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October 06, 2013

He Works In Mysterious Ways

Doc Martin EllinghamA character in the British television series Doc Martin is speaking to Dr. Martin Ellingham about why he left London and returned to Cornwall. The character says he wasn't successful in London, but now that he's returned to Cornwall after all this time he's gotten close to a former girlfriend who is Dr. Martin Ellingham also has an interest in. "…God," the character says before being interrupted…

Doc Martin Ellingham
"Dr. Martin Ellingham" played by Martin Clunes

A character in the British television series Doc Martin is speaking to Dr. Martin Ellingham about why he left London and returned to Cornwall. The character says he wasn't successful in London, but now that he's returned to Cornwall after all this time he's gotten close to a former girlfriend (played by Caroline Catz) who Dr. Martin Ellingham also has an interest in. "…God," the character says, at which point Dr. Martin Ellingham inturrupts him.

"Yes. He works in mysterious ways," Dr. Martin Ellingham says. "Like malaria."

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I told my friend the MO rabbi the other day, “You liberal Modern Orthodox, when confronted with the problem of suffering, all turn into Harold Kushner – God can’t alleviate it directly, but he gives us kind, compassionate, helpful people to support us in our time of need. In other words, you default to what has become the go-to Modern Orthodox answer for all spiritual conundra – community. Now, that’s fine, when it works – but what do we say when it doesn’t? What about people who *don’t* have kind, compassionate others to help them in their suffering – or what about those times when the community itself is the *cause* of suffering? In those moments, you have no answer apart from ‘I don’t know’.”

He replied, “Well, it’s an honest answer.” Well, yes and no. It’s honest on the face of it, because they really *don’t* know. However, it’s lacking in moral and intellectual integrity. As I went on to tell him, “A *truly* honest answer would be, ‘I don’t know – and you’re right, it confounds my belief system, so that I now have to reevaluate the entire affair’, which you aren’t going to do, because you’ve made it the foundation of your life, you’ve banked your afterlife on it, and it serves as a security blanket. You aren’t going to start second-guessing yourself now, at nearly 67 years of age.” And he was forced to concede that I was right.

I see absolutely no way in which to shoehorn the idea of a benevolent, personal, involved creator into the reality of the ocean of human suffering (as well as the suffering of all sentient beings) - and if such a being doesn't exist, why practice Judaism? Why practice any religion (apart, perhaps, from Buddhism, which has its own problems)?

Dr. Martin Ellingham: All right, Caroline, I'm going to give you an injection.

Danny: [gets down on one knee, hands clasped together] I'm saying a prayer for you, Caroline.

Dr. Martin Ellingham: [eyeing Danny] Just a little prick.

Doc Martin is a great show. Isn't it off the air?

@Jeff:

"...I see absolutely no way in which to shoehorn the idea of a benevolent, personal, involved creator into the reality of the ocean of human suffering (as well as the suffering of all sentient beings) - and if such a being doesn't exist, why practice Judaism? Why practice any religion..."

Exactly. While it's clear that human beings don't have all or most of the answers to why the universe exists as well as how and why it came to be it's not necessary to espouse a belief in an all-powerful deity to explain it. Simply admit as much, be humble about that inability to explain it all while simultaneously attempting to live a reasonably moral life based on ethical principles which don't involve evoking a deity to give them force.

"evoking" - should have written "invoking".

Doc Martin is a great show. Isn't it off the air?

Posted by: Bas Melech | October 06, 2013 at 08:00 AM

Season 6 just started in the UK after a two-year hiatus. The season will be broadcast in the US sometime in 2014.

Jeff, get off your high horse. Everyone who asks that kind of question, or allows is to confound their "belief system," is approaching the issue from the position of "If I wrote God I wouldn't do that," or "If God had my sense of weight and wrong he wouldn't let that happen. But this is the most basic principle of a God that is aunited, one-and-only entity. The Entity is not human, is not "like" you, is not in range or proportion to your created sensibilities and intelligence. If you could actually see intelligent design in the ways of the entity; if you could comprehend it of feel even remotely within range of it . . then, then you have a faulty conception of the entity and your "belief system" should be confounded and seriously brought into question.

Maskil, you're a fucking goddamn idiot. There is nothing more to say.

