Open Thread: The Problem of Evil

I’m creating a thread to address this comment by Mollie:

I’ve only been familiar with your site for a few days, so I’m not sure if this is the right place to discuss what I’m about to say. If not, please direct me to a more appropriate place.

My husband thinks it’s a bad idea to debate with you guys because we come from two totally different backgrounds of thought- I believe that God exists and that the Bible is totally true and you do not. Therefore, you will not convice me of anything and I will not convice you of anything.

Nevertheless, I can’t help but ask the following questions- I don’t really want to get in a huge discussion over this either, but we’ll see what happens. In your essay above, you give the following:

Assumption (1): God exists.
Assumption (1a): God is all-knowing.
Assumption (1b): God is all-powerful.
Assumption (1c): God is perfectly loving.
Assumption (1d): Any being that did not possess all three of the above properties would not be God.

How did you come to the conclusion that God only has these three qualities, or that these three are the ultimate? I can think of his holiness and justice that would slightly alter the equation.

I do not say this to be offensive, but is seems like you have built up ‘your idea’ of what God is or who He should be and then proved how he cannot be (rather than taking all he has revealed Himself to be in the Bible) .

Again- this is where the fundamental differences come into play. I believe that God HAS revealed himself in the Bible, so if you don’t take the Bible at face value- as it says it is- the Word of God, then it will be hard for me to ‘argue’ anything with you. I have come to the understanding that without God telling us about himself, through the Bible, we really wouldn’t be able to know much about him. So again, I ask, since you don’t believe in the Bible- where do you get your idea of what the ‘perfect God’ should be like?

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.

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

    Here’s my response:

    I believe that God exists and that the Bible is totally true and you do not. Therefore, you will not convice me of anything and I will not convice you of anything.

    On the contrary: if we both agree on the principle that we should believe only what the evidence indicates is true, then we can convince each other by appealing to facts which anyone can examine. You seem to be assuming that each party in the debate starts with assumptions that cannot be moved, but the fact is that atheists do not take God’s nonexistence as a first principle; we deduce it from other evidence available to us. I’ve written an essay that explains exactly what it would take to change an atheist’s mind.

    I realize that some believers reject this idea and instead hold that their personal faith trumps any evidence or fact presented to them, and if you’re one of those people, then no, I probably won’t convince you of anything. But please don’t assume that everyone else feels the same way.

    How did you come to the conclusion that God only has these three qualities, or that these three are the ultimate?

    No one ever said that these were the only qualities God possesses, but they are the only relevant qualities for addressing this problem. If you’ve read the essay you draw this quote from, then you know that I spend considerable time addressing proposed solutions and argue that the consideration of other qualities (i.e., justice) does not alter the conclusion at all.

    I believe that God HAS revealed himself in the Bible, so if you don’t take the Bible at face value- as it says it is- the Word of God, then it will be hard for me to ‘argue’ anything with you.

    If you find it impossible to argue with someone who does not already believe that everything in the Bible is true, then I agree, you’re not going to make much headway here. Atheists generally prefer to be presented with independently verifiable facts, not the written words of some ancient anonymous author which we’re told we should accept uncritically.

    So again, I ask, since you don’t believe in the Bible- where do you get your idea of what the ‘perfect God’ should be like?

    I would think this is obvious: this is the idea of God held by the vast majority of theists in the world today. That is the idea I wish to argue against, so I’m starting from the believers’ own idea of God, taking it as true for the sake of argument, and showing how that idea of God with those specific properties leads to an irresolvable conflict.

  • OhioAtheist

    “I believe that God exists and that the Bible is totally true and you do not. Therefore, you will not convice me of anything and I will not convice you of anything.”

    Of all the tendencies of the religious, it is this one, this immunization against the duty to persuade or be persuaded on the basis of the evidence and arguments presented, that I find the most irritating. Sam Harris is spot on when he says faith is a conversation stopper. Of course we disagree; that’s why we’re having the debate in the first place. It’s an enormous non sequitur to say from that that neither of us can be convinced, though.

    I find it ironic that the faithful, while claiming to possess the Ultimate Truth about the nature of everything, simultaneously will act and speak as though “truth” was just something one arbitrarily chose as one might pick an entree off a menu, rather than something we achieve knowledge of by applying reason and looking at the evidence.

    “How did you come to the conclusion that God only has these three qualities, or that these three are the ultimate?”

    Again a non sequitur. The assumptions don’t say those are the only attributes of God, merely that they are among them. If Mollie thinks other attributes of God “alter the equation,” she should attempt a theodicy.

    “I do not say this to be offensive, but is seems like you have built up ‘your idea’ of what God is or who He should be and then proved how he cannot be (rather than taking all he has revealed Himself to be in the Bible).”

    The point of the argument from evil is to show that the existence of a given god–the concept for which is provided by billions of theists–doesn’t quite square with the state of the world. Is Mollie’s God not all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfectly loving? If not, then the argument (or at least this form) doesn’t apply to her deity; but that doesn’t lessen its effectiveness against the theisms of many, many other people. If, on the other hand, Mollie’s God does have these three qualities, she should explain in a more thorough fashion why the argument fails to show that he probably does not exist, rather than alluding to some mysterious “other qualities.”

  • http://mcv.planc.ee mcv

    if we both agree on the principle that we should believe only what the evidence indicates is true, then we can convince each other by appealing to facts which anyone can examine. You seem to be assuming that each party in the debate starts with assumptions that cannot be moved…

    I recently finished a book by Edward Schiappa called “Defining Reality: Definitions and the Politics of Meaning” which was not as philosophical as I hoped but it contained several interesting cases.

    In one of them there was a debate over whether 7 photos from an exhibit shoulf be considered obscene or not – meaning should they be removed and the curator fined (the Mapplethorpe case).

    Although boht sides had the same definition of obscene aka the “Miller test”. The problem was whether theese particular photos fit under this definition or not.

    In some ways the situation is same here: you say “I will belive anything if sufficent evidence is provided” and expect others to do the same, and they even might do that. But the problem arises with the question “is this particual piece of evidence sufficent or not”.

