An Inept Attempt to Dismiss the Problem of Evil

In an article titled “Everybody’s Got the Same Problem,” apologist Greg Koukl attempts to turn the Problem of Evil, often admitted by Christians as their biggest challenge, into a selling point for Christianity.

The Problem of Evil is this: how can a good and loving God allow all the bad that happens in the world? The simplistic answers fail to explain the woman who dies leaving young children motherless, the child that dies a lingering death from leukemia, or the Holocaust.

Koukl begins by saying that he’s found a debating technique that turns this problem into a benefit. Instead of being solely a problem for the Christian, he turns the tables on the atheist.

Evidence of egregious evil abounds. How do I account for such depravity?

But, I am quick to add—and here is the strategic move—I am not alone. As a theist, I am not the only one saddled with this challenge. Evil is a problem for everyone. Every person, regardless of religion or worldview, must answer this objection.

Even the atheist.

Of course evil is a problem for everyone, but that’s not what we’re talking about. Koukl made clear that we’re talking about the Problem of Evil. We’re talking about how a good and loving God can allow all the bad that happens in the world.

What if someone is assaulted by personal tragedy, distressed by world events, victimized by religious corruption or abuse, and then responds by rejecting God and becoming an atheist (as many have done)? Notice that he has not solved the problem of evil.

The atheist hasn’t solved the Problem of Evil; he’s eliminated it. A God who loves us infinitely more than we love ourselves and who stands idly by as rapists or murderers do their work is no dilemma for the atheist. But, of course, the problem still remains for the apologist. Koukl can’t simply redefine the problem away.

The atheist cannot raise the issue, turn on his heel, and smugly walk away. His objection is that evil actually exists, objectively, as a real feature of the world.

Where did objective morality come from?? That’s certainly not something that I would argue for. Are some moral truths objectively right or wrong? If so, show us.

The atheist still has to answer the question, “How do I explain evil now, as an atheist? How do I answer the problem of evil from a materialistic worldview?”

Why—is this difficult?

Richard Dawkins observed, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” The atheist embraces the obvious explanation for evil, that in a natural world bad stuff happens. It’s just that the Christian doesn’t always like that explanation.

There is only one solution for him. The atheist must play the relativism card. Morality is either the product of a social contract or a trick of evolution. That is the best materialism can do. His own answer to the problem of evil, then, is that there is no problem of evil. Morality is an illusion. Whatever is, is right.

Ah, it’s our old straw man friend, moral relativism (I explore that more here). This is the idea that (1) you decide what’s moral for you and I decide what’s moral for me and (2) I have no right to object to your morals. I’ve never met anyone who accepts point 2, which means that I’ve never met such a moral relativist.

One explanation for morality is that there are absolute or transcendental or supernaturally grounded morals. This kind of grounding is what Koukl claims.

But take away divinely grounded morality, and you still have morals that come from humans’ shared moral instinct and the moral customs of each culture. Koukl imagines that this is an illusion?

Here’s some homework, Greg: look up the word morality in the dictionary and show us where it says that morality must be grounded in something absolute, transcendental, or supernatural.

The great 20th century atheistic philosopher Bertrand Russell wondered how anyone could talk of God when kneeling at the bed of a dying child. His challenge has powerful rhetorical force. How can anyone cling to the hope of a benevolent, powerful sovereign in the face of such tragedy?

Okay—this is an example of the injustice that prompts the Problem of Evil.

Then Christian philosopher William Lane Craig offered this response: “What is the atheist Bertrand Russell going to say when kneeling at the bed of a dying child? ‘Too bad’? ‘Tough luck’? ‘That’s the way it goes’?” No happy ending? No silver lining? Nothing but devastating, senseless evil?

Whaaa … ? “No happy ending”?? The child is dying! No, there’s no happy ending, you insensitive idiot!

And you imagine the atheist has nothing to say? Maybe you mean that the atheist has no happy but groundless stories to weave. That’s true. Atheists won’t tell as true the afterlife stories from the Egyptian Book of the Dead or the Greek myth of Hades or the Hindu idea of reincarnation. Atheists won’t tell the afterlife story of whatever religion happens to be dominant in their culture.

But anyone in this situation with any rudimentary compassion would offer sympathy and try to make the child feel better. They’d read books or tell jokes or weave stories or sing songs or reminisce about happier times or play games with the child. Isn’t that what you’d do, Greg?

They cannot speak of the patience and mercy of God. They cannot mention the future perfection that awaits all who trust in Christ. They cannot offer the comfort that a redemptive God is working to cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. They have no “good news” of hope for a broken world. Their worldview denies them these luxuries.

Yeah, let’s think about that. Christians could say, “You’re going to heaven,” but is that grounded on anything more substantial than that it’s the predominant myth in our culture? Or do you recommend just lying to make people feel better?

They could say, “Your death is part of God’s plan,” but what kind of comfort is this? And what kind of SOB deity would kill a child, especially an omniscient deity who could surely find a workaround? What kind of savage religion must you invent to support this platitude? (And Christians wonder why atheists get annoyed with their religion.)

Atheists don’t speak of “the patience and mercy of God” just like they don’t speak of the patience and mercy of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Atheists usually prefer the truth, and they tend to believe only things well-grounded in evidence. And this approach has benefits. As George Bernard Shaw observed, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” People seeing things for what they really are gave us the medical and technological progress we see in society today.

Which brings me to the most important question to ask of the problem of evil: Which worldview has the best resources to make sense of this challenge?

Do we take the approach that Ricky Gervais’s character did in the film The Invention of Lying? We just tell people stuff that will make them feel better?

Notice that Koukl has made no attempt to argue that the Christian view (including any rationalization to explain the Problem of Evil) should be accepted because it’s true. I don’t want to mischaracterize his conclusion, but it appears like he argues that it’s preferable simply because it’s nicer. Are we children here? How can any thoughtful, rational adult promote this route to truth?

Let’s recap and see how Koukl did with his stated goal, turning the Problem of Evil into a tool against the atheist:

  • Koukl claimed that objective morality exists, but he provided no evidence.
  • He imagines that without objective morality there is no morality, despite what the dictionary says to the contrary.
  • He imagines that explaining the existence of evil is impossible for the atheist (apparently meaning that it’s impossible to explain in a pleasing way). In fact, atheists do just fine at explaining reality, and whether it’s pleasant or not isn’t the issue.
  • He advocates telling the nice story rather than the accurate story.
  • And he tried, unsuccessfully, to slide away from the Problem of Evil by redefining it.

The Problem of Evil stands, untouched by this clumsy attempt to dismiss what may be Christianity’s toughest problem.

If you want to assert a truth,
first make sure it’s not just an opinion
that you desperately want to be true.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson

(This is a modified version of a post originally published 11/9/11.)

Photo credit: Wikimedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • RichardSRussell

    I take exception to one of Koukl’s throwaway lines as well: “evil actually exists, objectively, as a real feature of the world.”

    No it doesn’t. Earlier, more primitive cultures tried to personify evil in the form of Satan; that has no more basis in reality than trying to personify good in the form of God. Both are wild-eyed departures from reality.

    Evil is an adjective, an opinion, a value judgment, a term applied to some tangible object or visible action. It is not itself tangible; it is not itself visible; it is not itself a noun, let alone a person. It has no objective reality, in diametric contrast to Koukl’s bizarre (and evidence-free) characterization of it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Evil as an adjective vs. evil as a noun. Interesting distinction.

      • Castilliano

        I completely agree with everything you say except evil not being a noun. Just like ‘things’ don’t need to exist or be material to be ‘things’, nouns do not need to be tangible, nor objective, i.e. fairness or justice or logic or patriotism. Like them, ‘evil’ (the noun) is a construct connected to the human condition (and with a variety of personal interpretations).

        I agree saying ‘evil exists’ is an error, but a philosophical not a grammatical one, and because it implies objective existence.
        I would say ‘evil happens’, just like ‘fairness happens’, while ‘fairness exists’ sounds awkward at best. ‘Evil exists’, and similar sentiments, should be neutralized except in the most poetic of contexts, but aren’t grammatically verboten.

        Evil has no substance, but it is a concept, and a useful one.

        Cheers

        • MNb

          “‘evil exists’ is an error”

          Depends on what you mean with ‘exist’. If evil doesn’t exist than neither do evolution and gravity. They are concepts too.

        • Speedwell

          “Exists” is not a word with just one meaning. A quantity of food “exists” as an object. Its quality of “sweet taste” exists as an attribute of the object. You can say a bit of food is less sweet or more sweet, insufficiently or overly sweet, but you cannot in any way think of “sweet taste” as an object, only as an attribute.

          The same is true with “evil”. Evil is an attribute of evil intent, or, by analogy, certain actions, happenstances, or objects that are purported to arise from evil intent. Gravity and evolution are things in and of themselves, not attributes. Gravitation IS a force and evolution IS a process, but evil is not itself an intent; it’s just an attribute of an intent.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I don’t think this is an especially interesting question, but just for the fun of it, I’ll argue against your position. I agree that “evil” could be an abstract noun, like “courage” or “thoughtfulness.” But sometimes this is in error. “Cold,” for example, isn’t actually a noun, though of course we know what someone means if they were to say, “There’s too much cold in here.” I’m happy to use the dictionary (I haven’t bothered) to see how “cold” as a noun is defined, but arguing that it should be an adjective only isn’t crazy, IMO, especially when Christians define “evil” as a lack of something, just like cold.

    • Grotoff

      If evil doesn’t exist, doesn’t that remove the problem of evil? Can’t a relativist Christian just define away the problem evil, aka all apparent evil is just the mysterious working of God with an eye toward ultimate good?

      Evil does certainly exist in the world, as a function of the existence of sapient beings. Evil is causing the suffering and unwellness of sapient beings. In relation to the objective existence of sapience, evil likewise exists.

      • RichardSRussell

        To repeat, evil acts surely exist, and those cannot be reconciled with the existence of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent being. Merely recognizing that evil is not incarnate doesn’t resolve the problem of evil, it simply assigns it to the correct part of speech.

        • Grotoff

          Which Christian believes in the literal embodiment of evil? Satan is not the embodiment of evil, in Christian mythology, but the original corrupted angel. Christians frequently deny that evil exists, using Lewis’ conception of it as darkness. That darkness does not exist independently, but is merely the absence of light. Christians thus define evil as the absence of goodness, or God.

          This is wrong because suffering not merely the absence of pleasure, and much evil is done outside of human agency. But I don’t see how discussing evil’s “embodiment” has anything to do with the point.

        • RichardSRussell

          Anyone who refers to evil as if it is a thing — whether embodied or not — is assigning material specificity to a concept which is merely a value judgment — a human value judgment. As soon as you start discussing whether “evil exists”, you’re referring to it as a noun, which it’s not, and I’m trying to clarify the discussion.

        • Grotoff

          I’m confused. Christians specifically reject the material specificity of evil, which helps them fumble around the problem of evil.

          Saying “evil exists” does not require one to assume that it has some sort of existence independent from other phenomena. Such as saying “darkness exists”, when what you mean is that the absence of light exists.

          Given that evil is a function of the existence of human sapience, and sapience exists, then evil exists.

        • RichardSRussell

          Well, maybe my quibble should be more with the word exist than the word evil. For instance, I don’t think the “absence of light” exists, either. Things exist; matter and energy exist; space exists. Conditions do not exist; events do not exist; patterns do not exist; ideas do not exist; opinions do not exist.

