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Q: Religion and suffering ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Religion and suffering
Category: Reference, Education and News
Asked by: qpet-ga
List Price: $120.00
Posted: 07 Jan 2003 12:44 PST
Expires: 06 Feb 2003 12:44 PST
Question ID: 138918
How do the major religions address the subject of suffering? This is a
complex question. What I am mainly intersted in is their view of the
cause of suffering and how to deal with, decrease or eliminate it. I
am looking for a summery on each religion of 200-400 words.
Subject: Re: Religion and suffering
Answered By: webadept-ga on 07 Jan 2003 21:26 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars

Great question.


Hinduism sees the suffering of our life as caused by our attachment to
things, which are not real. This view is based on the belief that this
body, this bank account, this food, this house, are not true realities
of our life. The only thing real is the absolute/God and our internal
mind/soul. Our suffering comes when we feel that our body is not as
well as it should be, or our bank accounts not as fat. This is not to
say there is not disease or poverty, quite the contrary; these do
exist in this world of form, and do need to be faced with some action
to solve them by getting well or making more money.  What they are
saying is that the suffering comes only when we give ourselves the
idea that these are important enough to distract us from the absolute.

The Hindu lives in two worlds; one is the world of the Absolute, the
true world where it is known that none of these things around us truly
matters. All will grow old and die, all will be forgotten and all will
be repeated. The cycle is forever and must be done, but the Truth of
the world shows this only to be dust and valueless endeavor.

The other world is this dust bowl that we live in. One can not ignore
this, for the cycle must continue. This is very close to the saying of
Christ “Live in the World, not of the world”, but the Hindu takes this
a bit further.

So we acquire as we need to, and strive to better ourselves in this
world, but if things go wrong, as they often do we see this merely as
the reminder that it is not that important anyway. If we fail to
remember this, this causes suffering.

The Hindu also sees that suffering without apparent cause is probably
the repercussions of a previous life where the individual could not
keep his mind off the subject and dropped down into suffering. This
can be thought of as a man who is constantly beating his head with a
hammer. He says “It hurts when I do this” and you say “Well, stop
doing that” and he does, but if the man has been doing this for
several months, the pain is not going to stop right away, but the
cause has stopped, so eventually he will heal. If not in this
lifetime, then perhaps the next.

A favorite Hindu story of mine is the story of Indra and the Ants. 

Once the god Indra summoned Vishvakarman, the god of arts and crafts,
and commanded
him to erect such a palace as would be worthy of Indra's own unequaled
Vishvakarman works very hard and in a year succeeds in constructing a
residence that will surely satisfy Indra. But this is not the case,
for every time Indra visits this new creations, he develops visions
beyond visions of new and more complicated marvels that he orders to
be added to his beautiful palace. This is understandably frustrating
to our craftsman, Vishvakarman, and he decides to seek help from the
creator god, Brahma. Brahma assures Vishvakarman that he would soon be
relieved of his burden.

The next morning, a boy appears at the gate of Indra. The king
instantly recognizes the holy nature of the child, ushers him in, and
asks the purpose of his coming. The boy tells Indra that has heard of
the mighty palace he is building and then comments that "no Indra
before you has ever succeeded in completing such a palace as yours is
to be."

Indra, full of the wine of triumph (or pride), is amused at the boy's
pretense at knowledge. "So then," he chuckles. "And have you seen a
number of Indras come and go?" The boy addresses Indra calmly, "Oh
King of the Gods, I have known the dreadful dissolution of the
universe. I have seen all perish, again and again, at the end of every
cycle. At that terrible time, every single atom dissolves into the
primal, pure waters of eternity, whence originally all arose.
Everything then goes back into the fathomless, wild infinity of the
ocean, which is covered with utter darkness and is empty of every sign
of animate being.

Ah, who will count the universes that have passed away, or the
creations that have risen afresh, again and again, from the formless
abyss of the vast waters? Who will number the passing ages of the
world, as they follow each other endlessly? And who will search
through the wide infinities of space to count the universes side by
side, each containing its Brahma, its Vishnu, its Shiva? Who can count
the Indras in them all--those Indras side by side, who reign at once
in all the innumerable worlds; those others who passed away before
them; or even the Indras who succeed each other in any given line,
ascending to
godly kingship, one by one, and, one by one, passing away? King of
Gods, there are among your servants certain who maintain that it may
be possible to number the grains of sand on earth and the drops of
rain that fall from the sky, but no one will ever number all those
Indras. This is what the Knowers know."

