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Posts Tagged ‘evil’

Well, to paraphrase a recurring Twitter joke that’s usually about Baz Luhrmann or Wes Anderson or someone: I see Charlie Brooker’s made his bleak dystopian satire again.

The thing about Black Mirror, which recently aired a one-off Christmas special, is the same thing that’s always the thing about Black Mirror. It’s really worth watching, it’s generally frustratingly unsatisfying, and it’s sufficiently engaging that it’s prompted me to pour more words into a blogpost about it than any other subject in months.

The way the show presents its ideas is always gorgeously realised, with glorious production values, beautiful sets, fantastic performances, and all that jazz. It suckers you into its shiny world, but there’s not much substance beneath all the pretty and highly watchable gloss. To someone even moderately sci-fi literate, the ideas themselves often aren’t especially revolutionary, or original, or insightful – and the way it takes its time over them makes it seem as if it’s more proud of itself on this score than it really deserves.

It consistently hits “quite fun” levels, but seems to be expecting my mind to be blown. Which is really distracting, and leaves me wondering what could be done if such effort and skill that’s clearly been put into the production could be applied to some really bold, creative, intense sci-fi ideas.

Or at least some sci-fi ideas which aren’t basically always stories about stupid people who are deplorably, unforgivably shit at dealing with their (often self-inflicted and entirely avoidable) problems.

See, I don’t doubt there are things which speculative fiction is well placed to address, regarding humanity’s tendency to be unforgivably shit at dealing with their problems. We are a species with no shortness of innate shitness at all kinds of things, after all. But the lesson I tend to draw from Black Mirror is “you can avoid this terrible fate if you somehow find it in yourself to be fractionally less shit than these complete incompetents”, which doesn’t take long to learn and doesn’t particularly expand my mind in the way good sci-fi can.

In many ways, this show about how technology impacts our lives is much more about the lives than about the technology. It’s not exactly a deep insight to say that the science parts of science-fiction are often primarily a device for talking about universally recognisable aspects of human nature and its flaws. But when seen this way, both the technological dystopias of Black Mirror, and the dark corners of humanity they reveal, are disappointingly unsophisticated.

The bits of the show that work best for me – and thus, by extension, the bits which are the best in objective and unquestionable truth – are the opposite of the bits that are most clearly intended to be powerfully bleak and viscerally horrifying.

Spoilers for White Christmas to follow, because it’s the one I can remember most clearly to cite as a useful example:

People being tortured or simply imprisoned in those cookie things is a genuinely chilling idea. For all that I’m bitching a lot about this show, when it has a thing it wants you to look at, it does a fine job of showing it off, and you definitely felt how sinister that notion was. What’s happening in the story is seriously creepy, and if seeing it proposed as something which could really happen doesn’t deeply unnerve you then you’re thinking about it wrong.

But it gets stopped short of being genuinely insomnia-inducing. In part, the effect is muted by the nature of the proximate cause of the nightmare: namely, the active and direct malice of Jon Hamm’s character (and later of the police officer casually ramping up the torment beyond anything experienced by a single individual in human history). Both the characters we see being tortured in a digital prison are having this punishment deliberately inflicted on them.

That’s fine as far as it goes: Person A really wanted Person B to experience great suffering, and made it happen. On an individual basis, that’s horrible, and scary, but it’s not exactly new. The scale of it that’s enabled by the technology is impressive, but still not unprecedented.

But while it’s certainly believable that this kind of cruelty could take place, I don’t think it identifies a broader human failing that our species as a whole should be worried about. In both instances in the show, this kind of cruelty seems to have been institutionalised into a system in widespread use. Torturing a replica of yourself into acting as some kind of household organiser seems to have become mundane and everyday. Given how much straightforward evil that would require of basically everyone who accepts this system, I don’t see it as likely that we’re going to backslide that far into that level of callousness. (Recent poll results on the support for torture as an interrogation tactic by the CIA among the American public makes me think twice on this one, but it still doesn’t feel authentic, as a path we might be in danger of going down.)

I could’ve sworn I remembered the title Black Mirror as being a classical literary reference of some sort, describing a reflection of the dark side of humanity and making us face the blackness that stares back when we look at ourselves, or something. Apparently I made all that up and it just means computer screens. But even so, the resonance that stories like these will have depends on how well they convince us that they do reflect something meaningful about us. It needs to feel representative of life as a whole, or of “the way the world works”. When a story doesn’t feel believable, it’s not necessarily that we think it defies the laws of physics and could literally never happen, but that it doesn’t fit with the stories we use to frame real life.

