Thursday, December 30, 2010

Unbroken and the problem of evil

I recently finished Laura Hillenbrand’s terrific new book Unbroken, the story of Louis Zamperini, 1936 Olympian and prisoner of war under the Japanese during WWII. I was compelled to buy a copy after reading an absolutely gripping excerpt in Vanity Fair, which described the harrowing 46 days Zamperini and his fellow airman Russell Phillips spent adrift at sea after their plane went down in the Pacific and before they were picked up by the Japanese. You can read it yourself here. After doing so you might think that a human being could endure no greater suffering than Zamperini and Phillips did as castaways. You would be wrong, as the rest of the book makes clear.

Unbroken is the sort of book which might provide a useful real-life “Exhibit A” supplement to the standard philosophical readings in a course on the problem of evil. The unbelievably relentless, concentrated, years-long deprivation and cruelty Zamperini suffered, first at sea, and then in a series of notoriously brutal Japanese prisoner of war camps, give the lie to any facile theodicy. I have argued that the existence of even the worst evils gives us absolutely no reason whatsoever to doubt the existence and goodness of the God of classical theism. In that sense the problem of evil poses no intellectual difficulty for theism. But I have also insisted that evil poses an enormous practical difficulty, because while we can know with certainty that God has a reason for allowing the evil He does, we are very often simply not in a position to know what that reason is in this or that particular case. We can know some of the general ways in which good can be drawn out of evil – our free choices have a significance that they would not have otherwise; we can make of our sufferings an opportunity for penance for the sins we have committed; we are able to develop moral virtues such as patience, gratitude, courage, compassion, and so forth – but we cannot expect always to know why this specific child was allowed to be raped and murdered or that specific village was allowed to be destroyed by an earthquake. Or why men like Zamperini – many of whom did not live to tell their stories – were permitted to endure what, even in light of the general considerations just mentioned, seems sheer “overkill.”

I was a student at Claremont Graduate School at the tail end of John Hick’s time there and the beginning of the late D. Z. Phillips’ tenure. Phillips was critical of Hick’s famous “soul-making” theodicy. I remember his mocking impression of God as a kind of moral personal trainer: “Here you go, a bit of cancer should help toughen you up!” As Phillips’ jokes tended to be, this was both funny and somewhat unfair – Hick is not a man prone in any way to minimize human suffering, and I don't think he would claim that we can identify a “soul-making” function for each and every instance of evil. All the same (and as I’m sure Hick himself would agree), we must not let our attempts to understand God’s reasons for allowing evil lead us to sentimentalize evil, to pretend that “Buck up, old chap, it’s all for the greater good!” should suffice to soothe just anyone’s pain.

At the same time, it is also possible to lapse into sentimentality on the other side. We all know of the sort of embittered atheist who has suffered far less than a Louis Zamperini and yet who goes about his life with a metaphysical chip on his shoulder – “God done me wrong!” or even “Maybe I’ve been lucky, but look what God has let other people suffer through!” Don’t misunderstand: I have known people who have abandoned religion because of the real suffering they endured, and for whom I feel compassion. But I have also known people whose appeal to the problem of evil has seemed to me an exercise in self-righteous rationalization. “What a compassionate person I am for rejecting a God who would allow such evil, and how cold-hearted you religious people are for not doing so!” – that sort of thing. And I have also known people who have suffered enormously – in one case, to a degree that would make for a book worthy of the Laura Hillenbrand treatment – and yet whose faith in God has been their refuge.

Certainly Zamperini is the sort of man who would seem justified in a life of bitter fist-shaking at God, if anyone would. Indeed, as his suffering continued for years after the war – flashbacks, continual nightmares, the end of his athletic career as a result of an injury suffered during his captivity, listlessness, and an unquenchable thirst for revenge – Zamperini’s attitude toward religion was for some time one of hostility. But then he had a religious conversion, after hearing Billy Graham preach in Los Angeles. His flashbacks, nightmares, and listlessness ended. He traveled to Japan, visited his tormenters in prison, forgave them, and his life in the decades since – he is now in his nineties – seems to have been one of real joy.

Why does one man survive and even flourish in the face of suffering, while another is shattered by it? We cannot presume to judge the latter; God alone can do that. But neither can we dismiss the testimony of the former. Louis Zamperini’s story should warn us against sentimentality of either a religious sort or an atheistic sort. For it illustrates both that there is evil the point of which is simply beyond our understanding and that there is no evil that of itself need break a man. We simply cannot know in every case what God is up to. But He knows, and sometimes knowing that He does has to be enough.

82 comments:

jt said...

Ed

I like it much better when, in posts like this, you seem capable of rising above dogmatic certitude and absolutism.

Well said.

Edward Feser said...

JT,

I like it much better when, as in comments like this one, you don't pretend to see dogmatism that isn't really there.

Well done.

BenYachov said...

This post has the virtue of being both an emotional argument and a logical one at the same time(they don't have to be opposites).

I like too.

George R. said...

How did Zamperini feel about us dropping the big one on Hiroshima? (All broken up about it, I'm sure.)

Anonymous said...

On topic: Dr. Feser, I think it's pretty clear that the problem of evil is not even a very difficult problem IF:

1. You've established God's omniscience and omnipotence already (arguments for the classical theistic interpretation of God do just that).

2. You do not let emotions cloud your judgement.

Now, if you're a classical theist, point 1 poses no difficulties, but point two always has caused and will cause everybody difficulty. That's why stories like Zamperini's are so great-they prove that God can indeed be a force that OVERCOMES despair, rather than a convenient being to blame the problems of the world on.

Slightly off topic: Dr. Feser, I discovered this blog about a week ago and you amaze me. I've never seen the arguments for Thomistic theism presented so clearly.

On a hunch I wanted to see if it was really true that atheists were not refuting the cosmological argument, but rather a bad strawman-surely they'd realize by now that theists aren't THAT stupid, right?

A quick google search amazed. None-NONE-of the atheist websites I saw even REPRESENTED the cosmological argument correctly, let alone properly refuted it. Furthermore, I saw THEISTS using the strawman argument in debates with atheists!

Reading your blog and seeing the REAL arguments has done a world of good to strengthen a formerly weakened faith. So thanks a lot, Dr. Feser.

Daniel Smith said...

It is my contention that those who think there is a "problem of evil" fail to adequately consider the concept of eternal reward.

For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.
James 4:14


However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” the things God has prepared for those who love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9 (Isaiah 64:4)

Daniel Smith said...