The boy continues to speak in this manner; meanwhile, a parade of ants
appears in the hall. This sight sets the holy child to laughing. At
Indra's stammering request, he explains his reaction. "I laughed
because of the ants. The reason is not to be told . . . it is the
secret that smites with an ax the tree of worldly vanity, hews away at
its roots, and scatters its crown." But with great humility, Indra
begs the holy child to share this secret. The boy concedes and says
"See these ants, O Indra, filing in an endless parade. Like you, each
one, by virtue of pious deeds, once ascended to the rank of a king of
the gods. But now, through many rebirths, each has become again an
ant. This army is an army of former Indras."

--from the Brahmavaivarta Purana

Undeserved Suffering
Many believe that suffering is a result of past-life greed, hatred,
and spiritual ignorance, which returns as suffering (karma). Coping
with suffering is sometimes viewed as valuable in furthering spiritual
growth. Suffering is also seen as illusory, in that it results from
attachment to bodily pleasure and pain, and only the Absolute, or God,
truly exists.


In the Jewish point of view there are three main causes of suffering;
growth, sin, and freewill.

When a man is first born into the house of a believer he is close to a
holy support for his life. As he grows he begins to branch out, and go
further away from this support. This is good, but he runs into those
less holy, and begins to suffer until his beliefs and strength begin
to match his surroundings once again. Thus growing too fast can cause
greater suffering.

Suffering also comes from the denial of God or sinning against others.

The freewill aspect is quite complicated in the Jewish writings as
well as the Torah. For instance, for the 10th plague the believers are
told to paint their doors with rams’ blood to show that believers live
there, and are instructed not to go outside until morning, when the
angle of death has passes. This leads us to see that even though
someone outside that night was a believer, the angle of death would
have treated him the same as anyone else. At some point, God is not in
control of your suffering, nor making judgments on it.

Joseph for instance is coming home and his brothers decide to kill him
and throw him in a ditch, if Reuben had not intervened.

"And they said to each other [Joseph’s brothers], "Behold, the dreamer
comes! And now, let’s go and kill him and throw him into one of these
pits, and we will say that a wild animal ate him, and we will see what
will become of his dreams." And Reuben heard it, and saved him from
their hands, and said..." (Genesis 37:21.)

So even though God intended for Joseph to live, suffering could have
come at the hands of his brothers anyway. It could be argued that the
intervention of Reuben was God's will, but I belive the story points
more to the issue of God's limitation against the freewill of others.
That there is a point, a line, God doesn't cross over, letting things
take their course.

Suffering starts in the Jewish tradition on the choice of deciding
Good and Evil, this begins with the eating of the Fruit in Genesis.
The story suggests that before the eating of this fruit, suffering was
not known, even in childbirth. Then we ate the fruit and suffering
began. This leads to the thinking that what causes suffering in the
Jewish tradition is the act of deciding what is Good and what is Evil.
God had no problem at all with the eating of the tree of Life, (live
as long as you want to) but the decision of what was Good and what as
Evil was to be left to his judgment alone. This is a very easy lesson
that can be applied to our lives today, just about every time I’ve
been in trouble or had something happen which has caused me suffering
has been the result of my decision that something was Good or Evil.
Chasing Shiny Stuff, is what I call it. It’s like the old phrase, “I
saw her, I wanted her, I prayed to God for her, and now I can’t get
away from her.”

"Sometimes it is believed that suffering is caused by a weakness in
one’s devotion to God. Generally, it is believed that God gave humans
freewill to feel pleasure and pain, and His purpose in allowing deep
suffering of the innocent must be good even if mysterious. God suffers
along with the sufferer. Some Jews (e.g. Chasidic) believe that
suffering is punishment for past life sins. Knowing why God allows
suffering is not as important as knowing that God will punish the

"Judaism proclaims that nothing happens in the cosmos -- no electron
encircles an atomic nucleus, no cell divides, no star is born or dies
-- without Divine will animating it at every nanosecond. As the
blessing before drinking a glass of water states: "Everything exists
by Your word." Translate: If God did not will that glass to be full of
molecules of H2O at this moment, poof! It simply would not exist."
"This leaves us, however, with the problem of suffering, an issue that
we have been grappling with for millennia, as the biblical Book of Job
testifies. The Jewish answer to the conundrum of suffering is laid out
on the Seder table."

