The Problem of Tay Sachs
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14-03-2014, 07:04 AM
The Problem of Tay Sachs
First of all: Goodwithoutgod, I seriously apologize if this hits a raw nerve. I don't mean to come off as insensitive, but rather to use this example to make a point.


As we all know, the problem of evil discusses the existence of evil in a world with an god that would theoretically want to deal with it and is capable of dealing with it. This is often expanded to include suffering, because defenses like free will don't (usually) take that into account. There are a lot of problems that plague the world that have nothing to do with human decisions. Among them is disease. For sake of this thread, I'll focus on one particular disease: Tay Sachs. It's a horrible disease that only affects children, and slowly, painfully kills them, with a 100% mortality rate. As horrible as that is, it gets even more troubling if we imagine a god in charge of this world who could fix the problem but chooses not to. So, let's look at the typical problem of evil/suffering defenses:

Free Will:
Normally, I wouldn't bring this up, as it's meant to be used as a defense against evil, not suffering. That being said, I've run into several people online who blame these sorts of things on the fall, and say that before original sin, there was no disease, and now that we have sin, our bodies aren't perfect, or something. This doesn't address God's ability to deal with the problem, and basically assumes that children getting Tay Sachs is a just way for Almighty God to deal with sin in the world.

Holy shit, that's terrible.


Best of All Possible Worlds:
The idea here is that God is doing the best that he can. He's not actually all powerful, and he faces some (completely unstated) limitations, and the end result is the world we see. Now, we all know this is obviously just an ad hoc justification for why the world looks the way it does when God exists. It assumes the conclusion in its premise, and it's not compelling. That being said, people will still totally use this as a defense for suffering. This literally means that the world would be a worse place if we didn't have Tay Sachs. Also, we have to buy that a god that can create universes is still somehow stuck with working with what he's got. It's like he had a tool shed full of scrap lumber, or something.

Sure, I'm rather incredulous about such an assertion, but I see no reason to accept it as actually true. You have to imagine the most contrived situation to get this to make sense, and it always involves something like "the kid is in a better place, and their suffering and death must have made someone else a better person". That shit sounds real nice when you are trying to make God not sound like a dick, but if you're sitting in the other chair, it's insensitive as hell.


You Have to Know Dark to Know Light:
Again, the idea is that God isn't all powerful, and we suffer here so that we can appreciate heaven. God isn't powerful enough to make the human psyche capable of appreciating good without bad, so, therefore: bad. It sort of makes sense in that it fits in with what we know about the world. People who've had it bad really appreciate the little things, and people who haven't often bicker about these same things (see, the First World Problems meme for a humorous example of this in action).

That being said, some people obviously have better or worse things happen to them in the real world. Does this mean that some people appreciate heaven more? If so, that seems really unfair, given that heaven lasts forever, and you wouldn't think it would be fair for God to play favorites like that. If not, then why do some people suffer more? Any additional suffering is unnecessary and unfair. It's pretty obvious how Tay Sachs fits in, here.


It Doesn't Matter, Because God Makes Up for it in Heaven:
So, you suffer here, but who cares? Earth is finite, and heaven is infinite! As I just mentioned in the last point: does the amount you suffer here affect your joy of heaven? You're either stuck with God playing favorites with who gets the best heaven for infinity years or God allowing unnecessary suffering in the world. Take your pick.


Any others?
Are there any other problem of evil/suffering apologetics that I've missed that could be discussed?

I've talked with some creepy fundamentalists in the past on similar topics (typically the flood and God drowning children), so I know that it's possible for someone to stick their head in the sand and refuse to look at this honestly. It typically involves excuse making, redefining "good" to include willful child torture, or comparing God to humans (doctors, judges, police officers, or parents) and then saying that he's still totally all-powerful despite the comparison to fallible humans.
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14-03-2014, 07:30 AM
RE: The Problem of Tay Sachs
The usual rebuttal I have heard is "His ways are greater than our ways, his thoughts above our thoughts" response. Basically appealing to an omniscient, omnipotent being that we flawed, finite humans cannot possibly understand. So you must accept through faith that it is part of the plan.

That position is impossible to debate since it requires no proof (faith), so I just move on.
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14-03-2014, 07:37 AM
RE: The Problem of Tay Sachs
(14-03-2014 07:04 AM)RobbyPants Wrote:  I've talked with some creepy fundamentalists in the past on similar topics (typically the flood and God drowning children), so I know that it's possible for someone to stick their head in the sand and refuse to look at this honestly. It typically involves excuse making, redefining "good" to include willful child torture ...