          Since, in this formulation, evil is an opinion, an idea, it does not exist in the same sense as, say, your keyboard, or the light waves entering your eyes from this message.

          I suspect that a good deal of the confusion surrounding the problem of evil is the failure of the participants in discussions about it to be clear about their terminology.

        • Grotoff

          So by “exist”, you mean has a physical component in the universe? All ideas, and opinions, have corresponding electrical impulse combinations within the brain. Given that those impulses exist, why don’t ideas exist?

        • RichardSRussell

          Given that 52 cards have actual physical existence in the deck you’re holding, why doesn’t a particular bridge hand exist? There’s a difference between patterns (such as ideas or bridge hands) and the actual physical things they’re made of; the things have existence, the patterns do not, tho you may perceive them that way.

        • Grotoff

          Given that those cards have physical existence, and actual physical differences, then bridge hands DO exist.

          Would you say that sound does not exist because it is merely the interpretation of a pattern of matter compression? If so, then we simply disagree as to what “exist” means.

        • RichardSRussell

          You have made a persuasive case. I will have to go back and rethink the nature of the distinction I am trying to make here. I hope you will agree, however, that the nature of the existence of a pattern of cards differs from the nature of the existence of the cards themselves.

        • Grotoff

          Certainly. It is a second order existence; an existence that proceeds from, and is dependent on, a previous existence.

        • RichardSRussell

          Thanks. Is that a formal term that I could throw into other discussions like this and expect to be understood, or is it your own coinage?

        • Grotoff

          It’s a formal math term for use in calculus equations that I sometimes adopt for use in discussions like this. I’m uncertain if it has a wider parlance.

      • Kodie

        Things that feel bad to humans = does exist.
        Evil? No.

  • http://vegantrav.tumblr.com/ Travis Voth

    Koukl states: “His objection is that evil actually exists, objectively, as a real feature of the world.”

    No, that’s not what the atheist is arguing at all: the atheist is simply assuming, for the sake of argument, the truth of Christian claims about God and the world: it is the Christian who admits that objective good and evil exist and the Christian who also maintains that God is omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient. Then, the atheist points out the logical incompatibility of these Christian beliefs. It is simply a reductio ad absurdum argument, and it’s amazing that Koukl fails to recognize that this is the strategy that the atheist is using.

    The atheist is not committed to any metaethical position in posing the argument from evil. The atheist is simply showing that the Christian claims about the existence of a good God and of evil are inconsistent.

    • Rain

      Yeah it’s totally a theological “problem”. He wants it to be everyone’s problem. No thanks, theology can keep its own problems, thank you very much.

  • Rain

    “That is the best materialism can do.”

    He forgot to say “Ergo Jesus”. Everybody’s got the same problem… ergo Jesus.

    • Rain

      I was kinda half joking there, but now that I look at his article he seems much simpler than what I had presumed, judging from his final paragraph in the article…

      The answer is not atheism. The answer to evil is God, in Jesus, on a cross, at Calvary. The particulars still need to be developed. But I start with the strategic issue first. That sets the stage. Only afterward do I get into details.

      Gotta love the cool “calculating” plan of strategy. You can almost hear the “mwa ha ha” as he wrings his hands together, lol.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Yeah. Not that he was endearing before, but this analytical approach to winning arguments isn’t flattering.

        He doesn’t want the burden of proof almost as if defending Jesus were, y’know, a burden.

  • Malcolm McLean

    I agree. it’s easy to give a weak argument for a strong position. Evil is a problem if you have a theology that says that God is both omnipotent anf good, not if you believe in two fighting deities, one good, or pro-American, ying, or whatever, the other bad, Commie, yang, or otherwise opposed.

    Evil is a problem for the materialist because good and evil is inherently not a property of material systems. A millions of year old comet crashes into Jupiter, it’s identity is lost, its intricate structure of ice and dust layers destroyed. But no-one would see that as evil. Similarly when a tree falls, or a tiger dies, or a child is destroyed. But it sort of comes bundled with the problem of consciousness.

    Then evil is an issue for the atheist if the atheist himself is evil. Where did that evil come from? Why does it exist?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Where did the evil come from? From God, of course. He made everything.

      “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)

      “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” (Lamentations 3:38)

      “When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?” (Amos 3:6)

      • Malcolm McLean

        I’m talking about evil atheists, not unfortunate natural events, which could be God punishing the city for the sins of its inhabitants.

        If an atheist is an evil person, where did that evil come from? That’s a real question for atheists.

        • Makoto

          Yes, because it’s so just to hurt or murder the neighbors of sinners.. right? An eye for an eye.. or the eye of your neighbor or an entire town or something?

          But I’m curious – are “natural events” god’s punishment for something someone did, or .. er.. natural events? Or are they both and we have to somehow divine which they were meant to be?

          If a churchgoer is an evil person, that evil comes from them. Same with an atheist. Evil is what we call it, it’s not some supernatural force or anything.

        • kraut2

          “If an atheist is an evil person, where did that evil come from? That’s a real question for atheists.”

          Do you really think that evil is something disassociated from the person, that evil exists as an entity or a quality removed from the person that does evil things? Evil is not a thing in itself, evil is a quality of a person that does things considered evil.

          In order to assess that an action is evil, we have to define in the context of a societies morals what that evil action is.

          Can we say that no matter what, there exists a “universal” evil? An action that is universally by all societies deemed to be evil?

          What if that supposed evil action – from our point of view – like the abandonment of the elderly and unfit by Inuit societies (is that real or a myth?) actually benefits the chances of survival for the tribe. What if an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth was actually not evil but necessary in a society that had no court of law or a legal framework, and thus this easy rule helped to further the functioning of a pre civilization society?

          Evil is a concept to describe actions that are contrary to the ethical and moral framework of a society, it is an action and not a state of being. I firmly believe – because of evidence – that no person is wholly evil or wholly good.

          There are shades and gradations, and also evil is done by a person (i.e. Hitler, the representative of evil incarnate), very often there is in the mind of the perpetrator a justification, the actions in their mind are not evil, they serve a higher purpose, and the evil done to a minority is necessary to achieve that purpose.

          Evil as a concept disembodied from a person, an evil as almost an entity is a theological concept to remove the responsibility for that evil from the god person (who after all is responsible for its creation) and blame it on an adversary that falls foul of the god persons commands.

          It is a useless concept for polite and rational society, and no problem for an atheist who knows that people can act “evil”, whatever that definition might be.

          Consider Mr. Craig’s eagerness to defend the god persons command for genocidal actions. Just because the god person commanded (who heard this command, by the way?) this genocide was a “good” action and not evil?

        • Aram McLean

          Perhaps it came from a throwback to when being a psychopath was useful in staying alive (think cavemen)? Perhaps it came about because of a chemical imbalance in our organic chemistry bodies? Perhaps it came from a shitty childhood being raised by soul-destroying fundy types? So many reasons that exclude God and his cousin Lucy.
          C’mon Malcolm, you’re giving us McLean’s a bad name here.

        • Brian Westley

          If an atheist is an evil person, where did that evil come from? That’s a real question for atheists.

          But it has nothing to do with “the problem of evil.”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          How he can not know this or have forgotten is inconceivable. Either he’s playing games, hoping that we don’t see his inept sleight of hand. Or he’s baffled himself. Neither one casts him in a good light.

    • smrnda

      Well, if a natural disaster caused a lot of damage and sensible precautions *could* have been taken and weren’t, we might say that the people in charge of disaster prep are bad for not doing a better job.

      If we ask ‘why are some people evil?’ you can look at the specific evil action and look at the motives and the rationalizations that come along with it.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    The atheist cannot raise the issue, turn on his heel, and smugly walk away. His objection is that evil actually exists, objectively, as a real feature of the world.

    It appears this bozo not only misunderstands the PoE, but he does not understand the word objective.

  • kraut2

    Am I the only one who gets really tired – or alternately pissed off – by the outrageously low quality of the apologists arguments. After about the fourth quote it is still just the same old stupidity that has been dealt with with over and over and over again. It is like apologists really do not listen to atheist arguments, hidden in their shell of make belief.
    Maybe they are just too dense?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I don’t know what to make of it either, and I share that frustration. How insulated are they?

      • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

        I believe he makes it clear that his belief gives him great comfort, so he does not want it disproven. Focusing too hard on all of the atheist counterarguments might risk that, and so instead we have these pat, inane apologetics.

    • MNb

      No, I’m not pissed off or tired. But I can tell you this – since I began to read apologists argument about five years ago my atheism has become more radical. I don’t want to get at a premature conclusion, but it seems to me that a belief system prevents people from thinking properly indeed. And I’m talking about people who are more intelligent and higher educated than I am.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        This is a bit of a tangent, but I wrote an article titled “I used to be an atheist, just like you”. Once you get to a certain point in education as an atheist, there’s no turning back.

  • Mick

    I have the feeling that apologists are deeply embarrassed by the utter stupidity of their beliefs, and articles like this are written, not to educate atheists or Christians, but to help the apologist cope with his/her own cognitive dissonance.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      “Misery loves company”?

  • smrnda

    I’ve often run across Christians who claim that, in light of the existence of evil, that their worldview offers more hope (everything will be prefect in heaven, Jesus will return to earth and set up some utopia) but if I see a doctor because I’m really sick, I’m there to get facts, not a pipe dream. If my health problems aren’t going to be neatly cured by some over the counter meds and a day of bed rest I want to know, even if the truth is bad, because the truth is useful, and a lie is not, no matter how optimistic it sounds. You don’t go with the doctor who makes you feel the most hopeful, you go with the one with the correct diagnosis.

    Some things about life suck, and there’s only so much we can do about them.

  • Greg G.

    From his Wikipedia article:

    Koukl received a M.A. in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics from Talbot School of Theology, and also a M.A. in Christian apologetics from Simon Greenleaf School of Law. [Now called Trinity Law School]

    Two Masters degrees and he still equivocates the word “problem” in the 2300 year old Problem of Evil.

    Craig received a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from Wheaton College, Illinois, in 1971 and two summa cum laude master’s degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, in 1975, in philosophy of religion and ecclesiastical history and in the History of Christian Thought. He earned a Ph.D. in philosophy under John Hick at the University of Birmingham, England, in 1977 and a D.Theol. under Wolfhart Pannenberg at the University of Munich in 1984.

    With two masters and two doctorates, William Lane Craig argues that The Problem of Evil doesn’t disprove the existence of God. Of course, it doesn’t. It only disproves a being that is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent – the kind most Christians want to believe in. In that article, he gives us:

    The prominent philosopher Alvin Plantinga has expounded two dozen or so arguments for God’s existence. The cumulative force of these arguments makes it probable that God exists.

    How does two dozen failed arguments for God add up to making God probable? If Plantinga can’t come up with a single argument that actually proves there is a god, the cumulative force of two dozen bad arguments is better evidence of no god.

    When atheists argue against the beliefs of most of Christianity, we get accused of not tackling Sophisticated Theology(tm). But Sophisticated Theology(tm) is just as bad as the theology of the hoi polloi but with more expensive words.

    There is a debate going on about whether apologists are dishonest. There has to be some dishonesty going on. If they aren’t dishonest, then how did they have the brains to get the advanced degrees? How can they not comprehend the succinct description put for by Epicurus twenty-three centuries ago? A degree in any field of theology is dishonest as it is based on nothing real. Calling them honest is an insult to their intelligence.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I agree that philosophy is just a smokescreen.

