Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sex slavery in America

In recent years enough news stories have broken about the sexual enslavement of women worldwide to make the public demand action, and the administration, in concert with Congress, acted. Sort of.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act was asked for, passed, and signed into law, providing funds for the prosecution of pimps and sex slave traders, and funds for treatment for the victims.... *IF* the victims are foreign citizens. Turns out we have no funding for, and apparently interest in, U.S. citizens who were beaten or drugged into sexual slavery! I quote from this article: “...The recent attorney general’s report states that TVPA funds are dedicated to non-U.S. citizen victims. Therefore, if you are a victim of sex trafficking in the U.S. from Mexico or Ukraine, there is money for immediate services ($1300 a month), but there are no funds similarly available for an American victim.

This denial of services to U.S. victims has real consequences. An FBI agent recently told me he found a 12-year-old American girl while investigating a sex-trafficking case. Because of lack of resources, he had nowhere to put her and had to send her home. (The biggest reason girls run away and get picked up by pimps is because they are abused or neglected at home.)”

Is there anything at all the government does right?

A poll

I have been doing some informal research- informal in that is not a controlled university study, but still serious- for some years now, and I would greatly appreciate the input from the UU blogging community. I will explain after there has been time for a useful number of results.

This is a poll of how you came to UU. If you are old enough to have joined one of the individual “U”s, consider it UU for the purposes of the poll. If none of the categories I’ve supplied exactly fit your situation, go with the one closest and explain in your comment.

A. I still practice the faith I was raised in as well as UU.
B. I had left my childhood church long before I found UU.
C. I left the church I was raised in for UU.
D. UU *IS* the church I was raised in.

New: For those answering "E"; yes, I should have included a separate entry for "I wasn't raised with a specific church"- but since I didn't in the previous places I have conducted this poll, I will consider it a subset of "B" for the sake of consistency, as I had "unchurched" in mind anyway.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Thank you, Robert Heinlein

I suddenly realized that with all that has been going on around here, I missed marking the centenary of the birth of Robert Heinlein, (It was two weeks ago) arguably the most influential writer in the history of science fiction. I have particular reason to thank him, because in my teen years, when I was having crises of faith, a couple of his books gave me not answers, but more importantly, the questions to ask.

One piece of his- a very short essay for the radio show, This I Believe - was a powerful influence for me and millions of others. Reading it will help you understand me a bit better, for I agree with everything in it except the opening sentence: “I am not going to talk about religious beliefs...” I believe this essay to be one of the most profoundly religious pieces I’ve ever read.

Basketball betting scandal

As I have mentioned, I am not a basketball fan... but I DO live in the state of Indiana, and it’s not possible to converse with any other Hoosier for months at a time unless you know something about Bball; one is forced to pick up a bit of the lore to avoid de facto shunning. That is why I was so shocked by the news that a referee was betting on games he was officiating .

The worst part is not the thought that an NBA referee could be involved in such things; the worst part is what NBA official David Stern said: “Stern said he believed no other officials or players would be implicated in the betting scandal.” The thought that NBA refereeing could honestly be as bad as it is was stunning.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

8 random things meme

I was tagged by Earthbound Spirit for the “8 random facts about myself” meme- so here goes. Those tagged are supposed to post this first:

1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

I’m going to violate rules 4 & 5; most of those I’d have tagged have already posted, and if we go by powers of eight, we’ll have tagged the known universe by Thursday. So anyway...

1. I have no talent for languages whatsoever. I had a year of Spanish in grade school, and never learned more than how to say “My name is...”- and have forgotten even that. I had three years of French, actually visited France several times, brushing up before each visit, and attend my wife’s Alliance Francaise club meetings, and still can do little more than order dinner or follow French television news. Oh, and I was also able to follow French coverage of a Colts game, (they were playing “les tetes de fromage”) and “Pimp My Ride” in French, but that’s about it.

2. Possibly related to the above, I have never been able to master a musical instrument, nor read music, despite my love of music. (There was a time when I would have sold my soul to be able to sing like Chuck Negron or Harry Nilson) In grade school I was able to memorize the finger positions on the recorder corresponding to written notes, but was never able to read music and hum the tune- I just seem to have some kind of mental block in those arenas. Does anyone know if music and language skills are related?

3. I was born in the same year that “Rock Around The Clock”- the beginning of rock and Roll, according to historians- was released; Rock and I have grown up together.

