Little-Known Bible Verses V: God Creates Evil

The passage that today’s edition of “Little-Known Bible Verses” will examine is, if I say so myself, one of the most shocking in the entire Bible. In a book that contains talking snakes and donkeys, a man taking two of every living species to survive a flood in a wooden boat, and a god who hates pillows, shrimp, mixed fabrics, and fig trees for some reason, that is no mean feat, but I believe this verse lives up to that promise.

The problem of evil has vexed Christian theologians for nearly two millennia, burdening them with the impossible task of explaining how so much evil and suffering could exist in a cosmos overseen by an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good deity. A wide variety of answers have been proposed to this problem, all of which are as imaginative as they are insufficient. But all this scholarly ink need not have been spilled: the Bible itself tells Jews and Christians exactly where evil comes from.

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.

—Isaiah 45:7

There you have it, folks – straight, as it were, from the horse’s mouth. Evil exists because God created it. All you theologians can pack it in and go home now.

Of course, the story does not end there. The translators of many modern Bible editions, aware of the unsettling implications this verse holds for their faith, have attempted to soften the blow by translating it in a more palatable way. The New International Version, for example, has this passage say that God creates “disaster”, while the English Standard Version has it as “calamity”, and the Revised Standard Version says “woe”. The Message translation creatively renders this verse as “I make harmonies and create discords”.

Although these alternate translations wouldn’t seem to solve much, they are still not as faithful to the original Hebrew than the KJV’s unflinching translation. The Hebrew word translated by the KJV writers as “evil” in Isaiah 45:7 is “ra“, and from textual evidence, it is clear that in the Bible this word does mean evil in a moral sense. Here are some of the other contexts in which it is used:

  • In Genesis 2:17, God instructs Adam and Eve not to eat from “the tree of good and ra“. The tree of good and disaster? The tree of good and calamity? Clearly not: it is the tree of good and evil.
  • In Genesis 6:5, God resolves to destroy humankind in the great flood because “the wickedness (ra) of man was great in the earth”.
  • In Genesis 13:13, the men of Sodom were “wicked (ra) and sinners before the Lord exceedingly”.
  • In Deuteronomy 1:35, a furious God threatens the Israelites, “Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil (ra) generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers.”
  • In Judges 2:11, “the children of Israel did evil (ra) in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim”.
  • In 1 Kings 16:30, the wicked king Ahab (husband of the infamous Jezebel) “did evil (ra) in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him”.

These and many other references make it clear that the primary meaning of ra is indeed evil in the sense of wickedness or sin. For believers who hold to the textual inerrancy of the Bible, therefore, there is no choice but to admit that God created evil. And in a way, this makes a great deal of sense. If an all-powerful, all-knowing god created everything, what other explanation for evil could there be, other than that he caused it?

Even the Bible’s theology bears this out. The text offers numerous occasions where God could have intervened to turn events to good and chose not to. He could, for example, have obliterated Satan and the rebel angels entirely, or at the very least confined them to Hell and not allowed them to escape, so that they could never have escaped to lead humanity into temptation. And God’s behavior in the whole Eden affair, in any case, smacks strongly of either extreme incompetence or deliberate malice – not least, his choice to transmit the curse of original sin to all subsequent generations rather than letting every human start off with a morally clean slate.

Less-literalist believers might say that the imputation of evil to God is just textual corruption in the Bible, the product of fallible humans and not a divine revelation. And while this explanation might help the cause of theodicy, it can only do so at the cost of hugely undermining the Bible itself. After all, if God would allow as basic and fundamental a distortion of his nature as this, for what reason should we believe that the Bible reflects any of his words? If the biography of some great human being contained a distortion as blatantly slanderous as this, by attributing to that person an attitude that is totally contrary to all they believed and stood for, would it be wise or prudent to simply disregard that passage and then continue to trust the rest of the book as accurate?

The attribution of evil to God’s handiwork, while it may solve the problem of theodicy, raises an even more difficult question for Jews and Christians in its place. Namely, why would such a deity be worthy of our belief? Why would any believer want to worship a god who accepts responsibility for evil and suffering? Because he’s the most powerful and will punish people who don’t do what he says? But what assurance would we have that the afterlife is not also a place of torment and sorrow, even for the good?

This is a nightmare of a dilemma for anyone to have to face. Fortunately, there is another way out: the door that opens onto atheism. It is in our power to cast aside these bleak and malevolent fantasies, and to recognize that the specters that menace us are illusions of our own imagination. They have no more reality or substance than shadows, and are just as easily dispelled by the light.

For those who wish to cease the futile obsession with the words of ancient texts and face reality as it truly is, the gate is open and the path is clear. There are no gods, no devils or angels, no heaven or hell. There is only us, human beings, living together in the natural world. Once we recognize this, the next step – a lifelong step – is to forsake fantasy, treat others with kindness and make the most of the one life we are fortunate to have.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Archi Medez

    I was looking up some of the parallels in the Koran for this general idea that God causes or creates evil, and could not recall, nor find, an exact statement to that effect. (The proposition could be assumed, though, as with the Bible, that Allah created everything, including evil). A similar proposition is that Allah deliberately leads people astray, actually causes people to disbelieve or facilites their disbelief, and then punishes them for it.

    19:83 (Hilali-Khan) “See you not that We have sent the Shayatin (devils) against the disbelievers to push them to do evil.”

    (There are some differences in wording in the translations of this, so I had a look at some mainstream, classical explications [tafsirs] of the verse

    al-Jalalayn, 19:83. “Have you not regarded that We unleash the devils against, We have set them upon, the disbelievers to urge them, to incite them to [commit] acts of disobedience, impetuously?”

    Ibn Abbas, 19:83. “(Seest thou not) have you not been informed, O Muhammad, (that We have set the devils on the disbelievers to confound them with confusion) they forcefully drive them to disobey Allah and strongly entice them to do so?”

    Similar sentiments are conveyed in other verses.

    2:6 (Pickthall) “As for the Disbelievers, Whether thou warn them or thou warn them not it is all one for them; they believe not. 2:7. Allah hath sealed their hearing and their hearts, and on their eyes there is a covering. Theirs will be an awful doom.”

    6:39. (Shakir). And they who reject Our communications are deaf and dumb, in utter darkness; whom Allah pleases He causes to err and whom He pleases He puts on the right way.

    6:125. (Pickthall) And whomsoever it is Allah’s will to guide, He expandeth his bosom unto the Surrender*, and whomsoever it is His Will to send astray, He maketh his bosom close and narrow as if he were engaged in sheer ascent. Thus Allah layeth ignominy upon those who believe not.

    *The Islamic religion.

    2:126. (Pickthall). “And when Abraham prayed: My Lord! Make this a region of security and bestow upon its people fruits, such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day, He answered: As for him who disbelieveth, I shall leave him in contentment for a while, then I shall compel him to the doom of Fire – a hapless journey’s end!”

    7:27 (Pickthall). “O Children of Adam! Let not Satan seduce you as he caused your (first) parents to go forth from the Garden and tore off from them their robe (of innocence) that he might manifest their shame to them. Lo! he seeth you, he and his tribe, from whence ye see him not. Lo! We have made the devils protecting friends for those who believe not.”

    4:88 (Shakir). “What is the matter with you, then, that you have become two parties about the hypocrites, while Allah has made them return (to unbelief) for what they have earned? Do you wish to guide him whom Allah has caused to err? And whomsoever Allah causes to err, you shall by no means find a way for him.”

    92:8. (Shakir) “And as for him who is niggardly and considers himself free from need (of Allah), 92:9. And rejects the best, 92:10. We will facilitate for him the difficult end.”

    The idea that Allah created evil seems to be dealt with by apologists through claiming that Allah only uses the evil to test people’s faith–again, similar to what Christian apologists might say in response to Ebonmuse’s above article. The links below provide a couple of Muslim interpretations of the proposition that Allah created evil:

    http://islamtoday.com/showme2.cfm?cat_id=35&sub_cat_id=740
    “However, Allah created evil as well as good, unbelief as well as faith.”

    http://islamicweb.com/beliefs/creed/abdulwahab/KT1-chap-57.htm
    “There is no contradiction here, for what is meant by the latter Hadith is that, while Allah created evil and ordained it, He does not do evil. It may be said that when Allah ordains evil for a person, it is only evil from the point of view of that person, for it is an affliction sent to him because of some sins he has committed; however, in Allah’s Sight, it is not an evil, for it represents Allah’s Wisdom, Justice and Knowledge”

  • Christopher

    When I was still a Christian, vereses like these were incredibly difficult to just rationalize away. I’m glad that I don’t have to anymore…

  • http://www.let-me-be-frank.blogspot.com Stephen

    Just to play the devil’s advocate; the preceding verses of that chapter are addressed to Cyrus of Persia. Essentially God tells Cyrus that He is going to use Cyrus to accomplish His purpose. The implication used by apologists is that God arranges for wars to happen as part of his plan; to punish the Hebrews for screwing up (which they had a knack for), in this case.

  • http://www.let-me-be-frank.blogspot.com Stephen

    Accidently hit submit before I was done! What they’re getting at is that God wasn’t talking about evil in general; just wars that He decided to use to accomplish his will. Whenever they bring this up,I reply with John 1:3 — ” 3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

  • Guitar Eddier

    In other words, the God of the Bible and the Quran is kinky. He purposely creats evil so he can punish his people. That means the whole “Eden Affair” was a set-up from the beginning. The deity creats a garden in which he puts a man and a woman who probably have the mentality of adolescents, tells them not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil,” and then gets mad and punishes them by throwing them out of the garden sentencing them to death and cursing every generation of from then on.

    This not unlike the some adult relationships whereby one partner assumes the role of the child and the other assumes that of the parent. The “child” is allowed to misbehave on purpose, eliciting punishment from the “parent.” That is quite kinky. It makes me wonder about the about the poeple who believe in that this deity; and what is this obsession of theirs for corporal correction of their offspring.

    GE

  • SteveC

    Cool, I’ve had xians come back at me with “it really should be translated as ‘calamity’, not ‘evil’” and so on, and while suspecting that was a big smokescreen, didn’t know just how to combat it. The “tree of good and ra…” That works.

    One minor nitpick:

    > The attribution of evil to God’s handiwork, while it
    > may solve the problem of theodicy, raises an even more
    > difficult question for Jews and Christians in its place.
    > Namely, why would such a deity be worthy of our *belief*?
    (emphasis mine)

    This seems a weird thing to say. If one of the major objections to belief is that God is supposed to all-good, yet evil exists, removing the assumption that he’s all good only makes the thing more believable, not less, right? If something is evil, why would that make it unworthy of belief? Unworthy of worship, sure, but unworthy of belief? Just because it’s evil? I don’t think you can argue it both ways.

    Granted, there are a ton of other reasons that Christianity makes no sense at all.

    There’s an obnoxious, specious line of argument which some Christians use that goes like this:

    God refuses to reveal himself to atheists because even if he did, they would not follow him, or would follow only out of fear, so there is no point in him revealing himself to them, and it is better that he should remain hidden from them.

    Saying things like “Such an evil god is not worthy of worship” may fuel the confidence of such Christians, but since their confidence is based on a specious argument, there’s probably no avoiding it.

  • andrea

    I do find it interesting that some Christians do have that belief that God doesn’t want to bother showing himself to atheists because well, it’d just be worthless. For an omniscient, omnipotent, omni-benevolent being, God sure has some limitations.

    It’s even more interesting when you can show that God does in fact choose who believes in him and created the rest of us just to be tortured for all eternity. Ah, sadism, isn’t it grand?

    Acts 13:48
    Romans 8:28-30
    Ephesians 1:4-6
    Revelations 13:7-8
    Romans 9

  • SM

    Fascinating. I’d never heard of that verse before.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    This seems a weird thing to say. If one of the major objections to belief is that God is supposed to all-good, yet evil exists, removing the assumption that he’s all good only makes the thing more believable, not less, right? If something is evil, why would that make it unworthy of belief? Unworthy of worship, sure, but unworthy of belief? Just because it’s evil? I don’t think you can argue it both ways.

    You’re right, and I apologize. That was a bad choice of wording – I meant “worship”, not “believe”. Whether God is morally good or not doesn’t bear either way on whether there’s evidence for such a being’s existence. It does bear on whether we’d want to follow that being even if it did exist.

    God refuses to reveal himself to atheists because even if he did, they would not follow him, or would follow only out of fear, so there is no point in him revealing himself to them, and it is better that he should remain hidden from them.

    That line of apologetics can be effectively countered by pointing out that in the Bible, God often does reveal himself to people who do not believe in him, as I wrote in “One More Burning Bush“.

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    An interesting approach to the problem of evil is to look at this life as the “Pre-life” and the “afterlife” as “life” as opposed to looking at this life as “life” and what comes next as the “afterlife”. Perhaps this is a praparation, a necessity, to make what comes next, “real life” possible.

    I can’t think of any good way to test this theory. It is a metaphysical construct. I guess the only way to test it is to die. So I guess we will all just have to find out for sure on our own.

    Good article Ebonmuse. I liked it. Strong’s Exhausive Concordance of the Bible is a good reference for looking at the various connotations of Hebrew and Greek words. It is incredibly inexpensive. I picked up a copy for $25. It really helps make our english translations more meaningful.

    Matt R.

  • SteveC

    “That line of apologetics can be effectively countered by pointing out that in the Bible, God often does reveal himself to people who do not believe in him, as I wrote in “One More Burning Bush”.”

    Well, whether it is *effectively* countered depends on what effect you want the countering to have. If you want it to have the effect of causing the Christian to concede defeat on this point, well, it may not be all *that* effective. :D

    I’m trying to remember the argument I’m thinking of, but it was a long time ago. Went something like this: God is by definition good, whatever he does, no matter how evil seeming, it is in reality good. God doesn’t reveal himself to atheists, because he knows they wouldn’t follow him, because he knows they don’t consider him to be good enough. Questions were put, along the lines of “If God revealed himself, asserted that all the bad stuff in say, Numbers 31 occurred just as written, and that this was good, but you’re not permitted to understand why it is good but must trust that it is good, — and this demand for trust is also good — would you worship this God, and do so for reasons other than fear? No? I thought not. etc.” I just remember a many many page thread on Christianforums with this argument being made, twisting and turning, but never conceding. Basically the the Christian’s assertions amounted to an unfalsifiable (and of course unsubstantiated) premise, and involve the worshipping of an apparently evil God who claims to be good and demands faith on this point, despite appearances, and it’s no good being scared into worshipping.

    I don’t think there are very many Christians with ideas like that, but there are a few.

  • schemanista

    MattR:

    The “approach” you mention seems like philosophical white flaggery. You’ve just conceded the field.

    And doesn’t it disturb you in the least to see Christianity as a sort of spiritual Vichy regime?

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Schemanista,

    The term “Christianity” has taken on so many different connotations that it is hardly useful anymore. When you say, “I am a Christian”, you may be Roman Catholic, fundamental protestant, Jehovah’s witness, or Mormon. These four different groups classify themselves as “Christian” yet have an amazing diversity of actual beliefs. For example, fundamental protestants believe in a fiery hell (for the most part), but Jehovah’s witnesses don’t even believe there is a Hell and all “sinners” simply disappear. Jehovah’s witnesses believe that most people will live forever on earth, and Mormons believe in three levels of heaven in the afterlife and an “outer darkness” for “bad” people.

    My point is this: What I believe may be very different from what you suppose I believe when I say “I am a Christian”. The interesting part about this is that I never even said that I was a Christian. It is an assumption you made. Your assumption is correct, and this reflects well on your intuition.

    I do not say “I am a Christian” very often because it is such an ambiguous term and conjures up such negative connotations in some people’s minds that they shut me out before they take the time to find out who I really am and what I really believe.

    You might suppose that I, as a Christian, believe that I am the only one who has it figured out and everyone else will suffer eternal fire.

    You would be wrong. I find most of the questions that most Christians try to answer cannot be answered with any real degree of certainty. I can speculate, but most of my ideas are just that-speculation.

    I do not have a problem with innovative ideas about God because I believe that God will be God no matter what I think or believe. He is or he is not there. Nothing I say or believe will change that. The only thing my beliefs determine is how I live my life. I have chosen to believe there is a good God because it seems rational for me to do so. It has helped me live a good life and I am quite fulfilled. Mine is a religion of practicality. It works so I do it. I truly beleive that Jesus is God, but this is based on reason too, not some silly blind faith.

    I belive that my ideas about God are rational and If you would like to question me about them, I will answer as best I can. I do not wish to persuade you to believe anything you do not want to believe. I think that is unrealistic and most likely impossible.

    I hope this clarifies my approach to discussion in this forum.

    Respectfully,

    Matt R

  • schemanista

    Hi Matt. Thanks for the clarification.

    With regards to the theodicy issue that Ebon raises, I understood your response to be an essential agreement with the point he raises: that God is directly responsible for the existence of evil. You seem to propose that this life is a dress rehearsal for the next and I was trying to call your attention to some of the ramifications of that.

    If Christian thinkers, however you identify them, concede that Isaiah 45:7 torpedoes the theodicies, then they (and you) seem to be in an interesting position. The Christian God deliberately created evil. Worshipping a God like this for the expressed purpose of attaining the afterlife seems like a morally bankrupt foundation for one’s existence. But without what Ebon calls ‘The Eneffible Carrot and the Infinite Stick’, what other reason do you have to worship this God? And if the reason to worship God is that you hope for a present under your metaphorical Christmas tree that’s hardly the life of selfless devotion that perennial Christianity seems to exhort.

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Schemanista,

    Thank you for the clarification. I now fully understand your meaning. It is a good point. The problem of evil is poigniant for the very fact that God is amost universally seen as the creator of everything. Because evil falls into the realm of everything, God is responsible. So this puts me in a VERY strange situation. I somehow believe that not only did God create everything, but he is somehow good! I truly do not blame you for shaking your head slowly as you ponder the depth of my delusion! :)

    My theodicy works in my head. I think if I was able to download my hard drive into your head, it would make sense to you. I cannot do that, so I will use language to convey my ideas to the best of my abilities.

    Furthermore let me clarify by saying that my “theodicy” is completely imaginary as far as I know. It is a metaphysical construct designed to illustrate the possibility of a good creator God coexisting with “evil” in his creation.

    There are, as you know, generally two categories of “evil”. There is natural “evil”, that which is outside of the control of men and there is human evil which springs from the choices that people make. Clearly if humans have free will (a commonly accepted notion) then the evil that springs from then is not directly linked to God, it is direcly linked to humans. Of course God is indirectly responsible because he created the humans. Here is where it gets weird. If God hadn’t created humans, there wouldn’t be any humans to do anything good or bad. None of us would have ever lived. So we cannot be mad at God for creating us. So maybe we can be mad that he made us with the capability of doing “evil”. Ok, now we are getting somewhere. I think free will is possible only if all avenues are open to the “chooser”. So to have real true free will, all avenues, even “evil” ones have to be open. So your next question is “why doesn’t God just shut down the “Evil” choices and produce a paradise on earth. What is so great about absolute free will if it only brings about evil? Well if there is no greater purpose for absolute free will then I suppose it is arbitrary and cruel to give us this free will that we use to hurt each other (see how we like to blame others for our choices? Me included!).

    So I think that there must be a greater purpose for absolute free will. I propose that it is so that God could experience love. Unless his creations could actually choose to not love him, they could not be reasonably said to love him. A creature without a choice does not love, it just does what it does. It may APPEAR to love, it may act like it loves, but it is, in reality, just doing the only thing it is capable of doing. It would be like me saying, what a nice rock! It never mocks anyone! Well, the rock isn’t nice because it is not capable of mocking anyone.

    So maybe God is selfish for wanting love, but maybe not. I cannot imagine existence without love. That would be hell. (figuratively speaking…as far as I know)

    So I think God gave us free will so that we could be said to truly love God and God himself would know that we truly love him. I think that this results in bad things on this temporary earth, but these things are temporary and will be mended. I think God is justified in wanting to experience true love. I have experienced love and it is wonderful.

    So what about natural evil? That which people do not cause? Well, this discussion hinges on the definition of evil. If a limb falls on my car I could say that it is evil, but if I was about to pull out and get in a fatal car accident I would say that it was good. Now, I am not suggesting that all “natural evil” is actually a great ploy to prevent even greater evil (although I suppose it is possible, I just don’t know if it is probable). I am trying to illustrate that often that which is “evil” is subject to perspective.

    One suffers when training for sports. The pain feels bad and is “evil”. But it works toward a greater good. Therefore I propose that this earth is here for a greater good. There is suffering here but it is necessary to create that which is impossible-

    A paradise that is free of evil but still preserves love. Now I just told you before that it is impossible to have real love without absolute free will. This is true, so you may think that “heaven” that has love and no evil is impossible. It is not. I have to go now because I have a prior engagement. I will return later and finish this up. Please just think about what I have said so far. Let me finish my idea and then you can start asking questions.

    Thank you for your time,

    Matt R

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    It is impossible for God, on his own, to create love. There must be choosing being in order for true love to exist.

    The problem with choice is that it can lead to evil. So… God created this life for us to choose whether to give up the part of us that can choose against God. If we are willing to give that up, God can change us into a being that can choose anything except evil. This preserves love because the being freely chose to give up part of it’s free will, a genuine expression of love. Those beings who choose to give up their ability to choose evil will populate heaven. Therefore heaven with love and without evil is theoretically possible.

