Friday, July 26, 2013
False Conundrum No.4 : The Problem of Evil
The existence of evil is a problem only for those who irrationally believe in the false hypothesis known in English as 'God,' in French as 'Dieu,' in Arabic as 'Allah,' and in India by a thousand names. For the rest of us, the real problem is not the existence of evil, but its eradication. And a good first step toward lessening the presence of evil in our world would be a mass renunciation of belief in the literal existence of gods. The British philosopher A. C. Grayling has written: "There is no greater social evil than religion. It is the cancer in the body of humanity." Naïve theists (is there any other kind?) often respond to atheist challenges with the assertion that religion provides a moral code without which human beings would tear one another apart in a war of all against all, licentiously fuck lions and tigers and bears (oh my!), and even engage in dancing. An intellectually satisfying answer to this 'religion makes us more moral' argument would use theology against itself, invoking Kierkegaard's characterization of the religious worldview as the teleological suspension of the ethical and arguing that far from moralizing human behavior, religions have historically licensed murder and atrocity, directed toward both internal and external Others. The most cogent answer, however, is a date: September 11. On that clear blue morning in 2001, a group of men more seriously religious than almost any Americans I've known demonstrated the superiority of their moral code by murdering three thousand human beings. And let us not forget the Muslims in the former Yugoslavia who were murdered in the 1990s by religiously righteous Christians, or the fearsomely devout Catholics and Protestants who murdered one another for decades in Northern Ireland, or the millions of Jews who were murdered by the Nazis while the German churches stood and watched, or the long and despicable history of Christian persecution of Jews (a history that renders truly obscene the spectacle of that overrated fathead John Paul II standing at Yad Vashem and rhetorically equating Christian persecution of Jews with some fanciful Jewish persecution of Christians; the Pontifical One's exact words were, "Let us build a new future in which there will be no more anti-Jewish feeling among Christians or anti-Christian feeling among Jews"; a fine sentiment, but his carefully crafted rhetoric implies that these two 'feelings' were historically parallel in murderous efficiency). The list of religious atrocities is as long as the history of religion, and it becomes longer with every 'honor killing,' so maybe it's time to bring that history to a deservedly ignominious end--not with a bang but with the whimper of 'humble' Pope Dirty War opening his balcony window to appear before...an absolutely empty St. Peter's Square. Maybe it's time for the world's Catholics to stop taking sex advice from a celibate old man in a dress. Maybe it's time for the world's Muslims to stop letting themselves be used as pawns in the power games of corrupt clerics and insane fanatics and the world's worst dictatorial doofuses. Maybe it's time to say goodbye and good riddance to religion, and understand religious stories for what they truly are: highly influential literary constructions. Every religion, as that great Jewish Gnostic atheist Harold Bloom has observed, is the institutionalized worship of a literary character--and in the case of the monotheistic YahGodAllahWeh, a character considerably less believable than Gregor Samsa. If you feel you can't live without worshipping a literary character, allow me to suggest the ironic deification of Leopold Bloom. He's much more interesting than that old Tetragrammaton YHWH (about whom the Village People almost sang).