A Wholly Unsatisfactory Explanation On the Problem of Evil

And so, it’s back to the horse beating. I’ve been thinking alot about why this problem of evil thing just won’t go away. I know that there are plenty of reasons why we think that there is a “problem” with making our belief in God jive with the fact that there isn’t just evil – but a fairly significant amount of evil in the world. Just this week, some dude in Oakland shot and killed four police officers, and here in SoCal, some lady killed her 18-month old daughter and left her body by the side of a freeway (she says it was an accident). Nonetheless, I completely see why, with all the evil in the world, we look to the heavens and demand to know why a loving God would allow such evils to exist. I guess, if I had to nutshell the problem, the problem (in the form of a question) goes a little like this: why does God, if he is all-knowing and totally good, permit evil? Like I said, I’ve been thinking alot about this lately, and I think that the answer may be this: evil just is. That’s it. Evil is. It hit me while I was watching last Sunday’s episode of Cold Case. The soundtrack for that episode was John Lennon songs. There’s one (doesn’t really matter which) that has a line that goes, “I tell them there’s no problem, only solutions”. I think that our problem of evil is a little like Lennon’s lyric, only twisted. So, there are no answers, only questions. What I’m saying is that we may be asking a question for which there is no answer. Our questions are like John Lennon’s solutions. We keep on giving them, hoping that we’ll hit the right one (the one that we expect will give us an answer), but the real trick is, is that there is no answer to the question, ‘why does God permit evil?’. This isn’t an entirely unphilosophic outlook on the situation – since the point of philosophy is to ask questions. We ask, even in the face that we might never actually get to an answer or that our answer, despite all of our well-reasoned arguments, is wrong. This idea is, I’ll admit completely unsatisfying. But, still I see no problem in including the idea that for some questions there may be no answers along with our list of possibilities. I know that humans want answers. We want them especially if we are talking about our beliefs in God. It’s the answers that give us reasons to believe or to obey. This is unsatisfying, especially for the philosopher, because we are indoctrinated that every event must have a cause and so forth… we just cannot accept the notion that the answer why God permits evil is “because he does”. If you think about it, that reason, in a way underpins all of our defenses and certainly it’s the foundation of every theodicy out there. God has his reasons, we say. We just don’t want to admit that a reason may be that his reason is that he has no reason. That’s scary. Maybe for God, our lives (the ones that he watches 24/7 like Santa Claus), are like one big reality TV show. What we call “evil” are merely plot devices for God to move the plot along. Our evils are what they say in the biz “dramatic tension”. It makes things interesting… for God. I remember hearing Miles Copeland, the brother of Stewart Copeland of the Police, saying that when he worked for the Moody Blues, he tried to get VH1 to do a Behind the Music on the band. He said that he told the execs that the band had been around a long time and was very successful, so they were a perfect example of a true music success story. He said that VH1 rejected the idea. Why? No dramatic tension. No drug overdoses, no rehabs, no backstabbing or drug-induced accidents in which the drummer loses a body part — they weren’t interesting enough for the show. Maybe it’s the same for God. Maybe without evil, humans are like the Moody Blues. Plain boring and not much fun to look at. Still, this is unsatisfying. Worse yet, it paints God as some sort of sadist who screws with our lives for shits and giggles. My answer to this is ‘oh well’. Look, God does a great many things that do not please us, because things happen to us. As much as we would like for there to be a reason, we gotta get hip to the fact that not only may we not find an answer, but also to the fact that there may be no answer! And really, no matter what God tells is is his answer, we won’t be satisfied no matter what he says. We’d still ask him if there was another way that he could have accomplished the same result? God could tell us that things happen according to his plan, or to serve a greater good, or tell us “look, it doesn’t matter how you die, all people die. What matters is that you go to heaven, which by the way you will”. we’d still complain! If God told us, no matter how carefully his reason, we’d never say ok and have done with the question asking. We’d never understand his reasons becuse we can’t understand his reasons, even if he draws diagrams. But God, lucky for us, doesn’t ask us to understand his motives. He justs tells us to accept. Accept that God moves (mysteriously so) with no reason whatsoever — at least none that we can ever understand. I know that this makes no one happy at all.

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I Promised Someone That I’d Write A Chapter of My Book About How Much I Hate Him, but for Reasons Better Left Unsaid, I’ll Merely Suggest It Here

