October 24, 2012

The age-old problem of theodicy is injected into the American political discourse in a way that God is allowing to happen for reasons unknown.

"A theodicy... is an attempt to resolve the evidential problem of evil by reconciling the traditional divine characteristics of omnibenevolence, omnipotence, and omniscience with the occurrence of evil or suffering in the world."

This is perhaps the most profound question in the history of religion and philosophy... so that makes it prime material for late-season political demagoguery.

Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock struggled or purported to struggle with his anti-abortion principles and the problem of rape. Should there be a rape exception?
"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen." 
And apparently, also, God intended — by Mourdock's lights — that Mourdock be kicked around for professing that everything that happens is something that God intended. God works in mysterious ways, or — as non-God-invoking folks say — everything happens for a reason.

Mourdock is up for election, and he's a Republican — so is Romney (have you heard?) — so this is excellent material for stirring up war-on-women emotionalism once again — all under the presumably watchful eye of God. What's HIS plan? Whatever His plan is — when is He mailing out His brochure, eh? — He's got a plan, and it's included rape and unwanted pregnancy since time immemorial. It might not be smart to come out and say that in the final throes of the campaign season. Silence was an option. So if you don't like what Mourdock said — as opposed to the fact that he said it — your alternatives can be selected from the philosophers' array of options: God is not omnipotent, God is not benevolent, or God does not exist.

Come on, everybody weigh in. It will be really helpful in deciding how to vote.

169 comments:

Fritz said...

Russian proverb:

Trust in God, but steer away from the rocks.

DADvocate said...

God gave us free will. Rape/pregnancy from rape is not something God intended to happen. It's something that God allowed to happen.

AF said...

Are you really suggesting that Mourdock is being kicked around for his theological beliefs, rather than for his outrageous political position that women who are raped should be forced by the government to bear the child of the rapist?

AF said...

If George W. Bush had responded to the 9/11 attacks by saying, "there's nothing we can do about it, it's something God intended to happen,"
would it have been wrong for people to criticize him for it?

TosaGuy said...

"Come on, everybody weigh in. It will be really helpful in deciding how to vote."

Didn't know that you were going to vote in Meade's home state.

seyferth said...

To paraphrase Robert Nozick, if God had banned rape than we would all be discussing the next worst thing, etc. etc., until the only thing left was a perfect world.

Complaints about God allowing bad things are ultimately complaints about the world not being perfect.

ricpic said...

What sticks in a modern's craw is that Mourdock admits to NOT KNOWING. It's God's will and who am I to question (or understand) God's will? A modern can't stand it that everything cannot be reasoned out.

Paul said...

I saw theo-idiocy when I first looked at the word. I stand by that first impression.

Yeah you better vote for the Democrats. They don't have scary religious beliefs except the omniscience of the state and its man-god, the Lightworker.

Nonapod said...

I'm a little slow today, how is this relevant to the presidential election?

At any rate, as an agnostic I'm gonna use my agnostic super powers and say "I don't know."

William said...

Mourdock: Now there's a name for an evildoer in Lord of the Rings.....I don't agree with his position, and I don't think there's a chance in hell that such a position will ever be sanctioned by law. Still even the enunciation of such a belief does serve to emphasize the gravity of the act of abortion.....When speaking of abortion extremists, why does no one ever mention of the President's support of post live birth abortions. There are some feminists who claim that post partum depression is an affirmative defense against infanticide. Perhaps the President's position on this issue is also evolving. In his second term, he will come out in favor of post partum abortion up to the age of five years.

Civil Sense said...

The correct answer to that question would be "I believe in life. However, I am more worried about the betterment of life with a good economy, jobs, etc."

Argue about abortion or especially rape means you're fighting on the slippery slope of stupidity. The Dems own that ground, so fight on your turf, not theirs.

garage mahal said...

When a Republican gets asked about rape they really should just pretend to feint and hit the ground.

I wonder if Romney still supports Mourdock's candidacy?

This, this kind of reminds me of Watergate!

traditionalguy said...

And then God created La Althouse.

This is what theologians call apologetics. Apologising for God when evil happens never quite cuts it. But looking at a plan for good to come out of bad comforts the faithful.

The Abortion absolutists do have a political problem with telling women that Rapists also have control over their bodies because God and men say so.

This theologian needs to learn when to side with the good over the evil. That is basic.

Ann Althouse said...

"Are you really suggesting that Mourdock is being kicked around for his theological beliefs, rather than for his outrageous political position that women who are raped should be forced by the government to bear the child of the rapist?"

Your question suggests that the current attack on him is less appealing than the one that could be made simply based on the strong anti-abortion position that rejects a rape exception.

The new injection into the discourse is the theological point, which is what people are talking about today and what I'm responding to. I think people who are choosing to make a big thing about what he said don't really care about the theological point. They care about abortion rights, and they want to generate heat over the prospect of anti-abortion laws.

What is your question, really? What counts as most "outrageous"? I don't like any of the options. I don't like the politics of claiming everything is "outrageous."

Personally, I support abortion rights — literally, the woman's right to choose. But I also think it's murder. If you insist on picking one and denying the other... how about if I call that "outrageous."

I prefer the truth.

AF said...

If Obama said, "stop complaining about the economy, it's part of God's plan," would criticizing him for that statement be theologically suspect?

The point of course is when a politician refers to a negative event as "God's will" and states that the government should do nothing about it -- or in this case, should actively prevent private individuals from doing something about it -- the criticism that ensues is political, not theological.

As anyone who reflected on the matter for thirty seconds would understand.

bagoh20 said...

This isn't a question for everybody. For many, it's nonsense based in fabricated premises.

"fabricated premises" = trailer park

Cedarford said...

Lets stipulate that the Democrats have a huge problem with true anti-Americans in their ranks. True communists, true socialists, true OWS scum anarchists that the liberal and progressive Jewish media (their own ranks infested with examples of the above) ----refuse to spotlight or discuss as a DEMOCRAT problem.

But yes, the evolution denying, rapist implanted baby is a gift from Jesus himself, 9/11 was Gods punishment for America not being Christian enough --faction of the Fundie Goobers out there is a national embarassment to Republicans.

But again, the liberal and progressive Jewish media --while pointing out that such idiots are supported in "large numbers" --refuses to mention the significant base of ObamaPhone Mommas, thugs, felons, parasites, redistibutionist activists and sheer haters of all things American that form the "Base" that enables the creeps on the Democrat side like Ayers, Sharpton, Code Pink to flourish.

Rusty said...

AF said...
Are you really suggesting that Mourdock is being kicked around for his theological beliefs, rather than for his outrageous political position that women who are raped should be forced by the government to bear the child of the rapist?



When the government does not intervene it does not mean the government is forcing it to happen.
The choice to have the child or kill it resides with the mother.
I fail to see where god enters into it other than the beliefs of the participants.

Icepick said...

Professor, I'm pretty sure you have decided how you're going to vote, and I'm pretty sure you let the cat out of the bag the day after the Vice Presidential debate.

Ann Althouse said...

"To paraphrase Robert Nozick, if God had banned rape than we would all be discussing the next worst thing, etc. etc., until the only thing left was a perfect world."

If God had banned rape, we would not be here. The world would be populated by an entirely different set of people. I assume. What are the chances that the line of ancestors that led up to you is completely free of pregnancy by rape? I'm guessing something so close to zero it's not worth mentioning.

MadisonMan said...

Mourdock has a lousy name for a politician. It's not mellifluous, nor interestingly ethnic. So close to Sour.

I picture a man sitting alone in a castle while storms rage outside. The Castle Mourdock. Would anyone willingly enter something so named?

Original Mike said...

Evidently, God wants the U.S. to whither, because he's working to keep the Senate in the hands of the Democrats.

AF said...

"Your question suggests that the current attack on him is less appealing than the one that could be made simply based on the strong anti-abortion position that rejects a rape exception. The new injection into the discourse is the theological point, which is what people are talking about today and what I'm responding to."

The two points are one in the same. The theological point is simply an unusually stark way of framing an objectionable political position.

"Personally, I support abortion rights — literally, the woman's right to choose. But I also think it's murder. If you insist on picking one and denying the other... how about if I call that "outrageous.""

Call it what you want. I didn't say anything about murder. Whether abortion is murder or not, it's still outrageous for the government to prevent women from getting abortions in the case of rape. If you don't agree, then obviously you aren't going to have a problem with Mourdock's comment.


Michael said...

No one alive wishes they had been aborted The wonder of life, the mystery of being, of breathing air, of interacting with others is not something that most would happily forego to satisfy a parent's desire for freedom all those years ago even if they found they were the product of an angry coupling or a drunken or drug fueled one. Or perhaps even rape. If viewed from the perspective of the child who is allowed to live, to be born into the astonishment of light and air the vote would almost always be cast for life.

Rusty said...

"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."

