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Christianity Infantilizes Adults

It's one thing for children to throw coins in a wishing well, but shouldn't adults know better?Have you heard the song “Christmas Shoes” from about ten years ago? Patton Oswalt tore it up in a clever comedy bit (video 7:49, rated R for language), and he makes an excellent point about the illogic of what Christians tell themselves.

The song tells the story of a guy who’s in yet another long line before Christmas, not really in the Christmas spirit. Ahead of him in line is a grubby kid holding a pair of shoes. When it’s the kid’s turn, he tells the clerk his story, that he’s buying his mom shoes to make her feel better. She’s sick, and he wants her to look her best if she meets Jesus that night.

The kid counts out the price in pennies, and it turns out that he doesn’t have enough. So he turns to our hero who feels sorry for the kid and pays for the shoes. The story concludes:

I knew I’d caught a glimpse of heaven’s love
As he thanked me and ran out
I knew that God had sent that little boy
To remind me just what Christmas is all about.

It’s a sweet story, and lots of people filter life’s events through a Christian lens in this way to see God’s benevolent purpose behind things. But let’s analyze this to see how “heaven’s love” worked in this situation.

God sees the cranky guy in line. He gives the kid’s mom some hideous disease, puts the kid in line in front of Mr. Cranky, and makes the kid a little short on cash so that this Christmas miracle could happen. In other words, God needs to make someone die and leave a kid motherless to spread a little Christmas spirit.

Is that the best explanation for the evidence? Is that an explanation that a Christian would want? What kind of insane deity would do that? Perhaps good and bad things just happen, without divine cause, and we can use events in our lives to prod us to consider what’s important. We don’t need God and we don’t need to be a Christian to be delighted by life, find silver linings, and use everyday events to remind us of things to be thankful for.

Reinterpreting events through a Christian lens can be comforting, and it patches holes in the Good Ship Christianity where reason leaks in. But this is simply a rationalization to support a presupposition, not an honest following of the evidence, and when you stop to think of what you’re actually saying, you’ll see that the reality you’ve invented not only makes no sense but is actually repulsive.

When Christians wonder why atheists get agitated, this kind of empty childish thinking is often the cause.

Consider another story. Suppose a girl sick with cancer throws a coin into a wishing well and wishes to get better. The net effect is that the girl is a little happier, like she took a happiness pill.

But this wishing well belief is just an ancient custom. We all know that wishing wells don’t really do anything. Should you break the news to her?

Few of us would. What’s the point? She actually does feel better, and she’ll have plenty of time to deal with reality as an adult. She has guardians in her life who will protect her as necessary, shielding her so that she can hold this belief.

But for someone to become an adult, that person must grow up. We leave behind wishing wells, Santa Claus, and other false beliefs as we become independent. No longer are the necessities of life given to us; as adults, we must fend for ourselves—indeed, we want to fend for ourselves. The parent who sugarcoats reality or keeps the child dependent for too long is doing that child no favors.

Reality is better than delusion, happy though that delusion may be. The doctor saying, “You’ll be just fine” feels a lot better than “You have cancer,” but if I really have cancer, which one allows me to take steps to improve my future?

Religion infantilizes adults and keeps them dependent. That’s a good thing for the 100-billion-dollar-a-year U.S. religion industry, but what is best for the individual—a pat on the head or reality?

When I was a child,
I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child;

but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
— 1 Corinthians 13:11

(This is a modification of a post that was originally published 1/13/12.)

Photo credit: Mickle

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Rolf Boettger

    It is a powerful lens. A few moths ago the youth pastor at church (I made a deal – if my wife goes, I go with her) told the following story: “My son, when he was 8 or 9 started having terrible nightmares, so I told him to pray before he goes to bed and ask God to keep the nightmares away. And it worked. But some nights he would forget to ask God and sure enough, the nightmares came back. Isn’t it wonderful how God answers prayers and protects us.” To her this was an inspirational story of how God loves everyone and will protect you if you pray. I just heard that God is a spiteful prick who will punish a little boy with nightmares if he forgets to pray one night.

    • Jeff

      Rolf,
      Thanks for parenthetically (did I spell that right?) explaining the deal you made with your wife. I might have a similar arrangement. After over two decades of sharing the same faith, I realized I no longer believe in God, but my wife does. It has been rough at times, but I keep going to church with her at her request, and am happy to do so. Your thoughts and response are encouraging.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Rolf and Jeff:

      I’ll echo what Jeff said. These are interesting stories. My immediate family is all on the same page with me, though that’s not true in my extended family. Living with a spouse with whom fundamental beliefs aren’t all shared sounds like quite a challenge. Best of luck threading that needle.

      If anyone else has stories or wisdom on the subject, I’m sure others would share my interest in hearing it.

  • IB Bill

    I think you folks need to make up your mind. Decide whether you don’t like God, or whether you don’t believe he exists.

    • Kodie

      People who believe in god exist, and they think that these things are true and beautiful when it is obviously pretty sick. AND they’re a majority, AND they demand special treatment, AND they are threatened like little children by atheism.

      • Steve V

        Kodie: I’m a Christian, I do believe that the Bible is God’s word, I’m not aware of anytime that I demanded special treatment, and I’m not threatened “like little children” by atheists.

        • Kodie

          Yeah, I know you’re not ALL like that. Here is your prize.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          Yeah, I know you’re not ALL like that. Here is your prize.

          Again with the anger and dismissiveness. Why is it not obvious that you are claiming that we are no true Scotsmen?

          You say “All Christians are threatened like little children” but that is clearly not true of those on this board. Nor is it true of the majority of the clergy. I dare say the apologists do not fear you at all. Most Christians who do not fit into those groups will have little or no experience with active atheism so I doubt that they would qualify either. Who then are these Christians you speak of? I should also point out that the intent of your statement is not fair to little children (who are often the fiercest and bravest people that you will ever meet, if only because they are often brave against overly-justified fears).

          You also say that we demand special treatment, but if all of us demand special treatment and we are in majority, then why are there not more creche’s on public land? Why is it that the ten commandments do not adorn every public building in the country? Either it is because we are completely ineffective (a dubious assertion) or it is because you have again made a sweeping generalization not because of facts or the majority of cases, but because you have preferred anecdotal evidences over statistical ones. I do hope we can agree that such an action is an argumentative error.

          You also say that the majority of people view these things as beautiful and then you say that it is obviously pretty sick. I will leave aside the comment about how we all view this as something fundamentally “true” because I think that a matter up for not-some-small amount of debate. If it is obvious that this is sick, however, why is the majority opposed to defining it as such? Clearly then it must be non-obvious, or at least non-obvious-to-majority. Of course, that does make one wonder about your particular definition of obvious.

          If you said, “should be obvious” I would then press for what makes it so: what is it about your particular set of mores which is superior to others? Clearly you must believe in some natural and transcendent belief system to suggest that your view of what is sick is, in fact, sick and all persons should hold the same yardstick. If so, then please expound on it. Otherwise you are nought but a reed blown by the winds of fortune.

        • Kodie

          I did not say ALL. One person claims he is not like that.

    • Phil

      There is a concept that millions of people in the world believe in and “use” to lead their lives. But atheists don’t believe that the concept corresponds to reality.

      According to IB Bill:
      If atheists don’t believe in the underlying reality of the concept, then they cannot critize the concept itself. Do you see how that doesn’t follow?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      I don’t like the god that Christians worship, and I don’t believe he exists.

      • jose

        Sorry, you must believe Voldemort exists in order to dislike him.

      • Steve V

        You can’t like someone that you don’t know. So much of what I see written here by atheists is remarkably simplistic. Saying that God gave a mother a sickness, short changed a kid on cash, ect., this is silly, not serious, conversation. Isaiah chapter 53 which is confirmed to have been written before Christ appeared, how do atheists explain that? A man by the name of George Mueller had millions of dollars pass through his hands which he needed to run orphanages, and yet he NEVER told any person about his financial needs, how does an atheist explain this? Have you read George Mueller’s biography? How do atheists explain the life of a man like George Mueller?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Steve:

          this is silly, not serious, conversation

          I gotta admit–you’re right. But by the same logic, Christian thinking that imagines disasters as part of God’s Plan® is also silly, not serious.

          Isaiah chapter 53 which is confirmed to have been written before Christ appeared, how do atheists explain that?

          I dismantled that claim a few months ago here. Tell me what you think.

          How do atheists explain the life of a man like George Mueller?

          Was there something miraculous here? Summarize the relevant parts of the story for us.

        • Kodie

          You’re easily impressed by parlor tricks? That’s how I explain that.

        • Steve V

          Kodie, please excuse my ignorance, but what do you mean by that comment?

        • Kodie

          It’s another way of saying the examples you have aren’t impressive but must have been convincing enough because people bring them up – as if we haven’t heard the one thing that will change our minds: What about this amazing coincidence! Explain that!

          a) Amazing coincidences do not point to your god in particular.
          b) Amazing coincidences have natural explanations. You are either missing part of the story, or the story is part-fiction/lie/lie of omission, or at the very most amazing, statistically possible. Statistics seems to be a weak point when demonstrating miracles.
          c) Prophecies are easy to fulfill if they’re written down in a book you take seriously. Even better if the prophecy is vague and you happen to have a story that you can retrofit. Statistics again.

        • Kodie

          A man was running orphanages and people donated money and stuff to it without being asked? It wasn’t a secret orphanage, was it?

  • C.J. O’Brien

    The concept clearly exists, and in application we don’t like it. That there is not a supernatural entity for the concept to refer to is beside the point.

  • IB Bill

    Phil: I didn’t say you can’t criticize the concept. I’m just saying some folks here spend an awful lot of their time and energy doing so. Now, if it’s a gig, I understand. Everyone needs to make a living.

    I don’t believe Mormonism is true. But I don’t spend any time and energy trying to disprove it.

    • Kodie

      You’re spending time and energy complaining about atheists though.

      • IB Bill

        Yeah, I spend too much time and energy complaining in general. Gotta change that.

    • avalon

      IB Bill says: ” I didn’t say you can’t criticize the concept. I’m just saying some folks here spend an awful lot of their time and energy doing so….I don’t believe Mormonism is true. But I don’t spend any time and energy trying to disprove it.”

      avalon: I tend to agree with you, Bill. A great many Christians say they believe in God, an eternal afterlife in heaven (if you believe properly) and hell (if you don’t believe properly) yet they don’t spend any time and energy doing anything about it. If they really believed that, what could be more important than convincing unbelievers and saving them from eternal torment? They either just don’t care about their fellow man or they don’t really believe.
      For many, religious belief is like sports. You have your favorite team that you root for and you’ll invest a couple hours a week watching them if there’s nothing more important to do, but if someone else roots for a different team its no big deal. The difference is that, with religion, each team gets to makes its own rules. That’s why they need interfaith conferences where the various teams meet to explain what rules they’re using. That, and to make sure no one takes the game too seriously.

      avalon

    • Phil

      I don’t believe Mormonism is true. But I don’t spend any time and energy trying to disprove it.

      I am willing to bet that Mormonism has almost no impact on your life.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        The US came fairly close to electing a Mormon president just recently. I’m sure you heard of it.

        George Bush said that the god in his religion told him to invade Iraq, so nutty stuff can happen when “god(s)” whisper in a president’s ear.

  • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

    Bob,
    If there is evil and suffering in the world what should God do about it?

    • Greg G.

      How about if God just prevents all unnecessary suffering? If God is omnipotent, he could prevent all suffering. That means all suffering is unnecessary. That implies that God has made a choice to allow unnecessary suffering. God is a sadist.

