Tuesday, June 15, 2010

God Weighs In on the Singer/Benatar Controversy

Jesus has spoken! Well, through his representatives at Christianity Today, that is. Oh, and through his servant Albert Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who has 'christened' Singer as "one of the most reprehensible intellectual forces alive today." And now it seems the good professor has topped himself by daring to ask the question, "How good does life have to be, to make it reasonable to bring a child into the world?" Wow, how's it feel to be in the presence of PURE EVIL?! Mwahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Anyway, the first half of the article basically covers the same emptily rhetorical ground that we've already gone over in previous conversations. Things don't really get interesting until a bit farther down, when what I consider to be Professor Singer's Pollyannish conclusion is addressed. In case you haven't been paying attention, here's what he wrote-

"In my judgment, for most people, life is worth living," he writes. "Even if that is not yet the case, I am enough of an optimist to believe that, should humans survive for another century or two, we will learn from our past mistakes and bring about a world in which there is far less suffering than there is now."

Interestingly, what follows is a challenge from the Christian perspective of Professor Singer's cockeyed optimism. This doesn't surprise me at all. As I've stated before on this blog, and written about somewhat more extensively in my book, the one thing the otherwise goofy Bible has going for it is a realistic appraisal of just how fucked up life truly is-

Though we may hope future generations will learn from our mistakes, history gives little such comfort. And besides, Christian anthropology recognizes the constraints of original sin (Rom. 3:9-20; 5:12-13). If anything, Christians might be considered more pessimistic than even Singer about human prospects. Jesus offered no hope for an ever-improving human condition. On the contrary, he indicated that good and evil would spar until his climactic return and triumphant victory at the end of the age.

Take away the mythological mumbo-jumbo, and I'd say this is a pretty accurate assessment, no? It seems that in this case, Singer is out-faithing the faithful. Continuing on-

Still, Singer prompts us to reflect on why Christians nevertheless enthusiastically bring children into this world. We harbor no false hope about eradicating suffering through evolution. We understand these children to be stained with sin from the beginning. We groan along with a creation subjected to futility, currently awaiting redemption (Rom. 8:19-23). What reason do we have, then, to bring new children into this world?

No false hope of eradicating suffering in this world. So far, so good. Why 'enthusiastically bring children into this world', then? And for once, we are led to believe that there will be an actual discussion, with logical reasons given. Great news, right?

Unfortunately, things go downhill from here. Here's the first 'reason' offered-

The simple answer is that we fulfill God's original command to Adam and Eve: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Gen. 1:28). God's command alone would be enough to compel our obedience.

A simple answer for a simple people. Do it because the God Whose Ass you're kissing commands it. Just following orders, ma'am.

But wait! All is not lost. Four other supposedly sound reasons for procreation are offered, these being- Design. Blessing. Crucible. and Hope. Unfortunately, these aren't expounded upon in the article, but I think we can perform a little speculation on our own without getting too far off the mark-

Design- God made us. God made the world. If we don't like it, we're pussies, and tough shit, anyway.

Blessing- If we're just willing to put up with the shit, and subject our children to the shit, eventually God will reach down and pull us out of the shit, clean us up, and then we'll be able to spend the rest of eternity kissing His Ass without all the shit, and being ever so thankful that we don't have to live in shit anymore.

Crucible- Shit makes us stronger, presumably so we'll be able to kiss God's Ass for long stretches of time without getting tired.

Hope- Let's all hope that putting our kids through all this shit was worth it.

There IS a little bit more on good, Godly hope a little farther down-

Christian hope differs significantly from the evolutionary hope harbored by Singer. Hope rooted in God's sovereign care for his creation transcends circumstances—even circumstances so dire as Judah's exile into Babylon. The exile, God's judgment for persistent sin, was cataclysmic for everyone in Jerusalem and the southern kingdom. Hope was in short supply. So how did God address his downtrodden people?

So, what was God's sage advice (command) in the face of the Babylonian exile. "KEEP HAVING KIDS!" Thus spaketh the Lord.

The article ends with some more claptrap about having children to please God, BECAUSE it pleases God that we have more children. God didn't HAVE to create people, after all. In fact, He knew when He did it that life would end up in the toilet. Then WHY did He go ahead and do it anyway? Because we'd be that much more grateful when God finally deigned to fish us out of the toilet, making us that much more eager to kiss His Holy Ass forever and ever, amen.

Seriously, that's what it says, more or less. Read it yourselves.


CM said...

ZOMG, I just became a Christian again. Bend over, Lord, for my lips are puckered!