    Whether it is actually possible is another matter entirely. I suppose the only way to test it is to die. I will get around to doing it someday, but I think that it may be some time from now. Until then I just keep living and enjoying discussing ideas with complete strangers on the internet! :)

    Cheers,

    Matt R.

    P.S. As far as I know, I invented this idea. If it is not original, please let me know the source so I can read it and reference it in any published work I create.

  • http://www.debunkingchristianity.com John W. Loftus

    Thanks. It looks as if I was mistaken on this passage.

  • andrea

    If God is supposed to be complete, why would he need love?

    And free will based on either believe in me/love me, or be consigned to torture for eternity? Not very free is it? except to the few who are either brave enough or crazy enough to resist such a fate.

    And heaven is supposed to be just us adulating God. Where’s the free will in that? Will I be able to choose not to, assuming I get there? I guess not from what you say about God “changing” us. Then I can’t truly love and I’m kicked out of heaven?

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Andrea,

    Thanks for your feedback. Your questions are good and I will answer them as best I can.

    If God is supposed to be complete, why would he need love?

    I do not have any reason to believe that God is or is not complete in and of himself. From my perspective, sitting around by onesself is dull. If God is anything like me then I expect he would want other thinking beings around. If God is complete in and of himself, it seems silly that he would create anything at all. I would think he would just sit around and be happy. To put it another way: When I am content I do not go out of my way to change the situation. If I am surfing and the waves are perfect, I do not look for another place to surf, I stay where I am until I am late for what I was supposed to be going to. So if God was complete and happy the way he was without us or the universe or anything, I would expect him to keep things the way they are and not go to the effort of creating everything.

    And free will based on either believe in me/love me, or be consigned to torture for eternity? Not very free is it?

    I would say that due to the ambiguity of God, you have utterly free will. You do not believe in hell, Andrea, therefore it is not an effective means of coercion. You have utter free will to believe what your want about God and the universe and reality as a whole. I would also say that I see no rational reason to believe that those who do not choose God must be punished for eternity. Maybe they go somewhere else that is away from God. Maybe they just disappear. This last one wouldn’t be too bad because that is what some people expect to happen anyway. I have even known people to say that they want to disappear when they are dead because the idea of living forever is tiring. One person even went so far as to say that he would be “miffed” if there turned out to be an afterlife and he was cheated out of oblivion! So it seems that some people, at least, like the concept of just disappearing.

    And heaven is supposed to be just us adulating God.

    I certainly do not presume to know what heaven is supposed to be or even what it is like. My ideas are just that. Ideas. They may or may not reflect reality. They are intended to show possibility, not certainty.

    Where’s the free will in that?

    There can only be free will if you freely choose to do it. Presumably, if you have arrived in heaven, you love God and interested in what he has for you. Again, I could be wrong, I am just trying to be consistent and rational in my ideas.

    Will I be able to choose not to, assuming I get there? I guess not from what you say about God “changing” us. Then I can’t truly love and I’m kicked out of heaven?

    In my hypothetical portrayal of heaven, you would already have chosen to love God before arriving in heaven. In effect, by choosing God, you also choose to give up the ability to not love him. I have proposed this choice as the admittance critera for a hypothetical perfect afterlife in which love can exist in the absence of evil. Again, I think the construct works but I can neither prove nor disprove it. As far as I know it is not open to verification. The point of creating it is to develop a scenario in which a good God can exist with the suffering and so forth that we observe in our world today.

    Thank you for your time,

    Matt R.

    P.S. I hope your questions were not rhetorical. I would feel silly writing all these words if you did not want an answer after all! :)

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    Matt, I’m curious, and this is an honest question: Why go through all these mental gymnastics to figure out a way for there to be a deity of some form or another that doesn’t conflict with reality when there are much simpler answers out there?

    I guess that could be simplified to “What is the basis of your belief?” Sorry if you’ve answered something like this somewhere else already, I do tend to have a poor memory sometimes.

  • schemanista

    Hi MattR:

    Again, thank you for your posts. I won’t be able to get very far in any discussion about your theological interpretations because, for me, the conversation can’t progress beyond the issue of free will.

    To wit: I don’t think there’s any such thing as contra-causal free will. Cognitive science certainly can’t find it, and perennial philosophy’s dependance on it introduces all kinds of strange loops into epistemology. The resources at http://www.naturalism.org do a better job of explaining this than I could ever hope.

    In addition, you also depend on the survival of conscious identity after the death of the physical body. Ebon puts this idea to bed in The Ghost in the Machine. I highly recommend it.

    I’d also like to point out that, even as you emphatically insist on the necessity of contra-causal free will, you’ve reduced your God to a deterministic entity, or at least it reads that way to me. No wonder YWHW didn’t want Adam and Eve to have the “power of knowing good from evil”. They had Free Will™ and He didn’t!

    The idea of an asymptotically-omnipotent supernatural-yet-deterministic being seems ridiculous on its face. Please don’t take this as disrespect, but have you really thought this through?

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Nes,

    You pose a good question that every person should ask themselves frequently. “What convinces me to accept my beliefs as truth?” it is a very good question indeed.

    I have considered this often and developed another question to help me answer this question. It is, “What fact or observation, if taken away, would most likely cause me to change my mind about God?” This question cuts to the heart of the matter. It trims away the biological theories, the sociological observations, the metaphysical speculations and leaves me with the foundation of my belief. I find that after considerable self-reflection, my foundation my belief in God is experimentation and experience.

    Simply put, someone told me that following Jesus (whom I equate with God) would have a positive impact on my life. So I tried following Jesus and it had a positive impact in my life. This lead me to trust that there is truth in the words of Jesus. Allow me to clarify what I mean by the term positive experience. The sum total of all my perspectives, attitudes, emotions, actions, desires, and aspirations is better from a moral and practical standpoint after I followed Jesus than before. I do not mean to say that I simply get a warm happy feeling at church. Jesus has performed a revolution in my life. The old Matt is gone and in his place is a new Matt, happier, full of peace, more loving, more considerate and thoughtful. I enjoy life more, I have more fun, I do not give or receive offense as easily as I did before. I feel like I connect with people better now. I feel like I can see life more clearly now. I no longer fear other people and their attitudes and beliefs, I can open myself to them and interact with them openly and genuinely. Something has happened to me. It is real and it is wonderful.

    If I had tried following Jesus and experienced nothing, then I think that I would be inclined to strongly doubt the truth of his words. Jesus makes some very bold and unlikely claims about himself and reality. If I had not experienced anything, then I would have almost certainly not followed Jesus.

    With that being said, I undergo “mental gymnastics” because my mind is an active one, and I like to keep it limber. I enjoy discussions on theology and logic, so I go to forums where I can have meaningful discussion with people who have different perspectives and beliefs. This is one form of recreation for me. I continue to come here because I have had very good exchanges with several posters here and I anticipate more.

    Thank you for your question, Nes, I hope my answer is adequate.

    Cheers,

    Matt R

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    While that would not be sufficient for me to start believing (though it would certainly be enough to make me wonder and start questioning/researching), I do understand it. Thanks Matt.

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Schamanista,

    I have not intentionally reduced God to a deterministic entity. If my comment reads that way, it was poor communication on my part. I believe that God can and does choose. May I ask what part of my post made you think that I believed in a deterministic entity for God?

    I think I understand your point about counter-causal free will. I do not intend to suggest that counter-causal free will is necessary for love.

    Regarding persisting conciousness after death, I do not know how one would verify or refute its existence. As I stated before, I do not see how this is open for validation. I view this as a neutral point becuase it neither supports nor undermines my argument. I will say that it seems rather bold to suppose that we have already measured and described all phenomena that exist in the universe and that which has never been observed cannot possibly be. Perhaps what I have called “metaphysical” is nothing more than an extension of physical reality that we do not perceive until death.

    Cheers,

    Matt R

  • http://literalbible.blogspot.com Roopster

    Your blog contains great material that I’m using for my Daily Bible Readings blog. I plan on posting a different passage from the Bible for the entire year in an attempt to show the ridiculousness of believing the Bible to be the “Word of God.” I am, however, approaching it from a perspective of truth :)

  • jake3988

    For a few posters above: Yes, christianity has taken on a new meaning. While this is completely not what this original post had in mind I’ll go on a tiny rant.

    Christianity is made of THOUSANDS of demoninations. Each of these demoninations believes something differently because of how vague the bible is. The bible clearly states many and sometimes frankly absurd things to get into heaven. Unfortunately, I doubt if any denomination practices all of them… so it most definately means almost no one will ever get there (according to the bible)

    The bible clearly states we:
    1. Must become like little children.
    2. Be Born Again.
    3. Not be Rich.
    4. Believe in God.
    5. Be Baptized.

    The 1st 2 seem impossible and are clearly up to interpretation. And people like Oprah don’t pay attention to #3. (Sorry Oprah, you’re not getting there.)

    Some denominations violate clear rules that state women can’t be priests (thankfully) but that goes directly against the old testament. And certainly no one practices even a remote few of the law anymore except for homosexuals.

    To the real post response:
    God created evil. I compare this, which I wrote on another blog, to god being omnipotent. Even IF the bible never directly he created evil, you have to assume that anyway.
    -God being omnipotent had to know that the world he was going to create was going to have evil. Otherwise he’s not omnipotent.
    -God being all-powerful, could’ve created a world without evil or he could use his all-powerfulness to vanquish evil in one foul swoop. But he doesn’t. He could’ve created a utopia where no one dies of starvation or ebola in africa. Etc.
    -He could’ve stopped Hitler and Stalin(Though, I truely see nothing different between God and Hitler) or any other calamaties.

    Anyway, just a small rant.

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Jake3988,

    Out of curiosity, what makes you think that God is omnipotent?

    Matt R.

  • http://www.anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    Matt, my life became better after I became an atheist, so your life seeming better to you after believing in Jesus proves nothing.

  • schemanista

    Matt: we may be using different definitions of “deterministic”. I’m using the generally-accepted range of philosophical definitions. You seem to say that God is somehow incomplete and this incompleteness causes, in some unspecified manner, a desire to enter into relationships with created beings. If that ain’t determinism, then I don’t know what is.

    The obverse, and “usual” interpretation is that God willed the universe into existence, but God is, as we are supposed to be, causa sui—his own first cause, which is one of the attributes of His presumed omnipotence.

    As far as the survival of consciousness past death, I think you didn’t read Ebon’s essay since it addresses your point exactly. If, as The Ghost in the Machine demonstrates, consciousness does not survive death, then all of your suppositions about an afterlife are moot. I also refer you to Owen Flanagan’s The Problem of the Soul: Two visions of mind and how to reconcile them.

    Finally: the bit about

    I will say that it seems rather bold to suppose that we have already measured and described all phenomena that exist in the universe and that which has never been observed cannot possibly be. Perhaps what I have called “metaphysical” is nothing more than an extension of physical reality that we do not perceive until death.

    … rather misses my point. One doesn’t need to exhaustively disprove (since that’s demonstrably impossible) a proposition. On the other hand, if there’s no indication that consciousness pre-exists or post-dates biological death, then it’s entirely appropriate to dismiss notions such as the “soul” and the “afterlife”. That’s where I’m coming from. Again, I refer you to the above-linked essay, to Flanagan’s excellent book, to Daniel M. Wegner’s The Illusion of Conscious Will, and the resources at naturalism.org for extended discussions of this issue.

  • James Bradbury

    Tommykey, Matt

    Perhaps the truth is has more to do with growing up, making your own decisions and no longer feeling obliged to go along with the beliefs of those around you, with whom you may not necessarily agree.

    At some stage in most people’s lives they gain the confidence to do what they feel is right and nevermind what anyone else thinks.

    Freedom of belief (in whatever direction you take it) is likely to have positive effects on your feelings of well-being and make you a nicer person.

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Schemanista,

    Thank you for your ideas and remarks, and for taking the time to reply to me. I did not read “The Ghost in the Machine” in it’s entirety. I have a fairly comprehensive understanding of basic neurological functioning and I understand that science has explained many of the phenomena that once were attributed to “the soul”.

    Let me clarify something that will facilitate positive interactions between us in future posts and comments. I do not intend, by logic or cunning, to force you or trick you into believing something that you do not desire to believe. My purposes here are to discuss my ideas with people who have a radically different perspective on life in order to try and establish a better perspective on live within myself.

    I recognize the possibility that my conception of God does not exist. I also recognize the possibility that God of any kind does not exist. Based on my life experience I think God is there and he is good. It is my perogative as a being who can assign meaning to things. It is also your perogative to believe that he is not there or that if he is there, he is bad. I respect that perogative.

    With that being said, almost all areas of human behavior can be attributed to physical structures found within the brain. I say “almost” only because science in its current state of knowledge has not fully explained human consciousness. I recognize this and I do not dispute it. I do not care if there is or is not evidence for a “soul”. It is very possible for my theoretical explanation of the problem of evil to work in the absence of “souls”.

    … rather misses my point. One doesn’t need to exhaustively disprove (since that’s demonstrably impossible) a proposition. On the other hand, if there’s no indication that consciousness pre-exists or post-dates biological death, then it’s entirely appropriate to dismiss notions such as the “soul” and the “afterlife”. That’s where I’m coming from.

    It misses your point, but makes my point exactly. I do not seek to find the “clincer” to disprove atheism. I WANT people to be able to believe whatever they want. I don’t want to force anything on anyone. All I do is talk about ideas and tell people what I have experienced as a result of my ideas and decisions I have made. At that point, feel free to live your life as you see fit. Furthermore, I implore you to ask me whatever questions you want and I will answer them as best I can. Also feel free to offer any information that you feel may be helpful to me. I will read them as time allows.

    I view my posts here as more of a conversation than an argument, although many seem to view it the other way.

    Again, thank you for your interest and your remarks. I intend to read more from the sources you posted as the matter interests me greatly.

    Cheers,

    Matt R.

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    James Bradbury,

    Well put. I think you are quite right.

    Cheers

    Matt R

  • schemanista

    Matt: My apologies if I’ve taken the idea of “spirited debate” to a point which has made you uncomfortable, or offered unintended slight.

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Schemanista,

    No slight whatsoever. I take great pains to make my intentions clear so that I do not appear to be “attacking” the belifs of others and so that others do not misconstrue my intentions. I fear that some of my fellow theists have given atheists good reason to become defensive. I seek to avoid this.

    Incidentally, I read more of “The Ghost in the Machine” and found it very interesting. The ideas are interesting and since I was raised in a Christian household I had never actually critically considered the concept of the “soul”. What does the soul do indeed…. an interesting question that I had never thought of. I suppose that it may do very similar things as God himself does. Whatever those things are… :)

    Cheers,

    Matt R.

  • Quayle

    Hi everyone!

    First thing first – I’m a norwegian so please excuse my sometimes lack of skills in english. Second, I’m a non believer, I’m not an atheist either, so I’m nothing when it comes to this question.

    With that out of the way, I’ll just fire off.

    I have more than often discussed religion with christians in Norway. Christian is a wide term so accept it for what it is. It amazes me that they all use the same arguments, it’s almost like it’s some kind of indoctrinated answers they have learned from the pastor or something.

    God, if he exists has indeed created both good and evil, since he did create everything. This means that he did create evil for the sole purpose of trying to make humans do evil, I can’t see any other reason. It is argued that for free will to exist we need to have the choice of doing evil, and free will is importaint for God to be loved for real. It seems like this is very egocentric, to create humans for him to feel love, tourment people for the sole purpose of his own enjoyment. Is that the act of a truly good God? My though is, no!

    It is also strange that christians can argue that their God really is good due to the above mentioned argument but also due to the following. If we agree that God created us for us to choose to love him or burn in hell for all eternity, it’s not actually free will, it’s brute force. I have often argued like this: “I see myself as a good person. I don’t steal, I don’t kill people, I don’t kick people who’s on the ground – I help them up. I actually follow the 10 comandments, except the ones about God – because from my point of wiev there is no God. I actually do as best I can to be good, and treat others with respect. Still I do not qualify to get into heaven but will burn for eternity along with rapists, murderers, active pedophiles and other scum.” This makes me feel like God is on an egotrip, and doesn’t really care if we are good or not, because if you are religious you will get forgiveness even if you are a really scumbag! This actually leads me to believe that he is evil and not good deep inside.

    Did you follow me so far? Great!

    It is impossible to disprove the existence of God, since his existence has not been proven yet. It is impossible to disprove a negative, which should be a well known fact. To argue that atheists and other non-believers should disprove Gods existence it is just as crazy as for me to ask someone to disprove the existence of a horde of invisible pink horses that fly around the universe and is the creators of everything. If you want to argue that God does something, you should actually start with proving his existence, right? Because for him to have done something(2), he actually must exist(1). Since him doing something is something that follows his existence, existence is 1 and his actions is 2. This proves that religion is indeed blind faith, as Matt and other christians argue that it’s not.

    But this is what I find hard about discussing with christians, they do not follow logic and base their truth on a some 2000 year old book(s). They also choose freely from it what they believe and follow, so they actually tamper with God’s words.

    If you take a look at i.e Jes 36,12. In the Norwegian Bible it says something like this in english(look it up):

    12 But the commandor answered: “Do you think my Lord has sendt me to say this only to your master and you? No, it’s just as much to the men who’s sitting on the wall, they who have to eat their own fecies(directly translated it says shit) and their own water, just like you”

    A God who will have me to eat my own fecies and drink my urin is not a God I want to have anything to do with. You may find the same in: 2 King 18,27

    I didn’t think this was true first, but look it up I tell you!

    Sorry if some of these arguments have been mentioned all ready but this is all from the top of my head. Feel free to rip my arguments into pieces, christians and others.

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Quayle,

    Your English is better than many Americans I know. I applaud your ability! You bring up many points which are valid. I will address them briefly, then if you like, we can go into more detail as you see fit.

    1) Regarding Evil

    When God made the universe he made it to work a certain way. He established physical laws that must be followed. For example, if you don’t eat, you die. Based on the construction of the universe there is a moral law as well. This moral law is based on the way the universe is made. Moral activity is that which leads to the optimal function of humans, it is based on God in that it is based on how he created the universe. Therefore, when people choose to act in a way contrary with this morality that has been established, then it is evil. By God creating a “good” there necessarily follows that there is “evil” which is defined as that which is not “good”. God did not create evil so men could have free will, evil results when men use free will to go against “good”. So, since God made people, I suppose you could hold him indirectly responsible for creating “evil”, however it would be like blaming a murder on the parent of the murderer, not very fair.

    2) Hell

    Your concept of hell is highly stylized. This is reasonable because of the creative ideas of hell found throughout church tradition and even the Bible. Here is the bottom line as I see it. Hell describes the opposite of heaven. It could be obliteration after death. It could be a place where those who have not chosen to love God go. Maybe it is very similar to earth. I don’t see that it has to be torture. Maybe it is just a big continuation of what we already have here. If people are not obliterated, they go somewhere. I highly doubt it will be the “lake of fire” we hear of so often. Just to head off any “you better read the Bible” arguments, I am well aware of the Biblical teaching of hell. I look at the Bible differently than most people, so do not be surprised when I draw unconventional conclusions from it.

    3)Invisible Pink Ponies:

    Just for the sake of argument, invisible pink ponies are a logical contradiction, something cannot be invisible and reflect light at the same time. There, that is one less thing atheists have to disprove! (Just a little joke there for you, no harm intended :) )

    Do not worry about disproving God. If you do not believe in him, that is fine. If it does not make sense to you, that is also fine. You do not need to disprove something in order to not believe in it, you just have to decide not to believe in it. The main reason I recommend people try believing in Jesus is because it had such a great impact in my life. I realize, as many have pointed out, that this does not PROVE anything. That is fine, I am just passing on a little thing that helped me.

    But this is what I find hard about discussing with christians, they do not follow logic and base their truth on a some 2000 year old book(s). They also choose freely from it what they believe and follow, so they actually tamper with God’s words.

    My beliefs are based on firsthand experience. My conclusions about the experience may be flawed or even wrong, but it is not illogical to base one’s life on one’s personal experience; everyone does that. I would venture to guess that one reason you do not believe in God is personal experience.

    In 2 Kings 18:27, the Israellites are recording the attack of Sennecharib on Jerusalem. The particular verse you cited is a threat from Sennecharib, the invading commander, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This is not God saying that he wants anyone to eat their own feces or drink their own urine. It also is not valid to say that Sennecharib was sent to judge the israellites since in the story, God delivers the Israellites.

    Quayle, I have replied to show you how believing in God can be done in a logical fashion with reason. I do not intend to “rip your argument into pieces”. I think the points you wrote about are valid questions that should be addressed. I have done my best to address them. If you find them intellectually lacking or unsatisfying, tell me and I will try again. If my logic or premises are faulty, bring that to my attention and I will see what we can do.

    Respectfully,

    Matt R

  • James Bradbury

    Welcome Quayle,

    I believe many of your arguments are discussed in detail in the essays found through this link:

    http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/index.html

    On the subject of Free Will, I am inclined to agree with those who say we have the “illusion of free will”, that is free from our own limited perspective. The following comments are also interesting:
    “The contemporary philosopher Galen Strawson agrees with Locke that the truth or falsity of determinism is irrelevant to the problem.[4] He argues that the notion of free will leads to an infinite regress and is therefore senseless. According to Strawson, if one is responsible for what one does in a given situation, then one must be responsible for the way one is in certain mental respects. But it is impossible for one to be responsible for the way one is in any respect. This is because in order to be responsible for the way one is in some situation “S”, one must have been responsible for the way one was at “S-1″. In order to be responsible for the way one was at “S-1″, one must have been responsible for the way one was at “S-2″, and so on. At some point in the chain, there must have been an act of origination of a new causal chain. But this is impossible. Man cannot create himself or his mental states ex nihilo. This argument entails that free will itself is absurd, but not that it is incompatible with determinism.”

