Category Archives: Father

On the Worst of All Possible Worlds

Dear Father,

A common point often brought up when faced with the contradiction of your benevolence and our evil is that this world, this cruel and harsh earth we inhabit, is the best of all possible worlds. The reasoning often goes that you, in your boundless and infinite wisdom, considered all the worlds, all the possible outcomes of all the possible actions, and chose to create this world because it was the one in which the most good was found. We are told that this has to be the case because you are good. Any evil we see in a world such as ours exists in spite of your benevolence and not because of any hidden malice, for had you been less than perfectly good our lives would be much, much worse than they are now.

As with nearly all explanations that come from your House and your children this one is quite circular. It doesn’t actually prove your goodness; one must assume your benevolence as incontrovertible truth in order to reach a conclusion such as this. There are, however, more interesting implications to this line of thought than its basic circular nature.

Consider first dear Father the process of imagining all the other worlds. When a being of your stature brings to bear his imagination, one can expect it would not be quite as vague and imprecise as those of your children. When we imagine things our minds gloss over tiny details. We look at the big picture so to speak, only getting into the specifics when we have determined a certain course to be desirable and wish to flesh it out. For you Father one would expect the opposite to be true. When you imagine, everything, from the smallest detail to its largest effect, would at once be laid bare before you. You would know intimately the details of your imagination, because an intellect as all-encompassing as yours would simply be unable to gloss over anything.

I’m sure you would agree that such intricate imagination is fundamentally indistinguishable from actual creation. There would be no new discoveries to make when making your imaginations real. There would be no quirks, no bugs, no tiny little idiosyncrasies born from the “specifics” of your implementation. In fact because even the very concept of “real” is something that would be created by you, simply imagining a world would be tantamount to making it. Many House elders and lovers of Sophia have posited that the universe exists entirely in your mind and it is easy to see why. Even if it didn’t, even if there was a tangible qualitative difference between your mind and reality, the things themselves in both these cases would be indistinguishable. An observer moving from mind to reality would be unable to tell that he has changed environments as all observable entities would be exactly the same.

What this means Father is that your defenders have not escaped the problem of evil by stating that our world is the best. They have in fact made it worse. By considering all possible worlds you have essentially created all possible worlds, including those where life is as bad as it can possibly be. And because we do not know how bad life can be, it is entirely possible that this world is the worst of all possible worlds.

Of course one would be hard pressed to argue that our world is the worst that could ever be. There is, admittedly, quite a bit of happiness attached to our existence and we can certainly imagine things being worse than even the horrors we witness and hear about today. But we can also imagine things being so much better than they are now, making the argument that our world is best specious by the very same standards.

Even if our world isn’t the worst possible world it means that the worst possible world has existed at some point, perhaps exists right now (some in your House believe you to be timeless, meaning that all things happen at once from your perspective). It means that somewhere, in your mind or otherwise, there exist children of yours that are undergoing as much suffering as is conceivably possible simply because you thought it. What justifications for their torture exist in their world I wonder? How do those faithful to you even there come to terms with their suffering? How do they manage to praise your supposed benevolence?

Of course it can easily be countered that you needn’t have imagined all worlds with a level of intricacy that makes them indistinguishable from reality. Ignoring the fact that such a statement places a needless limit on the breadth of your intellect, it still does not absolve you of the suffering in our world; it indicts you even more. How can you be sure there aren’t better worlds if you didn’t uncover every stone, consider every possibility? If your imagination is as limited and as vague as ours, how do you guarantee to yourself that the earth you picked is in fact the best? How do you square it against your standard of being good if you cannot stand before your children and tell them there are truly no better worlds because you checked?

And in the event that this is in fact, by some as yet unknown justification, the best of all possible worlds, does that not fill you with sadness Father? That you, with all your might and power and wisdom, could create no better a world than one where your children still starve to death every day, are tortured mercilessly, and inhabit an existence so bleak some of them choose to end their own lives? I know those within your House felt they had come up with an excellent point when they posited that this world was the best you could do, but as with most explanations from that hallowed institution it just leaves me even sadder. For if this is the best you can do, dearest Father, how can you ask us to believe in your perfection?

