or so I'm told. If I ever meet one, I'll ask him
LOL! Let me know when you find him. I have a business proposition for him...
Let me try to see what we can agree on before we shake hands and part. So we at least both agree that death is inevitable. It is part of the way we are made.
But "painful, agonizing deaths" are simply not a necessary part of it.
Fair enough. You know what Christian theology teaches about the nature of suffering, why it exists, why it is permitted. C.S. Lewis wrote a whole book on "The Problem of Pain." There isn't really a whole lot I can add to it.
I can't buy the "we learn on the earth what we use later in heaven" argument since so many never get to learn anything
Well maybe there is an assumption there about what the immortal soul recalls, remembers, learns to use. It may be more than we suspect.
If heavenly rewards seem a bit too much, well, a lot of souls that live around the sick one learn to love a little bit more, feel a little bit more compassion, strive a little bit harder to find a cure, etc. I'm not being callous, I'm just pointing out that there positive outcomes to even the most horrible situations. And if we learn from our mistakes, we can prevent future suffering among ourselves.
But there are lines that God himself should be able to draw between right and wrong without impinging on free-will.
How would he draw them? How would he enforce them? How would he "stop" anybody? How would people be informed of the rules? Remember, according to Christian doctrine, the suffering of this life is only temporary, and the bad people are not permitted into the next life; ergo they must be a given a chance to prove themselves wicked in this life - because on what grounds could they be denied entry into Heaven except on the bad behavior they had exhibited when they had the chance?
If you knew I was going to bash in somebody's skull with a bat because I want to see how it feels, you'd stop me.
If I thought you were serious. If I had the power. But even the police can't do much about a threat. People have the inherent right to talk, even threateningly - and terroristic threats won't get you much jail time. Not nearly enough to protect your victim, assuming you were serious. Unless you want God to restrict free speech as well?
IF the solution to crime is more power, ala "Minority Report" - well, just think about that. People today cannot be trusted with the power that they do have, if you gave the power to read minds, teleport, or cause earthquakes - you would immediately see wars that would tear the very fabric of the universe apart. From Cain brutally bludgeoning defenseless Abel on down to Uday and Qusay torturing the soccer team that failed them - mankind has utterly failed to control his violent impulses. The answer is not that man is powerless to control his neighbor. He is powerless to control himself.
This reminds me of Jesus and the rich young ruler, who asked him, "How can I be saved." Jesus answered that he had the Law and the Prophets - and the ruler could sense that it wasn't enough. He was aware of his own connection to God - the need to somehow do more to "prove" that God was real. So Jesus then commanded a leap of faith - sell off everything, give it all away, and then be Jesus' follower.
Maybe, just maybe, you might benefit from a leap of faith of some sort? Only God can prove Himself to you, as Littletoe said. I could gibber on this board all day - but never prove a single thing to you. You may very well know what a "leap of faith" in your own life could entail. Where do you think God wants you to go? To do? To be? Try leaping in that direction and see what happens.
If the traditional religon isn't filling your spiritual need, then you must go and get it filled elsewhere.