The Problem of Pleasure

Atheists have often challenged Christians how can a loving God allow pain and suffering in this world. They often re-hash Scottish philosopher David Hume’s argument: either God is loving but not powerful enough to stop it, or He is powerful enough, but not good. Unfortunately for Hume and those who use his arguments, it is a very flawed syllogism because it omits so many other very important factors.

C.S. Lewis wrote a book called The Problem of Pain to answer this question from a Christian perspective. That even though there is a loving and powerful God who made everything good, sin entered this world. God doesn’t like his creation suffering any more than a father wants to see his son crying after the boy scraped his knee on concrete. Lewis echoes the Bible – that God can use suffering to cause good to come out of it.

In a sense, Lewis’s book was defensive, defending the traditional Christian perspective. I’m going to push the envelope with this post: I’m going take the offensive by asking the atheists out there the flip question: Why is there pleasure in the world? How can one argue pleasure exist in a random, chance-based universe?

Take music. If everything in this world came about by random chance, why do we humans take such pleasure in the ordered sequence of sounds? Whether these are trills in a Bach concerto to the beat box of a street musician, it makes us feel good!

At the Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Back in 2010, I visited Aberdeen, Scotland and a friend took me to see the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Despite coming down with a head cold, I had a great time. I remember more the pleasure of the music than the fatigue and drowsiness. That’s what music can do: uplift the spirits.

I heard about this one prank; a musician decided to play a song on the piano and decided to not play the last note. From all over the house, people stopped what they were doing and asked what happened and will they please play that last note? The dissonance caused the opposite.

So where does this come from based on an evolutionary, materialist standpoint? Pleasure from order, pain from disorder?

We all heard the phrase: “Music to my ears!” – a phrase that denotes pleasure, and sometimes that sound doesn’t even have to be musical or lyrical! The clink! of coins hitting each other in a casino payout, a waterfall in the woods, waves crashing on the shore, or racking the slide back on a pistol as I put a few rounds downrange.

Because, no one has ever said: “Random sequence of sounds to my ears!”

And why is the music industry worth $15.7 billion in 2017 and $17.3 billion in 2018? There has to be a reason; listening to the Backstreet Boys does not aid in survival like reporting the location of food, warning about predators, or signal dominance over rivals in a mating ritual.

Why do people post videos online singing about heartbreak? When a lioness leaves the pride to join a new one, the other lions in the old pride don’t sing about it. There’s no lion version of Taylor Swift singing about breakups or moving on. Back to December was written by and for humans.

I think I’ve made my point. Pleasure from order (converse being true as well – pain from disorder), order implies design, and design implies a creator.

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