"On this festival of rejoicing in our redemption, symbols of suffering
abound: the bitter herbs, the salt water reminiscent of tears, the
choroset resembling the mortar of our back-breaking labor. Yet the
symbols of redemption and the symbols of suffering are inextricably
woven together. The choroset, representing mortar and enslavement, is
sweet. The karpas, representing new life, is dipped in the salt water.
The bitter herbs are coated in sweet choroset before eating."
"In the most visceral way, those who partake of the Seder taste the
truth that suffering is an inextricable part of the process of
redemption -- nationally and individually."

The principal teachings of Gautama Buddha can be summarized in what
the Buddhists call the 'Four Noble Truths':

First    - There is suffering and misery in life. 

Second- The cause of this suffering and misery is desire. 

Third   - Suffering and misery can be removed by removing desire. 

Fourth - Desire can be removed by following the Eight Fold Path. 

Where the Hindu sees a “first cause” to suffering the Buddist sees no
such cause. Life has suffering in it, just as it has pleasure,
sadness, joy, light and dark. There is suffering and misery. That is
life. The only cause is desire, and this is on any level, including
the desire to live, or even the desire to breath. We are born with
desire and desire follows us for the rest of our lives, until we
remove it following the Eight Fold Path.

The beginning of Buddhism is the story of  Siddhartha Gautama, who
lived as a Prince and was never allowed to see the suffering of the
world. It was told to his father that if Siddhartha Gautama was to see
this suffering he would renounce his throne and wander the world
seeking to solve this suffering. So his father kept away from the
vision of Siddhartha Gautama anyone who suffered. This went well until
he was coming of age when it is said he spotted a crippled man on the
way back to the palace. From there the prophecy came true and
Siddhartha Gautama left his city to find an answer to the suffering of

One of the most fundamental differences between the Hindu and the
Buddhist is that the Hindu sees us as continuing on through the cycles
as ourselves. The soul remains, at its core the same. When you come
back, you are still you. The Buddhist doesn’t feel this is true. We
are part of a great whole and when we leave this plain of existence,
we become part of that great whole once again. Then, the part of us
that needs to come back will form with other parts that need to come
back and those will cycle once more.

“Monotheistic theology faces “the problem of evil” and the related
“problem of suffering” - the task of defending the Christian, Judaic,
or Islamic good, just, all-powerful and loving god against accusations
of unjust suffering and evil in the world. Buddhist teaching, however,
grounded in the classical Buddhist doctrines of impermanence,
non-self, interdependent co-origination and the Law of Karma, faces a
different challenge. Buddhist teaching explains the presence of
suffering as a result of individuals attempting to cling to permanence
in a fleeting universe. “

It should be noted as well that there is nothing in the texts or
teaching of Buddhism that suggests suffering is evil, or related to
evil in any way.

Buddha was silent about the existence or non-existence of God.
Buddhism provided Dhamma or the 'impersonal law' in place of God. Many
scholars consider the evolution of the concept of Buddha as a god or
as an object of worship within Buddhism as an effect of Hinduism.


"Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! The Father is a
merciful God, who always gives us comfort. He comforts us when we are
in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in
trouble." (2Corinthians 1:3-4)

Through the rejection, betrayal, enslavement, and wrongful
imprisonment of a man named Joseph, we see someone who eventually was
able to say to those who had hurt him, "You meant evil against me; but
God meant it for good" (Genesis 50:20)

"Christ never sinned! But God treated him as a sinner, so that Christ
could make us acceptable to God." (2 Corinthians 5:21).  "Jesus who
bare our sins in his own body on the cross." (1 Peter 2:24)

"So you will be saved, if you honestly say, "Jesus is Lord," and if
you believe with all your heart that God raised him from death."
(Romans 10:9)

Suffering (Phil 1:13, 29, 30, 2Cor 4:8-15, 6:4-10, 11:23-28, 12:9,10)
brings out the faith of Christians, which in turn convert non-belivers
to believers.

