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Old 08-26-2007, 04:52 PM   #21
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Mother Teresa's Spiritual Crisis at Center of New Book

Mother Teresa in April 1995.

AFP/Getty Images
She was easily one of the most recognizable women in the world. She was seen as a living saint by many. And she was a particular inspiration to Catholics.

But a new book about Mother Teresa, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, based on the many letters she wrote to her spiritual counselors and confessors over an almost 50-year period, show a spiritual life that was, as she described it, dry, dark and lonely.

Three months before she accepted her Nobel Peace Prize, she wrote to a spiritual confidant: "Jesus has a very special love for you ... [but] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, — Listen and do not hear — the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak ... I want you to pray for me — that I let Him have [a] free hand."

It's not uncommon to hear of religious people going through periods of doubt. For instance, Father James Martin, in a commentary on All Things Considered, says Mother Teresa's spiritual struggles remind him of his own during a recent retreat.

But Mother Teresa's extensive spiritual crisis is surprising for a woman of her influence ... and ammunition for her critics. Time quotes well-known atheist Christopher Hitchens (who also wrote The Missionary Position, a scathing attack on Mother Teresa), who says, "She was no more exempt from the realization that religion is a human fabrication than any other person, and that her attempted cure was more and more professions of faith could only have deepened the pit that she had dug for herself."

But in the same piece, the Rev. Matthew Lamb, chairman of the theology department at the conservative Ave Maria University in Florida, said Come Be My Light — compiled and edited by the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk — will one day rank with "St. Augustine's Confessions and Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain as an autobiography of spiritual ascent."

4:50 PM ET | 08-23-2007 | permalink


http://www.npr.org/blogs/news/2007/0...l_crisi_1.html
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Old 08-26-2007, 06:03 PM   #22
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i think you'd be less than human if you didn't doubt the existence of god and despair when faced with so much of the abject horror that goes on in the world.

some are able to find their faith again, and that's lovely, but i think that doubt is the only reaction to horror. one thing religion really doesn't address is the problem of evil in the world, and how and why bad things happen to good people.

it strikes me as quite robotic when someone takes and event like, say, the 2004 tsunami and says that it should be read as yet another reason to praise god, and that all things happen as part of His will, and that we are not to understand but simply to praise him more. that reaction strikes me as pre-programmed, unthinking, call-and-response bullshit.

and i think Mother T would agree with me.

to despair is human. to doubt is human.

there's no question, God has a lot to answer for. and perhaps there will be an answer. but there isn't, at least for now, an explanation.
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Old 08-26-2007, 07:02 PM   #23
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Elie Wiesel, I think it was, said once that he can completely understand Holocaust survivors who tell him they lost their faith altogether, and he can also completely understand survivors who tell him their faith was radically altered but ultimately strengthened, but what he can't understand at all is those who tell him they continue to believe just as they did before.

I actually am interested to check this book out.
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Old 08-28-2007, 03:02 AM   #24
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Originally posted by Irvine511
i think you'd be less than human if you didn't doubt the existence of god and despair when faced with so much of the abject horror that goes on in the world.
There's a reason the psalms are as dark as they are light. "A Grief Observed" by C.S. Lewis is a fascinating insight into the faith journey of a man who found everything he'd believed called into question, and somehow came out the other side.

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some are able to find their faith again, and that's lovely, but i think that doubt is the only reaction to horror.
It's one reaction. Not the only.

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one thing religion really doesn't address is the problem of evil in the world, and how and why bad things happen to good people.
It's interesting how often this question is bandied about, even though the question itself probably bears some intense examination itself, as it hinges on some preconceived notions -- notably, "Bad things," and "good people." How do we define such things? Who sets the standards for what is good and what is bad? Is it possible that half the things that go wrong in the world are the fault of man? Is it possible that we aren't as good as we like to think we are?

The question itself -- with its ramifications and preconceptions -- is so complicated that pat theology hardly does the trick, and even though believers and seekers alike say they want to get away from easy answers, I think that's what we still want a lot of times -- a simple formula -- which, unfortunately, is a DNA common both to nihilism and empty-headed faith.

