There are no answers.

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(Photos courtesy of Tony Phalen, who lives near the Century 16 theater and recently visited the memorial site)

In the wake of the Aurora theater massacre, we’re left with the same pressing question that humanity has struggled with for millenia:  Why?

As the families of the victims turn to church, to prayer, to their friends and support groups, their battle with that question has reached its climax.  Why were their children, their husbands, their mothers, their friends and family chosen to die?  Did they have to die?  If so, why?

A pastor in Aurora struggled with the question on Sunday, and could not answer the question sufficiently:  “When our world goes periodically crazy, a flood of questions can come into our minds.  The question we all probably struggle with: Why did God allow this? My response is: I don’t know.”

The friends and family members of victims attended the first court session today, in which the murderer of their husbands and wives and brothers and sisters appeared before them in a drunken stupor.  They were reportedly “angry at his reaction”, or perhaps lack thereof.

Unfortunately, what the victims’ families will never have is the answer to the pivotal question of “why?”.  This is the unfortunate reality we live in.  The families of those murdered at Fort Hood will also never understand why.  The families of the students shot at Columbine will never learn why.  The friends of the employees in the World Trade Center will never learn why.

This event is another piece of evidence that the Problem of Evil is still alive and well today, despite thousands of years of struggling with it and searching for its resolution.  I do believe that events like these satisfy the logic behind the Problem of Evil, and that its conclusion is undeniably true.

Before I continue, I should make it known that yes, I am a Christian.  I do not attend church — I feel no need to have my actions justified (or absolved) by a group of people whose sole point of reference is a textbook written by flawed humans thousands of years ago.

If you’re not familiar with the Problem of Evil, it goes something like this:

  1. If an all-powerful (omnipotent and omniscient) and perfectly good (benevolent) god exists, then evil does not.
  2. There is evil in the world.
  3. Therefore, an all-powerful and perfectly good god does not exist.

The actions of a single killer do not, by themselves, prove the Problem of Evil’s accuracy.  God’s decision to allow it proves the Problem of Evil’s accuracy.  If God were omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent, the bastard would have been struck by lightning before he put
on his socks.  Period.

A common “resolution” to the Problem of Evil is the nature of free will.  Some say that free will is so important to God, so crucial to His design of the universe and His creation, that the nature of evil is worth the souls of those lost in its wake.

I call bullshit.

Free will and the destruction of evil are not mutually exclusive.  In other words, God can allow bastards like the Aurora theater killer to choose to kill 12 unarmed people.  But an omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent God has every right — and possibly a duty — to smite the shit out of such heartless killers before they step into their preferred killing grounds.

Apologists will play the “free will” argument until they’re blue in the face, but it gives God no credit when He is able to do anything at any time.  If anything, He comes off as lazy or inattentive.

I am of the opinion that He is either unable or unwilling to aid us.  The Framers of the Constitution, I think, would agree with me since they expected no aid from God during the Constitutional convention.

And they would no doubt see Friday’s horrific events as further evidence that we are, ultimately, utterly alone.  God may exist — and I believe He does — but he’s not intervening.  Who knows, maybe he entered a pact with Satan in which they agreed to not intervene.  If that’s the case, it’s pretty clear Satan intervened on Friday and God — still playing by the rules — failed to see the act as a dissolution of the contract.  Regardless, it’s up to us to bring impartial justice to those who would harm the innocent.

Unfortunately, we seem to have the same problem as God.  We are unable to intercept evil before it can carry out its mission.

I recently read a book on existentialism titled How to be an Existentialist:  or How to Get Real, Get a Grip and Stop Making Excuses by Gary Cox.  Fantastic read.  As it turns out, I’ve subscribed to existentialism my entire life without realizing it.  The entire philosophy is based on the notion that we humans have complete free will and are able to choose our own paths in life.  We should regret nothing, because it was our choice, our act and nobody else’s.  While we’re a slave to time, we still must accept all events and all consequences stemming from our actions.

