9 Responses to Christian Hell (3 of 3)

Let’s conclude our critique of the Christian idea of hell with one final response. This one’s a biggie.

I responded to William Lane Craig’s justification for hell here, and this series of posts critiquing Christian hell begins here. We’ll conclude with one final point.

9. Heaven is hellish

How can you be happy in heaven, knowing of the billions of people in torment in hell, especially if heaven gives you wisdom or enlightenment to more clearly perceive right and wrong? One response is that our human compassion must be deadened so that we’re no longer concerned about the suffering. Thomas Aquinas’s logic went like this: “Whoever pities another shares somewhat in his unhappiness. But the blessed cannot share in any unhappiness. Therefore they do not pity the afflictions of the damned.” By this view, heaven is so horrible a place that one must be anesthetized to endure it.

The opposite argument—that those in heaven will celebrate the torture—is also popular. To show how consistent this schadenfreude is throughout Christian opinion, I’ll share a number of quotes. First, from the early church fathers:

What a spectacle . . . when the world . . . shall be consumed in one great flame! . . . What there excites my admiration? What my derision? Which sight gives me joy? As I see . . . illustrious monarchs . . . groaning in the lowest darkness, philosophers . . . as fire consumes them!
— Tertullian (d. 240)

They who shall enter into [the] joy [of the Lord] shall know what is going on outside in the outer darkness. . . . The saints’ . . . knowledge, which shall be great, shall keep them acquainted . . . with the eternal sufferings of the lost.
— Augustine (d. 430)

From thirteenth-century theologian Thomas Aquinas:

The saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy.

That the saints may enjoy their beatitude more thoroughly, and give more abundant thanks to God for it, a perfect sight of punishment of the damned is granted them.

From the First Great Awakening (early eighteenth century):

The view of the misery of the damned will double the ardor of the love and gratitude of the saints in heaven. The sight of hell-torments will exalt the happiness of the saints for ever. It will not only make them more sensible of the greatness and freeness of the grace of God in their happiness, but it will really make their happiness the greater, as it will make them more sensible of their own happiness
— Rev. Jonathan Edwards

The godly wife shall applaud the justice of the Judge in the condemnation of her ungodly husband. The godly husband shall say “Amen!” to the damnation of her who lay in his bosom. The godly parent shall say “Hallelujah!” at the passing of the sentence of his ungodly child; and the godly child shall from his heart approve the damnation of his wicked parent who begot him and the mother who bore him.
— Rev. Thomas Boston

Though Christian apologists usually have the tact to tap dance around this issue today, this “God’s plan must be perfect . . . somehow” attitude is sometimes confronted frankly. A Catholic Truth Society pamphlet from fifty years ago said, “What will it be like for a mother in heaven who sees her son burning in hell? She will glorify the justice of God.”

Besides abandoning the entire senseless jumble of claims, what option do they have? 

The God that holds you over the pit of hell,
much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire,
abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked:
his wrath towards you burns like fire;
he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else,
but to be cast into the fire . . .
you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes,
than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.
— Jonathan Edwards,
“Sinners in the hands of an angry god” (1741)

 Image via Quinn Dombrowski, CC license

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  • Bob Jase

    Heaven – where Hostel and The Human Centipede play on an endless loop for the enjoyment of all good souls.

    • TheMountainHumanist

      and Hanson

      • “Havin’ my baby” by Paul Anka.

        • Michael Neville

          “MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris and “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin.

        • TheMountainHumanist

          Anything by Yoko One “She gets down on her knees to throw up LIIIIFE”

        • al kimeea

          cringe, He’s from Ottawa 8P

      • Jack Baynes

        When I was in college, I went to a concert. The opening band had a song “Everything falls apart” with a bridge about how God lets things fall apart so people will pray to him and he’ll have things to do.

        In the concert, they added extra bits, including God saying “That’s why I sent Hanson to you”

        • TheMountainHumanist

          And Jesus spaketh unto his disciples…verily verily I say unto thee.. mmm bop bop ba bop bop

    • Giauz Ragnarock

      Jesus’ favorite band turns out to be Nickelback…

  • Damien Priestly

    No more hypotheticals here !! There is another post with comments on the nonsensical “what would you do if the Bible was true?” Here is something not hypothetical…

    …Hell was likely borrowed from the Greeks by early Christians, maybe even by Yeshua himself (if he’s real). Jewish teaching at the time had no significant afterlife. But first century Palestine was under Greco-Roman influence for a few hundred years. The story of the Olympians describes Zeus throwing a Titan, Kronos, into Tartarus, the lowest place in the Greek underworld, after cutting him up with a scythe, to live there forever…Sound familiar?

    Bronze age religions were all about plagiarism!

    • Glad2BGodless

      Interesting!

    • sandy

      Sound familiar?…All I can think about now is having fish for dinner with tartar sauce.

      • Joe

        As long as the fish is good enough for Jehovah.

        • Michael Neville

          No one is to stone anyone until I blow this whistle. Even, and I want to make this absolutely clear, even if they do say “Jehovah”.

        • epicurus
        • al kimeea

          watched that a few weeks ago, so funny

    • SparklingMoon,

      The belief in the continuity of the existence of the human soul is a universal belief, and one so deeply rooted in the very nature of man that the most powerful forces of materialism have not yet affected it. Whether the deep-rootedness of this belief in human nature is due to its innateness, or whether, as an atheist or an agnostic would argue, it clings to the mind with the ordinary tenacity of old associations, it is a solid fact that the belief in a life after death has not lost any ground even in this civilized and materialistic age. And it is equally true that the progress of science and the application of scientific principles to all branches of learning is in favour of, rather than against, the truth of such a belief.

      Starting on the basis, then, that there is a life after death for every human being, the first question of vital importance which arises in connection with this belief is of the state of the soul in that after life. That every religion has preached that the righteous will be rewarded for their good deeds and the wicked punished for evil deeds is an undeniable fact, but even philosophically considered the question affords a similar solution. We see that most often a man reaps, even in this life, the good or bad consequences of his good or bad deeds and that, except in rare cases, he himself is responsible for the happiness or misery which is his lot in this life.

  • sandy

    There seems to be a lot of thinking going on once you are dead and in heaven or hell. We know what happens, here on earth, if you get your brain damaged, you lose some of your brain’s functions. If you are totally brain dead, you are a done, thinking has stopped and we pull the plug. So how is it that when you die and you have no brain, as it has rotted away, that you are going to be cognitive and conscious, in any way possible, to enjoy heaven or get tortured forever? I’ve never heard a christian explain this one to me, that makes any sense, other than just made up wishful thinking about us having a soul that presumably comes with a mini brain of it’s own that has transferred over all the data from our earthly brain. Sam Harris, neurologist, makes this point about how improbable or impossible an afterlife could be.

    • Kevin K

      Physicists don’t particularly care for the concept of a soul either, since there is no Feynman diagram that describes it (and there should be).

      • sandy

        and I will presume no Feynman diagram for a miracle as well

        • Kevin K

          Which one? There should be a different one for each type of miracle. Turning water into wine would require the power of a nuclear fusion reactor. Walking on water … anti-gravity field of some sort.

        • sandy

          You’re right. I wasn’t familiar with the Feynman diagram concept until you brought it up and I did a little googling about it. I have a friend with a masters in physics who is a priest/deacon in his church and I am going to give this one a go with him if allowed to go there (I am not allowed to bring up religion around he and his wife as they don’t like where the discussions go). But we should have a diagram for each miracle as you state. I am most interested in the Virgin birth diagram, could be a bit of good humour displayed in that one. Jesus “disappearing” for 30 years is another “miracle” I would like to see on paper.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          ” Walking on water … anti-gravity field of some sort” not where i live. We call it ICE it happens in WINTER. We also have white fluffy stuff that you can eat fall from the sky. And although I aint seen many seas parted, we have big trucks that move tons of water (again, see ICE/SNOW) all the time.Maybe I should just write ‘The Damned Yankee Bible’ to NYsplain all those complicated bits in the older the version O_o

      • Glad2BGodless

        Was that Feynman’s soul omission?

    • Joe

      Well according to Christian theology there’s at least one, maybe two (if you’re Catholic) physical bodies in heaven. I’d feel cheated if I was just a cloud of gas floating around.

      • Jack Baynes

        Didn’t one of the old Testament prophets ascend, too?

        • Elijah did (look up “fiery chariot”). Maybe Enoch, too?

        • TheMountainHumanist

          Also Melchelzedek in Genesis.

        • I don’t see that. In Genesis 14, there is: “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram.” But Melchizedek is famously enigmatic. Jesus was a high priest on the order of Melchizedek, so the guy must’ve been important in someone’s mind. But I don’t see any thing about his death.

        • TheMountainHumanist

          I may be thinking of another Genesis character….or maybe I was thinking of this passage (although it does not say he was lifted to heaven..just that he never died).

          He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. Hebrews 7

        • There’s Enoch: “Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24).

          Enoch is fun because he lived 365 years (get it? get it?). The sun is associated with 365, and I’ve heard this as a clue that Enoch came from an earlier sun god.

        • TheMountainHumanist

          AhhhhhhhhHAAAAA

          yeah..I also think Samson was a solar god myth…

        • Joe

          I think you’re right, He must have been waiting around a while before the host of the party showed up.

      • Why the mixture? Shouldn’t heaven be only one kind or the other? Wouldn’t a physical body need food and water?

        • Joe

          I don’t think they actually thought the implications through, like most Christian theology.

          The two bodies are Jesus and Mary (if you grant the assumption). I guess it’s for VIPs only, hence the mixture of human bodies and whatever souls are?

        • They say it is a “glorified” body, which presumably has no need for food and water. Jesus has also been portrayed as saying there will be no sex.

        • Bob Jase

          No sex, no food, no net, no tv, no books – just a bunch of old relatives I avoided seeing while I was alive – you call this paradise?

        • al kimeea

          Breatharians we be?

    • They claim that you will be bodily resurrected, or that the mind is not dependent on the brain at all.

      • al kimeea

        How does that work for a 14 week old?

        • Good question. Some claim that we are aged up (or aged down when old) to an ideal age, like around twenty or thirty.

        • Bob Jase

          Which would leave a physical adult with the mental & emotional state of a 14 week old – no life experiences to mature or learn from having happened.

        • I guess they could posit that is added too. Though really, how are we even speaking of the same person at that point?

        • Greg G.

          In 1 Corinthians 15:51-54, Philippians 3:20-21, and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Paul says the believers will get changed into imperishable bodies.

          If you change a tire on your car, is it the same car? What if you change half the parts on the car is it still the same car? What if every part of the car is replaced, is it still the same car? What if all the replaced parts are reassembled? Which is the same car?

          So, if you are a Christian, a replica of you gets to go to heaven to spend eternity with the Lord. If you don’t become a Christian, an effigy of you gets punished forever and ever.

        • Yep, that’s what I was thinking about.

          Ship of Theseus problem, they call that. You could really say the same thing for us though, since our bodies replace their atoms, not to mention new memories etc. Continuity of personhood is the answer some philosophers give to that.

          That’s one of the best arguments against the coherence of any resurrection I think.

        • richardrichard2013

          hello greg

          you know, jc appears as unrecognisable and some even doubt it was him. carrier recently said that all this could mean that the man they thought was jesus was not actually jesus.

          here is another problem . jesus appears unrecognisable for hours and in lukes gospel there is not one hint that jesus had a wounded body, he just distinguishes himself from ghost.

          john is the only gospel which has jesus show off his wounds. but if the body can switch from recognisable to unrecognisable, what then does resurrection mean?

          if one can magically bring out wounds on face and then make them disappear, what does resurrection mean?

        • Greg G.

          I think the gospels are complete fictions. Mark started it but didn’t have anything about Jesus appearing after the implied resurrection. The other three gospels are dependent on Mark but were free to come up with their own resurrection stories. The contradictions you bring up underscore that.

          Luke 4:23 has “Physician, heal thyself”. If Jesus could raise children from the dead, he should be able to raise himself. He was slippery as an eel when they wanted to toss him off the cliff. Maybe he was a shape-shifter.

        • Glad2BGodless

          So we and our parents and our kids are all the same age? Sounds like a set-up for “Back to the Future”-ish hijinx.

    • Greg G.

      There are drugs that block the formation of proteins that build connections between neurons and also prevent the formation of long-term memory. Do they think there is no connection between these connections and memory? What happens when these connections decay?

  • skl

    At the risk of unleashing another massive sub-thread, as at
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2018/02/9-responses-christian-hell-2-3/#disqus_thread,
    I offer a couple observations or counterpoints:

    1)
    “Heaven is hellish… Thomas Aquinas’s logic went like this… heaven is so horrible a place that one must be
    anesthetized to endure it.”

    Maybe heaven and hell are about the same, but the residents of heaven get anesthesia while
    those in hell don’t. 😉

    2)
    “How can you be happy in heaven, knowing of the billions of people in torment in hell…”

    In a certain sense, this happens all the time in real life. Any differences between real life and an afterlife are just matters of degree.
    Take a current example:
    Philadelphia Eagles fans are in “heaven” right now, and may be a million or more strong for the parade in the city tomorrow.
    They’ll be happy and cheering mightily, despite being aware the Patriot fans are in “hell.”

    3)
    “From thirteenth-century theologian Thomas Aquinas: The saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked…”

    Again, this happens all the time in real life, as well as in our fantasy Hollywood life.

    A current real life example:
    A judge gladly sentenced Larry Nassar to prison for the rest of his existence.
    And many applauded the “eternal” sentencing.

    From our Hollywood fantasies, the examples are endless of movie good guys finally delivering brutal justice to the brutal bad guys.
    And the audience rejoices.

    Hell, this whole thing could be looked at as just a matter of differences in degree.

    • sandy

      “Hell, this whole thing could be looked at as just a matter of differences in degree.” Exactly. For most of us, spending an eternity in heaven with the christian god would certainly be Hell.

      • Anthrotheist

        Degrees do make a difference when they are infinite. 🙂

        *edited for being in the wrong place. oops!

      • Tony D’Arcy

        Or even 5 minutes with the bastard.

    • Anthrotheist

      Alright, I’ll play.

      1) “Maybe heaven and hell are about the same, but the residents of heaven get anesthesia while those in hell don’t.”
      Heaven-as-an-opium-den is perhaps the first depiction of Heaven that I find both makes some semblance of sense, while loosing little or none of its appeal.
      Well done!!

      2) “They’ll be happy and cheering mightily, despite being aware the Patriot fans are in “hell.”
      But there’s always next year! Except in Hell, which is absolutely nothing like a mutually consensual seasonal sporting competition.

      3) “A judge gladly sentenced Larry Nassar to prison for the rest of his existence.”
      You forgot to add, “in which he will be brutally tortured every moment of every day without the possible release of death.” If Hell was like prison, it wouldn’t really be Hell. It would be prison.

      “Hell, this whole thing could be looked at as just a matter of differences in degree.”
      I really wish people in debates would be a bit more careful with the use of the word “just”, as in “evolution is just a theory”. I’m not blaming you for that mistake specifically, but it is still a disingenuous way of dismissing the significance of a thing without actually expounding on why it lacks significance. In the case of Hell vs. any real-life example, the matter of ‘degree’ becomes — literally — infinite.

    • Raging Bee

      Again, this happens all the time in real life, as well as in our fantasy Hollywood life.

      Not FOREVER it doesn’t. In most cases, not even for an hour. I didn’t rejoice in Osama’s death for even a minute.

    • Damien Priestly

      Uggh, forget primitive Thomas Aquinas — here is the real story about Heaven vs. Hell …

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZplzRg6ZP4

      • Jack Baynes

        I like reincarnation as an afterlife framework. Your actions on Earth have consequence, a good life is rewarded/a bad life is punished, but even if you’re so bad you get reincarnated as a slug, you still have a chance to redeem yourself for the NEXT life after that.
        Better than an all-or-nothing Heaven-or-Hell system.

    • You seem confused about one point. It’s a small point, I’ll admit, but for completeness, I think it needs to be worked into your thinking.

