Thursday, September 12, 2013

A near-sighted sense of entitlement

Clint Roberts asks "Why Do Good Things Happen?" Why are we inclined to blame God for evil but take the good for granted?
...[T]he question of why so many bad things happen remains something we cannot get off of our minds. But I wonder why it does not occur to us to ask the inverse question of why people get to experience so many good things in life. If God is watching, we instinctively perceive that he is to blame for all of the bad things that go on; but what about the good things? The 19th Century Victorian poet Christina Rossetti wrote, “Were there no God, we would be in this glorious world with grateful hearts and no one to thank.” Have you ever seriously contemplated the “Problem of Good”? People who do not believe in any sort of ultimate goodness should be particularly confounded by this question. Think of it: if no person like God exists, if from the start no purpose lay behind the origin and structure of this universe, and if the only game being played out is the strictly biological one, why should there be such varied experiences of joy in the lives of people? “Nature is a wicked old witch,” wrote the late evolutionary biologist George Williams.  She is “red in tooth and claw” as Tennyson famously put it.  Why, then, are there creatures like ourselves with so much capacity for so much rich enjoyment of life?

.... The kind of love and longing that C.S. Lewis...talked about as a key to his spiritual awakening is part of the true and intense beauty of living, even in a place where disease, crime and ultimately death cause us so much grief and angst.  If we are going to ask why the latter, shouldn’t we also ask why the former?

And it’s not as if Lewis had too easy a life to comprehend tragedy and sorrow. The man who wrote a personal and probing book on the topic (The Problem of Pain) after the death of his wife had also seen the trenches of WWI, from which he was sent home wounded, and had years later lived through the Nazi bombing raids over London, during which his voice was heard weekly on BBC radio broadcasts reading words he had written to help bring calm and focus to the frazzled, frightened public. ....

The good things in the world present as much a riddle to us as the bad things. Both beckon us to ultimate questions. The only reason we would obsess exclusively about the issue of pain and evil, while never pausing to consider the other side of the coin, is the near-sighted sense of entitlement to which we’re all naturally prone. We take the good things for granted, as if they are the norm or the default, and the bad things shock our senses as the inexplicable exceptions. .... [more]