For anyone interested in learning how God works through suffering, I'd recommend becoming acquainted with the works of Richard Wurmbrand: specifically his wonderful, inspirational book Tortured for Christ

McDavid said...

Regarding why some people can endure incredible pain and suffering while others cannot, it's entirely reducible to biology. Some people's nervous systems are more sensitive to pain and vice versa.

It's unfair to credit someone for being a hero for enduring unimaginable pain when someone else who was born with a more sensitive nervous system would crumble given the same stimuli.

If God exists, it's incredibly unfair that some individuals have the innate ability to tolerate pain while others don't have that luxury and are not seen as heroes, but rather weak cowards.

machinephilosophy said...

The so-called problem of evil is the lamest thing there is. There would have to be some standard by which evil is judged to exist beyond mere personal repulsion. Moreover, even if one grants the nonbeliever the existence of evil, one would still have to prove the unrectifiability of such evil for the objection to have any force against either God's goodness or power.

I would, however, like to see some theistic responses to Gale and others in the Cambridge Companion to Atheism, the section that actually addresses theistic arguments, page 69 and following.

BenYachov said...

@McDavid

So where is your peer reviewed scientific evidence that why some people can endure incredible pain and suffering while others cannot, it's entirely reducible to biology?


Anything? Well no matter. Let's assume you are right then well morally speaking once a person has been brought past their pain tolerance threshold they cannot be held morally responsible for their actions. Classical Moral Theology is rather clear on that point.

>If God exists, it's incredibly unfair that some individuals have the innate ability to tolerate pain while others don't have that luxury and are not seen as heroes, but rather weak cowards.

You are begging the question here. If God exists then why believe your materialist biological reductionist view of human tolerance for pain?

Also if God exists then their is likely an afterlife where all individuals will eventually (since everyone will did) infallibly know who is in fact worthy of praise for resisting pain within there capacity vs who is "cowardly" in that they had the capacity to resist a specific pain but choice not too.

So I don't find you argument convincing and I have a rather high standard. I can imagine myself disbelieving in God and purely on the merits doubt your argument.

Peace I wish you all the best.

Anonymous said...

Regarding why some people can endure incredible pain and suffering while others cannot, it's entirely reducible to biology. Some people's nervous systems are more sensitive to pain and vice versa.

You're wrong.
An individual person has the ability to tolerate more pain or less pain. Given information or a different context the same person might be able to undergo more pain or less.

Leo Carton Mollica said...

If God exists, it's incredibly unfair that some individuals have the innate ability to tolerate pain while others don't have that luxury and are not seen as heroes, but rather weak cowards.

I'm sort of confused. Couldn't you replace the antecedent with, well, anything? It is (or at least seems) unfair that some individuals have the innate ability, etc., if the sky is blue, if modus ponens is valid, or if Fermat's Last Theorem is correct. So, what's your point?

Ryan said...

I think McDavid is a ginger.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1362956/?tool=pmcentrez

Hang in there, man.

Anonymous said...

On the issue of "evil," there's something I've never understood (and I solemnly swear that I'm not being facetious here):

Why, in the name of all that is good and holy, did God create human beings with anuses? Think about it. Why did God feel the need to include an absolutely nasty waste disposal system as an essential part of being human? Why did He not create a nice digestive system whereby we absorb all or almost all of the nutrients that we ingest, and then whatever we don't absorb is nicely sweated off in a clean, copacetic, and sightly manner?


I'd prefer not to nauseate you with gross, detailed language, but just imagine how exceedingly disgusting and grimy and toilsome life must have been for our earliest ancestors who didn't have toilet paper, didn't have plumbing, didn't have nail clippers, didn't have toothpaste, and so on. Imagine trying to copulate with such a person - yuck!

"Nature" (all the ends of which you classicists love to extol as Good) fated all of our earliest brothers and sisters in humanity to lead grimy, dirty lives. What is all this babble about the "sublime divinity of the human body"? How am I to imagine that a man dropping his fecal matter everywhere reflects the beauty of God? Did you know that most of the cells in our bodies are foreign bacterial cells!?


As a decent person, I cry "foul!" I must conclude that the body and hence Nature are evil in many respects. Or else God has a depraved sense of humor, in which case God has a deficiency, in which case God does not exist.

QED

George R. said...

Anon,
That’s quite an impressive (ahem) demonstration. But have you considered the possibility that the reason God created man with certain such unedifying attributes was mainly an attempt to prevent man from believing himself to be a god? In which case, judging from the sequel, a strong argument could be advanced to the effect that God failed to make man nearly disgusting enough.

jt said...

*Why did God feel the need to include an absolutely nasty waste disposal system as an essential part of being human?*

If it helps any, we certainly know God is a civil engineer: consider the genitals...who else would have thought it made sense to locate recreational equipment within a waste disposal site/

Jinzang said...

"The so-called problem of evil is the lamest thing there is."

It won't do to dismiss the problem of evil as a pseudo-problem. Not only has it exercised many philosophers, a book of the Bible is devoted to it.

Crude said...

It won't do to dismiss the problem of evil as a pseudo-problem. Not only has it exercised many philosophers, a book of the Bible is devoted to it.

I'd actually agree with Ed's take on it - it's not an intellectual problem for the theist, particular only of those particular views. But not every problem is an intellectual one.

Kyle said...

JT,
You might want to admit that you plagiarized your joke word for word and give the source...lame.

Anon #1,
There is much more to thriving in the face of suffering than the mere ability to endure pain. Maybe you could revise your argument to actually address what Ed has said in the post or in regards to your own reading of the book?

Roy IV said...

Does anyone know if Law ever responded to Feser's criticism of his evil god delusion?

Anonymous said...

JT, what happened to you? I remember your posts used to display a serious attempt at grappling with the philosophical subject matter (for example, the discussion of qualia in the Frank Jackson thread). Nowadays, the quality has dropped significantly. I'd like to see you revert to what you were before.


Anus Anon,

I'm embarrassed to say that I don't quite know how to respond to you. However, don't you think that it's a bit of a stretch to say that the existence of human feces proves the nonexistence of God?

Daniel Smith said...

It is my contention that those who think there is a "problem of evil" fail to adequately consider the concept of eternal reward.
To expand on what I said earlier:
A failure to understand the concept of eternity exacerbates the "problem of evil". Those with no concept of eternity see this life as all there is. This shortsightedness causes them to weigh suffering in this life against only whatever else happens in this life as opposed to weighing the sufferings of this life against an eternal reward.

