Swinburne Recycled

We’ve been having this lively discussion of Swinburne on suffering, so I thought I’d temporarily re-post this old comment from last June.

Richard Swinburne is interesting. I’ve said so before. So has Mark Fournier at Tachyphrenia. And now it’s time to say it some more. Because the things Swinburne says here are truly revolting, and yet they are, of course, what you get if you try to reconcile the omnipotent omnibenevolent God with the existence and abundance of suffering in the world – just what Darwin couldn’t manage to reconcile himself to. There’s an irony of sorts in the fact that it’s Swinburne’s view that is considered by many – by surprisingly many – to be the ‘devout’ and ‘holy’ and therefore (why? why therefore?) ‘good’ one, and Darwin’s that is considered the impious and wicked one. The approval of the deliberate causing and continuance of pain and suffering to billions of sentient beings is considered good, and the disapproval and rejection of that is considered wicked. That’s interesting, and it is, if you ask me, a sign of something badly corrupt at the heart of the whole swindle.

Theodicy provides good explanations of why God sometimes — for some or all of the short period of our earthly lives — allows us to suffer pain and disability.

Good? Good explanations? Good in what sense?

Although intrinsically bad states, these difficult times often serve good purposes for the sufferers and for others. My suffering provides me with the opportunity to show courage and patience. It provides you with the opportunity to show sympathy and to help alleviate my suffering. And it provides society with the opportunity to choose whether or not to invest a lot of money in trying to find a cure for this or that particular kind of suffering.

Well why stop there? It also provides pharmaceutical companies with the opportunity to develop pain medications, and nurses with the opportunity to apologize for the fact that the pain can’t be alleviated, and vicars and priests with the opportunity to pray that it will be alleviated, and God with the opportunity to refuse to alleviate it, and the funeral people with the opportunity to dispose of the corpse after the victim has committed suicide. Lots and lots of opportunities. Good. So – we should all act accordingly? We should all rush outside with our carving knives and soldering irons and distribute injuries generously around the neighborhood so that there will be further abundance of such opportunities? Suffering is a good thing because it creates these good opportunities so there should be lots more of it so we should all bend every nerve to create more of it?

No. We don’t actually think that’s the case. So why does Swinburne get to claim that it is the case, and that that’s a ‘good’ explanation? Why doesn’t everybody for miles around just tell him ‘That’s disgusting’ until he’s so embarrassed he stops saying it?

That’s a real question. I find it baffling.

Although a good God regrets our suffering, his greatest concern is surely that each of us shall show patience, sympathy and generosity and, thereby, form a holy character. Some people badly need to be ill for their own sake, and some people badly need to be ill to provide important choices for others. Only in that way can some people be encouraged to make serious choices about the sort of person they are to be. For other people, illness is not so valuable.

Oh, godalmighty. That is such crap, and such transparent crap – so carefully arranged to get the conclusion he wants (God is okay really even though it seems to be an awful shit) with that last little escape hatch – for other people, illness not so useful. Give me a break. Swinburne looks at the world: sees that some people get ill and suffer, others don’t; needs to make this harmonize with ‘a good God’; explains that suffering is good for some people and not for others; job done.

An analogy will show that what I have written is not an ad hoc hypothesis postulated to save theism from disconfirmation.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Oh, that’s a good one. He’s not only interesting, he’s also a comedian. A sadistic comedian, but a comedian.

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