Monday, July 23, 2012

the lottery of saintliness

It's realistic to note that the typical human life contains horrible details from time to time, if not more frequently. This presents an inevitable puzzle for anyone who believes in supernatural forces which are both benevolent and powerful. Before the culmination of my gradual intellectual anti-conversion, I maintained an uneasy acceptance of several well-known solutions to that puzzle. One partial solution was that the supernatural forces place a high value on human freedom and therefore on the consequent side-effects of that freedom. Hence some of the awful parts of human existence were explicable as the effects of other humans' despicable yet free choices. Rather than causing or preventing awful events, supernatural forces simply permitted humans to do as they wished.

However, from my new vantage point, I've noticed a problem with this solution. I don't mean the obvious injustice of supernatural forces allowing many to suffer for the mistakes of few. I mean the failure of the solution to succeed on its own terms in shifting the blame. It presumes that at the moment when a human selects evil, the sole substantial explanation of that selection cannot be anything other than the selector's freedom. Otherwise, the selector is under influences and by that fact cannot function as an independent and blameworthy shield for the notion of supernatural forces which are both benevolent and powerful.

Examples may be clearer. If the selector has an excessive inborn level of aggression and it influences the selection, then it's partly responsible. Yet once that concession is made, the next question arises: why didn't the benevolent and powerful supernatural forces, which value freedom so highly, intervene to rectify that "external" influence and increase the selector's freedom? Or consider the selector whose culture conditioned him or her to give harsh treatment at every opportunity to everyone in an out-group. Surely this conditioning is an influence on the selection of evil and at the same time is outside of the control of the selector and under the potential control of supernatural forces. Or turn to positive contributors. Suppose that the selector has benefited from the lifelong care and guidance of excellent role models who continually taught appropriate techniques for self-control and coping. Is it fair to credit detrimental influences for reckless selections but not credit advantageous influences for conscientious selections?

In short, regardless of the ultimate degree of freedom of human selectors, the influences on their selections differ greatly. Assuming supernatural forces which don't interfere in these scenarios, the conclusion is that those forces acquiesce in effect to a lottery of saintliness. Some unfortunate humans select good or evil on the basis of tragic factors, while some fortunate humans select good or evil on the basis of lovely factors. Some must build their characters out of straw and some out of brick. In either case the supernatural forces, due to tender adoration of human freedom, tolerate the resulting successes and failures.

Under the watchful benevolence and power of the supernatural forces, the lottery of saintliness confers to Damien personal constraints toward selecting evil and to Victor personal constraints toward selecting good. Damien freely chooses contemptible actions which harm Victor in one way or another. But the faithful believers shall never doubt the benevolence nor the power of supernatural forces for this outcome. Instead they shall shrug; no one said it was a perfect system.

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