As Christians, we have the example of Christ:
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

From this we can undestand that God took the greatest evil of all---the killing of the Son of God---and from it, produced the greatest blessing ever known---the salvation of mankind.

There is no "problem of evil" for those who correctly understand Christianity.

jt said...

*However, don't you think that it's a bit of a stretch to say that the existence of human feces proves the nonexistence of God? *

It has a bearing in light of the whole 'image and likeness thing', no?


Oh, that joke, ;ike most of my jokes, has been around forever. It made me chuckle to type it up!

BenYachov said...

I think New Atheists pretty much show how lame they are when they start arguing "Poop smells bad therefore there is no God".

What a Sh**y argument!

Anonymous said...

Yachov,

1) The correct spelling is "sh***y", not "sh**y."

2) Straw-manning is not good for your health.

Crude said...

I think New Atheists pretty much show how lame they are when they start arguing "Poop smells bad therefore there is no God".

Better yet, aren't Catholics normally the ones who get accused of being bizarrely ashamed of their bodies and their functions? But apparently some utter weird shame about having to use the toilet, that's the height of reason. (I also like the bit about 'before plumbing'. Because no one was able to bathe before plumbing.)

This is one of those bits where I have to think even the guy advancing the argument rejects it. Someone who is horrified at the prospect of having to go to the bathroom would have jumped in front of a train quite a while ago.

Maybe some more anonymous prankstering - I can no longer tell the difference between a real New Atheist and the joking imitations anymore.

jt said...

The immanence of our shitting and pissing and farting and all the pathologic psychology it involves vis a vis 'we are created in the image and likeness of God'...

You do not have to be an atheist to know something is wrong with this paradigm.

You could, however, be honest and face up to its implications.

Crude said...

You do not have to be an atheist to know something is wrong with this paradigm.

You don't have to be an atheist to make a horrible, crazy argument, but hey - it helps!

If you're still at the understanding where to be 'made in God's image and likeness' means 'Well clearly God the Father has an anus', honesty's not going to help you. Given your track record, reading and thinking won't either. Therapy? Maybe, maybe. ;)

Anonymous said...

("Anus Anon" here)

Crude, given your name, I'd have thought that you'd express at least a modicum of sympathy with my position.

If the flamboyant and reckless rhetoric in my previous post belied the serious point I was trying to make, then I'll be a bit more somber this time:

Imagine for a moment that we human beings inhabited a 2010 A.D. alternate world wherein our philosophical knowledge advanced to where it is today in our current world, whereas our scientific, engineering, and medical knowledge didn't advance beyond the Stone Age - leaving the poor, miserable lot of humanity to toil and slumber without clean water, without grooming devices, without toilet paper, without mouthwash, and without all the rest of the myriad inventions that were necessary in securing a comfortable existence for a large number of people. In this alternate world that lacks the contingent, ameliorative inventions of our present world, all of this gratuitous suffering was hoisted upon us simply in virtue of the nature of the physical human body. In this cultural context, would we even think of describing Mother Nature, and by extension all of the ends she sets out for us, as being wholly good? No! We would conclude that the physical world itself is either partially infected with evil or wholly infected with evil.


The issue I have with Thomistic philosophical thought is that, although it grants the existence of moral evil, it seems to vehemently deny the existence of any and all natural/physical evil. I suspect the reason or motivation behind the denial is a desire to preserve the idea that "all of the ends or final causes bequeathed by Mother Nature are intrinsically good." After all, if the Thomist disagrees with the idea that physical Nature is wholly good (let's say, because he is convinced that certain aspects of the human body have been corrupted by evil), he has effectively conceded that some natural ends are intrinsically good whereas others are intrinsically evil, and if he concedes this, how on earth would he then know which particular natural ends are good and which particular natural ends are evil and go about picking them out? The upshot of this is that he'd have no basis whatsoever for his moral system, seeing as how he wouldn't know whether the end achieved by an action or thing intrinsically directed towards that particular end was a good end or an evil/corrupted/psuedo end.

I'm not saying that a consequence of the claim "Human beings have a gratuitously and intrinsically nasty physical body that, without the amenities of medicine and engineering, invariably results in gratuitous suffering" is "God does not exist." That would be absurd (fyi, the "QED" thing in my last post was just a bit of fun). Rather, I'm saying the consequence of that claim is an "either/or." Either "nature/the physical world is intrinsically evil in at least some respects" is true or "our Creator has a 'sick' sense of humor" is true. Whether a "God" with "a 'sick' sense of humor" is a contradiction, I honestly don't know.

What I want to know is - why, as George R. seemed to grasp, are there these "unedifying attributes"?

I'm completely with JT in thinking that something is genuinely amiss in our physical world. Surely Heaven - which is the golden standard - will not be a place with feces, dirty water, plaqued teeth, mouths that stink of rotten eggs, etc. It will be immaculate. It will not be a place of any nastiness whatsoever. So then why all the nastiness in our physical world? This is why I think that all physical instances of blatant nastiness are instances of metaphysical corruption, i.e., evil.

ebdesales said...

It strikes me as a profound irony that naturalists can get all doey-eyed and rhapsodic about the "sheer beauty" of nature––the unself-conscious primal elegance of evolved organisms just doing their thing, of nature just BEING NATURE!––, but then get all squeamish when they are told it is God's handiwork. Peope of a sacral worldview actually did and do see the nitty-gritty, shitty-bloody world as a robust emanation of and nisus towards the divine. We're the ones embarrassed by afterbirth, wet dreams, loose bowels and all the rest. The fact that we can't see through the horror of the Fall to the fundamental goodness of the created world, says more about our spiritual poverty than about God.

As always, the question to be asked of a "best possible world" atheist is: how would YOU have done it? And then the death of a thousand qualifications is their fate.

Anonymous said...

(AA here)

ebdesales, are you suggesting (quite presumptuously) that I'm an atheist? Because that couldn't be further from the truth.

It's my belief that the cosmos has been shattered at its very depths by the Fall. The trouble is, I want to square this belief with Natural Law as conceived in the Thomistic sense. I'm finding it quite difficult to do since I firmly believe, as a matter of theology, that Mother Nature is evil in many respects. If she is evil in many respects, then many of the ends she bestows to actions and things are intrinsically evil. If many are intrinsically evil, how do we go about differentiating them from those ends that are not?

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

I am ebdesales. My Gmail was acting up so it used that account by default, I guess.

Crude said...

Crude, given your name, I'd have thought that you'd express at least a modicum of sympathy with my position.

