Someone from my family was challenged by an atheist/agnostic. She said that she doesn’t believe in God because there is so much injustice when it comes to suffering. That some people seem to enjoy their lives while for others life is full of difficulties, sadness, tragedies and suffering. Sometimes those who even belief in God fit into the second category. She believes that a just and loving God would not let this happen.
This is similar to the problem of evil but it’s a bit different. I know there is a lot of books written on this topic, but I would rather like to come back to her as quickly as possible. I have some ideas, but I’m sure you can explain this much better.
This is really an odd objection if you think about it. It’s not the presence of injustice (whatever that is) or suffering (whatever that is) that bothers her, but rather that there is “so much” of it. Does that mean that if there were just less of it that she would believe? That she thinks God could allow injustice and suffering, just not as much as she sees?
Now a much more coherent argument, it seems to me, would be to say that God would not allow any injustice or suffering. So, I would ask her to describe a world in which there was absolutely no injustice and no suffering (that includes no death, obviously). Ask her to describe a world in which nobody can possibly be hurt in any fashion, and in which nothing we do can possibly hurt anybody. That means, of course, that nobody has the slightest opportunity to do the smallest good either. Nobody can affect the happiness of another the slightest iota.
It seems that this challenger is correct in her observation, but mistakes its scope, and therefore errs in asserting her conclusion. She is premature in her judgment.
It is true that a just God would not allow injustice. If the challenger were looking back from the end of time on all that ever would be and saw injustice, then she would be correct to conclude that there is no just God. However, making this judgment before everything is over is irrational.
The Church waits for the just God to do justice on the day of His wrath. Christians have always looked forward to the Judgment Day as the time when all injustices would be made right and all who deserve reward will receive their due. (See, Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, (2007) 41.) When this happens, the challenger’s argument will lose all validity, since justice will prevail and the unfairness, which is the basis of her argument, will be wiped away, with every tear. (See, Revelation 7:17.)
To understand what she is seeing in the world, the challenger also needs to consider man’s role in justice. Men have dignity and are endowed with certain powers and rights, which it would be unjust to take from them. These include freedom and many powers which can be used to do harm and injustice to others. God cannot stop injustice as time moves forward, because robbing men of their legitimate freedom and power would itself be unjust. Only after such power has been abused, and injustice personally committed, could it justly be removed and then only from the man who had personally committing the offense. Thus man’s freedom and power require the temporal acceptance of injustice, precisely because God is just and will not Himself do injustice.
A just God cannot intervene and unjustly remove man’s legitimate freedom and power. Man is the source of injustice, but precisely because God is just and loving, He must respect the decisions men make, even decisions to abuse their power. God’s justice, therefore, must be reserved for reward and punishment, after each man has had his opportunity to do good or evil and his power has come to an end, with his death or the end of all time.
Note: God Himself suffers injustice from men. The challenger’s slander and blasphemy against God is an example. But, she would feel ill used had her ability to reason been taken from her *before *she ever committed this particular injustice against God. Most likely, she would class such a sudden loss of reason among the “unjust sufferings” that plague the world.
Thus, contrary to how it might seem, the challenger is not making a valid observation and then drawing a reasonable conclusion. Rather she is *asserting *without basis that justice will *never *be done and then *asserting *a godless universe in which this would make sense. Her apparent argument is reduced to a pair of assertions that cannot be justified by any observation she is in a position to make – because time has not ended.
The above analysis does not prove the existence of a just God, but it does show that the challenger’s argument against Him is unfounded.
I don’t know how closely this applies, as it addresses physical pain instead of general suffering, but I read a story once about a person who was asked by someone, “Why does God allow pain? The world would be so much better if there was no such thing as pain, even sickness would be okay if it didn’t hurt. People with cancer wouldn’t have to die such a painful death. People with certain diseases wouldn’t hurt all the time. If God really loves us, then why does he make us hurt?” The person replied, “God gives us pain for a reason. Without pain, how would you know that your hand is resting on the hot eye of the stove? Without pain, how would you know that you fractured your ankle when you fell? Without pain, how would you know you were cut and bleeding? One of the symptoms of leprosy is nerve damage. Ask a leper how wonderful life is without pain and see what they tell you.”
This reply is in answer to the God can’t exist cause there is pain and suffering etc. Well as a person with physical pain almost daily, it is a real blessing to know that I can use my suffering to be a show others that joy and happiness are not limited by how you feel on any given day. Admitedly I am still working on this, but day by day I keep trying. Some days I am really able to feel the hand of Christ helping me along, and others I don’t. On the don’t days its usually because I forgot to ask him to " Lord remove this pain and suffering from my body, unless it is for the good of just one person, then let it stay with me." I think that is somewhere in the Bible but I don’t know where.
Thank you for having this forum on this as sometimes I feel alone .