How can we have Faith when So Many Bad Things happen to So Many Good People? Part 3

Click here for Part 1 of this article.

Click here for Part 2 of this article.

Part 2 dealt with God’s eternal perspective in creating and governing the universe and the people in it. One of the points made there was that from a modern, scientific perspective, there is no such thing as good and evil in nature. Diseases, accidents, and natural disasters are just part of the way nature works.

And yet, when disease, accident, and natural disaster strike us humans, it feels evil. It can drive us to radically question our faith. It can cause us to question the existence, or at least the benevolence, of a God who created such a violent universe, and who watches while we supposedly beloved humans endure so much tragedy.

I hope Part 2 helped you to understand, or at least approach the idea, that natural causes of pain and suffering such as diseases, accidents, and natural disasters are linked to the existence of human evil, even if they are not evil in themselves. As I said earlier, evil is a moral and spiritual phenomenon. It exists only in the human heart, mind, and spirit.

And yet, there is a certain relationship or correspondence between spiritual evil and the almost casual cruelty of nature. That cruelty and violence affects human beings just as it does every other animal in nature.

In order to deal with it, we must look more closely at the nature of evil, and why it strikes even the innocent with crippling and fatal diseases and disasters. Evil is not merely a blind force. It has definite purposes and goals. That’s because it is a human force—even if it comes from a twisted, inhuman version of humanity.

3. Evil is real, and its greatest desire is to tear down, destroy, and enslave the innocent

I hope I don’t have to argue the question of whether evil is real. Just open your eyes and look around. There is so much greed, grasping for power, war, oppression, theft, rape, murder, and all manner of other injustice, pain, and sorrow in this world! It’s a no-brainer that evil is very real.

But why can’t evil strike only humans who are themselves evil, greedy, and grasping for power—power that they use to dominate and oppress others? Why does evil also strike the innocent?

It’s obvious that evil is real. And those who engage in evil will eventually suffer its painful consequences—if not in this world, then in the next.

What may not be so obvious is that evil’s greatest desire is to tear down, destroy, and enslave the innocent.

Is that really true?

Let’s look at an example of evil operating in human interactions.

Consider a drug pusher who makes money selling highly addictive drugs such as meth, crack, and heroin. Who does the pusher most want to sell drugs to? Existing customers are great! But they’re already part of the profit pool. Plus, they’re on their way down.

What the pusher really wants is new addicts. Why do drug dealers sometimes give out free samples? It’s to get new people addicted so that they’ll come back and buy more drugs . . . and more . . . and more.

A pusher’s prime target is non-addicts. And the younger, the better.

This is another way of saying that what pushers want most is to get people who are now innocent addicted to their drugs. It’s nothing personal. It’s all about profits.

Now expand that to everyone who is motivated primarily by profits, power, and personal pleasure. You can draw the conclusion for yourself. Everyone who is out for their own gain at others’ expense wants to rope as many new people as possible into their schemes.

Expand this to the spiritual level, and this is the general rule: Evil hates innocence, and wants to destroy it, because innocence is the opposite of evil.

  • Evil means harming others, and wishing harm to others.
  • Innocence means doing no harm to others, and wishing no harm others.

That’s why spiritual evil is continually breathing out hatred and rage toward innocence, and toward all people who are innocent of wrongdoing.

Why do bad things happen to good people? Because good and innocent people are the ones evil most wants to hurt and destroy. Innocent people are continually being targeted by evil.

Even if we can’t find any causes here on earth for tragedies that strike innocent people, such as someone else’s negligence or sin, there is also a spiritual power of evil called hell, the Devil, and Satan that is always active. Hell is the gathering place of all people who have chosen evil over good through their life on earth. (See “Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?”)

When we see apparently random bad things happen to good people, it is not God’s doing. It is the destructive power of hell that brings it about. That evil influence is always looking for openings where it can hurt and destroy innocent people.

What’s truly amazing is how much evil God stops from happening. If hell had its way, this earth would be a blasted, barren wasteland. The fact that most of us are still living and breathing is a testament to God’s continual work to stop the forces of evil from unleashing the full destructive power of their fury.

I realize that the idea of demonic influences is out of favor in today’s rational, scientific world. Unfortunately, closing our eyes to the existence and influence of real, spiritual evil in our world will not make it go away. We cannot fight an enemy that we refuse to see.

Of course, not everything that we think of as evil actually is evil. Some of it is simply the natural workings of the material world as they affect human beings. And from a spiritual perspective, some of the things we think of as evil are actually a part of God’s plan for our eternal life.

However, some of the things that affect us actually do come from evil, and work for our destruction. Why doesn’t God just wipe out all that evil? Let’s look at one answer to that question.