4. I have the unusual artistic talent of being able to convert photographs into line drawings for easy reproduction using just a ballpoint pen. I used to pick up cigarette and beer money doing that for newsletters, etc., before computers and improved photocopiers rendered that skill obsolete.

5. Because I’m fat, I have very few lines and wrinkles; I fear that as I lose weight, I’ll appear to age suddenly. Which is kind of funny, as I’d never considered myself vain before.

6. Despite being a six-foot male natural born Hoosier, I’ve never really liked basketball, watching or playing. If you know anything about Indiana, you’ll know how suspect- possibly even treasonous- that is.

7. I continually surprise myself discovering how much my tastes- in food, art, everything- have changed over the years. Yes, that’s a standard observation- I remember a comedian talking about this, saying, “...for example, when I was a kid, I hated being spanked.” I guess the real surprise is finding out that cliches apply to me, too- i used to think myself unique. Which is probably another cliche.

8. One cliche that doesn’t apply- I love my in-laws, including (especially) my mother in law, whom I don’t see as often as I’d like because she lives on the other side of the continent. I also love my in-laws who live only half a continent away, in various parts of the west, which realistically is no easier to get to despite technically being closer. An extended family reunion would rack up enough frequent-flier miles to earn a trip into space on Virgin Galactic.

Tag: Anyone who has never participated in a meme before!

Harry Potter review

The best review I have seen of the latest Harry Potter book, one I agree with, and cannot state better, is here .

Monday, July 23, 2007

O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us...

To see oursels as others see us.* And how do others see us- that is, UUs and liberal Christians? A glimpse can be gotten in this review of a new book, The Sum of All Christian Fears . The book paints a future for America that all conservative Christians fear- “Imagine a world where children are taken from their families in order to stop them from turning their children into terrorists. Now imagine that on the list of potential terrorists whose children must be taken or re-educated are home schoolers, active pro-lifers, and many other average Evangelical Christians. This is the all-too-believable plot behind Jodi Cowles novel, “The Minor Protection Act” (TMPA) in which a President of the United States, with help from a slick attorney, gets a bill passed through Congress that has federal agents remove children from their traditionalist Christian homes and families to stop the children from learning “intolerance” that leads to “hate crimes” and “terrorism.””

Judging only from the book review, this novel is not one of those that fulminates wildly, but rather sets the situation up in a believable manner. “One thing Cowles can't be accused of is demonizing political opponents. Even the lesbian couples that are charged by the state with raising kidnapped Christian Children are portrayed as fairly decent folks. Each character who plays their part in the President's plot has understandable, even sympathetic motives...If pro-lifers are basically terrorists, if Christian fundamentalism is harmful to our world, if disapproval of homosexuality is the same as racism, why on Earth shouldn't the government take away these children? Thoughts and ideas have consequences, and for me, TMPA brought this point home.”

What reason could Christians possibly have for these fears? For one thing, one of the top sellers in religious books of recent history is Richard Dawkins; he has been the topic of more interviews and blog entries than any other religious writer of late... and he is quoted in this review: “Recently, Richard Dawkins pondered taking away other people's children, "It's one thing to say people should be free to believe whatever they like, but should they be free to impose their beliefs on their children? Is there something to be said for society to be stepping in? What about bringing up children to believe manifest falsehoods?”” Of course, that’s one man’s opinion, but he also quotes blogs: “Those fighting words. Terms like “The Religious Reich,” “The American Taliban,” and “Christian Sharia Law” are throw away lines on leftist blogs.” How many of us here in the UU blogosphere can truthfully say we are free of such fighting words? I can- (though I have used different fighting words about different people), and a few others... but I sure see them a lot. When even the official websites can get snarky about conservative Christians, is it really paranoid for those Christians to fear us?

Even if you conclude that conservative Christians ARE paranoid to think this way about us, the simple fact is that they do, and their fears did not spring from whole cloth. Really, can’t liberals- both religious and political- tone down the rhetoric a bit? And yes, I know I will receive 3, 267 emails saying “But they say terrible things about us; just yesterday, Rush Limbaugh said...” Well, here’s my answer: if you think you’re better than they are, (and you do, admit it), why don’t you act like it?

P.S. Coming soon: my “8 random things” meme entry.