With a heavy heart,

Your Prodigal Son

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On the Confessions of St. Augustine

Dearest Father,

The last time I wrote you about the Numidian it was on his recent conversion, an act sparked by the death of a very dear friend. While I was dubious at the time that a similar situation would be the catalyst that brought me back to you, I was undeterred in my desire to finish the Numidian’s long letter, hopeful that at its end I would have come to a deeper understanding of what it means to have strayed and returned to the fold. I have at long last concluded his Confessions, but I must confess Father that no such understanding has come over me.

We left Augustine with his decision to become a catechumen and it appears that after this decision he was blessed with meeting the most favourable people, from his friend in conversion Alypius to the wonderful and eloquent Ambrose, the bishop of Milan. Such men helped our Numidian in his early days post-conversion, assisting him in weathering the storms of doubt, fear, pain and sorrow, and enabling him to rise above these calamities and finally see you with a clarity he had never before experienced. He studied very closely your scriptures, questioned the very nature of good and evil, and finally came to what can only be described as a breathless joy at being in your embrace. His words reveal an immense appreciation for his trials, and he even began to look fondly upon his past, saying that the joy of his conversion was made sweeter by the tribulations that preceded it.

Having fully returned to the House in heart as well as in body, and filled with what I suppose must have been a burning desire to know you intimately, he turned his mind to you and your creation, contemplating your grace and beauty, the power contained in your works, and the difficulty (if not impossibility) of describing such wonderful things in terms that simple mortal minds could comprehend.

And in this, his sudden acquiescence to all the doctrines and dogmas of the House, lies my problem Father. Like Augustine I have asked very many questions on very many topics. I have pondered the effects of your creation, the paradoxes inherent in your sacrifice. I have struggled with the whispers of Doubt. But unlike the great Numidian, I have no easy recourse to emotion. I have no friends whose deaths would cause me to seek you out, whose losses would make me crave the steady comfort of the House’s teachings. Unlike him I understand fundamentally that life is fleeting and that pain is real; ironically it is for this reason that I left the House and began my journey in the first place. Where he sought answers to calm the turbulent emotions in his heart, I seek answers to quiet the numerous questions in my head. Too quickly did he brush aside the very contradictions he raised, willing to overlook all inconsistencies before your might, whilst tearing down even the smallest errors in the teachings of the heretics.

Perhaps it was my mistake, reading his Confessions and hoping to be swayed in your favour. The heresy of my day lies not in some twisted interpretation of the works of your son, but in the very nature and existence of you, dearest Father, something our Numidian had already taken for granted.

But what is most troubling about his Confessions is not that they failed to move me, Father; it is the manner in which he concluded them. After waxing poetic on the wonders contained in your being, Augustine ended his missive with this:

“And what man can teach man to understand this? or what Angel, an Angel? or what Angel, a man? Let it be asked of Thee, sought in Thee, knocked for at Thee; so, so shall it be received, so shall it be found, so shall it be opened. Amen.”

Once again I am told that the answers I seek will not come to me from any man, or angel, or book, but from you Father, and once again I am compelled to ask when you will answer me. When will you put my mind to rest?

With disappointment and longing,

Your Prodigal Son

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On Fathers and Their Children

Dear Father,

I was locked in an interesting discussion the other day with a friend back at home. Having recently discovered that I had left the House completely and was not, as I’d let most of my friends and family believe, simply checking out another wing in the vast domicile, she had taken to evangelising to my wayward soul. Where our conversations were normally about our mundane and carefree lives they quickly became about you and the Brother-Saviour, about coming back home and giving my life back to best Father in the universe. Very many times she failed to understand the depth of my doubt, often telling me that I was simply being difficult, that I would believe if I really wanted to. She is not the first person I have heard this from. Many of your children, it seems, genuinely do not understand how some of us could fail to believe. They think it is simply a matter of choice, that our lack of faith comes from a purposeful effort to undermine you, and not a genuine position of ignorance and confusion. Perhaps this is why many of the people I have spoken to about my predicament have failed to turn me back to you. There appears to be a fundamental disconnect between all of us, a wall that stops believers from truly empathising with those of us that have crossed the golden gates.

