9 Responses to Christian Hell

I recently commented on William Lane Craig’s justification for hell here. The afterlife is a big topic and there is much more to say, but I do want to give a few more responses to the idea of an all-loving god creating a place of eternal torment. The idea is ridiculous on its face, with WLC’s response just a childish retort that would only satisfy someone who’s already a believer. He says, in effect, “Well, maybe God has reasons for hell that we don’t understand. Have you considered that?”

Sure, that’s possible, but why go there? Where’s the evidence? When we’re handed a claim that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, we should reject that claim.

Hell is hellish

Some of my arguments rest on heaven being a good place and hell a bad place, so let me quickly respond to the claim that hell isn’t that bad. Some say that God annihilates souls that don’t make the grade. Some say that “the gates of hell are locked on the inside” (C. S. Lewis), and hell’s inmates want to be there.

The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31) makes clear that hell is a very unpleasant place. There’s also mention of “unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12), “the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (Revelation 21:8), and the warning to “be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).

If we’re on the same page that the Bible argues that hell is bad, let’s proceed.

1. God’s perfect justice

A common Christian position states that God’s perfect justice obliges him to judge us severely, but what is “perfect justice”? Fundamentalists imagine that it’s a mindlessly inflexible demand for perfection, but there are other possibilities. Perfect justice might mean, for example, not a rigid justice, but a judge that is perfect in his evaluation.

Why would justice be binary, with only heaven and hell as the possible options? Can’t it be a spectrum? Couldn’t your life be graded on a scale? A wise human judge would understand that we are imperfect and wouldn’t demand perfection. That judge might evaluate each person’s life against their potential to see how morally they played the hand that life dealt. Enlightened justice along these lines sounds more appropriate for an omniscient god than Christianity’s barbaric justice.

We’re told that God’s perfect sense of justice is offended by our petty imperfections, but why would it work that way? We can’t hurt Superman physically, for example, so how can we hurt God’s sense of perfect justice? Is he emotionally a fragile flower who goes to pieces when he sees someone leave too small a tip or say an unkind word?

A finite human can be injured, offended, or overpowered, but not so an infinite God.


See also: Stupid Argument #19b: “All that are in Hell, choose it”


2. God can just forgive

Why can’t God just respond to insults and infractions the old fashioned way—by forgiving? That’s what we do. That’s the lesson Jesus gives with the parable of the Prodigal Son.

It turns out that God can just forgive, and we find evidence in the Bible. God makes a new covenant with Israel and Judah in Jeremiah 31:33–4 and says, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

In Isaiah 43 (after much whining about how Israel hadn’t made enough sacrifices), God concludes, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Is. 43:25).

What’s all this handwaving about how God’s perfect standard of justice requires a human sacrifice? If God can forgive, the crucifixion wasn’t even necessary.

3. One size fits all

God takes a baggy, one-size-fits-all approach to judgment. If you’re perfect (or if you’ve accepted Jesus, which makes you effectively perfect), you go to heaven. Otherwise, it’s hell.

That’s a simple rule, but we don’t do it that way on in the West. The rejection of “cruel and unusual punishment” dates back to the English Bill of Rights in 1689. Even in its harshest interpretation, where justice should be retributive and criminals should suffer, justice is proportionate to the crime.

Don’t tell me that God’s hands are tied. If he made his one-size-fits-all justice rule in a momentary lapse, he can just make a new rule. He changed his mind and forgave Israel, so he can do the same thing today. He’s omnipotent, right?

Or if God is wedded to the idea of a binary decision (you’re in heaven or you’re not), he could just annihilate the bad people. Eternal torture is so 1000 BCE.

Continued with more arguments on the illogic of hell in part 2.

My grandfather used to say,
“A Republican can’t enjoy his dinner
unless he knows somebody else is hungry.”
— seen on the internet

Image via Ras Alhague, CC license

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  • Doubting Thomas

    God makes a new covenant with Israel and
    Judah in Jeremiah 31:33–4 and says, “I will forgive their wickedness and
    will remember their sins no more.”

    How the hell could an all-knowing god not remember something? Theology is such a clusterfuck.

    • MR

      Even God has cognitive dissonance.

    • carbonUnit

      Kinda like wondering if God can make an object that is impossible for him to move.

    • RichardSRussell

      Richard Dawkins contends that theology shouldn’t be considered a legitimate academic discipline at all, no more than astrology or the physics of Santa Claus.

      • Giauz Ragnarock

        The bulk of theology honestly just sounds like a branch of history with an unhealthy dollop of fan-fiction mortared into every crack.

      • Kodie

        Calculating Santa Claus seems like a rather useful exercise:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYNaEM2O5pU

    • Zeta

      Doubting Thomas:”How the hell could an all-knowing god not remember something?

      As a made up god, what Yahweh could do, his power and his behavior are all dictated by the bible writers.

      He was totally passive and helpless. When the writers decided that he should be a megalomaniac, he appeared as one in the bible. When one writer decided to make him virtually powerless, he lost his omnipotence and became so weak and useless that he could not even defeat warriors riding iron chariots!

  • Jack Baynes

    The whole idea of “perfect justice” doesn’t fit with the grace of Christ. If God can forgive our imperfections if we accept Christ, he can forgive everyone’s imperfecrions.

    • carbonUnit

      The first part of perfect justice would seem to be to have consistent rules that everybody knows and understands. (Free will would still allow one to decide not to follow the rules…) How can there be justice with the mish-mash of interpretations of what God wants, unless as Bob suggests, judgement is tailored to one’s situation and how one deals with what the are given.

    • Otto

      And he could do so without a perfect substitution.

  • Jim Jones

    > Eternal torture is so 1000 BCE.

    It would be too boring.

    The Twilight Zone: “A Nice Place to Visit”

    Rocky Valentine is a small-time hood who has been on the wrong side of the law for most of his life. After robbing a pawn shop, he is gunned down by the police and awakens to be met by Mr. Pip, who describes himself as a guide to his new surroundings. Rocky can’t quite believe where he’s ended up as he can have anything he desires. He’s living in a beautiful apartment, never loses at the casino and is always surrounded by beautiful women. What good deed could he have done in life to deserve this. After a month or so however the shine of having anything and everything wears off.

    • Jim Dailey

      Ever read The Great Divorce by CS Lewis?

      • Jim Jones
      • Ronald Davidson

        I read it some years ago. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember being pretty unimpressed by it. I thought The Problem of Pain was better.

        • Jim Dailey

          I thought The Great Divorce was on point with the blog.
          It describes an afterlife where the inhabitants of hell choose to be there, rather than being condemned to it.
          I dif not read Problem of Pain. Is it similar?

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          If they choose to be there, doesn’t that mean it was preferable given the other “choices”?

        • Jim Dailey

          I guess. Inhabitants were given a periodic chance to enter heaven. They would go, and then return to hell. I think the protagonist actually goes and makes the choice to return to hell.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          That honestly doesn’t sound all that horrible. It sounds like an acknowledgement by Lewis of the relativity of each individuals’ interpretations of their own experiences (there I go demonstrating my point, which you might emphasize with your own relatively different take).

        • Jim Dailey

          Interestingly, Jim Jones said he would try it, and provided a link to the book … but now the comment is deleted (?)
          Well, hell does sound pretty unpleasant in the book. Why don’t you give it a shot? The hell part is over after a couple of chapters, the rest is on the travails of getting into heaven, how suffering is a gift yada yada.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Well, I acknowledge even ‘Narnia’ has its problems, but I still really like those books, and Ted Dekker’s ‘Black’ was a pretty cool book (the sequels were okay but not as… suspenseful?). I’ll try and get myself to read it (I have had chronic entertaining fiction reader’s block). Thanks for the book suggestion!

        • Jim Dailey

          Thank you for your suggestions!
          I certainly am no one to disparage C.S. Lewis, I thought you may want to skip the parts not dealing directly with Hell, and why it’s preferable for some. It is a pretty fast read, so maybe you won’t mind it in its entirety.
          Lewis said interesting things about Hell in other places, likening it to an office somewhere. Pretty funny, actually.

    • carbonUnit

      Yea, I don’t know I what I’d do with eternity in heaven, it could turn hellish. (Hmm, maybe this is not so binary after all!) Still, I’d like more than a century of existence max to work with. I’d like chance to watch the humanity advance and reach to the stars.

  • Halbe

    If “the best of all possible worlds” really must include a place of eternal torture, then an omnibenevolent God would never have created any world at all, not even the best.

  • Andrea Fitzgerald

    Another great post! I get excited whenever I see your name!!

    • carbonUnit

      I put Cross Examined into my RSS reader since I can’t depend on the New Patheos to put stuff on the channel page. No if I can just find a way to defeat the Facebook one pixel web page that seems to come up when I try to open and article from my reader in full browser mode.

    • Thanks!

  • MR

    A pastor friend of mine believes (but does not preach) that everyone in Hell will eventually make their way to heaven. His reasoning is that the gates of heaven are always open. (Don’t ask me to quote chapter and verse, but I believe it’s in Revelations.) Of course, he can’t preach that, because it’s not accepted doctrine. To me it’s clear that he justifies it for his own sanity because the hell thing just makes no sense.

    • carbonUnit

      God, the crappy communicator. So many interpretations of His Word that nobody can figure it out. Does one have to make a study of the Bible to understand what God wants? People in ancient times could not even read, much less have the time to spend huge blocks of time in Bible study. Lack of study time is still a problem today, in our busy world. But even among those who study it for a lifetime, there seems to be no convergence on a common message. Just more interpretations galore. It does seem interesting though that the theologians do seem to arrive at different places than the the average church-goer does.

      • And then, of course, when there’s an expose kind of book that shows all the Bible stuff pastors never preach about, they say, “Oh, please. We knew that all along. That’s taught in every seminary.”

        1. No, I doubt it’s taught in every seminary.

        2. If you knew it all along, why does your flock need to read it from Bart Ehrman and not hear it from you??

        • carbonUnit

          I have to wonder if they don’t preach it because the flock doesn’t want to hear it…

        • I’m sure. And they don’t want to preach it. But then I’d appreciate them canning the hypocrisy with the, “So tell me something I don’t know” attitude.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Either, it’s not “inspiring” or it puts doubt on “the perfectly just judge” being just at all- but

          http://www.vastseaofgames.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/M-Bison-Of-course.gif

          those passages don’t really mean ANY of that, nah…

        • carbonUnit

          when there’s an expose kind of book that shows all the Bible stuff pastors never preach about,
          Hehe, sounds like one of those conspiracy scam ads where “they” don’t want you to know something (often a simple trick!) Don’t think I’ve seen an ad along the lines of:

          This simple trick your pastor doesn’t want you to know about will get you into heaven.

          (Of course, in this wide wide world of crazy, no doubt someone’s done this. If you can think it, it’s out there!)

        • Lark62

          Dan Barker’s book is also good, “God, The Most Unpleasant Character in all of fiction.”

          It is almost entirely bible verses. My kid showed it to a friend, who declared confidently that the bible doesn’t say any of those things.

        • Glad2BGodless

          I’ve had that, where the theist tells me such-and-such just flat is not in the Bible. I invite them to get out their own Bible and I open it to the verse. At that point “it’s not in there” transmogrifies into “you’re taking it out of context.”

        • Glad2BGodless

          Kind of the inverse of this: I was sitting in church with a relative of mine one Sunday when the subject of the sermon was Darwin. The preacher spent 40 minutes spouting all kinds of crazy stuff about the alleged contents of “Origin of Species.” (Or, as he always called it, “Origin of the Species.”)

          On the way out the door, I told him that his edition of Origin seemed to contain a lot of things that didn’t appear in mine. I offered to buy him lunch so we could each bring our copy of the book and compare them.

          The lunch took place as scheduled, but as luck would have it, his wife misplaced his edition and he was unable to produce the text he “quoted” in his sermon.

        • Glad2BGodless

          Years ago, I tended to give preachers the benefit of a doubt and assume that at least they probably were sincere. More and more, though, I tend to think many or perhaps even most of them simply view their position very cynically, as a variety of grift.

        • Another category is those sincere Christian pastors who are now falling away from the faith. The Clergy Project helps them network. They’re in a real bind, because their livelihoods, careers, reputation, self-image, and more are at stake.

      • jamesparson

        God should have waited until
        – The Latin alphabet took off
        – The Latin language took off
        – The printing press
        – French as a global language
        – English as a global language
        – The telegraph
        – The telephone
        – The television
        – The Internet

        • Steve in UT again

          “If you’d come today you could have reached a whole nation./Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.” – Jesus Christ Superstar

        • carbonUnit

          Wouldn’t matter. The problem is the lack of a clear, coherent message, not the particular media. Besides, what use does God have with any media when he has the power to directly communicate on a one-to-one basis?

    • Otto

      The Catholic Church teaches (or has taught) about Purgatory, basically Hell Lite. Same idea.

      • MR

        Yes, though my friend’s not Catholic. It’s also been said that the older a person gets the more likely they’ll lean toward universalism. It’s hard to live a long, full life and hold on to the idea that everyone but you and yours is going to hell. Related note, I remember Grandma M once commenting after seeing the great cathedrals of Europe that maybe (just maybe) the Catholics weren’t completely evil.

        • Otto

          I went to universalism briefly before realizing how it completely contradicts pretty much everything Christian. I watched The Shack last night because a friend thought it was thought provoking (ugh…painful 2 hours) , I then read up on it and saw where one of the complaints was that it promoted the heretical concept of univeralism.

          Catholics are not completely evil… Catholic theology is.

        • MR

          The Shack might be a necessary step for your friend. It took me a good five years to let go.

        • RichardSRussell

          Catholics are not completely evil… Catholic theology is.

          A couple of months ago, Bob was kind enuf to lend me his blog for a day for the purpose of making the exact same point in my essay “Silent No Longer over the Evils of Catholicism”. Predictably, some Catholic apologists showed up to contend (evidently without having read the post at all) that I hated Catholics as persons. Apparently they still aren’t very good at teaching literacy in parochial schools, since my post said the exact opposite: that individual Catholics are to be pitied as the people most severely harmed by the appalling nature of the institution that has infected them with one of the world’s most dangerous and insidious brain parasites.

        • Otto

          Catholics are pretty much incapable of separating themselves from Catholicism.

          That was a good post btw…well done.

        • Questioning54

          Not so. Ask any ex-catholic. There are many of us.

        • Otto

          I don’t have to ask one, I am one. BTW I am not talking about ex-Catholics. I KNOW ex-Catholics can separate the 2, but I dare you to attack Catholicism (as an idea) to most current Catholics and not have them take it as a PERSONAL attack.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          That whole judgement scene in the cave was the most head-slapping. What a false dilemma.

        • Otto

          That was really bad, so as the all powerful judge he had no choice? Why did he have to convict one and not the other? They never explain most of that. And every time in the movie he got close to actually getting to a point questioning God he stopped. The whole thing was just drivel.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “I want actions like what he did to my daughter to be physical impossibilities as ridiculous as the notion of slicing cucumbers to cause 6-billion ton Beanie Babies to sprout from ocelots!”

          Jesus Justice proceeds to try to mess up the TV Tropes page, ‘Take a Third Option’, in a fit of pissing rage.

          “Hey, I’m a fucking shell of a person not a dumbass!”

      • Michael Neville

        Purgatory is temporary. Hell, which the Catholic Church also teaches, is permanent.

        • carbonUnit

          Any one alive now has missed the deal where you could pay off the Catholic Church to get their loved ones out of purgatory…

          If there is a temporary Hell, it is sort of irrelevant. Any finite number over infinity (heaven) is effectively zero. (Might not seem like it while one is there…)

        • Glad2BGodless

          Fortunately, you can still pay ME to get your loved ones out of purgatory! In fact, I’ll save any soul for just $99.99!

          *taxes, handling charges, and shipping not included

        • carbonUnit

          You scoundrel!! Shipping between purgatory and heaven will be a massive hidden charge! Is there also a tithe required???

        • Glad2BGodless

          Not “required,” but it WOULD be a shame if something… “unfortunate” … happened to your dearly departed’s nice, clean soul on its way from one place to the other. Things get dropped sometimes, see? A little tithe might get you a little extra… what to call it? Insurance?

      • Given how nutty so many Christian ideas are, Purgatory is one of the better ones. If hell has to exist, having proportionate justice makes sense.

      • Kevin K

        I think they have abandoned that idea…I read that somewhere a couple-10 years ago. Don’t quote me.

        • sushisnake

          It seems to depend what branch of The Universal Church of Rome you find yourself in. My 70 something Australian mother can remember being taught about Purgatory and Limbo, my 28 year old Australian son and very Catholic daughter-in-law had never heard of either, but a Spanish ex-Catholic atheist friend in her late teens knows all about Purgatory, because she was raised on it in the faith. She can still slip her Catholic cap on and make it sound reasonable. It’s astounding to witness.

          Meanwhile, the RCC in Africa is all about witches and witchcraft. Mother Church is an adaptable old grrl when needs must- horses for courses, when in Rome etc. Whatever puts bums on pews. Providing it doesn’t screw up someone’s career, of course. Excuse the snark, I actually have bittersweet affection for the old girl, but I know her pretty well, warts, pox and all. I must confess the brand of Catholicism she’s flogging in Africa worries me. I can’t see much difference between it and primitive Islam.

    • Tommy

      No offense to your friend but it’s a common thing among pastors and so-called evangelical leaders: Believe what you don’t preach, and preach what you don’t believe.

      • TheMountainHumanist

        Indeed..Google The Clergy Project

    • jamesparson

      So something can be in the Bible and not doctrine?

      Where does doctrine come from then?

      • MR

        His interpretation vs. his denomination’s interpretation.

    • eric

      C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce had a similar set-up. Hell wasn’t too bad – no constant torture or anything – it was more like just a slum. And everyone in hell gets to visit heaven and can choose to stay if they want. The catch is you have to give up your illusions and bad habits if you want to stay (or at least you have to be willing to try). So not everyone stays.

      This solves a lot of problems with Christian theism. It means literally everyone gets a fully informed choice on whether to accept God, for instance. But as you say, it’s not accepted doctrine.

  • Dennis Reeder

    Even as an admittedly flawed less-than-perfect parent there is no possible scenario where I would commit my child to an eternity in hell. That would be sick. But here’s something even sicker: creating the idea of hell and using it to frighten my child into submission with the expectation she would love me.

  • skl

    Nine responses to hell here on February 3, and another on January 30.
    Over at A Tippling Philosopher, four original posts on hell just in the last week.

