Religious leaders discuss ‘why bad things happen’

A panel of diverse religious leaders held a thought-provoking discussion Thursday night on why bad things happen to good people.

The panel discussion was part of the month-long Big Read event, and was sponsored by The Agora, MCCC’s student newspaper. Assistant editor Andrew Hoppert was the moderator.

By the time the discussion started, the La-Z-Boy Center was half full with intrigued audience members. The attendees ranged from college students showing up to receive extra credit in their classes, to community members and others who came from throughout southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio.

From the beginning of the panel’s dialogue, comments ranged far across the spectrum of religious and philosophic thought. About the only thing all the religious leaders jokingly agreed upon is that certain fast food burgers are a moral evil.

“It depends how you look at life,” said Dr. Abed Alo, M.D. from the Masjid Saad Foundation of Toledo.

Dr. Alo explained the beliefs of the Muslim religion and how they related to the “why bad things happen” question.

Alo emphasized that Muslims believe life is temporary, until they reach death. After death, life becomes eternal with their god.

“This life is a test ground,” Alo said. “We are to be strong, to be patient, and in the end to be rewarded.”

Terry Beamsley, from the Ann Arbor Buddhist Temple, gave the audience a crash course on Zen Buddhism. She noted that Buddha was not, and did not claim to be, a god, but was an ordinary man who devoted his life to understanding why humans deal with suffering.

“Suffering is the nature of existence,” Beamsley said.

Zen Buddhists, like herself, do not explore metaphysics, or in other words, an afterlife, she said. They emphasize what is in their lives at the moment, and explore their lives as an individual.

Florence Buchanan, Soka Gokai International-USA, Nichiren Buddhism, Buddhist Association For Peace, Culture and Education, voiced her opinion from a different sect of Buddhism.

Buchanan elaborated on the general attitude toward life for Buddhists. She made it clear to the audience that Buddhists believe in a repeated cycle of birth and death. The next life that is to be waiting for them is based upon their Karma, the sum of one’s actions in their present life.

Sister Marie Gabriel Hungerman, IHM philosopher and educator, gave her views from a Catholic’s point of view.

“What’s good for one creature may be bad for another creature at the same time,” Sister Hungerman said.

That belief left the thought that nothing in this world can be completely bad, or completely good. So, who is to say that a “bad” thing actually happened to a “good” person?

Reverend John Piippo, from Redeemer Church, shared his belief in a redeeming God, a God who gives us extensive free will to make decisions.

“We can use our free will to do bad things, we can use our free will to do good things,” he said.

Piippo explained that a redeeming God works all things, even bad things, together for good in the lives of people. 

Mark Thompson, from the Detroit Atheist Meetup, was the last to give his input on the subject. He also caused the most controversy.

“Our ability to act in the world is extremely limited,” Thompson said.

His Atheistic view of free will is such that, when making a good or bad decision, we do not have a full set of options to choose from. His remarks on the subject of free will ignited a response from Rev. Piippo and other panel members.

The last fifteen minutes of the night turned into a philosophical discussion about what free will actually is and how humans respond to it.