The Problem of Nuance in a Wonderful and Terrible World

Greta Christina


Fundamentalist believers want every­thing to be simple. They want their moral choices to be straightforward: they want a clear rulebook that outlines their cho ices, written for them by a perfect god. They want the world divided up into clearly labeled categories, with good people in one box and evil people in another. It’s so childish. The world isn’t like that. And the world shouldn’t be like that. It would be horrible. Why would they even want that?”

Lots of atheists I know say stuff like this. I sometimes say it myself. And then I have one of those days when I’m hit with a barrage of difficult, complicated choices that have no clear answers, and by the end I’m exhausted with decision fatigue and couldn’t even tell you what kind of ice cream I wanted. I have one of those days when someone I thought I knew well does something that’s not just appalling but completely out of character, unlike anything I’ve ever seen this person do, and the ground starts to crack under my feet as I wonder how many of my other friends are hiding crucial parts of their faces and their characters and their lives. I have one of those days when the sun is shining and our backyard is beautiful and tranquil, and people on the other side of the globe are kidnapping schoolgirls and selling them into sex slavery, and I don’t know how to live in the world with it being so astonishingly wonderful and at the same time so deeply terrible. I have one of those days, or weeks, or months, or years. Or the world has one of those days, or weeks, or months, or years. And I suddenly get a lot more sympathy for the desire to have an either/or world.

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