      That point is this: God is perfect. He’s omni-everything. As a result, God is held to a higher standard than humans. Showing that humans do something imperfect that God also does doesn’t excuse God, it just shows that God is as bad as petty humans … and therefore not like the Christian scriptures claim.

      What lesson do we draw from this?

      • skl

        “You seem confused about one point. It’s a small point, I’ll admit, but for completeness, I think it needs to be worked into your thinking.
        That point is this: God is perfect. He’s omni-everything.

        If it’s omni-everything then maybe this god is
        both omni-benevolent and omni-malevolent.

        But one thing I’d like to know is where in the bible this “omni” language is used, especially the “omnibenevolent”.

        “As a result, God is held to a higher standard than humans.”

        Another thing I’d like to know is by what justification anyone thinks they can hold god to a standard (i.e. thinks they can judge god).

        “What lesson do we draw from this?”

        For about the tenth time now:
        That this bible god is an extreme god.

        • Another thing I’d like to know is by what justification anyone thinks they can hold god to a standard (i.e. thinks they can judge god).

          Do you think you can judge Zeus? When he screws around, frustrating his wife Hera, can you render judgment as to who’s right?

          Of course you can. The same is true for Yahweh. Once we know that he exists (you apparently have already made that conclusion), then we can decide what right we have to judge a god. But of course we don’t. We are given Christian claims about Yahweh, and we judge them. We must judge them. And we find that Yahweh is a product of his time. He’s an asshole.

          “What lesson do we draw from this?”
          For about the tenth time now: That this bible god is an extreme god.

          Share with me sometime what this is supposed to mean. You’re saying the story is extreme? God, who exists, is extreme? The story is all over the map, so therefore it should be rejected as history?

        • skl

          “Do you think you can judge Zeus?”

          I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone judging Zeus. I certainly haven’t seen multiple blogs about it.

          “… we can decide what right we have to judge a god.”

          We can decide to try to do anything we want.
          My point was that I’d like to know by what justification anyone thinks they can hold god to a standard (i.e. thinks they can judge god).

          “We are given Christian claims about Yahweh, and we judge them. We must judge them.”

          Perhaps you mean “judge” as in ‘develop opinions/understandings about’ this god. That sounds fine.

          But what I meant is “judge” as in ‘put on trial and decide its fate.’
          That makes as much sense to me as a swarm of gnats putting Bob
          Seidensticker on trial.

          “What lesson do we draw from this?” For about the tenth time now: That this bible god is an extreme god.

          “Share with me sometime what this is supposed to mean. You’re saying the story is extreme?”

          Yes.

          “God, who exists, is extreme?”

          Yes, the god of the bible (who may or may not exist) is extreme.

          “The story is all over the map, so therefore it should be rejected as history?”

          It is what it is. An extreme bible.

        • I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone judging Zeus.

          Prepare to be amazed: the stories of Zeus fucking women showed that he was an adulterer. That is wrong.

          And I’m happy to judge Yahweh as well. I’m a little surprised this is a new thing to you.

          I certainly haven’t seen multiple blogs about it.

          Zeus worship isn’t screwing up the country. Jesus worship is.

          My point was that I’d like to know by what justification anyone thinks they can hold god to a standard (i.e. thinks they can judge god).

          I’m not judging a god! I’m judging a guy in a story who happens to play a god.

          You say that it’s more than a story? That it’s history? Interesting—convince me.

          But what I meant is “judge” as in ‘put on trial and decide its fate.’

          I can’t decide Yahweh’s fate either with him as a storybook character or with him as a real god. Unless you mean that Yahweh as a storybook character is (1) a bad person who deserves no worship who (2) doesn’t exist.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          But what I meant is “judge” as in ‘put on trial and decide its fate.’

          Exactly. By necessity, the only usage of “judge” that makes any sense is, “form an opinion on”. And why shouldn’t I be able to do that? Even if I concede I might lack critical information, I can still form a provisional opinion, no?

          Of course, god’s problem is that he is simply too powerful, which makes his actions suboptimal and subject to derision even granting superior awareness.

        • skl

          “I’m not judging a god! I’m judging a guy in a story who happens to play a god.
          You say that it’s more than a story? That it’s history? Interesting—convince me.”

          You can let a christian try to convince you. Not me.
          I never said it’s more than a story, and never said it’s history.

        • Then what are you saying?

        • skl

          “Then what are you saying?”

          What I already said above.

          But I guess I’ll have to say it again, but this time a little differently:

          Regardless of whether the bible is true, this whole hysteria
          about ‘the hell of the bible’ seems uncalled for, given that we readily accept similar heaven/hell/reward/punishment realities in everyday life. Any differences are just matters of degree.

        • Prepare to be amazed: the stories of Zeus fucking women showed that he was an adulterer. That is wrong.

          And I’m happy to judge Yahweh as well. I’m a little surprised this is a new thing to you.

          I’m curious: what do you think the verdict would be if your system of justice were to be turned impartially upon you and your entire life?

        • I think I’d get fairly judged.

          (Hint: being sent to hell forever isn’t it.)

        • That hint is like Harris’ The Moral Landscape, where he starts with morality being “not the worst thing I can possibly imagine”. In other words: worthless. Your use of “fairly” is rather ambiguous. Different people have very different ideas of “fairly”.

        • So then you agree with me that God’s idea of hell is rightly judged as immoral.

        • It’s God’s idea? You just cited a bunch of humans.

        • Susan

          You just cited a bunch of humans.

          All god claims come from humans.

        • Kodie

          It’s probably the most important point.

        • Susan

          It’s probably the most important point.

          One we should never lose sight of.

        • TheMountainHumanist

          How do we know it’s god’s idea…maybe god is opposed to the biblical definition?

        • Someone who says “the biblical definition” is, in my experience, usually a fundamentalist. Maybe an atheist fundy, but a fundy nontheless.

        • TheMountainHumanist

          good point…many sects have many interpretations of the bible (and yet all claim theirs is right).

        • Pluralism shows up everywhere. Just look at the number of Kuhnian research paradigms there are in psychology. (See the the table of contents of Luciano L’Abate’s 2011 Paradigms in Theory Construction.) If the human sciences can’t get it down to one model, one paradigm, why expect that religion—which has to deal with much more than just the repeatable, relatively simple overall phenomena science can examine—to do better? Now, we could still do better predicting things and admitting when those predictions have failed to come to pass, but that would be politically unwise, wouldn’t it?

        • Max Doubt

          “It’s God’s idea? You just cited a bunch of humans.”

          As far as we know, there is no objective evidence to suggest any god’s idea isn’t simply a human’s idea. Humans, not gods, are the ones communicating those ideas to other humans. As long as you or anyone else is incapable of objectively differentiating what you/they think of as a god from any other figments of your/their imagination, there is no valid reason to consider it something else. From outside the imaginations of the believers there’s no way to tell the difference, and your simple insistence certainly isn’t compelling.

        • As far as we know, there is no objective evidence to suggest any god’s idea isn’t simply a human’s idea.

          The very term “objective evidence” guarantees that, because “objective evidence” is almost certainly based on the assumption of causal monism aka physicalism. So color me unsurprised. Fortunately, what most humans actually care about is solving their problems and living a decent life, so if it appears that the scientists and intellectuals who call themselves “smart” are actually denying fundamental properties of human nature (example) and religious sources get it [more] correct, those who insist on pure “objective evidence” will lose out in the long term. Of course that’s a big “if”, especially given the name Christians are making for themselves in America these days. But hey, the Bible is used to those who claim to follow YHWH being the biggest dicks of all. It provides resources for powerfully critiquing them, for those who are half-intelligent.

          Humans, not gods, are the ones communicating those ideas to other humans.

          I’m happy to entertain that as a hypothesis. What I’ve never seen is a remotely subtle way to distinguish. Take F = GmM/r^2, for example. That says (I’m riffing on Popper) we won’t see F = GmM/r^2.001. That’s a very subtle difference—we could easily imagine seeing such a thing. When it comes to the hypothesis that “a true omni-deity wouldn’t communicate that way”, no such subtle differences are provided. The conversation becomes rather unscientific. Instead, crazy ideas are spouted about what an omni-deity “would have done”.

          As long as you or anyone else is incapable of objectively differentiating what you/they think of as a god from any other figments of your/their imagination, there is no valid reason to consider it something else.

          I think that’s a great project. It’s surely related to the psychological process of individuation, and is surely crucial to trying to understand “the other”. As it turns out, that’s actually exceedingly hard—unless Jonathan Hadit is just a retard:

          And when we add that work to the mountain of research on motivated reasoning, confirmation bias, and the fact that nobody’s been able to teach critical thinking. … You know, if you take a statistics class, you’ll change your thinking a little bit. But if you try to train people to look for evidence on the other side, it can’t be done. It shouldn’t be hard, but nobody can do it, and they’ve been working on this for decades now. At a certain point, you have to just say, ‘Might you just be searching for Atlantis, and Atlantis doesn’t exist?’ (The Rationalist Delusion in Moral Psychology, 16:47)

          I often encounter atheists who inject their own thinking into my words but attribute it to me; I’m sure I do the same back to them. That’s just basic psychology and anyone who has read The Lost Art of Listening or something like it will know that. Sadly, very few humans seem to know it—atheist or theist.

        • Max Doubt

          “I’m happy to entertain that as a hypothesis. What I’ve never seen is a remotely subtle way to distinguish.”

          Since people who believe gods exist are unable to distinguish what they claim to be gods – or heavens or hells – from any other figments of their imaginations, it is unreasonable to accept their claims that there is a distinction based on no more than their say-so.

          “I often encounter atheists who inject their own thinking into my words but attribute it to me; I’m sure I do the same back to them.”

          It might serve you better to take responsibility for your own shitty communication skills.

        • Since people who believe gods exist are unable to distinguish what they claim to be gods – or heavens or hells – from any other figments of their imaginations …

          What would such distinguishing look like? Science suggests that if you don’t have a pattern in your non-perceptual neurons which sufficiently well-matches a pattern on your perceptual neurons, you’ll never become conscious of that pattern. I’m not impressed by you merely saying you can’t see things; you have to convince me you looked intelligently.

          It might serve you better to take responsibility for your own shitty communication skills.

          I see, I’m the only one with shitty communication skills. 😀 Atheists = inherently good, theists = inherently bad?

        • Max Doubt

          “What would such distinguishing look like?”

          Yes, that pretty much settles my point.

          “I see, I’m the only one with shitty communication skills. 😀 Atheists = inherently good, theists = inherently bad?”

          Well, no, that’s not even remotely what I meant. The humorous irony is your comment about shitty communication skills demonstrates that yours are indeed shitty. It’s almost but not quite like you were trying to be funny.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          This is not a speculative argument about the behavior of “Gods”:

          First rule concerning claims of and/or about the existence of any God and the supernatural:

          If a believer wants a non-beilever to observe media or public speakers claiming the existence of beings who are omnipresent (or at least not as spatially limited as humans) immortal (or at least still alive now and for the foreseeable future) persons (can receive, retain, and communicate information; has thoughts, likes, dislikes, and desires; can do most common human functions at least as well as the average human adult in otherwords) then those beings could do likewise for everyone to observe. If those beings can do that, then there is no necessity to rely on such media and public speakers as those medias’/public speakers’ non-existence would not hinder the observers’ consensus of the apparent existence of such beings.

          I Corrolary: Any such being not presenting the claims of and/or about their own existence can corroborate, contradict, or dismiss those claims made by humans.

          II Corrolary: Any human account of personal experiences with such beings necessarily implies such beings can give their own account corroborating, contradicting, or dismissing a human account. All accounts must be observed before any judgement can be made of the accuracy of the historical record directly concerning the claimed events.

          I think that tidily takes care of a lot of sophistry and scams as well if we use slightly different language (part of this rule was inspired by an associate at my former job who made claims about what the supervisor on duty said. All attempts to make the supervisor part of the conversation were interpreted by that associate as antagonistic responses).

        • If a believer wants a non-beilever to observe …

          What exactly is it you think I want non-believers to observe? There is an answer, but I suspect it isn’t what you think.

          I think that tidily takes care of a lot of sophistry …

          I think Jesus’ “Judge a tree by its fruit” takes care a lot of sophistry. We could throw in Mt 23 & Ezek 34: criticism of religious leaders is expected. “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” Finally: “But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” Empirical results or GTFO.

          When it comes to atheists who claim to respect science, I get to tear them a new one if they ignore results from the human sciences such as Converse 1964 or Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government or Mercier & Sperber 2011 or Milgram experiment § Results (update).

          Judge people by the standards they claim to hold to. That’s Charles Taylor’s lesson in Explanation and Practical Reason and I’m just amazed at how many atheists who claim to respect evidence and reason are so utterly retarded about it. I fully expect to get mocked for citing any Bible in this comment. And then the same people will, later, lament how powerless they seem to be in fighting them religious nutjubs.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Great. Now let’s ask Jesus to read those Bible passages to us to demonstrate trusting in books and clergymen was a completely unnecessary complicating factor.

          I have taken religious texts off the table. Their existence doesn’t make much sense in the mythologies that have their origins within those very same texts (just like the ‘riding off to dad’s rescue scene’ in the Disney ‘Beauty and the Beast’ live-action remake).

        • Now let’s ask Jesus to read those Bible passages to us to demonstrate trusting in books and clergymen was a completely unnecessary complicating factor.

          Neither YHWH nor Jesus intended us to be 100% autonomous beings. Enlightenment belief in that dogma did lead to the absolutely horrible priors you see at Milgram experiment § Results. You both have to depend on people who can let you down, and have people depending on you whom you can let down. If you don’t like it, too bad.

          I have taken religious texts off the table. Their existence doesn’t make much sense in the mythologies that have their origins within those very same texts …

          Perhaps it would help to observe that the creation myths contemporary to Genesis 1–2 told a very different story in key respects: humans were created as a war of the gods and they were created to be slaves of the gods, with human kings and emperors as the divine image-bearers, tasked with commanding the slaves to do various things. So: expect permanent conflict and slavery (the most severe kind of social inequality). Genesis 1–2 is very different. Might that be important?

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Let’s hear a God make the case for its importance and question them. Until then we have many ancient and contemporary examples of what “Gods” are.

        • We aren’t willing to listen. At least not most of us in the “Enlightened” West. The idea that people are [on average] convinced by evidence which might possibly threaten their ideology has been overturned by science: Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government. Jonathan Haidt makes a more general claim:

          And when we add that work to the mountain of research on motivated reasoning, confirmation bias, and the fact that nobody’s been able to teach critical thinking. … You know, if you take a statistics class, you’ll change your thinking a little bit. But if you try to train people to look for evidence on the other side, it can’t be done. It shouldn’t be hard, but nobody can do it, and they’ve been working on this for decades now. At a certain point, you have to just say, ‘Might you just be searching for Atlantis, and Atlantis doesn’t exist?’ (The Rationalist Delusion in Moral Psychology, 16:47)

          If you think he’s wrong, he would love to hear from you. I’d be happy to work with you on a message to be sent to him. But you might first want to read the New Yorker article Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds, which discusses Mercier & Sperber 2011 and their 2017 book The Enigma of Reason. I want Haidt to be wrong, but desires do not make reality—no matter how much Enlightenment philosophes may protest.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          God: “They aren’t willing to listen!”

          We: “God, who are you talking to? You sound like you’re repeating someone else’s excuse for why you don’t talk.”

          God: “Ya know, you’re right. That sentence made no sense in context when it audibly came from me. Kinda makes me wonder why I included that “eyes to see and ears to hear” schlock in that book!”

        • eric

          Perhaps you mean “judge” as in ‘develop opinions/understandings about’ this god. That sounds fine.

          But what I meant is “judge” as in ‘put on trial and decide its fate.’ That makes as much sense to me as a swarm of gnats putting Bob Seidensticker on trial.

          I agree. But we mean it in the former way, not the latter. As in “I judge-as-in-opine that God as presented is a vicious, malevolent, and inconsistent being…and because this is my personal judgement, if he wants my love, he has some work to do.” And as it should be obvious to Christians but apparently isn’t, telling me I have no right to opine on God isn’t going to inspire me toward love and acceptance. Why would it?

