Suffering is therapeutic. Really?

I recently spent some time checking out various Xtian websites trying to get a grasp of how theists rationalize misfortune, tragedy, and suffering in their personal lives. According to most of these sites this is one of the biggest unanswered questions that believers in god(s) are faced with. Most say it is "not our place" to try and understand or question the motives of god. 

The Church of Christ (a Protestant American denomination) offers the following:

" 5. Some suffering is educational. (See James 1.2-3; Romans 5.3-5.) Suffering confers spiritual insight; it can teach us patience and can build character and strength. It can prepare us for greater service. It can knock a lot of nonsense out of us! Illness, for example, may lead us to see things in a clearer light than we ever did when we were going through life without a care! Troubles are the tools that God uses to fashion us for better things."

Hold on! It's educational - we can learn from our travails and become smarter. Neato! -Sarcasm-

" 6. Some suffering is therapeutic. It may make us better people; it may lead us to repentance; it may discipline us spiritually. " It is good for me that l have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes." (Psalm 119.71; see Hebrews 12.6-11.) God may permit suffering for the sake of our spiritual health and well-being!"

Therapy and education both! Wow, this is fantastic.  -more sarcasm-

The very idea that a church would even consider offering such irrational excuses as being plausible and having merit is beyond my understanding. As a thinking being I find these weak arguments totally unacceptable. 

"There is so much we do not know. Suffering is beyond our fullest comprehension."

I fully understand suffering. Life is not always fair and misfortune happens to everyone. We can't win the lottery everyday. My uncle backed over his 4 year old daughter years ago in his driveway one morning. She did not survive. That incident unfortunately affected his psychological well being for the remainder of his life. He was never the same person again. He and his spouse also both gave up their religious beliefs. He would certainly argue that suffering is NOT therapeutic or educational.

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Comment by Mabel on April 21, 2012 at 5:28pm

There are many degrees of suffering and it is a complex subject.

You can't compare what happened to your uncle to someone losing a job, yet it has been my observation that many Christians do lump a lot of things into the same "suffering" bucket and will say all things work together for good for the glory of God.

It is black and white thinking. Christians excel at that. They have to or else their faith would crumble under the weight of the intellectual integrity it would take to truly embrace the enormous complexities of life.

They need that faith to keep it together. Once you have sucked on that "everything will assuredly be okay one day" formula for so long, you can't hardly live without it and they know it.

Sometimes it is not going to be okay again, ever, and this is what really sucks about being an atheist, but it beats the possibility of ending up in eternal torment that many Christians teach.

Comment by diggerbanks on April 22, 2012 at 7:22am

Your uncle story, that's intense. I understand why you would not think of such tragedy as therapeutic or educational. Without wishing to sound flippant though, I bet he checks what's behind him more carefully. So in that respect he will have educated his awareness not to allow the same thing to happen again.

A lack of suffering, constant winning, always getting what you want is not a good recipe for growing up. You get a bit beyond yourself. Suffering redresses that imbalance.

Comment by Todd on April 22, 2012 at 3:16pm

I've known more than a few people who left a religion because of the way the congregation responded to a member who was deeply hurting.  Pat responses about the need for prayer, trust in god, not being given more than they can handle, etc.  Then there was the shame and ostracism directed at the person for not having enough faith, and the suggestions that the person may have brought it upon themselves by not being righteous enough.

The standard response in many congregations would probably be an awkward embarrassment.  In the mormon church where I grew up, the suppression of all "negative" emotions was demanded of everyone.  I guess it isn't surprising that they then lacked empathy or compassion for anyone else.

A person who experienced sadness or anger after a personal tragedy is more of a threat than anything else.  In a room full of highly repressed people, one person expressing honest emotion cannot be tolerated, and the congregation will use any means available to shut the person up.  Unfortunately, it greatly compounds the suffering of someone who is already in pain.

Comment by Atheist Exile on April 26, 2012 at 2:00am

What's the platitude? . . . Oh yeah, "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger."

If you do become stronger because of adversity, God might take credit but it wasn't really him. You would have been stronger with or without faith. Just as most Christians are good despite God, they also become stronger (when they do) despite God.

And those who became weaker because of adversity became weaker regardless of their faith. From what I've seen, many believers think that becoming numb is the same as becoming strong.

Comment by Ed on April 27, 2012 at 10:19am

What's the platitude? . . . Oh yeah, "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger."

Except for chemotherapy.....    :^ )

Comment by Steve on April 27, 2012 at 10:24am

Christianity is fundamentally anti-human. In other news, water is wet

Comment by Atheist Exile on April 27, 2012 at 11:43am

LoL . . . Funny, Steve.


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