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Response To an Angry Christian

Why were Stalin and Hitler bad? Was it the moustaches?Several years ago, Mark Shea, a Patheos blogger who writes the “Catholic and Enjoying It!” blog, wrote an article titled “Padding the Case for the New Atheism.” His contempt for what he sees as the atheist position seems barely contained at times. Let’s look at what aggravates Mark so much.

He begins by saying that the New Atheists don’t actually say anything new. Indeed 13th-century theologian Thomas Aquinas only had two objections, and Mark assures us that “every reasonable atheistic argument is a restatement of one or both of these basic points.”

With that buildup, who’s not eager to find this succinct distillation of atheist thought?

Mark’s Two Arguments

1. The Problem of Evil. If God existed, there would be no evil; but there is; therefore, God doesn’t exist. (This isn’t the way that I’d phrase it—I’d say that the existence of evil is strong evidence that an omnipotent and good god doesn’t exist.)

2. Nature Suffices. Natural explanations are sufficient. “God did it” is unnecessary and the God hypothesis is redundant; therefore, we have no need to imagine God.

Mark thinks this is all atheists have to offer. He lampoons atheists pointing out harm done in the name of religion and argues instead “that 20th-century atheists shed oceans of blood dwarfing anything ever achieved by theists.”

I can accept that, but it’s irrelevant.

Men with moustaches might have committed more barbarity in the 20th century than men without. Does that tell us something about moustaches? Hitler was a vegetarian—do his crimes that tell us something about vegetarians? Indeed, men have shed far more blood on all sides of 20th-century conflicts than women. But they didn’t do it in the name of men, Hitler didn’t order the Holocaust in the name of vegetarianism, and Stalin didn’t do his crimes in the name of moustaches.

Similarly, savage 20th-century atheists (I presume he means Stalin and Mao) didn’t do their thing in the name of atheism. Rather, they were dictators who saw the church as a competitor and suppressed it. The church and innocent people were both on the wrong side of these dictatorships.

Atheists and Morality

He next imagines that atheists get tripped up with morality.

Trying to derive a moral universe — any moral universe at all — of Should from a purely materialistic universe of Is turns out to be impossible.

In Mark’s mind, perhaps. Not in mine.

This is David Hume’s is-ought problem. For example, “It is the case that X, therefore, you ought to do Y.” What could replace X and Y to make a sensible sentence?

That’s a provocative question until you ask yourself: if morals don’t come from what is—that is, reality—where do they come from? Imagining a supernatural source for morals demands evidence.

Hume says that you can’t derive an absolute or objective ought from an is, and I agree. This causes no problem because I don’t see any evidence for absolute oughts. It is the case that my moral instinct tells me to help people; therefore, I ought to help people. Problem solved.

Mark continues: the naturalistic view of atheists demands that the biochemical thought process going on inside Adolph Hitler’s head has no greater or lesser oughtness than that in Martin Luther King’s head.

I agree—from an absolute or objective standpoint. But not from mine. And not from that of most people in society. Most of us are happy to weigh various moral stands against our own views and judge them satisfactory or wanting.

My moral instincts are very similar to Mark’s and very similar to those of most other people, which is hardly surprising because we’re all the same species. That’s why we can create a society.

Today’s bull-in-a-china-shop atheists, Mark tells us,

retain a serene confidence that the privileged bits of the moral and rational order looted from the Christian civilization they are laboring to destroy will just go coasting on of their own accord.

Isn’t it quaint how Mark imagines that morality and rationality come from Christianity? As if Christianity presents them to us as a gift. I wonder how he explains non-Christian civilizations that stumble along pretty well. Or how the first civilizations in what is now India, Egypt, and Iraq did fine despite their preceding Christianity by 3000 years. When you consider the morality of Christian civilization, I’m not sure that gives you much to crow about.

And he imagines that Christianity gave us morality and rationality?

Nature Suffices

It’s on to argument 2, which says that natural arguments are sufficient and “God did it” is redundant and unnecessary.

Put briefly, you propose a huge metaphysical hypothesis that Absolutely Everything popped into existence 13 billion years ago with the help of Nobody, but loaves and fishes cannot pop into existence 2,000 years ago with the help of Jesus of Nazareth, despite the eyewitnesses who inexplicably chose to die in torments proclaiming He did.

Wow—so many mistakes, and so little time. First, cosmology doesn’t claim to know what caused the Big Bang. Science says, “I don’t know” without shame. There is no “Time’s up!” after which Yahweh will be declared the default Creator of the Big Bang.

Second, most atheists don’t declare that the miracles of Jesus absolutely didn’t happen, just that that’s where the evidence points. (Given that the myriad miracle claims throughout history have produced no scientifically acceptable evidence of the supernatural and that we have many examples of legends or myths, it’s a pretty good bet that the loaves-’n-fishes story is yet another.)

Finally, the “Who would die for a lie?” argument is weak (I’ve written on that here).

He next mentions the fine-tuning argument. I’ll ignore this for now—this is important enough to deserve a post of its own.

The Muse of Sarcasm seems irresistible to Mark (I hear there’s a 12-step program for that), and he lampoons his version of the positions of various atheists. In one rant, he touches on Richard Dawkins’ statement,

any God capable of intelligently designing something as complex as the DNA/protein machine must have been at least as complex and organized as that machine itself.

Mark is unimpressed and tells us that Thomas Aquinas

addressed your brand new unrebuttable objection nearly 900 years ago in his Summa Theologiae (Part I, Question 3, Article 7).

Yes, he addressed it. No, he didn’t do a particularly convincing job. I’ve written more here, but my short response is: if God is simple, prove it by making one. You don’t have the materials, you say? Okay, then give us the recipe. You can’t even do this? Okay, then don’t claim that you know what makes God well enough to tell us that he’s simple.

Mark wraps up this section with some snarky advice for atheists.

Most of all, overlook the fact that the question you are supposed to be attending to is “whether God exists,” not “whether God is complex.” Ignore the fact that all a theist has to do is show that creation is contingent and therefore necessarily depends on what is not contingent for existence. Do not remind yourself that the theist is not obliged to say he or she understands that non-contingent Being, merely that such a being exists. If all this fails and your reader still thinks St. Thomas is getting the better of you, call your reader a creationist in the same tone of voice you’d use to say, “You left your used Kleenex on my coffee table.”

Why imagine that the universe is contingent? A popular view of quantum physics is that some quantum events have no causes. For example, the alpha particle that comes out of a decaying nucleus has no cause. The probability of this event can be precisely predicted, but that’s it. Given that the universe itself was a quantum particle at the beginning of the Big Bang, maybe universes are also stochastic rather than caused.

(Snarkiness can work, but it backfires when your argument is flimsy.)

There’s more, but let’s pause here before our next dose of Mark’s bitter medicine. Let me encourage you to read Mark’s original paper if you question whether I’m treating his argument fairly.

Part 2.

Forget Jesus.
The stars died so that you could be here today.
— Lawrence Krauss

Photo credit: Wikimedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Niemand

    I’ve always been a bit concerned about theists who claim that god is necessary for morality. My morality, right or wrong, is internal. I make the same moral choices whether I am being observed or not. Why do theists feel that they need an observer to keep them from becoming immoral? Did they never learn to act in a moral manner simply in order to avoid causing pain to others? Is there no downside to immorality in their minds, except the risk of getting caught?

    • http://www.seditiosus.blogspot.com Schaden Freud

      I agree. I’m suspicious of theists who make this claim. I also think morality becomes meaningless if people only behave morally in order to avoid punishment.

    • Goldstein’s Bitch

      The Commies wanted to eliminate religion, because they were atheists. And they killed MILLIONS of believers in an attempt to accomplish their goal Literally MILLIONS.

      Simple.

      Factual.

      Atheists need to face it an deal with it.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Bitch:

        The Commies wanted to eliminate religion, because they were atheists.

        The Commies wanted to eliminate religion because it was competition. They were a dictatorship, remember?

        I’ve dealt with this more here.

  • http://cthulhuvariations.blogspot.com/ David E

    The claim, among most apologists of any sophistication, is that moral truth would not exist if God didn’t. Not that we’d be immoral if we didn’t think God was watching and judging.

    Not that I’ve ever heard a good argument for the claim. Or even a particularly coherent one.

    • machintelligence

      And the Euthyphro dilemma gives that argument fits, anyway.

      Socrates introduces the “Euthyphro dilemma” by asking the crucial question: “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious? Or is it pious because it is loved by the gods (10a)?

      • Erick

        The Euthyphro dilemma doesn’t address the Abrahamic conception of God. God loves regardless of piety. Piety is your own choice.

        In college, I had a friend who I was romantically in love with. She didn’t feel that same way. Yet, it didn’t mean that my own feelings were contradicted.

        • Bob Jase

          Reeeeeaaaallllly?? So god loved all those people he killed in the flood? How much did god love the people of Sodom & Gomorrah before he killed them? Or the first-born children of Egypt – wicked little tit-suckers apparently because they were too young to do anything else but god loved them enough to order their slaughter by his personal angel of death.

          Y’know if god had bothered with appearing to them as he supposedly did to all those Hebrew patriarchs they might have changed their supposedly evil ways. I say supposedly because the bible doesn’t say what evil thing people were doing before the flood and the folks at Sodom & Gomorrah were only guilty of mistreating strangers and those Egyptian babies weren’t doing anything more evil than being babies – can that be worse than the genocide and rape Yahweh orders his people to do? But apparently he didn’t love them enough to do so.

          Gad, I blame the Jesus Freaks from the ’60′s & ’70′s for the whole “god id love” monsense – it certainly wasn’t mainstream Christianity before them.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Bob Jase:

          Y’know if god had bothered with appearing to them as he supposedly did to all those Hebrew patriarchs they might have changed their supposedly evil ways.

          But if each tribe has its god looking out for it, that explains the Bible’s attitude in the Old Testament.

        • Jason

          Bob Jase said:
          “I blame the Jesus Freaks from the ’60′s & ’70′s for the whole “god id love”” (god is love?)

          I agree with the main point of your post (i.e. there are plenty of examples of god not being loving in the Bible), but I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the emphasis on divine love in Christianity is a new development. There really was a somewhat unique emphasis on love from the earliest Christian sources (e.g. John 3:16 “For god so loved the world…” Paul’s tirade on love in the letter to the Corinthians, etc). Of course, this doesn’t mean that Christians have actually practiced what they preached, but Christianity did embrace this concept more than many other ancient religions. On the whole, the god of the OT is much more of a warrior god simply fighting for his favorite tribe. If he’s a loving god, he’s not a god who loves universally (thus he’s justified in killing Egyptian babies). Love as a religious concept is also relatively absent from Greco-Roman religion in general. You may be right that the specific phrase “god is love” is relatively recent.

        • http://cthulhuvariations.blogspot.com/ David E

          Give me any metaethical theory that claims it requires the existence of God for there to be moral truths and I can give you a variation of the Euthyphro dilemma that applies to it.

        • machintelligence

          Thanks, that is what I was trying to say. My quote was not entirely on target.

        • Greg G

          The Euthyphro dilemma doesn’t address the Abrahamic conception of God. God loves regardless of piety.
          The Euthyphro dilemma went over your head. It’s about morality. It applies to any ethic that appeals to any type of deity.

          It applies to your Christian God by substituting hating sin for loving piety. Does God hate sin because it is wrong or is it sin because God hates it?

        • Reginald Selkirk

          Greg G: The Euthyphro dilemma doesn’t address the Abrahamic conception of God…

          The only kernel of value in your comment is that you point out the frequent change of definition by apologists between Y-hw-h, the tribal god of the Jews, and the omni-god rooted in Greek philosophy.

        • Greg G

          You are quoting me quoting Erick. I apologize for not citing it better.

    • G.R. Mead

      The claim, among most apologists of any sophistication, is that moral truth would not exist if God didn’t. Not that we’d be immoral if we didn’t think God was watching and judging.
      Not that I’ve ever heard a good argument for the claim. Or even a particularly coherent one.

      It depends on how one accepts the Bible in terms of its evidence.

      First, a question. Why is it that the population of humanity was so low for more than 50 thousand years?
      My answer: because humanity had accepted no moral guidance.
      Food resources were hard to get and fragile to maintain — and individual survival may easily seem doomed with too many mouths to feed. We just did what we thought we needed to do. There is s sociobiological explanation — in times of stress — the vulnerable are the first to go — one can always breed again, after all. The Bible recounts that the Semitic/Canaanite peoples (most definitely including the early pagan forebears of the Hebrews, killed their children with regularity and especially in great numbers in times of stress or disaster. The other sociobiological solution is to artificially intervene in reproduction. Australian aborigines and others practiced this model of population limitation (and modern society is following them — and with now worldwide collapsing fertility and demographics).

      This aspect of the revealed truth of the survival value of moral self-sacrificing behavior is something that came from a revealed religion, from the revelation to a specific man, Abraham to whom descendants outnumbering the stars was promised — a promise with a far different significance if you begin with the premise of routine child sacrifice as a sociobiological response to scarcity. All of the prohibitions in the Decalogue fit this as a model of the underlying purpose of the Law, to eradicate the underlayment of sacrifices and — if the prohibition of pork be viewed as some have argued– of not infrequent cannibalism. The Molech child sacrifices — and their center at Hinnom (which later become the place of damnation) was a noted practice of the Canaanites and the related Carthaginians later, also. This gives greater significance to both Joseph’s approach to incipient famine while being in authority in Egypt– as well as to the significance of the differing respsone of the Hebrews and the Egyptians (Semitic people also) when the Angel of Death came — the Egyptians slaughtered their first-born sons, the Israelites slaughtered their lambs and fled the moral horror behind them. It gives a reason why temple prostitution abounded in these sosieties — a source of children who were the child of no one ( or of the gods) and thus were raised as ready sacrifices — when needed.