Divine command. That's the fundie line - God is not good; good is from God.

Needless to say that's an argument to subjective personal experience, and therefore worthless.

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14-03-2014, 07:39 AM
RE: The Problem of Tay Sachs
(14-03-2014 07:04 AM)RobbyPants Wrote:  You Have to Know Dark to Know Light:
Again, the idea is that God isn't all powerful, and we suffer here so that we can appreciate heaven. God isn't powerful enough to make the human psyche capable of appreciating good without bad, so, therefore: bad. It sort of makes sense in that it fits in with what we know about the world. People who've had it bad really appreciate the little things, and people who haven't often bicker about these same things (see, the First World Problems meme for a humorous example of this in action).

That being said, some people obviously have better or worse things happen to them in the real world. Does this mean that some people appreciate heaven more? If so, that seems really unfair, given that heaven lasts forever, and you wouldn't think it would be fair for God to play favorites like that. If not, then why do some people suffer more? Any additional suffering is unnecessary and unfair. It's pretty obvious how Tay Sachs fits in, here.

My problem with this one is that god (at least when talking about the Christian guy) originally put us in a paradise garden. And we weren't supposed to leave, and he obviously had no problem with that. So why do we suddenly need to know suffering?
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14-03-2014, 07:41 AM
RE: The Problem of Tay Sachs
(14-03-2014 07:30 AM)meremortal Wrote:  The usual rebuttal I have heard is "His ways are greater than our ways, his thoughts above our thoughts" response. Basically appealing to an omniscient, omnipotent being that we flawed, finite humans cannot possibly understand. So you must accept through faith that it is part of the plan.

That position is impossible to debate since it requires no proof (faith), so I just move on.

Indeed, but that's completely incoherent. A God cannot simultaneously be good and unknowable. That makes no sense.

What one is then really saying is merely that God is unknowable, and assigning the word 'good' (despite that such usage may contradict all genuine human moral reasoning!) for shits and giggles. Another rote affirmation of stock phrasing...

The reasonable answer is indeed "I don't [actually] know [either], but I have faith". Which, fair enough. That's at least being honest about it.

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14-03-2014, 07:49 AM
RE: The Problem of Tay Sachs
Yeah, it kills me when they start playing semantic arguments to maintain that God is "good" (or some similar adjective) and just redefine "good" to mean something completely divergent from how the word is normally used. That'd be like me declaring myself "good" by redefining "good" to mean "likes pepperoni on his pizza". I mean yes, it's true, but it's also confusing as hell.


(14-03-2014 07:41 AM)cjlr Wrote:  The reasonable answer is indeed "I don't [actually] know [either], but I have faith". Which, fair enough. That's at least being honest about it.

I do agree that "I take it on faith" is more honest, but it tends to show a lack of introspection. You ask a good question, and they assume that it doesn't matter. Imagine if we did that with anything else in the world!
  • I'm sure your car is making that noise for a good reason, so I won't investigate it further.
  • I'm sure he had a good reason for murdering her, so we won't lock him up.
  • I'm sure he's not lying about the transaction despite not having a receipt.
  • I'm sure you have cancer for a reason, so we shouldn't treat it.
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14-03-2014, 07:49 AM
RE: The Problem of Tay Sachs
(14-03-2014 07:41 AM)cjlr Wrote:  
(14-03-2014 07:30 AM)meremortal Wrote:  The usual rebuttal I have heard is "His ways are greater than our ways, his thoughts above our thoughts" response. Basically appealing to an omniscient, omnipotent being that we flawed, finite humans cannot possibly understand. So you must accept through faith that it is part of the plan.

That position is impossible to debate since it requires no proof (faith), so I just move on.

Indeed, but that's completely incoherent. A God cannot simultaneously be good and unknowable. That makes no sense.

What one is then really saying is merely that God is unknowable, and assigning the word 'good' (despite that such usage may contradict all genuine human moral reasoning!) for shits and giggles. Another rote affirmation of stock phrasing...

The reasonable answer is indeed "I don't [actually] know [either], but I have faith". Which, fair enough. That's at least being honest about it.