    • smrnda

      Good point. Sophisticated theology just employs a rhetorical smokescreen to make you think you’re hearing something new.

      All said, hats off to Epicurus. In four lines, he said it best.

    • MNb

      I don’t agree that philosophy is just a smokescreen; Herman Philipse’s God in the Age of Science falsifies this afaIc.
      One other problem is the ambiguous meaning of the word proof. Apologists tend to be far less strict when it comes to “proving” the conclusions they accepted at beforehand.

  • avalon

    “They cannot speak of the patience and mercy of God. They cannot mention
    the future perfection that awaits all who trust in Christ. They cannot
    offer the comfort that a redemptive God is working to cause all things
    to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according
    to His purpose. They have no “good news” of hope for a broken world.
    Their worldview denies them these luxuries.”

    If apologists had logic and reason on their side there’d be no reason for appealing to emotion. These aren’t luxuries, they’re fantasies.

    • Dave Warnock

      “denies them these luxuries”… Luxury: material object, service, etc., conducive to sumptuous living, usually a delicacy, elegance, or refinement of living rather than a necessity:
      I think dying children and their parents would rather deal in the necessities…just a thought. Fantasies dressed up as luxuries do no one any good

      • smrnda

        Does this Koukl guy even think about how deeply empty most religious platitudes are to suffering people?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Makes you wonder. Grieving is never easy, but I don’t know that treating adults like children helps.

        • MNb

          Speaking for myself: no. When my father was murdered more than five years ago the last thing my son and I needed were religious platitudes.

        • MNb

          This is an answer to Bob’s question.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          :-(
          Sucks

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      “These aren’t luxuries, they’re fantasies.”

      Nicely put!

  • staircaseghost

    “But take away divinely grounded morality, and you still have morals that come from humans’ shared moral instinct and the moral customs of each culture.”

    Do you see how this commits the fallacy of equivocation in a very clear and straightforward way? A way which every theistic reader will spot immediately?

    “Koukl imagines that this is an illusion?

    Do you suppose Koukl imagines that moral behaviors don’t exist, or that the referents of moral claims don’t exist (on the nontheistic hypothesis)?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Do you see how this commits the fallacy of equivocation in a very clear and straightforward way?

      No, I don’t. Point it out.

      Do you suppose Koukl imagines that moral behaviors don’t exist, or that the referents of moral claims don’t exist (on the nontheistic hypothesis)?

      Without his worldview, “morality is an illusion.”

      • staircaseghost

        Suppose the apologist were to say, “according to your naturalistic worldview, NDEs and ghost sightings are merely illusions foisted on us by our neurology.”

        Wouldn’t it be rather missing the point to reply, “so you’re saying that neurology is an illusion? That there are no such things as hallucinations?”

        “Without his worldview, ‘morality is an illusion.'”

        Equivocation.

        You didn’t answer the question. Do you suppose Koukl imagines that self-sacrificing and pro-social behaviors don’t exist, or that the normative claims that you should behave in those ways have no truth value (on the nontheistic hypothesis)?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You didn’t answer the question.

          Give me a question that’s meaningful and I’ll answer it.

          Do you suppose Koukl imagines that self-sacrificing and pro-social behaviors don’t exist, or that the normative claims that you should behave in those ways have no truth value (on the nontheistic hypothesis)?

          You didn’t like my previous answer, so I’m apparently unable to answer it.

        • staircaseghost

          One more time.

          I point out you are equivocating on the term “morality”, using a different sense of the term (prosocial behavior, observed to exist) from Koukl’s sense (objective moral norms — which you seem to agree in your article are an illusion!!!).

          When asked whether your use of the term comports with his, your “answer” simply reasserts the singular term, without qualification or clarification. So you are no closer to defending yourself against the charge of equivocation than at the start.

          This is a shame, really, because Koukl’s attempt really is, as you say, remarkably lame, demanding that the atheist supply an entire metaethical superstructure before he will even entertain the suggestion that childhood leukemia is a bad thing. But instead of engaging you on your other powerful, substantive points, the apologist will seize on this silly and unnecessary equivocation and beat you over the head with it, ignoring everything else you have to say.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I point out you are equivocating on the
          term “morality”, using a different sense of the term (prosocial behavior, observed to exist) from Koukl’s sense (objective moral norms — which you seem to agree in your article are an illusion!!!).

          I see no evidence for Koukl’s objective moral truth, and yet
          the word “morality” still has a definition for me. I’m missing the equivocation.

  • King Dave @ Newsvine

    Great article Bob:

    There is no True right or wrong, the golden rule does not account for masochists, and eye for an eye allows for murder.

    Saving a child from certain death seems moral, but what if that child was Hitler?

    • Speedwell

      Children aren’t Hitler, and neither you nor anyone else is clairvoyant.

      • King Dave

        There is no argument to have left Hitler unmolested, unless we don’t care about 100 million lives.
        Another reason why there is no true right or wrong action is because it is impossible to know the consequences in advance.

        Morality is preservation of the self.

        The rest is commentary.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Channeling Hillel? Maybe we should call you “Rabbi Dave”!

        • King Rabbi Dave

          Ha.
          Just don’t call me late for dinner.

        • Speedwell

          I’m guessing you’re assuming that you can tell a given child will grow up to be Hitler/Hitler-like. I know it’s a thought experiment, indeed I do, but the plain fact is that we can’t possibly know that, therefore we can’t possibly justify a given child-murder based on the spittle-flecked assertion “but he was going to grow up to be Hitler”. I don’t like thought experiments that let people justify horrendous things. (Before anyone asks, no, this is not a legitimate argument against abortion, for numerous reasons I’m not going derail the thread with.)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I wouldn’t mind apologists pointing to “objective morality” so often if they would just have some sort of plausible explanation for it. How they can not see this as a gaping problem at the foundation of their morality arguments, I can’t see.

  • Y. A. Warren

    The issue seems to be what we define as evil. When we take physical life and death out of the cycle of eternal life, which includes the earthly manifestations of our sacredness, and dependent on all eternal earthly manifestations of The Sacred Spirit, we create a culture of fear.

    When I thought my daughter was dying all I wanted to do was live as close to the aura of her spirit as I possible could so that I could carry her Sacred Spirit forward in myself.

  • http://thread-of-fire.tumblr.com/myblogs Brian Pansky

    “What is the atheist Bertrand Russell going to say when kneeling at the bed of a dying child?”

    haha, so the logic here is that we have to lie to children to make them feel better, therefore a god truly does exist and is definitely a loving god, how dare we question that!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      How they can not appreciate that their argument devolves into “My story is nicer, so you should believe it,” I don’t know.

  • SaraiEnRose

    When I started reading this, I was almost immediately struck with what seems to be an obvious question…I read most of it, but stopped when I was satisfied that no party was aware enough to even ask the question much less answer it…perhaps one of you all can find an answer: “how can a good and loving God allow all the bad that happens in the world?” Here is the issue, I am not sure what this question is asking. What do the words “bad” and “good” mean, I am not familiar with them.

    • Ron

      Perhaps you should have finished reading to the end — because the intended meaning of that question was articulated via specific example. Apart from that, the meanings to unfamiliar words can be gleaned from books designed for that very purpose. They’re called dictionaries.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        And that’s one of the most important points: that “purpose” or “morality” are often imagined by Christians to have an absolute or objective element to them. Trouble is, that’s not supported in the dictionary.

      • SaraiEnRose

        Fair enough. I have consulted Webster. I will replace the words with their meanings and will give my opinion of the answer. How can a God, having the qualities required for a particular role and an intense feeling of deep affection.allow for all that of poor quality; inferior or defective.to happen in the world?”…Well, a couple of obvious things stick out right away and I will not look deeper than those two….It seems fairly affectionate to allow for the inferior or “defective” people to exist…you would expect he smite them? haha :) Also, by definition, he can do it…are you ready for this one? He can do it because “he” “is having the qualities required for a particular role.” so, by definition he takes the appropriate action. Not my definition, I Googled those…probably lied about Webster, I can’t be sure but I didn’t hunt those down as some obscure definition, I just grabbed the most reputable looking dictionary…I understood your implication to be that there was only one definition per word, though there were a few for each word so I’m not really sure how consulting the dictionary was really going to answer my question for me…but, I suppose you did tell me where to get my answer: in the bottom part of the article that I skipped. :)

  • jmichael

    “But take away divinely grounded morality, and you still have morals that come from human’s shared moral instinct and the moral customs of each culture.” Then Bob tells Greg to do his homework. Really? Maybe Bob should do his homework and expand his horizons a little bit. Does Bob realize that in my culture(East Africa), it is perfectly normal for young girls to be mutilated? They call is female circumcision. It is considered a traditional practice of this culture. Yet, Westerners are working very hard to fight against it. One culture versus another culture. Who decides who is right? How do you decide? Bob suggests we appeal to the morals of each culture. But which culture? Obviously, we need to appeal to something above both cultures…something super-cultural.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Maybe Bob should do his homework and expand his horizons a little bit. Does Bob realize that in my culture(East Africa), it is perfectly normal for young girls to be mutilated?

      I’ve visited Kenya and Tanzania. Yes, I’m aware of this practice.

      One culture versus another culture.

      That’s right. There is no objective moral truth. Morality within a single culture changes over time, and morality can differ between cultures.

      Obviously, we need to appeal to something above both cultures…something super-cultural.

      A nice thought, but is there such a thing? I’ve seen no evidence.

      • jmichaels

        It appears you are a cultural relativist. Not sure on what grounds you could oppose this traditional cultural practice? Maybe you would say it just feels wrong?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          It appears you are a cultural relativist.

          Nope—at least not as Greg Koukl defines it. Better to say that I reject the idea of objective morality.

          You haven’t shown me evidence of such a thing. Is there any?

          Maybe you would say it just feels wrong?

          I say that it’s wrong from my standpoint. What other option do I have?

        • jmichaels

          Hmmm…don’t know how Greg would define it.

          I guess from your perspective, it is just your standpoint versus my standpoint? You are convinced you are not a relativist and I have a hunch that you are. We are both right.

          Not sure we can carry this discussion much further unless you provide the basis for why you think it is wrong for young girls to be mutilated? Why should people, like myself, work against this practice? Because we think it is wrong? Doesn’t this point to the idea that there must be something right that this practice rubs up against?

          If not, let me just say I appreciate your post and your thoughtful engagement with me.

          Cheers!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I guess from your perspective, it is just your standpoint versus my standpoint? You are convinced you are not a relativist and I have a hunch that you are. We are both right.

          Where I come from, evidence is important, so let’s give that a try.

          Greg Koukl defines moral relativism as I explained above. That doesn’t describe me. Therefore, I’m not that kind of moral relativist.

          Since his definition is popular among fundamentalist apologeticists, I prefer to say that I reject objective moral truth. And now you understand my stand with respect to objective moral truth claims.

          unless you provide the basis for why you think it is wrong for young girls to be mutilated?

          Golden Rule.

          Doesn’t this point to the idea that there must be something right that this practice rubs up against?

          Sure. And you and I feel the same about this issue. Hardly surprising since we’re the same species and share the same programming.