      It is also significant that after resuming their former nomadic ways for a generation or two, that the most notable feature of the Israelites in the eyes of the Canaanites was their sheer numbers when they finally descended back into Canaan — as is recounted in Numbers 22-31. Balaam’s admits that he cannot “curse” the Israelites (i.e.– drive them to self-destructive despair, like the Egyptians did to themselves). Notable also is that Balaam finally looks to external means of bringing the Israelites low and sends them prostitutes to tempt them back into the old ways, and with some success — as Numbers 31 recounts this resulted in a pague among those who succumbed — whether the plague was of the child-killing sort ( as in Egypt) or the more ordinary sort is left open for interpretation.

      The end of revealed religion brings in its wake the exploitaiton and ultimately the sacrifice of children to the perceived needs of those who feel threatened by scarcity and no longer have the supprot fo the revealed truth to assit them — see k recourse in child-murder once again through abortion, depersonalizing and objectifying children in growing child abuse and sexual exploitation that are now rampant, and the concetptive culture that fears the child as a sap to wealth and happiness rather than a source of that wealth and happiness. — These trends will continue and indeed worsen — because there is no check against them — excepting faith in the revealed truth of the Most High God. Reason will not save us from this — because the premises on which it operates have changed — and the premises that might allow our reason to preserve us still come only from our faith.

      As an aside — China and India will be offered as non Judeo-Christian counterexamples. Their populations have risen and crashed routinely before the European missionary expansion. And they were not immune to the tendrils of Christian thought that may have more subtly insinuated themselves in their societies from the Silk Road and in China directly since at least the 6th century. Maitreya and Pure Land BUddhist soteriology is evidence of this, standing alone. But the modern missionary age dramatically altered their native social conceptions of moral truth — regardless of whether they accepted the objective source of the revelation that produced and maintains it.

      And as all societies seem in the way of collapsing hope in the future for themselves and their ffspring — in the face of wealth unrivalled in human history — we can see so much more clearly that it is the source in our faith that makes a child seem a cause of joy and hope, rather than a cause of fear and eventually, an object of moral horror at what we are willing to do to avoid what we fear or to get what we want.

      • Bob Jase

        “My answer: because humanity had accepted no moral guidance.”

        My answer – because religion held back scientific progress in agriculture, medicine, engineering, etc. The Code of Hammurabi predates the biblical commandments and yet it prohibits the same things accepted then as now as crimes against society such as murder & theft. Egyptian, Hittite and other pre-biblical law codes did the same. Only after people began to challenge the dogma of various churches did any notable progress really take off.

        • G.R. Mead

          Oh dear, not this canard. To the contrary, the history of progress in learning generally and in science particularly is the history of the Church — and until a very late date. The cosmologist who proposed the Big Bang was a Catholic priest, and physicist, Fr. Georges Lemaitre. Mendel, father of genetics was a Augustinain monk (like Luther before the Reformation). Newton was as devout and as active theologically as he was scientifically. Berkeley, the first to pose the very serious problem of observation, reference frames, and the problem of relativistic versus absolute motion in space — was an Anglican bishop. Roger Bacon who formulated the empirical scientific method, was granted a dispensation from Pope Clement to write freely on topics of nature, despite resistance to his considerable time spent in academics opposed by his Franciscan order, who had first call on his talents. Galileo — the usaul example trotted out — was in fact punished not as a martyr to science, but for his pig-headed obstinancy in the face of a well-known scientific demand he could not answer — the 2000- year-old problem of the lack of observed stellar parallax — without which motion around the sun could not be physically possible. It was not actually observed until the 1840′s. And need I mention that universities and the very idea of them, were created — by the Church.

          And lest this all be thought a product of the self-conceit of the Enlightenment, consider St. Augustine writing in 408 A.D.:

          “It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation” (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19–20 [A.D. 408]).

          So whatever your objection may be to the faith — please do not maintain the pretense that holding back science or technical progress has anything to do with it. It is completely laughable — if you care about the facts.

        • Bob Jase

          Of course if any of those you mentioned had publically said they were not Christians their loving church would have burned them alive at the stake, as it did to thousands of others. But I’m sure that doesn’t count.

        • ZenDruid

          Oh dear, not this canard.

          Copernicus was a Christian deacon. He held off on publishing his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium until he was on his deathbed, because he knew the church would blast him for it.
          Lemaitre was only one among four who presented field equations for Einstein’s TGR. Alexander Friedman (Russian) possibly antedated Lemaitre in his efforts by a couple years, and would have contributed much more had he not died in 1925. Lemaitre had the advantage of being close to the action in Europe.

        • G.R. Mead

          Another canard. The enthusiasm for heretic punishment was most famously a nascent nationalist fervor, set loose or exacerbated by the Reformation — and not a primarily religious motivaiton. Consider the Spanish Inquisition, begun initially in 1478 with an at least arguably legitimate aim of ferretting out false conversos who still held allegiance to the retreating Muslim princes and the still threatening Marinids across the Strait and the as yet undefeated Nasrids in Granada. The Spanish government turned it into a political dragnet in religious drag. The Nasrids would not be defeated until 1492.

          Before then, Inquisitions were rare and under the direct control of the Pope in Rome. Ferdinand demanded and received from Pope Sixtus IV in 1478 the right to institute and to control an Inquisition in Castile — under a threat of withdrawing Spanish defenses of Rome against the Turks ( see the Battle of Lepanto). (This was not an isolated problem with growing nationalism –at he same time the Pope could not get papal edicts on Church matters made effective in France without royal consent). Then Ferdinand demanded the same right in respect of Aragon, the Pope initially refused. He further expressed deep opposition ot the handlign of the INquisition by Spanish officials and directed that the bishops of Spain take a direct hand in the Inquisition in their dioceses to prevent them. In a letter to he bishops, Sixtus wrote: “On April 18, 1482, he wrote to the bishops of Spain:

          “In Aragon, Valencia, Mallorca, and Catalonia the Inquisition has for some time been moved not by zeal for the faith and the salvation of souls but by lust for wealth. Many true and faithful Christians, on the testimony of enemies, rivals, slaves, and other lower and even less proper persons, have without any legitimate proof been thrust into secular prisons, tortured and condemned as relapsed heretics, deprived of their goods and property and handed over to the secular arm to be executed, to the peril of souls, setting a pernicious example, and causing disgust to many.” Sixtus ordered the bishops to take a direct role in all future tribunals, to enforce the Church’s well-established norms of justice , to ensure the accused had legal counsel and the right of appeal to Rome.

          Ferdinand responded by expelling all Jews from Andalusia in 1483 against the prior and express command of toleration by the Church. He in addition wrote back, accusing the Pope himself of being bribed by Jews, : “Things have been told me, Holy Father, which, if true, would seem to merit the greatest astonishment. To these rumors, however, we have given no credence because they seem to be things which would in no way have been conceded by Your Holiness who has a duty to the Inquisition. But if by chance concessions have been made through the persistent and cunning persuasion of the conversos, I intend never to let them take effect. Take care therefore not to let the matter go further, and to revoke any concessions and entrust us with the care of this question.” He then appointed the Torquemada Inquisitor General and the SPANISH Inquisition of infamy began in earnest thereafter. Ferdinand solved the appeal problem practically — by decreeing that any person appealing to Rome under the provisions directed by the Pope — would be summarily executed.

          So please do not tell me how it was the Church that did these things — it was the greed of men and the pride of kings. As it ever was …

        • Bob Seidensticker

          GR:

          the history of progress in learning generally and in science particularly is the history of the Church

          So the church has been a champion of evidence and inquiry right from the start? That’s news to me.

          I think a fairer evaluation would be that the Europeans on the forefront of scientific investigation just happened to be Christian.

        • Greg G

          The Christians who have contributed to science have done so by operating outside the teachings of their churches. Science barely progressed because of the power of the church to suppress it. Once the church lost political power and science was freed from its yoke, it has grown exponentially. The whole time that Europe was under Christianity, technology never reached the sophistication that the Romans had. It took until the 18th century for technology to catch up. In 250 years since then, we can put a robotic space lab on another planet. For 2500 years, religion has been giving us reasons why we can’t eat a bacon cheeseburger.

        • Nox

          Murdering heretics wasn’t just a spanish thing. The Spanish Inquisition was just the spanish branch of the Office of the Inquisition, which reported to Rome.

          Ad Abolendam was issued by the pope. The order to exterminate the waldensians was ordered by the pope. The Crusades were ordered by the pope. The execution of anyone suspected of not being christian was ordered by the pope. And the spanish office happened to take it a little farther than everyone else. Just because the Spanish Inquisition is the most notorious part doesn’t mean the rest of it didn’t happen.

          You know what other classic scientist was a christian? Giordano Bruno. Not quite as famous as Galileo. Never got around to proving the Copernican model since the church burned him to death for suggesting the Earth might revolve around the Sun.

          Bruno was found guilty of “holding opinions contrary to the catholic faith”(<- not my description, the words used by the church of Rome). And as punishment for holding unapproved opinions he was tied to a stick and set on fire.

          You don't get to take credit for having all the scientists and philosophers in Europe during the 1,000+ years when Europe was a christian theocracy and anyone trying to engage in science or philosophy without the church's permission was killed for it.

          Also, you're bragging about owning the scientific monopoly on the part of history where scientific advancement in Europe was almost nonexistent (if you don't count ripping off ideas from muslims, jews and Aristotle, we can change that to completely nonexistent). It was only when the church began to lose its power to suppress competing ideas that ideas which did not support christian dogma were allowed to be spoken of without fear of punishment. And it was then that Europe suddenly got enlightened.

          The church didn't invent science. The greeks invented science hundreds of years before christ. The church buried science. The church destroyed the Library of Alexandria and instituted the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. They did everything they could to control and suppress the expansion of human knowledge (which is the original, current and only intent of christian universities).

        • G.R. Mead

          Copernicus was a Christian deacon. He held off on publishing his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium until he was on his deathbed, because he knew the church would blast him for it.
          Lemaitre was only one among four who presented field equations for Einstein’s TGR.

          Ignorance only feeds prejudice — let me cure that. Copernicus published his system in outline form for review by a number of his contemporaries in about 1531. Widmanstadt lectured on the Copernican system to Pope Clement VII in 1533, and Cardinal Schonberg — Archbishop of Padua wrote Copernicus in 1536 a letter begging him to complete the manuscript and mathematical treatment for publication. Rheticus quit his university seat to work with Copernicus for two years, and prepared a 66 page prescript of the forthcoming treatise in the early 1540′s in Germany and Switzerland. Copernicus, at 68, finally relinquished the final drafting — and in a letter to Pope Paul III, acknowledged the efforts of Cardinal Schonberg, Rheticus, and the Bishop Giese of Culm, to persuade him to do just that. Under the authority of Bishop Giese, Rheticus was tasked to complete and publish it — but met with resistance to publicaiton of the Copernican thesis — not from the Church — but from the university at Wittenberg — which was becoming a hotbed of nascent Protestantism.

          As to Father Lemaitre, in 1933 Einstein himself handed his own scheduled lecture spot in a visit to Belgium to Fr. Lemaitre, in deference to his view of the importance of expounding Lemaitre’s dynamic view of the universe — to which Einstein was drawn from his former static view in no small part because of Lemaitre’s formulation. With all due respect — I’ll take Einstein’s opinion over your own.
          http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=8847

        • Bob Jase

          “Rheticus was tasked to complete and publish it — but met with resistance to publicaiton of the Copernican thesis — not from the Church — but from the university at Wittenberg — which was becoming a hotbed of nascent Protestantism.”

          So Protestantism isn’t another version of Christianity?, i.e: another Church? Please tell us all exactly which sects do you consider real religions and which are just whatever.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          GR:

          Ignorance only feeds prejudice — let me cure that.

          You’re a disease. I’m the cure.

          I’ll take Einstein’s opinion over your own.

          Einstein’s opinion of what?

        • G.R. Mead

          Bruno was found guilty of “holding opinions contrary to the catholic faith”(<- not my description, the words used by the church of Rome). And as punishment for holding unapproved opinions he was tied to a stick and set on fire.

          Bruno has a statue erected — by the Masons — in Campo de Fiore– you know, if you go on pilgrimage …
          First, lets’s get Ad Abolendam out of the way. It was proclaimed to deal wiht the Ctahrs and Wldesians — both Neo-Manicahean relgiions (not really Christian at all). Cathars advocated abolition of all bodily attachment — and preached against procreation, the pursuit of material progress in, really anything, and counseled an early death and even voluntary suicide by means of self-starvation (known as the endura ).

          When the Verona Synod in 1184 approved Ad Abolendam with the Consent of Barbarossa — there was no such thing as capital punishment for heresy. Lots of capital punishment for lots of other things made secular crimes, but not that. It was not until the efforts of the later 14th century beginning with Henry of Susa and Joannes Andreae — who took the phrase “debita animadversio” (due punishment) from Ad Abolendam and by analogizing it to high treason — a point followed by Aquinas it is admitted and from which thereafter attached the presumption of the death penalty, which it bore thereafter. The political analogy has been much criticized as self-serving in an age of deeply political religion and so is unfortunate — but then so is the self-serving definition of “life” of the unborn in our age — and there is no want of human failing — in any era. Punishments in the time of the inquisitions were simply harsher across the board and it is anachronistic and nakedly prejudicial to single out the Church on this point.