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          But what I meant is “judge” as in ‘put on trial and decide its fate.

          Yes, which is precisely why your comment engages in equivocation.

          How exactly is anyone supposed to “decide the fate” of something that is either fictional or beyond human influence?

        • Otto

          skl and equivocation are one in the same

        • eric

          Another thing I’d like to know is by what justification anyone thinks they can hold god to a standard (i.e. thinks they can judge god).

          I’ve always thought that that question is somewhat nonsensical. If by ‘judge’ one means ‘make some impactful ruling on’, nobody has any power to make any “judgement” on God that would “stick” in the coercive sense. OTOH if by ‘judge’ one means ‘render my opinion on’, then nobody needs a justification to simply hold an opinion on God…and telling someone they can’t hold an opinion on God isn’t going to inspire love and devotion in God…and who would think that would ever happen?

          So what’s the point of the ‘by what right do you judge God?’ question? Is it to present the straw man argument that atheists are claiming they can rule over God? They aren’t. Or is it to try and inspire an atheist to accept and love God by telling them they have no right to hold an opinion on God? Good luck with that strategy. Let me know when it works.

          [Edit] After some consideration, it seems to me that the question ‘what gives you the right to judge God?” is just an indirect way of saying “I’m upset you’re challenging my beliefs, and I wish you’d stop.”

        • skl

          As I responded to Bob Seidensticker an hour or so before your post:

          “Perhaps you mean “judge” as in ‘develop opinions/understandings about’ this god. That sounds fine.

          But what I meant is “judge” as in ‘put on trial and decide its fate.’
          That makes as much sense to me as a swarm of gnats putting Bob
          Seidensticker on trial.”

        • TheMountainHumanist

          I judge god about as much as I judge dart vader..ie none.

        • Tony D’Arcy

          Ah but the microbes rule the world of biology. Gnats are relatively recent. I am quite sure that the Supreme Bacterial Court will over rule whatever your gnats decide. Reality 10 – God nil.

        • al kimeea

          Another thing I’d like to know is by what justification anyone thinks
          they can hold god to a standard (i.e. thinks they can judge god).

          Normal human decency…

        • Anri

          Another thing I’d like to know is by what justification anyone thinks they can hold god to a standard (i.e. thinks they can judge god).

          “God is good” is as much of a moral judgment about god as “god is evil”, just in the opposite direction. When Christians stop morally judging their god – loudly, constantly, insistently – we’ll follow suit.
          Deal?

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Outstanding response.

          I’m reminded of YouTuber, Noelplum who pointed out that the “more wisdom” defense kicks out its own legs. How do we discern between apparently harmful actions that have good intent and apparently good actions that have harmful intent?

          If the “limitations defense” is apt, then theists must assume the existence of context-altering information and that god is good… and neither with any basis. It’s a quintessential cut off your nose to spite your face argument, except in reverse; they are cutting off their face to spite their nose.

        • skl

          “Deal?”

          No deal.
          You can try to strike a deal with christians, but not with me.
          I can’t help it if they have or present a slanted, one-sided,
          “good” picture of their god. I may not be a bible expert but it seems pretty clear to me the god of the bible is both extremely good and extremely bad.

          For example, on that bad part, I just Googled “terrible god
          in the bible” and got many hits, including this listing of verses:
          http://www.poconorecord.com/article/20050319/news/303199988

      • What lesson do we draw from this?

        Don’t trust an imperfect, finite being to imagine infinite perfection perfectly.

        That goes for theists and atheists and polytheists and whomever else.

        • Wrong again, I’m afraid. And I had such high hopes!

          Sure, we humans are imperfect. The issue is, however, that we imperfect humans must judge the claims we’re asked to accept. The buck stops here, imperfect though we are.

        • It’s cute that you thought I was excluding Aquinas et al. Sorry, but members of my tribe are as open to critique as members of any other tribe. You are welcome to work differently if you’d like—although I’d like to think you operate the same on this point.

        • Who’s talking about critiquing “members of your tribe”? I’m talking about critiquing the claims of Christianity. Yes, we’re imperfect. Nevertheless, we must critique these claims. Who else but each of us?

        • What would it mean for Aquinas to be imperfect, finite, and be imperfect at imagining infinity? Hmm … might that be relevant to his understanding of hell? No, couldn’t be. We have to Respect him, right?

        • Another derailment.

          You carry on.

        • So either I have to take Aquinas’ view of hell or it can’t be remotely orthodox Christianity?

        • TheMountainHumanist

          what is hell to you?

        • A last ditch opportunity to convince creatures that the way they construed “justice” was an abomination. Sometimes people don’t realize when they’ve done the bad thing to others until it has been done to them, so perhaps hell is where that finally happens, after many attempts to be gracious and merciful to the creature have failed. After there is no more chance for reconciliation between God and creature, I see no reason for the creature to continue existing.

          But how the hell do you communicate the above to a society which has no individual rights, where there is at best “right order of society”? (Nicholas Wolterstorff, Justice: Rights and Wrongs) And what about in a society where there is plenty of physical pain day-in and day-out, where your emotions generally don’t matter one whit? How about in a society where Roman citizens were protected by law, but just about anyone else could be beaten with no reason whatsoever? I’m not confident that I could do a better job than the Bible, but perhaps I’m brain-damaged or you’re smarter & wiser than I.

        • TheMountainHumanist

          Interesting concepts. I do agree that many societies use such methods to urge people to act within their moral framework. Some sects of Buddhism have the idea of a hell like state of being a “hungry ghost” wandering the spirit realm forever etc.

        • It always amuses me when atheists perseverate over hell so much as being unjust, and immediately insist that existence ends at death. First, all the information that was “you” persists forever and can be recovered; second, I never hear them discuss what they think would be just. People act according to standards of justice all the time; what if they would actually fail their own system of justice if it were to be applied impartially on them? What kind of world is built by such “justice”? But if you just take a steaming dump on the idea of hell (by picking the most extreme version—caricatures are teh win), you won’t do this analysis.

          Pretty stories like Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature fail to acknowledge realities such as how Germany reduced Greece’s GDP by ≈ 25%:

          Schäuble came under criticism for his actions during the “Grexit” crisis of 2015: it was suggested by Yanis Varoufakis that Schäuble had intended to force Greece out of the Euro even before the election of the left-wing Syriza government in Greece.[77] This was confirmed by former US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in early 2014; calling Schäuble’s plan “frightening,” Geithner recorded that Schäuble believed a Greek exit from the Eurozone would scare other countries in to line.[78] Schäuble also received extensive criticism toward his austerity recommendations from Twitter via the hashtag #ThisIsACoup.[79] Such criticism focused on the fact that Schäuble’s insistence on policies of austerity was contradicted both by the empirical evidence that the policies he had insisted on had shrunk the Greek economy by 25%, a degree hitherto paralleled only in wartime, but also by reports from the IMF insisting that only massive debt relief, not further austerity, could be effective.[80][81] (WP: Wolfgang Schäuble § Criticism)

          To read Varoufakis’ account, see his conversation with Noam Chomsky. There is more than just physical violence in the world, Dr. Pinker. (For example, shall we measure the psychological trauma created by social media? See Just say no to addicting kids to technology, former Facebook, Google employees, investors urge.) The idea that things are getting better overall—the progress narrative—is just the ticket if you want to be convinced that your system if justice is A-OK. But what if it isn’t? Do we want to face the sobering possibility? My guess is “no”, for most people—Christian and non-.

          Given all this and the reticence of humans to face the facts, I predict more Charitable–Industrial Complex, along with some general increase in the well-being of all humans, but with no overall equalizing in distribution of political/​social power—probably an increasingly unequal distribution via life extension technology and better medicine. How long before the life-extended people start thinking Elysium might not be so bad? Well, Chris Hedges notes that plenty of the power elites in the US grow up with contempt toward their servants. They apparently couldn’t give two shits about any “harm principle”.

          And this all ignores whether any sort of hell is real. You first have to get people thinking about a plausible one, and they don’t want to do that. I wonder why …

        • TheMountainHumanist

          You’re not really replying to my comment are you?

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          No, he just likes to try to impress people with what he thinks is his brilliance. He’s what I call a “fauxlosopher.”

        • I thought I was talking about the idea of post-death moral mop-up by a just deity/force. I thought you were too. Was I mistaken?

        • TheMountainHumanist

          Perhaps….my only real position is that ..those who claim the biblical hell is real have failed to provide compelling evidence of that claim.

        • So basically the end of my comment which you thought didn’t engage yours:

          LB: And this all ignores whether any sort of hell is real. You first have to get people thinking about a plausible one, and they don’t want to do that. I wonder why …

        • TheMountainHumanist

          You lost me….

        • Otto

          Yes, get them thinking about a plausible one, then let them know the only way to avoid it is by adhering to a certain view and any other view is therefore damnable. It is a perfect plan…muhahaha

        • The only view I’m asking people to adhere to is to judge other people in a way that doesn’t condemn themselves when it is applied impartially. Apparently there’s something wrong with that?

        • Otto

          You mean you don’t claim that the very best worldview and the only one that is truly capable of keeping them out of the ‘plausible hell’ is Christianity?

          The reason people don’t want to think about a plausible hell is because for most people Christianity teaches about an absolute hell, not just a metaphorical one. Again, I think your criticism would be better directed at your fellow Christians. You can rant all you want at us for attacking a poorly built construction of Christianity, or you could attack the people who are maintaining that poor construction. Hmmmm

        • You mean you don’t claim that the very best worldview and the only one that is truly capable of keeping them out of the ‘plausible hell’ is Christianity?

          I’m not going to try to advance that argument here, no. Even if I think it is true, there are a plethora of prerequisites. Where I would probably go is that human culture loves to declare some people unlovable and scapegoat them. René Girard has developed that theme extensively. The Gospel, on the other hand, is that nobody is unlovable. Any system of “justice” which humans develop which doesn’t affirm this ends up being a legitimation for why some people can be punished/​discarded/​neglected. And any system, were it to be impartially applied to all people, would condemn those upholding it. That is my suspicion, at least.

          The reason people don’t want to think about a plausible hell is because for most people Christianity teaches about an absolute hell, not just a metaphorical one.

          What I said didn’t have to be metaphorical. The real difference is that the purpose is redemptive and restorative, not punitive. The whole punitive aspect is probably a relic of the Protestant Reformation; you see this in the beginning of Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, where he recounts a botched, torturous execution meant to appease nature lest she unveil wrath against all society for the terrible crime committed against the fabric of reality. If this really was the belief, then the idea that Jesus took that punishment is reparative to the social fabric. It means you don’t have to torture people to death for crimes. It is part of unraveling shitty-ass “justice” we humans create so we can scapegoat and not love those who are hard to love. (As if it’s any easier for them to love us.)

          You can rant all you want at us for attacking a poorly built construction of Christianity, or you could attack the people who are maintaining that poor construction.

          Consider this research for more effectively attacking them.

        • Otto

          >>>”The Gospel, on the other hand, is that nobody is unlovable.”

          Oh that is not true, there are plenty of unlovable people that don’t adhere to the word of God according to the Gospels. It is very much taught as a ‘you are either with us or against God’. I know you tend to promote it that way but that is not the way Christianity is most often promoted in our culture.

          >>>”The real difference is that the purpose is redemptive and restorative, not punitive.”

          Once a person ends up in hell (not the metaphorical version), what exactly is redemptive about it? There is no getting out, there is nothing to restore you, you are just there.

          Jesus only took the punishment IF one buys into the belief, short of that, well, too bad. If you are an awful person but repent to Jesus no problem, if you are generally a decent person but never accepted the ‘gift’ of Jesus, you’re fucked.

          >>>”Consider this research for more effectively attacking them.”

          In that endeavor I honestly wish you the best.

        • … there are plenty of unlovable people that don’t adhere to the word of God according to the Gospels.

          Incorrect: Eph 2:1–10 makes clear that God loved us when we were enemies. There was no adhering required. And that is the point. We humans want there to be conditions for love so we can make excuses to kick some people to the curb. (I’d love to try arguing this with any Christian you say disagrees with my interpretation.)

          It is very much taught as a ‘you are either with us or against God’. I know you tend to promote it that way but that is not the way Christianity is most often promoted in our culture.

          I don’t see a problem with the “you are either for Jesus or against Jesus”; I’m amused when anyone tries to say “you are either for me or against me”, because that person is implying [s]he is either (i) Jesus; or (ii) Satan. 😀 The crazy shit is that God can be for us while we’re against him—again, that Ephesians passage. But humans hate that, because to be for someone who is against you (e.g. an addict who doesn’t want to get cured) can incur a lot of suffering, be a major time sink, etc. Nah, let’s write those people off! Suffering and sacrifice are for weenies.

          Once a person ends up in hell (not the metaphorical version), what exactly is redemptive about it? There is no getting out, there is nothing to restore you, you are just there.

          That’s not the only [non-liberal] Christian understanding on offer. See for example C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. As I said before, I suspect the version of hell Bob is getting at with the OP was actually reparative for some society. I see no problem with ancient Hebrews and Christians understanding God via successive approximation, including something akin to Kuhnian paradigm shifts.

          Jesus only took the punishment IF one buys into the belief, short of that, well, too bad.

          Dude penal substitutionary atonement comes from the Reformation and is because of stupid societal beliefs, for which it was reparative. An understanding which is more appropriate for our time is that humans cannot stand perfection or really anyone markedly better than them. (This can probably be derived from Anselm.) So we attack it wherever it shows up, unless it shows up in carefully controlled circumstances which don’t threaten the status quo. John W. Gardner explores why in Excellence: Can We Be Equal and Excellent Too?. We don’t want to be called to a higher standard of living (in all senses—moral, scientific, etc.), even if we’re given the resources for it. This is another one of those truths about human nature (unless Sir Ken Robinson is right) that I find most people who think they’re smart don’t want to believe.

          In that endeavor I honestly wish you the best.

          Thanks.

        • Otto

          Maybe a trivial point but Eph is not a Gospel, but regardless I have no interest in playing dueling Bible verses. I can cite some that would support my case, you can say I am interpreting it wrong, and around and around we go. The Books of the Bible were written by many different people with different views, some support your view and some don’t. I don’t see the Bible as promoting one view. I wish you would argue your case with another Christian that doesn’t agree with you, I think it would be fascinating and enlightening. I listened to a podcast of 2 Christians having a discussion about the timing of Jesus’ trial, execution and resurrection, it was like a car wreck. They got bogged down immediately and could never even get to the point they meant to get to and just had to end it.

          >>>”I don’t see a problem with the “you are either for Jesus or against Jesus”

          What if I just don’t happen to agree with Jesus on some point? Is that allowed?

          >>>”I see no problem with ancient Hebrews and Christians understanding God via successive approximation, including something akin to Kuhnian paradigm shifts.”

          I wouldn’t either if it could be shown that it was actually getting closer to the truth of the matter. As such it is mere conjecture and an opposing view holds just as much weight. Let the Rorschach test begin.

          >>>”An understanding which is more appropriate for our time is that humans cannot stand perfection or really anyone markedly better than them.”

          If you say so…I have no reason to think you are right or wrong other than I have been told by many different Christians from many different denominations that if one is not a Christian that person will be damned. Additionally the view you are pushing here could just as easily be said by a Muslim or any person of a religion that claims a perfect God.

          >>>”We don’t want to be called to a higher standard of living (in all senses—moral, scientific, etc.), even if we’re given the resources for it.”

          Oh I don’t know about that, I think that is way over simplifying the issue.

        • … I have no interest in playing dueling Bible verses.

          Yeah that’s why I included the parenthetical “(I’d love to try arguing this with any Christian you say disagrees with my interpretation.)”

          The Books of the Bible were written by many different people with different views, some support your view and some don’t. I don’t see the Bible as promoting one view.