4. God could not destroy all evil without destroying us in the process

Wouldn’t it be nice if God used all that omnipotent divine power and wiped out all the evil in our world? Why doesn’t God step in and fix the world so that we can all live long, happy, healthy lives in loving harmony with one another?

As annoying as it is, the basic answer is that we don’t want God to do that.

Oh, we may say that we want it. But think about your own favorite bad habits. How would you feel if God just stepped in and said, “Sorry, you can’t do that anymore. I won’t let you.”

Be honest now!

The reality is that we humans identify with our own wrong attitudes and bad habits. The reason they’re a part of us is that we think of them as a part of us. This is the definition of “ego.” Our ego is the person that we think we are.

And for all practical purposes, the person we think we are is the person we actually are. Or at least, it’s the person we try to be, even if it doesn’t work very well.

Unfortunately, some of the things we identify with and think of as our own personality and character are not good, but evil. Just a few examples:

  • Cocky men who think it’s hyper-masculine to have sex with as many women as possible
  • Vain women who think their amazing beauty should make them the center of attention
  • Thieves who see nothing wrong with stealing other people’s money and belongings
  • Paid killers who make their living ending other people’s lives

This list could be extended endlessly. Some of our bad character traits may seem innocent enough to us. But that’s because we enjoy them. We get pleasure from them, and we may make money from them. If we were able to objectively examine ourselves, and consider where those bad traits—those evils in us—would lead if there were no restraints, we would see just how destructive they are.

But the fact is, we identify with them, and consider them to be an integral part of the real us.

If God were to immediately step in and wipe out all the evil in the world, it would mean damaging or destroying all of the people in the world in the process. It would mean ripping out of every one of us major parts of what we think of as our self. It would mean ripping out the arms, legs, stomachs, hearts, and lungs of our minds and spirits. We would not survive the operation.

God will not do that to us. God wants us to live, not die (see Ezekiel 18:31–32). So instead of violently ripping all of the evil out of our world, and killing us all in the process, God works in countless ways to bring each one of us to the point where we are able to see and identify the evils within ourselves, and willingly give them up. That’s what our life here on earth is all about. (See “Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth.”)

In short, God will not destroy all evil because evil is part of the human heart and mind. Destroying it would mean destroying us. And God loves us and respects us too much to destroy us.

The same is true when it comes to diseases, accidents, and natural disasters. Though some of these things are beyond our control, others result from our own negligence and bad choices. For example, if we smoke, drink, and eat a bad diet, sooner or later we’re going to get sick. And if we insist on building our houses on flood plains next to rivers, and on low-lying areas next to oceans, sooner or later we’re going to get wiped out by floods and tsunamis. God cannot eliminate all of the diseases and accidents that happen to us because we, too, have made these a part of our experience by the way we have chosen to live our lives.

Perhaps God could sort out and eliminate all of the tragedies that have no direct connection with human negligence or bad choices, and make life easy for everyone who is good and nice. But God’s goal is not to make our life here on earth comfortable. God’s goal is to turn us into angels so that we can have a joyful and fulfilling life to eternity.

That’s why God allows evil in the first place.

5. God allows evil only when it is necessary for our freedom and our salvation

Have you had something painful and tragic happen in your life, only to realize months, years, or decades later that if it hadn’t happened, your life would have been much worse?

Speaking for myself, it wasn’t all that many years ago that my whole life fell apart. While it was happening, I was not a happy camper! But as I look back on that painful and disastrous time, I realize that it had to happen if I was ever going to move on with my life.

Now I’ll be honest: If it had been my choice, I would never have let go of my old life. But God had other plans. God saw that as painful as those events were, if they didn’t happen, my life would have become increasingly painful and meaningless. When my old life fell apart all around me, it freed me to move on to a new and better phase of my life.

Your experience in life may have been different. If you’re struggling with recent tragedies, it may be too soon to make any sense of them. And in some cases, we may never understand why things happened the way they did.

But whether or not we ever understand some of the painful events of life, the general rule is that God allows evil things to happen only when, from God’s eternal perspective, it is necessary to allow them for the sake of our eternal salvation and happiness.

God is not limited by our small, time-bound perspective. God sees the eternal consequences of all the events of our lives, from the tiniest moments in our day to the big, life-changing events and life-altering tragedies.

For many reasons, including the ones explained earlier, God cannot prevent all of the painful and evil things that happen to innocent people. Still, it may be some comfort to know that if God does allow some evil thing to happen, then God must have seen that for the eternal good of the souls involved, it would have been worse if God had prevented it.

It may take us a lifetime to understand why God allowed particular tragedies to happen in our own lives and in the lives of people we love. Or we may understand it only after we, too, have died and moved on to the greater light and deeper insight of the spiritual world. Meanwhile, the search for answers about the painful tragedies of life can push us forward on our spiritual journey. There will be more on this in Part 4.