Sympathy for your position? I've got plenty of that. But I can have sympathy for a view without thinking the view is very reasonable. As for JT, I'd have sympathy for his view, but he went nutso a while ago, and I get tired of feigning respect when someone gets quite that offensive and self-absorbed.

Anyway.

Either "nature/the physical world is intrinsically evil in at least some respects" is true or "our Creator has a 'sick' sense of humor" is true. Whether a "God" with "a 'sick' sense of humor" is a contradiction, I honestly don't know.

Because what again? Because we use the toilet? Sorry, I just don't see it. Believe me, if you feel that strongly about it, if you think human bodies and actions are disgusting and horrible and twisted in and of themselves, I will have sympathy. But I just don't buy it. You may as well be telling me how horrible it is humans have two eyes, when one eye or six eyes or no eyes would clearly be superior, and thus either nature is evil or God has some horrible obsession with the number two. Not much I can do there other than look at you funny.

Sometimes if a person is repulsed by something, it isn't because the thing in question is horrible, but because the person in question has the wrong perspective, a flawed way of viewing the thing in question. I think thomists would agree with that.

Surely Heaven - which is the golden standard - will not be a place with feces, dirty water, plaqued teeth, mouths that stink of rotten eggs, etc. It will be immaculate.

Then you and I have very different possible expectations of heaven. Frankly, I expect to be busy after the resurrection. Am I certain I will be? No. But oddly enough, I don't expect the immaculate. On some days I'm tempted to believe I will have a lot of work to do.

Again, I have sympathy. Maybe if you chose a better example than the horror and what.. shame? of having to use the toilet, I'd be able to take it more seriously. But honestly, in your particular example, the problem seems to be in the eye of the beholder. As it stands, it sounds to me like if you are resurrected and are welcomed to the most fantastic feast imaginable, and in the process of eating you spill some sauce on your lap, you will scream and scream and determine then and there that you are actually in hell in some kind of Twilight Zone mixup, because *any place where clothing can be stained must be ruled by Satan himself!*

Sorry if that seems excessive, but then so do these examples and your reactions to 'em.

Happy New Year all!

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

I was not actually assuming you are an atheist. I was merely noting how your worry seems common to naturalist complaints about "creation".

I don't think you'll find Natural Law saying things in nature are "intrinsically evil", so your ambivalence seems to rest on some confusion.

First of all, nothing is purely evil, since pure evil is pure privation.

Second, only disordered acts of the will can be "intrinsically evil." The problem of the Fall is ours, not "Mother Nature's". Show me something intrinsically evil, and not merely shocking, in nature.

A great deal has been written at this blog about how to square evolutionary "wastage" and biological "savagery" with the Good Creation, so I don't want to rehash it. Peruse the archives. In so far as you are, I take it a committed Christian, let me ask you this:

How can the Cross be "squared" with the Good Creation?

It can't, really, because, in the Christian faith, the former just is the redemption of––not a random "happening" in––the latter. Creation was wrought through the Logos of God and redemption was wrought by that same Word at the Cross: One Flesh, One Act, One Altar. I encourage you to peruse my own blog's archives for the terms "Keefe", "Keefian", "Eucharistic" and so on.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Crude:

I think this KITH skit captures the point you're making about the "theological hypochondriacs" here (and elswhere) who might ought just bus jump:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5d-wr8UR6to

In the same KITHy vein, normal humans suck! God needs THE NEW STYLE!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiW2_7hs13g&feature=related

This is a sad way to ring the new year, folks. In the Law/evil-god discussions we saw how the argument from evil not only presupposes the (theological!) privation theory of evil but also is just a confused argument for the necessity of a "best possible world"––and now it's being mounted on the necessity of a "best possible digestive system"!? Let's not stop there, though: surely we can recognize how revolting the ingestion phase of digestion it, too. All that chewing and smacking and grinding and salivating and swallowing. Moreover, the need to touch food, after it's touched other objects, in proximity with other organisms, no less––it's an abomination and a sure disproof of a good God. In fact, the need to consume and expend energy by any means outside our own bodies––even to have something less than an infinite body of pure light!––it's all so horrendous! Better God had never created at all!

And so we see how atheism is basically Manicheanism redivivus.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Freakin' A, Blogger!

To JT:

http://veniaminov.blogspot.com/2011/01/again-with-goofy-blogger-comboxing.html

Crude said...

Codg,

Funny, when I saw "KITH" sketch appropriate for this discussion, I thought you were going for this one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIs8i2uR6I8

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Well played, Crude, well played! A classic sketch.

Now that I think of it, a solid argument from the evil of facial hair could be mounted with this skit as the wind beneath its wings:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYuOurhglz8

jt said...

*As for JT, I'd have sympathy for his view, but he went nutso a while ago, and I get tired of feigning respect when someone gets quite that offensive and self-absorbed.*

Sounds to me like you've been out-Cruded.

jt said...

Gentlemen (and in the high spirits of the new year, this includes Crude!)

Your desire to defend first, and understand the depth of another’s concerns that oppose some of what you defend is glaringly apparent in this somewhat scatalogical discussion.

Consider the reality we all know about the nature of our physical bodies viz our preferred self-image of transcendent spirit. What Anon has said is surely the gist many of the symbols of evil. I recall a priest shedding tears when an apparent satanic cult member broke into the church and shay on the altar. Then there is the demeaning of the spirit with Cuban prison guards filling buckets with their waste and pouring it over the heads of political prisoners. In ‘The Exorcist,’ the possessed victim heaves vomit at the priest.

Imagine the priest’s scolding and punishment a group of porochial school boys would endure if after a group prank of actual or feigned ‘gas passing’ at the communion rail.

Imagine a church with an escalating sewage odor problem or one where a sewage treatment plant seems to be regularly emitting strong odors that end up in the building…I can see several responses, but I promise you, something would change quick. Have you ever seen a church with a bathroom right adjacent to the sacristy.

My point of all this is that we are schizophrenic about our bodies when describing them as part of God’s glorious nature. This really causes trauma for many good-hearted people – you probably know some.

Codge, I saw your blog link. The fatherly advice giver is the real me – comes fro, being a teacher type for 30 years. My verbiage on these blogs follows much as I described in the post to Squirrel Boots prior to the essentialism post. I thought you knew that about me. But this goes to show that psychoanalysis within comboxes is worthless, and we should dtop the ad-hominem (sp?).

