Sullivan Tries Again

Andrew Sullivan takes another stab at the theodicy question. His new gambit plays off of this heartbreaking report of a young child with CIPA (Congential Insensitivity to Pain). As a result of not being able to feel pain, the child is constantly hurting herself without realizing it. Sullivan’s take:

Maybe one can imagine a physical existence where pain does not exist. But not on this planet, where pain has helped organisms survive and prosper, and where suffering has often prodded humankind’s spiritual dimension. This complex interaction between good and bad – captured graphically in the Gospels’ Passion stories, where intense suffering is inextricably bound up with salvation – seems too much for the Coyne position. But it should not be too much for anyone capable of more than a sophomoric understanding of human experience.

Apparently a junior or senior level understanding of human experience shows that intense suffering is a gift from God, on account of it prodding our spiritual dimension.

No one is confused about the survival value of feeling pain and no one goes around wishing to be a CIPA patient. The problem of pain is not the problem of physical discomfort. I nicked myself shaving last week. It was annoying, but it did not leave me more convinced of my atheism.

The issue is the profligacy of pain and suffering. Why four bilion years of suffering, death and extinction, when God could have created everything ex nihilo precisely as the Bible says He did? Why the riot of awfulness that is evolution by natural selection? It is nice that people can use the suffering and setbacks of their own lives to rise to new heights and new understandings of existence, but do you really think that is an adequate answer for the child dying of leukemia, or the victims of monsoons or earthquakes? (Those are rehtorical questions, incidentally. I’m well familiar with the sorts of arguments people make in response to these points. I just don’t find those arguments very convincing.)

If you treat theology as a game in which you begin with the assumption of an all-loving, all-powerful God and then devise such arguments as you can to respond to seemingly contrary data, then you can come up with theoretically possible replies to the problem of evil. The trouble is that all such explanations must compete with the atheist alternative. If the universe seems completely indifferent to human needs and wants that is because it is. If our bodies can fall prey to all manor of crippling, awful diseases it is because evolution is a messy process that did not have us in mind.

If all of this suffering, pain and death seems so pointless that is because it is.

Comments

  1. #1 Glen Davidson
    September 23, 2009

    Pathetic equivocation.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  2. #2 Scooty Puff Jr.
    September 23, 2009

    Maybe one can imagine a physical existence where pain does not exist. But not on this planet, where pain has helped organisms survive and prosper, and where suffering has often prodded humankind’s spiritual dimension.

    He seems to be arguing that pain is useful. That’s surely the case (although not all pain is useful), but why couldn’t God have created us with spiritual bodies that are incapable of injury, where pain would be useless? If God didn’t have that option, then he’s not all powerful. Sullivan should really quit digging.

  3. #3 Chris Bell
    September 23, 2009

    You’ll love his most recent stab at it. It includes this gem:

    Many survive suffering – most, in fact. The question is whether it is overcome, rather than endured. For that, something beyond mere physical processes are necessary.

    That last bit is blatantly (even arrogantly) unsupported and unsupportable.

  4. #4 NeverTheTwain
    September 23, 2009

    Okay, Andy, so let’s say you’re right, and God not only exists, he created suffering in order to teach us valuable lessons. Cool. That means people who suffer a lot are especially beloved of God, right? They’re getting all the good stuff. But then…then that means people who skip through life with a nice family, good health and sufficient income must be despised by God. Man, a person just can’t catch a break. Or am I being sophomoric?

  5. #5 Jim Harrison
    September 23, 2009

    I’ll be surprised Sullivan doesn’t treat us to some version of the Fundamentalist argument in favor of capital punishment: “If the liberals had seized control of the Roman empire and outlawed executions and torture, nobody would ever have been saved. Jesus suffered 100 hours of community service for our sins? I don’t think so.”

  6. #6 NewEnglandBob
    September 23, 2009

    Sullivan is losing his sense of reality.

  7. #7 H.H.
    September 23, 2009

    Sullivan is getting desperate. I love how calls Coyne’s position a “sophomoric understanding of human experience.” What a tool. It is obviously Sullivan who hasn’t thought deeply enough here, else he might have been aware that Joseph Heller already dismantled these insipid arguments for the utility of pain in his novel Catch-22

    ‘And don’t tell me God works in mysterious ways,’ Yossarian continued, hurtling on over her objection. ‘There’s nothing so mysterious about it. He’s not working at all. He’s playing. Or else He’s forgotten all about us. That’s the kind of God you people talk about – a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatological mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain?’