          Yeah I’ve encountered the argument that Paul has a very different gospel than Jesus. I doubt that (maybe I just haven’t had a good debate with someone who can defend it rigorously). I’m more inclined to believe what you say about the OT because of Yoram Hazony’s excellent The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture. But his point IIRC is that you can actually get something much better from multiple points of view than just one. It’s pretty much the opposite of political liberalism where it’s just a system to balance power vs. power instead of build together, power rangers style (they’re the ones with the powers that unite to something more powerful, right?).

          I listened to a podcast of 2 Christians having a discussion about the timing of Jesus’ trial, execution and resurrection, it was like a car wreck. They got bogged down immediately and could never even get to the point they meant to get to and just had to end it.

          Yeah that happens all the time in all sorts of human pursuits. I’d want to make it an empirical competition: who can better serve the poor, help the homeless get back on their feet, etc.? Otherwise it’s abstract nonsense, curve-fitting like those who try to model the stock market historically as if that’ll help one iota going forward.

          What if I just don’t happen to agree with Jesus on some point? Is that allowed?

          Most definitely; see for example A Rabbi Talks With Jesus, which is all about arguing with Jesus. Then you go test it empirically to see if your different view is actually better when you live it out. So far I’ve not actually seen a view obviously contradictory to Jesus’ teachings (e.g. Mt 20:20–28) lead to a good place, long-term. But hey maybe my observations are too parochial or I’m just brain-damaged.

          I wouldn’t either if it could be shown that it was actually getting closer to the truth of the matter.

          We’re at a lot better place in some major ways than when Jesus [allegedly] walked the earth. To say that Christianity had little to nothing good to do with that strains credibility for me. But again, we need better collections of data and analysis thereof to really debate this.

          … I have been told by many different Christians from many different denominations that if one is not a Christian that person will be damned.

          Too bad for Moses! 😀

          Additionally the view you are pushing here could just as easily be said by a Muslim or any person of a religion that claims a perfect God.

          There is a lot of similarity. But there’s also a lot of difference too, like whether the effects of sin can be magicked away or whether there’s more of a concrete redemption and reconciliation process. That actually matters when you get down to trying to right wrongs or get past them. See for example attempts to rebuild after the terrible civil wars in Africa, or overcoming Apartheid. Many in the West are just oblivious to how this stuff works.

          LB: We don’t want to be called to a higher standard of living (in all senses—moral, scientific, etc.), even if we’re given the resources for it.

          O: Oh I don’t know about that, I think that is way over simplifying the issue.

          I desperately want to be proven wrong on this.

        • Otto

          >>>”I’d want to make it an empirical competition: who can better serve the poor, help the homeless get back on their feet, etc.?”

          But that’s the thing Luke, you are coming at Christianity from the perspective of helping you fellow man in the here and now, something I agree with you on and is admirable. That is not the main goal of many versions of Christianity though, they wouldn’t take you up on the competition because they wouldn’t agree with that metric.

          >>>”So far I’ve not actually seen a view obviously contradictory to Jesus’ teachings (e.g. Mt 20:20–28) lead to a good place, long-term.”

          It doesn’t matter whether you think it is beneficial, the question was ‘is it allowed?’ As in I am not a follower of Jesus, shouldn’t that be OK for me to not be on his team? Should I be reviled and even disliked just because of it?

          >>>”To say that Christianity had little to nothing good to do with that strains credibility for me.”

          I wouldn’t debate that, I would actually agree. I am just not convinced it is capable of leading humanity where it needs to go. At some point the training wheels hold you back… would be more my take.

          >>>”Too bad for Moses! :-D”

          Yep, but their response would be along the lines of it only counts for those after Jesus.

          >>>”That actually matters when you get down to trying to right wrongs or get past them.”

          But even that only matters under certain forms of Christianity, like yours.

          >>>”I desperately want to be proven wrong on this.”

          I think you need to make your case you are right…what you have offered on this so far is rather vague, I couldn’t address it further without a bit more detail as to what you mean…try and keep it brief. I mean I agree people tend to get stuck in their ways, but that is just a human condition, to some extent it is like expecting a leopard to switch to stripes, I don’t see it as a massive human failure, progress is happening and isn’t that enough to expect?

        • But that’s the thing Luke, you are coming at Christianity from the perspective of helping you fellow man in the here and now, something I agree with you on and is admirable. That is not the main goal of many versions of Christianity though, they wouldn’t take you up on the competition because they wouldn’t agree with that metric.

          I’m just not convinced that this is true of the majority of Christianity across space–time. (This is not necessarily inconsistent with what you said.) For those you do describe, I think a good deal of sarcasm and satire could be set up about God allegedly not caring about the here and now in addition to life after. I only got through a bit of Oliver Twist, but it was clear that Dickens was a genius when it came to satirizing the Bible, in the process of making fun of stupid ass attitudes toward poverty. It would have to be a redemptive strategy, where it’s clear you don’t want the stuff to target anyone. Contrast this to a … ministry of condemnation outrage.

          It doesn’t matter whether you think it is beneficial, the question was ‘is it allowed?’ As in I am not a follower of Jesus, shouldn’t that be OK for me to not be on his team? Should I be reviled and even disliked just because of it?

          I should revile you as much as Jesus reviles you. Basically that means you get reviled only if you claim to know YHWH but don’t. (Here I’m interpreting Mt 23 as “reviling”, but that might not be the right word—it might be too condemnatory.) Even then, there is Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem. (Yes, I know that other Christians will disagree with this interpretation of Jesus—again, I’d be happy to debate one with you being a fly on the wall.)

          I am just not convinced [Christianity] is capable of leading humanity where it needs to go. At some point the training wheels hold you back… would be more my take.

          Yep, the question is simply whether Christianity is only training wheels. For example, I’m slowly building the toolset and connections to act as a servant to scientists via providing them with excellent tools (hardware, software, mechanical) so that they can do better science. I even want to get into cultural changes (e.g. making the paper submission process more streamlined—it wastes a crapton of scientist time right now). I believe I’m 100% following Jesus’ strategy of being a servant and of doing shit work. Is that an obsolete strategy, or might it actually be tremendously valuable to science?

          Yep, but their response would be along the lines of it only counts for those after Jesus.

          Yeah I don’t see how God could have (i) “so loved the world” while simultaneously (ii) not giving a shit about those who lived in the Americas at the time. I guess that’s why the Mormons have Jesus visiting the Americas. My strategy here is to get people to admit that the more they get to know God, the more they ought to approve of how he acts and they ought to imitate those actions. So if it’s ok for God to just condemn millions to hell due to accident of birth, that’s how these Christians should act as well. Then we can compare & contrast that to the Jesus we see in the Bible. I am interested in how this strategy would actually work out in a real discussion. Maybe it would fail miserably.

          But even that only matters under certain forms of Christianity, like yours.

          This is true for all X, not just “Christianity”.

          LB: We don’t want to be called to a higher standard of living (in all senses—moral, scientific, etc.), even if we’re given the resources for it.

          O: Oh I don’t know about that, I think that is way over simplifying the issue.

          LB: I desperately want to be proven wrong on this.

          O: I think you need to make your case you are right…what you have offered on this so far is rather vague, I couldn’t address it further without a bit more detail as to what you mean…try and keep it brief. I mean I agree people tend to get stuck in their ways, but that is just a human condition, to some extent it is like expecting a leopard to switch to stripes, I don’t see it as a massive human failure, progress is happening and isn’t that enough to expect?

          I’m not going to keep it brief because I don’t know how to without my position seeming ridiculous. But you’re welcome to stop reading at any time (as if you needed my permission).

          I first came to the idea that humans hate competence (outside of special, controlled situations which does not threaten them or make them feel bad in any way) from my first job. The company I worked at was actually an exception to this; they had developed a product that was ahead of its time. It allowed CFOs and CEOs to generate financial reports in minutes instead of tasking programmers with a day or two of work. The response? “What we have works just fine; go away.” There are many other examples like this. For example: if you have software which helps hospitals save money by identifying various areas where they failed to charge insurance companies properly, will they buy it? Well, consider that the person who makes the purchase decision is the CFO, and the software would show his/her incompetence. Yeah.

          The first place I came across the idea in writing was John W. Gardner’s Excellence: Can We Be Equal and Excellent Too?. He seemed to presuppose that those with more excellence (whether that came from innate talent or hard work) would generally “lord it over” (my words) those with less excellence. If this is the case, it is 100% rational for the less excellent (maybe they could become more excellent) to keep the currently-excellent from becoming too much more excellent. After all, if more excellence ⇒ more domination, then there is a trade-off between the nice things you get from the excellence and the domination. Now, if those who are excellent were to heed Mt 20:20–28 and Jn 13:1–20 things might be different. Radically different. Societally transforming. Awesome?

          The next place I came across this was in The Lonely Crowd, a 1950 sociological analysis of American character which got unexpectedly popular. The part relevant to “humans have a love/hate relationship with excellence” is that American society shifted from a manufacturing mindset where the quality metric was physical, to a managerial/​services mindset, where the quality metric is political: whomever can better climb the corporate or bureaucratic ladder is most rewarded. I don’t think the authors say this, but I think it’s obvious that there’s a bit of a class war, between those who are excellent at their craft and those who are excellent at managing/​manipulating other humans. It’s obvious which side wins in peacetime. (In wartime things may be sufficiently different; I’m an admirer of Vannevar Bush.)

          The third place I came across this was when I mentioned to a friend of mine in his 70s who is a sociologist, “Is it true that humans generally hate competence?” His answer was “yes”. This is a guy who has regularly been told to back off from his sociological research because he was turning up ugly in how humans were interacting (manipulating/​dominating) with other humans. Since said friend has corrected me on multiple ideas which probably came from my somewhat conservative upbringing, I expected him to disagree with me on this point. He did not. That gives me further confidence that I’m on to something.

          As to the bit about making progress, I’m skeptical that overall, the weighted average is an overall positive trend. Yes I know about Pinker’s argument in The Better Angels of Our Nature, but I’m also aware that nobody seems to give a shit that Germany used pure power politics to knock off 25% from Greece’s GDP. We don’t care overmuch that India and China are suffering majorly from air pollution, which would have been alleviated by having better nuclear power and more nuclear engineers available, and which is going to make solar power harder to get going. Life extension technology and cognitive augmentation technology will only be available to relatively few humans. The empirical evidence shows that increasing power differentials lead to increasing rationalization over rationality—that is, ability to dominate others. And I don’t think the long-stagnated median wage of American workers is “progress”. Nor do I think that the current political situations across the world constitute “progress”. Nor is scapegoating the other side and refusing to take responsibility for pretty much any fuck-up “progress”.

        • Otto

          >>>”I’m just not convinced that this is true of the majority of Christianity across space–time.”

          There sure are a lot of ‘Not of This World’ bumper stickers in my neck of the woods…;)

          >>>”Yep, the question is simply whether Christianity is only training wheels.”

          I think that really is the question, it is certainly how I see it, though I don’t claim certainty. As an example I think an important concept in modern day ethics is consent, I really don’t see consent being dealt with in Christianity the way I would expect if it was more than that.

          >>>”I believe I’m 100% following Jesus’ strategy of being a servant and of doing shit work.”

          This is what I mean by the Rorschach test, and I am not saying that derogatorily. You are getting something valuable out of it for you.

          >>>”So if it’s ok for God to just condemn millions to hell due to accident of birth, that’s how these Christians should act as well. Then we can compare & contrast that to the Jesus we see in the Bible.”

          I think we see this playing out today here, lots of condemnation, etc. I would thoroughly enjoy hearing even an informal debate between you and some fundamentalist type. I do think it would most likely fail, but just like our discussions we are not so much trying to change each others minds as giving the other something to think about.

          As to your points on excellence…I actually kind of agree with you. I do think the status quo is often given more importance than it should. My example would be our transportation system. We could have much more efficient ways of transferring goods and people, but we choose not to because what would the truck drivers do for work? There are many variables as to when progress happens and when it doesn’t, and I agree many times it would make sense to improve and for one reason or another it does not happen, as you said war is all to often the great motivator in these issues. I don’t see it as a metaphysical issue however. I do think you are on to something. It is a very interesting point and discussion to have.

        • There sure are a lot of ‘Not of This World’ bumper stickers in my neck of the woods…;)

          Sure, and I had family who liked to make fun of all the commie economists in universities. They also loved to make fun of the human sciences in general and it works because of Sturgeon’s law: 90% of everything is crap.

          As an example I think an important concept in modern day ethics is consent, I really don’t see consent being dealt with in Christianity the way I would expect if it was more than that.

          I was listening to Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy on one of my long drives to LA and while I know his history is dubious, I distinctly recall him describing a position Aquinas held: if someone is really convinced that some bad course of action is the right one, let him/her do it. That’s also the lesson of the OT—God actually wasn’t very heavy-handed in the scheme of things. It’s almost as if … being heavy-handed has proven to fail, time and time and time and time again.

          On the other hand, the State does a lot of thing against the parent’s consent, at least the consent of conservative parents. We can argue about whether it’s right ’till the cows come home, but the point is nevertheless that there is a “trumping of consent” going on. I’m not sure I’ve seen any good reasoning on where the line is between where we should have consent and where we get to just steamroll the way people want to live their lives. Then again, I could probably look better.

          LB: I believe I’m 100% following Jesus’ strategy of being a servant and of doing shit work.

          O: This is what I mean by the Rorschach test, and I am not saying that derogatorily. You are getting something valuable out of it for you.

          Wait a second. How is it Rorschach test to get that out of Mt 20:20–28 and Jn 13:1–20? You really want to make the case that those passages can be read with that much flexibility? The other option would be to basically ignore those passages via cherry-picking. But that wouldn’t be Rorschach interpretation of those two passages.

          I think we see this playing out today here, lots of condemnation, etc. I would thoroughly enjoy hearing even an informal debate between you and some fundamentalist type. I do think it would most likely fail, but just like our discussions we are not so much trying to change each others minds as giving the other something to think about.

          Yep. Something that neither your average Christian nor your average atheist seems to have any awareness whatsoever is how much criticism the Bible has of religious leaders—OT and NT. It’s like there’s this belief that “Now Jesus has come, Christians can no longer fuck up that badly.” Somehow the Thirty Years’ War and Holocaust didn’t convince enough Christians otherwise. Sadly, I think that quasi-infallibility has been transferred to the global secular elite. To top it all off, the religious elite and secular elite can now scapegoat each other. 🙂 The only way out I see is G.K. Chesterton’s answer to “What’s wrong with the world?” — “I am. Sincerely yours, G.K. Chesterton” But who wants to believe such a thing? The idea that we’re in bondage to sin is so passé!

          As to your points on excellence…I actually kind of agree with you. I do think the status quo is often given more importance than it should. My example would be our transportation system. We could have much more efficient ways of transferring goods and people, but we choose not to because what would the truck drivers do for work? There are many variables as to when progress happens and when it doesn’t, and I agree many times it would make sense to improve and for one reason or another it does not happen, as you said war is all to often the great motivator in these issues. I don’t see it as a metaphysical issue however. I do think you are on to something. It is a very interesting point and discussion to have.

          I’m glad we hit a point of even partial agreement; sometimes I still worry that I’m nuts about the [approximately:] “Humans hate competence.” idea. And really, my plan is to find out where that is true and where it is false—trace the “domain of validity” as it were—and then try and go about making the situation suck at least a little less. Help is always welcome; if I go by my general reception on atheist websites, I will fail miserably at this task because religion has damaged my brain.

          I’m not sure what it means for the problem to be ‘metaphysical’. One way of viewing ‘original sin’ is that it’s essentially the declaration that some part of creation can be ignored. We can get along without that part. Whether this be scientific exploration into one area while refusing to explore another (in which case we wouldn’t have found Protein found in both taste buds and inner ear) or the idea that you can write off massive swaths of humanity, it is a broken way of thinking and acting and will end up being self-limiting in human endeavors. An alternative to ignoring is to suppose that one part of creation can be used as the norm to which the rest of creation must conform. We can then bring God into the picture by positing him as an infinite source of wisdom, just like our Sun is approximately an infinite source of energy. But wisdom makes you feel bad—either that you were wrong, or that you couldn’t be an awesomely autonomous human. And so we say fuck it, do it our own way, and fall short of the awesomeness God wants for us. Is this ‘metaphysical’?