Yes indeed life is a gift, but the woman involved will have to look to herself to decide what is to happen. Free will. Both a blessing and a curse. And of all the abilities god gave us-if there really is a god-the ability to reason is paramount.

Cedarford said...

We all know how "The Game" is presently played.

Everyone is expected to pile on and condemn dumb religious goobers like Mourdock and Akin.
Because that is all about people emulating the wise liberals and progressive Jew's own opinion on entirely Correct criticism that is only meant to help create a Better America.

But anyone piling on and condemning stupid parasites like ObamaPhone Momma is called wildly inappropriate and racist for doing so.
That sort of criticism is Incorrect, because it retards progress to a Better America. The only people that feel that way about the millions of ObamaPhone Mommas, the liberals and progressive Jew "lead influencers" assert - are the hating haters who hate!

That is how the liberals and progressive Jews of the media and academia have set "The Rule of the Game".

Original Mike said...

"If God had banned rape, we would not be here."

Apparently, rape doesn't rise to the top of the list of God's concerns. (just speculating here)

SteveR said...

If God were all that into planning everything, we can be assured that many things we see and know about wouldn't be. That's far too simple and human limited thinking. Time and space are infinite, don't pin God down to your little world view and things will start to make sense (i.e. your aren't that smart or that important).

Make moral judgements based on informed logic, not what you think God wants, because that assumes you can know. Take responsibility for your decisions.

karrde said...

@AF,


Are you really suggesting that Mourdock is being kicked around for his theological beliefs, rather than for his outrageous political position that women who are raped should be forced by the government to bear the child of the rapist?


I don't believe that our nation has any laws which punish (by capital punishment or otherwise) a person for the crimes of his/her parent.

Two questions remain:
1. Is a fetus in the category of entities that are protected as persons under law?
2. If the answer to (1) is "yes", then is pregnancy by rape a harm to the woman worse than the crime of homicide towards the fetus/person?

Smilin' Jack said...

Personally, I support abortion rights — literally, the woman's right to choose. But I also think it's murder.

Hey, no fair! Don't men have a right to murder too?

gerry said...

...rather than for his outrageous political position that women who are raped should be forced by the government to bear the child of the rapist?

Did he say that?

Paddy O said...

Curiously enough, theodicy is what I'm teaching about this week.

Christian (and I would say Jewish) theology picks "none of the above" to that list.

The Bible just doesn't give us an answer to that question, to the question of why that would then categorize God. From the earliest narratives, the question is turned from "why did God let this happen?" to "what is God going to do?"

That's the story in Job, to be sure, where the narrative has God refusing to answer Job's challenge, saying that Job doesn't have the capability of questioning God.

The story of the cross is that God's approach to suffering is to engage it totally, to enter into its depths and despair, and bring transformation from within.

So, there's a two part answer, in essence. Mourdock is right, in part, in that the testimony of Scripture is that there is no evil or suffering that cannot find redemption or hope. God can bring good even out of death.

But in saying it in a very poor way he falls into the trap of suggesting that because God brings good out of it that he's somehow responsible for it.

That's precisely against the testimony of Scripture, that God causes evil or suffering.

The trouble comes in that sometimes God doesn't step in and seems to allow it. This is trouble because the testimony of Scripture is that people are called to stick with God even if they can't answer the question, and that God is going to put all things right, sooner and certainly later.

That's the story of the Bible from beginning to end, which doesn't at all dodge the question it just pushes us to look at it in a different way.

The key is to argue that God works while never, ever minimizing or dismissing the suffering for what it is: evil and wicked.

traditionalguy said...

This Theodicy problem is spelled out best in the Romney campaign's favorite book, which is Job.

Hagar said...

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
(Matthew 10:29-31)


If you are a Christian, that's the way it is.

I do not think that the Government refusing to provide "free" abortions on demand constitutes the use of force.

Tim said...

Mourdock answered poorly.

He will be held to account for his answer; I only hope only he is held to account for his answer.

gerry said...

Does Obama still support letting babies who survive induced labor abortions die, since that's what the mother and abortionist willed to be?

Michael K said...

"Personally, I support abortion rights — literally, the woman's right to choose. But I also think it's murder. If you insist on picking one and denying the other... how about if I call that "outrageous.""

That is exactly my opinion and has been since the first woman I saw die after an illegal abortion. However, abortion was legalized in California three years before Roe v Wade and that suggests the solution for the political problem. States should be able to choose. Choice, you know.

Had the Supremes stayed out of the argument, we would have been saved a lot of grief and women desperate to get an abortion would have had access.

For AF, of course, politics trumps theology because his/her philosophy does not allow for a higher power. Higher than the Democratic party anyway.

I forget what feminist made the point that abortion should be legal and should be recognized as murder; somewhat the way we recognize the soldier's right to kill.

X said...

if the rape fetus is gay, Inga agrees with Mourdock, unless of course this is an exception to her abortion on demand exception. it's probably exceptions all the way down.

Paddy O said...

The idea that God "intended for this to happen" is one that initially sounds like a very strong argument about God's sovereignty but it certainly gets into tricky theological territory. Does God ever intend someone to sin? Did God lead the rapist to commit rape? There's a whole list of events and sins and darkness that go into shaping someone who commits rape that is entirely not in keeping with what God calls humanity to be.

There's free will, and God intends that none should sin or perish. Why does he not step in? That's a very good question. One that even Jesus was asked on occasion, like when Lazarus died.

Ann Althouse said...

"Hey, no fair! Don't men have a right to murder too?"

Yep. One post down. When somebody gets into your woom.

Lem said...

It will be really helpful in deciding how to vote.

Sarcasm is "a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter gibe or taunt",[1] usually conveyed through irony or understatement.[2] Most authorities distinguish sarcasm from irony;[3] however, others argue that sarcasm may or often does involve irony[4] or employs ambivalence.[5]

Unknown said...

Could anyone please articulate how a supposedly immaterial and immortal soul can be manufactured through an essentially material process?

Ultimately, the whole basis of religion comes down to a series of mysteries that are not rational. And I would go further to say that ultimately, religion requires, at some point, that rational thought give way to command according to religious authority.

The theodicy problem Professor Althouse raises is exactly like this. If God is all-knowing and all-powerful, then God is also all-responsible. God could have created a world with free will and in which the Holocaust nevertheless did not happen, etc. So God wanted this to happen.

So perhaps, as in the Bhagavad Gita, no one truly dies. Or perhaps God was looking for entertainment and likes the mix of comedy & violence we have put on here. After all, our show keeps getting renewed ... 1.2 million seasons and counting! (I'm suggesting that, just as I can wear a blindfold, an all-knowing, all-powerful God could turn-off the "all-knowing" part for a week or so. And like me, he doesn't mind watching a show when he knows what's going to happen.)

Rick67 said...

First of all I wonder when politicians realize they should *never* attempt to philosophize about abortion and/or rape. Doesn't matter if they're right or wrong, if their position is reasonable or not. Stay. Away.

Theologically speaking, Mourdock is half right, and this has more to do with *language*. I know we often distinguish "God caused" from "God allowed" and I happen to sympathize with that distinction.

Aside - @seyferth, well said.

But when you think about it, is that a distinction without an effective difference? "He didn't cause that terrible event in which thousands died. He merely(!!!) allowed it". So why did God *allow* it then?

As someone whose academic career focuses heavily on Hebrew Bible aka Old Testament, in the Bible one does not seem to find this distinction. No God is not evil and does not "cause" evil. But ultimately... he does. Second Isaiah addresses this. Given a choice between suggestion there is some super powerful force of evil that gets in God's way... post-exilic Israelites said "heck with that, we'd rather say God makes everything, including what we regard as evil".

And yes - Christians of a Reformed bent would not agree with me - I think there's little question that the Hebrew Bible just plain assumes what we call "free will". Humans choose. And are responsible for their choices.

But God, because he created humans with freedom, is *ultimately and in a sense* the one who creates even the bad stuff humans do.

I don't like that, although I don't think it makes God out to be bad or contemptible, but there you go.

mikee said...

Per Christian principles, it is also God's will that the victim of a violent criminal attack such as rape may use self defense against it, even unto the death of the miscreant.

Dems don't often agree with that idea, either.

MadisonMan said...

Don't men have a right to murder too?

Move to Montana!

mikee said...

Per Christian principles, it is also God's will that the victim of a violent criminal attack such as rape may use self defense against it, even unto the death of the miscreant.

Dems don't often agree with that idea, either.

rhhardin said...

It's an example of using words outside of the applications that made the words useful.

That cues dogmatism, among males mostly. They have some theory to fill gaps.

Females don't mind gaps.

Hagar said...

I think AF's position ultimately derives from his instinctive reasoning that "whatever is not permitted is forbidden."

Ann Althouse said...

"These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State."

That's what the Supreme Court said in Casey. You've got your freedom to believe the religious concepts that make sense to you. That's your "concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." For many people that includes God intending everything to happen. If what happens is you are raped and you get pregnant, it's up to you to decide what that means and what you ought to do about that. Some women, sharing Mourdock's beliefs, might decide that God is testing their love and they embrace the innocent child. That's something that is fully consistent with abortion rights.