Yes, I think they include what is truly "good" in what is "unknowable" about god. We are flawed and finite, so therefore cannot see the whole plan, and are not capable of understanding it. So while a disease like this, or thousands of children starving to death or being allowed to be sold in to the sex trades is awful, "He" has a "plan".

But praise the lord, he helped me find my car keys and helped my team win the big game.
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14-03-2014, 07:53 AM
RE: The Problem of Tay Sachs
(14-03-2014 07:39 AM)CleverUsername Wrote:  
(14-03-2014 07:04 AM)RobbyPants Wrote:  You Have to Know Dark to Know Light:
Again, the idea is that God isn't all powerful, and we suffer here so that we can appreciate heaven. God isn't powerful enough to make the human psyche capable of appreciating good without bad, so, therefore: bad. It sort of makes sense in that it fits in with what we know about the world. People who've had it bad really appreciate the little things, and people who haven't often bicker about these same things (see, the First World Problems meme for a humorous example of this in action).

That being said, some people obviously have better or worse things happen to them in the real world. Does this mean that some people appreciate heaven more? If so, that seems really unfair, given that heaven lasts forever, and you wouldn't think it would be fair for God to play favorites like that. If not, then why do some people suffer more? Any additional suffering is unnecessary and unfair. It's pretty obvious how Tay Sachs fits in, here.

My problem with this one is that god (at least when talking about the Christian guy) originally put us in a paradise garden. And we weren't supposed to leave, and he obviously had no problem with that. So why do we suddenly need to know suffering?

Because they (and so, apparently now we) sinned, and brought suffering upon ourselves. God didn't want to punish us. He had to punish us because he is holy and just and righteous, and all that.

But he loves us. He loves us and he needs money.
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14-03-2014, 07:59 AM
RE: The Problem of Tay Sachs
(14-03-2014 07:53 AM)meremortal Wrote:  Because they (and so, apparently now we) sinned, and brought suffering upon ourselves. God didn't want to punish us. He had to punish us because he is holy and just and righteous, and all that.

Yeah, this always gets into him not being all powerful. Cue a bunch of goal-post shifting to make him stay all powerful while still choosing to abide by this limitation.

At the end of the day, I'm never going to love an entity that uses Tay Sachs as a form of True Justice™.
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14-03-2014, 05:25 PM (This post was last modified: 14-03-2014 05:39 PM by goodwithoutgod.)
RE: The Problem of Tay Sachs
Thanks Robby for making this thread and making a solid point. No, I am not offended in any way, I dealt with my grief through talking over the years. I had two young girls die 3 months apart from Infantile Tay-Sachs disease. It is a horrible path, and feeling helpless doesnt begin to describe the pain. My parents if you remember are ministers, and they came and prayed and cried and did everything their faith would allow them to "help them". Alas, they died any way, since 1) there is no god, and 2) they have a terminal disease.

The worse experience was when they opened the church one night just for us, and a group of pastors and ministers, who linked up and prayed and shook and screamed yes jesus over and over (made the hair stand up on my neck)...then the senior guy walked over and placed his hand on their little heads and babbled some BS, then shook and said, "you are healed by the power of jesus christ and the lord god himself...you have only to take god into your heart and accept jesus christ as your personal savior and they are healed".

So when they died 4 months later, 3 months apart, I guess it is my fault, because i didnt truly believe. What nonsense to put that weight of guilt on a young couple who are watching everything they love die a slow death before them....Thankfully I didnt lose my mind...my wife, was successful on her third suicide attempt. Thank you baby jesus Angel

SO yes, I think the very fact that children are born, innocent, and with a terminal disease like this or cancer etc...is just another indicator of a lack of god in the universe....now I was told all kind of nonsense.."god works in mysterious ways"...no shit....."we dont have the capacity to understand god's plan"....really..."god must have a big plan for you, he must have allowed this so you would turn to him and be his voice"...yeah, how did that turn out for you.....and my favorite, "god has a plan for them, so he called them back to heaven".....right....Laughat

This experience led me to question, to research, to learn...the more I learned, the less I believed. I dont share this for sympathy, as I dont need that. I am strong, I have high mental resilience...I never saw a counselor, never took happy pills, just put one foot in front of the other...what other choice is there?

Life is precious, make every day count.

I am remarried, and have 4 children and a wonderful life. So GFY jesus.

"Belief is so often the death of reason" - Qyburn, Game of Thrones

"The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible are largely withheld from them." -Hans Conzelmann (1915-1989)
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