    With all this smoke, maybe there’s some fire! 🙂

    • Otto

      Any chance you ever have a point or do you just really enjoy beating around bushes?

      • Joe

        He strikes me as the “lurking in bushes” type.

    • Halbe

      Yes, but of course you misunderstand what the fire actually is that causes the smoke. Hint: it is all these people with harmful beliefs.

    • Doubting Thomas

      It is odd, but given the number of atheist blogs it’s probably more coincidental than anything else.

      So what are your beliefs on the existence and morality of hell?

    • carbonUnit

      With all this smoke, maybe there’s some fire! 🙂
      And brimstone!

    • Chuck Johnson

      With all this smoke, maybe there’s some fire! 🙂-skl

      Yes, definitely.
      It means that Christianity really is becoming obsolete.

    • Joe

      There are Seven books on Harry Potter, not counting spin-offs and other media.

    • eric

      But remember folks, skl is defenitely, absolutely, not Christian! Cock-a-doodle-doo!

      • Joe

        I think he is dropping the atheist pretense gradually.

      • Otto

        skl is not a Christian, he just JAQ’s off like one.

  • skl

    I had a number of thoughts on this.

    1)
    “A wise human judge would understand that we are imperfect and wouldn’t demand perfection.”

    This god may call for perfection but I
    don’t think he is said to demand or expect perfection. Many
    of the people in the bible are presumed by believers to be in heaven, but none
    of them are recorded as having lived perfect lives as far as I know.

    2)
    “It turns out that God can just forgive, and we find
    evidence in the Bible. God makes a new covenant with Israel and Judah in
    Jeremiah 31:33–4 and says, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember
    their sins no more.”

    I did some digging and apparently this god is willing to forgive any and all sins, except one – speaking/blaspheming
    against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:32; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10).

    I might do some more digging later to see what this is supposed to mean.

    3)
    “What’s all this handwaving about how God’s perfect standard
    of justice requires a human sacrifice? If God can forgive, the crucifixion wasn’t even necessary.”

    Human sacrifice is extreme, but as I’ve said before, the god
    of the bible is a very extreme god, extremely beneficent and extremely punitive.

    One other thought –
    Apart from differences of opinion on matters of degree, some
    type of sacrifice or restitution often follows the separate act of forgiving.
    Even in real life. For example, if you break your wife’s favorite vase, whether
    by accident or by angry intention, she may forgive you. But sure as hell, so to
    speak, you better spend the time and money in getting her a replacement vase,
    making her whole. It’s the right thing to do.

    4)
    “If you’re perfect (or if you’ve accepted Jesus, which makes you
    effectively perfect), you go to heaven.”

    I doubt this is so, because I think the bible depicts the devil as accepting
    Jesus, has satan acknowledging Jesus as god or the son of god.

    But the devil/satan doesn’t go to heaven.

    • Otto

      1) God does demand perfection, none of us can actually attain it which is why God did it himself through Jesus.

      2) God’s love and forgiveness is unconditional…under one condition

      3) I have been harmed and forgave the trespasser without requiring anything in return. I did not know the person who harmed me greatly. If I can do it I would think God could.

      4) Theologically if one were perfect they would get a pass, however the same theology says no one can be perfect. It is a catch 22.

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a28f8993fdbff52e65bf03a73d4a59a228f729fd7cd7230fa77de22c6f173d20.jpg

      • Yep, Stockholm Syndrome applies to God.

        • carbonUnit

          Yep, Stockholm Syndrome applies to God.
          In droves! Most start out so young the don’t remember not being a prisoner.

    • Joe

      I had a number of thoughts on this.

      That was your first mistake.

    • eric

      I did some digging and apparently this god is willing to forgive any and all sins, except one

      So, God is a litle unmerciful, instead of a lot unmerciful? That still means he’s not the tri-omni God Christians claim.

      Yes a god who is not omnipotent, omiscient, or omnibenevolent could be empiricially consistent with the bible and with what we see. But that is not the God Chrisitans claim. So if you are at all intellectually honest, you will join me in saying “yes, some non-merciful God is consistent with the world as we observe it…but a perfectly merciful God is not.”

      • Joe

        Not to mention he chooses the least important sin to draw the line.

  • Glad2BGodless

    If you live forever, whether in heaven or hell or purgatory, and you get incrementally better over time, wouldn’t you inevitably reach the point where you are as good as it’s possible to be? At that point, why keep anyone in hell?

    • Ficino

      Because some of the levels of Being, teaches St. Thomas Aquinas, include those in hell, and all levels of being must be inhabited by actual inhabitants in order for the perfection of the whole to be actual. The saint teaches that there must be gradations in perfection in order for the higher grades of perfection to be recognized. And even those in hell participate in goodness, because to exist is a good.

      • Kevin K

        …which is why nobody takes Aquinas seriously.

        • Ficino

          On the whole, but I wish your “nobody” were literally true. There are some very articulate proponents of Thomism who are trying to get legal systems, esp. in the US, to follow Aquinas’ likes and dislikes. I think they need to be challenged and resisted.

        • Kevin K

          Frankly, Aquinas is … what …. 6 million words of the purest sophistry. I love the part where he declares that women are meant to be subservient to men because they were made second and out of a man’s rib.

          Anytime anyone starts to make a Thomist argument, I just bring up that section of the Summa, and it seems to shut them down.

        • Ficino

          It may shut down the unsophisticated. The sophisticated will happily agree with you that Thomas’ science is antiquated and often wrong, but they will double back to insist that without Thomas’ metaphysics and his natural law theory of ethics, we are LOST.

        • Kevin K

          Anytime anyone mentions the 5 Ways, my rejoinder is to say that you can replace the word “God” with the phrase “Skippy the Wonder Pig” and not have lost a scintilla of meaning.

        • Glad2BGodless

          I want a t-shirt with Skippy the Wonder Pig.

        • Ficino

          I’m more into cat worship myself. Now, if I can only get myself ordained as a minister in said cult …

          I think a Thomist can reply, Kevin, by saying, “Well, by unaided reason humans can only reach the god of classical theism, so we don’t know its name. But we can deduce from its being Pure Actuality, and its essence being identical with its existence, that it must have other properties: intelligence, will, goodness, must be only one of it, etc. So call the Unmoved Mover by the name Skippy if you like, and welcome to the club of theists.”

          I can think of rejoinders to this, but do you have one already prepared?

        • Kevin K

          No, I’m thinking of Skippy the Wonder Pig who is in the race of universe-building alien pigs. Super smart. Skippy designed this universe as part of its 8th Grade Science Fair project at Porcine Middle School. He got a B-, primarily because of the infestation of scum on the one little rock in the corner over there.

          The Thomist cannot account for an alien creation of the universe. Which, according to the actual-and-real evidence from working cosmologists, is far, far more likely than a supernatural creation of the universe. Though far less likely than an all-natural, non-created, orderly inception of this local space-time.

          I also say that I translate such deepities as “Pure Actuality” into “Pure Imagination”. With Gene Wilder singing.

          I’ve also noted many times that the Thomists will agree that none of the 5 Ways actually proves the existence of god … because, as the fine folks at Aquinas.org have noted … they’re arguments. And it’s a tautology, but arguments are not proof because they can be argued. Reason alone is insufficient. Evidence is required.

          I think I’m safe my side of the theist-nontheist divide.

        • Ficino

          As to alien creation, wouldn’t the Thomist reply that unless the alien is Pure Actuality, it is not metaphysically ultimate and thus, that your answer just bumps the problem back a level? They’d insist that there be an Unmoved Mover to be first cause of anything done by any alien that itself is potential in any way.

          I agree, though, that a priori theorizing does not demonstrate that some entity exists.

          At this point, I’m not convinced by the Thomist argument that no change can occur unless there is at least one unchanged changer that is the starting point of all change. I don’t think we know that the premises of this argument are all true.

          I also am not convinced that we have to affirm the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

        • Kevin K

          Ah yes, Infinite Regress™, solved by conveniently ending the regress at the point where the supernatural whatsamajiggy comes in.

        • al kimeea

          Mrs K will be pleased to learn of independent confirmation of her Theory of Being and that her “alien ant farm” is Skippy’s 8th grade project

        • Kevin K

          Tell her “great minds think alike”.

      • Glad2BGodless

        If I am understanding you correctly, this state of affairs would lead to hell being occupied by at least one perfect, or a being so nearly perfect that the difference isn’t worth bothering about. That’s not the way hell is normally advertised.

        • Kevin K

          Which would be Lucifer, angel of light … I’m guessing here.

        • Ficino

          I glaze over when Thomists start talking about all the levels of being and perfection’s consisting in the actualization of every level by its containing actual creatures at that level. Too bad for the perfection of the whole that the level occupied by, say, pterodactyls is not occupied by actual pterodactyls, and the unicorn level, as far as we know, never was actualized – but maybe there will be unicorns at some point, as C.S. Lewis imagined. I think this is all an obvious construct. However many levels nature or reality contains, Aquinas will just say, that’s the perfect number of levels.

          As far as I’ve read in Aquinas, the supreme among all the separated, intellectual substances (angels) did in fact make a choice for what “he” perceived as his own individual good opposed to the Creator’s good. As created, Lucifer is the most perfect creature. I haven’t read the Saint on the devil yet in particular in hell, though.

        • Michael Neville

          Years ago I heard Aquinas described as “the finest mind ever wasted”. I’ve just done a google search for that phrase to discover the author and the only one I’ve found using it is me.

        • Isaac Newton hardly wasted his mind, but you do wonder what else he might’ve come up with if he hadn’t been so enamored with alchemy and Christianity. He wrote more words about Revelation, prophecy, and all that than physics.

        • RichardSRussell

          To be fair, most of his work in physics and mathematics was done using very compact symbols, whereas Christianity and occultism are notoriously verbose and take a lot of pages to say anything.

        • Greg G.

          Also a lot of pages to say nothing.

    • RichardSRussell

      Read up on Zeno’s paradox to find why your conclusion doesn’t follow.

      Besides, if I were in hell, I doubt that I’d be getting better at all, incrementally or otherwise. In fact, I think my overall attitude would be taking a decided turn for the worse.

      • Glad2BGodless

        I am familiar with Zeno’s paradox. Connect the dots for me. How does it apply here?

        What would prevent you from improving in hell?

        • RichardSRussell

          Nothing would prevent you from improving in Hell. My disagreement is with the idea that such improvement would “inevitably” lead to perfection. You might be able to get closer and closer to it, but you’d never achieve it.

          And here we find ourselves, like the religionists, quibbling over what life would be like in an imaginary fantasyland. Kind of ironic, nu? ;^D

        • Glad2BGodless

          I agree that it’s a little like arguing about whether Mighty Mouse could beat up Superman. (As we know, he couldn’t, because there is no way a cartoon could beat up a real guy.) But I have attended science fiction and comic book conventions, so I am no stranger to full-throated arguments over imaginary points of dispute.

          I’m at work right now, so I will get back to you on the rest.

          *Edit to correct a typo

        • RichardSRussell

          Many years ago I read a novel set in London, in which Sherlock Holmes and Count Dracula kept getting mistaken for each other, because (as the author pointed out) they were always described as tall, gaunt, intense, etc. “Well, of course it’s easy to say that,” I thot to myself. “One of those guys is fictional!” 8^D

        • Glad2BGodless

          Has anyone ever seen them in the same room at the same time?

        • Glad2BGodless

          If I used the word perfection, that wasn’t my intention. I meant to say that as long as they are able to make any kind of incremental improvement at all, then they inevitably would eventually get as good as it is possible to get. My thinking is this: even if they only make one small improvement every billion years (stop saying literally when they mean figuratively, for example), they are improving for eternity — forever. Eventually everything about them that can be fixed will be fixed. At some point, the distinction between the people in hell and the people in heaven would be so miniscule that it is completely arbitrary.

        • RichardSRussell

          I’m not sure what practical difference there might be between “perfection” and “as good as it is possible to get”. Explain?

          But a more fundamental problem is your assumption that people will just keep getting better and better. On the basis of what my body and mind are like now vs. 40 years ago, I’d say degeneration seems to be the more likely direction. What makes you think it’ll be nothing but continual improvement from here on out, especially given the roasty toasty distractions of day-to-day living? I’d expect most people to just keep getting grouchier.

        • Glad2BGodless

          Perfection, to my thinking, means flawless — a Platonic ideal that may be unrealizable. “As good as possible” just means the best we can hope to attain in reality. For example, some triangle someplace sometime will be the best triangle anyone will ever draw. Maybe with precision down to the level of individual atoms. But this triangle would still have flaws or irregularities, and we could possibly imagine a more nearly perfect triangle.

          It is easy to imagine a hell where entropy works its will and our personalities soon dissolve into random noise. But if we live forever, as we are alleged to in hell, and if enough of our personality endures that you could legitimately still be called yourself, then it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think you could continue to improve, just as improvement is possible in the Earthly realm.

        • Glad2BGodless

          To further clarify, I’m not positing that you get nothing but continual improvement. More like buying into the stock market using dollar cost averaging. You can have plenty of bear markets, and as long as you have even the tiniest long term return, eventually you get rich, because you literally have all the time there is.

        • RichardSRussell

          Well, for this scenario to play out the way you seem to think, you’d have to have an amazing confluence of circumstances in which every possible aspect of your personality, values, behaviors, etc. all maxed out at the same time for you to get “as good as it is possible to get”. And I think we can both agree that it’s difficult to imagine ANY aspect of your CIRCUMSTANCES maxing out, right? After all, you’re in Hell! I think you’ll be way too busy screaming and writhing in agony to devote a whole lot of attention to self-improvement.

          As an aside, I continue to be amused that we’re doing the exact same thing the theologians of old must have done with angels dancing on the head of a pin, starting with a ludicrous premise and a batch of unfounded assumptions and trying to figure out how they’d play out logically. Classic GIGO, but fun as long as we don’t take it too seriously.

        • Glad2BGodless

          The smaller the stakes, the more intensely we have to commit to our position. They covered that on the first day of internet orientation.

          To my thinking, the driving fact is that you are working on the problem forever, whatever the problem is. No matter how rare the concatenation of circumstances that you need in order to advance, the ccircumstances will present themselves by and by. Not only that, but they will present themselves an infinite number of times. Like a computer working out a chess problem, you can just run every possible solution to see how it works out.

          I also think you would experience every moment as the present, because each moment would be a vanishingly small fraction of your total experience.

        • Glad2BGodless

          The last bit is kind of a mess. What I’m trying to suggest is you wouldn’t have a sense of “past” and “future.” It would feel like an eternal “now”

        • Glad2BGodless

          Oh, regarding the roasty-toasty distractions. First, I fully intend to work that phrase into all my conversations from now on, and I’m not going to credit you. I’m going to act like I thought it up myself.

          Second, I think the disquieting environs could feed the muse. The comforts of philosophy would never be more needed. History is replete with thinkers who did their best work under duress. Viktor Frankl comes immediately to mind. The crew and the engineering team for Apollo 13 is another example.

        • RichardSRussell

          By coincidence, today I ran across the phrase “writhing in agony” in a comic strip set in a very warm place.

        • Glad2BGodless

          Stealing this, too.

        • RichardSRussell

          I had a dollar. I met a man with a dollar. We exchanged dollars, and when we parted we each still had only a dollar.

          I had an idea. I met a man with an idea. We exchanged ideas, and when we parted we each had TWO ideas.

        • Glad2BGodless

          Stealing that one, too.

        • Glad2BGodless

          Stealing ad infitum!

        • Glad2BGodless

          Um. Infinitum.

          To infinitum, and beyond!

        • Glad2BGodless

          I am never forget the day my first book is published. Every chapter I stole from somewhere else. Index I copy from old Vladivostok telephone directory.

        • Glad2BGodless

          I don’t think the different factors would all have to occur simultaneously. I think they could occur incrementally, the way they do in our ordinary experience on Earth. But I do think the passage of time would be experienced very differently, so it might feel as if it all was happening simultaneously.

    • Anthrotheist

      I might be inclined to back up the whole conversation with a quick objection: saying that a person can be “better” or “worse” is dangerously reductive. It valuates an entire person abstractly. It’s also how you wind up with notions like original sin, certain people being “chosen ones”, Papal Infallibility, eugenics, and posthumanism.

      Instead, I would say, “a person can become better at something.” It is something that I learned from considering person-first-language. If you can define exactly what a person would get better at, either in heaven or hell, then a better consideration of its limits might be possible.

      • Glad2BGodless

        I agree with just about everything you said here. For the purpose of the discussion, what metrics do you think might work!

        • Anthrotheist

          I don’t know, it seems at this point that we would be contemplating the potential benefit of undetermined personal characteristics in the context of fictional, unimaginable, and eternal life-after-death. I like head-in-the-clouds navel-gazing as much as the next person, but this goes a bit far even for me. 🙂

  • Sashineb

    Any “god” who delights in setting living people on fire, with no possible reprieve, is not loving. Someone who does that is a terrorist. This “god” makes Bin Laden and Hitler look like Boy Scouts.

    • And yet Christians will handwave that, even though God made hell and the bizarre rules about going there, he’s not at fault. It’s all your fault, doncha know.

      Let the tap dancing begin!

      • deb

        This is exactly the argument given to me by a preacher–God doesn’t send anyone to hell, they send themselves there.

        • Glad2BGodless

          I believe your preacher was cribbing from C.S. Lewis. In “The Great Divorce,” he argues that the gates of hell are locked on the inside. Frank Turek, who steals liberally from other apologists, also likes to say this.

        • the gates of hell are locked on the inside

          That’s hard to believe this when you read Jesus’s parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man.

          Maybe Jesus was just lying.

        • Glad2BGodless

          The awfulness of C.S. Lewis impelled me toward atheism.

        • Susan

          The awfulness of C.S. Lewis impelled me toward atheism.

          I know what you mean. Yet christians keep showing up here hailing his great intellectual arguments.

        • Pofarmer

          Their head is as vacant as his.

        • Susan

          Their head is as vacant as his.

          He wasn’t a stupid man But he wasn’t a brilliant thinker, either (which is what they claim he was).

          And his arguments for Yahwehjesus were dreadful.

        • I’ve always seen him as a successful popularizer. Some of today’s popular arguments often seem to trace back to Lewis (liar, lunatic, lord; argument from desire), though I don’t know if he actually originated any.

        • Glad2BGodless

          I’ve heard them talk out of both sides of their mouth about Lewis. If they are talking to someone who is easily impressed, they will treat Lewis like Socrates reborn. If they are talking to someone who hoots with laughter at the mention of his name, they say, “Oh, well, of course you know, Lewis is just a popular writer, not a trained theologian. No one really takes him that seriously.”