        • kenodad

          But the point here is that the East Africans DON’T “feel the same about this issue.” You appeal to the Golden Rule. Why should they accept that? What is your “evidence” that the Golden Rule should be applied to all? What about the “Powerful Rule”…the most powerful should decide who gets what (money, women, land)…worked in the Middle Ages. The longest surviving society thus far was the Eqyptians. They embraced slavery, infanticide and subjugation of women. Therefore, from a practical, evidence-based position, such as yours, why not embrace those practices? They worked then and they work in East Africa.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          “Powerful Rule”? Evolution trumps that. It looks for fitness, and “most powerful” is only one kind of fitness. Loyalty, altruism, compassion, trust and trustworthiness, and so on make a successful society.

          We’re social animals. “Survival of the fittest” makes sense, but make sure you know what “fitness” means.

        • kenodad

          “Loyalty, altruism, compassion, trust and trustworthiness, and so on make a successful society.”

          Who says?
          Ancient Egypt flourished for hundreds of years using slavery, subjugation of women, infanticide, and political corruption.
          “Fitness” means survival. Again, I will ask, what evidence are you relying on to prop up your ideal society of altruism, compassion..etc., when, in fact, societies have flourished in the past disregarding those ideals.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          “Loyalty, altruism, compassion, trust and trustworthiness, and so on make a successful society.”

          Who says?

          Evolution says.

          Ancient Egypt flourished for hundreds of years using slavery, subjugation of women, infanticide, and political corruption.

          I’m missing how this contradicts my point. There was no loyalty, at all? No altruism or compassion?

          what evidence are you relying on to prop up your ideal society of altruism, compassion..etc., when, in fact, societies have flourished in the past disregarding those ideals.

          I’m talking about tribal societies. They explain why we’re put together the way we are.

        • kenodad

          “Evolution says.” This is not an answer. WHERE does evolution “say” this? Not in the past. Ancient Egypt was successful without your characteristics (“loyalty, altruism, compassion, trust and trustworthiness”). Still waiting for why utilitarianism (which is non-compassionate in the way we commonly think of the word) is not your ideal moral system?

        • kenodad

          “There was no loyalty, at all? No altruism or compassion?”

          Yes, but not as the guiding principle. They were loyal (or supposed to be loyal) to the Pharoah; not to truth, justice and the American way, which is what you seem to be holding up as the evolutionary pinnacle, without evidence.

          You seem to say “I can tell you what is the best: “Loyalty, altruism, compassion, trust and trustworthiness.” Why is it the best? Because evolution says so. How do we know evolution says so? Because it is the best.”

          This is circular.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You seem to say “I can tell you what is the
          best: “Loyalty, altruism, compassion, trust and trustworthiness.”

          Wrong again. It’s you who declares what’s best. I never said this.

        • kenodad

          ” “Powerful Rule”? Evolution trumps that ”

          Not sure what you mean here. Evolution in nature is defined by the powerful wiping out the weak. Generally the powerful are more fit. Where do we see evidence of the compassionate and trustworthy having more survivability?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Humans are social animals. That’s what it means to be a social animal–we cooperate, and to cooperate, some of these other traits (that we’re programmed to regard as “good”) come along.

          Evolution in nature is defined by the powerful wiping out the weak.

          Nope. Fitness means fitting like a puzzle piece. Sometimes “I want it, so I’ll take it” works. Bears might be an example. But not all animals have the personalities of bears.

        • kenodad

          “Fitness means fitting like a puzzle piece” a puzzle piece in an environment? A species has to adapt or “fit” into its environment. Some people have the personalities of bears. One of the most common behaviors we see in nature is the weak hiding their weakness to avoid elimination. So, strength and power appear EVIDENTALLY to be the “best” characteristics.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          strength and power appear EVIDENTALLY to be the “best” characteristics.

          That’s why the koala and slug have found a comfortable and stable niche to live in–because of their strength and power.

        • Dys

          Evolution in nature is defined by the powerful wiping out the weak.

          No, it’s not. You’ve fallen into the trap of wrongly defining what fitness entails.

          Where do we see evidence of the compassionate and trustworthy having more survivability?

          Because there’s strength in numbers. And overall surviveability increases when the members get along with each other.

        • kenodad

          “Because there’s strength in numbers.” Evidence?

        • Dys

          Evidence

          Society. Civilizations. Cultures.

        • kenodad

          Inept answer. Try a sentence or two.

        • Dys

          Your insistence on evidence for the fact that there is strength in numbers was inept. It didn’t deserve any more of a response than what I provided.

        • kenodad

          So you don’t rely on evidence? Just what is obvious to you? Gotcha.

        • Dys

          So you don’t rely on evidence?

          Considering your position on the matter, your use of this as a criticism is a joke. Nevertheless, you are incorrect.

          But it seems clear to me that you’re being intentionally dishonest. If you honestly need someone to explain to you why there’s strength in numbers, you need to go back to grade school, not argue about morality on atheist blogs.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Sea lion

        • MNb

          “why you think it is wrong for young girls to be mutilated?”
          Do you agree that female circumcision doesn’t contribute to the happiness of the victims?
          If yes – the vast majority of human beings, including believers, prefer being happy to being unhappy.
          There is your basis. Sure, it’s a shaky one (essentially an argumentum ad populum) but so is accepting the divine for objective morals, as WLC has shown unintendedly with his “genocide is objectively wrong unless my god commands it – then we should pity the executioners”.

  • Jacob

    So let me get this straight, he believes that because athiest believe in evil that it somehow proves an objective morality? Tell me, does he try to define what is evil? And then he asks which world view is best for tackling this issue…since the question is why if there is such an objective morality (which he doesn’t define) does evil still exist and why an all-loving, all powerful being allow it to happen anyways (which is what the Problem of Evil is actually all about)? If he defines morality, why doesn’t he do the moral thing and stop things like rapists, murders, earthquakes, miscarriages (so much for being pro-life huh?), childhood cancers, lukemia, car crashes, animal attacks, volcanic eruptions that kill millions, Hitler, any dictator, ect? If he doesn’t do anything to stop them is it by his will that they are somehow good? Or can he not do anything? Is he really good by any definition? Does such a being even exist?

    He goes “Which brings me to the most important question to ask of the problem of evil: Which worldview has the best resources to make sense of this challenge?” Without even trying to make an attempt to make sense of why evil exists. He is back to the point where he says “Evidence of egregious evil abounds. How do I account for such depravity?” Especially in the face, again of an all powerful, omnibenevolent deity who claims to love us. He ask who’s worldview works to explain it all…the atheist goes “well we define morality ourselves based on our experiences and biases, not too mention shit does happen.” At least we give an answer that accounts for everything instead of raising more questions when trying to reconcile evil with a supernatural entity. And then goes thinking that an atheist wouldn’t comfort a dying child. YES WE WOULD!!! I am an atheist and I try to give comfort to a person who’s dying. Unfortunately I admit that my comforts are limited in the the fact that she is dying, and there is nothing I can do. Telling her that she would go to a better place is worthless because I have no objective evidence that is where she is going, so I won’t give her false hope.

    Finally an arguement I keep hearing is that evil occurs because god gave us free will…ok first off it doesn’t explain all things that cause suffering that is out of our control such as disease, toxins in nature, falling from great heights by accident, ect…second if god is all good…then by this arguement, does God even have free will?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Yeah, the free will response is common. You’d think that they’d see the flaws in that approach.

      • Jacob

        Let’s go over that shall we? First off if evil only exists because God gave us free will…then that raises so many questions. First off, if he hates evil, why give us free will in the first place…second, if God is supposed to be good by nature, then does he have free will at all? Beyond the frightening implications of such a thought (i.e to be truly good you need to give up free will), if the theist tries to say no, god is good by nature but has free will, then the free will defense loses all meaning as we can as free will and evil are mutually exclusive(or to put it another way free will isn’t a condition for evil)…which further raises even more questions as towards why god doesn’t interfere with all the truly horrendous crap out there, especially those not caused by applications of free will (accidents, disease, famine ect…).
        Or if you are sticking to “evil is caused by free will” then god is capable of committing evil because he possesses free will and thus isn’t good by nature simply because he has the potential to commit evil. You could say that because he is all knowing that he will never ever choose to make an evil decision, first off if it is in his nature not to choose evil, then again, does he have free will? Second how do you know that? Bob, you pointed out that God has lied in the past, so is he really trustworthy? He has the capability to commit evil, but then say that he had good reasons…whatever they are.

      • Jacob

        Honestly, what I feel the guy you are ranting against is doing is sort of a combination of moving the goalposts and shifting the burden of proof. He can’t answer why god allows such egregious evil to abound, so he shifts things onto the athiest to see if he can explain evil…when that isn’t what the question is about!

      • kenodad

        Oooh. Free Will. One of my favorite topics.

        I don’t have a quote from a unqualified entertainer like Jillette, but I do have this:

        “Darwin has shown us that we are animals….The idea of free will does not come from science. Its origins are in religion-not just any religion, but the Christian faith.”
        John Gray, Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and other Animals

        • Dys

          The idea of free will certainly predates Christianity. I’m not sure what angle John Gray is going for.

        • kenodad

          He is going from the “angle” of observational evidence.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Free Will. One of my favorite topics.

          God could sure use a smart guy to shore up the free will defense against the PoE. The walls have crumbled.

          I don’t have a quote from a unqualified entertainer like Jillette

          Unqualified … to have an opinion? Wow—tough audience.

          He does nicely illustrate how embarrassing it is when Christians insinuate that they wouldn’t know right from wrong without God dictating stuff to them.

  • kenodad

    “But anyone in this situation with any rudimentary compassion would offer sympathy and try to make the child feel better. They’d read books or tell jokes or weave stories or sing songs or reminisce about happier times or play games with the child. Isn’t that what you’d do, Greg?”

    Why would YOU do that? WHY do you HAVE “rudimentary compassion”? Why do we ALL (at least those we consider normal) have this compassion thing…only because it makes for a good society? But societies have flourished WITHOUT compassion. The problem is EVERYONE does NOT have “rudimentary compassion.” You are obligated to provide some evidential reason that compassion is better than non-compassion (utilitarianism, for example). Utilitarianism seems the most wise use of resources, but least compassionate (get rid of useless old people, deformed children, too many children, etc.).

    • Dys

      But societies have flourished WITHOUT compassion.

      Have any examples? And not just “Egyptians had slaves, therefore they had no compassion” type silliness.

      The problem is EVERYONE does NOT have “rudimentary compassion.”

      Right. They’re called sociopaths and psychopaths. Or Christians who admit that if they didn’t believe in God they’d be doing whatever terrible actions struck their fancy.

      Utilitarianism seems the most wise use of resources, but least compassionate (get rid of useless old people, deformed children, too many children, etc.).

      Do you have a fully formed view of anything? Your description of evolution falls short of reality, and your notion of utilitarianism is sadly (and childishly) near-sighted as well.

      • kenodad

        Ancient Egypt has the longest-running successful society recorded as of yet. During that time, slavery was the norm. Subjugation of women was the norm. Intanticide was the norm. Political corruption was the norm. See The other side of history at the Great courses dot com for “proof”, which is what your likes tend to say next.
        Some of those sociopaths were held up as leaders (Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot).
        Conflating Christians and sociopaths is neither accurate, respectful, or constructive. Nice discussion.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Was every Egyptian a slave? No? Then I guess that’s a red herring for figuring out why Egyptian society worked for so long.

          Conflating Christians and sociopaths is neither accurate, respectful, or constructive.

          “The question I get asked by religious people all the time is, without God, what’s to stop me from raping all I want? And my answer is: I do rape all I want. And the amount I want is zero. And I do murder all I want, and the amount I want is zero.

