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If people do good because they are human, not because God prompts them then is it right to risk giving God any credit when they alone own their good?

Patrick H

Are we good and smart because of our suffering or in spite of it?
The Catholic Church says not offering suffering for sinners or learning to endure it as a gift from God is wasting it.  Translate that.  It is saying that if you waste your suffering you deserve no sympathy.  Even if you should be offering your suffering or seeing it a gift that does not mean it is a waste if suffering does good.  So the logic is suffering is worthless without belief in God.  That is an odd doctrine for surely if God sends suffering it can be worth something even if one does not think there is a God!


Nobody likes the view that suffering is a gift from God to be offered back to him.  Because suffering is a tremendous thing in life and for all of us preventing it and dealing with it is what life is all about we reject such a teaching vehemently.  Suffering is always a waste which is why the only productive response is trying to defeat it.  Religion cannot admit that for it wants you to imagine that it is helpful when in fact its help is no good.  It is only a cynical selling point.


Suffering is a set of sufferings.  It is really sufferings not suffering.  You can get through sufferings by trying to force as many of them as you can into a situation where they are defeated or reasonably disarmed by good.  The fact that you have to get good to appear in spite of suffering does not in any way make suffering good or moral.  It means the suffering is even more vile when you have to try to get the good to beat it.  Getting medicine for a sickness shows how disgusting and inexcusable getting sick is in the sense it should not happen to you.   The true evil is in suggesting that suffering is ever in any way good. That is really kidding yourself and insulting others.  This watering down happens naturally when the suffering is over and your life is good again but the suffering has nothing to do with making your life good.  Do not forget that. 


Some have a defeatist approach to suffering and imagine they feel better by deciding nothing can be done about it.  That can be masked.  They can hide it as using suffering for a nice purpose. There is no point in caring about how you treat people if suffering is that wonderful.  And as we all know, suffering people come first and to say that suffering is good is to suggest they are the best people around just because they suffer.  It is warped to exalt a person who suffers a lot bravely over a person who happily saves thousands of lives and who lives a relatively easy life regardless.


The main virtue is ?


Suffering is such a huge thing that surely if suffering is good or you can turn it good by deciding to offer it to God then suffering is the main virtue?


If so then why?


"Suffering makes us better people."
This view turns suffering into a blessing and invests it with some mysterious power to make you a holier and better person.
It is bad enough to say such a thing when you are thinking of the human level. What if you are thinking of a person who becomes more patient and thoughtful of others?

You are merely saying that it is good that they grew when they suffered not that the suffering caused the growing. Or you should be! To say it is good they suffer so that they learn from it is terrible. There is no excuse.
If you believe in God you will have to believe that God willed the suffering in order to change the person. Suffering was an essential cause of the change. The idea is that God loves you and will not create your suffering if it is not needed in some plan.
To bring God into it makes you callous at worst and smug at best. For believers in God, suffering that causes you to pray better if nothing else is worth it. If God alone matters then having a relationship with him in prayer matters more than saving all the sick babies in the world. It shows how the idea of God brings in ideas of virtue we could do without and don't need. And twisted ideas of virtue they are!
"We become better people in spite of suffering and never because of it. Responding nobly to suffering makes us better people".
This view puts the focus on what we do not because of suffering but in spite of it. It argues that suffering does nothing but how we respond to suffering does something worthwhile. This is the mature view. The previous view is just sick. And bringing God into it is making a bad view worse. 


If good is to be battled for in spite of suffering it follows that suffering has no purpose and contradicts the love of God.  It is anti-love to take any other approach.