      • SparklingMoon

        That means all suffering is unnecessary.
        ————————————————————————-
        Suffering could only be considered objectionable if it were created as an independent entity with no meaningful role to play in the scheme of things. But without the taste of suffering or an awareness of what it means, the feeling of relief and comfort would also vanish. Without an encounter with pain and misery, most certainly, joy and happiness would lose all meaning. Indeed the very existence of life would lose purpose, and the steps of evolution would stop dead in their tracks.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Moon:

          But without the taste of suffering or an awareness of what it means, the feeling of relief and comfort would also vanish.

          This is the kind of song and dance that someone gamely trying to support a make-believe religion would say. (By contrast, someone who actually worshipped an actual god who actually was eager for a relationship with his creation would say, “Oh, you want to know if my god exists? Well, here he is.”)

          Yes, there are advantages to not getting everything on a silver platter. That hardly eliminates the Problem of Evil–birth defects, rape, murder, tsunamis, plague, and so on are not what a good and loving god would allow. Yes, character building is a good thing; these sucky features of our reality are not “character building.”

        • Drewl

          That hardly eliminates the Problem of Evil–birth defects, rape, murder, tsunamis, plague, and so on are not what a good and loving god would allow.

          Woah woah woah, problem of evil? Someone has found his objectivist morality all of a sudden. Don’t you mean “problem of actions that annoy me”? What happened to the Bob of October 17th…

          …I insist that you keep your commitments to me, that you follow the basic rules of civility, and so on. When you don’t, I’m annoyed not because you violated an absolute law; you violate my law. It ain’t much, but it’s all I’ve got, and that’s enough to explain the morality we see around us.

          So in the Is-God-Good-Enough-to-Exist trial, you seem to be trying to convict on criteria you don’t even believe in. Why do you falsely present your beliefs? You should be rejecting the existence of God because reality is not satisfying your personal tastes and you’re “annoyed.” Let’s leave the good-and-evil talk to people who actually believe in that nonsense.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          Woah woah woah, problem of evil? Someone has found his objectivist morality all of a sudden.

          Wrong again. And why this passion for me to accept this concept? Your task is not hard: show me the evidence, and I’m there. What is your evidence that objective morality exists and is accessible?

          What happened to the Bob of October 17th

          Ah, more flattering quotes. (You apple polisher, you! OK–you get a gold star. But don’t tell the other kids.)

          So in the Is-God-Good-Enough-to-Exist trial, you seem to be trying to convict on criteria you don’t even believe in.

          I have no idea what you think you’ve shown.

          There is morality and there’s absolute morality. Obviously, there’s loads of evidence for the former. As far as I can tell, the latter doesn’t exist or it’s not accessible by we mortals.

          Let’s leave the good-and-evil talk to people who actually believe in that nonsense.

          “Good”? “Evil”? What are these odd human concepts?

          Y’know what–I think I’ll just look them up in a dictionary so we can share a common definition. Problem solved!

        • Drewl

          I can’t discern much of a response here. I think you’re saying you believe in a non-objective (so: sujbectivist, ungrounded) Problem of Evil? You portrayed yourself as contesting my point, but then you failed to contest anything I said.

          If so, then you’ve merely reaffirmed your objection to God boiling down to:

          Things annoy me in the world.
          Therefore, there is no God.

          Great belief system. But again, let’s drop the “Problem of Evil” defense since that’s not what’s happening here. Also I looked up the definition of evil, doesn’t sound like something you’d believe in. So again, you’re going to need to write your own dictionary if that’s your sacred authority.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          I can’t discern much of a response here.

          We’re on the same page here. It seemed to me that you imagined bringing to light bald-faced contradictions.

          No such contradictions exist, of course, so I didn’t have much to respond to.

          I think you’re saying you believe in a non-objective (so: sujbectivist, ungrounded) Problem of Evil?

          I don’t imagine evil being objective/absolute/whatever, and the dictionary agrees with me. A not-believing-in-the-supernatural atheist can quite comfortably talk about the Problem of Evil.

          Things annoy me in the world.
          Therefore, there is no God.

          Not what I said; not what I think.

          I looked up the definition of evil, doesn’t sound like something you’d believe in.

          Haven’t you dug your hole deep enough?

          The definition of “evil” doesn’t demand that it be supernaturally grounded. Where do you imagine the problem to be?

        • Drewl

          A not-believing-in-the-supernatural atheist can quite comfortably talk about the Problem of Evil.

          It’s not the atheism and it’s not the anti-supernaturalism, the problem is you don’t believe in Evil beyond evil-that-offends-Bob’s-sensibilities (others’ mileage may vary, as you say). Your Problem of Evil is nothing more than the Problem of Things That Personally Annoy Me.

          Again, I refer you to your statement here:
          …I insist that you keep your commitments to me, that you follow the basic rules of civility, and so on. When you don’t, I’m annoyed not because you violated an absolute law; you violate my law. It ain’t much, but it’s all I’ve got, and that’s enough to explain the morality we see around us.

          You’re angry the universe violates your personal law too many times; therefore, no God. What’s wrong with “birth defects, rape, murder, tsunamis, plague” in the Bob universe–what you falsely present as the “Problem of Evil”? Those things simply annoy you, they violate some completely subjective, not-grounded, personal opinion you have on rightness and justice. None of those things are truly evil in the Bob universe because person 2 or person 3 could come along with a different standpoint, affirm the moral rightness of said acts, and Bob merely shrugs and says “Well, it violates my standard of good, but that’s all I’ve got.” You’re not really talking about evil in this case. (Unless it’s objectivist Bob writing editorials about morally reprehensible laws, then you’re talking about evil).

          The dictionary definition of evil is not going to bail you out: “morally reprehensible.” Once again, your dictionary exercise leaves you exactly where you were before opening the dictionary. Either you already considered it “morally reprehensible” or you didn’t, in which case you won’t now.

        • Kodie

          When people ask “why” god does things the way he does them and come up with the answers like:
          - god knows best
          - god is good and this must fit into that goodness in a way I’m too naive to comprehend
          - god is sending messages to affirm his existence
          - we must do what he says
          - we must define what he wants first
          - or else bad things will happen to us
          - those people were being punished

          ——any or all of those answers are screwed up assumptions on the premise that god is GOOD. They are all value judgments given from the assumption that god is larger and more knowing than us – that something out there has to be! And that it is for our own good (which isn’t ultimately best) to obey what it wants. That is the mind of the abused child, trying to guess what it’s arbitrarily angry parent wants so they can avoid getting the crap beaten out of them. Children want to please their parents, even abusive parents, and if the rules aren’t spelled out for them, and the love comes in warnings and threats, the child still tries to improve. If the other child is beaten instead, the child’s instinct is to take the parents’ side. If you want to avoid the beatings and criticism, you have to adjust your mentality to try to guess what’s causing the beatings and criticism and not do them, and according to whatever you are being shown, try to head them off at the pass by being especially pleasing to the parent.

          Look, papa, I cooked you dinner!
          Don’t you know I hate chicken? Why didn’t you make hamburgers? Why are you so stupid?

          Look, papa, I cooked you a hamburger and I cleaned my room without having to be told!
          This hamburger is too raw inside! You are useless at cooking! Your books are still on the table instead of the shelf – it’s a mess!

          We can certainly judge theists for acting like that around god – and trying to avoid the beatings and criticism of ending up in hell by warning us to behave as they do. Yes, you’re taking god’s side against your fellow humans when theists try to pass laws. WITH NO EVIDENCE that he exists, and only superstition that we try to obey and that will somehow reduce the frequency of destructive “forces”. You know as well as Bob does that those things are bad and we don’t want them, and if we could avoid them, we would. That’s why we have scientists trying to cure diseases and reduce the frequency of birth defects, and you know, we haven’t figured out how to stop earthquakes, but we build better buildings in areas known to be on fault lines now. We understand we inhabit a planet, a planet with no knowledge or intention of trying to scare us with elements, and we are animals doing our best to adapt ourselves to it. We don’t cry “what shall we do to appease the all-knowing planet?” Like, a little dance, a prayer, a sermon, throw money at it, outlaw “sins”.

          If you are too infantile to understand the cause and effect of an un-conscious environment and label it instead “god” who is good, then you’re the one who has to show evidence. I’m only speaking in reference to that claim of goodness when I say “are you shitting me.”

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          Your Problem of Evil is nothing more than the Problem of Things That Personally Annoy Me.

          Your Problem of Evil imagines an objective moral standard that doesn’t exist. I suspect that if you had evidence, you’d have shown it to us by now.

          My morality is the other kind–the kind that sees everything except objective morality.

          You’re angry the universe violates your personal law too many times; therefore, no God.

          Wrong again. (But I bet you knew that already. Though I wonder then why you wasted our time writing it …)

          they violate some completely subjective, not-grounded, personal opinion you have on rightness and justice

          I would call it “instinct” and not “opinion,” but if you got something better, show me. This isn’t how you roll? Then show us your better way.

          You’re not really talking about evil in this case.

          Still having a hard time getting your mind around a shared definition of words? Let’s use “evil” as it’s defined.

          your dictionary exercise leaves you exactly where you were before opening the dictionary.

          You’ve lost me. When King Drew from the early Iron Age period orders the genocide of neighboring people, down to the children and babies, and when King Drew not only accepts slavery for life but sets up guidelines to make sure it’s conducted ethically, that dude is morally reprehensible–nay, evil–from our standpoint.

          Wow–that dictionary is handy!

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Kodie:

          We can certainly judge theists for acting like that around god – and trying to avoid the beatings and criticism of ending up in hell by warning us to behave as they do.

          That reminds me of another nutty William Lane Craig quote:

          You don’t believe in God to avoid going to Hell. Belief in God isn’t some kind of fire insurance. You believe in God because God, as the supreme Good, is the appropriate object of adoration and love. He is Goodness itself, to be desired for its own sake.

          No, a “Get Out of Hell Free” card isn’t the goal; I want to tell God how fa-a-a-abulu-u-u-us he is!

        • Drewl

          Maybe I’m seeing why you like the dictionary so much: clearly you’re taking an objectivist stance on this hypothetical King Drew. Yet to escape contradiction from your previous subjectivist commitments (“how can we possibly say one society is better than another? It’s merely change, not improvement”) you seem to think the dictionary gives you a free pass to pass judgment as if there is an objective standard. Where is the “according to Bob’s standpoint, genocide isn’t a good thing, but your mileage may vary” qualifier? Strangely, it disappears whenever you need to put God on trial.

          It’s very clear you can’t find a way to bite the bullet on all the implications of the moral stance you laid out in October. It’s clear when you write gay marriage editorials decrying “morally reprehensible” injustices, when you get wishy-washy on whether the prohibition of slavery was improvement, and now when you move from “genocide annoys me and violates my own law; ‘it ain’t much, but it’s all I’ve got’” to this full-throat moral condemnation of genocide as “evil.”

          Sorry bro, but you never had the stomach to be the moral subjectivist you claimed to be: you can’t seem to swallow the bitter pill of implications that come with it, so you keep slipping back toward something more grounded than subjectivism. So keep talking about the “Problem of Evil”–any true subjectivist out there would throw you out of the subjectivist club, but you’ll fit in fine with religious people, moral realists, moral absolutists, and everyone else you seek distance from.

        • Kodie

          Explain why people are too superstitious to be honest about god.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          You’re a waste of time, like a chimp throwing poop.

          You lampoon my position when your position is no different. You handwave that objective morality is accessible but give no evidence for it.

          I’m the fool, thinking that we can have an intelligent conversation (is it April 1?). I respond to your attacks, and then I get the same attacks as if you never read what I wrote.

        • Drewl

          I can see you don’t like to think through the implications of your own beliefs. Put others’ belief on trial, yes, that’s what you’ve devoted your life to, but your own beliefs? Eh let’s leave those unexamined. My bad for violating this.