  • Quayle

    Matt,

    Thanx for your answer, it seems like you have some intresting thoughts!

    The pink horses, or ponies can ofcourse make them selves visible if they want to, if they did they would appear to be pink, if they are invisible they are indeed invisible and not pink so the joke’s on you:)

    I find your argument to be valid and good – I must say that this is my first time saying that to a christian. You seem to have your own interpretation of the Bible, which is good. This means that you actually think and reason and not following some preachers thoughts and words. This is a good thing. I think it’s great if you have found Jesus and that this have made a change in your life, this is only positive.

    I don’t try to disprove God, because there is nothing to disprove since his existence has not been proven, if you get what I mean. The only thing I try to do is make christians think for them selves and try to reason with them to understand WHY they chose to believe. Their answer is usually that it says so in the Bible or “burn in hell for all I care”. If, what the Bible says is true, I will indeed go to hell, no matter how good I am, but a rapist or murderer who starts believing in God and Jesus will infact go to heaven. How is this fair? This does for me disprove Gods goodness and not his existence. I totally agree that he/she/it might exist but that he/she/it is not worthy of our worship, since he rather pardon a murderer that a person thats only sin is not to believe in him. Is not believing in him worse than killing and raping 10000 young girl and boys? In my opinion no, in his it’s yes if we should believe the Bible. So he created us for his own enjoyment and for us to worship him. Cool guy:D

    It’s also strange that christians tend to applaude laws that restricts alcohol and narcotics. If you are a christian you should indeed oppse such laws since it tampers with Gods will. Why you might ask – this is why:

    God created us with a free will, laws reagarding alcohol and narcotics only limits our free will. That’s their sole purpose, to restrict our choices regarding what and what not to eat, drink og shoot up on. It actually does organized crime a favour, helping cartelles to get an economy. If my neighbour shoots up on heroin, it does not do me any harm, but if he comes over and steals my TV it does. If narcotics was legal and sold by the government, the prices would be lowered and crime would probably go down. Why is it that christians usually(in Norway atleast I don’t know how it’s over there) don’t drink and oppose those who does? Jesus did drink, he also was a big eater. Why is it that christians oppose free will on one hand and applaude it on the other? Double standards you say, it doesn’t surprice me, the Bible is full of it:)

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Quayle,

    Yes, you certainly have me on the horses/ponies. I did not realize the duality of their visible/invisible nature. Yes, those horse/ponies would be hard to disprove.

    If, what the Bible says is true, I will indeed go to hell, no matter how good I am, but a rapist or murderer who starts believing in God and Jesus will infact go to heaven. How is this fair?

    You are not the first person to express this sentiment. One thing to consider is if there is a moral “point of no return” past which there is no way the God will accept you because you have been too bad, then it is possible for a truly repentant person who has changed in his or her heart, could come to God and be turned away.

    To put it another way, if God sends a murderer to Hell to burn forever, what good does that accomplish? The murdered person is still murdered, the family is still bereaved, and now to make things worse, another person is in hell forever (the murderer). Wouldn’t it be better if the murderer realized the evil of murder, turned his life around and started helping people, or better yet, helping people who have a problem with violence? This way, there is improvement and resolution to the problem. So many people focus on the “judgement of God” that they miss the truth. God is more like a rehabilitation specialist than a judge. God knows what your problems are. He does not want to punish you for them, he wants to help you overcome them. One might ask “why doesn’t he make us all perfect then?”. I will tell you that this question is flawed. If you want me to explain further, I will, but this post is growing very large already. Perhaps in another comment…

    So if we draw a line of morality and say, “once you pass this line, you are beyond all hope.” then we have surrendered to hoplessness and despair and we are truly lost and have lost.

    The other part, about a “good person” going to hell, is a very strange thing for me to talk about. It reaches to the core of what I personally think is necessary for “salvation”.

    Some say that one has to be a good person. I say “how good?”. Some people say “you must be perfect” I say “clearly impossible”. Some people point to rituals or sacred beliefs or some special knowledge and I say “Unjust!”. The key to salvation must be open to all humans at all times if God is to be good and just. This clearly puts virtually all religions in the uncomfortable position of believing in an unjust God….perhaps. But perhaps not.

    Religion always gets into trouble when they speculate on things. A favorite of mine is a question that many ask of the Christian, “What happens to people who never had a chance to hear about Jesus? Do they burn in hell forever?”. There was a time when I would look them in the eye and say with all seriousness, “yes”. I laugh at myself when I think of it. There are many who say the same thing now. There are others who make up elaborate scenarios involving God’s all-knowing nature and all-powerful nature, but these scenarios inevitably boil down to a deterministic or pseudo-deterministic theology in which God chooses some people and damns others regardless of the action of the individual. I am not joking about this. Many people believe this.

    I think the key to salvation is an attitude that leads to moral behavior. This is backwards from most religions. Most religions preach that moral behavior will lead to a good attitude. I think this is utterly wrong. As we think and believe, so we act. I also believe that Jesus is involved with this process somehow. I know this seems like it is very unrelated logically, but based on my experience, it is undeniable. I think the appropriate attitude, when confronted with the reality of Jesus will recognize the truth and follow. Now, I know this will ruffle some feathers because many people have heard about Jesus and rejected him. I would say that you have most likely heard a distorted version of Jesus. It seems to be a rite of passage in the intellectual community to take the obligatory stab at Jesus so lots of things have been said. An open evaluation of Jesus, I think, will soften a person’s attitude toward him. Try to separate him from the bad feelings associated with the Old Testament, look at him. See what you think. There is much truth in the words of Jesus.

    To sum up my view of what is necessary for salvation, I think that one has to have the humility to realize that one is not perfect and needs help in life to stop doing bad things, then one must ask God for help. When I did this, that is when my life began.

    Cheers,

    Matt R.

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    James Bradbury,

    It is interesting for a sentient being to choose to logically prove that choice is an illusion! Very interesting. Truly, from a logical point of view, free will does boggle my mind as well! Why do we choose? Is it nature, is it nurture? We control neither of these things, yet we hold each other accountable for our choices. It just does not seem fair from a logical perspective.

    Good comment, it made me think.

    Thanks,

    Matt R.

  • James Bradbury

    Matt,

    Thanks, but I don’t claim I proved it – that’s just the way it seems to me! You can tie yourself in knots thinking about free-will, but it’s pretty much essential to Christian doctrine. Secondly, if we indeed do have completely free-will, then God must be less than omnipotent as a result. By giving us free-will he must have implicitly endorsed all our “free” choices. Like a wind-up toy let loose by the side of a road.

    I imagine free-will as a spider-diagram with some moral decision in the middle and a whole swarm of things (real or imagined) linking to it which influence your decision (you could also indicate some causes of those things, but you have to call a halt at the edge of your paper!). Then think about which of those things you control.

    There are good reasons for us to hold each other accountable and (in a local, social sense), to feel accountable for our actions. This encourages people to behave in a decent and socially acceptable way. The problem with this only comes when a society itself has the wrong moral expectations and the encouragements may point in the wrong direction.

    The implications this lack of genuine free-will has for justice are not as far-reaching as many theists would suggest. I believe the purpose of justice ought to be to reduce suffering, not to punish. So deterring criminal behaviour (if it worked), or removing a dangerous individual from where they could cause harm would be efficacious in that. I think this is called consequentialist justice.

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    James,

    As far as I can tell, I agree with you. May I assume from your comment that you are against the death penalty?

    I particularly identify with your view of free will. It seems impossible that free will exists as non-causal decision making. On the other hand, determinism seems rather dreary and does not feel right to me. Perhaps all free will boils down to a choice between what you think is right and what feels good at the time. It often feels like this to me. Or maybe it is the decision to make the effort to determine the correct course of action instead of simply acting without consideration. I think either case fits with your spider-diagram. Very interesting.

    I also identify with your statement regarding the omnipotence of God. I do not subscribe to the belief that God is omnipotent for several reasons, the primary one is that utter omnipotence is contrary to logic. I also think that it would be silly for an omnipotent God to deal with the problem of sin in the way that I believe God did (though Jesus). It seems that if there was another way, God would have done it. Perhaps the problem of sin was so vast and grave that it required God himself to become a man and enter space and time (or something like that) in order to deal with it.

    I say this not to take anything away from God, but because this is what I think actually exists based on the evidence I have. Some people may argue against me by saying, “if God is not omnipotent, what guarantee do you have that God will get you to heaven or that he is even able to create a heaven?”. To remarks like that, I would reply that I do not have a guarantee of anything in life. I do not even have a guarantee that God exists. I believe that I have overwhelming evidence to suggest to me that God exists but all I have is my ability to interpret what I have experienced and there is always the possibility, however slim, that I am utterly wrong.

    Regarding Justice,

    I have always supposed that the generally accepted definition of justice was “an individual receiving what he or she deserves”. If this is the working definition, then justice is not simply for preventing crime, but also to punish. With that being said, punishing crime really solves no problems. If I kill a killer, have I accomplished anything? No, I have multiplied the bloodshed and sorrow. Perhaps the killer “deserved” death, but in the end, the results are the same, destruction. I think that the better way is to prevent evil as best as possible and correct the consequences as best as possible.

    I am curious, James, what is your perspective on God? Is God impossible, improbable, uncertain, probable, or necessary?

    I have enjoyed your posts so far and look forward to more.

    Cheers,

    Matt R.

  • James Bradbury

    Thanks again for your responses Matt. It’s great to hear from open-minded Christians who are willing to listen as well as explain their views.

    You certainly have a viewpoint that is unique as far as I know – which I guess is not that far. In any case, I hope you can convince more orthodox believers to listen to your perspective as it is logically as good as any other and morally much better than most!

    I think god/gods to be highly improbable (The Christian God as much as any other). To say “impossible” in relation to the existence of anything is daft. We can’t actually disprove his existence but that also applies to any number of things we care to invent.

    Regarding the death penalty – yes, I am against it. I’m trying to think of an instance when this wouldn’t be the case. As it is one of those politically charged topics it’s very hard to find unbiased information on the point. However from what I can gather, it seems that:
    - it doesn’t deter criminals (perhaps those who most often get it aren’t all there anyway), and
    - it doesn’t actually save money (due to the death-row appeals, etc).

    Maybe if it was impossible to contain or imprison the criminal such that they couldn’t harm others I could sanction it, but I’m having trouble imagining that without resorting to comic book villans.

    On the other hand, if there was a guy going into a school with a machine gun and a string of grenades and I happen to be nearby with a sniper rifle then I’d have to shoot him (or at least try) – ‘course a high-tech stun gun would be better. Better still would be if he couldn’t have got hold of all that weaponry in the first place, but I digress.

    I have always supposed that the generally accepted definition of justice was “an individual receiving what he or she deserves”.

    Yes, but that goes no way towards telling you what someone deserves. If someone is born with (or aquires) a brain aberration(s) that causes them to want to hurt or kill people, that’s very unfortunate both for their potential victims and for them, because they won’t fit in too well and it is likely to catch up with them. But I still can’t say that they are inherently evil and deserve to suffer as a result. They were just doing what came naturally. Thankfully, for most of us what comes naturally is more moral and altruistic.

    I think that brings us back to free will. Which, incidentally I no longer believe has anything to do with determinism. Even if the world is non-deterministic, does that make our choices freer? Can we control these “random” events?

    Wikipedia seems to have all the angles on this, so it is a long article!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_will

    I know what you mean about determinism seeming dreary, but even if the world is deterministic (I can’t tell) that doesn’t seem to diminish the wonder we feel, the love of friends and family, the beauty of the wilderness or the fascinating of learning something new. That is exactly as we each experience it.

    If at the end of my life I found I’d been living inside an elaborate computer simulation (which again I can’t disprove) I don’t think I’d feel cheated, I’d probably laugh.

    James

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    James,

    Thank you for the kind words. I do not think it is likely that I will “convert” anyone to my brand of Christianity. It was hard enough for me to come to this point. It really takes something special for someone to get where I am; a perfect combination of logic and experience. I think that had I been less logical, I would have remained a fundamentalist for my entire life, but if I had not had the experiences that I have had, I almost certainly would have stopped believing in God altogether. I marvel at the circumstances of my life. I marvel that there are approximately 4-6 billion other experiences, just as special and unique happening simultaneously on our planet. Life is truly amazing! In any case, I digress…

    Yes, but that goes no way towards telling you what someone deserves. If someone is born with (or aquires) a brain aberration(s) that causes them to want to hurt or kill people, that’s very unfortunate both for their potential victims and for them, because they won’t fit in too well and it is likely to catch up with them. But I still can’t say that they are inherently evil and deserve to suffer as a result. They were just doing what came naturally. Thankfully, for most of us what comes naturally is more moral and altruistic.

    Absolutely true. Perhaps the generally accepted definition of justice is impractical.

    If at the end of my life I found I’d been living inside an elaborate computer simulation (which again I can’t disprove) I don’t think I’d feel cheated, I’d probably laugh.

    This reminded me of a question I asked myself the other day. Here is the background. I wondered if it turned out that there actually is not a God, if I would want to know the truth, or if I would want to continue living in my wonderful hope. The question was hard, so I related it to something familiar, the movie Matrix. I posed the question to myself, If I was actually living in a computer simulation and all of my life was an illusion, would I want to learn the truth, even if the truth was hard and difficult. I decided that the answer was yes. I amazed myself because that is a very irrational answer in my mind. Why would I want to give up a utterly convincinly real world that is good for the actual real world which is hard? I do not have an answer for that except that I feel compelled to face reality no matter how difficult it is.

    Thanks for the link on free will. I will try to digest it all.

    I think god/gods to be highly improbable

    I know. Sometimes I wonder at myself for believing. It seems impossible sometimes, but for me it is undeniable. The funny thing about me is that God sometimes seems improbable, but no God seems improbable as well. I guess answers to something as complicated as the universe, life, and everything else there ever has been or will be are not going to be easy or simple.

    Cheers,

    Matt R.

  • shelbey

    I read the verse in my own bible that you say shows that God creates evil he could stop it. This is true the sense that God created everything must mean that He created evil. He created the devil. the devil is evil. He created man. Man is tempted by evil and falls into it. God could take away the temptation yes, he could. He could stop bad things from happening. Honestly I don’t know why he doesn’t stop bad things from happening. I do know in my own life he turns bad things into good. when i was very little I had bad things happen to me in the sexual sense. it screwed me up for awhile. God helped me through it, and because of it i’ve been able to relate with other people who other wise thought i was a gooody goody and was just judging them. not that I understand what they’re going through and love them. You have to think about the fact that he could destroy the devil at anytime and get rid of evil, but why when He saw that man was flawed and couldn’t resist temptaion. why didn’t he just start over? why didn’t he just kill us off, and create something perfect? That’s another thing I don’t know and I don’t understand because the God who created the stars that knows their names, that created an infinite universe knows me and cares about every aspect of my life. He does things for his own reasons and sometimes tough things happen, but He’ll help you through them if you let him. I know even more that He will turn them to good even if you don’t see the out come of your suffering in your life time good will come from it. If columbine happened at my school and some one put a gun up to my head and asked me if I believed in God and I said yes. if he killed me but the boy next to me heard that and came to God because of that. It would all be worth it. I don’t think I would actually have the courage to do that. I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows what they’d actually do in that kind of situation. so I can’t claim that I would say yes. I do love God and I do know that God loves you personally and completely. and i’ll be praying for you. That you’ll see the truth in Jesus Christ. That you can let your guard down. You might think i’m crazy for believing in christ. that He’s just not logical.. I think it’s crazy to but I can’t deny what I know to be true in my heart and through truths revieled to me. through the hundreds of miricles i’ve experienced. and honestly what in this world is logical? what happens to you that seems logical? And no you can’t even scientifically prove that jesus lived. But you can’t scientifically prove for sure that Nine eleven happened! you might have seen it with your own eyes, there’s artifacts there’s foot age. but you cannot prove that for sure. there are no for sures in this world except for God. Again I will pray for you. I have to let you know that I dont want you to have a relationship with Jesus because i think that part of me makes me better than you. However that does make me better than I used to be. Please consider what I’ve told you and dig deeper into Chritianity. Don’t stop because you find one hypocryte either because we’re human and we mess up. it’s sad that there are alot of hypocrytical christians out there but it’s the truth i’m sorry for it. I wish we were perfect. Perfection for us isn’t possible but joy is grace is! peace is! love is! Thank you if you’ve read this far.

    sincerely
    shelbey

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Hello Shelbey – I’d like to comment on something you said.

    God could take away the temptation yes, he could. He could stop bad things from happening. Honestly I don’t know why he doesn’t stop bad things from happening….

    You have to think about the fact that he could destroy the devil at anytime and get rid of evil, but why when He saw that man was flawed and couldn’t resist temptaion. why didn’t he just start over? why didn’t he just kill us off, and create something perfect? That’s another thing I don’t know and I don’t understand…

    It’s heartening that you recognize these problems with Christian theology. I encourage you now to take the next step – namely, to stop using “faith” as a way to paper over every logical gap in that belief system, stop putting yourself down and disparaging your own intellect, and consider the possibility that maybe these actually are genuine logical problems with Christianity and not just questions whose answers you haven’t been told.

  • Elena4

    Ok let’s see.

    1. God created Satan. Satan causes evil. Thus, God created evil. Funny thing, I can get there by the transitive property too. I’m not claiming that that is how you should prove such a thing as this. But it’s a small point to make.

    2. In the original ‘God plan’, evil was not to exist on this Earth. We, humans, brought it upon ourselves. And yes, you will ask,”But if God is all powerful then why didn’t he make it so Eve was not tempted by Satan?” Because my friends, God gave humans the freedom of choice. We honestly have the option of living a sin-free, evil-free, or ra-free if you prefer, life. Yet only one human in existence has accomplished this great feat, according to the Bible. Funny thing.

    3. And God will destroy Satan and his followers when the time comes. He has stated this clearly in the Bible. God does things on his time, not ours. Just as a parent raises their child. They decide when a child gets certain privileges. They decide when a child should be punished. Yet the child still has the choice of good or evil. If they gave the child everything they wanted then it would be a rather spoiled child wouldn’t it?

    4. It’s a difficult thing to understand why the creator of the universe does what He does. If you can’t accept that then you are naive in believing that a human can understand God. Humans can’t even understand other humans let alone their creator. Oh sure you can at least attempt. But full blown, total understanding? No.

    5. For future reference, you should not just pull a verse from the Bible and start talking about it. You need to put it in context of the chapter, book, or whole Bible if need be, to really attempt to understand it. You sort of did this in explaining that God created evil. Yet, you still did not state that God created Satan and God will destroy him in due time, among other things he has done, is doing, and will do.

    Thank you for your time. I admit to you that I am not a decent debator. I just wanted to bring these things to attention so you can further study this if you see fit.

  • Alex Weaver

    Elena4:

    Thank you for sharing your position; unfortunately, your arguments are standard Christian boilerplate and aren’t any more convincing this time than they were the first of many, many, many times we heard them. All of your concerns have been refuted, many of them in the threads on this site, and I’m pretty sure Adam’s essays address them as well. May I politely request that you take the time to read some of your opponents’ positions before attempting to refute them? (One topic does not qualify).

  • James Bradbury

    Elena4,

    I appreciate your polite and methodical approach, it makes it easier for me to understand your points. I have a few questions about free will, however.

    I am still confused as to why an all-powerful, all-good god would allow the existance of evil and suffering, when it would seem quite simple for him/her to create a world without such affliction (like heaven, for example). Imagine for a moment that you were God with ultimate power over everything. What kind of universe would you make?

    In a world created entired by God, in what way is our will free? All of our influences, our personalities, our experiences, every last neurone in our brains, anything that could possibly influence our decisions all were originally created by God who knew exactly the consequences of doing so. How is that free?

    To paraphrase Galen Strawson: To be ultimately responsible for what you do in a given situation, you have to be responsible for your mental state in that situation. But your mental state in any situation is derived from your previous mental state plus any external influences. That previous mental state is derived from a former mental state and so on. How do we exercise ultimate control over our mental states or our influences? Could you decide to believe in Zeus for a day?

    When God allegedly gave us free will, surely he knew exactly what we’d do with it in minute and disgusting detail – surely he has therefore endorsed all our decisions? If I let loose I rattlesnake in a kindergarten/children’s nursery I would have a fair idea what would happen and could surely be held responsible. Even though I wouldn’t be injecting venom into children myself, I’d expect to be thrown in gaol for it. God must have known even better then I would exactly what would happen when he gave us free will.

    Like a wind-up toy he lets us go marching into the traffic. Surely with ultimate power and knowledge comes ultimate responsibility?

    Lastly, if you didn’t have free will, what would that feel like and how would you know?

    The problem of evil is also interesting, but is best explored in: All possible worlds by Ebonmuse. I haven’t heard any Christian responses that are not adequately addressed in that essay, so I strongly recommend it!

    Thanks for reading. :)

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Hello Ebonmuse,

    I think that it is not illogical to use “faith” in certain instances even when things seem counter-intuitive. Let me give you an example which I think you can agree with.

    I have had a very lengthy discussion with someone about God’s existence. I brought up the improbability of abiogenesis as a topic of discussion. He stated that although no good theory for abiogenesis has been developed, he felt confident that one would be developed. His faith was based on the fact that natural causes have been found for many phenomena. I respect this answer and think it is a valid basis for faith.

