Kidder gives us various viewpoints on human suffering and the existence of God. If God exists, why does suffering exists? [for library materials on this topic, click here.] This has been called by philosophers and theologians the "problem of evil." [click here for philosophy of religion books.] Remember that Deo's answer was, basically, that God left humans to their own devises, and this is what happened--a Deistic approach. (Can you find the exact quote?) At one point the author gives part of his opinion:
I said to Sharon, "One of the things I've noticed about some of the genocide narratives I've read, people will say, 'God spared me.' The problem I have with that is then you think, 'Well, what about all the people who got their heads chopped off?...So I'm not quite sure that's the way to look at it" (p. 177).
But Sharon, the ex-nun who helped Deo find a home in New York, replies with very unique and interesting take on God and human suffering:
"I have a theory," she replied. "I remember thinking long ago, 'We're loved infinitely for however little bit of time we have.' And it's not ultimately tragic to die at any age. Whether we're talking about being blown into little pieces or waht is ultimate tragedy, I just think there isn't ultimate tragedy except for evil, and God doesn't will any evil. And we're surrounded by--I tell the little kids about the Good Shepherd...but the vine and the branches is great, too--but whether we feel it or not, we are surrounded by this tremendously loving presence, and that covers every second of every day. Of everybody" (p. 177).
Of all the philosophy books I've read on the subject, I find this "theory" most unique, complicated, and brilliant. It ignores the question entirely by making a statement (a "tremendously loving presence" exists at all times) that "covers" the problem.
What do you think of Sharon's theory? What do you think the novel is trying to say about suffering, God, and religion?
Did you know that Tracy Kidder is coming to Kalamazoo? And "Deo" himself?
Strength in What Remains