          Heresy is better analogized these days to our own views of intellectual property — anyone who claims rights to alter Apple’s iOS will answer in punitive damages to the tune of billions, potentially. The punishment for teaching heresy was to protect the similar intellectual property of the Church in correct doctrine, and under her solitary jurisdiction. The purpose was quite simply to avoid injury to many people — whose moral operating system on which society depends for its functioning might go awry and cause them and everyone great grief. Apple has similar motives –and profit — but profit is the measure of valued service — and intellectual property is protected to preserve the value of such services. Moral operating systems are not dispensable to a functioning society — as we are busy discovering.

          As to Bruno — he was ordained a priest in the Dominican Order. He did not know how to win many friends– and in his stay in England wrote a scathing attack on the scholars of Oxford saying they knew more of beer than of Greek.

          Bruno was adjudged of teaching heresy. Mere belief was not punishable as a offense to the Church’s authority — only teaching errors on matters within her jurisdiction. This Bruno did on a number of topics — that Christ was no God bu a magician; a form of pantheism, universalism (even the fallen angels would be saved), and a number of others. His condemnation and death had nothing whatsoever to do with his views on the Copernican system — Popes and cardinals were already corresponding — with Copernicus — on that topic and wholly without concern.

          The Venetian inquisitors who first examined Bruno attempted to give him an out by the “two-fold truth” doctrine, that his errors were of philosophy and not religion. But Bruno would have none of it and then declared outright his abjuration of the Christian faith — there is hardly an article of faith on which he did not demand to teach contrary doctrine. He was then sent to Rome where for six years he was remonstrated to try to avoid the punishment he had seemingly demanded by his open abjuration in Venice, but without success. He was finally tried and the convicted and executed — as he apparently intended, because he certainly had many opportunities and offers to take simply a more nuanced view of his own opinions — but he would not accommodate them. All in all — it was his longstanding and repeated intemperance, vanity, open defiance and self-aggrandizing narcissism that led to his death.

          The church didn’t invent science. The greeks invented science hundreds of years before christ. The church buried science. The church destroyed the Library of Alexandria and instituted the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. They did everything they could to control and suppress the expansion of human knowledge (which is the original, current and only intent of christian universities).

          Hardly. The Index was never a ban of the books in question — it was a caution against the free dissemination of them on topics that could endanger the unwary or uneducated. Plenty of indexed works were available to scholars — through their bishops or universities — who had trust of most of the books in any event — until printing became more common. Another anachronistic prejudice.

        • Bob Jase

          “the Ctahrs and Wldesians — both Neo-Manicahean relgiions (not really Christian at all). ”

          So you do have divine permission to decide what constitutes a REAL Christian after all.

          Bet the Cathars and Waldensians would have said you aren’t the REAL Christian but that they were.

        • Bob Jase

          “All in all — it was his longstanding and repeated intemperance, vanity, open defiance and self-aggrandizing narcissism that led to his death.”

          How dare Bruno think he had any right to his own personal beliefs! Sounds like you’d like to start up ‘the Burning Times’ again.

        • G.R. Mead

          “the Cathars and Waldensians — both Neo-Manichean religions (not really Christian at all). ”
          So you do have divine permission to decide what constitutes a REAL Christian after all.
          Bet the Cathars and Waldensians would have said you aren’t the REAL Christian but that they were.

          I do not.
          But the Church does.
          Like Apple can declare what is iOS — and what isn’t.
          It really is not that hard concept to grasp. In an explicitly Christian society, it was necessary that the society conform its conduct to the teaching of Christ — or it would undermine the foundations of that society.
          This is — in many regards — no longer a Christian society. It is a much larger and more complex society — but not notably Christian in most of its parts any more. Hence, the Church is properly girding up for more evangelization.

          The bugaboo’s about inquisitions and heresies are not even apt to the Churhc in her current countercultural role. That ire should properly be directed at outfits like Apple and the MPAA — who certainly are quite busy using the tools of oppression and coercion to impose their proprietary view of intellectual property and its uses on the whole of society. They have a few would-be suffering “saints in-waiting” (Kim Dotcom, Julian Assange ) and even a martyr now, in Aaron Swartz.
          Truly, they have eyes, but do not see….
          My, my — how much improved things have become — and how far we have (NOT) come –

        • Nox

          Maybe if your church wasn’t forcing everyone to use IOS, killing anyone with blackberrys, and ordering holy wars against android users, you could have something like a valid point there.

          I don’t deny the catholic church owns the copyright to Jesus. They do. I’m constantly having to explain to protestants that the atrocities of the catholic church do reflect on their version of christianity since their version of christianity is only a knockoff of catholicism.

          But that isn’t a strength of catholicism. That is just the reason your church has more blood on their hands than anyone. They only became christianity’s sole representatives in the first place by murdering their competitors.

          The rule of the catholic theocracy was not merely “people who call themselves christians must believe what the church says”. It was “everyone must call themselves christians and people who call themselves christians must believe what the church says”.

          From the Edict of Thessalonica to the Protestant Reformation, everyone in the former Roman Empire was required to be christian (and the only legal type of christian was catholic).

          If someone tried to be non-christian they would be committing what the catholic church considered heresy. If someone tried to be a different type of christian they would be committing what the catholic church considered heresy. This was not about idealogical purity. It was about control.

          The people who carried out these mass murders and mass book burnings would have agreed with you that their motive was to protect the faith against impostors. But that isn’t all they did. They murdered people for having any religious views outside of orthodox catholicism, and prohibited any books which espoused ideas not approved of by the religious authorities.

          They created an environment where everyone was afraid to say anything the church didn’t approve of. And while the church held that power, most did not say anything the church didn’t approve of.

          And based on the church’s monopoly on literature during the time when they were destroying any books not created by the church, you’re claiming the church invented reason. As if the catholic church ever had any interest in reason beyond painting the appearance of reason on patently unreasonable beliefs that had been decided by decree.

        • G.R. Mead

          GR: Ignorance only feeds prejudice — let me cure that.
          Bob Seidensticker: “You’re a disease. I’m the cure.”
          (link showing Stallone stick a knife in the chest of and then shooting the bad guy.)

          Well, now that we’ve cleared up that bothersome little issue of atheist moral superiority in terms of dealing with heretics, … — and in truth, that just about disposes of the whole pretense of reasoned atheists engaged in apologetics — doesn’t it ?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Uh, yeah. You’ve proven that atheists have no arguments at all. I guess I should pack up and leave now.

      • Castilliano

        That was a sophisticated construction, built entirely upside-down to validate your beliefs.
        One doesn’t start with the conclusion, then show the evidence, which is why some of your ‘evidence’ is strained to fit your model.
        The rise of population around the world coincides much better with Aristotle, Buddha, Confucius, and others who predated or had wider influence on thought than the OT. Moving forward in time gives us huge rises in population in the East and the Americas, largely untouched by Christian thought, and surpassing growth in Europe. If anything, your evidence points toward Buddhism or Hinduism as the best sources of social stability.
        Christianity/Abrahamic thought only flourished by riding on the backs of the infrastructures already in place. It’s parasitic at best.
        Oh, and literacy, farming, and basic medicine would have as much or more to do with the rise of civilization as anything. To think the death-penalty-laden Abrahamic books full of arbitrary rules were the best of the texts on morality in that time is ignorant of either the OT, the competition, or both.
        Point though for understanding that humanity is over 6,000 years old, and that Yahweh ignored us for a majority of our existence…even though supposedly he didn’t.
        Cheers, and here’s to hoping your quest for understanding leads you to reality.

        • G.R. Mead

          Well, where to begin. In order, I suppose:
          On the question of human moral development in relation to our Creator — the Scripture is evidence, not a conclusion. The conclusion is that God exists, created and loves us and wishes to save us from ourselves and the risks of the freedom He grants us. You may not like the evidence of Scripture on those points — and you may question its provenance, its premises and and even its method — but it is evidence, nonetheless, and the chief evidence on the topic — which is by definition not repeatable — but merely observable — like the fossil of the dinosaurs. I hear no one of any competence saying that the dinosaurs did not exists simply because all we have in evidence are fossils. It is not a rational or scientific response to say “I don’t like your evidence,” unless you immediately follow with “Here is my evidence , which is superior because ….”

          Hinduism is Hinduism. It just is. Its influence outside India is debatable. Confucianism? Why are so many Indians and Chinese seeking to live and work elsewhere, then?

          As far as the East being “untouched” this is hardly the case — the contacts are earlier and more frequent than is often given credit. There is evidence that a bishop for China was consecrated by the Syriac Patriarch of Ctesiphon as early as 411, and certainly there was a metropolitian see in the Chinese capital — with a cathedral and many Da Qin (Roman) temples in the country by the 700′s. The Chinese monument dating to 781 records this — in Chinese and Syriac — describing the presence of Christian monks working on translation of Buddhist and native Chinese religious works is well attested in it. ( see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Sutras) For over three hundred years there was a significant Christian presence in China, ending only about the year 1,000 when the manuscripts of that earlier effort were sealed away, and Christians were forced underground by a nativist imperial regime of the late Tang that opposed “foreign” cults — like Christianity AND Buddhism, which were both suppressed. There is some evidence to suggest that refugees of this suppression may even have come to Japan, in the vicinity of Kyoto. The Christian influence along the Silk Road was endemic– Mongol and Turkic tribes wrote their languages in Syriac script — and the Mongols still do– Syriac was the Christian liturgical language in the East. The Kerait Mongols largely converted to Syriac Christanity in the 1100′s, and many of the khans had Kerait wives who were Christians.

          Buddhism did not go untouched either. There is a very real Christian underlayment to the most popular forms of Pure Land — and devotion to Amitbha and the sutras describing it dates from the early Christian era — and strong suspicion of a Gnostic Christian contribution to the and esoteric Vajrayana sects and the Mahayana. St. Thomas was quite active in India — and his Christian communities and allied syriac Christians survive there to this day.

          Jodo (Pure Land) Shingon and Tendai have a savior theology — and Vairocana (Miroku)/Maitreya is expressly the once and future savior — prior and superior to Sakyamuni Gautama Buddha. Shingon — “True Word” — was founded by Kukai who translated his texts in the early 800′s in direct collaboration with Christian monks in Chang’an who were also translating Buddhist works from the Sanskrit for their own missionary effort. The initiation ritual of Shingon (and Tendai) is the Kwanjo which involves a form of water baptism. It is notable that by the time of the European entry into Japan in the 1500′s, the Japanese government officials treated the Christian missionaries as simply a new form of a savior-Buddha sect.

          So no, I don’t the your trivial dismissal dismisses much of anything at all.

        • Bob Jase

          Well of course none of those non-white people’s religions could possibly have had any influence on Christianity because Christians can’t be influenced by inferiors. Ignore the concepts of dualism & apocalypse that Christians stole from Zoroastrianism. Ignore the celebration of December 25 as the birth of Christ even though it was celebrated by Mithraists and litersl sun-worshippers much earlier. Ignore the most important Christian holiday, Easter – named after the ancient pagan goddesses Eoster/Asherah/Ishtar. Ignore the Christian rite of baptism even though multiple earlier religions had the same rite.

          Only Christian Europeans can create anything.

        • Castilliano

          Nice dodge, Mr. Mead. Are you running off a script or something? (Especially that part about proof & evidence)
          To reiterate:
          You theorize population growth & societal development as spurring from the moral development spurred by Abrahamic tradition, OT.
          You used pre-Christian examples of immorality/sacrifice.
          I mention earlier influences and contemporaries with more influence in highly populous regions that had strong societies.
          I believe these examples countered your theory.

          Rather than address these influences and the stable, populous societies they are part of you move the timeline forward hundreds of years to after Christianity has had Roman Imperial sponsorship (and look how evil they remained), and then hundreds more to cite more examples of wonderful Christian influence in faraway places (where similar moral influences are present and stronger), and even to modern times to note Confucianism not working in China.
          Which moves us well beyond the point of humanity’s first strong societies, making all those points meaningless to the theory in question.

          And you ignore my point that pre-Columbus North America never had Christianity. It was fully packed by the time smallpox devastated it. Yet it had moral development.
          Which is to say, you ignore anything that doesn’t support your conclusion because you’re running from the conclusion backward to find the data, and only the data, that supports it.

          Examples:
          Pointing out that China’s population rose and crashed often before Christianity’s influence them is ignoring that the population rose and crashed afterward as well.
          And in the heartland countries of Christianity too where this influence you mention should be most evident. Funnily enough it’s the areas where Greek thought reemerges that show the most development, which merely happen to share some the same geography.
          And the Taiping Rebellion, 20 million dead was rooted in Christianity.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiping_Rebellion
          Oh, and the Cathars, 1 million+ dead, might take issue with your conclusion too.
          But wait, those are probably just canards because ‘canards’ is a useful word to dismiss your opponent’s evidence, twisting “Evil Canard Causes” to be “Anything But Christianity” even though Christianity is very present and lacking that wonderful influence you conjecture it has.

          You set out to show how Abrahamic morality initiated the societal boom you said it initiated, not how its followers rode out on Roman roads to Chinese palaces and had LATER influence.

          I’m sure this ‘lawyer’ reasoning works in Christian circles and at the debate podium where you can spin your opponent off track with irrelevant “highlights in Christian history”. “Yay, I win through erudite obfuscation!”
          But no, sorry, at best, you’re showing Christianity’s concurrent growth (or even slightly lagging presence). No causality has been shown.
          Christianity’s lack of influence is also evidence against your theory, and so is how the horrible proscriptions in the Bible are not taken up by other cultures.
          Unsound theory fails. Make a new one.
          Incomplete exploration of issue fails. Whole picture views only please. You mark yourself as adversarial with your limited scope.

