Answering Job Today

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Answering Job Today

Evil is a refutation of God. The existence of the former indicates the nonexistence of the latter. That is, of a caring, good, loving, all-powerful God. This fact has been recognized since the days of Job, if not earlier. Real God either is not caring, or is not good, or is not loving, or is not all-powerful, or any combination of these, or does not exist at all.

The tortured replies to Job since Biblical days, which try to reconcile the contradiction of the existence of evil in the world and the undeserved sufferings inflicted on innocents, with the simultaneous existence of a caring, good, loving, all-powerful God, are simply not credible. What is credible is an atheism that accepts the statistical workings of chance to sprinkle the world of human experience with good and evil, bad breaks and lucky breaks, which often are completely independent of a person’s supposed merits — if lucky — and supposed just deserts — if a victim, or a convict in the eyes of others.

The fact that those statistical workings are not perfectly random has been recognized as the concept of karma, and with Biblical epigrams like: “those who live by the sword, die by the sword,” and with real world statistics showing that your likelihood of being killed or injured by a gun are much higher if you live in close proximity to a gun, regardless of who owns it.

But neither the idea of karma, nor the idea of retribution for sin, which is espoused by Biblical apologists and other religious fundamentalists, can justify an inflexible assignment of guilt worthy of earthly punishment allowed by a Supreme Divinity onto clearly innocent people who are visited by undeserved evil. Victims of genocides, mass bombings as terrorist attacks or in campaigns of war, victims of epidemics or who contract fatal diseases like cancers in young children, are not guilty and do not deserve a punishing evil.

There is no “good” or divinely guided “lesson” that comes out of the experience of suffering the visitations of evil into your life, there is only relief if you survive. The people who walked out of the Nazi concentration camps, and lived on, did not deserve the punishing evil they went through; and their subsequent freedom and new resolutions about how they would conduct themselves thereafter, if they had any such new resolutions, were not “a good” or “silver lining” or surprising and compensating benefit that came out of their punishing experiences, that renewed freedom was just simply the relief of surviving. So, the idea of “a good” coming out of “an evil” is pure bullshit.

In this world we have people who do evil, and people who do good, and for each category not all of those in them may do whichever all the time. A fair generalization is that most “normal” people have times in their lives of doing evil — of varying degrees — and times of doing good — also of varying degrees. A dramatic example easily visualized is that of the military veteran who was a killing machine during a war and became a devoted humanitarian after. Billions of simple examples are all of us “normal” people who have at times hurt others with intentional cruelties, and at other times been caring, nurturing helpers selflessly relieving the pain and suffering of others.

There are really only three kinds of people: those who are suffering, those who inflict suffering, and those who relieve suffering. The nature of human society is determined by the relative proportions of these three populations, and we must recognize that any particular individual can be in two of those categories simultaneously at any given time, and maybe even all three. If I were tasked to state just one rule that each person was supposed to follow, as the purpose of individual life, it would be: spend as little time as possible causing suffering. What I would wish is for human society and its governments to be designed entirely for the relief of human suffering. As we know, today human society is designed for the few to profit from the sufferings of the many. And the workings of that design are increasingly killing off the species of the designers. The aspects of those sufferings that are projected into Nature have produced a blunt counterattack by Nature, a fever called global warming climate change, to disinfect Planet Earth from the human pathogen causing the planetary illness, a broad-spectrum disinfection that includes the sacrifice of many harmless organisms.

Even in the hypothetical ultimate world-society designed entirely for the relief of human suffering, we would still have the occurrence of natural disasters and eruptions of diseases, to visit evil — bad luck and cruel fates — upon undeserving victims, but we would also have minimized the reach of what can be termed “evil” into the continuation of human existence. That would be so much better than any orthodoxy about God, and any organized fantasy with restrictions and prejudices, called “religion.”

I am a great believer in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, proclaiming a freedom of expression, which also means a freedom of religion. Every individual should have the freedom to fashion their own belief-system for mediating their personal relationship with eternity, basically the story they tell themselves to console them for having a finite lifespan with a certainty of death. No one else should be allowed to compel you to live under the restrictions — called religion — that they proclaim as preeminent and under which they say they live (for there is so much hypocrisy here) and to which they want everyone else to submit.

So, I don’t care what you believe in order to assuage yourself to the inescapable eventuality of death, I only care about how you act as a member of our joint civil society. We can craft purely secular just laws to specify the limits of acceptability on human actions in civil society, and we can do our duty as members of human society to obey those laws for each other’s benefit. Ancient traditions have recognized this obvious principle as ahimsa with karuņá, and the moralistic Golden Rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It was also recognized in the early 20th century by the anti-capitalist Spanish Anarchists of the CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo) as: “no property, no god, no bosses.”

It is by having communities of people committed to their mutual relief of unavoidable and haphazard suffering, as the design purpose of human societies, that we most effectively confront evil and limit its extent in the world. And that is Paradise in reality.

