Theodicy

If God is unable to prevent evil, then he is not all-powerful.
If God is not willing to prevent evil, then he is not all-good.
If God is both willing and able to prevent evil, then why does evil exist?

Evil is always balanced by Good. Nothing is Evil that does not contain a greater Good.

Sometimes we (human beings, humanity) work out evil to the bitter end.

The problem with Epicurus’ challenge is, what would make anyone think that God is not working actively to end evil, now? What would a God who prevented evil look like? Perhaps God would intervene in each individual circumstance, to get me that parking space I need, to stop that child being run over, to stop an earthquake.

Earthquakes are caused by continents drifting over the asthenosphere, Earth’s magnetic field is caused by movements in the liquid outer core. The magnetosphere protects the Earth from cosmic rays which would otherwise strip away the outer atmosphere, including the ozone layer which protects us from ultraviolet radiation, which damages biological systems. (I’ve been on Wikipedia.) The theological point is that you can’t have one without the other.

The sexual urge that makes the paedophile abuse the child is so strong because the sexual urge needs to be strong to continue the species. You could not have the good without the evil. Note, I do not ask you to see good in the evil, because there is none- the act is abhorrent- but to see it as a side-effect of a necessary thing.

So much evil and suffering in the world is because we are in a state of becoming, not static being.

We die in earthquakes, and we work to support the survivors. The UN takes cholera to Haiti, causing an outbreak killing 8000 and infecting hundreds of thousands, because there is not one clear way of responding to disaster, and we are learning; and because people take risks in disaster relief, as in everything else.

So much evil and suffering in the world is because we pursue the cul-de-sac to the bitter end.

The warmongering of the European powers around 1900 led to the wars of the 20th century, which had evils to make the faithful turn from God. And, after Mutually Assured Destruction- my father was an air raid warden in the 1950s, who never had to perform that task- the Russian Federation and the US reduce their nuclear stockpiles, and are not a hair’s breadth from war- because we did that until we could do it no more.

Progress: not just in technology, but in ways of living together. We live together in mega-cities. We, mostly, avoid killing each other.

Is there anything you imagine a good God should do, which would reduce evil and suffering? I bet I can find some unintended bad consequence in it.

Voltaire satirised my view in Candide: All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, said Dr Pangloss, following Leibniz. Fortunately, I have Alexander Pope on my side:

Cease then, nor ORDER Imperfection name:
Our proper bliss depends on what we blame.
Know thy own point: This kind, this due degree
Of blindness, weakness, Heav’n bestows on thee.
Submit — In this, or any other sphere,
Secure to be as blest as thou canst bear:
Safe in the hand of one disposing Pow’r,
Or in the natal, or the mortal hour.
All Nature is but Art, unknown to thee;
All Chance, Direction, which thou canst not see;
All Discord, Harmony, not understood;
All partial Evil, universal Good:
And, spite of Pride, in erring Reason’s spite,
One truth is clear, “Whatever IS, is RIGHT.

Believe in America!

I believe in America. I’ve seen it on satellite photos and heard Aaron Copland’s music. People whom I trust say they have been there. Apart from a vacuous slogan,¬†the man most likely to come second in November¬†has some vacuous beliefs.

I believe marriage is between a man and a woman and, as president, I will protect traditional marriage and appoint judges who interpret the Constitution as it is written and not according to their own politics and prejudices.

File:Mitt Romney by Gage Skidmore 3.jpgMr Romney’s own website shows that he has worked hard to oppose marriage equality. This is not a religious freedom issue. Conservatives do not have to call the union of two women a “marriage”. They do not have to make friends with those women, or let them attend their church. But they do not have the right to prevent us from celebrating and naming¬†our unions. Your freedom to swing your fist ends at my face, and it really irks me when you start to whine that your fist hurts after hitting me. And I am perplexed that he would so badly misunderstand what judges do.

I am glad he is standing, though. Were it not for that, I would not have heard about temple garments. I have had other moments of shocked derision because the serious press is paying attention to Mormonism.

File:Newt Gingrich by Gage Skidmore 6.jpgShocked derision is my constant reaction more generally. Newt wants a moonbase by 2020, and his supporters cheered: why bother? You’re on another planet already. I have heard various excuses for this. The President as an embodiment of the Nation has to pretend to be an ordinary man. The constitution, as a way of getting Government out of the faces of citizens, elects second raters.

What does Newt have to say about marriage equality?

[gay marriage is] a perfect example of what I mean by the rise of paganism. The effort to create alternatives to marriage between a man and a woman are perfectly natural pagan behaviors

Sounds reasonable. I like paganism, I have liked pagans I have met, I like their spirituality, and generally pagans are keener on equal marriage than Southern Baptists because pagans are more sane. Unfortunately, Newt continued:

but they are a fundamental violation of our civilization.

Oh. So. Two perfectly nice ordinary groups of Americans, mostly friendly and pleasant enough, are named as Enemies of Civilisation. The Enemy Within. We don’t have the Commie threat any more (many of those damn commies¬†were homosexuals) so Newt has to make do with homosexuals and pagans. Oops, don’t forget Muslims:

Remember, the Organization of Islamic Countries is dedicated to preventing anyone, anywhere in the world from commenting negatively about Islam, so they would literally eliminate our free speech and there were clearly conversations held that implied that the U.S. Justice Department would begin to enforce censorship against American citizens to protect radical Islam

I seem to remember a good news story from the Republican primaries. Wasn’t there an out gay Republican candidate? Someone more centrist and moderate? Oh yes, Fred Karger. How’s he doing, then? He has not secured a single delegate. And what does he think of the people getting involved in politics?