6. From a spiritual perspective, physical death is good, not evil

Okay, it has to be said.

To us humans here on earth, death looks like the ultimate catastrophe. That’s especially so when the person who dies is a child, a teenager, a young adult, or an adult in the prime of life. Only when a person is very old and frail can we even begin to think that death might not be such a bad thing after all.

To angels and to God, death looks very different.

Rising from Death, from Death and Rebirth, by Lee Woofenden (copyrighted image)

Rising from Death

Consider this: Every time someone here on earth dies, angels welcome someone new into their communities.

Yes, angels do understand that death can be a painful tragedy for those who loved and depended on that person. Angels are not hard-hearted.

But the fact remains that for the angels themselves, the arrival of new people into the spiritual world is a happy occasion. And it happens only when people die physically.

God is also fully present with us, and infinitely compassionate in our pain and sorrow over losing those we love.

But think of it from God’s perspective.

God didn’t create us to live on this earth. Our life in the material world is a temporary situation. God created us to live in heaven after a boot camp here on earth. From God’s perspective, death is simply the process by which we humans pass from our temporary home on earth to our permanent home in the spiritual world. From this perspective, death is really a birth from the narrow and confining womb of this world to the wide open fields of the spiritual world.

In short, from the perspective of God and the angels, death is a good, natural, and spiritual event. (For more on this, see “When Death is a Celebration.”)

This is not to say that it’s wrong to be sad when someone we love dies. It is natural and healthy for us to grieve our lost loved ones. We will miss them. They were part of our life, and now they are gone. All too often they leave behind family and friends who loved them and depended on them, and whose lives will now be much harder.

From our perspective death can be a harsh and painful thing.

But even when it leaves behind sorrow and grief here on earth, death is still only a brief passage in a much larger life. It is a transition from this world to a better world. And for those whose life has been wracked with suffering and pain, it comes as a welcome release.

Consider, for example, the millions of children who die every year due to poverty, disease, and malnutrition. It is only those of us who are left behind who experience their innocent deaths as pain and sorrow. The children who die no longer have to suffer poverty, hunger, pain, and disease. For the rest of their childhood years they will be brought up by angel parents in an atmosphere of love, light, and joy. Their sorrows are over. Their life of joy has already begun. (See “Where are my Children who have Died? Will I Ever See Them Again?”)

For those who have passed through the door of physical death, it is a transition from the darkness of this world into the light of the spiritual world.

This does not mean we shouldn’t work to overcome poverty, malnutrition, and disease. No one should have to live under those conditions. But it does mean that when we fail to do our job of caring for our fellow human beings, God will receive those whom we have failed into a loving, caring world where their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs will be fully met by loving and capable angels.

If the one who died was the primary support of a family, doesn’t that mean that those of us who remain here are meant to love, help, and support the ones who were left behind? Why should the loss of one man or woman mean poverty and neglect for those who depended upon him or her? Doesn’t this say more about the narrow and self-centered nature of our society than it does about the supposed evils of death?

If death, which is just a natural part of life, causes so much trouble for our society, perhaps it is time to re-think how we care for one another in our communities here on earth.

In the final part of this article, we’ll take up points 7–8 of the eight points listed in Part 1. This is where the rubber hits the road. This will be our call to action.

Click here for Part 4 of this article.

This four-part article is a response to three spiritual conundrums submitted by readers.

About

Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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31 comments on “How can we have Faith when So Many Bad Things happen to So Many Good People? Part 3
  1. Richard says:

    Hello Lee,

    I just recently and traumatically lost my wife to disease (or the treatment thereof, the jury is still out on that), and I’ve come across your blogs in my search for answers and directions in my current lost and aimless life.

    I find your perspectives on many topics quite refreshing compared to the narrow-minded views and staunchly dogmatic positions of so many other individuals and organizations I have communicated with throughout my life.

    My questions relate to your position on necessary evil for the purpose of salvation.

    Both my wife and I were baptized and followed the church in our respective denominations when we each were younger. Over time, though, as experiences (good and bad), hardships and successes unfolded during our lives, we each moved from our more faithful stances to ones that felt more comfortable, less judgmental and phony in the ‘behind the curtains’ motivations of supposed spiritual leaderships, and quite frankly, ones that seemingly held a more common sense position to us.

    We have seen the insane, herded-sheep mentality in the astonishing numbers of followers in current ‘super churches’ or ‘Christian Centers’, led by shallow, power-craving, money-hungry, tax-sheltered individuals or organizations who are ‘doing the Lord’s work’ by bringing people together and offering meaning and understanding to their otherwise meaningless and misguided lives. The uproar of enthusiasm from the masses is only exponentially magnified as they all seemingly are caught up in the moment during outrageously lavish and expensive events meant to entertain them and create unity, all the while lining the pockets of those running the show. Other religions demonstrate that faithfulness and salvation can be achieved and accepted by means of doing intentional harm to others in the name of their God, or that their ‘Way’ is the only accepted way to salvation. This severely taints our views of organized religion, and is the basis for our non-participation. (a sin?)