    ‘Pain?’ Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife pounced upon the word victoriously. ‘Pain is a useful symptom. Pain is a warning to us of bodily dangers.’

    ‘And who created the dangers?’ Yossarian demanded. He laughed caustically. ‘Oh, He was really being charitable to us when He gave us pain! Why couldn’t He have used a doorbell instead to notify us, or one of His celestial choirs? Or a system of blue-and-red neon tubes right in the middle of each person’s forehead. Any jukebox manufacturer worth his salt could have done that. Why couldn’t He?’

    ‘People would certainly look silly walking around with red neon tubes in the middle of their foreheads.’

    ‘They certainly look beautiful now writhing in agony or stupefied with morphine, don’t they? What a colossal, immoral blunderer! When you consider the opportunity and power He had to really do a job, and then look at the stupid, ugly little mess He made of it instead, His sheer incompetence is almost staggering. It’s obvious He never met a payroll. Why, no self-respecting businessman would hire a bungler like Him as even a shipping clerk!’

  8. #8 omar
    September 23, 2009

    This whole debate is such a sideshow. Religion is not mainly about explaining the world. Its mostly about what works to move someone’s personal or group agenda forward. It really doesnt matter how ridiculous a religion’s theology is (Christianity, I rest my case), its how well it works to mobilize armies of people in the cause. And there is no essential Christian or Islamic religion: it gets modified into whatever works. The theologians just work to make it palatable for a trivial subset of people who want to think that far and have problems with the logic of the system. The arguments of theologians and their opponents are almost totally irrelevant to the success or failure of the religion as a social phenomenon. Christianity was not brought down from its medieval perch by argument, it had to surrender space to secular rivals because society had changed and needed different rules and Christian churches (reluctantly) adjusted. “History, not argument, undermined the gods”…

  9. #9 Tyro
    September 23, 2009

    If we find children suffering from hunger, living in squalor and deprivation, we first try to help. Then we might ask ourselves, what about their parents? Maybe they were unable to help (e.g.: too poor, famine in their village), maybe they were unwilling (e.g.: cared more for another hit of cocaine than their kids or suffered some psychosis), or maybe they were absent (e.g.: imprisoned or dead). No one could convince us that the parents loved their children and had the abilities to help but stood by and did nothing. Why should we accept this outlandish claim about God?

  10. #10 AL
    September 23, 2009

    Maybe one can imagine a physical existence where pain does not exist. But not on this planet, where pain has helped organisms survive and prosper, and where suffering has often prodded humankind’s spiritual dimension. This complex interaction between good and bad – captured graphically in the Gospels’ Passion stories, where intense suffering is inextricably bound up with salvation – seems too much for the Coyne position. But it should not be too much for anyone capable of more than a sophomoric understanding of human experience.

    I guess nothing Sullivan says has to make any sense. It simply has to sound beautiful and moving enough to a believer that they get down on their trembling knees and reinforce their beliefs through the power of tearful emotion.

  11. #11 GH
    September 23, 2009

    Honestly I have long thought Sullivan to be an intellectual lightweight as well as just an odd dude. He embrace of his childhood church and his homosexuality is one of the oddest combinations one can imagine. He, I think, is somewhat troubled internally.

  12. #12 Dave X
    September 23, 2009

    “Maybe one can imagine a physical existence where pain does not exist. But not on this planet,” What planet is Sullivan on? Not the same one as Gabby with CIPA? CIPA is a prime example of an unhealthy mutation in evolution and Dawkins’ uncaring universe.

    Is the pitiful painless suffering of Gabby’s self supposed to be some kind of lesson about god’s love intended for other people?

    Sullivan’s next post:
    One feels as if one is talking past someone.

    Yes, resilience is obviously built into our genetics, but my point was the unique ability to transcend suffering, not just endure it. That requires a mind that renders humans uniquely self-conscious, which has led to inquiries into ultimate meaning that, so far as we can tell, no animal experiences in the same way. Many survive suffering – most, in fact. The question is whether it is overcome, rather than endured. For that, something beyond mere physical processes are necessary. Which is where religion has its place.

    Not all humans have have this “unique ability to transcend suffering”. Matter of fact, most of us get a load of suffering which eventually kills us dead. Prior to that which kills us, we get lots of ‘transcendable’ suffering which we live through and then make up stories about how it made us a better person. Darn it, with theodicy, people who suffer or die just plain deserve it. Are humans who don’t overcome suffering merely animals?