    So you might agree on one thing with the theists and they with you but you’ll surely will find another thing to disagree on.
    :)

  • http://deeplyblasphemous.blogspot.com Chris Bradley

    My favorite part, and I did have a favorite part, is when they said that god might have perfect justice. For instance, a thousand generations ago a woman might be tricked into doing something, and it would be perfect justice to condemn all her children and all of their children, into perpetuity, to eternal suffering. That sounds fair, right? ;)

    However, the real flaw in her argument is that while her god might be perfectly just or whatever it is also a common claim that the Xtian god is perfectly good and benevolent. So, no, it doesn’t alter the proposition one whit if the Xtian god is also perfectly just (not to mention the broader questions of the relationship between, say, justice and mercy).

    But it is true when a person is going to say that the Bible is the perfect word of god then discussion becomes impossible. Argument is rather easy, tho’, hehe. But when either party in a discussion does not admit for the possibility of change, generally the discussion is pointless. We can only hope she doesn’t take that too seriously. ;)

  • http://onlycrook.wordpress.com Jude

    Why did Mollie bother posting at all when she completely believes in the inerrancy of the Bible? Perhaps because in her brain (as opposed to her heart), she knows that the Bible isn’t inerrant. Or perhaps she’s indulging in the need to convert us from atheism. Either way, I have no idea what to say to her. She can express her belief in the infallibility of the contradictory information in the Bible, and I can say, “Well, I’ve read that crazy book many times, and I don’t view it as infallible.” There isn’t any point. Since there isn’t a God, how can we discuss God’s qualities?

  • Mobius 118

    Argueing with a Christian is one of the things that give me a warm, fuzzy feeling. Mainly because, in nearly every ‘discussion, I’ve invited the near-crying person to smack me, because I could tell they wanted to. It runs deep, this ‘faith’. It’s hard to be told the apparent truth, when all they know is the ‘fact’ that God exists, and we’re all going through a test.

    To which I equate that ‘test’ to being a rat in a maze. EbonMusings was a good contributor to me arguement points, which have yet to be fudged by the faithful.

    Mollie seems to be covering her ears and saying “Lalalala I can’t hear you” when it comes to the point EB put up. Truth be told, I’m surprised we atheist ‘blights on humanity’ haven’t been stamped out yet because of our views. Especially in the US, which is dominated by the Christian ‘minority’ which consists of 80% of the country.

  • The Vicar

    If Mollie really believes that the bible is “totally true” — her words, remember — then I’m still waiting for her response to my challenge. In fact, I think anyone who believes in the literal inerrancy of the new testament ought to be required to drink a nice tall glass of poison every morning to prove it. I am, I realize, widely considered to be overly cynical, but I suspect there would shortly be a shortage of believers of this type:

    Chuang Tzu went to see Duke Ai of Lu. Duke Ai said, “We have a great many Confucians here in the state of Lu, but there seem to be very few men who study your methods, Sir!”

    “There are few Confucians in the state of Lu!” said Cuang Tzu.

    “But the whole state of Lu is dressed in Confucian garb!” said Duke Ai. “How can you say they are few?”

    “I have heard,” said Chuang Tzu, “that the Confucians wear round caps on their heads to show that they understand the cycles of heaven, that they walk about in suare shoes to show that they understand the shape of the earth, and that they tie ornaments in the shape of a broken disc at their girdles in order to show that, when the time comes for decisive action, they must ‘make the break.’ But a gentleman may embrace a doctrine without necessarily wearing the garb that goes with it, and he may wear the garb without necessarily comprehending the doctrine. If Your Grace does not believe this is so, then why not try issuing an order to the state proclaiming: ‘All those who wear the garb without practicing the doctrine that goes with it will be sentenced to death!’”

    “Duke Ai did in fact issue such an order, and within five days there was no one in the state of Lu who dared wear Confucian garb. Only one old man came in Confucian dress and stood in front of the duke’s gate. The duke at once summoned him and questioned him on affairs of state and, though the discussion took a thousand turnings and ten thousand shifts, the old man was never at a loss for words. Chuang Tzu said, “In the whole state of Lu, then, there is only one man who is a real COnfucian. How can you say there are a great many of them?”

    (From The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu translated by Burton Watson, published by Columbia University Press.)

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Again- this is where the fundamental differences come into play. I believe that God HAS revealed himself in the Bible, so if you don’t take the Bible at face value- as it says it is- the Word of God, then it will be hard for me to ‘argue’ anything with you. . . So again, I ask, since you don’t believe in the Bible- where do you get your idea of what the ‘perfect God’ should be like?

    There are many atheist arguments that take their initial ideas (such as that of a ‘perfect God’ as described) from the statements of believers themselves and go on to show that such beliefs are logically inconsistent. The “problem of evil” is an example, and shows that an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent God does not seem to be consistent with the world as we observe it. Similarly, catalogues of Biblical inconsistencies show that the Bible cannot be literally true in every word. Such arguments are of course only effective against the specific beliefs that they are aimed at; if you yourself think that God is not always benevolent, for example, then the problem of evil does not necessarily apply to you. On the other hand, if you think that God is just, other problems might apply instead!

  • Mollie

    Ok- thanks for your answers. I appreciate those of you who are courteous in your answers. I am having trouble catching up with the threads I’m posting on. Again, I’m new here, so please be patient. :)

  • Ric

    Mollie, your answer is a philosophical one. God must have the qualities of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence to be god. To be worthy of worship, hemust be qualitatively different from every other being in existence. It is not enough that he be quantitatively different, i.e. have more power, or he would just be “the great Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Sky” as I like to say, and you don’t think you should worship someone because they are stronger than you, do you? That’s were atheists get the qualities they ascribe to god, and the logic is pretty unassailable.

    As for the god of the Bible, well he IS simply a human with magic powers, so honestly I don’t find him too worthy of worship. Then again, I don’t think he (or any god) exists, obviously.

