YouTube and the God of Job

(Note: I agree with Duncan today. I don’t need to add to the cacophony on the events in Boston, but “feel like talking about anything else is just weird.” So I’m pre-empting this week’s Left Behind Friday post and replacing it with the following. Feel free to ignore the idiosyncratic theologizing in the post below and just enjoy the links.)

I love the book of Job, which features, among other things, a longer and more celebratory creation account than the ones in Genesis.

Job is a play about the meaning of suffering and justice, beginning with a series of unsatisfying monologues suggesting possible explanations, each of which gets refuted and rejected in turn. And then “God” shows up. God is a character in this play — a deus ex machina without the machine and/or the tidy ending. We expect this God character to give us the right and final explanation, but after reinforcing Job’s prior refutation of the earlier foolish arguments, God basically just says “Trust me.”

That’s the gist of God’s argument, anyway. But about midway through a very long speech, God gets a bit distracted. The speech starts out as the basic sort of thing that experts often say when having to explain something too complicated for a lay audience to grasp. It’s that impatient thing they do when we ask such experts a graduate-level question before we’ve mastered even an introductory notion of the subject. Instead of answering the question, they just recite their qualifications and credentials as experts — reassuring us that they know what they’re talking about and that we’ll just have to take their word for it because we couldn’t possibly understand. That’s an annoying thing for experts to do, even when they’re right. Or maybe especially when they’re right.

And that’s how the character of God starts off, just listing all the incredible things he’s created as a way of bolstering his authority and trustworthiness. But then it starts to get away from him a bit. God starts grinning goofily at the thought of all these amazing creatures and the argument morphs into more of a reverie about just how freakin’ cool all this stuff he created has turned out to be.

It’s like part-way through this theological discourse, the character of God wanders off and just starts surfing the Web, laughing with delight at animal videos on YouTube.

I can relate to that. One video leads to another and before you know it an hour has gone by.

Here, for example, is a video of a baby giraffe standing up for the very first time. It’s mother’s name is Petal.

And here is a video of a baby elephant playing in the surf.

Pablo the Pug does handstands while peeing.

A pet crow feeds the cat and the dog.

A corgi puppy encounters its first tennis ball.

Penguins live on ice. Ice is slippery. Here is video of penguins falling down.

Here is a deer playing in a mud puddle.

This is a dik dik — a baby dik dik.

And this is an itty bitty baby octopus.

And this is a picture of a baby pig. In a sweater. And socks.

A baby otter named Molalla gets a check-up.

And here are some otters, chasing a butterfly.

This is a video of a seal pup trying, repeatedly, to get onto a surfboard.

And here is a sea lion pup, hanging out in the lobby of a hotel.

And here is a video of a monk seal named Onaona, who spins like a top.

Here are some videos of young polar bear cubs learning to crawl and to walk.

And another adorable polar bear cub.

This desert rain frog, from Namibia, is pretty cute even before it makes that amazing sound.

Naked mole rats are not cute, but they are fascinating. (I once got to hold one.)

Some marine ribbon worms are quite beautiful, others less so, but just look at them.

Here is a stunning time-lapse video of Yosemite Park.

The God of Job would have loved YouTube.

I think the author of Job is right about this. I believe that this is what God is like.

Except, of course, that God doesn’t need YouTube. We Christians believe that God is omnipresent and all-seeing. So while I might get caught up watching this sloth hugging a cat for the few moments in which this was captured on video, God is able to watch all the sloths and all the cats all the time.

And, like the author of Job, I believe that this is what God does. All the time. Because God loves all the sloths and all the cats, and all the puppies, otters, ribbon worms, naked mole rats, elephants, giraffes, rain frogs, polar bears, sea lions, seals, dik diks, pigs, leviathans, behemoths, penguins and octopi.

And the beetles too. I think Haldane was right, that God is inordinately fond of beetles.

I think God is inordinately fond of everything.

 

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  • Magic_Cracker

    God is able to watch all the sloths and all the cats all the time.

    And not just all the time, but all sloths, all cats, all the squee, of all times. All places. All at once.

    If you believe in that sort of thing.

    OT repost:

    “Just in case we don’t get a Left Behind post this week — and I think we all understand if we don’t — there’s this. Imagine someone did with Revelation what Webber and Rice did with the Gospels. Wait, you don’t have to imagine. Click the link.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marc-Mielke/100001114326969 Marc Mielke

    That band features a young, pre-movie soundtracks Vangelis.

  • aunursa

    this week’s Left Behind Friday post

    The attachment of noisy names like Nic Cage and Ashley Tisdale should be a good thing, and my hope is that the picture can really compete in the secular marketplace. [The new film will] likely be controversial, but the better it is the more effective it will be in drawing people to the message.”

    “We want more people to learn how they can keep from being left behind. Hearing stories of people who have come to faith or come back to their faith or back to reading their Bibles and going to church are so much more meaningful to us than bestseller lists and royalty checks, as nice as those things are.”

    — Jerry Jenkins on the Left Behind reboot

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Sounds like Jenkins got over his pet peeves with the changes to the script, or he rationalized them, or he is just being diplomatic for the sake of ticket sales.

  • aunursa

    You may be thinking of LaHaye‘s comments on the script.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Sorry, sometimes I fall into the habit of assuming that L&J are actually some kind of composite entity, al-la The Fly. You know, LaJenkins.