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to despair is human. to doubt is human.


But it is not all of being human. How else do you explain MT's prayers to the end of her life?

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and i think Mother T would agree with me.
That's a bit of a dangerous road, don't you think, putting yourself in her shoes?

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there's no question, God has a lot to answer for. and perhaps there will be an answer.
According to whose standards? God's, or yours? If the former, there isn't much of an answer to be found apart from a relationship with God, since it's in the context of relationship with God that we find the understanding we seek. If the latter, then that's very interesting, given your comment earlier about arrogance. Holding God to your own standards of goodness is a bit arrogant in itself, isn't it?
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Old 08-28-2007, 07:18 AM   #25
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I do not find it shocking. The Bible is full of people who have blemished past that somehow give me hope because they traveled on the smae road as me.
That is true. Plus many Saints were labeled as crazy or blasphemus. For example, Joan of Arch heard voices and was burned alive for being a heretic.
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Old 08-28-2007, 07:31 AM   #26
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According to whose standards? God's, or yours? If the former, there isn't much of an answer to be found apart from a relationship with God, since it's in the context of relationship with God that we find the understanding we seek. If the latter, then that's very interesting, given your comment earlier about arrogance. Holding God to your own standards of goodness is a bit arrogant in itself, isn't it?


what standards to we have other than human standards? if you meet God and you don't have questions for him, if you don't demand explanations for certain things that go on, and *especialy* if you're the sort of believer who things that God controls everything via his plan, then, yes, i'd consider you (the collective you) a brainwashed religious automaton who's surrendered any sort of autonomy for the comfort of "it's all meant to be."

now, if you did think the world simply was as it is, that God doesn't control the tides and the shifting of the earth's plates, and that people act according to their own free will, and that notions of a "Plan" are bogus, then God has a lot less to answer for.

as for "bad" and "good" -- well, we're given these standards all the time by religious people, and if you want something really quick, then i'd say "good" people are those who follow the 10 Commandments, and yet they still get shot in the head at 17th and Irving in Mount Pleasant at 10pm on a saturday night while walking the dog. and that's just one example. i appreciate the resistance to pat answers and simple thinking, and i take the point that the Livia Soprano "it's all a big nothing" is as simple as the empty-headed "it's all in God's hands," but i do think it poses a bit more of a problem for believers who do talk about "God's Plan" and then have to deal with the realities of, say, Darfur.

i also think we get into trouble talking about what "God's standards" are. it assumes, at it's start, something that we cannot know, and is an article of faith. all we have is what we can observe, what exists beyond that is faith, and notions of "God's terms" are, still, extentions of human faculties and profoundly human and, like everything else, how we as humands try to make sense of the world.

we're also coming at this from a different starting point. you assume the existence of God, and a specific kind of God. my assumption is one of agnosticism -- maybe, maybe not -- and as such, i am going to make the statement that my starting point, agnosticism, is a bit of a more honest place by which to evaluate faith and doubt and how they function in our lives.

and i can see how one could disagree with that. and i'd respect the disagreement. but you'll notice it's not atheism, just strong skepticism.

and thank you for the very thoughtful post.
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Old 08-28-2007, 08:35 AM   #27
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Originally posted by Irvine511
there is no faith without doubt.

if anyone tells you they never doubt, they have no faith. just arrogance.
Absolutely-no doubt about that. The essence of real religion is doubt. If you have no doubt well you are certainly arrogant and not thinking all that much in a meaningful way about your faith. And freely expressing those doubts is an important part of it.

I haven't been able to read the article yet and there are stories about many people after they die-it's easy to dump on and gossip about people after they are dead.

She was a human being, not a deity.
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Old 08-28-2007, 12:45 PM   #28
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and thank you for the very thoughtful post.
I always like the dialogue, Irvine. Sorry I'm not around as much. (I personally miss the posts of people like nbcrusader and maycocksean.)