So, good guys win, because the world is basically fair, and good will win out in the end, really. Or, the good guys fail, because we live in a hopeless godless world that doesn’t care about us, in which the good guys won’t get what they want just because movies have always told them they will. Either way, the specific example in question is implying this broader set of conclusions about the way the world works.

With Black Mirror, there’s never a “happy” ending, and the conclusions it leads us to about the real world and human nature are always something dark and disturbing. This isn’t a problem in itself; as I say, there’s plenty that’s dark and disturbing about life and humanity that’s worth exploring. But it’s the part where the characters (and by extrapolation humans in general) are flat-out evil, bringing about our doom by deliberate malevolence, that doesn’t ring true.

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. Almost no one is evil; almost everything is broken.

So much more harm has been brought about by well-meaning folk being badly organised, by good people getting stuck in harmful patterns of self-defence, by broken systems where nobody’s getting what they want but nobody’s incentivised to change anything, than by evil people simply wishing evil things. And the former has more gut-wrenching horror lurking inside it, too. There doesn’t have to be some brilliantly dastardly mastermind plotting and scheming, derailing the universe’s plan for good people to be rewarded; people can just be human, and well-intentioned, and recognisably good in every important way, and still effect unimaginably terrible suffering. That’s a more relatable and frightening idea to explore, and rings far truer as a probable harbinger of actual future dystopian calamity.

There was a lesson in White Christmas which resonates more strongly with me, about faulty thinking regarding artificial intelligence, and a glimpse of the consequences of fucking that up as badly as we probably will – but that didn’t seem to be the pitfall the show was warning us about. The main message seemed to be the usual theme of technology’s potential to be used to cause suffering when it’s convenient for us, with our philosophically inadequate notions of consciousness tacked on as a chilling coda.

The really scary and horrific things done by humans, historically, have been much more down to social influences than technological ones. Any truly dark and nightmarish future will come from a far less easily predicted direction than that suggested by an entertaining, whimsically spooky TV show.

Merry Christmas.

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See, the thing is, religion isn’t all bad.

*FIRST PARAGRAPH CONTROVERSY KLAXON*

It’s not, though. But it’s still a long, long way from the best we can do.

The Skeptics with a K framed some ideas interestingly in a recent episode of the podcast. They were talking about the classically bullshit-ridden debate over whether religion or atheism has directly caused more historical death and suffering, and which is therefore “worse”.

The first thing to remember is that this is entirely disconnected from the question of whether God exists, or whether any religious ideas are reasonable to believe based on the available evidence.

But, even while there have certainly been religiously motivated murders numbering well into the millions, and also genocidal regimes led by atheists, I’m increasingly of the view that there’s nothing useful to be gained by trying to determine any sort of comparative body count.

As I think Mike pointed out on the show, the idea of atheism being responsible for murder seems ridiculous on its face; there’s no way to logically get from “there is no god” to “I should kill a bunch of people”, without adding a load of unrelated shit in the middle.

But then, theism doesn’t directly result in or endorse killing anyone either. There’s no more a logical way to get from “there is a god” to “I should kill a bunch of people”, without also adding a load of unrelated shit in the middle.

Unfortunately, adding a load of unrelated shit in the middle is precisely what religion tends to do. Hence “I believe in God” leads, blunderingly and meanderingly and by way of numerous distortions and corruptions, to the Crusades, the lynching of homosexuals, and all the rest.

And on the flipside, you have religious charities, and the unavoidable fact that belief in God, however mistaken, often engenders a kindness and desire to do good works in people of faith.

Atheists are always quick to point out various things when this is brought up – that historic religious institutions are in a much stronger position to provide infrastructure and funding for charitable organisation, that organised atheism hasn’t had centuries to establish a similar community that can embark on charitable projects, the name of the biggest lending community on Kiva, and so forth – all of which is quite correct. The idea we’re rushing to counter, in these cases, is the common claim that believing in God makes you a more compassionate, more generous, better person, than being an atheist. We’ve been told often enough that we all have no reason to be moral, and so that’s the bullshit we most easily react against.

But there are other things to be taken from the observed association between religion and charity. It’s not a condemnation of atheism to note that some forms of religion, as a system, are pretty good at arranging, organising, and motivating people to do good things, behave kindly and compassionately, and strive to alleviate suffering.

