part of a larger spiritual picture? Does your tradition acknowledge evil at all, or does it accept it as part of life, or as a disease to be cured or...I don't know, whatever you/your faith uses to explain these things. I'd really love to get some different perspectives on this.
    Okay so I'm going to try to answer this from within the context of my very strange almost heretical version of Christianity. One of the reasons I started to reconstruct my faith was because of dissatisfaction with pat answers regarding human suffering. I couldn't believe in an all-knowing, all-loving, everywhere-at-once God and be happy with answers like : God doesn't want this to happen to you, it's the Devil.

    I think all religions should be able to answer the question of human suffering and many do so within the context of an eternal time-line and with a basic construction of the supernatural realm. My view of the supernatural realm is that the physical realm is an expression of what is happening in the spiritual. I think that the Divine God is a being all of its own and that the physical realm is a manifestation of the Divine and matter. We have consciousness because we are a manifestation of the Divine. As we experience life in all its fullness, it is as though the Divine experiences it as well. When we die, the Divine essence of us goes back into the Divine for rebirth. Kind of a spiritual evolution based on experience.

    As for the cosmological reason for suffering, I believe essentially that 'the shadow proves the sunshine' and to try to be okay with the paradoxes. I believe that God exists in all things and outside all things as well. I don't believe there exists a being of pure evil that operates independently to the will of God. I don't know what the Divine will is for suffering, apart from that it simply is and always has been. The main point is our response to suffering. I believe that there is a common human understanding of joy and contentment and that the Divine can use human agency as a way to manifest those characteristics. I don't really know if there is a 'true nature' of the Divine that is to be manifested. Sometimes I feel that the Divine is fairly neutral and it is I who attaches meaning to experiences. However, when I am with the Divine in spirit, I feel connected, autonomous, enough, peaceful and fulfilled. So at times I feel it is those attributes that are to be manifested in the experience of life. 'For a life to do as it was born to' is the phrase that comes to mind.

    As for the definition and causes of suffering itself, I believe these are all social constructs and biological cues. I think suffering will always exist because it is part of the human drive to survive, protect and to strive for better. My son cries when he is not allowed to go outside. To him, that is the worst thing ever. But from my point of view, if that is all he can cry about, he has a wonderful life because I know it could be much worse. He has not yet experienced those worse things, so the magnitude of his sorrow seems disproportionate. Somewhere between our experiences of suffering and our experiences of joy, a baseline of day-to-day experience is established. Experiences that fall below our expectations bring us suffering and experiences that rise above our expectations bring us joy. When we go through periods of immense suffering, our baseline is readjusted. Suffering is the pressure that forces us to think bigger and it is the sieve that helps us to discern what is most important in our lives. It is also the reason we come up with creative inventions.

    There's another thread on this topic somewhere. Aeran explains Karma really well in it. I'll see if I can find it. Miss you, Aeran!
    Last edited by Azvanna; 12 Aug 2015 at 03:15.

  2. #12
    Bronze Member Munin-Hugin's Avatar
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    Re: The Problem of Evil

    Take a look at "The Mysterious Stranger" by Mark Twain. It is a rather excellent short story that debates the differences between good, evil, right, wrong, and morality.

  3. #13
    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: The Problem of Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Tahemet1491 View Post
    In the vast majority of situations, I think that is the case--but I can't help but be stymied by certain extreme examples like gang rape or other kinds of torture-- if I fully accept your premise, I feel I am led to paint all activities with the same "relativity" brush, and see those acts in the same light as cat scratches--just a human concept with no real, objective meaning.
    My kids think litterers are evil.

    Evil doesn't have a real, objective meaning. Evil is a complete human made up idea. Outside of humanity, there's no such concept of evil...and, IMO the opposite of evil is not good. If evil has an opposite, its the virtue of compassion. We percieve in terms of "loss" and "benefit", and we give these the value of "bad" and "good". I can measure loss and benefit, but that is still subjective to the individual in question. Loss to an individual (of whatever property one is looking at) is a benefit to another. Depending on the situation we consider it good or bad. In extreme cases, when its something we hold dear, we call it evil or we elevate it as something sacred.

    There is no action that one can take that doesn't cause harm somewhere along the chain of events of what preceeded or follows from that action. For example...I buy a fair trade, organic, sustainable harvested bamboo t-shirt that employs war amputees in a country where they'd otherwise live on the street thinking that I am doing something good for the environment and for people. Oops, ends up my good, moral choice is harmful--not only have I not given my business to the guy down the street that sells locally made t-shirts, but I also had something shipped half way around the world, and the darn thing was wrapped in plastic, plus the organic bamboo that made up my t-shirt was farmed by a farmer that decimated the preexisting ecosystem to plant the bamboo.