Anonymous said...

jt, even though i'm diametrically opposed to your rather insane conclusions that abortion isn't murder and that eating dogs is tantamount to cannibalism (i do agree however that pain caused in higher sentient animals is an evil; it is something-that-should-not-be), this is one of the rare instances where i'm in total concordance with you.

that Heaven -Heaven- will contain scat and sewage and other forms of natural nastiness strikes me as being one of the most execrable ideas i've ever heard. any line of reasoning which has arrived at this stage has, frankly, reached its reductio ad absurdum.

you said "This really causes trauma for many good-hearted people," and your statement reminded me of something i'd read recently by Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft:


"Those who truly love heaven will do the most for earth. It's easy to see why. Those who love the homeland best work the hardest in the colonies to make them resemble the homeland. 'Thy kingdom come. .. on earth as it is in heaven.'"



how can i love a kingdom of scat? as someone whose entire life revolves around charity work, i can forthrightly say that my passion for charity would deteriorate to the point of no return if i thought that i was bringing a kingdom of scat and sewage and natural nastiness to Earth. denigrating and mocking the picture of an "idealized" Heaven and those who embrace it is contemptible at the highest possible level, because it assaults the wills of the most resplendently good-hearted individuals among us who most want and work tirelessly to bring Heaven to Earth.

(incidentally, have you read C.S Lewis' magnificent novel, Perelandra? The beauty of the eschatological, ecological vision in that book is beyond words, and you seem like the type of guy who'd greatly appreciate it)

jt said...

"Those who truly love heaven will do the most for earth. It's easy to see why. Those who love the homeland best work the hardest in the colonies to make them resemble the homeland. 'Thy kingdom come. .. on earth as it is in heaven.'

It is my memory of such faithful Catholicism as this that I haven’t totally turned away from the faith. I’ll look into Lewis – it does sound good.

FTR. I am not certain if in the verbal war I said eating dogs was cannibalism, or if it was someone else yanking my chain (I just noticed the pun!). And as for abortion, I hold no strong commitment either way – I take it to be a matter of personal conscience and so each instance has its own circumstances to factor in. What is grievous in cases of gross abuse and irresponsible action is far different in other circumstances. I do not wish to make such judgments or start arguing abortion.

jt said...

Correction

replace sacristy with santuary (alter area is what I mean).

One Brow said...

Dr. Feser,

Thank you for this post. I've nevwer been a fan of the Argument from Evil, and you have laid out the reasons why. I will add the small objection that anyone who says "God let me down", or some such, is not actually an atheist, although I suppose if they said "if there were a God, He would be letting me down" might be.


Anonymous @Dec 30 4:54 PM said...
A quick google search amazed. None-NONE-of the atheist websites I saw even REPRESENTED the cosmological argument correctly, let alone properly refuted it. Furthermore, I saw THEISTS using the strawman argument in debates with atheists!

While the cosmological argument that Dr. Feser uses has it's flaws, I agree that the argument is largely misrepresented by theists and atheists alike.

Crude said...

anon,

that Heaven -Heaven- will contain scat and sewage and other forms of natural nastiness strikes me as being one of the most execrable ideas i've ever heard. any line of reasoning which has arrived at this stage has, frankly, reached its reductio ad absurdum.

Who said that? I said I don't strongly expect a post-resurrection life to be utter immaculate static perfection, and that frankly I at least suspect I will have work to do. And I never presented this as a Thomist position - I'm quite on my lonesome here. This is starting to get like that Tootsie Roll commercial, except instead it's... well, something that looks like a tootsie roll, admittedly.

And yes, I find the claims about anuses and digestion being 'naturally evil' to be ludicrous. Sorry, it's going to take more than your personal revulsion to move me here. The closest you've come so far is to point out that our modern conveniences are a contingent situation which removes some possible health risks. But then the historical situation is just as contingent insofar as it abets health risks. Which leaves me to wonder, is it the body or the situation the body is in, even in your own example?

how can i love a kingdom of scat?

What in the world are you talking about? Your 'kingdom of scat' is apparently 'any locality that has an anus'.

Further, let's turn this around. You insist that there's evil in nature - alright. What makes you think your reasoning on this, your apparently natural feelings, are good? Do you have some kind of guarantee that your - I think this is a fair way to put it - fairly over the top focus on digestion is right and pure and good and true? Or do you admit that it's at least possible some failing of nature could be at work in your reasoning or attitude on this subject?

jt said...

I don't think it is as much a matter of natural evil as it is a matter of the effects of over-glorifying the nature of spiritual man.

Countless people are uncomfortable with the natural workings of their bodies. For some, it is mere modesty of habit. For some it is possibly pathologic due to harsh toilet training or perhaps some experiences where their lack of control in a public setting left emotional scars.

There are likewise cases where people earnestly seek to perfect their souls towards a better union with the holiest and noblest religious aspirations and become harshly critical of and embarrassed about their bodily functions. For them, the ‘temple of the holy spirit’ is a condemnation of body, not an edification. This is not make believe, it happens. People become ashamed of their bodies and suffer from paruresis or bowel modesty that interferes with normal daily existence. Fire and brimstone preaching has often served to form such a negative state of mind.

If I understand the overarching concern of Anon, it is that given the substantial metaphysics of A-T essentialism, this body-shame should not naturally occur as it so often does. The spiritual essence that informs the material animal body should form a stable unified existent that is not so easily subject to mind-body schizophrenia.

jt said...

IOW, we are looking at a common situation where A-T theory implements badly.

Crude said...

People become ashamed of their bodies

Indeed, that's straight out of the fall. But it's also not a problem here - it's not as if the idea of people having disordered attitudes or reactions is not expected given A-T, especially given A-T in light of the fall.

Further, you're not representing anon at all as near as I can tell. You are locating the problem in the shame, the reaction, at least potentially. Anon is locating the problem in the body itself. His question has not once been posed as "If nature is good, why do so many people think bodies are disgusting?" but "Bodies are disgusting! They can't be good! How can you think they are?"

Insofar as you think the latter may be a mental failing, you're not representing anon's concerns. You seem to be arguing against them.

jt said...

Crude said---“Anon is locating the problem in the body itself. His question has not once been posed as "If nature is good, why do so many people think bodies are disgusting?" but "Bodies are disgusting! They can't be good! How can you think they are?”

I said---“I don't think it is as much a matter of natural evil as it is a matter of the effects of over-glorifying the nature of spiritual man.” [By which I am pointing to un-natural descriptions/expectations of humans leading to problems].

