Why doesn’t God heal amputees?

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    Paul Howard

    A favorite challenge atheists make is asking why God doesn’t heal amputees, although salamanders can regrow a tail. It seems like Sāṅkhya would have an answer, but I haven’t been able put together a satisfactory one myself.

    Ashish Dalela

    Hands can grow, but they will not. That is due to karma. Sankhya will tell you what could happen, although not what should or would happen.

    The debates between atheists and Christians regarding the problem of suffering are rooted in the Christian idea of God as an omniscient, omnibenevolent, and omnipotent being. The combination of these three attributes creates the problem of evil or suffering in this world in Christianity.

    For example, since God is omnipotent, and He knows due to His omniscience that someone is amputated, His omnibenevolence necessitates that He cures them. But since the amputees are not cured, therefore, either God must not be omnibenevolent, or He simply must not exist. Whichever option you take, you are doomed: (A) if you say that God is not omnibenevolent, then He must be cruel, and (B) if you say that God doesn’t exist, then the rest of it doesn’t matter. This problem has been going on for centuries and I haven’t seen any good solutions to it.

    In Vedic philosophy, God is defined as truth, right, and good, rather than omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. Each of these three are contrasts to Christianity.

    God is not omnibenevolent in Vedic philosophy. He doesn’t love everyone; He loves those who love Him in the same way as they love Him. If they hate Him, then He is indifferent. If you think God doesn’t exist, then God is indifferent. Indifference means your choices are your responsibility. And love means your choices are my responsibility. So, God doesn’t hate a person back when someone hates Him. But He loves them back in the same way if they love Him. This is because He is good. He is not omnibenevolent, but He is good. The definition of goodness is that He loves those who love Him, but He is indifferent to those who hate Him.

    God is also not omniscient in the way that Christianity supposes He is. There are things that He is involved in directly, and He is aware of them. Then there are things that are recorded as memories in matter, which God can know if He wants, but He doesn’t want to know. So, it is as good as non-omniscience. People think that since God is omniscient, therefore, He must be watching all the people suffer, which would make Him a sadist. God is not omniscient like that. He can know, but He doesn’t want to know everything. Why? Because if you don’t care about Him, why should He care about you? It doesn’t mean that He hates you. It just means He is indifferent toward you. This indifference is a non-binary state between loving and hating; it is neither love nor hate.

    Finally, God is also not omnipotent in the way that Christianity supposes He is. He can solve all your problems, but He won’t, because those problems are just punishments for the past deeds. Giving just punishment is righteous and not giving just punishment is unrighteous. So, even though God is omnipotent, He will not solve your problems quite like a ruler will not release all prisoners.

    Everyone conditioned by God as an omnibenevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent being is going to face numerous problems in understanding His nature, because actually God is not those things at all places, times, situations, and in relation to all persons. However, even when He is not those things, it is for a greater truth, right, and good. For example, when God punishes the soul for its past misdeeds, it is to increase the truth, right, and good. Whether He uses His power to punish, or doesn’t use His power to solve problems, it is to increase the truth, right, and good. Since He acts for the greater truth, right, and good, we cannot say that He is not loving, powerful, and knowledgeable.

    The issue is between is and for. If He isn’t true, right, and good, then He would not act for those things. But since since He acts for those things, you can say that He is not true, right, and good.

    If it is hard to understand these things, it is because we are accustomed to deterministic logics, that don’t allow a choice. This impersonal logic that people are so fond of, is incompatible with choice. For two thousand years, people have not been able to solve a very basic problem: How can we use logic in religion when that logic is incompatible with choice? Christianity reused the logic that Aristotle had developed for inanimate subjects like arithmetic and geometry. And that was a big mistake that leads to numerous problems that people are suffering through for centuries.

    We need a new kind of logic based on the nature of choice. That logic says: The perfect consciousness always moves things toward greater truth, right, and good. Why? Because that perfect consciousness is itself truth, right, and good, and its goal is to expand itself. The expansion of the perfect consciousness also increases the truth, right, and good. God is such a being. An imperfect consciousness, on the other hand, is also not truth, right, and good, and its goal is to contract itself. That contraction appears in selfishness: My truth, my power, my good. When the consciousness is contracted, then it becomes less true, right, and good. Then it has to be punished to rectify it.