        • Glad2BGodless

          One thing I couldn’t help noticing, when I was a Christian, was that no one cared a jot whether Lewis made a lick of damn sense. The important thing was that he came down on the right side.

        • Susan

          Maybe Jesus was just lying.

          A slight aside but Luke 16:31 “31“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” is interesting.

          Firstly, it’s just a vengeance story without evidence that would comfort someone who was in a bad state and treated badly.

          Also, Jesus said they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.

          But christians claim their church was founded by people who believe Jesus rose from the dead and therefore, he must have done so.

          Why bother rising from the dead if Moses and the Prophets should suffice? If someone rising from the dead wouldn’t convince someone who listened to Moses and the Prophets, why were christians convinced it happened? Also, why were there so many Jews who did listen to Moses and the Prophets who didn’t believe Jesus rose from the dead?

        • Greg G.

          Wow! I had never consider how counter-Christian that story is. Apparently Luke didn’t either.

          I think it was written to refute the resurrection of Lazarus in John.

        • Great observation!

  • axially/tilted

    Anytime someone threatens me with Hell, I politely acknowledge their concern with a heartfelt ‘go fuck yourself’.
    Admittedly, this is probably not the best way to hash out our disagreements. But then again, if you are the type of person who relishes in such foreboding, I find it difficult to be civil.

  • Mutale

    Its very strange how a perfect being creates imperfect beings and commands they conform to his perfect standards that he being infallible knows they cant but nonetheless will punish them for not conforming.

  • Giauz Ragnarock

    “Well, maybe God has reasons for hell that we don’t understand.”

    If having “reasons for hell” is only a maybe, then what is there to understand or not understand? As per usual, apologists tell and don’t show.

    • TheMountainHumanist

      Or replace it with

      “Well, maybe Hitler had reasons for the Holocaust that we don’t understand.”

  • Lark62

    As much as Christians spout about hell, most do not really believe it. If they did, they would be childless.

    Most people, if they knew there was a 20% chance their child would be born with a disease that caused unrelenting pain for 50 years would immediately get themselves fixed. Yet christians have no qualms about popping out children who supposedly might suffer for eternity. On some level, they know it’s make believe.

    Threats of hell are a handy weapon, like the loving christians who, upon realizing they are out of arguments in an online discussion conclude with “Just wait. God’s gonna burn you alive and then you’ll be sorry.”

    • Doubting Thomas

      If hell exists, then Andrea Yates, the pastor’s wife who drowned her five children so that they would avoid hell, made a very reasonable choice.

      • Kevin K

        She should be canonized.

        • Doubting Thomas

          At least she had the courage of her convictions.

          The most worrisome part of that story isn’t that an insane, irrational woman drowned her children. It’s that a sane, reasonable Christian did.

      • carbonUnit

        They are in a better place. Great argument for suicide or murdering the ones you love.

    • Kevin K

      Yes, hell is an argument in favor of abortion, isn’t it? After all, the unborn soul has no chance to sin, so goes to heaven. Or at least that’s the majority opinion. I have seen in my theological wanderings a suggestion that aborted fetuses automatically go to hell … never mind spontaneous abortions, ectopic pregnancies and all the rest.

    • Glad2BGodless

      I do think an awful lot of theists don’t take their own dogmas very seriously.

      • Bob Jase

        I do think most theists don’t even know what their dogma is supposed to be, just the popularized dumbed-down version of it.

        • carbonUnit

          And many “theists” put on the religious appearance simply to convince others (and often themselves) that they are really good people, despite behavior to the contrary.

      • RichardSRussell

        Indeed. Hypocrisy is the saving grace of religion. We’d all be in a world of hurt if they all acted the way their holy books and prophets say they should.

  • TheMountainHumanist

    Did you deliberately choose nine reasons to coincide with Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell?

    Also…check out the sitcom The Good Place for a surprisingly intellectual display of the topic of heaven and hell.

    The main character says: “Why can’t there be a middle place for people like me who are partially bad but have a good sense of humor?”

    • Glad2BGodless

      I didn’t like the second season as much as I did the first, but I hope it set up a strong third season.

      • TheMountainHumanist

        Oh You’re such a Chidi 🙂

        • Glad2BGodless

          I actually lived in Senegal for a short while!

  • Kevin K
    • carbonUnit

      Ironically, when my spouse’s sister first Got Religion, she threw away all of her Monkees records because otherwise she was going to Hell. (Yes, I know these are chimps…)

      • Kevin K

        Monkees? Really? I’m a Believer, Last Train to Clarksville? Those Monkees?

        Wow. Just. Wow.

        • carbonUnit

          Yeah (yeah, yeah). I think she took it upon herself to ditch some of my spouse’s stuff too, don’t remember. She was really legalistic, condemning anything that seemed sinful. Sin is a gigundous category in the eyes of a newly converted Adventist. She’s mellowed quite a bit over the years, now ignoring a lot of rules ’cause they get in the way.

        • Otto

          I listened to Penn Gillette talk about how great The Monkees were/are. I am not saying I agree with him but it was interesting hearing someone defend that position passionately and with conviction.

        • Glad2BGodless

          PG is usually interesting, especially when I don’t agree with him.

        • Otto

          Exactly, when I disagree with him he often talks about the issue in a way I have not heard before.

        • BlackMamba44

          I loved Daydream Believer. I even enjoyed the show (I am easily entertained. Love to laugh).

          Of course, they didn’t hold a candle to “Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp”. 😉 https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6b41f4209583741c5ff362e26daeb7dfdff0722769e9b7dfb62d0d74fcef8164.jpg

        • Kevin K

          Oh gosh, we never missed the show. It was awesome. My brother even styled his hair like Michael Nesmith (without the knit cap). My hair was never that good.

    • Joe

      “Heaven for the climate, hell for the company.”

      – Mark Twain (?)

      • Kevin K

        I think so.

  • Akira625

    If God is omniscient, then that means he decided before the begging of time which of the people he created are destined to an eternity of torture in hell. It would have been less cruel for him to have never created them in the first place, it would have been less cruel for him to have never created hell in the first place. How can any finite transgression warrant infinite damnation? It’s illogical for a deity described as both omniscient and omnibenevolent to subject anyone to such an unjust punishment (or any punishment for that matter), when he creates people already knowing full well what they would eventually do.

  • SparklingMoon,

    A wise human judge would understand that we are imperfect and wouldn’t demand perfection. That judge might evaluate each person’s life against their potential to see how morally they played the hand that life dealt. Enlightened justice along these lines sounds more appropriate for an omniscient god than Christianity’s barbaric justice.

    ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————-
    It is obvious that man is very weak by nature and has been charged with hundreds of Divine commandments. On account of his weakness, he falls short in carrying out some Divine commandments and sometimes he is overcome by the desires of the self that incite to evil. On account of his weak nature, he deserves that at the time of any slipping, if he should repent and seek forgiveness, God’s mercy should save him from being ruined. It is a certainty that if God had not been the Acceptor of repentance, man would not have been charged with these hundreds of commandments. This proves conclusively that God turns towards man with mercy and is Most Forgiving.

    The notion that justice and mercy cannot subsist together in the Being of God Almighty, inasmuch as justice demands punishment and mercy demands forbearance, is an error in which short-sighted Christians are involved through lack of reflection. They do not reflect that the justice of God Almighty is also Mercy…. It should be borne in mind that the basic attribute of God is Mercy. Justice comes into play after reason and law have been established. Justice is also Mercy in another form. When a person is bestowed reason and through it he becomes aware of the limits and laws of God Almighty, he becomes subject to the demand of justice. But for Mercy there is no condition of reason and law. As God Almighty desired to exalt mankind through Mercy, He laid down the rules and limits of justice. Thus it is ignorance to imagine that there is contradiction between justice and Mercy.

    Secondly, the expression of Master can be applied in its fullness only to God for He alone is the Perfect Master and it is quite improper to bind a Master to act according to the principles of justice. We can affirm that He Who is Malik is Rahim and Bestower and Generous and forgives sins, but we cannot say that He adheres to justice in respect of His creature, inasmuch as the notion of justice is only applicable where there is a certain freedom on both sides. For instance, we can say concerning worldly sovereigns that they are just and treat their subjects with justice. So long as their subjects obey them, the rule of justice makes it obligatory upon them that, in return for the obedience of their subjects and the payment of their dues, the sovereign should safeguard their lives and properties and in times of need should help them out of his wealth. Thus, from one aspect sovereigns impose their commands upon their subjects and from another aspect the subjects impose their wishes upon the sovereigns. So long as these aspects operate in cooperation, the country remains at peace, but when either side commits a default the country ceases to be at peace. This shows that we cannot describe a sovereign as a true Master for he has to behave justly towards his subjects and his subjects have to behave justly towards him

    As regards God Almighty, we can call Him Merciful on account of His being Master, but we cannot call Him just. Any person who is owned by another cannot demand justice from his owner, though he can humbly supplicate for mercy. That is why the Holy Book does not designate God Almighty as just, because justice demands mutual equality. God Almighty is Just in the sense that He acts justly as between creatures regarding their mutual rights, but He is not just in the sense that any creature of His might demand his right from Him as an associate.

    All His creatures belong to God and He has authority to treat them as He might wish. He might bestow kingdom upon whom He wills and He might make a beggar of him whom He so wills. He might cause anyone to die young or He might bestow a long life upon any. We ourselves when we own anything are free to bestow it as we might choose. Indeed God is Merciful; rather, He is the Most Merciful of all. By virtue of His mercy, and not out of any limits in consideration of justice, He provides for His creation. The quality of being Master and the quality of justice are inconsistent with each other. Having been created by Him, we have no right to demand justice from Him. We supplicate Him humbly for mercy. It is most unbecoming for a creature to demand justice from God Almighty in His treatment of him. As everything relating to the nature of man is from God and all of man’s faculties, spiritual as well as physical, are His bounty and a good action can be performed only through the support and strength bestowed by Him, it would be the height of ignorance to demand justice from Him relying upon one’s good actions. We cannot consider such a teaching to be based on true knowledge. Indeed such a teaching is deprived of all true understanding and is full of folly. God Almighty has taught us in the Holy Quran that to call God Just vis-à-vis His creatures is not only a sin, but a rank blasphemy. (Ruhanikhazain)

    • Damien Priestly

      So you take the God is real or not-real position? The last sentence of your incoherent rant seems to indicate you believe in the Islamic God and thus Islamic Hell…same immorality as the Christian God and Hell. The Holy Quran is just as immoral as the Christian and Jewish Bible. There is no reason to believe Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, if they existed…were anything other than ignorant — or fools.

      • SparklingMoon,

        The Holy Quran is just as immoral as the Christian and Jewish Bible. There is no reason to believe Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, if they existed…were anything other than ignorant — or fools.
        ———————————————————–
        There is no safeguarding law through following which we can secure ourselves absolutely against mistakes. That is the reason why the philosophers, who framed the rules of logic and invented the methods of discussion and built the arguments of philosophy, fell continuously into error. They left as the legacy of their ignorance hundreds of false notions and mistaken philosophies. This shows that it is impossible to arrive at the truth of every matter and to determine the correct doctrines as the result of one’s own research without making a mistake. We have never known any individual, nor heard of one or read of one in any book of history, who was free from error in the whole field of his vision and reflection. It follows, therefore, that it is basically impossible to find people who, through the study of the laws of nature and squaring their conscience with the circumstances of the world, carried their research to the highest level of truth, without any possibility of mistake….

        Obviously, if man cannot escape error through his own knowledge and if God (Who is Gracious and Merciful, and is free from every mistake and knows the truth of every matter) does not help His servants through His true revelation, how could we humble creatures emerge out of the darknesses of ignorance and error, and how could we be delivered from the calamities of doubt and suspicion? Therefore, the wisdom and mercy and sustaining love of God Almighty demand that from time to time, when He deems it right, He should create men who should be recipients of revelation for the purpose of ascertaining true doctrines and establishing correct morals, and who should have bestowed upon them the capacity of impressing their teachings upon others so that mankind, who have been created for true guidance, should not be deprived of their needed good fortune.(Ruhanikhazain)

        • Kevin K

          From time to time? That’s pretty close to heresy, you know, because it would seem to indicate that Mohammed was not the perfect recipient of Allah’s word.

          Wouldn’t say that out loud in Saudi Arabia, is what I’m saying. You’d be flogged.

        • SparklingMoon,

          That’s pretty close to heresy, you know, because it would seem to indicate that Mohammed was not the perfect recipient of Allah’s word.
          ————————————————————

          Firstly, you should not confuse the description of revelation with the revelation of Law that is revealed by God Almighty to His prophets. You are right that God Almighty has completed His law for human guidance through the revelation of the Holy Quran as we read in the Bible (Deuteronomy 33:2): And he said, the Lord came from Sinai, and rose up Profrom Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them”. In this verse God Almighty has (as) promised to complete his Law through three manifestations, The first of these appeared from Sinai, to Moses, the second manifestation points to the advent of Jesus and the third manifestation of divine glory through the revelation of prophet of Islam that is the Holy Quran.

          The other kind of revelation I have described in my previous post is different to the revelation of Law and all human beings have this capacity in their nature to receive it. It is explained by Mirza Ghulam Ahmed that as God has invested man with the faculty of reason for the understanding, to some degree, of elementary matters, in the same way God has vested in him a hidden faculty of receiving revelation. When human reason arrives at the limit of its reach, then at that stage God Almighty, for the purpose of leading His true and faithful servants to the perfection of understanding and certainty, guides them through revelation and visions. Thus the stages which reason could not reach are traversed by means of revelation and visions, and seekers after truth thereby arrive at full certainty. This is the way of God Almighty, to guide to which Prophets have appeared in the world. Without treading this path, no one has ever arrived at true and perfect understanding.

          God Almighty has bestowed upon him not only the faculty of reason but also the faculty of experiencing visions and revelations. It is the height of misfortune to make use of only the elementary means out of those that God has, out of His Perfect Wisdom, bestowed upon man for the purpose of recognising God, and to remain ignorant of the rest. It is extremely unwise to let those faculties atrophy through lack of use and to derive no benefit from them. A person who does not use the faculty of receiving revelation and denies its existence cannot be a true philosopher, whereas the existence of this faculty has been established by the testimony of thousands of the righteous and all men of true understanding have arrived at perfect understanding through this means. I tell you truly that every door can be closed but the door of the descent of the Holy Spirit is never closed. Open the doors of your hearts so that it might enter into them.

        • RichardSRussell

          I’ve heard it said that the difference between education and indoctrination is whether the guy at the front of the room invites questions from the audience. After reading your recent posts, I have to add a corollary: It’s also whether you preface your comments with “According to the teachings of Islam, …” or just launch into declarative sentences as if they were as indisputable as “The sun comes up in the east.”

          Too bad the FDA can’t require a list of ingredients on website postings the way they do on cereal boxes and medicine bottles, but it appears from a casual inspection that the first ingredient in yours is Bovine Secretion.

        • SparklingMoon,

          After reading your recent posts, I have to add a corollary: It’s also whether you preface your comments with “According to the teachings of Islam, …” or just launch into declarative sentences as if they were as indisputable as “The sun comes up in the east.”
          ————————————————————
          What I have described in my previous post about the capability of receiving revelation of a person, is not something that only belong to religion Islam . All prophets have given the same message and it is not wrong to say that the first and foremost purpose of a messenger is to make a live relation between people and their Creator God Almighty.

          The most important to know that this ability to receive a revelation of God Almighty to have guidance in different matters for a person does not even need to be follower of a religion. The human soul, being God’s creation have a relation with Him like a mother and her child. We have many examples in scriptures that God Almighty has revealed His guidance to common people and even ladies had revelation.

          For example the mother of Moses was worried about the safety of her son and God Almighty revealed to her to put her son in water and He will return him back to her. The mother of Moses at that time was not the follower of a particular religion.We find out from the revelation of the Quran that when Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) was born in Egypt, his life was in great danger as the Pharoah was persecuting the Israelites: ”Truly Pharaoh elated himself in the land and broke up its people into sections depressing a group among them: their sons he slew, but he kept alive their females: for he was indeed a maker of mischief. (28:4)

          Therefore, Moses’s mother was greatly worried about her son’s fate; then, the Quran specifies that God inspired her to take an unlikely action: So We sent this inspiration to the mother of Moses: “Suckle (thy child) but when thou hast fears about him cast him, into the river, but fear not nor grieve: for We shall restore him to thee, and We shall make him one of Our messengers.” (28:7)

          Moses’s sister hid and kept watch on the progress of her brother across the river. The Pharoah’s wife took Moses from water and insisted her husband that they adopt him: ”The wife of Pharaoh said: “(Here is) a joy of the eye for me and for thee: slay him not. It may be that he will be of use to us, or we may adopt him as a son.” And they perceived not (what they were doing)! (28:9)

          When Moses (pbuh) was hungry, he refused to nurse from any of the foster mothers provided for him. At this point, Moses’s sister posing as a bystander suggested she could bring someone who may be successful in feeding him; she brought his own mother. Of course, Moses readily nursed from her and the two were thus rejoined: ”Thus did We restore him to his mother that her eye might be comforted, that she might not grieve and that she might know that the promise of Allah is true: but most of them do not understand. (28:13)
          There are many other examples in scriptures that God Almighty talks with common people. Secondly, the revelation of the Quran is not something new or different law in the world of religion but a continual part of God’s previous revelations He gave previous prophets. As God Almighty says about the religion of Islam in His revelation: ”’He has prescribed for you the religion which He enjoined on Noah, and which We have revealed to thee, and which We enjoined on Abraham and Moses and Jesus, saying,‘Remain steadfast in obedience, and be not divided therein.”(Quran42:14)

          Again we read in the Quran: ”We have revealed to you, as We revealed to Noah and the prophets who came after him. And We revealed to Abraham,Ishmael,Isaac,Jacob,the Descendants,Jesus, Job,Jonah, Aaron,and Solomon. And We gave David the Psalm. (4: 163)

          Shortly, God Almighty has assembled in the Quran His all previous revealed teachings with some more and told : “This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed my favor upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion.” (5:4)

        • RichardSRussell

          Public Service Message for Fundamentalists

          Copy the following message and keep it on file. Next time you post some mindless piece of dogma from whichever of the world’s 10,000 different religions you happen to favor, paste this in front of it:

          Even tho I have no rational basis for it, and could not make a cogent (let alone convincing) argument for it, I nonetheless believe that …

        • Agreed. It’s when they say that they have a compelling argument (and that we should adopt it) that the very long conversations ensue. If they’d just say that they believe shit and have no intention of defending it, we’d leave them alone.

