Sunday, February 17, 2019

Is it Necessary for the Holocaust to Happen for "Greater Good" to Come About as Many Religious Leaders Claim?

The historian Karen Armstrong points out a life-stance doesn’t succeed because it “can be demonstrated rationally but because it [is] effective in preventing despair and inspiring hope.”

Of course, if the life-stance is fallacious, irrational, superstitious, harmful, unjust, destructive, etc., even questionable, then the hope it inspires is delusionary, not real.

Maybe, even despair would be better than delusion, than false hope.

Isn’t facing loss, distress, heartache, grief, sorrow, anguish, tragedy, desperation, hopelessness, and intense suffering preferable to what is false, an empty pretentious lie?

Ought not we human primates to realize that terrible accidents happen for no reason, and that often evil events occur without any hope against them?

There is no meaning in an accident, especially not in a serious one. (Isn't that the usual meaning of "accident"--that it happened by chance, wasn't planned!?)

UNLESS, of course, one is a Muslim for whom everything that happens, evil as well as good, is Allah’s will...
Or a creedal Christian for whom the Trinitarian God foreordained every event, evil as well as good, before the universe came to be...
Or an Orthodox Jew who believes that God created evil in the beginning, etc.

Billions of such true believers claim to know that accidents are planned:-(

And another very bad philosophical view in another sense is the horrific belief that God ordained and permitted (or willed) the Holocaust, the Black Death, the 30 Years War, etc.

According to them, God allows, permits accidents and other evils in order to achieve “greater good”!

For instance, the Baptist philosophical professor Randal Rauser argues that not even God can get humans to demonstrate compassion…without allowing the amount of evil/suffering which would be required a condition for the demonstration of compassion.”

Even more reprehensibly, Rauser sincerely states, “Even in the paradigmatic example of evil, the Holocaust, one could readily draw up a vast list of some (but certainly not all) of the types of reasons that might be operative in God's allowing that evil. At no point is the Christian left with "very little, if any, content to such speculation."

Totally baffled and grieved, I courteously asked Randal Rauser, “May I ask what greater good came from the Holocaust?

And the 1918 Spanish Flu, the Great War, the 30 Years War, the Black Death, etc.?

Also, doesn't allowing horrific evil in order to achieve a greater good sound similar to the immoral action of the end justifies the means?

God permits horrific abuse, torture, and slaughter of millions including children and infants in order to achieve a “greater good”?

As a former teacher of the Holocaust and one who has lived and worked in Palestine-Israel, I can't think of any good that has come out of the Holocaust, let alone any greater good.”

BUT Rauser never answered me, didn’t give even one example of a greater good that came about because of the Holocaust!


But, thankfully, most humans, even many millions of religious ones are baffled and appalled by such horrific thinking by millions of other Christian leaders. During the 55 years I was a dedicated liberal Christian, mostly a Quaker, we NEVER thought that accidents or intentional evil actions happened for some greater good.

What an immoral, unjust, terrible idea—that the God had to allow the intentional torture and slaughter of over 10 million humans, 6 million of them Jewish, in order to get some unknown great good.

Even on the local level such thinking is wrong! I still remember reading about this high school girl who thought she had had an accident, become paralyzed so that she wouldn't be able to dance, because dancing was a sin in their conservative Christianity.
How absurd and tragic both at the same time.

A commenter on Rauser’s blog wrote even more starkly about this, “The innocent smile of a child hides within itself all the evils of history. It is horrible when children suffer and die; but, when I look at my son and daughter smiling at me, I realise that smile is only possible because other children (my older siblings for instance) suffered and died.” “If God loves the particular persons who exist as the particular persons who they are, and loving them wills their existence, then he must also will everything necessary to their existence, including even great and horrific evils.”
“If the Holocaust had never happened, then very many Jewish people alive today would never have been born. Without the Holocaust, there would have been, not just more Jews in the world, but a very different set of particular Jewish individuals.” Jews who live now do so only because “of the Holocaust.”
“So, if one of these individuals concludes that it is good that they exist – or good that their own beloved children exist – well, that good is only possible because of the Holocaust.”
“If God loves the particular persons who exist as the particular persons who they are, and loving them wills their existence, then he must also will everything necessary to their existence, including even great and horrific evils.”


