When Bad Things Happen to Good People

5. God leaves us room to be human [pages 72-86]

"I think there is more to the story [of Adam and Eve] than a simple case of disobeying God and being punished for it. My interpretation may be very different from the ones you have grown up with, but I think it makes sense and fits the biblical context. I think the story is about the differences between being human and being an animal. And the key to understanding it is the fact that the 'forbidden' tree is called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil." [pages 74-75]

"This, then is what happened to Adam and Eve. They became human. They had to leave the Garden of Eden, where animals eat from the Tree of Life, the tree of basic life-forces and instincts. They entered the world of the knowledge of good and evil, a more painful, more complicated world, where they would have to make difficult moral choices." [page 78]

"This is what it means to be human 'in the image of God.' It means being free to make choices instead of doing whatever our instincts would tell us to do. It means knowing that some choices are good, and others are bad, and it is our job to know the difference…. But if Man is truly free to choose, if he can show himself as being virtuous by freely choosing the good when the bad is equally possible, then he has to be free to choose the bad also. If he were only free to do good, he would not really be choosing. If we are bound to do good, then we are not free to choose it." [page 79]

"Why, then, do bad things happen to good people? One reason is that our being human leaves us free to hurt each other, and God can't stop us without taking away the freedom that makes us human. Human beings can cheat each other, rob each other, hurt each other, and God can only look down in pity and compassion at how little we have learned over the ages about how human beings should behave." [page 81]

"When people ask 'Where was God in Auschwitz? How could he have allowed the Nazis to kill so many innocent men, women, and children?', my response is that it was not God who caused it. It was caused by human beings choosing to be cruel to their fellow man." [page 81]

"I have to believe that the Holocaust was at least as much of an offense to God's moral order as it is to mine, or how can I respect God as a source of moral guidance? … I have to believe that the tears and prayers of the victims aroused God's compassion, but having given Man freedom to choose, including the freedom to choose to hurt his neighbor, there was nothing God could do to prevent it." [pages 82-85]

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