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Originally posted by Irvine511


what standards to we have other than human standards? if you meet God and you don't have questions for him, if you don't demand explanations for certain things that go on, and *especialy* if you're the sort of believer who things that God controls everything via his plan, then, yes, i'd consider you (the collective you) a brainwashed religious automaton who's surrendered any sort of autonomy for the comfort of "it's all meant to be."
I agree with you that we start with our humanity. I don't think we can do anything else. But if it's true that God created us for relationship (which can be a double-edged sword), then we have to enter into dialogue with Him, and be willing to at least entertain the idea that my human standards may not be the absolutes, that my definitions aren't the supreme. We do this (or should) with anyone else we meet -- avoiding the assumption that we are automatically more right, that we are automatically better. So it seems presumptive that, if we are indeed in relationship with the Creator of the universe, the Author of all things, that our standards automatically trump His. I do think there is a place for submission (even Jesus said "Not my will, but yours"), but at the same time, I don't think that means that we simply roll over and play dead. Dialogue -- communication -- is essential to any relationship. That's why I think the Scriptures are God's way of entering into dialogue with us. We see dialogue all the time in the Scriptures -- David railing against God in the Psalms, Jesus praying, Mary asking questions. Relationship is at the heart of these pages. And yes, I do think that answers are to be found there -- but they aren't the pat answers for real tragedies. God is not a god of simple answers.

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now, if you did think the world simply was as it is, that God doesn't control the tides and the shifting of the earth's plates, and that people act according to their own free will, and that notions of a "Plan" are bogus, then God has a lot less to answer for.
This is why I keep going back to the God of the Bible, Who is much more dynamic than I think we want Him to be -- both those who believe and those who don't. I do think people act according to their own free will. I don't think that God is the author of every evil thing that happens, but I don't think however that this is incongruous with a plan and a Planner. That's not who the God of the Bible is.

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as for "bad" and "good" -- well, we're given these standards all the time by religious people


But the question of "why do bad things happen to good people" is asked just as often by people who aren't religious, so it stands to reason that everyone has their own definition of what a good or bad person is, so one wonders if the question really goes deep enough.

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i also think we get into trouble talking about what "God's standards" are. it assumes, at it's start, something that we cannot know, and is an article of faith.
I'm actually not one of those "all faith is blind faith" guys. I do think that God's standards are knowable, but I don't think they're knowable outside of relationship with Him. This is a cheesy example, but it's like the old man on the corner who yells a lot and you're scared of him because you're a kid, until you get to know him one day and realize why he is the way he is. Someone here has the quote by Chesterton that "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found wanting and left untried." Jesus himself says in John 7 something to the effect of, "If you want to know whether what I say is true, try it out." The Scriptures ultimately make sense only in context of relationship with God. I think ultimately that's why there are a number of "believers" whose hearts are blackened by hate and anger -- they have the Scriptures, but they don't live in relationship to the God Who wrote them.

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all we have is what we can observe, what exists beyond that is faith, and notions of "God's terms" are, still, extentions of human faculties and profoundly human and, like everything else, how we as humands try to make sense of the world.
But even perception is not all of reality.

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i am going to make the statement that my starting point, agnosticism, is a bit of a more honest place by which to evaluate faith and doubt and how they function in our lives.
But we all think that our starting point is the best....which is fundamentally arrogant, isn't it? Your starting point may be your starting point, which is fine for you, but that isn't the best starting point for someone else. Judging someone else's starting point seems to be a bit judgmental, and surprising for someone who is passionately against judgmentalism.

And even if your starting point were the best, a starting point is one thing -- a sticking point is quite another.
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Old 08-28-2007, 07:51 PM   #29
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there is no faith without doubt.

if anyone tells you they never doubt, they have no faith. just arrogance.
Well said.
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Old 08-28-2007, 08:07 PM   #30
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Originally posted by Irvine511
i think you'd be less than human if you didn't doubt the existence of god and despair when faced with so much of the abject horror that goes on in the world.

some are able to find their faith again, and that's lovely, but i think that doubt is the only reaction to horror. one thing religion really doesn't address is the problem of evil in the world, and how and why bad things happen to good people.

it strikes me as quite robotic when someone takes and event like, say, the 2004 tsunami and says that it should be read as yet another reason to praise god, and that all things happen as part of His will, and that we are not to understand but simply to praise him more. that reaction strikes me as pre-programmed, unthinking, call-and-response bullshit.

and i think Mother T would agree with me.

to despair is human. to doubt is human.

there's no question, God has a lot to answer for. and perhaps there will be an answer. but there isn't, at least for now, an explanation.