          You keep waiting for me to go into William Lane Craig mode and lay out a expository essay on objective morality. You’ll be waiting for a while, as this is a) clearly your attempt at diverting the conversation away from the weaknesses of your own position, and b) not possible, as I don’t personally adhere to an objectivist, view-from-nowhere, equally-accessible-to-all view of morality. I laid out my view in the Objectivity Reconsidered thread. If you think the only two options are your way or Craig’s way, you’ve been reading Christian apologists too long. Try broadening your reading, my friend.

        • Kodie

          You should read our posts a little. You find what you want to attack and you’re just being an aggravating, irrelevant nippy little dog.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          You keep waiting for me to go into William Lane Craig mode and lay out a expository essay on objective morality. You’ll be waiting for a while

          :)

          Told ya!

        • Kodie

          That’s a beautiful story, Moonwalker, I’m so glad to learn why we ought to respect your disturbingly twisted beliefs. I’m so glad many of the world suffer constantly so you can be joyous you are not them. And I am relieved to understand that the lowest points of my life are to make the great parts even better. If we ever get to the good part, that is. What an incompetent god you worship.

        • Greg G.

          Suffering could only be considered objectionable if it were created as an independent entity with no meaningful role to play in the scheme of things.

          But an omnipotent God could arrange other ways to achieve that meaningful role without the suffering. That means the suffering must be there at God’s pleasure because he wants people to suffer for no reason.

          But without the taste of suffering or an awareness of what it means, the feeling of relief and comfort would also vanish.

          Without suffering, we wouldn’t need to realize the feeling we had was relief but we could still recognize the difference between comfort and discomfort.

          Without an encounter with pain and misery, most certainly, joy and happiness would lose all meaning.

          The experience of broken bones did not enhance my enjoyment of orgasm in the least. If there was an omnipotent god, he could arrange for us to experience pleasure and comfort without a need for suffering.

          Indeed the very existence of life would lose purpose, and the steps of evolution would stop dead in their tracks.

          If we lost suffering, existence would lose purpose? Our purpose is to suffer? That’s pretty much my argument for there not being an omnipotent, omnibenevolent god. Why couldn’t evolution proceed with an omnipotent guide without the suffering?

          I have heard this response from other Christians. Try to think when they tell you this stuff in church. If you are a believer in an omnipotent god and the Problem of Suffering doesn’t keep you up at night, you need to think a little harder. Otherwise you prove the title of Bob’s article.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      If the Christian god exists, for him to be good, he’d have to do what you would do if you had supernatural ability. Would you prevent the murder or the rape? Would you dissipate the earthquake’s energy so that no one was killed? I would, and those would be called “good” acts. God doesn’t do them; therefore, God isn’t good.

      Is there free will in heaven? Does it suck? If there’s free will but it doesn’t suck, I bet that’s because God gives the spirits in heaven the wisdom to handle their free will. That’s what God should do down here rather than say, “Whoa–these people are barbarians! What moron built these people, ’cause this is some bad design.”

      • SparklingMoon

        ‘God has created everything and has determined its measure. This does not show that man has been deprived of choice. Indeed choice is a part of that measure. God Almighty having taken the measure of human nature and human capacity , and as part of it He determined up to what degree man would have choice in his actions. It is a great mistake to consider its meaning that man is under compulsion not to take advantage of the faculties bestowed upon him by God. This might be illustrated by drawing attention to the mechanism of a watch which cannot continue to work beyond the measure determined by its maker. In the same way a human being cannot achieve anything that is beyond the faculties that are bestowed upon him, nor can he live beyond his allotted span of life.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          I’m at a loss to understand your goal. You’re welcome to hang out and even post comments, but you do see that simply summarizing bits of your theology isn’t in the least appealing to someone who doesn’t already share your beliefs, right?

          You wanna know what would be compelling? Evidence. Arguments. Something that would make an outsider think that your religion (despite all the other religions that are obviously invented) might actually have identified a real god.

        • Greg G.

          You didn’t address his question “Is there free will in heaven?”

          Christians tell us that there had to be the possibility of sin in the Garden of Eden for there to be free will. Christians tell us that the soul gives us free will. Christians tell us the soul goes to heaven so there must be free will. If there is free will, there must be the possibility of sin. Revelation 12:4 tells us that the tail of a red dragon will sweep a third of the stars out of the sky to earth. Christians tell us that this is a prophecy that a third of the angels will be cast out of heaven. Matthew 5:22 says anger is equivalent to murder, verse 27 says lust is equivalent to adultery and verses 29-30 says you get cast into hell for thses things.

          If a third of the angels can only stand to be in heaven for somewhere between 6,000 and 14 billion years, what chance does a human soul have? When is the last time you went more than a week without sinning in thought? Even if you get to heaven, Christian theology implies that you’ll still spend an eternity in hell.

        • smrnda

          This has always bugged me. I wasn’t raised Christian, so the view of heaven, combined with the Christian obsession to catalog even normal, natural emotions as sin makes me think heaven can only be filled with mindless praise-bots who are prevented from having any individual intelligence or thoughts of feelings, since the moment you have desire you’ve sinned, and apparently any emotion other than vacuous contentment is bad. It seems like the ‘you’ that is in heaven is just yourself, stripped of anything that ‘you’ are and turned into an empty vessel for the endless praise of the god.

          Is thought permitted in heaven?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          heaven can only be filled with mindless praise-bots

          Rev. 4:8 says:
          Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”

        • SparklingMoon

          The life in the hereafter would not be material. Instead, it would be of a spiritual nature of which we can only visualise certain aspects.Heaven is not a physical place but the name of spiritual hight that achieves a person in this world through the practice of good morals and this heaven or hell is prepared by a person in this world . If our lives here are spent in submission to the will of God and in accordance with His commands, our tastes gradually become cultured and attuned to enjoying spiritual pleasures as against carnal pleasures. Within the soul a sort of embryonic soul or spirit begins to take shape. New faculties are born and new tastes are acquired, in which those accustomed to carnal pleasures find no enjoyment. These new types of refined human beings can find the content of their heart. Sacrifice instead of the usurpation of others’ rights becomes enjoyable. Forgiveness takes the upper hand of revenge, and love with no selfish motive is born like a second nature,replacing all relationships that have ulterior motives. Thus, one can say a new soul within the soul is in the offing.In religious books heaven and hell are described in different metaphors and methods has been used to understand it.

          What is the meaning of heavenly bliss, the tortures of the fire of hell?
          For example, If a man is almost dying of thirst, and is otherwise healthy, cool water can provide him such deeply satisfying pleasure as cannot be derived from the ordinary experience of drinking water, or even the most delicious drink of his choice. If a man is thirsty and hungry as well, and he needs an immediate source of energy, a chilled bunch of grapes can provide him with such deep satisfaction as is not experienced by the same in ordinary circumstances. But the pre-requisite for these pleasures is good health. Now visualise a very sick man, who is nauseating and trying to vomit whatever liquid is left in him, and is at the verge of death through dehydration. Offer him a glass of cool water, or a chilled bunch of grapes, then not to mention his accepting them, a mere glance of them would create a state of revulsion and absolute abhorrence in him.

          In heaven a healthy soul which has acquired the taste for good things, when brought into close proximity of the objects of its choice, will draw even greater pleasure than before. All that a healthy spiritual man was craving was nearness to God and His attributes and to imitate divine virtues. In heaven, such a healthy soul would begin to see and conceive and feel the nearness of the attributes of God like never before. They would not remain merely spiritual values, but would acquire ethereal forms and shapes, which the newly born heavenly spirit would enjoy with the help of the erstwhile soul, which would function as the body. The converse will be true of hell, in the sense that an unhealthy soul would create an unhealthy body for the new soul of the hereafter. And the same factors which provide pleasure to the healthy soul would provide torture and deep suffering for this unhealthy entity.

      • Steve V

        Bob:
        You wrote: “If the Christian god exists, for him to be good, he’d have to do what you would do if you had supernatural ability.”
        Do you really esteem your own intelligence so highly that you would define what God should do as well as when and how? This is the foundational failure of atheism; that God must (or should) operate within the confines of our human intellect and if he doesn’t he’s evil or nonexistent. Atheists have compressed themselves into a small box demanded that God operate inside it. Do we really think that we are justified to demand of God that he come and present himself to us face to face before we will believe in him? Does the sow bug that I saved from my rec room the other day understand how in the world he got from the nylon desert of my rec room back to my front yard? Clearly he does not. I suppose that to the sow bug I don’t exist, because he cannot intellectually comprehend me, but clearly I do exist despite the constrains of his intelligence. There is a far greater intellectual disparity between God and us than there is between us and the sow bug. It is a prideful thing to demand of God that he answer every question of every sinful person before they will draw near to him. God has provided forgiveness by believing in the perfect sacrifice he provided, Jesus.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Steve:

          You ask some interesting questions.

          Do you really esteem your own intelligence so highly that you would define what God should do as well as when and how?

          That’s not the task. The task instead is: can I understand a dictionary definition?

          The word we’re wrestling with is good. We’re told that God is good. Well–is he? If we know the definition of the word, we can evaluate this claim. Pretty simple.

          This is the foundational failure of atheism; that God must (or should) operate within the confines of our human intellect and if he doesn’t he’s evil or nonexistent.

          We’re talking about two things here. First, any knucklehead should be able to read the OT descriptions of God’s actions and simply evaluate them against some of the properties that God is claimed to have–he’s good, he’s just, he’s merciful, he’s wise, etc.

          Second: this is the point you’re raising here. What do we do if God wouldn’t act like we would in the same situation? One could take your path, which is to assume that God is a bazillion times smarter, wiser, better looking, better in bed, etc. than you are. How dare you match your puny intellect against God’s infinite fabulousness?

          But the problem here is that this simply assumes what we’re trying to show. We don’t start with a presupposition of God’s existence and then pick and choose evidence to support that. Rather, we look at the evidence we have and see where it points us. Does it point us to a god with the properties that Christianity claims? Or not?

          Do we really think that we are justified to demand of God that he come and present himself to us face to face before we will believe in him?

          Is this a trick question? Of course I need unambiguous evidence that God exists before I can believe in him! That the question we’re stuck on is the first, most simply, easiest question–the very existence of the thing we’re talking about–shows the emptiness of the Christian claims.

          There is a far greater intellectual disparity between God and us than there is between us and the sow bug.

          And we can’t assume God’s existence, like you do here.

          It is a prideful thing to demand of God that he answer every question of every sinful person before they will draw near to him.

          Not prideful–just common sense.

  • IB Bill

    At last we are getting somewhere. God doesn’t do what you think he should, or what you would do if you were God, and thus you have weighed God in the scales, and found Him wanting.

    Thing is, in your worldview god doesn’t exist. All the evils you are complaining about god permitting — needless suffering, misfortune, injustice, natural catastrophe, sickness, murder, death, etc. — those continue to exist in the world. So in the end you’re still facing the same problems.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      God doesn’t do what you think he should, or what you would do if you were God, and thus you have weighed God in the scales, and found Him wanting.

      Someone says, “God is good.” OK, that’s an interesting claim. Let’s look up the word “good” in the dictionary, and let’s look at God’s actions in the Old Testament and see if he is good or not.

      So, you betcha–I weighted the claim that “God is good.” Does it work any other way? Aren’t words supposed to be used as they are defined?

      So in the end you’re still facing the same problems

      … but with common sense and reason intact. That’s far better than ransoming our reason because we have a Bronze Age superstition that we hold onto for no good reason.

      I think we’ll be able to solve our problems with reason better than with faith.

    • Kodie

      IB Bill – it’s the PEOPLE. We explained to you upthread why. You forgot or ignored it and you forge straight ahead with your misapprehensions. Another mark against theists.

    • Kodie

      If there’s a god, he’s doing a terrible job. If there’s no god, that’s just the way things are. You ascribe qualities to your deity that he does not comply with, and when things go wrong, theists twist it around so suffering is beautiful and wrath is merciful. Nothing makes theists sound more ignorant and unaware what’s going on in the world than the words they use to describe god, defend god, and consider your morals greater, and have attacks on us for persecuting you for your beliefs.