@Jeff
" And he was forced to concede that I was right...
I see absolutely no way in which to shoehorn the idea of a benevolent, personal, involved creator into the reality of the ocean of human suffering ... and if such a being doesn't exist, why practice Judaism?"

1. At least this Rabbi admitted that you had a point. Which may or may not mean that he still believes. Belief requires a leap of faith which clearly you have not and he does (or does not). Why does his practice bother you? I understand the animosity towards Jews who are causing embarrassment by their constant sandals etc as exposed on this site all while letting everyone else know they are the only Torah true Jews and while demanding others support - literally - their lifestyle. But why him? He seems rather like I might want him to be my Rabbi. can you name him?

2. I know that one of the attributes of God is benevolence but it is certainly not the only one. God's attributes include many that involve punishment etc. Maybe like a great Dad who nonetheless seems really mean at times. Doesn't make him a bad Dad.

3. As you yourself have pointed out, the why of practicing Judaism has lots of answers even for people who may be willing to question the belief system. Only one of those reasons, but a big one is a sense of Community. Even in a atheist world a sense of community, lacking now, is being examined as the missing link. (mega atheist churches with Sunday services may not be too far off in the distant future.) And so what if the end result is not the stated main purpose?
Say it was proven that formal schooling through college did not necessarily result in higher success rates in life...it is still very likely that a high percentage of parents would want their kids to get a formal education for the cultural and social norms that are learned as well as the socialization and community that is hard to get in other ways....


actually that was constant scandals and horrible behavior...

jeff . . . maskil is attempting to engage you in a dialogue regarding your's, his and my belief or not in the existence of a creator. Don't take his slight of you being on a 'high horse' too personally. It will detract from your well considered opinion, and thus your response, to his assertion that you ( or we as a species) cannot assume that a Creator should be bound by the same or even similar ethical or moral codes. I believe he has a pint and would love for this debate to take root. So for the sake of progress let the reasoning begin. Blessings!

jeff-

great summation. i have variations of that same discussion often including yesterday. the
somewhat clever ones think that "i dont know" is a better answer than the alternatives that even they cant bring themselves to utter with a straight face. and as you wrote, its completely unacceptable in that its only a response to the question "how come the god we know exists and is benevolent could have created not only human suffering, but in the animal world?"
what it DOESNT answer is since the hypothesis of an omnibenevolent and intercessory god has been so roundly disproved by needless suffering, why not reject it and explore other hypotheses which dont have similar disproofs?
they can begin by contemplating a creator who maintains no contact post-creation. or an evil creator, or the big bang, abiogenesis and evolution.
but they wont for all the reasons you wrote which is why every believer is either ignorant or devoid of all intellectual curiosity or integrity.

In my experience, people have to find the answers to questions like these for themselves. I have, after decades of hard-work and study of both Torah and secular works of philosophy, found the answers that work for me. My answers may not work for anyone else, but neither do I feel any need to justify them to anyone else. What does and doesn't work for my is *my* business. What does and doesn't work for them? That is their concern - and not my responsibility.

In my experience, children hear Baal Shem Tov fairytales that explain all divine retributions and reasons for unwarrented windfalls ... and suffering. And then they grow up and realize that it's actually heretical to presume to understand the divine actions of God, let alone to reject the existance of a sole entity from which all creation exists because he doesn't fill the role of God that one of us would. LOL.

the invisible black unicorn creates 10,000,000 miniature IBU's every second of every day, and always has. Each of these mini IBU has universe creating ability. One of those wacky little creators made our universe. i just dont know for sure which one. but needless to say, the little IBU who did is inscrutable in every way. he is non-falsifiable and beyond our comprehension. just know that he's there and needs you to believe in him and worship him. and he too works in mysterious ways. laugh all you want but one day you will have to answer for your willful disbelief .
I LOVE YOU LITTLE IBU !!!!!

Wow, ah-pee, you are very articulate. Abiogenesis, hmmm. I love reading you.

Sometimes I think we are the afterlife twirling backwards.

"...the little IBU who did is inscrutable in every way. he is non-falsifiable and beyond our comprehension. just know that he's there and needs you to believe in him and worship him."

Well said. I concur. You left out the most important part: he needs you to give him your money.

"but they wont for all the reasons you wrote which is why every believer is either ignorant or devoid of all intellectual curiosity or integrity."