          “The fact that these people think that if they didn’t have this person watching over them that they would go on killing, raping rampages is the most self-damning thing I can imagine.” – Penn Jillette

        • Dys

          My personal saying is that if mankind really needed to wait until Moses brought down the ten commandments to figure out that running around killing each other probably wasn’t the greatest idea in the world, Moses wouldn’t have had anyone to present the commandments to.

        • kenodad

          Lame.

          The question is not THAT we are moral creatures (theist and atheist), but WHY are we moral creatures and what GROUNDS our moral nature. There is no reason to reference ANY specific moral teaching or holy book to discuss these issues.

        • Dys

          but WHY are we moral creatures

          Then we agree that a God is not needed to dictate morality. Glad we ironed that obvious fact out so early. Although your response does neatly sidestep the clear deficiencies of biblical morality.

          I think you’d also be slightly depressed by the number of Christians who honestly think mankind needed commandments to figure out that killing, stealing, and lying were not conducive to a stable society.

        • kenodad

          The argument is not that God is needed to DICTATE morality, but that God is needed to GROUND morality.

          I might be “depressed by the number” if you actually gave a number. You have some number? A statistic.I think you are mistaken. Christian philosophical thought understands the necessity of GROUNDING morality in God. We all have a sense of right and wrong. Evolution poorly explains this sense because some “fit” behaviors are not morally acceptable.

        • Dys

          but that God is needed to GROUND morality.

          And you haven’t argued for that. You’ve just been insisting that evolution can’t explain it.

        • kenodad

          Koukl’s article argues for it.

          I will post these again because I like them:

          “The idea of universal human rights was a completely novel concept in history, resting on the Biblical teaching ‘that all human beings are created in the image of God.’ ”
          Richard Rorty “Moral Universalism and Economic Triage,” 1996 paper presented to UNESCO.

          or this from Nietzsche in The Will to Power:

          “Another Christian concept….has passed even more deeply into the tissue of modernity: the concept of the “equality of souls before God.” This concept furnishes the proto-type of all theories of human right.”

        • Dys

          And the blatant moral deficiencies of the biblical God make it clear that he is a poor explanation and grounding for any supposed moral truths as well.

          Your quotes do little more than make the point that some good notions have come from or been inspired by Christianity. That doesn’t, however, make their basis true.

        • kenodad

          Arguable “blatant moral deficiencies.”

          But the point is the grounding of morality is better justified by God (a morally perfect person) than an impersonal process (evolution).

          THEN it becomes the problem of identifying WHO that person is. If you reject the Biblical God, you have to provide another OR attempt to understand the “moral deficiencies” of the Biblical God.

        • MNb

          Only problem is that you haven’t made that point at all. As for identifying WHO that person is, I already told you above. He/she is called Homo Sapiens – the product of said evolution. You’re presenting a false dichotomy, for one thing because that god (an imaginary morally perfect person) is the product of human imagination and according to the divinely inspired word is not exactly morally perfect. One more genocide, anyone?

          “attempt to understand the “moral deficiencies” of the Biblical God.”
          Easy. The Biblical god is the product of the authors of the Bible and their readers. Hence the moral deficiencies of that god reflect the moral deficiencies of the societies that produced the Bible. That’s not exactly rocket science.

        • Dys

          You don’t seem to grasp how this actually works. You don’t get to dictate false dichotomies and pretend that it has to be a choice between one or the other. And as I surmised, your method of getting around the biblical God’s terrible morality is a throw to the special pleading of Mysterious Ways. Despite the fact that neither he nor his chosen people meet your definition of compassionate. So either your definition of compassion is deeply flawed, or you’re being incredibly inconsistent in its application.

          You don’t seem to understand that the supposed flaws that you see with morality being explainable via natural means are far less than trying to insist that they’re grounded in a deity. You’re just making the assertion that God is a better option. But since you can’t actually demonstrate that it’s the case, you’re left with trying to attack evolution and pretend that God gets the win by default.

          You’re acting like the Intelligent Design Creationist nuts who foolishly think that arguments against evolutionary theory somehow count as arguments for intelligent design. It’s the same mistake.

        • MNb

          Rorty is talking from the wrong end of his disgestive system. He dishonestly neglects “Liberté, egalité, fraternité”, which didn’t come from any Biblical teaching at all, given the anti-christian attitude of the those who promoted this slogan.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You’re not saying that the fundamental aspects of modern civil life come from the Bible, I hope?

        • MNb

          “WHY are we moral creatures”
          Already answered a gazillion times. Evolution.

          “and what GROUNDS our moral nature.”
          Pick your choice. Some say “avoiding suffering”. Others say “pursuit of happiness”. Daniel Fincke (I don’t pretend I understand him) talks about “empowerment”.
          No god needed.

        • kenodad

          And how is that an answer? Talk about an “inept” response.

          “Was every Egyptian a slave? No?” So what? I know you can string sentences together better than that. Your support: a Las Vegas magician? Really?

          My point is that Egypt was successful AND slavery was prominent and accepted. So compassion (at least defined by lack of slavery) is not necessary for a successful society.

          You have dodged the question. What evidential reason do you have to offer your characteristics of a good society (you will have to define good: fluorishing, productive, “fit”….what?)? And why cannot “productive” be the definition, which would eliminate compassion as helpful?

        • Dys

          My point is that Egypt was successful AND slavery was prominent and accepted. So compassion (at least defined by lack of slavery) is not necessary for a successful society.

          Great. So no ancient culture that practiced slavery (including the Hebrews and their God who provided the rules for how to do slavery the ‘right’ way) qualify as compassionate.

          So we can rule out the biblical God as a source for morality and compassion.

        • kenodad

          “So we can rule out the biblical God as a source for morality and compassion.”

          Only if you provide an alternative.

        • Dys

          Only if you provide an alternative.

          Sorry, but that’s not how it works. A person’s inability or unwillingness to provide an answer does nothing whatsoever to bolster your own claims.

          By your own definition, the God of the bible is ruled out. Unless you carve out one of those Mysterious Ways exceptions to get around the inconsistency, of course. But that basically just amounts to special pleading, and isn’t worth taking seriously.

        • MNb

          There is.
          Homo Sapiens.

        • MNb

          “My point is that Egypt was successful AND slavery was prominent and accepted. So compassion (at least defined by lack of slavery) is not necessary for a successful society.”

          No, but that was not what you wrote above. You wrote

          “WHY do you HAVE “rudimentary compassion”? Why do we ALL (at least those we consider normal) have this compassion thing…only because it makes for a good society?”
          Sneakily changing from “good society” to “successful society” is “neither accurate, respectful, or constructive.” Nice discussion indeed.

        • Philmonomer

          Conflating Christians and sociopaths is neither accurate, respectful, or constructive. Nice discussion.

          He wasn’t saying all Christians. He was saying those Christians who admit that if “they didn’t believe in God, they’d be doing whatever terrible actions struck their fancy.”

        • Dys

          So you actually think no one in Ancient Egypt had any compassion for anyone? Sorry, but your an attempt at an example doesn’t pass muster. Now, they’re certainly not as compassionate as most modern day societies, but to try and hold them up as a compassionless society is simply ridiculous.

          During that time, slavery was the norm. Subjugation of women was the norm

          Slavery was normal for the Israelites as well, and women were constantly referred to as property. Yet I doubt you’d hold them up as a compassionless society.

          Conflating Christians and sociopaths is neither accurate, respectful, or constructive. Nice discussion.

          I wasn’t comparing all Christians to sociopaths, just the ones who admit they’d have no restraint if they didn’t believe in God.

        • kenodad

          ” you actually think no one in Ancient Egypt had any compassion for anyone?”

          No, you asked for an example of a society where compassion is not a high value. I provided one. The only point being Bob will have to provide some evidential reason to support the contention that compassion is good for society. I have provided evidence that society can be quite successful without compassion as a value. You are conflating individual compassion with political or cultural compassion.

        • Dys

          No, you asked for an example of a society where compassion is not a high value.

          No, actually I didn’t. But even with your changing criteria, you didn’t provide an example of a society that didn’t value compassion. Insisting that a society that participated in slavery and held women in a lower social status therefore lacked compassion is a non-sequitur (one which is made clear when one draws the obvious parallels to the Israelites).

          You are conflating individual compassion with political or cultural compassion.

          No, I’m not. What you appear to be doing, however, is trying to force a black/white perspective on a situation that doesn’t support it.

          The only point being Bob will have to provide some evidential reason to support the contention that compassion is good for society.

          Which was already done, and is glaringly obvious. It seems to me you’re doing nothing more than playing devil’s advocate with your position. Which is your prerogative, but seems incredibly silly.

        • MNb

          “you asked for an example of a society where compassion is not a high value. I provided one.”
          Unfortunately what you not did is showing why we should prefer to live in that one instead of ours. So apparently compassion because it makes a good society is a good reason after all.

        • MNb

          “Ancient Egypt has the longest-running successful society recorded as of yet.”
          And therefor it’s a “good” society? I’d say this example rather shows the opposite of what you tried to argue above:

          “WHY do you HAVE “rudimentary compassion”? Why do we ALL (at least those we consider normal) have this compassion thing…only because it makes for a good society?”
          The level of compassion in Ancient Egypt seems a lot lower than today. Longest running or not, successful or not, I still rather live in this 21st Century. ‘Cuze compassion.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      We have compassion because of evolution. It’s part of our programming. Haven’t we been over this?

      The problem is EVERYONE does NOT have “rudimentary compassion.”

      Right. Not a problem to explain by evolution–it’s quite sloppy. But definitely a problem when God is supposed to have put morality in our hearts. Why go with that hypothesis when the natural one explains things just fine without the supernatural handwaving?

      • kenodad

        “We have compassion because of evolution. It’s part of our programming.”

        Here YOU are “handwaving” What evidence do you have that compassion has some fitness value? I have provided evidence from history to the contrary. You have not “naturally” explained how morality came from evolution.

        If you want to throw random quotes around:

        “The idea of universal human rights was a completely novel concept in history, resting on the Biblical teaching ‘that all human beings are created in the image of God.’ ”
        Richard Rorty “Moral Universalism and Economic Triage,” 1996 paper presented to UNESCO.

        or this from Nietzsche in The Will to Power:

        “Another Christian concept….has passed even more deeply into the tissue of modernity: the concept of the “equality of souls before God.” This concept furnishes the proto-type of all theories of human right.”

      • kenodad

        We also have greed, lust and anger because of evolution. Why is compassion “better” than selfishness?

        I think it IS “a problem” explaining these things with evolution. You must PROVE evidentially how the values we hold dearly (compassion, etc.) actually contribute to fitness. Just because we have them is not proof. I do not see how you have eliminated utilitarianism (which has little compassion as we understand it) as the most fit moral system for a society.

    • MNb

      “only because it makes for a good society?”
      Is that not a good reason for you?

      “But societies have flourished WITHOUT compassion.”
      Yeah – but take a closer look (the Roman Empire for instance) and those flourishing societies were not so good to live in for the vast majority of the people. I mean, during its best dayse Rome was worse than the worst 3rd World cities in the 21st Century.

      “The problem is EVERYONE does NOT have “rudimentary compassion.”
      Yes, that’s a problem and we’ll have to deal with it. But is that reason for YOU not to have any compassion at all? Would you prefer everyone to have the morality of Attila the Hun?

      “Utilitarianism seems the most wise use of resources, but least compassionate (get rid of useless old people, deformed children, too many children, etc.).”
      Nice strawman.