      Hey. We’re not persecuting you for your fairy tale. We’re pointing out how screwed up it is to think bad things are great! And how screwed up it is to think the signs and coincidences are god’s way of telling you something, often at the expense of someone else (like in the “Christmas Shoes”). You want people to stop calling your beliefs childish, stop thinking like one. I’ve noticed that you can’t keep yourself from carping on atheists while letting Mormons alone. If this truly confuses you, just read it again.

      • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

        We’re pointing out how screwed up it is to think bad things are great!

        In a world without a pre-defined “good” and “bad”, you have no real ability to condemn someone for thinking something you find bad to be great. Perhaps you meant, “screwed up it is to think things-we-agree-are-bad are great!” but then, if he thinks things great then he does not agree that those things are bad. This means your statement really translates to “screwed up it is to think things-which-I-think-are-bad are great,” which really translates to, “I think it is messed up to like things I dislike.”

        Theodicy can really only be described as a self-consistency problem. It cannot be described as a “expectation fails reality” apart from that unless some predetermined yardstick is used. As near as I can tell, you have not defined an agreed on yardstick.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          IT:

          In a world without a pre-defined “good” and “bad”, you have no real ability to condemn someone for thinking something you find bad to be great.

          I’m not sure what you’re saying. Are you saying: In a world without objective morality, you have no way of saying “Hitler was wrong!” but only “Hitler doesn’t please me”?

          I’ll respond to this: Without objective morality, I say (with delight) that Hitler was wrong. I’m quite happy to judge others’ moral stands. If it doesn’t match my stand then, obviously, I think it’s wrong (otherwise, I’d switch to their stand). And I’ll be happy to criticize.

          Lose the idea of objective morality, and you’re left with the world we live in right now.

  • IB Bill

    Suffice to say that you don’t believe in god, but if the Christian god is in fact God, you’d have a real problem with that. And finally, that all things the things that suck about reality still suck if you’re an atheist. And you think we believers are less mature than atheists, who face the void and evils of existence armed with just reason.

    • Kodie

      All the things that suck SUCK. We’re not the ones calling them purposeful and grand. I mostly have a real problem with real theists persisting in belief of someone who would have to be a monster in order to exist, and that you deny recognition of the one in whom you believe as such a monster.

      Hmm, what else? Theists demand special treatment, theists think their morality is important to everyone else, and that we should all deign to the wishes of their imaginary friend, or else he’ll abandon you. Theists not only think their morality is better, they get really stupid, hurt, and cry persecution when it’s pointed out that it’s not. Why should anyone respect your beliefs?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      I’m not 100% sure of your points. Perhaps Kodie nailed it better than me.

      if the Christian god is in fact God, you’d have a real problem with that.

      Well, yeah. You have read what he did in the Old Testament, right? The guy’s a psychopath. Who’d want that running the universe?

      all things the things that suck about reality still suck if you’re an atheist.

      Things that suck, suck for both atheists and Christians. The difference is that atheists don’t believe in objective suckage or objective justice. There simply is no evidence for this.

      And you think we believers are less mature than atheists, who face the void and evils of existence armed with just reason.

      I’m not sure your point. You’re saying that atheists face reality armed with just reason? Yes, that’s true. It’d be nice to have a supernatural Big Brother who’d help us out, but there’s simply no evidence for this. Instead of arming ourselves with a nonexistence shield, we simply face reality.

      Pretty grown-up, I think.

      • Kodie

        It’s also that Christians don’t think things that suck SUCK, but arbitrarily choose things that don’t suck to call “sin”. You gotta walk on eggshells around this deity and convince everyone who doesn’t care to also, or else he’ll wipe out whole cities with weather to demonstrate his power and wrath. He gives good people long drawn-out diseases in an attempt to get through the hardened hearts of sinners, who only have to wait until they die to be punished.

        Seriously, nothing in the world works like this. Why the feeble minds of theists warp everything they see into a personal relationship with this megalomaniac, and call it a good thing, because they’re too scared to admit it’s a very bad thing because they don’t want to die and go to hell. It’s like – when you pick a side, you will use any nonsensical argument for that side rather than admit you chose to be on the wrong side. That is, as far as I can tell, categorized under “sin of pride,” if there were such a thing. Every evangelist who wants to win a soul is doing so ultimately out of the sin of pride. I think this operates on the principle, as George Costanza says, “it’s not a lie… if you believe it.

  • smrnda

    I think Christianity infantalizes adults, but my take on how and why it does this is a little different from the example you’ve provided. For about 4 or 5 month, I decided I’d attend a local evangelical church, one that seemed a bit more contemporary and open, at least in some ways, just to say I’d had some firsthand experience. My goal was to observe and keep myself as scarce as possible.

    One way where I saw adults infantalized was the whole ‘discipleship group’ deal. Get together in groups with often near total strangers, and have the group leader put each and every person on the spot and ask really personal questions. Then, go over some Bible verses and provide unsolicited advice in the form of dull platitudes for which the embarrassed group member is supposed to feel incredibly grateful.

    Take your marriage to a group where nobody respects your ability to work things out as a couple, where everybody has to be ‘mentored’ by someone who can’t stop interrogating you and critiquing your marriage on every level. It’s like everybody wanted to play at being an LCSW but nobody actually had any real credentials.

    Overall, I couldn’t imagine how adults would put up with that nonsense, unless they’d been raised to believe they were supposed to do nothing, think nothing or plan nothing without getting input from ‘the group’ or ‘a respected mentor.’ Scariest things were when people with no credentials were giving advice to people with actual mental health problems, or deciding ‘hm, maybe the reason things have gone wrong for you is that you’re under a demonic attack. Now, as an expert in thwarting demonic attacks allow me to touch you physically while I pray.’

    So yeah, Christianity infantalizes adults by treating them like children, or perhaps more like idealized children, when the child’s naivete and lack of real-world knowledge is exaggerated so the adult can get an inflated sense of their own maturity and wisdom.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      It’s like everybody wanted to play at being an LCSW but nobody actually had any real credentials.

      But when you’re channeling the Great Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the Sky, who can rebut that?

      I’ve also been in church small groups, and seem men emasculated as they talk about how God acts in their lives is kinda weird. Hey–getting in touch with your feelings or showing your emotions is fine, but this seems artificial.

      Maybe the pendulum is swinging so that religious “advice” that rejects conventional medical or mental health care will no longer be protected as has happened recently in Oregon.

  • Kodie

    I didn’t really know where to put this, but it seemed relevant to some of the comments in this article. I was reading a slideshow article on tvguide.com about the most memorable sports moments of 2012:

    Bob Costas sounds off on gun control

    In the wake of the murder-suicide of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend, Bob Costas utilized his halftime report on Sunday Night Football to editorialize on gun control. Reading a column by Jason Whitlock, Costas called for increased gun control and agreed with Whitlock that the NFL should’ve postponed the Chiefs already completed game against the Carolina Panthers. “In the aftermath of the nearly unfathomable events in Kansas City, that most mindless of sports clichés was heard yet again, ‘Something like this really puts it all in perspective,’” Costas said. “Please. Those who need tragedies to continually recalibrate their sense of proportion about sports, would seem to have little hope of ever truly achieving perspective.”

    Repeating this part:
    Those who need tragedies to continually recalibrate their sense of proportion about sports, would seem to have little hope of ever truly achieving perspective.

    That could be said about anything. Why do we need tragedies and suffering to realize what’s important? Why does it take a bad thing to recognize good? The answer is you already say god’s in place, then things happen, so his role in the affair has to be explained. He must have a good reason. He wants to show us a message – a bloody, violent, heart-breaking message – time after time after time. Why are we prone to forget? Why doesn’t it stick with us permanently? One time – all the suffering, the rest of the time we are permanently grateful. Why did god make our emotions so shallow and unimpressed? There is a LOT more explaining to do to explain how god fits into what is actually happening than to understand that this is how it is. For no purpose. This is the world into which we’re born, and live. It’s not for learning, it’s not for getting enlightenment, or for getting into heaven. Leaning on god is so unsatisfying that you forget, and you need further, frequent reminders. Children will take an easy answer. If something is hard for an adult to explain, like the death of a pet, they will feed the child a lie, and the child finds that answer satisfying enough. I think it is a trope on tv where a 20-something character will suddenly realize their dog is dead and isn’t living on a farm upstate. Christians never seem to reach that idea, they retreat into their platitudes, never thinking it through. Why is suffering inspirational – why is that thinking so acceptable among grown-ass adults?

  • Melia

    I’m Christian and I think that song sucks arse. Here’s some arguably less infantalizing music – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sxx-OZanynw

    • Kodie

      Age song melodies
      sing praise to the Messiah
      a song of joy
      He is worthy of honor,
      He appeased the emotion
      Father of all grace.

      “Humanity ilolauluin praise the Messiah,
      for He, the suffering of the lepytti
      merciful Father, deserves all the credit.

      Just because it’s choral instead of popular doesn’t mean it’s less infantilizing. I don’t know what a lepytti is but it seems like it serves the same purpose as “Christmas Shoes”. God chooses people to feel lucky to be spared the suffering god causes, and for this he deserves praise.

  • MNb

    “If anyone else has stories or wisdom on the subject”
    By god and in Suriname (where I live) everything is possible. The first is meaningless to me, but the latter might be true: my female counterpart is muslima and member of the board of a local mosque. We don’t live together (she doesn’t want to). My piece of wisdom? Agree to disagree on religious matters, don’t try to (de)convert each other and be honest. I go to the mosque once a year, at Id-ul-Fitr (end of Ramadan).
    What she especially likes of my atheist convictions is that I actually do my best to practice equal rights for men and women – she is quite an independent character.
    Her biggest fear is that I’ll become a christian.

    “Without an encounter with pain and misery, most certainly, joy and happiness would lose all meaning.”
    Sounds so nice. Try telling this to Elisabeth Fritzl, who was locked in a basement for 24 years and raped by her father two, three times a week.
    Sophisticated Theologian: “thank you so much, Elisabeth, for all your suffering. It gave meaning to all my joy and happiness.”

    “choice is a part of that measure. ”
    Sure. Daddy Fritzl’s choice to rape or not rape his daughter gave meaning to her suffering.

    “if the Christian god is in fact God …”
    Yup. And if my father had been king I would have been his successor.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      A very different perspective. Thanks!

  • Drewl

    This whole thread boils down to: God doesn’t do things the way I would do things. Therefore he doesn’t exist.

    There’s not really a name for this epistemological approach because it’s not an epistemological approach.

    The strangest thing about this “Moral Protest Atheism” is the implicit claims of one’s own omniscience and benevolence to make such judgments. I anticipate the response to this being: “Well of course we have sufficient knowledge and a sufficient moral righteousness/impartiality to charge a deity with these things!” These of-course statements always show one’s true faith beliefs–you certainly won’t find a scientific study that’s going to provide evidence for this belief. In the end you’re pretty happy with your faith belief, evidence or not, while you’re at the same time demanding “evidence” for all the beliefs you don’t happen to hold. Oh of course it should be like that!

    It’s a strange belief system, this moral protest atheism.

    • Kodie

      Oh we don’t have enough wisdom to tell god what to do! That’s a good one. Ha ha.

      The way things are is the way they are without a god at control. Adding a god to explain why things are the way they are is warped. If that comforts you, you’re warped too.

      • Drewl

        The way things are is the way they are without a god at control.

        …and there’s your dogmatic belief. Sounds like you’re holding to it pretty close-mindedly too.

        It you were really open to exploring this matter, philosophers have been thinking through it for thousands of years, with varying conclusions. I’m not so sure you’re interested in exploring it though.

        • Kodie

          Sometimes philosophers need to stop over-thinking things. Your prior post was just apologetics. As in, I’m sorry my god is so mean and spiteful and immature, but we cannot ever question it! We are mere puny humans with no perspective. Philosophers have been asking questions? How about that one.