    My wife chose a more spiritual-based stance, in that she truly believed we are all part of a greater collective or spirituality, that there must be something else besides and beyond this earthly toil we call life, and that everything in our lives happens for a reason, though not necessarily understood. She did not, though, maintain a position that this was all the work of God, nor necessarily that of any other Supreme Being of origin. (a sin of ignorance or intent?) She accepted that there were certainly things she had no knowledge or conscious understanding of, nor could explain in any scientific deductive way, but she always wanted to believe in something more, and considered herself to be Agnostic.

    I’ve developed a position that teeters between similar feelings and thoughts, and those of a more scientific and pragmatic stance whereby I question the existence of any one grand design by one Supreme Being that is supposed to be perfect, omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent, when I look all around me and see the utter chaos that is our existence. How could something like this have been created and be maintained by one who is perfect? That just fundamentally seems wrong to me. I feel there is so much more yet to be discovered and perhaps science will continue to shed light, as it has throughout the developing ages, upon many aspects of unexplained elements in our lives and of the universe in general. I don’t consider myself to be truly Atheist, but I feel challenged in my belief that any God actually does or can exist. I would rather consider myself Agnostic as well, certainly when I entertain thoughts of also being part of an unexplainable greater collective beyond this Earthly realm.

    Both of us have worked hard to financially achieve more and grow our collection of materialistic possessions (both considered sins) so that we may feel more comfortable and physically secure in our lives. (just a false perception, really) Yet we have helped many, did our best to instill solid morals and values into our children so that they may have proper foundations in their lives, and tried our best to lead by example, living our lives with goodness in our hearts and actions. Yes, we have performed many selfish and self-serving acts along the way, (I’m fairly certain all of us have, and still do as we travel our human paths in life) but we appreciated life’s beauty, the wonders it held and presented to us, loved nature, were always mindful of our environment, and were respectful of others.

    So, after my long-winded synopsis of our lives, my questions are simply this:

    Does salvation depend upon holding God in your mind and dear to your heart?

    Can ones who choose the path of their individual belief system with the knowledge and existence of God presented to them yet possibly rejected (a major sin!), who live their lives in good ‘Christian format’ by adhering to core fundamental values, morals, good nature and common sense, still be ‘saved’?

    Does the rejection of the concept of God trump all else in the grand scheme, or are ones allowed salvation through their actions and, at a minimum, their belief there must be something more, unexplainable, to this mortal existence, that we are all part of a greater, better, more advanced collective as defined and accepted in any context, and we strive to attain this state of being through demonstratable good behavior during our lives?

    If we are all spiritual beings having a human experience, and humans, by nature, are fallible and sinful, is our ‘being’ shown grace and allowed to progress spiritually in the afterlife, even if it had sinned by questioning or rejecting the possibility of God being responsible for all the universe and Eternity? Is intentional ignorance a salvable sin? If one’s life ends abruptly during this phase of belief, is there salvation for such an individual soul?

    Do Atheists, who strive to live good structured lives of solid moral character and fortitude have the same privilege of salvation even if they reject the concept of God but demonstrate good ‘Christian’ attributes, by definition?

    Does the necessity of evil in humans lead to the path of salvation or the obstruction of it?

    Must we be considered sinners so that we may be saved?

    Is my pain the path to my salvation for the sins in my life?

    Thank you for this forum and your consideration.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Richard,

      Thanks for your long and thoughtful comment. I’m so sorry to hear about your wife’s death. You are in our thoughts and prayers. I’m glad the articles here are helpful to you.

      You ask many good questions–more than can be quickly answered. This quick response is to let you know that I have them in mind.

      I’ve been thinking of writing an article on whether atheists can be saved and go to heaven. Pending that, I’ll simply say: Yes, if they live a good life of concern for and service to their fellow human beings according to their own beliefs and values. Heaven and salvation are not about what we believe. They’re about how we live based on our beliefs.

      If you haven’t read it already, I recommend this article for a general statement about people of different beliefs and their prospects for heaven:
      If there’s One God, Why All the Different Religions?