Our conversation on that day was about freedom and its consequences. As you know one of the central issues that drove me from home is the presence of evil in the world you have made. My friend had just finished extolling the beauties of nature, the magnanimity of our Father, a being that loved the world so much he suffered and died for it. And I asked her – much as I ask myself on many occasions, and as Doubt asks me on the days I am feeling more amenable towards you – I asked her about the people currently suffering through famine in the continent of my ancestors. There are children there, who despite the best efforts of their brethren (some of whom neither know you, nor care about you) will be born, only to die shortly after from disease and starvation. There are those who have known only pain and poverty their entire lives, with nary an inkling of joy. I asked about the war-torn regions in the Middle East, where the children of the Star and the Crescent are locked in what appears to be constant war; where extremists, marching in the name of someone that bears a striking resemblance to you, are murdering people by the hundreds, intent that all on this earth bow to their holy vision. I asked about these things and she said, almost nonplussed, “Did Father do any of those?”

In her mind, as in the minds of almost all the children in the House, you have given us free will and so are absolved of all responsibility for the actions perpetrated under this freedom. I was wrong, she said emphatically, to blame you for the deeds of your children.

Ignoring my trials (and failures) at grasping the true meaning of free will, her question brought me to an almost stunning realisation. None of your children would treat their children the way you have treated us. Think for a moment Father, on how parents (the good ones, at any rate) raise their children. An earthly father does not see his two infant sons fighting, with one in real danger of killing the other, and shrug it off, claiming that they possess the freedom to do as they please. An earthly mother does not see her baby waddling towards a burning flame and allow it, claiming that the baby has chosen the fire and so she will respect its choices. Even if the child had already burned itself and still sought to approach the fire no parent would justify leaving it to the flames; no parent would say that because the child really wanted to burn they would let it.

The way we treat our children is centred around circumventing their freedoms, because we see quite clearly that their minds cannot use these freedoms properly. We make our homes childproof; we mash their food into tiny little bits; we swaddle them with the softest clothing. They are young and foolish and fragile, and that is how we, in our love for them, treat them.

But they are children, came my friend’s swift reply. We can distinguish between right and wrong; we know what’s good for us; we are not children. But once again I could not agree with her. Of course when compared with our children we are not children. But when compared to you we are even less than children. The differential between your intellect and ours is far, far greater than that between ours and our kids. And in spite of the fact that the children we birth eventually make it to maturity, we never stop trying to prevent the harm they cause. In my musings on justice I made the point that in its idealisation the justice of your children would aim to prevent harm, using punishment only as a deterrent and not as a tool of vengeance. When our police hear of a potential murder they do not shrug it off and claim that the participants are free. No; they do everything in their power to stop that murder from happening.

And yet it seems our Father in heaven, who loves us far more than we can ever know, refuses to afford us the same courtesy. You know, Father, that we are weak. You know that even when we have the best intentions we still fail. You know that some of us, for whatever reason, do not even have the best intentions. And yet you have not stopped the dictators from murdering millions, the warlords from grabbing children from their homes and shoving guns into their arms. The free will excuse seems immensely shallow because no loving Father, in full knowledge of the limitations of his children, would allow them to destroy themselves so wantonly, especially when the countless threats of the fiery pit down below have done little to quell their bloodlust and violence.

As expected my friend refused to see my point, insisting that the freedom you have given us trumps all else, that somehow, even though we are less than children before your awesome eyes, we are still to blame for the terrible things we foolishly do to one another. Perhaps she is right. Perhaps fathers everywhere would do well to follow in the example of the greatest Father of them all. I suspect the recent holiday commemorating fathers would have taken on a very different tone if this were the case, however. I doubt anyone of us, burned and scarred by the flames, would have found it in our hearts to celebrate such fathers.

With love,

Your Prodigal Son

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On the Choices of My Father

Dear Father,

The words Doubt spoke to me the last time I wrote have refused to leave my mind, and as the days have passed my head has been filled with even more terrors concerning your title as Great Arbiter. I am afraid his attempt to explain away the paradox of our freedom has backfired, for if I sounded lost and confused at the end of my last letter, I am far more lost now, and much more afraid.

You see Father, your power means that you are capable of anything. If you say that up is down, up becomes down. If you say that left is right, left becomes right. Faced with such power one realises that you can truly do whatever you want; there are no bounds or limits on the extent of your abilities. Before you existence is a blank slate, putty to be moulded in whatever shape your desire.