I think that, in all of this writing, I’ve forgotten to ask myself one very important question — why am I doing this at all? I was talking with my sister some time ago, and during our conversation, she said that anyone over any age ending with “teen” is too old to spend time tweeting, myspacing, or blogging. Since I am way over any age ending with teen, I naturally took offense to her comment. And, true to form, I kept my mouth shut. But that got me thinking… There has to be some reason why I’m doing this. And what my sister said is true — there are people that are way too old to be spending otherwise productive time telling the world what they’re doing right at this moment — which is usually something not worth writing about, let alone even telling someone in an actual conversation. I mean, there is really no need that anyone know what Dave Matthews thinks about snail farts (he did this in a tweet). So I’m back to the question, why? Am I that much of an egotist that I feel that anyone else needs to know what I think about anything? Or, do I really have something valuable to say? I’d like to feel that my postion here, is that latter. I do feel that there is something that I might be able to do that might — well, help. I know how incredibly egotistical that statement was. It is, and I wholheartedly cop to the fact that I am fairly egotistical. And like so may of my egotistical brethern, I’ve decided that what I need to do is write a book. I realize that there are a fair number of people my age who believe that there is some great American novel crammed up inside their head somewhere. Most of us get by entertaining the idea that we’re frustrated writers without ever committing ink to page. And I admit, entertaining the idea that I have something to say that is also worth reading is a little more than arrogant. But that’s me — the frustrated would-be writer who thinks that there’s some great thing in my head that only needs to come out. And it will be brilliant. Which leads me to this — this blog. And of course, it leads to my subject of choice — philosophy. We’ve all seen that this is a real winner of a subject. Of all the subjects in the world, my “calling” is to write about something that few people know and even fewer people care about. I know that the general attitude towards philosophy is negative. To a great degree, that attitude is well-deserved. Those who practice the philosophic arts are seen as arrogant overthinkers who prattle on about stuff that means nothing to no one, or they’re the masters of overanalyzing the obvious. To that charge, I don’t disagree. I’ve often struggled with the feeling that what I was studying was unproductive and useless ( I’ve, from time to time, used the phrase “intellectual masturbation” to describe what a great deal of philosophers do). Philosophy was spending too much time thinking about things that people, real people, don’t care about. Even if people do care — does it matter? Does any of it matter beyond that halls of academia? That was the thought that I held and shared with my fellow students in my most cynical moments, when I felt that what I was doing — something that I considered to be a part of who I am — was meaningless, useless, and unrewarding. I had to figure out why I and the entire world felt the way that we do about looking at the world philosophically. For me, it was something of an application problem. That is, I couldn’t make the connection between what I was studying and what I saw when I stepped out of class. I couldn’t see philosophy at work on the street level. The stuff that I was reading in class was clean and elegant, and most of all consistent — it didn’t reflect anything that I experienced in the world — where things are messy and muddled and life forces you to not do or think the same way all of the time. In the classroom, there’s no real welcome for the dreadfully messy and inconsistent people that I lived with, chatted up in line at Walmart, and talked to at bus stops who hadn’t heard of Descartes or Frege and were in no way interested in learning how to construct a logically valid derivation. They didn’t care, so I stopped caring. And because of that, I became increasingly frustrated with what I was studying. I was fed up with arguments and well-formed theories, and fed up with my fellow students and professors who seemed to not share my point of view. I kept coming back to that question: what use is all of this? I thought that I got some bad advice from a professor who suggested that I take a break from philosophy (since I had grown to hate it so thoroughly). I thought that there would be some sort of higher brained solution to solving my problem. That he would say to meditate or channel the spirit of Hume or something along those lines. No, it was just take a break. Well, being someone who just can’t let anything go (like what they say about Jennifer Aniston), I didn’t take a break completely, but I did long enough to get a grip on what I wanted to see — I wanted to see what I was learning on the street. I wanted to see it where I lived. Eventually, I realized that I was seeing it all along. I had blinded myself by thinking (or rather believing) that there was no connection between what was in the book and what is in the world. This isn’t uncommon. I had fallen victim to a bad case of academiaitis. I thought that philosophy was for academics, so guess where I saw it? Right. But it’s everywhere. It’s in the music we listen to, on the TV we watch, in movies (and not just Woody Allen ones), in our attitudes and outlooks on life, sex, religion, mortality and morality. It’s in our favourite movie quotes, song lyrics, and everyday phrases. That’s why I have this blog. That is why I like (not love) studying philosophy. I had heard somewhere that some physicist said that if you can’t explain a scientific theory to an eight year old, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Well, it’s not quantum physics, but the same holds true for philosophy. We’ve, meaning the academics, have held all this learning too close to our own breasts. We’ve forgotten who all of this is for — to make the world a little more easy to figure out for everyone else, not just for ourselves. And if we can’t explain it to others who aren’t “like us”, then we don’t know what we’re talking about. Instead of poo-pooing the notion that this stuff can and should be made easy (so easy in fact that you can learn it from watching an episode of Magnum P.I.), I feel that this is what my calling truly is. I know that, by doing this, I may be taking on more than I can do. I still say that I’m no philosopher ( not just because of a lack of qualifications, but also to call myself one seems a little more than slightly pretentious). My goal here is to create something at the very least “philosophic” — something that those people who, like me, couldn’t see it, will — if not learn from, atl least get a slight kick from reading what I have to say. it may noy bear the official seal Philosophy, but I think that my will is good. And for that, Kant would be pleased. If I succeed, I’ll convince some that it isn’t all so useless. If I fail, well, as Nietzsche said, “what does not kill me makes me stronger”.