Saturday, November 11, 2006

Hiroshima - not all bad?

Suppose one or two people had decided to go on a picnic that day in 1945, and had left the city when the Americans dropped an atomb bomb on it.

Would that have been a good thing? A miraculous escape?

Let us see how prominent theologian Richard Swinburne, a Professor at Oxford University, answers that question on page 264 of his book 'The Existence of God'...

'Suppose that one less person had been burnt by the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Then there would have been less opportunity for courage and sympathy;one less piece of information about the effects of atomic radiation....'

But Richard, wouldn't there be one more person alive to show courage and sympathy?

If everybody was killed, who would take advantage of these thousands of millions of opportuities to show courage and sympathy?

Perhaps God got the balance just right at Hiroshima? Not too many dead, and certainly not one person too few....?

And should dead people really be counted in terms of 'information about the effects of atomic radiation'?


Blogger Steven Carr said...

Test comment

10:30 PM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...


10:32 PM  
Blogger Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

You left a couple comments on my blog, so here goes. TO blame God for the abortion of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a gross misapplication of responsibility. Human beings committed that heinous act - and the fire-bombing of Tokyo and Dresden and the Death Camps and the Soviet Gulag and the Killing Fields of Cambodia and Mao's murderous famines and all the horrendous crimes of humanity. It is so easy to say, "Since God didn't prevent this, God does not exist," if one believes (a) God is a magic fairy who answers our wishes; and (b) we are beings bereft of moral responsibility and any conception of what is and is not correct conduct. We can shout to the heavens with Camus' priest over the death of a single child - and who but an unfeeling lout would not? - yet whether God does or does not exist, the child is dead at the hands of human beings. Were I an atheist, I would be no less enraged by an unjust death than I am as a Christian. I do not seek to blame a straw-God for human failings, however.
Nitpicking an eight-hundred page scholarly work is easy; anyone with a college education can do it. I am quite clear that I do not agree with Wright in all particulars, and I recognize his weaknesses, including a bit of overreach and beating certain points to death. His main point, however - resurrection as the Gosple narratives portray it is fundamentally distinct from any previous conception of the idea and serves only ends that are clear restrospectively, i.e., they highlight certain parts of Jesus' teaching and preaching in a way that a simple death would not - and his refusal to surrender to the false gods of modernism and post-modernism due to the alleged incoherence of the Gospel narratives is refreshing. I also like some remarks he makes in his final chapter in which he is quite clear that there are few ideas more radical than the idea that Jesus arose from the dead, a point I shall make in a post later today.
Come back for a visit, I welcome all visitors.

6:53 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

Jesus didn't blame the people who passed by on the other side for attacking the traveller on the road to Damascus.

He just pointed out they passed by on the other side.

If God exists, then he passes by on the other side.

And he does so, according to Swinburne, so that there will be lots of grieving relatives.

7:27 AM  
Blogger Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Simply because one person who claims to be Christian says something horrific - even if thousands or even millions believe it - deos that make it a Christian sentiment? I find the passage you quoted awful, and I am Christian, so what are you to conclude from that? Am I a different kind of Christian? Are there varieties of Christians? Does the fact that oyou find something a Christian said reprehensible therefore cast doubt and a cloud upon all the words of all Christians at all times? I guess I'm not following the logic here at all.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

Swimburne is a Professor of Theology at Oxford University and his writings represent some of the most sophisticated thoughts in the field of theology.

At least that is what atheists are told....

And not even he can come up with a defense which is not 'horrific'.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

As I have never heard of Swinburne, and as theologian is a title, even in academic circles, that only means as much as people want it to mean, he could say Christians sacrifice babies during orgies (which Christians have been accused of, by the way) and it wouldn't make it any more true. Apparently it is easy to become a theologian at Oxford. Maybe I should apply.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Sandalstraps said...

Swinburne is Nolloth Professor of Philosophy of the Christian Religion at the University of Oxford, and has written many significant books, so that Mr. Kruse-Safford has not heard of him does not diminish the weight his name carries in certain circles.

What is missing here, however, is any context for the statement. And since no statement can be reasonably evaluated without some understanding of the context within which it was made, it is difficult to make any sensible judgment of this statement.

I imagine that the statement was made in the context of a broader argument, most likely a theodicy of some kind. It seems probable that the context surrounding the statement - though it is not offered here and I do not know it - was, as part of a broader theodicy, seeking to find some good in even the most heinous of suffering.

Mr. Carr, while I am not a big fan of Richard Swinburne, by not offering any context for his quote, and by grossly misrepresenting his point (Swinburne does not say that God allows suffering "so that there will be lot's of grieving relatives," but rather so that humans can have the oportunity for moral growth) you are guilty of the worst sort of uncharitable arguing.

I find it quite difficult to come to Swinburne's defense, as he has never impressed me. I find it even more difficult to come to the defense of a theodicy, as I find all forms of theodicy to be flawed both philosophically (they don't work - they don't do the work they set out to do) and religiously (the present us with a God who would rather make excuses for suffering than set about the difficult work of alleviating it). However, when one has been so misrepresented, and when context is not even alluded to, I can't help but cry foul.

Or, to put it another way, when your oponent is so vulnerable, you needn't cheat to win.

11:45 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

If you want more context, Swinburne goes on to say that God wanted there to be more grieving relatives.

3:14 PM  

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