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Wishful Thinking in Action: “the Compassionate, the Merciful”

March 16, 2012

It is common among Muslims to explain the hardships of life through a concept known as God’s “Hikmat” or “Wisdom”. The argument is that God loves all humanity and therefore whatever “good” things happen to us is due to His (direct) love but whatever “bad” things happen, is due to His wisdom; that is, God knows what’s best for us and it is His bounty that is actually revealed in the form of misery. It is argued that the hardship is in reality a “necessary” obstacle to prevent other, worse things from happening or to create an “opportunity” for us to become better and greater.

Often the parallel to a parental figure – usually a father – is drawn to demonstrate how in spite of loving us, God has to be tough sometimes to teach us something. He occasionally punishes us just as a father punishes his son to teach him how to behave in life, for his own good, of course.

What baffles me is the method through which Muslims (and the followers of all other religions by extension) reach the conclusion that God is in fact compassionate. There is no evidence-based argument relying on observation; it seems like God’s compassion is taken for granted, as a supposition assumed right from the beginning of the argument with either an atheist, or a theist following another religion.

We can all agree that good could be considered non-existent when compared to the amount of bad we’ve faced throughout history. The majority of the world’s population is hungry and disease-stricken. Wars break out every other day and natural disasters claim lives on a weekly basis. Millions of innocent people die every year and these are all clear, scientific observations.

Question is how we manage to assign such catastrophes to God’s “wisdom” instead of his evil. Isn’t it much easier to assume an evil god who “has a plan for us all” to torture and take human lives due to his innate evil quality? Isn’t it much, much easier to justify the little amount of good in the world as the result of this evil being’s Hikmat, as part of his plan to create more suffering? What happens exactly when we assume an all-powerful being – who we can all agree can end all suffering in the blink of an eye – to be merciful instead of malevolent?

Upon taking a closer look we realize the only piece of “evidence” there is, is the supposed words of the being itself. He claims to love us. He claims to only wish us good. The hypothesis of an evil god would even explain how He is lying in accordance to his evil nature, to earn our trust so he can keep enjoying the hell he creates both here and in the afterlife.

As for the example of the loving and simultaneously strict father, there is a colossal difference: Our fathers have to teach us through a carefully controlled course of educational discipline, because they are not going to be around forever to protect us against and prepare us for the hardships of life. That is, if our fathers could have power over everything forever, they wouldn’t need to put us through crushing “lessons”. They would simply use their power to grant us eternal happiness. In other words, education is only required in the absence of unlimited power, as a measure to strengthen the child in case he has no one else to rely on but himself.

In the end, the absurdity of this whole idea is clarified by the father figure example. Given the premise that God created absolutely everything – even the laws, physical and otherwise – one realizes God would have never had to “prepare” anyone for anything, as He himself has come up with the idea of a world in which people are tested. He is completely responsible for whatever this world happens to be; He is not at all like a father having to take extreme measures for the son’s own good.

Imagine a father torturing his own son to prepare him for tests he himself created. Imagine whatever test the son is forced to participate in during his lifetime is devised by the father. Tests involving mothers being tortured to death in front of their children. One month old infants dying of hunger, never having really lived. Tsunamis drowning thousands of people, volcanoes exploding and killing all the inhabitants of islands and diseases eradicating nearly half of the world’s population at one point.

Would you call that father – who could not only prevent the disasters, but avoid creating them in the first place – “compassionate” and “merciful”, or the worst possible sadist who ever lived?

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