This means that you could have created any number of worlds where things were slightly different from this one, where, for example, the First Brother did not partake of the forbidden fruit, thus ensuring that he and his children remained in paradise for all eternity. But you did not. You could have made a world where even after his blatant disregard for your commands he was immediately forgiven and allowed to remain in the garden, but you did not. You could have created a world where nothing he ever did could have violated your will, where it was not his destiny to fall out of your favour and your paradise. But you did not. Faced with all these choices, all these universes, all these possibilities, you chose instead to make the First Brother in such a manner as to guarantee his failure. You chose not to forgive him for his transgressions but to cast him out. You chose not to allow his offspring, guilty of nothing but being born, to return to paradise. You chose to allow disease to flourish, to allow wars and famine and pain to exist for millennia before finally sending the Brother-Saviour, and even then you chose to take him away. You chose to make a universe in which the Brother-Saviour’s sacrifice did not immediately mean salvation, but one where we would have to wait two millennia (and counting) for another, final judgement, when you would cast all the children you damned before they were even born into the fiery pit made ready for them. These horrors are the things you chose.

Even more alarming is the fact that your status as the Great Arbiter is ongoing. You still have the power to speak things into being, to make something from nothing. You can still eradicate all disease with a wave of your hand, reform all sinners, end all wars. You can return as the Brother-Saviour tomorrow and establish a paradise for all men. These things are not out of reach; they are certainly not beyond your ability. All you need do is will them be and they will be. And yet the world around me remains the very same way it has always been. The people starving as I write these words will continue to starve. Those dying will continue to die. Those suffering will continue to suffer.

These are frightening thoughts, dearest Father, for they mean that you are actively choosing to be bring suffering to your children, to watch while they struggle in the harsh world you have given them. This is manifest cruelty, for not only did you make the world as it is, you are refusing to change it. You are allowing the very evil you created to grow and spread, to fester and flourish.

Our independence may be questionable Father, but yours is without doubt; you will not be our Father without it. And if this world, an existence free of freedom and mired in suffering, is what you have chosen for your children, how can we call you good? How can we look to you for guidance? How can we think on your image and rejoice? Yours is not a face of love, but a face of brutality, and thinking on the kind of mind that could do all this and call it good, I am filled with a fear most visceral…

My once little friend is silent, Father; even he has no counter to this.

With fear and trembling,

Your Prodigal Son

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On Words and their Meanings

Dearest Father,

As you have probably surmised, my discoveries on free will and justice have not exactly set me ablaze with love for you. Where I sought to discover the freedom in your children that absolved you of the harshness of your justice, I found instead puppets and strings, little subjects moving to the whims of their master. I have thought long and hard on what these conclusions mean for my prospects of returning home, and I must say Father that it does not look good. I do not understand the crude nature of your justice, but if your children are not freely choosing to turn their backs on you, how is their punishment fair? How can you condemn them to an eternity of suffering when they are simply fulfilling the very destinies you created for them?

Of course I would be remiss if I did not mention that my once little friend has not been silent as I have thought these thoughts and asked these questions. He has tried all too often to find flaws with the reasoning that brought me to this point, and he has failed at almost every turn. One of his statements, however, has stuck with me these past few days and it is one I wish to share with you. I do not think he has found a way to give me hope though; in fact the implications of his words may have served to drive me even further away from the House I once called home.

His words to me were thus:

“You cannot say that your Father is not just, or that you are not free, because he has said that he is, and that you are. He is the Great Arbiter; his word is truth.”

If you remember Father, in our bid to discover the meaning of truth we realised that a lot of what we took as fact was nothing but simple arbitration, statements that appeared to make sense but lacked the proof that would reveal their real truth value. We concluded then that absent verification all statements must remain arbitration, neither true nor false but open for discovery and deliberation. We also concluded that even under such rules you remain untouchable, for you are the Great Arbiter; your arbitrations become truth from the sheer force of your will.

We referenced this viewpoint when we discussed free will. Unwilling to accept that you were a simple machine, bound to always pick the good option when presented with a choice, we surmised that you must be above good and evil. You made good and evil; whatever you dictate to be good becomes good. Whatever you dictate to be evil becomes evil.

Applying the same concept to justice and free will gives you the crux of Doubt’s statement to me. You are the Great Arbiter. Whatever you define to be free is free; whatever you define to be just is just. I cannot claim that your justice is unjust. It is your justice; it cannot help but be just. I cannot claim that our freedom is bondage. It is your gift; we cannot help but be free.

If one ignores the powerfully circular nature of this argument it would appear that Doubt has floored me completely. But as I mentioned before his statements only served to drive me further from you, as the true implications of this point seem almost too terrible contemplate.

