The problem of evil strikes back

We’ve probably had enough discussion of the problem of evil on this blog, but I can’t help pointing out it’s appearance in the news. Apparently one world leader, upon visiting Auschwitz, had the following reaction:

“In a place like this, words fail. In the end, there can only be a dread silence, a silence which is a heartfelt cry to God — Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this?
“Where was God in those days? Why was he silent? How could he permit this endless slaughter, this triumph of evil?”

Indeed, these are questions any religious skeptic might ask, but it’s surprising to hear them from Pope Benedict. It seems like the sort of thing a guy in his position should have the answer to. (Via Majikthise.)
In a slightly parallel story, Mark at Cosmic Variance watches as Billy Graham comes very close to endorsing a skeptical outlook on religious claims. I must say this is a promising trend among major religious figures toward inquiry and empiricism, but somehow I don’t see it lasting very long.

10 thoughts on “The problem of evil strikes back

  1. shellock

    Very interesting comments from the Pope. He is one of the last men i would expect them from. But maybe there is hope for the world yet to learn from past mistakes and move on to a better tommarrow (assuming we dont explode, poison, disitengrate, plague… the world up first)

  2. shellock

    Yes he was but unlike our president he seem to be able to learn and change his mind

  3. Cheryl

    Actually, I’d expect those sorts of comments more from someone in religious leadership who has a mature faith than your garden-variety wide-eyed vaguely-non-thinking religious devotee…
    There IS evil in the world. Horrible stuff happens to innocent (and not-so-innocent) people all the time. Much as I generally want to trust that enough people with enough brainpower working at a problem will crack it, I am nearly convinced that this isn’t one of those crackable problems. As people of faith, you want to look up and have the big guy / flying pasta monster / whatever go “poof!” and have it go away. Or you want to look up, have the big whatever go “poof” and at least UNDERSTAND why, if your ever-powerful God is ever-powerful as well as loving, horrible things continue to be allowed to happen. It’s the sort of thing that can drive an otherwise faithful person to regard God as being sadistic, or blind, or just plain cruel…heck, even Christ hanging on the cross asked “My God, my God – why have you forsaken me?” If He didn’t “get it”, I have no chance.
    I really should reread some CS Lewis – he addressed this issue rather well, as I recall…generally though, I choose to ignore the problem of evil. I credit God with the good, and try not to assign blame for the bad. I’d go crazy otherwise, and not in a “crazy for cute shoes” way, but in a “bitter empty shell of a person” sort of way. I try to trust (easier on some days than others) that there IS some sort of master plan, and I’m probably never going to be enlightened enough in this lifetime to comprehend that plan.
    Far better to be happy as often as possible – today’s happiness has come from the birds outside my office window, who are slowly but surely discovering the birdseed I left out there. :)

  4. Josh

    I don’t have enough faith to credit God with the good. In my experience, it shows a lack of faith in myself and those around me to “thank God” for something that happens that was either based on random chance or the perseverence of people who are trying hard should not be attributed to that great invisible hand in the sky. But I certainly don’t mean to judge your outlook, Cheryl. If it works for you, most fantastic. I just never could get past the fact that in church I was supposed treat all the good in the world as a gift from God and all the bad as a product of misfortune or failure on reality’s behalf. To some it seems like an optimistic way of thinking, to have faith that we have this immense Goodness on our side, getting our backs. But to me it seems bleak, like we can’t handle ourselves and we can’t really do anything but screw up, so we need the constant assistance of someone who won’t show himself to us.

  5. Mason

    It’s all just one giant Sims game, and some people simply aren’t allowed to use the proverbial bathroom as often as they want.
    [[Looks in general skyward direction and waves fist angrily]]
    Re: The “problem” of evil: If you can’t beat them, join them.

  6. Josh

    Re: The “problem” of illegal prostitution: If you can’t beat them, beat them off.
    That was a very large leap for me to make from the previous comment in order to make a very immature dirty joke. I hope you all appreciate that leap.

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