Suppose you were the supreme boss of a set-up. You have hundreds of people working in the set up organised in different groups, each group functioning under a lesser boss. Some of the lesser bosses treat their workers cruelly or neglect to do their assigned duties so that the working of such groups gets messed up and their workers suffer. Or some workers in some groups have serious problems and the concerned group bosses fail to rectify matters allowing the workers to continue to suffer. The matter ultimately comes to your notice. You thereupon (i) act swiftly and set matter right so that no one is allowed to suffer and the set-up delivers on its agenda or (ii) let matters drag and work out on their own. If you adopt course (ii), wouldn’t you be called heartless or incompetent?
2. Now God is supposed not only to be the super boss but also the creator of this universe. The universe is undoubtedly incredibly diverse, expansive and complex consisting, as it does, of the earth, the seas with innumerable species of living creatures on them, plus the sun, the moon, the stars, other planets and many other objects man may not even be aware of yet. Most of the creations, it appears,perform in an orderly and precise manner. The earth, for example, orbits around the sun to a precise time table . Events related to its rotations, such as eclipses, can be precisely fore-told even centuries in advance because of the precision with which the earth and the moon follow their course.The distance between the sun and the earth is said to be so precisely set that even a mm here or there would not be sustainable. Like-wise, most other creations function and behave in orderly, predictable and mutually accommodating manner including the various living species on earth like plants and animals. With one exception that I will take up later in this blog.
3. Dissect or analyse the design and structure of any creation and one is struck by the astonishing degree of intelligence, foresight, planning and thought that goes into ensuring the existence, sustenance, growth and ultimate demise of every single object of the creation. That is what brings all the praise to the creator, namely God, and all the wonder and excitement about his creation.
3. The human species appears to be an exception. While its
bodily structure and design is as perfect as may be, the human species is blessed with an additional faculty , namely the mind. The human mind does not appear to be programmed to any predetermined behaviour and is given a surprising degree of independence. It is the mind that makes different people behave differently in similar situations, devise different ways to meet similar needs, divide humans into different faiths (or religions), sects and communities each with distinct sets of beliefs and attitudes to life and fellow human beings. Yet individuals belonging to the same sects and communities may have their own distinct ideas and practices due to mind’s inherent independence.
4. The mind imparts to humans certain traits of behaviour individually or shared by groups. Some of the opposing traits are: love and hatred, kindness/benevolence/compassion and cruelty, tolerance & fanaticism, violence & peace,selfishness/greed & generosity, conformity & defiance, anger/rage & placidity, etc. Each individual has all these traits in varying degrees but in some individuals, some particular traits may exhibit themselves to an extreme degree which may affect the lives of other individuals or groups positively or devastatingly negatively. People or groups having a preponderance of negative traits may be described as evil while those with preponderance of positive traits can be categorised as good.
5. Humans have another peculiarity. Probably because they are possessed of a mind, nature is not as protective of them as it is in the case of some other species. For example, humans need to supplement themselves with clothing as a protection against vagaries of weather which no other species does. Also nature does not help human beings enjoy more or less an equal share of resources it has made available and humans, guided by their traits of selfishness, greed and fear of insecurity, do not share with others the hoards of surpluses they manage to build through means fair or unfair. This has resulted in gross inequality among humans with some being reduced to extreme poverty and deprivation and others wallowing in indecent luxury and affluence. Humans develop various kinds of diseases and they have built such systems that only the materially well provided have access to proper treatment and the poor suffer helplessly and grievously. Apart from these causes of suffering for which humans may not be wholly responsible, the evil among the humans unleash wanton cruelty on fellow humans to satisfy their greed and desires and leave their innocent victims suffering grievously or losing their lives. There is also exploitation of the weaker by the stronger including exploitation of women and children. Even worse are crimes committed in the name of faith or religion where hordes of fanatics destroy or maim millions of innocent men, women, children and other living beings and ravage properties to dust and rubble causing indescribable misery and suffering in the process.
6. The question that bothers most people is why innocent people should have to suffer this kind cruelty and depredation when there is God who has the attributes of being merciful, compassionate , omnipotent and omniscient,to whom they pray frequently and look forward to for help and protection and whose revealed commands they abide by in their day to day living? Is He in reality heartless or indifferent and not merciful and omnipotent? The reality appears to be that He just looks on and does not interfere or help. Since this reality or apparent reality is incompatible with what faith presumes, some people become atheists and deny God and refuse to believe in Him or His existence. And such atheists are no worse off or better off in life than the believers. And again, it appears, God is indifferent to this fact.
7. In spite of undergoing all the sufferings and apparent neglect or indifference, the believers stand firm in their belief in God, his compassion, mercy and infallibility. They comfort themselves with various explanations. Mostly, rather than blame the evil forces for their malfeasance, they rue that they have brought the wrath of God upon themselves by their own actions in this or previous births. This implies that the evil forces act as God’s agents to render their due to the believers and that God uses the forces of evil to carry out His will. This belief appears to absolve the evil doers of their responsibility for their despicable acts.
8. The question why God does not protect his faithful from the depredations of the evil forces is just one of the questions that evades human understanding. In fact, a more direct unanswered question is : why does God allow evil to exist at all? And why are the evil persons generally happier and more prosperous and powerful than the “good” and God fearing people? There are other questions to which humans do no know the exact answers, e.g. will there be a tomorrow or, for that matter, the next moment for me or you? What does tomorrow, if it happens, hold for me? What after death? Why do people dream in their sleep and do dreams hold any meaning or message? What will be the gender of one’s first or next child? & so on. When God has kept so many secrets from man, it is not foolhardy to believe that the question about the existence or meaning or power of evil is one of the questions whose answer God does not want man to know. And thus, trusting in ultimate vindication and redemption,the faithful continue to believe in the existence and supremacy of God.
9. Considering the architecture of the universe as a whole or the smallest of the creations and how they are sustained, it is impossible not to believe in the existence of a supremely intelligent entity, name it God or whatever. It is unfortunately also impossible not to be troubled by questions about the pervasiveness and power of evil. But one thing may be safely believed: Man is not God’s most favoured creation. Also, perhaps, man is condemned to more suffering than any other creation.