October 08, 2009
The Banana Man chronicles-4: The insurmountable problem of theodicy
(My latest book God vs. Darwin: The War Between Evolution and Creationism in the Classroom has just been released and is now available through the usual outlets. You can order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the publishers Rowman & Littlefield, and also through your local bookstores. For more on the book, see here.)
In the previous post I wrote about how Banana Man wants to make sure that you realize that you are a loathsome being because of your repeated sinning. On page 43 of his introduction to Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, Banana Man relentlessly pursues his theme that because god is just you cannot escape from god's wrath. "To say that there will be no consequences for breaking God’s Law is to say that God is unjust, that he is evil." It is clearly important to him that god be a macho god, a Rambo among gods, who invariably doles out righteous justice, and is nothing like the wimpy loving and merciful god propagated by those wussy liberal Christians.
To try to prove that point, Banana Man then tells us a tragic and true story:
On February 24, 2005, a nine-year-old girl was reported missing from her home in Homosassa, Florida. Three weeks later, police discovered that she had been kidnapped, brutally raped, and then buried alive. Little Jessica Lunsford was found tied up, in a kneeling position, clutching a stuffed toy.
So how does this incredibly sad story prove his point? Here's what he says immediately following:
How do you feel toward the man who murdered that helpless little girl in such an unspeakably cruel way? Are you angered? I hope so. I hope you are outraged. If you were completely indifferent to her fate, it would reveal something horrible about your character.
Do you think that God is indifferent to such acts of evil? You can bet your precious soul he is not. He is outraged by them.
The fury of Almighty God against evil is evidence of his goodness. If He wasn’t angered, He wouldn’t be good. We cannot separate God’s goodness from His anger. Again, if God is good by nature, He must be unspeakably angry at wickedness.
So what does his mighty, righteous, and just god do in his fury to avenge this monstrous crime? Apart from being outraged, nothing at all as far as we can see, because Banana Man abruptly drops this topic and moves on to discuss other things. Even by the low standards of Banana Man, this 'argument' seems like a complete non sequitur. As far as I can figure, the point of this story is that Banana Man is saying his BFF god must be outraged because otherwise he wouldn't be good. If he is good, he cannot be evil. But if god is not just, he would be evil. Since he is not evil, he must be just.
I think it is always interesting how religious people like Banana Man are always so sure that they know how god feels about things and what he will do to us after we die, while at the same time claiming total ignorance of why it is that we see absolutely no evidence at all while we are alive that god does anything at all.
But gratuitously introducing the sad story of Jessica actually works against him. If god is always just, then surely that must mean that in his eyes the little girl died a horrible death because she deserved it? If justice is that important to god, and she did not deserve to die, then god should have prevented her death. What's the use in god being outraged by injustice if he doesn't do anything about it? It would be like someone shouting at the TV when he sees something he dislikes. But unlike humans, Banana Man's god supposedly has the power to change the programming. In fact, he writes the script for all the shows. So he is in a unique position to prevent the outrage in the first place rather than raging about it impotently afterwards. Why did he write a script in which Jessica died if he was going to be outraged by her death?
Banana Man does not even try to address this question because it is the age-old and insurmountable problem of theodicy, of why god allows evil if he is omnipotent and omniscient. The best that religious people can come up with is that god has some mysterious plan that we are not privy to now but will (conveniently) learn later, after we die or when the Rapture comes. In other words, we have the predictable reappearance of the 'mysterious ways clause' that religious believers have to keep invoking whenever they are trapped in a corner from which there is no escape.
The reason that Banana Man does not proffer even this pathetic excuse but simply ignores the issue is that if the death of Jessica was part of this grand and secret plan, then god should not be outraged, which undermines his argument for god being always just and unmerciful. In addition, up until that point he had given the impression that he is like Jeeves to Bertie Wooster's god: He knows his master's likes and dislikes, his moods, and his policies, maybe even his favorite brand of breakfast cereal. Creating that impression of intimacy is what he thinks gives him authority to make sweeping pronouncements about what god thinks of us and wants from us. To suddenly use ignorance of god as a defense would weaken his entire argument.
Next: Fear and loathing in the service of Jesus.
POST SCRIPT: Mr. Deity on why he doesn't do anything to prevent suffering
A great description of all the problems of theodicy and the banal excuses people proffer for god when tragedies strike.