  • phranckeaufile

    Be afraid. Be very afraid.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    I guess it’s just me, but it doesn’t feel weird at all to talk about other things. I don’t live in Boston. When the bombs went off, it was a terrible event, but very few people were injured compared to the number of people present, and even fewer died. The people in Boston mostly reacted the way we hope people would: they ran towards the danger to help, they finished their races and went to hospitals to donate blood, and then, after it was done, they called loved ones to reassure them, and went on with their lives.

    It’s important to – no, wait, important is too weak of a word. It is utterly vital to keep events in perspective. Terrorism is based on the premise that you can create a disproportional response from fear and terror. Locking down a city under near-martial-law isn’t a good thing, not when we’re talking about a lone suspect whose best target for robbery was a 7-11!?! (sorry, I used to work at a Stop-N-Rob when I was younger; you want to hold someplace up for money, that isn’t even close to your first choice)

    I can respect people in Boston being fixated on the story. I can understand it being vital to them because it’s their part of the world, their home. But if you’re not a Bostonian, following the news from there right now is “borrowing trouble” as an ex-girlfriend of mine would say.

    The explosion in West? That’s something to talk about. That’s a whole lot of things to talk about exactly because there’s all kinds of things that can be learned from it, things that can and should be done. Too much is unknown in Boston right now, too little is there to learn from yet. All we do now is add attention to an act of terror, which is counter-productive.

  • Vermic

    I bet God put all sorts of amazing animals at the bottom of the ocean, or in subterranean caves, or on Ganymede, that humans can’t even find yet. Nobody gets to enjoy these life forms but him. Why you gotta bogart the cool critters, God?

  • Magic_Cracker

    Hey man, we all got a place in the choir.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I bet God put all sorts of amazing animals at the bottom of the ocean, or in subterranean caves, or on Ganymede, that humans can’t even find yet. Nobody gets to enjoy these life forms but him. Why you gotta bogart the cool critters, God?

    Because God wanted to give us the joy of discovery. As much as I hope to live long enough to see some of those discoveries, I know that there are so many more out there than any one individual can live to see.

    God’s creativity is apparently infinite, and so too will be our joy at finding all of it. [/Sagan]

  • http://twitter.com/upsidedwnworld Rebecca Trotter

    I did a close study of God’s words in the book of Job a while back and it was rather revealing. First of all, in the creation account, God seems to lay claim to man-made, fanciful ideas about how he works in the world. None of these mythical explanations are biblical, but they work for God, it seems. Then if you look at the animals he lists, each one has a wild and domesticated version – the donkey, the oxen, the horse, even the falcon. Further in, he compares a creature he made – almost certainly the hippo – with a creature of human imagination – the leviathan. The key to understanding what God is saying is when he talks about how his creature – the hippo – cannot be tamed, will not offer to be a slave or be made into a pet. And that from our own minds, we have created a creature even more fierce than that. The message is to be like those creatures – both real and imaginary. Fight back! Stop acting like the domesticated animals we control.

    Interestingly, at the end of the book, Job’s daughters (who all have outrageous names) are listed, while his sons are not. That’s completely contrary to custom. And his daughters received the same inheritance as his sons. Also completely contrary to custom. It seems that for Job, elevating his daughters as equals with his sons was one of the ways that he took God’s advice and put up such a fight that the enemy would not forget it.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    The person who posted the video of the crow feeding (and, as far as I can tell, scolding) the cat and dog writes that it’s amazing that the mammals have not yet eaten the bird.

    On the one hand, I’m not amazed because, dude, crows are pretty fierce. Kind of like rabbits. Most times, you introduce a pet bunny into a house with a pet dog or cat (or both), you end up with the “predator” mammals deferring in all matters to the “prey”. Bunnies are territorial and they will fuck you up. I expect crows can be a similar “surprise” dominant household member.

    On the other hand, I’m not amazed, because, dude, you think humans are the only animals capable of deciding that in this case, for now, a representative of a prey species is an honorary person?

  • Bethany

    I wouldn’t mess with a crow, especially if I was only the size of a cat.

    One of my cats thinks she would mess with a crow, even though she’s the size of a cat. Of course, all the crows she wants to mess with are safely on the other side of the window, and on the other side of the parking lot to boot.

    She might forget her antipathy to crows if one offered to feed her, though. Anyone that will feed her is a friend in her book.

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    I believed in the fierceness of rabbits after seeing this video of a rabbit chasing a snake up a tree. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rebnrnGLKh0

  • MaryKaye

    I worked as a handler at a rabbit show where a friend was exhibiting her rabbits, and I got to handle the eventual Best In Show–a male English Angora, ten pounds or so of pure white fluffball. He decided he didn’t want to be moved, and gouged long bleeding cuts down both of my arms with his claws; and his owner said, very angrily, “Don’t you dare bleed on my rabbit! It’s hard to get the blood out of his fur!”

    That was also the show where I met the male rabbit who had learned to aim his pee out of the hutch and accurately target passers-by.

    Rabbits are a lot more hardcore than people think.

  • Anton_Mates

    It’s not like wild dogs and cats tend to get along, either. All these species are perfectly capable of learning new rules about who’s a good guy, a bad guy or food.

