I have a single, simple question for you. It may at first seem frivolous, but I assure you that I am dead serious and consider its implications profound and its answers revelatory of the Christian mindset.
If I believed in a compassionate, all-powerful God who answers prayers, I would pray every day for Him to eradicate all human disease.
My question is predicated on the a priori assumption that you do not do this.
My only question for you is: WHY NOT?
I do! Christians have "reached out" to me the most when I have been going through a difficult time. It has been intimated that the trials I have gone through were there for my own good, to bring me to God. I think that is beyond cruel, especially when the Christians in question didn't even know my history or what I was going through at the time.
So, I am supposed to bear crushing burdens so I get to the point where I am open to give up my life and will to God? If I believe in God, then I do get the comfort of knowing He is with me and I will not suffer in the afterlife, surely, but that means nothing when the current situation is nightmarish and I don't believe. There have been times when I have been close to a breaking point when, just to try to mitigate the distress I was in, I could see a path down which that all made sense. That is what they are waiting for, for the seeds they have planted to take root during the darkest moment. This is vicious if you ask me.
Hi Sarah - what you are discussing here is what is known as the Problem of Evil. This might offer some ideas.
"NOW, as I am a baby agnostic, I'm having to turn to myself for the answers. Is this not the elevation of myself in the sense that I now have to produce all the answers within myself? "
No. Elevation is for cartographers. But the responsibility for your own self-improvement is definitely yours.
The human mind is the most astonishing wonder in the known universe: matter aware of its own existence. You own one. You are one. And you have an inquisitive streak, which is especially marvelous.
If you want answers-- knowledge and understanding-- then improve your mind. Expand your understanding of nature, and the scientific method which is our best means for discovering it. Develop your knowledge, education, and (above all) critical thinking skills. Some of that comes from within. But most comes from other places, especially books.
Here, here.....words of wisdom....
Sarah, the great thing about being an atheist is that you are allowed to say the phrase, "I don't know". As a christian, which I was for years, "I don't know" can't be in your lexicon. God knows, and god gave you a book by which you can know. The fac that you don't is an illustration of god's shortcomings, not of your lack of understanding.
In today's society, we have so much evidence against god, that it is impossible to say that he does, without using twisted conjectures to make him exist. God says slavery is good in the bible, and that you should stone disobedient children, but that doesn't mean he's evil, it just means the bible was written for a different society, but its still applicable to our society, somehow, in some way, but only on Tuesdays. Honestly, I think even christians are confused on points like this, they just spout whatever comes to mind because they have to have god.
As for prayer. The argument against the problem of evil is that god doesn't answer all prayers, or that god answers all prayers but sometimes the answer is no. This does not jive with what the bible says. If you look at the website of the why won't god heal amputees idea, you will see them point out several bible serses where jesus says that god does answer all prayers, and never says no. I think one is in matthew nineteen, but don't quote me on that.
Of course, to this, christians argue we're taking the verse out of context. My favorite reply to that is to ask them to quote john 3-16, which they do unhesitatingly, and take out of context. I have yet to meet a christian who has come up with a reply to that direction of argument.
One last point sarah. The idea that god gives you trials and tribulations until you are ready to accept him has a term in common language, its called torture. God is waterboarding you until you break and give him what he wants. He is beating you with the rubber hose of disease, hunger, poverty, whatever, until you finally give him the worship he wants.
It gets even worse if you think he created us to worship him. That means that every single human was created for the soul purpose of making a being in the sky feel good about himself. And that when he sends hurricanes or earthquakes to wipe out thousands of us, he is the same as the angry child who throws his favorite toy against the wall and shatters it.
Ask yourself Sarah, and ask it repeatedly and deeply, why would you want to exist for someone who treats you like that? Why do you want to exist for the soul purpose of making a sky-daddy feel good about himself, knowing that when you displease him you are sent to a pit of boiling fire for eternity? Who would want that kind of existence, and who needs it?
