Friday, 15 January 2010

The theodicy of Haiti doesn't bear thinking about (so let's not)

I get my first news of the day from BBC Radio 4, specifically the Today Programme. Yesterday regular host John Humphrys asked1 the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, why God allowed such terrible suffering to be inflicted on the innocent people of Haiti. The Archbishop didn't have a coherent answer, though he did at least condemn Pat Robertson's ugly accusation (that the Haitians had it coming because their ancestors made a pact with the devil):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5TE99sAbwM



The Today Programme  audio stream for Thursday, January 14th is available here (scroll down to 0831):
http://news.bbc.co.uk//today/hi/today/newsid_8458000/8458361.stm

Or download an mp3 of the relevant clip from RapidShare here:
http://rapidshare.com/files/335314721/Today_JohnSentamu_Haiti_BBCR4i-20100114.mp3
"Stories of survival are emerging from the rubble in Haiti. Troy Livesay, of the Christian charity World Wide Village, lives with his family in Port au Prince and has written a moving account in the Guardian about his family's survival. He begs people to prey for Haitians. Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, comments on how people turn to God during times of disaster."
( Troy Livesay's Guardian account is here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/13/survivors-tale-haiti-blog-extract )

When disaster strikes the innocent, theodicy is revealed as the empty wailing of those who know they have no excuses for their supposedly omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God, but this morning on Thought for the Day theodicy's guilty vacuity was brought to a new low by Giles Fraser:
"...at a moment like this, I prefer to leave the arguments to others. For me this is a time quietly to light a candle for the people of Haiti, and to offer them up to God in my prayers. May the souls of the departed rest in peace."
Well thanks a bunch Giles! I'm sure your candle and prayers will be so effective in helping the Haitians in their dire plight, and might even convince them that — despite appearances — God loves them after all! (I'm sorry, but when I heard this execrable peroration this morning I uttered an extremely audible profanity.) This isn't the first time the Rev. Dr. Giles Fraser has used Thought for the Day to hide behind verbal obfuscation, and it illustrates precisely why the slot should be opened up to secular humanist viewpoints.

RealMedia audio stream:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/realmedia/thought/t20100115.ram

Podcast audio:
http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio4/thought/thought_20100115-1008a.mp3

Download mp3 from RapidShare:
http://rapidshare.com/files/335825978/Thought__15_JAN_10.mp3


The script for Giles Fraser's thought should be is now available soon; meanwhile you can read an alternative interpretation at Platitude of the Day.


UPDATE 2010-01-19: On Saturday's Today Programme, atheist philosopher A. C. Grayling was asked to respond to both John Sentamu and Giles Fraser. He was calmly rational (as always), but scheduled at the very end of the programme he had insufficient time to deal in full with the idiocy that is theodicy. The vacuous blatherings of Messrs Sentamu and Fraser last week have been rightly castigated across the blogosphere — Manic Street Preacher's recent post contrasts similarly reprehensible, knee-jerk statements in response to tragedy with those displaying a more compassionate outlook.

The audio stream of A. C. Grayling's valiant but time-constrained effort is available here (scroll down to 0854):
http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8462000/8462906.stm

Or you can download the clip from RapidShare as an mp3:
http://rapidshare.com/files/337961781/Today_ACGrayling_Haiti_BBCR4i-20100116.mp3

1UPDATE 2010-01-22: A transcript of John Humphrys' conversation with Archbishop John Sentamu is available at the JREF Swift blog.
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