  • montyabner

    Oh whatever – naked mole rats are adorable.

    The Oregon Zoo has an ant-farm-like exhibit of naked mole rats and I’ve been fascinated with them since I was a little kid.

  • Jamoche

    Any mention of the naked mole rat requires the naked mole rap:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3WdTXS1xd0

  • Rhubarbarian82

    If you haven’t seen ZeFrank’s “True Facts About the Naked Mole Rat,” now’s a great time to start! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHi9FvUPSdQ

  • Rhubarbarian82

    So apparently, deleting your comment on Disqus when you realize you should have double-checked the video Fred linked before posting the exact same link in the comments, simply converts your comment to a “guest” comment. That’s… not a particularly useful function.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Disqus? Useful?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Albright/100001047690991 Michael Albright

    I take a different message away from Job, but I do like this characterization of God. Worthy of note is that that’s how Alanis Morissette played the character in dogma.

  • phranckeaufile

    Alanis Morissette didn’t play god. Alanis Morissette is god.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Albright/100001047690991 Michael Albright

    Fine then; when she played herself in Dogma.

  • LL

    Cute animal videos … wheee! Some people say the web was invented to distribute porn, but I believe its highest purpose is the distribution of adorable animal videos. And babies. Videos about babies, rather, not actual babies. The technology isn’t there yet for delivery of babies via internet.

  • Bethany

    I read somewhere a speculation by the editor at Buzzfeed that cats may have actually eclipsed porn as the most commonly viewed subject matter on the Internet. Throw in other cute animals to boot, I bet we’re there.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon
  • Lori

    Cute animals + Boston = therapy animals helping people.

    One was present at the bag pick-up near the marathon finish line yesterday for anyone who needed a bit of comfort or stress relief.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/aww/comments/1ch89m/soft_fluffy_therapy_dog_at_the_boston_marathon/

    Others have been brought by to the city as part of a program run by The Lutheran Church Charities. They’ve visited some of the victims who are still in the hospital and the plan is to have them at the Lutheran church near the finish line for anyone to stop by who needs a little comfort from a nice golden retriever.

    Look at those sweet faces:

    http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/04/18/therapy-dogs-arrive-in-boston-to-comfort-survivors-of-marathon-bombing/

  • Rhubarbarian82

    Those are adorable! Therapy dogs are one of our society’s greatest ideas.

    I flew last weekend. It wasn’t a particularly terrible flying experience or anything, but man, I would have given practically anything for a therapy dog that day.

  • Rhubarbarian82

    Those are adorable! Therapy dogs are one of our society’s greatest ideas.

    I flew last weekend. It wasn’t a particularly terrible flying experience or anything, but man, I would have given practically anything for a therapy dog that day.*

    *accidentally deleted this comment. Let’s see if I can manage to un-beef Disqus.**

    **Nope.

  • Dash1

    Therapy dogs at airports: ask and ye shall receive. Well at some airports, anyway. This is a brand new thing, so perhaps it will expand.

  • Rhubarbarian82

    That’s amazing! Thanks for sharing the link. I’m actually flying internationally from LAX in a few weeks; let’s hope I can find some therapy dogs!

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Warning for those who read such things: this will be depressing.

    Maybe it’s because of how spending more than half my life with depression that resisted treatment with a vengeance has shaped my personality, but that’s not what omniscience means to me.

    An omniscient being, by definition, knows all that can be known. What can’t be known gets us into the triangle of free will determinism and random chance, so forget the future because I’d like to skip that tangle.

    What can be known.

    Every suffering. Every stubbed toe. Every broken heart. Every instance of torture. Every time a house cat digs its teeth into a mouse. Every scrape, every cut, every blow. Of ev’ry glove that layed him down Or cut him till he cried out In his anger and his shame “I am leaving, I am leaving” But the fighter still remains.

    Where was I?

    Right, omniscience. Now Fred didn’t say that, Fred said, “All-seeing,” which is perhaps less horrific. If I see someone get punched in the face I still don’t really know what it’s like. To know I have to actually experience the feeling of being punched in the face.

    So where an all-seeing god is merely forced to watch the sum total of all suffering everywhere in real time, an all knowing god is forced to experience it, both as the victim and the attacker. And if we assume that there’s love involved…

    Well for anyone who has never been forced to watch as someone you love suffered at the hands of someone else you love– first, may your ignorance continue. Cherish that ignorance. Second, it hurts like Hell. Seriously, if there is a Hell (I don’t think there is one) that’s what it would feel like.

    But also the pain of the things we have seen, even the things we have experienced, may fade over time. But as they do so too does our knowledge of the event. We no longer understand precisely how much it hurt because if we did the pain wouldn’t have faded.

    An all knowing being doesn’t get that out. If you’re going to know, truly know, what that torture victim 2000 years ago, or 3000 years ago if you prefer, felt then the suffering for you must be present. It must be just as real for you now as it was the day it happened.

    To be all knowing is to have your emotional wounds always remain open, your pain everpresent, time healing nothing.

    And if you add all powerful into the mix, then all of that is coupled with the knowledge that you could make the hurting stop with the slightest of changes. All you have to do is crush all free will for everything forever. Much simpler than messing with plate tectonics. Little more than a minor software upgrade. And totally evil, of course. But one wonders how much pain it takes before Camazotz starts looking like the better alternative.

