And God saw that it was good… but he was wrong…

The other day Stephen Fry gave a rather enlightening answer to a rather serious question.

Think about this for yourself. If you were to meet your maker, what would you say?

“I’d say, bone cancer in children? What’s that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault? It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil… Yes the world is very splendid, but it also has in it insects whose whole life-cycle is to burrow into the eyes of children and make them blind… You could easily have made a creation in which that didn’t exist. It is simply not acceptable.” (See his full 2 min answer here)

Misery and suffering, death and decay, this world is full of it. How dare a creator allow his beautiful creation to decay and die? Imagine a painter leaving a masterpiece outside to be eaten away by the elements… or a musician creating the most beautiful sounds only to bring the piece to its conclusion. Imagine a sand sculptor creating unbelievably breathtaking works, only to let the tide, wind and rain destroy it again… or a chef, meticulously hand crafting magnificent flavours, colours and textures, only to let it be eaten MOMENTS after completion?! Many hours of precious work destroyed in seconds! How DARE he?! Surely only a monster could allow their very own creation to be destroyed!

To use Fry’s example, imagine a small child, beautiful, perfectly healthy… and then a parasite comes and takes away their gift of sight. That is simply not acceptable.

But in my opinion, you need look no further than flowers. Have you ever really taken to time to appreciate a flower? Each one is splendid and unique, yet God only saw fit to grand them mere days to live? How dare he? In Jesus’ own words (Mt 6:28-30) “lilies of the field” are “here today and tomorrow are thrown into the fire” despite being clothed more splendidly than “Solomon in all his Glory”. This is the perfect admission of guilt! Yes they are beautiful. Yes they are created by God. Yes he lets them live for just one day before being incinerated!

Articulating the sentiments of many, Fry has boldly taken it upon himself to judge God himself, to judge creation itself, essentially stating that when “God saw that it was good” he was clearly wrong. Instead, the universe itself is “utterly, utterly evil”. How could God possibly call it ‘good’ when mind-blowing beauty is constantly created and destroyed?

I personally think this universe is amazing. I see an extremely extravagant beauty in transience. Pouring mountains of resources into something that is SO beautiful it needs only last a very short time. Death is a fact. Beautiful things come and go. Is this reality really ‘unacceptable’? God could have EASILY made a creation without death right?

We each have a choice. We can be happy and thankful for what we have, or we can be constantly mourning the loss of what we do not have, angry at a ‘selfish’ creator who took it away from us.

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3 thoughts on “And God saw that it was good… but he was wrong…

  1. Carisse says:

    Lucky the person who believes that one can be happy and thankful for every situation of life, for he has not experienced extreme pain for himself, if not felt compassion for someone else’s pain.
    Catholics are the most optimist people (or cruel, depending on how you see it), inviting to find joy in what could otherwise appear like an horrible situation. Being happy of the world the way it is : isn’t that a dangerous stand ? Where is the ‘responsability’ you were talking about in your previous post ? Aren’t the heroes you were calling for people that will find “unacceptabe” certain situations and will do something to change it, instead of choosing to follow the rule and be happy about it ?

    I know this hopefully does not describe what you feel, but this is what your words can lead to. Defending a “perfect” creation make it looks like you are on that side of the line …

    • It is my experience that those who have suffered the most are also those who most genuinely appreciate what they have. It’s like the saying, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. So in a sense, unless you’ve personally experienced happiness after losing everything, how can you really believe it?

      Accepting reality is the first step to changing it. (or rather changing your response to it)

      Even if creation is ‘perfect’, we (humans) are most certainly not, and the reality is that most things we would call ‘suffering’ in the world is caused by humans. It is this type of suffering which we can control, and to which I believe we must make a heroic stand. Things like loneliness, social justice, war, hunger, discrimination, lack of compassion in general… all this is within our power. Other things, like death, illness, and other forms of loss, are just part of the natural order.

      • Carisse says:

        There would be a lot to discuss about this, I’m not sure this is the most suitable place to do it in a clear way, but I’m going to try to add a few things.

        Yes indeed, those who have suffered _sometimes_ (rarely, most of the time ? statistics would be interesting here) “most genuinely appreciate what they have”, but let’s not forget that some of those who have suffered the most just can’t bear it sometimes (permanent depression, suicide ?) and that the time of the suffering itself is NEVER a good time (even for the “lucky” one that pull through).

        “Unless you’ve personally experienced happiness after losing everything, how can you really believe it” : I strongly disagree with this very “romantic” XIXth century idea (I’m not calling your idea old, I’m just relating it to a trend of thinking) : one can not truly appreciate peace unless one has fought in war, one can not understand the confort of a house unless having spent a winter out, one can experience happiness only after losing everything. First, this negates the possibility for a man to get some experience from something else than its own life, that’s very limiting. Did your parent and grand-parents not give you any advices that mattered to you ? Does history teach nothing ? Does imagination do no work ? Secondly, it means relying for the most important things of your life (peace, happiness and so on) on exceptional external events. Finally, this is a life program of extremes : extreme suffering to allow access to true happiness. Putting aside the fact that I don’t believe this equation is necessarly true, I just don’t want of it. If it works for you, good, I wish you the best, but I prefer to try to avoid these extreme pains, would it be to the cost of having a more “average” life. And I would certainly feel disconfort if you would push this philosophy of life as an example for others (but I don’t think this is what you do).

        “Accepting reality is the first step to changing it. (or rather changing your response to it)”. This is very interesting : the very important part of what (if I understand you correctly, sorry if I don’t) divides us is what you put aside in parenthesis. Accepting reality is the first step : yes, a thousand times yes ! It is the first step for nearly anything in life. The world is there and no magical thought will change anything about it. Now, where we differ is how one reacts regarding this world. Catholicism says it’s “perfect” (which doesn’t make much sense to me, it’s like picking up a rock on the ground and declaring it’s perfect, but anyway, we understand how it should be understood : perfect because created by god) and this has some consequences on the mindset, mindset reflected in your post : “or rather changing your response to it”, “creation is ‘perfect’, we (humans) are most certainly not”. First question : if the world is perfect, why are humans not ? Anyway, that’s just logic details, the important thing is that you are saying : the world is perfect, human is not, so we have to fix ourselves and accept the world as a beautiful thing. I think this is false. The world is not perfect, as much as humans are not perfect. A lot of human suffering is indeed made by humans, on this we can and must act. A lot of suffering is also made by the world as it is, on this we can and must act.

        I could go on and on, but I will just sum up what I think :
        1/ no suffering is necessary or should be accepted, whether it has a human or natural origin
        2/ thinking that the world is perfect implies that some suffering is part of the perfection, and therefore “good”
        3/ even though sometimes the consequences of suffering are positive (what does not kill you make you stronger kind of thing), it doesn’t mean it is a desirable thing in the first place, and that the same consequences could not be achieved by other means
        4/ of course, fixing oneself (and human created suffering that you are listing) is part of the process (starting with making sure that you don’t create any suffering around you), but if you limit the process to this, you are missing a lot, and maybe the most important changes that would make a real difference in the world.
        5/ not acknowledging that the world (or the “creation”) can be a source of suffering is, for me, a serious lack of compassion, compassion that you are whishing for.

        All this is a difficult subject to talk about, I know we have different views on it. I’m not hoping to convince you (it never happens on this type of subject, it’s by definition a matter of belief, not of reason). What I could wish for is that, even if for different causes, our actions would go in the same direction.

        And sorry for the broken English 🙂

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