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Essay: How the Holocaust is seen to be both for and against God

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  • Subject area(s): Religious studies and Theology essays
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  • Published: March 2, 2020*
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  • How the Holocaust is seen to be both for and against God
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The genocidal and discriminatory murders of the Holocaust proved to be one of the ultimate tests of the role of God and the experience of suffering to the Jewish population. They began to question whether the God they believed in was truly the omniscient, omnibenevolent, and omnipotent being they once saw. The problem with this assumption of the characteristics of God is that it is paradoxical for Him to be all three at one moment. A large portion of the persecuted Jews believed that if God was omnibenevolent, then there would be no reason that the human race He created would have to endure suffering. Those who suffered came to the understanding that God could not be omniscient since He would have prevented the Holocaust in some way, knowing every event and action that has happened and will happen. However, the trait that should be rejected as a Divine characteristic is omnipotence because through trials such as these, God has shown that He simply does not have the extreme power others claim He does.

Omnipotence warrants the power to produce any state of affairs that can be logically possible to accomplish. Omnipotence must include the possibility of actualizing a world where the omnipotent being is able to commit acts of evil. Assuming that this God is actually omnibenevolent, God is unable to commit any evil deeds, rendering God incapable of being omnipotent. If an all-powerful God created suffering and pain for others while it also holds the capability of creating life and happiness for others, He cannot be benevolent. Being an omnipotent creature simply contradicts logic in itself. It assumes that whatever actions that being takes on must involve rationale and logic, meaning that these concepts predate any omnipotent being. It proves that God cannot be the creator of such concepts and laws but also have to obey them at the same time. Obviously, God is seen as extremely powerful for the purposes of being the God of people but not enough to be omnipotent. One common argument is one concerning God creating a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it. This entire situation is a paradox, considering that if He can create an unliftable rock, then He is not omnipotent, but if He cannot create the rock, then it also renders him not omnipotent. The entire concept of this characteristic is ironically limited by logical possibility.

Persecuted Jews during the time of the Holocaust tried to justify all the horrific crimes committed against them by questioning their God and wondering how could a God they believed to be all-knowing, all good and all-powerful let such a drawn out and painful series of events occur. Many of them reached the conclusion that God is “dead” because He most certainly wouldn’t have let something as unbelievably cruel as the Holocaust happen to His people. They thought that God was distant and limited and was not the type of being who could actually intervene with the free will of humans. He cannot interfere with the history that humans choose to create, otherwise our ability of choice will only have been an illusion. God knew that the Holocaust was an event bound to happen, due to his omniscience, but did not prevent it, abandoning the Jewish community to exist in the world for themselves. In terms of suffering, eliminating omnipotence as a characteristic of God allows to humans, more specifically Jews, to look for answers in a place other that God. Some tried to pass it off as punishments for sins that they have committed or to teach them some kind of lesson, but having them realize that God could not have prevented the Holocaust and possibly did not even create it takes the weight off their shoulders of wondering why such a powerful and loving being would treat them that way, something beyond their comprehension. It enables humans to realize the presence and extremes of the free will they were given, potentially even strengthening their relationship with God once they can familiarize themselves with the idea that God might not be as “all-powerful” as they once believed.

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