          Give the other moral systems their due. They got here (or there) first, they worked well enough, yay humanity.

          BTW, my vote goes toward Greek philosophy, followed by the Enlightenment. And I believe Christianity hampered those schools of thought more than helped.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        GR:

        Why is it that the population of humanity was so low for more than 50 thousand years?
        My answer: because humanity had accepted no moral guidance.

        My answer: because science and technology reduced mortality (in particular, clean water, sanitation, vaccines, and antibiotics), and religion provided none of that.

        • G.R. Mead

          … and who was it brought you that new science and learning? Oh, pray tell us, Sir Bedevere!
          Or to put in on a slightly more apt reference: ” Reg: All right … all right … but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order … what have the Romans done for us? Xerxes: Brought peace! Reg: What!? Oh … (scornfully) Peace, yes … shut up!”

          The similar degree of ingratitude is amazing. Science and technical progress depend on a theory of natural causes. A systematic theory of natural causes did not arise except in the religious and specifically, the Christian religious context. Not in China. Not in India. Not in Japan. Not in Africa. Not in Buddhism for whom all cause is illusion. Not in Islam for whom all cause is God’s will, and no intervening causes exist. Not in Confucianism, where all depends on keeping the rites and obligations observed. Not Shinto — where all depends on the restless kami.

          Without a belief in the consistency of causes across nature created by a God who made and valued things in their own freedom — there would be no reason to expect it and therefore no reason to go looking for, much less find it. Without that belief to sustain it, the world descends quickly back into pagan superstition — deifying and seeking to propitiate the seemingly “capricious” forces of nature for which the causes are — literally — invisible and what knowledge is retained quickly becomes “magical” once more. Look around — this is happening all around you — when the residue of faith is dried up — science is lost.

        • OverlappingMagisteria

          How do miracles fit into the supposedly Christian idea of natural causes? As you said, science is useless if you live in a world that is being tinkered with by a supernatural entity. Yet this is exactly what a miracle is and, correct me if I’m wrong, the Christian worldview does claim that miracles happen.

          I agree with you that many scientists were Christians and many universities were founded by the church, but to be a good scientist, you must assume that God does not intervene with the world (and it seems to me that you agree, based on what you sated about the theory of natural causes.) Seems to me that atheism is better suited for science than Christianity.

        • Bob Jase

          “A systematic theory of natural causes did not arise except in the religious and specifically, the Christian religious context.”

          And that is, I suppose, why the Christian church considered Aristotle – who last I knew was not a Christian – the leading mind on natural philosophy.

          Well, after he was rediscovered from the Muslims anyway what with the Christian church pretty much buring all pagan books because knowledge was sooooooooooo un-Christian.

        • G.R. Mead

          Miracles do not deny the reality of physical causation — they expressly suppose and require that it be disproved to claim a miracle. A miracle by definition CANNOT be explained by any physical cause — and these are tested — scientifically — with a great degree of rigor by the Church when presented with claims of miracles. Any natural cause is held by the Church to be unmiraculous — though perhaps not unprovidential. They are suspension of the order of things for reasons known to God. One cannot test a suspension of natural law except to eliminate all the alternatives — which is precisely what the Church does.
          Half of Scholastic thought was disagreeing with Aristotle. And in any event you prove the point that the Church was hardly opposed to knowledge of whatever source. Aristotle failed the most basic premise of science — testing hypotheses — For instance, Aristotle theorized that men and women had different numbers of teeth from an a priori argument– rather than just collecting counts of teeth to see if it was right. St. Augustine — as you can see from his quote about Geneiss and interpretation that foolishly ignoring the evidence of nature — would have said you needed to count them, and the Scholastics certainly agreed.

        • Bob Jase

          Now is this Genesis the same one that says insects have only four legs, that bats are birds and that rian & snow are keep in large rooms in the sky that are opened by god to make it rain or snow?

        • http://carnedes.blogspot.com Carneades-Skeptic Griggsy

          Those experts use their faith-based analysis, which we skeptics find of no avail. What a scandal! Just another Vatican-approved bit of twaddle!

        • http://carnedes.blogspot.com Carneades-Skeptic Griggsy

          Those experts use their faith-based analysis, which we skeptics find of no avail. What a scandal! Just another Vatican-approved bit of twaddle!
          The Aquinas-Shelley argument boomerangs on Aquinas’ five ways to idiocy. As Percy Bysshe Shelley puts it :’ To suppose that some existence beyond, or above them [ the descriptions - laws- of Nature,c.-sk.] is to invent a second and superfluous hypothesis to account for what already is accounted for.” Then for theists to claim that’s a metaphysical category mistake begs the question thereof.
          Lamberth’s the Malebranche Reductio finds that Nicholas Malebranche himself makes a reduction to absurdity of cosmological arguments with his occasionalism that should we strike a ball, God is the actual agent, we having no agency there!
          The Team is right against Aristotle with his phony teleology, including the first cause twaddle, and his own science, however, much he was a naturalist.

        • OverlappingMagisteria

          G.R. Thanks for your reply.

          Your description of miracles makes it seem that the church has a bit of a confused view on the nature of reality: the universe follows a natural order…except when it doesn’t. You said that miracles do not deny the reality of physical causation, but you then said that miracles are by definition not physically caused. Physical causation is a rule that only applies sometimes?

          This worldview would make science near impossible. If an experiment A produces result B, does this mean that A naturally causes B, or was this a case of a miracle? Does aspirin relieve pain, or does God intervene and miraculously cure headaches?

          I have seen how the Church investigates miracles and I don’t think you should be quite so impressed. As you said, it essentially boils down to “if we can’t figure it out, it must be a miracle.” This is a textbook example of the Argument from Ignorance fallacy. It relies on inserting miracles into the pockets of knowledge we have not yet explored sufficiently. Yesterday’s “miraculous recovery” becomes today’s natural process once we learn more about how the body works and how it can heal.

        • G.R. Mead

          This is how the Church investigates miracles. I chose a secular source for you:
          http://www.economist.com/node/304212
          Church investigators don’t declare miracles — they weed out out the fairly debatable cases and then investigate whether any known scientific explanation explains the unexplained event or outcome — if not, it is left to the bishop of the person or place of occurrence to declare it — or not.

        • G.R. Mead

          I am also always intrigued by those who deny the miracle of divine revelation in Scripture which reveals the freedom of creation to its own causes, and then posit that all the things we now do routinely, which to former times would have been inconceivable miracles, are therefore our own (inevitable) product when tens of thousands of years of human development had not produced the first vial of penicillin until 1928 as an the end point of the explicitly Christian movement of natural philosophy we now call science. From 75000 BC to AD 33 we have advances in means but not in concepts of physical substance of reality — since then we identify and then split the atom, develop antibiotics, traverse empty spaces between worlds, posit the possibility of universes beyond our own, and of quantum reality that obeys no common logic at all — and yet the idea of God’s hand in prompting this development is — obviously nonexistent? Because — obviously — it was inevitable ? Not for 70-odd thousand years it wasn’t — if at all. Because ? Shit happens? The dice favored? Dice. but not God? Because — just because? How far does science travel on that kind of explanation — “just because” — not very far, I assure you.

        • MountainTiger

          What a bizarre process of reasoning. “In the 20th century, people achieved the following scientific advances, therefore in the 1st century an executed Jewish carpenter came back to life.”

        • Bob Seidensticker

          GR:

          Not in China. Not in India. Not in Japan. Not in Africa. Not in Buddhism for whom all cause is illusion. Not in Islam for whom all cause is God’s will, and no intervening causes exist.

          Huh? All technical progress comes from Christian countries? China created gunpowder, paper, and the printing press. While very Christian Europe was convulsed in the Dark Ages, Islam had 500 years of its Islamic Golden Age.

          Europe was a leader in science and technology despite Christianity, not because of it.

          Look around — this is happening all around you — when the residue of faith is dried up — science is lost.

          I don’t see it. Show me.

        • OverlappingMagisteria

          G.R. -
          Thanks for the article about miracle investigation. It reflected my previous knowledge on the Church’s process: if there’s no natural explaination it’s declared (by a bishop) a miracle. The following sentance from the article jumped out to me:

          “… a greater understanding of the molecular basis of diseases (such as cancer) means that fewer conditions are medically unexplainable, so the threshold for miraculous cures at Lourdes is rising.”

          This is exactly what I meant when I wrote: “Yesterday’s “miraculous recovery” becomes today’s natural process once we learn more about how the body works and how it can heal.” The bar for miracles is based on human ignorance. Miracles only exist where knowledge does not.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          GR:

          A miracle by definition CANNOT be explained by any physical cause — and these are tested — scientifically — with a great degree of rigor by the Church when presented with claims of miracles.

          Then why are the miracles verified by the church held as such only by the church? Why doesn’t science accept them as well?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Carneades-Skeptic Griggsy:

          Your name reminds me of Sir Digby Chicken Caesar on That Mitchell and Webb Look (TV show). And your comments remind me of a Dr. Bronner’s soap bottle.

          Just a random observation …

        • Niemand

          A systematic theory of natural causes did not arise except in the religious and specifically, the Christian religious context.

          Really? What’s the evidence? Who proposed the theory and what is the evidence that they were the first? Medieval history isn’t my subject, but I had the impression that most of the advances in science that occurred during the Islamic part of the world at that time (i.e. the concept of zero, algebra, etc.) Also, China was certainly ahead in engineering, if not science. And certainly the Mayans were better at astronomy and time keeping than Europeans of the time. It’s also my impression that their world view was essentially naturalistic, although still theistic.

          Maybe I’m not clear on what you mean by a “systematic theory of natural causes”. Could you clarify or maybe provide a link to some scholarship on it?

          Also, the Romans in Life of Brian. Did you notice something else they did? You know, crucify the main character. There may be up sides to being colonized, but do they really outweigh the down side of being essentially powerless?

        • Niemand

          Look around — this is happening all around you — when the residue of faith is dried up — science is lost.

          In what sense is science “lost”? We’re certainly not lacking for scientists or for advances in science. Ok, so funding isn’t what it could be, but I don’t see the various Christian organizations enthusiastically calling for more funding for the NSF, NASA, the NIH, and equivalent European, Asian, South American, and African organizations. Indeed, it is religion that is trying to stop scientists from investigating areas that they feel threatened (stem cell research comes to mind) and prevent the teaching of a naturalistic world view (no teaching of evolution or the big bang theory, for example.) Whether or not Christianity was useful in bringing about the Renaissance and the related proliferation of scientific knowledge, it does not currently seem to be helping much. At best, it’s had its day and it’s time to move on.

        • G.R. Mead

          Then why are the miracles verified by the church held as such only by the church? Why doesn’t science accept them as well?
          Because science accepts nothing. Science tests everything. The most that science can say about any material event as to any hypothesized cause it has not shown to be conclusively not possible — is that “we don’t know.” All else as to material causes is simply conjecture — better or worse, depending — but still conjecture. As to spiritual causes science has exactly nothing to say at all. To claim that there are only material causes and no spiritual causes is a philosophical disagreement — not a scientific one.

          GR: Look around — this is happening all around you — when the residue of faith is dried up — science is lost.
          Bob S: I don’t see it. Show me.

          Climate “science” as represented by the UN process. Consensus conjectures based on computer models. Not science. Science is a sharp but simple thing — Feynman nailed it and I commend his lecture on the point :
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b240PGCMwV0
          “If it disagrees with experiment (nature, experience or observation) IT IS WRONG.”
          Nothing of the climate funding engine tests hypotheses against observations — it tests models with — other models. Whatever that is — it ain’t science.

          But we are making world wide policy decisions on the basis of pronouncements of a set of GIGO boxes — All because powerful and prominent people have faith in their models — and have lost faith and patience in the humble and slow process of actual science — which comes from a faith in a God who made nature knowable and discernable to human effort and intellect. They can define their parameters and get the results they believe they should get because every one who is anyone expects those results.

          The largest scheme of confirmation bias I ever saw.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          GR:

          Climate “science” as represented by the UN process. Consensus conjectures based on computer models. Not science.

          What is “science” from the standpoint of we laymen but the scientific consensus (where it exists)?

          Nothing of the climate funding engine tests hypotheses against observations

          Climatologists never look at historical and ongoing climate data? That’s news to me.

          Perhaps you’re familiar with the Cold War. Turns out that the Soviets never attacked. I guess that vast amount of money spent by the West in arming ourselves was pointless.

          … or maybe it was a good bet given the information we had. I see an analogy with worries about climate change.

      • Nox

        The bible does not say the egyptians killed their own children. It says god killed all the first born children of Egypt.

        The bible also says god commanded the israelites to sacrifice their own children to god. It also says god ordered the wholesale slaughter of civilizations (as well as carrying out the wholesale slaughter of civilizations himself). It also says Moses (the author of the law of god) ordered his followers to kill children.

        And hey, you know what else it says. After Moses killed a man in Egypt, he fled from Egypt out of fear of the legal repercussions for murder. That would seem to suggest the egyptians had already come up with thou shalt not kill before Moses came down from the mountain to reveal this new idea.

        The actual book doesn’t really fit with your defense of the book.

        • G.R. Mead

          I love it when an atheist uses a literalist view of Scripture to make his point.

