Tuesday, October 13, 2009


In class yesterday we heard an earnest, sensitive, respectful explication of why, from the perspective of Islamic piety, we should not grouse about suffering. The linchpin of the argument was familiar: free will, coupled with interesting observations about gratitude, overcoming impossible adversity, and the deity having no "openings." At first I thought that meant the economy was tight all over, but it turned out to be a point about His non-animality (giving the lie to this children's book).

More seriously, the last point is one Karen Armstrong makes in The Case for God. We cannot imagine what the Deity really is, or even that He/She/It shares any attitudes or attributes in common with us. God is an enigma, a transcendent, transplendent mystery. A black box. This line of thought runs into its own brick wall. Why worship an enigma? Especially one that tests and tortures the faithful? (Michael Shermer's thoughts on the problem of suffering... George Carlin & "Mr. Deity"... theodicy & crummy dorm analogy)

The adversity and gratitude angles really are more compelling to me, personally. The human spirit is indomitable. Watching the presentation's video clip I was reminded of Chris Reeve ("Superman") and his heroic chin-up way of facing his own impossible challenge, near-total paralysis after a horse-riding accident.

But what does that have to do with God, unless believing in God is what enables the hero to persevere? I don't know if that was this amazing man's situation. It does not appear to have been Chris's, said by his brother to have been a devout atheist:

Q: Do you believe in the Lord?

A: Even though I don't personally believe in the Lord, I try to behave as though He was watching.

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