  • PeterWR

    My husband thinks it’s a bad idea to debate with you guys because we come from two totally different backgrounds of thought- I believe that God exists and that the Bible is totally true and you do not. Therefore, you will not convice me of anything and I will not convice you of anything.

    Well, that’s that then.

  • CalUWxBill

    I guess what is postulated is not who or what God is but what God must be to be considered God. I myself don’t think God needs to be perfect. But here is my axioms of what a god must be.

    1) Creator of the Universe (God made the world)
    2) Eternal (God is still here)
    3) Sentient (God is a self-aware being, not merely some force which all things flow from)
    4) Personal (This isn’t necessary, but is if we have any reason to care about God and God care about us)

    That’s what God must at a minimum be IMO. Is the God of the Bible atleast this, I would say so. The other stuff that is often included (all-knowing, all-powerful, fully just, etc) does seem to come along with the idea of God. From the omniscient idea of course the problem of evil is nearly impossible to combat. Although, that depends on what you consider evil. I think there are two general forms of evil. First, is evil perpetrated by man, with intent to do wrong. The other is suffering. Some consider suffering recieved, justice rather than evil. But this last point is one of the most contradictory parts of the Bible and most religions. Providing a reason for suffering when there really isn’t a moral reason.

  • PeterWR

    …but it’s 1:00am here, and I’ve a bit of the divil in me, so here goes.

    How did you come to the conclusion that God only has these three qualities, or that these three are the ultimate? I can think of his holiness and justice that would slightly alter the equation.

    These supposed qualities of God are the ones posited by theists, not atheists – and they’ve been accepted as the core qualities of God for centuries. Atheists simply use them as the given starting points for debate (not that there’s much of a debate to be had).

    One of the reasons these qualities were chosen is that they distill the essence of all God’s other qualities into the most concise possible form. So to answer your comment quoted above, holiness and justice would be part of God’s all-powerfulness and perfectly-lovingness, so they wouldn’t need to be listed separately. Ditto for all God’s other positive qualities. Presumably things like capriciousness, psychopathy and vengefulness could be included under all-powerfulness too since, if he’s all-powerful, he doesn’t need to justify his behaviour to the likes of you and me (well, to you at any rate. As I don’t accept that he even exists, I don’t give a kipper’s dick whether he supposedly justifies his behaviour or not).

    As for what he has revealed himself to be in the bible, I suggest you read it. You obviously haven’t, except perhaps for the bits that confirm your prejudices.

  • http://auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    Hi mollie,

    My husband thinks it’s a bad idea to debate with you guys because we come from two totally different backgrounds of thought- I believe that God exists and that the Bible is totally true and you do not. Therefore, you will not convice me of anything and I will not convice you of anything.

    Coming here to “debate” has its merits and can be fun, but may I also recommend that just coming here to discuss is very mind-expanding and enlightening as well. I daresay I have learned more about God here than I have in many church services. Just remember that if God is real, nothing anyone here says can change that, and if God is not real, nothing anyone says in church will change it either. You just have to figure out what makes sense to you.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • http://auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    For the group,

    If any of you think that God must be a certain thing in order to be worthy of worship, why do you feel that way. For example, there are some, theist and otherwise, who say that unless God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly loving, he is not worthy of worship. I think that I would agree without exception to the all-loving part, but I am not sure why omniscience and omnipotence would necessarily be prerequisites to worship of God.

    Let us suppose that God is not *all* powerful, but is the most powerful thing in the universe. I do not see why the inability to do certain things would make him unworthy of worship, especially if he is all-loving.

    I guess the reason I see it this way is because I see the relationship that I believe I have with God as one of love; like a child for parent. Even if God cannot do certain things, that does not change the fact that I love him.

    At this point, I am certain that some of you are dying to lay into me about “loving” something which I cannot see, hear, etc… Well, if you must, so be it, and I will do my best to explain it to you, but it will severely derail the thread….

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • TheMightyThor

    PeterWr, Your suggestion that Mollie actually read the bible (and by extension, other Bible-based theists) is superb! The single biggest biggest factor in my successful release from christian indoctrination/brainwashing was for me to reread the bible without the requisite blinders (ask god for faith and he will reveal himself to you thru diligent bible study). Reading the bible with the presumptions that god is omni benevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient, while trying to reconcile that concept with what one finds written there allows one to see how totally absurd the whole thing is!

    TheMightyThor (note to Ebonmuse: I’ve commented once before using my full actual name and noticed after submission that others used internet names–so in the future I will write as TheMightyThor)

  • http://auniversenamedbob.com Matt R

    TheMightyThor,

    I hate to be the one to break this to you, but….well…..ah….no one around here believes in you. It’s not just you, though, so don’t feel bad. It’s all Gods. You see, this is an *atheist* website, so it may be better if you didn’t post here. I don’t want you to get your feelings hurt, then things would get messy what with you slinging your colossal hammer to and fro and hurling lightning bolts wantonly at bystanders. For your convenience, I have provided a link to a Norse God discussion group. You will probably feel more at home there.

    Cheers and may you…drink lots of…mead?

    Matt R.

    http://forum.barrowdowns.com/archive/index.php/t-12391

  • Adrian

    CalUWxBill,

    You list four characteristics for a god. They look fine, but you don’t tackle the question of whether the god is worthy of worship. If the god is merely powerful and personal, why would we worship it? Do you not care whether this god is moral or just? You’ve talked about power sufficient to create the universe, but surely you would like the god to have some power and influence in this universe.

    When you break it down, if the god is not omnipotent (or at least very powerful) then why worship it? If the god is not benevolent and allows or perpetuates suffering, then the god would be a monster. Would you worship such a thing?

    Some consider suffering recieved, justice rather than evil.

    Except innocent people and children suffer while guilty adults lead luxurious lives. Justice sounds like a nice justification, but it doesn’t mesh with reality.

