My argument is this: If god were all-loving, he would want to save us from needless suffering. If he were all-powerful, he would be able to save us from needless suffering. If needless suffering exists, either god is not all-loving or not all-powerful or not either. Said another way, if needless suffering exists, then god cannot be both all-loving and all-powerful.
It is beyond dispute that suffering does exist. What is in question is whether this suffering is needless. The standard apologetic argument is that we are not in a position to know whether suffering is needless or not; god could have a purpose for our suffering that we may not be able to comprehend. So, let us suppose that god does have a purpose for our suffering - if we suffer it accomplishes some end. Is there another way to accomplish that same end without our suffering? If god is all-powerful, he could accomplish that end without our suffering; if one suggests that he cannot, then one admits that he is not all-powerful and my point is proven. However, if one sticks with the idea that god is all-powerful, then he could accomplish the whatever end our suffering would serve, without us suffering. So, if the same end can be accomplished without suffering, then all suffering is indeed needless. Since we do suffer, we suffer needlessly if god is all-powerful, and if we suffer needlessly, then god is not both all-loving and all-powerful.
If god is all-powerful, then all suffering is needless, because he could accomplish whatever purpose suffering serves without our actually having to experience suffering.
If god is all-loving, he would have compassion on us and want to save us from needless suffering.
If god is all-powerful, he has the ability to save us from needless suffering.
Since we needlessly suffer, he either lacks the will or the ability to save us from needless suffering.
If he lacks the will, he is not all-loving.
If he lacks the ability, he is not all-powerful.
Therefore, the existence of needless suffering stands as a testament that god cannot be both all-loving and all-powerful.
Here are some responses I got and my replies:
What if suffering isn't neccessary and God is loving and doesn't prevent it?
I have considered this and reasoned through it, but I am open to revisiting it again.
In what sort of a situation can we consider a god all-loving if he does not save us from unnecessary suffering and is capable of doing it? I am sincerely asking that question. I presently think it is impossible short of changing the definition of all-loving so much so that it no longer means all-loving.
If there were a reason for him not saving us from unnecessary suffering, then the suffering would not be unnecessary. But, if were all-powerful, he would be able to accomplish the "reason for allowing the suffering" without us actually having to suffer.
You, see every mental exercise I try, keeps coming back to the same conclusion. You would do me a great favor if you can find a hole in my reasoning. Think through what I quoted of what you wrote and show me how that would be possible.
Love, however, is a human emotion and as we all know, emotion does not obey the rules of logic and defies the constraints of a single definition. I would agree with the statement that a loving father would not want his children to have to endure any needless suffering, but this is my definition of loving. The easy answer here for the apologists is to simply state that we, as simple mortal beings, are incapable of understanding love on the same level as God and are thus not well positioned to impose our definition of love upon him.
It is true that I am using the human conception of love in its perfect form which we can only imagine. God cannot be both all-loving (the concept humans represent by the words all-loving) and all-powerful (again, what humans mean by those words). I have demonstrated that. Mine was a conceptual argument. Regardless of the human language, I was reasoning with the human constructs that are best represented in English with the words "all-loving" and "all-powerful".
You are positing that the teaching that "god is all-loving" is actually trying to convey something humans wouldn't normally think of when they read those words. That humans don't have the capacity to understand what that teaching is about. So, the meaning humans get from that statement is not correct. Love no longer implies the desire to allieviate the needless suffering of others. I ask what kind of love is that? It is not love at all, so why use the word. When the meaning conveyed by a word is not the meaning one is trying to convey then you would be misusing the word.
For example, the word "translate" conveys a certain idea to humans who speak English. Yet, to hear the apologists speak, they suppose Joseph meant something very different by that word than what your typical English-speaker means by it. I can show that Joseph did not "translate" (meaning the normal human understanding of the word) the Book of Abraham. But, I make no claims about whether or not he "translated" when one is intending some other meaning for the word.
Similarly, I have shown that god cannot be both all-loving and all-powerful if we are talking about the normal ideas people think of when they hear those words. I have made no claims of what the results of reasoning would be when using an entirely different construct, that supposedly humans can't even understand. So, are you claiming then that preachers and Bibles don't make the claim that god is all-loving as humans would understand that statement? If so, publize that, that no one has ever meant to convey the human idea that god is all-loving, that everytime they said "god is all-loving" they meant something different that humans can't even understand. For, pity sake, they would do better to speak in tongues, at least then their words would not be misleading.
Now, lest you think I am getting hung up on the English word all-loving, the Hebrew and Greek scriptures also teach that god is all-loving, in their own way. It is the concept that is conveyed that is important, not the specifics of the language itself. But, evidently the human concept of all-loving isn't applicable when applied to god no matter what the language. Words are used to convey meaning, if the meaning that one is trying to convey is not represented by the word, then don't use the word, or say that it is close, but you humans couldn't really understand.
So, in a nutshell, most humans think all-loving includes a desire to end needless suffering of loved ones. That is the kind of all-loving that I have shown god cannot be if he is also all-powerful. I have no position on any other kind of "all-loving god" that isn't all-loving according to human meanings of that word.
A loving parent lets their children make their own mistakes and learn from them.
Whatever it is we could learn from suffering (i.e., knowledge, wisdom, compassion, etc), an all-powerful god could give to us without our ever having to suffer. Can he not? If he is unable to, he is not all-powerful.
An all-powerful god could even implant memories and program our minds with all the "growth and development" we could gain from 1,000 years in an instant without us ever having to actually experience any pain. That makes all pain unnecessary.
1) We are eternal beings in a temporary human form. We chose our lives and knew what it entailed. Thus the suffering may be pointless, but something we wished to experience. A loving God stays out of it as it was our choice.
An all-powerful god controls all the variables. He can set up whatever rules for learning or growth or knowledge acquisition that he wants. He doesn't have to build a reality where suffering exists. Anything that he could accomplish with suffering, he could acomplish without suffering, so there was just no need to create or permit a reality to continue to exist that he did not create (if one wants to go there) a reality that has suffering.
If he had created a reality without suffering (all of which is needless), the option would not have been available for us to choose. We could still do whatever we want without being placed in a situation in which we could choose suffering. Choices are always constrained by what is available or possible; we can only choose among possibilities that exist in reality and an all-powerful god could create any kind of reality he wanted to. So, why would an all-loving god want to create a reality with suffering when it is completely unnecessary?
2) Free agency. God believes in our right of choice and interfering to remove the consequences of actions would in a way limit our free agency. These actions of course may not have been your own, or may be indirect.An all-powerful god can control not only whether or not we are spared consequences, but can determine what the consequences will be. So, he could still allow us to choose and experience consequences, while making sure that none of the consequences include suffering.
3) Suffering is only bad in our current perspective. If life is eternal, that makes this life very short compared to the expanse of eternity. Perhaps a miniscule amount of suffering doesn't amount to much compared to the expanse of our own eventual experience and just doesn't warrant interference.
Needless suffering is needless suffering, regardless of whether it lasts only ten seconds or ten years. Ten seconds isn't very long when viewed from the perspective of a lifetime. Imagine me attacking your young child with a taser for no reason. She'll only feel it for a few seconds, which "doesn't amount to much compared to the expanse of her own eventual lifetime of experience". Does it just not warrant interference? It is purposeless suffering, don't you love your daughter enough to want to spare her those ten seconds of unnecessary pain?
If god really loves us, he knows we care about the pain we are in even if it seems small to him, he would want to spare us from needless suffering, even if it is only momentary.