It’s also pretty good at helping people justify and rationalise the most grossly inhumane atrocities of which humanity is capable.

So it’s a mixed bag. Racist genocide and feeding the hungry are two things people are entirely capable of, with or without religion – but which religion often exacerbates and supports.

So, can’t we have one without the other?

It’s not that hard to conceive of a better system, which does more of the good things, and less of the bad. We could identify the parts of religion (or any other system) that are beneficial, separate out the ones that are harmful, and organise ourselves in a way that promotes and encourages charity without also helping people rationalise and justify tyranny and cruelty.

It should be possible. It doesn’t seem likely that, if you want everyone to be better at sheltering the homeless and not passing by on the other side when someone’s in need, you have no choice but to accept the corresponding tendency to lead armies against anyone else who’s basically trying to do the same thing as you but gives it a different name. We can surely have compassion without religiously inspired evil.

Atheism isn’t this system. (Though I suspect, and urge, that many people acting this way would be atheists.) Humanism might be it, or at least might be a few steps down the right path. It doesn’t need to be any more formal than that, nothing with an official hierarchy and rules and whatnot. Just a set of ideas, picked and chosen to help us do the best we can.

Skepticism and critical thinking are also positive things, and any belief systems we have in place should encourage and nurture these things. Religion often tends to be hostile to genuinely honest and open questioning of ideas – not always, but it throws up some serious roadblocks. So let’s see if we can’t do better.

The claim that religion is never any good for anything doesn’t hold up, but atheists shouldn’t feel they’re conceding anything important by abandoning it. Many people cling to their faith as a source of comfort and reassurance, in times of difficulty and pain. It does them some good, in a situation where simply removing it and replacing it with non-belief would not be better for them.

What’s important, though, is that religion is not the best we can do. Not by a long way. The comfort it provides comes only at the expense of a rational approach to the real world. It lets you feel better, but only by believing false things.

Can we improve on that? Can we come up with an approach which helps and supports and comforts people, and allows us to help and support and comfort each other, while remaining grounded in the real world, letting both compassion and rationality drive what we believe?

Christ, I hope so.

It’s unhelpful to focus too fixedly on whether “religion” or “atheism” is responsible for any of history’s great mass slaughters, because nothing’s that simple. But there are things to be learned about different approaches one can take to the world, and what kind of institutionalised behaviour these approaches tend to engender. Authoritarianism and inflexible thinking are strongly connected with cruelty and tyranny, and religion is by no means the best way we have of avoiding authoritarianism and inflexible thinking.

The demonstrable falseness of religious claims is ample reason to reject them; the regularity with which bigotry, hatred, and aggression are backed up by religious motivation should be ample to strongly compel us toward a more optimal system of organising ourselves to do good things.

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I think a lot of religious conversation might be really unnecessary.

Least shocking opening sentence ever right there. Really? Conversations about religion? Unproductive and futile? Surely not!

I mean something a bit more interesting, though. I’m still having the occasional back-and-forth with strange Twitterfolk about their assorted odds and gods, often with people whose preferred deity is said to be all about love and kindness. Which is a good start; people who not only believe in God, but also think he’s justified in acting like a total dick to huge swathes of the population, tend to be less easy to engage with.

Generally, then, I’ll be asking questions about what these people think, how they fit God into their world, and I’ll ask something about how they square their loving god idea with, say, the thousands of children who are dying of starvation, malaria, and AIDS every day.

And that’s where it always seems to get stuck.

It’s not like they don’t think they have any answers to offer, sometimes they’ll keep replying for a while… but my responses are still only limited to either “Yeah, but why?” or “Seriously?” And we just keep circling the same, increasingly futile point, getting nowhere.

Which I maintain isn’t my fault. I reckon it’s just that there is no good answer to the most glaringly obvious flaw in the hypothesis that there’s someone out there who loves us all and has unlimited power over the world. There really never has been a good answer. So, the reason my discussions keep coming back to the problem of evil, is that any theology which tries to go any further is kinda redundant until we’ve got this part straightened out.

Most recently, I heard how it would be inappropriate for God to intercede and intrude on our free will. It would be “oppressive”, in fact, just as if you always stepped in to stop your own children doing anything wrong, and never allowed them to learn from their own mistakes. But it’s not an analogy that reaches very far. If your infant child was starving to death, and it would cost you nothing more than an infinitesimal expression of your will to save them, and you didn’t, that’s called criminal neglect.