    All seeing is probably a much less bad experience than all knowing, but it still seems like it would be torture to me, no matter how many cute animals there were.

  • Carstonio

    you could make the hurting stop with the slightest of changes. All you have to do is crush all free will for everything forever.

    For suffering caused by human action, yes. But that wouldn’t apply for suffering that humans couldn’t have caused, like volcano eruptions.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Volcano eruptions don’t cause suffering, things capable of feeling being present when the volcano goes off causes suffering. They need to be in the same spot in three dimensions of space and one of time. If you’re already overriding freewill it seems relatively minor to get all mobile things to leave before the volcano goes. The trees, on the other hand, are pretty well screwed. You’re definitely right about that.

    Camazotz rules: when IT says leave, you leave.

    [Edited to fix subject verb disagreement which completely changed the meaning of a sentence.]

  • Carstonio

    That amounts to holding humans responsible or accountable for events out of their control. Instead of a volcano, let’s presume a meteor small enough to kill one person and that escapes detection until it falls on the person. The free will argument implies that the person’s death was justified because zie chose to stand on that spot at that moment, even though zie had no knowledge of the danger. The argument makes no distinction between that person and someone like Timothy Treadwell.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    No, there’s a reason I edited to fix the subject-verb agreement problem. If you’re truly looking at things from a god’s eye view the problem isn’t the victim or the volcano/meteor, it’s that the two were in the same place at the same time.

    If you’ve already overriden free will then moving the person is more in line with what you’ve done, and involves less fucking with the laws of physics, than moving the natural disaster, and a lot less than preventing the natural disaster entirely.

    Which is more difficult, stopping a meteor from falling, or causing a neuron to fire?

  • Carstonio

    You’re describing something like the deist idea of a god as a celestial watchmaker who follows a hands-off policy regarding the workings of the universe. That model poses fewer problems since it simply accepts that the universe is not a just place. I understand that free will is instead based on the assumption that there is no such thing as a natural event. Under this model, the god deliberately chose to cause the meteor to fall to earth in the first place. This isnt about whether the god should avoid suffering by suspending humans’ ability to make choices. Instead, it’s about the apparent gaming of the system by causing dangers that are both unknown and unavoidable, and then waiving the injustice away as the fault of human choice.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Also, which sentence had the subject-verb agreement problem?

    The one where I used a plural verb with a singular subject thus implying that “things” not “being” was the subject and implying that the things suffering were being held as responsible where instead the confluence of events that resulted in them being in that place at that time was held responsible.

    I understand that free will is instead based on the assumption that there is no such thing as a natural event. Under this model, the god deliberately chose to cause the meteor to fall to earth in the first place.

    This is not, at all, my understanding of the term “free will”. Maybe if I transferred over to an academic career in philosophy like my philosophy teacher had suggested I would understand the term differently, but the heated debates we had in the classroom didn’t really touch on god much (oh, there was cursory mention of Calvinism, of course) and one of the philosophers arguing for determinism was quick to point out that if supernatural beings existed the argument put forth would apply to them as well as human beings.*

    While the existence of a god or gods might have bearing on the question of free will, especially if such were capable of doing things to remove it, whether or not there is so much as one god is a question that does not need to be settled, in my experience, to consider the possibility of free will or lack there of.

    Sort of like the idea of souls. If souls exist that does not mean that God exists. If God exists that does not mean that souls do. Religions may link the two ideas, but the existence or non-existence of souls is logically disconnected from the existence or non-existence of God.

    More on point, I’m not proposing deism or your competing idea of how things come to pass.

    I am proposing this:
    1 The universe exists and absent divine intervention it follows certain physical laws.
    2 A god exists who is omniscient

    That, to me, would seem a very painful existence. Especially if I further suppose this god is all-loving.

    If one goes a step further and posits that the God has the power to change things, the simplest solution to a great deal of suffering would be the elimination of free will. Not only does it eliminate any human caused suffering, or any unnecessary animal caused suffering (frankly I’m surprised you’re bringing up natural disasters when carnivores represent a much harder to solve problem), it also makes it relatively easy to eliminate suffering caused by things like volcanoes and meteors and earthquakes and hurricanes and floods and so forth. Make it so those that can suffer are not in the same place as those things that would cause them to suffer. The elimination of free will means they have to obey (probably don’t even realize they are obeying), either leaving soon enough to escape suffering or never moving to that place in the first place.

    There has never been a natural disaster that transcended either time or space. That means that the way to not suffer based on one is to not be in a certain place at a certain time. That’s why we’re working so hard to understand these things so that we might predict them. Of course even when we humans are able to predict things some people do not heed the warning. If free will is eliminated (or determinism rearranged, it works either way provided god isn’t subject to determinism which… see above and the footnote below) then no one is going to be able to not heed the all knowing thing making them not be at that place at that time.

    What I am then left with is the idea that getting rid of free will would be a great temptation for any such god as it would stop much of that god’s suffering, or at least stop said suffering from increasing.

    (Or the god could simply destroy the universe. That would be a more effective answer to the problem of suffering than any other I’ve seen.)

    *This was true, by the way, if you accepted the argument in question for humans then in order to maintain logical consistency you would also have to accept that it applied to god and angels and such, but that’s only if you accepted that the argument did show that human beings did not have free will.