Seriously, thought, great piece. I would even say it's the shit!

I wonder, though, if their ready and gleeful agreement that life sucks, and so do people has more to do with scaring potential customers into buying their dogma.

metamorphhh said...

There's certainly a feedback dynamic going on there, but I'd say the bulk of Christian apologetics is an attempt at justifying the existence of an omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent God as the source of such a fucked up creation. Only one way, really...blame ourselves!

Other religions have other ways of glossing over the problem.

CM said...

Maybe I'm just biased by my experience with Mormon apologetics. They mostly concentrate on ad-homs against anti-mormons, most of whom were members at one point, by trying to paint them as debauched libertines who wanted to have lots of premarital sex and wear human underwear as opposed to the sacred underjams. They also love toting the fact that "being active in the Church" is correlated with higher rates of education and otherwise increases your quality of life, supposedly. That, and trying to map out the precise route that ancient Israelites took in order to come to the Americas. But then Mormons are a peculiar people...

I chimed in with a comment on the article. Let's see how long they live it up.

CM said...

*leave it up.

metamorphhh said...

LOL --->'human underwear'

Shadow said...

"Thus spaketh the Lord."

Haha! Priceless

Sister Y said...

So basically . . . Christians bring children into the world because they're gullible and mean?

metamorphhh said...


I think it's a case of "Sure, everybody else's children may be going to hell, but MY little Johnny could NEVER become a Unitarian!"

Shadow said...

what the f is a unitarian?

Shadow said...

*After reading wikipedia*

Oh, right...

CM said...

So basically . . . Christians bring children into the world because they're gullible and mean?

I believe you have just given a perfect description of humanity in general in two words.

CM said...

Just read Peter Singer's follow-up piece (thanks, Rob, for linking to it on TVFH). I have bad news for those of you who thought he might be testing the waters. He took great care to assure the masses that he does not endorse Benatar's views in any way, shape, or form, and advertise his own hefty contribution to the gene pool. Of course, providing any coherent reasons for his opposing views did not occur to Singer, unless "I have argued for a broader view that takes into account the preferences of all sentient beings, and seeks to satisfy them to the greatest extent possible" counts for anything. In other words, as long as most currently existing people prefer to have a living doll that looks like them, fucking things up for future people is justified? And you can just disregard them because they don't have preferences yet?

Shadow said...

Shouldn´t we discuss praticalities sometimes?

Like, how could the human race prepare to accept antinatalism? What would be like to live in a world without those millions that we see, in a civilization that is dying?

That should be a great theme to discuss.

As long as we are rebel antinatalists, meaning we are just a few people in a "guerilla war" that´s ok, for us to choose the right way.

But for humanity as a whole, things would be just a little more complicated.

CM said...

Shadow, I've been thinking a lot about it, too. I think such a discussion, if it provided some plausible descriptions of how an antinatalist society would function, would remove a lot of the arguments for antinatalism being pointless, futile, and unrealistic.

On the other hand, there would be some unsavory issues that you would have to address, and since people already think Peter Singer, of all people, is a genocide advocate, only imagine what reactions a discussion of universal sterilization at birth would elicit. Not to mention the fact that even if most people were antinatalists, what would they do about the remaining breeder-minded folk who decided to keep reproducing at all costs by reversing their sterilizations or finding alternate ways of replication, like human cloning?

I think a lot of the issues we have with breeders today could be solved by automatically taking all new children into societal custody. That would remove most of the incentives to breed. But in order for that to work, we would have to ensure that most people were antinatalists. Now how do we make that happen?..

Shadow said...

Yes, CM. Plus a lot more to consider, logistically speaking and all.

I mean, how can like 10 people left survive? And how can they be secure and safe and have some health care?

This all comes into the scales.

But you know, antinatalism only tries to prevent the worst ending.

Someday people will have to abandon this rock for good, forcibly.

Dana said...

Do religious mythologists consider their consequences before procreating?

By that I mean, not only are they bringing a child into the world without that child's say, but they are also generating a soul which, according to the mythology, has an eternal fate that could be horrendous and beyond control. Why even take that chance with your progeny?

Is it worth it to confront them on this?

metamorphhh said...


Good point, and one that's been brought up here on more than one occasion. The risk goes up with the stakes, and in the case of some Christian mythology, the stakes are infinitely bad, making the risk wholly unacceptable.

CM said...

Shadow - I think at some point they will have to start stocking up on Nembutal. That's why phased extinction should definitely not be tried, IMO - the last generation might think, "if our predecessors didn't want to shoulder the burden themselves, why should we?"