Well, it’s criminal neglect if you’re a human parent doing that to a human child. If you’re an all-powerful deity doing it to countless human children, it’s called “mysterious ways”.

“Free will” is a complete failure to respond to the problem of evil. No six-year-old with leukemia got that way because of bad choices they made. Nobody’s free will caused an earthquake or a flood which killed thousands of unrelated people. Or, if it did – if you think natural disasters, including those which kill people too young to walk, are some sort of divine punishment for other people’s decisions – then your god is a psychopath.

If not, he’s still dangerously, maniacally complacent. Which – although they might not phrase it as such – really is what a lot of believers seem to think.

For any kind of god-belief to make any sense at all, you either have to ignore the horrors of the world, let go of either his omnipotence or benevolence, or just assume that, by some unknown method, it all makes sense and is for the best.

There’s no direct evidence for this, of course – it goes directly against what seems like the strong evidence against any such being, in fact. But there must be a way for it to all make sense, because God definitely does exist.

So, the evidence for that proposition – the evidence which lets you get away with maintaining a benevolent God as a probable entity, in spite of the problem of evil – must be pretty fucking watertight.

I’m waiting to be impressed.

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People doing things

I don’t quite agree with Steven Weinberg‘s famous line:

With or without [religion] you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

The implied dichotomy between “good” and “evil” people and things is one problem, but not a big one in the context of a pithy remark intended to make a broad, generally true point.

More interestingly, it’s also not the case that it’s only religion which seriously decouples people’s moral intentions from the real world, and drives “good” people to “evil” acts. Other irrational ways of thinking can be dangerous in the same way. There’s nothing qualitatively different about religion, over and above any other memeplex, which gives it this special and unique power.

But it still stands out in its ability to do this kind of damage. Religion is one of the most powerfully exacerbative examples out there.

Cases like that of a mother who beat her son to death can leave little room for doubt about that.

Whatever can drive someone to beat their own seven-year-old child to death can’t be simple. It’s not enough to blame religion; even most religious extremists don’t go that far, would stop and be tempered by their compassion and love for their offspring before allowing any other passions to overtake them to such a degree.

I can only speculate as to how Sara Ege might have gone beyond even that point. It seems a safe bet that a large part of the psychological situation comes down to fear. Fear of castigation, of punishment, by God, by society, by the rest of your family, by tribal elders or their modern equivalent.

Hate, too, and anger; a natural inclination to lash out at the world with fury and spite, perhaps because that’s how it’s always treated her. Confusion. Frustration.

These are all things anyone can experience, or even be overcome by. Being an atheist isn’t a forcefield against any of it. But there are things that alleviate it, and things that make it worse. It has to actively be made a lot worse for something like this to result. And it’s certain that religion only stirred up this complex, poisonous concoction of negativity and hurt even further.

This particular tragedy wouldn’t have been possible without a particular set of religious beliefs, and the privilege those beliefs are given in discourse, and the lack of humanity – humanism – afforded to people as a result of exalting the importance of these beliefs above everything else in life. Even above principles like “love your children” and “be kind and patient in your dealings with others” and “don’t beat your own fucking kids to death with a fucking stick, for fuck’s sake”.

There are many memes in conflict with such principles, all of which blend together into the familiar complicated mass of humanity. Religion is just one of these among many. But it by no means gets let off the hook.

(h/t The Twenty-First Floor)

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Pure Evil

I’m not sure why Greta Christina seems to have taken the brunt of this particular tirade, but apparently affirmative atheism is “evil in one of its purest forms“.

Because we happen to think we’re right where other people are mistaken, and we’re trying to win people around to our way of thinking.

Holy shit. I wonder what this guy’ll think when he sees a political campaign for the first time.

The Slacktiverse, the blog on which the bizarre rant against proselytisation was posted, has since responded to some of the criticism it received. It’s not very interesting. It uses the word “trolls” more than I suspect is justified in characterising people who responded negatively, and defends the post by pointing out that it wasn’t technically “hate speech”, or trying to restrict anyone else’s free expression, and so they didn’t want to censor it when it was submitted.

Which would be fine, if it actually addressed the bulk of the complaints about it, which as far as I can tell are mostly about how the premise it’s based on is moronic.

What Greta Christina advocates–what any atheist advocates when they suggest “increasing the numbers of atheists” as a laudable goal, what any adherent of any religion advocates when they suggest “increasing the number of members of my religion”–is evil in one of its purest forms.

