Peter Singer presents the classic understanding of the phony “problem of suffering”:
Do we live in a world that was created by a god who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all good? Christians think we do. Yet a powerful reason for doubting this confronts us every day: the world contains a vast amount of pain and suffering. If God is all-knowing, he knows how much suffering there is. If he is all-powerful, he could have created a world without so much of it – and he would have done so if he were all good.
I have previously addressed this “problem” here. In this article, Singer gives the traditional Christian responses:
- “Christians usually respond that God bestowed on us the gift of free will, and hence is not responsible for the evil we do.” Singer wants Christians to be responsible for their evil deeds, so he’s OK with this. However, he holds God to a higher standard, that is, Singer’s standard of righteousness.
- “Christians sometimes attempt to explain this suffering by saying that all humans are sinners, and so deserve their fate, even if it is a horrible one.” Singer is also OK with the idea of bad people suffering. However, he doesn’t like the fact that very young people suffer.
- “Christians say that we have all inherited the original sin committed by Eve, who defied God’s decree against eating from the tree of knowledge.” Singer hates this distortion of Christian doctrine because he thinks it means that “children inherit the sins of their ancestors,” a pagan superstition about fate that the Bible contradicts. Singer distorts it further by saying that it doesn’t account for why animals suffer. This particular strawman is the most common piece of stupidity that atheists like to chuckle over when mocking Christians.
Singer goes on to describe his debate with Dinesh D’Souza, whose points he gives as follows:
- “Because humans can live forever in heaven, the suffering of this world is less important than it would be if our life in this world were the only life we had.” Singer doesn’t care about “eternity.” Life on earth is not perfect, therefore there cannot be a perfect God.
- “Since God gave us life, we are not in a position to complain if our life is not perfect.” However, Singer notes that it is common to criticize mothers who do bad things that cause their babies to suffer birth defects; therefore, it is irrelevant whether the child lives, since the mother is still responsible for the birth defect.
- “We should not expect to understand God’s reasons for creating the world as it is.” This is the ultimate insult to Singer, because it suggests that he is not capable of understanding everything about the world.
In the end, it’s all about Singer’s standards of righteousness. If you’ve ever read anything else by him, you know that he definitely believes in evil and in punishment for evil people. However, he doesn’t believe that anyone “innocent” should ever suffer, including animals or children. That isn’t a problem Singer has with a “god” that Singer doesn’t believe in. It’s a problem that Singer has with the natural world.