I recently received the following email. My comments to it are in italics.
BEST EXPLANATION EVER!
This is one of the best explanations of why God allows pain and suffering that I have seen:
Oh? Well you'd first need to prove that God exists in the first place, but I'll let that slide for now. I've been waiting for a "good" explanation.
A man went to a barbershop to have his hair cut and his beard trimmed. As the barber began to work, they began to have a good conversation. They talked about so many things and various subjects. When they eventually touched on the subject of God, the barber said:
'I don't believe that God exists.'
'Why do you say that?' asked the customer.
'Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that God doesn't exist. Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people? Would there be abandoned children? If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain. I can't imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things.'
For those of you who are not familiar with it, read the PROBLEM OF EVIL
The customer thought for a moment, but didn't respond because he didn't want to start an argument. The barber finished his job and the customer left the shop. Just after he left the barbershop, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard. He looked dirty and unkempt.
The customer turned back and entered the barber shop again and he said to the barber: 'You know what? Barbers do not exist.'
'How can you say that?' asked the surprised barber. 'I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you!'
'No!' the customer exclaimed. 'Barbers don't exist because if they did, there would be no people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards, like that man outside.'
I'm guessing that if barbers did exist, you wouldn't be able to find a pair of scissors?
'Ah, but barbers DO exist! That's what happens when people do not come to me.'
'Exactly!' affirmed the customer. 'That's the point! God, too, DOES exist! That's what happens when people do not go to Him and don't look to Him for help. That's why there's so much pain and suffering in the world.'
That's your "best explanation"?? Permit me to jump in for the barber here. So I'm to believe that there exists a supremely powerful, all-loving magical force that would gladly stop all the pain and suffering in the world, if only we'd first acknowledge its existence? Um...isn't that *conditional love*?
If this being is so powerful and all-mighty, why does he give a flying fuck what his supposed "creation" thinks about him? Why would it matter, if this "God" really loves us and wants to help us? That's like watching someone drown and saying, "if you only acknowledge my presence, then I'd save you. I don't want you to drown...I love you...but you don't believe in me, so I can't help you."
If such a being exists, it is morally bankrupt, as are the people who subscribe to such teachings.
If you think God exists, send this to other people--If you think God does not exist, delete it!
I'll do better than just delete it. I'll tell anyone who thinks this trash represents "good, wholesome moral values" -- or that it represents "proof" of anything -- that they need to stop and think.
Hey, Where Did All The Barbers Go?
Let me get this straight...you're "proving" that the Judeo-Christian "God" Yahweh exists (that is the right "God" we're talking about here, isn't it? It's not Zeus or Anu, right?), with all the magical qualities generally attributed to him, by hinging it on a lack of belief it said being? So that means if we just believe, then we'll believe?
If you're shaking your head, I'm not sure you realize this one important thing: what you believe cannot change what is and what isn't real. You can believe all you want that there's a billion dollars in your bank account, but your beliefs cannot affect reality. (Of course I'm not saying that you shouldn't hope to one day be a billionaire, and that you shouldn't strive to become one. I'm saying that because you believe you have the money right now doesn't make it magically so. But this is getting a little off topic.)
Belief Beats God
I don't think such a god exists (and not just because of the Problem of Evil). If there is a "higher power", it 1) doesn't know about the pain, evil, and suffering -- in which case it isn't omniscient; 2) knows about the pain, but can't stop it -- in which case it isn't omnipotent; or 3) it knows about the pain and has the power to stop it, but chooses not to -- in which case it is not omnibenevolent. Again, read about the Problem of Evil if you can't quite understand where the barber is coming from.
The fact is, it cannot be proven that a "higher power" with any of these qualities exists. This spam's so-called "explanation" hasn't provided a single SHRED of evidence to support its absurd claims. Maybe you're worshiping the wrong god. Maybe we should go to Odin or Shamash for help. Not only that, but it promotes the callous and harmful belief that the world is fucked up because it's your fault. Try this: next time you see a two-year old, give it a razor blade. Then wait until it comes to you bleeding and crying for help before you do anything. Like I said, even if such a god exists, I wouldn't want to worship its sick, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent, ego-stroking self
The email above basically amounts to: You know why there's bad stuff in the world? Because everybody doesn't believe in my God. So, God exists!
By that logic alone, believers should NEVER experience pain or suffering.
The Devil Made Me Do It!
A "god" is not the reason there's pain and suffering in the world. There are several reasons, perhaps several for every type of pain or every cause of suffering (viruses, hatred, greed, ignorance). It is sad though, to think that a large portion of pain and suffering since earliest recorded history has been the divisive concept of a God.
If we want to help rid the world of suffering, we should start doing more to be good to each other and help one another--not because some "god" said so, but because we don't want others to suffer. I wonder if the unkempt man on the street was homeless. Did the customer offer him something to eat, or help him find a shelter? If so, did he do it because of an idea of god, or did he do it for goodness sake?
Think about that as we approach the Winter Solstice.
(PS: thanks for the quote, Professor!)