        • Drewl

          As in, I’m sorry my god is so mean and spiteful and immature, but we cannot ever question it! We are mere puny humans with no perspective.

          Nope, no one’s saying that. All I’m saying is: where is your evidence?

        • Phil

          I am not sure what evidence you are asking for.

          As I see it, we can come up with a “parade of horribles” (either natural or man-made), and ask, is this more consistent with a) a world in which there is an all-loving, all-knowing, all-present, God? or is it more consistent with b) there being no such God?

          As far as I can tell, the evidence is more consistent with b). To the extent that Philosophers have spent a couple thousand years trying to think of a reason for why a) might be true–and haven’t come up with anything very good (other than God’s answer to Job, which I take to be: you don’t get to ask such questions)–is enough for me.

          What I take from Maureen Dowd’s column today is that we need people, not God.

          http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/26/opinion/dowd-why-god.html?src=me&ref=general

        • Drewl

          Phil, fair assessment. And I think you have an accurate reading of Dowd’s column: it is a very naturalistic take on religion. You always know you’re reading naturalistic theology when the atheist is given very little not to believe in, and that’s the case here. Who doesn’t want to affirm generosity and love through human actions?

          The points of contention in your approach are two separate things: first, you may or may not be able to ground your sense of the “parade of horrible” things actually being horrible. In Bob’s world, “horrible” things are merely things found subjectively distasteful, like a bad color combination, and it really depends on who is evaluating these acts (Bob does not think it’s right to say society has “improved” when it outlawed slavery, it just “changed”). That’s not going to hold up well in this Is-God-Good-Enough-To-Exist trial, when you admit the “parade of horribles” depends on who is observing the horrible acts and judging them horrible. Juries don’t tend to like it when witnesses all give different stories of what they perceived happening.

          Perhaps you have a more grounded sense of what “horrible” is–that’d be admirable and useful here.

          The other problem is you may have begun with your own construction of a deity, one who is all-loving, all-knowing, all-present, and from there demanded particular responsibilities and duties of such a being, judged said deity to failed and thereby deemed it non-existent. That’s all fine and good, but have you rejected a deity that anyone actually believes in, or just one that you created to reject? The equivalent would be me rejecting the existence of the United Nations because I don’t have my own unicorn, based upon thinking: “Any UN that really cares about securing peace, freedom, and rights would be fulfilling my right to a unicorn!” A sensible person would say “Where did you get this idea that the UN affirms the right to a unicorn? You’re correct that we don’t have evidence for the existence of an international organization that goes around fulfilling the rights to egalitarian unicorn ownership, but that means your conception of a UN doesn’t exist, nothing more.” (At this point if I was Bob perhaps I’d pretend to find a guarantee of unicorn ownership in 5-word definitions in the dictionary).

          I should say, the Christian tradition typically has accepted your descriptors of God to be accurate, but unless you share Bob’s schoolboy-simplistic approach to these descriptors, it’s a far more complex and debated matter how an all-knowing, all-loving, all-present God should act. But if you aren’t pleased with the God of the book of Job, I respect that judgment. That would bring you closer to rejecting a deity that is more than your own construction. I don’t believe any religion posits the existence of a deity that will meet every subjective criteria that people subject it to; it is perfectly likely you are correct in your assessments that the God you want to exist, doesn’t.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl: if I might respond to a comment directed at Phil …

          In Bob’s world, “horrible” things are merely things found subjectively distasteful, like a bad color combination

          God is an SOB for demanding genocide and allowing slavery and …

          What?? Pastel blue and purple … in the same outfit? Before Labor Day? What more proof do we need that an omniscient god doesn’t exist?!

          I wasn’t on board with your equivalence, but I think you’ve got me. A crime is a crime, especially when it comes to fashion. (All of a sudden, God’s hell-for-all-crimes is beginning to make sense!)

          Bob does not think it’s right to say society has “improved” when it outlawed slavery, it just “changed”

          Wrong again.

          this Is-God-Good-Enough-To-Exist trial

          Is the Christian god good enough to exist, you mean. All sorts of reality could exist where bad god(s) created and control our world, but the Christian worldview isn’t one of them.

          have you rejected a deity that anyone actually believes in, or just one that you created to reject?

          Good question–let’s stop and check. Do Christians posit a good god? Yup.

          OK, I think we’re good. No problem with a straw man here.

          it’s a far more complex and debated matter how an all-knowing, all-loving, all-present God should act.

          Agreed. But let’s not forget our old friend the dictionary. The definitions of “loving” and similar words are pretty easy to nail down.

        • Drewl

          This Bob of December seems to have developed his thinking quite a bit from the Bob of October. I put your quote about the uncertain moral status of abolishing slavery below, need I post it again?

          Do Christians posit a good god? Yup.

          Have you ever considered that different people might define “good” in different ways? Quick, find Bob of October to help me out here!

          I’m very curious how your marriage works: do you lug around a dictionary flipped open to “loving” (which Google says is: feeling or showing great care) and then play referee to everything your wife does? Maybe you have a penalty flag you throw when your wife does something that could possibly be interpreted as not immediately attending to showing you great care? Dictionary definitions seem far too simplistic for just about everything that matters to human beings. And you still haven’t really told me what definition of “good” you’re using that is compliant with your belief system.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          This Bob of December seems to have developed his thinking quite a bit from the Bob of October. I put your quote about the uncertain moral status of abolishing slavery below, need I post it again?

          You rascal! One gold star for brown-nosing is all you get each day. Now stop! Your hanging on my every word is flattering, but I think it’s getting a little stalker-ish.

          In the quote you gave, I said, “Morality obviously changes.” Yup–is there a problem here? You gauge the pulse of society in Georgia in 1812 about slavery, and the consensus will be a clear “slavery is good.” We have a viewpoint and a moral opinion. But you gauge American society in 2012 and the consensus is the opposite. A different viewpoint that, in this case, has a different moral opinion. You understand this, I’m sure, so I can’t imagine what perplexes you. Perhaps you’re again just making small talk?

          You’re desperate for a contradiction or something, but this ain’t it.

          Have you ever considered that different people might define “good” in different ways?

          An interesting question, and we can easily imagine the experiment that would answer it. Take the hideous parts of the OT, modernize the wording to disguise the source, and put a human name in place of God (“King Drew,” let’s say). Survey people in America, in Europe, in Africa, wherever. Will they call this person “good”? I’m betting not.

          I’m very curious how your marriage works: do you lug around a dictionary flipped open to “loving” (which Google says is: feeling or showing great care) and then play referee to everything your wife does?

          Nope. Who does this?

          I bring up the dictionary simply because definitions seem to be an obstacle to you. The idea that we could share definitions seemed to be a stumper, for example.

        • Kodie

          It’s not the atheist demanding god be perfect, it’s theists who claim HE IS.

        • Drewl

          Let’s revisit:

          Drewl: Bob does not think it’s right to say society has “improved” when it outlawed slavery, it just “changed”

          Bob: Wrong again.

          Drewl: I put your quote about the uncertain moral status of abolishing slavery below, need I post it again?

          Bob: In the quote you gave, I said, “Morality obviously changes.” Yup–is there a problem here?…

          Let’s put this in bold: You just proved my point. You’re not comfortable saying it improved, only that it changed. So why the kneejerk “Wrong again.” response?

          Take the hideous parts of the OT, modernize the wording to disguise the source, and put a human name in place of God (“King Drew,” let’s say). Survey people in America, in Europe, in Africa, wherever. Will they call this person “good”? I’m betting not.

          Yes but since right and wrong are defined by Bob’s conscience, this would be the same as polling a bunch of Chimpanzees on egg prices in China. Simply not relevant.

        • Kodie

          Let’s put this in bold: You just proved my point.

          I don’t know what your point is yet. You believe in god? Show us. Theists make claims about god there is no proof of. You seem to be narrowing down every single argument out of context – in this one, god is rotten and that’s why we don’t believe in him.

          Well. No. That’s not a very good reason to not believe there’s a god. But if I can’t say god’s kind of a prick, then you can’t call him loving either, and you can’t make excuses every time he’s obviously outside the human perception of what loving is. If god’s morality is outside the human limits of comprehension, then we can’t label his intentions toward us at all.

          How about we all call him “nothing”.

        • Kodie

          As in, I’m sorry my god is so mean and spiteful and immature, but we cannot ever question it! We are mere puny humans with no perspective.

          Nope, no one’s saying that. All I’m saying is: where is your evidence?

          When you say:

          “Well of course we have sufficient knowledge and a sufficient moral righteousness/impartiality to charge a deity with these things!” These of-course statements always show one’s true faith beliefs–you certainly won’t find a scientific study that’s going to provide evidence for this belief.

          Where is my evidence that god is bad, or at best, half-assed at his job? There is no reason whatsoever to give god a moral value of “good” without evidence, or taking human moral evidence that seems bad and projecting it as one of the ways god is good. Theists make human-scale moral judgements of god all the time, and that doesn’t seem to bother you at all. Why are you only outraged and in particular, trying to catch atheists in a trap about judging god? If you are trying to say something else, say it without trying to sound smarter than you are. The atheist honest assessment that god theists claim exists doesn’t seem to be very good at all is how it is. They make the claim without evidence of god, or even a rational morality that knows good things are good and bad things are bad – when they ask “why,” they eventually come around to the excuse that we cannot perceive god’s reasons; or he’s trying to send messages to sinners.

          WITHOUT ANY EVIDENCE. This is why we say, why is god “good”? Everyone knows what “bad” is – EVERYONE. Theists know birth defects are bad, they know being murdered is bad, they know earthquakes are bad, and they know having terminal diseases is bad. They know they don’t want that to happen to them, ahead of time. They know when it happens to someone else, that it causes suffering.

          We cannot call god “good” any more than we can suggest that causing those things might have been handled a lot more “good”-er. Any human would get fired for such mishandling, but that is so human. That we’re suggested to be unknowing, and yet under this a-hole’s authority, “good” is just an ass-kiss maneuver, a guess. The evidence that god exists doesn’t exist, but the superstition that we must behave and glorify him does. Why?

          That’s the only reason to call god “good” is to be infantile about it.

        • Drewl

          Everyone knows what “bad” is – EVERYONE. Theists know birth defects are bad, they know being murdered is bad, they know earthquakes are bad, and they know having terminal diseases is bad. They know they don’t want that to happen to them, ahead of time. They know when it happens to someone else, that it causes suffering.

          Sounds like you are a natural law atheist. These are a rare breed. You should be having many disagreements with Bob if the above is what you really believe. Bob is big on the “well society X believed A was bad but society Y believed B was bad” thing and occasionally mixes in a “can we really have access to what Bad is?” qualifier. So he won’t have your back on this “EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT BAD IS” belief and then listing universal things that are “bad.” Interestingly, affirming natural law as a source of morality and then condemning God as unjust by that standard is an entirely consistent position, so nice job. Of course, natural law is then serving as your belief system–these are your “Well of course…” faith statements–so you aren’t going to fare well demanding “evidence” from theists when you don’t have “evidence” for your own belief system.

          I don’t find natural law perspectives convincing at all, so you have far more faith than I do. Congratulations.

        • Kodie

          Can you think of anyone who thinks the examples I listed are good? Something to hope to have happen, or something to look forward to? I can just see it now – hopeful parents wondering what their child will be like, I hope he has your eyes!, Well, I hope he gets leukemia and dies before his 5th birthday!

          Right, Drewl. Who are we to judge.

          You put on a little tap-dance about “morality” and use examples of bad fashion combos. What planet are you from?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          You’re not comfortable saying it improved, only that it changed. So why the kneejerk “Wrong again.” response?

          Because you were wrong again. Just like here–wrong again.

          When society eliminates slavery, it not only changed, it improved. I’m delighted to say that it improved.

