Over at Metamagician, Russell Blackford gave a short disquisition on the problem of evil: why does a benevolent and powerful God allow so much apparently useless suffering in the world?
Andrew Sullivan, at The Daily Dish, didn’t like what Blackford said. Here’s how Sullivan responded, justifying the existence of suffering:
“Russell Blackford argues that the paradox of suffering requires one to become an atheist. He writes that the “intellectually honest response, painful though it may be, is to stop believing in that God”:
[Blackford's words] [M]ost of the supposed explanations of evil make sense only in a pre-scientific setting. They are now absurdly implausible even at face value. In particular, most of the suffering that there has been on this planet took place long before human beings even existed. An all-powerful God did not need any of this. It could have created the world in a desirable form without any of it just by thinking, “Let it be so!” That’s what being all-powerful is about, if we take it seriously.
I have never found the theodicy argument against faith convincing. My own faith teaches me that suffering is part of a fallen creation that lives and dies — how could it not be? But it also teaches me that suffering in itself can be a means of letting go to God, of allowing Him to take over, of recognizing one’s own mortality and limits. That to me is not some kind of crutch. It is simply the paradox of the cross.”
Translation: “the paradox of the cross” = “I sure don’t understand, but I’m going to gussy up my ignorance with fancy words.”
When a tsunami sweeps away a bunch of Indonesians, when a baby dies of leukemia, when Jews were driven into the gas chambers of Auschwitz: how, exactly, are those ways of “letting go to God”? Or of “recognizing one’s own mortality and limits”? This is intellectual nonsense. These are words without meaning. And they are insulting and infuriating to anybody with a brain.
I wonder what facts would make Sullivan find the argument convincing? It can’t be the existence of yet more innocent people suffering needlessly, because, Lord knows, we’ve already seen enough of that. In fact, I doubt that there is any evidence that would convince Sullivan that there’s a problem, which is why he has no intellectual credibility on the issue of faith. “His faith teaches him” means, of course, that somebody told him that suffering was part of God’s plan, and that’s why he believes it. For someone who’s supposedly an intellectual, Sullivan shows a distressing tendency to accept authority and avoid thinking for himself.
“How could it not be?” Easy, if there’s no God.