    In the same way, someone who has experienced God in many real ways has a rational basis for the faith that there is a rational and sufficient explanation for what we see around us in this world as it pertains to a good God.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    James B.

    Hello, I hope things are well. Here are some thoughts regarding your comments.

    If I let loose I rattlesnake in a kindergarten/children’s nursery I would have a fair idea what would happen and could surely be held responsible. Even though I wouldn’t be injecting venom into children myself, I’d expect to be thrown in gaol for it. God must have known even better then I would exactly what would happen when he gave us free will.

    This example is rather extreme in that there are little to no benefits to be had from a rattlesnake in a kindergarten. Aside from a valuable lesson in differential herptology, it is unlikely the children will glean much more than harm. Our free will is somewhat more beneficial in that humanity is capable of magnificent wonders as well as unspeakable atrocities. I think that there are many who would say that the goodness of humanity outweighs the badness.

    Like a wind-up toy he lets us go marching into the traffic. Surely with ultimate power and knowledge comes ultimate responsibility?

    I wonder here what that responsibility would look like. I think that it is quite possible that God does take responsibility. For the sake of understanding my point, please humor me by pretending, hypothetically, that there is a God, an afterlife, and that Jesus died on the cross.

    If these things actually exist as I believe they do, then I think that God has taken responsibility. First, he will judge between those who have used their free will for good and those who have used it for evil. In this way, God is taking responsibility of punishing the bad and rewarding the good.

    Furthermore, Jesus as God experienced a great deal of suffering. Perhaps there are some who have suffered more, but not many. Here, God is experiencing the consequences of his creation firsthand, taking responsibility for what he has made.

    I am still confused as to why an all-powerful, all-good god would allow the existance of evil and suffering, when it would seem quite simple for him/her to create a world without such affliction (like heaven, for example). Imagine for a moment that you were God with ultimate power over everything. What kind of universe would you make?

    There are several assumptions here that may or may not be true. I think that it is easy to establish the difficulty of postulating that the Creator transcends logic. Perhaps it is not logically possible to have beings such as ourselves exist in a state of bliss without some preparation. Perhaps the only way the blissful existence that you expect from a loving God can exist is with some preparation in our current experience. Of course I cannot prove such a thing, but I offer it as a possible reason for why we experience suffering.

    Matt

  • James Bradbury

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for your response.

    First, he will judge between those who have used their free will for good and those who have used it for evil.

    But what ultimately is the cause of our choices? Are they uncaused?

    I believe in individual responsibility within the context of that person’s life and I believe that if state justice can be used as a deterrant, it could be beneficial to all that it is. An individual could make choices which are influenced by the law of the land and the consequences (gaol, fines, etc) of their actions.

    Ultimate or divine justice differs in that in many ways we don’t have a choice about who we are and the way we’re born. We might be able to choose to go to church, but I don’t think we could choose to believe – could someone choose to believe in Zeus or Ra, even for a day? The reasons people would need to believe in such gods would vary, but might include: Respected friends/family believing, the god being described alongside a pleasant philosophy, a positive experience in the presence of those who already believe. For me until I discover a convincing religion whose philosophy makes some kind of sense and is at least internally consistent, I have no choice but to disbelieve.

    Many people will never have the choice to accept a particular god. Possibly they never hear about him/her/it because they live in the wrong part of the world. Maybe they are like me, born cynical and incredulous and fussy enough that they prefer things to make sense without numerous contrivances.

    In this way, God is taking responsibility of punishing the bad and rewarding the good.

    But why did he make them bad in the first place?

    There are several assumptions here that may or may not be true. I think that it is easy to establish the difficulty of postulating that the Creator transcends logic. Perhaps it is not logically possible to have beings such as ourselves exist in a state of bliss without some preparation.

    Agreed, we’re into guesswork here. If the creator does transcend logic, then all bets are off. It’s about as helpful as saying, “God moves in mysterious ways”. Doesn’t that make his will unknowable, in which case what hope have we got of pleasing him?

    All the best, J

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Hi James,

    But what ultimately is the cause of our choices? Are they uncaused?

    Do you think that a choice could be thought of as a little first cause in and of itself? Surely it is influenced by factors, but perhaps the choice can still go different ways independently of these factors. These factors I refer to are external to the mind, for clarification.

    I do not know if the concept of choice can be pushed further back. To me it seems that the two main factors that influence choice are impulse and reason. Impulse encompasses emotion, feeling, biological urges, and things of that nature. Reason encompasses the logical, goal directed thinking. These two appear to modify each other in the decision making process. If you take away impulse, life can become bland and boring, if you take away reason, life becomes wanton and somewhat arbitrary.

    Ultimate or divine justice differs in that in many ways we don’t have a choice about who we are and the way we’re born. We might be able to choose to go to church, but I don’t think we could choose to believe – could someone choose to believe in Zeus or Ra, even for a day? The reasons people would need to believe in such gods would vary, but might include: Respected friends/family believing, the god being described alongside a pleasant philosophy, a positive experience in the presence of those who already believe. For me until I discover a convincing religion whose philosophy makes some kind of sense and is at least internally consistent, I have no choice but to disbelieve.

    In your above paragraph, the lines between religious belief and moral behavior become somewhat blurred. While moral standards which are based on specific religious systems are clearly tied to religious belief, morality is not necessarily tied to religious belief. I propose that it is possible for the Creator of the universe to judge people based on a moral standard which is external to religious belief. I think that this is so because I think that objective moral concepts can be derived from reality through inference if one starts with the premise that human life is valuable. Clearly this premise is arbitrary, but when one considers that humans are making the assertion, we can overlook this slight shortcoming.

    Therefore, our logical minds are capable of elucidating moral laws which are valid, and based on these standards humans can be fairly judged. On this basis even you, a staunch skeptic, could be judged. The creator can observe you and determine your adherence to observable moral law and judge accordingly. Those who are evil are punished, those who are good are rewarded.

    Regarding your ability to choose to believe, I have a hard time relating because from my perspective it is quite natural to believe in God. This is compounded by the fact that I see how I could also convince myself that God does not exist. The reason that I retain belief in God is because unbelief would entail too many contrivances. I suppose that is similar to the reason that you do not believe.

    I also think that the reasons that you gave to believe are all insufficient. I do not think that any of those experiences would serve to make one aware of the reality of God. They may act as clues, but as foundation I find them wanting.

    For me until I discover a convincing religion whose philosophy makes some kind of sense and is at least internally consistent, I have no choice but to disbelieve.

    If you present the internal inconsistencies you find in Christianity, I will tell you my perspective on the issue. It will probably be best if you limit the inconsistencies to two per post to keep from creating mega-posts. We can work through the inconsistencies bit by bit and see what we come up with.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • James Bradbury

    Hi Matt,

    I propose that it is possible for the Creator of the universe to judge people based on a moral standard which is external to religious belief. I think that this is so because I think that objective moral concepts can be derived from reality through inference if one starts with the premise that human life is valuable.

    Once again, I wish more Christians held your viewpoint which sounds very close to humanism. I’m worried when I hear about well-educated Christians who believe all that counts for morality is to believe in God. To me that opens a can of potentially vicious worms.

    I’m sorry I don’t really have the time right now to discuss this further with you. Our morality (which to me is what counts), seems to be pretty much the same.

    Cheers,

    James

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    James,

    I am always pleased to have pleasant, constructive discussions.

    Have a nice day,

    Matt

  • JimHR

    I know that I am enterring this discussion very late so if this doesn’t pertain to anything I apologize.

    But I justed wanted to add that this verse is a translation, not the original text. The original text’s word is not evil–it is calamity, or disaster. You don’t think there is any calamity going on in the world? How is this not true?

    It is a seeming calamity to those who do not understand the will of God. We often do not know of God’s purposes until we discover them later on. For example, some of my friends went down to help the Katrina victims. Initially many of the victims were upset beyond all belief. But after a while they realized just how little value the material things in life have. This is why Colossians 3 says, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” It is amazing how these victims are grateful to God for giving them these “calamity” reminders of the importance of life.

    I recommend reading the KJV, NKJV, or NASB. These are more accurate translations.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    JimHR:

    But I justed wanted to add that this verse is a translation, not the original text. The original text’s word is not evil–it is calamity, or disaster.

    You clearly didn’t read my whole post before writing your reply, as it answers this exact point in detail.

    I recommend reading the KJV, NKJV, or NASB. These are more accurate translations.

    That’s good to hear, because I did use the KJV, and it does translate that word as “evil”.

  • Alex Weaver

    I wonder if the people who died achieved any greater understanding of the importance of life. In any case, your point is self-defeating: if you’re right that a god exists and causes these disasters to teach people the “importance of life,” then given the number of people he kills, apparently without compunction, simply to prove a point to those who survive, it’s fairly obvious that life is of very little importance to this god. And if the will of god is the arbiter of morality, as Christians generally believe, then life is unimportant from a moral perspective. While this certainly explains the behavior of many, many theists through the ages, something tells me that this isn’t the point you imagine him trying to make…

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Hello all,

    In the verse, light is contrasted with dark, and peace is contrasted with calamity. The connotation of the word is not moral evil but that which is the opposite of peace.

    The passage occurs in a prophecy regarding Cyrus the Great, a King whom God is using to accomplish a purpose. Here God is telling Cyrus that God will give Cyrus success to show that God is the one who forms light and darkness (symbolic of deliverance and justice) and peace and calamity. The idea of the passage is to show the God is in control of political happenings. The passage indicates that God raised up Cyrus for his own purposes. The passage is not a discourse on the origin of evil.

    Cheers

    Matt

  • http://ruthannsourcestudios.com Ruthann

    You have made no new discovery…sorry!
    Of course he created everything!
    He wanted to create us with a choice. An opportunity to choose. What good are we if we are constantly “rescued” from a bad choice?
    He wanted to be chosen to be loved, (not because it was necessarily the easiest thing to do), but because that was our choice. To be chosen to be loved. Not because we HAD to.
    Isn’t that what all of us want in life as well? To be chosen as a mate/friend/lover? Not because someone HAD to be with us, but because they WANT to. They CHOOSE to.
    He already chose us by making us, creating us.
    Now it’s our turn to make a choice.
    That’s the point, we are created to have a free will. Otherwise we would be nothing better than robots. He didn’t want robots. There has to be good and evil to have a choice. We are free to choose either one.
    That is the point. We are FREE to CHOOSE. And like every choice within our world, there are consequences to what we choose. Good, or bad.

    Furthermore, if we UNDERSTOOD a God who made everything, including a universe more vast than our infinite minds can even imagine….(un-ending in fact…)..and we are just still discovering things that are in our tiny solar system…
    He wouldn’t be worth worshipping,

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Isn’t that what all of us want in life as well? To be chosen as a mate/friend/lover? Not because someone HAD to be with us, but because they WANT to. They CHOOSE to.

    Yes. If, on the other hand, someone does not choose to love me, I do not desire to see them cast into a lake of fire to experience eternal suffering and torment, nor would any good person desire that.

    That is the point. We are FREE to CHOOSE.

    Only in the sophistic sense that a person who is accosted in an alleyway and told, “Your money or your life!” is “free” to choose either alternative. A choice coerced under the threat of torture is not legitimately free at all. See my essay “Divine Blackmail“.

  • arcadie27

    I just have an interesting thought:

    If there wasn’t hate, then how would we understand what love is?
    If there wasn’t evil, then how would we understand what goodness is?

    I don’t personally believe that God created evil just so that he could punish us because it was something we brought on ourselves when we decided to go against love, goodness, etc. However, I do believe that God kept the evil in this world so that more people would understand what love and goodness is. Though he said that evil will be destroyed in his time, it still dwells on this earth so that we would come to him (because he epitomizes good, if you will) in times of evil.

    That’s all. It’s short and you may discuss at your pleasure.

  • Alex Weaver

    Do you honestly believe it’s necessary to have a world with guinea worms, cystic fibrosis, and deadly carbon monoxide in order to know what pleasure is?

    Incidentally, doesn’t the prospect of God causing people to suffer in order to draw them to him strike you as incredibly selfish and evil? Seriously; who would exonerate a human who behaves this way?

  • Reed Ulvestad

    Alex Weaver said:

    Incidentally, doesn’t the prospect of God causing people to suffer in order to draw them to him strike you as incredibly selfish and evil? Seriously; who would exonerate a human who behaves this way?

    That’s a movie villian cliche. No wonder it’s used so much; apparently, it’s been around in fictional stories for thousands of years.

  • arcadie27

    I guess you can say in a way that God is selfish. He wants you for His own and not fall into the traps of Satan (if you may permit me to say). To me, there is a difference from being selfish and being evil. I didn’t mean that “God caused people to suffer”. But as a result of the fall of man, suffering is in this world and God hasn’t obliterated such evil yet. If he decided to do get rid of evil now, then he could. But in his plan, it isn’t time because once he does, all those who do not believe in him will also be punished. And, if this world was perfect, why would humans ever need to come to God? THis world is far from perfect, and even in its imperfections it’s hard enough for many to admit to his presence. One thing that should be noted is that with God, there is also Satan. So, if you may, guinea worms, cystic fibrosis, and deadly carbon monoxide may be the indirect effects of works of Satan that could affect anyone, whether good or bad–(I’m not saying that if you experienced any of these you are of the devil). To clarify, it means that the deeds of one will affect others (which is pretty much universal)and that’s how i see it. The deeds of Satan has caused evil. And thus, you may affected by it. But God doesn’t counter all of these to regulate your life because through those experiences you can become stronger and realize that there is such thing as God to help you through it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    But God doesn’t counter all of these to regulate your life because through those experiences you can become stronger and realize that there is such thing as God to help you through it.

    Arcadie, I politely suggest you make up your mind. You say that Satan causes evil and God doesn’t prevent it, and the reason God doesn’t prevent evil is so people will realize God will help them when they’re affected by evil.

    …?! This doesn’t make any sense. Why should suffering cause people to turn to God when believing in God offers no respite from suffering? If God wanted to draw people to him, why wouldn’t he organize the world so that the happiness of people who turn away from him will inevitably and naturally diminish? The idea that God causes or permits evil and catastrophe to strike believers and nonbelievers alike, randomly and capriciously, and expects us to somehow infer his existence from that is just ridiculous.

  • eye-of-horus

    Let’s get away from the minutiae of Xian mythology. There’s too much cultural-sociological-political-economic baggage. Limited in history. Ignorant of the past. And of a future which can recapture what was best in our Western religious tradition.

    Any god, male or female, worth a damn operates “beyond good and evil” (to use Nietzsche’s sparkling phrase). That is, moral categories DO NOT apply to them.

    To appeal to a Western sensibility prior to the also ephemeral Xian one consider Sophocles. A few lines from his play “Ajax” exchanged between Odysseus and his great protector Athena illustrate the ancient Western opinion about the gods:

    [Seeing Ajax, driven insane by Athena, mutilating sheep as though they were his intended victims, the kings of Sparta and Mycenae]

    A: Do you note, Odysseus, the power of the gods?
    . . . .

    O: . . . yet I pity him against me though he is.
    For he is shackled to a dreadful end.
    His fate makes me think of my own.
    I see that our lives are nothing but illusion: fugitive shades.

    Viewed against the immortality, power, and will of the gods, each of us flickers by and disappears.

    Now, the traditional Greeks did not hate life on account of its brevity, nor did they put off honoring the gods, not did they fool themselves into the obvious self-delusions explicit in Xian creeds. They faced down death by loving life and rejoicing in it.

    eye-of-horus
    copyright asserted 2007

  • Alex Weaver

    Never mind the Western sensibility, let’s talk Eastern religions. Like, the Hindu god Ganesh. And consider the season, too.

    At least at that point your tangent will once again have something to do with elephants in spring…

  • Mylegacy

    Think about this; Jews, Muslims and Christians, the three Children of Abraham,” believe that a god, created the universe, made us in his image, gave us dominion over this cute little third planet from this sun, in this lovely galaxy, and then, in just one example of his many personal explicit crimes, he purposely drowned everyone, except for the a few of the “just” that could fit in Noah’s boat. The god they believe in, from their own “book,” is a self-confessed homicidal mass murderer!

    That is not what’s so alarming. More alarming is that, not only do these deluded people believe this nonsense, they actually worship the homicidal mass murderer that did this atrocity and countless others. They actually venerate him, and look forward to spending eternity “in his loving embrace.”

    Unfortunately, it gets even worse. All three religions believe their “Messiah” is going to come and deal with their enemies and save them…the humorous side of this is that each of the three “religions,” and their literally thousands of sub-religions and cults, believe the other two religions, and their respective plethora of cults, are whom their “Messiah” is going to save them from…

    The older I get the more I think John Lennon had it right in the 60′s when he wrote…

    “Imagine there’s no Heaven
    It’s easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky…
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace…
    You may say that I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will live as one.”

    Amusingly, the Children of Abraham I’ve talked to about this think I’m the one that’s a few bricks short of a load.

  • bassmanpete

    I have to correct you, Mylegacy, ‘And no religion too’ doesn’t fit where you have it. The verse is:

    Imagine there’s no countries
    It isn’t hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace…

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Mylegacy,

    I am not sure I understand you clearly. Are you saying that Jesus as Messiah was intended to rescue the Christians from the Jews and Muslims? If that is indeed what you are proposing then I must say that this is not the crux of Christianity.

    In Christian theology, Jesus does not intend to save the Christians from the Jews or Muslims, but anyone who will follow him from the power of sin. Jesus does not come to save “good” people from “evil” people, but to save people from evil.

    The Apostle Paul states that humans are not the enemy of Christianity in Ephesians 6:11, therefore it does not logically follow that the Christian Messiah would specifically rescue from a particular people group.

    You may be thinking of certain verses in Revelation which deal with the administration of punishment to those who have persecuted Godly people. While these verses exist without a doubt, to infer from them that Jesus as Messiah came to save Christians from the adherents of Islam or Judaism is quite a stretch!

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • passerby

    All that we eat are living things (except milk and honey). That’s taking life. Evil. Necessary to preserve one’s own life. Anything beyond that…….

  • Argus

    In addition, it’s important to remember that God was a living man.

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Argus,

    Yes, that is what recommends Jesus to me.

    Matt

  • Juan

    To all,

    You all fail to realize one thing. God did not create evil. Evil was not created by man either. What you fail to see is that man has created a word for the lack of the presence of God. Just as the word cold is a lack of heat and the word dark is the lack of light, evil is the lack of God.

    Free will has made evil prevail in today’s society. As human beings, you chose to be set apart from God. Just as Lucifer wanted to have more power and follow his own selfish ways, we do the same. Since Lucifer’s choice lacked the presence of God, a war in heaven was waged and he lost. He was able to lie to man, we chose to disobey God, therefore we chose evil.

    You ask then why did God give us free will? You cannot truly love someone who does not choose to love you. If I force it on you, then it is abuse. God is not abusive, therefore He will not force you to love Him.

    Now, as for the passage that was misquoted. God brings judgment upon us for what we do wrong. Just as our earthly fathers do when we do something wrong. Just because there are different translations of the word of God, doesn’t mean that the bible is false. If I say good morning in English, Spanish, and French, did it become false? No. The problem with today’s society is that people like to misquote the bible. How about you start to look up the Greek and Hebrew definitions before you try to misquote it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Juan, you obviously did not read my post before rehashing this standard apologetic material. My article argues at length for why the translation I provide is the correct one. Do you expect to convince anyone when you can’t even be bothered to fully read an essay before spouting off on it?

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Juan,

    It is important to remember that although God may not have directly created evil, it came about with his consent if God is all-powerful/knowing. I do not see a way around this. If God is the origin of everything and evil falls into the realm of everything, then God has a part in evil. The only way around it is if the realms in which God dwells are somehow not subject to causality as we understand it in our universe. If that is the case, then I think the conversation is over because it is beyond comprehension.

    What do you think?

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • Heather

    **How about you start to look up the Greek and Hebrew definitions before you try to misquote it. **

    I think this is my favorite part, because Ebonmuse did just that — the word ‘ra’ was used, which is also used as ‘evil’ in incidents such as the knowledge of good and ‘ra.’

    And does anyone else think it’s interesting that stuff such as this is accused to being a mistranslation, and yet no one seems to do that with verses such as ‘God is love?’

    ** Just as the word cold is a lack of heat and the word dark is the lack of light, evil is the lack of God. ** Except the verse plainly states, “I create ‘ra.’”

  • Heather

    Ebonmuse — from what I can determine, the word for create, “bara’ ” is used in this Isaiah passage for ‘create’ darkness and evil. It’s the same word used in Genesis 1, for “In the beginning, God created (bara’) the heavens and the earth …”

    You might want to include that in your essay as well, since it adds weight to the whole God creating non-good elements. If the Genesis story was an act of creation, why can’t the same stanard be applied to Isaiah, given the same word usage?

  • Simeon

    Just read this, if you believe, great, if not… just wait
    http://www.carm.org/diff/Isa_45_7.htm

  • Juan

    Heather,

    How about this:

    The many definitions of evil:
    to be displeasing
    to be sad
    to be injurious
    to break, shatter
    bad, disagreeable, malignant
    bad, unpleasant

    So, let’s put it this way:

    If you were to disobey your father or mother, would they not discipline you?
    Would it not bring sadness?
    Would it not be disagreeable or malignant to you?
    Would it not be unpleasant?

    So then by your definitions of “evil,” it is “evil” when your parents discipline you?

