I’d really love to leave it there. Pavese nails it. There is no purpose. But many demand explanations, even to the most obvious of facts.
As an evolved species, one of the “skills” we have honed is our need to know and understand. This need for understanding, this quest for knowledge, is what created religion, it’s what enforced mythology, it’s why, ultimately, we threw off the shackles of religion and ushered in the age of science.
Despite the influx of science into our lives, and in spite of our ever increasing knowledge of the world around us, we can’t fully shake religion, and we can’t fully shake this need to make things up to explain the unexplainable.
I’d love to lay the lie that there is purpose in suffering at the feet of religionists. But I run into Atheists all the time (mostly online, I think I’ve met all 15 Atheists in the IE, so I’m kinda at my limit here) who find some sort of higher purpose to their suffering. None so horrifically as an Atheist woman who was raped and eventually concluded that it wasn’t such a bad thing because good came out of it.
She had to have purpose to her suffering, she had to make good from evil. She had no idea how Christian she sounded.
There is no good in evil. And there is no good from evil. There never can be. Evil is evil. I mean, do you really want me to say, “Oh, gosh, I’m glad the Japanese tried to take over all of Asia and drew us into WW2, otherwise I wouldn’t be here because that’s how my grandparents met?” That’s insanity. Millions of people died in WW2, both as a result of fighting and as a result of the sadistic tendencies of the Germans and the Japanese. But, hey, at least I was born.
Or, if I want to sound really religious…
I’m so glad I was abused by my Christian parents and my Christian husband. Otherwise I’d never have been forced to look at the Christian faith and examine it’s truth claims. I found them lacking and became an Atheist. So much good in all that evil.
There is no purpose in suffering.
But it is so nice to think there is, mainly because if there is purpose in suffering…we don’t have to do anything about it.
On days that I sit in my room, frozen with the fear of really nothing except past triggers, I wonder what would have happened if people hadn’t thought there was purpose to my suffering. What if people hadn’t thought, “Oh, it’s OK that parents beat their kids, we all got beat and we’re better for it.” What if people hadn’t thought, “God uses the suffering you endure under abuse and cruelty for his glory so bear up under it and you will be blessed.”
To believe that there is purpose in our suffering is to believe a Broken Window Fallacy.
There is no benefit to an individual or to society when suffering occurs. Sure, there are motivational speakers who will tell you different, and, of course, religious people are ALWAYS saying that, but they mostly want your money and your following.
The absolute worst part about thinking there is purpose in suffering is that it makes us lazy. The way the mind works is to keep itself and its body from doing any more than they have to. This idea that there is purpose in suffering creates a mental loophole that gives us an out when other people need help.
You think you don’t think that way, but you do. I argue that if you believe you are immune, you haven’t truly thought it through. I think I’m pretty safe in that because the majority of you still think you’ve thought through why you “chose” Christianity.
Consider what you say to suffering friends. “God will make something good come from all this.”
OK, for a second let me suspend belief and embrace the idea that there is a God.
Who cares? This is such a cruel thing to say to the suffering. But we swallow it hook, line, and sinker because that is how we were raised. And we can’t get out of this mindset because it is pervasive, obviously even within Atheism.
Just like the townspeople in Bastiat’s story, we begin to look at evil as a good thing, as a beneficial thing.
And this is why we will never do anything at all about any of the evil around us. We lie to ourselves, telling ourselves that the suffering of others will benefit them so we can do as little for them as we want, because one day, we think, they will understand this time of suffering.
PS Prayer doesn’t count as doing something, in case you couldn’t guess.