  • Alex Weaver

    I’ve already had a conversation very similar to this, viewable here (I’m Azkyroth on SHS and most other communities), and I think pretty much everything I said there applies (though the claim that arguments about fundamentalist Christians that don’t assume the truth of the Bible as a first principle are “straw men” is hopefully unique O.o). I’ll try to put something together for this later on, though…

  • Mollie

    Ebonmuse:

    I would like to read more on what you think about good/evil and the standard you follow (i.e. how do you decide what is something good or something bad?). I think I’ve read that you do believe in morals. Do you have an essay or thread about it somewhere? Thanks.

  • Bechamel

    Hi Mollie,
    I’m not Ebonmuse, but his writings on the topic can be found here.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Mollie,

    Ebonmuse’s essay on morality is here. Enjoy.

    As for whether God has to be omnipotent in order to worthy of worship, I’d say no — moral perfection, for instance, is at the very least worthy of large amounts of respect and love. The trouble, for me, comes from ascertaining firstly that there is a God and secondly what exactly God might be like.

  • CalUWxBill

    Adrian,

    I only listed a minimum requirement I would expect a god to be, to be considered God from an evidence standpoint. As far as my part about suffering, I think I brought that up in favor of the argument from the problem of evil. Such sufferings cannot be explained away by a just god. As far as worship is concerned. I’ve never really understood the idea. Surely those who help me in times of need, who sustain my life deserve praise. But, service is not due to God, it is due to those in need. I can’t see how God needs or even prefers exhaltations. If God does take care of the needy and downtrodden then thanks be to God. But, not much evidence of that on my end.

  • Jeff T.

    I will be as courteous as possible. As a former southern pentacostal church of god member who had no qualms about condemning women who wore pants to hell for being of the world and not of god, I can honestly say that to take the bible literally is impossible for any rational person.

    Evil exists in the world. A god who created a world in which evil exists is not a benevolent god. If he were benevolent, he would have chosen another way to lead us to wherever it is that we are supposed to be heading.

    Evil exists in the world. Evil that is completely explained by natural science and human psychology.

    I don’t see how you can deny these statements. I am just ashamed that I endorsed a backwards, patriarchal, and primitive religion with such zeal for most of my adolescence. I am glad that I can think clearly now, without feeling the need to blindly believe the words of ancient sheep farmers. Perhaps I believed because this was droned into my head week after week, day after day, tent revival after tent revival… but all that is over and I am truly free to see the falsehoods for what they are.

    I hope that you will at least understand the insult that you just gave atheists by questioning if we believe in morals. Morality is not related to theism or atheism as current world conditions obviously demonstrate.

    If faith and belief satisfy the needs for you and your life, then so be it. I am all for people finding the most happiness and joy that is possible in this life. For me, that is by accepting the truth and walking away from someone else’s ancient fantasies. I don’t endorse animal and blood sacrifice much less a human’s. If that is the best that the creator of the universe can come up with… err… well…

    Let’s think about this for a second. This God who created all of the galaxies in the universe and all of the quarks that make up the ultra small nucleons in an atom—This God who understood particle/wave duality and the intricate calculations of string theory—This God wanted to be worshipped by someone thrusting a dagger into a baby sheep and having its entrails and blood flow over its altar. Did this God exist? or was this God fabricated by the men of that age who had no other knowledge than of knives and sheep? Which is more likely?

  • Ric

    Matt, you confuse love with worship. You can love your parents, but to worship something in the religious sense, rather than the every day sense of saying to your main squeeze, “baby I worship you,” requires an entity that is different from you and me– qualitatively different. Or do you worship things just because they are stronger and more powerful than you?

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

    I hate to be the one to break this to you, but….well…..ah….no one around here believes in you. It’s not just you, though, so don’t feel bad. It’s all Gods. You see, this is an *atheist* website, so it may be better if you didn’t post here. I don’t want you to get your feelings hurt, then things would get messy what with you slinging your colossal hammer to and fro and hurling lightning bolts wantonly at bystanders. For your convenience, I have provided a link to a Norse God discussion group. You will probably feel more at home there.

    LOL, Matt. :) But hey – TheMightyThor is welcome to post here just like everyone else. If he can prove to us that he exists, I’d be happy to believe in him. (Although my building has a lightning rod, which may make it harder for him.)

    Mollie – Regarding your question on morality, some commenters have pointed you to my essay “The Ineffable Carrot and the Infinite Stick“, which is a good start. I’d also recommend my post series “The Roots of Morality” here at Daylight Atheism that further addresses the topic.

    As an aside, Mollie, I’m grateful that you’re interested in finding out what I think about morality, rather than asserting that atheists by definition have no morals (as a depressingly large number of proselytizers do). I appreciate your open-mindedness – please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any further questions I can answer.

  • Archi Medez

    Mollie,

    You say: “God HAS revealed himself in the Bible, so if you don’t take the Bible at face value- as it says it is- the Word of God”

    Not all Christians believe precisely that about the Bible. Some think that God inspired some men to write. Indeed, books of the Bible are titled with ‘book of so-and-so’ or ‘according to so-and-so’. What you have is a combination of some quotes attributed to God and the writing of the human narrators. Most of it consists of the latter.

    Re morality:

    One of the most basic principles of morality is that a punishment should fit the crime. This requires a hierarchy of values whereby some things are more important than others, and some actions are considered more important, morally, than others. For example, murder is worse than verbal insult. In murder someone’s life is taken from them for no justified reason. In verbal insult, the one who receives the insult may be temporarily annoyed, distraught, possibly even furious. Yet few people would say that mere insult is as bad or worse than murder.

    Yet the Bible states that those who “blaspheme” against God must be put to death. Moreover, anyone or everyone in that “blasphemer’s” community can take it in their own hands and, vigilante-style, put the blasphemer to death. This can be shown to be immoral, because an utterance that is interpreted by believers to be insulting to “God” is not a serious offence–indeed it is questionable whether it is an offence at all. For one thing, there is no evidence that God exists except as an idea in people’s heads. How then can one be punished for insulting a mere idea? For another, insulting an idea–i.e., by criticizing it, mocking it, etc.–has proven benefits, e.g., see the disciplines of science, philosophy, and comedy for examples. In those disciplines, ideas are criticized as a matter of course, and better ideas tend to result from that process.