  • Anton_Mates

    . Make it so those that can suffer are not in the same place as those things that would cause them to suffer. The elimination of free will means they have to obey (probably don’t even realize they are obeying), either leaving soon enough to escape suffering or never moving to that place in the first place.

    I don’t really see how that would eliminate free will, assuming that free will is a well-defined thing that we currently possess. After all, our minds and behavior already obey various psychological laws that we can’t control and mostly don’t even know about. Why would it be more of a problem for free will if those laws were arranged by an omni-God to protect us from suffering?

    E.g., any time a meteor’s going to strike a particular location, its presence is heralded by some sort of strong-smelling gas that causes all sentient creatures to feel deep anxiety and flee from the area. How would that damage our free will?

  • Carstonio

    I’m not necessarily challenging the existence of free will, or suggesting that eliminating it would cure suffering. I’m instead suggesting that using the concept to explain suffering brings up issues of responsibility and accountability. Not just for humans but for gods.

    If you’re postulating the existence of a non-interventionist god, that seems to be deism in everything but name. It’s reasonable to question why the postulated god would create a universe that, as a premise, includes suffering other than that caused by humans deliberately choosing to make other humans suffer. Such as suffering from events that weren’t caused by any intelligence.

    Under that framework, it’s possible that natural events that cause suffering were unavoidable in any system, or that this was the best option, free will or no free will. But that would be all speculation. The postulation leapfrogs most of the problem of suffering by simply acknowledging that suffering is part of existence – the meteor or the natural force that caused it to move is indifferent to the human underneath it. Your scenario between a god

    “Interventionist” is really an inaccurate term, because the alternative is not a god that violates physical laws, but a universe where the god controls everything and the physical laws are merely human perceptions of the god’s workings. The latter is my understanding of most monotheistic doctrines. The problem of suffering in that context involves any choice the god makes to cause some to suffer and others to prosper, not any choice by a human to be in a certain place at a certain time. It would be the same if I climbed to the top of the Empire State Building and deliberately dropped a heavy object – it would be irresponsible for me specifically to say that anyone hurt or killed was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    My favorite joke about God goes something like this:

    Man: God, what is important?

    God: Perspective

    Man: God, what is your perspective? What are the millions of years of time like to you?

    God: They are but a second!

    Man, musing: God, what is a million dollars to you?

    God: It is but a penny!

    Man, feeling clever: God… can you spare a dime?

    God: Sure, can you wait a second?

    Let’s accept the premise (for now) that every suffering is known, ever-present, and unceasing to the omniscient. But you know what?

    I’ve had amazing moments in my life. When I kissed my first wife at the altar, I swear that the entire universe ceased to exist except for me and her. I’ve sat in a rocking chair and watched a sunset after a hard day’s work with people I love, and felt the seconds stretch out like ribbons of molten candy, and wanted nothing more than for those moments to last forever. But time marched on, and while i know those moments were great, the memory of them is dim compared to the experience of them.

    Now, maybe you’re thinking I’m arguing that there’s good to match the bad, that the omnipotent eternity leaves both joy and agony endlessly keen. But that’s really just the warm-up. I’m awake around 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for nearly 37 years now. Moments of pure bliss, moments of utter pain and agony, sparkling and clear in my mind… those are drops of water in an ocean of relatively unremarkable existence. Most hours of most days are filled with unremarkable events, uninteresting passings and doings and makings that constitute the endless numbing hours of our waking lives.

    So that suggests (at least) two possibilities to me:

    1.) God’s perspective is to view everything in binary good-or-bad terms. The fusing of atoms in a star’s core, the converting of starches to sugars in a cow’s gut, the slow drift of an asteroid through it’s gravity-bound path, all are either wonders or horrors of this immeasurably complex system, and the God of Job is so enamored of his amazing creation that the very function of it astounds and delights him. Yes, there are horrors, but what you and I see (or choose to ignore) as the bland and neutral facets of existence, the God of Job sees as a miracle of complexity and harmonies.

    2.) God perspective contains both sorrow and joy in equal measure. Despair leavened with hope, and joy tempered with reserve. He cannot ignore pain and suffering, but neither can he deny rapturous delight and happiness. Someone you love suffers at the hands of someone else you love, and it’s agony. But in God’s omniscience, someone finds cause to show love to someone they hate. You & I can’t see the whole pattern, can’t see the warp and the woof, or the palate; we can only see our own threads. Why does God persist in the face of such suffering? Because he knows something you do not know, about joy and hope and delight. The God of Job isn’t (just) boasting, he’s trying to share his Perspective on what wonders are unseen by Job.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    I’m sorry that I spent so much time responding to Carstonio that I don’t have any time to respond to you today. Hopefully I’ll have more time later.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    It probably comes as no surprise that I disagree.

    Where I disagree is on the issue of perspective. The God from the joke doesn’t have it. The God from the joke doesn’t know what these things are like if millions of years are as a second to him:

    When I kissed my first wife at the altar, I swear that the entire universe ceased to exist except for me and her. I’ve sat in a rocking chair and watched a sunset after a hard day’s work with people I love, and felt the seconds stretch out like ribbons of molten candy, and wanted nothing more than for those moments to last forever.