How can one possibly answer such grossly immoral, unjust defenses of the idea that some God premits horrific evil, even genocide in order to get “greater good”?

I think the best response to such bizarre religious thinking is the story from Dostoevsky:
"Tell me yourself, I challenge your answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature- that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance- and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth."

"No, I wouldn't consent," said Alyosha softly."

And can you admit the idea that men for whom you are building it would agree to accept their happiness on the foundation of the unexpiated blood of a little victim? And accepting it would remain happy for ever?"

"No, I can't admit it."

The Brothers Karamazov
Thankfully, ALL such religious doctrine is fallacious.

But that doesn't mean that all theistic thinking is wrong.

I do think that theists are right, that there is meaning in existence, just not in accidents, not in chance, not in evil events, especially not in the Holocaust.

No, I’m not of the sort of modern non-religious leaders who claim that everything is meaningless, that the human species is only “pond scum,” "biochemical puppets," without any worth, etc.!

When any human shows care and concern for others there is good meaning. And the Enlightenment values of human rights, justice, and equality are of great meaning.

That is why I think that moral realism is true, that humans have inherent worth, that existence isn't meaningless, and so forth, why I am a theist, not an atheist or agnostic.

However, I don't claim to know the ultimate nature of reality; I suppose some might term me an agnostic theist.

Unlike many theists and atheists, I don't start by asserting the ultimate nature of existence, but start with the local--reason, moral realism, caring, human rights, math, etc. and
from finding those reasonable, I work my way out toward the cosmic,
thinking that while I don't know ultimately what is the final nature of existence, I can be fairly confident that reason, moral realism, caring, human rights, math, etc. aren't meaningless and worthless even if human primates are a rather insignificant brief species in a minor solar system of the universe.

In the Light,
Daniel Wilcox

Here and Now

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Romantic Love: Friendship that has Caught Fire

Fidelity: Becoming loyal, reliable, consistent.

Love: Choosing commitment, is action.

Friendship: committing to another individual who has interests and goals in common, with affection and esteem.

Romancing love is “friendship that has caught fire,” filled with romance, passion and mental, emotional, and sexual intimacy.

Consider the fiery words of Sherman Alexie from one of his famous short stories. Roman and Grace are a married Spokane Native American couple. He is standing close to her with his basketball between them, as if the ball represents the expectant infant they will soon create...

“Michael Jordan is coming back again,” he said.

“You can’t fool me,” said Grace. “I heard it. That was just a replay.”

“Yeah, but I wish he was coming back again. He should always come back.”

“Don’t let it give you any crazy ideas.”

Roman pulled the basketball away and leaned even closer to Grace. He loved her, of course, but better than that, he chose her, day after day.

Choice: that was the thing. Other people claimed that you can't choose who you love—it just happens!—but Grace and Roman knew that was a bunch of happy horseshit...

Damn, marriage was hard work, was manual labor, and unpaid manual labor at that...that was what was missing in most marriages: politeness, courtesy…thank-you notes to his wife for the smallest favors, did the dishes…vacuumed...

...year after year, Grace and Roman had pressed their shoulders against the stone and rolled it up the hill together.

Then he lifted the ball over his head...and pushed it toward the caught fire.
From “Saint Junior” by Sherman Alexie, Grove Press, pages 176-178, 188

Yes, LOVE is friendship that has caught fire.
Love grows like a glowing vineyard in the sunrise,
takes root and develops one day at a time. Love
in maturity is like fine wine, improves with age.

Love is quiet understanding and mature acceptance
of imperfection. Love gives strength and creatively
opens in new ways
to your beloved.

You are warmed by your beloved’s presence,
even when your lover is away. Miles do not separate.
You want your beloved nearer. But near or far, you
know your lover is yours, and you are your beloved's.

Love means patience and trust. Love springs up;
you and your beloved feel more whole. Love fill
the empty spaces in your hearts, leads you both
to look up, and to give out to others.

