Theodicy in one witty sentence

Mar 11, 2019 by

by Alexander Boot:

Some great minds have devoted countless tomes to theodicy, the explanation of how God permits the existence of evil – and some mediocre minds have used such laxity as a target for attacks on faith.

Encapsulating that whole complex argument in a snappy epigram would seem impossible, and so it is.

But Evelyn Waugh made a good fist of it.

A friend of his, Nancy Mitford I believe, remarked that for a Catholic he was a nasty bit of work. “You have no idea,” replied Waugh, “how much nastier I would be if I was not a Catholic.”

This short sentence invalidates in one fell swoop all the feeble attacks on Christianity launched by the likes of Dawkins, Dennett or Wolpert – or by Hume and other Enlightenment figures before them. They point out all the evil people perpetrated during the Christian centuries and put smug QED smiles on their faces.

Crusades, religious wars, the pyres of the Inquisition are all waved about like so many banners of hateful atheism. Most critics, especially the more strident ones, don’t take the trouble to keep up with the current (or any other) scholarship of such historical events, but that in no way constrains their vituperation.

I could go into historical references at this point, stating, for example, that there were very few properly religious wars in Europe, although there were many like the Thirty Years’ War, where secular appetites were camouflaged with religious slogans.

Or that the Holy Inquisition had no jurisdiction to execute anyone – all it could do was confirm heresy and pass the case on to the secular authorities. Or that in some 400 years of its existence the Inquisition’s rulings led to about 10,000 executions, which score the atheist Soviets could comfortably better in a quiet day.

Or that the crusades were a defensive response to several centuries of incessant Islamic aggression that had almost put paid to Christendom.

However, feeling particularly magnanimous today, I’m willing to accept that people killed during the Christian centuries.

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