The response you described to the tsunami is robotic, but I don't see it as reflective of how many Christians would respond to it.
It's not another reason to praise God, but one to call out to him. I don't believe it happened out of his will, but he can use the aftermath to achieve his will. And it's perfectly fine to doubt God in such situations. I don't think he minds. I think he would understand such doubt and invite our questions. Also, I think he was more saddened by the tsunami than most of us were.

As far as why there's so much evil in the world, the Bible is pretty clear about it, actually. It's because we let sin into our lives, therefore tainting God's perfect creation.
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Old 08-28-2007, 08:17 PM   #31
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But we all think that our starting point is the best....which is fundamentally arrogant, isn't it? Your starting point may be your starting point, which is fine for you, but that isn't the best starting point for someone else. Judging someone else's starting point seems to be a bit judgmental, and surprising for someone who is passionately against judgmentalism.

And even if your starting point were the best, a starting point is one thing -- a sticking point is quite another.


and i'd disagree here, if we're talking about understanding the blueprints of faith. if we were to talk about the experience of faith, then i'd be in agreement, and we could also agree that part of the experience of faith, as exemplified by MT, is doubt. and a believer's account of the experience f doubt would be a valuable one no question. but if we're going to understand faith as a belief system, as something that operates by a set of understandable and, ultimately, predictable rules, then i would argue that a position of dispassionate agnosticism is a more "honest" position because it's one of neutrality.

what i take from your posts is that the starting point is the indisputable existence of a Creator, and a Creator with a clear Christian standpoint. simple talk of a "relationship" with said Creator is a specific viewpoint coming from a specific cultural context, and is expressed in human terms (what's more human than a relationship?) and is called for by a specific text (the Bible). and i think that when regarding the experience of faith, i agree, a relationship, which is to say an emotional and intellectual interaction with articles of faith is an important part of the experience, in fact, that is much of the experience, i would guess. and this would stand in opposition to the fundamentalist automaton, the fundamentalist who has the single moment of active engagement and then spends the rest of the experience being the best student in class and being able to spit back the "best" answers to the questions with the appropriately cited Biblical verse. and i can think of a mutually respected former poster who, in my opinion, was a brilliant example of this. it didn't seem, to me, like a faith that was experienced, but that all experience was mediated through the rules of faith.

the other issue i have in regards to the "blueprint" analysis is the weight you give to the Bible. i doubt the very foundations of the text itself -- writings done decades after the assumed events -- as having any more authority than a history text. this has been bandied about in FYM before, and i remain suspicious on Bible-based faith. it just doesn't seem like a solid foundation upon which to begin a discussion of the operations of faith.

as for "bad things/good people" -- i suppose i'd understand this as a bit more universal than you. why did two happy-go-lucky teenaged girls die in a car accident when i was a sophomore in high school? why did Edge's daughter develop lukemia? why does a bridge collapse in Minnesota? why does a tsunami wipe out 250,000 people?

i suppose i find the random death of innocents at the hands of fate to be a "bad thing," and i think we can name innumerable "good people" who've had unexplainable things happen to them. i'm one of them, and i seem to be quite lucky as all's going well. which begs the question of why, if there's a god who loves us, and a God who wants a relationship with us, and a God who wants us to be good and to do good things, and a God who controls everything, that it's all in his hands, that it's all his doing, that it's all part of his plan, then why, oh why, do these things happen?

i'll paraphrase something that i remember Bono saying, but i believe it was an Old Testament story -- i've had two glasses of wine, so name escape me -- but it was (Abraham?) who was told by God to bring his son to a mountaintop and to kill him in order to demonstate his faith. and so, he did, and just before he killed his son, God intervened, said it was a test, and let them both go, and thus, this is the faith we should have.

and Bono's reaction, and my reaction, is: what a fucking asshole.

it doesn't matter if we understand God on his terms or not. what matters is that we have to understand life on its terms and deal with it using our very human faculties. and as supposed Creator of said faculties, it seems rather cruel.