God and Country
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/02/15/god-and-country/

Darwin’s Living Legacy
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/02/13/darwins-living-legacy/

Asian Philosophies, Oppenheimer, & the New Age
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/03/28/asian-philosophies-oppenheimer-the-new-age/

An October Sunday Reflection
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2021/10/18/an-october-sunday-reflection/

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Herodias Then, Hillary Now

Francesco del Cairo, “Herodias with the head of John the Baptist,” 1625-1630

 

On reading the short story Herodias in Gustave Flaubert’s slim volume Three Tales (1877), I realized that this Biblical story of Salome’s dance being paid for by the beheading of John the Baptist could serve as an analogy to the political tragedy of the 2016 Democratic party’s national convention in the United States. This parallel is achieved if the story is cast in the following way:

Herodias: – – – – – -> Hillary Clinton
Herod Antipas: – – -> Barack Obama (understudy: Bill Clinton)
John the Baptist: – -> Bernie Sanders
Agrippa: – – – – – – -> Donald Trump
Mannaeï: – – – – – – > Al Franken
Caesar: – – – – – – -> Goldman Sachs
Assembly: – – – – – > DNC Super-delegates
Salome:
– – – – – – – – – – – – – > Michelle Obama?,
– – – – – – – – – – – – – > Loretta Lynch?,
– – – – – – – – – – – – – > Kamala Harris?,
– – – – – – – – – – – – – > Debbie Wasserman Schultz?,
– – – – – – – – – – – – – > Donna Brazile?,
– – – – – – – – – – – – – > Nancy Pelosi?,
– – – – – – – – – – – – – > Liz Warren?

During the reign of Tiberius as the Caesar of the Roman Empire, Herod Antipas was the king of Judea, which is the southern part of Palestine. Antipas had divorced his first wife, who was the daughter of the king of the Arabs, and married Herodias, who herself had been the wife of his brother Herod Agrippa. Herodias was extremely ambitious to be the queen of a great empire and had left Agrippa for Antipas to further that ambition. Agrippa was a rival to Antipas for the throne of Judea, and he had gone to Rome to conspire with Caius (the future Caesar to be known as Caligula) against Antipas. Both Herodias and Antipas wanted Agrippa killed by order of Tiberius Caesar.

Antipas was slavishly allied to Rome because he needed Imperial protection against the threat of invasion from the south by the Arabs angered by his divorce of their princess, as well as to ensure he was favored by Caesar instead of Agrippa. Herodias was fanatically allied to Rome because she saw its power as a means to advancing her aims, and of eliminating her enemies. As an occupied and subjugated people, the Jews of Palestine resented Rome and their subservient political leader Antipas, and their subservient and wealthy religious elites, but made an effort to minimize resistance to the Empire so as not to draw Rome’s ire upon themselves.

All of these incidents and attitudes were loudly and widely condemned by John the Baptist, a reformer popular with the common people, who talked about a Messiah who would create an independent kingdom free of both Romans and the compromised political (Antipas’s administration) and religious (Pharisees and Sadducees) ruling classes of the Jews. John the Baptist also railed against the immorality and weak moral character of Herod Antipas and his scheming, impious queen, Herodias.

Naturally, such talk in public was an irritant to the Roman governor (Vitellius), who was Caesar’s direct representative in Judea, as well as to the Pharisees, the Sadducees, Herod Antipas and especially Herodias, who felt threatened by it and whose vanity was deeply wounded, thus inflaming a malevolent obsession for a fatal revenge against the prophet. John the Baptist had already been imprisoned for his incitement of popular indignation and hope.

Salome was Herodias’s daughter from her previous marriage, and Antipas did not know about Salome because Herodias had had her brought up away from the palace. Salome was the key to Herodias’s scheme for revenge, and had been carefully prepared for her task. During a palace feast to celebrate Antipas’s birthday, with Vitellius and the political and religious elites of the Jews in attendance, Herodias sent Salome out to perform “the dance of the seven veils” to excite Herod Antipas’s lust. Herodias knew her craven and lecherous husband well, and before all the company he soon promised Salome anything she wanted, in payment for helping him maintain the tepid approval of the assembled company, and in anticipation of gaining her favors after her dance. Salome knew her mission, and requested the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod Antipas was bound by his word spoken before so many witnesses from the ruling classes, and so ordered Mannaeï, the executioner in his employ, to do the dirty deed. Concern for the hopes and dreams of his Jewish commoner subjects, and their inevitable disappointment were John the Baptist to be killed, was never a consideration.

Shortly after, Mannaeï returned with the requested platter and gave it to Salome who in turn presented it to the orgasmically satisfied Herodias. The company at the party were variously pleased, amused, curious or indifferent to inspect the bloody grimacing prize. And so was the prophet of the people dispatched for the political convenience of the Empire and the compromised Jewish elite; because of the fear and lust of Herod Antipas; and because of the malevolence, megalomania and vanity of Herodias.

Gustave Flaubert tells the Biblical story much better than I have. The 2016 American reality-show remake as a political intrigue was comparably shameful but much more tawdry.

In the painting, above, Herodias is sticking pins into the tongue that spoke out against her, and being so deliciously aroused in this climax of her revenge. The parallel to the American political events occurred between 12-26 July 2016.

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