|Portrait of Socrates. Marble, Roman artwork (1st century), perhaps a copy of a lost bronze statue made by Lysippos. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
1. An atheist demands to know how an all-good, all-powerful deity can tolerate suffering in the world. She finds no answer. Hence, no deity.
2. A religious believer faced with questions, deep questions, always has an answer, however superficial or unconvincing to many (and possibly even to himself). Answers are always given in some form or another. Hence, a deity, his deity created in the believer's image.
3. A person scarred by suffering rejects religious faith. She views the deity as inexplicable given the suffering that Christians believe was even imposed on the deity itself--the crucifixion.
All these cases have in common this assumption:
1. All my questions are well-formed and make sense;
2. If there are not answers to all my questions, then faith is foreclosed.
Well, the ancient Greeks would call this mania for answers hubris. The Hebrews would say, in King James English, pride cometh before a fall.
We need to ask first: is our question really adequate to the issue?
The atheist needs to ask if suffering is the inevitable byproduct of our human identity. Can we even be human if we do not develop and grow through suffering of some form or another? If the deity wanted to foreclose the possibility of suffering, then humanity might not have been the thing to create.
The religious believer has to ask if he is ready to live with the fact highlighted by Socrates: I know that I do not know. For some deep things, there is no conclusive answer. Yes, they are mysteries. That is not a cop-out. It's just admitting the reality of the matter. You can and should inevitably puzzle and talk about mysteries, but you cannot reduce a mystery to some easy answer. You won't get there. If you claim to have gotten there, then you are likely engaging in self-delusion. And not everyone will buy what you are peddling.
The person scarred by suffering who rejects the crucified deity must ask: what would lead me or anyone else to risk great suffering? The best answer, in my view, is love. Now, we are on to something. Explore the mystery of love which defies easy categories and rational calculations. Now, you have left behind the world of easy answers and may find wisdom and insight through humility.