On the Suffering of Gods


Suffering has always been the lot of man, and endless pages of human history can aver to no other conclusion. But do Gods really suffer? After having read the final paragraph in my fellow contributor’s blog, my curiosity was piqued by Zizek’s plaintive entreaty for the existence of a suffering god in order for us to change our fate.

In The Rebel, Albert Camus proposes that “human behaviour is based on the assumption that over-all injustice is as satisfying to man as total justice” and that only the sacrifice of an innocent god followed by its subsequent suffering could assuage the agony of man. Injustices and torments of human existence and the plight of man are matters that are both indescribable and unjustifiable, but perhaps the burden of such agonies could be better met with the participation of those on high? But sadly, the God of Abraham, the Old Testament God of fire and brimstone, plagues and bloodshed, is as indifferent to our struggles as the cat that toys with the condemned mouse between his claws.

The Zeitgeist of the Age of Reason subjected Christ’s divinity to a measure of scrutiny, such that man was left alone to endure his fate in the absence of the participation of a god. The God of the Old Testament facilitated the first murder through Cain and Abel, effectively sabotaged the Tower of Babel, and abandoned Christ to the cross. The behaviour of the Old Testament God is one of indifference to the concerns and plights of man; Plato, in his Laws, is of a similar opinion, in that the gods do not concern themselves with our affairs.

It is a great tragedy of man to seek comfort in the heavens and to presume that celestial beings share our wants, desires, and emotions. To claim any sort of congruence, bonhomie, or relation with the Divine is nothing short of sacrilege, for it boldly adheres to a presumption that man is his creator’s equal. In attempts to seek out our own reflections in our gods, and to fashion their celestial beings into the mould of our corrupting corpses, we effectively blaspheme the essence of their divinity. As it was clearly articulated in the previous post, “seek not with the eyes”, for in doing so you destroy the object of that which you intend to seek.

There is a conception, a prejudice in our minds such that when a man thinks of God, a human form occurs to him


Removing ourselves from Christian theology and shifting to Greek/Roman mythology, we can see man’s encounters with the gods and their consequent indifference to our pain and suffering.

Hapless Actaeon was a huntsman who found himself gazing upon the nudity of goddess Diana and her nymphs. She was caught quite unawares and as result of her indignation and fury, transformed him into a stag. Having fled the cave in which he had seen her, he came across both his fellow huntsmen and his hunting hounds, who laid siege upon his body and tore him limb from limb. Unpitying Juno sent a gadfly to torment Jupiter’s mistress Io—a fly that pursued her to ends of the earth until Jupiter put a stop to it. Of course such parables anthropomorphize celestial beings and divinities and act as tales to succor man’s harsh realities of his enduring trials in life. After all, the troubles of life are more endurable if the heavens hold no more promise of salvation than those found in our plains.

Man is certainly crazy. He could not make a mite, and he makes gods by the dozen

—Michel de Montaigne

Would a god suffer the connection to an inferior? Would he debase himself so, and empathize with his pain and suffer in his own right? Prometheus was perhaps the only paragon of human compassion, having brought fire and knowledge to man, and as the law laid out by the divine justice of Jupiter condemned him to eternal torture upon a rock, one can safely assume that the best interests of the eternal were not in man’s favour.

Having said all this, the gods may perhaps succumb to pain, torment, and suffering—but certainly not of a kind akin to men; we are two entities in a unidirectional relationship of pain, horror, and anguish and must decide our own fate in the darkness, bereft of divine intervention and compassion.