Some Observations from a Conversation

I just came out of an extended conversation with a group of philosophers that centred around ‘the problem of evil’ in philosophy of religion (most of them were theists). A few interesting observations struck me.

One observation was observing, in quick succession, someone being willing to explain away and justify all the evils in the world in order to retain the idea that ‘God is perfectly good’, and then say that they considered humans (the crowning pinnacle of God’s creation, remember) were naturally bad in quite a strong sense – which, though I didn’t press them, would probably involve explaining away and debunking all the apparently good traits of humans. Coincidence?

Another was that one person, to support the idea that different sorts of moral standards apply to us as apply to God, tried to say that it’s commonplace for different people to be held to different sorts of morality. When asked for examples, they gave parents punishing children and governments governing their subjects – two relationships of authority.

And a third was perhaps less striking, but perhaps still worth mentioning. One of them (a theist), in explaining away various forms of suffering, said that the suffering of animals seemed fairly irrelevant to them; and when I said, by way of contrast, that ‘it is bad that animals suffer needlessly’ was so obvious to me as to be axiomatic, this seemed to provoke more surprise in the other participants than their dismissal.

Of course maybe they were right and I was wrong. Just making observations.

Also, those who are waiting for replies to comments (who are principally: Quentin, Quentin, and Quentin), I will reply tomorrow. After sleep. And a sufficently long time without doing work. Hopefully.

3 Responses to “Some Observations from a Conversation”

  1. Francois Tremblay Says:

    Sounds like the standard “subjectivist” and theistic nonsense.

  2. Abigail Says:

    There’s a long history in Christian thought of exalting God by denigrating humanity. I don’t know if the two are actually at odds with each other or if this is just an unfortunate trend.

    In my experience most people who hold God to a different moral standard see the relationship as somewhat different from that with mere human authorities, who are supposed to use their authority to benefit the governed. God, on the other hand, owes us nothing because merely giving us the chance to exist was a generous gift, and leaves us eternally in his debt. (Or to put it differently, because as his creation we are his property to do what he pleases with — recall that unfortunate New Testament passage about clay pots.) Interestingly parents are also mentioned by such people as having authority over their children simply because they brought them into existence, quite apart from their ability to make wise choices for the child’s good, or gratitude owed for years of nurture.

    Really, really love your blog, by the way.

  3. missivesfrommarx Says:

    I can hardly stand to get into conversations like that anymore. The stupendous obviousness of the rule that “most people believe what they want to believe” kills me.

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