I know some people have the concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life within which God is challenging them to do what they can to save the unborn child, even at the cost of forcing the woman to bear the child against her will.

It's similar to requiring people to believe a religion you think they need to believe.

(Except without the dead baby.)

Mitchell said...

If life is a gift from God then He's an Indian giver.

Drago said...

Michael K: "I forget what feminist made the point that abortion should be legal and should be recognized as murder; somewhat the way we recognize the soldier's right to kill"

Camile Paglia.

Question for AF and others likeminded: If a mother wishes to have a late term abortion and the abortionist fails to kill the child which is now alive (but in need of assistance) outside of the mothers body, should the medical personnel be required to render aid to that child?

Or should they be able to just put the child in a box in a closet and wait for it to perish?

The latter is obama's on-the-record position.

seyferth said...

@Althouse

I think you missed my point, which wasn't a factual statement about rape, but a philosophical one about the so-called problem of theodicy.

To use a different context, if the worst thing imaginable to the human mind is the Holocaust, and if God had prevented it, then we would be concerned about the next worst thing imaginable allowed by God in the course of history, e.g., Pol Pot's killing fields or whatever is next in line, ad absurdum, until we would have--literally--nothing left to complain about.

The problem of theodicy is not a problem with God allowing bad things--it is actually a complaint that our world isn't without blemish.

Texan99 said...

I find reflecting on God's will very helpful in learning patience to deal with the tragedies in my own life -- and of no use whatsoever in helping someone else with his or her own tragedies. That's actually a very good time to shut completely up about one's opinions about God's will.

And if I were running for office, I'd say that rule applied a thousand times as firmly.

Astro said...

Wow, a politician said something stupid.
That's never happened before. Ever.

I'm glad the media have been alerted.

elkh1 said...

God works in mysterious ways, or — as non-God-invoking folks say — everything happens for a reason.

Or shits happen.

Lem said...

I'm starting to miss big bird... and he aint even gone yet ;)

Moose said...

So the debate here is not really about Mourdock. Its about whether God would allow something good to come out something bad.
Or, putting it in another way, does the cycle of violence extend to the fetus resulting from a rape?
Aborting child that resulted from a rape is punishing the child for the rapist's actions.
I call *that* vindictive.

Ann Althouse said...

@Paddy Exactly what do you think Mourdock should have said to express his opinion more appropriately? Assume he didn't want to stay silent.

Quaestor said...

AF wrote:
... his outrageous political position that women who are raped should be forced by the government to bear the child of the rapist?

Which is more outrageous, AF, that a woman is forced to bear the child of a rapist, or that a woman is permitted to murder her child because its father happens to be a criminal?

Ann Althouse said...

Also @Paddy, what do you think those who -- like Romney -- support a rape exception (but generally oppose abortion) should say if they are required to weigh in on the theological point?

garage mahal said...

If rape is God's will, do you think He watches?

Lem said...

It sounds to me like Althouse has been sitting on this... waiting to pounce (I mean that in a good way)

Althouse rocks!

chickelit said...

Pox vobiscum

Triangle Man said...

"Come on, everybody weigh in. It will be really helpful in deciding how to vote."

I nominate this as the most sarcastic thing ever written by Althouse on this blog.

BrianE said...

The courts (reflecting liberal society) decided that a pre-born life residing in the womb of a woman is guilty of trespass and has allowed the sentence of death for the trespass.

But doesn't the woman bear any responsibility for that infant life (in some way inviting that infant life into her womb)?


In the case of rape, the woman should not be held responsible for the infant life. The infant life is still innocent, but I think the exception is a reasonable one (though from a purely moral perspective it may be inconsistent).

Can a woman choose to love that infant life? Yes she can, since love is an act of the will.

But I think society would be correct in holding the woman innocent if she chose to carry out the death sentence on that pre-born life.

Ms. Althouse-- I think your statement that you support the right to an abortion while still considering it murder is the first time I've heard that from an abortion supporter.

Moose said...

@BrianE - sorta like the castle doctrine for wombs?

stevenj said...

Sometimes when the (Siloam) tower falls, it's just an accident.

Omnipotence is not the same thing as making all the choices in the universe.

One can believe that life in general comes from God, and should be saved, without conceding that God chose the circumstances in a specific case.

Lem said...

If rape is God's will, do you think He watches?

Thats the providence of the lord of the drones... see Benghazi

Carl said...

I admire his ethical consistency. A life is a life is a life. If you would not murder a born child because he is the offspring of a criminal -- and indeed, we used to do such terrible things, hold the sons accountable for the sins of their fathers -- then you've got no moral leg to stand on claiming the state has the right to protect the life of a child conceived in love to a higher degree than the life of a child conceived in hate and rage. The behaviour of either parent has NOTHING to do with the moral status of the child. If you think otherwise, then you're on the same page as those who think the moral behaviour of the victim has some bearing on whether a rape is "really" a rape. It's both or neither.

But even on the larger issue, I find it difficult to work up any high degree of sympathy for the outrage of a woman forced to bear a child. OMG! Your BODY is being taken over for 9 months!

Man, tell it to the Marines. Whose bodies are commandeered -- even to the point of being told to do things that will result in their permament maiming or death -- for four years or the duration of the conflict. Young men's bodies have been drafted since time immemorial for the greater good, and nobody gets too worked up about it. I can't get too worked up about the drafting of the bodies of young women for the greater good, either. I don't see a woman's right to self-determination as any more sacred than a man's. You want equality? This comes with the territory. You want to be treated as sacred vessels? Back to the harem.

That's not to say I think regulating abortion would be a good idea. It wouldn't. People who want to abort their child, for any reason or none, after serious thought or the most frivolous consideration, probably should be allowed to do so, at least up to a certain age. Because I don't see them as likely to make good parents of that child, and death is probably preferable to the agonizing life of the unloved child. You can call it early euthanasia.

But I'm with Althouse on calling a spade a spade. You're killing an innocent human being. Sometimes we allow such things in this imperfect world, because we think it forestalls some greater evil. Plenty of 15-year-old German boys who'd never hurt a fly were shot through the head by Patton's troops in 1945, and we never thought twice about that.

If you can't wrap your mind around that -- if you can't face what you're actually doing squarely, own it -- then you probably shouldn't have abortion rights.

Danno said...

I hope Althouse wasn't planning on voting in the Indiana Senate race.

Quaestor said...

garage mahal wrote: This, this kind of reminds me of Watergate!

This strongly reminds me of Watergate! Except that Watergate was a cover-up of a breaking and entering, while Benghazi is Obama's cover-up of a murder.

Ann Althouse said...

"I think you missed my point, which wasn't a factual statement about rape, but a philosophical one about the so-called problem of theodicy."

I understood it. I just felt inspired to say something else.

Rusty said...

Lem said...
It will be really helpful in deciding how to vote.

Sarcasm is "a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter gibe or taunt",[1] usually conveyed through irony or understatement.[2] Most authorities distinguish sarcasm from irony;[3] however, others argue that sarcasm may or often does involve irony[4] or employs ambivalence.[5

Sarcasm. To be sarcastic.
Literally-to cut flesh.

Ann Althouse said...

"It sounds to me like Althouse has been sitting on this... waiting to pounce (I mean that in a good way) Althouse rocks!"

Thanks, Lem. Yes, this is material I would use if I produced the book I would write if I decided to put my time into a book-writing enterprise.

Ann Althouse said...

"It sounds to me like Althouse has been sitting on this... waiting to pounce (I mean that in a good way) Althouse rocks!"

Thanks, Lem. Yes, this is material I would use if I produced the book I would write if I decided to put my time into a book-writing enterprise.

Triangle Man said...

The key problem with theodicy is the remarkably inconsistent application of it. Why apply it to evaluating what to do when a women becomes pregnant through rape, and not apply it to what to do when someone is injured in a car crash, or gets cancer. It is not a moral framework that lends itself to any rational philosophy because it cannot be uniformly applied to questions of action and provides no guidance as to a preferred choice.

1) Something happens that is God's will.
2) Is it God's will that we do nothing about it, or would God prefer that we do something?

bonerici said...

The problem is that Mourdock said out loud what most republicans think, which is to say, decreed will of god, perceptive will of god, permissive will and god's directive will, to put it bluntly, god's hand is in every thing we do, including a rape, and to deny that god had a hand in it is to think that God does Not Care about the little people, but that is not religion, religion says that this is precisely what god is interested in.

So which side should one come down on, allow the mother to choose or allow god's will, the problem being that when there is a battle between god allowing humans free will and his grand plan and his directives there is no clear path.

Which means to say you should not invoke god in the first place. Because nobody knows HIS true will.

That's my opinion as an atheist trying to figure out what religious people think.