          This is all so obvious and we’ve been over this so many times already, that I don’t know where to look to find what you’re stuck on. Let me try this: there is “improved from Bob’s standpoint” and there’s “improved from an absolute/objective standpoint.” The first obviously makes sense, but I see no evidence that the second makes any sense.

          Yes but since right and wrong are defined by Bob’s conscience

          Bob thinks that some things are right and others are wrong. And it works the same for Drew.

          “That is right” is a shortened form of the more accurate (but obvious) “That is right from my standpoint” or “That is right in my opinion.”

          The other option–”That is right in an absolute sense” or “That is right for all people in all times; indeed it would be right with no people on earth at all”–makes no sense until we establish that this objective morality exists. So far, you’ve given us no evidence for it.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Kodie:

          But if I can’t say god’s kind of a prick, then you can’t call him loving either

          Yup, this is what seems to trip up some Christians. They can either judge God’s actions or not. I’m quite happy judging them–why would his actions be off limits from evaluation when everyone else’s are not? But if Christians want to say that God is so fabulous that we can’t judge him, I can accept that.

          What makes no sense is judging him when it pleases you –he’s good or just or a snappy dresser–and then avoiding it when it doesn’t–he’s an SOB, he’s petty, he’s vain, he’s a sadistic tyrant.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          “can we really have access to what Bad is?”

          I keep asking you for evidence that humans can access an objective morality. You keep saying nothing. What can I conclude but that you have no evidence for this?

          You don’t like my take on morality? Then provide an alternative! Saying, “Look at the funny lampoon of Bob’s morality that I just did!” does nothing to say that you don’t operate in the same way.

          So [Bob] won’t have your back on this “EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT BAD IS” belief

          No?

          We’re all Homo sapiens. We have a shared moral instinct. What’s difficult here? I mean, besides in your mind?

        • Drewl

          Again, push comes to shove and you’re backing down from the sacredness of individual opinions on morality. Kodie has shifted to a conventionalist or perhaps a evil-by-democracy approach: I’m not sure what she’s going to do for times and places where there is universal consensus for the rightness of slavery, spousal abuse, child abuse, divine rights of kings, ethnic superiority, etc. Her method fails her there.

          Now you are proposing we all have shared moral instincts–that only fits your early subjectivist position as long as you keep these shared moral instincts completely disconnected from how you make moral judgments. If you do think shared moral instincts provide a criteria for right and wrong, you agree with Kodie, but you also abandon your earlier position. But I’m guessing you don’t think this–such a belief takes you dangerously close to your beloved William Lane Craig. I should also tell you only conservative-minded academics would claim there is a shared moral instinct across all civilizations and people.

          Bob of October:
          Sure, morality changes, but can we claim that it’s improving?…We look back with mild horror at what passed for acceptable morality in society in the past, but why think that what we see today is more than simply change?

          Bob of December:
          When society eliminates slavery, it not only changed, it improved. I’m delighted to say that it improved.

          I’m racking my brain to make these statements reconcilable. All I can come up with is:

          No one has access to adequate criteria to make a judgment on whether abolishing slavery was moral improvement, but I, Bob, will delightfully declare abolishing slavery was moral improvement.

          You wonder why it takes me so long to figure out what you’re saying: it’s because you’re saying nonsense.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          I’m racking my brain to make these statements reconcilable.

          It’s a wonder you find your way out of bed in the morning.

          Why go over this again and again? We have no justification to say that society’s morals change in an absolute way. But we each make our own moral judgments. Morality exists, just not in an absolute way.

          Haven’t I said this before?

          Seriously, don’t you feel kind of stalkerish? Is trying to find errors in my statements the best way to spend your time?

          And how about admitting that you have no evidence for accessible objective morality? Show us how a real man admits an error.

        • Drewl

          Ah so it is nothing more than personal taste.

          “I personally have a real liking for Mexican food, red wine, jazz music, and societies without slavery, but hey, just my opinion here, who’s to say these things are better than other alternatives?”
          Or perhaps you’re still affirming an absurdity, on par with:

          No one can access adequate criteria to evaluate whether the first moon landing was in 1969. But I, Bob, am able to say that it happened in 1969.

          Either way, we’re back to subjectivist Bob. We’ll just wait to see how long it takes him to reel out another gay marriage editorial calling things morally reprehensible. Or put God on trial, not for The Problem of Things That Violate Bob’s Personal Taste of Right and Wrong, but for this Problem of Evil he seems unable to let go of.

        • Drewl

          And if you think I ever argued for an accessible objective morality, I may have misjudged your intelligence. Sorry buddy, you need to get your head out of the Christian apologist books and stop putting so much fai-I mean, trust, sorry–in what they’re telling you. An equally accessible objective morality doesn’t poll that well among active believers, nor does it poll well among academic, secular philosophers. The only people who buy the simplistic EITHER-OBJECTIVE-OR-SUBJECTIVE MORALITY binary are people who read bad Christian apologetic books and actually believe them. Sorry if you fell in their snare.

          Again, any time you want reading recommendations, let me know when you’re ready to play ball with the big kids.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          Ah so it is nothing more than personal taste.

          Call it that if you want, but that’s how it works for you, right?

          And if you think I ever argued for an accessible objective morality, I may have misjudged your intelligence.

          We’re on the edge of our seats! Tell us your view of morality, Uncle Drewl!

        • Drewl

          I assume your web browser works the same way mine does: go revisit the October thread, where I explicitly stated I don’t share the same unqualified moral realism most Christian apologists do. Sorry I’m not conforming to your prejudices and ungrounded assumptions very well.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          Is your moral view a secret or something? Should I not bring up the issue? Perhaps you’re embarrassed? Mine seemed to be a valid candidate for discussion, so I thought yours might be as well.

          If this is a taboo subject, let me know so I can try to avoid it.

          I explicitly stated I don’t share the same unqualified moral realism most Christian apologists do.

          Uh huh. That doesn’t answer the question.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      drewl:

      This whole thread boils down to: God doesn’t do things the way I would do things. Therefore he doesn’t exist.

      Wrong again. It’s this: the Christian claim is implausible. Not that God doesn’t exist, but that there’s little reason to imagine that he does.

      There’s not really a name for this epistemological approach because it’s not an epistemological approach.

      Wow–it’s great that you caught that. Irrelevant, but great. Thanks.

      The strangest thing about this “Moral Protest Atheism” is the implicit claims of one’s own omniscience and benevolence to make such judgments.

      Gotta stay on message, bro. No one is pretending to be omniscient.

      However, as I argued in an earlier post, the claim “God is good” (that is, the Christian god) is very easily refuted–simply open the dictionary under “good” and open the Bible under “genocide,” and the result falls out pretty easily.

      I anticipate the response to this being: “Well of course we have sufficient knowledge and a sufficient moral righteousness/impartiality to charge a deity with these things!”

      I suppose consulting a dictionary could be an error-prone process, so perhaps caution is warranted, but I think the “God is good” claim is gone.

      In the end you’re pretty happy with your faith belief

      Isn’t it weird when Christians do that? “Oh, so I have faith in something?! Well … well … well, so do you! Yeah, I may have a nutty belief based simply on faith, but you’re in the same boat, suckah!”

      I thought faith was a good thing from a Christian standpoint, something to be celebrated. No?

      But back to your point, no, I don’t think I have faith in anything. Point out any exceptions that you find.

  • Drewl

    However, as I argued in an earlier post, the claim “God is good” (that is, the Christian god) is very easily refuted–simply open the dictionary under “good” and open the Bible under “genocide,” and the result falls out pretty easily.

    Ah, deferring to the authority of the Webster, eh? Exactly what is the definition of good in the dictionary anyway? I’m seeing “that which is morally right” as Google’s answer, which is problematic when you don’t believe in things “being” morally “right.” It might as well be defined as “that which is approved of by fairies” according to your perspective.

    So remind me what happens when your grade-school approach to morality lands you on a definition you don’t believe in….I assume you defer to your intuitions on morality, which, as you’ve said before, are not scientifically supported but just “known.”Knowing without evidence…that sounds familiar….

    …I don’t think I have faith in anything.

    Didn’t we decide you had to “trust” particular axioms or authorities earlier? And then you weren’t so thrilled to find faith and trust synonyms and tried to come up with some strange explanation for why the dictionary was incorrect. Your faith in Webster-ianism seems rather selective.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      drewl:

      which is problematic when you don’t believe in things “being” morally “right.”

      Good point. Luckily, I don’t have a “problem” calling things “right” or “wrong.”

      So remind me what happens when your grade-school approach to morality lands you on a definition you don’t believe in

      Give me an example. I’m not following.

      Knowing without evidence…that sounds familiar….

      Whoa–don’t get me started! :)

      Didn’t we decide you had to “trust” particular axioms or authorities earlier?

      Yes.

      And then you weren’t so thrilled to find faith and trust synonyms and tried to come up with some strange explanation for why the dictionary was incorrect. Your faith in Webster-ianism seems rather selective.

      Perhaps your memory is better than mine. Webster defines them as synonyms? The definitions are identical? Wow–I totally missed that. I remember that there were several definitions there, showing some important distinctions between the two words. No?

      And if trust = faith, not a problem. I’m quite happy to live in such a world; we just need to agree first on the distinction “belief grounded in thorough evidence (which would be overturned by sufficient contrary evidence)” vs. “belief insufficiently grounded in evidence or even in the face of contrary evidence (and which wouldn’t be overturned by new contrary evidence).” I’m sure you see this distinction and have no problem agreeing to words or terms. Given that, we can communicate in this domain quite easily.

      • Drewl

        Good point. Luckily, I don’t have a “problem” calling things “right” or “wrong.”

        Could have fooled me….October 22nd, 2012 post by Bob:

        Is capital punishment wrong? We can wrestle with this issue the only way we ever have, by studying the issue and arguing with each other in various ways, but we have no way to resolve the question once and for all by appealing to an absolute standard.

        Or how about this one…October 25th, 2012 post by Bob:

        Morality obviously changes—slavery was moral (that is, acceptance was widespread) and now it’s not, legal alcohol was immoral and now it’s not, and so on. But Leah asks if I see not change but improvement. Sure, morality changes, but can we claim that it’s improving?

        Society always sees the change as improvement—otherwise, why would it make the change?—but by what standard do we claim it’s an improvement? We look back with mild horror at what passed for acceptable morality in society in the past, but why think that what we see today is more than simply change?

        So perhaps Bob of December can correct this misguided Bob of October. Is a society that endorses slavery wrong? Is it just a different morality from ours? If it is wrong, why can’t we say that morality “improved”–wouldn’t you say going from wrong morality to right morality is an improvement? And Is capital punishment wrong? Or is the issue still irresolvable? Perhaps it was only irresolvable in October but not in December?

        Perhaps I’ve stumbled upon objectivist Bob here–the one who writes gay marriage editorials decrying moral injustices. Exciting to see him making an appearance again…

        And I’m sorry, I haven’t touched an actual Webster dictionary in years, but to answer your question…
        http://lmgtfy.com/?q=synoyms+for+trust
        http://lmgtfy.com/?q=synoyms+for+faith

        Unfortunately I believe your distinction only exists in your head…I requested citations last time around and you let me down. So your prideful boasts of “I have no faith beliefs!” have no meaning outside of your head, where…well….you do.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          Could have fooled me

          Perhaps it’s not very hard to fool you.

          While I’m flattered that you’ve consulted from and quoted from the august Book of Bob, your quotes do nothing to contradict what I said before, which seemed to have been your goal.

          I never claim to be able to tap into an absolute standard.

          So perhaps Bob of December can correct this misguided Bob of October.

          No need. There’s nothing to correct.

          Is a society that endorses slavery wrong?

          From Bob’s standpoint, it’s wrong. Drew has another standpoint, and who knows what he might say–he might listen to what I say or be swayed (or not) by my arguments, but he has his own standpoint that may come to the same or different conclusion.

