Title: Godforsaken: Bad Things Happen. Is there a God who cares? Yes. Here’s proof.
Author: Dinesh D’Souza
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (March 1, 2012)
Pages: 274 (Hardcover edition from the library)
The problem of evil is a theological and philosophical issue for many. If God is good, as Christians (including me) claim, then how can one explain the evils of this world? Many atheists have remained strong in their convictions and many claiming the name of Christ have deserted the faith because of unsatisfactory answers to this dilemma.
Numerous works have been written to address this matter. As I was browsing the library, I stumbled across D’Souza’s book and the premise sounded interesting. I’d seen videos of D’Souza come through my Facebook feed and read some of the subtitles, but was not otherwise familiar with him.
An interesting distinction that he made early on is between pain and suffering. He made the argument that pain is a good thing as it is the sensation that alerts us to damage to our bodies, while suffering is more or less a mindset that we as conscious beings can experience (and may be related to or caused by our pain). Animals, he argues, generally don’t have the mental capacity/consciousness to experience suffering; we merely impose our consciousness on their existence and claim they are suffering. I don’t know enough about animal brains to affirm or deny this claim, but it is an interesting point.
Ultimately, though, I found this book to be more of a letdown than anything. The basic argument boils down to the world as it exists is the best possible world that God could have created, which I don’t find to be a satisfactory rebuttal to the idea that God is to blame. The philosophical arguments he puts forth might work in the framework of his worldview, but his starting point is flawed as he is evidently a theistic evolutionist (at least that is the base from which his arguments flow). You could argue that I am biased, but holding a young-earth creationist view that understands the book of Genesis to be literal history makes much more sense out of this issue and places the blame for the evils we face in this world where it belongs: on us.
I was further disturbed by his recounting of Abraham’s intercession for Sodom. He addresses this in Chapter 11: Rage of Yahweh, in a section titled Bronze Age Morality, where he begins by saying that “Jews and Christians have long understood…that the actions and teachings of the Bible are an accommodation to the level that man has reached at a given time.” I think this is a bit of a stretch for the actual progressive revelation seen throughout Scripture. The basic notion is that God “recognizes that cultures are at different stages of development, and he deals with each group as it is, seeking always, albeit sometimes gradually, to raise it up higher.”
He moves into God destroying all but Noah and his family, an example of only the righteous being spared in judgment (specifically Noah; arguments for/against the righteousness of some/all of his sons could be made). D’Souza immediately follows this up with Abraham interceding for Sodom on Lot’s behalf. “We see Abraham bargaining with God, urging him to save a city on account of a few righteous individuals. There is some haggling over this, but basically God relents. He spares the city because there remains a handful of good people in it. So God has changed his modus operandi: this time he does not wipe out the city and spare only the righteous. This time, on account of the righteous, he spares everyone.” You could argue that God did spare Sodom…for a night. But not even the agreed upon ten righteous individuals could be assembled for God to spare the city; only four made it outside the city walls, and one of them (Lot’s wife) died during the escape because she looked back. So not only do I find D’Souza’s philosophy lacking, his biblical history and theology are also suspect.
Overall, I’d rate this book a hesitant 3/5 stars, mostly because I feel it serves as an example of how not to defend God or Christianity.
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