    To understand those things requires a more intimate perspective. Which is not to say that a god who knows everything shouldn’t also have a larger view. Humans can look at things from multiple perspectives, it would be extremely limiting the concept of divinity to assume that god can’t. There may be particular theologies that argue that, but in general I think it would be a mistake to assume that a randomly selected god being discussed can’t.

    It’s also not so much that I disagree about the way horrors and miracles of complexity and harmonies/joy stack up with respect to each other, it’s that I don’t hold to the theory that they can be balanced against one another.

    Healing can obviously occur if you’ve got horror then joy, the opposite if the order is joy then horror, but a significant part of that is the fading of the knowledge of what the first part of the equation was like. If you receive them in equal measure at the same time, or the memory does not become dim with respect to the experience of the first one when the second is experienced, I don’t think you can really place them on a scale and say, “Yeah I was tortured by the sunset was great so it all works out.”

    Ok, silly example, but you know what I mean.

    All of that said, I think what you say is sound in that if I agreed with your premises I would agree with the conclusions you draw from them.

  • storiteller

    Personally, my understanding of God’s “all-knowing” is that what you describe didn’t really happen until Christ suffered on the cross. I don’t believe that God truly experienced human suffering until that point, when all of it in the entire universe was bound up in that very second, experienced as an eternity. I believe Jesus came so that God could truly understand what it meant to be human and it culminated in such intense suffering, followed by the grace of completely overcoming it that only God can give. But that’s my personal theology. However, I also believe that the intense beauty of the world and creation is a physical/visible sign of that grace.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    But that’s my personal theology.

    I believe that is also Fred’s theology, and can be found in things he has written about the incarnation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    “And if you add all powerful into the mix, then all of that is coupled with the knowledge that you could make the hurting stop with the slightest of changes. All you have to do is crush all free will for everything forever.”
    No, no you wouldn’t. You would need to stop volcanos and other causes of suffering that aren’t rooted in conscious choice. (No, being in the place where a volcano is happening doesn’t count.)
    But, you could also severly reduce free-will based suffering via two methods, one informed choices (as in grant people the information that they are otherwise lacking) and two simply not creating psychopaths.
    Free will as a resolution to the problem of suffering requires the notion that God share the defender’s deliberate lack of imagination.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    But, you could also severly reduce free-will based suffering via two methods, one informed choices (as in grant people the information that they are otherwise lacking)

    Thus writing victim blaming into natural law. One can make informed choices but if they don’t make the choice God’s information is leaning toward it becomes, “Well God warned you, didn’t he/she/it/they? It’s all your fault that you were victimized.”

    That does maintain free will, but it also makes it so that the only way to use free will rather than be God’s automaton is to make things worse on yourself. So free will accompanied by being hit with a stick when actually bothering to use it. It doesn’t crush free will, just institutes a Pavlovian response against using it. And also, probably though not as definitely, engineers society to have no sympathy for those who suffer as a result of exercising their free will.

    and two simply not creating psychopaths.

    You are aware that the mentally healthy are more likely to commit crimes than the mentally ill, right? Because blaming human caused suffering on the mentally ill rather than those who actually cause it has a long history of creating more suffering for a real life group.

    Nothing we say here in this thread is likely to have much in the way of repercussions in the way of theology or the actions of divine beings should any exist, however pinning suffering on mental illness when evidence shows that’s bullshit (little to no predictive link between psychopathy and crimes) does have an effect. It’s been studied, it’s been looked into, and the effect is to further marginalize an already marginalized group (the mentally ill) and cause more suffering.

    So say there is a god and that god followed your advice, point the second, what would that do? Nothing or, at best, little to deal with suffering. So why the fuck would you bring it up?

    It does cause harm by contributing to a false narrative whose existence and reinforcement hurts real people, it doesn’t support your argument. Why is it even in your post?

    If I had to guess I’d go with the last four words of your post (deliberate lack of imagination) but I don’t have to guess. I can ask. So I am asking: What the fuck?

    Please respond without unnecessarily targeting any marginalized groups. Or unnecessarily targeting anyone for that matter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    “Thus writing victim blaming into natural law. One can make informed choices but if they don’t make the choice God’s information is leaning toward it becomes, “Well God warned you, didn’t he/she/it/they? It’s all your fault that you were victimized.””

    Again, a deliberate lack of imagination. What about the people who cause suffering due to ignorance? Communication abilities, there, would greatly serve.

    Take, for instance, witch hunts. This is a more recent thing than we know and it involves mothers joining their communities in casting out their own children. How many of those people would be all too glad not to do that if only they had the knowledge in hand that said children were not witches? The mother? The father? The friends of the family? People with a sense of compassion? I’d say most.

    A dramatic reduction of suffering could be achieved through the simple act of informing all those adults that the children in question are not witches.

    Does that require victim blaming? No.

    Does that make it so that free will requires deliberately harming oneself and others? No. It only makes the choice by which free will is exercised an informed choice. To suggest otherwise is to suggest that the only possible free choice is one made in the absence of knowledge.

    As for the issue of the mentally ill. I did not target the mentally ill. I targeted psychopaths, psychopothy being defined as a condition of being incapable of remorse, regret, empathy, or compassion.