        • Glad2BGodless

          If they have so little to say, I wish they could at least say it quick.

      • Kevin K

        You probably know this … but you are wasting your precious pixels on that one.

      • Zeta

        The last sentence of your incoherent rant seems to indicate you believe in the Islamic God and thus Islamic Hell

        SparklingMoon belongs to the Islamic sect of Ahmadiyya, a minority sect banned in many Islamic countries. I don’t think he is intellectually capable of writing all the long-winded drivel he posted. He has many ready-made templates of standard replies which he simply copied and pasted from the writing of his so-called prophet Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and others in the sect. As usual the stuff he posted are childish and laughable.

    • Nullifidian

      “God” does not exist. The concept of gods was invented in the Stone Age. Stone Age man, unable in his ignorance to comprehend naturalistic explanations for the phenomena of the world around him, necessarily resorted to supernatural explanations. Such explanations similarly appeal to the child, who also is unable, in his ignorance, to understand naturalistic explanations. That is how primitive superstition is transmitted to the modern world, in the name of religion.

      • Laurence Charles Ringo

        Well shucks, Nullifidian…since God doesn’t exist, why is everyone making such a fuss about a non-existent God and His non-existent Hell? Anyone?

        • I can only assume that you typed this as a stream of consciousness and clicked Post without actually thinking about it.

          You ever hear the prayer, “Dear God, protect me from your followers”? Christianity is the bull in society’s china shop. God doesn’t have to exist for believers to screw things up. I imagine you can see Christian meddling in society, but I can list a few cases if you can’t.

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          Believe it or not, I HAVE heard that particular adage, Mr.Seidensticker, and it may surprise you to know that to a certain extent I actually agree with it. Being deeply immersed with the Christian Worldview, and being privy to and keeping up with Christian trends, if you will, I have often shook my head in a sort of exasperated irritation at the incredibly foolish machinations of some of my co-religionists, and I’ve mourned in despair at those who have sadly caused real harm to their fellow human beings, both singly and corporately throughout the centuries. And I’m sure you’ll agree that humanity has a propensity for, as you say” …screwing things up”…with OR without God”…i.e.,various regimes, dynasties and governments throughout human history, so…there’s that. I won’t let you try to get await with scapegoating people of faith with the foibles and endless errors of humanity; the “godless” have done more than their fair share of damage to the human race, no?

        • While you’re lamenting Christians’ actions, tell your co-religionists to keep their religion out of government. The Constitution is clearly secular, and religion has no role to play in public schools, laws, public policy, and so on.

          You’ve got your churches, thanks to the Constitution. Knock yourself out worshiping God.

          the “godless” have done more than their fair share of damage to the human race, no?

          Millions have been killed in the name of God. Zero have been killed in the name of atheism.

        • Glad2BGodless

          You’ve got more patience than I do, sorting through all that stuff from lcr to find a few scraps that merit a reply.

        • Nullifidian

          Because of all the harm caused by the insufferable dupes who do believe in it.

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          And what about all the harm caused by the various godless regimes, dynasties and governments throughout human history; i.e.the Communistic regimes, Pol Pot, the Nazis,et.al.? Why do you atheists seem to scurry away as fast as you can when these various human constructs are brought up?

        • RichardSRussell

          I am one of the “you atheists” to whom you allude, and I certainly don’t “scurry away” at any speed from my condemnation of Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Genghis Khan, etc. They were murderous tyrants and deserve all the calumny we can heap on them. They were motivated, to a greater or lesser degree, by their lust for power and control. I also condemn the religious zealots who behave the same way, motivated by their religion, people like Torquemada, Arnaud Amalric, Oliver Cromwell, Adolf Hitler, etc. and to a considerably lesser extent cult leaders like Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Marshall Applewhite, whose victims were mainly their own followers who had signed up to be sacrificed.

          So I’m willing to condemn the non-religious despots. Other than whataboutism, do you have any qualms about doing the same for the religious ones?

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          Actually no, I don’t Mr.Russell.

        • RichardSRussell

          All right, then, we’re agreed that bad behavior deserves condemnation. Now let’s swim upstream a bit and look at what motivates and enables that bad behavior, shall we? I’m perfectly willing to condemn greed and lust for power that’s motivated by economic theories; political ideologies; or racial, ethnic, or sexual preferences. In my scale of values, people can have whatever damn fool ideas they want (such as adherence to communism, aristocracy, or sexism) as long as they treat it like a hobby and don’t try to inflict it on people who think otherwise.

          Can you take the same stand with respect to religion? Harmless as a personal hobby or fetish or taste in leisure activities, so go ahead and believe whatever you want, just don’t expect to be able to force anyone else to do the same?

        • I slap this argument silly here:

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2015/04/stalin-was-a-mass-murderer-and-im-not-too-sure-about-myself-genocide/

          Thanks for your concern, but I’m happy to face it directly, because the net result is religion causing much trouble in society and atheism correlated with healthy societies. Your confusing is atheism vs. atheists.

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          Well, that may be your take on atheists/atheism, Mr.Seidensticker,
          but frankly, it’s a specious argument and has never been convincing to Christians. We don’t deny that some supposed christians have engaged in atrocities and advocated actions in blatant contradiction to the Savior’s express commands, and they will give account on the Day of Judgment. But whatever reason anyone attempt to use to posit some kind of equivalency to the atheistic regimes of Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin et.al.will NEVER be convincing from my perspective. Even today, the price one risks paying to proclaim one’s faith, particularly Christian Faith, in places like Communist China and North Korea make the artificial dichotomy of atheists vs atheism a distinction without a difference.

        • Kodie

          We’re not talking just about tyrants – it’s the lot of you fools and all the power you have. Why should fantasy be law?

        • Well, that may be your take on atheists/atheism, Mr.Seidensticker,
          but frankly, it’s a specious argument and has never been convincing to Christians.

          I’ve had the same experience trying to convince Scientologists and Bahai that they’re wrong. Darn it, they’re just in their bubble so deep that they can’t or don’t want to consider the weaknesses in their worldview.

          I wonder if the same could be true for Christians . . .

          We don’t deny that some supposed christians have engaged in atrocities and advocated actions in blatant contradiction to the Savior’s express commands

          Not what we’re talking about. There are Christians engaged in atrocities who can provide a detailed account of why their actions match up with what the Savior said. Just because you don’t think their actions are validly Christian doesn’t mean much. “Christianity” is in the mind of the believer. You and I can criticize their position all we want, including pointing out how (in our minds) they don’t live up to scripture, but that doesn’t count for much.

          they will give account on the Day of Judgment.

          As will you. How do you know that God will agree with you and not with them?

          But whatever reason anyone attempt to use to posit some kind of equivalency to the atheistic regimes of Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin et.al.will NEVER be convincing from my perspective.

          Which is not my argument. Did you read that post?

          My argument is that Stalin and friends were bad people. You can indeed have someone who’s bad who’s an atheist (or a Christian or a knitter or who wears a mustache), but that’s not the issue. We’re looking for something causative. Did the atheism cause the dictatorship . . . or might it have been the other way around?

          You’ve got a big job ahead of you showing that “I have no god belief” is the cause of much of anything, except a lack of god belief. There is no atheist Bible with nutty, irrelevant demands—that’s Christianity.

        • BlackMamba44

          https://michaelsherlockauthor.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/the-atheist-atrocities-fallacy-hitler-stalin-pol-pot-in-memory-of-christopher-hitchens/

          Tu quoque (“You Too”) Fallacy

          The Tuquoque fallacy is an informal fallacy used to dismiss criticism by means of deflection. [31] Instead of addressing an accusation or charge, the perpetrator of this fallacy will offer an example of their opponent’s alleged hypocrisy with regards to the allegation. This is precisely how Christian apologists employ the atheist atrocities fallacy.

          To give you an example of this fallacy in action, we need only examine the reply of renowned Christian apologist, Dinesh D’Souza, to charges of religious violence:

          And who can deny that Stalin and Mao, not to mention Pol Pot and a host of others, all committed atrocities in the name of a Communist ideology that was explicitly atheistic? [32]

          “…it is interesting to find that people of faith now seek defensively to say that they are no worse than fascists or Nazis or Stalinists.” [33] ~Christopher Hitchens

          This fallacy will be often employed with an added sprinkle of one-upmanship, with the apologist using the immense scale of secular atrocities to argue that atheism is worse than religion. However, if we were to honestly calculate those victims of ritual and religious sacrifice across the entire planet, the total number of witches burned and drowned across Europe and in America, the near genocides of the Pacific Islanders by the London Missionary Society, and similar missionary organizations, the dismembered bodies of the Saint Francis Xavier’s Inquisition in Goa, the disembowelled remains of the Anabaptists in Europe, the men, women and children murdered by Muslim conquerors from the Middle-East to Spain, the stoned and strangled blasphemers in Christian states of the past and Muslim ones of the modern age, and all of the unmarked graves of all of the victims of religion, from the dawn of that plague to now, I am quite certain that the numbers game would prove to be an unfruitful one for the desperate apologist.

          This brings us to our next fallacy.

          False Analogy Fallacy

          This fallacy depends upon the existence of an often minor analogous factor, in this case, the belief in god versus a lack of belief in god, god being the analogous component, and extrapolating from this minor analogy, conditions that are alleged to affect both positions, when the truth of the matter happens to be, the two (religion and atheism) are not analogous at all. [34]

          For apologists to overcome the existence of this fallacy, they must show that atheism is a religion, but the very definition of atheism circumvents any such attempt. Atheism, although encompassing varying degrees of disbelief, is not a system of beliefs, but an unsystematic absence of god-belief, that is all. It has no doctrines, traditions and most importantly, no beliefs. Unless there is some secret atheist bible from which Stalin drew inspiration for his crimes, there is absolutely no reason to suggest that his lack of belief in a supernatural deity had anything to do with his messianic and maniacal behaviour.

          This takes us to the next fallacy in this medley of intellectually dishonest apologetics.

          False Cause Fallacy

          The fallacy of false cause occurs whenever the link between premise and conclusion

          depends on some imagined causal connection that probably does not exist. [35]

          Example 1:

          Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot were all non-figure skaters. Therefore we can conclude that not being a figure skater causes a person to commit atrocities.

          Example 2:

          None of these three dictators believed in the existence of leprechauns, hence the lack of belief in leprechauns causes people to commit atrocities.

          The imaginary atheist bible is a great hypothetical answer to this fallacy, yet such a collection of manuscripts does not exist, nor do any unwritten doctrines that a dictator who happens to lack belief in a god would be able to employ to commit such religious-styled atrocities. In the absence of any written or unwritten atheist doctrines, the apologist must show that a lack of belief in god was a causal factor in the atrocities committed, but to do so, they must conversely demonstrate that had these tyrants believed in a god, they wouldn’t have committed such crimes against humanity, which brings us right back to our Christian Inquisitions, Holy Crusades, missionary atrocities and all of the other dirt directly derived from religion that this fallacy attempts to quietly sweep under the rug.

          Poisoning the Well Fallacy

          When someone presents adverse information about, or associates unfavourable characters, characteristics or qualities with, a targeted person, or in this case, worldview (atheism), with the intention of undermining it, this is known as poisoning the well. “Stalin was an atheist, therefore atheism is dangerous.” By associating atheism with these three villains of history, the religious apologist is attempting to throw an unjustified negative light on atheism.

          Aren’t atheists and anti-theists doing the same thing when they associate Christianity with the Spanish Inquisition? No. The Spanish Inquisition was directly caused and inspired by the very foundations of the Christian religion, i.e., the Bible and Church doctrines and traditions. The fallacy doesn’t exist when there is a legitimate association between the poison and its target.

          To give you a hypothetical example of this legitimate association, just imagine that John smith has offered a friend of yours a too-good-to-be-true investment opportunity, and John has previously been convicted of fraud on multiple occasions. If you inform your friend about John’s prior convictions you are not poisoning the well, but stressing a legitimate association between the poison (fraud convictions) and the target (John Smith). Such association is certainly the case with the religious atrocities committed as a direct result of scripture, ecclesiastical edicts, tradition, and clerical authority.

          [Implied] Slippery Slope Fallacy

          The slippery slope fallacy is a species of the false cause fallacy that seeks to present a conclusion of an argument that is dependent upon an unlikely chain of events.

          In Hurely’s Concise Introduction to Logic, he offers the following example:

          Immediate steps should be taken to outlaw pornography once and for all. The continued manufacture and sale of pornographic material will almost certainly lead to an increase in sex-related crimes such as rape and incest. This in turn will gradually erode the moral fabric of society and result in an increase in crimes of all sorts. Eventually a complete disintegration of law and order will occur, leading in the end to the total collapse of civilization.

          Because there is no good reason to think that the mere failure to outlaw pornography will result in all these dire consequences, this argument is fallacious. [36]

          The more we become secularized and the more atheism is allowed to spread, the greater the chance of such horrendous atrocities occurring will be. This is the not so subtle inference of the atheist atrocities fallacy. I won’t bore you with statistics that show societies with higher rates of atheism are generally more peaceful; have higher standards of education, health and personal freedom, [37] as I have already pulled the first proposition in this “slippery slope” from beneath the starry-eyed apologist’s feet.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          Did Mao, Pol Pot, and Stalin kill other people specifically because they were not atheists? If you think so, please present the evidence for that.

          Atheism can be an incidental feature without being a motivating factor.

          However, we do know that Christians have killed people specifically because they were not Christians or did not have specific Christian beliefs — Inquisition, Crusades, Protestant-Catholic conflicts in Ireland, 30 Years War in Europe, killing of so-called witches, etc.

        • Did Mao, Pol Pot, and Stalin kill other people specifically because they were not atheists?

          And even if they did, that says nothing about atheism! There’s nothing in atheism that says, “Kill/punish/insult people who aren’t atheist/white/like me.”

          Turn that question to Christianity, however, and things look quite different (as your long list indicates). What continues to amaze me is that the 30 Years War (though not driven totally by Protestant/Catholic friction) killed two percent of the entire world’s population.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          I am an atheist and secular humanist, who is unlikely to change his worldview. However, for a little while I’d like to play God’s advocate or Ringo’s advocate on this particular issue. I will focus on Stalin because I know more about him than those other dictators.

          If laid out, Ringo’s argument might look a little like this:
          1. Stalin was an atheist.
          2. Stalin ordered the murder of millions of people.
          3. Stalin’s atheism caused him to order the murder of millions of people.
          4. Therefore, atheism is bad and the people of the world should reject it.

          I think premise #3 is false. I don’t think atheism is an ideology in itself but rather the absence of a particular ideology — theism. So, I don’t see how atheism can directly cause anyone to behave badly. But what about indirectly?

          A person is more likely to misbehave if he believes that he will not be held accountable (punished) for his misbehavior than if he believes he will.
          People who believe in God are more likely to believe that they will be held accountable for misbehavior than people do not believe in God.
          Thus, a person who already has an inclination or some reason for killing people is more likely to do so if he is an atheist than if he is a theist since he has one less constraint on his behavior.

          Stalin had a utopian vision and was determined to use violence to remove all obstacles to the fulfillment of his vision. For him, the ends justified the means. Obviously, he was a bully and morally wrong in many of his actions. He was raised to be religious and later rejected that life stance. Isn’t it possible or even likely that his propensity to violence was facilitated or increased by his belief that his misbehavior would not be punished by any god?

          In other words, isn’t there a kernal of truth in Ringo’s view?

        • epeeist

          1. Stalin was an atheist.
          2. Stalin ordered the murder of millions of people.

          Fine so far

          3. Stalin’s atheism caused him to order the murder of millions of people.
          4. Therefore, atheism is bad and the people of the world should reject it.

          But then there is a gaping non sequitur between 2. and 3. Stalin also was Georgian as well as an atheist, so why shouldn’t we replace “atheist” with “Georgian”? Or even replace “an atheist” with “educated at a seminary”? The difficulty is that Stalin has many properties, you can’t just pick one and say that is causal.

          On top of that Stalin also purged members of the army, NKVD and Politburo as well as those of particular ethnicities, how does his atheism explain the killing of these people?

        • Gary Whittenberger

          #3 was not meant to follow from #1 and #2. It was meant to be a separate premise and statement of fact, which connects the facts of #1 and #2. I don’t believe that #3 is true, as it is written. But there is a reason to pick “atheist” rather than “Georgian” or “seminary educated,” and I tried to explain that reason. Lack of belief in God who sees everything and punishes all wrong-doing could act as a facilitating, if not causative, factor. Try this analogy: An arsonist can choose to burn down a house for a variety of reasons, but his use of gasoline will accelerate the fire. Maybe atheism for Stalin was like the gasoline for this arsonist in the example.

          Stalin’s utopian ideas plus his choice of violence to remove obstacles plus his psychopathic personality explains all those other killings, as well as the killings of religious people.

          I guess my point is that we atheists should not so cavalierly reject the example of the atheist Stalin being so harmful. The example does not mean that we should reject atheism in favor of theism, even though theism may have an advantage of somewhat constraining violent or other offensive behavior in many cases.

        • epeeist

          But there is a reason to pick “atheist” rather than “Georgian” or “seminary educated,” and I tried to explain that reason. Lack of belief in God who sees everything and punishes all wrong-doing could act as a facilitating, if not causative, factor.

          I could accept this if Stalin had only killed those from religious organisations but as I noted he also had those from the army, NKVD and Politburo executed. Did he kill these for one reason and the religious for another reason? Or did he kill them all for a common reason?

        • Gary Whittenberger

          I think you are missing my main point. Stalin killed ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE (atheists, theists, and agnostics) partly because he thought he could get away with it. And he thought he could get away with it partly because he didn’t believe in God. One advantage of religion is that it somewhat constrains people from engaging in bad acts. In my opinion, this advantage is not sufficient to favor it over something like secular humanism.

        • epeeist

          Stalin killed ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE (atheists, theists, and agnostics) partly because he thought he could get away with it.

          I am going to need a somewhat stronger warrant, even if you are only claiming it as a distal cause.

          One advantage of religion is that it somewhat constrains people from engaging in bad acts.

          That one is easily testable, which societies have people engaging in fewer “bad acts”, those that have a higher religiosity or those with a lower religiosity?

        • Gary Whittenberger

          GW1: Stalin killed ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE (atheists, theists, and agnostics) partly because he thought he could get away with it.

