Assault survivors are not at fault for not resolving the problem of evil

While browsing threads on Twitter the other day I saw a random outraged atheist ranting about one of the survivors of the mall shooting in Allen, Texas. Outraged Atheist was outraged because the survivor had thanked god, which proves religious believers are monsters: he’s saying he deserved to live but the victims didn’t! What a shitty human being!

No, that’s not what he’s saying, but that’s not the first time I’ve seen similar arguments. Back in the 1990s, skater Tonya Harding paid someone to assault skating rival Nancy Kerrigan with a hammer to her knees. At some point after the attack, Kerrigan asked, as people do, how something this would happen to her. A windbag columnist (I don’t have the name) declared this proved Kerrigan was a shallow, selfish bitch — what she should have done is ask why violence and assault happen at all. By focusing on herself, she proved she thinks she’s some special snowflake who should never suffer anything bad.

I have very little sympathy for this ass-hat viewpoint. The Allen mall dude just lived through a nightmare; Kerrigan, an assault that could have crippled her. Focusing on themselves rather than pondering “why does evil happen? What does it say about god/the universe that terrible things happen to innocent people?” seems natural to me. As Susan Neiman says in Evil in Modern Thought, even secular, rationalist philosophers have struggled with the problem of evil. I’m inclined to give people coming out of a traumatic experience a little slack.

Besides, the Allen survivor didn’t say he deserved God’s help better than the dead. The idea that God saves us not for merit but for his own incomprehensible reasons is a common one in Christianity. “Why didn’t God save the others?” is a valid question but I don’t think the survivor was offering “I’m better than them” as the answer — if he’d said it, the Outraged Atheist didn’t mention it (I’m sure he would have).

Not what I’d intended to post today but I wanted to get that off my chest. To make up for taking your time, here’s a photo of a silly bush in our neighborhood.

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