          And what does the absolute/supernatural/transcendent/objective standpoint say? I dunno–I see no evidence that such a standard even exists. You got such evidence? I’d love to see it.

          If it is wrong, why can’t we say that morality “improved”–wouldn’t you say going from wrong morality to right morality is an improvement?

          It is by definition. Trick question, perhaps?

          And why wrestle with these issues as if we’re trying to parse the thoughts of Socrates? I’ve made my position clear many times. And it’s not like my position is especially compelling.

          If things seems tricky, here’s a tip: if it sounds outrageous, you’re probably just straw-manning me again.

          And Is capital punishment wrong?

          From my standpoint, yes. Your mileage may vary.

          Perhaps I’ve stumbled upon objectivist Bob here

          I’m pretty certain that you haven’t.

          … exciting to see him making an appearance again…

          You’ve deluded yourself.

          And I’m sorry, I haven’t touched an actual Webster dictionary in years…

          I look up stuff all the time. If you’re unable to, let me do it for you.

          Remember what we’re looking for, boys and girls. I asked Drew, if the definitions were identical. Let’s check Merriam-Webster and see:

          FAITH
          1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : LOYALTY
          1 b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
          2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
          2 b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2): complete trust
          3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs

          TRUST
          1 a : assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
          1 b : one in which confidence is placed
          2 a : dependence on something future or contingent : HOPE
          2 b : reliance on future payment for property (as merchandise) delivered : CREDIT
          3 a : a property interest held by one person for the benefit of another
          3 b : a combination of firms or corporations formed by a legal agreement; especially : one that reduces or threatens to reduce competition
          4 archaic : TRUSTWORTHINESS
          5 a (1) : a charge or duty imposed in faith or confidence or as a condition of some relationship (2) : something committed or entrusted to one to be used or cared for in the interest of another
          5 b : responsible charge or office
          6 c : CARE, CUSTODY

          Identical? Nope. And why, aside from making idle conversation, do you even flog your dead horse? I have no problem living in a reality (or just a conversation) where faith and trust mean precisely the same thing.

          Your attempt to find some horribly embarrassing error or contradiction on my part fails again. My suggestion: focus on the arguments made in the blog post rather than ad hominem attacks.

        • Drewl

          You’re helping me make my point beautifully. Let’s back this up to see why we’re discussing this. You said:

          However, as I argued in an earlier post, the claim “God is good” (that is, the Christian god) is very easily refuted–simply open the dictionary under “good” and open the Bible under “genocide,” and the result falls out pretty easily.

          I pointed out that the definition of good, according to Google is: that which is morally right. I then said you’re going to have trouble with this definition having any meaning because you don’t believe anything is objectively morally right. You claimed you have the ability to call things morally right, but when after being pressed on the issue, went into your typical “right according to my standpoint.”

          End result: when you perform your sacred ritual of looking up “good” in the dictionary, the definition you come away with is “that which is morally right according to Bob’s standpoint.”

          Interestingly, when you want the dictionary to do the heavy lifting of “easily refuting” God being good, your subjectivity disappears: you seem to suggest the definition provides some objective qualifier of what good is. A parallel would be trying to decide if a person is paraplegic. Your dictionary exercise works great here: we get the definition, we see what the objective qualifiers are, and then we cast our judgment. But imagine if the definition of paraplegic was “a person who is paraplegic according to Bob’s standpoint”? That’s not helpful at all; we might as well trash the dictionary and skip that step because paraplegic is going to be assigned according to subjective criteria.

          So again, your confident “everyone can read the definition of good and know God isn’t good!!” assessment actually means “everyone can read the definition of good, adopt MY standard of what is morally right, and then know God isn’t good!” Remind me why we needed the dictionary in the first place? Your a priori assumptions (aka prejudices) had the matter settled long before the dictionary had left the shelf. It’s fun to cloak your personal prejudices with the supposed objectivity of the dictionary, but at the end of the day this exercise only works if we adopt your standard of what “morally right” is.

          So let’s get back to your real point: things about reality annoy you, therefore, there is no God. No dictionary needed here.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          you seem to suggest the definition provides some objective qualifier of what good is.

          In the sense that “objective” means “shared among most people,” sure.

          But if you’re using “objective” in the sense that William Lane Craig does for objective morality (“moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not”) then no. I’ve seen no evidence for this.

          (I talk about the various definitions of “objective” here.)

          So again, your confident “everyone can read the definition of good and know God isn’t good!!” assessment actually means “everyone can read the definition of good, adopt MY standard of what is morally right, and then know God isn’t good!”

          No, that’s not necessary. Simply using the dictionary in the usual way will be fine.

          So let’s get back to your real point: things about reality annoy you, therefore, there is no God.

          Nope. That is not my point.

        • Drewl

          Also, glad to see you feel good about shooting down a claim no one made.

          I fear the day he realizes faith and trust are synonyms in every major dictionary/thesaurus. (Drewl, December 16th, 2012 comment)

          …And then you weren’t so thrilled to find faith and trust are synonyms.. (Drewl, December 26th, 2012 comment)

          (Links to google searches for ” synonyms for faith” and synonyms for trust” posted in a Drewl comment on December 26th, 2012)

          …and Bob, on consulting the dictionary and seeing they were in fact synonyms, fabricates a fun new claim:
          Remember what we’re looking for, boys and girls. I asked Drew, if the definitions were identical.

          Yes Bob, you sure showed me: what was I thinking making the claim that a dictionary would use two identically-worded definitions for two synonyms? How was I not aware no two words in Merriam-Webster have identical definitions–what a foolish claim I would make. I just thought the dictionary business was struggling–surely they’re just reusing definitions left and right to cut costs. Boy was I wrong.

          I believe the link you need to evaluate my claim is right here: http://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/trust

          Well would you look at that.

        • Kodie

          There is no reason to call god good. That is just a popular but no more credibility than calling god bad. Why can theists insist god is good no matter what? You seem to take no issue with that. The humans are all too unintelligent to decide what is bad, then they are equally unwise to suggest that god is good. God is nonjudicable and only exists in the imagination – the judgement of perceiving mere instances of god’s existence through the daily interactions between and of people, and in the story above, through the suffering of someone else. I don’t know why anyone would call that “good” and why you don’t criticize them for coming up with a value to measure god by – his unknowable reasons are wholly unknowable. The only reason people think god is good no matter what is because they are perceiving themselves, because they have been taught that, as specks in someone’s dollhouse and they better behave.

          Obviously when you’re superstitious, you want to do your little dances to avoid your house falling into a sinkhole – then you know sinkholes are bad and you don’t want it. But when it does happen and you brush yourself off and say “god is good” and you get some kind of positive from the abuse of nature to send you a personal message from Mr. Unknowable? That’s childish. What do you think infantilizing means?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl: Some definitions of faith and trust are the same, and some are different. Are we on the same page?

        • Drewl

          We’re good. And the definitions that coincide are the ones you draw upon when you admit you have to “trust” certain axioms and authorities. You’re a man of many faith beliefs.

          There, did I heal you of your faith squeamishness yet?

          Or should I expect an”I have trust, the other guy has blind faith” response? These have been fun responses, but for the third time now: citation needed.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          And the definitions that coincide are the ones you draw upon when you admit you have to “trust” certain axioms and authorities.

          I trust things that have earned that trust. That is, I trust based on evidence. If, by “faith,” you mean “belief well supported by evidence,” then avoid the confusion and use the word “trust” instead.

        • Drewl

          Nice. The majority of religious people do the same thing you do: trust based on experience. Why don’t you like them again? Any reason besides an unwarranted personal prejudice against religion?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          drewl:

          So the vitally important word “faith” within Christianity simply means “trust”? When a Christian has faith, it’s simply a belief well-grounded in evidence? And that disconfirming evidence would make them question their belief? And this is true for pretty much all Christians?

          Golly–Christianity is so much funner when you tell it.

        • Drewl

          Glad you’re having fun, but I’m still waiting for citations. Fourth request.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          No idea what you’re talking about; no interest in finding out.

        • Drewl

          Unless you can provide a citation of how faith works among Christians, it appears you’ve spent much of your last few years rejecting a religion no one actually believes in. Sign me up, I’ll reject that religion too. After that, maybe we can get milkshakes and invent an imaginary television show we really hate too? Now we’re having fun.

        • Kodie

          Christians “experience” god by labeling ordinary things that happen to them and other people divine in some way. Things can’t just happen, they have to be caused. They don’t look, they just know. That comes from every believer’s arguments I’ve ever heard on the internet. If that’s the best they can do, the best I can do is reject that nonsense due to it being nonsense.

        • Kodie

          Any reason besides an unwarranted personal prejudice against religion?

          A warranted opposition to what religious people actually think and how they actually behave. You seem to think nobody is describing religious people accurately – well they describe themselves, I don’t have to make anything up.

          Any reason you have an unwarranted prejudice against Bob? I notice you like to sort people into major categories and then pretend to catch them being inconsistent. Why do you care Drew? Do you know Bob from high school?

  • smrnda

    I think that, regardless of what type of basis a person uses for establishing morality, it’s impossible that the Christian god can be said to be a loving god.

    The problem is that love is a pretty subjective experience. If someone tells me they love me, who decides? Well, at least as far as I can tell in this world, if someone tells me that I decide. If they don’t meet my standards, I can say they don’t love me. If I am totally unreasonable maybe everybody will give up, but love isn’t something you just SAY and then I have to say “yeah, you totally do.” It’s more of a negotiation. If someone says they love me and do things that I don’t think are loving, I can communicate this, and I can (hopefully) get some direct answers. Even if I’m unreasonable at least I might get some perspective.

    But with god, god says so, and that’s all. Nothing you think or feel is ever right if god says it’s wrong. Doing well? God loves you. Doing badly? Don’t dare question god. Want a life god doesn’t approve of? Don’t dare think god is denying you happiness, he loves you so much that you can’t trust your own thoughts and feelings and just accept it.

    Now, the card usually pulled is that god DOES know more than us, and we get some CS Lewis style “remember when mommy and daddy made us to X and we didn’t want to because we didn’t know?” I don’t know what type of childhood he had, but I got things explained to me. I also realized that sometimes, what I wanted and what the adult wanted were different; one wasn’t really better than the other, so it’s not that the person in charge knows better, perhaps just different. The other problem is the level of success I’ve had with human relationships – a person who wants you to be happy but isn’t going to work to make you happy is a waste, and that’s basically how the Christan god is depicted.

    So, in the end, a loving god is pretty much impossible, unless the god is some kind of genie.

  • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

    I think that is not exactly a charitable reading of the belief system. My interpretation of “the boy was sent to me” is more akin to: “I shall posit that there may be an alternate universe where the boy whose mother had cancer was placed in some other line where I am not present. In such a universe the boy might not have new shoes for his mother and I would probably still be grumpy. I am grateful that I am in this universe, where that is not the case.” I would wager that this would be the same interpretation you would get from most Christians if you actually asked them, “is the singer really glad that God gave the boy’s mother cancer?”

    Reality is better than delusion

    I could go on such a lengthy discussion of this, but I think I will summarize by saying that I don’t think there is compelling evidence to suggest that anyone actually believes that. I actually think that most people quite prefer the opposite. I think the general norm is more like “a useful delusion is preferable to a difficult reality.”

    • Bob Seidensticker

      IT:

      I would wager that this would be the same interpretation you would get from most Christians if you actually asked them, “is the singer really glad that God gave the boy’s mother cancer?”

      Right–most Christians would not embrace the thought process imagined for God in the video. But how else to fit God into the picture?

      If we’re simply saying that good and bad stuff happens, some of it due to people and some of it just fate (for lack of a better word), and we can sometimes reframe the bad stuff to find something good (that is: find the silver lining), then sure. But this is simply the naturalistic viewpoint that atheists have.