          Incidentally, my sociologist friend is doing work on institutions which might help us understand how smaller pushes can lead to productive changes. (He’s an atheist and I suspect he doesn’t think too highly of Christianity in general.) My best man, who is tenured faculty at a pretty good university and very politically aware (he’s excellent at obtaining grant money), asked me this question to get me thinking about such matters: “How do you move a really big marshmallow?” Zuckerberg’s $100mil in matched funds to reform the Newark Public School System was probably like ramming one of Elon Musk’s Teslas into the marshmallow at high speed. We need to be smarter and … oh the horror: respect the human sciences.

        • God actually wasn’t very heavy-handed in the scheme of things.

          I wonder if the millions drowned by God’s gentle hand would agree.

        • Assuming it happened and wasn’t a what-if scenario to convince us that said strategy would not work if God did it, and therefore humans ought never consider such a thing. Contrast this to our very own Thomas Jefferson on the French Revolution:

              Later Jefferson wrote even more extravagantly to William Short, his private secretary, about the execution of Louis XVI (“the expunging of that officer”). The logic of his words has rightly been described as closer to Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and Pol Pot than to Washington, Hamilton and Burke.

          The liberty of the whole earth was depending on the issue of the contest, and was ever such a prize won with so little innocent blood? My own affections have been deeply wounded by some of the martyrs to this cause, but rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated. Were there but an Adam and an Eve left in every country, and left free, it would be better than as it is now. (The Long Affair, 147)

          (A Free People’s Suicide, KL 766–72)

          Everyone apparently wants to either believe it actually happened and God is horrible†, or it doesn’t happen and it tells us nothing about human nature. It’s as if we’re desperately trying to avoid key facts about human nature. Jefferson clearly did; he cut out all the parts of the Bible he didn’t like. Apparently that leads to better things … like being ok if the rivers of every street in the world run with blood as long as his political ideology is enacted. That quote gives a whole new meaning to Jefferson’s “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Yes! Let’s cut out the bad parts so they teach us nothing!

           
          † Actually happened in reality, or in the Jew’s/​Christian’s “history”.

        • Everyone apparently wants to either believe it actually happened and God is horrible†, or it doesn’t happen and it tells us nothing about human nature.

          It didn’t happen, and the God portrayed in the OT is horrible. Not a hard concept, I’m sure.

        • Tell that to the founding father willing to let the streets run with blood if that meant his ideology would triumph. It’s almost as if the OT is meant to keep us from thinking that sort of crap. But no, that would be too sensible and it must be the case that the Bible is [mostly] horrible.

        • You’ve lost me, and I need to keep that in mind … but back to the subject, why are you changing the subject? I thought we were talking about how Yahweh was an asshole. What does Jefferson have to do with it?

        • If the Flood were a lesson to humans about human nature, Jefferson failed to learn it. Only by insisting on the historicity of the Flood—like a good fundamentalist—can you use that particular instance to make YHWH out to be an asshole.

        • So the OT is Luke’s to rearrange, discard, and reinterpret as he sees fit? The 45,000 denominations don’t seem so odd all of a sudden. Must feel good being so unconstrained to recreate your religion in your own image.

        • Jefferson created his religion in his own image. What did he suggest? Incredible evil. For me to merely suggest that God didn’t need to actually do a strategy he knew would fail—that instead he could communicate very important facts about human nature in a way the original hearers could understand—seems rather mundane. But it does harm your ability to paint YHWH in a terrible light (and thus yourself in a good light), so perhaps I’m messing with your zen.

        • Jefferson created his religion in his own image.

          And that bothers you? Take it up with him.

          For me to merely suggest that God didn’t need to actually do a strategy he knew would fail

          Huh? I thought we were talking about the Flood®.

          it does harm your ability to paint YHWH in a terrible light (and thus yourself in a good light), so perhaps I’m messing with your zen.

          Thanks for your concern, but I’ve seen nothing that challenges my painting Yahweh in a terrible light. But if you’ve got something, state it clearly. Hint: saying, “Yeah, but Jefferson was a terrible person!” doesn’t do it.

        • LB: Jefferson created his religion in his own image.

          BS: And that bothers you? Take it up with him.

          The idea that a nicer Bible would lead to better behavior is thereby made questionable.

          Huh? I thought we were talking about the Flood®.

          Yep.

          Thanks for your concern, but I’ve seen nothing that challenges my painting Yahweh in a terrible light.

          I’ll bet your view is unfalsifiable.

        • The idea that a nicer Bible would lead to better behavior is thereby made questionable.

          Completely not the point. Completely. It’s almost like you were avoiding the subject on purpose. Weird.

          “I’ve seen nothing that challenges my painting Yahweh in a terrible light.”
          I’ll bet your view is unfalsifiable.

          Not at all. Give me evidence that overwhelms Christianity’s own evidence that Yahweh is a shithead. I’m a reasonable guy—I’ll take that into consideration.

          So far, though, he gets this award (no, it’s not “Ice Cream Man”).

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/15ec5c521f98a705e84ae48ef8de9743ea935dce1c1ed5d3ea5339448a0cdcee.jpg

        • LB: Jefferson created his religion in his own image.

          BS: And that bothers you? Take it up with him.

          LB: The idea that a nicer Bible would lead to better behavior is thereby made questionable.

          BS: Completely not the point.

          You’re the one complaining about the contents of the Bible, contents which would have shown Jefferson’s “drown the world in blood if that’s what it takes for my political ideology to triumph” to be terrible.

          Give me evidence that overwhelms Christianity’s own evidence that Yahweh is a shithead.

          The only evidence I think could possibly convince you is if a bunch of Christians were to take the Bible really seriously and somehow, from that, greatly improve science. If somehow they were able to improve the practice of science in ways that atheists to date have not, then plenty of people will snap to attention. If you want to continue complaining about your reading of YHWH in the OT you are welcome to; I suspect most will care more about the science getting accelerated bit.

          If in fact the OT contains a lot of truth about human nature that you and other atheists don’t want to face (and most other humans), then surely that truth will lead to power. Right? If it does, then a plausible explanation will be that God wanted us to know such things but we wanted to tell pretty stories about ourselves, instead. But if a group of Christians decides to face that they’re not the bee’s knees and instead that the Bible is a source of more truth than you can tolerate, maybe they’ll produce empirical evidence.

          I doubt that anything short of the above—empirical evidence!—will actually convince you. But I have a sneaking suspicion that even the above wouldn’t actually convince you. You’d just say that yeah the Bible has some wise sayings and leave it at that. Hence my suspicion that your position is in fact unfalsifiable.

          I’m a reasonable guy …

          That’s what everyone says. Minus the “guy” for half of them.

        • If in fact the OT contains a lot of truth about human nature that you and other atheists don’t want to face

          Truth in the Bible? I’d ask you to give examples, but thanks to your evasive tactics, I’ve lost interest in anything you think or say.

        • Taking the Bible seriously—including the icky bits—would have led to a much better prior than you find in Milgram experiment § Results (update for Science). A better prior might have made us more willing to believe reports that the most Enlightened nation in the world was murdering Jews by the millions. Might have.

        • Fred Horgan

          Ask a question and then say you’ve lost interest… troll personality trait?

        • Michael Neville

          Possibly Luke Breuer thinks the Flood® was a good idea. Empathy and concern for others are not Luke’s attributes.

        • But avoiding the subject seems to be a superpower.

        • Susan
        • epeeist

          You haven’t come across Lukey boy before?

        • Otto

          Rabbit…meet hole

        • epeeist

          I prefer the Colossal Cave: “You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all different”.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Sheol in the Tanakh, seems to be a death God assimilated from older religions.

          https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheol

        • Greg G.

          Doesn’t Enoch have some concepts of hell, too?

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          I just skimmed through Azazael’s Wikipedia page, and there are references about Azazael (a Satan-like fallen angel in ‘Enoch’) being cast into hell. I’m not sure about the fate of the humans he corrupted with war, deception, and sorcery.

        • Greg G.

          Leviticus 16:5-22 describes the Yom Kippur ritual for Atonement Day.

          Leviticus 16:5-10 (NRSV)5 He shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.6 Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. 7 He shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting; 8 and Aaron shall cast lots on the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. 9 Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord, and offer it as a sin offering; 10 but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.

          The footnotes for the NRSV and the NIV indicate that Azazel is usually rendered “scapegoat”.

          Now I see that the Wiki you referenced has that, too.

          Apparently, I was thinking of 2 Enoch, which is thought to be from after the destruction of Jerusalem.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Book_of_Enoch

          In the second heaven, Enoch finds darkness, a prison where rebel angels are tortured. 3. In the third heaven, he sees both paradise represented as the garden of eden (also guarded by angels) (as in 2 Corinthians 12:2) and hell where bad men are tortured.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Perfection is a waste of time, it’s merely a platonic ideal with no more substance behind it than a wish that humans had wings.

          A more valid response would say god has knowledge we lack, putting his actions in a different context. Fair enough, but why should this stop me from forming a provisional opinion based on the knowledge I do have? What knowledge do theists have that indicates god possesses such context-altering information?

          Then there’s the omni-problem. If I can think of more compassionate ways of dealing with sin than drowning the entire planet, shouldn’t god be able to? And shouldn’t he be able to actualize these other options? What knowledge could ever overcome the internal contradictions between these supposed attributes and actions?

        • TheMountainHumanist

          Yeah people keep talking about perfection but never defining it..or making definitions so murky as to be useless.

          Quandary: If all humans are imperfect then by default all human definitions of perfection are imperfect…right?

        • sandy

          Luke, yes you are correct that humans are imperfect. We make errors and are inconsistent and that is why the bible is full of contradictions and errors because humans wrote it. A perfect god, as you put it, would not make those mistakes. But it makes perfect sense to see your god so perfectly, as it was man who invented it.

        • A perfect god, as you put it, would not make those mistakes.

          What about a perfect god who works with humans but doesn’t control them like robots?

        • Tony D’Arcy

          Sounds better to me than being boiled forever.

          Stepford Man volunteers for godly duties !

        • sandy

          That’s all you got? Tell me your number one reason why you think the christian god exists.

        • That’s all you got?

          That’s all I was willing to invest in that conversation without you answer the question, yes. Now you’ve switched topics:

          Tell me you’re number one reason why you think the christian god exists.

          First tell me whether you believe that persistent belief in falsehoods is a danger to learning more about reality.

        • sandy

          I’m thinking engaging with you would be a danger to me wasting my time.

        • Wouldn’t want to mess with your narcotizing dysfunction; carry on!

        • sandy

          I didn’t change the topic. This blog is about christianity, so answer why you believe in the christian god if you are so proud of it.

        • I would be happy to, but I require more engagement from you than bullets fired to make me dance. I don’t think this is too hard of a question to answer:

          LB: First tell me whether you believe that persistent belief in falsehoods is a danger to learning more about reality.

          If you want my engagement, answer the question.

        • But it makes perfect sense to see your god so perfectly, as it was man who invented it.

          Well hello Feuerbach. But actually, I think the likes of Deut 5:22–33 and 1 Sam 8 are a lot more scientifically accurate that the predictions you can see at Milgram experiment § Results. I don’t think the hypothesis that “humans are inherently good” or “it’s just social structures which corrupt humans” have stood the test of time. (For the latest, see how “responsive” the US government is or Just say no to addicting kids to technology, former Facebook, Google employees, investors urge.) What I suspect is actually true (for the vast majority of people, scientists included) is the following:

              There are several reasons why the contemporary social sciences make the idea of the person stand on its own, without social attributes or moral principles. Emptying the theoretical person of values and emotions is an atheoretical move. We shall see how it is a strategy to avoid threats to objectivity. But in effect it creates an unarticulated space whence theorizing is expelled and there are no words for saying what is going on. No wonder it is difficult for anthropologists to say what they know about other ideas on the nature of persons and other definitions of well-being and poverty. The path of their argument is closed. No one wants to hear about alternative theories of the person, because a theory of persons tends to be heavily prejudiced. It is insulting to be told that your idea about persons is flawed. It is like being told you have misunderstood human beings and morality, too. The context of this argument is always adversarial. (Missing Persons: A Critique of the Personhood in the Social Sciences, 10)

          I might believe the Feuerbachian thesis if the Bible didn’t teach us so many things about human nature which we modern, Enlightened, autonomous, radical individuals desperately don’t want to believe. And by “us” I mean leaders and followers or the “haves” and “have nots”.

        • Otto

          I don’t trust an imperfect, finite being to imagine infinite perfection at all.

        • I’m going to side with Allan Bloom on this one:

          But, momentarily accepting a distinction I reject, idealism as it is commonly conceived should have primacy in an education, for man is a being who must take his orientation by his possible perfection. To attempt to suppress this most natural of all inclinations because of possible abuses is, almost literally, to throw out the baby with the bath. Utopianism is, as Plato taught us at the outset, the fire with which we must play because it is the only way we can find out what we are. We need to criticize false understandings of Utopia, but the easy way out provided by realism is deadly. As it now stands, students have powerful images of what a perfect body is and pursue it incessantly. But deprived of literary guidance, they no longer have any image of a perfect soul, and hence do not long to have one. They do not even imagine that there is such a thing. (The Closing of the American Mind, 67)

          The alternative is Nietzsche’s last man, which Fukuyama praises but I condemn. One way to “fall short of the glory of God” is simply to stay a pathetic being. Contrast that to investing heavily in all sciences (hard and human), teaching schoolchildren how marketers and politicians manipulate people, exploring how to have something more than a pseudo-democracy, and solving real societal problems rather than getting all excited about colonizing Mars (in the beginning, that lets you avoid most human problems). I say no to moralistic therapeutic deism, no to pathetic mediocrity.

          Talk like the above is scary because it might cause an excess of democracy which has been carefully tamped down; it might be seen to spur physical violence because fighting flesh and blood is easier than fighting principalities and powers (e.g. bureaucracy, institutionalized apathy with its dual of lust for power); it might spawn fascism because so many humans are incapable of taking full responsibility for their shit and thus need to find a convenient scapegoat. (A nice counterexample to the last can be found in Good to Great.)

          Now, what system of thought and action has an antidote to all these things, regardless of how infrequently it has been practiced with fidelity and competence … nah, fuck Christianity. Because I can point to some really bad examples (the OT beat me to it but I’ll ignore that) and I can hand-wave at nice secularists who do good things (ignoring The Charitable–Industrial Complex), I shall take a steaming dump on religion and settle back into my comfortable mediocrity where I do some nice things but can’t possibly be responsible if overall, things get worse. I mean, I have only one vote.

        • Otto

          There is a difference between trying to be better, and accepting what someone says about something they have not shown they actually know about.

          And I find your rant on this particularly funny Luke because I remember a conversation I had with you about egalitarianism about a year ago or more. I took the position that it is something we should strive for but most likely was not attainable. You took the position that if it is unattainable any attempt is ultimately futile. Now you seem to contradict yourself, either that or your are arguing that because your worldview has a perfect end it is therefore at least capable of it (not that this is ever actually demonstrated, most often you just use the idea to shit on everyone else who does not share your view claiming a superior high ground that is never shown to exist and just makes you look arrogant).

          >>>”Now, what system of thought and action has an antidote to all these things, regardless of how infrequently it has been practiced with fidelity and competence … nah, fuck Christianity.”

          Yeah, when you can show that Christianity can reliably be used to do what you think it can be used for let me know. Until then I will continue to see it as a Rorschach test that tells us more about the individual. You love to rant on us nihilistic atheists when you should be ranting at your fellow Christians for ‘doing it wrong’, they do more harm to your worldview than we ever could.

        • There is a difference between trying to be better, and accepting what someone says about something they have not shown they actually know about.