Posted by: ah-pee-chorus | October 06, 2013 at 07:05 PM

Or simply afraid. In decades of searching, every apologetic argument I encountered was merely a whistling in the dark.

I was just telling someone the other day that what I described above is where left wing Modern Orthodoxy is now. When confronted with the specter of suffering that cannot be explained in terms of random chance - genetics, natural disaster, etc. - they default to "I don't know", then they get together, sing their Carlebach niggunim and tell stories about a fictional, golden-age shtetl that never actually existed until the anxiety goes away.

"Religion is the opiate of the people"... Opiate = painkiller.

Is that such a bad thing for people who are in pain?

Or is religion the cause of their pain? For many, including myself at many points in my life, I think the unfortunate answer is yes.

Not sure why, but belief in God works, for me. I do of course wonder about universal suffering, injustice, natural disasters and all the rest... but fall back on what my mother told me about not being in a position to see the whole picture as God sees it.

As for a nationalistic and exclusionary religion, chosen peoples and promised lands... I am less keen on those, and I believe that whatever good message there is in Judaism is basically worthless if it extends only to Jews and does not spur us to battle injustice toward others (including our own injustices toward them).

Unique cultural traditions, like the Yiddish and Hebrew languages, Friday night dinners, and keeping kosher, however, make me happy and I enjoy rituals such as waving my palm branches around and singing Hallel.

dh -

thanks.

Maskil -

+++ he needs you to give him your money.+++

how dare you!! mini IBU doesnt need your money. he just wants you to spend it to spread his word in order to show your devotion to him. this benefits YOU . he's so wonderful i cant wait to spend eternity basking in the glory of his invisible spiraling horn.

Jeff -

i think fear is definitely the most common underlying cause, the effect of which is willful ignorance, cognitive dissonance and intellectual dishonesty.
and that fear is multi-faceted. fear of losing sky-friend, fear of mortality,fear of the randomness which is life, fear of having devoted so much time, money and emotional capital for nothing. fear of change to family and other relationships, and fear of punishment for even entertaining any such thoughts.

re: Jeff and ah-pee-chorus. . .I see absolutely no way in which to shoehorn the idea of a benevolent, personal, involved creator into the reality of the ocean of human suffering (as well as the suffering of all sentient beings) - and if such a being doesn't exist, why practice Judaism? Why practice any religion (apart, perhaps, from Buddhism, which has its own problems)?

Posted by: Jeff | October 06, 2013 at 04:44 AM . . .
the answer to this specific conundrum, question or query is quite simple. . . "Pain is a teaching tool.". . from it bowels we become learned. Our awareness is stirred, our intellect extrapolates and our conscience ignites. . . pain has a purely spiritual agenda. It is a necessity for motion to commence if we are to become fully conscious.

ah-pee-chorus . . . i think fear is definitely the most common underlying cause... Yes, fear is one of the stages preceding the conscience's movement to awarness. It necessarily accompanies the existential query into the why(s) and who(s) and how(s) that attempts to delineate our having talem form, having come to be, so to speak. But it is not the final resolution nor is it a "cause" to the effect of having conviction, and a belief, that a creator exists. As you are well aware atheists are all equally stumped by the question: . . . what came before that? before the universe, before the big bang, before the void, before nothingness, before it all . . . and to this question there can only be one answer.

anchell -


+++
"Pain is a teaching tool.". . from it bowels we become learned....+++

its wonderful that a kind and just god sees fit to use the "pain" of pediatric cancer and infant starvation on a daily basis in the thousands as a "teaching tool" . i bet those dead kids, having suffered beyond words prior to their agonizing deaths have indeed learned much.
and as if that werent enough to convince any rational person of the speciousness of that defense, why do millions of animals -whom god created with nervous systems capable of feeling pain- need to suffer and die daily ? is it to teach them? teach them what? prepare them? for what?