  • Samuel Langhorne Clemens

    Was just enjoying a fine Monte Cristo with my pal J.S. Mill (they make us smoke OUTSIDE the Pearly Gates now), and he wanted to contribute a good one he got off some time ago:

    “I will call no being good who is not what I mean when I apply that term to my fellow creatures.”

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

    Hey Ric,

    This first part is not a formal refutation, merely an amusing observation that a detached bystander may make. Here I am, a theist, being lectured by an atheist about the true meaning of worship. I think it is pretty funny.

    So to deal with your comment, you perceive me as confusing love with worship. I think a more appropriate statement is not that I confuse love for God with worshipping God, but that I worship God because I love God.

    God is no doubt qualitatively different from me. If he is not omnipotent, he is still qualitatively different from me. This is undeniable. however you must also realize that I believe that humans are made in God’s image too, so I would expect some sort of similarity.

    I am also not sure why you think that something must be qualitatively different for one to worship it. I am also not sure why you differentiate worship in the “religious” sense from any other sense. I do not see a large difference. Indeed that is a common theme among sermons delivered in church; that it is possible to worship other things in your life more than God.

    I think the heart of the matter is that to determine if something is worthy of worship is a personal subjective matter. There is no objective standard by which we can measure whether something is worthy of worship. I think that it is possible that no matter what properties God could have, that some people would still not consider God worthy of worship, even if they became convinced of God’s existence.

    To put it another way, in order for your argument to work, you have to establish that there is an objective “one real way that religious worship is supposed to be”, and that there are a set of qualities which are the absolute objective standard by which all worth of worship is measured by. I think you are trying to make a very “slippery” and non-concrete thing into an objective, empirical thing and that does not work very well with complex things like religious belief.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • Adrian

    CalUWxBill,

    As far as my part about suffering, I think I brought that up in favor of the argument from the problem of evil. Such sufferings cannot be explained away by a just god. As far as worship is concerned. I’ve never really understood the idea.

    Thank you for your response, it helps to clarify your position a lot. You sound a lot more like a deist, someone who is content to believe that a god exists but not someone that believes the god intervenes in our lives. Is that right?

    I’m not so sure that many Christians would be happy to concede that God does not care about justice for humans or about our lives and feelings.

  • CalUWxBill

    Adrian,

    I’m an atheist. Maybe I’m trying to frame my thoughts to much in the mind of somebody trying to determine if there is or isn’t a god. That was sort of the point. I want Mollie or whoever is thinking about these questions to decide what they think God must atleast be, then analyze the world to see if those claims hold true. I guess you could also make the minimum characteristics necessary for one to consider worship of a god, which is different than mere existence. But, like I said, worship to me is hardly something God would need or want. If he’s really sweating keeping everything in order (whatever that is), then maybe a humble bow of praise is in store, that is about as far as I can see worship being extended.

    Anyway, so as not to confuse you guys. I’ll reitirate I’m an atheist.

  • Mollie

    Ebonmuse:

    Thank-you for your compassionate appeal to your ‘friends’ on the other thread. I was about to suggest that they go read your ‘Virtues’ section. :)

    I want to return to the reason I asked the question here in the first place. I would agree that God is omniscient, omnipotent, as well as all-loving. I believe that perhaps your definition of all-loving/perfectly loving is slightly different than what the Bible teaches. I also believe that the attributes of justice, holiness, and being longsuffering DO matter in this equation.

    All-loving means God would do the highest good for the object being loved and in God’s case, it would bring him the most glory. I understand that you assume this means he would get rid of evil immediately (because you think that would be the highest good). We can hardly begin to grasp what is the best good for ourselves, much less what will bring him the most glory. Let me continue.

    God is completely holy (Leviticus chapters 11, 19, 20) and just (Psalm 11, 99:4). Allow me to define these terms. Holy means to be separate from all that is unclean and evil and He is positively pure and distinct from all others. Justice means moral equity; being all-righteous. He will always deal with people in the most moral, fair way possible. Also, God is longsuffering (patient) (Exodus 34:6, Psalm 86:15). Finally, I should define sin. Sin is any defection from God’s standard that does not conform to His nature/qualities (for example, God is Truth, so lying is contrary to that) (Romans 3:23).

    I return back to your argument from evil. I agree with premises 2-4. However, I would re-state Premise 5 to read- A perfectly loving being would hate all evil. I’m not sure if you mean by ‘desire’- that the action following would have to be immediate. If it doesn’t need to be immediate, then I could agree with how you stated it.

    This is why I do not believe that a perfectly loving God would eradicate evil immediately- but eventually He will.

    A perfectly loving being would not desire that anyone be destroyed because of their evil deeds (sin) (2 Peter 3:9). God desires that all humans love and worship him- NOT because he needs it, but because he deserves it.

    However, there is a problem. The humans that God wants to have a relationship with have sinned. This does not mean that every person has done ‘horrible, heinous crimes’, but it does mean that one little sin has tainted you. James 2:10. If you don’t believe that sin is as heinous to God as He describes it (being worthy of eternal punishment- Matthew 25:46), then you do not have a proper understanding of God’s holiness in relation to sin. As explained above, sin in the eyes of God is not trivial. He does not take an ‘oops- try better next time’ attitude. A perfectly holy & just being would not let sin/evil go unpunished (Romans 3:23, 6:23). Thus, if God were to eradicate evil, he would have to eliminate all who are sinful (which is everyone!).

    A perfectly loving being would provide a way for sin/evil to be dealt with AND for humans to avoid eternal punishment (and spend eternity with Him- this is the highest good for humans). In this way, justice would be satisfied and perfect love would be displayed. So, one option is to pay the debt created by sin ourselves- eternal punishment. The other option is to accept the payment that someone else (Jesus Christ) has made on our behalf (John 3:16; Colossians 2:14)- and thus receive forgiveness from those sins and eternal life.