While existentialism sounds like a dismal philosophy, its intent is actually to improve the lives of those who subscribe to it.  In accepting the nature of our universe and accepting that we’ll never know “why”, we can move forward and learn to love life for what it is.  So, too, can the families of the victims.  In fact, they may find more answers in such a philosophy than they can in the Bible — as I have.

The Aurora theater killer made a choice, and despite what anybody may say, it was not society’s fault or a gun manufacturer’s sin that caused this tragedy.  It was the choices carried out by a single, sadistic soul who, apparently, could not even be stopped by God.

Now, in the wake of his actions, we should force him to face the consequences.  Because, after all, God has given us the choice and the power to carry it out — mostly because He failed to act, but also because it seems free will should dictate we do so.


14 thoughts on “There are no answers.

  1. I want to reply to just about everything in this and how I disagree with most everything here. and I could site old testament (especially the book of Job) and new testament to back up my arguments as well. I do believe God can exist even if evil is in the world. I believe that he has separated himself from the world and is not directly in it anymore. It seem though every time Someone committed a sin in the bible it was after the act was committed that God acted and rarely before. People may have though evil things and sinful thoughts but it isn’t until they acted that God did smite them. It wasn’t until the act was committed that God acted. Again will I have all the answers? No. Do I have the mind of God? No. It would be easier if I tried to create another universe than to answer all questions or have the mind of God. Still God owes us sinners nothing at all. we all have faltered and fallen short. It just seems when we have faith he responds when we don’t … If you want more let me know I can right on this subject for weeks. But I Don’t believe the problem of evils premise is sound. Also I will say this because I don’t have the mind of God or the wisdom of Solomon you can definitely stump me of some issues here. That won’t change my mind or my faith. I don’t think Josh and I will ever see eye to eye on this one. In fact I know we grow further apart with every new catastrophe that happens. On top of all of this if you read revelations what we have seen before is nothing they are but the birthing pains of what is to come.

    I don’t always go to church but when I do its catholic. Stay faithful my friends.

    • “and I could site old testament (especially the book of Job) and new testament to back up my arguments as well. I do believe God can exist even if evil is in the world”

      You can throw Bible passages my way all day long, my friend, and they will only serve to solidify my stance. You even mentioned that, in the Bible, God tended to act after the crime was committed — this says to me that, while he was willing to intervene, somehow he could NOT intervene before an innocent life was put in danger.

      The premise of the Problem of Evil is not that “God cannot exist”. It is that “God cannot be omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent”. I truly believe God exists. I’ve accepted Christ as my savior. I’m a “born-again” Christian, and I capitalize the possessive form of “he” when referring to God. But I’m not going to blindly toss logic out the window, especially since it was devised by God Himself. How unfortunate it is that, by using the very rules of logic He created, we come to the conclusion that He is imperfect.

      You may be right that we will never see eye to eye on it — but we’ll never grow apart, my friend! I accept your faith and I know what kind of value it has, and sometimes I’m envious of it.

  2. First off, thanks for the pictures, Tony!

    If I ever finish my book, I hope to cover Problem of Evil in it. It’s an integral part of a storyline, and it’s obviously going to be tough to come up with an end-all answer.

    But what if God is basically an existentialist as well and acts as such? We’ve created laws in America that say we have the right to own guns, right? I know you believe in that right, Josh. So why do we feel we can make this choice and avoid the consequences? We want to bear arms, but we don’t want any harm to come to us when others DO use these arms unethically. God’s completely confused — do we as a society want to own guns, or do we want to not get shot sometimes? When you make a decision, you MUST accept the consequences of that decision, and God respects this, being a sort of existential being himself and allows us as an existential society to reap the consequences of our choices.

    Not a believer, of course, but if I were, that’s how I’d envision it all shaking out.

    Now, what holes do I have yet to patch on this theory before I actually write it into novel form?