+++ As you are well aware atheists are all equally stumped by the question: . . . what came before that?+++

and theists are equally stumped by what came before god?

but atheists and scientists are willing to say they dont YET know rather than positing the existence of some magical sky friend which answers nothing anyway. and these are the same scientists that didnt accept "god" as the answer to why the sun rises daily and discovered the actual reason. ditto for rain, disease, reproduction,etc..

alternatively, if you are satisfied that one must imagine a god as a first cause, then please accept the CORRECT and TRUE god which is the mini IBU as i've explained above.

and lastly the first cause argument says nothing about an intercessory or benevolent god. and it certainly has no relevance to whether the bible is the output of said god.

an example of the scientific endeavor to answer the question is the book "A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing " by Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist . it is next on my reading list. i'm finishing up 2 volumes of spinozas writings now.

ah-pee-chorus . . . time constraints may result in a two part response to your posts. But to begin, i am humbled and deeply saddened by much of the ardor, anguish, suffering and wanton loss of lives, in all it's hues, that we all must endure through out each incarnation. And while each teachings is specific to every specie, the lessons are general to all species.
Children are born with an elevated awareness and accesses a freer more open consciousness. They connect very easily to those around them, many of whom have years of experience behind them.
Their minds connect to the maturing mind of the parent or caregiver so that the formalization process may occur. Much of our learning becomes their learnings. Children who come into our dimension or any dimension are generally saturated with the knowledge of the time they are born in.
Their learning is a 'potential' in learning. Their suffering should not be diminished. But such teachings as you have highlighted are geared towards all human kind, with the one consolation being that our spirits are indomitable.
Consequently, it remains that each learning that we acquire, as we continue to mature and ascend the current pain frequency to a new threshold, we pass that embodiment on to our unborn child. And, as a consequence of that, she is prepared to move forward within us (or if you prefer, she will adapt as she fully evolves as a human being.)
But before all this suffering and sadness was born to us, we know that a commonality in all stated religions is that we had a choice. And as we have done in every IBU situation, we chose the Path of the knowledge of Good and Evil. That for the time being is what we have to go by. A single moment, repeated endlessly in all the millions of IBU universes.
Thus the pain we so keenly reject as being of the Creator's making, may in fact be more about out own need to existentially evolve. I'm hoping you reconsider your specious assessment, with some honest rational analysis. Blessings.

APC, this is an excellent illustration of the reason I refuse to respond to these lunatics.

anchell -

it's like we're speaking 2 completely different languages. i couldnt find in your answer a single rational thought to which i can reply. blessings back at ya from mini IBU land.


jeff-

this is NOT what i expected.

APC, it is impossible to argue with people of faith. It is an utter waste of time. There will always be a rationalization.

Plus, in this case you're dealing with someone who is delusional and has bought into a lot of New Age/pseudo-kabbalistic nonsense.

Jeff, what do you mean by "the Spector of suffering that cannot be explained in terms of random chance - genetics, natural disaster, etc."?

As someone who was educated to accept the theory of evolution as scientific fact, and I still do, I'm unfamiliar with anything in this world that cannot be explained by basic, random chance probability. To what do you refer?

Jeff -

i've had a decent amount of success in altering their outlook. but to make any headway requires they at least are interested in the topic, and are capable of engaging in a
normal conversation. most remain with their beliefs but with less conviction and certainty. others have given up all belief. very few who have spent a couple of hours discussing it with me remain unaffected. i should clarify that i'm talking about the MO and charedi crowd since i speak their language and since those theologies are so easily shown to be intellectually untenable.
like anything else its a numbers game. i'm satisfied batting .300 :)

I meant suffering caused by human beings. As you may recall, Kushner's argument was that God can't alleviate our suffering directly, but he gives us kind, helpful, compassionate people to support us in our times of need. Of course, Kushner only ever referred to suffering resulting from "randomness" - illness, natural disaster, genetic anomaly (he wrote the book to deal with the death of his young son from a congenital illness), etc. He never addressed the question, "What if one doesn't have a support system of helpful, compassionate people? What if other people are the cause of suffering?" (And in my experience, that is usually the case.)

Today's left wing Modern orthodox are the same way. They won't tell you suffering is caused by the length of a woman's skirt or because you aren't studying enough Torah; they, like Kushner, will tell you suffering occurs because God is limited in the extent to which he can intervene. Like Kushner, they see community as the solution, but when community isn't there, or is itself the problem, they have no answer.

I was never bothered by the question, so I never read the book (nor would I have chosen Kushner as a source for the answer). I wasn't aware until now that this was the "answer" being posited by these groups. Your final paragraph is an excellent and succinct summary ... and it is so true that it is painful to read.

