Let's Create A Perfect World

A world without suffering is literally unimaginable. Try it.

BY: Frederica Mathewes-Green


Continued from page 1

OK, earthquakes. Would you have constructed the world some other way, without plate tectonics? Great! That was an easy one.


But if “Earthquake” was the worst kind of natural disaster, whatever was number two now automatically becomes number one--tidal waves, maybe, or volcanoes. People won’t be grateful for the non-existence of earthquakes, like they’re not grateful for the non-existence of Skin Melt Disease. As long as there are any natural disasters, something’s going to be worst.

And, yes, it’s unfair that some victims of disaster are miraculously saved, while others die. How do you want to make it fair? Nobody gets miracles, or everybody does?

Let’s just go ahead and eliminate all natural disasters, anything caused by changes in weather, earth, or sea. But even stuff that’s just sitting there can kill you. You can fall into a pool of water and drown.

Would you make it so that couldn’t happen? Would you do that by changing the nature of water, or changing the nature of lungs?

Maybe water would have a tough skin, so you’d hit the surface and bounce. But how would we drink it? Would you change the way our bodies take in water? Or maybe we wouldn’t need water? Would we need something else instead?

Don’t forget gravity. We’ve eliminated earthquakes, but what kills people in earthquakes is being crushed by things that fall on them. Stuff can fall, even without an earthquake. Would you make it so gravity doesn’t pull things down on people? …No, that whole train of thought is problematic.

When you say that if there was a truly omnipotent God, he could have prevented suffering, do you mean that God could have made things differently? Sure, that’s what we’re trying to visualize now. But if you mean that he could have made a world that was illogical, I’m going to have trouble following you.

I don’t expect you to actually build this perfect world, but it does seem like you should at least be able to imagine it.

And here’s a factor we haven’t talked about yet: subjectivity. People can respond to the same thing in different ways, and interpret it as suffering or not, depending on the context. A hangnail can be unbearable when you’re trying to sleep, but twelve hours of childbirth is worth it when you hold that new little baby. Losing a pint of blood in a Red Cross clinic is not like losing one in a car accident.

What’s more, different people have different responses to suffering overall. Some make a big fuss over nothing, while others endure terrible things without blame or complaining. Though people can’t control what happens to them, they seem to have some control over their response.

Would you make that part of the human mind stronger, and diminish suffering that way? Actually, a number of religions have made significant breakthroughs in that area.

I’m not mocking your desire to create a world without suffering. If we didn’t grieve at suffering and urgently want to end it, we would be less than human. Your desire to do so springs from a strong, sincere love for humankind. But accomplishing it requires major changes in what humankind is like.

You can prevent interpersonal pain by making people who give and receive the same amount of love, without bias or personal preferences. You can standardize physical appearances, so no one would suffer from feeling inadequate or ugly, and no one could choose to love one person and reject someone else. Personalities would have to be standardized too, for the same reason. Old people would be as attractive as young people, and I guess they might as well continue to look young, since nobody is going to die anyway. You can reorganize the natural world, too, so that it is predictable and never dangerous.

This world you’re creating certainly is beautiful; it’s elegant and serene. It’s also a lot simpler. Nothing there can change, because change would mean a fall from perfect bliss. The people living there are simpler too, untroubled and uniformly beautiful, like marble statues in a quiet garden.

In comparison, the world we’ve got now is just so odd, isn’t it? It’s far more complex than seems strictly necessary. Why make such wildly differing landscapes? Why bother with color? Fish are great, but 20,000 species? The more you think about it, the more eccentric, even comical, our world appears.

If you were designing humans for your perfect world, you probably wouldn’t have them digest food the way we do. When you planned how they reproduce, you’d come up with something more dignified. Flatulence has been making humans laugh since the dawn of time, but it just wouldn’t belong in a perfect world. (Besides, laughter can lead to teasing).

Continued on page 3: How God Fills Creation »