And offer a sloghtly more nuanced explanation for what is at issue---“If I understand the overarching concern of Anon, it is that given the substantial metaphysics of A-T essentialism, this body-shame should not naturally occur as it so often does. The spiritual essence that informs the material animal body should form a stable unified existent that is not so easily subject to mind-body schizophrenia.”

Not sure what Anon will respond.

Jinzang said...

This conversation has taken an odd turn. I thought that both atheists and Christians could agree that the reason why feces is offensive is that we're meant to avoid it. It's a source of disease, because parasites and bacteria in GI tract use it as a vector to re-introduce themselves.

Still, the the best of all possible worlds, we'd all live on sunlight and air, like Theresa Neumann.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Ah, yes, the "best possible world = Heaven" gambit.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Kf8lnxxbzo

It's incredible to me that the very means by which the body removes poisons and excess nutrients to maintain health is taken as a sign of its corruption. I can see how Anus Anon would want earth to be a place free of constipation and diarrhea, but to desire no metabolism whatsoever for composite bodies seems absurd. Respiration expels countless bacteria into the air, but is somehow not just as revolting? Sweat? Shed skin cells? Clipped nails? Spitting dust out of your mouth or crying irritants out of your eyes? These are all somehow "intrinsically evil"?

I grant that Heaven will be devoid of tears and corruption, but that is because otherwise corruptible bodies will be transformed by the Beatific Vision. Spiritual ingestion may still entail spiritual excretion, but that is obscene only if you first establish that finite metabolism itself is intrinsically evil in our terrestrial mode.

The impropriety of feces on the altar or in a pew supports the alleged horror of excretion than the impropriety of sex on the altar or in the pews suggests the wickendess of the sexual act. Further, the evil of infection and nausea by feces comes from the reversal of the excretion function, not from the excretion itself. Shit is meant to go out, not come back in; hence, getting it in your nose, mouth, blood, etc. is an evil of the natural good (order) of excretion. That it can lead to problems speaks no more against its intrinsic benefits than the fact that rape can occur between a man and a woman undermines the goodness of the sexual act.

Funny, again, how Christian purists and atheist both tend towards an anti-Incarnational, Manicheanism. If eating and excreting were acceptable for Jesus the Incarnate Word, they are acceptable to me.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

I recall C. S. Lewis (in Miracles, perhaps?) remarked that much of Christian theology could be drawn from the facts that we laugh at dirty jokes and that we feel death is a surreal horror. Charitably, I can see the point of this "shitty objection" being that the 'humility' of squatting to extrude poopie seems grossly incogruous with the claim that we are made in the image of God, but I don't grant for a second that the incongruity is dispositive of so being created. As I have said, depending on your tastes, any bodily function––indeed, corporeality and finitude themselves––could be propped up as a dispositive of Christianity. I think the solution comes from realizing that we are conscious of the incongruity––shitting animals created to be beatific gods!?––precisely because we realize our nature is meant for something more than mere earthly life (which includes eating, defecating, sleeping, etc.). As things stand, defecating is as much a part of our terrestrial mode of existence as sleeping is. Are we imperfect just because we must replenish ourselves with sleep? Is sleep evil? If defecating were so bad, how could we speak of "a good dump" (sadly, maybe those here who don't like feces have just never enjoyed such a blessing!). A good dump is part of the process of a good meal: it is the act whereby our body signals, "I have gotten everything from that meal that I can use now. Thank you very much! Please make room for the next round."

Best,

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

ERROR:

"The impropriety of feces on the altar or in a pew supports the alleged horror of excretion NO MORE than the impropriety of sex on the altar or in the pews suggests the wickendess of the sexual act."

jt said...

*If eating and excreting were acceptable for Jesus the Incarnate Word, they are acceptable to me.*

Funny, the Bible is silent on Jrsus' bowels and bladder. I bet there are many who consequently would take great offense to the assertion that the Christ needed to toilet.

I do believe you are intentionally avoiding a deeper issue here, Codge.

Crude said...

Funny, the Bible is silent on Jrsus' bowels and bladder. I bet there are many who consequently would take great offense to the assertion that the Christ needed to toilet.

Sure, but eventually they'll hit grade five and start wondering if Jesus could make a rock so heavy He Himself couldn't lift it instead.

jt said...

*Sure, but eventually they'll hit grade five and start wondering if Jesus could make a rock so heavy He Himself couldn't lift it instead. *

Thanks for sharing such well thought insights in this conversation, Crude.

*I do believe you are intentionally avoiding a deeper issue here*

Crude said...


Thanks for sharing such well thought insights in this conversation, Crude.


My pleasure JT! Incidentally, a few days ago you said that in 6000 years I and others would be arguing over whether Adam had a navel. Now, you're arguing over whether the presence of an anus is evil.

Oh, the irony!

*I do believe you are intentionally avoiding a deeper issue here*

Because it can't be that there is, in fact, no issue here. Right? I've addressed it openly - now we're down to, as usual, the psyche games. How long until the card of "I think anuses are intrinsically evil - and you can't prove me wrong. Metaphysics!" comes out? Go for it, jt. Save us some time. ;)

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Dr Feser, I realize it would be a tedious distraction, but can you ascertain if my many failed comments showed up in your comment archives? It's so weird. I have posted dozens of times this weekend, they show up, I refresh the page, they're still there, then I go to your main page and my comment is not counted. I guess the Lord doesn't want me to contribute here anymore! If you see my latest reply to JT, please post it or send it to me. Given your time constraints, I understand if I don't hear from you.

jt said...

*My pleasure JT! Incidentally, a few days ago you said that in 6000 years I and others would be arguing over whether Adam had a navel. Now, you're arguing over whether the presence of an anus is evil.*

Twice wrong, Monsieur Crude.

I had noted that within as little as a generation or so, scientists can work out their individual issues and settle on a common theory, but in 6000 years, philosophers and theologians still could not agree on Adam’s navel.

As for discussing the human anus, I simply never once did. Maybe you are entertaining my earlier note that perhaps I had out-Cruded you, and that somehow I might now be considering you to be equivalent to a human anus. Rest assured, Crude, I will not demean a work of God’s creation in that way!

But this brings us no closer in resolving Anon’s concerns.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Dr. Feser,

I've had the same experience as Codgitator with my posts. I've also had the experience of posting something, thinking that it hadn't shown up in the comments, re-posting it and then seeing my comments appear twice. Curiously, I've never had these problems when posting to addresses that use Wordpress. Perhaps that's because Wordpress is a more stable publishing platform - I don't know.

jt said...

