Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd as he arrives for an open-air mass in the Terreiro do Paso in Lisbon, on May 11, 2010Pope Benedict XVI continues to look for ways to deflect the world’s attention from the fact that the Church he rules is a remorseless, Mafialike cabal of criminals and criminal-enablers. CBS News reports that he used a question from a Japanese child who survived the recent earthquake there as a launching-point for his own idiotic attempt at theodicy (WebCite cached article):

In an unprecedented move, Pope Benedict XVI held a televised question-and-answer session to mark Good Friday, fielding queries from as far away as Japan, Iraq and the Ivory Coast on topics as wide-ranging as death, violence, intimidation and suffering. …

The first question came from Elena, a 7-year-old Japanese girl who told the pope that many children her age were killed in the March 11 disaster and asked why children have to be so sad.

“I also have the same questions: Why is it this way? Why do you have to suffer so much while others live in ease?” Benedict said. “And we do not have the answers but we know that Jesus suffered as you do, an innocent.”

Trying for words of comfort, the pope told her that “even if we are still sad, God is by your side.”

He said Elena should tell herself: “One day, I will understand that this suffering was not empty, it wasn’t in vain, but behind it was a good plan, a plan of love.”

There are so many points of illogic in the Pope’s answer, I hardly know how to begin addressing them. Since I can’t possibly cover them all, I’ll handle the three main ones:

  1. That one innocent (i.e. Jesus) suffered, does not mean everyone else’s suffering is good. This is a form of “two wrongs make a right” thinking and is fallacious.

  2. What does it matter that God is at anyone’s side, while s/he suffers? I mean, seriously … what fucking good does that accomplish?

  3. The Pope concedes “we do not have the answers,” yet — in total contradiction of this admission — concludes nonetheless that there is some great cosmic “plan of love.”

The idea that “God has a plan” is commonly stated by many theists. But curiously, not one of them dares divulge the content of this “plan”! Sorry, but unless you know what the “plan” is and can describe it to me, you can’t say there is one. No, I’m not just going to take your word for it. A plan you’ve never seen and cannot explain, is inseparable from one that doesn’t exist at all.

The sad truth about this theodicy by the Pope — and about all other theodicies proposed by any other believer in the Abrahamic God over the last c. 2,500 years — is that they all fail the test of logic. Every single last one of them.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: M.Mazur / www.thepapalvisit.org.uk via Flickr.

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  • Holly

    I was raised Catholic. Suspend your judgement right there, please. I however am not head over heals in love with the Church. I only mention this so that I can explain that because of this religion in my background, I can see why the Pope is trying to come from. His mistake is not in his attempt to answer the question but rather that he assumed that what he was saying is clear to everyone. Any Catholic or ex-Catholic can likely get where he is coming from simply because we already know what he assumes everyone should know. Enter the person that doesn't understand these assumptions (the author of this piece apparently) and you get comments written from ignorance. 1. Catholics believe that Jesus suffered for us. It's part of the religion deal with it. 2. Abrahamic religions believe that one can draw strength from God to carry on in times of suffering. So if someone believes it makes a big difference. 3. Just because he doesn't have the answers doesn't mean there isn't a plan. I'm not good at math it doesn't mean that formalas don't exist. That's just bad logic.

    • The problem with the Pope's remarks is that he spent most of his career as an academic. He knows and understands philosophy and logic. He cannot possibly help but know how invalid his theodicy was. If there were premises involved that needed explaining, he should have added them in … somehow. But he didn't.

      As for your three points:

      1. It's not my job to "deal with" the fact that Jesus died for us (according to Christians). It's the job of Christians to get over this "Jesus suffered, so suffering is good" thing. It is, as I explained, "two wrongs make a right" thinking, and is fallacious.

      2. If people "draw strength" from God, please explain that. How does it work? Where is it? How is it accomplished? It's not enough just to say that it happens … it must be illustrated. Including detailed instructions. Diagrams might help.

      3. Claiming there must be a plan, IS — logically — an "answer" to the child's question. Therefore, neither you nor the Pope can logically say "I don't have any answers, but I know a 'plan' exists." It doesn't wash. You might, rather, say, "I have no answer for you other than to plop down the raw, unfounded, and undemonstrable claim that there is a 'plan' of some type … somewhere, someday, somehow." It's not a lot better, informationally speaking, but it's at least logical.

      The bottom line is that Christians who wish to be logical, ought never to attempt any kind of theodicy. If they do they will invariably stumble into some sort of illogic. Much better for them just to admit they have no idea why there's needless suffering in the universe, rather than attempt to excuse it or make it seem like it's something other than what it really is. As I said, all theodicies always fail the test of logic. Every time.

      BTW, you probably won't believe this, but I too was raised Catholic.