          Sure. But there’s lots of fuzziness in between, where the best method is to get people to make solid predictions about how their way of acting will lead to betterness in the future, and then test those predictions to see if the person was actually full of shit. And when we fuck up majorly—like in the predictions we see in Milgram experiment § Results—we “repent”. That is, we figure out how we could have fucked up so terribly and then rejigger our understanding of reality so it’s slightly less terrible. Except humans hate doing that:

          The number of public intellectuals duped by the Potemkin-village tactics of their communist hosts in tours of the Soviet Union, China, North Vietnam, East Germany, Cuba, and elsewhere in the communist bloc is legion.[64] Paul Hollander quotes a remarkable number of statements by distinguished intellectuals that reveal astonishing ignorance, obtuseness, naïveté, callousness, and wishful thinking. Yet relatively few people have read the small literature of which Hollander’s book is an exemplar, and the luster of the deceived fellow travelers (many of them still alive and still speaking on sundry public topics, like John Kenneth Galbraith, Jonathan Kozol, Richard Falk, Staughton Lynd, and Susan Sontag) remains for the most part undimmed by their folly. (Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline, 150)

          This applies to Christians as well, but at least they have a holy book which does this kind of analysis. I see almost none of this kind of analysis by secularists or atheists or scientists. I don’t recall a single instance where they took appreciable responsibility for bad shit (e.g. ignoring the Moynihan report and letting poor families—predominantly black due to demographics—languish). There is the occasional exception, like Robin Fox (e.g. The Search for Society). He seems actually willing to discard the “humans are inherently good” piece of hogwash. (Humans are inherently mediocre, inclined to pass the buck, disinclined to admit error, etc.) But he’s a rare bird.

          You took the position that if [egalitarianism] is unattainable any attempt is ultimately futile.

          I don’t recall the specifics, so I’m not willing to admit on this basis that I was wrong. Details could change that. What I imagine I said is that we should aim for what is possible instead of what is impossible. That means we can actually be held accountable for failing to approach our stated goals. If the stated goals are just ideals, then one can always excuse this or that on the basis that one can’t get all the way to the goal. That game is played a lot in society; all sorts of little errors and excuses are allowed to accumulate until the story told just doesn’t match reality at all—except for the few in their filter bubbles.

          Now you seem to contradict yourself, either that or your are arguing that because your worldview has a perfect end it is therefore at least capable of it (not that this is ever actually demonstrated, most often you just use the idea to shit on everyone else who does not share your view claiming a superior high ground that is never shown to exist and just makes you look arrogant).

          What? The person who claims a high standard is judged by that standard; the person who claims a lower standard is judged by that standard. If you pick a standard that is impossibly high, you’re a dumbass and deserve to be mocked. If you pick a standard that is lower than what is possible (for the Christians: with divine aid), then you’re a mediocre asshole who isn’t carrying his/her weight in a world that desperately needs everyone to try harder than they are. This is all relativized to what you think is possible.

          Yeah, when you can show that Christianity can reliably be used to do what you think it can be used for let me know.

          These days, I’m trying to figure out what would suffice to show that. In my time talking to people like you, I find that the standards of evidence are … flexible enough to basically not admit anything as evidence that there could be anything to Christianity other than a few wise people said some things back then. That, or amputees automagically regrowing their limbs—because that is humanity’s biggest problem. (Not arrogance, clearly. No it couldn’t be that. Let’s recall what % of the global intellectual elite is atheist, and what % of the most elite scientists are atheist. But no, most/all their failures is due to them religious bigots, obviously!)

          You love to rant on us nihilistic atheists when you should be ranting at your fellow Christians for ‘doing it wrong’, they do more harm to your worldview than we ever could.

          The reason I talk to nihilistic atheists so much is that they are better critics of Christianity (not so much secularism) than most Christians I know. Not all, but those who are good critics tend to have less time. So I turn to the infinite resource that is the internet. You all get to characterize me as another brain-damaged religious nutjob and I [sometimes] get helpful criticism. We both win.

        • Otto

          >>>”You all get to characterize me as another brain-damaged religious nutjob”

          I don’t have time to enter another of your rabbit holes. But I will say I don’t think you are a nutjob. I do think you come to unwarranted conclusions but I find you to be a pretty deep thinker and one of the few people that are at least capable of using Christianity in a positive manner and not use it as a bludgeon (at least not always), though you give it far more credit than it deserves. For instance your rant about intellectuals being mostly atheist…was that always the case? How long ago were most intellectuals Christian? How did we get here? It does not seem like you can blame atheist intellectuals until very recently… do you care to take a decent amount of blame for where we are at as a species or are you just going to handwave that away? Yes humans are arrogant, no argument there from me, but when an arrogant individual can hang their hat on the ‘fact’ that they are best friends with the creator of the entire universe that isn’t going to end badly…is it?

        • But I will say I don’t think you are a nutjob.

          Thanks. But my point stands—even if people think I’m a nutjob, we can still come out of the conversation win-win.

          … you give [Christianity] far more credit than it deserves.

          Maybe. I dunno how to really evaluate that without building a software platform to let people aggregate massive amounts of evidence to support arguments one way and the other way on the matter. It’s just too easy to tell stories one way or the other at the moment.

          For instance your rant about intellectuals being mostly atheist…was that always the case?

          Oh, I am rather confident that Christians passed along plenty of fuck-up. Regardless of whether God exists, I can be confident in that. They lost power because they were retards who believed false things, refused to believe true things, and were generally evil in a variety of ways.

          Yes humans are arrogant, no argument there from me, but when an arrogant individual can hang their hat on the ‘fact’ that they are best friends with the creator of the entire universe that isn’t going to end badly…is it?

          Have fun finding a biblical basis for such hat-hanging. (I would enjoy trying to destroy any such basis, Job 40:6–14-style.) For why I’m talking about «the Bible» here on CE, I suggest a read of Charles Taylor’s Explanation and Practical Reason. In short, resources for internal critique are much more powerful than Moderns tend to believe.

          You might also consider that those who one generation really were morally superior somehow will pass that reputation on to their kids, who may not be so superior. But because the reputation is good, the kids will be able to get away with more shit than their parents. Iterate this a few generations and you can get awfulness—just like the Israelites were sometimes more evil than any of the surrounding nations. This is the fire we play with when we try and advance morally. I predict there will soon be a reckoning for all those atheists and secularists who claimed to respect science and yet didn’t in so many places (especially but not limited to the human sciences).

        • Otto

          >>>”It’s just too easy to tell stories one way or the other at the moment.”

          Its been around long enough, the results speak for themselves.

          >>>”They lost power because they were retards who believed false things, refused to believe true things, and were generally evil in a variety of ways.”

          i.e., the worldview has not delivered what you personally get out of it for the majority of its users or the people they come into contact with.

          >>>”Have fun finding a biblical basis for such hat-hanging.”

          I never claimed it was Biblically based, but let’s look at Pat Robertson saddling gay people for the reason for natural disasters, he certainly can cite passage and verse for his messed up view.

          >>>”This is the fire we play with when we try and advance morally.”

          Morality often ‘progresses’ in fits and starts, 2 steps forward and 1 back…yep. Humans are often morally irrational, atheists and secularists are not immune, I agree.

        • Its been around long enough, the results speak for themselves.

          That’s a pretty monolithic claim. Shall I speak of the results of “atheism” across all time and space? Of course not; it’d be retarded.

          i.e., the worldview has not delivered what you personally get out of it for the majority of its users or the people they come into contact with.

          I wouldn’t dream of making such a generalization across all space and time of Christianity’s existence. I simply know too much history. Furthermore, Christianity in the “Global South” is doing rather well, although one can probably “debunk” that as just being a better social system than what existed before. The claim would then be that liberal democracy with consumerism is better. Given the current trajectory of things, I think I’d laff. Reality puts an expiration date on mediocrity—Christian or secular. I’d just like the replacement of mediocrity to be something other than fascism.

          I never claimed it was Biblically based, but let’s look at Pat Robertson saddling gay people for the reasons for natural disasters, he certainly can cite passage and verse for his messed up view.

          Sure and we can also look at the public intellectuals who praised Stalin-esque and Mao-esque Communism even when they knew or should have known about the massive death tolls. But what would be the point? Whatever is the dominant way of thinking about reality in a particular society, there will be ways of fucking it up for personal gain and idealistic/​ideological glory. A great number of humans seem to have a deeply inbuilt need to think they’re [sufficiently] righteous and have society acknowledge that. I’d love some research on that, but I suspect it is deeply politically incorrect to suggest that human nature isn’t teh awesome.

        • Otto

          >>>”That’s a pretty monolithic claim. Shall I speak of the results of “atheism” across all time and space? Of course not; it’d be retarded.”

          Atheism is just a response to a claim. It is not the foundation of anything other that just the rejection of theism. You could go after humanism for instance though, or whatever else the particular atheist grounds themselves in.

          >>>”I wouldn’t dream of making such a generalization across all space and time of Christianity’s existence.”

          I call it like I see it.

          >>>”Christianity in the “Global South” is doing rather well”

          By what metric?

          >>>”The claim would then be that liberal democracy with consumerism is better.”

          I never said that.

          >>>”I’d just like the replacement of mediocrity to be something other than fascism.”

          Me too

          >>>”Sure and we can also look at the public intellectuals who praised Stalin-esque and Mao-esque Communism even when they knew or should have known about the massive death tolls. But what would be the point?”

          The point… Obviously you missed it. What I said was…”Yes humans are arrogant, no argument there from me, but when an arrogant individual can hang their hat on the ‘fact’ that they are best friends with the creator of the entire universe that isn’t going to end badly…is it?” A point you just glossed over and then produced an example that had nothing to do with it, other than throwing out that ideology is a buggaboo, which I agree with. I stay away from ideologies that infallible in nature, because none are.

        • Atheism is just a response to a claim. It is not the foundation of anything other that just the rejection of theism.

          Actually, I suspect that the sum total of all Christianity, liberal and conservative and whatever else, has about as much in common as atheism.

          I call it like I see it.

          As long as you denote your sample set, I’m fine with it. But acting like you have anything like a systematic survey of all Christianity is going to be unacceptable unless you can show you actually have that. Surely this is fair—even scientific?

          By what metric?

          Percentage of population and socioeconomic measures of said Christians in comparison to non-Christians in their cultures.

          I never said that.

          That’s fine; you don’t have to match with the terrible stereotype perfectly. In fact, I’d rather you don’t!

          The point… Obviously you missed it. What I said was…”Yes humans are arrogant, no argument there from me, but when an arrogant individual can hang their hat on the ‘fact’ that they are best friends with the creator of the entire universe that isn’t going to end badly…is it?” A point you just glossed over and then produced an example that had nothing to do with it, other than throwing out that ideology is a buggaboo, which I agree with.

          What is psychologically special about “best friends with the creator of the entire universe”? Have scientists shown that that matters in any way beyond:

          LB: Whatever is the dominant way of thinking about reality in a particular society, there will be ways of fucking it up for personal gain and idealistic/​ideological glory. A great number of humans seem to have a deeply inbuilt need to think they’re [sufficiently] righteous and have society acknowledge that. I’d love some research on that, but I suspect it is deeply politically incorrect to suggest that human nature isn’t teh awesome.

          ?

          I stay away from ideologies that infallible in nature, because none are.

          I’m not sure how one can avoid that other than truly opening yourself up to deep and penetrating correction by others (and others not in your tribe). I’m not sure I’ve encountered a single person on the internet whom I would describe that way. I’d like to think that I am that way, but chances are I’m deluding myself.

        • Otto

          >>>”Actually, I suspect that the sum total of all Christianity, liberal and conservative and whatever else, has about as much in common as atheism.”

          Yes I actually agree, but as long as Christians insist on being viewed as one whole with one message what are the rest of us to do?

          >>>”As long as you denote your sample set, I’m fine with it. But acting like you have anything like a systematic survey of all Christianity is going to be unacceptable unless you can show you actually have that. Surely this is fair—even scientific?”

          It is fair…but see my above answer. You yourself refer to Christianity as if it is one thing, I agree it is completely problematic and confusing. Labeling yourselves clearly and referring to those labels consistently would help everyone involved.

          >>>”What is psychologically special about “best friends with the creator of the entire universe”?

          Well to start with if one thinks ones views are not just supported by the culture they are in, but by the very creator of the universe, I think they believe their views to be unimpeachable on another level of magnitude, so even when the views of the culture changes for the better they don’t feel they have to change and in fact are virtuous in not changing, after all who needs the culture they are surrounded with when they have God. We see this playing out today with personal rights and freedoms just as we have throughout the years, the groups that are affected change but the rational remains the same.

          >>>”I’m not sure I’ve encountered a single person on the internet whom I would describe that way. I’d like to think that I am that way, but chances are I’m deluding myself.”

          Hmmm…I run into people all the time I would describe that way. Of course people generally feel they are ‘right’ on whatever opinion they hold. I guarantee I am wrong about a whole host of opinions I hold and I fully admit changing my mind to what is better would be difficult. I am not mired in the idea that my opinions are sacrosanct however.

        • Greg G.

          If your opinions are 99.9% correct on a million topics, you are wrong about a thousand things.
          Former theists have proved to be able to change their minds on topics that were important to them.

        • Yes I actually agree, but as long as Christians insist on being viewed as one whole with one message what are the rest of us to do?

          Who’s doing the insisting? Per sociologist Christian Smith in The Sacred Project of American Sociology (he means the Durkheimian sacred), sociologists continually publish papers where they are “surprised” that Evangelical Christians aren’t one monolithic group. I haven’t studied this, but I have suspicions that many news agencies prefer simplicity and like a common enemy and thus make Christianity out to be monolithic. Do these factors enable those who want to be seen as representatives to pull it off?

          Labeling yourselves clearly and referring to those labels consistently would help everyone involved.

          Yep; theologian Roger Olson recently blogged Why Do We Need Religious Labels?, in which he defends that idea but explains some of the push-back against labels. In editing the 14th edition of The Handbook of Denominations in the United States, he found that many did not want to self-identify as a ‘denomination’ because that seems tribalistic and bad.

          Then again, I’d also like it if those on the Left would self-label as to whether they support free speech or not and what they mean by free speech; I kinda doubt that will happen outside of a few like Dave Rubin. (I forget if he still goes by the label “Left”.) There are, sadly, political reasons for not being so clear with labels—even being deceptive.

          Well to start with if one thinks ones views are not just supported by the culture they are in, but by the very creator of the universe, I think they believe their views to be unimpeachable on another level of magnitude, →

          I totally get that this seems to make sense. But is it true? If it is true, is it equally the case with good things (MLK Jr. being against racism and William Wilberforce being against slavery) and bad things, more prominent with bad things, more prominent with good things? I’ve encountered a lot of folk psychology from atheists about how “belief in God” allegedly functions; so much of it sounds so much like just-so stories. I’d prefer science.

          → so even when the views of the culture changes for the better they don’t feel they have to change and in fact are virtuous in not changing, after all who needs the culture they are surrounded with when they have God.

          This pattern shows up in science, too:

          A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. (Max Planck)

          Belief in God isn’t part of it. So I have no doubt that you’ve found a pattern in humans and society; what I’m skeptical about is whether “belief in God” has any additional psychological “oomph”. It seems more like people find something that works and they judge change to be too costly, even if that something is working less and less well. And honestly, a lot of proposed changes are shit. It’s rather hard to move toward something better.

          I am not mired in the idea that my opinions are sacrosanct however.

          I’m not sure I’ve encountered a single person on the internet who would describe his/her opinions as sacrosanct, either! (I haven’t got far enough with any religious folks to get to that point; perhaps this is because I push in other directions.) I do trust that Jonathan Haidt is not lying:

          And when we add that work to the mountain of research on motivated reasoning, confirmation bias, and the fact that nobody’s been able to teach critical thinking. … You know, if you take a statistics class, you’ll change your thinking a little bit. But if you try to train people to look for evidence on the other side, it can’t be done. It shouldn’t be hard, but nobody can do it, and they’ve been working on this for decades now. At a certain point, you have to just say, ‘Might you just be searching for Atlantis, and Atlantis doesn’t exist?’ (The Rationalist Delusion in Moral Psychology, 16:47)

          The “original sin” of modernity might be believing that one is open to more correction than is in fact the case. An intro to this could be Eric Schwitzgebel’s 2008 The Unreliability of Naive Introspection. I’d love to ask the following question at a big psychologist conference: “On average, how well do you think people understand themselves—why they believe what they believe and why they act the way they do and how to go about changing either?”