this reminds me of an example that comes up in abortion threads. we're presented with various "would you have an abortion if ..." scenarios. one category is horrible, horrible birth defects. and one of the worst that i can think of is what's known as harlequin-type ichthyosis. it's a horrible disease, and while there are a handful of stories where children survive to hit double-digits, and even one "success" where the child has made it to adulthood, the vast, vast majority of victims of this disease live short, painful lives and then die.

and my very human response is that, yes, i would absolutely have an abortion to prevent my child from entering a world where all they will know is suffering. and if this is God's will, or God's plan, to have a baby born to only suffer and then die, so that all of his human experience is one of suffering, then the only moral thing i can do is to protect this child from what God, apparently, wants for it. it would seem to me that to accept what is might be the cruel thing to do, and that i should thwart the Will, the Plan, and protect my child from God, if we are to believe that God is the author of such birth defects.

this seems like a bad thing that has happened to a good person. and to take your earlier thought of "perhaps we're not as good as we think,' would this imply that i've done something so terrible so as to deserve a child who will suffer, and that my suffering will be through watching the child suffer?

again: what a fucking asshole.

and so it continues. all questions, just food for thought, just hypotheticals, and i'm not implying that this is representative if your particular experience of faith, but that it is representative of one particular blueprint of faith.


[q]But even perception is not all of reality[/q]


but, maybe it is. does it exist if we do not perceive it? if a tree falls in the forest ...
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Old 08-28-2007, 08:18 PM   #32
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As far as why there's so much evil in the world, the Bible is pretty clear about it, actually. It's because we let sin into our lives, therefore tainting God's perfect creation.


so ... my accident happened because i'm gay?
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Old 08-28-2007, 08:21 PM   #33
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No.
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Old 08-28-2007, 08:24 PM   #34
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then why did it happen if it was due to sin in the world?

(i'm of the opinion that bad shit just happens, and that's what i took from it -- no one is safe, even though we probably are going to be okay, and we are alone, and that's okay as well)
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Old 08-28-2007, 08:26 PM   #35
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Originally posted by coemgen
Also, I think he was more saddened by the tsunami than most of us were.
One might have thought then, unless he is some kind of masochist, that he would have stopped it.

Your spirit isn't very omnipotent is he?
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Old 08-28-2007, 08:30 PM   #36
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Omnipotent, yes. He also respects the law of free will, out of our own good, and has thrown us a lifeline through Christ and interacts with us through his spirit to save us from ourselves. We just have to chose to be saved. Again, he respects the law of free will.
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Old 08-28-2007, 08:32 PM   #37
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then why did it happen if it was due to sin in the world?

(i'm of the opinion that bad shit just happens, and that's what i took from it -- no one is safe, even though we probably are going to be okay, and we are alone, and that's okay as well)
I didn't mean every bad thing is a trade off for a sin. I was saying that bad things in general came to be because sin came into the world.
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Old 08-28-2007, 08:36 PM   #38
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Omnipotent, yes. He also respects the law of free will, out of our own good, and has thrown us a lifeline through Christ and interacts with us through his spirit to save us from ourselves. We just have to chose to be saved. Again, he respects the law of free will.
I fail to see what that any of that has to do the tsunami.

If your spirit (and I will be polite for the time being, and not refer to it as a figment of your imagination) is omnipotent, then it was within his power to stop the tsunami.

As he choose not to, 300,000 people died - I'd tend to call that a bad thing - and I'd tend to call an entity which had within its remit the power to stop 300,000 people dying, but decided not to, an evil entity.

Therefore, if your spirit exists, he is either not omnipotent, or not omnibenevolent.

It is logically impossible for a god as Christianity depicts him to exist (i.e., both omnipotent AND benevolent) - although, of course, that does not of itself prove the non-existence of ANY conceivable god or gods.
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Old 08-28-2007, 09:10 PM   #39
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First off, I certainly respect non-belief, so I'm not looking to change any minds here.

Nonetheless, I think the question of "why God lets bad things happen" or how an omnipotent and benevolent being that allows bad things to happen must be neither is tainted with "human" understandings of "perfection."