      I think the general norm is more like “a useful delusion is preferable to a difficult reality.”

      And the useful part is an important addition. Sure, I’d prefer a delusion to a difficult reality if the delusion would (1) get me through a finite period in a more pleasant way and (2) not hurt me in any way compared to facing reality.

      Example: I go to the doctor, and he lies to me when he says, “Don’t worry about it. It’s not cancer. You’ll feel better any day now.” But of course, condition 2 above is not met. I won’t be going through the difficult task of facing reality (chemo, surgery, etc.), and I’ll die sooner.

      Can you think of such a useful delusion?

      • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

        Right–most Christians would not embrace the thought process imagined for God in the video. But how else to fit God into the picture?

        As inter-weaver of purposes.

        Can you think of such a useful delusion?

        Would the teaching of Newtonian physics qualify? That is the clearest, broadest, and most obvious example I can think of. It is my understanding that it does not work (or it does not work well) for quantum physics or astrophysics, but it is incredibly useful in the interim as generalized rules.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          I don’t think so. Newtonian physics isn’t much of a delusion if it works.

          My suggestion: a placebo. Dude comes into the doctor’s office with a bad cold. “I gotta have antibiotics, Doc,” he says. “I’m dying here!”

          So, knowing that this is just a viral infection and antibiotics wouldn’t help, the doctor gives him a placebo. Guy feels better, and he gets better (simply because colds just get better on their own).

          The reason that I’m so adamant about reality over delusion is that I can’t think of anything more substantial. I suppose someone could lie to me to spare my feelings, for example. But if he says, “Wow–that was a great presentation! You should be a professional speaker!” when I actually sucked, that’s a delusion that hurts.

        • smrnda

          Newtonian physics is accurate enough for most applications – unless you’re dealing with things that are very very big or very very small, it’s going to give you accurate enough results to say, build a bridge. It’s sort of how if I ask how tall someone is, if they get it to the nearest centimeter, that’s good enough. I could demand how many millimeters tall, but it’s not really necessary. Newtonian mechanics isn’t ‘wrong’ it’s simply not good enough in certain cases where we need to use quantum physics.

          The problem with any useful delusion is that the only way you can really get anything done is to know the real state of affairs. If I don’t have an accurate view of my health (an example Bob keeps pulling up) I can’t attempt any improvements. Sometimes we get this idea that a happy delusion is better than the truth, but only the truth enables one to solve problems. If I delude myself into thinking that say, my good fortune is the result of inherent merit instead of unearned privilege, I can no longer make informed choices about public policy or evaluate life outcomes for myself or other people. It would be an ego boost to believe otherwise, but it wouldn’t be good in the long run.

    • Kodie

      Or another way to put it: I felt bad and then because something bad happened to someone else, I felt better and I knew god had placed me in that situation. I get a sick pleasure from god having it set up so that bad things that happen to other people so that I might know him and know I’m loved by him.

      A different way of putting it is – when you see someone worse off, you wonder what stupid thing you were complaining about. But the thing is, no one placed you in that situation. You are a citizen of earth along with the rest of us, and it’s natural to compare and assess how one is doing. There is no intervention here, there is no supernatural thing. To really think about it, why do you feel “better” thinking god made a bad thing happen just to make you feel better? Isn’t it disgusting to worship such a being? If you can help someone in need when you see them, do it, and stop giving credit to god for making your life good by making someone else’s life worse! We have empathy, we’re social creatures. Seeing other people need something you can give away is not god instigating your generosity and gratitude. You’re just a person, that’s one of the things we do.

      And furthermore, so do other animals.

      • Kodie

        I would wager that this would be the same interpretation you would get from most Christians if you actually asked them, “is the singer really glad that God gave the boy’s mother cancer?”

        Neither the singer nor the listener seems to think it through because it’s egotistical and I would wager most Christians don’t understand how egotistical they are when they describe situations similar to this. No, the singer is not glad that god gave the boy’s mother cancer because he’s not thinking about how god plays in anyone else’s life, only his. He has his empathy triggered to help the boy pay for the shoes, which is nice but not uncommon nor exclusive to religionists, and then he thanks the wizard for his heart.

      • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

        To really think about it, why do you feel “better” thinking god made a bad thing happen just to make you feel better? Isn’t it disgusting to worship such a being?

        If I had argued for the existence of such a being I would perhaps agree with you. However I have not argued that God causes pain-as-such to teach others lessons as much as I have argued that God brings lessons out of pain. Those are two very, very different positions.

        • Kodie

          Not really. That’s just shifting the emphasis so you think it makes you seem like not such a worse person.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          Actually, they are quite different. One posits that God actively breaks kneecaps to teach people that loan-sharks are bad (one might call this an “anti-miracle”). The other posits that God points to the loan shark breaking a kneecap and then saying, “do you see how bad that loan shark is?”

          Another approach might be akin to: “the pain has purpose of its own and in its own place; God will use the pain to teach multiple lessons to multiple people” instead of “the pain exists solely for the purpose of teaching one man a lesson”. The difference is that in the former case the pain in-and-of-itself has a unique purpose independent of one individual.

        • Kodie

          I learn about and adapt to my environment by making observations and learning by experience. I don’t get why god makes these lessons better if they’re actively caused for your benefit to cause someone else to suffer. A loan shark breaks the kneecaps because he wants his money back. You don’t have to see someone get kneecapped to understand the business of borrowing from usurers. I don’t see how god makes that better. That has a cause and effect on earth in earthly terms – you borrow money from a shifty guy, you better pay it back or thugs come to injure you. What has that got to do with god giving a boy’s mom cancer to get some other guy to notice him? Is this the beautiful evidence we’ve been searching for?

          Pain doesn’t have a grand purpose – that is a symptom of infantilization. That means you’re aware of suffering and egotistically make it about you whenever you can.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          Pain doesn’t have a grand purpose – that is a symptom of infantilization. That means you’re aware of suffering and egotistically make it about you whenever you can.

          If there is a God, and specifically if the God is the God of Christianity, then everything has purpose and, moreover, everything has purpose to each of us as individuals. Every incident in each of our lives has meaning and is an opportunity to know God more. But, even absent that, it is far less egotistical to say, “this suffering can help me learn” or “this suffering presents an opportunity to learn” than it is to say, “this suffering is meaningless” and “this suffering gives me no opportunity to grow.”

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Kodie:

          Pain doesn’t have a grand purpose

          Agreed. Think about how smell works–the smell sensation fades with time. We can say that the nose gets “tired,” but it’s simply that it works by telling us about change. Your skin doesn’t keep telling you “Clothes are touching me!” nonstop throughout the day. And so on.

          Why doesn’t God make pain work that way, too? When a smell changes, your nose tells you and then it stops. When you have cancer, what’s the purpose of pain telling you, over and over without end, that you’re messed up?

          Dumb mindless evolution explains it nicely, but a loving God giving us a perfect body doesn’t.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          Your skin doesn’t keep telling you “Clothes are touching me!” nonstop throughout the day.

          Actually, it does. Your mind eventually filters the signals, but the signals are still going to the brain. Similarly your brain can (and often will) filter out extraneous pain sensations.

          Dumb mindless evolution explains it nicely, but a loving God giving us a perfect body doesn’t.

          Who believes that we have a perfect body? Which group?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          IT:

          If there is a God, and specifically if the God is the God of Christianity, then everything has purpose

          I understand that theologians say this, but is this the clear and consistent message from the Bible? That bully in the OT is a bull in a china shop. I’m sure you can find a psalm or something that supports this claim, but the overriding message to me is more Job’s god–someone who does what he does because he can.

          Is that inconvenient for you guys down on earth? Tough. Deal with it.

          it is far less egotistical to say, “this suffering can help me learn” or “this suffering presents an opportunity to learn” than it is to say, “this suffering is meaningless” and “this suffering gives me no opportunity to grow.”

          It can be the case that both (1) suffering is meaningless in an objective, absolute way and (2) I can learn from this suffering; I can find a silver lining.

          If you’re saying that an optimistic outlook is helpful and that we should search for these silver linings, I agree. If you’re saying that every single downturn has a God-given silver lining, then I disagree.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          IT:

          Your mind eventually filters the signals

          Helpful clarification. That’s what I meant.

          your brain can (and often will) filter out extraneous pain sensations.

          This, however, is news to me. Yes, we have natural opiates, and yes, we can be distracted. And perhaps meditation or other serious mind-over-matter techniques might help. But for truly serious ongoing pain without drugs (cancer, perhaps), you’re only talking about a modest attenuation, right?

          Who believes that we have a perfect body?

          My point is that ceaseless pain fits nicely into a naturalistic view of the world. Not at all in the world of a loving an omnipotent Creator.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          This, however, is news to me. Yes, we have natural opiates, and yes, we can be distracted. And perhaps meditation or other serious mind-over-matter techniques might help. But for truly serious ongoing pain without drugs (cancer, perhaps), you’re only talking about a modest attenuation, right?

          I think it depends on what you’re talking about with “serious, ongoing pain” and the source of pain psychological issues &c. Cancer is another difficulty as it is often increasing pain over time (akin to your nose being continually exposed to more and more perfume scent), but it is possible for the mind to more-or-less ignore the pain present.

          My point is that ceaseless pain fits nicely into a naturalistic view of the world. Not at all in the world of a loving an omnipotent Creator.

          We’ve had discussions of theodicy before.

        • Kodie

          IT: I had said, purposefully,

          I learn about and adapt to my environment by making observations and learning by experience.

          That doesn’t mean it exists to serve me in the sense that god put it there so I could learn something. That is religion’s “purpose”. We have sensory organs and brains that tell us about our environment and we can react to it or learn something that helps us adjust.

          For example, if I were in a bad mood standing in a cashier line behind some kid trying to buy his dying mother a pair of nice shoes, I don’t say he was put there for me to learn. But I react to my environment with empathy and generosity if I can.

          You are struggling to explain to me the difference between what I said and your spin, but the difference here is I am not crediting an invisible deity who purposefully crosses my path with others to give me a piece of the puzzle so I can solve the quest. I live on a planet with billions of humans, and unless I move far out of the city, I’m going to encounter some other people and see they have issues and, as per one of the major behavior patterns of my species, I’m going to react to their needs with my ability to help and vice versa occasionally.

  • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

    Neither the singer nor the listener seems to think it through

    Or they take a different message from the song than the interpretation of someone who has an active and declared animosity towards religion and religiosity.

    No, the singer is not glad that god gave the boy’s mother cancer because he’s not thinking about how god plays in anyone else’s life, only his.

    Strange that you got that message from the song. I doubt that was the intent. Have you read the lyrics?

    • Kodie

      I don’t think I’m an actor in an epic story of a bearded man playing with his dollhouse.

      • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

        I don’t think I’m an actor in an epic story of a bearded man playing with his dollhouse.

        Nor do I, but that does not address the point at hand. I asked if you had read the lyrics or considered the message a believer would really take from the song and you respond with this? I think it non sequitur.

        • Kodie

          I’m familiar with the song and the lyrics. “Consider the message a believer would take” – what this whole thread has been about.

  • Tain

    If anything it is atheists who have an infantile concept of God. I can see where your atheistic views arise from if you are all equating God with Santa Claus. Also a common argument amongst atheists is that evolution disproves the story of Genesis, so therefore God doesn’t exist. Genesis is not supposed to be read literally, it is a spiritual, symbolic document. As with the entire Bible it is meant for contemplation and meditation on ideas that take you out of your self.

    • Arisuzawa

      This interpretation of the Bible may hold fine for you, but for a very large part of the Christian population, that is not how they see things. Show us where it says these stories are meant for contemplation and meditation and not to be taken literally, then you might have a case for it. For me, equating God to Santa comes out the same- both have extraordinary claims attributed to them with the same amount of proof= none.

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