What Greta Christina has made very clear that she’s advocating – in the very article he quotes to try and make his point – is for atheists to publicly discuss the reasons for their nonbelief, and to criticise fallacious and irrational arguments for the existence of God when they are encountered, with the proposed goal of decreasing the world’s total religiosity.

If you want to argue that that’s evil, we’re not saying you shouldn’t be allowed to do so. But we still get to call you an idiot. We don’t get to forcibly shut you up and repress your expression of opinions just because we find it offensive. But we can point out that it is offensive.

So, yeah. Some guy I’ve never heard of is an ass. Big news.

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As you may have noticed, there’s been rioting in certain areas of London, which has spread across the UK, for the last couple of nights.

Vehicles and buildings have been burnt, windows have been smashed, shops have been looted. People have died.

It’s been horrible.

So you’ll be pleased to know that I’m here to explain exactly why it’s all been happening and what we can do to sort it all out.

Not really.

In fact, there may not even be a question to ask. Maybe we don’t need so many Guardian-reading bleeding-heart liberals asking why these violent scum do what they do. Perhaps they’re just evil, and these constant attempts to excuse evil is why liberalism is the greatest blight on modern society. The Prime Minister described the destruction as “criminality, pure and simple“. Maybe that’s all there is to it.

As another commentator notes:

What we are seeing in London and other English cities is an outpouring of evil. To try to explain evil as the result of something else is almost always a mistake. The urge to do evil is a primary motivation, not the indirect consequence of something else… The British riots, like similar events in any time and place, are a reminder that while the existence of God may be debatable, the existence of the Devil is not.

Theological sound-bites aside, the message is clear: some people are just plain bad, evil, rotten to the core. Nothing provokes them to their evil actions except their own twisted purpose and selfishness, and any response except to forcibly restrain their capacity to inflict their malevolence on the rest of us is futile.

As an explanation for what’s going on, it’s reassuringly easy to understand, and provides a satisfyingly retributive solution for dealing with those rampaging hoodies out there. They’re probably all hoodies, aren’t they? And chavs. And other bad sorts like that.

Very satisfying. But it raises some awkward questions.

If some people are “just evil”, with no prior root cause except an inbuilt and irreparable inhumanity, you’d presumably expect them to be evenly distributed among our species, by whatever chance or unknown force systematically removes some people’s empathy for their fellow man. You wouldn’t expect this evil to occur mostly in socially disadvantaged ethnic minorities, where unemployment is unusually high, benefits are being cut, and residents have long since been complaining of having no prospects and being treated unfairly by police.

It seems odd that this inherent evil seems to be so demographically weighted. Almost as if social demographics played some sort of role in social unrest.

It seems even odder that so many separate incidents of rioting broke out in so many different parts of London, and then in further-flung parts of the UK, in such quick succession. It would be a tremendous coincidence for so many evil people to decide it was time to do some evil in such close succession, if they weren’t in some way responding to external events. It’s also strange that Bromley, which had had some looting the night before and rumours of an escalation yesterday, ended up being so quiet last night. Could the evilly motivated evil-doers have been steered away from all that evil by the large police numbers on the high street?

And there seems little doubt that a crucial catalytic factor to the riots was that Mark Duggan was shot dead in Tottenham a few days ago. He was a local resident, and there was no evidence that he fired any shots himself, before being killed by a single bullet fired by police.

That so much evil – which, remember, is not a result of anything else – would suddenly burst out in Tottenham, a relatively disadvantaged area with a large population of ethnic minorities, who have already complained of feeling antagonised by the authorities, such a short time after a young black man is deliberately killed by the police… well, it’s almost too tremendous a coincidence to be believed.

It must be, though. I mean, you can’t allow for any external explanation of any of these violent actions, or let yourself understand how a sense of frustration and disenfranchisement and political impotence might have arisen in some people. If you go down that road, you’re basically absolving all blame and justifying every stolen TV and incinerated bus in the country. Right?

I’m losing track of my own use of irony here. It may be time to stop being disingenuous.

Here’s my main thesis, for want of a less pretentious word:

“Evil” is the political equivalent of “Goddidit“.

It saves you from having to think any further about what’s happening, and provides a nice uncomplicated explanation for everything that seems scary and uncertain. But it rests on an immeasurable, unverifiable assumption, which stops any potentially fruitful discussion dead in its tracks.

It’s neat and tidy, but shouldn’t we care if it’s also true?

