Daredevil was already one of the most interesting superheroes Marvel had created by the time Frank Miller took over his book in the 1980s. A blind vigilante with no superpowers except that the chemical that blinded him also rendered his other senses so acute that he can “see” without his eyes? The Man Without Fear is certainly one of Stan Lee’s more brilliant creations. But when Frank Miller wrote Born Again and The Man Without Fear, he left an indelible mark on Daredevil—and one of his most important contributions to the character is Matt Murdock’s Catholicism.
So when Daredevil #16 hit the stands last month, I was pleased to see that Charles Soule’s very good post-Secret Wars iteration of Daredevil would finally explore Matt’s faith (or perhaps “doubt” is a better word). That issue ends with Matt going to a church to meet with a priest, Father Jordan, to discuss the problem that drove him away from church in his earlier life: the problem of evil.
The problem of evil is one of the oldest and most difficult problems in philosophy. Simply put, it says, “If God were all-good and all-powerful, he wouldn’t allow evil to exist. But evil does exist, so either God can’t prevent evil, or God does not exist.” This has been the most serious argument advanced by atheism, and it is notoriously contentious. (Watch a debate between an atheist and a Christian about the topic to see what I mean; the problem of evil brings out passion on all sides.)
There are a number of answers to the problem of evil that a religious thinker might advance. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam alone have produced all sorts of arguments that explain why a good God would allow evil to exist. And many of them are very persuasive (not persuasive enough to convince Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins, of course, but no argument will convince everybody).
So while I was intrigued when Matt approached Father Jordan about the problem of evil at the end of Daredevil #16 last month, I was dismayed at Father Jordan’s answer to the problem in issue #17:
Essentially, Father Jordan is saying that God created a world where cancer and pedophilia and serial killers and human trafficking exist so that we’d try hard to make that world into something good. This is a Catholic priest, a man who is part of the same tradition that gave us Augustine, Aquinas, and von Balthasar, and this is the best answer he can give to the problem of evil? Not only is it an answer that any thinking person ought to find completely unsatisfying, but it is also flatly contradicted by 2,000 years of consistent teaching on the subject by the religion that Father Jordan represents.
It makes me wonder why popular culture can’t give any consideration to serious religion. Marvel should be commended for creating characters whose religion is important to them (Daredevil, Ms. Marvel, and Nightcrawler being notable examples). But how much more interesting would it be if that religion could be something more serious than the silly argument that Father Jordan advances in Daredevil #17?
Moreover, I wish that Marvel (and other comics writers) would take seriously the ways in which religion sets people apart from the prevailing culture. Imagine a book in which a religious character like Daredevil or Ms. Marvel (who is a Muslim) had to wrestle with the fact that he or she adheres to a millennia-old belief system that often contradicts modern society’s assumptions about the world—all while fighting tooth and nail to protect that society. That would make for good comics.