Alright. You see I have spent some time @ Pajama Hadin. An older post caught my eye, as you can see it held the word “theodicy”, which means he was covering the subject of God, good, and evil. And don’t forget omnipotence, etc.
Theodicy: God and Earthquakes – Pajama Hadin
Go ahead and read it, I will be referring to points as I make my way through discussing the right way to handle evil and hatred. Timely subject.
To offer anything other than what I believe to be the truth in such matters would amount merely to making an intellectual game out of people’s suffering. That would be an unjustice in and of itself.
Suffering and Evil are not only very weighty matters but very personal. I think that any serious discussion about them must take that into account. Addressing the intellectual challenges posed by suffering and evil can become so abstract as to become cold and divorced from the realities which prompt them in the first place.
Perhaps in our information age we are more likely than ever to abstract suffering. I don’t know if it is purely information overload, as reactions to the London bombings seem to indicate a state of emotional overload as well. There is a certain stoicism, the kind of shutdown and compartmentalism that enables us to cope. I tend to think of this as a critical time, a time when our more humane barriers are down. We are just tired of the strain, and we get willing to cut corners to make the onslaught stop.
That is when we are in danger of becoming what we hate, and descend more deeply into rationalizing increased hate. I think hate is quite the opposite to love in many ways, one of which is the need to distill and control it. It is a warning, like anger, that something is very wrong, but overused…. it kills us more than it kills our enemies. When we start to verbally divorce ourselves from the flesh and blood life of the enemy… we are in the danger zone. We have then lost our perspective. Which isn’t to say that people cannot so identify with evil that they personify it. They can, but I feel it is on far less a scale and on far more a personal basis than we are tempted to see it.
I gradually grew to hate evil and not just its consequences when inconvenient for me. The evil I hated the most was my own, but I must sadly admit that this is not always the case.
The Problem of Pain
However we understand evil, one of the things we dislike most about it is how it affects us emotionally. Whether it is outrage, sadness, despair, righteous indignation or any other strong reaction, there is some emotional pain that accompanies evil that can consume us for a season or plague us for life. This emotional or psychological pain, our reaction or response to evil is what drives us to questions about it in the first place.
The main point I want to make about it here is that whatever answers we find to the questions, whatever solution to the problem of evil we consider, it should not in all cases take away that pain. In fact, when carefully considered it is evident that we don’t want the solution in all cases to take away that pain.
For it to do so would mean, for example, that in the face of some horrible atrocity, we have no righteous indignation, no sadness on behalf of the victims. This is not what we want. We do not want to become psychologically at ease or emotionally comfortable with such things. However, we would find it desirable to find healing for bitterness, regret, despair, depression and other such effects from experience with evil
Herein is the importance of two things: learning from history, and making of memorials. This is why we need to take time out to acknowledge the pain of our fellow man. Even briefly done, it humanizes us.
The Nature of Evil
We must first define our term here. My working definition is going to be that evil is:
1) that which is contrary to some moral standard –
a) a standard that stipulates what is prohibited, permissible and required, in terms of actions, desires and thoughts for moral agents [e.g. lying, greed, and hatred would be considered evils]
b) a standard that stipulates what ought to be and ought not to be in terms of form, quality, and essence for other entities (material objects for instance) [e.g. harmfully mutated DNA might be considered an evil]
2) If the evil in question is considered objectively evil (rather than a person’s or group’s preference), the standard must be objective. If the evil in question is considered absolutely evil (evil at all times, everywhere, for anyone), the standard must be absolute.
I suppose the worst thing that happens from a homogenization of evil in our minds is a jaded attitude, where all the relativity sort of blends together and we forget to make distinctions. I don’t know if anything but apathy to anything except what personally causes us pain can result from this. Like the opposite of the saying”It’s all good”…. and so what. We start to get comfortable with the idea that evil is in the world, and that it doens’t matter.
There are certain sorts of evil that we should never get comfortable with. And why certain definitions should be kept distinct. Shame on those who compare a President they don’t agree with and a genocidal tyrant. Shame on them. That is a severe enmity to man’s humanity, and to the consciences of all of us. They have dulled their own, and collectively for all of us, the sense of urgency and alertness to true destruction.
Falsely drumming out the hue and cry of war is just as damaging. Creating a wearied and inurred reluctance to do anything except talk a big talk. Real evil requires definitive action, the surgeons laser at the beginning, and as it progresses, the cutting away that leaves even the surviving life in question. I have no respect for those who engage in recreational stirring the pot. Mad in their enjoyment of manipulating the crowd.
There is a fine balance, recalling the personal suffering, and accounting for that, goes a long way to moderate us. Which is what I think our demeanor should be in dealing with evil: deliberate and circumspect.
The Bible talks about the importance of guarding our hearts, because the ‘issues’ of life come forth from that inner core of us. We want to ensure that our values and the best part of us stays intact …. you really don’t want to become a vector of that which you are trying to eradicate. A healthy respect for life goes a very long way in our endeavor to do well in this area.
Let us take stock and correct that which is lacking … and continue in the way of well-doing. Be honest with ourselves, are we keeping to that standard? We want to be left with something that is worth living and believing. Take care, friends, take care.