          Since I am not a Protestant,, much less a sola scriptura fundamentalist Protestant, and since the Church does not hold to the literalist view you are advocating — your strawman does not survive the first spark of examination. The Lord certainly caused the death of the first born of Egypt — but the Lord is the necessary cause of everything. The inerpretation that the Egyptians in extremis sought extreme sacrifices — and the Israelites did not — is my Girardian reading of Exodus, and whihc is not foreclose by either the grammar nor the sense of the narrative. Secondly, you nor I give life and it is not for us to determine its end. The same is not true of God — whether you believe in God or not — it is true of His category of being as Christians and Jews understand him — that he gives life and he takes it away, and that whether they will it or not, all men serve His ends.

          Or to put it a more recent and decidedly non-Christian work — but most definitely in the same mode —
          “Valar morghulis. — Valar dohaeris.”

        • Bob Jase

          “The inerpretation that the Egyptians in extremis sought extreme sacrifices ”

          How far up your ass did you have to reach to pull that excuse out?

          Seriously, you’re just making shit up now.

        • G.R. Mead

          Hardly. Rene Girard came up with that one– blame him — which you probably will — and Girard could have told you that, too. FWIW

          You know, because people in extremis of belief or adverse circumstance — especially — you know, atheist people — don’t ever do things like mass murder, or genocides, not anywhere, or recently, and so you know, pretty much they don’t have anything at all to learn from the moral lesson of the Passover.

          Nope, no atheist ever did anything of the sort, ever, no sirree. Not no how. Never.

          BTW– do you atheists HAVE any moral lessons that will help to diagnose and prevent things like Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Treblinka, Katin Forest, etc. — I could certainly go on. Atheism in truth was a late-starter in the business sacrifice/slaughter for the sake of belief — but my, my — didn’t they more than make up for it in the 20th century!

          Good show, lads! Bloody good show!

        • Nox

          What literalism? I’m simply saying we should judge the bible on what it actually says.

          Your claim of the egyptians sacrificing their children isn’t based on a literal or metaphorical view of scripture, nor is it based on historical evidence. You (or Girard) just made that up and stated it as though it were a real thing.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          GR:

          Atheism in truth was a late-starter in the business sacrifice/slaughter for the sake of belief — but my, my — didn’t they more than make up for it in the 20th century!

          I’m learning all sorts of things from you. As far as I know, not a single person was killed in the name of atheism. Indeed, those killed by Stalin (etc.) and the church were both on the wrong end of dictatorships.

      • http://cthulhuvariations.blogspot.com/ David E

        First, a question. Why is it that the population of humanity was so low for more than 50 thousand years?
        My answer: because humanity had accepted no moral guidance.

        Of course, in the absence of written history or much physical evidence, you’re doing nothing but making a guess that mostly just reflects your biases.

        • G.R. Mead

          Tu quoque.

        • MountainTiger

          Actually, he is doing something significantly worse by ignoring the evidence we have regarding early humans and instead imposing a model unsupported by any evidence. It turns out that the technologies that support large human populations were developed over the course of millenia of apparently non-teleological tinkering; populations were small for most of human history because mortality was extremely high and food production limited.

      • smrnda

        I really don’t see the evidence of societies being near collapse. Violent crime is down. Though it used to happen all the time, a war between say, two Western European nations, or even two first world nations, is about unthinkable.

        And increased child abuse? We only recently recognized that there was such a thing as ‘child abuse’ – beating your kids used to be viewed as some sort of sacred right, and often beating one’s wife as well. Institutions for children certainly used to rely on lots of violence, oftentimes over pretty trivial offenses.

        All said, I’m pretty optimistic about the future. Less barbarism I think

        • G.R. Mead

          In a way, you are right — but it will most likely be the death of the uber-liberal, hyper-egalitarian society:
          http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2006/02/17/the_return_of_patriarchy

          Societies require successors. –That form of society isn’t making many, and certainly not enough to survive in three generations or so — others are.

        • smrnda

          I think you underestimate the power that our uber-liberal hyper-egalitarian society has to corrupt young people from other societies and make them more like us than their regressive parents and grandparents. As a childless liberal, I tell people that I don’t reproduce, but that, thanks to being in a position to influence young people, I definitely could acquire more *descendants* that way.

    • Greg G.

      The claim, among most apologists of any sophistication, is that moral truth would not exist if God didn’t.

      That would mean that moral truth is just God’s arbitrary whims.

      We have no way to evaluate moral truth so we can’t say that it exists and so it doesn’t support the existence of God. Everybody acts by weighing immediate hoped-for benefits against future hoped-for benefits versus associated risks. Actions that are in accordance with our sensibilities, we call morality.

  • smrnda

    I’m always surprised when people say that if people give up on religion, Christianity in particular, that civilization will collapse. There’s enough evidence that this doesn’t happen, and secular societies of Europe or Japan beat the US on many measures of social stability.

    Also, complicated things can be created without intelligence. There’s this whole thing called “genetic algorithms” which often do better than ones consciously designed by intelligent minds.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      smrnda:

      I’m always surprised when people say that if people give up on religion, Christianity in particular, that civilization will collapse.

      Also surprising is people who say that Christianity is keeping them moral. Apparently, if they weren’t Christians, they’d be out murdering people. (In that case, I say, “It’s good that you’re a Christian!”)

      • Erick

        Always a twisting of words.

        Without God, there is no objective moral truth. If there is no objective moral truth, then Hitler’s morals is as right as right can be (as right as Bob’s own morality is right in his mind). Life and morality then becomes a matter of who has the power. A civilization based on power is brutish and short as Hobbes would say. This is all that is meant by collapsing civilization.

        Imagine if Hitler and the Nazis lasted for thousands of years like the Romans or the Chinese emperors. Civilization would be much different wouldn’t it. “Civilization will collapse” does not mean we would suddenly go back to the stone age. It means it would revolve around ideas and concepts very different from those which give our current civilization stability; ideas and concepts which we are not good.

        Don’t kid yourself. Japan is not secular… they have their own spirituality, which we happen to call Shinto. Europe, for all their secularity, still is based on Christian endocrination from the last 2000 years (hell, most of the time they act like barbarians who are still attempting to reclaim the shining beacon of the Roman Empire).

        • Bob Jase

          “Christian endocrination”? You mean Christianity directly affected how their glands work???

          BTW, in case you hadn’t noticed, Christianity has constantly evolved on what it considers moral – slavery is now considered bad but it was the foundation of Christian Europe’s society & economy for centuries (i.e.: feudalism), exposure of children to die abandoned in nature was accepted Christian behavior until fairly recently as well – not to forget child abuse through child labor exploitation.

          Christianity’s ‘objective morals’ are a historic sham.

        • Erick

          I meant to type indoctrination. I take it from your reply that you understood that though.

          BTW, where do you get your lies?

          1. Feudalism is not slavery. At it’s broadest, feudalism was an exchange of land for service (Lord and knight for example). But I assume you are talking about serfdom. In which case, the institution originated in the pre-Christian Roman Empire (see coloni) before the 3rd century AD. Serfs, in the truest post-slavery Christian world, were instituted with rights that no slave ever had. Contrary to popular opinion, non-slave serfs did not usually have any onerous commitments to fulfill their serfdom.

          2. Exposure of children was legally forbidden by the Roman Empire by AD 374, which coincidentally is just a few decades after the Roman Christian era began. By AD 313, Emperor Constatine had allowed the poor to sell their children so as to eliminate a large reason for people to expose their children — horrendous to us perhaps, but quite the improvement for Romans of the 4th century.

          3. Child Labor exploitation was already being addressed by the Vatican by AD 1891 with a papal encyclical.

        • Bob Jase

          Erick, yes, slavery existed before Christianity but Christianity did nothing but endorse it for close to two thousand years. What great rights did serfs have anyway – the right to leave the land they were contracted to work and therefor starve to death or be executed for being disloyal to divinely appointed royalty? Some rights.

          Doesn’t matter if exposure of children was forbidden by Rome, those laws were ignored after Rome fell. Oh, and selling childen into slavery may have been okay with Constantine and the church but it doesn’t go over too well today.

          Wow, the Vatican stood against child labor exploitation by 1891 – where were they during the previous 1890 years when the church exploited child labor just as much as any slavemaster?

          Do you ever get tired of making excuses for the rotten behavior of you fellow believers?

        • Erick

          ==What great rights did serfs have anyway – the right to leave the land they were contracted to work and therefor starve to death or be executed for being disloyal to divinely appointed royalty? Some rights.==

          Villeins, who are likely the kind of serf you are thinking of, could own property, and they farmed for their own profit. You have this idea that being stuck to the land is a negative, but this exploitation is not one-sided. In a world where barbarians and other miscreants attacked and pillaged all the time, being stuck on land protected by lords (who in effect were the government and state) was a great privilege a good portion of the time. Indeed, in the Middle Ages, villeinage was a better fate than being an unlanded freeman like most people are today. All in all, contrary to what you think, serfdom (as it existed once slavery disappeared as a legal institution) is not slavery. It’s still a poor lot in life, but it’s certainly an improvement over slavery.

          ==Doesn’t matter if exposure of children was forbidden by Rome, those laws were ignored after Rome fell.==

          So we are blaming the Church now for things they don’t approve that people do anyway? I guess Christians are damned if they do and damned if they don’t according to your argument.

          ==Oh, and selling childen into slavery may have been okay with Constantine and the church but it doesn’t go over too well today.==

          Selling children may be horrendous to you, but I would take that over current society’s solution – abortion – any day of the week. Slaves in Roman times had hope to buy their freedom. Abortion ends any hope or potential. I wonder how many abortions we could prevent if we paid mothers who gave their kids up for adoption today.

          ==Wow, the Vatican stood against child labor exploitation by 1891 – where were they during the previous 1890 years when the church exploited child labor just as much as any slavemaster?==

          Ah yes, its a great question how in pre-Industrial Revolution times, when people aged 7 and up were expected to carry on adult responsibilities, we really abused children by making them do more household chores. Yes, it’s the Church’s fault that human culture didn’t change until the last two centuries to coddle children until they were 30.

          ==Do you ever get tired of making excuses for the rotten behavior of you fellow believers?==

          About as much as I get tired of making excuses for the rotten behavior of non-believers.

        • Bob Jase

          Erick, Erick, Erick -

          “In a world where barbarians and other miscreants attacked and pillaged all the time” – those barbarians and other miscreants were their fellow Christians, you forgot that part.

          “So we are blaming the Church now for things they don’t approve that people do anyway?” – no, the law against exposure of children was a Roman law, not a church law and when Rome fell apart the church did NOT institute that law – kindly don’t give the church credit for things it didn’t do.

          “Selling children may be horrendous to you, but I would take that over current society’s solution – abortion – any day of the week.” – yeah, being worked or beaten to death before age five is a great improvement huh?

          “Yes, it’s the Church’s fault that human culture didn’t change until the last two centuries to coddle children until they were 30.” – why as a matter of fact yes, it is their fault that the church endorsed child labor until society for the greater part forced it to change. Trying to muddy the waters about 5 years old being worked to death won’t help your church look better.

          “About as much as I get tired of making excuses for the rotten behavior of non-believers.”
          And, other than not believing in your god, just what rotten behavior am I guilty of? I don’t murder, steal, rape (although the bible is okay with that), molest children or even play my radio loud enough to annoy my neighbors – yet your god wants to torture me for eternity according to you, just like any power-mad petty tyrant would do.

        • Erick

          If a wife requests that her husband do chores he doesn’t like and then witholds sex until he does so, should the husband consider this wife he loves very much a power-mad, petty tyrant?

          If you are such a good person, why do you worry?

          As far as the history, well, let’s just say we don’t agree with what historians actually agree upon as far as the role of the Church in the issues you’ve brought up. You’ve clearly espoused the minority viewpoints and conspiracy theories that abound.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Erick:

          I wonder how many abortions we could prevent if we paid mothers who gave their kids up for adoption today.

          The fraction of unmarried women who carry their pregnancy to term and give up their babies is 2 percent. Do the math.

          Hey–you really want to stop abortions? This isn’t just a slogan, you actually want to do something? Then work on minimizing unwanted pregnancies. No one likes unwanted pregnancies. You’ll find no one standing in your way to this goal.

          I’ve written a series of posts on abortion here.

        • Erick

          Hey Bob,

          It was meant to be a sarcastic comment, only with some kernel of truth that “selling” gets less children killed. I bet more than 2% of women would carry unwanted pregnancies to term and adoption, if they were paid for it. In that way, it is a better reparation for unwanted pregnancy than abortion is.

          And at the heart of it all, this is all that abortion and contraception is — repairing human relationships from behavior we acknowledge has bad consequences. Or put in Christian terms — reparation for sinful behavior. Yet, abortion and contraception as a reparation just makes a bad situation worse — as I’ve detailed with the selling.

          Arguing that abortion is better than having a hard life is akin to saying that we should exterminate North Koreans because death is better than the oppression they live through everyday. Of course, no one would say something so stupid, yet we talk about abortion like this everyday.

          There’s been a solution to unwanted pregnancies that is irreproachably successful 100% of the time, which the Church has been proposing to humanity for the entirety of its existence — abstinence. In secular words, don’t get into trouble in the first place.

          The sinner and the faithless reject this solution, and then in their hypocrisy, they complain like you that there has been no solution. The truth is that the solution is there and you have simply rejected it.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Erick:

          I bet more than 2% of women would carry unwanted pregnancies to term and adoption, if they were paid for it.

          I suspect not many. That’s the point of the statistic: what fraction of unmarried women who carry their children to term do you think would keep them? That it’s pretty much all of them is surprising. “No problem–just do adoption” is not the answer that many pro-lifers imagine.

          this is all that abortion and contraception is — repairing human relationships from behavior we acknowledge has bad consequences.

