I think most modern people (or at least most of my peers) operate from a Utilitarian framework: the greatest good for the greatest many. It makes The Good into something at least conceptually measurable, appealing to our science instincts. But fundamentally, I think the reason so many of my peers believe in it is because they hold the second definition of love: to benefit maximally. About a third of my generation thinks Socialism is a better economic system than Capitalism. In a Socialist system, benefits (health care, housing, etc.) are universal. It is the State that sacrifices, not the People. And (assuming Socialism worked) this would clearly be the optimal solution. It is a society with the greatest benefit-love. However, with benefit maximized, opportunities for real sacrifice to neighbors are minimized. To maximize sacrifice-love, there needs to be more suffering available to bear, and people need to have more freedom to bear it.
I think I have finally discovered the root of my support for small government. A country with a small government demands that people sacrifice-love one another. It is a dangerous place, and a place exactly as beautiful as the people who reside in it. A big government benefit-loves its people. It is a safe place, and a place that is neither very beautiful nor very ugly.
Doctors avoid suffering. We are taught to turn off our emotions because it hurts. We’ll ‘burn out’ if we empathize with patients. A benefit-love for our patients is curing them; no empathy is necessary. If we do not suffer for our patients, then our job is simply a job; we have shown no sacrifice-love. A friend of mine in nursing was too close to a patient in the psychiatry emergency room. The charge nurse told her to keep her distance and to protect herself; she advised my friend to treat the patients like “rabid dogs.” You can benefit-love a rabid dog through cure; you cannot sacrifice-love one.
Problem of Evil
Why is there suffering? This is a profoundly important question that I can only give superficial treatment to here; I recommend that you look at the many other great resources on it (Job from the Bible asks this; contemporary philosopher William Lane Craig gives a good talk on it; Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor from the Brothers Karamazov also discusses this question). How can God permit suffering? Let us ask an easier question: how can a father permit his child to suffer (say, by needlestick)? He, if he is good, must have some morally justifiable reason for it (like immunization). God, if He is good, must have some morally justifiable reason for it. Since the evaluation of this question requires a full accounting of all people in all time, this is a question we are woefully ill-equipped to answer. This is a point of human ignorance; we cannot draw any logical conclusion from it. We don’t have a complete fossil record and never will but it does not follow that Evolution did not occur; it is valid to fill in the gaps with inference. We can bridge gaps in knowledge by anchoring on things we do know (this is called in science a ‘theory’ and in religion ‘faith’).
One of the theories is that the morally justifiable reason God allows suffering is freewill. God may permit suffering because only by it can humanity have true freewill. Only in a world of suffering can God show His sacrifice-love for us, and only in a world of suffering can humans truly sacrifice-love each other.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4