Suffering is?
Suffering is an emotional pain or agony. You can be happy and still have physical pain.
Suffering contains these ingredients.
# One is the sense that one's life, at least at the time, is not worth it.
# Another is the feeling that control over the good things that life can bring has vanished.
# Another is the feeling that you have lost responsibility for your own life.
# Suffering may lead to a sense that the future will be as much rubbish as the present is!
All of these are present but not necessarily to the same extent.
In brief, you cannot stand your existence. You do not want to be alive any more.
Sometimes you suffer so badly that you cannot even motivate yourself to end your existence.
Some do motivate themselves when they use faith in God or prayer or anti-depressants. A slight improvement happens. And it is enough to motivate them to kill themselves. Many suicides die because they are starting to get motivated to act.
What if good emerges when people suffer?
Some artists suffer terrible depression and produce fantastic works of art to cope with it. They put their experience on to the canvas or into the musical composition or whatever it is.
Does that prove that they did this because of suffering and not in spite of it?
If the answer is yes then should we be glad that they suffered so that the art could be produced? Yes but probably up to a point. If you are totally in favour of their suffering it is an error but it is not an error to worry about. It is not a huge error if you forget that you should only go so far. If you go one mile then going another half mile does not matter much. If you shoot people in general it matters does not matter a lot if you don't know you are not supposed to shoot nine year olds for human life is cheapened anyway. Same idea!
Should we believe that we can do great things for others because of our suffering and not in spite of it? No that doctrine is music to the ears of the tyrant. Most suffering comes from the fact that others don't support us well enough when we are sick and they often act maliciously or thoughtlessly towards us. The hero is a hero in spite of evil not because of it. Be a hero.
If you want to be slightly happy that the person suffered for the sake of the good result, that is not laudable. But at least you are not saying it is God's plan. Saying that makes your slight happiness even less laudable for you are implicitly praising a being for making life like that. If your happiness is a necessary evil you don't want to celebrate it more than you have to.
The Christian doctrines that we can be extremely self-destructive in our devotion to sin and that we are morally defective and the good we do is tainted show that we would make huge sacrifices for evil. Imagine what we harbour then in the safe place which is the heart! We are perfectly capable of being glad that a little baby is suffering instead of us. We are perfectly capable of being happy that your baby is suffering not mine even though yours will grow up to be one of the greatest humanitarians ever. And we should take it for granted that our compassion is half-compassion or totally faked.  You can mask your relief or pleasure that another is suffering not you by saying there is a lovely plan in it.
Many atheists would say the artistic accomplishment was down to how the artists coped in spite of suffering and not down to suffering. Atheists are accused by many believers of lacking in compassion. If atheists have no real compassion then at least atheism in principle does not even ask if it was down to suffering. The believer in God has to ask that. The believer has to avoid anything that casts God in a bad light. A bad belief raises bad questions like that.
Religion loves to say that suffering leads to virtue and good things. For religion, suffering happens because God is bringing good out of the suffering. The good happens because of the suffering. Even suffering is seen as a gift - it is a good thing in the wrong place for God only creates what is good.
If a person is okay but becomes an amazing person when suffering that does not prove the suffering is the direct cause. Correlation must not be confused with causation. A person who gets over the flu rapidly after patting the dog is not proof that his dog has healing powers. The recovery could have happened for one of any number of reasons.
It is a very serious matter to make out that there is a wonderful and desirable link between suffering and goodness. Anybody who does that does not understand or care how bad suffering can be and you can be sure that the rest of the world will always suffer more than you. To not care is to enter the company of those who wreak evil and terror in the name of some "worthwhile" goal.
This bit is hypothetical. Suppose we gain because of our suffering. It is possible that part of this gain came in spite of our suffering. It would be very wrong to see the suffering as the only producer of good. To say suffering is needed for good is to sanction it and to say it comes in spite of good is not to sanction it. Even then if we benefited from suffering it does not follow that the suffering should have happened. The benefits might have happened without it.
To say suffering partly causes good is to be partly happy with it. To say it is the only cause is to celebrate it totally. People are better at that with the suffering of others than their own.
The goal
Maybe you suffer and think good will come at the end of it. What if we are to will the good end goal that we suffer for and not the suffering but hate it and endure it to achieve the end?

You have to endure the suffering whether you like it or not so it is tempting to try and feel more peaceful by condoning the suffering by saying it is a gift and agony is good.

Hating it will make it worse and be a new source of pain.
But if you condone it, you will need to and end up having to condone the suffering of others too. There is no real such thing as goodness if you have to condone suffering either your own or another's. Condoning evil in order to make yourself feel better now is letting evil into your world and that will lead to fear and will fail down the line. At least if you are placidly defiant you will feel you have the goodness to resist it and not let it triumph.

The end goal is not really is the goal for which you suffer. Just because something good is at the end of the corridor does not mean suffering caused it.
And if you struggle to overcome hatred of suffering isn't that the bigger goal that is meant to lead to the other goal? It is the big goal focusing on the smaller one!
Telling a person, "You must stop being angry at your suffering or else it will get worse and make your life not worth living" is blackmail.

