From “A Ship of Fools”, by Richard Paul Russo (Phillip K. Dick Award Winner)


“There was no one thing that raised doubts within me, no one tragedy or
horror. It was an accumulation of small,personal tragedies and miseries
that I saw around me, directly, and indirectly, in all parts of the
ship, in stories people told me, in the Church’s historical records as
well as my own observations of daily life. There were so many people,
good people with deep and abiding faith, who nonetheless suffered
terribly in their lives – physically, emotionally, or both. People
whose prayers never seemed to be answered.
“The most distressing,
and troubling, were the children. Young, innocent children, who could
not have sinned, could not even know what sin was, and yet who lived
protracted, agony filled lives, or died horrible, painful deaths. There
weren’t many, but I couldn’t understand it for even one. Why did these things happen?” She slowly shook her head. ” I had no answers. None.
“I could not reconcile these things with my earlier conception of a
benevolent, all-powerful God who listened to our prayers and who
interceded in our lives. The priests would tell me that the suffering
was a test, or a lesson for us to learn from. Or, alternatively, that
God’s ways were just too mysterious for us to ever understand, that
applying any kind of logic or looking for rational reasons for why
things happened was useless”

She turned, and looked directly at me. “I could not accept any of these
answers. I still can’t. So I began to seriously doubt God’s existence.
Or, I told myself, if God did exist, if he was omniscient and omnipotent, could intercede in our lives and ease or end our suffering, but chose not to, or in fact chose to make us suffer… then I wanted nothing to do with such a God.”
“Father Bernard recognized my growing doubts, even though I had not
overtly expressed to him. Actually, they were more than just doubts. I
was ready to quit my studies and abandon my plans. He encouraged me to
take some time for myself – away from the Church, away from my studies,
away from my family and friends. He encouraged me to meditate on my
doubts, upon my faith. Like Jesus, I went into the desert.”
“I spent ten days there, ten days in the desert. I packed food and
water for two weeks, a sleeping pad, and nothing else. Not even a
Bible. After ten days, I had what I can only describe as a revelation.
An unconventional revelation, some might even call it heretical, for it
differs from the standard Church doctrines. Some people might put it
off to a fevered mind addled by heat and thirst and semistarvation,
hallucinations caused by days of isolation. But it was all so crystal
clear to me, everything finally falling into place, and it all made
sense to me at last. It felt right, it felt true.
Most importantly, the understanding, the feeling of rightness, stayed
with me long after I’d left the wasteland and returned to my quarters.
It remains with me to this day.”

I had to fight the urge to question her, to encourage her to speak.
“Free will,” she eventually said. “That’s what I finally understood. True free will. When God created human beings, he bestowed on them the greatest gift besides His love. Out of His love. Two gifts, really, but so interconnected, they’re like one. First, the capacity to do anything, good or evil, wise or unwise, loving or hateful. Second, true free will to act upon that capacity.”
“Those are God-like qualities. Not in power, but in choice. If he had
created us in such a way that we could only do good, if we were
incapable of acting badly, selfishly, causing pain or harm, then the
notion of free will would be meaningless, would it not? Not only that,
true free will precludes God’s intervention in our lives. (Note: I disagree with this, to an extent, but I’ll say more about that later.)

There is no free will if God intercedes to protect us or save us from
the consequences of our own, or other people’s actions and choices. We
have to face those consequences ourselves. That is the price we pay for
free will.”

Great passage. There’s a bit more, and I disagree very slightly with
one point he makes, but man, that was powerful to read. There’s another
bit I’ll post soon, but I need to go, or I’ll be late for Church if I
don’t go.