So Mourdock injected the equivalent of "what happens when there is an irresistible force and an immovable object?" You can't answer that question. He is injecting questions that it is impossible for humans to understand.

Now, what he should have said is that from his understanding of the bible contraception is bad, but that he does not have a firm opinion about what should be done with a pregnancy as a result of rape, as this is a conflict of morals between preserving a woman's rights and god's will that humans breed like cockroaches the end.

he should have left it alone . . . that's the end of the story.

The fact that he felt he had to inject god into the debate to support his own personal preferences indicates a particularly vile sort of person, it brings to mind Dolores Umbridge forcing Harry Potter to carve on his hand "I must tell lies".

he has revealed himself for what is he, and most republicans would rather have he just left it alone. And in fact if he had left it alone it would have indicated that he would have been a better human being, more uncertain and less patronizingly moralistic.

sykes.1 said...

Yahweh of the Old Testament is not omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent or omnipresent. So, there is nothing to reconcile.

However, Christians and Jews worship the godhead of the Greek philosopers. Hence the problem.

wildswan said...


Imagine the following scenario: Allowing unrestricted access to abortion results in the birth rate of African-Americans falling below replacement rate so that this group is shrinking and slated to disappear.
In fact an unprecedented world-wide birth-crash happens except among traditional believers of all faiths. What should we do?
Darwinians would say that any group whose birthrate crashes is unfit and fated to disappear so do nothing. Traditional Christians would oppose unrestricted access to abortion and try to persuade people that it is wrong. Secularists would say that we should focus solely on the tragedy of those who get pregnant after a rape and go on allowing unrestricted access.
Which party would you be in? Would the likely immediate consequences of your choice be wholly acceptable to you?

These are human short-term social policies and still we can hardly follow out their short term consequences with our minds or acknowledge and accept them. So why would we think we can know God's plan? That's the only rational thing to say.

However I have never been able to leave it there.

I believe that God saves us all, one by one, by circumstances in our lives whose meaning is quite clear to us and not necessarily the least bit evident or persuasive to others. We all have a story and it's a mystery story.

mccullough said...

If you take Akin and Mourdock's statements together, you
get some intriguing moral and theological questions. It seems that both of them believe in free will, so both do not believe that God intended the rape. More like God intended free will and knew that free will would often lead to evil acts. But they both seem to struggle with whether God intended that life be born as a result of the rape. Akin struggled with it so much that he said that pregnancy couldn't result from rape, presumably because God intends all being and what kind of God would intend being from rape. Mourdock accepts the science that rape can lead to pregnancy. But he still struggles like Akin because he believe God intends all being. If you believe that all life, or at least human life, is a miracle from God, this belief makes sense. If God didn't intend a specific life, then it's tough to say its a miracle from God. A logically consistent theology could say that God created life at the outset, and as part of that creation intended life that humans with free will would evolve, but after that God has not intended any specific human life. It would mean that we are special as a species because God intended human life, but that no one of us is special because didn't specifically intend any one of us.

AF said...

The key problem with theodicy is the remarkably inconsistent application of it. Why apply it to evaluating what to do when a women becomes pregnant through rape, and not apply it to what to do when someone is injured in a car crash, or gets cancer. It is not a moral framework that lends itself to any rational philosophy because it cannot be uniformly applied to questions of action and provides no guidance as to a preferred choice.

This is well put. And while few can state the point so articulately, most people intuitively understand it. That is why most anyone will object when anybody -- politician or otherwise -- invokes "God's will" to counsel inaction in response to an avoidable or correctable wrong.

PETER V. BELLA said...

With all that is wrong in this country politicians from both sides are arguing over wedge issues. Worse, people re dumb enough to vote on those issues alone.

Quaestor said...

BrianE wrote: The courts (reflecting liberal society) decided that a pre-born life residing in the womb of a woman is guilty of trespass and has allowed the sentence of death for the trespass.

In what other context is trespass a capital offense?

Also I'm very troubled by efforts to put abortion on the same footing as death penalty imposed by a duly constituted court of law. The victim of an abortion has not had its "day in court", nor has it enjoyed benefit of counsel, nor has it been allowed to exercise its right of appeal.

Just as a point of reference let me be clear. Theological arguments don't sway me one way or the other. I oppose abortion as it is practiced in this country because it is an unjustified taking of human life, i.e. murder. However, I believe abortion could be made less odious, but to arrive at that more just system women must surrender their supposed right to arbitrarily kill their offspring.

Paddy O said...

"@Paddy Exactly what do you think Mourdock should have said to express his opinion more appropriately? Assume he didn't want to stay silent."

"what do you think those who -- like Romney -- support a rape exception (but generally oppose abortion) should say if they are required to weigh in on the theological point?"

I think Mourdock, if he felt it was necessary to bring this up, should be hyper-vigilant about acknowledging the suffering and evil, not jumping straight to the "God'll put it right!"

That's what we see in the prophets and the psalms and Lamentations. It's evil. It's wrong. Call it for what it is. Emphasize the fact that there's no justifying the initial act.

Because if we try to justify the initial act we go counter to Christian theology. Christian theology only says that God will continue to work rather than there being a determinative result from evil actions.

God does not give a reason or justification for Israel being enslaved by Egypt and he certainly puts the burden on pharaoh for keeping them there. Pharaoh is guilty, and God promises deliverance.

The rapist is guilty. The rape is evil. The experience of rape is one of total violation and suffering. A person is not condemned to wallow in this suffering for the rest of their life. There is hope that life can be something more. One might, with caution, even say that the presence of a baby and a child and a young adult could be a redeeming presence in that process.

Rape is an evil that cannot be forgotten, but life can include even the brokenness in helping us be people who work to bring others hope and life. We are not condemned to our own sins nor condemned to other people's sins. That's the promise, there's always hope.

What about the exception? That's something I tend to agree with too. Not because I can justify it or that I would say that God wouldn't bring joy even in the midst of sorrow (children born out of rape can still be, themselves, blessings in their lives, after all). It takes an especial experience of grace, however, for someone to view such a child in such a way. And I can't see myself insisting that someone who has that experience to somehow see the good in it.

It's also because of what I see as a more thoroughly pro-choice position. Sex is a choice. Rape is not a choice. Therefore when the initial choice is taken away, I don't think abortion is good but I see it as something a civil society should allow, given that not everyone will have or seek comfort and grace from God.

The Elder said...

The possibility of a vote for Mourdock just disappeared last night. We have all struggled with the issue of abortion, but Mr. Mourdock's conclusion displays a degree of intolerance that I find unacceptable. He should have kept his mouth shut and be thought a fool. Instead, he opened it and removed all doubt.

chickelit said...

People who vote on wedge issues disregard the rest of the pie.

Paddy O said...

I actually wrote a whole book on this topic.

I don't think I used rape specifically as an example, but I did use a fair amount of other kinds of examples of suffering.

Mary said...

You shouldn't use religion for ridicule like this, Professor.

Just sayin'.

Find some ... bigger topics?
Even boob comments would be better.

Mary said...

Very small of you, and it does turn the religious folk off, even if you think you're not mocking them.

ask ruth anne.

yoobee said...

I am glad that this issue is finally being placed in the public dialogue. And I think it is a very essential religious and philosophical question because it gets to the issue of free will and the ability of an omnibenevolent God to permit evil acts to occur.

I don't want to re-tread the comments made above, other than to say that there are good science-based reasons for believing that life begins at conception, and if that is the case, then the life in the womb has no less value simply because of the circumstances that resulted in its creation. There is no more justice in ending its life than there is in ending the life a child of minority parents born in poverty. The latter was advocated by U.S. eugenics proponents in 1930s, and it only took the Nazi movement to make people realize how horrific those ideas were.

It is often assumed that an abortion is an acceptable way to "cure" a rape. One of the problems with this mentality is that there is no way to cure a rape. At least, there is no cure that can be exacted from the person that was a third-party to the rape. So if a life is the product, why is it better to destroy it for an act which it had no control over? How is that justice, or even approaching justice?

cubanbob said...

Spare the kid. Execute the rapist.
Oh wait! The courts have ruled rape isn't a capital offense so lets kill the kid instead. At least Mourdock is consistent in his philosophy which is life is life and should not be taken as a general proposition unless as an act of self defense or punishment. So the left is arguing that killing the kid if the mother chooses to is morally acceptable but executing the perpetrator of a violent crime isn't.

Inga said...
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Inga said...

Where is Curious George, calling Althouse and millions of other women and men who hold the same opinion that although abortion is murder, a woman should be allowed to choose, stupid? I'd love to see Althouse slap him down again.

Michael K, I agree that we will see women coming into ER's with botched abortion related issues.

As far as basing ones opinion of abortion theologically, on the three criteria mentioned, I could say yes. I have a similar belief that some things are predestined, some babies are not destined to be born. We also do have free will to do good or evil. And then there are the grey areas....

mccullough said...

