Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Oct/12

24

Richard Mourdock, the consistent Christian

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“I just struggled with it myself for a long time but I came to realize: Life is that gift from God that I think even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Ummm . . . what’s not theologically accurate about that statement?  Whether we construe Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s statement generously and limit it to his obvious intentions—that the life that results from a rape is a gift that God intends to happen—or construe it less favorably to what Mourdock meant to say but faithfully to Christian theology—that God intended the rape that impregnates the victim—either interpretation is required by the idea of an omniscient, omnipotent God.  Given the nonstop stream of prayers that believers send God’s way every second, seeking favorable dispositions of, inter alia, their home foreclosure, their bypass operation, the election, the aftermath of an earthquake and every other natural disaster (belatedly),  it’s clear that believers rightly reason that there is not a single aspect of life invisible to the all-powerful God and over which he fails to exercise utter control (even if he sometimes seems to get a little distracted).  I mean, if he can perform such Iron Age miracles as ventriloquizing through a burning bush , he can sure as heck prevent a rape if he chose to do so.  His will has no option but to be done. 

 

Non-believers are supposed to respect belief as something deeply thought-out.  But it turns out that Christians are actually closet Manicheans, unable to live with the unpalatable consequences of their theology:

 

“As a pro-life Catholic, I’m stunned and ashamed that Richard Mourdock believes God intended rape,” said Dan Parker, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party.

“Victims of rape are victims of an extremely violent act, and mine is not a violent God.”

So if there are aspects of life that God does not control, he is not omnipotent, but just one magical force among many. 

The Mourdock faux pas in airing the ineluctable implications of Christian belief will cost the Republican party.  That belief itself, of course, will escape unscathed.    

 

13 comments

  • Bob McHenry · October 24, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Fellow in Indiana has figured out another of God’s mysterious ways: If He decides you should bear a child, He may have to arrange for you to be raped in order to bring it about.

    Lest we forget, Indiana is the state where the legislature once entertained a proposal to change the value of π to exactly 3, based on a passage in scripture.

  • Author comment by David Hume · October 24, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Excellent point! Too bad the MSN won’t talk much about this…though various people of all persuasions have admitted it. But the reality is that most humans abhor consistency.

  • Steve Cardon · October 24, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Of course, put in historical context, it is interesting that Catholic Dan Parker is shocked at the idea that God intended for rape to occur. After all, Rape has been used by armies since the earliest beginning of war as a means to subjugate, and dilute the gene pool of the conquered.

    The Catholic church obviously either granted tacit approval of the practice, or at least turned a blind eye. Surely God must have approved of this else, “The Church” would have excommunicated half the conquistadors who were busy establishing the Spanish Empire. Of course they were also providing the way for mass conversions to Catholicism.

    I suppose men during the crusades were strictly prevented from raping the Saracen women as they were busy killing their way to Jeruselem… but that was the “old” Catholic Church.

  • Rabbi Moshe Rudner · October 25, 2012 at 12:51 am

    Needless to say, theologians have libraries full of explanations for why seemingly non-benevolent events occur despite the omnipotence of a benevolent deity. What’s so interesting about modern America is the democratization of theological reasoning such that people without any pretense of an interest in rigorous consistency are given as serious a say in the matter as those who believe (that they believe) in theological consistency with regards to “the hard questions”.

    Of course of all the disciplines worthy of being harshly scrutinized, theology isn’t too far from the top of the list (past health, economics, defense, etc) and theologians themselves should be called forth to defend their notions regarding the suffering of innocents but one can hardly blame some accountant or homemaker for an inability to field a singular theory that meshes their myriad fears and superstitions into a coherent metaphysical system.

  • Matt · October 25, 2012 at 1:15 am

    It doesn’t have to be the case that God intended the rape to happen. The obvious response is that God wants people to do good, but in order for people to actually have the chance to do good things (and not just be mere puppets for the will of God) they have to have free will. For God to predetermine every human action down the course he most favors would disallow for any sort of free action.

    I think this would be the natural response for most Christians. After all, any time when, in the Bible, we’re told that Jesus tells others to “go and sin no more” there wouldn’t be any point, at least if we’re taking the stance that God causes all actions. They would just go from one action that God caused (the sinning) to another action that God caused (the being good). God would go from causing one puppet to do something – that God apparently didn’t actually want to happen – to causing that same puppet to do a contradictory thing. But it’s clearly not nessesary for this to be the case if God can endow people with free will.

    Anyway, the kind of argument put forward in this post reminds me of how Richard Dawkins usually argues that if you’re Christian you have to accept a literal reading of Genesis. Painting the idea you’re arguing against in the worst possible light, makes it all that much easier to win the argument.

  • John · October 25, 2012 at 3:08 am

    Come on Rabbi Moshe Rudner. Every time someone makes the “How can a benevolent God allow evil to happen?” argument, the response from theists is always, “You’re just smart enough to understand it.” Well, most of us on this forum are pretty smart. Try us. Make the argument. And don’t refer us to some obscure book. Make the argument here. It’s not like it’s string theory.

    “The Mourdock faux pas in airing the ineluctable implications of Christian belief will cost the Republican party. That belief itself, of course, will escape unscathed.”