    I was very clear to specify psychopaths, rather than mental illness. While I’m well aware that the mentally ill, as a category, are not a threat to anybody and are much maligned by society, psychopath does not equal “the mentally ill”.

    If, however, it is not that you believe I specified mental illness but used language that a casual observer could take to be a part of marginalizing the mentally ill, then that would be a valid point… and also one that you could have made in specific.

    So, allow me to rephrase. “only make human beings who are capable of regret, remorse, empathy, and compassion.”

  • Anton_Mates

    Thus writing victim blaming into natural law. One can make informed choices but if they don’t make the choice God’s information is leaning toward it becomes, “Well God warned you, didn’t he/she/it/they? It’s all your fault that you were victimized.”

    But if victim blaming causes suffering, people would presumably receive divine warnings about doing that as well. That’d make us more likely to sympathize instead, or be concerned about the victim’s mental health if they seem prone to self-injury.

    Besides, we already receive information through our senses/instincts/learned understanding of the world, and (usually) use it to avoid suffering as best we can. We know what a fire looks like, we know that touching it hurts, so we don’t touch it. That may make it easier to blame someone who knowingly decides to touch it anyway, but it also prevents most people from touching it in the first place, which seems like an acceptable tradeoff suffering-wise.

    So free will accompanied by being hit with a stick when actually bothering to use it. It doesn’t crush free will, just institutes a Pavlovian response against using it.

    Choices have consequences, and we’re already hit with a stick whenever we make a choice with less-than-optimal consequences. To the degree that we’re capable of being conditioned Skinner-style, we’re already conditioned by the world around us. That must not be a problem for free will, if we have any.

    And also, probably though not as definitely, engineers society to have no sympathy for those who suffer as a result of exercising their free will.

    Not if those who choose to withhold their sympathy suffer as a result….

  • Will Hennessy

    I’d like to wish everyone a Happy 2nd Amendment Day (or, at least, that’s what my friends and I want to call it, since it is the 20th Anniversary of Waco…).

  • Rhubarbarian82

    Yeah, that’s really what’s important right now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Alexander/502988241 Alan Alexander

    “And the beetles too. I think Haldane was right, that God is inordinately fond of beetles.”

    For God so loved the beetles, that he fed the oak tree behind my house to them when I wasn’t looking. Thanks God. You owe me $100 for the cost of cutting down my tree and hauling it away.

  • MaryKaye

    I can’t resist my crow story (no pictures, sorry):

    My husband and I were walking in Seattle and we heard an unholy fuss of crows. We followed it to a parking lot where a large flock of crows were attempting to help one of their number who had become stuck in the handles of a plastic shopping bag. They were swooping on and attacking the bag, but couldn’t get it off the trapped crow. There was some trash in the bag and it could barely fly under the load. When I approached it flew into a juniper bush and got stuck there. Surrounded by cawing crows, I came up to it and looked at the situation. It had put its neck through the handles and the bag had then twisted around to form a tight noose.

    I took hold of the bag and slowly began to unwind it. My thumb was about two inches from the crow’s beak and I thought it very likely I would end up cut to the bone right over the thumb knuckle. But the crow sat still while I unwound the bag and lifted it off. Then it flew up, and the whole flock flew around me three times, cawing madly, and flew away.

    I will treasure this experience forever–that I was able to help, and that the crow understood I was helping. (Or was too tired to fight, but it sure didn’t look it. Their eyes are very fierce close up.)

  • Trixie_Belden

    That is an awesome story! Thanks for sharing.

  • storiteller

    Crows are ridiculously smart. They’re one of the few non-mammals to be found not just using but actively making tools (and not just for getting food!): http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/01/new-crow-tools/

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Yeah, I recall reading that they will also do things like drop nuts in the street near traffic lights, wait for cars to run over them, then swoop in and grab the nuts after the car’s weight cracks the shell.

  • Mrs Grimble

    Yes, my husband actually saw that once. Not near a traffic light, but on a rural road with a fair number of heavy trucks passing; the crow was rolling hazelnuts into the path of vehicles and letting them do the nut-cracking. He also swears he’s heard a pair of crows ‘talking’ together, making a series of soft sounds at each other that resembled the give-and-take of a conversation.

    My husband is fond of crows.

  • P J Evans

    I’ve heard jays doing that. One was talking to itself – little chirps and whistles. Ravens do it too. It seems to be a ‘I feel good’ thing for them.

  • Anton_Mates

    If it’s a single bird continuously “babbling” to itself, it’s probably young. A couple months after fledging, they go through a phase where they chain together lots of sounds, seemingly at random; as they age, these start to sound more and more like adult calls, or pieces of adult calls. Possibly analogous to the babbling of human babies, where they practice the syllables of their native language before they learn to assemble them into meaningful words.

    You also see pairs of adult birds cooing softly at each other–probably an affiliative signal, they do it after they’ve had a fight sometimes–and parents cooing at babbling or begging babies. Even if you’re too far away to hear the coo, you can see when they’re doing it because they sort of bob their heads up and down while pointing their bills down to their chests.

  • P J Evans

    It was looking for food in the flowerbeds by the front door – the door was open, and I was inside, but not visible. I’d never heard a jay talking to itself before. It was startled when I came to the door to see what was making the noise.

  • Anton_Mates

    Cool! What time of year was it?

  • Anton_Mates

    You’re awesome! Trapped crows should always be rescued.