It‚Äôs great that we can express our political ideologies by dressing up as colonial revolutionaries and yelling about economic policies we don‚Äôt understand. But were the Tea Party and Occupy movements populist statements reflecting democratic dialogue, or did they serve only to undermine perfectly capable ‚Äúestablishment‚ÄĚ candidates?

Leave it to the professionals, in other words. After all, they have done brilliantly so far…

Picture credits: Mitt. Newt. Fred.180px-David_Cameron_official

Good patriotic Americans might think that, considering I have never been West of Reykjavik, I should not involve myself in their private grief. But the Leader of the Free World affects us all, and my country has been to war twice, on his say-so, in the last ten years.

Ask you what provocation I have had?
The strong antipathy of Good to Bad.

The Googling to find this stuff took minutes. It is easy to find monstrous and vile things that these men say.

Pope, Muir, Eliot

On 2 January, I quoted this poem, and now, as an exercise, I have written a pastiche of it:

Know first thyself, thy heart, thy soul, thy mind
Then look around, see clearly humankind.
By God created, with God’s light imbued,
Creative, loving, pow’rful, by God wooed,
In touch with beauty to enrich the heart,
in nature, other people, music, art.
Mature evolved society is mine
the knowledge of ten thousand years, is thine.
The human animal is Love alive:
Our wars diminish, and our wisdom thrives.
With balance of thought and feeling, all aligned
in safe Unknowing, soon we Knowing find.
Sole judge of truth, beholding Truth unfurled,
we bring forth yet more beauty in the world.

————————————————————————————————————–

I am not sure whether to share this one.

Resentment is not like anger.
Anger is hot, clean, now, gone.
Resentment is cold and unending,
In the darkness at the edge.
The world turns, and from the edge,
Through a glass darkly, I see possibilities:
Dancing, singing, laughter, acceptance.
I move inwards, shivering, showing my scars
Then denying them, smiling with my mouth.

There is a power in me, I know it.
It keeps me alive in a dark stone box.
The corridor narrows and darkens,
And the light through the doorways
                blinds me and terrifies me.
Through the door, into the garden.
Stay, stay, stay, says the bird-
Stay, where there is no path
And I do not know where I am going.

The opening line is a conscious echo of Edwin Muir, “The desolations are not the sorrows’ kin”,¬†which is not¬†on the internet but in the Collected Poems, available through Amazon. Do click to look inside: more than half the book is shared there,¬†though not pp271-2, where The Desolations is. I recommend Song at p.146, an instantly accessible love poem, metrical and sweet; The Road at p. 223, because life as a Way is an image he returned to again and again, and Annunciation, also p223, because it is an image close to my heart now. Other verse I would recommend appears not to be shared, so, well, buy the book.

My ending is an echo of the first movement of Burnt Norton. Eliot wrote,

Edwin Muir will remain among the poets who have added glory to the English language. He is also one of the poets of whom Scotland should always be proud.

Should I share my verse? If I show my scars and vulnerabilities, I increase my vulnerability; and if I do not, I die, slowly. Or, this is a process of coming to terms with my own scars and vulnerabilities: to be effectual, the acceptance has to come from me- and revealing them helps.

Healing my soul

This is a month for my healing. This is the month to face the demons on my back and take their power for myself. This is the month to take my insane arrogance and insane self-abnegation, and forge a synthesis of sane self-regard- I am a human being.

How could I hold such contrary self-images? I became aware of them aged twenty in pain from love at first sight and an unrequited obsession with a woman, and saw that they were both ridiculous and wrong, and wondered how I could hold both, and now I see how I can.

I am worthless and of no account in my own mind because as a child my feelings were not acknowledged or accepted, and my spontaneous reactions were always wrong. So, early, I learned to control my self-expression to give what my parents wanted. Because my feelings and expression were a threat to me, I feared and despised them. I saw them as completely wrong and bad.

And- I am the centre of the universe. I developed this extreme narcissism in my desire to survive, and my enforcement of my control on myself.

Now is the time to heal those two complementary self-images, to- I am a human being. I was going to excerpt Pope, but cannot choose between all these wonderful lines:

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer,
Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much;
Chaos of thought and passion, all confus’d;
Still by himself abus’d or disabus’d;
Created half to rise and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all,
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d;
The glory, jest and riddle of the world.

I am a human being, with all the great value and wonder of that, one among seven billion. Loved by God so that each hair on my head is numbered, evolved over four billion years to fit, here, now, and- one among seven billion. I can see where I am going.

How to do this? I will bring to consciousness all my suppressed rage and terror over that early trauma, and I will feel it, and I will mourn it. In this pain I will cling to my new found appreciation of my own courage, creativity, truthfulness and love. I will work through it, I will mourn it, I will at last let it go.

Why am I telling you this? Two contrasting reasons. I do not care. I am at rock bottom (Please God, this is rock bottom, there is no further down!) and do not care what you think of me, or who knows this; and I am gathering my support network around me to hold me as I do this work. Pray for me, hold me in the light. Encourage me. Kingsley asked me if I felt I had a burden, and I said no, I feel as if I am crushed under a boulder bigger than myself. And I am so grateful to feel the pain, because I might be free of it.

Yesterday’s Wisbit is a motto for this blog:

I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised and misunderstood… For it is not difference which immobilizes us most but silence…