Mary,

Why do you think Ann is ridiculing religion here? I think it's interesting to discuss the philosophical/theological questions raised here, irrespective of the political context from which they emerged. People may be deriding Mourdock for bad politics, but they do provoke deep questions. If anything I think Ann is deriding our cheapened political process for actually ignoring the important questions raised.

Unknown said...

Spengler addresses theodicy this week.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NJ23Ak01.html

Quoting Jon Levenson: "Biblical faith has no need of theodicy.... Jeremiah's famous accusation (Jeremiah 12-13) against YHWH is neither a philosophical judgment of God nor a cry of horrified despair but rather an indignant demand that God rise up and destroy the wicked.

Mary said...

"Mary,

Why do you think Ann is ridiculing religion here?"


This:
"...all under the presumably watchful eye of God. What's HIS plan? Whatever His plan is — when is He mailing out His brochure, eh? — He's got a plan, and it's included rape and unwanted pregnancy since time immemorial. It might not be smart to come out and say that in the final throes of the campaign season. Silence was an option."



Christians often practice silence as an option over wallowing in ridicule. Her opinions on religion and God are juvenile, but she thinks she being heavy.

It's rather sad the presentation. and ... little.

Mary said...

(See Dadvocate at 10:19)

Ignorance is Bliss said...

AF said...

If George W. Bush had responded to the 9/11 attacks by saying, "there's nothing we can do about it, it's something God intended to happen,"
would it have been wrong for people to criticize him for it?


People would be right to criticize him for that. Just as people would be right to criticize Mourdock if he had said that the rape was God's will, therefore we should not arrest the rapist, or the rape was God's will, therefore women should not be allowed concealed carry to prevent such rapes.

But in what way is aborting the baby doing something about the rape?

Bryan C said...

"your alternatives can be selected from the philosophers' array of options: God is not omnipotent, God is not benevolent, or God does not exist."

I'd say none of the above. An omnipotent God can control our every whim or dynamically re-write the history of the universe every Tuesday to be exactly how He wants it to be, and no one would ever know, except God. But God chooses not to do so because He made a decision to give man free will, and then obligated Himself to allow humans to exercise it.

John said...

All who do not want free will please raise your hand...
I gave you free will.
Some of you deem yourselves to be of great wisdom having learned some lesson from this gift.
Now you would deprive others of this gift based on your 'superior' understanding of life.
Sorry, you do not have dominion over anyone but yourself. They get to learn and benefit or suffer based on choices made. Just as you have.
Isn' this fun?

Saint Croix said...

God is not omnipotent, God is not benevolent, or God does not exist.

You can be omnipotent and give up some power. For instance, if you give humanity the gift of free will, there will be evil. If you give angels the gift of free will, there will be Satan. The point of Christianity is not God's power, but rather God's love. And you don't love people by controlling everything they do. Right?

Mary said...

Question for AF and others likeminded: If a mother wishes to have a late term abortion and the abortionist fails to kill the child which is now alive (but in need of assistance) outside of the mothers body, should the medical personnel be required to render aid to that child?

Or should they be able to just put the child in a box in a closet and wait for it to perish?"


Plus, where does it end? Just last week the professor was advocating on behalf of a teenager who bore a living child and killed and left it in a laundry basket in her room...

How about, under a year, if the child is inconvenient and would disrupt your life, a woman has the power over it. How about up to adulthood at eighteen, since she's got to be responsible and might not like it?

Where would it end, if we give ladies all the power to choose when it's good to murder a child, and when not?

Riddle me that deep thinkers, and leave your thoughts about God and religion out of it?

Mary said...

"But in what way is aborting the baby doing something about the rape?"

The woman should have the right to keep her rape private??

She can flush the memory with the unborn baby?

*guessing*

Mitch H. said...

Theodicy only really makes sense in a Calvinistic worldview. Mourdock is a Calvinist?

I've never understood the whole "the Creator causes everything to happen" notion. Why create something, if it can't surprise you? Maybe creation is an experimental device designed to produce beautiful surprises - a kludgy, crufty hack of a device, which fails more often than it succeeds in its purpose.

But then, I don't believe in conspiracy, and this business of calvinistic predestination is the First Conspiracy Theory.

When a Republican gets asked about rape they really should just pretend to feint and hit the ground.

No, what they ought to say is "fuck you. next question?" Or maybe "let's execute the rapist and spare the child". Oftentimes I get the impression that writers and other liberals are far more interested in the question "why is there unfairness in the world?" than the greater question of "why is there evil in the world?" The former is so prone to "somebody's gettin' mine!" posturing. The latter leads inevitably into self-questioning. Because "the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being."

Cedarford said...

cubanbob said...
Spare the kid. Execute the rapist.
Oh wait! The courts have ruled rape isn't a capital offense so lets kill the kid instead. At least Mourdock is consistent in his philosophy which is life is life and should not be taken as a general proposition unless as an act of self defense or punishment. So the left is arguing that killing the kid if the mother chooses to is morally acceptable but executing the perpetrator of a violent crime isn't.
=======================
Most of the truly innocent people freed by the Innocence Project are not murderers, but those falsely accused of rape by women. Up to 40% of allegations of rape are bogus - arising from malicious spite, revenge, rarely mistaken identity.
I have a problem with death for rape, theft, severe assaults or "in the conspiracy" people that were not directly involved in murder, but provided information helpful in the crime or drove a getway car in what they thought was a simple robbery with no killing planned or likely.

As for the Right to Lifers, they have become victims of such extreme Groupthink that while up to 40% of zygotes fail to implant with a no nevermind...their rabid Fetus Veneration has reached such extremes they want women forced to bear their rapist's babies, 12 year old girls screwed by Daddy forced to bear, and women to damage their physical heath.
For women to be forced to bring doomed fetuses or those with severe abnormailities to term. For 14 year olds to drop out of school and become lifetime welfare mommas at the same time those RTLrs geerally rabid conservative on other matters, want all welfare ended for "parasite welfare mammies".

The public isn't buying it, or the new Personhood from Conception crusade, which even failed in Mississippi of all places when put on a ballot, once voters understood the idiocy of it.

Inga said...

Mary, I would be in favor of limiting abortions to the first trimester. If the baby is born alive after an abortion, I do think we should try save it's life, but with limiting abortions to the first trimester we won't see this happen.

Pregnancy testing is readily available and reliable, a woman can know very early if she is pregnant and what her choice will be. Better yet, prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Nora said...
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AF said...

Mary: I respect your views and your sincerity, but I'm not here to argue about abortion. We all have our views on that.

I was making a simpler point, which was directly responsive to Althouse's post, and which you seem to agree with: The reaction to Mourdock's comments is a reaction to his views on abortion. Contrary to Althouse, it is not a case of demogoguing a "profound" theological issue.

Nora said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nora said...

The problem is not that the guy believes in God, the problem is that he does not believe in separation of the church and state and intends to impose his religious beliefs on the women.

I prefer the candidates to state their beliefs before elections. This certainly helps to decide for whom not to vote. Unless his sole purpose of running is the chance to impose on everybody his beliefs, Murdoch is grossly hypocritical, for, if "everything that happens is something that God intended", the notion of government is reduntant for anything else.

I also believe that the Congress should not be allowed to decide on the women issues that completely take power of decision from women until at least half of the members are women, if at all.

Anyway, why we discuss whether women should be punished for rape? Let's discuss more rational issues, like chopping off the rapist's dick

cubanbob said...

Interjecting God in to the argument is irrelevant. Our legal system is predicated on the premise that the right to life is innate otherwise what is the point of having homicide statutes? The issue of abortion really is about is there an exception to that innate premise that isn't covered by the exceptions of self defense or forfeiture of life as a punishment? That is, is there an exception for wrongful life?
If there is a societal foundational premise that there is such a thing as wrongful life then logically all life must first past the test that its existence is justified because it meets one or more minimum standards to justify its existence, the complete inverse of our foundational premise. Considering the history of the past hundred years do we really want to go there

Jim S. said...

I understood Mourdock (perhaps incorrectly) to be saying that God can bring good out of evil, even the most evil acts. A human being, a good, is brought about by a rape, a great evil. The standard example, really the archetype, is Jesus' crucifixion. The only truly innocent human being who every lived, the only person who (allegedly) committed no sin was brutally tortured and killed. Through this great evil, God achieved the salvation of the world. Whether you agree with this or not is not my point, just that traditionally Christianity says that God does not commit evil, that he is not responsible for evil, but he can arrange it so that good comes out of evil. We may not be aware of the good, we may not ever be in a position to know what the good is, we can insist that the evil is so horrific that no good could ever justify allowing it to happen. But the claim of Judaism and Christianity is that God is perfectly good and in a better position than us to know whether a particular good justifies allowing a particular evil.

Saint Croix said...

All sex is rape without free will. If we're just animals who have sex when we're horny, there is no rape. Do dogs rape? They do not.

To have rape you have to have moral capability. And to have moral capability you have to have free will.