    And again I say, God did not create evil in Genesis. Look at the verse very closely and you will see that he created a tree of “knowledge” of good and evil. We as humans had no knowledge of evil until we selfishly ate from the tree. Again, evil is a lack of God’s presence.

  • Juan

    Ebonmuse,

    Did I offend you by not reading your essay? You have to understand, I don’t have much time being I am a US Marine. The idea of misquoting is more than just reading the word and putting it’s definition out there. When you read the bible, you have to understand the at which point in time it was written and the context of what is being said. The prophet was not talking about the morals, he was talking about natural disasters. Even in other verses in the bible where ‘ra’ is used, it’s not talking about evil, but disasters and things what are unpleasant to us.

    My apologies for not reading your essay and the misunderstanding of my comment for misquoting.

  • Juan

    Matt,

    As for your comments.

    Yes, God is all knowing and all powerful. Yes He does have one small part to do in it; freewill.

    You all seem to forget that He is our Father; our Creator. Just as our parents tell us what to do and what not to do, we still do them. Even when the outcome is painful, we still do it. Is it not the same with God? Does he not allow you to live and experience pain for not understanding and ignoring His will? Does He not discipline you as your parents do? Read my comments to Heather. This is a very understandable concept. Evil is not the will of God. Therefore, He did not create evil. Evil again is the lack of the presence of God, when man / woman chooses their own selfish ways.

    So as to your comment:
    **If that is the case, then I think the conversation is over because it is beyond comprehension.**

    It is comprehensible. Our own selfish ways set apart from God; freewill = evil. Submission to Christ; freewill = love.

    Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

  • eye-of-horus

    OK . . . let’s try again:

    The gods, male or female, East or West, worth a damn operate “beyond good and evil” (to use Nietzsche’s sparkling phrase). That is, moral categories *do not* apply to them.

    Evil or Good as a metaphysical category simply does not exist.

    The Problem of Evil requires no theodicy; it’s merely theidiocy.

    eye-of-horus

  • Scott

    ok, how can you say that God created evil on an atheist website? isn’t atheism the belief that there is NO god? and you are the ones who try to call christians hypocrites…

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I suggest you go back and read the entire article before mouthing off about it.

  • Alex Weaver

    Scott, let me refer you to Aristotle:

    It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

    Understand now?

  • Kasey

    Of course God created Evil, any Christian knows that! He is the one who threw Lucifer into the fire, thus creating Satan.

  • Becky

    I am a survivor of southern fundamental christianity and senseless verses as listed on this topic are one of the reasons I am no longer a christian…thank goodness. I used to try to get answers from pastors and other christians on things in the bible that made no sense and I got absolutely nowhere. The cop-out is always “well, that really isn’t what that verse is saying” or “man cannot understand the mysteries of god”. My question was always if that was the book god gave mankind to live by, shouldn’t we understand it all? Should it be a mystery we cannot understand? If it was important to our eternal souls, it should be the simplest book in the world to understand. There should only be one version of gods word for all mankind. BTW, what kind of ‘freewill’ is this god gives? We can do as he says or burn! Some freewill.

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    As with most things, Southern Fundamental Christianity is what you make of it.

    Matt

  • Becky

    Matt, a distant memory is the best thing to make of fundamentalism, at least is was for me. What a waste of years!

  • http://www.auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Becky,

    :)

    Matt

  • Aaron Kalbas

    I almost laughed when I read this website!!! …although, your definition of how so many Christians misinterpret this passage is true. As a Christian (a Lutheran pastor in training) I have no problem accepting Isaiah 45:7 for exactly what it says: God creates peace and creates evil. If Christians are going to say God is all powerful and omnipotent then be done with it and give God credit for all things—good and evil. Where so many Christians go wrong is when they associate “sin” and “evil” as if they are exactly the same thing. Sin certainly is evil and evil certainly has its cause in sin, but they are not exactly the same thing. Sin is nothing more than rebellion against God’s law. Rebellion isn’t created, it is simply disobedience—God says do such and such and we do what we want instead. Eve did this when she ate from the tree. In fact, if you read the text closely you will see that she even changes what God says about the tree.
    Evil on the other hand is a matter of perspective—God’s perspective vs. our perspective. Sin is certainly evil in God’s eyes. God’s judgment of sin is certainly evil in our eyes. As a just and righteous God, He must punish sin. Sin must be paid for. Thus the world is full of evil because it is being judged for its sin. Even Satan becomes a servent of God (surely to Satan’s dismay) as a tool which God uses according to His Will—-just read the first chapter of Job.
    Thankfully though, that is not the whole story. Because God is Love (1 John 3:8), His involvement with his creation does not end only in Judgment of sin. He also seeks redemption. Just as sin entered the world through one man, so redemption comes through one man—Jesus. Jesus’ death and resurrection as well as the faith worked in Christians are only first fruits of God’s redemption plan. When Christ comes again one the last day, the full fruits (the harvest) of God’s redemption will be seen. Just as Christ was judged guilty on our behalf, so on the last day there will be a judgment. However, those who have faith will be found innocent, not because of anything they have done, but because of what Christ has done for them. Also, just as Christ was resurrected, so we too will be resurrected. It is in this resurrection that Christians now have their hope—made possible only through Christ. In the meantime, though, we still live in a sinful world, and as we have already discussed: sin must be judged. Therefore, evil things happen (i.e. hurricanes and tornadoes and car accidents). Sin always has a price and we are all sinful. Thanks be to God that in Jesus that price has been paid. Sometimes this is hard for people to accept. We like to see immediate results. But whether it is now or 10,000 years from now, the full fruits of God’s redemption plan will be seen. That is how Christians reconcile Isaiah 45:7 with the rest of Scripture. So come what may—be it good or evil—I will say with Job: “Though he slay me, I will hope in Him…” (Job 13:15).

  • E Hope Jr

    Wow. I can’t believe I’ve read the entire posting history. It’s been slow going, but interesting and enlightening as well. Participatory, intellectual, patient, testimonial, passionate,… Theists, agnostics and atheists all ‘breaking bread’– the ultimate mysteric event, as far as I’m concerned. And the thing of it is, there shall be more to come, with other folks, in other places, in person or through different media, until this life is no more!

    ‘Breaking bread’ with others is the ultimate mysteric event because it ironically manifests the idea that we cannot live by bread alone. The actual bread is not the point, though it is the necessary excuse. The point is relating to others in the consuming of the daily bread, and finding ourselves transcending our dusty circumstance in the relating to each other.

    Transcending for what? To let shine our ‘living being’(nephesh is the classical Hebrew term, starting from Genesis chapter 1). In other words, our soul. Is a loaf of bread merely ‘dust of the earth’ or does it also have soul? While we might break out our microscopes and submit a morsel of (bread of your choice) to scientific experimentation and conclude that, in fact, bread breaks down into ‘dust’, like we humans eventually break down into dust, these ‘dusts’ are animated (from anima, the Latin translation of Greek psyche, itself a translation of Hebrew nephesh), their atoms vibrating, the electron fields maintaining their energy, in commerce with other electrons in other atoms, exchanging their energy, and lo! ‘dust’ consumes ‘dust’.

    Taking a cue from the film “Men in Black,” we consume worlds upon worlds whenever we ‘break bread’ (aren’t atoms solar systems, for all practical purposes?). In the Hindu epic “Mahabharata,” the section known as the Bhagavad Gita (The Song of the Divine One) has a verse not too unlike in context and intent as Isaiah 45:7 (“I am terrible time the destroyer of all beings in all worlds, engaged to destroy all beings in this world;…”).

    My two cents’ worth: on an existential level, there is no such thing as natural vs ethical. God creates peace and creates catastrophe: what is peace? Is it not good? What is catastrophe? Is it not evil? Does not God declare all to be ‘good’ in the beginning? Does not God regret and destroy the world a few chapters after in the Genesis narrative? Hence, God creates good and creates evil. God puts the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil in the center of the garden. “Life and death are born together. Difficult and easy. Long and short. High and low…” (“Tao Te Ching,” verse 2). God is inscrutable. What is God? Thus far, God is an existential mystery that infuses this thing we call life with significance for some, with terror for others, and is scientifically irrelevant for yet others. God is enigma. God told Moses in the book of Exodus, “Ehyeh asher ehyeh.” ‘I Am That I Am’. How cryptic is that, even for ancient peoples?

    In this thread, the ‘bread’ we break is our ideas about religion, the world, God, existence. We are consuming ideas, word-worlds infused with so much of our energy, significance, passion. To the extent that words can incite, inspire or even kill, they can also leave us indifferent. Words can be mere ‘dust’. So, do words have soul? There is an ancient idea (‘soul’) that we haven’t imaginatively explored yet.

  • HollyA

    Hi! I’m having a hard time with something and perhaps someone can give me some insight. I know I’m being very judgemental and it’s none of my business. I have a Christian friend who is very excited about her new church. She had marriage counseling for her marriage, which was unsuccessful and because of financial reasons she has a male friend living with her (he pays the rent). (there’s a 12 yr age difference) Her friend has feelings for her, but she has made it clear numerous times that she doesn’t have feelings for him and is not attracted to him also. She has two children 5 and 3 and I do not think they he should be living with her. Basically, he plays the father/husband figure, and he will always be a dear friend of the family. They go to the same church. I believe she has lied also about receiving financial help – food stamps, gas money, reduced YMCA fee, etc. To me this is Adultery and she is condoning this living with this man. No to mention he bathes the children and treats them like his own. To me he has no business doing this, and lying to get this extra financial help, to me is a form of steeling from the taxpayers. Here are some bible verses I found, but my husband said I shouldn’t say anything to her. Matthew 5:27 Adultery
    1 Thessalonians 5:22,23 It tells us to abstain from the appearance of evil. p.962
    Matthew 5:31 Divorce. It is worldly
    Luke12:15 Riches p 819

    1Peter 1:5-7,14-16 Testing/Slipping back into old ways. p991
    John 4 16-18 p840
    Acts 5 1-10
    Romans 13:6-14 p 909
    Please give me your opinion in this matter as I know she is trying to live her life as a Christian, but to me it seems that there’s a big part of it she’s missing.
    I feel bad thinking these evil thoughts, but think her actions are quite hypocritical. Thank you!

  • OMGF

    Well, according to Jesus, anyone who marries her (or probably has any relations with her, including co-habitation) is committing adultery and so is she, because she’s still technically the property of her old husband. He, however, is able to move on, although I suppose Jesus did say that divorce is only permissible is she cheated on him (although Jesus gives no grounds for a woman asking for divorce, not even if he beats the hell out of her). Of course, Paul does imply that women are only good as sex objects for men, so it’s pretty consistent there.

    My advice, your friend should be made aware of the highly sexist nature of the religion she belongs to and should go about living her life without the misogynistic baggage of Xianity. If she does continue to go to church, however, she shouldn’t forget to cover her head with a scarf and to sit quietly as the Bible instructs.

  • 16daysmore

    I know this is quite a while after this was originally written, but I found this post and wanted to comment.

    Well, I will start out by saying that I am a Christian. By that I mean I believe that Jesus is God’s son, that he came down to earth, and was crucified for my sins. That is what I believe, and I will not be shaken from that belief.

    In this comment I wish to address that last comment about “My advice, your friend should be made aware of the highly sexist nature of the religion she belongs to and should go about living her life without the misogynistic baggage of Xianity. If she does continue to go to church, however, she shouldn’t forget to cover her head with a scarf and to sit quietly as the Bible instructs.”

    Here’s the thing. The Bible has two kinds of truth: timeless truth, and cultural truth. Timeless truth is that which will remain for all of eternity: Christ died for our sins, was raised to life again, etc.; You shall not murder, or steal, or commit adultery, etc. Things like that.

    Cultural truth are things that held true for the generation in which they were spoken, but are not as relevant to our culture. for example, stone the non-believer among you. Right, and nowadays you’d get a life sentence for that. Report mildew growing in your house to a priest. Mmhmm, sure. No. Contracter, maybe. Because that’s how our culture is. That does not excuse us from the timeless truths, but…some of the laws in the Bible don’t apply to our culture.

    Same for women who must cover their heads. That was what was demanded in the culture of Israel two thousand years ago. In American culture, 21st century, hair has lost its spiritual meaning, and the whole rule of women covering their heads does not apply.

    Now, some people are going to take this the wrong way, and think that I am judging which Biblical laws we should and should not keep. That is not what I am doing, but some people will decide to believe that. I cannot stop you. Go ahead. It’s your decision. What I am saying is that different things are interpreted differently by different people (Romans 14). God reveals his law personally to those who seek it, and it will be different from person to person.

    I hope that helps somebody. By all means, reply if you see inconsistency in my reasoning.
    And OMGF, I have a question: Where does Paul “imply that women are only good as sex objects for men”?

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Cultural truth are things that held true for the generation in which they were spoken, but are not as relevant to our culture. for example, stone the non-believer among you. Right, and nowadays you’d get a life sentence for that. Report mildew growing in your house to a priest. Mmhmm, sure. No. Contracter, maybe. Because that’s how our culture is. That does not excuse us from the timeless truths, but…some of the laws in the Bible don’t apply to our culture.

    This is nothing but special pleading and relative morality…especially when you say, “God reveals his law personally to those who seek it, and it will be different from person to person.” This is nothing more than an appeal to relative morality, where what is moral for one is not necessarily moral for another. Judging by this, we should conclude that it was moral for people to hold slaves two thousand years ago (or even two hundred years ago) because that was part of the culture and how they received god’s personal law. This is clearly rubbish.

    What you are doing is applying modern, secular morals to the Bible and simply re-interpreting the Bible to match our modern day morals. This introduces some serious problems (like what I pointed out above, and also the fact that it makes the Bible useless as a moral guide). In a couple hundred years, when society deems some act that we do now as immoral, would you re-interpret the Bible to include that new moral stance? You would, but I doubt that you could defend it, just as you can’t defend the stance that you take now through the Bible.

    And OMGF, I have a question: Where does Paul “imply that women are only good as sex objects for men”?

    You’re probably right about this. I think Paul had even more disdain for women than that. He thought they were completely useless.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    That does not excuse us from the timeless truths, but…some of the laws in the Bible don’t apply to our culture.

    16daysmore: How do you tell which laws of the Bible are timeless and which are merely cultural?

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    For those who wish to cease the futile obsession with the words of ancient texts and face reality as it truly is, the gate is open and the path is clear. There are no gods, no devils or angels, no heaven or hell. There is only us, human beings, living together in the natural world.

    Ick. Sounds kinda preachy to me, just saying. How do you know? What you mean is that you believe such, correct?

    I did like this line, though:

    …the next step – a lifelong step – is to forsake fantasy, treat others with kindness and make the most of the one life we are fortunate to have.

    Although this is certainly easier said than done, I agree, with the modification that I’ll make the most of any life I’m fortunate enough to discover myself living.

    16daysmore, this is supposed to be a discussion about the Bible and I think you may have made things worse by paraphrasing scripture. Problem is, just like OMGF, you don’t really justify your position with evidence. When you use the phrase “stone the non-believer among you” with no further explanation or citation, you’re merely making matters even more clouded in a discussion that needs clarity. Is it reasonable to say that the Bible tells believers to stone non-believers, that this is “cultural truth” and that such is the end of the matter? I don’t think so. Similarly, OMGF rants, “Paul does imply that women are only good as sex objects for men,” but this is just baseless vitriol, followed not by evidence of course, but more of the same: “He thought they were completely useless.” In both cases, we’re supposed to just take OMGF’s word for it. And all the while, the actual source material sits on the backburner. No verse, exegesis or reasoning (ie evidence) accompanies either of your statements, so per rationalism lets assume them false until persuasively argued, with supporting evidence. I can make inferences all day long about whatever I want, and it doesn’t make a damned bit of difference.

    And 16daysmore, none of this is to say I don’t see the validity in your comments about certain Bible verses applying to a specific group of people at a specific time. When you try to explain that to certain people, however, instead of thinking about it, they literally disconnect and just accuse you of all sorts of things like special pleading (which isn’t even a relevant charge in this case) to moral relativism to yata-yata-yata. Of course each case is different, but in general, none of that is true. Saying that certain passages aren’t relevant now or only hold or held relevance under specific conditions is not a license that grants the interpreter absolute liberty to pick and choose what applies and doesn’t.

    How do you tell which laws of the Bible are timeless and which are merely cultural? (Ebonmuse)

    Although it’s not my question, thoughtful, reasoned consideration of context is the starting point and that would be my answer.

  • 16daysmore

    Thank you, cl, for your help. I really do want to know when I go wrong. You’re right about the fact that I should have backed up my point of view more than I did, and in the future I will do so more. The “stone the unbeliever” was just a part I remembered from somewhere, but could not find. I did not get a concrete verse that backs it up, but I did get Leviticus 24:13-16, which says “‘Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. Say to the Israelites: ‘If anyone curses his God, he will be held responsible; anyone who blasphemes tha name of the Lord must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether alien or native-born, he must be put to death.””

    As for the mildew one, that’s also in Leviticus, chapter 14:33-57.

    To the issue of slavery, the Bible never said it was okay two hundred years ago, but it’s true, God quite obviously allowed slavery in the time of the Bible. However, there were rules governing slaves. First, other Hebrews could be bought as servants only; they were not to be treated as slaves: “If one of your countrymen becomes poor among you and sells himself to you, do not make him work as a slave. He is to be treated as a hired worker…until the Year of Jubilee. Then he and his family are to be released…Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves. Do not rule over them ruthlessly…” (Leviticus 25:39-43). God did allow for the slavery of people from other nations. Yet, it was unlawful to kill a slave (not to beat, but to kill; Exodus 21:20-21). If you destroyed a slave’s eye or tooth, they were to go free as compensation (v. 26-27). It was unlawful to make your slave work on the sabbath (Exodus 20:10). These laws, plus the various other laws given by God through Moses–Do not steal (Exodus 20:15), Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18), etc.–prevented the terrible mistreatments of slaves that went on two hundred, a hundred and fifty years ago. Not that people always kept those laws (what law is ALWAYS kept when given to sinners?), but those were the laws, nevertheless.

    *Sigh* I don’t think that my answer to your question, Ebonmuse, is going to be simple or concrete enough for your satisfaction. But in John 8:31-32, Jesus says, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” So you’ve got to go over Jesus’ teaching (of which there’s quite a bit), learn it intimately, apply it, and gradually understanding will come to you.

    OMGF, once again, where does Paul say or imply any of that?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    To the issue of slavery, the Bible never said it was okay two hundred years ago, but it’s true, God quite obviously allowed slavery in the time of the Bible.

    Um, god sets up rules for holding slaves. This is not what you do when you think something is wrong. Do we set up rules for rape or do we ban it? god does ban other practices, but you’re going to argue that he decided not to ban slavery and chose to put up with it?

    However, there were rules governing slaves.

    Spare me the whole, “Slavery was kindler and gentler back then, so it’s not so bad routine.” C’mon, do you really want to argue that even though they were nice (except for the part where you could beat your slave to death so long as they didn’t immediately die from the wounds you gave them) it wasn’t so bad to be owned?

    OMGF, once again, where does Paul say or imply any of that?

    Romans 1:27 where he claims that “the natural use for women” is as sexual objects for men
    1 Cor 11:3 – head of woman is man meaning women are subordinate
    Same chapter he demands that women cover themselves in church
    Later women were created for man
    1 Cor 14:34-35 He demands women be silent and not speak in church

    Although Ephesians, Colossians, and 1 Timothy probably not written by Paul, many still attribute them to Paul:
    Eph 5:22 – women must submit to their husbands
    Again in Col 3:18
    Tim 2:9 – women must dress modestly
    Tim 2:11 – women must not have authority over man, because men are superior since Adam was made first

    Is that enough for you?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    But in John 8:31-32, Jesus says, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” So you’ve got to go over Jesus’ teaching (of which there’s quite a bit), learn it intimately, apply it, and gradually understanding will come to you.

    This sounds like just another way of saying the decision is subjective.

    But I see a more practical difficulty: according to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, Jesus was the one giving the rules in the Old Testament. Those rules are his teaching every bit as much as the New Testament is. Is that not true? Are you saying that we should give one set of his teachings a higher priority than another set, and if so, why?

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Atheists and skeptics tend to be pretty up on their science and philosophy, religion not as much so:

    Romans 1:27 where he claims that “the natural use for women” is as sexual objects for men.

    Why do you get to take a verse that was explicitly about homosexuality and twist it into an example of Paul’s male chauvinism? I suppose if you’re trying to show that anyone can take any Bible verse they want out of context to prove their point, you’ve certainly succeeded, but that doesn’t mean your argument stands to reason.

    In Romans 1:27, Paul does not claim the “natural use for women” is as sexual objects for men; Paul claims that “In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.” Folks, does that translate to, “the natural use for women is as sexual objects for men” to you? To me, it translates as Paul’s opinion that heterosexual relations are the “natural” relations.

    Further, let the record show that …is as sexual objects for men are unquoted because they are not scripture themselves, but OMGF’s addition to scripture, and that the actual context in Romans 1:20-27 is not Paul’s delineation on the role of women, but again, Paul’s explanations of homosexuality. OMGF’s argument here is as irrelevant and misleading as your standard creationist drivel, not to mention the irony: I’ve sat back and listened several times when he has refused to accept scripture as evidence from a believer, yet now he turns around and cites the same book of scripture for his evidence?

    OMGF, can you formulate an argument that doesn’t “rely on the proclamations of ancient goat-herders” (as somebody once put it) to prove your point? If not, why should I think you are any more credible than those you chide?

    Ebonmuse,

    Honest question: Aren’t all moral decisions subjective?