  • David Allan Carnes

    Solution to the Problem of Evil (more properly referred to as the problem of suffering):

    There are two kinds of suffering:

    1) Man-made (the Holocaust, for example)
    2) Non-man-made (earthquakes, for example)

    The solution to 1) lies in the value of free will. Without it, we are robots, not independent moral agents.

    The solution to 2) relies on the fact that there is one kind of person that a perfect word cannot produce — a hero, because heroes are born through adversity.

    Obviously God greatly values giving us the opportunity to become heroes. We won’t need courage in Heaven, since there will be nothing to fear — but hey, we don’t need the Himalayan Mountains either but they sure are beautiful.

    • Greg G.

      By that logic, God cannot make heroes without torture of people and animals.

      If suffering has any effect, then what it does is logically possible. Then, by the weak definition of omnipotence, that is, the ability to do what is logically possible, an omnipotent being should be able to accomplish the same thing without the suffering. That makes all suffering superfluous and unnecessary if there is an omnipotent, or even a sufficiently powerful being. A sufficiently powerful being that allows suffering to exist unnecessarily is malevolent and sadistic, not benevolent.

      There could be a malevolent omnipotent being that chooses that sentient beings suffer unnecessarily, but do you want to spend eternity with that?

      There could be a benevolent being that is not powerful enough to prevent suffering but do you want to spend eternity with a being that might be overwhelmed by unnecessary suffering for eternity. If we see so much suffering in a few billion years, what will happen after a trillion trillion years?

      There could be no such beings and unnecessary suffering is just an unfortunate byproduct of necessary sensory input that enhances the ability to survive and pass on genes to the next generation.

      • Kodie

        Why do we need heroes? They’re always accusing us of wanting to be god, and so what is a hero? Is cooperating and helping each other enough to say you’re a hero? It sounds pretty extreme. I don’t miss heroes when I don’t need one. I think it’s just a really weak argument that things are the way they are because god doesn’t want to deprive ordinary mortals of the chance to step in heroically to a dire situation. There are enough dire situations that heroic people cannot do enough. It’s the same shitty logic that argues for miracles whenever a bible survives a fire even though the family didn’t get out in time.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Most people aren’t appreciated enough,
          and the bravest things we do in our lives
          are usually known only to ourselves.
          No one throws ticker tape
          on the man who chose to be faithful to his wife,
          on the lawyer who didn’t take the drug money,
          or the daughter who held her tongue
          again and again.
          All this anonymous heroism.
          — Peggy Noonan

          (apologies if that’s a repeat)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      You’re determined to support your presupposition that God exists, regardless of the evidence, aren’t you?

    • adam

      “The solution to 1) lies in the value of free will. Without it, we are robots, not independent moral agents.”

      So like in ‘Heaven’

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f6edead041781202f80c75d015d387e6cc53a861b9cb5dd846e0f4dd40a5805a.jpg

      “The solution to 2) relies on the fact that there is one kind of person
      that a perfect word cannot produce — a hero, because heroes are born
      through adversity.”

      Hero’s create natural disasters?
      Why?

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/28b3e10c9441a33fce618cdb98800e4bba8705855d849fc6770b645bea4a0d33.jpg

      • David Allan Carnes

        Natural disasters create heroes not the other way around

      • David Allan Carnes

        You don’t have to believe in eternal torment to believe in God

        • adam

          Sure helps if you believe in Jesus.

          King James Bible Matt 25:46
          And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

        • David Allan Carnes

          Everlasting refers to a permanent state of affairs. That is death it means they will never rise again

        • Greg G.

          You don’t have to believe in eternal torment to believe in God

          Everlasting refers to a permanent state of affairs.

          You seem to have missed something:

          “everlasting punishment

    • Joe

      The solution to 1) lies in the value of free will. Without it, we are robots, not independent moral agents.

      What’s wrong with that?

      The solution to 2) relies on the fact that there is one kind of person that a perfect word cannot produce — a hero, because heroes are born through adversity.

      So everyone that dies in a natural disaster is just colateral damage to find a “hero”. Or maybe they just weren’t heroic enough?

      • David Allan Carnes

        Many who died in disasters are indeed heroes, often among the greatest of all heroes — the firefighters on 9/11, for example. They would have been no less heroes if 9/11 had been caused by an earthquake. The people on the Titanic who gave their lifeboat seats to children and then sunk beneath the waves to die are heroes. When death isn’t the end of existence, it can’t destroy a hero.

        • Joe

          What about the innocent citizens who died cowering in their homes? The children and infants buried under rubble?

          Your callous apologizing is shocking to me.

        • David Allan Carnes

          If death is the end of consciousness, indeed this is inexplicable for a loving God. But if life is just a drop in a vast ocean of eternity, things look a lot different.

        • Michael Neville

          Got any evidence that your god is (a) loving and (b) provides eternal life after death (that’s what I think your rather inane blathering is supposed to mean)?

          According to your propaganda your god invented Hell for those people he doesn’t feel quite as loving towards as those who don’t go to Hell. Infinite suffering for finite offenses is sadistic, not loving.

          He’s also not very loving to some people here on Earth.

          Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matt 6:26 (NIV)

          http://upperniletimes.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/12342646_463460650513159_3967201546645023853_n-655×360.jpg

        • David Allan Carnes

          I have already addressed all of these issues elsewhere in this thread.

        • Michael Neville

          I’ve just read every single one of your posts on this thread. Nowhere did you even attempt to provide evidence that your god is a “good” god. You made the claim but you didn’t support it.

        • David Allan Carnes

          What are your specific objections to my posts on this topic? IN other words, what was deficient about my support?

        • Michael Neville

          You make assertions but offer zip point zero evidence to support them, which is what I said before. If you can’t keep up, take notes.

        • David Allan Carnes

          Still no specific objections to my assertions. Only a blanket assertion that boils down to “You are ingorant so shut up”.

        • Michael Neville

          Alright, for the hard of thinking, here’s an example of an evidenceless assertion.

          You claim that your god is loving. You give no examples of your god’s “love”. None, nada, zero, zip point shit, no examples. I made the claim that your god doesn’t show love to actual real people and gave a photograph of a starving child. If your god was a “loving”, omniscient, omnipotent god then that child would not be starving.

          Your turn. Show me your god’s “love” for that child.

        • David Allan Carnes

          Think about your own life if you want evidence. Are you glad that you were born? You must be, since you haven’t killed yourself yet. If you’re glad, then think about why. That “why” is an example of God’s love for you personally.

          I am personally glad I am alive because it’s been a wonderful journey. There has been a lot of hardship too, but I realize that God isn’t Santa Claus, and I can see the value in suffering. Especially if you have the right attitude:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xn676-fLq7I

          Do you want me to list what he’s done in m life? Or do you want public examples? I am most intimate, of course, with the events in my own life (poisoned by a murderous frennemy resulting in two months in the hospital while my father was dying in the USA, married to a slut who Jeslept with all my friends behind my back, are both examples of suffering that God has allowed to happen to me; )

          In terms of why I can accept that he also allows suffering at all, I have already answered that.

          And I am sure that child is in heaven now, happier than any of us. A child that age is too young to sin, and therefore doesn’t need faith in Jesus.
          Maybe God allowed that horrible event to occur, and the photo to be taken, to stimulate the exact conversation we’re having right now. After all, that photo does raise issues that desperately need to be discussed.

        • Michael Neville

          So “god’s love” is what keeps me from killing myself. As the Australians would say: “Huh?” As to why I was born, nine months previous to my birth my parents had sex. God was at best a voyeur to that occurrence. I don’t kill myself because I have no reason for killing myself and I know that it would cause dismay and hardship for people I love. Human love actually exists, unlike imaginary love from an imaginary god.

          If you want me to accept “god’s love” you first have to show that a god exists. Once you’ve done that then we can discuss whether or not this god loves anyone.

        • David Allan Carnes

          On this thread I have already said where to look for him (and it;s not through the Hubble Space Telescope haha). But you have to look for him yourself. If you do, sooner or later you will find him. God is like a jilted woman who waits to be wanted, who wants to be pursued by who he/she loves. “She” is almost coy sometimes.

        • Kodie

          You sound like a paranoid lunatic in a codependent relationship with an abusive figment of your imagination. Not a ringing endorsement! I don’t want to be like you.

        • Paul B. Lot

          I try to only romantically pursue entities which do me the courtesy of existing.

          What evidence do you have that (g)God(s) does?

        • adam
        • BlackMamba44
        • Kodie

          I’m not the one who would miss me if I died.

        • adam
        • adam
        • David Allan Carnes

          When I was a little boy I thought my father was SO EVIL for sending me to the doctor for a penicillin injection. It HURT!!! Now I understand why he did that. Multiply that by 1,000 (the pain as well as the lack of understanding) and what you end up with is depicted in the photo above. Life is farging intense. If I had known my father better (through a personal relationship, not simply by reading a Book about him) I would have trusted him until I became old enough and smart enough to understand why my body needed penicillin. I’m still not old enough and smart enough to understand why God does some of the things he does, but I know him well enough to be confident that he has a good reason for everything he does or allows to happen. Never mind, though, I will still be whining to him as soon as I get a hangnail But that’s my shortcoming, not his. If you don’t know him, however, no wonder it infuriates you to see photos like this. It horrifies even me.

          Of course, the question naturally arises, whatever purpose God has in allowing suffering, if he is omnipotent, then why can’t he accomplish the same purpose without all the suffering? Which in turn boils down to the question, does “omnipotent” mean that God can violate the laws of logic? Can God make two plus two equal five? Can he make a square circle? Can he create a stone so heavy even he can’t lift it? Can he force someone to make a free choice? (to love him and to love others as well)? This is perhaps the deepest question in all of theology, and I don’t have it answered to my own satisfaction. Then again, I can’t understand why Einstein’s relativity and quantum theory are inconsistent with each other, but that doesn’t mean I think physics is BS — I am willing to accept a certain amount of ambiguity. I lean towards the belief that no, even God cannot make two plus two equal five, or force someone to make the free choice to love him. But this answer raises troubling philosophical questions of its own that I cannot answer to my own complete satisfaction (does that mean that God is subordinate to the laws of logic?, for example).

          Ultimately, however, since I have independent reasons to believe that God exists (elucidated elsewhere on this thread), I rely on decision theory — if God is evil then I am dead meat no matter what I believe; but if God is good then it is still no surprise that I don’t always understand the sense behind the actions of an infinitely intelligent being. So I am betting that he is good, because that’s the bet that makes the most sense once I know he exists in the first place.

        • Michael Neville

          That is so much BULLSHIT! You got a painful injection because you would benefit from it. What benefit does that child get from starvation? Be specific.

        • David Allan Carnes

          I can’t tell you for sure what the benefit was from that child’s starvation (I hear the guy who took that photo killed himself too). For me to know for sure the purpose of that child’s suffering would be like looking at one piece of that gigantic jigsaw puzzle we call life and telling you what that individual piece represents. I can’t see the whole puzzle, so I don’t know for sure. I do have some limited insights, however, into God’s purpose for some of the suffering I have experienced in my own life. For example:

          In 2014 I was poisoned by a woman who I’ll call May. She was a trusted friend, but little did I know she harbored a seething resentment of me. The reasons for her resentment are irrelevant, but suffice it to say that they didn’t even begin to justify murder. She worked as a manager of a restaurant I used to frequent when I lived in Shanghai, China. She poisoned my drink and I went to the hospital for two months in China, lost 18 inches of my colon, and returned to the US 10 days before my father died. He had been sick and asking about me for the whole 2 months. I had to wear a colostomy bag for 8 months after I returned home. Look up “colostomy bag” — it’s totally disgusting.

