Reviews for On Doubt
Sir Scott chapter 1 . 6/13/2008
Good essay. Everybody doubts things, we even doubt our own eyes when we see something that challenges our assumptions. I like your ideas about enlightenment and doubt. Doubting things doesn't make you free or give you freedom. It just makes you a slave to doubt.

Lorendiac chapter 1 . 6/13/2008
In the last few weeks, I've reviewed some other essays on this site, and in at least two of those reviews I have had occasion to say something along the following lines: "When the writer starts talking about "We" in his essay, I am likely to ask myself: 'We? Who's we? Is it supposed to include ME, or is it just a bunch of other people, with me left out in the cold?'"

Of course, those were essays wherein the author failed to make it absolutely clear, from the beginning, just what group of people he thought he was speaking for and about. The same point applies to your essay.

In your summary you mention "the Church," but there are thousands of churches. (Once I responded to an online piece in which someone said "the Church has historically discouraged [whatever-the-topic-was]" and I naturally asked: "Really? Which church are you talking about?" She responded: "Any and all Christian churches can be lumped together as 'the Church' for my purposes - they're all pretty much the same!" (Or words to that effect.) I felt that was an incredibly sweeping statement, and dead wrong to boot!)

You say "we" and "as religious people" in your opening paragraph, and even mention "Jesus," but that's still pretty vague. It suggests you think you are speaking for Christians, or quite possibly some smaller set of people who all happen to be Christians (as well as having other things in common?).

Way down toward the bottom of the essay, you say: "Call me an old, fashioned, Catholic boy, I don’t mind," but that comes very late, and even then it still isn't clear whether your entire essay is supposed to be taken as meaning "just we Catholics" whenever you use the pronoun "we."

I call myself a Christian, but not Catholic, so I'm really not sure whether you would think I was supposed to feel included whenever you kept talking about "we." However, I can tell you frankly that for various reasons I didn't feel your description of the things "we" go through and the mistakes "we" make was necessarily relevant to my own experiences. Let me quote one paragraph that particularly left me scratching my head as I wondered, "Who's the 'we' who actually did the things mentioned here? Not me, and not anyone I know well!"

* But how does something, which can make one doubt God, or His Church, be used by God? First, remember, that the Divine Lord can make even the bitterest of all evil things do show His good. As sickening as the Holocaust was, it work us up from our pride in thinking people were too advanced to either do the things that the Nazi’s did, or to at the very least, allow it to happen. Even now, we continue to learn just how willing the Allies were in turn a blind eye to the plight of the poor victims. Look at 9/11 and New York. Sixty years passed, and again we rejected that evil could be amongst us, we again smirked and decided humans were too advanced to believe that viciousness and evil existed. And again, we paid the price. And why? Because we allowed doubt to be the all, the final answer. But in reality its not the final answer. *

When I first read this paragraph, I felt more confused than anything else. For one thing, the grammar could stand some work. The meaning of "it work us up from our pride" is unclear; I suspect you meant to say something a bit different. And there are other things like that; I think you meant "Allies were in turning a blind eye" instead of "in turn a blind eye," and other stuff beyond that, which I won't belabor.

But more importantly: While the Holocaust happened long before I was born (and even before my parents were born), I'm not too clear on just who the "us" were who thought people were too advanced to do such things. It obviously wouldn't include anyone born after 1945. Sure, I have heard that many U.S. citizens were skeptical when the first horrible rumors about Hitler's "Final Solution" began leaking out . . . but an initial skepticism at such wild-sounding stories is not necessarily the same thing as saying: "We firmly believe that no human beings in this day and age would work together to perpetrate such massacres; it's flat-out impossible." If you have reason to believe that large groups of "us" (whatever "us" is supposed to mean in this essay) did in fact firmly believe that ALL human beings were better than that by the 1940s, then it would be a good idea to cite your sources!

On a similar note, this time a point on which I can really speak from PERSONAL experience: At the time of September 11, 2001, I was already a grown man, and I am absolutely positive that right before that terrorist attack, I was NOT walking around saying to myself: "We humans are so advanced that there are no longer any such things as viciousness and evil in the world!" Nor anything remotely similar. I don't remember hearing ANYBODY around me expressing such viewpoints, either! So when I read your claim that "we" had already rejected the idea that "evil could be amongst us," I'm once again asking myself: "We? Who's we? I didn't know anybody in the USA in the pre-9/11 era who flatly rejected the idea that evil people were still doing evil things in the real world, things that could kill large numbers of victims, at home or abroad!"

It's not like the mass media of the USA in the years before 9/11 had been smirkingly telling its readers and viewers and listeners: "Murders NEVER happen any more, rapes NEVER happen any more, child abuse NEVER happens any more . . . or at least not in the United States of America! Therefore we have put vicious evil firmly behind us!" Quite the CONTRARY, in fact!

So when you suggest that "we" (right before 9/11) had decided such things couldn't possibly happen in the modern world, I am puzzled as I try to figure out who this "we" is and where you got the idea that all of them (whoever they are) shared such an incredibly optimistic attitude until the day they heard the news about the World Trade Center!