FWIW, I lost a post on the Hume thread. I think it was caused by me not holding my mouth just right, but I’m not sure how Hume would see it!

Also, the word verification is often not there on first submittal, but it will appear for a second attempt.

Using Mozilla Browser.

You guys might try Google Chrome – I have seen it work better sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Why is this book different from Viktor E Frankl "Man's Search for Meaning" pub 1959?

jt said...

That was a VERY good book.

Edward Feser said...

Re: comments disappearing, appearing later on, etc., Blogger occasionally seems to go through periods where this kind of thing happens for a few days. Don't know why, but things always seem to return to normal after a while.

machinephilosophy said...

I didn't quite get the connection between "it has exercised many philosophers", "there is a book in the Bible devoted to it" and the claim that there is a problem of evil.

jt said...

Crude, Codge...I miss you guys. We were getting so far...

One Brow said...

Edward Feser said...
Blogger occasionally seems to go through periods where this kind of thing happens for a few days. Don't know why, but things always seem to return to normal after a while.

Have you chcked your spam filter? I occasionally find "missing" comments there.

jt said...

Just another of those Humean examples of who knows the cause, I think both Codge and VJ are overseas. Perhaps during holidays the web gets too congested at the international level.

Since it is clear that at least some posts make it, why not type your post in a wordprocessor and simply keep sending it till it makes the trip?

Maybe a solution.

Anonymous said...

"Anus Anon" here. Sorry for the delay...real world issues have been sapping my time and energy as of late.

Codgitator:It's incredible to me that the very means by which the body removes poisons and excess nutrients to maintain health is taken as a sign of its corruption. I can see how Anus Anon would want earth to be a place free of constipation and diarrhea, but to desire no metabolism whatsoever for composite bodies seems absurd. Respiration expels countless bacteria into the air, but is somehow not just as revolting? Sweat? Shed skin cells? Clipped nails? Spitting dust out of your mouth or crying irritants out of your eyes? These are all somehow "intrinsically evil"?

One of my litmus tests for whether I should think of something as being intrinsically evil or not is whether or not that thing, existing in a purely natural state, i.e. one devoid of all human inventions and conveniences (clothes, toilet paper, grooming devices, clean water, daily access to clean water, etc.), inevitably leads to a state of affairs of mass suffering, a subset of which is mass humiliation. The word "mass" here seems to take care of your objection that sweating and shedding skin cells are on par with defecation. The empirical fact of the matter is that the particular humiliations they engender are nowhere near as ubiquitous as those engendered by defecation.

(However, it's not all that difficult to imagine natural scenarios wherein perspiration becomes a steady source of humiliation...say, locales in which there is no clean bathing water)

I'll be the first to admit that my use of the phrase "intrinsically evil" is extremely misleading - Do I mean that the act of defecation or the possession of an anus is intrinsically evil, no matter what world we occupy (e.g. Heaven), or do I mean that the act of defecation is evil only because of this particular natural world we occupy? I mean it in the second sense.

Of course I have nothing against anuses per se. The act of defecation in heaven (assuming we'll have a need for waste removal there in the first place) might be clean, sightly, and copacetic - it might even be transformed into something aesthetically pleasing.



Codgitator: If defecating were so bad, how could we speak of "a good dump" (sadly, maybe those here who don't like feces have just never enjoyed such a blessing!). A good dump is part of the process of a good meal: it is the act whereby our body signals, "I have gotten everything from that meal that I can use now. Thank you very much! Please make room for the next round."

Speak for yourself :)

A "good dump" ain't exactly so enjoyable for a hairy little rube as I. I repeat, I am hairy. Without toilet paper and without a lot of clean water....well, to spare you the crass details, let us just say that it's more often than not a source of humiliation rather than a source of enjoyment. When I see a megaton, bacterial log of mine floating in the pot, I do not feel at home in my material body. I feel alienated from the materiality of this world. I simply think, "Thank God that I'm financially stable enough to afford a daily supply of toilet paper and clean running water. The majority of individuals on Earth don't have the same luxury."

Anonymous said...

"Anus Anon" here. Sorry for the delay...real world issues have been sapping my time and energy as of late.

Codgitator:It's incredible to me that the very means by which the body removes poisons and excess nutrients to maintain health is taken as a sign of its corruption. I can see how Anus Anon would want earth to be a place free of constipation and diarrhea, but to desire no metabolism whatsoever for composite bodies seems absurd. Respiration expels countless bacteria into the air, but is somehow not just as revolting? Sweat? Shed skin cells? Clipped nails? Spitting dust out of your mouth or crying irritants out of your eyes? These are all somehow "intrinsically evil"?

One of my litmus tests for whether I should think of something as being intrinsically evil or not is whether or not that thing, existing in a purely natural state, i.e. one devoid of all human inventions and conveniences (clothes, toilet paper, grooming devices, clean water, daily access to clean water, etc.), inevitably leads to a state of affairs of mass suffering, a subset of which is mass humiliation. The word "mass" here seems to take care of your objection that sweating and shedding skin cells are on par with defecation. The empirical fact of the matter is that the particular humiliations they engender are nowhere near as ubiquitous as those engendered by defecation.

(However, it's not all that difficult to imagine natural scenarios wherein perspiration becomes a steady source of humiliation...say, locales in which there is no clean bathing water)

I'll be the first to admit that my use of the phrase "intrinsically evil" is extremely misleading - Do I mean that the act of defecation or the possession of an anus is intrinsically evil, no matter what world we occupy (e.g. Heaven), or do I mean that the act of defecation is evil only because of this particular natural world we occupy? I mean it in the second sense.

Of course I have nothing against anuses per se. The act of defecation in heaven (assuming we'll have a need for waste removal there in the first place) might be clean, sightly, and copacetic - it might even be transformed into something aesthetically pleasing.



Codgitator: If defecating were so bad, how could we speak of "a good dump" (sadly, maybe those here who don't like feces have just never enjoyed such a blessing!). A good dump is part of the process of a good meal: it is the act whereby our body signals, "I have gotten everything from that meal that I can use now. Thank you very much! Please make room for the next round."

Speak for yourself :)

A "good dump" ain't exactly so enjoyable for a hairy little rube as I. I repeat, I am hairy. Without toilet paper and without a lot of clean water....well, to spare you the crass details, let us just say that it's more often than not a source of humiliation rather than a source of enjoyment. When I see a megaton, bacterial log of mine floating in the pot, I do not feel at home in my material body. I feel alienated from the materiality of this world. I simply say, "Thank God that I'm financially stable enough to afford a daily supply of toilet paper and clean running water. The majority of individuals on Earth don't have the same luxury."

