Religious Studies Faculty Publications

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New Blackfriars


In April of 1992, Kristen French, a 15 year-old girl was kidnapped and held as a sex slave in suburban Ontario. For two days she was raped and threatened with death. Surprisingly, on the third day she grew defiant, refusing to perform a particular sexual act even after she was shown pre-recorded videotape of her predecessor, Leslie, being strangled by her captors with an electrical cord. (Leslie's corpse was sawn into 10 pieces before disposal.) A record of Kristen's suffering was preserved on video tape too. Of interest is Kristen's dying claim: "Some things are worth dying for."

Kristen's story strikes me as a pointed example of the sort of suffering some have offered as the basis for an evidential argument from evil. For example, William Rowe captures the heart of the argument in proposition P: "No good we know of justifies an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good being in permitting E1 and E2." Yet I think Kristen's tragedy is more troubling than that of E1, the case of the fawn languishing for days horribly and alone in the forest before succumbing to third degree forest fire burns, because I do not know what it means to say that animals are conscious of their pain. Kristen's case seems also more pointed than E2, the case of the rape, beating and death of a 5-year-old, since 5-year-olds lack conceptual skills to fully cognize the evils of rape much less the sense that death is impending.

Given that her story epitomizes gratuitous evil, there is something unnerving about Kristen's assertion that some things are worth dying for. Taken at face value, Kristen claims to know of a good causally connected to some evil, namely, death-by-rapist, that makes the evil of some value, "worth it" in her words. Granted, she may have had a privative rather than a substantive good in mind (viz., the cessation of rape). Still, her story is reminiscent of others who insisted that some things are worth dying for. ...

It will certainly be objected that at least some of the details of martyr stories are apocryphal. That charge doesn't damage the point that I wish to make. For, whether it was spoken by the victims themselves or their redactors, a truth claim is still on the table: "Some things are worth dying for."

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