Ask yourself those questions sarah. When you find the answer, you'll be an atheist, and once you accept that, you'll wonder how you ever called yourself a christian. I wonder that about myself all the time.
Given the fact that Christians are an under-represented minority on this site, I was heartened by the number of responses to my question. However, they seemed to me mostly tortuous evasions of the REAL issue, which is...
...they don’t pray for God to eradicate all human disease because - DEEP DOWN - they know that their omnipotent God CAN'T do it. Or that their omnibenevolent God WON'T do it. Or that (“Heaven forbid”) there IS no God. What I find most illuminating is that NOT ONE of them (so far) has claimed to pray for an end to all human suffering. Their religion doesn't just permit it, it demands it.
As to kk's response below, I agree that this would be most Christians' "standard" default apologetic. That may address the question of omnipotence, but leaves His presumed omnibenevolence largely ambiguous, at best. Besides, that only deepens the confusion doesn't it? Because it begs the question of what criteria God uses to pick and choose which prayers among the billions He must receive deserve an answer.
Finally, with reference to Santa Claus, I know he exists, because I see him every night on the "Hallmark" and "Lifetime" channels, this time of year. And have you noticed how Santa always seems to make it snow in the last scene? Or does God do that?
I think it is more that DEEP DOWN there is a larger issue that we are concerned with.
Matthew 16:26 comes to mind.
Not so much that I (because I can only attest to what I believe, not other Christians), believe that God could not heal, of course He can if He is who we believe Him to be. If a man should keep his legs, but forfeit his soul, that is not much gain. But here you are talking a difference of world view, obviously if this is it, as a Atheist would believe, that this is the only life we live then illness and human suffering WOULD be a hugely important issue. But, if as those who follow Christ believe, that we do answer for what we have done, and if we live for eternity after the shedding of this form, then this life is only a season, and we hold to a promise in Revelation that there will be a new day, new form, new life free from all suffering. You can't approve of that idea if you don't believe it. It wouldn't make sense through the lens of a finite life.
"Their religion doesn't just permit it, it demands it." Could you expand that idea? I know it probably seems obvious, but there is a idea around called the health and wealth gospel, which is what that sounds like, and that isn't biblical.
The point wasn't so much the macro-pray for the end of suffering, I was pointing out that there would be a thing more important health of the physical body, at least from the viewpoint of salvation. I don't assume that that passage is relegated to material issues, but that of everything this world entails.
I don't know... The way you perceive God is vastly different from what I see. I don't see rigid rules and condemnation, but grace and mercy. Maybe someone will say but what about the OT, but that is not my experience of the Lord. All I know is that I am free for the first time. When I see the Father I picture Team Hoyt, that is the type of Father that I have met in prayer. I have not been in an abusive marriage so I cannot speak to that, but I have had desires, and hopes, and ambitions. In that respect I have found that some were not as important as I had made them, or that God showed me a better ambition or hope than I imagined. I don't feel trapped in the way that you make it sound... so I cannot speak to that.
OK, so you already had the REAL issue quite well figured out, and given that well-established a priori knowledge any subsequent Christian response was pretty well doomed to be a tortuous evasion thereof, wasn't it?
I thought that I was investing a portion of my time to share a thoughtful response to a post that was explicitly seeking to better understand possible Christian perspectives on a given issue. That was what drew me here. If I thought I was being asked to offer an apologetic for the very existence of God in response to a loaded question implicitly arguing the contrary, I probably wouldn't have bothered. I'm not against those kind of discussions, indeed I think they have some value, but given my own limited resources, engaging in such things is not at the top of my priority list.
Regarding some other comments in this thread, I would note that while in many cases it may indeed be the case that many Christians don't have the "spine" to stand up for their faith, or haven't thought through their belief system enough to have a confidence which can withstand vigorous opposition, at the same time there could also very well be other, more valid, reasons why some Christians or other theists decide that their time and resources may be better spent elsewhere.