Mitch H. said...

You believe that abortion is murder, and that it ought to be legal? What the hell, Althouse?

Oh, this is some sort of idiosyncratic law-professor definition of murder, is it?

Tell me, how does a fetus retreat from a confrontation with its murderous would-not-be mother? Because that Montana defiant trespasser had to have had the ability to retreat from that guy's garage, for it to be a valid case of self-defense. You can't lock a trespasser in your sealed basement, turn on the taps, and let him drown like some scene out of the Saw franchise and be able to skate under *any* formulation of a Castle Doctrine that is ever actually going to be implemented in this country.

I would give you the legal-pro-choice-yet-still-murder case if it were possible to decant the unwanted pregnancy into another womb, or a Bujoldian uterine replicator. "Get out, or I'll kill you" requires the option of actually removing the offending entity. Not that fetuses actually have agency...

I dunno, this is between y'all. I don't think fetuses are people, it's why I'm technically pro-choice. But I also don't think it's a constitutionally protected right, either - not unless the use of hard drugs is also such a right. Abortion's a socially and morally destructive practice, like shooting heroin. Yay woman's right to choose!

Saint Croix said...

Rape is a human concept, not an animal one. And it's a human concept because human beings have free will. It is not instinctual. It is choice.

To blame God for rape is to blame God for free will. It is to cry out that you want to be an animal instead.

virgil xenophon said...

Hopelessly derivative here. Paddy O, cubanbob, youbee, Quaestor, Triangle Man and carl@11:06 have pretty much provided the four corners of the argument imho.

carl admires Moudock for his ethical consistency. Mourdocks' real sin was logical consistency--and it makes people uncomfortable..

furious_a said...

There's a distinction to be made between the infliction of evil (the criminal act of rape) and the the infliction of pain (the victim's ordeal).

One could argue that God tolerates the existence and agency of evil because to do otherwise circumvents free will. Paraphrasing others above, God abides (implying endurance, acceptance, patience and suffering) evil...

Pain (or suffering), OTOH, can occur regardless of free will. Biblical cases of the divinely-inflicted suffering of good people (commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, afflicting Job, arguably the Passion) indicate that in some cases God intended suffering, and in others (such as in this thread pregnancy from rape, or elsewhere crippling illnesses or natural disasters) abides it as a test of faith.

The ominipotent God afflicts His believers for His own reasons ("Thy will be done.") The benevolent God abides those afflictions without being indifferent to them (um, the Beatitudes?). The ominisicent God is aware of the cost of those afflictions down to the last soul ("...not a single sparrow falls to the ground...").

Fr Martin Fox said...

The analogy between abortion-as-response-to-rape and what we might have done after 9/11 leads to Bush justifying launching nukes.

An act of violence does not justify a new act of violence per se, let alone one against the innocent.

Mr. Mourdock's comment was ham-handed, but a lot of folks are transparently being purposefully obtuse so as to score points. Mr. Mourdock was, almost certainly, obtuse unintentionally.

I.e., it's dishonestly obtuse to suppose he means God somehow approves of rape, or that we're not supposed to do anything about rape.

For those who like to summon up histrionic quantities of moral dudgeon ("how d-a-a-A-A-A-A-R-R-R-E-E..."), let me ask you, AK:

What do you say when you meet someone whose life began as a result of his or her mother being raped? Maybe the mother wasn't offered an abortion, or maybe she chose not to. Either way, does that person deserve to live? Does God want that person to exist?

And of course, that child of rape might well play the moral-dudgeon card on you; then we can have a competition to see who can get redder in the face and act more appalled.

Fr Martin Fox said...

God chose to create a world in which evil could happen. He has chosen to respond to evil in less coercive ways than humanity would prefer. Why?

The classic answer is that it's hard to see how freedom is maintained if God intervenes every time an evil act is chosen. Yet somehow, we hope that a world will arrive in which we still have freedom, but no longer choose evil.

In the end, the only alternative answer is to deny God. Which isn't an answer to the problem of evil.

So non-believers can say, you believers don't have a good answer to evil. But it doesn't seem that non-believers have any better answer.

Jim Slagle said...
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Fr Martin Fox said...

In terms of justifying violence in self-defense, doesn't that mean the unborn child--if s/he could do something to defend him-/herself, would be justified fighting back?

After all, the child is at home; his/her home is being invaded.

Again, how does a new act of violence help with the prior act of violence? Especially when the violence is directed at the innocent, rather than the guilty?

Christ chose to be the suffering servant, by whose stripes we are healed. What about the unborn child?

Robert Cook said...

For those who believe in God and who use this argument, one can also point out that God gave us brains and reasoning ability so we can work out our own solutions to problems that afflict us in this world.

If the solution we devise is to allow babies concieved in rape to be aborted, God intended for this to happen.

MrCharlie2 said...

The big problem with Islam is that the orthodox believe that everything is pre-determined, potentially arbitrarily, by God. So, any action by a believer is justified.

Christianity in general had the same problem up until the enlightenment. Of course, the enlightenment skipped a few, and then there are those who choose to abandon it.

Me, I think the woman in this position should have the power to decide.

Bender said...

Of course, the asserted selection of answers is a false dilemma, another example of gotcha from one who sadly knows as much about religion as this politician.

But it is an interesting proposition, that a loving and omnipotent God, if He really did exist and was loving and omnipotent, would act to stop rape and prevent children from being conceived during such rape.

The classic answer to the question of evil is free will, but most do not fully think that through, and this rape example provides a perfect opportunity to think it through to see why God would permit such evil to happen.

Yes, we are possessed of free choice of the will, the capacity to choose to do good or to do evil. Why would God give us free will, why give us such radical freedom? Why not instead make us His puppets without the power of autonomous action and thought, or with only limited ability to act and think autonomously, so as to prevent people from ever doing evil? Especially from God's persepective, since every act of evil is an act against Him, why allow people to act contrary to Him?

Because God is Love and He is Truth. Because God loves and He is true. And because love is, by its very nature, a freely chosen act. To force people to do good, that is, to force people to love Him, would be contrary to freely chosen love, it would be a counterfeit love, it would be a lie.

For God to impose Himself on people, forcing His love upon them and forcing them to love Him, that is, to do good, would not be an act of love or goodness on His part, it would be an act of divine rape.

This idea advanced above that God should essentially become a rapist in order to prevent rape is, of course, a complete absurdity. If rape happens, the one who is responsible, the one who is the cause, is the person who claimed for himself a "right to choose" to do what is admittedly a gross evil and violation of another person's dignity, liberty, and life. Don't blame God.

Don't even blame God for contemporary society choosing to embrace lies about sexuality. In creating the world, God set up a certain biological system that is, to a certain extent, self-perpetuating. Included in this system is the truth that sexual activity utilizes reproductive organs, such that sex is, by its very nature, a potentially reproductive act. Rape is a sexual act, therefore it is by its very nature a potentially reproductive act.

Now, if conception does result from rape, the woman, who is now a mother, can do like the rapist, she too claim for herself a "right to choose" to do what is admittedly a gross evil and violation of another person's dignity, liberty, and life. But that only perpetuates evil.

Moreover, women victimized by the brutality of rape deserve better than to be counseled that the answer to their victimhood is to get blood on her hands, to become a murderer, to overcome evil by doing evil, by becoming an evildoer.

mccullough said...

Cook, I think the argument against that God intends (and by intends I mean wants) everything that happens to happen is that there's a difference between what God knows will happen and what God intends to happen. If there is a God who gave humans free will, he might want us all to do the right thing but knows we won't always do it. So God values free will more than the no existence of evil. To give a shallow analogy, we all know that there will be a lot of motor vehicle fatalities as a result of cars, we don't intend there to be any. But we value the use of automobile more than no fatalities from cars.

Jeff said...

The absolutest position is that the fetus is a human and has the same right to life as people who have already been born.

As a political matter, this just isn't going to fly. Wikipedia tells me that about 19 out of every 20 fetuses discovered to have Down syndrome are aborted. That is, when push comes to shove, 95 percent of us do not subscribe to the absolutest position, which is what Mourdock appears to advocate. If he wants to get elected, he should drop this line of thought.

Dave said...

Fr Fox has it right, but I'd like to add one detail. God grants us freedom because it is a necessary component of love. We cannot love God truly if that love is compelled, thus freedom must exist if God is to receive the love He deserves. Secondary to that of course is the fact that e can not know God with perfect certainty before loving Him because certainty of God would erase freedom as well. So God allows evil and sin to make love possible. God Himself suffers terribly due to our sins, as He grieves for the loss of closeness when any of us sin. yet so valuable is love to Him that He will tolerate great evil to make it possible.

furious_a said...

Why would God give us free will, why give us such radical freedom? Why not instead make us His puppets without the power of autonomous action and thought, or with only limited ability to act and think autonomously...

Because...

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. -- Genesis 1:27.

ken in sc said...

