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Dec 19 2012

Religious reactions to the shootings

When violence strikes innocent people close to home, you can expect religious leaders to immediately scramble to explain how their god can allow such things to happen. Some, like Bryan Fischer and Mike Huckabee, have suggested that god is punishing people for excluding religion from schools. Others are more aware that such a message it not particularly good public relations for their god and try to square the events with a god who is good and not easily irked into fits of violence.

Cathy Lynn Grossman rounds up some of those reactions. The usual suspects are trotted out, such as that this is the price that we pay for god having given us the gift of free will, that some people will necessarily abuse it, that there can be no good without the bad, and so on. Others have said that we have to trust that despite all appearances to the contrary, there is some divine and good plan unfolding and we just have to wait and see what it is.

Theodicy is undoubtedly the Achilles heel of religion. There is simply no way to sensibly explain suffering while postulating a good god and each such atrocity reminds people of that fact.

15 comments

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  1. 1
    Marcus Ranum

    Well, if you actually believe christianity, then having your kid die just means it’ll go to heaven sooner and have less of a chance of screwing up its earthly life or becoming an atheist or whatever. Of course none of these christians actually believe anything as obscene or stupid as that – but it’s their core doctrines. “Cognitive Dissonance” be the name of the lord!

    Note that the argument above neatly erases the “free will” rejoinder. The inevitable consequence of belief in the christian death-cult is that you should run toward the rotating knives and allow your life to end as quickly and as soon as possible.

  2. 2
    jamessweet

    The very fact that theodicy has its own name is in itself a tacit admission of the scale of the problem.

  3. 3
    busterggi

    I notice believers almost always end up with blaming Adam and Eve for ‘having fallen’ – they never blame Yahweh for creating a talking snake or sticking that damned tree under A & E’s noses.

    If I believed in a god it wouldn’t be the incompetant putz of the Abrahamic mythologys.

  4. 4
    Doug Little

    incompetant putz

    Not so much incompetent more pure evil.

  5. 5
    steve84

    Far more infuriating that the complete nutcases are the so-called ordinary or liberal Christians who say disgusting shit like “God called them home”. Even Obama used that phrase.

  6. 6
    Pierce R. Butler

    Theodicy is undoubtedly the Achilles heel of religion.

    Achilles was otherwise invulnerable (though he had a notably tender ego).

    Religions have abundant weak points at all levels.

  7. 7
    Mclean

    I find it amusing how much of Christian mythology and arguments for it remain consistent when the classification of God as ultimately good is replaced with ultimate evil. (For what could be more evil then an evil god having the world worship him as good, and having his subjects do evil deeds in the name of goodness.)

    Reverse theodicy is one of those arguments that gets much easier to make in this circumstance, since it is much easier to understand why good must exist to maximize suffering than to argue that pain must exist to allow for comfort. Indeed, the church prohibition against contraception works quite well to ensure that many more people on this world are born into or infected with lifelong pain, poverty, and suffering. Any good works can be balanced as a necessity to keep people believing they and the church are doing good and to build trust before they inflict pain and suffering, an arguably much more evil result.

    Arguments using ‘Devil vs. God’ battle rhetoric is almost exactly the same, but with roles reversed, and ‘God is punishing people’ arguments can be used verbatim.

    ‘Free will’ can be invoked to explain goodness as a necessary side effect for the opportunity to freely make the decision to worship an evil god and harm others while believing you are doing good deeds.

  8. 8
    prestonstafford

    I really was expecting the wave of people ineptly and inappropriately attempting to give comfort. It happens every time. I equate it to all of my friends who instantly try and play doctor when I have a cold. The intent is not to demonstrate the depth of their ignorance in the workings of the human immune system. The intent is to help.

    I really think the same is true of most of the people trying to explain the horror of the Newtown massacre in a religious context. As awkward and upsetting as these explanations are, the intentions behind them are often good. So I tell myself.

    But some of these folks? Some of these folks are ghouls. Some of these folks give sociopaths a bad name.

  9. 9
    lorn

    As usual, assuming the existence of a supernatural dimension, a place for all knowing and all-powerful supernatural beings to exist and operate, has failed to provide useful and meaningful answers that might advance our understanding of the world around us.

  10. 10
    Thorne

    I notice believers almost always end up with blaming Adam and Eve for ‘having fallen’ – they never blame Yahweh for creating a talking snake or sticking that damned tree under A & E’s noses.

    Even worse, they never even consider that their god failed to inform them that disobeying him is “evil,” but disobeying the serpent is “good.” Without that fruit they had no understanding of good and evil, and yet their god punishes not only them but the entire human race for his own lack of foresight.

  11. 11
    Jockaira

    Theodicy rhymes with idiocy.

  12. 12
    kyoseki

    “They’ve gone to a better place” has been the standard get-out for centuries.

    The entire purpose of religion is to make you feel less alone in the dark, I fail to see why anyone would be surprised at these kinds of rationalizations.

  13. 13
    Mano Singham

    True. I should have used different imagery.

  14. 14
    bcmystery

    If something happened to one of my kids and someone told me “God called them home,” I’d wanna send them home to meet God.

  15. 15
    baal

    “Free will” is an excellent red herring. Folks are more than willing to talk on about it for ages and it’s chief function is to stop people from focusing on theodicy. Religions really can’t answer the problem of evil given their definitions of the god of Abraham.

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