A number of the religious and spiritual people on one of the lists I belong to have been musing about the problem of violence in the world lately. I can’t say that their thoughts have made it all clear to me. By and large their ideas seem like the kind of things both ordinary and spiritual people have worried about through all of history. If God is good, why is there human violence in the world? Why do we live in a world, supposedly created by God or a loving Spirit, where many of the animals stalk, kill and eat other animals?
Violence is a big problem….and a big puzzle for me.
On the one hand, I take seriously what the mystics have reported to us, in all traditions, that, from their deepest experiences, God is Love, or Love is the basic principle of the universe.
On the other hand, my own religious and spiritual life has been deeply shaped in childhood by my Christian upbringing which says God created the world and created us in Her/His image. Since She/He is supremely intelligent, that means we partake of Her/His Intelligence, and it would be a rejection and insulting not to use our intelligence as strongly and wisely as possible (modulated by other kinds of wisdom, of course).
So what’s all this predation among animals and cruelty and evil among humans? Is God or Spirit pretty amazing but not all that intelligent, so the world was created with flaws? Maybe God is one hundred times smarter than us, but not infinitely smarter? I have to consider that possibility. The idea that God is infinitely intelligent is just something told me by people as human as I, and I couldn’t judge whether some other creature is infinitely intelligent, with no flaws or lapses.
Do I fall into a traditional Good versus Evil paradigm and believe it’s some sort of cosmic fight, and it’s just my job to be on the Good side, whether I understand it or not?
I also have to recognize that while I much prefer harmony and want to be kind and helpful to animals and people, and try to live that way, I certainly have the potential for violence in me. Hopefully it’s all sublimated effectively by the occasional video game where I shoot the bad monsters…..but I’m sure that if my loved ones were being threatened with torture or death and I had a gun available, I would shoot the bad guys, and I’d aim well and feel a deep satisfaction in hitting them. Afterwards I’d probably feel terrible, but my loved ones would come first…..
I also believe that knowing that I’m capable of great violence makes it less likely to irrationally take me over….
The working position I do hold is that animals do eat one another and humans can be awfully cruel, those are facts…and I just don’t understand why. I hope the mystics are right and at some deeper level it all works out as an expression of Love, but I don’t know. So I live with a Big Unanswered Question about this.
And I do hope that if I get a chance to talk with God, before or after I die, I can ask Her/Him about this and get a satisfactory answer!