      Another article you may find helpful:
      Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth

      I hope to get to some of your other questions soon. Meanwhile, if you follow the blog by email using the signup form in the right navbar, you’ll get notices of new posts as they go up. We do not share, rent, or otherwise distribute anyone’s email address.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Richard,

      About the issue of working hard and providing for yourself and your family financially, it sounds to me like you have acted with honor and integrity. Of course, none of us is perfect. And money isn’t the ultimate goal of life. But if handled properly, money is a tool that can be used for good. The idea that we must be poor in order to be spiritual is based on a rather superficial reading of the Bible. For more on this, see:
      Is Wealth a Blessing or a Curse?
      And the follow-up article:
      You Cannot Serve both God and Money

    • Lee says:

      Hi Richard,

      Here are a couple more articles that discuss some of the issues and questions you raise in this comment:
      Creation vs. Evolution: Can We All Just Calm Down, Please?
      Christianity is Dead. Long Live Christianity!
      Enjoy!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Richard,

      A few more responses to questions of yours that might not be answered in the various articles I’ve referred you to:

      It is not necessary for us to be sinful in order to be saved. God does not perversely require evil of us so that God can be a hero. It’s not about God’s ego.

      Rather, it’s just a simple fact that we are all tainted with evil, and we all do sin.

      We are tainted with evil due to the evil in our parents and predecessors, and in society generally, which affects us and causes us to veer toward evil ourselves. We are also born wrapped up in ourselves and our own pleasure and pain, and must grow out of that self-centered focus toward concern for our fellow human beings.

      As for sin, is there really any one of us who can truthfully say that we’ve never done something we know very well was selfish and wrong? And is there any one of us that hasn’t, for at least some part of our life, devoted our life to things that were primarily for our own benefit even when we knew we ought to be benefiting others? Or that if we were devoting our life to “humanitarian” causes, it was accompanied with a puffed up ego, and thinking that we’re better than other people?

      It’s not that evil and sin are necessary for salvation. It’s that we are tainted with evil (not sin) from birth, we do sin as adults, and to be saved we need to turn away from that evil and sin toward focusing our lives on loving God above all, and our neighbor as ourselves, as Jesus taught.

      Focusing our life on our own power, possessions, and pleasure is hell.

      Focusing our life on love for God and love for our fellow human beings is heaven.

      This does not mean we are required to deny ourselves all pleasure, money, and power. The commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. And God does want us to enjoy the good things life has to offer, as long as they don’t become obstacles to our spiritual growth.

      Rather, it means that our primary goals should be love for God and the neighbor. Love for material possessions and personal pleasure and power should serve those greater goals. Jesus stated it succinctly in these words:

      Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

      “All these things” that will be given to us as well are the things that the people of the nations seek after: food, drink, the body, clothing, and so on. We’re not meant to deny ourselves these things. Rather, we should enjoy them as they come to us, but consider them to be of secondary importance in life.

      About the pain we suffer, as stated in this article and in the one about human frailty, sickness, and disease, our pain may or may not have anything to do with our particular sins. Sometimes we do bring pain upon ourselves by our bad and wrong behavior. Other times we suffer pain due to the wrongs of others. And sometimes we are just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it’s no particular person’s fault that we were struck with pain and suffering.

      Regardless of its cause, our pain and suffering can be part of our path to salvation. That topic is explored more fully in this article and some of the others I referred you to, so I won’t expand on it further here.

      I think I’ve now responded to most of your questions either here in the comments or by referring you to other articles. If there’s something important that I’ve missed, please let me know.

      Thanks again for your thoughtful comments and questions. I do hope that over time you will find some comfort and peace from the pain of your wife’s death.

  2. Richard says:

    Lee,

    Thank you for your replies.

    In the questions I previously posted, I inadvertently focused more on the word ‘sin’ rather than so much on ‘evil’, though in context I felt they were the same when responding to the notion that evil is necessary for the purpose of salvation.

    But are they? Is evil, or the evil of our transgressions, the same as ‘sin’? In some contexts, I feel they are interchangeable. ‘Evil’ can be used as a noun or, more commonly, an adjective, implying an innate nature or predisposition to be harmful. In your reference of evil being a necessity for the purpose of salvation, are you implying objective (noun) evil, as in entities, concepts or implied existence (as in ‘something is a necessary evil’), or are you trying to put weight on the adjective ‘evil’ in description of ones actions? (like one’s chosen disbelief in God – is this evil, or just sin?)

    If the context is based upon the adjective, does that mean we are always construed as performing actions evil in nature and so, therefore, salvation only exists for those of purer heart and soul, or for those who endeavor to purge themselves of their evil natures and desires?

    Is the sin of defiance to God’s existence considered evil in nature, or an evil that exists to which man may gravitate toward via expression of free will, the same as alcoholism, adultery or any other of life’s bad habits considered to be sinful?