As I've said before here, I believe that the conventional human definition of "perfection" and the hypothetical definition of "true perfection" are very different.

For example, we know that the universe, Earth, and absolutely everything follows very defined scientific and mathematical laws--no exception. Now obviously, as advanced as we are, we don't know all of these laws, but what we know for sure is that what we're "discovering" is merely something that has been occurring for billions of years on it own and will occur for many trillions of years after us, the Earth, the solar system, the Sun, and even the Milky Way galaxy are long gone. As such, you could argue that science and mathematics, itself, is the defining definition of "perfection," inasmuch as it has allowed our planet to sustain complex lifeforms and has allowed us to exist.

As we all know too, those same scientific processes that have allowed Earth to be what it is today are not inherently benevolent either. We have tectonic processes that allow for destructive earthquakes and volcanism. We have weather patterns that allow for hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, extreme heat and extreme cold. We have an ecosystem that thrives on the death of everything to survive, whether that be larger and/or smarter creatures eating smaller and/or dumber creatures. Likewise, we have tiny microbes that exist, whose "life" can mean our death (i.e., infectious agents, parasites). And all of this has meant that we have a whole number of things that can potentially kill a great number of people at any given moment....

...yet take away any one of these factors, and we would likely not be here at all. No tectonic processes? We'd be as dead as Mars. Extreme weather? Well, blame that on the Moon for putting us on an axis that creates extremes. However, it has been noted that cold weather, for instance, allowed for industrious cultures separate from agrarian society. As such, without the Moon that helps create weather extremes, modern Western civilization may never have been dreamed up; after all, what would have been the need for it?

But what about parasites and infectious agents? What could possibly make those things positive? Well, for one, they have been the driving force of the evolution of life. Without them, we would quite likely still be nothing more than single-celled organisms. It is called the "survival of the fittest" for a reason. And, okay, you could argue that human evolution has "ended" (although that's increasingly appearing to be wrong), so what's the purpose of it now? As awful and horrible as mass pandemics are, and, as a civilized society, we should be doing everything in our power and technology to prevent and/or stop them, the wealth of modern Europe, and, by extension, Western civilization would not have existed without the Black Death. Europe was overpopulated, with land being poorly managed and little room for agriculture before the Black Death. Although the disease plunged Europe into virtual chaos for well over a century, after the disease had subsided, Europe was then able to use large tracts of vacated land for better agricultural practices and economic opportunities, setting the stage for European prosperity. As we can see in some parts of our world today, overpopulation can be a huge problem.

So ask yourselves: why would a theoretically "omnipotent and benevolent" deity allow bad things to happen? Because the alternatives are worse. "Perfection" is not having everything that you want; it's accepting that everything is as it is supposed to be.
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Old 08-28-2007, 09:21 PM   #40
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Quote:
Originally posted by coemgen
I didn't mean every bad thing is a trade off for a sin. I was saying that bad things in general came to be because sin came into the world.
This ends up being a good extension to my argument of "human perfection" versus "true perfection." The original Greek and Hebrew words that we translate to be "sin" literally meant "imperfection."

Again, though, I ask how much of these "imperfections" are flawed human expectations of getting everything that they want as meaning "perfection." If we are to state that "free will" is, like science and mathematics, inherently "perfect," then to have a hypothetical world where people are flat out incapable of bending or breaking the rules means that we do not have "free will."

Alright, you might be asking yourself what's the point of "free will" if we're allowed to do "bad things" to each other? Call that an unfortunate price to pay for progress. If we merely sat down and did what we were told, unquestioningly, by our leaders, then we would still probably be living in primitive tribal societies that would be most certainly totalitarian in nature.

In other words, our capability for both "greatness" and "badness" is tied to a similar trait: passion. Without passion, and, thus, competition, we would not be what we are, as a civilization. Granted, there are downright terrible and despicable things that people do to each other...but to change the laws of nature to make us incapable of "disobedience" thus eliminates free will, and we're back to an unquestioning tribal society. As such, it becomes an issue of "the cure" being far worse than "the disease" itself.
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