        • Otto

          >>>”I haven’t studied this, but I have suspicions that many news agencies prefer simplicity and like a common enemy and thus make Christianity out to be monolithic. Do these factors enable those who want to be seen as representatives to pull it off?”

          I agree it is a ‘cheat’ for things like the news. But also Christians themselves do this in a way that appears to be an effort at making their political power seem greater. How many times to we hear the term ‘Judaeo-Christian’ values as if it is one big thing?

          >>>”Then again, I’d also like it if those on the Left would self-label as to whether they support free speech or not and what they mean by free speech”

          I couldn’t agree more. The problem certainly does not start or end with Christians. If you are saying this is a larger issue…yep. The whole ‘free speech’ thing on the left is something I find very disconcerting. I saw you post some stuff on a piece by Shem and I was certainly on you side.

          >>>”I totally get that this seems to make sense. But is it true? If it is true, is it equally the case with good things (MLK Jr. being against racism and William Wilberforce being against slavery) and bad things, more prominent with bad things, more prominent with good things?”

          I agree it can be used for good or bad, that being the case I just don’t like it on the whole. If something is actually ‘good’ than we shouldn’t have need for it, and using such a strategy opens the door for it to be abused. It really does not matter to me if it is used for good more than bad, that is beside the point.

          >>>”This pattern shows up in science, too:”

          It does, science is not infallible though. I am sure there are those that claim it is and I would take issue with them as well. Shem actually gets this right, I just personally don’t like how he goes about criticizing it. I think what Max Plank had to say fits kinda nicely with our discussion on excellence and progress.

          >>>”So I have no doubt that you’ve found a pattern in humans and society”

          Yes, I agree. Again the problem is not just relegated to God belief. The problem I see though is that in God belief it is held up as a virtue and my position is that is a problem. This kind of thinking should not be exalted imo whether the subject is religious, scientific or something else.

          >>>”I’m not sure I’ve encountered a single person on the internet who would describe his/her opinions as sacrosanct, either!”

          I have no doubt I probably give myself more credit here than is warranted, but I have changed my mind on some pretty big issues that were not really beneficial for me to change. What drove that? I am not sure I can completely answer that question but it happens all the time for a lot of people. I think you said you were a young earth creationist at one time but you were convinced otherwise later. People do change their minds on pretty strong beliefs. I agree as a culture Max Plank was right, bad ideas tend to die out rather than the group has some kind of ‘ah ha’ moment, but individuals do change too, that might not be the biggest factor in cultural change but it plays a part.

        • But also Christians themselves do this in a way that appears to be an effort at making their political power seem greater. How many times to we hear the term ‘Judaeo-Christian’ values as if it is one big thing?

          Some Christians are doing this. Don’t forget that Christians were largely politically quiescent before the Moral Majority. As to the term “Judaeo-Christian values”, that reminds me of what Alasdair MacIntyre said:

          Christians need badly to listen to Jews. The attempt to speak for them, even on behalf of that unfortunate fiction, the so-called Judeo-Christian tradition, is always deplorable. (Whose Justice? Which Rationality?)

          Then again, there do seem to be commonalities, such as the notion that concentration of power (that is, significant power differentials) almost always leads to bad places. Whether that is actually meant by the term all that often in public discourse is another matter.

          O: Well to start with if one thinks ones views are not just supported by the culture they are in, but by the very creator of the universe, I think they believe their views to be unimpeachable on another level of magnitude, →

          LB: I totally get that this seems to make sense. But is it true? If it is true, is it equally the case with good things (MLK Jr. being against racism and William Wilberforce being against slavery) and bad things, more prominent with bad things, more prominent with good things?

          O: I agree it can be used for good or bad, that being the case I just don’t like it on the whole. If something is actually ‘good’ than we shouldn’t have need for it, and using such a strategy opens the door for it to be abused. It really does not matter to me if it is used for good more than bad, that is beside the point.

          It would be nice if we could do without the … accelerant, but without it we seem to get the situation Yeats described: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” Maybe the modern animus to passion/​emotion is itself a false dogma. I’m kind of working toward that with Bradley Bowen over on SO (example), but I don’t yet understand the matter well enough to try reducing it smaller comment length. tl;dr the Romantics and the Rationalists were both wrong.

          I think what Max Plank had to say fits kinda nicely with our discussion on excellence and progress.

          Yep. But I don’t think human nature and society has to manifest as Planck observed. But unless we fully admit that it does manifest that way right now, we’re not going to escape that behavior pattern. And yet, so many people want to believe so many false things about humans and society. (Here many Christians probably think things are worse than they are. That’s to keep the balance with the secularists who think things are better than they are.)

          The problem I see though is that in God belief it is held up as a virtue and my position is that is a problem. This kind of thinking should not be exalted imo whether the subject is religious, scientific or something else.

          Yeah I’m just not sure about the alleged psychological aspects of God belief. Or rather, I’m not all that convinced when there’s no explicit God, that nothing else takes its place. Of course, this is a purely empirical matter and could be explored—maybe it has been.

          I have no doubt I probably give myself more credit here than is warranted, but I have changed my mind on some pretty big issues that were not really beneficial for me to change.

          Me too on at least one (as you recalled): I switched from creationism → ID → evolution, all because of internet discussion. Fortunately, my family actually gave me the resources to disagree with its very strongly held position.

          I agree as a culture Max Plank was right, bad ideas tend to die out rather than the group has some kind of ‘ah ha’ moment, but individuals do change too, that might not be the biggest factor in cultural change but it plays a part.

          Yup, so how do we make more of the good thing happen and less of the bad thing happen? For those who say “less religion” as one of the top 5 things, I do require peer-reviewed empirical evidence. 😀 It’s not that I disagree that there is some mind virus which is causing a lot of damage; I just don’t think one group has anything like a monopoly on that mind virus.

        • Tony D’Arcy

          Ah ! If only the philosophers could build real worlds with their lofty words ! Is it just me, or does Luke use many words to say so little ?

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          Hadn’t noticed. /s

        • Joe

          Ah, Lukie’s back! I blocked him ages ago. Another time waster, like a more obtuse skl.

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          And a much more verbose one.

    • Otto

      Yeah except in Christian world one is punished eternally not for actually doing anything wrong, but for having a wrong belief. Big difference between that and what Larry Nassar did.

  • Glad2BGodless

    I’ve rarely heard a heaven described that sounds like a place I would care to go.

    • Raging Bee

      ALL of the descriptions I’ve heard are places I’d love to go. But not for more than, say, one week each. EDIT: That’s also true of the Heavens I’ve imagined.

      • Michael Neville

        Some of them, like the Christian heaven where everyone sings hymns of praise to a narcissistic megalomaniac, would become boring after about the first five seconds and excruciatingly boring after the first ten seconds.

        • Raging Bee

          I was thinking of the terrain, not the planned activities.

        • Michael Neville

          The terrain would be a secondary consideration for me.

        • al kimeea

          Holy crap. Went looking for the comparison someone did between heaven/hell with heaven being hotter – according to physics. Searched ‘physics of heaven’ and there actually is a book with that title…

        • Raging Bee

          Where would you find that book? Right next to “Social History of Middle Earth?”

        • Glad2BGodless

          As long as I stay out of the cornfield.

        • What? You don’t want to be one of those who say “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty” forever? That sounds like a pretty cool gig.

        • Jack Baynes

          If I forget where I am and start substituting dirty lyrics do you think they’ll let me go to hell instead?

        • If it’d be me to judge, I’d give you a sainthood for breaking up the monotony.

        • epicurus

          Maybe to break up the monotony you could go to hell on day trip, kind of like when you visit South Korea I have heard you can go on a carefully curated North Korean bus tour that goes to selected spots- no photos.

        • TheMountainHumanist

          And St. Attila raised the hand grenade up on high saying O Lord bless this thy hand grenade that with it we might blow our enemies to tiny bits..in thy marcy

        • Otto

          “First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three. No more. No less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then, lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it.”

        • TheMountainHumanist

          …skip a bit, Brother.

        • Jack Baynes

          Do we at least get the lyric sheet so I can count how many verses and measures we have left?
          That’s how I remember spending church services (Excellent, we’re only singing verse 1 and 3 on this song…)

        • Len

          Second verse the same as the first, a little bit louder and a little bit worse.

      • Glad2BGodless

        I am reminded of the traffic cop who pulled over a driver for running a stop sign.

        The driver says. “But I slowed down!”

        The cop takes out his nightstick and starts cracking the driver’s head with it.

        The cop says, “Do you want me to slow down, or do you want me to stop?”

      • It’s good to leave the table a little hungry.

    • TheMountainHumanist

      I can envision a place that has every video game cabinet, pinball machine and console ever — incl VR. And the streets are paved with quarters.

      • Kevin K

        There’s a guy in a nearby town to me who has opened what he calls “pinball museums” in a couple of places. You pay $10 and get unlimited play on any of the machines they have.

        My brother has four of them in his basement. They’re devilishly difficult to keep maintained; even as little as all of us play them.

        • TheMountainHumanist

          There has also been a rise in “barcades” — bars with old school games. Heaven.

        • Kevin K

          Heh. When I was younger … we called those “bars”. I spent a lot of quarters and drank a lot of beer when I was in college.

        • TheMountainHumanist

          One time (age 12-13)…I was playing pac man in the back room of a pizza joint….further back were the pool tables. I’m playing and all the sudden..the rednecks get quiet and I start to hear — SNIFF…SNORT..SNOOORRRRT…AHHHHHHH. I got the HELL out of there..I had seen Scarface.

        • Glad2BGodless

          We have an excellent retro-arcade in my area. $5 for unlimited play.

      • Jack Baynes

        But defacing the pavement by digging up quarters is a mortal sin and will get you kicked out of heaven and sent back to hell. Because God is still a dick.

        • Glad2BGodless

          Ha!

        • TheMountainHumanist

          you are right…a fountain of quarters would be easier.

      • Glad2BGodless

        That ought to keep me busy for a few hundred years!

        • Liya

          Why just a few hundred? Presuming heavenly gaming industry is advancing and developing constantly as fast as the earthly one

        • Glad2BGodless

          Sure, but as your experience accumulated, even new games would look like trivial permutations of games you’ve played a million times before.

      • Otto

        It has to have 8 Ball Deluxe or it ain’t worth shit.

        • Glad2BGodless

          Signs point to yes.

        • Otto

          8 Ball Deluxe…Pinball machine, not the Magic 8 Ball.

        • Glad2BGodless

          I thought maybe it came with extra answers or something.

        • Greg G.

          My sources say no.

  • Anthrotheist

    I have given some consideration to the notion of ‘eternity’ (which most theists appear not to have); I can’t help but feel that no matter the setting, a person must either tire of existence or cease being human. As humans, our minds generalize experiences as a matter of course, allowing senses such as familiarity and novelty. On a long enough timeline, every experience would become familiar and no particular experience would be capable of standing out as distinct. Time is, at a practical level, a form of measurement: it measures the rate at which one system changes by comparing it to a separate system that changes more consistently or periodically. In an eternity of experience, the differences would become insignificant and time would essentially cease to have meaning. I see little practical difference between such an existence and genuine oblivion.

    • Glad2BGodless

      Exactly this.

    • Joe

      The Excellent Netflix series Altered Carbon addresses this issue. In the future it lays out, there is a way of living forever by transferring your identity (or “soul” as some refer to it) digitally into another body. The longer these people live (and it’s only for the rich), the more they lose touch with their humanity and resort to ever more sadistic ways to find entertainment in life.

      An eternity would eventually render everything you could ever care about meaningless.

      • Glad2BGodless

        I wonder how long religion would persist if everyone had access to immortality through technological means.

        • Joe

          Actually, they address that. The Major religions are still around, and Catholics have something coded into their “stacks” (the digital implant in their spine that stores personality) that makes it impossible for them to be “re-sleeved” in another body. Once they’re dead, they’re dead (“real death”). Then they believe their souls go to heaven.

          There’s obviously friction and conflict between the two groups which is played out in individual families and between factions. It’s really rather good.

        • TheMountainHumanist

          I think some would simply say god was responsible for amazing technology and that it was a means to commune with him. Same way they say skilled medical folks are instruments of god.

      • Anthrotheist

        I have been meaning to check that one out. I’ll have to move it further up my queue.

      • TheMountainHumanist

        I thought that might be good…it’s in the queue

      • katiehippie

        Kind of like the titans in the prequels to Dune. They put their brains into mechanical devices and became torturing machines.

      • Jim Jones

        If we could live for a trillion years, and travel at the speed of light, could we visit every habitable planet in the universe?

        • Bob Jase

          Think of all the giftshops!

        • Greg G.

          Jim Jones visited every habitable planet in the universe and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.

        • Joe

          Probably not even, I’m not sure. I’m sure I’d personally get bored after the millionth planet or so. Most are just gas and rocks.

    • eric

      This assumes we have infinite memory and that it collects continuously over time. But with our organic memory, memory doesn’t just build up, it also goes away; we forget. In fact IIRC we actually remember much less than we think we do, and most of our memory is in fact constructive (we fabricate what seems like a whole memory out of a few bits and pieces) rather than recollective the way we think it is.

      Well, that’s organic memory. “Spiritual” minds and memories have no rules, or perhaps it’s more apt to say that the rules they follow depend entirely on the theology of the person asserting the afterlife.* But if part of heaven is that we maintain our human-ness, then it seems at least arguable that that would imply we have about 100 (or at least something like that as an order of magnitude) years’ worth of constructive memory storage, and as we live longer than that, rather than gaining an ennui from having experienced everything, our earlier experiences just get vaguer and vaguer.

      Full disclosure, I’m on the “it’s all horsehockey” side. But if we’re going to play gedankenexperiments about what heaven could be like, that’s one possibility.

      *The same criticism applies to Altered Carbon. It’s fiction. Memory in it doesn’t (IMO) work like real memory, it works the way the writers want it to work in order for the plot to progress.

      • Anthrotheist

        I dunno, that notion of what Heaven might be like seems to me to be even more nihilistic than believing that death is oblivion. Think about it:
        1. You know you were conscious 200 years ago, but you cannot recall anything from that time.
        2. You know that in less than 200 years, you won’t recall anything that is happening now.
        3. Nothing you do will change this fate, and you have no power to end the cycle, either for you or anyone else.
        4. You cannot make any changes to the world outside of Heaven, so any wisdom or experience you gain does absolutely no good to anyone or anything.
        5. You know that these conditions will persist literally forever.

        I agree with you in believing the whole Heaven shtick is horsehockey (which, btw, would be an amazing game to watch if you could get the horses to do it), but the more I consider the element of time in any version of an eternal afterlife, the worse it sounds to me.

        Good thought experiment though, thanks!

        • eric

          Why would that make me nihilistic, when it’s already true of this life?
          1. I know I was conscious at 3, but I can’t remember being 3.
          2. I know that as I grow older, other memories will slip away too.
          3. I know nothing I can do can really change this. Oh sure, good health and mental exercises can reduce my chance of alzheimers, but normal memory loss is going to occur anyway.
          4. Most of the wisdom and experrience I gain will do no good to 99.99% of humanity. They won’t even be aware of me. And that’s just the people alive today! I can’t affect the probably larger pool of people who existed historically before me either.
          5. Barring me marrying a Kardashian (and thus invalidating #4), I know these conditions will persist for as long as I do.

          I think I can live without nihilism knowing my memory is imperfect and my reach/influence is very limited. And if that were to be true in an afterlife, I’d be as content with it then as I am now (which is to say: not 100% happy with it all the time, but enough to be happy most of the time).

          About the only difference I can think of that an afterlife brings with it, is the expectation of some very potent and benevolent being making the rules. If that were the case, then yes, I’d probably be a bit frustrated that He left me in such an imperfect form. I’m not sure even that would drive me to nihilism, but it would certainly get me asking questions. However, there’s plenty of afterlives that don’t necessarily come with a tri-omni God making the rules, and in those, I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t just shrug my shoulders at afterlife’s foibles and get on with my afterlife in the exact same way I currently shrug my shoulders at life’s foibles and get on with my life.