  13. #13 Nasikabatrachus
    September 23, 2009

    The question is whether it is overcome, rather than endured. For that, something beyond mere physical processes are necessary. Which is where religion has its place.

    What does that even mean? That religion gives people supernatural powers?

    Sullivan just seems to get more oblique as time goes by.

  14. #14 JimV
    September 24, 2009

    There are no comments on his blog, but you can send him emails. They get read by him or his staff and are sometimes posted and responded to. Occasionally such emails even cause him to change his mind. I sent him the following:

    You need to quit this subject while you’re behind (in my view). Yes, pain is an essential part of evolution, and self-aware creatures (which includes higher primates, who can recognized themselves in a mirror) will suffer due to pain. That is all completely consistent with the Theory of Evolution. It is exactly what one would expect, in a universe in which no invisible, beneficent super-parent watches over us, so we have to watch out for ourselves.

    You say religion allows us to transcend suffering. Unless you are referring to the Stockholm Syndrome, I don’t know what this means. Buddhism in its purest form (in which it is more a philosophy than a religion, and denies the existence of souls or gods) has the most to say about suffering, in my opinion. Christianity’s chief message, as I heard it, is, sign up with us or you will spend an eternity in Hell experiencing pain and suffering, which you will not be able to transcend.

    Please get back to writing about things you have good evidence for. If your point is that you have the right to your own unproven feelings and should not be criticized for them, that is fine, but arguing that others should accept that there is some sort of rational, evidenced basis for those beliefs would require far more research (into biology, neuroscience, and other fields). Better to point people to your debate with Sam Harris and return to something useful.

    (I think he has written a lot of good stuff about the Iraq war, neocons, Sarah Palin, health-care reform, and the Iranian election protests.)

  15. #15 windy
    September 24, 2009

    Many survive suffering – most, in fact. The question is whether it is overcome, rather than endured. For that, something beyond mere physical processes are necessary.

    I’d rather have regular physical morphine, but thanks

  16. #16 snafu
    September 24, 2009

    Maybe one can imagine a physical existence where pain does not exist.

    Yes, I would wager that most of us atheists can. But so can theists, and, crucially, they must believe this existence is actually manifested. What is heaven, if not a pain-free physical existence? If you think the “physical” part is an opt-out, think again. A cursory reading of Catholic teaching will tell you that resurrections are physical (as in flesh-and-bones), modelled after the physical resurrection described in the Gospels. Heaven is a place filled with physical bodies, not spiritual ones.

    But not on this planet, where pain has helped organisms survive and prosper, and where suffering has often prodded humankind’s spiritual dimension.

    The double-think is unbelievable. We’ve all been asking how pain and suffering can be explained (despite God’s omipotence and benevolence), and after all this effort, he comes up with this sentence, which conveniently fails to state why pain is *necessary* rather than *useful in very limited circumstances*.

    This complex interaction between good and bad – captured graphically in the Gospels’ Passion stories, where intense suffering is inextricably bound up with salvation…

    Oh, of course. When the argument gets tough, let’s just talk about the Bible instead.

  17. #17 qbsmd
    September 24, 2009

    I’m surprised no one has called Sullivan out for blurring the distinction between pain and suffering. There was a line in Terminator 2 where the terminator said something like “I receive damage reports that could be perceived as pain”. Living things having a system referred to as a pain response that lets them know they are damaged and learn to behave to prevent and to not exacerbate such damage.
    This is different from suffering, which is the response of a conscious mind to pain. We can imagine a world with pain but without suffering, were there is no emotional response to pain, or no such thing as debilitating pain. A world were people can tell they have a broken bone, but sit still to let someone set it, for example.

  18. #18 John Danley
    September 24, 2009

    Not to mention illness at metaphor a la Sontag. Sullivan needs to get out more…

  19. #19 Cymric
    September 24, 2009

    “If our bodies can fall prey to all manor of crippling, awful diseases it is because evolution is a messy process that did not have us in mind.”

    So should we say, then, that disease merely makes us to the “manor born”?