    I watched, in shocking horror, my wife’s last hours as she suffered greatly while physicians and nursing staff frantically tried to ascertain what was going wrong and why. It has had a terribly scarring, distressed effect on my life and psyche, and has, unfortunately, caused me even greater frustration and confusion in my beliefs. For everything she courageously endured over the 5-year span of her disease progression, I find it difficult to grasp, much less comprehend, (and I consider myself a rather smart fellow) why my wife needed to experience what she did at the end too. It is truly gut-wrenching and easily cause for spiteful thoughts and hatred directed toward anyone or anything responsible for the sheer imbalance of it all. Was what she went through just more exposure to ‘evil’ (or imposed suffering), necessary so that she was rewarded with the path to salvation for the goodness in her heart, soul and life’s actions? Or was it her own evil, manifesting itself as pain and suffering, punishment for her life’s indiscretions so that she was free to be saved? Either way, it seems awful sadistic to me that it could be construed in any context.

    Am I considered evil for my thoughts, or am I just sinning? Is evil, as an entity or concept, tempting me and leading me down a path of sin if I choose to defy God’s existence because I cannot rationalize it, or I feel spiteful in my agony? Or are my thoughts and/or actions simply evil in nature? Does this really matter if the overall balance of my life is more righteous than not?

    At this time in my life, I even find it difficult to rationalize the viewpoint expressed regarding evil and innocence. My wife was far from innocent, as is the same for most, if not all, of us, but I find it difficult to accept that perhaps she suffered the agonies of evil more so because she was more innocent than others, if evil (as an entity or concept) does indeed try to seek out and consume the innocent. That’s an atrocity certainly worthy of great discourse in future discussions.

    Also, realizing that my wife’s death was good in the context that it ‘saved’ her from additional suffering and agony, it is still little comfort when the perceived context of her ailment was one of evil nature to begin with, and she perhaps suffered due to evil’s desire to destroy the innocent. She must have been far more innocent than I was ever made aware of. The consolation prize in that is I’ve always considered her to be a better person than I am, for all my faults, so I guess perhaps she was, and I should look for solace in that.

    As for me, I’m left here still suffering the evils and agonies of life in the mortal plane.

    PS – I provided an alternate email address. I believe my email service provider may be filtering outside of my control since I have not received anything you have sent me. Please use the new email address.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Richard,

      In order to get notices of new posts by email, you have to enter your email address in the box under the heading “Follow by Email,” and then click the button. I can’t control or edit the list from this end. As of now, I don’t see you on the list. You probably just haven’t been sent any emails.

      • Richard says:

        I had done that already.
        I’ve been getting the communications now via the alternate Gmail address.
        Still have not received any via original email address so I’m guessing my provider is filtering for some reason. All OK here using the alternate address.
        Thanks.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Richard,

          If you signed up to receive email notices of comments, that’s a different story. I can’t see who has signed up for those.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Richard,

          In case you don’t get notification, I added a couple more responses to your first comment here, which you’ll find if you scroll up.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Richard,

      Now about the substance of your comment:

      Evil and sin is a vast topic, and I can only scratch the surface here. Part of the problem is that there are many different definitions of each–as is common for many words. Though I do use them differently in different contexts as well, here are the most common ways I use them:

      Evil is anything that is out of its proper order, and harmful or damaging because it is out of its proper order. This can include both motives and actions. And as I said in the piece, it only applies to human beings and human society.

      Sin is when a human being intentionally does something that s/he knows is wrong. In this definition, you can’t accidentally sin, or sin out of ignorance. It is sin only if you know you shouldn’t do it, but do it anyway. This, too, applies only to human beings. In fact, spiritually speaking, it applies only to adult human beings who are able to make free and rational choices of their own. Children and severely developmentally disabled adults are not fully or spiritually responsible for their actions. That’s why legally their parents or guardians are held accountable for their actions.

      About your wife’s illness and death, there is probably no connection between any evil or sin in her and her disease. I say “probably” because it certainly is possible for us to bring sickness and disease upon ourselves by living in ways we know we shouldn’t, and even by continually indulging in evil thoughts and desires. However, it sounds as though your wife was a good and decent person. Yes, not perfect, as you say. Nobody is. But unless you know of something specific she did that brought her sickness upon herself, or made it worse, it is probably best to banish from your mind the idea that she was sick, and died of disease, because she was evil or sinful.

      By the same token, being sick and dying of disease also has no particular connection with spiritual or social innocence–unless, of course, she contracted illness by being taken advantage of by people who were either negligent or had ill intent. So her disease is likely not a result of her being particularly innocent either.

      For more on sickness, disease, and their connection (or not) with human evil, please see the article:
      What is the Source of Human Fragility, Sickness, and Disease?

      • Richard says:

        Hi Lee,

        I greatly appreciate your non-assuming and general scope views (even if founded in Christianity, but I respect that!), and your true-self deliverance of non-biased perspectives, as best you can, when addressing perplexing issues that all of us face in our constant search for truth, understanding, acceptance and, ultimately, guidance on our paths through life.