    Next, a longsuffering (patient) being would allow the maximum time (according to His perfect will) for humans to come to the realization that they have offended him infinitely, deserve eternal punishment and need forgiveness (salvation) (2 Peter 3:9).

    Conclusion: Evil exists and must be dealt with justly. God provides a perfect way for sin to be dealt with (justice & holiness) as well as a way for people to be saved from that judgment (perfect love). If God were to eradicate evil immediately, He would not be displaying perfect love.

    P.S.
    Finally- if God is truly all-powerful & all-knowing, we cannot expect to wrap our finite minds around the infinite. We can know what He has told us about Himself, but we cannot use logic and reason to derive something about God that He has not chosen to reveal about Himself (otherwise he wouldn’t be omnipotent and omniscient).

  • OMGF

    All-loving means God would do the highest good for the object being loved and in God’s case, it would bring him the most glory.

    Do you mean to imply that god being “all-loving” means that he loves himself above all?

    Conclusion: Evil exists and must be dealt with justly.

    Evil exists because god caused it. To assert otherwise would be to assert that it is not according to god’s plan, but how can anything be against god’s plan (since he’s omnipotent and omniscient and all that)? So, god created evil knowing that he would have to eternally punish those who just don’t get it (which brings up another sticky point in that god knows what it would take for me or anyone else to come to belief, but does not do it.) So, god created evil knowing that he would eternally punish people for that which he created. That’s not the sort of god that most would deem all-loving, just, or worthy of worship.

  • TheMightyThor

    Matt R: Your comment was hilarious! I’m sorry that I didn’t get around to reading it until now. I’ve been working with a lot of my pals and colleagues (gods to mere mortals such as thee) and we have been trying to get God to lend us some omniscience every now and then, but he doesn’t cooperate. (By the way,since I’m closer to his level, he allows me to address him without capitalizing his name and referential pronouns; don’t you try this at home!)

    Do you think you guys around here are unique in not believing in me? Me and the other members of the Mythical Beings Alliance have all encountered disbelief from many quarters–usually after some wise-ass started asking “rational” or “logical” questions. I always encouraged them to smite the folks the way I used to do, but their ability to work in the real world is more limited than mine. Now, I just post on the net to prove my existence. As for worship, well, I can’t tell you some of the things I’ve seen proposed and done after showing the size, power and skillful manipulation of my Mighty Hammer. (Only women and gay men respond with worship, though. Can’t figure out why…)

    Anyway, I gonna continue to read these pages because that Ebonmuse writes DIVINELY!

  • Ric

    Hey Matt,

    This first part is not a formal refutation, merely an amusing observation that a detached bystander may make. Here I am, a theist, being lectured by an atheist about the true meaning of worship. I think it is pretty funny.

    It is funny, but remember that I’m speaking basically from theistic assumptions, for the sake of a hypothetical stance. Just saying to you “I don’t believe it because it really makes no sense” wouldn’t have any chance of convincing you. :)

    snip…
    I am also not sure why you think that something must be qualitatively different for one to worship it. I am also not sure why you differentiate worship in the “religious” sense from any other sense. I do not see a large difference. Indeed that is a common theme among sermons delivered in church; that it is possible to worship other things in your life more than God.

    Yeah, I’m familiar with the religious exhortation to avoid false idols, etc. But I really find this to be simply the fallacy of equivocation. Religious worship is different from any other kind of worship.

    Let me approach this problem from a different perspective. Let’s try another hypothetical:

    Imagine I am just like Job, a man “perfect and upright.” And let’s leave the question of original sin out of it. Imagine that I have committed no sin worthy of my being condemned to hell. But imagine also that I do not worship god. That fact alone would be enough to condemn me to hell.

    Now if god is just, as you would certainly claim, it is right that I be condemned to hell for not worshiping him. If god is not just and still condemns me to hell for not worshiping, he is simply a tyrant and evil. So he’s just, and I go to hell. Now is there anything else in the universe that would carry the penalty of damnation for failure to worship it? If I don’t “worship” my wife, should I go to hell? If I don’t worship some extremely powerful spirit, even though it tells me to, is it just that I be condemned to hell? I’m guessing your answer is no. So this demonstrates that worship of god is different from any other form of worship that exists. It’s not so slippery as it seems.

    Now, according to the theist, what makes it just that I be condemned to hell if I don’t worship god? Only the fact that god is omni-everything. Otherwise I would have no call to complain if, theoretically, some very powerful (but imperfect) spirit (perhaps like Satan) punished me (read condemned me to a hell-like place) for the sole fault of not worshiping it. But I do have call to complain in all cases– except one. Does that make anymore sense?

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

    Hello all,

    When I read the Bible, I do not get the impression that the God described is absolutely omniscient or omnipotent or even omnibenevolent. I think that most people who have read the bible with the “Christian spam filter v2.0″ shut down would agree with me, particularly regarding the Old Testament. There are many places in the Bible where God clearly values certain people over others, as he does in dealing with Moses and Pharaoh. There are many places in the Bible where God seems disappointed about previous choices he had made. Choosing Saul as king of Israel, or creating humankind shortly before the flood. Even the cornerstone of the Christian faith, the incarnation of God as Jesus, seems rather odd if God were absolutely omnipotent. It seems that if God were omnipotent in the sense that is generally proposed, that there would be a much better way, perhaps.

    Basically, I am not sure that the argument from Evil works against the God of the Bible. It works against the God of modern popular Christian tradition, but if one looks at the Bible and takes the text for what it is, without imposing preconcieved notions on it, I think things change a great deal.

    Any thoughts?

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • Ric

    Matt,

    Here are my thoughts based on my comment above, and based on your post above.

    If the god of the Bible is not omni-etc., then he has no right to ask me to worship him, and if he condemns me to hell for not doing so, then the god of the Bible is a monster. Your god is apparently no better than a bully telling me to kiss his feet and then punching me in the face for not doing so.

    Think about it.

