[This series is part of Section Four, Ethics and the Third Person. An index with links to all parts of the work as they are posted can be found [url=https://forum.evangelicaluniversalist.com/t/sword-to-the-heart-ethics-and-the-third-person/1335/1]here.]
[This series starts Chapter 44, “The Fall”.]
In my previous chapter, I probably sounded as if I was waxing rhapsodic about death, and how great it was, and how much I need it.
In a way, I was doing precisely that. But I agree it seems specious for me to sit here in my comfortable chair, sniffling over whatever puny sins I have committed in my life and trying to resolve myself to Face Death Like A Man; when all across our planet tonight vicious rapes and murders and grotesque physical and psychological violations are being performed by human fiends upon people whom I cannot possibly have definite grounds for saying ‘the victims deserved that’.
No, I refuse to argue that each and every victim of atrocity is receiving the just deserts of their own sins. There is no way I can possibly know that, and I staunchly insist that it certainly doesn’t look that way to me–as it doesn’t to most sceptics (as well as to most believers).
Then again, agnosticism on a topic tends to cut both ways: if I cannot possibly know that every victim is (thereby) getting what he or she deserves, then I also cannot possibly know that they aren’t (thereby) getting it, either. That may not be a very palatable thought, especially to a charitable heart (such as I presume honest and righteous sceptics have); but that is the way the logical math goes–at least, from this direction.
[Footnote: For what it is worth, the scriptures I consider to be authoritative affirm that sufferings do not always happen to people who specifically deserve those sufferings. The entire Book of Job in the Hebrew Scriptures stands as testimony to the real tragedy of undeserved suffering. Job is quite correct: the story verifies from the first that he is not being punished in any fashion through the terrible events happening to him; and his three main friends are wrong, for they keep insisting that he is lying and there must be some secret sin he has committed which would provide ground for his sufferings being divine justice. At the same time, Job through his perseverance does become (apparently) a better person–so some good ultimately comes to him from his suffering.
Meanwhile, in the Christian New Testament, Jesus affirms that some calamities, such as people crushed by a falling tower at Siloam and a man born blind, were not judgments against the sins of those people.
However, I understand that my reader may not accept those scriptures as authoritative; I have not been using them to justify positions earlier in this book, and I won’t start now–even to justify a position that I think most sceptics [u]agree with: sufferings occur which people do not particularly deserve (no matter what good may come to those people, or others, later through the sufferings).]