          E2: I am going to need a somewhat stronger warrant, even if you are only claiming it as a distal cause.

          GW2: I’m not going to need it.

          GW1: One advantage of religion is that it somewhat constrains people from engaging in bad acts.

          E2: That one is easily testable, which societies have people engaging in fewer “bad acts”, those that have a higher religiosity or those with a lower religiosity?

          GW2: The results you report for studies comparing societies are accurate. Of course, these studies are field studies and correlational. Religion is a complex phenomenon and probably has both violence restraining and violence facilitating features. The “deterrent to bad behavior” effect has to do just with the belief that one is being watched and will be punished for bad behavior. There are some new experiments, especially with children, which demonstrate this effect. Another related kind of study showed that the crime rate went up in a Canadian city when the electricity was off for a period of time — lack of monitoring/supervision leads to belief “I won’t get caught” leads to increase in crime rate.

          GW2: The societies with lower religiosity also may have better law enforcement which may help explain lower crime rates.

          GW2: I speculate that one reason for the invention of religion may have been this deterrent effect.

        • Greg G.

          A person is more likely to misbehave if he believes that he will not be held accountable (punished) for his misbehavior than if he believes he will.

          People with a weak sense of morality are more likely to misbehave if they think they can get away with it. Most people do not murder every time they think they could get away with. There are criminals who think an opportunity to steal something is a gift from God.

          People who believe in God are more likely to believe that they will be held accountable for misbehavior than people do not believe in God.

          A Bible believer thinks a person is sent to hell for not believing in Jesus no matter how good or evil their behavior is, and that if a person believes in Jesus, all of their sins will be forgiven no matter how evil they were, excepting possibly blaspheming the Holy Ghost.

          Thus, a person who already has an inclination or some reason for killing people is more likely to do so if he is an atheist than if he is a theist since he has one less constraint on his behavior.

          OTOH, if a person is disinclined to kill people but his religion provides a justification for it, the person will consider killing to be a good thing.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          GW1: A person is more likely to misbehave if he believes that he will not be held accountable (punished) for his misbehavior than if he believes he will.

          GG2: People with a weak sense of morality are more likely to misbehave if they think they can get away with it.

          GW2: Well sure, but the strength of peoples’ morality is probably normally distributed. For any group of people at any point on this distribution, still, those who believe they will be held accountable are less likely to misbehave than those who believe they won’t be held accountable. Even this factor of belief is not a dichotomy since people believe they will get caught and punished to varying degrees of probability.

          GG2: Most people do not murder every time they think they could get away with.

          GW2: Your choice of “every time” makes this claim a straw man. People inclined to commit murder for a variety of reasons are more likely to do it if they believe they probably will not be punished for their act than if they believe they probably will be punished for their act. According to the Abrahamic religions, God watches people constantly and will punish them for wrong doing in an afterlife, unless they are forgiven.

          GG2: There are criminals who think an opportunity to steal something is a gift from God.

          GW2: Well sure there are, but they are very likely not in the majority of thieves.

          GW1: People who believe in God are more likely to believe that they will be held accountable for misbehavior than people do not believe in God.

          GG2: A Bible believer thinks a person is sent to hell for not believing in Jesus no matter how good or evil their behavior is, and that if a person believes in Jesus, all of their sins will be forgiven no matter how evil they were, excepting possibly blaspheming the Holy Ghost.

          GW2: That is true for Christians, but not Jews or Muslims. However, according to the Christian doctrine, God still watches everything and intends to punish every act of wrong doing. Forgiveness, atonement, and belief in salvation via Jesus constitute a secondary system as a reaction to wrong doing.

          GW1: Thus, a person who already has an inclination or some reason for killing people is more likely to do so if he is an atheist than if he is a theist since he has one less constraint on his behavior.

          GG2: OTOH, if a person is disinclined to kill people but his religion provides a justification for it, the person will consider killing to be a good thing.

          GW2: I agree with that. Religion provides both incentives and disincentives for bad behavior, depending on the religion, the sect, and the circumstances. My point is that Ringo’s point is not totally wrong. On the other hand, the constraining effect of religion can be replaced by the constraining effects of good law enforcement, criminal justice systems, parenting, empathy, and rational morality.

        • Greg G.

          According to the Abrahamic religions, God watches people constantly and will punish them for wrong doing in an afterlife, unless they are forgiven.

          GW2: That is true for Christians, but not Jews or Muslims.

          But religion can convince them that a wrong thing is right for religious reasons, honor killings, stoning for picking up sticks on a certain day…

        • Gary Whittenberger

          I agree. The advantages of religion, e.g. deterrence, comfort, are outweighed by the disadvantages, e.g. bad morality, falseness.

        • In case you might be interested, here’s my in-depth response to the “But Stalin was an atheist!” argument:
          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2015/04/stalin-was-a-mass-murderer-and-im-not-too-sure-about-myself-genocide/

          People who believe in God are more likely to believe that they will be held accountable for misbehavior than people do not believe in God.

          This is the utility argument for Christianity: Christianity isn’t true, but it’s useful.

          Could be, though there are plenty of believers who knowingly do bad things. More quantitatively, Gregory Paul’s work (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2017/06/christianity-lead-better-society-2/ ) undermines this argument. Northern Europe has low religiosity, and they have far better social metrics than the US does.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          GW1: People who believe in God are more likely to believe that they will be held accountable for misbehavior than people do not believe in God.

          BS2: This is the utility argument for Christianity: Christianity isn’t true, but it’s useful.

          GW2: Yes, it is useful in some ways. One is that it produces a general deterrent effect, which I have mentioned. Another is that it produces a comforting effect, as in a spouse feels comforted by the idea that she will one day be reunited with her dead husband.

          BS2: Could be, though there are plenty of believers who knowingly do bad things. More quantitatively, Gregory Paul’s work (http://www.patheos.com/blog… ) undermines this argument. Northern Europe has low religiosity, and they have far better social metrics than the US does.

          GW2: Of course there are plenty of believers who do bad things. A big problem is that some believers think that God has told them to do something which is violent (note 9-11 hijackers). Paul’s work is good, but correlational. A rise in social democracy may point to a rise in atheism and lowering of the crime rate.

          GW2: I did read your other article from the link you provided. As usual, I agree with most of it and like it too. I will make a few comments here on where we differ a little.

          BS2: Control was the reason for persecution in dictatorships. Atheism was just a tool, like a scalpel used to murder.

          GW2: I agree with the first part, but I am skeptical about the second part. Atheism may not have been a tool at all. It just may have been a correlate. Or, as I have suggested, it may have been more like an accelerant.

          BS2: There is nothing in the Bible about transgender people, euthanasia, or chemically induced abortions, and Christians must improvise in response to new situations just like the rest of us.

          GW2: Why do you point to “chemically induced abortions”? Does the Bible say anything about surgical abortions in a manner in which they are performed today?

          BS2: Atheists are decent for the same reason you are-how you are programmed as a Homo sapiens and the influence of your environment and society.

          GW2: I think that is mostly true, but there may be other reasons why atheists are decent which are not present with theists. One of these reasons may be the greater prevalence of rationality in atheists than in theists. Rationality may lead to both atheism and the development of a sound morality. Also, atheists are not as likely to have the “excuse framework” which theists must have. I’ll try to explain. If God did exist, then he would be the cause of natural disasters which cause great harm to human beings. But why? What are his excuses? If you examine most of these excuses which religious people attribute to him, you will see that they are often quite similar to the excuses that criminals give for their behavior, e.g. “They had it coming.” “It’s none of your business.” “You aren’t capable of understanding.”

          BS2: You’ve convinced me: dictatorships are a problem. But you have yet to show atheism as a cause of anything.

          GW2: Yes, since atheism is the absence of something, it’s really hard to see how it could be the cause of something. On the other hand, as I have mentioned, atheism entails the lack of a belief which is ordinarily operates as a restraint on misbehavior – “Somebody is watching me and is likely to punish me if I do wrong.” And so, in this sense atheism could be a facilitator of misbehavior in some cases.

          BS2: Christians imagine an objective morality that isn’t there.

          GW2: It isn’t there yet. I believe that objectivity falls along a continuum and that morality could have a rather high level of objectivity under certain conditions, which might be the topic of another discussion. But even Sam Harris hints at this in his book The Moral Landscape.

          BS2: No one has ever been killed in the name of atheism.

          GW2: No one, ever? I am doubtful of your claim here, but I can’t think of a counterexample. I can imagine, however, that somewhere sometime there was a person who killed others who were religious under the banner of “atheism.”

        • Paul’s work is good, but correlational.

          And by showing a correlation between lack of belief and good social stats, it proves “more Christianity leads to better society” to be false.

          BS2: Control was the reason for persecution in dictatorships . Atheism was just a tool, like a scalpel used to murder.
          GW2: I agree with the first part, but I am skeptical about the second part. Atheism may not have been a tool at all. It just may have been a correlate. Or, as I have suggested, it may have been more like an accelerant.

          You’ve lost me. Expand on your point.

          BS2: Christians imagine an objective morality that isn’t there.
          GW2: It isn’t there yet. I believe that objectivity falls along a continuum and that morality could have a rather high level of objectivity under certain conditions, which might be the topic of another discussion. But even Sam Harris hints at this in his book The Moral Landscape.

          I haven’t read that book.

          I’m not sure what a spectrum of objectivity would look like. My challenge to advocates of objective morality is for them to demonstrate it. Example: show what the objectively correct resolution of the abortion question is, and show that this is an objective position, not just their position.

          BS2: No one has ever been killed in the name of atheism.
          GW2: No one, ever? I am doubtful of your claim here, but I can’t think of a counterexample.

          How would this even be possible? “I kill you because of X” makes no sense if X = “I like knitting.” I also don’t see how that would work if X = “I have no god belief.”

        • Gary Whittenberger

          GW2: Paul’s work is good, but correlational.

          BS3: And by showing a correlation between lack of belief and good social stats, it proves “more Christianity leads to better society” to be false.

          GW3: I don’t think it “proves” that claim, but certainly supports it. Also, that is not the claim we have been discussing, which is more specific regarding the relation of religion and violence (note Stalin).

          BS2: Control was the reason for persecution in dictatorships . Atheism was just a tool, like a scalpel used to murder.

          GW2: I agree with the first part, but I am skeptical about the second part. Atheism may not have been a tool at all. It just may have been a correlate. Or, as I have suggested, it may have been more like an accelerant.

          BS3: You’ve lost me. Expand on your point.

          GW3: Atheism is absence of belief in God, gods, and/or the supernatural. It implies an absence of belief in a constant overseer and enforcer. On the other hand, theism implies the presence of belief in a constant overseer and enforcer. If this difference were the only operative factor, then we’d expect a higher rate of misbehavior in an atheist group than in a theist group. However, it is not the only operative factor.

          BS2: Christians imagine an objective morality that isn’t there.

          GW2: It isn’t there yet. I believe that objectivity falls along a continuum and that morality could have a rather high level of objectivity under certain conditions, which might be the topic of another discussion. But even Sam Harris hints at this in his book The Moral Landscape.

          BS3: I haven’t read that book.

          GW3: I highly recommend it to you. Maybe you could read it and then write a new essay in which you evaluate it.

          BS3: I’m not sure what a spectrum of objectivity would look like.

          GW3: I think we talked about this briefly in another discussion. To give it a full treatment, you would probably need to write a new essay specifically about it and open the discussion. I’ll touch on it here. Suppose you had nine persons give an answer to the same question. The degree of objectivity of answers would be the percentage of agreement for the same answer, so this could range from 0% to 100%. This could constitute “a spectrum of objectivity.” Suppose you had two questions like these: 1) How far is it from the top of the Empire State Building in NYC to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris? And 2) Under what conditions should the state allow and disallow an abortion by a woman? We would expect a higher degree of objectivity of answers for the first question than for the second one. However, my claim is that under certain conditions, a fairly high degree of objectivity could be achieved for the second question, perhaps the same answer from 7 of 9 persons, i.e. 78%, or greater. The first step is to specify the conditions of investigation, deliberation, and decision making and the qualifications of the persons in the gro.

          BS3: My challenge to advocates of objective morality is for them to demonstrate it. Example: show what the objectively correct resolution of the abortion question is, and show that this is an objective position, not just their position.

          GW3: It would not be either objective or not objective. It would have a degree of objectivity, which I have tried to explain. I suggest that it can have a high degree of objectivity.

          BS2: No one has ever been killed in the name of atheism.

          GW2: No one, ever? I am doubtful of your claim here, but I can’t think of a counterexample.

          BS3: How would this even be possible? “I kill you because of X” makes no sense if X = “I like knitting.” I also don’t see how that would work if X = “I have no god belief.”

          GW3: I think it would be rare, but possible. The killer might think “I’m an atheist. You are a theist. We need more atheists and fewer theists in this world to make it a better world. I’m going to kill you.” I didn’t say it would be rational, only that it is possible and has probably already happened.

        • BS3: And by showing a correlation between lack of belief and good social stats, it proves “more Christianity leads to better society” to be false.
          GW3: I don’t think it “proves” that claim, but certainly supports it.

          Correlation doesn’t prove causation, but causation must have correlation. If more Christianity led to a better society, then you would see that correlation. That you don’t see the correlation disproves the claim.

          The degree of objectivity of answers would be the percentage of agreement for the same answer, so this could range from 0% to 100%.

          Popularity of that belief would be one definition of objectivity. But that’s not what I mean (or what most people mean) when they refer to objective morality. I’ve been using WLC’s definition, moral claims that are valid and binding whether anyone believes them or not.

          Suppose you had two questions like these: 1) How far is it from the top of the Empire State Building in NYC to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris? And 2) Under what conditions should the state allow and disallow an abortion by a woman? We would expect a higher degree of objectivity of answers for the first question than for the second one.

          And now you illustrate how radically different your definition of objectivity is.

          BS3: How would this even be possible? “I kill you because of X” makes no sense if X = “I like knitting.” I also don’t see how that would work if X = “I have no god belief.”
          GW3: I think it would be rare, but possible. The killer might think “I’m an atheist. You are a theist. We need more atheists and fewer theists in this world to make it a better world. I’m going to kill you.” I didn’t say it would be rational, only that it is possible and has probably already happened.

          Sure. “I’m going to kill you because I knit and you don’t, and I want more knitters in society.” Or, “2 + 2 = 7, so therefore, I’m going to kill you.” If you drop rationality, then you find people who meet your criteria, but the criteria has become so broad as to be useless. Anything can then be “because of” anything else.

          Given Yahweh’s murderous rampages, it’s easy to find OT precedents that would justify killing someone today. Modern Western sensibilities would prevent it, but we can ignore those. “Well, Yahweh did it like that” is, bizarrely, a good enough reason for some people even in the 21st century.

          However, “I’m a knitter; therefore, you must die” doesn’t even make a causative argument. If you want to argue that somewhere, there’s probably someone so nutty that they’ll make this argument, OK, that’s possible. But (as with the objective argument) you’ve bludgeoned the word so much that you’ve left ordinary discourse and started your own, new conversation.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          BS3: And by showing a correlation between lack of belief and good social stats, it proves “more Christianity leads to better society” to be false.

          GW3: I don’t think it “proves” that claim, but certainly supports it.

          BS4: Correlation doesn’t prove causation, but causation must have correlation. If more Christianity led to a better society, then you would see that correlation. That you don’t see the correlation disproves the claim.

          GW4: Ok, I think I see what you mean now. If the hypothesis is that X causes Y, but there is data to show that X is inversely correlated with Y, then this undermines the hypothesis. I still wouldn’t say that it “proves it to be false.” I think that is too strong an inference from the data. But anyway, you changed the hypothesis we were talking about, as I said last time.

          GW3: The degree of objectivity of answers would be the percentage of agreement for the same answer, so this could range from 0% to 100%.

          BS4: Popularity of that belief would be one definition of objectivity. But that’s not what I mean (or what most people mean) when they refer to objective morality. I’ve been using WLC’s definition, moral claims that are valid and binding whether anyone believes them or not.

          GW4: I think “popularity of belief” is not really what I mean here. I think “degree of consensus in a group charged with investigating and answering a question” is closer to the mark. It’s more like a jury decision than an opinion poll in the general population. Well, WLC’s definition is a complete failure. No moral claims can even be made without persons or intelligent agents doing cognitive activity, and so beliefs must be presented. Bob, you are trying to enter this race without a horse. Please present your definition of “objectivity” and show how it applies to the moral realm.

          GW3: Suppose you had two questions like these: 1) How far is it from the top of the Empire State Building in NYC to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris? And 2) Under what conditions should the state allow and disallow an abortion by a woman? We would expect a higher degree of objectivity of answers for the first question than for the second one.

          BS4: And now you illustrate how radically different your definition of objectivity is.

          GW4: It is a little different, but not radically different. My original field of expertise was psychology. In that field, there is a concept called “interjudge reliability” which is very similar to what I am talking about here. But I’ll wait for your definition of “objectivity” before I comment further.

          BS3: How would this even be possible? “I kill you because of X” makes no sense if X = “I like knitting.” I also don’t see how that would work if X = “I have no god belief.”

          GW3: I think it would be rare, but possible. The killer might think “I’m an atheist. You are a theist. We need more atheists and fewer theists in this world to make it a better world. I’m going to kill you.” I didn’t say it would be rational, only that it is possible and has probably already happened.

          BS4: Sure. “I’m going to kill you because I knit and you don’t, and I want more knitters in society.” Or, “2 + 2 = 7, so therefore, I’m going to kill you.” If you drop rationality, then you find people who meet your criteria, but the criteria has become so broad as to be useless. Anything can then be “because of” anything else.

          GW4: But your original claim didn’t include “if they are rational.” People have killed other people in the name of atheism, even though they have been acting irrationally.

          BS4: Given Yahweh’s murderous rampages, it’s easy to find OT precedents that would justify killing someone today. Modern Western sensibilities would prevent it, but we can ignore those. “Well, Yahweh did it like that” is, bizarrely, a good enough reason for some people even in the 21st century.

          GW4: Of course, I agree with you, but these people are being irrational too.

          BS4: However, “I’m a knitter; therefore, you must die” doesn’t even make a causative argument. If you want to argue that somewhere, there’s probably someone so nutty that they’ll make this argument, OK, that’s possible. But (as with the objective argument) you’ve bludgeoned the word so much that you’ve left ordinary discourse and started your own, new conversation.

          GW4: Yes, that is my claim. There are nutty people who have probably killed people in the name of atheism. I have not bludgeoned the word “objective.” Let’s see how your definition compares to mine and WLC’s.