    Those rules are his teaching every bit as much as the New Testament is. Is that not true?

    Let’s grant what you suggest, that the OT is also Jesus’ teachings.

    Are you saying that we should give one set of his teachings a higher priority than another set, and if so, why?

    Certainly. As perfunctory examples, are we building an Ark right now? If not, let’s ignore the commands pertaining to its building. Similarly, are we forging the metals for the Ark of the Covenant right now? Erecting the Tent of Meeting? If not, let’s ignore Exodus 25:18 which says, “You shall make two cherubim of gold, make them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat.” Right?

    Now, is that overly simplistic? Yes, and purposely. Certainly your concerns center around the interpretation of moral commands, but I raise these perfunctory examples only to secure agreement on the central concept which I believe should always be the starting point of reasoned exegesis: Thoughtful, reasoned consideration of context.

    Such should always be our starting point, because it is the best safeguard against letting our own biases influence our conclusions, which leads to all sorts of errors and oversights like the one OMGF just made.

  • Shawn Smith

    16daysmore,

    Since you seem to making some sort of distinction between “Cultural Truths” and “Timeless Truths,” let’s talk about Commandment #1. It says something like “I am a jealous God, and you will have no other gods before me.” That, along with, “you must not take the name of the lord thy God in vain,” kind of melds in with Jesus’s (supposed) statement that went something like, “love God above all else.” We would probably call them blasphemy laws, which were strongly enforced in most of the American Colonies, but are now flat out unconstitutional. Are you saying the first of the Ten Commandments is just “Cultural Truth” or is it “Timeless Truth”? If it’s a “Cultural Truth,” then why?

    We have two statements, in the Old and New Testaments, supposedly describing the teachings necessary to not get on God’s bad side. Both are considered the “really important” rules, but one is far more universally accepted as necessary to living in a functioning society (don’t murder/love your neighbor as you love yourself) and one is not (don’t say bad things about God/love God above all else). How on Earth is an outsider going to possibly know the difference? If I am told that I need to spend many weeks studying the Bible, then, sorry, no. I have better things to do with my time. And why should I be forced into studying only the Bible, and not the Quran, or the Bhagavad Gita, or the writings of Confucious, or of the Buddha, or Dianetics, or any of the other thousands of gods and “spiritual” stories humans have dreamed up?

  • mikespeir

    Spare me the whole, “Slavery was kindler and gentler back then, so it’s not so bad routine.”

    The question believers who use such a defense ought to have to answer is this: Would you approve of modern day society allowing such purportedly “kindler and gentler” slavery? Would they want to be slaves under this system?

  • Pine

    Just a slight interjection. This is from a few posts ago but I thought it might still be appropriate since the discussion seems to revolve around ‘free will’ and the problem of evil.

    Personally, I believe that all evil resulted from choice. God created Satan and humans with the ability to choose. Since God knows all things, God knew how Satan (and humans) would choose, so ultimately He is responsible for the evil. Here’s my question, do those on this forum see it as morally wrong for God to create a being with the ability to choose to live as ‘good’ or ‘evil’? If not, would God’s foreknowledge about a being’s choice make it wrong for Him to create them in spite of His foreknoweldge of how they would choose?

    I love the movie minority report. The scene where Tom Cruise rolls the ball off the end of the table and the agent catches it fairly summarizes my questions above. More than likely we will fall into one of two camps. Some say it is ok to prevent something from happening even if it means punishing someone before they actually do anything wrong. Others will argue that it is morally unacceptable to punish anyone until they actually commit the offense. I fall into the second camp.

    If you are like me and believe that it is morally wrong to punish beings before the act of evil is actually committed, then you will probably agree that it was ok for God to create Satan and humans even though He knew we would sin. Thus, God can be “responsible” for evil and yet still morally pure at the same time.

    So… Satan is still around. Evil happens all the time. Why does God allow suffering? My question to this question is; How long does God have, once an act of evil is committed, to punish the one doing the evil in order to be just and morally pure? Does He have 1 minute? 10 Hours? A day? A month? 2 Seconds?

    The reason I ask this is because we may agree that God must punish the offender however we probably have different ideas about how long He has to do it. If God waits 1 minute, then the evil being has 1 minute to affect others with their evil. If it is 1 second, then the evil being has 1 second to affect others with their evil. If it is 10,000 years, then the evil being has 10,000 years to affect other beings with its evil. Does this matter? Does it make God unjust or morally corrupt to allow evil to continue?

    I raise this to pose a mathematical question. I believe that those who are saved by grace through faith will live with God forever. So, is God justified in allowing evil to affect His people (the good ones) for 1 or 10,000 years? Or does that morally corrupt His character? Simple math, take however long the suffering occurred and divide it by infinity. For how much of their existence did God allow the good people to suffer? (IE: 10,000 / infinity) Any mathematics experts out there? Isn’t math all based on reason and logic? Hmm… (for those who aren’t that great at math, anything divided by infinity is 0. actually i will clarify that infinity isn’t actually a real integer and thus we cannot technically apply operators to an undefined term and I also haven’t qualified the type of infinity I’m referring to… the point? 10,000 divided by 1 to whatever obscene power our feeble minds can even begin to comprehend equals a number so small (.000000000……1) that it is as close to being 0 without being zero as we can possibly imagine. IE: so insignificant as to be considered nothing)

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Pine,

    Personally, I believe that all evil resulted from choice.

    Do you believe that god is omni-max? How can choice even exist if that is the case? Answer, it can not.

    God created Satan and humans with the ability to choose. Since God knows all things, God knew how Satan (and humans) would choose, so ultimately He is responsible for the evil.

    There goes omni-benevolence.

    Here’s my question, do those on this forum see it as morally wrong for God to create a being with the ability to choose to live as ‘good’ or ‘evil’?

    That’s not a question that can be answered with the limited information you gave. Are the ones who “choose” evil going to be tortured in hell for eternity? Are the ones who choose evil able to affect others with that evil? Etc.

    Some say it is ok to prevent something from happening even if it means punishing someone before they actually do anything wrong. Others will argue that it is morally unacceptable to punish anyone until they actually commit the offense. I fall into the second camp.

    As do most of us, but this is too simplistic. You are conflating punishment with not being created. Yet, let’s say that god decides that I will be evil if I’m created. By not creating me, is he punishing me? I would say that he isn’t, because I would never know that I wasn’t created.

    Why does God allow suffering? My question to this question is; How long does God have, once an act of evil is committed, to punish the one doing the evil in order to be just and morally pure? Does He have 1 minute? 10 Hours? A day? A month? 2 Seconds?

    A) There’s no logical necessity that any evil I commit must be able to affect others.
    B) There’s lots of suffering that occurs not because of human evil, like death and harm from natural sources (weather, viruses, etc.)

    Simple math, take however long the suffering occurred and divide it by infinity. For how much of their existence did God allow the good people to suffer?

    If I suffer because of the loss of a loved one, do you think that that is finite? Was god justified in simply giving Job more children? Do you think any amount of suffering is justified so long as you get to go to heaven?

  • Pine

    OMGF:

    In my post on this thread I don’t believe I referred to God as omni-max. Your first two responses are based on this red herring. Light the straw on fire and see if you still have a response left for my original remarks.

    Let’s say that they cease to exist. Then it is ok for them to be created, right? And yes, their evil can affect others. Is it still ok?

    If God decided not to create something because of how it would turn out, then God is basically acting upon something (before it exists) based upon an outcome which is sure to happen. Sounds like a consequence based upon something which hasn’t happened. I call it punishment, you say I’m conflating… semantics. The point is, I feel it would be wrong for God to not create something simply because He knows which way the thing would choose had God predetermined that He wanted to create the thing and bestow it with free will (free agency, etc… whichever term you want to use to describe having a choice between good and evil). Perhaps you don’t agree and feel it is ok to act against something (IE: preventing or choosing not to create) due to foreknowledge and without the occurence of an act of evil… this is where we would disagree.

    A) You do not live in a vaccum. Your actions do and will effect others. Perhaps not every action, but your choice to be evil will affect others. You don’t control the degree of effect, but you do effect others.

    B) I disagree with your premise. I hold that all of creation was placed under man and that all of creation is under the curse of sin just as man is. IE: All the other ‘natural’ suffering is in fact, in my worldview, a direct result of the evil of man.

    To answer your last question, yes. God thought it was worth sending his Son to be tortured and die ‘just’ so I could get to heaven. I use your term “get to heaven” because you stereotypically assumed this was what I view as the end result of my faith. (it is not) But for the sake of brevity I will respond to your assumption. Yes, the suffering that is allowed is worth the work which God is accomplishing.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Pine,

    In my post on this thread I don’t believe I referred to God as omni-max. Your first two responses are based on this red herring. Light the straw on fire and see if you still have a response left for my original remarks.

    You’ll notice that I asked in the first response. Do you think god is omni-max? You certainly think that god is omniscient (you claim that god knows all things). Do you believe that god is omni-benevolent? If you do, then you hold a contradictory belief as I pointed out. You don’t get to simply say, “I never said omni-max” and then act as if those points are not being made and/or asked.

    Let’s say that they cease to exist. Then it is ok for them to be created, right? And yes, their evil can affect others. Is it still ok?

    I understand all the words you used, but I have no idea what you are trying to say.

    If God decided not to create something because of how it would turn out, then God is basically acting upon something (before it exists) based upon an outcome which is sure to happen. Sounds like a consequence based upon something which hasn’t happened. I call it punishment, you say I’m conflating… semantics.

    It’s not semantics. You know that if you restrict someone’s airflow that they will eventually die because of it. There is a difference between my allowing you to do this and then punishing you for it and my preventing you from doing it in the first place.

    The point is, I feel it would be wrong for God to not create something simply because He knows which way the thing would choose had God predetermined that He wanted to create the thing and bestow it with free will (free agency, etc… whichever term you want to use to describe having a choice between good and evil).

    What an absurd position to take. Not only is it non-sensical to talk about god predetermining something and free will, but you seem to be arguing that even if god knows that pulling the trigger will result in someone’s death, that he is morally obliged to do it.

    Perhaps you don’t agree and feel it is ok to act against something (IE: preventing or choosing not to create) due to foreknowledge and without the occurence of an act of evil… this is where we would disagree.

    If you had foreknowledge that someone at a pool was about to drown, wouldn’t you try to stop them from swimming if that would save them?

    A) You do not live in a vaccum. Your actions do and will effect others. Perhaps not every action, but your choice to be evil will affect others. You don’t control the degree of effect, but you do effect others.

    Even if this is true, it’s only true of the world that god created. IOW, god created a world where this would be true, and there’s no logical necessity for god to create such a world.

    B) I disagree with your premise. I hold that all of creation was placed under man and that all of creation is under the curse of sin just as man is. IE: All the other ‘natural’ suffering is in fact, in my worldview, a direct result of the evil of man.

    How does the “evil of man” lead to plate tectonics and earthquakes? C’mon. Even so, we still run into the problem where god created a system where natural evil would come into existence due to man’s actions when there was no logical necessity for that to be the case.

    To answer your last question, yes. God thought it was worth sending his Son to be tortured and die ‘just’ so I could get to heaven.

    So, you think you won’t care about those you lost that maybe don’t get into heaven once you are there? Does that mean that you’ll be the same person once you are there?

    I use your term “get to heaven” because you stereotypically assumed this was what I view as the end result of my faith. (it is not)

    Uh huh, whatever. It was a counterpoint to your bad math example whereby you introduced the concept.

    But for the sake of brevity I will respond to your assumption. Yes, the suffering that is allowed is worth the work which God is accomplishing.

    Really? And why is it necessary for god to have suffering in order to accomplish his work? Is he not all powerful? Is all the suffering in hell also worth it and necessary?

  • Pine

    OMGF:

    You said: “That’s not a question that can be answered with the limited information you gave. Are the ones who “choose” evil going to be tortured in hell for eternity? Are the ones who choose evil able to affect others with that evil? Etc.”

    To the first question: “Are the ones who “choose” evil going to be tortured in hell for eternity?” I answered: “Let’s say that they cease to exist. Then it is ok for them to be created, right?”

    To the second question: “Are the ones who choose evil able to affect others with that evil?” I answered: “And yes, their evil can affect others. Is it still ok?”. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

    You asked: “If you had foreknowledge that someone at a pool was about to drown, wouldn’t you try to stop them from swimming if that would save them?”

    In your example the bad thing has happened. The person is drowning. So yes, I would act. But the elements involved already exist. The person. The pool. Me. I’m not sure you’ll find a good analogy here… so maybe stick to responding to what I’ve said instead of making up examples which fail.

    You said: “How does the “evil of man” lead to plate tectonics and earthquakes? C’mon. Even so, we still run into the problem where god created a system where natural evil would come into existence due to man’s actions when there was no logical necessity for that to be the case.”

    You disagree with my premise. I disagree with yours. As this was more of an aside, I see no reason to discuss it further here. Unless you feel it is more relevent to the current topic than I do…

    You said: “Uh huh, whatever. It was a counterpoint to your bad math example whereby you introduced the concept.”

    Actually I never introduced the concept of heaven. How was my math example bad? Because it showed the minimal impact of our current suffering compared to the good God has in store for those who love Him?

    You said: “Really? And why is it necessary for god to have suffering in order to accomplish his work? Is he not all powerful? Is all the suffering in hell also worth it and necessary?”

    Yes. It is ALL necessary. But what is God’s purpose? I’m interested to know what you think my position on that one is. Since we’re going to talk about what you pigeon-hole my belief system into being instead of what it actually is, I suppose before I state what I believe God is doing then I should ask what you feel I believe God is doing.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Pine,

    To the first question: “Are the ones who “choose” evil going to be tortured in hell for eternity?” I answered: “Let’s say that they cease to exist. Then it is ok for them to be created, right?”

    It would be more equitable to do away with hell. You don’t believe in hell? Aren’t you arguing for Xianity?

    To the second question: “Are the ones who choose evil able to affect others with that evil?” I answered: “And yes, their evil can affect others. Is it still ok?”. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

    I still don’t see a logical necessity for this to be.

    In your example the bad thing has happened. The person is drowning.

    No, that’s not what “foreknowledge” means. “If you had foreknowledge,” clearly denotes that it has not happened yet. You would be privy to god’s knowledge. If you knew ahead of time that some person would drown if they were to go into a swimming pool, would you try to stop them?

    But the elements involved already exist. The person. The pool. Me. I’m not sure you’ll find a good analogy here… so maybe stick to responding to what I’ve said instead of making up examples which fail.

    It doesn’t fail, it’s what we are talking about. god would have that foreknowledge and would have created a world that would allow suffering and people that both suffer and cause suffering (operating in a world that allows them to inflict suffering for no logically necessary reason). IOW, god had the foreknowledge that some or all of us would drown and decided to let us swim anyway. You can claim he wanted us to use our free will, but I doubt you would use that defense if you were in god’s shoes, as in the analogy that I formulated for you.

    You disagree with my premise. I disagree with yours. As this was more of an aside, I see no reason to discuss it further here. Unless you feel it is more relevent to the current topic than I do…

    Of course it is relevant! You are claiming that all evil is our fault, including natural evil. How is that even possible? How does eating a piece of fruit cause earthquakes to happen in the future that kill and harm people and cause suffering? If you are going to make absurd statements like that, you can’t simply hide behind, “You don’t agree with my premise, but oh well,” and act like it doesn’t matter to your argument. It matters a great deal.

    Actually I never introduced the concept of heaven.

    BS. Although you didn’t use the actual word “heaven” you talked about overcoming the suffering by “liv[ing] with god forever,” which is a euphemism for heaven. You introduced the concept.

    How was my math example bad? Because it showed the minimal impact of our current suffering compared to the good God has in store for those who love Him?

    Because of the reasons I already brought up. Maybe you could answer the questions I posed instead of quibbling over whether you used the word “heaven” or not?

    Yes. It is ALL necessary.

    Then god is a sadist.

    But what is God’s purpose?

    I honestly don’t care to guess what you think I think your theology states. Present your argument and stop playing games.

  • Pine

    OMGF:

    As in other ‘experiences’ with you, you have once again shown that you are incapable of avoiding red herrings and constructing the largest straw men I have ever seen. Either that, or you are truly ignorant of what is being discussed. You would do well to read up well on a topic and know that there is a difference between eternal life and heaven. But since you refuse to confront the topic at hand and insist on pigeon-holing and arguing with stereotypical views not proposed… I see no point in continuing further with you.

    Anyone else have a VALID objection to what I’ve said?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Pine,

    As in other ‘experiences’ with you, you have once again shown that you are incapable of avoiding red herrings and constructing the largest straw men I have ever seen. Either that, or you are truly ignorant of what is being discussed.

    Show me where I did such things instead of asserting. Oh, and while you are at it, you could actually address the objections I brought up and the questions. For instance, how do you use free will as a defense when it is logically incompatible with an omni-max god? I see that you avoided that. Oh, and you can also tell me whether you believe hell exists (it is in your Bible) since you seem to be very secretive about it. No, sorry, I am not making red herrings, and I am not creating straw men. I’m making valid objections that you simply can’t answer because your theology is self-defeating. Thanks for trying though.

    You would do well to read up well on a topic and know that there is a difference between eternal life and heaven.

    Whatever. You can insist on some semantic difference, but what you are describing is indeed what is meant by heaven in common linguistic usage. Again, good try. And, I note that even if that one point of mine is wrong, it doesn’t invalidate all my other arguments as you suggest it does. This is logically fallacious.

  • Pine

    Points brought up by OMGF to counter Pine which were not mentioned by Pine in this thread:

    1. The end result of faith is the believer’s getting to heaven.

    2. The end result of lack of faith is the unbeliever being thrown into hell.

    3. God is omni-max.

    4. Adam and Eve’s sin was eating fruit alone.

    5. That I am arguing for “Christianity”

    _

    Assertions OMGF has made which they have not substantiated:

    1. Omni-benevolence requires the prevention of all ‘evil’.

    2. There is no logical necessity that the evil actions of one do not affect others.

    3. That natural disasters are completely apart from human action.

    4. That my math example was bad.

    5. It would be more equitable to do away with hell.

    6. Eternal life equates to being in heaven.

    7. If God allows suffering then He is a sadist (even if it is just).

    8. My theology is self-defeating.

    8.5 That OMGF knows and understands my personal theology.

    _

    Logical Fallacies often employed by OMGF in this thread:

    Red Herring
    Me: Can God create beings even if He knows they will be evil and still be morally pure?

    OMGF: What about hell?

    Me: Let’s say there is no hell.

    OMGF: But you’re a christian… so there’s a hell therefore you’re wrong.

    Me: ???

    Straw Man
    Me: We will live eternally with God.

    OMGF: Heaven?! You think you’ll forget people in hell in heaven? Your theology sucks!

    Me: ???

    Begging the Question:
    Me: I didn’t say I believed in ‘heaven’.

    OMGF: You’re being dumb, of course you believe in heaven.

    Me: What makes you think that?

    OMGF: You are a christian and all christians believe in heaven, so you believe in heaven.

    Me: ???

    False Dilemma
    OMGF: God cannot be both omnimax and allow choice. We have choice, therefore God is not omnimax. Or if you argue God is omnimax then we don’t have choice.

    _

    This is why we can’t talk.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Pine,

    Points brought up by OMGF to counter Pine which were not mentioned by Pine in this thread

    Do you deny these things? Do you deny that god is omni-max? Do you deny that hell exists and is where non-saved people end up? Are you not a Xian and arguing for Xianity? Am I not allowed to talk about eating the fruit as a shorthand? C’mon. This is all bluster to avoid the fact that you can’t back up your assertions. When you have to hide your beliefs or pretend that you have different beliefs in order to gain debate points, what does that say about your beliefs?

    Assertions OMGF has made which they have not substantiated…

    If you don’t think I have, then say so and say why. Instead, you make grandiose claims about my intelligence, honesty (trying to use logical fallacy instead of answering your points), etc.
    1. I’m not sure I claimed that omni-benevolence means that all evil must be presented, but I don’t see why not. If an entity is omni-benevolent, then it should be abhorrent of all un-necessary evil. If that entity has the ability to stop evil from occurring (which an omnipotent and omniscient god would) then it natually follows that that god would do so.
    2. This is in response to your assertions that it IS logically necessary that there be a world that has evil and that this evil is allowed to affect other people. This is in response to your unsupported argument. You don’t get to shift the burden of proof.
    3. This is again in response to your argument that original sin is responsible for natural evil (earthquakes, viruses, etc.) Again, you don’t get to shift the burden of proof. If you want to claim that the fall caused all this, you should at least give some type of argument for it to show plausibility!
    4. It is bad because it doesn’t take into account what the true effects of loss are. Again, if you actually addressed my questions instead of whining about how I called your example bad, we could move forward. Instead, there are multiple questions/objections on the table that you won’t address.
    5. It would. Hell serves no function except to punish without hope for retribution or rehabilitation. And, seeing as how it is infinite, it is infinitely unjust since we can only commit finite crimes. Should we use the math you introduced to show that this is so?
    6. Eternal life with eternal happiness is what you put forth in your math example, which is why you felt you could divide by infinity. This is the common conception of heaven. Get over it.
    7. If god sets up a system that necessitates un-necessary suffering and then puts people in hell for eternity, then he is most definitely a sadist.
    8. It is because you rely on the free will defense while also maintaining that god is omni-max. These are contradictory – hence your theology is self-defeating.
    8.5. Whatever. I’ve gleaned enough of it from your posts here. You are pushing forward the free will defense and you do believe in an omni-max deity, or at least one that is omniscient and omnipotent, meaning those two concepts are contradictory.