I won't try to take on the question. But I'll share that I was tought that when someone hits you then you shouldn't hate him because he was just the conduit (for what you had coming anyway ... whether as punishment, or retribution, or to increase reward points, or whatever). But I was also tought that when someone is nice to you it is important to show gratitude. And if you put these two together they don't add up. So, obviously, they both have to be taken with a grain of salt: yes, the good doer isn't solely due credit for the good, and the evil doer is still an asshole (and sometimes it is personal). And then I was tought that some really awful shit happens, and that some really shitty people have things really nice, and there's a point where the effort to find rationality in these things is futile. I don't feel compelled to understand divine benevolence, but I do understand the resentment towards people pushing the nonsense you mentioned. I'd much rather live with the guilt of resenting God than trying to feel His love, compassion and benevolence. And resenting others is one of the few vices (if it is even a vice) for which I feel no guilt.

I also learned that everything that happens is divinely controlled and is good for you. And I learned that God's idea of what is good for you isn't usually the same as your own, and it can be good for you in this world it in the next ... or both. So the knowledge that it is good doesn't do you any good, it's just a factoid to remember in case you are on Jeopardy. And it certainly should not effect your attitude to others (unless you want it to, but that's a personal choice in forging one's own personal character). And I totally agree with you that other people (often "good" or "religious"" people) are generally the cause of most suffering ... and the harshest kind.

"APC, this is an excellent illustration of the reason I refuse to respond to these lunatics." . . . jeff . . . tsk tsk . . .this is an adult conversation. if you are unfamiliar with some or any of the content of this conversation then quietly wait it out unless you know something to be utterly fallacious to the point you can defend your position by such contributions. I want to forward this debate as to the existence or not of a Creator. There are no rules, only guidelines suggesting we be civil about it all . . . respect!

anchell, I have to say, I am trying to understand. I know where I stand on the issue. Still, I find the discussion fascinating as it articulates so much of what I had so much difficulty attaching words. But I have to tell you, I cannot understand what you are saying. It sounds to me like a child trying to cobble together a tale without any sort of foundation I can understand, and you don't even know where I'm coming from.

ok . . . so i am a new age rationalist. I prefer to think of myself as a experiencialist. Drawn from the many perceptions of my somewhat intriguing life.
. . . ah-pee-chorus, you are correct it is a different language frequency. You are not the first to inform me of such. I believe It stems from a benevolence in trusting the little that, for the time being, i may know.
When i respond to issues such 'children's with cancer' as you cited above, and their subsequent pain. . . i am compelled to feeling compassion for their trials and the pains and suffering for which they must endure. However, i do not ascribe to their being victimized in the way you many choose to, nor in the balance, will i suggest that as children they brought it on themselves.
What i do posit is that "WE" as a specie as humonoids have made that covenant by choosing this path (and that includes all life. every construct whose blue print consist of a central nervous system, lungs, eyes, ears, mouths, brains etc.,)
The suffering you consistenly reffer to, is endemic with the process. And as a process, by choice we must take responsibility, and so we have. Science is a means by which we have taken responsibility. It's emperic and exploratory methodology assure us of some answers.
However science can not replace or be a substitued for the Creator, or in your case the multifaceted IBU's.
Consequently, (and in response to Jake's randomness theory). for most of us if we choose to jump in a pool filled with water we should at the very least expect to get wet. And, may i add, that for some of us we may just get ill or die doing so. Why? Because we are not all sufficiently prepared to exist unobstructed in that specific pool or on this planet.

It sounds to me like a child trying to cobble together a tale without any sort of foundation I can understand, and you don't even know where I'm coming from.

Posted by: dh | October 08, 2013 at 07:35 PM

. . . this cobbled tale, is my attempt to have us step back temporarily from the minutae of disease and needless suffering, we so busy ourselves with when we want to agrue against Faith directed beliefs. Not because it is unimportant, but to broaden our views so that we may have a greater perspective.

It is my way of showing that there exist an ordainance of sorts that we must abide by. This ordinance is constructed analogous to our existence. In other words, i am taking the randomness out of the equation. This is done so by demonstrating how consistentcy shows us through repetition that though sometimes conflated, life is quite purposeful.
And if life is purposeful, then it is indeed directed. But for the choices we make as sentient beings.

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