        • I still wouldn’t say that it “proves it to be false.” I think that is too strong an inference from the data.

          If there’s a correlation between X and Y, that doesn’t prove causation. We’re all familiar with this mistake. But the reverse is true: if X causes Y, there must be correlation. And from that, If there is no positive correlation between X and Y, then X can’t cause Y.

          I realize that I’m repeating myself, but I don’t know how else to respond to your, “Gee, that just doesn’t sound right to me.” This all seems to flow from the definitions of these things. If you can express how there’s an error, I’d like to hear it.

          that is not the claim we have been discussing, which is more specific regarding the relation of religion and violence (note Stalin).

          No, you’d said earlier, “[Gregory] Paul’s work is good, but correlational.” Paul was talking about more Christianity in a society vs. good stats.

          GW4: I think “popularity of belief” is not really what I mean here. I think “degree of consensus in a group charged with investigating and answering a question” is closer to the mark. It’s more like a jury decision than an opinion poll in the general population.

          Sounds like popularity of belief to me. Anyway, my definition of objective morality is WLC’s. It seems a waste of time to muse about any of the dozens of variations on that definition.

          Well, WLC’s definition is a complete failure. No moral claims can even be made without persons or intelligent agents doing cognitive activity, and so beliefs must be presented.

          His definition is popular, which is why I use it. I’m adopting the Christians’ definition so that we can agree that we’re at least starting from the same point.

          I don’t see how it’s a failure. If helping old ladies across the street is good because God made it so and he made us understand this timeless, external truth, then that’s a reasonable kind of objective morality, it seems to me.

          BS4: And now you illustrate how radically different your definition of objectivity is.
          GW4: It is a little different, but not radically different.

          A vote by the public on whether abortion is morally acceptable is very, very different than looking it up in Big Book of Morality in God’s library.

          GW4: But your original claim didn’t include “if they are rational.”

          And in that case, I do X because of Y could be offered for any possible X and Y. I thought it was obvious that this domain is uninteresting, but if that datum is finally out in the open and can clarify the conversation, great.

          BS4: Given Yahweh’s murderous rampages, it’s easy to find OT precedents that would justify killing someone today. Modern Western sensibilities would prevent it, but we can ignore those. “Well, Yahweh did it like that” is, bizarrely, a good enough reason for some people even in the 21st century.
          GW4: Of course, I agree with you, but these people are being irrational too.

          “2 + 2 = 7; therefore, I must kill you” is very different from “my god killed people for doing X; you’re now doing X; therefore, I must/am entitled to kill you.” Whatever error they’re making, it’s not the same.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          GW4: I still wouldn’t say that it “proves it to be false.” I think that is too strong an inference from the data.

          BS5: If there’s a correlation between X and Y, that doesn’t prove causation. We’re all familiar with this mistake. But the reverse is true: if X causes Y, there must be correlation. And from that, If there is no positive correlation between X and Y, then X can’t cause Y.

          GW5: I think you are leaving out several words or assumptions. Correct me if I’m mistaken, but your argument seems to go like this:
          1. If X causes Y, then if we conduct a correlational study of X and Y, we expect to find a positive correlation of X and Y.
          2. But if we don’t find the positive correlation of X and Y, then this proves that X doesn’t and can’t cause Y. (You even raise the ante by using the word “can’t.”)
          I still dispute your conclusion. I don’t think this evidence and argument rises to the level of proof. Consider this alternative:
          1. If X causes Y, then if we conduct a experimental study of X and Y, we expect to find not only a positive correlation of X and Y but evidence that an increase in Y follows an increase in X and a decrease in Y follows a decrease in X.
          2. But if we don’t find these specific results, then this proves that X does not cause Y.
          I think this evidence and argument rises to the level of proof.

          BS5: I realize that I’m repeating myself, but I don’t know how else to respond to your, “Gee, that just doesn’t sound right to me.” This all seems to flow from the definitions of these things. If you can express how there’s an error, I’d like to hear it.

          GW5: I don’t mind your repeating yourself in slightly different ways. That helps sometimes. Above I tried to express how I think there is an error.

          GW4: that is not the claim we have been discussing, which is more specific regarding the relation of religion and violence (note Stalin).

          BS5: No, you’d said earlier, “[Gregory] Paul’s work is good, but correlational.” Paul was talking about more Christianity in a society vs. good stats.

          GW5: Yes, Paul’s work is both correlational and only somewhat relevant to the more specific hypothesis we have been discussing.

          GW4: I think “popularity of belief” is not really what I mean here. I think “degree of consensus in a group charged with investigating and answering a question” is closer to the mark. It’s more like a jury decision than an opinion poll in the general population.
          BS5: Sounds like popularity of belief to me.

          GW5: I can understand why you would think that. Objectivity could possibly be construed as a special subset of “popularity of belief,” although this term often has a negative connotation with the general public which I don’t buy in these circumstances. We might approvingly say “The jury reached a 100% consensus that the defendant was guilty” rather than “The belief that the defendant was guilty was very popular with the jury.” By the way, I think objectivity is not the same thing as correctness, which is something WLC (and maybe you) is confused about. More on that later.

          BS5: Anyway, my definition of objective morality is WLC’s.

          GW5: I think you are mistaken to accept his definition, and I hope you change your mind about this. First, I will try to show you that it leads to a contradiction. Craig has said (direct quote): “When I speak of objective moral values, I mean moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes them or not.” Craig is not clear on what he means by a “moral value,” so I am going to substitute “moral rule” for it. A moral rule is a proposition stating how persons should or should not behave, especially with respect to each other. I am going to change WLC’s claim to something that is clearer and more specific, i.e. “An objective moral rule is one which is valid, independent of peoples’ beliefs.” To conclude that a moral rule is valid requires that at least one person makes a judgement. And so this person believes that the moral rule is valid. Therefore, an objective moral rule (really any moral rule) cannot be independent of all peoples’ beliefs!

          GW5: In addition, a moral rule cannot be objective if it is based on just one person’s belief, even if that person were to be God, if God existed. A belief based on one person’s judgement is subjective, not objective. For a moral rule to be objective at least two persons must agree on it. And this is where consensus of a group comes in.

          GW5: Validity is not the same as objectivity, and WLC confounds the two. Here is a simple example for a descriptive proposition: At one time the belief “The Earth is flat” was objective, but not valid. Here is an example for a prescriptive proposition: The belief “People should not engage in homosexual behavior” is objective if a group of judges all use the Old Testament to make a judgement, but it is not valid.

          BS5: It seems a waste of time to muse about any of the dozens of variations on that definition.

          GW5: To the contrary, it seems to be a very profitable use of time to me. I think it would pay huge dividends to you if you applied it to secular morality. Here are the three main definitions of “objective” which I have found:
          1. Unbiased or low in bias. “Juror #5 would be more objective than Juror #8.”
          2. Accessible to the external senses. “Viewing the eclipse is objective, but having a Near Death Experience is not.”
          3. Reliable among persons. “Descriptive conclusions are more objective than prescriptive conclusions.”

          GW4: Well, WLC’s definition is a complete failure. No moral claims can even be made without persons or intelligent agents doing cognitive activity, and so beliefs must be presented.

          BS5: His definition is popular, which is why I use it. I’m adopting the Christians’ definition so that we can agree that we’re at least starting from the same point.

          GW5: I take a different tack. I strongly criticize his definition of “objective morality.” His whole purpose is to show that atheists cannot have an adequate morality. I think we need to cut the legs off this idea.

          BS5: I don’t see how it’s a failure. If helping old ladies across the street is good because God made it so and he made us understand this timeless, external truth, then that’s a reasonable kind of objective morality, it seems to me.

          GW5: I’ve tried to show how it is a failure, but if you still don’t agree, keep asking specific questions. If God alone decided and commanded “You should help old ladies across the street, if there is no significant danger to yourself or others,” this might be valid, but it wouldn’t be objective. A dictate from a single person cannot be objective; it is subjective. Now, this same moral rule could be objective under the right circumstances, i.e. if a group of expert real persons reached a consensus on it after using the same method of decision making.

          BS4: And now you illustrate how radically different your definition of objectivity is.

          GW4: It is a little different, but not radically different.

          BS5: A vote by the public on whether abortion is morally acceptable is very, very different than looking it up in Big Book of Morality in God’s library.

          GW5: The former conclusion would probably be less objective than the latter conclusion, but both would be less objective than a conclusion made by nine expert persons instructed in the methods of reason.

          GW4: But your original claim didn’t include “if they are rational.”

          BS5: And in that case, I do X because of Y could be offered for any possible X and Y. I thought it was obvious that this domain is uninteresting, but if that datum is finally out in the open and can clarify the conversation, great.

          GW5: A group of nine persons trained in reason will be more objective in their decision making than a group of nine persons randomly selected from the general population.

          BS4: Given Yahweh’s murderous rampages, it’s easy to find OT precedents that would justify killing someone today. Modern Western sensibilities would prevent it, but we can ignore those. “Well, Yahweh did it like that” is, bizarrely, a good enough reason for some people even in the 21st century.

          GW4: Of course, I agree with you, but these people are being irrational too.

          BS5: “2 + 2 = 7; therefore, I must kill you” is very different from “my god killed people for doing X; you’re now doing X; therefore, I must/am entitled to kill you.” Whatever error they’re making, it’s not the same.

          GW5: It is not the same, but it is similar in the sense that both stem from irrational thinking.

          GW5: I believe that we can develop a solid secular morality which is both objective and valid. Some philosophers have already worked on this. We should stand on the shoulders of these giants.

        • Craig has said (direct quote): “When I speak of objective moral values, I mean moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes them or not.”

          Right. That’s the definition I use. When I use it, I expect to be able to move on from there when I’m talking with a Christian because WLC said it. If I have some other definition, we may get bogged down in haggling over definitions. Worse, we may talk past each other and not realize for a long time that different definitions caused the problem.

          Therefore, an objective moral rule (really any moral rule) cannot be independent of all peoples’ beliefs!

          The problem is that this kind of objective morality doesn’t exist. Nevertheless, the benefit of using this definition (stated above) remains.

          At one time the belief “The Earth is flat” was objective, but not valid.

          Using an unknown definition of “objective.” Presumably, that it’s widely accepted.

          GW4: Well, WLC’s definition is a complete failure.

          Yes, because such “objective moral truths” don’t exist. Nevertheless, that’s what Christians want to talk about. Quibbling over definitions isn’t my idea of a good time, so I use their definition.

          His whole purpose is to show that atheists cannot have an adequate morality.

          I demand to see evidence of their objective morality. And I get nothing. That’s my argument.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          GW5: Craig has said (direct quote): “When I speak of objective moral values, I mean moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes them or not.”

          BS6: Right. That’s the definition I use. When I use it, I expect to be able to move on from there when I’m talking with a Christian because WLC said it. If I have some other definition, we may get bogged down in haggling over definitions. Worse, we may talk past each other and not realize for a long time that different definitions caused the problem.

          GW6: His definition is confused and not internally consistent, as I showed in my last post. It doesn’t provide a foundation for a sound secular morality.

          GW5: Therefore, an objective moral rule (really any moral rule) cannot be independent of all peoples’ beliefs!

          BS6: The problem is that this kind of objective morality doesn’t exist. Nevertheless, the benefit of using this definition (stated above) remains.

          GW6: I agree that Craig’s objective morality does not exist, but I don’t see the benefit of his definition, as you do.

          GW5: At one time the belief “The Earth is flat” was objective, but not valid.

          BS6: Using an unknown definition of “objective.” Presumably, that it’s widely accepted.

          GW6: My definition of “objective” is now one of three legitimate conceptions, which I presented in my last post.

          GW4: Well, WLC’s definition is a complete failure.

          BS6: Yes, because such “objective moral truths” don’t exist. Nevertheless, that’s what Christians want to talk about. Quibbling over definitions isn’t my idea of a good time, so I use their definition.

          GW6: Even WLC’s application of “truth” to moral propositions is irrational. These propositions are prescriptive, not descriptive, and therefore can be neither true nor false. However, I think they can be correct or incorrect, depending on whether they result from rational moral analysis. Quibbling over definitions is a very important part of doing philosophy (and even science, for that matter). I don’t do it for the fun, but I have fun doing it. I don’t use their definition. It doesn’t lead anywhere productive.

          GW5: His whole purpose is to show that atheists cannot have an adequate morality.

          BS6: I demand to see evidence of their objective morality. And I get nothing. That’s my argument.

          GW6: I agree that they have nothing, but my goal is to do more than show that. It is to establish a framework for a secular morality having the highest possible degrees of clarity, specificity, rationality, objectivity, scope, stability, and universality. We can do much better than they can.

          GW6: BTW, the first step in determining the correct and objective position on abortion is for a group of experts to define “person” by thinking rationally. (I think you wrote at least one essay on the abortion issue. I partly agreed with you.)

        • GW6: I agree that Craig’s objective morality does not exist, but I don’t see the benefit of his definition, as you do.

          Because an argument about what a word should be defined as is pointless. I can propose another (less popular) definition than WLC’s with my Christian adversary, and we’ll get bogged down for hours. That may be pleasant or advantageous for him, but it’s not for me.

          Quibbling over definitions is a very important part of doing philosophy (and even science, for that matter). I don’t do it for the fun, but I have fun doing it.

          Then I’ll let you fight that fight. It’s not fun for me. I have a simple approach: the words are defined in the dictionary. Let’s use those definitions.

          GW6: BTW, the first step in determining the correct and objective position on abortion is for a group of experts to define “person” by thinking rationally. (I think you wrote at least one essay on the abortion issue. I partly agreed with you.)

          Again, that gets into the definition morass. Not fun.

          My approach, as you’ve perhaps seen, is to demand that they provide the word. You don’t like “a newborn is a person, but the single cell isn’t”? Then you give me another word that fits, Mr. Pro-Lifer.

          The replies are either (1) dance away from the issue without responding to my challenge, often with anger, or (2) give me something that doesn’t fit like “spectrum of development” or similar.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          GW6: I agree that Craig’s objective morality does not exist, but I don’t see the benefit of his definition, as you do.

          BS7: Because an argument about what a word should be defined as is pointless. I can propose another (less popular) definition than WLC’s with my Christian adversary, and we’ll get bogged down for hours. That may be pleasant or advantageous for him, but it’s not for me.

          GW7: I disagree. It is not pointless. There is a clear purpose for doing it. No need to get bogged down for hours, only for minutes. We should not design our criticisms on the basis of whether our opponents will feel pleasant or unpleasant. We should use reason, regardless.

          GW6: Quibbling over definitions is a very important part of doing philosophy (and even science, for that matter). I don’t do it for the fun, but I have fun doing it.

          BS7: Then I’ll let you fight that fight. It’s not fun for me. I have a simple approach: the words are defined in the dictionary. Let’s use those definitions.

          GW7: I’ll take on that fight with relish. Someday it will come in handy for you. All three of the definitions I presented for “objective” are reflected in some definitions of different dictionaries. I am just using a less popular, but more philosophically correct, definition.

          GW6: BTW, the first step in determining the correct and objective position on abortion is for a group of experts to define “person” by thinking rationally. (I think you wrote at least one essay on the abortion issue. I partly agreed with you.)

          BS7: Again, that gets into the definition morass. Not fun.

          GW7: Necessary to reduce the issue morass. Fun for me, if not for you.

          BS7: My approach, as you’ve perhaps seen, is to demand that they provide the word. You don’t like “a newborn is a person, but the single cell isn’t”? Then you give me another word that fits, Mr. Pro-Lifer.

          GW7: But we are the ones objecting to their claim that the zygote is a person. We should ask “Mr. Pro-Lifer, define ‘person’ and then explain how a zygote is a person.”

          BS7: The replies are either (1) dance away from the issue without responding to my challenge, often with anger, or (2) give me something that doesn’t fit like “spectrum of development” or similar.

          GW7: I guess I am not understanding the point you are making here. You are the one who has suggested “spectrum of development.” I think it is a valid and relevant concept, when applied properly.

        • GW7: But we are the ones objecting to their claim that the zygote is a person. We should ask “Mr. Pro-Lifer, define ‘person’ and then explain how a zygote is a person.”

          Try it sometime. Each such conversation is long and unproductive. He wants to change the definition of “person” to include a microscopic cell? That’s fine; I won’t follow him there. You give him any word—baby, person, human being, whatever—and he will say that it either applies at both ends of the spectrum or doesn’t apply. Putting the burden on him is the way to go.

          GW7: I guess I am not understanding the point you are making here. You are the one who has suggested “spectrum of development.” I think it is a valid and relevant concept, when applied properly.

          “A baby is a spectrum of development and a single cell isn’t” makes no sense. No, they can’t use “spectrum of development.” They could use baby, person, or human being, though.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          GW7: But we are the ones objecting to their claim that the zygote is a person. We should ask “Mr. Pro-Lifer, define `person’ and then explain how a zygote is a person.”

          BS8: Try it sometime. Each such conversation is long and unproductive.

          GW8: Oh, I’ve done this many times, with varied results – productive and unproductive. We don’t need to accept the way they use words.

          BS8: He wants to change the definition of “person” to include a microscopic cell? That’s fine; I won’t follow him there.

          GW8: No, it’s not fine at all! I don’t know if there is any practical difference between my objecting and your “not following him there.”

          BS8: You give him any word-baby, person, human being, whatever-and he will say that it either applies at both ends of the spectrum or doesn’t apply. Putting the burden on him is the way to go.

          GW8: We must disagree with their bad usage of words. Most of it is propaganda, like “unborn baby.”

          GW7: I guess I am not understanding the point you are making here. You are the one who has suggested “spectrum of development.” I think it is a valid and relevant concept, when applied properly.

          BS8: “A baby is a spectrum of development and a single cell isn’t” makes no sense. No, they can’t use “spectrum of development.” They could use baby, person, or human being, though.

          GW8: “Spectrum of development,” while accurate to a degree, is not a term embedded in law like “person” is. This is why we cannot allow the Pro-Lifers to take over the word and use it improperly. Here is my general view of the concept: A person is a human organism which currently possesses a particular set of sensory, cognitive, emotive, and motor functions, highlighted by the capacity for consciousness. Human zygotes, embryos, and fetuses which have not yet developed the brain structures necessary for consciousness are not persons. These relevant brain structures are first established around the end of the 24th week after conception. Furthermore, human organisms which have sustained permanent damage to brain structures necessary for consciousness are not persons. Persons are typically assigned rights by communities, which are often reflected in laws or constitutions.