Women have been living with and sleeping with rapists since the beginning of time. That's how their genes survive war. Otherwise, they and their children would just be murdered. Under primitive conditions a man has to protect his wife with his life. I read that in the tribal areas of New Guinea, the majority of women above a certain age were living with a man who had killed their previous mate and raped them.

What we should do about it in a civilized world is a difficult question to answer.

Bender said...

What I fail to understand is the attempt at logic which says that if evil exists, then either God does not exist or God caused the evil.

Often, the person who comes to such a conclusion does so, not as a sincere attempt to know truth, but in order to snark and ridicule.

But if the above were true, if God does not exist or if He is the cause of evil, just exactly how are we better off with that being the case? Whether or not God exists or whatever its cause, this much we all know by personal experience: evil and suffering exist.

And evil and suffering do not cease to be any less evil or any lesser suffering by God's non-existence. Indeed, they would both be heightened were that the case. Such a state of affairs hardly seems like an occasion for jeering about God.

Rather, the undeniable experience of suffering and evil should be all the more reason to look for some good news, some reason to rejoice, rather than despair. It should be all the more reason to go in search of truth and love.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Jeff said...

Wikipedia tells me that about 19 out of every 20 fetuses discovered to have Down syndrome are aborted. That is, when push comes to shove, 95 percent of us do not subscribe to the absolutest position, which is what Mourdock appears to advocate

I think you've got some serious selection bias in your sample. People who are willing to abort a Down Syndrome baby are much more likely to have the test done. There would also be an age bias: Women who put off having babies until they are older are more likely to have babies with Down Syndrome.

Mitchell said...

Maybe God's okay with rape.

After all, it's not like He proscribed it by commandment or anything.

Freeman Hunt said...

"your alternatives can be selected from the philosophers' array of options: God is not omnipotent, God is not benevolent, or God does not exist."

Well, an unsophisticated philosopher anyway.

Or are we even actually supposed to be discussing theodicy? Is this a rape abortion discussion or a theodicy discussion?

I knew a beautiful, talented girl in high school who was conceived by rape. The world is a better place with her in it. Not commenting on law there, just pointing that out for anyone who might struggle with this issue someday.

Crunchy Frog said...

"I think you missed my point, which wasn't a factual statement about rape, but a philosophical one about the so-called problem of theodicy."

I understood it. I just felt inspired to say something else.


And how many times have you (mistakenly)chided us about missing your point?

When you bury the lede in your own post, we will comment on it, especially if we find your point irrelevant.

Bender said...

Maybe God's okay with rape.
After all, it's not like He proscribed it by commandment or anything.


He didn't? You haven't read very carefully if you come to that conclusion. Either that, or you really don't care or you are purposely saying what is untrue.

Certainly by your mockery you don't care about other commandments, such as the first two of the Ten, or other aspects of the Law (which is more than the Ten Commandments).

Fr Martin Fox said...

I've never watched a sonogram--or whatever you call it--depicting an abortion, nor do I wish to. But I can well imagine that when the abortionist invades the womb with either a weapon or something spewing saline poison, the unborn child pulls away. Does she kick against it?

It's instinctive to defend oneself.

If only it were possible for both the mother and the child to live?

bagoh20 said...

"God could have created a world with free will and in which the Holocaust nevertheless did not happen, etc."

He's good, but he ain't that good.

Robert Cook said...

"He's good, but he ain't that good."

So, you put a limit on God and what he's capable of?

Smilin' Jack said...

Ann Althouse said...
"Hey, no fair! Don't men have a right to murder too?"

Yep. One post down. When somebody gets into your woom.


Hey, still no fair! I'd have to move to Montana!

garage mahal said...

I think God is just too damn preoccupied to intervene against evil because He's watching the millions of animal chases that happen everyday. Must be dizzying!

Crunchy Frog said...

Hey, still no fair! I'd have to move to Montana!

You don't want to be a dental floss tycoon?

William said...

This topic seems to have insipred an unusual number of well thought out responses.....I disagree with Mourdock, but I think he's serving God's will by making such a point. Whether or not abortion is murder, it is certainly a more drastic act than throwing away a used condom. If liberals wish abortion to be safe, legal, and rare, they should not condemn the speech of those who emphasize how drastic a solution abortion is. I don't think Mourdock will ever succeed in making abortion illegal, but he has already succeeded in making people think twice about it.......I remember seening a list of countries where the number of abortions exceed the numbers of live births. They're not such great places for women to live.

Robert Cook said...

"Per Christian principles, it is also God's will that the victim of a violent criminal attack such as rape may use self defense against it, even unto the death of the miscreant.

"Dems don't often agree with that idea, either."


How so?

Also, is this a "Christian" principle, or a principle of the Old Testament, pre-Christian God?

Jeff said...

IgnoranceIsBliss said:
I think you've got some serious selection bias in your sample.

No doubt there is some selection bias for the reasons you state. But 95 percent is still a pretty impressive number. Even if the true number is only 80 percent, my point about the political impossibility of enacting the absolutist ban on abortion stands.

I saw a poll last week in which 40 percent of the women who intend to vote for Obama said that abortion was the most important issue to them. Are you not amazed that there are that many people for whom the economy is not the number one issue?

The abortion fight is over. You don't like the outcome and neither do I, but it's over.

Mitchell said...

Numbers 31:18 "But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."

There's more where that came from, of course.

Bender said...

I knew a beautiful, talented girl in high school who was conceived by rape.

When it comes to the problem of evil, understanding the answer requires a certain sophistication, a sophistication that is lacking in those who are so much smarter than those backwards religionists. All too often, in their zeal for self-importance and lack of patient humility, they are unwilling to approach the issue in sincerity and "good faith," preferring instead to latch onto "gotchas" halfway through the discussion.

So, at the risk of them refusing to have a good faith discussion, let's try now to tie into the problem this idea of God "intending" something to happen in the course of evil happening, beyond His "permitting" the evil to happen --

God exists. Our own existence is not random and accidental. We are not at the mercy of arbitrary and irrational forces in the universe, the universe is not ruled by chaos. Rather, God exists and you are wanted -- He has chosen for you to exist as an act of love -- even if your biological creation came about as the result of violence and evil. The human person is more than a mere biological body -- we are also possessed of a transcendent spirit which only God can create. Even if conceived in rape, you are not the fruit of evil, you are the fruit of love.

Here we see where God's intent and will enter into the equation -- what God intends is love. You and your life have meaning, to love and be loved in truth. He is loving and merciful and truthful, but more than that, He is Love, He is Truth. You are loved!

As has been stated above by many people, God does not cause evil, but He does permit it to occur. Moreover, rape being a sexual act, by its very nature, it is a potentially reproductive act.

God made man - male and female - in His image and likeness. This means that, in addition to being a free actor, the Creator placed humanity in the position of co-creator with Him. He gave us the ability to create new life, but only in the biological sense.

In acting as co-creators with Him, it is God's intent and will that we do so in love and truth, that we do so as an act of good, but having free will, we can also choose to do evil, such that the power of co-creation might be accomplished in the course of evil.

But God is love, and He will intentionally bring good out of evil. So even if your physical/biological origin is the result of rape (or a drunken hook-up or other exploitive and non-loving sex), still your existence and life as a human person are not arbitrary and accidental -- you are loved and wanted, God intends for you to exist.

God does not intend for the evil of the rape, but He does intend for good to come out of a conception that occurs during that evil, in His love, He does intend for the good, the great good, that is Freeman's schoolmate.

Smilin' Jack said...

God chose to create a world in which evil could happen.

So God gets credit for creating Adam and Eve and puppies and kittens, but the AIDS virus just "happened."

In the end, the only alternative answer is to deny God. Which isn't an answer to the problem of evil.

It is, however, a partial answer to the problem of stupid.

Robert Cook said...

I'm not a believer, although I was raised an Episcopalian and did have a sort of typically American tepid belief in God when I was young, but I think it is rather easy to explain or reconcile why God seems to "allow" evil or tragic acts to happen, even to "good" people: from the perspective of an omniscient, omnipresent, all-powerful God who exists everywhere and for all time, our lives on this earth are as brief and preliminary as the larval stages of life for creatures who begin as larvae, or as childhood is to us. Our life on this planet is but an infinitesimally brief moment preceding our real intended lives in eternity with God, and thus the events that we experience in our physical lives are inconsequential.

A three year old child who drops an ice cream cone or skins his knee wails inconsolably; such events seem insuperable tragedies from the dim perspective of a creature so young, who does not and cannot know that, in the context of his full life, such events are beneath consideration at all.

In the context of the life we will spend in eternal company of God, of what real significance can be the transient tragedies suffered during our fleshly stage of life? Even within our own lives we learn that our hearts can be broken but that our lives go on, and we learn to experience happiness again. Does a parent keep his child strapped to his chair in order to prevent the child from encountering unhappy bumps and falls and experiences? Can the child grow and mature in a vacuum? Does shielding a child from unhappy circumstances really help him?