What use is suffering to God if you do not want to suffer and do not consent to any of it?

Suffering is not wanted or willed meaning it isn't supposed to exist as far as you are concerned. If God makes you suffer then you are being a rebel. It cannot bring you to God. Suffering tempts you to rebel.  It goes with rebellion for by default it is not an experience you want to have under any circumstances.
If God is the goal of suffering then you are not to think of the suffering at all but of the good end goal. When you are supposed to do that you might as well not suffer. It means that suffering in itself does not have value but the end result does. So if God needs us to suffer then suffering is good even when it is good for nothing. It is all contradiction.

Those who say that God gives meaning to life and suffering are lying. Even subtly encouraging a victim of suffering to please God by getting into a better emotional place only bullies them. Getting meaning for suffering matters more than getting meaning for life. Suffering people usually crave meaning the most.
Also, God religion is based on the doctrine that God though almighty and good has to let evil happen and that evil is chaos, vice, suffering and irrationality. Evil puts God in a position. It is akin to God having to struggle and try to contain and defeat the evil. Thus there is no guarantee that even if God has a plan that he can include your wellbeing in it. If God really respects our free will then there are no guarantees.
This would suggest that we should connect to God because of suffering and not in spite of it. Trying to have good in spite of it denies that God's plan may not benefit you. It insults the God who comes first.
Accepting suffering lessens suffering

Suffering is a negative attitude of mind and a feeling of worthless existence. You can be happy despite being in pain and in that case you are not really suffering.  

Suppose you are suffering and can't do much, if anything, about it.

Suppose you think it is right that you should suffer and you will God to send the suffering.

Suppose he wants you to will it and accept it for that is an act of love for him.

If you do this you accept the situation of the suffering. You cease to suffer so much. Your suffering is reduced or maybe become pain only. A happy person can be in a lot of pain. So if God sends suffering and needs us to suffer then we should not accept suffering for that makes it no longer suffering? If suffering is a gift then it is a sin to reduce it using spiritual methods.

Would rejecting suffering be disrespectful to God because he sends it?

If God sends you suffering are you supposed to reject it or accept it? Rejecting suffering insults God and so does accepting it for the latter makes it no longer suffering. It seems you cannot win whatever you choose and God understands so it is up to you.

If God needs us to suffer and we cannot accept or reject it what are we supposed to do?
Some would say that there is an answer. Here are the religious suggestions.

# Compromise. You will both accept and reject it. But that is contradictory. Accepting suffering even partly turns it into pain. Rejecting it makes it more insufferable. This would be one painful compromise. It is not really a compromise.

# Reject suffering and this is not a sin for accepting it is not an option. Rejecting it makes sure it will remain as suffering.
#Accept the suffering. If God needs us to suffer we have to inflict it on ourselves by letting him do it and avoiding any help and by doing things to make it worse. But that still means accepting the suffering. The only answer is that we should torment ourselves to the extreme - to the degree where acceptance is impossible. If we cannot avoid acceptance of suffering the best we can do is endure extreme asceticism. God may not like it but he understands you cannot be condemned for doing the unavoidable.

# It is not your fault it has to be either accepting or rejecting so do either one of them.

Not one of these replies says that God is wrong to let suffering happen. They acclaim him for it. They imply endorsement of those who set out to make their suffering worse by despising it. It is very twisted and frightening.

And it implies that if you accept the suffering you do so in the attitude that you hope God will make it so bad that you will be no longer able to accept it.

If we suffer so much that we cannot accept it then if other people make our suffering worse they are doing us a favour.

The Catholic groups that specialise in extreme religious self-torture are right in their understanding of devotion to God. Resenting your suffering is not a sin if you cannot help it. If you deliberately suffer and unwillingly resent it you are making the only real sacrifice and the resentment only makes it a greater sacrifice.  If you cannot help resenting your suffering that will add to it and religion can say that then the resentment is as much a gift from God as the suffering.


