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My Privileged View of Suffering

To celebrate the launch of our new blog site I am starting by posting Five Favorites from years gone by, one post from each of the blog's first five years, 2012-16.  Here is one I've chosen from 2013.  One of the issues I sometimes address on the blog when I'm not talking directly about the New Testament and earliest Christianity is my take on "the problem of suffering."  It's not just a big issue but also an emotionally difficult one.  That is more or less what this post is about, as someone objects to my decision to air my views. ********************************************* Sometimes people get upset because I deal with the problem of suffering even though I don’t seem to be experiencing any severe pain and misery myself.  Here is an example of the kind of comment I occasionally receive, this from someone commenting to me on Facebook a couple of days ago: "Dude, in a world of suffering, you claim doubts in deity because you live the privileged life of a UNC professor. If you [...]

2020-10-30T21:28:10-04:00October 23rd, 2020|Public Forum|

Is Suffering Our Fault?

Some people have responded to my comments on suffering with the interesting observation that most suffering, in their view, is caused by humans against humans, so that there is no reason to “blame God” for it.   That is obviously true of some of the most horrific things that happen in our world:  murder, genocide, torture, war, refugee crises, and on and on and on.   And one could argue that it is true of even “natural” disasters, such as starvation: there is more than enough food in the world for everyone to be well-fed, so if people are starving, it is *our* fault, a lack of social and political will.  No need to doubt that God exists just because we’re too stupid, lazy, or self-centered to deal with any problems that come along. I have several reactions to this view.  The first is that on one level I heartily agree.  So many of the unspeakable things that happen to people, destroying their lives, causing unspeakable pain and misery, and often leading to death, are caused by [...]

Follow-up Apologies for the Post on Dinesh D’Souza

I was completely taken aback when I got up this morning (I’m in London – five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time) to check my blog and Facebook pages to find that I caused a bit of a firestorm by my comments on Dinesh D’Souza when in yesterday’s post I introduced the video of the debate that I had had with him a couple of years ago.  That was not my intention at *all* and I’m non-plussed, surprised, and embarassed.   All sides of the political spectrum have reacted strongly – rabid liberals hee-hawing and rabid conservatives fuming and others weighing in one way or the other.   Woops.  Not what I had in mind. Now that I re-read my opening comments, I see how they are being read, and they are not being read in the way that I meant them.   But I need to apologize to Dinesh and to anyone else I have offended.  My intention was *not* to badmouth Dinesh, whom I like on a personal level even if absolutely not on the political.  [...]

2017-12-14T22:49:10-05:00August 3rd, 2014|Bart's Debates, Public Forum|

My Debate with Dinesh D’Souza on the Problem of Suffering

A prominent figure in the news lately has been Dinesh D'Souza. Dinesh is best known as a hyper-conservative political commentator. His most recent book is America, and this week it is #1 on the New York Times bestseller list for non-fiction. It has a companion documentary film. If you're politically very-right-wing conservative and despise Barack Obama and everything he stands for -- this is the book for you! Dinesh was a policy analyst in the Reagan White House as a 20-something Wunderkind; he has served as John M. Olin Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The New York Times Magazine named him as one of America's most influential conservative thinkers. Newsweek listed him as one of the country's most prominent Asian Americans. Dinesh has also been in the news for several other things in the past two years, in connection with his (former) presidency of Kings college -- a conservative evangelical institutions that trains conservative Christians in business and finance so that they can get high level places at Goldman Sachs-- and more recently because [...]

2020-12-29T00:55:02-05:00August 2nd, 2014|Bart's Debates, Public Forum, Video Media|

My Views on Suffering Are Not Held by Those Who Suffer

In two of my debates, one with the “Messianic-Jewish Apologist” Michael Brown (whom I had never heard of before, but who was a remarkably good debater) and with the conservative Christian Dinesh D’Souza (whom I had heard of before, loud and clear, and who is also a remarkably good debater), I have been confronted with a point that, in both instances, my opponents thought was a decisive strike against me. My views of suffering are not shared by the people who, unlike me, actually suffer. It’s an interesting point. To explain it, and my response to it, I need to say a few words about the context of these debates. The topic of my debates on the problem of suffering is never whether or not there is suffering. Luckily. Everyone (at least everyone I debate, and most everyone who listens to the debates) agrees that there is suffering. The question at stake is whether it makes sense to believe in God given the nature and extent of suffering in the world. FOR THE REST OF [...]

2020-04-03T19:40:18-04:00June 3rd, 2012|Bart's Debates|

What Do Tectonic Plates Have To Do With Suffering?

I have always found it interesting that when I talk about how there can be suffering in the world if there is a good God who is in charge of it, someone will tell me that it is all because of “free will.” I think most of us – not Sam Harris, of course, or some others, but most of us – think that there is such a thing as free will, that our actions are not completely determined for us but to some extent (not completely! Or even nearly completely) we can decide what to do (we can’t decide to walk on the ceiling without special equipment; most of us can’t decide to understand the general theory of relativity; and so on. But we can decide whether to cross the street, or go to a movie, or punch our neighbor in the nose). Moreover, most of us would agree that a good deal of suffering happens as the result of humans exercising free will. Your own broken nose may be because your neighbor was [...]

2020-04-03T19:46:20-04:00April 23rd, 2012|Bart's Debates, Reflections and Ruminations|
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