I can’t imagine anyone arguing there were no external factors at all that influenced the exact details of the recent rioting. The geography and timing of the various incidents make it impossible to write them off as a series of isolated, independent events, simply evil things done by evil people for evil’s sake. However evil they are, the rioters are very likely to have been influenced by factors such as the presence of police, the availability of suitable targets for aggression, the prevalence of other rioters, and so on.

It also flies in the face of everything we understand about human psychology to assume there was no impact at all from the broken windows effect, the bystander effect, or deindividuation in crowds, to name but a few fascinating and well established nuggets of research into human behaviour. Anyone passingly familiar with the field of psychology will be aware of Stanley Milgram’s experiment on obedience to authority figures, which gave alarming insight into how far people can be persuaded into performing immoral acts they would never usually condone, if the surrounding circumstances are conducive to it.

And if you can acknowledge this, then it hardly seems implausible that some rioters’ behaviour might have been influenced by less immediate factors, perhaps present in their social background. That the extremely well-off and secure are less likely ever to break shop windows and assault passers-by is supported both by reality and common sense.

It’d be very, very strange if the kinds of social factors I’ve mentioned didn’t play some part, in some people, in fomenting a sense of injustice and anger. The kind of anger which might build, directionless and impotent, toward some kind of boiling point, a threshold of poorly expressed fury and manic, stupid delight at watching destruction reign.

If the problem is simply one of evil, the solution is comfortably simple to understand – but also limited. It means we can reassure ourselves that the perpetrators are “not like us”, but it means they must be abandoned as being beyond hope of salvation. It also means that there’s nothing we can do to prevent more truly black souls from arising in the future; we just have to wait until they can be identified by some sufficiently evil act, like mugging an injured man, or throwing a brick in a public venue to the cheers of their friends, or whatever other unquestionably evil criteria can be agreed upon.

On the other hand, the paradigm that allows for the effect of social factors, although it requires a more complex human psychology to be considered, offers hope for the future. It says that there are circumstances which exacerbate and promote the kind of dissatisfaction that leads to such civil unrest, and that these circumstances can be changed so that fewer such events are induced in the future.

Understanding does not equal condoning. There have been acts of vandalism, violence, arson, and thuggery committed, and there deserve to be arrests made and prosecutions brought. I expect some people will and should be jailed for what they did. But it’s a fantasy to imagine that the yearning to angrily set fire to buildings was with them since the womb. If we want to make our society better for everyone, we need to figure out how to do exactly that: make it better for everyone. Even the ones who sometimes seem to want to make it worse.

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I’ve always found it slightly frustrating that so many people wait until a major newsworthy catastrophe to start wondering whether God isn’t something of a cock.

What’s going on in Haiti is clearly awful (and the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders could use your help), but if you want to question why God allows such suffering to exist, it’s not like there aren’t plenty of other examples to latch onto. You don’t have to wait for an earthquake or tsunami or terrorist attack; people are getting raped and murdered and starving to death all over the place, all the time.

And unsurprisingly, when the topic does come up, and God’s appointed spokespeople start offering answers… well, you’re generally lucky if “embarrassing” is the worst you can say of it.

I’m not familiar with John Sentamu’s work, but Archbishop of York sounds like a fairly important job title, as these things go. But he doesn’t have a coherent answer to the question either, as evidenced by a recent interview he gave, prompted by the earthquakes in Haiti.

He comes out with some waffle about God being “fully engaged”, and how he is “with us” throughout such events, which sounds like an admission that God is sadistic enough to want thousands upon thousands of people to suffer, to starve, to die. What kind of comfort is it meant to be that he’s there, if he won’t do anything useful to help?

I’m not entirely clear what he’s referring to when he says:

…what you are seeing is the face of God being disfigured, ah, and that is quite — pretty, pretty appalling.

But what I am clear on is that, if you’re hearing about an earthquake ripping a country apart, killing thousands and leaving vast numbers homeless, and what appals you is the disfigurement of God’s face, then you need to get your fucking priorities straight.

The interviewer presses the archbishop on the question of a “slot-machine-type God”, who deals out tragedy at random, or at least allows it to fall randomly. The archbishop denies that this is the case… and then goes on to make exactly that argument, saying that bad things can happen to anyone at any time, and not just to bad people. I’m not sure he has any more of an idea what he’s saying than I do.

And then he says something about Pat Robertson which I won’t insult the English language by calling a sentence.

It’s been a couple of thousand years or so, and we’re still waiting for an answer:

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