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

    Hi Ric,

    Just saying to you “I don’t believe it because it really makes no sense” wouldn’t have any chance of convincing you. :)

    …especially since I already think that a lot of it does not make sense! :)

    Now if god is just, as you would certainly claim, it is right that I be condemned to hell for not worshiping him. If god is not just and still condemns me to hell for not worshiping, he is simply a tyrant and evil. So he’s just, and I go to hell. Now is there anything else in the universe that would carry the penalty of damnation for failure to worship it? If I don’t “worship” my wife, should I go to hell? If I don’t worship some extremely powerful spirit, even though it tells me to, is it just that I be condemned to hell? I’m guessing your answer is no. So this demonstrates that worship of god is different from any other form of worship that exists. It’s not so slippery as it seems.

    I do not see that this addresses the quality of worship so much as the object of worship. Your scenario works equally well if the quality of worship is identical when applied to God, or my wife, or another spirit. The only difference is the object of the worship.

    Now, according to the theist, what makes it just that I be condemned to hell if I don’t worship god? Only the fact that god is omni-everything. Otherwise I would have no call to complain if, theoretically, some very powerful (but imperfect) spirit (perhaps like Satan) punished me (read condemned me to a hell-like place) for the sole fault of not worshiping it. But I do have call to complain in all cases– except one. Does that make anymore sense?

    This argument makes more sense to me. Let me reiterate it to you to ensure I understand.

    1) Most Christians state that the reason not worshiping God is worthy of eternal damnation is because of God’s omnipotence, omniscience, etc…

    2) From the Christian perspective, people will go to hell if they choose to not worship God.

    3) Therefore God must be omnipotent, omniscient, etc…

    Is that basically what you are proposing?

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • Heather

    Mollie,

    **Thus, if God were to eradicate evil, he would have to eliminate all who are sinful (which is everyone!). ** Why couldn’t God just eliminate the evil portions of people, and leave the good? Under this logic, if humans were completely and only evil, then when what exactly is being ‘saved?’ Else when the sin is washed away, the person completely vanishes.

    ** If you don’t believe that sin is as heinous to God as He describes it (being worthy of eternal punishment- Matthew 25:46), ** The problem with using Matthew 25:46 as justification is that faith played no part in determining the eternal punishment here. What got someone eternally punished was his/her actions towards the unfortunate. If the Synoptic Gospels are combined with much of the prophets, God overall seems more concerned with treatment towards the poor/oppressed than anything else.

    **The other option is to accept the payment that someone else (Jesus Christ) has made on our behalf (John 3:16; Colossians 2:14)- and thus receive forgiveness from those sins and eternal life.** I would also disagree that either of those verses speak of the payment Jesus made on our behalf. John 3:16 says that God sent Jesus into the world so that the world may have etneral life and not perish (and use of the word perish calls into question ‘eternal punishment,’ since stuff that perishes ceases to exist). It says nothing about payment. That seems to be something read back into the text. With Colossians 2:14, that says nothing about payment, either. The context speaks more towards the fact that the cross was used to make captive all opposing powers and authority. It does say that the sin was cancelled, but that easily plays into the Ransom Theory of the cross.

    **So, one option is to pay the debt created by sin ourselves- eternal punishment. The other option is to accept the payment that someone else (Jesus Christ) has made on our behalf (John 3:16; Colossians 2:14)- and thus receive forgiveness from those sins and eternal life.** If the punishment is eternal suffering, then how exactly did Jesus pay it? Jesus didn’t suffer eternally. The other thing is that you seem to be arguing the ATonement theory, correct? And my understanding is that the atonement theory wasn’t developed until the 11th century or so. I believe the Ransom theory was used until then, and the Eastern Orthodox hold to a ‘Christus Victor’ theory.

    The other problem with the eternal punishment/life concept is that there is very little mention of either concept in the Old Testament until the Book of Daniel. It doesn’t really play a role in Jewish theology. It seems odd that something so important wouldn’t be developed until late in the Bible.

    Matt R,

    I agree with you. In the early Old Testament, God comes across as a human with superpowers, and then the concept of God evolves during the later writings.

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

    Hi Mollie,

    You probably don’t realize it, but your comment is packed with Christian assumptions that atheists don’t accept. Allow me to call your attention to some of them:

    We can hardly begin to grasp what is the best good for ourselves, much less what will bring him the most glory.

    If this is true, then why do you assert with such confidence that God is good? Making that judgment requires at least some understanding of motive and intent. If we can’t understand his ways and don’t know what is best for us, then to be consistent, you’d have to say that you don’t know whether God is good or evil. He could be acting in ways that are not best for us – how would you know?

    This is why I do not believe that a perfectly loving God would eradicate evil immediately…

    And why on earth would he not? The mere statement that action need not always be simultaneous with desire does not explain why it is not simultaneous in this particular case. In fact, if God does not desire sin to exist, why would he create a world with any sin in it in the first place? Why would he even allow it to come into being?

    This does not mean that every person has done ‘horrible, heinous crimes’, but it does mean that one little sin has tainted you.

    It makes no sense to say that a just God would deliberately create imperfect humans, knowing in advance that they would sin, and then condemn them for it. That would be like if I were a sculptor who created a statue, and then smashed it to bits in a rage to punish it for not meeting my standard of fine art. Who could I possibly blame for its imperfection other than myself? Likewise, an all-powerful god could have created free-willed beings who would freely choose never to sin.

    …humans to come to the realization that they have offended him infinitely, deserve eternal punishment…

    Here’s the big whopper of an assumption. Even granting that evil deeds deserve to be punished, why eternal punishment?

    By definition, justice means that a misdeed is punished in proportion to its severity. Human beings are finite, and can only commit finite acts; therefore, eternal punishment would by definition be infinitely disproportionate compared to any human act, and infinitely unjust.

    The usual Christian retort is that, since God is an infinite being, any crime against him is multiplied by infinity. The problem with this is that it is impossible to commit a crime against God. If such a being exists, he cannot be harmed or diminished in the slightest by anything a human being could possibly do. An act that causes no harm to anyone is not a crime, and is therefore not worthy of any punishment, much less eternal punishment.

