Personifying the problem of evil
Things began on a sour note when Jerry Rivard accused me of holding a “morally reprehensible” view: “Randal, no offense, but I find this “we’re insignificant without God” perspective to be morally reprehensible….”
I find the charge Jerry presents especially troubling. Consider:
(1) If Jones holds a racist view then Jones is a racist.
(2) If Jones holds a morally reprehensible view then Jones is a moral reprobate.
Unfortunately the reasoning doesn’t break down if we change “Jones” to “Rauser” leaving me with the conclusion that Jerry opened his comments by effectively calling me a moral reprobate. Ouch.
But that’s okay. That’s what friends do. One calls the other a moral reprobate. However, we still live in a universe of an eye for an eye. So (and here’s the fun part), the reprobate gets to return fire by calling his buddy obtuse. Now I know what you’re thinking. “Isn’t this beneath you Randal? Trading pot shots?” But I actually have a reason for calling Jerry obtuse.
Let’s go back to what I originally wrote: “The Atheist Missionary was being driven by a deep moralistic impulse that somehow the intense suffering of the innocent is a fundamental offense to the basic structure of the universe.” Jerry responded:
“I do not find the suffering of the innocent to be an offense against the universe. I don’t see how it could be. The universe is not conscious. It has no intentions, no thoughts, no feelings, no values, no goals, no plans, no concerns. It doesn’t care if the boy eats the tiger or the tiger eats the boy. How can it be offended?”
Jerry, meet Personification. Personification, this is Jerry. Why don’t you two get to know one another? (Personification shyly sips her pint and blushes. Jerry twirls the umbrella in his girly drink and musters a shy “Hello.”)
I was attributing the language of “offense” to the universe as a way of communicating the notion that our objections to egregious suffering derive from an objective facticity which is, in its own (moral) domain, as real as a force like gravity is in its realm.
You might benefit at this point from Stephen Crane who made his own naturalism (and the accompanying existentialist dilemma) vivid with a bold dose of apostrophe:
A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”
I hope you wouldn’t attempt to rebut Mr. Crane with the retort, “But the universe can’t talk.”
So let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. The statement “Immolating a child for pleasure is wrong” is as much an objective brute fact as “2+2=4″. And any worldview that cannot ground the objective nature of facts like that has a real problem of evil on its hands.
(And yes, I know worldviews don’t really have hands.)