    So true. There is no reason why the Senators from Indiana should not be conservative Republicans, and Mourdock probably just threw the seat away. And he’ll go down thinking he was right.

  • WmarkW · October 25, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Almost all anti-abortion reasoning comes down to approximately:
    1) whether a fetus is a person is obviously an important question on which God must have a strong opinion
    2) in the case of a WANTED pregnancy, God obviously sides with the pre-parent(s) that their fetus is a child
    3) so God must have the same opinion in the case of every fetus

    If it wasn’t for the ability to define the issue as classifying some people as sub-human, like Dred Scott or Naziism, it would have lost its teeth as soon as feminism and the acceptance of non-procreative sex began.

  • Kevin Lawrence · October 26, 2012 at 2:55 am

    I wonder, Matt, if you could find me a quote where Richard Dawkins “argues that if you’re Christian you have to accept a literal reading of Genesis”? It doesn’t, to me, sound at all like the kind of thing he’d say.

  • Rabbi Moshe Rudner · October 26, 2012 at 10:34 am

    John, on the off chance that your comment purports to address mine can I ask that you return to said comment and try reading it again, aloud this time perhaps? :-)

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  • Matt · October 27, 2012 at 4:39 am

    Kevin,

    I’d probably have to search awhile to find exact quotes by Dawkins arguing that real Christians except a literal reading of Genesis. It’s certainly possible I’m wrong, and he hasn’t suggested anything of the sort. However, the greater point was that Dawkins has written things in the spirit of this post – he’s highlighted examples of Christians saying things that are generally considered outlandish, and then claimed that it’s really those examples that are the true epitome of Christianity. For example after Pat Robertson made contraversial comments after the Haitian earthquate Dawkins wrote this in the Washington Post:

    “Loathsome as Robertson’s views undoubtedly are, he is the Christian who stands squarely in the Christian tradition. The agonized theodiceans who see suffering as an intractable “mystery”, or who “see God” in the help, money and goodwill that is now flooding into Haiti, or (most nauseating of all) who claim to see God “suffering on the cross” in the ruins of Port-au-Prince, those faux-anguished hypocrites are denying the centrepiece of their own theology. It is the obnoxious Pat Robertson who is the true Christian here.”

  • mcygnet · October 30, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    I see where Matt’s point about Dawkins is coming from because Dawkins does tend to call shenanigans when the cleverer Christians go all allegorical on him. See. e.g., http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/ross-douthat-doesnt-understand-atheism/

  • Kevin Lawrence · October 30, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    Richard Dawkins, whether or not you consider him a good advocate for atheism, excels at at least two things:

    1) Calling shenanigans on sloppy thinking.
    2) Using language precisely.

    It has become commonplace among the cognoscenti to ever-so-slightly misquote Dawkins so that it appears that he said something ridiculous. These misquotes get repeated until they become common wisdom.

    An example that I see all the time: ‘Dawkins thinks that teaching religion to children is child abuse”. He actually said that it is child abuse to tell elementary school children that they will burn in everlasting fire if they don’t follow an arbitrary set of rules. There is similar distortion of his views on Christmas Carols (he enjoys them), Christian art (loves it) and whether religion should be taught in schools (yes).

    Lines like
    “Richard Dawkins usually argues that if you’re Christian you have to accept a literal reading of Genesis”
    are all the more frustrating because they can be fact-checked so easily.

    I don’t know that there is any sinister intent behind the misrepresentation of Dawkins’ wordsand even people who might be sympathetic to his overall world view – like Jonathan Haidt and Bob Wright do it on occasion – but it has become a pet project of mine to correct it when I see it.

    Dawkins says a lot of things that are wrong or unpleasant but let’s criticize him for those statements rather than making stuff up.

  • Author comment by Steve Cardon · October 31, 2012 at 1:50 am

    Rabbi Moshe – I agree with most of what you have said, and having spent much time in the back and forth debates between Atheists and non-titled pseudo-intellectual theological pretenders, I will contend that I have seen more consistency of argument amongst the Atheists. I will admit that I do not break every argument down into their Boolean representations in order to determine consistency of logic, however I doubt that you do either.

    It is true that there are no formal Atheist “clergy” with correspondingly appropriate designations to suggest the degree of intellectual rigor one might expect. I personally enjoy the feeling of democracy that a “non-religion” affords me. It is fortunate that I am not trying to sell a 15-CD set, since I am not an authority on anything other than the general stupidity of humanity.

    Ideally it would be nice if everyone were at least minimally equipped to put forward, or defend their views having rigorously weeded out irrelevancies and illogic. This is unfortunately rarely the case… particularly amongst the religious(my observations).

    My non-credentialed opinion is that if someone feels the need to publicly justify or denounce something based upon their personal religious beliefs, they deserve to be verbally castigated for displaying the level of inconsistency demonstrated here… particularly when they were elected to represent everyone, not preach to us or render an irrational uninformed opinion on something as serious as rape.

    Unlike a housewife or accountant, what an elected politician says publicly has consequences. In this case it may be to project the appearance of irrationality or insensitivity when conservative values are desperately needed to counter the negative trends that threaten the efforts of others in establishing a responsible society.

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