          And you ignored my suggestion: make the behavior not have bad consequences.

          Arguing that abortion is better than having a hard life is akin to saying that we should exterminate North Koreans because death is better than the oppression they live through everyday.

          Not. Even. Close.

          Do you not understand the difference between a blastocyst that you can’t see without a microscope and a North Korean child or adult? Kind of a big difference.

          There’s been a solution to unwanted pregnancies that is irreproachably successful 100% of the time, which the Church has been proposing to humanity for the entirety of its existence — abstinence.

          Been there, done that.

          Ever wonder why the rate of abortions in the Netherlands is 1/10 that in the US? Somehow, we’re not preparing our teens for having an adult body. Abstinence has been tried, and it’s obviously unworkable. Let’s avoid being Pollyannas.

          The sinner and the faithless reject this solution, and then in their hypocrisy, they complain like you that there has been no solution. The truth is that the solution is there and you have simply rejected it.

          The truth is that this “solution” is naïve. It’s like saying to an overweight person who drives past five fast food places (where the food is cheap and tasty), “Just don’t eat so much.”

          (If you want to see my basic pro-choice argument, here it is.)

        • Erick

          ==The truth is that this “solution” is naïve. It’s like saying to an overweight person who drives past five fast food places (where the food is cheap and tasty), “Just don’t eat so much.” ==

          And yet, that’s exactly the solution given to overweight people! You can’t lose weight without exercise. Exercise is futile without eating right. Even the surgeries we’ve developed are useless without exercise and a change in eating habits. There is no magic pill for obesity! Only change in behavior works.

          Abstinence is naive only to those who have not thought it through or do not want to think it through. It is irrational to believe that complete fulfillment and happiness cannot be achieved without sex. We see friendships, family relationships, etc. all the time that don’t require sex. Even married old people do not require sex. This is secular human experience we are talking about where abstinence is perfectly good solution.

          ==Do you not understand the difference between a blastocyst that you can’t see without a microscope and a North Korean child or adult?==

          Yeah ok. The scientific fact is that outside of conception, all chosen points suggested by the pro-choice community as the beginning of human life is an arbitrary construction. I can play that game too. Anyone without two arms and two legs are not human. Anyone who is mentally handicapped is not human. They don’t have the requisite cells.

          ==I suspect not many. That’s the point of the statistic: what fraction of unmarried women who carry their children to term do you think would keep them? That it’s pretty much all of them is surprising.==

          This is a failure to acknowledge a critical variable — $$$. Women who give up their babies nowadays are not given reward or compensation. Selling did that.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Erick:

          There is no magic pill for obesity!

          But there is, literally, a magic pill to not get pregnant. That’s the point.

          If nature is going to give teens adult bodies, it is simply irresponsible to not teach them completely how they work (and how they can get you into trouble). “You kids these days! You just gotta not have sex!” is laughably naïve, especially when kids are no longer getting married at 17.

          Abstinence is naive only to those who have not thought it through or do not want to think it through.

          For a handful of kids, abstinence works great. Let’s give them that message. And for all of them, let’s give them thorough sex education in public schools.

          You do know that the red states, where sex education is most Puritan, lead the nation in unwanted pregnancies? If abortion really is the holocaust that you imagine it to be, who cares if teens are sexing like rabbits? Just have them do it without pregnancy and the bigger goal is achieved.

          Whine about abortion if you want, just realize the part that your policies have had in making it as bad as it is.

          It is irrational to believe that complete fulfillment and happiness cannot be achieved without sex.

          Dude, God made people really, really enthusiastic about sex. Denying it or going into a monastery or the priesthood works for a few people. Not so the rest (with which you’re obviously aware, since you’re frantic about abortion statistics).

          We see friendships, family relationships, etc. all the time that don’t require sex. Even married old people do not require sex.

          ?? Uh, yeah. Little Suzie doesn’t want to have sex with Uncle Max. But she may with the boy next door. Do you not understand how sexual desire works?

          I can play that game too. Anyone without two arms and two legs are not human. Anyone who is mentally handicapped is not human.

          Play that gave after reading the post that I pointed you to. No point in my repeating my position here.

          Women who give up their babies nowadays are not given reward or compensation. Selling did that.

          Wow–just how much do you not get it?

          What fraction of pregnant women who were talked out of an abortion and into adoption actually give up the kid at the end? She develops an attachment to it. And she keeps it, but you don’t care. You only care that she doesn’t have an abortion. But her life is irrevocably on a separate path now. Kind of a big deal.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Erick:

          Without God, there is no objective moral truth.

          I see no evidence of objective moral truth that is accessible to humans. Please provide some.

          If there is no objective moral truth, then Hitler’s morals is as right as right can be (as right as Bob’s own morality is right in his mind).

          In an absolute sense, yes. From the standpoint of actual people, no.

        • Erick

          Bob,

          You are relying on those in power to have the same morals as you do. You are lucky that the West mostly does. But what happens when someone who doesn’t agree with your morals, like say North Korea, rules the world? Then what?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Erick:

          what happens when someone who doesn’t agree with your morals, like say North Korea, rules the world?

          Then things suck. But that’s no argument for objective morality.

        • http://cthulhuvariations.blogspot.com/ David E

          “Without God, there is no objective moral truth.”

          Care to present an argument rather than a mere claim? After all, anyone can do that:

          Without Cthulhu, there is no reason to live.

          It doesn’t amount to anything without an argument to support the proposition.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          Care to present an argument rather than a mere claim? After all, anyone can do that:

          Without Cthulhu, there is no reason to live.

          Well, yeah, but that claim actually is true…

  • MNb

    Do you know who convinced me to call myself an atheist? Einstein, when he said “God doesn’t play dice”. Exactly – but as the universe plays dice all the time according to QM and I have more faith in science than in religion a very reasonable conclusion is that there is no god.
    The “New Atheists are unoriginal” argument belongs to the lamest I have ever met. Could Shea quote a so called New Atheist who claims to be original? The Problem of Evil goes back to ancient Greek philosophy for one thing.
    As for fine-tuning: it’s a teleological argument as it claims that the universe has a goal. Science has thrown teleology out of the window slightly more than 300 years ago. Some empty heads combine it with an imagined Borel’s Law. It’s done with here:

    http://www.aetheling.com/essays/Borel.html

    It applies to fine-tuning as well, especially the bit on the San Luis Valley.
    Like Smrnda hints creationists and fine-tuners should think a single snow-flake or the crystal structure of a single grain of sand evidence for a creator as well, if they were consistent.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      Einstein, when he said “God doesn’t play dice”.

      It’s true. God is more a poker fan.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        I heard canasta, but you’re probably right.

      • Bob Jase

        Personally I’m an rpg player – Champions, CoC and D&D (still have my white box edition).

  • avalon

    Hi Bob,
    Thanks for the Shea link. But don’t be fooled by his talking about reason. He’s ruled by his “intuitive gut instinct” and no amount of logic or reason can overcome that.
    Here’s a couple quotes to illustrate:

    “Confronted with the crude materialist reductionism of the
    scientistic culture of the late 20th century, I rejected it
    by a sort of intuitive gut instinct as a thing of inhuman
    gloom and nihilism. I didn’t know much, but I knew the world
    was far too mysterious and beautiful to reduce it all to
    physics, math, electricity, power, politics or any of the
    other diagrams of thin, watery rationalism. I experienced
    nature and human beings, not as a pile of raw materials, but
    as, well, something charged with grandeur. And so I sought
    what was behind nature without knowing that was what I was
    doing. I “felt after” the dear freshness that lay deep down
    things.”
    http://www.mark-shea.com/cvtpon.html

    “All revelation does is clarify those basic, and
    fundamentally supernatural, moral intuitions.

    Atheism—and particularly the New Atheism—is an acid that
    inevitably corrodes the natural apprehension of the human
    person as a supernatural being.”
    http://www.mark-shea.com/sfs.html

    avalon

    • Bob Seidensticker

      avalon:

      Thanks for that. What’s especially perplexing/frustrating about Mark is not that his arguments aren’t new or strong. It’s not even that his attitude is caustic and condescending. It’s that he gets annoyed at my attitude. Sure, he’s right that I could probably reach more Christians with a gentler tone, but is he really the one to be giving this advice?!

  • John Kesler

    I took a quick look at Shea’s blog and discovered this entry, which says much about some Christians’ whatever-God-does-is-right attitude:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2013/02/wow-extremely-cool-meteor-strikes-in-russia.html

    The title of the above post is “Wow! Extremely Cool! Meteor Strikes in Russia” and includes the following:
    “If the story makes you nervous, consider what a grace and blessing it is that it was this tiny pebble that struck earth and not the asteroid that will by at roughly the distance of the moon a little before noon PST today. That impact would have probably led to mass extinctions beginning with organisms at the top of the food chain–like us.” Get that? So what that thousands of Russians were injured and perhaps millions of dollars in property damage sustained. And don’t bother to ask why a loving God, who according to scripture made the earth for human habitation in mind (Isaiah 45:18), would create a universe in which such objects as meteors or asteroids would smash into the earth to begin with. No, instead we should thank God that the smaller object did the damage and not the larger one. Politicians would kill to have the spokesmen that “God” has.

  • Kodie

    Why do atheists need new arguments if god is unchanging?

    • Bob Jase

      Thank Cthulhu I was not drinking milk….

  • Michael

    Even if it was proved that god really did exist, I still wouldn’t follow the silly bastard.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      I think I’d do what I was told if it was a way to get out of hell. I’d suck it up to avoid 1,000,000,000,000 years on a spit over a fire. But I certainly wouldn’t be pleased to do it.

      • Niemand

        I’m not sure. IIRC, Christian theology says that the people in Heaven watch those in Hell. I think I’d take 10^N years of being roasted on a spit to 10^N years of watching my loved ones being roasted on a spit because they didn’t conform quickly enough.

      • Bob Jase

        I doubt that 1,000,000,000,000 years of the stress of trying to follow a petty inconsistant self-indulgent tyrant who demands constant praise from and humiliation on the part of his followers but may change his mind any moment and send one to hell anyway would really be better.

    • Erick

      Congratulations, because God offers that option.

      • Niemand

        Now that’s a scary statement: God is offering the option of being roasted on a spit for all eternity or obeying him even when his orders are immoral.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          It’s all part of God’s loving plan.

      • Bob Jase

        I’m sure you’ll be first in line to suck Yahweh’s spiritual penis.

        But I’ll pass, no thank you.

        • Erick

          No one is forcing you.

        • Niemand

          Threatening someone with eternal torture doesn’t count as “forcing”?

        • Bob Jase

          Nah, that’s just ‘tough love’, you know – the kind an abusive spouse gives their partner until they’ve beaten them tho death.

        • Erick

          Niemand, but you don’t believe in the eternal torture or in God, so what does it matter to you?

          Bob Jase. The hell scenario is more like the girl that didn’t love the guy back, so the guy let the girl go. But then the girl found out that life without the guy is not worth living. Or Inspector Javert after Valjean lets him live his life. He couldn’t bear it.

        • Bob Jase

          I’ve lived almost sixty years without any sign of god’s love for me and I’m still bearing up.

          I see no reason why that should change.

        • Erick

          Sixty years and no love. Now that is truly sad. But on a positive note, today is a new day with new possibilities.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Let’s be fair to Bob Jase. He said 60 years without God’s love. Atheists often have family and friends, just like Christians.

          And keep in mind that you’ve lived your life with precious little love from Zeus or Xenu or Quetzalcoatl, and I imagine you’re doing OK?

        • Niemand

          Erick, apparently you do believe in a god that is willing to torture people for eternity for refusing to worship him. How is that deity loving or moral?

        • Erick

          Niemand, your analysis is entirely one-sided, which is why it makes no sense to me. The Christian God is a relationship, which means there are two parties to consider — you and God.

          God loves each of us, so he wants each of us with him, but precisely because he loves us, he lets us choose our own destiny…

          If God brought Michael to heaven, when Michael expressly just posted that he didn’t want to be there, then that would be immoral.

          You yourself defined the very nature of what hell is:

          ==I think I’d take 10^N years of being roasted on a spit to 10^N years of watching my loved ones being roasted on a spit ==

          In other words, Hell is a condition you wanted for yourself even after you were warned that Hell is a torturous existence. Don’t blame God for your own choice.

        • Niemand

          Erick, Hell is not a condition I want for myself, it is simply a condition I would be willing to take to spare my loved ones the same torture or, if that is simply not possible, to at least be with them. If I were living in Nazi Germany and the SS came to my door planning to take my children (but leave me), I’d attack them, even though that would mean that I’d get thrown in a camp and it might not even save the children, because that would be the only way that I MIGHT have some chance of saving them. Or at least not deserting them. But that does not mean that life in a concentration camp is something I desire for myself.

          A benevolent deity would leave the gates of Heaven unlocked and not feel the need to provide a burning (or freezing, if you’re Scandinavian) hell to force people to take Heaven as the only alternative.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Erick:

          In other words, Hell is a condition you wanted for yourself even after you were warned that Hell is a torturous existence.

          How pleasant can heaven be? Wouldn’t you be tortured continually with the knowledge of the billions of people that God was too inept to educate about himself burning for trillions of years?

        • Erick

          ==A benevolent deity would leave the gates of Heaven unlocked and not feel the need to provide a burning (or freezing, if you’re Scandinavian) hell to force people to take Heaven as the only alternative.==

          ==How pleasant can heaven be? Wouldn’t you be tortured continually with the knowledge of the billions of people that God was too inept to educate about himself burning for trillions of years?==

          No.