    Going back to your OP, pain is not automatically harm. Pain can be good. It tells you when to stop. Or it could be something you enjoy...neurologically the two are quite close and the difference is mostly in your head.




    Maybe the Stoics? I'm not sure. I'm intrigued by the idea, but on another level it seems like the desire for bodily autonomy is inherent to people, if not to many animals as well...
    No, not the Stoics! (People really tend to misattribute what they said/did/believed...they were actually quite cool.)

    Bodily autonomy is inherent to people. Survivial is important to all animals.
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  4. #14
    Live and learn anunitu's Avatar
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    Re: The Problem of Evil

    The concept of evil,in my own personal interpretation is used quit a bit to make human acts that go way beyond bad seem to be the action of a person controlled by a " Demon" or what ever people deem the outside connection and it tries to make the human less a bad person but also another victim of that outside spiritual demon..

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    Might also tie the whole concept to the garden of Edan and the eating of the forbidden fruit...from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil if one remembers their early Sunday school lessons.
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  5. #15
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    Re: The Problem of Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Tahemet1491 View Post
    In the vast majority of situations, I think that is the case--but I can't help but be stymied by certain extreme examples like gang rape or other kinds of torture-- if I fully accept your premise, I feel I am led to paint all activities with the same "relativity" brush, and see those acts in the same light as cat scratches--just a human concept with no real, objective meaning.
    A thing can be a human concept and still have objective meaning. Algebra isn't practiced by any other species on this planet to my knowledge but it's part of the mathematical system that we use in countless portions of society. Law is currently a human concept but we enforce it with a vengeance because it works. There are other practices that we only really see in human beings but which tend to have a distinct value because at the end of the day those concepts work for humans.
    "It is not simply enough to know the light…a Jedi must feel the tension between the two sides of the Force…in himself and in the universe."
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    "But those men who know anything at all about the Light also know that there is a fierceness to its power, like the bare sword of the law, or the white burning of the sun." Suddenly his voice sounded to Will very strong, and very Welsh. "At the very heart, that is. Other things, like humanity, and mercy, and charity, that most good men hold more precious than all else, they do not come first for the Light. Oh, sometimes they are there; often, indeed. But in the very long run the concern of you people is with the absolute good, ahead of all else..."

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    Aslan, Prince Caspian by CS Lewis



  6. #16
    Moderator Azvanna's Avatar
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    Re: The Problem of Evil

    http://www.paganforum.com/showthread...ighlight=Aeran
    Tahemet, here's the other thread. Lots of wonderful answers in there.

  7. #17
    Jr. Member Tahemet1491's Avatar
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    Re: The Problem of Evil

    Thank you for linking the other thread, and thanks everyone for responding--I'm already feeling a lot better just discussing and considering this stuff. Makes it feel less emotional and scary! I wonder if despair is there to prompt contemplation, ha.

    Oh, just as a side note, thalassa, I was meaning to refer to Epictetus. He has a passage on how a man may overcome torture using his ability to reframe (not the words he used, obvs) the situation in his mind. I thought he was considered a Stoic, but I may be mistaken.

  8. #18
    Sr. Member Maythe's Avatar
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    Re: The Problem of Evil

    In relation to the question of why do my gods and goddesses (who I consider mostly good) 'allow' this, the answer is because they are neither omniscient nor omnipotent. They don't 'allow' it because it's not within their control. It's one of the big reasons I'm a hard polytheist.
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  9. #19
    Member NeoPlatonic's Avatar
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    Re: The Problem of Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Maythe View Post
    In relation to the question of why do my gods and goddesses (who I consider mostly good) 'allow' this, the answer is because they are neither omniscient nor omnipotent. They don't 'allow' it because it's not within their control. It's one of the big reasons I'm a hard polytheist.
    I agree with you. My god cannot be everywhere at once plus he has only a handful of followers, so while he can take care of us he cannot protect everyone and everything.

    But on a more detailed note I have to say that morality is shaped by biology, reason, and experience, so there a few things all humans and even animals tend agree with each other. We do not think about good and evil because they are objective things, but we think about them because our brains are hardwired to do so. Perhaps not with words, and perhaps not as expected by language, but the "ideas" are there: To avoid the suffering of others, to "do the right thing", to save someone from danger. Love and friendship also exist in nature, just in a different guise.

    The reason good and evil trouble humans is due to the fact that we have time to think about it and thus take on a perspective that is not naturally occurring. We are not the slaves of reason, reason is our slave. Thus when we color reason the way we want we end up with a myriad of contradictory philosophies and thoughts.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tahemet1491 View Post
    I wonder if despair is there to prompt contemplation, ha.
    Personally I would say that while despair is not "necessary" it can lead you there, yes.

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