Love is
creative, compassionate, gentle, and kind,
coming from deep in the heart, essential.

Love is choosing again and again, daily to love
your beloved even in the hard times.

Love is wider
than the widest, deeper than the deepest,
closer than the closest--
a fire of chosen passion.

Anon and adapted

Wednesday, February 13, 2019


El Paso

The chubby woman in a blue Pontiac
Jerked up alongside our country’s curb
Where members of contrary rallies stepped
Placarding decision street
In planned parents' hood.

One protester crossed our line,
To ask her, "What do you need?"
Bordering near to hysterical, she yelled,
“You’re wrong!” her face taut and
Yanked back from the cleft.

With drowning eyes, she shouted
“I wish I’d never been born.”
So much for ‘boarders’
And backwards wet with rivers
Walled out from us.

Then she jammed her shift's gear
And sped away, not even glancing
At Trump's declared wall or down
To her remaining child next to her,
Confused and missing her seat belt.

First pub.
in Unlikely Stories IV
in different form

Sunday, February 3, 2019


All down, failed up low?
then fail on, without ceasing
so much edged beyond normal,
failing onward into victory
instead of ceasing--
without fail

--Daniel Wilcox

Famous example:
*The inventor Thomas Edison made thousands of failed attempts at creating a successful light bulb. When someone asked, "How did it feel to fail so many times?"

Thomas Edison said, "I speak without exaggeration when I say that I have constructed three thousand different theories in connection with the electric light, each one of them reasonable and apparently to be true. Yet only in two cases did my experiments prove the truth of my theory. My chief difficulty, as perhaps you know, was in constructing the carbon filament, the incandescence of which is the source of the light." Harper’s Monthly Magazine, 1890 interview

Then in Edison’s failed efforts to create a good storage battery, Edison failed by conducting 10,000 experiments, too.
One of Edison’s friends said: “Isn't it a shame that with the tremendous amount of work you have done you haven't been able to get any results?”

‘Edison turned…like a flash, and with a smile replied: “Results! Why, man, I have gotten lots of results! I know several thousand things that won't work!”
Edison: His Life and Inventions, Frank Dyer and T. C. Martin

Each failure, eliminated one possibility, and brought him possibly closer to the right one.

Brilliance, hard work, and PERSEVERANCE!

And, last but not least, make sure that what you persevere toward is the Good, the Compassionate, the Beautiful.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Monday, January 28, 2019

Meticulous Honesty: Why Dishonesty Is ALWAYS wrong

Very popular, again, is the view that there are no inherent moral truths. Various thinkers state that moral realism isn’t true, that sometimes lying is good, etc. Often this outlook on ethics emphasizes that the end justifies the means and that “love” is the only rule.

Unfortunately, words such as “love” are empty-bucket terms meaning contradictory acts and are almost meaningless. For instance, the famous Roman Catholic leader, Augustine, in the 4th century wrote, “Love and do what you will. (on the First Epistle of John, Homily 7 on 1 John 4:4-12)

But Augustine was the same Christian leader who brought hard determinism into the Christian religion, condemning all human infants as being guilty of Original Sin, claiming that only a limited number of humans were predestined to be rescued, billions of others left to damnation.

Augustine also used the power of the Roman state to persecute others. And he abandoned his common law wife/concubine of 10 years, and planned, instead, to move to Rome and marry a high-class lady. At least he didn’t abandon his son from his common-law wife.

Other Christian leaders have gone even further. Christian theologian, Episcopal priest Joseph Fletcher, in the late 1960’s wrote the book called Situation Ethics which claimed that loving could mean to lie, to commit adultery, to blackmail, even to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians!

According to Fletcher, “nothing is inherently right or wrong” (page 134). Allegedly, later, Fletcher promoted abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, etc. in the name of “love.” (according to Wikipedia)

Paul Tillich, the famous Lutheran philosopher and theologian, wrote that “love is the ultimate law” (Systematic Theology, Volume 1, page 152) then repeatedly committed adultery, etc. The long scholarly biography of Tillich shows how dishearteningly wrong Tillich behaved, like so many others, by holding to the semantically vague idea of "love" as the only guide.