    Thereby, in the material world, the conditioned soul decreases the truth, right, and good, and God increases it. In the spiritual world, both soul and God increase the truth, right, and good. So, in this material world, there is a cycle of change–God is increasing things toward greater truth, right, and good, and the soul is decreasing these things. But in the spiritual world, there is continuous progression because both soul and God are moving in the same direction, trying to increase the truth, right, and good, by expanding their consciousness.

    The process for lifting things up in the material world involves punishment, reprimand, suffering, and incapcitation, depending on how the truth, right, and good have been decreased in the past by the soul’s choices. We cannot say that the person trying to lift things up is not true, good, and right. However, because the process of lifting things up involves punishment, reprimand, suffering, etc., therefore, we can say that God is sometimes not true and good in order to be righteous. The suffering is not true in the sense that it is temporary, and God hasn’t condemned anyone eternally. The suffering is not good in the sense that anything painful is not good. Hence, out of three things, namely, truth, right, and good, at least one of them is upheld, but the other two are not.

    This is a general pattern of the material world called duality in which all the three qualities of God are never present completely. For example, other than the knowledge of Vedic scriptures, the worship of the deity, and chanting the names of God, there is nothing that is simultaneously truth, right, and good in this world. Since most of the other things are related to the pleasure and suffering of the body, which are unrelated to the soul, therefore, they are temporary, and not true. Since that pleasure or suffering alternates, and no pleasure is without suffering, therefore, they are not good. Finally, since every righteous action involves some compromise to another righteous action, therefore, nothing is perfectly right. We are always trading off one temporary thing with another, one duty for another, one pleasure for another, some duty for some pleasure, some pleasure for some duty, some truth for some pleasure, some pleasure for some truth, and many such things.

    This trade-off is called duality. We cannot get everything in this world simultaneously. Due to this duality, it seems that when God does His duty of punishing the wrongdoers, He is not being kind, generous, pleasing, or loving. Yes, that is true. God has given up His loving nature to uphold the righteousness. That, however, is the result of the soul’s choices of acting unrighteously to begin with. Therefore, God is not proactively harsh. However, He is reactively harsh. If there were no one required to punish, God is not pushing anyone toward punishment. However, if someone goes toward that path, then He cannot be faulted to punishing the person to be corrected.

    All these things are not difficult to understand, because every parent punishes their child to correct them, every government punishes miscreant adults to correct them, there is always a punitive system of reprimands in every organization for errant individuals. So, we don’t expect a omnibenevolent parent, government, or boss. We rather expect them to be harsh when needed. Not being harsh when needed would in fact be called a sign of weakness (and God will now become impotent).

    So, when we accept that parents, governments, and bosses can punish, then what is the issue in accepting that God can punish? The issue is that the punished person tries to shift the responsibility to someone else. He either blames his parents, society, government, or bosses for his problems. This blame shifting is taken to its limit when a person shifts the blame to God. Therefore, those who deride God are called fools, destructive, envious, and the worst of the mankind in Bhagavad-Gita.

    Paul Howard

    Wow! The different definition is revolutionary. I had an inkling of it already, but seeing it spelled out like this is powerful. Having been raised in a Christian family and a predominantly Christian country, I have some deep beliefs I had been reconsidering, which now need to be revised with this understanding. Thank you so much!

    Paul Howard

    Is there a difference between Bhagavān and Paramātmā related to this topic? For example, it’s been my impression that the Supersoul knows everything, whereas Kṛṣṇa knows whatever He wants.

    Ashish Dalela

    BG 13.23 calls the Paramātmā upadrasta (overseer) and anumanta (approver). So, yes, Paramātmā knows more. But we have to understand that this is just like a CEO gives an order, and the lower-level bureaucratic machinery executes the details. It is not CEO’s job to figure out the details. Similarly, the Paramātmā knows what is going on, and yet, He is not involved in the minute details.

    But He can get involved in the minute details if needed, or if He wants to. That generally happens only for devotees. If someone is sincere, then Paramātmā will hand-hold them through the process. Do this, do it like this, don’t do that, don’t do it like that, etc. He will tell you everything you need. Yoga-kshema-vahami-aham. “I personally carry the burden of the wellness of yoga”.

    Paramātmā takes charge if we are receptive to His advice, and always ask Him for guidance. But if someone shows their ego, and doesn’t do it the way He is telling you, then He will leave you alone.

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