    
It’s actually quite difficult for a crow to seriously lacerate a person, even if they want to. I’m part of a UW lab studying crows (one of two labs, actually), and I get bit by birds I’m banding pretty regularly; I think they’ve only ever drawn blood once. They have to learn to bite effectively, too; only the older birds know how to grab your skin with the tip of their bill and twist for maximum discomfort. (For which I blame them not at all; I would feel perfectly entitled to peck a giant human who was putting leg bands on me.) The younger ones just kind of pinch you and then look embarrassed at their failure.

    I don’t know if it knew you were helping, but they are often quite passive when you first pick them up–perhaps playing dead, to see if you’re not actually a serious predator.

  • Tofu_Killer

    I think God is inordinately fond of everything.

    I would quibble with the use of inordinately, since being delighted with everything should be how we encounter the world; but this is god after all, and if I can feel flooded with light and understanding and real reverence in the midst of a little rain, just try to grasp what that rain says to god.
    It is easy to fall in love with this world.

  • HyperSpiral

    Whoever added the weird intro and outtro to Job really ruined it, and this blog post. “Baby animals are awesome! Baby humans not so much, they’re pretty much disposable. Jeez, here, have some new ones, same as the old ones.”

  • Daniel

    Well he wasn’t really over keen on Job’s family, he let them get destroyed by a or the devil. He didn’t really seem to love Job’s animals either, and I suppose he may have been demonstrating his great love of boil causing bacteria but he didn’t stop Job getting covered in pustules either. I suppose though love means never having to say you’re sorry. You can just replace all the things you allowed to be killed with shiny new ones.

  • flat

    great article Fred, it made me smile.

  • MH

    > “We expect this God character to give us the right and final
    explanation, but after reinforcing Job’s prior refutation of the earlier
    foolish arguments, God basically just says “Trust me.””

    I’ve seen a lot of people talk about how this, and the preceding refutations, are a profound exploration of the meaning of suffering and so on. But it’s remarkable how carefully everyone doing this avoids remembering the beginning of Job, which makes very clear that God’s reasons are both easily understood, and entirely morally bankrupt. He is causing Job’s suffering in order to win a bet.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Aw, cute videos. I want to see. ._. I’m on a limited data plan so I can’t view videos.

    24 hours in Michigan and there’s been a snow storm, a limited data plan, bedbugs and rampant racism. ~_~ Yeah, fun times.

  • Lori

    That snow was totally ridiculous. I’m sorry about the bedbugs and the racism. As for the limited data plan, is there a public library nearby? If so I imagine they have some shiney, free, unlimited internet they’d be willing to loan you.

    Other than that, I got nothin’. (Things here are still a little crazy due to parental illnesses. Nothing life-threatening but between the two of them they’re averaging about 4 doctors appointments a week right now. If I can get them settled I’ll try to get in touch with you about meeting for lunch or something while you’re still in MI.)

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    As it turns out, I’m staying in the middle of nowhere and I don’t have access to the transportation I was hoping for, so my options are pretty limited. Seriously missing Washington’s bus system right about now. :p

    Sorry to hear about your parents. I hope they start feeling better soon. I’ll be in the state until the first, so there’s some time (and if not, hamna tabu). At least it’s a good retreat to get some writing done.

  • KevinC

    Huh. I wish I lived in Fred’s parallel universe. Over here where I’m at, copies of the Book of Job start with Yahweh killing the man’s kids and torturing him so he could win a friendly wager with the Devil. Then, instead of saying things like, “Dude! Aren’t baby giraffes adorable!” he’s all, “Can you lose the cords of Orion, puny human? Didn’t think so. I can, so STFU, punk. Just be grateful I’m giving you better replacement kids.”

    I can’t wait to see Fred’s rainbow sparkles and ponies interpretation of Numbers 31:17-18. -_-

  • KevinC

    Oops, that’s supposed to be “loose” the cords of Orion.

  • Carstonio

    I admit that Fred and others talk about Job as if the god in the story were really a metaphor for the storyteller’s convenience, a personification of natural forces that the storyteller really sees as undirected. A story where one person’s suffering is the outcome of forces indifferent to the person’s existence is a far different one philosophically than one where a being chooses to cause events with the goal of causing suffering for another being.

    That’s no excuse for the dickishness of your comment.

  • KevinC

    You guys are doing the exact same thing for Yahweh that fans of the Left Behind series do when they’re all, “Oh wow, Buck and Rayford are such awesome heroes!” How can anyone complain that Rayford is a douche to Hattie (and pretty much everyone else)? That’s taking it literally, which is a major no-no.

    Of course, when it’s the Bible, we know everything in it is always wonderful because, well, it’s the Bible. It’s the Good Book, so everything in it is good, as long as you interpret it in the right way. Because, Bible.

  • Carstonio

    Do you realize that you’re replying to someone who doesn’t belong to any religion and who has repeatedly condemned the behavior attributed to the Old Testament god, not just in Job but also in the Sacrifice of Isaac story?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    If you’re going to insist on sticking to a literal reading of that bit at all costs, you probably want to note that God doesn’t do any of those things. Satan does. If you want to have the argument that “allows to happen” is the same thing as “causes to happen”, that’s fine, but you’ll actually have to make it.


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