        • GW8: Oh, I’ve done this many times, with varied results – productive and unproductive. We don’t need to accept the way they use words.

          “A single cell isn’t a person.”

          “Yeah, it is!”

          and repeat. Over and over. I’m surprised that you find it worthwhile, but if that conversation produces results for you, I can only applaud your effort.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          There’s more depth to it than that, but I’ll take the bow to the applause anyway.

          “What is a person?”
          “How did you decide what a person is?”
          “What do experts think about your definition of a person? Do they agree or disagree with you?”
          “If an early stage fetus is a person, as you claim, then if a woman gets an abortion of it, does she commit first degree murder? If you think so, should she get a life sentence or be executed? Why do you think so?”
          “If a zygote is a person, do you think it should have exactly the same rights as an 18-year-old person? If so, why?”

          A good dose of Socratic dialog is worthwhile.

        • If you’ve got a method that helps illuminate minds, that’s great. I just know that I detest any overt application of the Socratic method on me.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          Wow, I am surprised by you dislike of the Socratic method. Oh well.

          Peter Boghossian is an atheist philosopher who uses and advocates the Socratic method. You might want to check out his work.

        • I’ve read his book and seen him in person. I’m a fan.

          What’s a problem (and this may be a suggestion if you’re trying to improve your technique) is when it appears my antagonist is nudging me to some sort of trap. It’s like I’m a cow, and he’s pushing me to narrower and narrower chutes until bam! I get stunned and chopped into hamburger. Or at least that’s how he anticipates it happening.

          When I sense that happening (particularly since there are likely very few arguments of merit I haven’t seen before), I refuse to play the game. “If you’re wandering to a point,” I tell him, “make your fucking point.”

          If he’s got a killer argument, great. I want to hear it. Just make it as quickly as possible without the game playing.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          Yeah, I think that approach can sometimes be effective.

        • Glad2BGodless

          I think you need to demonstrate that people who believe in a god are less likely to misbehave. They rarely think they are misbehaving, and their god tends to think that whatever they want to do is a great idea. They tend to think that YOU are the misbehaving party, and boy are you gonna get it.

        • Kodie

          Thank you. I keep trying to bring up everyday morality, I don’t think Christians or anyone else is mostly like a total asshole on a large, violent scale. Morality is how we treat others on a daily basis, and I constantly see rudeness and selfishness and defensiveness and rationalizations. I mean, you get children who will say “but the other kid was doing it too!” when called out on some minor misbehavior, but adults constantly reinforce their own righteousness because others do it and get away with it. Not everything that’s wrong is against the law. People, whom I am to assume are majority of them are Christians or at least theists of some kind, living by some even stricter cosmic laws than the rest of us, believing some invisible friend is judging them constantly even when no one else is looking, are constantly justifying their rudeness, selfishness, ignorance, and judgment of others. Some of those excuses are “they deserve it,” “oh, I didn’t see you,” “calm down lady, you just need to calm down”, “I’m in a hurry”, “the store hires someone to gather all the carts,” basically all the ways someone can do anything that could be expressed as “I’m entitled” to take up more space than you, to cut the line to save my own time, to skip doing basically decent things so the next person doesn’t have to be inconvenienced.

          I’m recently on a tear about people who leave their shopping carts in the middle of another parking space, and how inconsiderately people pull over their car (like probably uber and lyft drivers). I mean, they block streets and driveways, they are not far enough over to pass, they are often blocking me from seeing around them at the corner. Recently, I was behind a drop-off in the middle of my narrow one-way street, where the couple got out of the car, and the lady did not close her door, so that was not the uber driver’s fault, but he had to get out and close it before driving off. Entitled bullshit.

          And to all the do-gooder drivers out there, ok, a particular kind of one I hate – stopping at green lights to wave patiently waiting pedestrians across. They’re waiting their turn (they’re not those other assholes who are looking at their phone while crossing at a green light, oblivious to car traffic signals). Driving slow and looking for good deeds ahead of you is being an asshole to everyone behind you. Please everyone take responsibility – you’re on the road to drive somewhere, so go. Following the rules is fine. Going out of your way punishes ME. What did I do? Isn’t it funny how someone will feel good about themselves, and trying to ease some discomfort of waiting to cross the street, can obliviously act like they’re the only one on earth, the only one who cares, the only one who can save dog-walking guy from waiting another 30 seconds, they only one on the street, like there’s no one trapped behind them. They are drunk on power. They think nobody else will help. They think the walk sign isn’t good enough for strangers, altruism serving ego. My father says his father would be that guy to let people out all the time, often when no one else was behind him. I mean, if no one is behind you, the point being, the stranger gets their chance two seconds later anyway, but my grandfather would take the time to let them out anyway. In certain situations, when there are a lot of people behind you, and no way to get out of a street or parking lot unless someone lets you, society depends on someone letting others go ahead, but I’m just saying if you make it your daily driving plan to let everyone out/ cross the street, every time you see someone as though they’re all helpless, it’s punishing everyone behind you. I drive like I’m supposed to. I don’t block driveways or side streets when the light is red. When the light is green, sorry, I’m not going to be late because you want to bully out of your parking lot, especially when I drive past the Catholic church, and these fuckers just ate Jesus’s body and can’t remember his sacrifice ten minutes later. They’re bullies. I don’t have to guess or generalize their beliefs and how they behave. I do realize I am justifying my selective reading of the rules of the road because they deserve to wait to get out of church. But it’s true. It’s actually not their turn, and someone else will let them out because they’re a do-gooder co-theist who is doing a good turn to a good neighbor (like how when a church collection plate is stolen, it makes the news, we’re supposed to be extra feeling toward a church.)

        • Glad2BGodless

          What Shangri-La are YOU living in!?! I’m lucky if other drivers stop at RED traffic lights!

        • Greg G.

          My favorite excuse is “I would have been here sooner but the guy in front of me kept slowing down for red lights.”

        • Kodie

          They lowered the speed limit last year to 25 mph, and some most of the roads I usually go on are recently dug up and covered poorly. Then people drive while looking at their phone and don’t know how slow they are going, like 10. Then there’s this license plate thing in Massachusetts, where people can keep their old license plate forever, and for some it’s really a thing. I get behind this morning a green on (used to be) white tag, and jeez, maybe it’s someone real old by now. Those were issued in 1977, interspersed apparently with red on white leftovers for a while until the current “The Spirit of America” plates (red on white with blue accents, now with fonts and slogans!) began issued in 1987, according to 2 sites I researched just now. So, not necessarily a lot older than I am to be driving that slow, and their car was red, modest make. I am generalizing but someone older picks a silver or gold colored car over a red one. Just happens. I was stuck behind, they did not let others in, but was driving about 20, so I think they were on the phone.

        • Glad2BGodless

          Stealing this.

        • Kodie

          Ha ha, I live in Boston, aka land of the Massholes. I still drive like I’m from New York, the light turns green you fucking GO. But here, we have to wait patiently for people sneaking through the red lights. Then pedestrians on phones, then we get the green light, some fool starts across the intersection. This is not shangri-la whatsoever. People try to get out of impossible left turns by cutting everyone off coming from the left, but nobody from the right stops to let them further into the traffic. People make left-turns from the middle lane cutting across because they are in the wrong lane, but take 10 minutes to gingerly turn right (not on red, just in general). Every pedestrian is wearing black at night and takes their damn time especially if you wave them. Occasionally, you get this “hero” who wants to help everyone but me, and holds me up behind them. Even worse is the night hero who is driving in the other lane. There’s no traffic light, there’s no crosswalk, but he sees pedestrians and stops, they cross. I’m coming in the other lane with no fucking idea with suddenly pedestrians crossing right in front of me at night. Everyone here is a fucking idiot.

          No, that’s not true. Occasionally, I come across pedestrians in bright colored jackets and/or who don’t try to cross without looking, because they know their turn will come and it’s my turn now. I have the deadly weapon I can’t stop on a dime and they’re smart enough to have passed the first grade. That’s what I think of people, have you passed the first grade. Look both ways before crossing.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          GG1: I think you need to demonstrate that people who believe in a god are less likely to misbehave.

          GW1: That’s not my claim. I do claim, however, that the deterrence factor is one that suppresses misbehavior for those who believe in a god.

          GG1: They rarely think they are misbehaving, and their god tends to think that whatever they want to do is a great idea. They tend to think that YOU are the misbehaving party, and boy are you gonna get it.

          GW1: I think that pretty accurately describes the way they think. Of course, there are many forms of misbehavior. The original focus here was on aggression or violence.

        • Glad2BGodless

          There are 13 countries in the world today where atheism carries the death penalty. Plenty more where atheists can be imprisoned or otherwise persecuted.

          Time to update your eyeglass prescription.

        • Glad2BGodless

          A while back you offered to attend an apologetics conference and all they had to cover was the cost of your travel and lodging. Did anyone ever take you up on it?

          I’m going to predict not. Apologetics isn’t really built for contact with actual atheists.

        • Nope. I’ve gotten no contact about that.

          However, I have heard that Brett Kunkle (Stand to Reason) and J. Warner Wallace (Cold-Case Christianity) have taken student groups to meet atheists. They do introduce the students to real, live, scary atheists, but of course the Christians have the last word, and the word after that, and so on. Nevertheless, I applaud their approach.

          On a related topic, I’ve attended numerous Christian and Creationist conferences. One I haven’t attended was the Cross-Examined Instructor Academy (Cross Examined is the name of Frank Turek’s site), which is for advanced apologetics. (OK, let me get this straight. This is for already-experienced apologists to make them even tougher apologists, but they must have the training environment free of any contrary ideas? Are their ideas that fragile? They do know that they are training to meet real atheists out in the real world, right?)

        • Glad2BGodless

          They wouldn’t want to take off the training wheels too soon — they could get an owie!

        • Glad2BGodless

          I’d buy a ticket to a counter-apologetics conference, or a comparative-religion conference. My understanding of the major non-Abrahamic religions is pretty thin.

        • epeeist

          And what about all the harm caused by the various godless regimes, dynasties and governments throughout human history

          I see the reset button has been pressed.

          Do I (and others) condemn the atrocities committed by the likes of Stalin and Pol Pot? Of course, they were monsters. But as I noted before, Stalin was responsible for the death of about 10% of the population of the Soviet Union. Compare that with the 30-50% of the European population that died in the 30 years war.

          The next question would be why the regimes you mention actually killed people, let’s stick with Stalin shall we since the history is more defined. Did he kill in the cause of atheism? If so then why did this lead him to kill members of the army, the Politburo and the NKVD? Might there have been some other reason, such as the fact that Stalin didn’t hesitate to have anyone or any group that threatened his personal power killed?

          But if you want to claim it was his atheism then fine, given that the person who signed the order to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a Baptist then I would be equally well justified in claiming that his was his Christianity that led him to sanction the action.

          the Nazis

          Were not atheists, Hitler was a Catholic (never excommunicated, a requiem mass was even proposed for his funeral), some protestant churches pushed for a Reicheskirche. The Deutsche Kristen, the largest branch of German protestantism saw Hitler as visionary following in the steps of Martin Luther. One must also not forget the Reichskonkordat between the Vatican and the German state which was signed into law in July 1933

        • Glad2BGodless

          I’d be surprised if he lets his beautiful little apologetic get killed by a gang of brutal facts.

        • epeeist

          As I say. I have been around this loop before with him.

          No doubt we will see him back again making exactly the same comments as though nothing had been said.

        • Nullifidian

          Ideologies are the problem. The Nazi Hitler was no atheist. He, and the others all followed ideologies that had many of the characteristics of religion, such as Communism’s irrational dogmatism, based on faith rather than science. Just like Christianity and Islam, Communism had its Holy Books which were treated as Holy Scripture, namely the writings of Lenin, Mao, Marx and others–all of which were far from scientific. Communist ideology held that history was a pre-ordained Manichaean struggle of good versus evil, and this took the place of a more traditional concept of ‘god’.

          This atheist has no need to scurry away from irrational theists.

        • Kodie

          Aw gee shucks, you’re such a nice guy who never asked that question dozen times before in other threads or ever got any answer, that’s why people hate the fuck out of you.

        • Glad2BGodless

          ROFLMFAO

        • Gary Whittenberger

          Because so many people still believe that God does exist.

      • SparklingMoon,

        “God” does not exist. The concept of gods was invented in the Stone Age. Stone Age man, unable in his ignorance to comprehend naturalistic explanations for the phenomena of the world around him, necessarily resorted to supernatural explanations. Such explanations similarly appeal to the child, who also is unable, in his ignorance, to understand naturalistic explanations. That is how primitive superstition is transmitted to the modern world, in the name of religion.
        ————————————————————————————————————————–

        Firstly, it is the task of the Divine Books and the Prophets to appear whenever people become unmindful of the belief in the existence of God and His Oneness and fell victim to all kinds of polytheistic tendencies. It was revived thousands of times but it lost its luster as many times and became hidden from people’s eyes. But whenever it was lost, God sent a servant of His to rediscover it in its pristine purity. In this manner, darkness and light have alternately held sway in the world. The truth is that since man is prone to error and forgetfulness and is unable to show steadfastness in his practice of Divine injunctions, he is always in need of someone to remind him and revive his faith. In this age God Almighty has appointed Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to fulfill this purpose. He has told: The actual mission for which God has appointed me is to remove the estrangement that has come between man and his Creator and reestablish a relationship of love and sincerity between him and his Lord. He has also appointed me to put a stop to religious fightings by proclaiming the truth, to create religious harmony, to reveal the religious truths that have long remained hidden from mortal eyes, and to display the true spirituality that lies submerged under the darkness of selfish passions. I have also been sent to demonstrate practically, and not just in words, how Divine powers enter man and how they are manifested through prayer and concentration. But, first and foremost, I have been sent to reestablish forever the lost belief in the Unity of God which is pure and luminous and unadulterated by any form of idolatry. All this will not come about by my power, but by the Mighty hand of the Lord of heaven and earth.

        Secondly, this belief that the concept of God is an invention of ignorant people of Stone Age is wrong in the light of that knowledge we have from the history of of God,s Prophets. In his book Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth the author Mirza Tahir Ahmad has described in detail about this misunderstanding that is spread mostly by sociologists of this age. The theory of religious development presented by sociologists and their concept of how belief in God developed, is primarily based on their understanding of social psychology. Having observed the general tendency of man in his social behaviour, they seem to have concluded that man reveres whatever he fears and also adopts a controlled, respectful attitude to what he likes or stands in need of. These sociologists believe that ancient man in his naivety confused and bewildered by all that he saw around him and nature’s wondrous powers so impressed him that he presumed natural phenomena to be manifestations of superpowers which were beyond his comprehension, yet were capable of influencing his life. Consequently, he assigned to such forces the status of deities. Seeing the devastating effects of storms and hurricanes, he bowed to them in fear, lest they should strike him down. Yet again, when he saw the light of day and experienced the creative powers of the sun, he formed a beneficent impression of gods of his imagination. Seeing these manifestations through the reflective mirror of natural phenomena he could conceive them either as fearsome or benign. The sociologists maintain that this credulity on his part was a natural outcome of his befogged mental faculties as yet imperfected. They insist that the image of one God was gradually evolved out of the belief in many gods. Gradually, various religions came into being, developing around one concept or another, worshipping one God or many. Little did they realise in their ignorance that they were in effect, worshiping, mere conjectures. It were they who created gods—no God created them.

        This, in short, is the widely held view of the origin of religion and its subsequent evolution by most of the eminent sociologists. This atheistic view of religion has gone one step further in imputing to the founders of religion the act of deliberate falsehood and deception. They claim that at a later stage of its growth, religion no longer remained a jumble of superstitions of the common people. An organised clergy began to evolve. At this stage, the idea of revelation was deceitfully introduced. This is what the sociologists saw reflected in Greek mythology and in the beliefs and practices of many a primitive religion. The genuine search by early man for the solutions to the complex mysteries of nature surrounding him, thus ended in a conscious attempt on the part of the religious hierarchy to deceive and defraud people in the name of god/gods. This is how the sociologists visualise how God could have been created by human mind. In other words, were they to be assigned the task of manufacturing God, this is how they would go about it, given of course, the vast span of time required for it. They founded their theory on the presupposition that no God exists, hence their conjecture is not based on any real investigation, but is a natural expression of an atheist’s mind. It is this pre-fixed judgement of theirs which they proclaim to be an impartial intellectual enquiry.

        Their attempted projection into the minds of the ancients is no more than a fictional leap and the orientation of this leap is prefixed in the direction of atheism. Their inferences are not corroborated by the evidence of human nature—the only reliable instrument for assessing thought processes. Do we really worship what we fear? And does greed invariably make us inclined to fall prostrate to objects in an act of worship? Neither of these two factors can build even the most rudimentary religion. Fear simply makes one run away from the object of terror. The concept of worship would not even remotely cross his mind. We have yet to read a spy tale in which an MI5 agent is motivated by terror to begin to worship his KGB tormentor. The fear of God which we find mentioned in Divinely revealed religions has nothing to do with the idea of terror related to beasts and other fearsome objects. The threat of Divine punishment is merely used as a deterrent against crime, preventing people from transgression against themselves. In the primitive society of man, no promise of such punishment could be born merely out of their fear of the beasts of the jungle or the thunderstorms.

        These sociologists have failed to discern the marked differences between the pagan faiths and the Divinely revealed religions of the world. They have also failed to notice that the high priests, priestesses and oracles found among the ancient mythical cults never claimed to have received a new code of life based on revelation. Likewise, the validity of their claims to be a middle source was never put to question, because their authority was traditionally handed down to them by their predecessors and was accepted as such by the society.They were never challenged to produce Divine signs in support of their claim, and felt free to concoct gimmicks in their support. Thus the credulous were further impressed by their supposed access to gods, which was no more than a ruse. The false gods were thus supported by false claimants.

        The case of the Divinely appointed prophets, the upholders of the Unity of God who founded great religions of the world such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism etc is totally different. If we examine the lives of Moses(as), Jesus(as) or Muhammad(sa) and other similar prophets who claimed Divine origin, we shall invariably discover that none among them ever represented a well-established and popular religious order. Theirs was a lone voice of revolution. Invariably they based their claims on revelation and advocated a new philosophy demanding a completely different way of life. They preached values which were at odds with the prevailing customs and practices. They always emerged as harbingers of a new order and dared to challenge the prevailing religious authorities of the time. They appeared at a time when the dominant religions of the age had already split into sects and schisms, and fought among themselves for gaining greater domination over the ignorant masses.