    Logical Fallacies often employed by OMGF in this thread:

    Red Herring
    Me: Can God create beings even if He knows they will be evil and still be morally pure?

    I was unaware that asking questions to gain a better understanding of your argument was now to be regarded as a logical fallacy. C’mon. If you don’t know what the term means, stop using it.

    OMGF: What about hell?

    Me: Let’s say there is no hell.

    OMGF: But you’re a christian… so there’s a hell therefore you’re wrong.

    Me: ???

    Not what I said, but let’s be real here. Do you believe in hell? I asked you that and you have continually avoided answering it. Are you going to continue to hide your beliefs so that you can argue for something you don’t believe in and then try to move the goal posts to what you do believe in, or do you not believe in hell? You could at least answer instead of simply getting huffy and pouting about it.

    Straw Man
    Me: We will live eternally with God.

    OMGF: Heaven?! You think you’ll forget people in hell in heaven? Your theology sucks!

    Me: ???

    Again, not a straw man, for two reasons. First, what you are describing is what is considered heaven in common language. Second, the question behind it doesn’t matter on whether there is a distinction or not.

    Begging the Question:
    Me: I didn’t say I believed in ‘heaven’.

    OMGF: You’re being dumb, of course you believe in heaven.

    Now you’re just making stuff up.

    False Dilemma
    OMGF: God cannot be both omnimax and allow choice. We have choice, therefore God is not omnimax. Or if you argue God is omnimax then we don’t have choice.

    It’s not a false dilemma, because it is logically true. If god is omni-max, then the world is fully determined, hence you don’t have choice. That’s the short version. If you disagree, then say so and state why with a logical argument.

    This is why we can’t talk.

    Because you’re a whiner who seems intent on hiding the views you wish to argue for and instead want to quibble over semantics so that you don’t have to tackle tough questions, and then go into rants about logical fallacies that aren’t? Yeah, I can see how that makes it hard to communicate. But, maybe instead of simply jumping to the conclusion that everything I say is a logical fallacy, you could try clarifying your position (especially when I ask for clarification) and arguing for it. What a novel concept.

  • goyo

    pine:
    You are doing exactly what cl does: saying you’re being misunderstood, when you could easily clarify the situation by stating your beliefs.
    1. Are you a xtian?
    2. Which particular beliefs of xtianity do you accept?
    3. Are you a jehovahs witness?
    Stop playing games.

  • Pine

    goyo:

    I normally try to stay on point in debate and take things one point at a time. This helps avoid confusion which is not what I believe has happened here. To say I feel I am being misunderstood is incorrect. I am being misrepresented (as I feel OMGF knows full well what I wrote). As long as only intentional misrepresentations of my position are responded to, then we cannot continue.

    I never claimed to be ‘proving’ God’s existence or defending christian theology proper in my original post in this thread. Mine was only a defense against the claim that christians or those who believe God is good in light of the Bible verses Ebon provided are caught up in a “futile obsession”. And when you make a claim, which Ebon has in stating; “The attribution of evil to God’s handiwork, while it may solve the problem of theodicy, raises an even more difficult question for Jews and Christians in its place. Namely, why would such a deity be worthy of our belief?” then the burden of proof falls to you (in this case Ebon or any who agree with him) to defend your stance once it is challenged.

    Now will you accept this and address my point regarding how from a Biblical worldview God can still be holy just and morally pure even in light of the passages provided by Ebon, or do you still want to try to divert to get me into endless discussion of doctrines of salvation/damnation/predestination/free will/etc and how they do or do not ‘add up’ from your rationalistic worldview?

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Because you’re a whiner who seems intent on hiding the views you wish to argue for and instead want to quibble over semantics so that you don’t have to tackle tough questions, and then go into rants about logical fallacies that aren’t? (OMGF)

    You are doing exactly what cl does: saying you’re being misunderstood, when you could easily clarify the situation by stating your beliefs. Are you a xtian? Which particular beliefs of xtianity do you accept? Are you a jehovahs witness? Stop playing games. (Goyo)

    Man, are you guys reading from a script or something? Goyo whines that Pine “makes the same error as” me when there’s a very logical reason for not labelling oneself into some silly little intellectual category, and that reason is to avoid precisely the types of mischaracterizations that I’ve observed in this thread. A good reason to not label oneself “Christian” or “Catholic” or “Buddhist” or “Sikh” or whatever is reduce the possibility of people arguing against their interpretations of what a “Christian” or “Catholic” or “Buddhist” or “Sikh” believes. By not stating such, in theory we force our opponent to ask more questions in lieu of making assumptions – in theory – obviously not in practice, at least here anyways.

    Not to mention, what if somebody isn’t exactly sure what the hell they believe? Yeah, I read the Bible and believe it; I also read “scriptures” on Buddhism, Theosophy, Mormonism, Wicca, Unitarianism and too many other religions and philosophies to provide you with a handy little reference list. Don’t get me wrong. Labeling is great for categorical thinking, but the whole point of freethought is to think beyond categories. It’s not your interlocutor’s responsibility to provide detailed exposition of each and every nuance of their particular belief system before engagement so you don’t mess up; it’s your responsibility to ask your interlocutor if they actually believe what you think they believe before accusing them of error just because you misunderstand their belief system. So instead of whining about how your opponents haven’t categorized themselves sufficiently to suit your wants, why not just slow down, begin with a clean mental slate by abandoning assumptions which lead to mischaracterizations, and ask more questions?

    Pine,

    Assertions OMGF has made which they have not substantiated:

    You forgot my personal favorite from this thread: OMGF claims that in Romans 1:27 Paul tells us the “natural use for women” is as sex objects for men. It’s hard to take Ebon, Goyo or anyone serious around here when they let BS such as this fly. I can’t believe that not one single atheist seems to have a problem with OMGF’s Dawkins-esque exegetical failure here. Goyo, it’s expected of you to fault Pine – but why don’t you wander outside of party lines for a moment? Is there a reason you’ve glossed right over OMGF’s biblical blunder? Had Pine or myself introduced into this thread misinformation about atheism or evolution or atheists, I believe the story would be much different.

    Pine, the only part where I disagree with you is here:

    I feel OMGF knows full well what I wrote

    From my many, many experiences, I actually believe OMGF isn’t aware of what he’s doing. In spite of all his cussing, crying, insulting, ad hominem arguments, etc., I really do believe OMGF argues in good faith. I’ve seem him cross party lines before to defend the accuracy of statements non-atheists have made, myself included, which is another point in his favor. But when it comes to Bible stuff, it’s like there’s an instinctive off-switch in his brain that just cuts the juice to the critical abilities. It’s weird. I don’t understand it either. But if more atheists would correct him, perhaps he’d listen, because people tend to respect peers. We’ll never know, that is until impartial critical thinking replaces the preservation of party lines at DaylightAtheism.

  • jt

    If I could bring this thread back to the origina comment which has to do with a statement in Isaiah. An understanding of the Hebraic literary forms would go a long ways to a correct interpretation of the word ‘evil’ in this context.

    Any statement, whether by theist, atheist or agnostic, taken out of its contextual setting, and divorced form its literary style, can be rendered to say something vastly different than what the author intended.

    Just like the word ‘evil’ has a variety of meanings in modern English, that are contextually regulated, so it is in the Hebrew.

    Was there any consideration given to this linguistic matter before the comment was made? (Other than the mere recitation of various places where the Hebrew word is used in other places, with it’s corresponding English translation). It appears not.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Was there any consideration given to this linguistic matter before the comment was made? (Other than the mere recitation of various places where the Hebrew word is used in other places, with it’s corresponding English translation). It appears not.

    IOW, although you showed how the context fits in with the particular word usage, and how the particular word used only fits one context, I’m going to act as if you haven’t done that and accuse you of taking it out of context.

  • jt

    IOW, although you showed how the context fits in with the particular word usage, and how the particular word used only fits one context, I’m going to act as if you haven’t done that and accuse you of taking it out of context.

    You could accuse me of that but you’d be wrong. :)

    A couple of things:
    1. I did not say the particular word used only fits one context. I said, “An understanding of the Hebraic literary forms would go a long ways to a correct interpretation of the word ‘evil’ in THIS context.” (As it is THIS context that the comment is about.)

    2. There is a common linguistic practice called parallelism. It is often used in language, especially in poetic form but also in prose and, to a lesser extent, regular creative writing.
    Isaiah 45:7 says, I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
    There are two sets of parallelisms set here in contrast to one each other. Light – darkness. Peace – evil.
    All of these words can have more than one meaning. Light and darkness comes first and sets up the ‘balance’ of opposites. Then comes Peace and Evil. If it was Good and Evil or Righteousness and Evil, then evil would be interpreted in the sense of moral wickedness (sin), but it is Peace and Evil. The intepretation of Evil in this instance is regulated by the word ‘peace’ which comes before it. It is the opposite of peace as darkness is the opposite of light. And evil can indeed be used widely in that way both in Hebrew and English.
    We say someone has fallen on evil days. That does not mean they have become morally wicked. It can mean they have suffered calamity, trials, upheaval, etc.

    The whole question of the God of the Bible (Jehovah) and sin (moral evil) is a great one, and well worth a good debate, but for someone to use Isaiah 45:7 to make God the author of sin, only reveals a lack of understanding in this case. You’ll need to go elsewhere for that.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    jt, I took the liberty of fixing that misplaced bold tag in your comment.

    It strikes me as naive to claim that the literary technique of parallelism overrules the actual meaning of the word. You can see from Strong’s how ra is translated throughout the King James. In the vast majority (over 400) of its uses, it is used to mean evil or wickedness in a moral sense.

    Even in a literary sense, there’s no reason why “peace” (the Hebrew word there is shalom, interestingly) can’t be contrasted with evil, just as a poet may choose to write slant rhymes rather than true rhymes. What other evidence do you have that the word should not be interpreted in this way?

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    jt,

    Any statement, whether by theist, atheist or agnostic, taken out of its contextual setting, and divorced form its literary style, can be rendered to say something vastly different than what the author intended.

    You mean like OMGF’s claim that in Romans 1:27, Paul tells us “the natural use for women is as sex objects for men?”

    Ebonmuse,

    Although I’m tending to agree with you to a certain degree, I’m REALLY scratching my head as to why you completely ignore OMGF’s questionable exegesis of Romans 1:27, yet critically question jt’s on Isaiah 45:7. Is it okay for atheists to say Bible scriptures can mean whatever they want, but not believers?

    Hilarious, the party lines around here.

  • jt

    Thanks for fixing the script. I do appreciate it. I understand we are talking about a rather fine point here, but that doesn’t mitigate its importance.

    I did not say,”the literary technique of parallelism overrules the actual meaning of the word”. Technique and context never ‘overrule’ a word’s meaning. But they do regulate it. Evil (hebrew ‘ra’) is most often translated with the sense of moral wickedness. But it can be used with other legitimate meanings, and the way to know is to look at the context and manner in which the word is used. For the moment, I am not even really arguing the theological issue here. What we have here is a linguistic issue, which must be dealt with fairly and honestly before we can move into the theological or spiritually interpretative arena.

    I go back to my point that all of us, from whatever perspective we view life, use language that must be considered in its context and form. I am sure I could take scores of examples where you use literary license in your arguments, and it would be totally misrepresentative of your beliefs – not to say dishonest – for me to take them out of their context and say you meant something different.

    Drawing attention to the HEbrew ‘shalom’ only sharpens the point, so to speak. Because the word shalom is not primarily a moral one. Peace may or may not have to do with a moral issue, but only where it is used in that clear context may it be considered in that light.

    I do not see my point raised here as naive at all. And the question you raised with this thread is a very good one and is worthy of sound, logical debate. But, I am simply drawing attention to the fact that the verse in Isaiah used, does not bolster your argument from a linguistic basis.

    You asked about ‘other evidence’. Again, we’re dealing with context here. The verse is in the setting of a message from God to Cyrus, who was certainly not a ‘believer’ in the Christian sense of the meaning. God calls Cyrus “my anointed” (and uses the Hebrew word for Messiah!). No one for a moment thinks that Cyrus was THE Messiah, but the word is considered in its root form which means ‘anointed’ or ‘chosen’.

    Cyrus was a despotic king. God’s message to him was in the context of showing him that he (Cyrus) wasn’t as in control of affairs as he might think he was. I’m not arguing the message per se, but only showing how the statement in verse 7 cannot be
    torn out of its contextual setting to determine its meaning. In other words, God was not discussing theological points of the origin or authorship of sin / wickedness. but the issue of sovereignty.

    Good discussion, and I appreciate the willingness to allow the differing views here. I’ll try my best to obey all the rules!

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    jt,
    Wickedness and sin upset peace, so it’s not out of the question that this is not what was meant.

    Besides that, what other meaning would you ascribe to it? You seem to be arguing that it doesn’t mean wickedness, even though the word used is used in that way in (all?) other cases, but you aren’t putting forth an alternative.

  • jt

    OMGF
    Have you read my comments carefully? As ‘darkness’ is to ‘light’, so ‘evil’ is to ‘peace’. As I define ‘light’ and then consider that ‘darkness’ is set in contradistinction to it, so then we define ‘peace’ and see that ‘evil’ is defined IN THIS CASE, in contradistinction to it.

    IOW, ‘evil’ in THIS VERSE, is the opposite of peace. Therefore, calamity, unrest, upheaval in Cyrus’ kingdom.

    One may argue the connection that moral wickedness (sin) has to the above, but that is not what the text says, nor means. As Strong’s has been used to define the term, I am putting the full definitions of the Hebrew word below. As you can see the word has a wide array of meanings. (The number beside the English definition is the number of times that word is used to translate the Hebrew in the King James Bible)

    You might like to know the the root word of this has the idea of something that is worse by comparison to something that is “good”. And in fact in Genesis 19:9, and other places, it is translated that way.

    7451 [r’ ra` {rah} • from 07489; TWOT – 2191a,2191c • AV – evil 442, wickedness 59, wicked 25, mischief 21, hurt 20, bad 13, trouble 10, sore 9, affliction 6, ill 5, adversity 4, favoured 3, harm 3, naught 3, noisome 2, grievous 2, sad 2, misc 34; 663 • adj 1) bad, evil 1a) bad, disagreeable, malignant 1b) bad, unpleasant, evil (giving pain, unhappiness, misery) 1c) evil, displeasing 1d) bad (of its kind – land, water, etc) 1e) bad (of value) 1f) worse than, worst (comparison) 1g) sad, unhappy 1h) evil (hurtful) 1i) bad, unkind (vicious in disposition) 1j) bad, evil, wicked (ethically) 1j1) in general, of persons, of thoughts 1j2) deeds, actions n m 2) evil, distress, misery, injury, calamity 2a) evil, distress, adversity 2b) evil, injury, wrong 2c) evil (ethical) n f 3) evil, misery, distress, injury 3a) evil,
    misery, distress 3b) evil, injury, wrong 3c) evil (ethical)

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    IOW, ‘evil’ in THIS VERSE, is the opposite of peace. Therefore, calamity, unrest, upheaval in Cyrus’ kingdom.

    Yet, as Ebon points out, the word that is used is not the word that is used to portray calamity.

    One may argue the connection that moral wickedness (sin) has to the above, but that is not what the text says, nor means

    That’s what you are trying to show at least. Ebon has made a case that that is what it means using the plain definition of the word and how it is used in other cases. I’m not seeing a compelling reason to disregard the plain reading of the text for an alternate reading.

  • jt

    But I am not arguing for an alternate reading. Rather the plain (contextual) one. Let’s try an example. Say the word ‘gay’. Now that word has definitely taken on a new meaning over the past few years. One needs to read it in its context to know which might be the meaning meant by the author.

    If I say “Ralph is gay”, do I mean happy, or homosexual? And you need to know the context of that sentence to know which. And where context is not clear, then your presuppositions will come into focus and you will apply the meaning that you desire on to the statement.

    What I am saying … again, is that this verse is a very weak one to bolster an argument for God’s direct authorship of sin. I am not arguing the theological issue, but the linguistic one. And on the basis of that, the argument fails.

    Finally, as I have pointed out, the word used CAN be,and sometimes is, used to portray calamity. And it is correctly used to show things in a comparative state.

    Question: Do you have any training in either Hebrew or Greek? I only ask, because when you are dealing with textual matters, it is valuable in order to argue the point. That’s why I don’t debate quantum physics. ;-)

  • goyo

    Once again, OMGF, if we don’t have a working knowledge of ancient languages and customs, we’re unable to understand the word of the creator of the universe. Why did he give it to us 2,000 years ago?
    Dang that Jehovah. Why doesn’t he just update the damn book and put it in modern language that the world can understand today?
    Why do churches today advertise that the bible has the answers to all of life’s questions if we’re unable to
    understand it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    I’m not disdaining the role of context, jt. But we should be aware of how preconceptions about what a text means can shape one’s view of what the text says, and this is a good example:

    IOW, ‘evil’ in THIS VERSE, is the opposite of peace. Therefore, calamity, unrest, upheaval in Cyrus’ kingdom.

    You say that nouns quoted in opposition to each other must have opposite meanings. But why do you conclude that the reading of ra should be modified to accommodate the meaning of shalom, rather than vice versa? In other words, how do you know which element of the comparison is primary? Wouldn’t it be equally legitimate to apply your argument in the opposite direction and say, “Since the verse says that God creates evil, shouldn’t we interpret shalom, in this instance, to mean ‘goodness’?”

  • jt

    Ebonmuse
    What you say is a reasonably valid argument at first glance. But we cannot follow through because ‘shalom’ is never interpreted / translated once as goodness. So that would not be proper interpretation.

    BTW – for Goyo’s sake (re: his post above), I’d be willing to leave this one with just the English for debate purposes if he so chooses.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Since I don’t want to drag this out interminably, I’ll make this my closing statement:

    What you say is a reasonably valid argument at first glance. But we cannot follow through because ‘shalom’ is never interpreted / translated once as goodness.

    Not everyone would agree with you about that. Here’s a quote I found from the Encyclopedia of Jewish Concepts by Philip Birnbaum (here’s one web citation):

    The Hebrew word shalom has a wider meaning than the English equivalent peace, for it signifies welfare of every kind: security, contentment, sound health, prosperity, friendship, peace of mind and heart, as opposed to the dissatisfaction and unrest caused by evil.

    As this writer and others point out, most words in ancient Hebrew served a greater range of meanings than their counterparts in English. Shalom doesn’t just mean “peace” in the English sense of “absence of warfare” – you can tell as much from the Hebrew greeting, shalom aleichem. This is usually translated as “peace be unto you”, but obviously, it’s more than just a wish that the recipient won’t have to fight in any wars.

    In a broader sense, shalom means something closer to “completeness, wholeness”; and if we take the reasonable (and Christian-supported) position that evil is an absence of good, then a person who is evil lacks that quality. Clearly, therefore, shalom is a term that can be properly contrasted to evil, which is just what Birnbaum says in the above passage.

    And even if you choose to disregard all of this, your argument, jt, still rests on a dubious premise: that words set in opposition to each other in this sense can only be exact antonyms. No language, ancient Hebrew not excluded, has such strict and inviolable conventions. There’s no reason a passage from the Bible can’t contain words that are “near-antonyms”, just as poets in English can write verses that use slant rhymes rather than true rhymes. Unless we have specific contextual reasons (as opposed to modern theological preconceptions) to believe otherwise, a word should always be translated according to its primary meaning. And as I showed with multiple biblical citations, the primary meaning of ra is indeed evil in a moral sense.

  • jt

    Ebonmuse
    The context, as I stated is that this statement was in a message to Cyrus, and was not a apologetic of God’s connection with the origin of sin.
    The context is who the message was for – namely one Persian king Cyrus.
    The context is, at least in part, the linguistic use of parallelism.
    The context is, that the Hebrew word ra CAN have other meanings than simply moral wickedness, and therefore this text cannot be used in a conclusive manner to uphold the argument you have made.

    For my closing statement, I would suggest that this has been very enlightening to me in the discussion. Both yourself and OMGF have kept from simple sarcastic response, and I hope you would think the same of myself.

    But I am disappointed that even when it would be to your advantage to see a weakness in your argument, that you are willing to hold it so tenaciously. I repeatedly have called attention to the fact that I was not even arguing with your premise of God’s connection with sin, but that it seems in your desire to present your belief about the matter, you are unwilling to see that you should look somewhere else in the Christian Bible to make that statement.

    In a round about way, though you might not ever believe this, to have done so, would have strengthened your position.

    For the record, I am not saying that the verse in Isaiah says that God did NOT create moral wickedness, I am saying that the verse in Isaiah does not conclusively say (the “reasonable doubt” test perhaps?), that God DID create sin / moral wickedness, and have given both linguistic form and context as arguments for that position.

    Out of respect that this is your site, and in keeping with the rules – which I actually read! – I will not continue by repeating myself. I think what I have presented is fair, honestly stated, not taken from a position of ‘blind faith’, and would be defensible on the grounds stated.

    Thanks for the respect you have shown to me. I can only promise you the same should you ever wish to comment on my blog – which I will also out of respect for you and your commenters, not advertise here.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Thanks for the respect you have shown to me. I can only promise you the same should you ever wish to comment on my blog – which I will also out of respect for you and your commenters, not advertise here.

    It’s not disrespectful to link to it in your name. If you fill in the “Website (optional)” line with a link to your blog, then we can click on your name to go there and you don’t have to actually put it in your comment.