P.P.S. * Proof that I don’t belong in the mental ward; I belong in the Burns unit!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Joel the prankster

CC posted her results fromThe 3 Variable Funny Test
- so I had to run off and take it, too.

Your Score: the Prankster

(23% dark, 30% spontaneous, 10% vulgar)

your humor style:

Your humor has an intellectual, even conceptual slant to it. You're not pretentious, but you're not into what some would call 'low humor' either. You'll laugh at a good dirty joke, but you definitely prefer something clever to something moist.

You probably like well-thought-out pranks and/or spoofs and it's highly likely you've tried one of these things yourself. In a lot of ways, yours is the most entertaining type of humor because it's smart without being mean-spirited.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU: Conan O'Brian - Ashton Kutcher

The 3-Variable Funny Test!
- it rules -

If you're interested, try my best friend's best test: The Genghis Khan Genetic Fitness Masterpiece

Link: The 3 Variable Funny Test written by jason_bateman on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Evidence for the existence of God

Dawkins-style evangelical atheists frequently say that it’s up to the theist to prove the existence of the Divine- “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof.” Fair enough- but the most plentiful form of evidence is always dismissed out of hand, usually without discussion- or, at least without polite discussion: direct personal experience, also known (in the clinical, analytical language UUs love to use in discussion) as Unverified Personal Gnosis.

UPG comes in many forms; the shaking and quaking of the Shakers and the Quakers; the speaking in tongues of Pentecostals and others; being taken by the spirit in many Baptist and other Protestant congregations; drawing down the Moon for Wiccans; channeling a Loa for Voodoo. Sometimes it is an adrenaline rush of the soul, which leaves in it’s wake not words, exactly, but a sure and certain knowledge: “She will survive this”, or “You are loved”. Foxchild gives a wonderful description of such an experience in her blog The Unveiling Of A Pagan Spirit : “At the moment that realization took hold, it was as if something in my being shifted. It made room for something that had not been able to find its way in before. Somewhere deep in the core of me it spread. It was a fiery caress deep in the marrow of my bones that roared through me in a liquid burn. It was as if I were feeling every powerful emotion in that fire. Passion, hate, anger, ecstasy, fury, lust, desire, love. Not the sweet tender kind of love. It was the kind that could rip you apart if you tried to harness it instead of letting it run free. All were felt for what they are, neither positive nor negative, but gifts from the Universe.
Call it Goddess, God, Universe. Whatever “it” was, it was the flow of understanding what it means to let go and trust the Universe.”

Such evidence is rarely brought up in debate anymore as it is- at best- an invitation to ridicule. I have been told on more than one occasion that the proper term for this experience was “a psychotic break”. Such contempt for mankind the speakers of those words must feel; hundreds of millions of people have felt the Divine presence- and not just the “snake handling trailer trash” one of them mentioned, but some of the finest intellects to have ever walked this Earth, from Thomas Aquinas to our own Rev. Sinkford. Does the fact that this evidence cannot be weighed on a triple beam balance or register on a Radio Shack Multitester mean that it’s not real evidence? If so, I would argue that human intelligence does not exist- the evidence for it is every bit as subjective.

The problem may be the words we use- “faith”, and “belief.” I don’t believe the Divine exists- I know it. I know the Earth exists, I can touch it; I know the Divine exists, I have felt her touch.

Why get married?

Hadfidha Sofia has a fine entry on her blog entitled “Getting married phase 2: Why am I doing this? , in which she explores her feelings about the impending wedding. It occurred to me while reading it that there’s a principle involved that applies to another marriage issue we’ve been debating in the UU blogosphere.

One of the reasons for getting married that’s seldom mentioned is that there is a profound psychological difference between making a promise and taking a vow or swearing an oath. An oath or vow plays into your deepest ego, your image of who and what you are... nearly all people- even hardened criminals- hold themselves to certain standards, things they simply will not do because that’s not who they are, they’re not that kind of person- and we know down deep that “oath breaker” is one of the oldest and vilest pejoratives. A public wedding evokes that kind of imagery in most people, even if only subconsciously. This psychological effect is what makes marriage, as challenged as it is, the most stable of relationships. Even absent children, married people are statistically less likely to go to prison, die in traffic accidents, get fired, etc., and more likely to save, invest, and have insurance. This is true for both sexes, all ages and demographic groups, and as near as I can find out, all cultures.