        In such an age, as described, it was the emergence of a new Divine messenger which resulted in a state of forged unity among his opponents, who for the time being forgot their own differences and mustered their forces to put up a joint colossal resistance against the newly introduced Divine order. They presented a united front of opposition, exhibiting violent hostility. The Divine messenger on his part had no human support whatsoever. He was backed neither by the bulk of the common folk nor by any power group of the society. He was not championed by any political power. He was left alone, abandoned and rejected. Such were the men who arose to confront the adulterous societies which always grow out of a wild proliferation of superstitious trends. The ushers of the new order always pleaded belief in the Unity of God and attempted to stamp out idolatry in every form, under every guise. Whatever unity their opponents could forge among themselves was only forged in opposition to the prophets, while within themselves they remained as deeply split as they ever were. If the upholders of the Unity of God were mere fabricators then theirs was an impossible task. No fabricators can ever persist in pursuance of such goals as lie visibly beyond their reach. The faith of such as these has to be deeply founded on the reality of God, or they must perish and be wiped out of existence. If there is no God then claimants like them should simply have been dismissed by society as raving mad. There is no third option. If not insane, how could they hold on to their beliefs so tenaciously as to sacrifice all they had for an unreal unfruitful cause. But they cannot be waived off as insane because the insane keep moving hither and tither in their ravings. As for the prophets, the society shows a violent reaction as though the ground under their feet had erupted. No human support by the rich or the poor, the powerful or the weak is ever known to have come to their aid against the united wrath of their violent opponents. The nobility of their message, the dignity of their conduct and their unshakeable faith in their final victory at the hour of utter desolation always stood witness to their truth.

        History does not produce any evidence to support the theory of progressive transformation of polytheism to monotheism. No transitional stages are witnessed in which communities moved from worshipping many gods to the worship of One. On the contrary, it is the sudden and abrupt appearance of one great man which sets into motion a train of events causing great upheavals and tribulations, requiring enormous sacrifices from those who chose to follow him.

        All the major religions of the world invariably began their journey with belief in Unity. The proposition of evolution can neither be proved with reference to history nor to the working of human psyche. By the time of Abraham(as), the lofty belief of Noah(as) in the Unity of God was already degenerated by his distant progeny into the earthly myths of many gods. Abraham(as) once again launched a gigantic struggle for the restoration of Unity. It prevailed at last, and the torch of Unity was held aloft by his progeny and others who followed him for many a generation to come. The old fateful trend of decadence set in eventually with the same disastrous consequences. Within a few hundred years from the time of Abraham(as), the House of Israel reverted to the evil practice of idol worship. This continued until the time of Moses(as). Although Moses(as) was an outstanding champion of the cause of Unity among prophets, idolatry kept infiltrating and defiling the faith of his followers during the subsequent centuries. This again proves beyond a shadow of doubt that to move away from Unity is a downhill task. Left to himself, man would always slide down the ladder to the lowly ground of idolatry—a ground which breeds the vermin of superstition and polytheism.

        Is this the evolutionary process the sociologists talk so much about? Is this the way they believe idolatry evolved into the idea of a single Supreme Being? Is this how the image of God is ultimately created by man as he advances from his primitive mental state to a more developed one? Nay, certainly not! The history of religions unanimously rejects this arbitrary sociologist conclusion. It clearly demonstrates that belief in the Unity of God always descends from Him. It never ascends to Him through a natural upward spiralling trend of progressive idol worship. If a transition from many gods to one did ever occur, then the history of religion should have attested to it. But not a trace of it is found in the established history of world religions. Monotheistic societies do slowly degenerate into the polytheistic ones; the opposite never occurs.

        • Nullifidian

          The Bible contains text suggestive of a society that moved from polytheism to monotheism.

          Here’s a poem, exploring religion, for the pious and faithful;
          for its universal message, you should be truly grateful.

          EUDEMONIA

          Jehovah, Christianity’s Almighty Lord God,
          lords it over Heaven, though he’s a sordid old sod.
          He’s capricious, malicious, jealous, and genocidal,
          homophobic, misogynistic, and megalomaniacal.
          He tasked a minor god, Satan, with cruel sadism in Hell,
          torturing ‘sinners’ for all eternity, and atheists as well!
          So, as the problem of theodicy remains unresolved,
          Jehovah, from his turpitude, cannot be absolved.

          He’s the father, the son, and a goddamn ghost;
          some priests can conjure the son out of wine and toast!
          Christians boast that their god, in its Empyrean lair,
          is omniscient, omnipotent, beneficent and fair.
          But should one do good works, or be born to the Elect?
          To get a ticket to Heaven, which theology’s correct?
          Confused by Christian dogma, no god-fearing fogey,
          can fathom the nature of the Bible Bogey.

          Yahweh, god of Zion, is a meshuggener and a jerk.
          Oy vey! Why such strict rules on when to work,
          and how to dress, and what to sup or sip,
          and mohals giving baby boys the snip?
          Yahweh’s a nudnik; so, what else is new?
          Is a shiksa blonde kosher? Is the Pope now a Jew?
          Religious rules, begot by Bronze Age nomads,
          have got observant Jews by their gonads.

          Allah, the god of Islam, is a fierce judgemental djinn,
          who’ll reward you with houris, if you submit to him.
          Apostasy, from Islam, is treated just like a crime;
          Moslems’ll threaten to kill you, to keep you in line.
          And if you dare to draw Mohammad in a comic cartoon,
          there’ll be chaos and killings from here to Khartoum.
          So, face Mecca at prayer, five times a day at least,
          and stick your ass up in the air for the Religion of Peace.

          Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist,
          Zoroastrian, Baha’i, Mormon, and Scientologist,
          Spiritualist, Wiccan, a New-Age Hippie into woo,
          Confucianist, Shintoist, and Taoist too.
          Yea, verily, those of each and every religion
          are mired in the miasma of superstition.
          See, all the faithful at prayer all look vacant or simple;
          prayer’s n’er been shown to work, not one jot or one tittle.

          All the gods from the Bronze Age up to modern times,
          and from the Arctic down to tropical climes,
          have begotten theology that’s unsubstantiated twaddle,
          on what an invisible and silent god’ll
          devise as its inscrutable, eschatological plan,
          but all the gods were made in the image of man.
          Materialistic monism makes for a majestic understanding;
          objective evidence of a spirit realm’s obviously lacking.

          So, why should yours be the ‘One True Faith’
          in a magical, phantasmagorical, astral wraith?
          The varieties of religious experience reveal
          a sense of a god’s immanence can feel quite real,
          but feelings of the numinous are clearly psychological,
          so belief in a god is ludicrously illogical.

          It’s evident we have just this one life,
          with all its pleasures, challenges, toil, and strife.
          As social beings we evolved our moral sensibility,
          combating selfishness, lust, and venality.
          Human evolution’s due to Natural Selection,
          so life derives no purpose at any god’s direction.

          Religion should have no say in the politics of a nation;
          its revelations and dogmata lack a rational foundation.
          Aristotle’s eudemonia, (human flourishing), conflicts
          with the social engineering that religion inflicts
          on societies that could democratically endorse
          rationality-based ethics, mores and laws.
          The most religious nations often are the most barbarian,
          whereas the least religious are the most egalitarian.

          Religion validates discrimination and oppression;
          religious faith stifles policy on research and education.
          Moderate religion’s like fertile soil, full of pious ordure,
          wherein extremism can take root, to terrorize and torture.
          Holy texts, from ancient times, in ignorance divine,
          were blind; LGBTQ and straight folk are all equally fine.
          See, a new era beckons, where humanity could be,
          as reason infers, one great family.

          But there’s no need for you to blame your genes;
          your faith’s the fault of socio-religious memes.
          They corrupted your mind with a contagious infection
          of superstitious ideas that can’t stand close inspection.
          So, cast them out, get rid of that insanity,
          then you can revel in your unfettered HUMANITY!

        • Glad2BGodless

          Teal deer 2: this time, it’s personal.

          Dude, you sprinkle random capital letters over your prose like ticks on a dog.

    • Glad2BGodless

      Teal deer.

    • Gary Whittenberger

      SM1: It is obvious that man is very weak by nature and has been charged with hundreds of Divine commandments. On account of his weakness, he falls short in carrying out some Divine commandments and sometimes he is overcome by the desires of the self that incite to evil.

      GW1: There are no divine commands since God does not exist.

      SM1: On account of his weak nature, he deserves that at the time of any slipping, if he should repent and seek forgiveness, God’s mercy should save him from being ruined. It is a certainty that if God had not been the Acceptor of repentance, man would not have been charged with these hundreds of commandments. This proves conclusively that God turns towards man with mercy and is Most Forgiving.

      GW1: Man deserves what? Hell? I don’t think so. An eternal torment would never be implemented by God. But also, if God did exist, he would not forgive bad acts, i.e. show mercy. He would implement perfect justice.

      SM1: The notion that justice and mercy cannot subsist together in the Being of God Almighty, inasmuch as justice demands punishment and mercy demands forbearance, is an error in which short-sighted are involved through lack of reflection. They do not reflect that the justice of God Almighty is also Mercy…. It should be borne in mind that the basic attribute of God is Mercy.

      GW1: The notion that justice and mercy (forgiveness) are compatible is an error. Justice is the delivery of punishment for a bad act, proportional to the severity of the bad act. Mercy is any deviation from this. Therefore, the two are not compatible. If God did exist, he would be perfectly moral and just. Forgiveness and mercy would not be in his repertoire.

      SM1: Justice comes into play after reason and law have been established. Justice is also Mercy in another form. When a person is bestowed reason and through it he becomes aware of the limits and laws of God Almighty, he becomes subject to the demand of justice. But for Mercy there is no condition of reason and law. As God Almighty desired to exalt mankind through Mercy, He laid down the rules and limits of justice. Thus it is ignorance to imagine that there is contradiction between justice and Mercy.

      GW1: It is irrational to imagine there is no contradiction between justice and mercy (forgiveness). For every bad act, there is a perfect punishment, neither too lenient nor too harsh, but just right (in the Goldilocks Zone). If God did exist, he would apply the perfect punishment for every bad act for every person, including you. This is known as the principle of individual accountability.

      SM1: Secondly, the expression of Master can be applied in its fullness only to God for He alone is the Perfect Master and it is quite improper to bind a Master to act according to the principles of justice.

      GW1: If God did exist, he would be bound by his own nature – eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfectly moral. Forgiving cannot be part of the “perfectly moral” trait.

      SM1: We can affirm that He Who is Malik is Rahim and Bestower and Generous and forgives sins, but we cannot say that He adheres to justice in respect of His creature, inasmuch as the notion of justice is only applicable where there is a certain freedom on both sides.

      GW1: Because of his perfectly moral nature, if God did exist, then he would implement perfect justice with respect to all bad acts by all human beings, including you.

      SM1: For instance, we can say concerning worldly sovereigns that they are just and treat their subjects with justice.

      GW1: They sometimes do not!

      SM1: So long as their subjects obey them, the rule of justice makes it obligatory upon them that, in return for the obedience of their subjects and the payment of their dues, the sovereign should safeguard their lives and properties and in times of need should help them out of his wealth. Thus, from one aspect sovereigns impose their commands upon their subjects and from another aspect the subjects impose their wishes upon the sovereigns. So long as these aspects operate in cooperation, the country remains at peace, but when either side commits a default the country ceases to be at peace. This shows that we cannot describe a sovereign as a true Master for he has to behave justly towards his subjects and his subjects have to behave justly towards him.

      GW1: This does not apply to God. If God exists, human beings may behave badly and God would have to behave justly towards them. That would just be his nature. A lion cannot be an elephant. God could not be anything but a perfectly moral being.

      SM1: As regards God Almighty, we can call Him Merciful on account of His being Master, but we cannot call Him just.

      GW1: If God did exist, then he would be perfectly just and not merciful (forgiving) at all. God would be the Great Teacher.

      SM1: Any person who is owned by another cannot demand justice from his owner, though he can humbly supplicate for mercy.

      GW1: If God did exist, he would not “own” any human being. Human beings would not need to demand justice from God since by his nature God would always behave justly, not mercifully. We would be able to trust God to deliver the just punishment every time.

      SM1: That is why the Holy Book does not designate God Almighty as just, because justice demands mutual equality. God Almighty is Just in the sense that He acts justly as between creatures regarding their mutual rights, but He is not just in the sense that any creature of His might demand his right from Him as an associate.

      GW1: There are no holy books since God does not exist. But if God did exist, there would be no need for human beings to demand justice since God would administer it anyway.

      SM1: All His creatures belong to God and He has authority to treat them as He might wish.

      GW1: This is misleading. First, if God did exist, human beings would not belong to him; he would not own them. Secondly, God would always treat humans as he wished and he would always wish to treat them justly, not mercifully. And so, he would always treat them justly. That would be his nature. The idea of a merciful lord comes from the ancient times of human kings. This idea would have no application to God.

      SM1: He might bestow kingdom upon whom He wills and He might make a beggar of him whom He so wills. He might cause anyone to die young or He might bestow a long life upon any. We ourselves when we own anything are free to bestow it as we might choose.

      GW1: But, if God did exist, he would not own human beings, even if he created them. Human beings are not pieces of property.

      SM1: Indeed God is Merciful; rather, He is the Most Merciful of all. By virtue of His mercy, and not out of any limits in consideration of justice, He provides for His creation.

      GW1: I disagree. If God did exist, he wouldn’t be merciful at all. That would be incompatible with his nature. Do you fear that justice might come to you? Is that why you have attributed this illusory idea of mercy to God?

      SM1: The quality of being Master and the quality of justice are inconsistent with each other.

      GW1: Of course they are consistent with each other! A perfectly moral Master is always just.

      SM1: Having been created by Him, we have no right to demand justice from Him. We supplicate Him humbly for mercy. It is most unbecoming for a creature to demand justice from God Almighty in His treatment of him.

      GW1: I already covered this. The demand would be unnecessary and useless.

      SM1: As everything relating to the nature of man is from God and all of man’s faculties, spiritual as well as physical, are His bounty and a good action can be performed only through the support and strength bestowed by Him, it would be the height of ignorance to demand justice from Him relying upon one’s good actions.

      GW1: A demand for justice by a man would be unnecessary and useless. If he existed, God would be just, regardless of the desires of man.

      SM1: We cannot consider such a teaching to be based on true knowledge. Indeed such a teaching is deprived of all true understanding and is full of folly.

      GW1: The “teaching” you have presented to us cannot possibly be correct. It leads to contradictions.

      SM1: God Almighty has taught us in the Holy Quran that to call God Just vis-à-vis His creatures is not only a sin, but a rank blasphemy. (Ruhanikhazain)

      GW1: I doubt that you are reporting this correctly. Please quote, cite, and link to the specific sura which you believe supports this idea.

      GW1: I’m sorry, but I completely disagree with you. Your claims do not make sense even within a theistic framework.

  • boneheadaudio

    “Some of my arguments rest on heaven being a
    good place and hell a bad place, so let me quickly respond to the claim
    that hell isn’t that bad. ”
    AC/DC had an opinion on that:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oGbsc-uF_M

  • C_Alan_Nault

    “God’s perfect justice”

    You must not be talking about the god of the Bible.

    The Bible has numerous passages that say god will punish people for sins their ancestors committed, sometime ten generations back. That isn’t justice.

    The Bible tells us that god took away pharaoh’s free will a few times so he wouldn’t free the Hebrew slaves & then punished pharaoh’s people because the slaves weren’t freed. That isn’t justice.

    The Bible has everyone who has ever existed being punished because of the actions of Adam & Eve ( eating the forbidden fruit god stupidly placed in the garden) when Adam & Eve could not know prior to eating the fruit that it would be wrong to disobey god. That isn’t justice.

  • tatoo

    I never did understand where the Christians got their idea of hell from. Jews had an afterlife called Sheol, but it wasn’t hell. As with the Greeks, it was a shadowy place where you waited for the messiah.

    • Gary Whittenberger

      But Sheol doesn’t sound very pleasant.

      • Glad2BGodless

        I plan to pack a magazine, a thermos of iced tea, and a sandwich.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          That would help.

    • RichardSRussell

      Pssst. Made it up. Don’t tell anyone.

    • Greg G.

      From Josephus in Jewish Wars 2.8.14 §162-166:

      The Pharisees would have gotten the idea from:

      Daniel 12:2 (NRSV)
      2 Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

      Paul had the same idea that the Pharisees had:

      1 Corinthians 15:51-54 (NRSV)
      51 Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

      “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

      Paul quoted Isaiah 25:8. He also seems to be relying on Isaiah 26:19-21. I think Daniel 12:2 also draws from that passage, especially Isaiah 26:21 for the punishment part.

  • Gary Whittenberger

    GW1: Thanks for another informative, interesting, and stimulating article. I have a few specific comments.

    BS1: He [WLC] says, in effect, “Well, maybe God has reasons for hell that we don’t understand. Have you considered that?”

    GW1: Yes, I have considered that. However, WLC means not just any reasons, but good reasons. Actually, this is not possible. Given the standard definitions of “God” and “hell,” assuming the existence of both leads to a contradiction.

    GW1: The other effective response to WLC is to ask “What reasons might those be?” If he says “I don’t know,” then he’s just making an argument from ignorance.

    BS1: Why would justice be binary, with only heaven and hell as the possible options? Can’t it be a spectrum? Couldn’t your life be graded on a scale?

    GW1: Actually, there is a way to combine the two ideas – binary and a continuum. If God did exist, then there would probably be a bad place (hell) and a good place (heaven) to which all persons would go for temporary stays. People would first go to the bad place (like a prison) and stay there for a duration proportional to the frequency and severity of their bad acts. People would then go to the good place (like a five-star hotel) and stay there for a duration proportional to the frequency and significance of their good acts. Then they’d start a new life pretty much like Earth life, but remember their lessons. This learning-teaching model would fit well with the concept of the perfectly moral god. Eternal stays would be irrational and immoral.

    BS1: Why can’t God just respond to insults and infractions the old fashioned way-by forgiving?

    GW1: Because forgiving is not a moral response to bad acts like murder, rape, assault, theft, fraud, etc, and God would be perfectly moral, if he did exist.

    BS1: If God can forgive, the crucifixion wasn’t even necessary.

    GW1: This is an excellent point. If a mostly good god did forgive any bad act, then he would never set up a system of atonement. That would violate the principle of individual accountability, which would be immoral.

  • bobbyb

    eternal torture for what? can anything a human being can do merit that? the punishment sure does not fit the crime……you could have ‘sinned’ every day of your 70 year life,and that merits eternal punishmen??