A regular commenter by the name of Scott asked me to comment on:
- The Problem of Evil
Scott describes himself as:
Spoken by a closet unchristianising (??) Reformed doubter (sorry believer) of 40+yrs, who still gets something out of Christianity although I never tell those around me where I’m really at….
Those of us who have deconverted from Christianity can readily understand where Scott is right now. It’s like standing in the middle of a busy highway with traffic coming at you from both directions. Do I go this way, that way…if I go the wrong way I am sure to be hit by the traffic. The good news is Scott understands where he is and he continues to read, ask questions, and consider carefully what direction he should go.
While I will certainly not be able to give each of these subjects the time they deserve, I do want to take a stab at them. If I have written on the subject before, I will link to the appropriate post.
I have written on abortion previously, Abortion Facts, Lies, and Contradictions. At one time, I was an ardent life begins at conception, abortion is murder, pro-lifer. As my politics became more liberal so did my view on abortion. While I agree with the pro-lifer that we should protect human life, I disagree with them on when that life begins. Does life begin at fertilization? The pro-lifer says yes and I say no. At the moment of fertilization potential life is created and if left undisturbed it may grow into a human that can exist outside of the womb of its mother.
The line for me is viability. Once a fetus reaches the point that it can live outside of the mother’s womb, then government should regulate when an abortion is permissible. This would mean that 1.5-5% of abortions would be regulated by federal/state government.
The bigger issue is making sure that there is no need for abortion, and here the United States we must put an end to the Christian/Political right’s incessant war on abortion. They want to prohibit all abortion, yet they are also against woman/teens having free access to birth control. Their religious beliefs get in the way of what should be sound government policy; free birth control, including morning after drugs, for all.
My position on euthanasia (physician assisted suicide) is quite simple. I think a person who is mentally competent should be able to determine how and when they die. I do think the government should regulate the who, what, and why of the discussion, but every person should have the right to say, I don’t want to live anymore.
This subject became a real topic of discussion recently when we had to have our cat euthanized. I decided to let Polly and our youngest daughter handle Salazar and his declining health. For several weeks, I reminded them that he was suffering, that it was “time.” They just couldn’t bring themselves to make to the call. Finally, I realized they never were going to make the call so I said, call the vet, it is time. Once I made the decision, they were relieved and quickly acted upon my decision.
This taught me an important lesson and it caused me to rethink my end-of-life plans. If Polly can’t make the hard decision to euthanize a cat, how can I expect Polly to make the right call when it comes my time to die? (and I am not criticizing her here. I am simply being a realist) While I have an advance directive, I have decided to add my two oldest sons to the list of those to be involved in my end-of-life decisions. Polly knows what I want, she knows at what point I no longer want to suffer with pain, but I don’t know if she can or will do what I want her to do. So, I think having my two oldest sons as part of the process will be a great help for Polly when the end of life comes for me.
I see no value, in fact I think it is cruel and inhumane, to require someone to suffer until the bitter end. I think Christian teaching on suffering, which permeates our society, promotes needless pain and suffering, and vilifies those who want to end their own life. It is my life not God’s or the church’s, and, as a free moral agent, I should have the right to determine when, where and how I die. Because I write about chronic illness and chronic pain from time to time, there are a lot of sickies who read this blog. I suspect most of them want when, where, and how they die to be in their hands. They don’t want the government or religious do-gooders to get in the way of them negotiating their own death.
The only hell is the hell that human beings and nature causes. Since I don’t think there is an afterlife, I have no thoughts of eternal life in hell or heaven. We live, we die, end of story. The only hell and heaven we have is in this life, so my goal is to lessen the hell and expand the heaven.
I know that shaking thoughts of hell can be very hard for someone who no longer believes. Remember, these thoughts are just vestiges from your religious past. I call them a fundamentalist hangover. Over time, as our minds are cleared of mythical and harmful religious beliefs, thoughts of hell, heaven, and the afterlife fade away. What matters is now, this life, and the future of our children and grandchildren.
Of course, you need to decide this for yourself. I don’t want to be in hell someday and have a reader of this blog come up to me and say, So much for listening to you, Bruce!
Polly and I will celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary in July. I am a happily married man 99% of the time and I think Polly and I are a great match for each other. I love her dearly and I don’t regret for one moment asking her to marry me. Our marriage is quite traditional, not much different from the marriages of our parent’s generation.