        I also enjoy the writings of Steve Pavlina, whose introspective approach tickles my intellectual side with profound realism for interpreting some of life’s ultimate questions.

        Thank you, both, for your abilities to reach out to people and help guide them in their lives.

        Each of us has our own crosses to bear, and as the saying goes, some of us are carrying entire cemeteries around with us. It is through thought-provoking individuals, such as yourselves, that some of us find a better, and healing, path in our lives, and I hope that your perspective of life, the universe and all it encompasses, is one that may help me in my journey through my own life endeavors.

        PS – I don’t believe that sin is only an adult human capability as you have defined. I have watched my pets approach with intent, look around to see who may be looking, then proceed to do something they know is wrong if they feel they can get away with it! That is intention, and cognitive reasoning displayed!!! My pets are smart 😉

        • Lee says:

          Hi Richard,

          Thank you. I do hope the articles here will be helpful to you.

          Also, I know better than to argue with people about whether their pets really are human beings in disguise. 😛

    • Lee says:

      To take up one more point:

      Yes, it’s true that evil desires to destroy the innocent. And it does attack innocence wherever it finds it. However, most of those attacks are parried by the influence and action of God, angels, and decent human beings. Because of that, only a small fraction of the damage that evil and hell would like to do actually gets done.

      Why evil strikes some innocent people and not others is one of those questions that only God knows. We may understand why particular tragedies happened only through years of pondering the situation–or perhaps only after we have moved on to the spiritual world, where we will have greater light and understanding.

    • Lee says:

      Oh, and I should say that we do not go to hell because of evils in us. Only because of sins. In other words, we go to hell only if we persistently and predominantly act in ways that we know are wrong, so that they become a fixed part of our character.

  3. Richard says:

    Lee,

    Everything is working fine now via the 2nd email address. I am getting notifications and I received the initial invitation from WordPress too.

    Looking forward to your insightful responses.

    Richard

  4. Richard says:

    I never said, nor insinuated, that my pets were humans in disguise. I only implied they have human qualities, that they think and contemplate greatly during their day and often behave in quite human ways 😉

    • Lee says:

      So they only quack like a human? 😉

      All joking aside, children are also very much like human beings (okay, that was a joke), but they, too, cannot sin in the full, spiritual sense of the word because they have not yet reached adulthood, and are not yet fully responsible for their actions. Much of what they say and do is either derived from or in reaction to their parents, teachers, and other adults who are responsible for them. We are not held spiritually responsible for our actions until we are self-responsible adults. That is why all children who die go to heaven, not hell, no matter how “bad” they might have been.

    • Lee says:

      To finish that last thought:

      Children do, of course, do things that they know are wrong. So in that simple sense they are capable of sinning. But since they are not yet adults with the ability to reason for themselves and direct their own lives based on their own choices (they are still subject to their parents’ will), it is not charged to them as sin.

      Domesticated animals are in a similar situation, except that they never achieve rationality and the ability to choose to depart from their instincts and training. Plus, of course, they’re nowhere near as smart as human children. 🙂

  5. Richard says:

    Are you sure about that? During those ‘terrible twos’ they just have that look on their faces like they really do ‘know;!! And, after that, they just seem to endlessly test their boundaries, so there must be thought, analysis and intent there. For some.

    I have cats, and as you should know, cats are considered very independent and spiritual beings by many sects and denominations of faith. Intellectual, conservative, analytical and cautious by nature, they go through life happily having us do their will and bidding even for, sometimes, nary a glance of appreciation in return.

    I realize, and you have stated, that based upon your Christian-founded beliefs, you don’t believe in the reincarnation aspects presented by other religious denominations. Or that they may hold any credence, for that matter.

    However, in your broad-based analysis and presentation of truths in faith, would you consider the possibility of, not only reincarnation, but co-habitation of one’s physical self?

    And, even further, as some Eastern beliefs infer, that a soul has the choice when and where to come back if it is still looking to, or needs to, expand it’s consciousness, understanding and appreciation of the universe, it’s own role in God’s great plan, or if it’s growth here on Earth is somehow not yet finished?

    Could it be conceivable, and possible for a soul to come back, not only as an animal, but perhaps co-exist in one as well, such as a living pet still here on Earth? Some faiths which do adhere to reincarnation dogma ascertain that souls only ‘progress’ through reincarnation, not regress into lower life forms. If a soul does indeed have a choice, why not, if that’s what it chooses? Who is to say, really?

    I know this takes us down a path of deep and varied philosophy, and I respect your position to not traverse this path and engage in such if that is your desire. But, considering my position on faiths or ideals believed (and not believed), science-based or broader than perhaps Christianity alone, it does make me wonder when I see behavior representative of my wife, in my pets, and not their own proven and habitual current or past behaviors, nor behaviors based upon sudden change in their local lives. Behavior, completely and inexplicably, out of character.

