Suffering and Joy

Touching on the age-old question of partiality in a universe centered on a Perfect One, especially as relating to death

An old religious contention regards the "problem" of the joy of human relationships, and their loss in time.

Buddha doubtless rebelled at the fantastic and mystical in religion of his day, and came out with a clean and wonderful religion, of sorts, without God. I greatly admire it, for the most part, at least as I understand it. (Some, especially one sometime debate opponent, might tell you I know nothing about Buddhism, really, and I'll be the first to admit I've not studied it, scholastically.)

A Buddhist might tell you that those relationships you and I find valuable are attachments which cause suffering, and we ought to be free of such attachments, but to me this runs counter to all that is truly valuable about human experience. It's certainly true that grieving relentlessly over the deceased is unhealthy, and other personal attachments. But when one has faith in God, one may bear the pain of mortal death without unhealthy suffering, because one knows that in a universe based, not on random nihilism but on divine values, justice, truth, beauty, goodness between fellows, a good God will not let us come into existence, know life and joy and love, and become extinguished. This faith in future eternal existence is often confused by dualistic philosophies which damn some to hell for not toeing some doctrinal line or other, the kind of problems which Buddha originally rejected. But despite philosophic problems which can be resolved, despite superstitious reactions to the God-concept which can be eschewed, and other problems, it remains true that if God is, if God is good, God loves and saves us, and there is nothing of this in Buddhism.

I rather like the nigh-Buddhistic attitude I once read in a Jewish book on death and dying. There is faith without the kind of Christian assurance of survival or at least without the somewhat primitive approach of some Christians of winning your way into heaven by adherance to some doctrine or other. Rather, it was an attitude of "If God wills." In a sense, this is detachment from concern about the "next life," leaving this life as primary, to do one's work for today. God is the most Zen of all.

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Don't expect me to answer the grand old question of how a good God would permit evil in the universe in one Religion Forum message! [grin] I will, however, give you the shortest form I can of what I consider the basic points:

1) If God let us come into existence, know life and joy and love, and become extinguished, I would not consider that God a worthy Father, but some kind of being less moral than a plain old loving earthly father. If the universe is based on such a madcap deity, I'll be just as happy to not live to know it.

2) Evil and pain and anguish in the evolutionary universes of time and space are all relative. Some are due to our own or others' bad choices, some are due to our material existence. That God allows material existence and bad choices is not something I consider inherently evil. When a child stubs his toe, it is overwhelming anguish and blinding to all else. When an adult does the same, it's only stubbing the toe. While the grand evils our world has seen can hardly be comparable, the relativity concept is equally applicable. In the long view, the eternal view, sickness is nothing, corruption is partial and part of the whole growth of our universe, and death is meaningless when we have survived it. To understand these things in this life takes more than reason and observation--it takes faith in the ideal of God.