  20. #20 margarita
    September 24, 2009

    Sullivan is too clever by half. He argues that without suffering, we would not have a spiritual dimension. And without a spiritual dimension, we would not have the human experience as we know it. And therefore suffering does not disprove God’s existence. So much for theodicy. But he’s now taken his eye off the ball played in his preceding posts:

    If humankind’s spiritual dimension is an adaptive trait, doesn’t this rather defeat the notion that “the unique human capacity to somehow rise above suffering, while experiencing it as vividly as any animal, is evidence of God’s love for us”? Isn’t it just evidence that we are humans, not any other animal? Doesn’t it undermine the reliability of “the truth as I experience it”?

  21. #21 Vincent Kargatis
    September 24, 2009

    Jason: Why four billion years of suffering

    I think for accuracy’s sake you really should restrain this number to something closer to 600 million years, or better just “hundreds of millions”. I don’t really think it likely that the “problem of suffering” extends to monocellular creatures, and claiming that leaves you open to complaints of exaggeration.

  22. #22 Egypt Steve
    September 24, 2009

    In the first place, why the fixation on an omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly good and loving god? For most of human history, god(s) have been nothing of the sort. I see no reason why it’s not perfectly reasonable to imagine that a god indifferent to human suffering created the universe. A sort of cosmic Glenn Beck who has thrown us into boiling water just to see what happens:

    Different tack: One can look at suffering in Sausserian terms. “Suffering” is meaningless in the absence of “joy,” which is equally meaningless in the absence of “suffering.” If god wanted to create “joy,” this was logically impossible without creating something with which to contrast “joy.” Perhaps not logically impossible for a being who by definition transcends logic, but logically-impossible for logic-bound creatures such as ourselves to experience.

  23. #23 Rob
    September 24, 2009

    Andrews’s best comment, speaking of suffering and alienation:

    “…and no advance in reason will remove its profound endurance in the human soul…”

    So he has removed an entire area beyond logical inquiry. But this is OK since:

    “But a religious and spiritual interpretation of this alienation has been the norm in human history and pre-history”

    So we can see that 10,000 lemmings can’t be wrong…

  24. #24 Marshall
    September 24, 2009

    On the one hand:

    There are 13 year old girls of my acquaintance who know that her parents HATE her because they won’t let her have ANY KIND of decent life for herself.

    Actually, the parents don’t hate the daughter, although they are likely to feel frustration and even anger sometimes.

    On the other hand:

    You all have solved the Theodicy problem to your own satisfaction: It’s all Pointless, teleology is foolish.

    Shall we move on to the problem of Nihilism? If egocentric hedonism is inevitable, should we embrace it?

  25. #25 Lauren Ipsum
    September 24, 2009

    And yet in his latest post, “And the Beat Goes On,” about the NYT Magazine articles on gay teens, he states, emphasis mine::

    [This generation] will be the first gay people to grow up in human history with the self-confidence and self-worth of many straights. I am convinced – because I am a conservative – that this will generate a big positive shift in the culture and life of gay people. It will end enormous pain [and] great suffering

    So… suffering for god is okay and transcendent and necessary for the human condition and allows us to escape this vale of cliches, but suffering for being gay is bad?

    I have enjoyed Sully’s take on politics since he was at the New Republic, but the cognitive dissonance he forces himself to keep up over his religious views makes me ill with frustration sometimes.

    source: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/09/and-the-beat-goes-on.html

  26. #26 Kevin (NYC)
    September 24, 2009

    OT sorry but you are gonna love (hate) this…

    from Jesus General … T-Rex was a plant eater!!

  27. #27 Michael
    September 24, 2009

    Jason, I really think you should choose. Is the issue “the profligacy of suffering,” or is it just the “child dying of leukemia”? I think it is really the latter — any suffering at all, especially from natural causes (or, as Ivan Karamazov says, of innocent children) raises the issue, and the amount of suffering doesn’t really change the issue, at least where the traditional infinite God is concerned.

    But if that’s right, then evolution doesn’t really affect the state of this discussion.

  28. #28 Jim
    September 24, 2009

    Maybe this is a little too Occam’s Razory, but maybe God was just an invention of early man to explain why suffering exists. It seems to make more intuitive sense (and a hell of a lot easier) to explain how the idea of a omniscient, omnipotent God came to be understood through our experiences with suffering than to explain a pre-existing loving God’s willingness to inflict needless suffering on his children. Mostly because the OG (Old Test God) was not loving, but a jearous, impetuous, spiteful, smiting God. It’s easy to explain suffering in the context of the old testament. But then all of a sudden God was all-loving when Jesus was around. This makes it a lot harder to reconcile suffering with a caring deity.