  • Pine

    Do I believe that God is Omni-max? Yes. Do I believe this has to negate our ability to choose? No. I don’t believe the ability to do anything is the same as doing everything. IE: God has the power to make me do whatever He wants me to, however chooses to not exercise that power thus allowing choice. Well… there goes omni-benevolence then, right? Because there’s suffering? Why does suffering negate benevolence? Could the suffering not be just so long as it produced a greater result? Furthermore, why is it necessarily immoral for God to allow us to suffer?

    Do I believe in hell? Yes. But not the presupposed hell of most Christians or Atheists. I believe the stark warnings against ending up in hell suggest very much that it is a place of eternal suffering, however I do not agree with the majority who suggest they know exactly how this suffering occurs or the degree of the suffering. As we have no exact idea of what hell will be like, how is it possible for anyone to maintain the position that the punishment there is not just?

    Do I believe in heaven? Yes. But not as the final destination of the believer. I believe there is a ‘heaven’, however I believe God will restore mankind to his original position as priest and king over creation service as God’s co-regeant on earth as Adam was in the garden of Eden.

    Am I a Christian? Yes. Does that mean I accept every teaching of the catholic or protestant church? No. To clarify further, I am not Catholic, and I cling to no one denomination.

    Which particular beliefs of Christianity do you accept? You want me to list them all? Umm…

    Are you a Jehovah’s Witness? No, but then my earlier statements should have made that clear.

    Now a question for you: How does ANY of that affect my original assertion?

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    It strikes me as naive to claim that the literary technique of parallelism overrules the actual meaning of the word. (Ebonmuse)

    I don’t think that’s what jt is doing. I think his main argument has to do with context, and I agree with it.

    In the vast majority (over 400) of its uses, it is used to mean evil or wickedness in a moral sense. (Ebonmuse)

    That might be true, but it would be fallacious to assume that we must always translate it as such. So you ask jt,

    What other evidence do you have that the word should not be interpreted in this way?

    What evidence do you have that it should? We can’t just say, “It’s translated like this most of the time, so that’s what the authors must have meant in this case, too.” That’s not evidence, but fallacious reasoning.

    So, that’s where the King Cyrus thing comes into play. Say for example that instead of discussion of King Cyrus, the context of the verse was different. Say for example, the prophet had asked God, “From whence dost sin and wickedness spring?” Now, if God’s answer had been the same, in that context, we’d have a different story. But again, the context, i.e., what the discussion is about, is the fall of King Cyrus’ kingdom, not the introduction of sin into the universe.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Pine,
    First off, thank you for clarifying your views.

    Do I believe that God is Omni-max? Yes. Do I believe this has to negate our ability to choose? No.

    I have yet to see any way that anything but strict determinism can exist (negating free will) with an omni-max god. Before god decided to create the universe, he knew how it would all turn out. Having this sort of pre-determined, infallible knowledge requires strict determinism, meaning that you may have the illusion of choice, but you can’t actually choose anything, since it was already done for you when god created a determined universe. I can expand on that if need be.

    Well… there goes omni-benevolence then, right? Because there’s suffering? Why does suffering negate benevolence?

    Epicurus famously posed the answer to this question over 2000 years ago.

    I’d also like to repeat the question I asked you before: if you had prior knowledge that was 100% reliable that someone would drown if they were to go swimming, would you let that person drown, or would you try and stop them from swimming?

    Could the suffering not be just so long as it produced a greater result?

    Why can’t an omni-max god achieve his intended results without causing and/or allowing suffering? We can’t assume that this is the best possible world, nor can we assume that because things are they way they are, that they could not be otherwise. Looking at the suffering in this world, it would be logically suspect to then make arguments assuming that this world is a logical necessity. It is not – not for an omni-max god anyway. There’s no necessity that god had to create a world with this amount of suffering.

    Do I believe in hell? Yes. But not the presupposed hell of most Christians or Atheists. I believe the stark warnings against ending up in hell suggest very much that it is a place of eternal suffering, however I do not agree with the majority who suggest they know exactly how this suffering occurs or the degree of the suffering.

    To clarify: you believe that hell exists, that it is eternal suffering, but you disagree with how that suffering takes place? Is that correct?

    If so, I’m not seeing how this defends god in any way from any other conception of hell.

    Do I believe in heaven? Yes. But not as the final destination of the believer. I believe there is a ‘heaven’, however I believe God will restore mankind to his original position as priest and king over creation service as God’s co-regeant on earth as Adam was in the garden of Eden.

    This brings up some follow-up questions: what is heaven? Is it infinite peace and happiness? Is it better to be in Adam’s shoes than in heaven? Do we believe that this won’t all happen again if we are placed back in the garden? (That last question is more for my personal theological interest than for the topic of the thread.)

    Am I a Christian? Yes. Does that mean I accept every teaching of the catholic or protestant church? No. To clarify further, I am not Catholic, and I cling to no one denomination.

    I think we all realize that no two Xians believe the same thing.

    Now a question for you: How does ANY of that affect my original assertion?

    You and I are hashing this over elsewhere, so I see no need to dredge it up here, but I do find your answers very helpful in clarifying what the actual argument is that you are making and how to respond in ways that (hopefully) don’t lead to you thinking I’m trying to make strawmen or other such things.

  • goyo

    Pine:
    Yes thank you for clarifying. It simply makes the discussion easier to know where one is coming from. For example, I’ll tell you that I’m an atheist and a libertarian. That should give you an idea of what I believe. I’m also an ex-xtian, theology teacher, and yes, jt I have 2 yrs. of NT Greek.
    I also believe that this verse, whether evil or calamity, plainly shows god causing bad things to happen.
    To say that god is simply a bystander in life is to go against everything mainstream xtianity teaches. I realize we have somewhat freethinking xtians commenting here, which is great, but arguing over one word still won’t change my mind about the whole book. What about you freethinking xtians, are you ready to admit your agnosticism?

  • jt

    goyo:
    For the record, I am not claiming that one needs to know Hebrew or Greek in order to understand the Bible. But as the issue raised here was on ONE PARTICULAR WORD (set in a particular context), I had asked that question earlier, simply to find out if there was some background in that area.

    As for whether or not God causes “bad things to happen”, I am sure no reasonable Christian (why do atheists have such a hard time spelling that word?), would argue that God, at the very least, sovereignly allows bad things to happen. Whether it is by first or second causes is a point that many have debated, both Christians and non-Crhistians.

    And while every possible rabbit trail has been followed in this thread, there has been a marvellous silence as to my actual argument, which was… (QUOTE):

    For the record, I am not saying that the verse in Isaiah says that God did NOT create moral wickedness, I am saying that the verse in Isaiah does not conclusively say (the “reasonable doubt” test perhaps?), that God DID create sin / moral wickedness, and have given both linguistic form and context as arguments for that position.

    Also, I do not think any of my comments can be misconstrued as to make me say that God is simply a bystander in life. But that is not the same issue that is under debate on this thread. I was restricting my comments to the very narrow issue of the teaching of Isaiah 45:7.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    …there has been a marvellous silence as to my actual argument…

    Um, cause it was dealt with in the OP.

  • jt

    OMGF
    Sorry. But it wasn’t. It was to point out a flaw in the reasoning in the OP that I wrote in the first place. While context was taken to determine meaning in other places, it is being ignored to determine meaning in this place.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    You’re claiming that it’s not “conclusive” but so what? That doesn’t mean that we have grounds to claim that “ra” in this sense doesn’t mean “evil.” Your plea that it’s poetic has been argued, your plea that it’s “all in the context” has been argued…so why claim that no one has addressed your point?

  • matt

    First of all evil has to borrow from good to exist. Money and power are not evil by themselves but when manipulated they become distorted or evil. So yeah God created Good which became evil. God allowed this evil to exist for the simple fact of Love. We have what is called free will and without free choice love, true love, cannot exist. And were did morality come from in the first place? What standered should we judge buy without a God. What gives you or me any value? Is it my house or my car or how much money I made, or if I made a name for myself that people will remember? How long will they remember? Who are we without God? Why do we strive to find purpose? And who are you to tell me that we have no purpose in life? You are the one creating evil and you are the one destroying lives. It was not God who put this curse among us called sin; it was us. And He honors our choice because true love does not force it.

  • http://theorangesashford.moonfruit.com Steve Bowen

    who are you to tell me that we have no purpose in life?

    You have a very skewed view of atheists if you think we (or you for that matter) have no purpose in life. God is not necessary for good or evil or purpose, we are capable of creating all of that by ourselves.

  • Ritchie

    matt -

    First of all evil has to borrow from good to exist. Money and power are not evil by themselves but when manipulated they become distorted or evil. So yeah God created Good which became evil.

    A very odd argument. For the sake of argument, let’s take it as fact that goodnesss and evil are objective. My point here is that they are polar opposites. Evil is not a by-product of goodness. You cannot just say God created goodness (and thus deserves credit for it) and then man perverted it into evil (and thus God is blameless). The passage in the OP states God created both. Now why would a good deity create evil? If He’s so loving, why did He create so many diseases, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and so much cruelty in nature? All this is a hammer-blow to the notion that ‘God is good’.

    God allowed this evil to exist for the simple fact of Love. We have what is called free will and without free choice love, true love, cannot exist.

    Adam and Eve were allegedly created without the ability to reason good from evil. They had no knowledge of right or wrong until they ate the apple. Doesn’t that mean God created them without free will? They certainly could not have made moral choices for themselves.

    And were did morality come from in the first place? What standered should we judge buy without a God. What gives you or me any value?

    This is a popular argument, but not a very good one. The fact is that the universe does not owe us meaning. If our lives are meaningless without God, then our lives are meaningless. Tough luck. Maybe (though maybe not) our lives would be NICER or have more meaning if a God existed, but that does not affect the likelihood of that actually being true. You can’t just say something is true because you WANT it to be.

    Fortunately I don’t think life without God is as bleak as you seem to think it is. As Steve Bowen says, we give our own lives meaning. We do not need a deity to do it for us.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    We have what is called free will and without free choice love, true love, cannot exist.

    And a robbery victim has free will; he doesn’t have to surrender his money. Never mind the gun pointed at his head.

    It can never be free will when my “soul” is held hostage.

  • Kevin Howard

    Nice try on the attempt to create contradictions in His Word with:

    I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. —Isaiah 45:7

    Most believers will try to explain this truth away but it is true that God created both evil and good. He created the good and bad tree in the garden. He created the carnal mind and the mind of Christ. He created the reprobate mind and he created the spiritual mind. So, why would He not create evils and good? This is a no brain-er parallelism that is throughout the Bible.

    Where the confusion defies atheists is that most Christian believe they are saved by a choice and not by the blood of Christ’s sacrifice. Then, unbelievers find apparent “contradictions” because the believers have their own frame work of false dictrine that is mixed with the truth of Christianity. Remember, the Romans combined their false doctrines with true Christian doctrine for instance.

    Simply, God created evil and good to discern evil and good. Otherwise, we would not know what is evil or good. This doctrine is so basic that even an atheist can understand. Eventually, the body of Christ will also understand because the framework of “doctrines of devils” will be dispelled for good.

    For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

    Kevin M Howard

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com Steve Bowen

    Ah! another “true” christian. Anyone keeping count

  • Peter N

    Howard,

    What you write about evil being necessary in order to appreciate good is an appealing idea. It’s available even to those who don’t enjoy reading the Bible — here is chapter 2 of the Tao Te Ching (Chinese, 6th century BCE):

    Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness.
    All can know good as good only because there is evil.

    Etc.

    But who gets to classify an action or a thought as one or the other? Many consider the granting of basic civil rights to same-sex couples to be “evil”. The Pope seems to believe that protecting priest-rapists instead of children is “good”. Perpetrators of horrendous suffering may have sincerely thought it was a good idea at the time. It’s all very much a matter of perspective (and I hope you don’t think the blood-soaked pages of the Bible should be an objective guide).

    If it’s true that god created evil so that we may recognize good, it seems he left it up to us to decide which is which — or possibly, there is no god, and when stuff happens, we make up stories about it. But we don’t have to. It’s possible to look beyond our immediate self-interest and approach life with a sense of serenity. Here’s the rest of that chapter from the Tao:

    Being and not-being create each other.
    Difficult and easy support each other.
    Long and short define each other.
    High and low rest upon each other.
    Before and after follow each other.

    Therefore the Master
    acts without doing anything
    and teaches without saying anything.
    Things arise and she lets them come;
    things disappear and she lets them go.
    She has but does not possess,
    acts but doesn’t expect.
    When her work is done, she forgets it.
    Therefore it lasts forever.

    [This is my adaptation based on a couple of different translations.]

  • Kevin Howard

    The only thing true about me being a “true” Christian (as you say) is that I am saved by grace and not of some choice I made previously. Jesus Christ is a Spirit and He drew me to Himself. My decision to follow Him is rooted in the fact that He first loved me and now I choose to follow His ways and not my carnal mind. In fact, He did say that “if He will be lifted in the Earth that He WILL draw men to Himself.”

    As for Tao Te Ching, or any other famous historical characters, Jesus Christ is the only way to the Creator of our universe. Oh yeah, Hw is also the only One to be raised from the dead! Tao Te Ching may have been wise but he is underground now.

    I suppose you are one of these thieves that Jesus mentioned because you have lifted you carnal, although intelligent, mind above the Lord Himself. You have to wonder why He chose me and not you? But don’t fret He will draw you later.

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann1086

    oooo, a Calvinist! What fun!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Tao Te Ching may have been wise but he is underground now.

    LOL. Someone clearly hasn’t been paying attention in his World Religions 101 class.

    (Hint: Tao Te Ching is the name of a book, not the name of a person)

  • Peter N

    What Ebon said. The author of the Tao Te Ching is said to be Lao Tzu (but that merely means “Old Master”, so the real name of the author is probably lost to history — not that it matters). Yes, he would be dead. Jesus died also, assuming he ever lived in the first place, and even if he was, as you say, raised from the dead, he was whisked away and isn’t available to sort out the many contradictory claims made by his earthbound followers.

    Kevin, do yourself a favor and at least leaf through a copy of the Tao Te Ching. There are many translations, and I recommend the one by Stephen Mitchell. There is much wisdom and beauty there, and you might find it interesting to contrast the morality and ethics of the ancient Chinese to those of the authors of the Bible from roughly the same time.

    I am not a thief — Jesus was wrong about that.

  • Kevin Howard

    The fool has said in his heart there is no God Ebonmuse. He thinks atheists are LOL funny. Hint: Jesus Christ is the only Way, Truth and the Light.

    As for the Tao Te Ching, Peter N, I’m sure that there is wisdom and beauty within the passages. Throughout history, many books and scholars have written about morals and ethics but there has been only one person to solve humanity’s moral and ethical dilemma once and for all. Jesus Christ became a sacrifice for all of humanity by dying for all of us. Therefore, the blood of Christ destroyed death and His life provided an example of morals and ethics. The Apostle Paul said this plan would confound the wise. And, he was sure right about that.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Yes, the fool says it in his heart – the wise man says it out loud. Do you actually have anything original or interesting to contribute here, Kevin, or did you just come to preach at us?

  • Kevin Howard

    There is nothing new under the sun. And, your bitterness is a tad boring, Ebonmuse.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    I’m terribly sorry for boring you. So that’s a no, then? You don’t have anything to contribute other than preaching?

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Kevin Howard “The fool has said in his heart there is no God Ebonmuse.”
    Thanks to the lack of a comma, I read that as far more amusing than was intended.

  • lpetrich

    From Matthew 5:22: “… But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Throughout history, many books and scholars have written about morals and ethics but there has been only one person to solve humanity’s moral and ethical dilemma once and for all. Jesus Christ became a sacrifice for all of humanity by dying for all of us.

    Oh yeah? OK, so maybe you can explain how killing an innocent person somehow makes up for “sins” committed by others? Next time someone is convicted for murder, if an anonymous person who has committed no crime offers to do the convicted murderer’s jail sentence, do you think that we should allow that to happen and set the murderer free?

    Therefore, the blood of Christ destroyed death and His life provided an example of morals and ethics.

    So, if we see people doing things we don’t like, we should fashion whips and attack them like Jesus does in John 2? How about before we help people we should make them debase themselves and say that they are like dogs like Jesus does in Matt 15? Or maybe any of these other instances of immoral teachings?

    Oh yeah, Hw is also the only One to be raised from the dead!

    Except for all those other pesky gods that have also risen from the dead.

  • Peter N

    “The fool has said in his heart there is no God” quoth Kevin Howard. It’s telling that you regurgitated only the first half of Psalm 14:1. The rest of the verse: “They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.”

    That sentiment might have had some merit in the court of Saul, but to repeat it since the Enlightenment is nothing but propaganda and a flagrant lie. There are millions of people doing good without God, including the outstanding humanist who hosts this blog.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    The only thing true about me being a “true” Christian (as you say) is that I am saved by grace and not of some choice I made previously. Jesus Christ is a Spirit and He drew me to Himself. My decision to follow Him is rooted in the fact that He first loved me and now I choose to follow His ways and not my carnal mind. In fact, He did say that “if He will be lifted in the Earth that He WILL draw men to Himself.”

    Why is saving even needed? Isn’t God perfect? How can we then be imperfect? A perfect Carpenter builds a true cabinet, not a crooked one.

    As for Tao Te Ching, or any other famous historical characters, Jesus Christ is the only way to the Creator of our universe. Oh yeah, Hw is also the only One to be raised from the dead! Tao Te Ching may have been wise but he is underground now.

    It is apparent that your “decision” to follow Christ mentioned above was not an informed decision, and thus must be regarded as either social programming, or whim.

    I suppose you are one of these thieves that Jesus mentioned because you have lifted you carnal, although intelligent, mind above the Lord Himself. You have to wonder why He chose me and not you? But don’t fret He will draw you later.

    Aside from the rude name-calling, I find your smugness to be both unChristian, and all too common in so-called believers. Rather than preach here, go practice some apparently needed introspection.

    eta: Also, it wasn’t the trees of “good and evil”; it was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life. And if God created evil in order for us to know the good, then why did he forbid Adam to eat from the Tree of Knowledge?

  • Dan

    This is so silly. Logic and reason will get you nowhere with fanatics. You know, the Christianists have no problem with a capricious sky god that creates both good and evil. They are hooked on Jesus and the comforting thought that they are saved and everyone else will burn mercilessly in hell. “The Lord is sovereign,” they would say. “He can do whatever he wants, but I am saved, hallileulia..oshamashamama obadooba shlalopsola…! [translation: whose laughing now, you heathen motherfuckers!]“

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Of course, Dan. But when they post here, an unanswered post might be regarded by the uninformed as unanswerable.

  • Ed

    Ok so I read the piece; forgive me for not reading all the comments. Why is it a problem for the Christian worldview that God would create evil? It seems to be written from the standpoint that this should somehow unravel one’s faith. It doesn’t at all. I found myself saying duh! Of course he created evil. That’s only logical.

    On a different point, I love the conclusion. “the next step – a lifelong step – is to forsake fantasy, treat others with kindness and make the most of the one life we are fortunate to have.”

    Why is the next step to treat others with kindness? We don’t have to do that at all. If there’s no God telling us to be kind, then I say its survival of the fittest. I should oppress as many as possible to make my own position better. Millions throughout history have arrived at the same conclusion with horrific consequences.

  • Peter N

    So Ed, are you saying that people who treat each other with kindness are doing so because of their religious beliefs, or that atheists are compelled to this behavior by the dictates of the supernatural creator we deny?

    I want to know which argument to smack down.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Ed “Of course he created evil. That’s only logical.”
    /me scratches “omni-benevolent” off of List of God’s attributes.

    “If there’s no God telling us to be kind, then I say its survival of the fittest. I should oppress as many as possible to make my own position better.”
    Then by all means keep your religion. You’ll still be a sociopath, but at least you won’t be stabbing me or eating my lunch. Just try to avoid being Torquemada, Jerry Falwell or any of the many other massive douches whose religion gave their doucheyness extra force.

  • Sam

    What part of the story isn’t being told here? http://carm.org/does-god-create-evil

    “..the Hebrew word for evil, “rah,” is used in many different ways in the Bible. In the KJV Bible it occurs 663 times. 431 times it is translated as “evil.” The other 232 times it is translated as “wicked,” “bad,” “hurt,” “harm,” “ill,” “sorrow,” “mischief,” “displeased,” “adversity,” “affliction,” “trouble,” “calamity,” “grievous,” “misery,” and “trouble.” So we can see that the word does not require that it be translated as “evil.” This is why different Bibles translate this verse differently. It is translated as “calamity” by the NASB and NKJV; “disaster” by the NIV; and “woe” by the RSV.”

  • http://www.cafepress.com/wero Hugh7

    “As for Tao Te Ching, or any other famous historical characters, … Tao Te Ching may have been wise but he is underground now.”

    That’s as smart as saying “As for Deuteronomy, or any other famous historical characters…” or “Acts of the Apostles may have been wise but he …” Google Lao Tsu before you make yourself look even sillier.

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com Steve Bowen

    The other 232 times it is translated as “wicked,” “bad,” “hurt,” “harm,” “ill,” “sorrow,” “mischief,” “displeased,” “adversity,” “affliction,” “trouble,” “calamity,” “grievous,” “misery,” and “trouble.” So we can see that the word does not require that it be translated as “evil.” This is why different Bibles translate this verse differently. It is translated as “calamity” by the NASB and NKJV; “disaster” by the NIV; and “woe” by the RSV.”

    Could you explain which of these alternatives get us back to a benevolent (oops! sorry omni-benevolent) god?


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