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Bad Things & Good People

CHRIST & NEIGHBOR

By John C. Cort | November 1985

A rabbi has written a popular book on the subject of why bad things happen to good people. To tell the ugly truth, the question has never both­ered me as much as I feel it should.

In The Plague, Albert Camus gets very upset about the idea of a just and merciful God allowing little children to suffer, and he concludes that no such God should be permitted to exist. While the suffering of good and/or innocent people is not something to be regarded lightly, whenever I start worrying about it I ask myself, “What sort of a world would it be if God did not permit bad things to happen to good people, but saved all the bad things for bad people and all the good things for good people?”

Think about that. And the first thing that comes to mind is that, in such a world it would be much easier to be good and much more difficult to be bad. Bad people would only be permitted to do bad things to bad people, not to good people. And if doing good is always rewarded, how “good” is it?

And what becomes of free will? What be­comes of the notion that this world was created by God as a testing ground for the next world? In a world where all the cards are stacked in favor of goodness, it just wouldn’t be a fair test. And the good people wouldn’t really be good because be­ing good would be much too easy. In fact, being bad would be so stupid that bad people would al­most disappear entirely. The only bad things done would be by people who didn’t know any better, which means that they wouldn’t really be bad, or by a few bad people who enjoyed being bad so much that they could stand the bad things that kept happening to them.

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