How Does God Perceive the Universe? The Spurious Problem of Evil

One of the points I have made elsewhere is that perceptual systems, regardless of their nature, are the essential attributes of limited, finite, and mortal creatures. We humans, as well as all other living creatures, need to find out certain things about the world we live in, so that we can find nourishment, avoid poisonous substances and dangerous situations, flee predators, and find mates in order to survive and procreate. It follows from this simple observation that an unlimited, infinite, and immortal being, namely God, would have absolutely no need to perceive the world, at least not in the way that we mean when we talk about perceiving the world.

Another very common human error is to suppose that God perceives the world in exactly the same way that we individual human beings perceive it. So, for example, if something causes us pain, discomfort, suffering, or unhappiness, which experience leads us to regard it as bad, then God, in Its infinite knowledge and goodness, must perceive it in the same way, and must also regard it as bad. This childishly mistaken view of God’s nature puzzles many people and makes them wonder why God doesn’t act so as to alleviate our or some other person’s pain, misery, or suffering.[1] The widespread failure to understand this fundamental difference between the way that God perceives the world, and how we finite, mortal creatures perceive it, leads many people to become angered or perplexed by God’s inaction at what they regard as the world’s many injustices.

Philosophers and theologians call this the Problem of Evil: Why is there evil in the world, and why do bad things happen to good people, if the world was created by an omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent Creator?

To answer this age-old question, let us first of all recall the basic nature of all Life: Life is based on interdependence, since all living creatures depend on other living creatures for their sustenance. This means that organisms must consume other organisms in order to survive. Even plants, which are able to transform the Sun’s energy into organic matter that can then be consumed by other creatures, nevertheless require other organisms such as bacteria and fungi to break down their and other creatures’ remains in order to perpetuate the cycle of life. If there were only plants in the world, then they would eventually consume all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and die because they could no longer respire. Thus, although plants do not directly consume other organisms,[2] they nevertheless depend on the actions of countless other organisms for their survival.

It is a tenet of pretty nearly every religion that God is the Creator of all Life on Earth. But we extremely selfish and self-centred human beings very easily forget this important fact by assuming that we are more important to God than other organisms. We must also remember that the particular way that we perceive certain organisms,[3] whether as terrifying, disgusting, repulsive, or horrid, is most certainly not the way that God regards them, since God created them and, moreover, It cannot be harmed by them, as we can.

If God is the Creator of all Life, which means that all life forms have equal importance for God, and since individual life forms must consume other life forms in order to survive, then it follows that, in God’s view – which, let us remember, is very different from our limited and selfish human view – it does not matter which individual life form consumes which other individual life form. Thus, in God’s view, a human being killing and consuming a tiger, vulture, or shark is no different from a tiger, vulture, or shark killing or consuming a human being. To God, the locusts that devour our crops, the microbes that make us sick or cause our deaths, and the predators such as wolves, bears, lions, tigers, and crocodiles that formerly attacked and consumed humans regularly in the past are not calamities, as we regard them. Even war, which most of us regard as an unmitigated calamity and one of the greatest of all evils, also serves the very useful purpose, from Nature’s point of view, of reducing our numbers whenever we have become too numerous. In other words, what would be considered as an injustice, calamity, plague, or unmitigated evil when considered from our narrow human perspective and values may appear very differently to God.

The simple resolution of the Problem of Evil is that it is due to a mistaken attribution, namely, attributing to God our limited, human-centric way of viewing and judging the world or Universe, which attribution is very obviously wrong. We would also do well to remember that pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Most people interpret this to mean pride over other human beings. But it can also mean pride or arrogance over the rest of God’s Creation, a supercilious attitude that is held and exhibited by the majority of people in many of their actions at the present time.

It is often a dangerous or highly misleading practice to attribute things to God, but I do not think it a stretch to attribute to God a fondness for variety. Clearly God has a fondness for Life, at least in the very limited quantities that it exists in the Universe, since God has nurtured Life on the Earth so that it has flourished for billions of years, while It has guided its development. During its long existence, Life has diversified and multiplied into an astonishing range of different forms, which leads me to believe that this variety and abundance are pleasing to God. Although I do not believe it matters to God whether we consume other creatures or whether they consume us, the fact that our recent success as a species, by gravely violating the primordial Law of Balance, is making life increasingly difficult or impossible for a great many other living organisms, many of which had existed for millions and millions of years prior to our disastrous infestation of the Earth, to survive is something that matters to and most likely displeases God. In my opinion, only a fool would continue to believe that God will not eventually act to rectify this situation, by putting an end to our highly destructive folly and our overweening arrogance.

[1] God probably invented pain and pleasure as means to protect animals from harm and to motivate them to strive to do certain necessary things, such as eating, drinking, and reproducing. Prior to the invention of pain, God probably observed that animals often suffered damage to their bodies, which damage may have led to their deaths, because they were not aware of this damage, or even if they were, they were not motivated to do anything about it. Those afflicted with leprosy, for example, may inadvertently burn parts of their body because their nerve endings have been completely dulled by the disease, so that they no longer experience pain in those parts. But even though God invented and instilled pain in animals in order to preserve them from harm, clearly, since God is not mortal, God does not experience pain. Hence, the common plaint made by some people that God is not just or caring because It does nothing to alleviate their suffering overlooks this rather important fact about God and pain, and about suffering in general.

[2] Of course, there are some plants, such as pitcher plants and Venus flytraps, that do consume other organisms, in the sense that we generally mean this.

[3] We can also ask whether God even perceives individual organisms. Life is born in discrete individual units, which has a profound effect on the way that we perceive the world – as inside and outside our bodies, or as “us” and “them,” however the term “them” is defined. But for God, who is the Creator of all Life, these arbitrary distinctions between different units of life are probably much less significant than they are for us.

One comment

  1. God is the most abused and il defined concept in human language. You have done a good job accounting for some of the many Anthropic prejudices and absurdities where most people have this idea firmly established in.
    The physical universe is predicated on the existence of matter. Energy, space and time are the emergent properties that allow matter to behave as it does. Matter, energy, space and time all apply within the context of a physical universe.
    The Big Bang defines the existence of matter as finite and temporal. So before the Big Bang something existed that is not subject to the physical world and will exist beyond it when it is finished.
    The physical universe is then just a subset of an even greater totality from which it emerged. This concept is called God!


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