Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Would you hire these people?

The occasions on which the problem of evil has been discussed are more numerous than the angels one could fit on the head of a pin. Still, I think that an interesting argument can be made that I have not seen made before.

Imagine that you are a company director and that you are hiring new managers for a subsidiary company. Your company's image is that of an upstanding corporate citizen, its whole brand is based on ethics, the personification of this ethical stance being your public image. You have in front of you the CVs belonging to the prospective new managers. Unlike a normal director you are in the enviable position of knowing exactly when a CV is less than factual. So, you know which manager is corrupt, which one is about to have charges of molestation brought against them, etc. Given all this, which managers do you choose? Nazi sympathisers? Child molesters? Corrupt Mafia collaborators? War mongers?

Well, assuming that your public image is more than good PR, I would expect the answer to be: none of the above. You'd want someone ethical, someone who 'embodies your values'. Right? So; what's the story with the parade of sordid characters that have been The Lord's representatives on this Earth? I mean, it seems like every other day you read in the paper news of some bishop who's been sprung with his hand in the cookie jar or with some other member in an inappropriate location. Looking at history, the list of Popes is all too full of anti-Semites, reactionaries, chauvinists or what have you. Should God outsource the HR department?

It could be argued that that's exactly what he's done. People have free will and people choose the bishops. Not in a democratic kind of way, of course. Indeed, actually only the Pope gets to choose and he, in turn, is chosen by the Conclave, a gathering of cardinals. But, if we are to believe the PR brochures, the Conclave is supposed to be merely doing God's bidding in choosing the next Pope. Which brings us back to God. Clearly, something somewhere gives. Even if we assume that God is leaving the whole succession question to humans it doesn't get rid of the problem. I mean, imagine that you have let your managers choose new Members of the Board and then found that their choices were undermining the future of your company. What kind of director would you be if you did not step in at this point? How long would you wait till you started to do something? Six months? A financial year? Two? Two thousand financial years?

The problem is that God's only representatives, the only ones who are supposedly passing his message onto us, all too often seem not to be listening to that message themselves. So, sure, maybe not all evil is God's problem but what about the evil which is wrought in his name by his official representatives? I mean, if that's OK by him, he can't then turn around and feel disappointed if the customers begin to lose faith in his brand, if they doubt that his public image is anything more than just the product of a sophisticated advertising campaign. This all might not have mattered if he had a monopoly but we are in a deregulated market for souls.


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