By the same token, from God's perspective, we do not and cannot really understand our lives and the events which befall us because we lack the perspective of eternity, and because we are locked in the primitive vessel of flesh into which we are born, but which we will swiftly shed.

Fr Martin Fox said...

The other point that is easy to say but hard to endure as its lived out, is that God has so created the world that even where terrible evil happens, good nevertheless can and does come out of it.

One of my favorite saints is Father Maximilian Kolbe, who was thrown into Auschwitz. While there, some prisoners escaped; and the Nazis selected 10 prisoners to execute in retaliation. One of the men fell to his knees and begged to be spared. At that moment, Father Maximilian stepped forward and offered himself in the man's place.

The man survived the war, and was present at Saint Peter's when Pope John Paul II--another son of Poland, of course (as was this man and Saint Maximilian)--declared Maximilian a saint.

No one (who is normal) likes suffering. But even if you don't believe in God, can you deny that there is good that only seems to emerge from the crucible of suffering?

I have no children of my own, but I have to imagine any parent wants to spare his or her children suffering. But do you spare them all of it?

Are you concerned about the sort of people they will be if they never face suffering--versus the sort of people they can and will be, as a result of it?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Jeff said...

No doubt there is some selection bias for the reasons you state. But 95 percent is still a pretty impressive number. Even if the true number is only 80 percent,...

But what is your basis for only 80 percent? If the only reason for doing the test is so you can decide to do an abortion, then the rate of abortions among the positive test results tells you nothing about the willingness to abort of people who don't have the test done. Those figures tell us nothing about what percentage of women are have the tests done in the first place. What if the real number of women willing to abort a baby due to Down Syndrome is 20% or 30%?

I'm not sure what any of that says, I just don't think you can reach the conclusions you reach based on the numbers you cite.

hombre said...

Althouse wrote: "Personally, I support abortion rights — literally, the woman's right to choose. But I also think it's murder. If you insist on picking one and denying the other... how about if I call that "outrageous."

Exactly.

Mourdock was foolish to pontificate about the issue. It's a "pearls before swine" deal at this stage of the election.

Bender said...

It is rather curious, but not at all unexpected, that the same crowd that flew into hysterics asserting that to require an ultrasound before an abortion was the equivilent of rape, at the same time will say to a woman whose bodily integrity has been violated by rape should go take herself to some facility where they will spread her legs and physically penetrate her with a vacuum cleaner, which will violently and bloodily remove the nascent life growing within her. Except that, instead of doing so for some power/sexual kick, the abortionist that pentrates her does so for cold hard cash before kicking her to the curb.

Titus said...

What if you are a teabagger but on fiscal grounds not social grounds?

We have a fag teabagger running here in Mass for the House who is liking going to win. Tsei is his name. The first fag republican teabagger elected! Of course, only in Mass.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Titus said...

What if you are a teabagger but on fiscal grounds not social grounds?

The only reason anyone is a tea party member is on fiscal grounds. The tea party does not have a social agenda.

That does not mean that individuals (or even sub-groups) within the tea party do not have social agendas, just that that is not, and never has been the reason for the tea party.

Michael said...

Robert Cook: Nicely put. You appear to still be an Episcopalian.

Smilin' Jack said...

...God has so created the world that even where terrible evil happens, good nevertheless can and does come out of it...

One of the men fell to his knees and begged to be spared. At that moment, Father Maximilian stepped forward and offered himself in the man's place.

The man survived the war, and was present at Saint Peter's when Pope John Paul II--another son of Poland, of course (as was this man and Saint Maximilian)--declared Maximilian a saint.



Umm...so the "good" is that one guy died and one guy lived, instead of the other way round?

Anyway, seems to me that Hitler was more directly responsible for this "good" than God, and should therefore get the credit.

Freeman Hunt said...

Cook, I agree. That was nicely put.

val said...

The woman of Rev 12 is now here. She is not a church, she is not Israel, and she is not Mary. She is the prophet like unto Moses and Elijah Matt 17:3, Acts 3:21-23, Luke 1:17 delivering the true word John 1:1 from the wilderness to prepare a people for the Lord’s return. God our Father will not put any child of his into a hell fire no matter what their sins. It never entered the heart or mind of God to ever do such a thing Jer7:31, Jer 19:5. Turn your heart to the children of God. A gift is now delivered to the whole world as a witness Matt 24:14. http://minigoodtale.wordpress.com Prove all things.

Titus said...

But some of the biggest teabaggers or social nuts too.

How does a non social teabagger vote?

Plug their nose and don't listen to the social shit?

What if you are in the Union but are socially conservative?

I am a fag which makes me say you can fuck anything but I am open to drowning the government down the bathtub.

Such a dilemma.

AEH said...

After Philomela was raped and her tongue cut out by her brother-in-law, King Tereus, L and her sister murdered all of T's children and secretly fed them to him.

This is adequate revenge, assuming that T cared about his children.

Is abortion women's response to men who care or men who do not care? Is abortion in the case of rape an issue of a woman's bodily rights or an issue of women artificially showing dominance over men's natural ability to force life inside of them?

I don't think anybody ever wants to kill a baby, but, in the case of rape, a woman does not want to be reminded of the violence against her and that she could not stop it. The rape itself will have psychological and physical effects for years to come, even without a pregnancy.

Unknown said...

If you believe that the unborn child is a human life. (Which it pretty obviously is.) Then the circumstances of conception are irrelevant.

The child is innocent of any wrongdoing. Invoking "corruption of the blood" and punishing the baby for the sins of the father is specifically forbidden under our Constitution.

Roughly 10% of the population is infertile. Many of these would like children they're unable to have naturally. The wait to adopt a child is measured in years (and tears). If the mother does not choose to keep her child, there are options outside of murder.

Re: Smiling Jack
God made the HIV virus. Man chose to #$^& a monkey to contract it. Needless to say, such behavior is rather strictly forbidden by pretty much all religions.

wyo sis said...

tl:dr all the comments esp. the long ones.
Except Cook as I could read short mentions as I scrolled down.
I have to agree. That was very well said.

As for garage re.
"pretend to feint and hit the ground" pretend to feint is a redundancy and if you meant faint you spelled it wrong. Although the idea is a good one.
If more people fainted and hit the ground when they were asked to make a stupid statement we'd all be better off.

Saint Croix said...

Cook, I agree. That was nicely put.

Glad you said that Freeman, I would have missed it. Brilliant post, R.C.

yashu said...

“I don’t know how [they] come up with these ideas,” Obama said during a taping of “The Tonight Show” in Burbank, Calif. “Rape is rape. It is a crime.”

“These various distinctions about rape don’t make too much sense to me, don’t make any sense to me,” he said, adding that Mourdock’s comments show why men should not be left to make 
decisions on women’s issues.

http://www.politico.com/politico44/2012/10/obama-on-mourdock-rape-is-rape-147149.html


Obama is such a despicable politician. A campaign worthy of an internet troll.

Rusty said...

Saint Croix said...
Cook, I agree. That was nicely put.

Glad you said that Freeman, I would have missed it. Brilliant post, R.C.

You're smarter than you look, Bob.

Lynn Meadows said...

One of the more interesting things to come out of this baffoon's mouth while he was trying to walk it back was the "polling indicated conception was attributed to God's will"....

In this blatant defense of lunacy, the word "polling" jumped out...as if there is a poll that indicates God's will or thoughts on a matter.

Why you GOP folks aren't tossing this asshole under the bus is beyond my comprehension.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Smilin Jack:

I guess in your world, such things as virtue and character have no value? That would explain why the story of Saint Maximilian Kolbe baffles you.

Triangle Man said...

Appeals to divine will have no place in public policy debates outside of a theocracy. And as always the abortion debate boils down to whether you believe that a fertilized human egg or developing embryo or fetus is a person with equal standing to someone that has been born.

Sabinal said...

the only reason why this is even an issue is because of the possible taint it would have on Romney. I'm prochoice, disgusted with Akin and Mourdock, and am suspicious with Romney over his lack of support of abortion rights.

But Obama's no catch either. To me he is only out for #1 and uses women as nothing more than for votes. As many states started pushing for abortion restrictions, noticed Obama said *nothing* about this - he showed no concern of the loss of women's rights in places like MS, VA, IN

He also has not provided economic or foreign security to women (or men). Gas is double the cost. Inflation on everyday goods.Unemployment is so high, that people are openly scoffing about the official numbers. The doubling of the deficit. Obamacare and the "unexpected" costs. The broken security promises. The criminal neglect of Libya, a battle that *he* chose to get the US involved in. Yet many of my fellow pro-choicers act like he is the only hope. they are blind to him like they were to Clinton back in the 90s.

I feel no better about the candidates now than I did back in June. My hope is that Romney doesn't mess with abortion, but with such pit bulls like Akin and Mourdock you never know. Maybe we'll hire a competent pro-choicer come 2016 if Romney doesn't do right.