Christianity sees the suffering of life as “The cross to bear”. That
the difficulties we face, the hardships we endure the moments of trail
are all part of the great plan and purpose of life itself. The cost of
the Tree of Knowledge is seen very rarely in theological explanation,
since it was the purpose of the Christ to solve this original sin.
Solve it he did, yet suffering remains, so it must be part of the
basic plan or purpose of life that this exists.

The explanation of the cause of suffering normally falls under the
heading of free will. We are not automatons blindly walking through
life with following a single program. We are free thinking beings. The
laws can be ignored, and ignoring them is the cause of much of the
suffering we can describe, such as war, and violence and death. Other
suffering such as disease falls under the laws of God. For instance
there has to be bacteria, we need forms of bacteria and viruses or we,
as humans, cannot digest food properly. Bacteria and viruses are
therefore necessary to our survival. To eliminate all of them would
also kill us off, but to make only Good viruses would through off the
balance of Creation. Therefore, these exist, and we deal with them.

The basic method of dealing with the suffering of our earthly
existence is to know that this existence is not the end, just the
first step to a greater existence with God in the afterlife. A
Christian doesn’t fear death and accepts it when it comes as the
needed step to continue into that life promised to him. Suffering is
part of death since the power of life is strong and is frequently
related to the pain and suffering of birth.

The way a Christian faces the suffering in life is a show of the Power
and Presence of God, doing so as if the world is merely a place to be
human before going into the afterlife, shows the non-Christian this

Martyrdom is another level of suffering, which is paying an ultimate
price through pain, torment and finally death, while keeping the faith
that this is part of God’s plan and the world is not the place where
happiness and joy are promised, but in the afterlife. The idea is here
is that the ideals are more important than the flesh, so destroying
the body doesn’t destroy the soul, only God has control over the soul.
Most of Christianities Saints are Martyrs.

Exploring Christianity: Suffering – good and evil

Questions, Reasons, Answers about Christianity – suffering

Suffering Christianity – English

How does Christianity account for all the suffering and evil in the


Taking away the life should be the domain of the One who lives life.
True, there is Pain and suffering at the terminal end of an illness,
but we believe there is reward from God for those who patiently
persevere in suffering (Quran 39:10 and 31:17).

“While Muslim Physicians are not encouraged to artificially prolong
the misery in a vegetative state, they are ordained to help alleviate
suffering. Quran says, "Anyone who has saved a life, it is as if he
has saved the life of whole mankind" (5:32). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
emphasized this by saying, " O Muslims, seek cure, since God has not
created any illness without creating a cure." “
"It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the East and
the West, but righteous is the one who believes in Allah, and the Last
Day, and the angels and the Book and the prophets, and gives away
wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the
needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask and to set slaves free and
keeps up prayer and pays the poor-rate; and the performers of their
promise when they make a promise, and the patient in distress and
affliction and in the time of conflict. These are they who are
truthful; and these are they who keep their duty." Ch. 2:177
At times God allows innocent people to suffer, like Job (Qur'an
38:41). The full story is related in the book of Job in the Bible.
Often, God allows suffering so that people may learn a lesson (Qur'an:
7:94; Bible: Hebrews 12:5-13). God is not obliged to state reasons for
his sovereign will. He may allow that we may learn the cause of some

Much like the Christians the Islamic religions see suffering as part
of life. Referances to Job in the Qur'an show that sometimes things
just happen and it is not for the believer to question. It is right
that the believer seek to feel better or to seek help with his burden,
but not to question the behavior if his God. This is the world we are
given and this is the life we are to live. We do not question this. We
seek to better ourselves and to focus our minds on the glory of God.

Islam means submission ... believers are to accept the will of God in
the blessings or in the suffering, and in equal measure knowing that
each is the will of  God and that each has the temptation to lead us
astray of the path.