          When I was in the hospital in China, they did a 45-minute operation to remove a bowel obstruction. The operation was performed without any anesthesia whatsoever — no general anesthesia, no local anesthesia. I still don’t know why the doctors didn’t use anesthesia, but I was wide-awake throughout the operation. The operation required the doctors to shove surgical instruments up my butt and cut me up inside. I knew I was supposed to be humiliated by that, but I refused to be humiliated by it. Benefit No. 1: I learned that nobody can humiliate you without your permission. In the 3 years since then, this lesson has been SO useful and so beneficial to my peace of mind.

          The doctors removed 18 inches of my colon, then stitched my colon back together and sewed me up. Two days later my colon blew out and they had to do the operation all over again, and perform a colostomy on me. I went into intensive care this time, because when my colon blew out, bacteria spilled into my general abdominal cavity and gave me a condition called sepsis, which has a 15 to 30 percent mortality rate. I was in intensive care for three weeks with a catheter, unable to sit up, on the verge of death. And still cracking jokes with the nurses in Chinese (I learned Chinese from living in China so long). Benefit No.2: I had always feared dying, and it was a drag on my happiness. I didn’t fear death itself, but the process of dying. I wondered if I could handle all the suffering if I died a slow and lingering death, and I worried about it all the time. No more — I learned from that experience that I can handle it and still crack jokes. Learning that lesson has given me great peace of mind since then.

          When I got home, my father was almost dead. He was in the same shape as I had been in China — he couldn’t sit up, he wore a catheter, etc. I was better able to sympathize with him because of what I’d just bee through I had never gotten along with my father, but because of my own hospitalization, I was able to sympathize with his condition. We got along great those last 10 days. He was wanting to make amends with me and God put me in a position to be more sympathetic in order to let that happen. Suddenly, my father was cracking jokes even as he was dying, which removed the last vestiges of my fear of dying. He died peacefully in his sleep.

          The last benefit was a benefit for May, the woman who poisoned me. When she heard I was in the hospital on the verge of death, her reaction was “What have I DONE?” It made her realize that she was a murderer who needed God’s forgiveness. She sought Jesus, found him, and I hear that now she has become a much better, and happier, person. Not like the legalistic doctrine zombies you see so much of in church, but the happiness of someone who knows God personally. That was the fourth benefit.

          That fourth benefit was for May, not for me. God let me suffer so that May could be saved, just as he had his son Jesus suffer so that I could be saved. My hospitalization is not my grudge against God, it is my honor. I am so happy that May found Jesus. Even if I had died in the hospital, she still would have found God and it would have been worth it all just to see her in heaven someday.

        • Kodie

          Benefit #5: It made you sanctimonious as fuck.

        • David Allan Carnes

          Why is it that even loving your enemies gets criticized as “sanctimonious”? If that’s sanctimonious, then sanctimony is hard work, because it was difficult as hell for me to forgive her. If I had, instead, prayed for her to die, or poisoned her back, would you be calling me sanctimonious, or would you be calling me a hypocrite who speaks of love but doesn’t practice it? Or should I just shut up so you won’t feel uncomfortable anymore?

        • Kodie

          No, you’re taking your adversity and trying to transfer it onto all mankind. Just because you can flip it over to see the sunny side doesn’t mean there was a purpose to it.

        • adam
        • David Allan Carnes

          PS I bet you’d like to poison me too. You sound just like May used to before I went to the hospital.

        • Pofarmer

          Nobody here wants to poison you. But if you were as big of an asshole then as you are now, I can only guess May’s motivations.

        • Somebody

          Asshole? Highly inappropriate. From now on thou shalt refer to me as Your Assholiness or in the third person His Assholiness Otherwise I’ll call the Pronoun Police.

        • Kodie

          Asshole? Highly inappropriate. From now on thou shalt refer to me as Your Assholiness or in the third person His Assholiness Otherwise I’ll call the Pronoun Police.

          Or “The “artist” formerly known as David Allan Carnes, in his artistic prickishness, now commands others to refer to him as His Assholiness”. It’s a little long, but we don’t want to forget.

        • adam
        • Somebody

          PS Your Flatulent Assholiness would be even better but I suppose that’s too much to ask

        • adam
        • Somebody

          Whore of Babylon

        • adam
        • Kodie

          Seems like you had a wonderful time and are advocating that we should all be poisoned so we can grow positive just like you did.

        • Greg G.

          No Reply available to the other comments above.

          You got a painful shot because the doctor was not omnipotent.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Not only was the doctor not impotent, but that shot was to protect him from the diseases that God created.

        • MR

          That thing reads like some loony conspiracy theory.

        • Greg G.

          I can’t see the whole puzzle, so I don’t know for sure. I do have some limited insights, however, into God’s purpose for some of the suffering I have experienced in my own life.

          If the suffering can accomplish something, then that something is logically possible to do. If it is logically possible to do that something, then an omnipotent being could accomplish the something without the suffering.

          If God is omnipotent, then God is choosing to use suffering for no good reason. That would make him malevolent and sadistic rather than benevolent.

        • Somebody

          so kill him then since you’re so conviced he deserved it

        • Greg G.

          I think you may have replied to the wrong comment. It doesn’t address anything I said.

        • adam
        • adam
        • Somebody

          Agreed counterfeits abound

        • Kodie

          Dummy, he’s talking about you. I called you sanctimonious and you accused me of wanting to poison you.

        • adam

          Agreed you are counterfeit.

        • MR

          His response is more about him than it is about God.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You don’t know why there is suffering, but you do know that God has his own good reasons? Why not the other way around—you don’t know what reasons God could have, but you do know that no loving person tolerates gratuitous suffering.

        • Somebody

          Suffering is not gratuitous unless it is self inflicted otherwise it has value

        • Kodie

          You guarantee that suffering is not gratuitous? How FUCKING SANCTIMONIOUS OF YOU TO SPEAK FOR GOD.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Just a statement of faith? Or is there evidence/logic/reason that grounds that claim?

        • epeeist

          Or is there evidence/logic/reason that grounds that claim?

          Don’t all his posts constitute a monster argument from wishful thinking?

        • adam
        • Somebody
        • Kodie

          So, isn’t this bullshit keeping you up too late in China?

        • adam
        • adam

          “Suffering is not gratuitous unless it is self inflicted otherwise it has value ”

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a18a3237d360e002dbdd901e4a3f5688a3463b7d939dbc595090ceadb5ae4faa.png

        • Greg G.

          Even a weakly omnipotent being can do what suffering can do without the suffering so it is gratuitous unless you give up omnipotence.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Don’t ya just love it when the believer touts the divine mysterious ways when the questions are so very prickly to answer, but then they claim to know all manner of unknowable stuff about something they are so beneath to have any understanding.

          Talk about cherry picking.

        • Greg G.

          They know that God agrees with them regarding moral issues.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yup. They don’t know what God wants … but they do know that he’s against abortion and same-sex marriage.

        • Michael Neville

          What a touching story. I was particularly impressed with how the poisoner found Jesus and all that happy horseshit (which, being glurge*, was required to happen). Of course it has absolutely nothing to do with why your “loving” god allows little girls to starve to death.

          *WARNING! Link to TV Tropes.

        • adam
        • adam
        • Greg G.

          If Adam and Eve gained knowledge of good and evil by eating a fruit, why did you have to do all that suffering to gain a little insight? An omnipotent god could impart that by omnipotent means without the suffering.

        • Somebody

          Spoiled wuss. Stand up and be a man

        • MR

          I’m sure the starving child in the photo could use that advice.

        • Kodie

          Is that how you defend your imaginary friend, you sanctimonious piece of shit?

        • MR

          The irony is that it’s the Christian who is the wuss. The atheist looks around and understands that the world is full of suffering and that we have to deal with it the way it is. It’s the Christian who needs the concept of God to cope with the world, to protect him from imagined evils and to explain away all the bad things. The atheist is the adult in the room; it’s the Christian who needs to stand up and be a man.

          When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. –1 Corinthians 13:11

          Christianity is the teddy bear of the masses.

        • Greg G.

          Spoiled wuss. Stand up and be a man

          I always wanted to be a lumberjack.

          Others have suffered more than you did and were never reconciled with their fathers.

        • Paul B. Lot

          I always wanted to be a lumberjack.

          I like to press wild flowers.

        • Paul B. Lot

          Is this why I was forced to eat cabbage as a child, to gain insight?

        • Joe

          What benefit is the pain?

          The only benefit are in the contents of the injection.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Just assume God, and your worldview (which concludes God) falls into place? The rest of us have higher standards for our conclusions.

        • Somebody

          Falling into place equals explanatory power the next step is predictive validity

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Well, yes and no. You’ve made “God did it!” an unfalsifiable hypothesis. So it does explain everything. But because it explains everything, it explains nothing. Sorry.

        • epeeist

          But because it explains everything, it explains nothing.

          To paraphrase Marion Moore:

          [That] which explains everything explains nothing, and we are still in doubt.

        • adam
        • Susan

          it HURT!!

          Not really. Not as much as skinning your knee. To compare a needle to the awful process of starving to death is sickening. Theistic rationalizations are really sickening.

          Now, if your father just stabbed you in the arm with a needle without any clear reason for doing so, he would be awful.

          The reason is evident. To protect you from the consequences of not having a pencillin injection.

          You can’t use the same defense for the starving girl because you can’t show justification.

          That you imagine there must be justification is not good enough.

        • adam
        • MR

          That you imagine there must be justification is not good enough.

          It’s an escape valve for the cognitive dissonance. The idea of an tri-omni God is really quite appealing if you can ignore the inconsistent details. Scrutinizing the details is uncomfortable. These are clearly not the actions of a just being. It’s simply easier to pretend the inconsistencies don’t exist and that it all works out in the end. The illusion can be comforting, like stories we tell children to shelter them from the harsh realities of the world. But not all of us need children stories.

        • Susan

          The idea of an tri-omni God is really quite appealing

          It is. But it requires a disturbing sort of cold-bloodness and hubris to pretend there is one.

          If they bring up vaccinations and fucking hangnails one more time when confronted with the realities of natural selection, I might go all Kodie on their asses.

          It’s flabbergasting. Appalling. I can’t find words.

          And then the “without Yahwehjesus, there can be no moral grounding” routine.

          Sometimes, restraint is very difficult

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The silliest advantage I’ve heard of the Trinity is that it explains what God was doing before he created the universe–the 3 parts of the Trinity were loving each other. It’s all about love, right? Because “love” is the overwhelming feeling you get from reading the Old Testament.

          I think this is a Peter Kreeft argument.

        • Susan

          Because “love” is the overwhelming feeling you get from reading the Old Testament.

          Not just the Old Testament.

          I can’t emphasize this enough and no christian ever responds to it.

          The Old Testament is nothing, nothing at all compared to the history of natural selection on this planet.

          All that dwelling in “perfect love” and they broke that metaphysical egg to produce an exapanding universe of emptiness to produce (at least) 1 planet on which natural selection with its uncountable horrors that go on to this day

          …’cause “love”.

          =====

          Edit to add:

          I think this is a Peter Kreeft argument.

          Blech! Peter Kreeft! Right up there with Robert Spitzer.

          They just repeat the same old crap for a living.