Magically making suffering good

Some would say it is sick to want to suffer even when saving the life of another.  For example, suppose you have to take on a gang of hooligans to save a victimised person. Wanting to suffer would be perverse for you should be hoping that nothing bad will happen to you. And the same would say that if one could miraculously change one's feelings to enjoy the pain one endures one should do not so.  Thus we see that if you cannot and should not enjoy your pain by some enchantment then it is clear that pain and suffering are intrinsically bad and thus cannot have a good purpose.  The good that follows them has nothing to do with them and is indeed proof that they are bad.
Some would say that it is better to enjoy the pain if it makes you hell-bent on saving others. Being sick would refute God's existence for he made the laws that many good works require personal suffering and that this suffering should not be enjoyed.

Involuntary Suffering

You might think, "God trains and educates you through what you suffer. You can't control or regulate everything you feel so God forcing you to suffer destroys the alleged worth of suffering. Involuntary suffering proves that there is no God looking for sacrificial love. Involuntary suffering is too much suffering. Why? Because it is done to you. Something external cannot change you. Your response to it can change you. You need to choose suffering because you have learned how not it but how you can use it makes you grow".
If how you respond to suffering is what matters then that only proves the suffering should not happen.
Too many religious people seem to argue that suffering should happen for you can respond virtuously to it. And too many argue it outright. That ignores the fact that the response matters and it is really self-righteous callousness towards suffering people.

If suffering is shoved down your throat, you are not necessarily forced regarding how you respond to it. But you can be.  Suffering can force you to accept it or do good.  In that case the suffering is not about making you a better person but about forcing you.  It is degrading.


To say God uses suffering to train you is to suggest that involuntary suffering will never force you but it does!  It is callous to see the suffering of others as mere training.


 When you suffer, where does the alleged discipline and growing come in? If involuntary suffering is no good then there is no God or we have to pretend that suffering is as good as fun and is a gift from God.

Retribution is suffering. Even if you ask for retribution there is a sense in which it is forced on you. You need to be able to choose suffering all along the way if it benefits.


It is harder to embrace suffering when you are okay and the opportunity to suffer is offered to you by God. Going from happy to miserable of your own free will would be horrendous in itself. But it would not be suffering for accepting suffering ends suffering. But what if it were?  If God were perfect he would ask you every hour or half an hour if you want to continue suffering for that end that he has in mind. If love is sacrifice suffering can only have value when it is voluntary.


Suffering whether not chosen or chosen by the sufferer ruins compassion when it is seen as a way of getting close to God and a gift from God.


Refutes Meaning
If suffering were good it would involve valuing your existence but it cannot be good for it does not. To say there is a purpose for suffering is the same as saying that human existence is immaterial or that nobody is worth anything for when devaluing your existence is valuable you cannot be valuable. Suffering ruins your existence and tempts you to want to cease to exist.

To say that God values suffering when that suffering is necessarily rooted like all suffering in a sense of worthless existence is to admit that God is wholly evil. Religion can answer that when we sin we consent to suffer so it is not involuntary. So in other words suffering only looks involuntary.


Violence involves hurting and force. Being good in spite of your neutral nature or bad nature is violent. Battling suffering treats it like a personal enemy so that is violent too.  "In spite of/" is always violent in spirit. That is why the moralist easily turns into a bully or is one inside at least. That is the dark side of morality and one reason why it needs to be seen as a necessary evil fraught with risks and dangers. That is why everybody should be searching for the best truths and the best world views.  Moral systems that are unconvincing or allegedly revealed by God because they are not as strong as real morality which is strong and unavoidable are disgraceful for if morality has problems dodgy morality will have bigger ones.

You must help sufferers to improve themselves and their circumstances in spite of their sufferings. When sufferers see that they have managed it, they will be stronger and wiser if further traumas come. They will be prepared and free from undue fear about the future. In this light, the notion that suffering has purpose is useless and a distraction from the real truth. Seeing suffering as useless and which you can deal with even if it takes years is all you need to do.


The person who sees the suffering of others as intolerable is far better than the person who sees it as horrible but tolerated for the greater good. His or her heart is in the right place. He or she just cares about overcoming it with good and does not care what purpose it allegedly has.  In fact he would see it as not worth any purpose.  The believer who imagines suffering is just a way to good may do good but makes things worse in the long run with her or his attitude. Seeing suffering as something inexcusable even if there is any god or whatever and which you will contend against and ban from destroying your spirit is to be your focus. Any other focus is a waste of time and harms you and not just you. You have another focus instead of the one you need to have. That is harmful.