        • Anthrotheist

          “I think I can live without nihilism knowing my memory is imperfect and my reach/influence is very limited. And if that were to be true in an afterlife, I’d be as content with it then as I am now (which is to say: not 100% happy with it all the time, but enough to be happy most of the time).”

          I suppose my concern would be that any potential for nihilism regarding our powerlessness and imperfection in life would be infinitely amplified in an eternal afterlife. I couldn’t imagine wanting to spend eternity only being able to interact with other entities that don’t need me or anything from me, unable to help me with anything, observing a universe that I cannot help no matter how much I learn, and no hope of it ever changing or ending. The alternative is to entirely stop being anything resembling human.

        • eric

          I suppose my concern would be that any potential for nihilism regarding our powerlessness and imperfection in life would be infinitely amplified in an eternal afterlife.

          We don’t have an infinite capacity feel any emotion. Why are you assuming that an afterlife comes with this new capability? And if it does, is it really you in that afterlife? That would be quite a radical change to your mind, how your feelings work.

          Too many people throw around infinities when it comes to this subject. An infinity of happiness wipes out any cost. We can feel infinite nihilism. Well, space in this universe is effectively infinite and it doesn’t change my capabilities, who I am. As I said above, the rules of an afterlife depend on whatever theology you want to assume. You can say for sake of argument that you have all this infinite capacity as part of your toy model afterlife, but I don’t think it’s a given that any afterlife or every possible afterlife has people suddenly having these infinite capacities.

        • Anthrotheist

          “We don’t have an infinite capacity feel any emotion.”

          I’m thinking there is a misunderstanding. I wasn’t referring to an infinite capacity for experiencing an emotion, I was referring to a (effectively) infinite potential to experience it (in any capacity). Ultimately, I was arguing that infinite time would increase the likelihood of experiencing nihilism — more so than any other, more satisfying, feeling.

        • eric

          According to that logic, it would also increase the likelihood of getting over it instantly, right?
          That’s the problem with infinities. It makes everything incresingly likely, even contradictory things, right? So it doesn’t actually provide any prediction as to what’s going to actually happen.

      • Tony D’Arcy

        One of the major functions of the human brain is to forget things. Last week’s dinner, who you met at a party, what day was Christmas in 1997 etc. etc. The function of our brains is to keep us alive and aware of our immediate surroundings, be on the alert for danger and potentially harmful actions such as crossing the road. Once the road has been successfully crossed, the crossing can be parked in the “Safely Dispose Of” files.

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          There have been several times where I get to a certain point on my drive to work… and I can’t remember any of the drive that occurred before that point. The brain simply says, “Well, that was uneventful, I don’t need to keep that!” and simply chucks it out. It’s rather disconcerting, though, because it leads one to wonder if they were actually awake for the drive that occurred before that moment.

        • Tony D’Arcy

          Oh yes, the brain was indeed ‘awake’ enough to warn you of possible hazards, but it has constant new problems to deal with also to keep you, and me, going. Into the bin it goes.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Awake ?
          The evidence says yes.

        • Kodie

          I failed my driver’s test the first time I took it, and my dad let me drive on the way home, during which I spaced out entirely and started to drift over the center line. My dad shouted at me, “what are you doing?” and I got back in my lane, and, well, that was just weird. Never happened again (that I’m aware of). I think most people drive half in a daze. How many times do you approach a corner without a stop sign and go through the motion of looking to see if cars are coming but keep driving as if there are no cars coming? I see this every so often, as the driver of the car that is definitely there, and suppose people get used to certain corners, usually no one is coming, so their programming of the drive takes over, but not totally conscious of what they’re doing. I’ve had more than one near miss on a pedestrian at certain corners that I now approach corners expecting pedestrians and actually looking out for them. People cross the street as though cars will stop, forgetting drivers are people too (until all cars drive themselves), but a lot of pedestrians that I can already see looking for cars also wait until I actually stop. From up the street, you can’t see behind the parked cars up at the end of the street, so I always stop before the corner instead of halfway through it now,.

    • Liya

      While I agree with the notion in general (even on a smaller scale – lately I’ve been thinking more and more often that every movie plot been seen by me before in one shape or the other, and I am 31), this is what I would appreciate additional thoughts on:

      “On a long enough timeline, every experience would become familiar and no particular experience would be capable of standing out as distinct”
      Could it possibly be that the variety of experiences that are capable to bring fresh feelings and knowledge that senses perceive as new is also infinite?

      • Anthrotheist

        My take would be that every experience is in itself somehow unique, and so the possible amount of unique experiences is in fact infinite.

        The problem is that, as far as I can tell, part of being human is generalizing experiences and doing some amount of unconscious comparison of every new experience to some general model that we have learned before. No two movies are exactly the same, but as you have found even when you see a movie you have never seen before you find it reminds you of something you have seen, and the new movie feels less novel as a result. The problem is that the variations of any experience can be laid out along a spectrum, and new experiences that vary more greatly simply expand the spectrum rather than requiring a whole new system (which would strike one as so novel as to need a new category). In an infinite amount of time you run into the problem of diminishing returns: every new change seems less and less significant, ultimately getting so close to zero (in terms of how much apparent change occurred) that there isn’t any discernible difference.

        • Liya

          Oh, I see. Makes sense.

    • Glad2BGodless

      I invite you to join Richard Russell and me in our discussion. I have put forward the idea that if you have an eternity to improve, then the denizens of hell would eventually be indistinguishable in any important way from those in heaven. I’ve made a lot of brilliant points in support of my thesis, and Richard has occasionally added some small point of interest.

      • Jim Jones

        An engineer died and reported to the pearly gates. An newly anointed angel, filling in for St. Peter, checked his dossier and grimly said, “Ah, you’re an engineer; you’re in the wrong place.” So the engineer was cast down to the gates of hell and was let in.

        Pretty soon, the engineer became gravely dissatisfied with the level of comfort in hell, and began designing and building improvements. After a while, the underworld had air conditioning, flush toilets, and escalators, and the engineer was becoming a pretty popular guy among the demons.

        One day, God called Satan up on the telephone and asked with a sneer, “So, how’s it going down there in hell?”

        Satan laughed and replied, “Hey, things are going great. We’ve got air conditioning and flush toilets and escalators, and there’s no telling what this engineer is going to come up with next.”

        God’s face clouded over and he exploded, “What? You’ve got an engineer? That’s a mistake; he should never have gotten down there; send him up here.”

        Satan shook his head, “No way. I like having an engineer on the staff, and I’m keeping him.”

        God was as mad as he had ever been, “This is not the way things are supposed to work and you know it. Send him back up here or I’ll sue.”

        Satan laughed uproariously, “Yeah, right. And just where are YOU going to get a lawyer?”

        Source: http://www.jokes4us.com/peoplejokes/lawyerjokes/heavenandhelljoke.html

    • Jim Dailey

      If you control your appetite so you only eat when you are hungry, food always tastes good.

  • Tony D’Arcy

    Ah the relish of eternal punishment lives on. Progressive Pre – Neanderthal, Christian apologist Anne Coulter, had this say just a few years ago:

    ‘I defy any of my coreligionists to tell me they do not laugh at the idea of Dawkins burning in hell.’

    Aye there’s the rub.

    • Kev Green

      Yep, the idea that anyone who disagrees with them will burn in Hell actually seems to be a selling point for a lot of Evangelicals

      • Tony D’Arcy

        A God’s gotta do what a God’s gotta do. YEHHAW !

    • Michael Neville

      Nobody has ever considered Coulter to be a “love thy fellow man” type of person.

      • Tony D’Arcy

        Especially when it comes to having a seat on a plane ! Callous bitch.

      • RichardSRussell

        I’d refer to Ann Coulter as a rabid hyena if it weren’t so disrespectful to actual rabid hyenas.

        • Otto

          It’s pretty bad when one is a woman and a misogynist.

        • Glad2BGodless

          Are we actually sure she’s a woman?

        • Otto

          Well that is how she identifies anyway

        • Glad2BGodless

          Are we actually sure she’s a human?

        • Jim Jones

          If it’s possible to turn men gay, Coulter is the most likely suspect.

    • Jack Baynes

      I guess some people won’t have to be anesthetized after all.

    • Chuck Johnson

      I laugh at the idea of Dawkins burning in hell. – – – It’s a laughable idea.
      And Ann is a laughable woman.

      • Perhaps the apologists can laugh at Anne Frank and Gandhi burning in hell. And with murderer and cannibal (but born-again Christian) Jeffrey Dahmer, up in heaven in the hot tub laughing with Jesus.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Yes, apologists can be creative.
          I can, too.

          Every time that Jeff eats Jesus, He is resurrected again.
          Death is good.

        • Is that how it works? I thought it was, “Every time Jeff eats Jesus, he turns Jesus into poop.”

        • Chuck Johnson

          For people with both a Jesus fetish and a poop fetish, that would be Divine !

        • Robert Templeton

          Escatology

        • Glad2BGodless

          Does this explain the origin of Mr. Hankey, the Christmas poo?

        • Glad2BGodless

          Oh, d’oh! You beat me to it.

        • Glad2BGodless

          Jesus (to Dahmer): “Take, eat! This is my body….”

        • Jim Jones

          > Jeffrey Dahmer, up in heaven

          Along with Ted Bundy & Hitler.

    • Glad2BGodless

      OTOH, it sounds as if Dawkins really gets under her skin. She has to settle the score in fantasyland.

      • Kodie

        Pretty sure hell was invented for and by people who could not punish people on earth harshly enough. Nobody* thinks they’re going there, but it’s certain that anyone they hate will also be on god’s shit list.
        *Except for the people who are frightened into submission and think they’re such filthy sinners that can never be clean enough.

    • Raging Bee

      I laugh at the Christians’ pathetic babyish fantasies of Dawkins burning in Hell. Does that count?

  • Otto

    The godly wife shall applaud the justice of the Judge in the condemnation of her ungodly husband. The godly husband shall say “Amen!” to the damnation of her who lay in his bosom. The godly parent shall say “Hallelujah!” at the passing of the sentence of his ungodly child; and the godly child shall from his heart approve the damnation of his wicked parent who begot him and the mother who bore him.
    — Rev. Thomas Boston

    So much for ‘Love your enemies’.

    • So much for “Love your family”!

      • Chuck Johnson

        “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

        • Jack Baynes

          Can you hate your parents and honor them at the same time?

        • Chuck Johnson

          Depends upon the definitions of “hate” and “honor”.
          Apologists are a tricky bunch who will contrive “special” definitions of words just so God, Jesus and the Bible are always vindicated.

        • Glad2BGodless

          It’s a mystery of faith.

        • Kodie

          Maybe I’m wrong, but I get out of that passage to reject your family’s efforts to keep you from getting sucked into the cult. It’s pretty much the first sign that you’re in an abusive relationship.

    • Jack Baynes

      Godly love means you can appreciate eternal punishment for the mildest of transgressions.
      Only foolish mortals could come up with ungodly ideas like punishments fitting the crime.

  • RichardSRussell

    “Most people can’t stand to sit in church for an hour on Sundays. How are they supposed to live somewhere very similar for eternity?”
    —Mark Twain (1835-1910), nom de plume of Samuel L. Clemens, American writer and humorist

    “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went.”
    —Will Rogers, American humorist

  • disqus_KZV54l7H97

    Prey pray. See FB Atheists La Jolla CA . Jeebus, religimum, aay_laaay yaay_waay, ree_lijjee_mumbo_jumbo

  • TheMountainHumanist

    Reason #1 of 1 against hell…no compelling evidence it exists…period.

  • SparklingMoon,

    How can you be happy in heaven, knowing of the billions of people in torment in hell, especially if heaven gives you wisdom or enlightenment to more clearly perceive right and wrong?
    —————————————————————————————————————-
    It is true that the Holy Quran mentions hell as the abode of evil-doers and even depicts its horrors, but according to the Holy Book both heaven and hell are places for the perpetual advancement of man to higher and higher stages. It is explained by Mirza Tahir Ahmed that God Almighty has informed in the Quran: “Verily you shall all be surely transformed from state to state” (84: 19). The whole mankind is addressed in these words and accordingly, as those in paradise shall make perpetual advancement, those in hell will not be suffering fruitless torments. On the other hand, the torments of hell will be the means of purging them of the evil effects of their deeds done in this life. This is the only philosophical explanation of hell, and this explanation has been given by .

    It is also mentioned in scriptures that heaven and hell grow out of a man; that a heavenly or hellish life begins in this world and that the spiritual fruits of good or evil deeds done in this life assume a manifest form in the next. The fire of hell is no other than the fire of sins as it states in the : “The fire of the wrath of God burned on account of sins which rise above the hearts.” The origin of the fire of hell is, therefore, in the sins which a man commits in this life, that he prepares a hell in which he will find himself in the next.

    God Almighty does not teach in the Quran ( and other scriptures certainly had the same message that was told by God Almighty to their prophets) that those in hell shall suffer everlasting torments. And this is an important consideration which conclusively settles the question that hell is meant for the advancement of man and for his purification.

    There is no doubt that the abiding of evil-doers in hell is mentioned in some places in scriptures and these words signifies a long time. Some times some followers mistakenly take the meanings of these words as ” eternity ”. There are numerous passages in the Quran showing that those in hell shall ultimately be taken out. Thus, we read in the Quran(6:129) “God said, Verily the fire is your resort to dwell therein unless thy Lord will it otherwise, verily, thy Lord is wise and knowing.” On another occasion, those in hell are spoken of as “staying therein for years” (ch. 78: v. 23). The original word is “Ahqab” which is the plural of “huqub”, meaning a year or years, or a long time (see Lanes Arabic Lexicon). The statement that the evil-doers will abide in hell only for a limited number of years shows clearly that, according to the Quran, the torments of hell are not everlasting, for infinite time cannot be measured by a finite number of years.

    Again in ch.101: v. 6, hell is called a “mother” of those who shall go into it. The use of this word is the clearest evidence as to the true nature of hell as described in the Quran. What is meant is that, as a child is brought up by the mother, so those in hell will be brought up in that place for a new life, the life of perpetual advancement in paradise.

    It is true that the Quran also speaks of hell as a place of torment or tortures, but these torments according to the Holy Book are remedial. Just as a patient has to devour bitter medicines and undergo operations and amputations which are most painful, but which are undoubtedly the only steps which can restore him to health; so also it is with torments of hell.

    They are not only the natural consequences of the poison of sins, but, at the same time, the torments are the most necessary steps to undo the effect of the poison and breath into a person a new life in which he must go on making unending progress. Thus hell is also a manifestation of the mercy of God, though of different kind, from heaven. The one, hell, is a place for restoring health to those who have destroyed it by their own actions in this life, while the other, heaven, is a place for the advancement of those who enter into the other life with their spiritual faculties unvitiated.

    In fact, so clear, is the teaching of the Holy Quran on this point that none but a most superficial reader could overlook it. Again and again, the Holy Quran speaks of the workers of iniquity as blind, deaf, dumb, dead, meaning of course that they themselves have wasted their spiritual faculties, and accordingly, before they can make any spiritual advancement in the attainment of that highest goal of the human soul, the union of God, they must be subjected to the operations which should restore the action of those faculties. In clearer words still, the Holy Quran tells us that “those who are blind in this life shall find themselves blind in the next,” which means that as they did not make use of the opportunities, given to them in this life, to use their spiritual faculties, they will find themselves devoid of these faculties in the next, and will palpably feel the pain and anguish which are the necessary result of their loss and which they were unable to feel in this life because of their engrossment in worldly things.

    But the mercy of God will soon take them by hand and they will, after passing through all the stages through which it is necessary to pass to regain the use of the lost faculties, attain the real object of their lives. They will be purged of all uncleanliness, for this is necessary to attain to a perfect union with the Divine Being who is the source of all purity.

  • Stuart Blessman

    Endless fan fiction.