One day, a man named Joe, and average man of average intelligence, headed above-average curiosity about the nature of the world in which he lived. He sat on a park bench, and pondered the question that every man and woman at some point in their lives ponders… “If God is all-powerful, and always benevolent, then why allow suffering in the world… Why do bad things happen to good people?” As he sat on a park bench chastising God for allowing such cruelties to exist, a man silently appeared next to him.
“You know, it doesn’t do you any good ask yourself that.” The stranger said in a self-assured, but compassionate tone.
“It will get you absolutely nowhere.”
“Oh? And how do you know that?” Joe said in a slightly perturbed tone.
“To put it plainly, I’m God. Even if I gave you the answer, you’d think I was lying.”
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” Joe said, with a hearty chuckle in his voice.
“How I know that you’re God? After all, you look kind of like a bum to me.”
God thinks to himself for a second, mutters under his breath, and with an outstretched hand above the grass, flowers spontaneously bloom.
“The power of creation lies in the hands of all creators, but we are constricted to that which we’ve created for ourselves. You create a lot of marvelous things for yourselves as apeople, something any creator can be proud of; but I’m pretty sure you can’t do that.”
A look of dumbfounded astonishment stamps its way across Joe’s face. Think about it for a second, if you were in his position would you really believe that you were standing, or rather, sitting on a park bench with the Almighty Creator. This dumpy looking guy, who could have been mistaken for any downtown bum, had just made flowers seemingly magically appear out of grass spontaneously.
“And by the way, I know you blame me for your father leaving you when you were six, and I know you blame me for the fact that your life sucks and that you lost your job because you can’t control your temper around a customer, but that’s not my fault. And it’s also not my fault that so many people have hurt you in irreparable ways, though for those things I am truly sorry.”
“You really are…” Joe stopped as he lost his train of thought in utter bewilderment.
“I know that you want me to answer that question for you, but instead let me set up a scenario for you.” Joe nodded his head silently in agreement, not knowing what to say.
“Let’s say, that you’re me. You’re God, and you have a lot of servants, but they never really think for themselves. I mean, they serve their purpose, but they don’t really feel alive to you… They’re more like the automatons of the spirit world. And one day you imagine the world of beings like yourself, beings that are capable of learning to create things on their own, and to better the rest of your vast creation that you call the universe.”
Joe nods, indicating that he’s keeping track of what the man is telling him. “Wouldn’t that be amazing?”
Joe nods vigorously in agreement. After thinking to himself for a moment Joe replies,”yeah! It would be great to see my creations make things better for themselves and others… That’s always been my hope for my two children.”
God is pleased, and flashes a smile of both happiness and slight bemusement.
“Here’s the thing, rather than create more automatons, I decided that I would give this new creation the greatest gift of all, the gift of true free will… The ability to make whatever choice one sees fit. Just like me, asis your kind likes to say ‘in my image.'”
“So let me ask you a few questions… Did I cause the stock market crash of 1929?”
“Did I cause genocide in Rwanda?”
“Did I really cause your father and mother to split up?”
Joe paused for a moment, pensively. “No, first they started fighting, and then on occasion my dad would get too drunk and beat her… She just couldn’t take it anymore, and I didn’t want her to.”
“So Joe, do you believe that I created you?”
“In my own image? With the ability to make your own choices?”
“Joe, I make it rain and on occasion it floods. And when it floods, it washes away the old so that the new can take root . It also gives your kind something to bond over… I keep hoping that bond will remain permanently, but it hasn’t yet. Sometimes I cause droughts, and earthquakes for very similar reasons. But I’ve had nothing to do with those things that I just asked you about, have I?”
“Of course not, now that I think of it… It seems silly to think so.”
“Doesn’t it though?” A look of certainty came across the face of God.
“So let me ask you, is my hope for you was that you be free to make this creation a better place, and I gave you the ability to make your own choices in order to achieve that end, when it comes to suffering and the allowance of it… Why do you?”
Joe simply sat in silence…