This is an important reason why gays and polyamorists should have the right to solemnize their relationships in formal public weddings. Given our society, they will have more stresses on their relationships than “normal“- shouldn’t they have every help they can get in holding their relationship together? Isn’t it better for all of society that they have “normal” marriages, allowing them- and us!- to reap the benefits there from?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

An inconvenient toothfish

Al Gore- the poster boy for “Do as I say, not as I do”- is being criticized by the Humane Society for serving an endangered species at his daughter‘s wedding . “Gore and his guests at the weekend ceremony dined on Chilean sea bass - arguably one of the world's most threatened fish species. Also known as Patagonian toothfish, the species is under pressure from illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities in the Southern Ocean, jeopardising the sustainability of remaining stocks.”

Actually, it seems his environmental sin is a two-for: “For many years HSI has expressed concern over the huge numbers of seabirds that die each year on the hooks of illegally set demersal longlines, threatening the long-term viability of those populations.” Way to go Al- even the illegal tuna fishers who still kill dolphins are only killing one species- you’re working both sides of the net!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Why isn’t this news?

I found this article in the Telegraph (am I the only nerd here who reads foreign newspapers? I find the Telegraph and Le Monde fascinating): “Addressing a gathering of atheists in his home state of Minnesota, Keith Ellison, a Democrat, compared the 9/11 atrocities to the destruction of the Reichstag, the German parliament, in 1933. This was probably burned down by the Nazis in order to justify Hitler's later seizure of emergency powers.
"It's almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that," Mr. Ellison said. "After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it, and it put the leader [Hitler] of that country in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted."

The thing I found most interesting about this story is that it wasn’t news in America- not even on Fox. Why was this story not considered newsworthy? I see several possibilities:
1. It happens so often that it’s no longer news when important elected Democratic officials compare Republicans to Nazis.
2. As Mr. Ellison is the first Muslim in Congress, he will never be criticized by mainstream media because they are afraid of being seen as judgmental or bigoted.
3. His remarks were seen by editors as so obvious and true as to not be controversial.

I’m not sure which explanation would be worse.

Movie reviews

I’m now able to get out and do things, and used part of that freedom to catch a couple flicks, so I thought I’d review them for you!

Ratatouille The best Pixar movie yet! I can’t think of a single bad thing to say about it- the story is an excellent mixture of comedy and pathos, never allowing either slapstick or tear-jerking to dominate. The visuals are stunning- although most of the human characters resemble Sims characters, all of the sets and backgrounds feel three dimensional, are perfectly lighted and shadowed, and so realistic that they actually had to include in the credits a disclaimer that the movie was 100% animated; there were no retouched photographs or Rotoscoping. Like all Pixar projects, there was plenty to please children and adults alike, and the story could be appreciated at several levels

Harry Potter: The Order of the Phoenix I have mixed feelings about this one. It had the usual Harry Potter quality effects and acting, but moved so quickly and with so little explanation that I’m afraid that if you didn’t already know what was going on, you’d likely get lost. But this effect was unavoidable. I have a number of TV and movie scripts, along with the studio format instructions- page layout, type fonts and sizes, etc.- and they are designed so that it averages one page per minute of finished show. (this makes early directorial decisions easier) This means that the average movie is 100-150 pages long... and “The Order of the Phoenix” is an 870 page novel! Remember that little detail before complaining about how many story lines were deleted or compressed to a single line of dialogue. I think they did the best they could without converting it into a miniseries.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A victory for women’s health

A fashion show in Rome has carried out it’s early threats, and banned 15 models for being too skinny . When one looks at these models, the following quote is hardly surprising: "One girl fainted during the trials," he said, adding, "I had to give her a ham sandwich.” The only question is whether even the Roman standards are enough- there is every reason to believe that even the “healthy” weights are too skinny:
1. I used to sell life insurance, and was surprised to learn that the insurance industry has it’s own “ideal weight” charts- and they average 20% heavier than the doctor’s charts! The instructor in the licensing class said, “I’m not permitted to say that people are healthier at these weights- I’m not licensed to practice medicine. But we do know that they live longer; we know, we write the checks.”
2. Following a tip from my wife, I did a little research of the medical industry’s numbers. They may have changed them in the last couple years since I did the research, but at the time I found this: if you take an average woman at the “ideal” weight, and use their formulae for the daily calorie count needed for maintenance, and spend those calories according to their food pyramid, it’s impossible for that woman to get the minimum RDA of several vitamins and minerals without taking supplements!
I can only hope the Roman example becomes an industry trend.

