Friday, December 1, 2017

Creationists, Forget Cancer and Great White Sharks: Why Is Childbirth So Painful?

The problem of theodicy is simple. If your god is all powerful and all good, how can evil exist? In particular, the natural world provides a parade of horrors - parasites that eat animals out from the inside but keep them alive during the process for better nutrition, cancer killing innocent children, and of course predators. One might grudgingly admire the nightmarish engineering of herpes viruses or cobras, the tricks and innovations that cause untold suffering only in the service of making more herpes and cobras. A creationist might be hard-pressed to lecture us about the benevolent creator while watching a seal exsanguinating in the sea while the great white shark that chomped it circles slowly but inexorably. "All things bright and beautiful...all things great and small."

But these things are often waved away with two cop-outs. There's the old reliable "We don't know God's plan/The Lord works in mysterious ways." So they don't know God's plan RE: parasites, but when it comes to who other people should be allowed to marry, we should listen to them. That makes no sense, and sounds very much like an excuse made up by a five year old.

The other excuse is "The devil/original sin made him do it. There was no disease or predators or parasites before (some event causing a fall from grace.)" In other words, this actually is NOT God's plan, rather there is suffering because of The Enemy forces. (Let's not even worry for now about an all-powerful being not being able to control this.)

Fine. Forget all that. What about childbirth?

Having recently experienced this in my own life, my daughter's relatively uncomplicated birth was still a massively traumatic, painful, frightening ordeal. I will almost certainly never experience the kind of pain that my wife did, and this was with an epidural. Religious people LOVE to talk about families and childbearing. There are supposedly few things that are part of God's plan more than the miracle of birth, and it is a requirement for the human race to continue existing. And yet, giving birth remains one of the most incredibly painful and acutely medically dangerous things most women will encounter in their lives. And epidurals, sterile technique to avoid purpeural fever, C-sections and induction medication are there due to generations of dedicated scientists and physicians making life better for women, NOT because of religion. (And with a naturalistic worldview, the question of why childbirth is so stressful is not mysterious at all.)

So for the problem of theodicy, forget about disease and predators. That there is no explanation for why this core "family value" remains so painful and stressful is a profound moral and explanatory failure of religion.

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