          1. I don’t know what circumstance sends someone to hell. No one does. Certainly, mental assent means nothing, because God is merciful and because even demons believe in God. It may be that even the most obstinate atheist could still get to heaven. The label of atheism does not a guarantee to hell make.

          What I can imagine as close to a guarantee are the decision you guys write along the lines of “even if God existed, I would not want to follow Him”. In which case, I would not be tortured at all, since it’s a decision you made without coercion from anybody.

          2. Love, for us Christians, is not some kind of “fluffy, feel good” emotion. Love is a choice. Love is the decision to will what is good for another. And as such, there are going to be times when we understand that “love” and “what is good” will not feel good and when it will hurt. For example, when a father teaches his child to ride a bike for the first time, he understands his child might fall if he lets go. Yet, let go he must.

        • Bob Jase

          “I don’t know what circumstance sends someone to hell.”

          Didn’t you say yesterday that hell doesn’t really exist? How does anyone go someplace that doesn’t exist?

          “even demons believe in God”

          Whoa, so you truly believe in evil godlings that run around corrupting people and that the all-loving god permits these vile godlings to exist? Are Santa and the Easter Bunny also part of your pantheon?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Erick:

          1. I don’t know what circumstance sends someone to hell. No one does.

          Not believing in Jesus?

          Lots of Christians are quite convinced that they know what it takes to go to or stay out of hell. You should correct them.

          In which case, I would not be tortured at all, since it’s a decision you made without coercion from anybody.

          Wow. Nerves of steel.

          You’re an enlightened being, far wiser than you are now. You’re saying that the thought never crosses your mind: “Y’know, Bob clearly backed the wrong horse, but he had little information to go on. He wasn’t so bad. I’ve heard his screams for the last 10,000 years. I’m kinda feeling bad for him.”

          When Christians scratch their heads wondering what atheists could ever dislike about Christianity, this checking-your-brains-at-the-door thinking is one example.

          Love is a choice.

          So they give you a new dictionary when you become a Christian?

          For example, when a father teaches his child to ride a bike for the first time, he understands his child might fall if he lets go. Yet, let go he must.

          And this is like how God is?

          The father’s very existence is never in question. Too bad it doesn’t work that way with God.

        • Erick

          ==Not believing in Jesus?==

          Let’s declare then that I am a Catholic.

          Belief in Jesus is clearly taught us to not equal “just mental assent”. In the view of the ancient historical Churches (Catholicism and Orthodoxy), the idea of “belief” is requires more. It is defined by love, trust, and action to start off.

          ==You’re saying that the thought never crosses your mind: “Y’know, Bob clearly backed the wrong horse, but he had little information to go on. He wasn’t so bad. I’ve heard his screams for the last 10,000 years. I’m kinda feeling bad for him.”==

          Nope. I have the utmost faith in God to declare that, if I myself were to be sent to hell, I must have deserved it.

          ==So they give you a new dictionary when you become a Christian?==

          My definition has been around for 2000 years, and if I reach into Jewish tradition even further back.

        • Desiree

          First prove that your heaven and hell even exists. Secondly I worry as much as going to your hell than not dying in combat so I can not join Thor in Vahalla. Your heaven and hell is one in millions of possibilities. You are in the same boat as the rest of us when you find out your god is not real and you should have worshipped Posiden.

        • Bob Jase

          Bah! Posidon is merely Cthulhu’s hand puppet!

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Posideon?! Is that who the real one was? Dang!

          My money was on Quetzalcoatl.

  • http://carnedes.blogspot.com Carneades-Skeptic Griggsy

    Folks, here’s the argument that no theist can suffer: Lamberth’s argument from autonomy declaims that putative God has no rights over us and none to judge and punish us, and we owe Him nothing- no worship and no relationship with Him! On the other hand, He’d face that one-way street that Fr. Meslier’s the problem of Heaven proclaims- that He had the duty to put us into a better situation, not requiring that phony free will and soul-making!
    We’ve determined volition , not free will.
    We gnu atheists mean business! We owe Him nothing!
    So, we thereby applaud all those theists who minimally worship Him!
    Carneades eons ago was the first ignostic when he found that the Epicureans and the Stoics both defined Him in such a way that He is vacuous and thus, cannot exist!
    The pre-Socratics are ever right in the general, though hardly in the particular.

    • http://www.seditiosus.blogspot.com Schaden Freud

      Cool, another member of Team Pre-Socratic!

  • http://carnedes.blogspot.com Carneades-Skeptic Griggsy

    Despite what he says about Genesis, Augustine, lover of auto-da fes- was a literalist after all!
    Team Gnu Atheist again finds no moral duty to worship! That alone kills theism for us.
    Why would any rational person be superstitious whether the full animistic way or the reduced animistic way = theism? How could one have a personal relationship with a square circle? What adult needs one with any imaginary being?
    Why be irrational to believe that we deserve Hell/ That concept is enough to make anyone a gnu atheist!
    No theistic arguments carry evidence and remain always no more productive than perpetual motion machines!
    http://forgedbible.blogspot.com
    http://biblemyths.wordpress.com
    http://morwalt.wordpress.com

  • smrnda

    First, arguing that Western Europe isn’t secular is pretty silly. They are far more secular than the US, and the US beats that region on most measures of social dysfunction. If I want to compare two places, given that much of US history was dominated by emigration from Europe, they would be two places it’s particularly useful to compare.

    On Japan, having been there, I see that people *observe* certain rituals, but they seem about as intellectually committed to any spiritual beliefs as a few “Catholic” acquaintances I know who might attend mass on a few holidays during a decade.

    On god and morality, I don’t really see the connection. Let’s say there was this all powerful god. In that case, whatever god says goes since nobody is strong enough to oppose the god. This doesn’t mean that god is good, just that god is powerful, and against a powerful enough being everyone else will lose. It’s kind of how the opinions of say, a Roman Emperor or Genghis Khan held more weight during their times. Power is power, but it isn’t really a source of morality. I mean, if god tells me to go out and kill a bunch of people for reasons unknown to be beyond ‘they are bad people’ (this does, indeed, occur in the Bible) am I going to be a better person for rushing out and shedding blood?

    I mean, Socrates already addressed this in the famous Euthyphro dilemma. If god says something is good, then it is either good for some reason, or else it’s simply the whims of the god. On the other hand, if the idea is that things are good and bad because of what god will reward or punish, then it still is just the whims of a god, or it’s an argument from utilitarianism, and if we’re going that route, I’d rather deal with utilitarian ethics that deal with things in this world, not in some world that we don’t see.

    Occasionally I run across people who tell me that god’s just out there, waiting to love on me but that I’m foolishly turning my back on this love. I just think love and authority are totally incompatible. I get plenty of love from people, and what I see people getting from god looks more like a mess of self-deception.

    • Erick

      ==I mean, Socrates already addressed this in the famous Euthyphro dilemma. If god says something is good, then it is either good for some reason, or else it’s simply the whims of the god. On the other hand, if the idea is that things are good and bad because of what god will reward or punish, then it still is just the whims of a god==

      As I have mentioned, the Euthyphro dilemma originated from a hypothesis that gods only love the pious. This does not apply to the Christian God.

      Secondly, Socrates (and apparently all of you as well) was working from the premise that ideas exist in an abstract state independent from beings. As mentioned by Christian ( and Jewish before them) theologians, there is no such independence between the “idea” of morality and “God”. The idea that morality is independent from God is akin to saying the “Laws of Gravity” is independent from gravity. It’s a false dichotomy. Morality is just God’s nature.

      Therefore, Euthyphro’s dilemma is a false dilemma. It doesn’t address God as defined by Christians (and Jews before them).

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Erick:

        As I have mentioned, the Euthyphro dilemma originated from a hypothesis that gods only love the pious. This does not apply to the Christian God.

        And this means that you don’t have to deal with it? I don’t think so.

        there is no such independence between the “idea” of morality and “God”. The idea that morality is independent from God is akin to saying the “Laws of Gravity” is independent from gravity.

        Bad example. There very much is a difference between Newton’s law of gravity and gravity. Newton’s law did not exist before he formulated it, but obviously gravity did. (It’s like the observation that the concepts “November” or “six o’clock” didn’t exist before humans, but of course time did.)

        • Erick

          ==Bad example. There very much is a difference between Newton’s law of gravity and gravity.==

          Bob, I wasn’t referencing Newton’s Laws. What I mean is gravity as a concept is inseparable from gravity as a reality. Socrates and Plate philosophize from a premise that ideas exist independently, i.e. the ideal triangle concept is separate from triangles exisiting in our universe.

          In the case of morality and God, morality as an idea is inseparable from God as a reality. So there is no dichotomy between morality’s supremacy and God’s supremacy. They are the same exact thing.

        • Bob Jase

          “What I mean is gravity as a concept is inseparable from gravity as a reality.”

          Wrong – until Newton postulated it there was no concept of gravity but it existed none the less.

        • Kodie

          Morality of course is an idea separable from god.

        • Erick

          As people have been fond of telling me, a mere claim does not an argument make.

          If you want to define the god you deal with as being separable from morality, then you are free to do so. But then you are not talking about my God — the Christian God of the ancient, historical Churches.

        • Kodie

          Many animals demonstrate empathy and know how to be moral. The Christian god of the ancient, historical churches is a fantasy of yours that you asserted without proof. Morality is a human construct and so is religion, and so is god and so are gods. Religion is more or less a tool to enforce certain policies that leaders may think is right and if you don’t believe the human leaders and are thinking you might revolt against the strict policies, here is a god he can sell you, threaten you with, keep you in your place, and in fact fool you into thinking his ideas are wonderful. You might even call despicable abuse “love” and picture the dynamic of a strict and harsh parenting method of discipline. You don’t reason right or wrong for yourself, you just follow instructions. The morality you speak of is insincere. If you really cared about people, you would not need to be moral under threat of arbitrary punishment. Religion infantilizes adults.

          Morality can exist without god because it does exist without god. Here is the thing – you believe what they say because they say lying is wrong. Never trust anyone who says “trust me.”

      • Bob Jase

        ” It doesn’t address God as defined by Christians (and Jews before them).’

        I would argue that Christians and Jews define god pretty differently – you won’t find a Jesus or Holy Ghost (f’r Pete’s sake why doesn’t he even have a name??) as parts of a triune god in Judaism.

        • Erick

          Jews believe God to be monolithically one, so they do not accept Jesus and the Holy Spirit. However, the Jewish definition of God is more or less the exact same definition of the Christian “God the Father”.

        • Bob Jase

          So is the Norse definition of Odin as the Allfather – but that doesn’t make him part of the triune god now does it?

      • smrnda

        Given that nobody can provide me with a coherent account of god’s nature but can only wrap it up in vague platitudes, I don’t really bother. Let’s take the statement ‘god is love.’

        Okay, I’m a lesbian. I’m in a relationship with another woman and that’s been great for both of us for a number of years. It’s provided me with love, support, companionship and encouragement. I’ve done the same for her.

        Now, the Christian god, who is love, would rather than I not just stay out of this relationship, but would prefer that I live a life that I really wouldn’t want just since he feels that my choice of gender for a partner is icky. PR for the Christian god will claim that I really don’t know what’s good for me, and that if I only signed onto The Program I would see how god’s ways are right.

        I’m not capable of that level of self-deception. I also don’t think it’s possible for one being to really know what’s best for another person – the god just has different priorities than I do, and different ideas about what ought to make my happy. Not better, different. So I have a deity who throws a hissy fit because I’m more moved by human love than by the love of a being that ‘loves’ me in the sense of ‘wants me to become a mindless praisebot for him.’ Some love.

        • Erick

          ==Let’s take the statement ‘god is love.’==

          I know in English we only have one word for “love”, but when Christians say “God is Love”, it does not mean the love you are talking about. Usually, when we say love in the modern sense, we are talking about feelings. While Christians acknowledge this kind of love, we are talking about the Greek word “agape” (unconditional love), which is a choice to will and bring about the good of another. This definition is rooted in the original Hebrew understanding of Love, which is usually defined by Jewish sources as “mutual giving without expectation of reward”. So Love for Christians is not a feeling. Love is a decided, chosen action to bring about what is good for another individual.

          Just to clarify again, I am speaking as a Catholic.

          ==Now, the Christian god, who is love, would rather than I not just stay out of this relationship,==

          The Christian God does not command to stay out of this relationship. Rather he commands that you act with agape within this relationship.

          The only sin in this case would be sexual activity, but this is not a special restriction on homosexuals. Pre-marital, extramarital, contraceptive, etc. sex are all considered sin. Sex is only good when two criteria are fulfilled: it is both open to procreation and an expression of love together. Unfortunately, unless further evolution changes things, this can only involve a man and a woman married to each other.

          The sexual orientation towards same gender is not sin. It is rather more correctly classified as a burden (a cross to carry if you will). Although at times, you will hear it described as a disease as well, I am not sure this is apt. The general idea is that homosexuality is a extra challenge to overcome spiritually.

        • smrnda

          What if a man and a woman want to get married but don’t want to have kids because they know they can’t afford it it would be too stressful, or that it would cost too much money? To me, out of agape (willing the good of the other) both parties ought to use contraception in the interests of their own quality of life. To me, in this case, contraception is only sinful because god wants to make rules about sex that do not necessarily take into account the preferences, and therefore the happiness of the people involved. So it looks more like sexual rules are a case of ‘act in agape, unless you’re doing something that makes god throw a hissy fit.’ If two parties both do not want children, non-contraceptive sex cannot be an act of love for either of them. So in that case, I’m assuming, you’re going to say there’ something wrong with the people’s preferences? I know many couples who consider it a great act of love for their spouses to get vasectomies or use the pill.