For some Islamic Believers the suffering of life is also the test of
life. We are given it to show what kind of believers we really are.
This is more of the focus, than is the Christian focus on the free
will of others. Evil doers are not let go as easy as the New Testament
would allow, but they also serve the will of God. The Islamic Satan
was left “without God”

And surely, We created you (your father Adam) and then gave you shape
(the noble shape of a human being), then We told the angels,
“Prostrate to Adam”;, and they prostrated, except Iblis (Satan), he
refused to be of those who prostrate. Allah said: “What prevented you
Iblis, that you did not prostrate, when I commanded you?” Iblis said:
“I am better than him (Adam), You created me from fire, and him You
created from clay. Allah said: “O, Iblis, get down from this
(Paradise), it is not for you to be arrogant here. Get out, for you
are of those humiliated and disgraced.” (Quran 7,11-13)

He (Satan) said, "My Lord, since You have willed that I go astray, I
will surely entice them on earth; I will send them all astray. Except
those among Your worshippers who are devoted .absolutely to You
alone." He (God) said, "This is a law that is inviolable: you have no
power over my servants; you only have power over the strayers who
follow you." [15:39-42]

And when thy Lord said to the angels, 'I am setting in the earth a
viceroy.' They said 'What, wilt Thou set therein one who will do
corruption there, and shed blood, while We proclaim Thy praise and
call Thee Holy?' He said, 'Assuredly I know that you know not.' {Surah
2 (al-Baqara), verse 28}

So the tests begin, and with comes much of the suffering in the world.
Those that allow themselves to listen to Iblis, are those that cause
suffering and feel it most. Even if their motive is good, such as
could be said of Iblis when he would not bow before anyone by God.

The greatest cause of suffering to the Islamic religion is pride. To
do something, even if it is right, but from a motive of Pride will
always cause suffering.

The Quran declares that "those who are slain in Allah's way" are not
dead, but alive (3:169),

"Think not of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead. Nay, they
live, finding their sustenance from their Lord. They rejoice in the
Bounty provided by Allah...the (Martyrs) glory in the fact that on
them is no fear, nor have they (cause to) grieve. They rejoice in the
Grace and the Bounty from Allah, and in the fact that Allah suffereth
not the reward of the Faithful to be lost (in the least)." (3:169-71)[


qpet-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: Religion and suffering
From: neilzero-ga on 08 Jan 2003 22:16 PST
Mormoms = The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (about 14
million members world wide and growing rapidly) believe we were
nuerched near God's side in a very long pre-existance until we became
as much like God as possible without suffering pain, frustration, and
doubt. For this purpose we come to Earth, breifly, so we can know
first hand that all good things have their opposites and so we can
test our personalities without the aid of sure knowlege which is
hidden from us during our stay on Earth.   Neil
Subject: Re: Religion and suffering
From: kewl2themax-ga on 20 Jan 2003 12:47 PST
the subject of what the tree of good and evil knowledge always
facinates me.

i think it was the act of eating the apple, even working up to the
fact but ultimatly taking that bite ment that adam and eve had broken
Gods commandment.

whether it was this breaking of the commandment "dont eat" or somehow
our conscious had been open to good and evil and that this realisation
that has thus separated us from God.

whether were transfixed by it appeal or the possibilties it offers us
is too "good" to be true but infact it simple ment we thought we could
be as good as God and this set us apart.

with this came suffering and the world as we know it.

i think it says in the bible that god has closed the door to eden, not
heaven so maybe the damage we did was not fixable by God and something
that we just shouldn't have done.

being the optimist i see us coming to earth as a benifit in the long
run as it teaches us understanding, maybe thats the big plan that we
can become as gods but first he wants to teach us some manners.

the subject of good and evil also brings to mind strange idea to me as
it suggests some eternal battle that can never be won, or lost. we as
conciuos beings can only choose a side or try to decide which side to
go to.

and as good can't throw a punch and evil will always try to back stab
you it leaves only the eternal fight to play of making believers and
taking the other sides beleivers.

which brings up satan the sorce of evil and most likly suffering or if
not that then he thrives on it and wishes to spread it. satans only a
angel created by god so why doesn't God vaperise him. maybe he can't
he's just waiting to see which sides we pick.

who knows anyway ive stretched this thread into a totally new place.

now ive done that bye

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