Even many Christians who claim to believe in objective ethics (not situation ethics) argue for very strange moral views such as the American Christian leader who declared that the atom bomb is “God’s gift to America”!

Or the millions of Christians (over 78% of American Evangelical Christians) who defend President Trump’s forcefully taking little children under 4 from their refugee mothers and sending the crying toddlers off thousands of miles away from their mothers to U.S. government facilities!

And ALL of those ethically wrong actions happened because the American Christians lied about the nature of the refugees, claiming they were criminals, drug dealers, enslavers, etc.

Even if--let's hypothesize--no bad results came from lying (or what ever other violation of moral truths), that lying would still be contrary to what is good and right.

Tragically, humans who think that morality, justice, human rights, etc. are inherently real and true, not subject to situations seem, often, to be in the minority.

Theft, adultery, infanticide, killing, and so forth are ALWAYS WRONG…
Meticulous honesty, sharing, generosity, infant care, compassion, justice and so forth are ALWAYS RIGHT.

1. Without meticulous honesty, fields and professions such as science, technology, architecture and construction, medicine, criminal justice, education, and so forth can’t function well or successfully.
Human history and current events are strewn with the millions of cases of scientists, law enforcement officers, politicians, architects, doctors, teachers, etc. who in the name of what ever ethics they followed, lied, deceived, or shaved the truth.
When a doctor lies, it might mean only deeply harming a patient. But when a scientist lies, it could wreak havoc on an entire society causing the suffering and death of millions of humans.

2. Unfortunately, the vast majority of humans have a penchant toward viewing the world from their own advantage point. We tend to justify what looks good for our group or our nation. Consider cases such as how the leading intellectuals and brilliant scholars of the various opposing nations of 1914 led us into the completely wrong Great War, which caused the slaughter of at least 15 million humans.

See Manifesto of the Ninety-Three German Intellectuals

See Preachers Present Arms by Ray h. Abrams

As various writers have emphasized the first fatality of war is truth. Lies are the immoral “body-guards” (to twist a phrase of Winston Churchill who infamously claimed that lies are bodyguards who protect truth!)

Another lesser case is the official lies—especially the Gulf of Tonkin lies-- told by the American government which led to over 2 million humans slaughtered in Vietnam including over 50,000 Americans.

Of course, most of these humans lied, deceived, were dishonest from the best of motives (though their motives you notice were based in the group egotism of their particular nation and society).

3. ALL lying, all deception, all dishonesty is to state contrary to reality. For instance, the construction boss needs to get the building finished by October 1st for many good reasons. Yet the inspector has been slow in coming out to certify, so the contractor hedges the truth. After all, in other situations, the minor deception hasn’t resulted in anything bad.

But regardless of whether or not his dishonesty catches up with the construction contractor (even though he meant it for good), the lie is contrary to what is true and real.


Extreme cases are, admittedly, difficult. And so various thinkers have stated that honesty must be relative to end results.
People say, wouldn’t it be good to lie to a Nazi, to lie to a murderer?

However, as I’ve already pointed out, these extreme situations don’t normally happen. Yet they are often pulled up to justify more common situations in which many people think a lie is also “good” in their particular difficulties.

Second, lying is always wrong even in desperate situations.
But what if an abused child hides at your house?
Will you lie to protect the innocent child from the abusive father?

What if you can discover no other option?

In that case since no alternative seems available, you can't find a good way to deal with the crisis, then you may choose to do what is wrong, the least wrong action.


And after the crisis passes, you well-meaning liar, will still need to admit your wrong-doing, and emphasize that you will make whatever amends you need to for your deception.

No where is any well-meant lie—itself--justified.

If only all humans would choose such moral realism, the vast majority of evil actions in the world would be lessened and eventually stopped.

Meticulous honesty, compassion, generosity, defense of human rights, etc. are ALWAYS RIGHT.

In the LIGHT of TRUTH,

Daniel Wilcox