    It does get one wondering…..

    • Lee says:

      Hi Richard,

      Animals do respond and react to spiritual influences. But that’s not the same as being consciously aware of them or of being able to contemplate them and make decisions based on them, as humans can.

      About reincarnation, I expressed my thoughts on it in the article that you apparently have already read. As I said there, debating reincarnation with those who find meaning and solace in it is a fruitless exercise.

      I also wrote and posted a piece about whether we will see our pets in heaven, which you can find with the search function if you’re interested. (I’m typing on my phone right now, which precludes entering links.)

    • Lee says:

      About the “terrible twos,” you might be interested in my article on Noah’s Ark (not the movie review). It covers the major paradigm shift that takes place in the human mind at that time.

      Yes, children do have conscious thoughts and feelings and intentions and the ability to make choices and act on them just as adults do. However, they are not yet fully responsible for themselves, so their bad choices aren’t held against them spiritually.

    • Lee says:

      Incidentally, we have both cats and a dog. And the old saying applies:

      Dogs come when you call. Cats have answering machines.

  6. Richard says:

    I can’t speak for your cats, but mine have often been found sitting quietly in the middle of the room staring blankly, deep in retrospective thought, as they contemplate life, the universe and everything. Yes, meditating!! Perhaps, expanding their consciousness. Who’s to say, really?.

    I do believe animals have souls too, but you and I fundamentally disagree that they cannot be eternal. I can easily sit on the side of the fence which holds belief in that all life is connected eternally, just in various undeclared and unsubstantiated ways. Animals, too, have a conscious being, and if all consciousness is connected eternally, than it matters not which level of consciousness exists in which being. We are all connected. Now, and eternally.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Richard,

      Nice to put a face to the name!

      And I must say, you don’t sound like an agnostic to me. 😛

      As far as our differing opinions, I have no problem with that. Differences and variations in perspective are what make life interesting! Also, when we look at things from different angles, we discover things that we would not have if we all looked at things from the same perspective.

      The issue of animal souls is a complex one. I suspect that there’s a lot more to it than either one of us imagines. And as fun as it is to philosophize and speculate about animal souls, it is not the type of issue that need divide us in our fundamental common humanity. If our varying perspectives lead each of us to treat one another and our furry friends with love, care, and respect, that’s what truly matters.

  7. Richard says:

    Agreed!

    As far as Agnosticism goes, one only has to believe in the possibility of God, or Eternal concepts of Heaven or Hell, or life after death, prophecies, religious truths, etc. Simply, the possibility, without any specific affirmation or commitment..

    Yes, there have been times whereby I find myself strongly challenging the existence of any God, in the light of science progression and discovery, and by my own common sense perception of life. During those times, I certainly would consider myself to be Atheist. But, for the rest of the time, I am comfortable considering myself Agnostic with a find blend of Eastern and Christian philosophical aspects I would like to believe in, simply because I can more easily rationalize them. Until such time that any one, or more, of the myriad of religious sects and denominations speaks enough to me, which I would find truthful and can accept totally as my definition of faith, I will do the best I can, with my heart, brain and conscious leading the way.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Richard,

      Religious sects and denominations are limited by nature. I doubt there is one on the face of the earth–including the one I grew up in and am still a member of–that is fully satisfactory. Even if we do belong to a church or religion for inspiration and a sense of spiritual community, it is still good to make our own decisions about what we will and won’t believe. I love Swedenborg, but there are some points on which I think he was mistaken due to the science and culture of his day. And I disagree with my church of origin on various points as well.

      Having said that, if you’re of a scientific and rational mindset, and are looking for material that will satisfy a thinking person with regard to a spiritual conception of the universe, here is a book I would recommend:
      Divine Love and Wisdom, by Emanuel Swedenborg

      Some of the science in it is outdated, since it was written over two hundred years ago. However, it offers a rare comprehensive and cohesive view of divine, spiritual, and material reality. It is philosophical and mind-bending–and unique in its presentation of the nature of reality.

  8. Walt Childs says:

    Excellent article, Lee. It is very clear and covers this difficult subject perfectly. Thanks.

  9. Tony says:

    hi lee

    “the almost casual cruelty of nature” not sure what you mean by this but I am pretty sure nature isn’t a sentient being or has intelligence that hurts human beings. The only thing I would blame nature for is biological imperatives and death, other then that nature does whatever it does.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Tony,

      Right. I’m not saying that nature intentionally engages in cruelty, but that much cruelty takes place in nature. As covered in the article, nature itself is not good or evil in the human sense of having moral and spiritual values that it either abides by or violates. It simply operates according to the laws established for it by God. Nature is neither moral nor immoral, but amoral. It does not have the capacity for moral or immoral behavior because as you say, it is not a sentient being.

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

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