suffering and God


recently I have been intrigued by a discussion on Demian Farnworth’s blog: Fallen and Flawed.  For those of you who are not familiar with his blog, I’d encourage you to check it out.  He has a gift for clearly explaining various aspects of Christianity as well as other religions and worldviews.  In the past few months of reading his blog, i’ve learned much… and have been made aware of how little I actually do know.

Well, he’s had a series of posts going for a while now that are interviews with various outspoken athiest bloggers.  The most recent post is a discussion with Luke Muehlhauser, author of the blog Common Sense Athiesm.

Why do I mention this here?  Because of a question that I asked Luke.  A question of hope in the midst of struggles.  My question for Luke was where he finds hope for today, hope for this life, hope knowing that folks around the world are dying simply because they can’t get clean water.

Here was his answer:

Emily, I think atheism offers less hope and a smaller purpose than Christianity does. The problem with Christianity is that it offers FALSE hope and purpose. I could make up thousands of comforting stories about how we’re all going to live forever in PleasureLand and our lives have eternal, epic, cosmic purpose, and I could tell this story to people who are suffering to cheer them up, but I would be LYING to them.

My approach is to do the best to figure out how the world REALLY works, pick the best solutions I can, and advocate them. Maybe even help enact some of them.

I suspect many atheists are hopeless and joyless. Frankly, I knew lots of Christians who were hopeless and joyless, too. But that is not my subjective experience, for reasons of contingent brain chemistry and experience, I suppose.

Do I feel guilty that my life is better than 95% of all lives that have ever been lived or are being lived now? Sometimes, yes. I’m still trying to figure out as best I can what is moral, what is appropriate guilt, what the best way to live is. The “problem” with critical thinking is that you actually have to do the research and the work to get the answers to hard questions, instead of just accepting a list of easy answers that are comforting and simple but happen to be false.

Thanks for your questions, and thanks to all of you (especially) Demian for allowing to express my view – one that most people probably are not familiar with (unlike the Christian positions on things).

I was just curious what your thoughts were.  Where do you find hope?  Is it simply in doing the best to figure out the best solutions?  Is it in only knowing what the moral answer is?

In my mind, God is of the utmost importance in this discussion. If He does not exist, if He is not in control of what happens in my life (the heartaches and the joys) then what’s the purpose?


2 responses »

  1. Hey Emily,

    Great question. Ultimately my hope is in God…that justice will one day prevail, that disease and death will be wiped away for ever, that we’ll finally get to see our Savior.

    Next, my hope is that I can use my gifts to exalt Christ. To alleviate suffering. To encourage others.

    I also get great hope in seeing my children grow into creative, God-loving people. I have hope in other Christians who’ve been turned inside out by the grace of God and desire to ease the pain of sin through charity.

    I have hope in the power of God. That it doesn’t depend on man’s effort. He just needs a handful of the faithful. An Annais. A Zechariah. A John the Baptist. A Paul. An Augustine. A Luther.

    In the end, I have hope in the all-conquering providence and wisdom of God.

  2. Emily,
    I’ve been thinking through the same question recently, ever since one of my peers admitted to me that he had no hope (he also knows he does not have Christ).
    In one of my more recent blog posts on defending the faith, I explored some of the biblical reasons for hope. To sum it all up, my hope is in God and the gospel.
    I find hope in God because I know He is faithful to His children, keeping His covenant. I can stand unashamedly on the promises of God. He is a rock higher than I.
    I find hope in the gospel. These words come to mind first:
    “No guilt in life, no fear in death
    this is the power of Christ in me.
    From life’s first cry, to final breath,
    Jesus commands my destiny.
    No power of hell, no scheme of man
    can ever pluck me from His hand
    Till He returns, or calls me home
    here in the power of Christ, I’ll stand.”

    There is a security, peace, rest, and joy found under the shadow of His wings that I find no where else. All other hopes that I claim come under those two primary hopes – God and the gospel. If I have hope in times of trouble, it is because I know who God is. If I have hope in the midst of sin’s turmoil, it is because I hope in the gospel. If I look forward in hope for heaven, it is for the communion with God Himself unhindered by sin.

    Maybe more of an answer than you were looking for, but it has been on my heart lately and articulating the thought hopefully was mutually beneficial.

    And remember: it is only a false hope if God does not exist.

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