        • smrnda

          Also, I’m quite aware of Natural Law arguments against homosexuality or contraception, and I find them to be absurd.

        • Greg G

          God loves us unconditionally but will only let us into heaven on one condition.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    G.R. Mead: A miracle by definition CANNOT be explained by any physical cause — and these are tested — scientifically — with a great degree of rigor by the Church when presented with claims of miracles.

    Ha ha ha ha ha!
    Mother Teresa’s ‘miracle’ cancer cure questioned

    THE Vatican said yesterday that Mother Teresa of Calcutta would be beatified, probably next spring, despite claims that a cure attributed to her had been brought about by medical treatment.

    To summarise: a woman, sick with cancer, prayed to Mother Teresa. She also received conventional cancer treatment from her doctors. She got better, and insisted that the cure was due to the intervention of the saint. The Holy Roman Catholic Church, eager to see Teresa canonized, agreed.
    .
    Stop lying. You give theism a bad name.

    • G.R. Mead

      Oh for crying out loud — miracles are not the sine qua non of sainthood — they are part of a prudential process to be appropriately cautious in over-sanctifying any human being based on mere popularity.

      It’s not like the modern atheistic culture offers a more salutary version of public exemplification.

      Would that the modern cult of celebrity had only a fraction of the sober reflection on the personal worthiness that attends the cult of the saints.

      • Reginald Selkirk

        I missed the part where you actually admitted that you were WRONG when you said that miracle claims were scientifically vetted, and those with naturalistic explanations rejected. Instead, we get more verbiage and misdirection.

        • G.R. Mead

          I did not say they were rejected. I said “A miracle by definition CANNOT be explained by any physical cause — and these are tested — scientifically.” A not-impossible, but yet highly improbable event is just as much evidence of a miraculous cause, as a cause that has no known possible mechanism of occurrence. The question is one of the strength of correlation of extraordinary unlikelihood, attested petition, and result beyond any ordinary explanation that leads to a conclusion of evident intercession — and therefore of the sanctity of the candidate who is being petitioned.

          All sainthood causes — save only those of immediate martyrdom — are circumstantial cases. The criminal law judges life and death on that measure of proof. Objectors to the point on the standard of proof are being selectively critical in that regard — as they are with the history of heresy trials — which were conducted much like any other criminal proceeding at the time, and with similar consequences.

        • Reginald Selkirk

          G.R. Mead, known liar: I did not say they were rejected. I said “A miracle by definition CANNOT be explained by any physical cause — and these are tested — scientifically.” A not-impossible, but yet highly improbable event is just as much evidence of a miraculous cause, as a cause that has no known possible mechanism of occurrence.

          It still adds up to a lie. Your attempts to fine-tune your bullshit are not appreciated.

        • G.R. Mead

          In other words, you admit I did not lie — but you still don’t like what I said, so you will pretend you did not hear it.

          Ah. Fingers in the ears and shouting accusations. So very persuasive. I am certainly glad there are more representative and reasoning atheists around to converse with.

        • Reginald Selkirk

          Known liar G.R. Mead: In other words, you admit I did not lie

          I did no such thing. I pointed out how your attempt to patch things over did not explain away the untruth in your original statement.

          … but you still don’t like what I said…

          Damn straight. I do not enjoy being lied to. You may find that many people share the same view. You said,

          A miracle by definition CANNOT be explained by any physical cause.

          1) There is no honest way to turn this into “physical explanations were possible, but low probability” (paraphrased) without admitting that the original statement was wrong.
          2) The specific example in question: that a woman who received conventional medical treatment for cancer may have been cured by that treatment, rather than by a miracle, is not even a low probablity explanation.

        • http://carnedes.blogspot.com Carneades-Skeptic Griggsy

          I contemn, amongst other grave matters, the Vatican for approving faith-based experts who find miracles when none happened! With medical advances, why, maybe a miracle every other decade!
          As the Amazing Randi and his people did with faith-healing, people have to do more than look: they have to check for trickery, the real facts about the putative miracle and with healings, do follow-up.
          The Aquinas- Shelley superfluity argument boomerangs on Aquinas’ own five ways! Percy Bysshe Shelley explains:” To suppose that some existence beyond, or above them [ the descriptions - laws- of Nature, C.-S.K.] exists is to invent a second and superfluous hypothesis to account for what already is accounted for.” For theists then to call that a metaphysical category mistake is to beg the question.Miracles are not exempt from Hume’s miracle corollary to the Flew-Lamberth the presumption of naturalism that all causes and explanations are necessary, primary and sufficient : they themselves are the sufficient reason!
          This does not beg the question against supernaturalists but requires them to give evidence, not misinterpretations thereof or proffer faith. Definitions, faith, postulations, presuppositions and such cannot instantiate God!
          Lamberth’s the ignostic-Ockham holds that either He is factually meaningless- with incoherent and contradictory attributes and lacking referents as Creator and so forth as our naturalistic arguments eviscerate each of them, Lamberth’s mechanistic argument alone removes all referents involving intent as science finds no divine intent but mechanism at work, and without that intent-telos, God cannot be Himself and thus cannot exist.
          The empirical argument finds no evidence for Him.
          We naturalists now have many arguments eviscerating theism!
          Lamberth’s argument from theism = reduced animism is that without divine intent, then as with full animism and polytheism, it is superstitious!
          How then might people have a loving relationship with a superstition, superfluity and what is akin to a square circle. Faith can never overcome that!
          Reason removes mountains of ignorance, whilst faith, the we just say so of credulity, rests on the arguments from personal incredulity and from ignorance, which underlie other theistic arguments.
          Theologians zig-zag from quicksand to quicksand with their differing emphases. Limited God has His problems no less than Omni-God.
          Amongst his other parodies of theism, Alvin Planitnga finds that limited God has to make perfections, whilst Omni-God can make those flourishes- the imperfections that Hume’s dysteological argument eviscerates!
          His greater good and unknown defense arguments rely on the argument from ignorance.
          ” Logic is the bane of theists.” Fr. Griggs
          To fathom why He is no more than a square circle or married bachelor, see and vet : http://ignosticmorgan.wordpress.com
          http: igtheist. BlogSpot.com

      • Kodie

        It’s not like the modern atheistic culture offers a more salutary version of public exemplification.

        Would that the modern cult of celebrity had only a fraction of the sober reflection on the personal worthiness that attends the cult of the saints.

        Non sequitur.

        • G.R. Mead

          No. It follows — from a purely consequential standpoint, if atheism is not ipso facto better than belief in God — deluded or otherwise — then why adhere to it?

        • Kodie

          Because we don’t sit around voting who is the best human being of all time, or your perception that we don’t means that we exemplify performers instead? None of that makes your point, it’s just an empty-headed assumption you made out loud.

          But to answer your actual question – because there’s no god. It’s not something to adhere to because it has any certain consequences. What alien cookbooks are you reading over there?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Erick: Without God, there is no objective moral truth. If there is no objective moral truth, then Hitler’s morals is as right as right can be (as right as Bob’s own morality is right in his mind).

    I’m in agreement with most all of Bob’s arguments, so I’ll just rehash a few points from my own perspective.
    .
    The above argument by Erick is an absolutist argument. Theists frequently insist that if morality/life/meaning is not objective/infinite/absolute/eternal/perfect, then it has no value at all. Here’s my refutation of these arguments: I do not have enough money in my pocket to feed myself for eternity. I don’t even have enough money in my pocket to feed myself for a lifetime. But I have enough money in my pocket to buy myself lunch today, and that is certainly better than nothing.
    .
    I also agree with Bob’s stance on morals. I also have seen no evidence or examples of absolute, objective morals. In particular, most of our moral codes are so explicitly anthropocentric that anyone with an understanding of evolution should notice it. Suppose the dominant species on the planet was not us, but a race of gigantic, sentient praying mantises. Would it be morally excusable to eat one’s lover after copulation? It might be. Or if the planet was run by intelligent lions, would it be morally excusable to kill the offspring of a new mate? Perhaps it would. An evolutionary explanation for human morality explains so much about the content of our morals, and how it resembles what you might expect of a social primate species.
    Also, it provides an answer to the “absolute or nothing” false dichotomy raised by Erick. A rejection of absolute, objective morality does not mean a descent into complete moral relativism. We have a system of morals which are not absolute, which are contingent and imperfect, but most certainly they are better than nothing.
    The field of moral philosophy has a messy history. Many moral theories have been put forward, and none are immune to criticism. I think this is because moral philosophers are attempting to supply a theoretical explanation for what is an empirical phenomenon.

  • Jason

    “He begins by saying that the New Atheists don’t actually say anything new.”

    First of all, they shouldn’t have to. The burden of proof is on the believer, and believers have never been able to offer a convincing case. Their arguments for god haven’t gotten any better since Aquinas, so why should arguments against god need to get better. Second of all, even if contemporary atheists are lazy, discoveries in science and even technology have continued to suggest that the existence of god (esp the traditional Judeo-Christian god or one link s/him) is really unlikely. For example, before cameras I can see being tempted to believe in miracles. After all, it is quite possible that I was just never at the right place at the right time. But now that I can youtube videos from around the world, it seems like I would be able to watch all kinds of miracles that are well documented (if in fact they existed).

  • MNb

    “a more salutary version of public exemplification.”
    Any exemplification is more salutary than making Cyrillus of Alexandria a saint.

    “If there is no objective moral truth, then Hitler’s morals is as right as right can be.”
    The usual unoriginal religious non-sequitur. There are several non-religious ethical systems and like Reginals S wrote, they may not be perfect, but kind of work.
    One can use happiness as the foundation of an ethical system. Hitler’s morals obviously didn’t contribute much in that respect. So for that reason I can condemn him. That foundation suits me better than the contradictional and rather random regulations of a fictional entity described in a book written 2000-2600 years ago.

    • Erick

      The point is that if we follow only human standards as the highest authority, we run into the problem that we are all equal with divergent moral standards. In this case, any of your “non-religious ethical systems” have no claim/justification for authority over me. Power would be the only viable claim/justification.

      • Kodie

        The way you have it, there is no reason to think about the consequences, just do what you’ve always been told to do. That never changes. Humans never alter or modify any rules, or justify why they don’t apply to us now when they did in the past, or why they apply to other people but not to us. You operate on a basic double-standard that whatever you think is good is good – no matter who disagrees with you. You follow god off a cliff. You never have to look around you and say wait, what I am doing is having a negative effect on people. If those people are negatively affected, you think, that has nothing to do with my morally superior actions! They are just rebels who don’t agree that what I think is good is good for them. So you are ok with lacking empathy as long as you believe you’re righteous.

        You don’t seem to realize that morality has everything to do with empathy and nothing at all with being written into tablets a long time ago. If two people disagree what is more empathetic treatment of a situation, it’s called a dilemma. You don’t call one person right because they’re holding a book or one person wrong because they’re not holding the same book. If you can’t tell right from wrong without reference to and threats made in the name of the so-called author of that book, then you are not acting on objective morality, you are not acting for the right reasons. Your only reason is the shallow arrogance that you pretend you know better because you were taught to avoid going to hell. Besides making you an objectively less moral human being, it’s scary to think the lot of you believe you have nothing else keeping any one of us from breaking the social contract. We’re all in this together, and that should be enough, but you want to fight about morality, and you defend yourself with an invisible deity? You might as well say that a lucky penny is the only thing keeping you from walking into oncoming traffic. You know you don’t trust god to keep you from being hit. You look both ways and make sure it’s safe to cross the street. That’s how people also decide what is moral. We look, and then we make a right decision.

      • Phil

        The point is that if we follow only human standards as the highest authority, we run into the problem that we are all equal with divergent moral standards. In this case, any of your “non-religious ethical systems” have no claim/justification for authority over me. Power would be the only viable claim/justification.

        Thought experiment (not sure if this works):

        The point is that if we follow only God’s standards as the highest authority, we run into the problem that we have divergent understandings of God’s moral standards (examples: liberal Christian; fundamentalist Christian; Muslim extremist; etc.). In this case, any of your understanding of God’s standards have no claim/justification for authority over my understanding of God’s standards. The end result is that power would be the only arbitror.

        • Bob Jase

          Hence 2000 years of religion-based wars – might is right until something mightier comes along.

  • Claude

    Bob–

    Just wanted to thank you here for your reply at Public Catholic; a couple of my comments, including a response to you, did not make it through Ms. Hamilton’s filter.

    Cordially,

    An Addle-Pated Associate

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Her blog doesn’t have the “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” checkbox, which makes it a pain (for me, anyway) to participate in a conversation. It’s some sort of WordPress thing, I think, not something deliberate on her part. I enjoy mixing it up with Christians in different forums (though I’d prefer to host it here), but I don’t care enough to poke through her posts to find interesting conversations. And she writes so much, too.

      • Claude

        Having my comments censored also makes conversation difficult.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Claude, the addle-pated one:

          I can imagine. I’ve read her comments on censoring before. I guess she claims that she gets lots of nasty email. I have a hard time in America working up many tears for a Christian blogger, but I do wonder whether she gets more snarky or nasty comments than I do. I will admit, that I don’t remember any that are just drive-by slurs. Usually they have some pretense of a comment.

  • Claude

    I certainly didn’t write anything malicious, though I was highly critical of her. After all, she writes inflammatory culture war nonsense. Perhaps that is why she catches flak, though I make no excuse for vitriol from any quarter (not that I’m above it when provoked).

    Anyway, I look forward to reading your blog. Thanks for inviting me!

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