    • Randy, if that were the case, then those in the theater who do not believe in gun rights and were shot anyway were punished by a minority of those who seek to commit evil. Remove guns from the equation and it can be applied anywhere… teenagers getting killed by drunk drivers, infants succumbing to disease, Afghan children getting blown up by U.S. bombs, etc.

      Many people are punished by the free will choices of others, not their own. In a perfectly just world, I don’t think this would not happen.

      Great comment, Randy. Got me thinking. But I don’t feel it plugged any of the holes in the Problem of Evil. Besides, don’t you enjoy watching a fellow skeptic at work? 😉

      • Absolutely. But if part of my book’s set in the afterlife, people are going to be clamoring for me to answer the question for Problem of Evil, and I’m willing to give it my best shot. If nothing else, the answer I give might serve to show the true difficulty in subscribing to faith, and I’m OK with that, too.

        Anyway, those people in the theater that didn’t believe in gun rights still believe in democracy, don’t they? Otherwise, they probably shouldn’t choose to live in the US. And if they believe in democracy, then they believe that sometimes they have to accept decisions they don’t subscribe to at all. It’s all part of being in a free country — we must submit to the majority’s choice, and sometimes undesirable consequences result from this position you may never have subscribed to in the first place.

        I probably can’t use the same argument for all your other scenarios, but teenagers getting killed by drunk drivers is a natural consequence of our decision to allow alcohol in the US. Of course, teenagers can’t vote, so they’re subject to the democracy of adults, so yeah, I see the point.. What about getting killed by a stoned driver? We make that illegal, yet we still reap the consequences of a decision we never made. So yeah, I can see the holes…

      • Yep, I see your point, and I can’t find any reason to disagree. Every individual is responsible for their own actions (including remaining in a country that allows alcohol, guns, freedom, etc.).

        I guess my main issue is that innocent people have to be punished for the grievous mistakes of others. It seems unbalanced. Sure, the consequences of living in a society that allows the individual ownership of weapons could be death by said weapons… but that doesn’t absolve killers from their actions.

        Most of these ramblings spring from my own eternal conflict on the nature of our unjust world… in no way do I think I’m even remotely close to having any of it figured out.

        You should finish your book, by the way… shoot for 2,000 words a night and it’ll be done before you know it!

  3. Interesting post, Josh. I never knew the name of the “Problem of Evil” ideology but I’ve heard of something very similar. The thought goes that God can be omniscient, omnipotent, or perfectly-good but he can’t be all three. The existence of evil in our world can be explained by any combination of those characteristics except for God having all three.

    If God is omniscient and omnipotent but not perfectly-good, he allows free-will to guide our lives but intervenes when he deems it necessary. This version of God would not stop evil at every chance but could if he felt moved to do so. [My opinion: this would be a very cynical God that seems to look down on us with something like disdain; a little like the God described in the Book of Job.]

    If God is omniscient and perfectly-good but not omnipotent, he knows of all the evil in the world and wants to stop it from affecting the lives of good people but does not have the power to do so. This version would be incapable of performing miracles or otherwise affecting our daily lives but would do something if he had the power to. [My opinion 2: this God would not correlate with what the Bible says he is capable of but perhaps he lost his omnipotence. I would feel sorry for this God because he would lack the power to help despite his desire to do so.]

    If God is omnipotent and perfectly-good but not omniscient, he has the power to stop evil machinations and he would use this as often as he could but he does not know everything that is happening in the world nor what everyone is thinking. This version does not have the foresight to predict when evil will rise or where it will strike but he will intervene when he is aware of it. [My opinion 3: this God could explain the “miracles” that some people describe in moments of tragedy like the killer’s gun jamming or a child surviving amongst earthquake wreckage. He might always be too late to prevent evil from happening in the first place but better late than never.]

    My personal belief on the existence of God is more Agnostic in that I don’t think God’s existence can be proven one way or the other. Having said that, I take some small amount of comfort in the philosophical idea that God isn’t perfect in every way.

