"No, I Would Not Consent."

Today I'm very sad. From news about a little boy.

On good days my faith hangs by a thread. Today is not a good day.

Today I'm reminded of this exchange between Ivan and Alyosha in The Brothers Karamazov:

"Listen: if everyone must suffer, in order to buy eternal harmony with their suffering, pray tell me what have children got to do with it?...Tell me yourself, I challenge you answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature that little child beating its breast with its fist, for instance—and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth."

"No, I would not consent," said Alyosha softly.

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21 thoughts on “"No, I Would Not Consent."”

  1. You must have read The Doors of the Sea by David Bentley Hart. He cites precisely this passage in discussing theodicy in relation the 2004 tsunami.  What did you think of his understanding of theodicy?

  2. Thanks, Richard. The God that I must believe in is not a puppeteer of such a universe. 

  3. I saw a Jewish rabbi admit in a debate with Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens recently that the God he believes in is neither omniscient nor omnipotent.

  4. These 19th cen. Russian writers will get you going, Richard. It seems a liitle presumptuous to set oneself up as the arbiter of issues on how the world has to be if God made it. Not being a philosopher, I just have to weigh in with the novelist, humbly admitting that I have trouble getting a handle on all this.

  5. Ursula Le Guin based her short story, "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," on this idea. 

  6. Richard, we sit with you by your rivers of Babylon and remember that it was Job and not his friends that God honoured for expecting Him to be better than He seemed at the time.

  7. What if "free will" doesn't apply just to human cognition, but to nature and biology as well? Although by no means do I think I have the answers to life's faith rocking tragedies, I have to believe that God is still good when babies die, when whole cities are plummeted into tragedy, when children lose their mothers to breast cancer. You are definitely not alone in your questioning, but I hope it comforts you to know that others stretch out relating arms to shoulders and say "Yep, this definitely sucks."

  8. What if "free will" doesn't only apply to human cognition but to nature and biology as well? I don't understand at all why babies die, whole cities get plummeted into tragedy or children lose their mothers to breast cancer, but I have to believe that God is still good, despite the real injustices in our world. I hope that on some level, like it is to me, it is a comfort to know that people all over the world are struggling through their faith, sharing that reality and outstretching arms on shoulders, saying "Yep, that definitely sucks."

  9. Sometimes, I think, a little blind faith is a good thing, because it helps to teach us that our reasoning is often shortsighted. We can never fully understand why everything happens and for what reasons, but we can always believe, we can always have faith.

  10. Can't fix the sad, or the brokenness. Can't offer answers. But I can offer my sympathies and my faith when yours is waning.

  11. It's comments like this that lead me to believe that the writer doesn't know what he's talking about.  Sometimes faith is damned hard and belief is non existent.

  12. And who were the perps? Be specific, and cite your work fully. qb has no idea what or whom we're considering. Thanks.

  13. in moments like this I sing/pray "wake up dead man".

    love you for continuing to share your heart with us even in pain.

  14. and that is one of my favorite books... very favorite. that and Les Miserables.  for the very reasons you allude to here.

  15. Ah, Richard, so many little boys, so many stories, so much grief. And so intolerably much--what--sin, cruelty, all of it. What we can offer is our caring and our deep prayers. All we've got, for him/them and each other. You and he are in mine.

  16. Thank you everyone. Just one point of clarification, my sadness and lament is for some friends and their son.

  17. dear richard, my faith was severed some time back, but not love.  whatever brings us love and beauty...(the thing that continues to haunt my atheist position) which causes us to continue to wonder how love/beauty/courage/kindness/forgiveness fit into the evolutionary theme...
    it is this i wish to you right now. 
    whether there be something more we cannot see...
    or if it truly is...just WE...and each other...
    we do have love.  You are not alone. (((hugs)))

    as your quote shook me off my feet, i leave one for you...
    for though the suffering,  pain, and uglies weigh us down and shatter us...the hope for humans continues to be reborn by acts of kindness, love, beauty, forgiveness....i continue to ask...what are these things?
    why do we have them?

    "What a lovely thing a rose is. There is nothing in which deduction is so
    necessary as in religion. It can be built up as an exact science by the
    reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to
    me to rest in the flowers. It is only goodness which gives extras, and
    so I say again we have much to hope for from the flowers.
    " (sherlock holmes)

    holly campbell/soms

  18. "Lord, since thou hast taken from me all that I had of thee, yet of thy
    grace leave me the gift which every dog has by nature: that of being
    true to thee in my distress, when I am deprived of all consolation. This
    I desire more fervently than thy heavenly kingdom." St Mechthild of Magdeburg

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