        • MR

          And you notice that he totally side-stepped the whole comment about hell. Not easy to talk about a just God when you bring up that concept. Yes, cold-blooded hubris. They don’t see it, but that’s exactly what it is. The things we muggle can justify.

        • Ignorant Amos

          And that eternity in Hell thing, is a Jesus kinda thing.

          Of course, like everything else, liberal wishy-washy Christian’s are scurrying about trying to redefine the concept…forlornly.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I might go all Kodie on their asses.

          Well I hope you have been in training offline.

        • adam

          ” I’m still not old enough and smart enough to understand why God does
          some of the things he does, but I know him well enough to be confident
          that he has a good reason for everything he does or allows to happen. ”

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bc3d2f2cc6d56454300f773d819a6ad3a142b9a220646a2efef4b5414944542b.jpg

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          If.

        • Ignorant Amos

          You do realise how long eternity is, right?

          “What must it be, then, to bear the manifold tortures of hell forever? Forever! For all eternity! Not for a year or an age but forever. Try to imagine the awful meaning of this. You have often seen the sand on the seashore. How fine are its tiny grains! And how many of those tiny grains go to make up the small handful which a child grasps in its play. Now imagine a mountain of that sand, a million miles high, reaching from the earth to the farthest heavens, and a million miles broad, extending to remotest space, and a million miles in thickness, and imagine such an enormous mass of countless particles of sand multiplied as often as there are leaves in the forest, drops of water in the mighty ocean, feathers on birds, scales on fish, hairs on animals, atoms in the vast expanse of air. And imagine that at the end of every million years a little bird came to that mountain and carried away in its beak a tiny grain of that sand. How many millions upon millions of centuries would pass before that bird had carried away even a square foot of that mountain, how many eons upon eons of ages before it had carried away all. Yet at the end of that immense stretch time not even one instant of eternity could be said to have ended. At the end of all those billions and trillions of years eternity would have scarcely begun. And if that mountain rose again after it had been carried all away again grain by grain, and if it so rose and sank as many times as there are stars in the sky, atoms in the air, drops of water in the sea, leaves on the trees, feathers upon birds, scales upon fish, hairs upon animals – at the end of all those innumerable risings and sinkings of that immeasurably vast mountain not even one single instant of eternity could be said to have ended; even then, at the end of such a period, after that eon of time, the mere thought of which makes our very brain reel dizzily, eternity would have scarcely begun.” ― James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

          For some reason you think an eternity in Heaven won’t be Hell…sheeesh!

        • Joe

          But if life is just a drop in a vast ocean of eternity,

          Why would I believe something as ridiculous as that.

        • MR

          Christianity turned my brain into sappy mush at times, too. Sigh.

      • epeeist

        So everyone that dies in a natural disaster is just colateral damage to find a “hero”.

        Sounds to have shadows of Nietzsche’s Ubermensch to me, though with overtones of his sister’s interpretation of his work.

    • Susan

      There are two kinds of suffering

      Two? Really? Two?

      1) Man made (the Holocaust, for example)
      2) Non-man made (earthquakes for example)

      The solution to 1) lies in the value of free will.

      You’d have to define “free will”, show that your definition of it exists and that it has “value”.

      Obviously, God greatly values giving us the opportunity to become heroes.

      Oh, you meant man-made or “God”-made. That’s a different thing entirely. You are claiming a moral agent now.

      Nothing obvious. First, you haven’t defined “God”. You haven’t shown that your definition of it exists, or that even if you could, that you can show what it values or why it’s a good thing to create a universe in which a tiny planet produces hundreds of millions of years of suffering so you can feel like a “hero”.

      You are just an Ignorant name caller. You must be from a group called Ignorant-R-Us.

      Explain what “Heaven” is, why we should think it exists and how you know what we would need there if it did.

      we don’t need the Himalayan mountains either but they sure are beautiful.

      Seriously? Ever tried to survive on them? Have you ever heard of avalanches?

      They’re pretty if you ignore what they can do to you and look at the photos

      • David Allan Carnes

        “Nothing obvious. First, you haven’t defined “God”. You haven’t shown that your definition of it exists, or that even if you could, that you can show what it values or why it’s a good thing to create a universe in which a tiny planet produces hundreds of millions of years of suffering so you can feel like a “hero”.
        You are just an Ignorant name caller. ”

        Define “obvious”. Define “definition” Define “Define”. Define “ignorant” Define “universe” Otherwise, you are just an ignorant name caller.

        So, am I learning your style well or not? It’s nice to converse with non-ignorant, non-name-calling people like yourself. I learn so much that way!

        • Susan

          So am I learning your style well or not?

          No.

          With the exception of “universe”, the words you ask for definitions of are pretty straightforward.

          For instance “obvious”. easily seen, recognized, or understood; open to view or knowledge; evident:

          I’m not going to clog up a combox with the rest.

          If you invoke “free will” to defend “God”, it’s only reasonable that you are clear about what you mean by both.

        • David Allan Carnes

          So are mine. If you don’t know what the word God means, how could you possibly be an atheist? I don’t know what “monads” are either, si I can’t tell you whether they exist or not.

        • Kodie

          When delusional people fail to convince me to believe in a figment of their imagination, but still think this is an important subject to argue, I kind of have no choice to say they’re full of shit, i.e. I am an atheist. Seriously – you came to an atheist blog on a 4 year old thread to tell us something, and it makes you mad that people don’t buy what you’re selling.

          Maybe because it’s crap.

        • Somebody

          You’ve been spending too much time and energy talking to a delusional person. Like me. Why?

        • Kodie

          It’s my day off and it’s raining.

        • Somebody

          Plus your toaster is broken

        • Kodie

          Everyone here knows I don’t have a toaster. Are you here to entertain me by being stupid, full of shit, full of yourself, arrogant, and still fucking stupid?

        • Somebody

          Well OK if you insist Good Night

        • Kodie

          Why do you waste my time.

        • Michael Neville

          Didn’t IA threaten to fix your toaster if you sent it to him? Or am I confusing IA with an omnipotent, loving god?

        • Kodie

          That sounds familiar and expensive, as I would not only have to ship a toaster to Ireland, I would have to buy one first. Toasters are for suckers, I use the oven.

        • Michael Neville

          Toasters are for suckers

          And all this time I thought toasters were for toast. Shows how wrong I can be.

        • Kodie

          Don’t put toast in your toaster, it’s already toasted.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Now there you go–people think that it’s so simple, but it’s trickier than you’d think. There are rules, people!

        • Kodie

          You can put toast back in the oven to melt the butter you forgot to take out of the fridge. Can’t do that with a toaster!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          John Candy as a food repairman:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCxscU0hWok

        • Kodie

          The pretzels. I’m dyin!

        • Ignorant Amos

          “Roy, you’re a peach”…..

        • Paul B. Lot

          Hahaha, yessss.

        • Paul B. Lot

          Would you look at that, guys? They used the “you’re a peach” expression in that weird way that I was used to.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Don’t you butter your toast while the toast is still warm?

          We have a toaster and we also use the oven…both have their pro’s and con’s.

        • Kodie

          If I forget to take the butter out, it won’t spread. I’m not a scientist, but I think it’s about the surface of bread that it cools off too fast. I don’t want a toaster. I had one once, and it sucked, and then I told someone my toaster sucked, so she gave me an almost identical toaster I didn’t want, that I then found out she bought for a dollar at a yard sale. I didn’t have a toaster growing up, we had a series of electric toaster ovens (and also the actual oven was always electric). Moving on my own, I’ve almost always had a gas oven and had at one time the two toasters that didn’t make it on my last move. How much counter space to something that can only make one thing that isn’t coffee.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Two words: butter bell. It’s one of mankind’s greatest inventions. It keeps butter at room temperature while protecting it from germs underwater.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/71439fcb7677a9325052127095a063817f75c5b322884a308b159590808007d4.jpg

        • Kodie

          I have a system, Bob. I feel like a sugar bowl would also work.

        • adam

          “You’ve been spending too much time and energy talking to a delusional person. Like me. Why? ”

          To try and stave off other delusional people…..

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cdf1945c329723ddbb7c03a5aa7c5a3ef1bae3c5f93caabe7aed79f438227c78.jpg

        • Ignorant Amos

          That’s why Susan is an Igtheist.

        • Susan

          If you don’t know what the word God means, how could you possibly be an atheist?

          I would be described as an atheist because I don’t believe any description of any god I’ve been given exists. Simple.

          And as @Ignorant_Amos:disqus points out below, I am an igtheist.

        • Joe

          If you don’t know what the word God means, how could you possibly be an atheist?

          That would be a very good reason to be an atheist.

        • David Allan Carnes

          God: the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being.

          Free will: ibertarian free will means that our choices are free from the determination or constraints of human nature and free from any predetermination by God. All “free will theists” hold that libertarian freedom is essential for moral responsibility, for if our choice is determined or caused by anything, including our own desires, they reason, it cannot properly be called a free choice. Libertarian freedom is, therefore, the freedom to act contrary to one’s nature, predisposition and greatest desires. Responsibility, in this view, always means that one could have done otherwise.

          Compatibilist vs. libertarian views of free will
          The Compatibilist believes that free will is “compatible” with determinism (as in the sovereignty of God). The incompatibilist says that the free will is “incompatible” with determinism. The Libertarian is an incompatibilist who consequently rejects any determinism associated with the sovereignty of God. Hence, Libertarian Free Will is necessarily associated with both Open Theism, which maintains that God does not foreknow or predetermine the free choices of man, and Arminianism, which admits that God in his omniscience foresees man’s free choices and reacts accordingly. Libertarian freedom is the general view of liberal Protestantism and a growing number of evangelicals.

          The Compatibilist view – This view affirms that man freely chooses what God has determined that he will chose. In this way, the idea that God is in charge, and the idea that man can be held responsible for his actions are compatible ideas. Free will is affected by human nature and man cannot choose contrary to his nature and desires. This view acknowledges man as a free moral agent who freely makes choices. But due to the effects of the fall, as contained in the doctrine of total depravity, man’s nature is corrupted such that he cannot choose contrary to his fallen nature — He cannot discern spiritual things or turn to God in faith apart from divine intervention.

          The Libertarian view – According to libertarianism, the idea that God causes men to act in a certain way, but that man has free will in acting that way is logically false. Free means uncaused. Man has free will, and his decisions are influenced, but not caused. God limits the actions of men, but not their mind or will. Man has the ability to turn to God in Christ and sincerely ask for help, selfishly perhaps, apart from specific (special) divine enablement. According to Arminianism, God, in his freedom, not only sets a condition on salvation and wills only to save those who would ask Him to rescue them. God, then, predestines those who He “foreknew” to salvation. Or, according to Open Theism, God is anxiously waiting to see what each person will do, for he cannot know ahead of time what the choice might be.

        • David Allan Carnes

          I am referring to the Judeo-Christian concept of God and to libertarian free will (the kind of free will that we all intuit that we have)

        • Susan

          I am referring to the Judeo-Christian concept of God.

          There is no the Judeo-Christian concept of God. There are many. What do you mean by “God”?

          and to libertarian free will (the kind of free will that we all intuit that we have.)

          Explain.

        • Joe

          libertarian free will (the kind of free will that we all intuit that we have)

          The kind that doesn’t seem to exist, you mean?

    • Joe

      There are two three kinds of suffering:

      1) Man-made (the Holocaust, for example)
      2) Non-man-made (earthquakes, for example)
      3)Reading canned apologetic bullshit like this

      Fixed.