A reader writes:
My notion of a fallen world is related to the fact of mortality, which embraces almost everything on our planet, and causes terrible suffering to animals as well as humans. The difference is that, so far as we know, only humans experience this suffering as a form of alienation; we feel somehow as if we belong elsewhere, as if this mortal coil is not something we simply accept, as if our home was from somewhere else.
There is no reason for humans to feel alienated due to the facts of our existence. Once one understands evolution, the fact that we exist at all should leave humans feeling as if they have won the biggest lottery ever, one that makes the largest Powerball payoff seem like a beggar's breakfast on a bad day. What I hear you saying translates, in the context of my worldview, as something like, "Despite the incredible stroke of luck I have experienced, I want more. Therefore, there must be more." I see no evidence that the sheer fact of one's wanting is a necessary and sufficient condition for there being that which one wants. It seems an incredibly egoistic take on reality.
I think Augustine’s contention, that evil, the absence of the good, has no real existence, deserves more credit. If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, then the opposite of God amounts to nothingness. Evil is parasitic upon the good, and amounts to its corruption/diminution, meaning the good remains (short of cosmic annihilation). The possibility of evil is undoubtedly found in the creation, in its separation from God, but does not make creation evil.
I couldn't help but think about the children of Lake Wobegon in reading this passage from your response to a reader's point concerning the Theodicy:My notion of a fallen world is related to the fact of mortality, which embraces almost everything on our planet, and causes terrible suffering to animals as well as humans. The difference is that, so far as we know, only humans experience this suffering as a form of alienation; we feel somehow as if we belong elsewhere, as if this mortal coil is not something we simply accept, as if our home was from somewhere else.
It is a well observed phenomena in psychological research that people, when asked to rate their relative status on any number of personal attributes, consistently over-estimate their positions. That is, in a survey of something like attractiveness or trustworthiness, most of people will rate themselves as above average even though such a distribution is logically impossible. Humans nature is such that we tend to hold very high opinions of ourselves (and often those we love) even in the absence of any evidence that we are particularly exceptional (and often in opposition to considerable evidence that most of us are, in fact, unexceptional). We each are, after all, the only person who really knows what's it like to be ourselves - so it's not as though a little impartiality is unexpected.
The point remains, however, that people are prone to think they always "deserve better" than whatever it is they may have - just watch any reality TV featuring a rich or privileged person to see them voice a frequent awareness of the myriad injustices they must daily face.
So I must ask, how is a person's belief that they "must" be destined for a nobler fate than mere animals anymore significant of deep truth than Paris Hilton's belief that she is inexcusably inconvenienced by being picked up in a chauffeured sedan rather than a stretch limo?
It's likely, given their idyllic town and the strength and beauty of their parents, that the children of Lake Wobegon really do believe they are, every one, above average. Are you inclined to believe them?
These are secular interpretations of an experience of human alienation that my readers at least acknowledge exists. But a religious and spiritual interpretation of this alienation has been the norm in human history and pre-history. You can explain this in any number of ways. It is simply part of the ordeal of consciousness as far as I can see - and no advance in reason will remove its profound endurance in the human soul. And the experience I am describing is not the preference for a fancy limo, but an attempt to live as humans in the face of unspeakable injustice and suffering.
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