With fading vision, I am no longer able to read whatever I wish — what has been my lifetime pleasure.Â Fortunately in this computer age I can enlarge type and access a wide and increasing number of sources.Â However, until a computer system is invented that allows one to lie in bed and read projections on the ceiling, I am restricted to the time — a few hours a day — that allows me to sit in front of my screen.Â The rest of the time I am forced to seek out other sources. Our TV media are now horrors obsessed with porn and killing — both news and entertainment.
npr is a useful source with its wide ranging exploration of topics.Â It is also a depressing one with its reports of the widespread suffering of so many of our fellow humans out there — as many as a quarter at least of the human race that is being abused, suffers lack of medical care and basic stuffs for life and survival.Â One particularly cringes at the reports of the suffering of little children — those that must have concerned Jesus of Nazareth so far as we can trust the reports of his life, suffering, and death.
The traditional answers to suffering have been various — it makes one a better person or there will be a happy ending in the afterlife for the good folks.Â However, such answers really do not do it for some of us as a resolution of the theodicy problem — the inherent conflict between the three basic religious claims in the face of evil: 1) that G-d is all powerful, 2) that G-d is all good, 3) that real evil exists.Â Why should an all good and all powerful god not intervene to prevent real evil — particularly suffering?Â That ‘It’ can or will not cope with evil, causes many of us who have plumbed this question to back away and become agnostics (doubters) about the possibility of a god who works in mysterious ways and, thus, skeptical that such a unifying force exists in our vast universe.
I was intrigued to hear a Distinguished Professor of Religion discussing on npr his most recent book on this subject.Â He, himself, has evolved from a believing born again evangelical to an agnostic Distinguished Profession of Religion at the University of North Carolina — Bart D. Ehrman: God’s Problem: “How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer.”
The reason that I much prefer his and my own disposition not to believe in a rescuing deity is that he and I then bear the responsibility to do whatever we can ourselves to alleviate human suffering.Â Too many believers, I fear, leave such things to their imagined on call rescue deity.Â We might not have less greed and cruelty in our world with a loss of religious belief — probably as much or more — but at least we can direct our own lives on behalf of those who need our help.Â Our time here is limited.Â Make the best of it.Â We need to help each other while we can.
“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)
Ed KentÂ 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]