  29. #29 qbsmd
    September 24, 2009

    Jason: Why four billion years of suffering
    I think for accuracy’s sake you really should restrain this number to something closer to 600 million years, or better just “hundreds of millions”. I don’t really think it likely that the “problem of suffering” extends to monocellular creatures, and claiming that leaves you open to complaints of exaggeration.
    Posted by: Vincent Kargatis

    I wouldn’t extend suffering to plants, fungi, sponges or jellyfish either, since they don’t have nervous systems. Or worms or arthropods, etc. that have simple enough reflexive behaviors that there is no reason to suspect them of having any level of consciousness.

  30. #30 qbsmd
    September 24, 2009

    In the first place, why the fixation on an omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly good and loving god? For most of human history, god(s) have been nothing of the sort. I see no reason why it’s not perfectly reasonable to imagine that a god indifferent to human suffering created the universe. A sort of cosmic Glenn Beck who has thrown us into boiling water just to see what happens:
    Posted by: Egypt Steve

    You mean the kind of god that doesn’t need to be worshiped? That doesn’t require you to give money and power to religious leaders? That people don’t do bad things in the name of because of some book they think is revealed truth?

    On a more serious note, I believe most atheists leave the possibility of Deism, as you described, open, but think Deism is some combination of unlikely, unfalsifiable, and meaningless for any practical purpose. The focus is on what people actually believe in, and even then only the beliefs that have practical effects on everyone else.

  31. #31 qbsmd
    September 24, 2009

    Different tack: One can look at suffering in Sausserian terms. “Suffering” is meaningless in the absence of “joy,” which is equally meaningless in the absence of “suffering.” If god wanted to create “joy,” this was logically impossible without creating something with which to contrast “joy.” Perhaps not logically impossible for a being who by definition transcends logic, but logically-impossible for logic-bound creatures such as ourselves to experience.

    Posted by: Egypt Steve

    That doesn’t seem right to me, but I’m not really sure why. Does that mean that if suffering as we know it didn’t exist, we would just refer to a neutral condition as “suffering” due to its contrast with joy?
    At least we don’t have to worry about Christians using that argument: it disproves heaven.

  32. #32 tacitus
    September 24, 2009

    What is heaven, if not a pain-free physical existence? If you think the “physical” part is an opt-out, think again. A cursory reading of Catholic teaching will tell you that resurrections are physical (as in flesh-and-bones), modelled after the physical resurrection described in the Gospels. Heaven is a place filled with physical bodies, not spiritual ones.

    That’s the kicker. If pain and suffering is so necessary then why does God only require it for just a blink of an eye in terms of the supposed existence of our immortal soul? You spend between a few minutes and 120 years in suffering on Earth and endless trillions of years in Heaven without a moment’s need for any of it.

    Examine theodicy in terms of eternity and it all gets swallowed up in a total mess of illogic.

  33. #33 Tulse
    September 24, 2009

    Examine theodicy in terms of eternity and it all gets swallowed up in a total mess of illogic.

    However, the point cuts both ways — if one thinks the period of possible suffering is literally infinitesimal, then the “problem” of evil is much less of a problem.

  34. #34 tacitus
    September 24, 2009

    Hey Tulse, maybe so, but I’ve never seen theodicy attempting to play down the role of suffering by trivializing it to the point of insignificance. Indeed, suffering is usually regarded as a key factor in a believer’s walk of faith, and those believers who had suffered most are often raised to sainthood.

  35. #35 Tulse
    September 24, 2009

    I’ve never seen theodicy attempting to play down the role of suffering by trivializing it to the point of insignificance.

    I don’t disagree, although I do find it odd that theologians don’t avail themselves of that possible out. Then again, I find that in general theology isn’t really committed to all the implications of infinite existence — as much as it likes to talk of the divine, the concerns and viewpoint are very human.

  36. #36 steve s
    September 24, 2009

    “1
    Pathetic equivocation.
    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p
    Posted by: Glen Davidson | September 23, 2009 3:03 PM

    Somebody must be spoofing Glen D here. The real Glen Davidson would have taken 8500 words to say that. :-)

  37. #37 steven from brisbane
    September 24, 2009

    Tulse: on the point of “trivialising” suffering: personally, I think there is an argument against Buddhism for doing precisely that. I have never quite got my head around the Buddhist argument that all suffering is, in reality, illusory (the result of desire,) yet people have an obligation to help relieve the suffering of others. But why feed them when you can convince them instead that their hunger is a type of illusion? In fact, their suffering personality is not really there at all. And as for Hinduism: I think it is in inherent in some or all of its arms that present day worldly suffering is often deserved.