That said, what I may like about marriage or what I think is a good marriage might be different for someone else. So, from a legal and social perspective, I think marriage is a legal contract between two people. The government regulates the legal parameters of marriage. Culture, religion, and personal beliefs regulate the moral and practical structure of a marriage. I don’t think the government has any business, outside of setting the age for marriage and determining whether a person can marry someone they have a familial connection with, determining who can and can not marry.
35 years ago, Polly and I stood before our family and friends and said our vows. We made a commitment to each other and we expect each other to keep the terms of our commitment (contract). (though how we define these commitments has changed over the years) But, our commitment should not be the standard for anyone else. Each couple must decide what the terms of their contract is. Polly and I committed ourselves to a monogamous relationship, as I suspect most Americans do. But, different strokes for different folks. Some couples have an open marriage or their marriage is bound by economic, social, or political terms rather than physical/sexual terms.
The Problem of Evil
I think Bart Ehrman’s book, God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer, is an excellent read on this subject.
The problem of evil (theodicy) is one of the primary reasons I deconverted. I came to the conclusion that, according to the Bible, God created/allowed evil and that he capriciously holds humans accountable for what he alone is responsible. He could have created humans so they couldn’t sin. He could step into human history and stop evil from happening. If God is all that Christianity says he is, then he is quite the monster if he refuses to stop evil. Everywhere I look I see evil. I see sickness, disease, suffering, violence, starvation, and war. And what does God do? Nothing.
Of course, the reason God does nothing is because he does not exist. It is up to humans to stop evil and to help those who are afflicted. God is not coming to rescue us. There is no miracle fixing to happen if we just believe. It is up to us, as thousands of years of human history clearly show us.
Does evil exist? Sure, evil exists in the bad actions of humans, whether they act alone or as a political, social, or corporate body. For our own sake and the sake of our species future, we must stand against evil.
Scott asks whether we should kill people who are mad or bad? It depends. We must first decide what is mad or bad. All of us agree that getting drunk and then driving an automobile is a bad thing to do. Sometimes, people die because inebriated people cause an accident. Should we be proactive and kill every person that is inebriated? After all, if we did this we would put an end to people being killed by drunk drivers. I doubt many people would advocate preemptive strikes against people who drink too much.
But, what about the drone strikes that are now routinely carried out by the Obama administration? We know that terrorists can and do commit evil acts, but should we preemptively kill all suspected terrorists? Some might say yes, but I say no. Why? Because I think drone strikes are too subjective and they lead to innocent people being killed. (and I think they do little to decrease the threat of terrorism)
I strenuously oppose both the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, but I would have supported the government hunting down and killing the men responsible for 9-11. Punish those who are responsible for the evil, thus eliminating their ability to commit evil acts again.
I realize this is a complex issue and there are many nuances and shades of gray to consider. While I am a pacifist, I am not so naïve to think that the US government can/should sit by when evil men do whatever they want. Unfortunately, the US government has often perpetrated their own evil, like the nuclear bombing of Japan, the fire bombing on Dresden, and the indiscriminate use of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Like an evil Dr. Jekyll, the US government has conducted evil experiments on blacks and the mentally handicapped. They have rounded up Japanese Americans and put them in concentration camps. They supported and profited from the subjugation of an entire race when they supported or turned a blind-eye to slavery.
I think the US government is quite hypocritical when it decides what evil it goes after. Evil terrorists, yes. Genocide in Sudan and Rwanda, no. As an aging man, I have come to realize that the US government can be evil and it can be good and often it can be evil and good at the same time.
Here’s what I know. Few people would object if we could go back to 1933 and put a bullet in the head of Adolph Hitler. In fact, I would abandon my pacifistic principles to do so myself. Every one of us have the obligation to root out evil and promote good. Unfortunately, most people don’t give a shit, think they are powerless, or have a warped, shallow understanding of evil and good. (i.e. the people on Faux News who think Christians being persecuted in America, you know the “war’ on Christians, is evil. Their ideology keeps them from understanding what evil really is. We all need to be aware of this.)
Have I said enough in this post to piss everyone off? Hopefully, I adequately answered Scott’s questions. I am sure he will let me know if I didn’t.