Good news for Pagans

The Pope’s latest document stating that only the Catholic, and to a lesser extent, Orthodox, churches are true churches is actually good news for Pagans. From now on, any time someone (Bush? The Veteran’s Administration? the missionaries at your door?) says that your coven/grove/heath/ covenant group is not a real church, if they’re not Catholic or Greek Orthodox you can reply, “Yeah? Well, the Pope says your church isn’t a real church, either- and who has a better theological education, you or the Pope?”

Quo vadis, affiliates?

In all the discussions about Polyamory, I have seen nothing about the rest of the UUA Affiliates. I am deeply troubled about the new guidelines for affiliate status- I believe they totally miss the raison d’etre for these groups in the first place. Here are a few quotes from the official UUA websites that may explain the situation: “The new criteria mandate that to gain affiliation, groups must have a broad focus, a mission that relates directly to the UUA’s Purposes, and functional connections with UU congregations, and that they work in coalition or collaboration with other groups.” “If UUs are to make a difference in a world that desperately needs to hear our message, it will be because our congregations are empowered to make that message manifest in the world...That said, we wonder how our longstanding structure of Independent Affiliates has served the UUA, as an association of congregations. To us, it appears that we have developed a growing number of separate groups, each of which may be doing excellent work, but with little or no connection (that we can discern) to other Independent Affiliates or the congregations that make up the UUA.”

Can you spot what’s missing in those new requirements, or the questions asked? The individual. A church does not exist to change the world- that should be the result of the church’s existence, not it’s purpose. A church does not exist to provide fellowship and camaraderie; as I noted in a previous post, that can be had in a Star Trek club. A church does not exist to provide a moral framework for the faxes you fire off to your congressman; that is implied in any position statement- have you ever heard anyone say, “Do this because it’s the immoral thing to do?” Churches exist to minister to the individual.

The UUA needs plenty of help in this type of ministry; there are few if any UU texts on theological matters. Oh, there are plenty of pre-merger Unitarian texts, and there are plenty of pre-merger Universalist texts- but if there are any such UU texts, they are well hidden. If a UU member feels in the need of soul-work, it’s rarely helpful to look at some generic RE paper that has the approved “broad focus”- s/he needs something specific enough to provide personal answers to specific problems. This is where the affiliated groups come in- to provide specifically Christian, or Pagan, or whatever type of help. The members of these groups are not demanding the entire UUA become Christian or Pagan, they just want their sub groups within the UUA to minister to their specific needs.

The answer suggested by the UUA, that these groups merge into broad focus categories, would render them too generic to be of use. As
Peacebang says, “I can tell you this: from what I’ve heard, and what I feel myself, UU Buddhists, Jews, Pagans, Humanists and Christians — all of whom have beloved, thriving Independent Affiliate groups, are hardly at all interested in becoming one big organization of UUs Who Still Care About Theology. Not even if they get a cute name like the BuddhiHumiChristiJewPas.” I can see where such an omnibus group would help the GA organizers; they would no longer need to find time and space for the inconvenient believers, they could just cram them all into a God Talk Ghetto- but it certainly wouldn’t help the needs of the individuals. I know that politically many UUs believe that the individual exists to serve the State, but that now seems to be unconsciously affecting their theology- they seem to be saying that the individual exists to serve the church.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Polyamory and Satanism

If you go to your local Pagan Pride festival, the odds are twenty to one that you’re not going to see a booth or table about Satanism, nor find books about it displayed above the table. If you inquire, and the person you asked was Wiccan, you’re likely to get a lecture about Satan being a Christian deity, and how Satanism was invented by Christians as an excuse to persecute witches during the burning times. Even if the person you asked was a veteran Pagan who has been around the Tarot deck a few times, it’s still even odds they’ll go all fluffy bunny and answer in vague generalities that say nothing and invite a change of subject... despite their knowing full well that both types of Satanism- those who worship themselves, and those who actually do worship the Prince of Darkness- are thriving here in America.