Anonymous said...

(cont.)

Codgitator:Funny, again, how Christian purists and atheist both tend towards an anti-Incarnational, Manicheanism. If eating and excreting were acceptable for Jesus the Incarnate Word, they are acceptable to me.

I thought that the whole point of the Gospels was that death and decay are the enemies of God, and that, by way of Christ's death, the vicious cycle of death and decay has finally and forever been broken. On the other hand, Thomists(or some of them, at least), seem to have imbibed the idea that that same cycle of death and decay is imperishably Good. Therefore, they wind up saying things like "The process of defecation is good because it is the very means by which the body removes harmful toxins." Such comments evince a tacit admission that death and decay (ex. toxins) have always been part and parcel of God's plan - that God somehow willed death and decay at the outset of creation, perhaps in order to bring about certain good ends that would otherwise have been unattainable. But I don't buy that for a minute. I say, "To hell with toxins! To hell with the entire cycle of death and decay! This was never God's intention. Death and decay are His enemies, and He conquered them at the cross. This is the resounding, unabashedly triumphalist message of the Gospels!"

Hence, as to your charge of Manicheanism, I do believe in a present duality, but I believe it's temporary rather than absolute. Furthermore, I believe that there was no cosmic duality prior to the Fall, so your charge is misplaced.

Anonymous said...

(cont.)

What follows are several passages from Orthodox theologian and philosopher, David Hart, in his book, The Doors of the Sea, which is quite possibly the best book on "theodicy" I've ever read and is the book that has given rise to my conclusion that our world, in both its natural and moral spheres, is a shattered world, containing both good and evil in both of those spheres.

It is a patristic notion (developed with extraordinary profundity by Maximus the Confessor) that humanity was created as the methorios (the boundary or frontier) between the physical and the spiritual realms, or as the priesthood of creation that united earth to heaven, and that thus, in the fall of man, all of material existence was made subject to the dominion of death.

In the New Testament, our condition as fallen creatures is explicitly portrayed as a subjugation to the subsidiary and often mutinous authority of angelic and demonic "powers," which are not able to defeat God's transcendent and providential governance of all things, but which certainly are able to act against him within the limits of cosmic time. This age is ruled by spiritual and terrestrial "thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers" (Col. 1:16; cf. 1 Cor. 2:3; Eph. 1:21; 3:10), by "the elements (stoicheia) of the world" (Gal. 4:3), and by "the prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2), who - while they cannot ultimately separate us from God's love (Rom. 8:38) - nevertheless contend against us: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:12). Hence John's Gospel calls the devil (the prince of this world" (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), while 2 Corinthians calls him (somewhat shockingly) "the god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4), and 1 John says that "the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19). The cosmos, then, is divided between two kingdoms, that of God and that of death. And while God must triumph, death remains mighty and terrible until the end - it remains, in fact, the "last enemy that shall be destroyed" (1 Cor. 15:26).

To provide some context, the especially apt passages from which I quoted are located on pg.'s 63-66 of the book. Apparently this section is preview-able on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Doors-Sea-Where-Was-Tsunami/dp/0802829767/

Nevertheless, you seem to be a much more well-read guy than I, Codgitator, so it would be extremely interesting to hear some thoughts on those passages from an erudite Catholic as yourself.

jt said...

Anon

I have been approaching your concern (which I share, though with a different paradigm) with the supportive pointing to actual people's lives and how the disgust of the bodily is easily generated with an over-emphasis on human 'image of God likeness'.

Your use of evil w/r to the unsavory realities of the body as indicative of a flawed nature is not quite what I have focused on (as I am sure you already were aware).

I wonder what your thoughts are about what I said w/r to the Christ's need to toilet and how this is anathema to many (except Crude and I guess the Codge, who really get off on the stuff).

romishgraffiti said...

Found this book on a friend's Amazon wish list, so I sent it to him on your recommendation.

P.S. Got a Barnes & Noble gift card for Christmas and ordered a copy of your Aquinas for beginners. Should be here by the next ice age hopefully.

jt said...

Wow.

I reread the Hart quotes and now remember how I had first been told of my body as dirty and that was because it was not my soul. This came from peers in parochial school, teachers, and some priests. Right or wrong, it happened. We were to be ashamed of our earthly bodies that held us back from our soul's union w/ God. The spirit is willing and all that.

I get your message now, anon.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

So the argument is basically that dingleberries undermine orthodox Christianity?

Adam and Eve were called to eat. After food goes in, it has to go out. There may not have been toxins, as we understand them, before the Fall, but there were still things to avoid, like the tree of knowledge of good and evil and, say, eating one's own hands, etc.

The difficulties we have with defecation have as much to do with our fallen nature as with our diets. More fiber, less meat, more water, and less hasty attempts to defecate make for better bowel movements.

At this point, I feel like I'm encouraging the argument to miss the forest for the trees by even engaging it. Let me see if I can reduce down to a quasi-consensus:

Pre-Fall: Eating and natural metabolism, good.

Post-Fall: Dingleberries and typhus, bad.

This is so surreal a discussion that I'm having trouble keeping my bearings on the essential point.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Or, perhaps: When Bad Dumps Happen to Good People by Rabbi Seymour Tushner?

(I read Hart's book on suffering when it came out. It's in a box on a shelf, I think, if I decide to peruse it again. Please clarify why he is relevant to this issue. Like I say, I'm having trouble keeping my bearings here.)

jt said...

Codge

How literally do you take the Eden story? What is the Fall in your belief?

You've seen my comments, I do not see real behaviors and attitudes of friends and neighbors as surreal. I see an attempt to explain away the unintended consequences of the body is dirty, soul is holy catechism as heavily biased to protect doctrine.

BenYachov said...

Interesting post on your blog VJ.

Cheers man!

BenYachov said...

opps wrong thread!!!!

Anonymous said...

As to the atheists, there is one possible comment said by God to Job: "where were you when I laid the foundation of the world?" (Job). Also, isn't it pretty clear that at least subjectively Zamperini was being tortured by his memories after the war? The weight of all that injustice was breaking him. Once he realized that it was not up to him to right those wrongs a huge burden was lifted from him. He learned that was God's job. It is very comforting. On a much lesser scale the same kind of metanoia happened to me, thanks to the grace of God! My life changed ten years ago.