I would like you to consider what his statement really means, Father. It means that we cannot, not now, not ever, know what anything means. Your children, of limited minds and hearts, have (for as long as we can tell) used signs and sounds to communicate. When we say or do certain things there is a tacit agreement amongst us for what those things mean, or what they are supposed to mean. It is this agreement that has enabled to us to form societies. Without it even your noble House would not have been built, as the children that remained after the Brother-Saviour would not have been able to communicate with the world and spread your word. This tacit agreement is what allows us to have general feelings (if not outright definitions) for such words as good, evil, love, freedom, and justice. Now these definitions may vary from culture to culture, from House to House, but within these cultures and these Houses they are generally agreed upon. The very existence and survival of their institutions depends on this.

Now consider yourself, dearest Father. We are told that you love us. That all the other Fathers and Mothers and Uncles and Aunts in all the other Houses are not only false, but that they do not love us the way you do. Only you truly cares. Only you truly wants what’s best for us. These messages, coupled with the sacrifice of the Brother-Saviour, have been among the biggest reasons that many have been brought to the House, and that many have stayed within it. And accompanying these statements is a fundamental understanding of the concept of love, of benefit, of harm. That which brings fulfilment is borne of love, that which brings happiness is beneficial, and that which causes suffering and pain is harmful. You are none of the latter, Father, and all of the former, or so we are told.

Against this one looks at the world born from your lips and sees pain and suffering, fear and hurt, bondage and predetermination. We see a justice apparently motivated by as much negativity and spite as the crude offerings of your flawed children. We see punishment for punishment’s sake, pain for no other reason than pain itself. We see children created solely for salvation, and others only for damnation. And if we are to believe that you are the Great Arbiter, and that you have termed these things good and loving and just, then we must also believe that this pain and suffering, this our lack of freedom, is indeed good and loving and just.

Thus the words that we use to communicate the love and justice and freedom and happiness that we believe come from your House are apparently meaningless, for they can have their meanings changed at will. They can mean one thing and their complete opposite at the same time, for you have spoken it. Does freedom today mean bondage? Does it mean predestination? Does it mean captivity? Does good today mean genocide? Does it mean the condemnation of little children for the sins of their fathers? We cannot, of our own admittedly feeble faculties, say. We must first consult with you, and hope that you deign to bestow upon us your answers.

Perhaps more terrifying is the fact that this means that a good amount of the people called to your House have had the wrong impression about you from the very beginning. It is hard to believe that those that heard about your all-encompassing love believed that within that love lay the capacity to create some children solely for the purpose of burning them. No loving parent on your green earth would do such a thing, yet a quick study of your world and a short perusal of your Book reveals such acts in great detail.

Of course there are some within the House that believe that our lack of understanding comes from the less than perfect nature of our minds, but this, much like the assertions made with regards to the First Brother’s faculties, does not vindicate the state of your world. Ignoring our apparent lack of freedom this would mean that the salvation of a good chunk of your children is purely circumstantial. If our fundamental understanding of love and justice, the intuition with which we analyse the world, is not complete due to our failings, then there is nothing but chance to dictate who comes to you of his own volition. The very tools we have to understand what you do and why you do it are flawed. That anyone comes to you in the first place is a wonderful combination of luck and opportunity, and that people fail to understand your ways should be expected. In fact, if one looks upon the various Houses and tents and institutions the world over, all separate and distinct from the House of the Cross, this is exactly what we see: a vast majority of your children that simply does not get you. And yet true to form you have taken it upon yourself to condemn these people, and to cast them out of your sight. And this is good, Father, because you have said that it is.

And therein lies the problem with the belief in you as the Great Arbiter, dearest Father, for if your justice, an institution barely distinguishable from that of the lowest of your children, is in fact fair and good and loving, then those words have lost their meaning. And if our freedom, a state barely distinguishable from the pre-arranged motions of actors in a scripted play, is in fact freedom, then that word has lost its meaning as well. And if words can lose their meaning at your whim Father then what is the point of even trying to understand you? What has been the point of my journey, my quest for both you and the great Sophia? In a single moment this very page could mean something completely different simply because you willed it to be so!

I suppose in the end my journey truly is nothing but a pointless exercise. After all, Father, wasn’t my fate already decided before I was born?

With sadness,

Your Prodigal Son

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