The Problem of Evil (Briefly)
AG and I had another encounter with my favorite atheist last night, and I should say that I proved once again that I will do almost anything for a good bite to eat. So this time around, I had to listen to some of his objections to a theistic universe. One of the main issues that he has is the problem of evil, which you can read all about right here.
While driving home, what struck me again is how much of a distaste I have for most philosophical conversations. When you arrive at the discussion, you have to assume that your interlocutor is making the same assumptions about the world as you are, and this is infrequently the case. Once you get into the thick of it, you will find that all you are doing is flinging polemical if polite phrases at each other, and both sides of the conversation only build on the assumptions that they started out with in the first place.
Argue all you want about the problem of evil, but the main assumption of the one posing it is always the expectation that the universe does not live up to his expectations. In other words, he thinks that he deserves better. I think that if I were dictator of the universe, the only people who would be allowed to pose the problem of evil would be the saints. Everyone else has no excuse. If we would just look at the disorder within ourselves, we would understand completely the disorder outside of us.
I do not mean to belittle tragedies such as genocide or the deaths of children. These are tragic, and no barrage of syllogisms can ameliorate the pain that these events cause. But there is a modern smugness about posing the question on why God created this universe where evil things happens. When the people who pose it are members of the most powerful, prosperous society in the history of the world who have no fear of getting their lap-top snatched in a violent assault, this exercise for me seems to be pure mental masturbation. No sufficient answer could ever be given anyway since he could always pose a universe that is better than the one he is living in now. Things would spiral into a sort of inflation of expectation that even God could not pay out this side of the eschaton.
But what else can you expect in trying to look for an answer inside yourself for these things? If I want one thing for all that I come across, it is not necessarily that they agree with me on anything important. I would rather that they break out of the molds that they have sealed themselves in so that they can see things in a new light. And for me that means stepping out of yourself and into the skin of the Other. As I have said before, the Truth is not within, it is outside of you. Only when you leave yourself and detach yourself from your own assumptions about the world can you finally return to who you really are, and then give yourself over to the Truth. Anything else, in my opinion, is merely a self-serving rhetorical exercise.
I have the feeling that my session over the plates of dim sum was the latter, not the former.