    Regardless of whatever other criticisms there may be to Christianity, I think it at least deserves credit for a couple of key ideas which are better than other ways of thinking: both good and bad people can have suffering and misfortune without having done anything to deserve it (Job, Jesus); people are real, and have free will to choose to do the right thing (contra parts of Buddhism and modern philosophy of mind;) and people have a clear metaphysical obligation to try to relieve the suffering of others (contra the idea of the caste system, or a mere philosophical motive – such as an allegiance to utilitarianism – which will always be debatable.)

    You will presumably respond that it is simple minded and wrong to say that humans will only do good if they believe in a punishing God; nonetheless I still find it hard to criticise a religion for giving a real motive for doing good.

  38. #38 tacitus
    September 24, 2009

    Steven, strip away the Doctrines of Original Sin, Hell, Total Depravity, etc. (as many more liberal Christians do) then you might have a point.

    I don’t have much of a quarrel with the type of Christianity I grew up with (English Methodism) since they mostly reject the bulk of objectionable stuff. Their hearts are in the right place and dwell mostly on the social Gospel as you describe in your comment.

  39. #39 Steve F
    September 24, 2009

    As the father of a son who suffered and died at the age of 10 from osteogenic sarcoma, you cannot possibly expect me to believe that his suffering (and ours since) was in any way positive. You have to be a flaming idiot to believe this is all part of a “plan” of some all loving sky fairy. I call bullshit. Evolution and the vagaries of biologic systems explain the problem of “evil” and suffering extraordinarily well. Invoking a “god” creates a greater evil.

  40. #40 Anton Mates
    September 25, 2009

    Egypt Steve,

    One can look at suffering in Sausserian terms. “Suffering” is meaningless in the absence of “joy,” which is equally meaningless in the absence of “suffering.” If god wanted to create “joy,” this was logically impossible without creating something with which to contrast “joy.”

    But there’s no point claiming that something is logically impossible, unless you have a logical argument to back that claim up. Why should joy be meaningless in the absence of suffering? Joy is just a feeling, and as far as I can see, a person could experience that feeling even if they’d never suffered or contemplating suffering for a moment. As a matter of fact, I think people are usually at their most joyful when they’re not thinking about suffering at all! Conversely, severely depressed people suffer all the more because they don’t even remember what it’s like to be happy.

    Seems to me, therefore, that people in a universe without suffering could be at least as joyful as we are, if not more so.

  41. #41 Anton Mates
    September 25, 2009

    Marshall,

    There are 13 year old girls of my acquaintance who know that her parents HATE her because they won’t let her have ANY KIND of decent life for herself.

    Actually, the parents don’t hate the daughter, although they are likely to feel frustration and even anger sometimes.

    And the parents don’t have the powers or the genius necessary to help their daughter understand that they mean well, nor to help her build a satisfactory life in a way that doesn’t cause her pain in the short-term. That’s pretty good evidence that parents aren’t gods.

    (Of course, there are (formerly) teenaged girls of my acquaintance who were correct about their parents hating them–for instance, because the girls in question were gay–and who had to flee from home or risk getting severely beaten or worse.)

    Shall we move on to the problem of Nihilism? If egocentric hedonism is inevitable, should we embrace it?

    What? If egocentric hedonism were inevitable, there wouldn’t be any point in asking that question. We all would be embracing it, period.

    And what do hedonism and egocentrism have to do with nihilism? A nihilist has no more cause to be an egocentric hedonist than to be a selfless ascetic. Both stances are equally arbitrary.

  42. #43 tacitus
    September 25, 2009

    If god wanted to create “joy,” this was logically impossible without creating something with which to contrast “joy.”

    And yet Christians claim there is no suffering in Heaven, which is full of joy, thus invalidating the premise that you can’t have one without the other.

    But then, since God is supposed to be omnipotent, why would this be a problem for him any way.

  43. #44 acne information
    October 2, 2009

    That’s surely the case (although not all pain is useful), but why couldn’t God have created us with spiritual bodies that are incapable of injury, where pain would be useless?