Why is this? Most Reconstructionist Pagans and virtually all NeoPagans hold religious tolerance as one of their core beliefs, giving “full faith and credence”; there is no rational or logical reason for refusing Satanists fellowship. The answer is simple: they’re an embarrassment. Whenever there’s a bad headline- really bad, as opposed to goofy- it’s bound to involve a self described Satanist. No church- with the possible exception of the Church of the SubGenius- is more controversial. (Although I find the honest narcissism of the Satanist much less obnoxious than the vicious “humor” of the SubGenius) The existence of Satanists is the confirmation of every fundamentalists’ sermon on the slippery slope of Paganism; they’re a living Jack Chick tract.

The rest of the Pagan community knows that if they publicly befriended and defended Satanists, they would lose much of the good will they have slowly built up in mainstream society. Many Christian churches and publications supported the Wiccan lawsuit demanding that the V.A. permit the Wiccan Pentacle on veterans’ headstones... but not one of them would have been onboard had the Pentacle been inverted. Therefore, many NeoPagans are willing to compromise one of their core beliefs- acceptance of their neighbors’ faith- in their pursuit of mainstream recognition.

It seems to me that we have exactly the same phenomenon going on with the UUA and Polyamory. As Philocrites points out, “When conservatives charge that polyamory is next on the slippery slope, how is it helpful to have liberals urging us to start slipping? . . .” We are already the Berkeley of churches; if there’s any bizarre or ludicrous new trend in religion, we tried it first. But we do have limits; the UUA does not want to become the poster boy for The Decline Of Morals In America. We do not want other liberal churches shunning us for fear of guilt by association... and so it seems we must pretend the Polyamorists do not exist.

But how can we do so without compromising our principles? Does “marriage equality” mean adopting the Christian Fundamentalists’ definition of marriage, with one slight alteration- “Marriage shall consist of one person and one other person”? Shall we demonstrate our acceptance of all faiths by telling fundamental Mormons and Muslims that their multiple marriages are immoral? Shall we send missionaries to Africa to tell them how unstable and dangerous for their children group marriages are? That might be problematical in Senegal, where 47% of all marriages are polygamous... And would we refuse fellowship to immigrants involved in such marriages?

Does it really make sense for us to take it to the streets over whether Heather can have two mommies, and then denounce Heather having two mommies and a daddy? With the epidemic of children being raised outside of marriage- and that being the best predictor of future drug use and jail time- does it really make sense to rule out yet another form of marriage? Do you truly, objectively believe one can make a case against Polyamory without sounding exactly like a fundamentalist arguing against gay marriage?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Sometimes, neither science nor religion has the answer

In the debates of Creationism and/or Intelligent Design Vs. Evolution, those favoring creation love to find anomalies around the edges of evolution to use as a wedge, to pick it apart- Hell, even though I believe in Evolution as to our physical bodies, I’ve done some of that picking myself . And, of course, those that favor Evolution can easily do the same thing. But sometimes a given anomaly cannot be used by either side; it is a two-edged sword. I’ve been contemplating the question of pain- and cannot find an answer in either philosophy.

Religion cannot answer why we feel pain from disease and internal problems that are not related to behavior- cancer and the like. Some try to say that it’s a punishment, but that won’t wash; as the song says, “everybody hurts, sometimes”, and everybody dies- if it were a punishment, it would imply that nobody is ever saved. Some say it’s a test- but if God knows all, why does he need to test our reactions to cancer? And even if there were some value in revealing our reaction, how does that explain the suffering of animals who cannot by nature sin? In the end, all religions have to fall back to “It’s a mystery.”

But science is no better at explaining such pain. Yes, there is considerable evolutionary advantage to pain from external sources- “Once bitten, twice shy”, but what conceivable evolutionary advantage is there to pain from ailments that are not behaviorally related? Sometimes even a relatively minor internal ailment can cause debilitating pain that renders one non-functional; that’s actually contra-survival. Other diseases that will eventually be terminal, but would allow months or years of useful parenting or reproduction have those years cut short by debilitating pain- again, that’s contra-survival. Even non-fatal ailments can have pain that is inexplicable by evolution, because we heal much faster when carrying out our normal activities, rather than staying bed ridden- and the pain can prevent that from happening... again, a survival disadvantage. Evolution has given us bodies with little or no nerve endings in various places- try pinching the point of your elbow, for example- why was it necessary for us to feel such agony over internal diseases we have no control over?

Doctors, Priests, Philosophers, in three part harmony: “It’s a mystery.”