A quick thought on William Lane Craig's forthcoming lecture in Tulsa

I want to go, but I don't really want to pay $30 to see a guy who has gazillions of videos on Youtube, a podcast and a free website. Plus, FreeOK was only $10. But that's okay – I'm pretty sure I already know what Craig is going to say. From the article in the Tulsa World (emphasis mine):
Craig will speak in Tulsa on what some atheists have called the Achilles heel of Christianity: how can a good God allow suffering?

He said he will argue that "the suffering in the world is neither logically incompatible with the existence of God, nor does it render God's existence improbable."

"The atheist has to say, when he sees suffering, that it is highly improbable that God could have a morally justifiable reason for permitting this to occur." 
This is a perfect example of how thick the sophistry is with Christian apologetics. This answer really amounts to nothing more than: "The Lord works in mysterious ways". Craig is saying that the atheist cannot disprove the idea that God has justifiable reasons for allowing suffering to happen. Whether we actually know what those reasons are is irrelevant, because God knows more than we do (being omniscient and all). So the theist only has to trust that God has his reasons for allowing suffering – y'know, 'it's all part of His plan' and all that jazz – and since the atheist cannot demonstrate that to be wrong, Craig declares victory. Checkmate, atheists!

Here's why that is complete and total bullshit:

This answer assumes that in the end, God will right all the wrongs. Suffering will go away. People who love God will live in eternal perfect happiness; those (like me) who don't believe will live in eternal misery and suffering, or something unpleasant like that. The bad people, like Hitler, will be punished forever. In the end, there will be justice.

But how does that change anything? Let's say that Hitler goes to hell and suffers infinite punishment for all eternity. Well, the nice thing about infinite punishment is that it can never get any worse! But making Hitler suffer would not change what happened. It wouldn't erase the pain and suffering of the millions of victims of the Reich. It wouldn't erase the agonizing loss that the victims' loved ones had to endure.

I've told the story before about how, when I worked as a physical therapy tech, I saw an eight-year-old girl dying of brain cancer. Let's say she goes to heaven and has infinite happiness. Well, the downside to infinite happiness is that it'll never get any better! But all her eternal happiness will not change what she endured, as she wilted from a spirited child to a vegetable without the ability to speak, walk, and play. Just as nothing can make up for the loss of Holocaust victims, nothing can make up for the suffering that so many innocent people endure.

And above all, Craig's response ignores the most important part of the problem: that God, if he is omnipotent, did not have to have a divine plan which requires suffering. And if God could not have a divine plan without suffering, he's not omnipotent.

Why would God's plan require little girls to die of brain cancer? Why would anyone want to be a part of that plan? Of course, apologists like Craig cannot answer these questions. They can only say that God works in mysterious ways, and you just have to have faith that everything is a part of his Perfect Divine Plan.

Well, guess what? You don't have to buy it. There's a much simpler explanation for suffering – one that fits with observation and does not require us to make excuses for a deity with unknowable motivations:

"The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference." - Richard Dawkins


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