    • I love the analysis, Tyler. I, for one, would like to believe in the third version (omnipotent and benevolent but not omniscient). It makes sense to me since it would explain some uncanny coincidences and the “miracles” described in the Bible. It would even explain God’s behavior in the Book of Job (perhaps he didn’t fully understand or realize the implications of coming off as willing to let his followers suffer simply to settle a bet with the devil).

      Thanks for the comment… I even meant to include a thorough analysis such as the one you provided, but somehow I ended up talking about existentialism instead.

    • Hmm, I like this approach, Tyler. The first God feels like the video game player, who knows everything and can change anything about the character they are playing (maybe through a hack), but might just toss him into the Lion’s den just to see what would happen in the video game. I know I’ve done this LOTS of times in Populous, just to watch my followers fly away on a tornado or drown. Not sure if it’s someone I could really worship, though, since his morals would always be a bit questionable.

      2nd one I call the TV God. He watches us and knows everything that’s going to happen (probably because he’s seen this movie a million times before). But Jason still kills his victims, no matter how much we scream at the TV for the victim not to go into that house alone. I’d feel sorry for a God like that, too, and I’m not sure how he’s able to explain creating the universe, but unable to stop a simple robbery/killing.

      3rd one reminds me of Superman (hm, or maybe Batman). He fights crime and does as much as he’s able, but at the end of the day, there’s still bad things that happened outside Gotham that he couldn’t stop because he wasn’t aware of them. The allure is obvious, since at least this guy’s trying, and it makes me want to move to Gotham so I’m under his shadow. But I think people want God to be more than just “another superhero”. And that’s why this perception ultimately fails as well.. Thanks for the reflection on this!

  4. Now settle down young men, To Josh my son God is in his easy chair drinking a beer laughing at us puny hummans actting like a god. Becuase as soon as you do not belive God is all encompassing you think you are a god!!!!!!! Ceasers believed they were gods because of the power of life and death they had over their people. Mass murderers have come to the conclusion they are a god in their small minds. The earth was given to satan, it’s your job to find and have faith in the Lord. I’ve never had some one in a foxhole with me say Oh Satan save me, when the bullets are flying. It is always OH God save me! Evil is walking with us every day and wants to take you out because you believe in the Lord. Believe me, me and God have an understanding that I’m pissed because we should have finished a war so my sons would not have to fight it over. I’ve seen and helped defeat an army and it’s not pretty . But it did wake me up to how small you are in this world. You are only important to about 10 people in this world and the rest could give a shit about you.
    Believe in your God and yourself because that is all you have in this god forsaken world. Be viligent and always watch for the nut. You find them on the highway and in a movie theater. For you gun haters, our forefathers set this country up so that the average person could stop the government from becoming a tyrant (which it is). They even debated putting in the constitution that every house have a gun. But they thought of the person who would not be comfortable with one and left it up to you if you would own one or not. Just remmeber 911 is a phone call and a 45 colt is there with you.

  5. Kinda fun. Not being qualified to define God, one might just accept His probability and therewith, our existence and go from there. Evil seems no problem then, if we don’t define it as a result of our rules instead of His. Why is any particular death an evil? Death is a distribution among ages, has varied and unpredictable causes and affects 100% of us by design. Sounds normal, to me. To convert it to evil, seems we have to switch viewpoints from our Creator to ourselves, for which switch, we have no writ I can identify. What the hell…

    Current brain research mostly via MRI’s is eliciting a lot about our brains…enough so far I think, to make the whole ‘free will’ thing moot. So shoot me (and all the brain researchers) to avoid a ton of trouble!

    • I don’t mean to insinuate that death itself is evil. The act perpetrated by the Aurora theater massacre suspect is clearly evil — denying life to those whose lives were not due to end.

      I’ve heard about the MRI research. Something about our brains firing before we consciously think about acting? I don’t think that proves anything. In fact, I don’t think there’s any possible way any type of MRI could prove free will does not exist. The “there is no free will” crowd carries a very heavy — and, I think, insurmountable — burden of proof.

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