  • Ric

    Matt,

    This argument makes more sense to me. Let me reiterate it to you to ensure I understand.

    1) Most Christians state that the reason not worshiping God is worthy of eternal damnation is because of God’s omnipotence, omniscience, etc…

    2) From the Christian perspective, people will go to hell if they choose to not worship God.

    3) Therefore God must be omnipotent, omniscient, etc…

    Sort of. Here’s how I’d state it, though.

    1) It is agreed that god is just to punish me (condemn me to hell) for not worshiping him.

    2) It is agreed that it would be unjust for any other being in existence to punish me for not worshiping him.

    3) The difference between god and other beings is god’s omni-nesses.

    4) Thus the only being worthy of worship is one that is omni-etc.

    Which, of course, leads us to the problem of evil.

  • CalUWxBill

    I’m not sure I can gather my words properly to address Mollie.

    Ebonmuse you did a fantastic job.

    I’d like to add a couple of things.

    - I’m not sure how we can sin against God. Reading the Bible it’s hard to determine a clear reason for divine justice, but one such reason that seems obvious is God must avenge those who have been wronged. God was created, possibly for many reasons, but one is to allow the righteous to live righteously without fear and to penalize those who have sinned.

    - God works, because he is both infinite and unknowable. In other words, a person’s understanding can’t compare to that of God. Unfortunately this characteristic is God’s biggest vulnerability. Because God pretty much goes unquestioned beyond our own intellect, anything accorded to God and written in stone pretty much stands. Basically, Joe Schmoses comes along and says “this is what God wants, this is what God said”. And once such an idea becomes established it’s nearly impossible for an imperfect intellect to shake the foundation of the infinite God.

    We atheists get squawked at for being arrogant, pretending we are better than God. But, please accord some humility to your own beliefs, but at the same time don’t be afraid to use the brain (God gave you) to analyze the claims of your religion. If you can’t do this, then you are at the whim of a belief system, held captive to it’s decrees without any reason of your own. Each person must atleast have some way in determining whether he/she is right or wrong. How do you expect someone on the wrong path to change his/her ways? It makes more sense to me that God or atleast the God of most religions is just a figment of the imagination. But, I don’t believe I am captive to my beliefs. However, I must also be shown how I’m wrong, if it’s beyond me reach and can’t be shown to me, then my belief won’t be changed, and I see no reason it should.

  • andrea

    “How did you come to the conclusion that God only has these three qualities, or that these three are the ultimate? I can think of his holiness and justice that would slightly alter the equation.”

    Why do theists ask questions like this? We got the qualities from their supposed “holy book” that is “inspired” by their God. That deity’s “holiness” and “justice” depend on these three qualities. Molly’s attempt to say that holiness was seperation from “evil” fails on the fact that God created evil. There is no justice from a deity that favors one group above all others and condemns all of those “others” to eternal torture. God has lied. God has changed its mind. So, there goes her last arguments.

    One would hope that someday a theist would actually read their book and not simply depend on their pastors, etc to read it for them.

  • Polly

    I just had another discussion with my wife this weekend about the chosen “people thing.” How much sense does it make for a being who created innumerable galaxies filled with millions of stars spread across light-years of space to foucs all its attention on Earth.

    I’m not done yet.

    On this littled turquois and brown planet, this god created millions of species of birds, plants, and animals. Then he creates humans and spreads them over the entire globe. At some point in time, god picks one man out of the entire world and says to him,

    “you’re the one I choose to know me. Everyone else gets to burn in hell because I didn’t reveal myself to them. But your descendants get to have a special relationship with me. And because I chose you, you get to exterminate the peoples living in Canaan; they aren’t chosen. Oh BTW, I need you to slit the throats of your cattle on occassion and wring the necks of a few of those birds I made – details to follow.”

    “Yes, I, God, who created the vast universe and all life on Earth, can only extend my love and mercy to one single tribe of sheepherders. The rest of the human race can go to Hell.”

    Which is more likely? The scanrio mentioned above? Or, that the Israelites, LIKE ALL PEOPLES throught history, made up a mythology that favors themselves over their neighbors and places them at the center of the universe?

    The very idea of being “chosen” rather than letting us CHOOSE, is contrary to justice. Justice mandates that we are responsible for ourselves. But, how can that be if we are incapable on our own? The entire Biblical notion of justice is self-refuting. You’re punished because you can’t help pissing God off!

  • ex machina

    Mollie: I think its great that you are willing to post on a forum like this and are willing to discuss things in a systematic way. I love having debates with people who are genuinely opposed to my position, because I either learn more about my own, or find out I was wrong altogether.

    I want to return to the reason I asked the question here in the first place. I would agree that God is omniscient, omnipotent, as well as all-loving. I believe that perhaps your definition of all-loving/perfectly loving is slightly different than what the Bible teaches. I also believe that the attributes of justice, holiness, and being longsuffering DO matter in this equation.

    To me, justice and longsuffering fall into the all-loving category, and most people who use the term all-loving use it in order to include attributes like this in a fast way (an all-loving being would of course be just and patient). I’m not so sure about your use of “holiness” though

    All-loving means God would do the highest good for the object being loved and in God’s case, it would bring him the most glory. I understand that you assume this means he would get rid of evil immediately (because you think that would be the highest good). We can hardly begin to grasp what is the best good for ourselves, much less what will bring him the most glory. Let me continue.

    Here is where I start to disagree with you. Why does God need to bring himself glory? I’m not sure that has much to do with love. For example, my love for my wife has most do with how I can make her happy, not how I can cause her to exalt me in any way. If I’m loving and caring she will most likely think I’m great, but that’s not really my goal; meaning: if I had to choose between an action that would make her truly happy and an action that would make me look good in her eyes, the loving choice would be to make her happy. Also, I disagree with the idea the we do not know what is best for ourselves. If humans truly lack any moral compass, how then does even yourself know you have chosen a righteous path?

    God is completely holy (Leviticus chapters 11, 19, 20) and just (Psalm 11, 99:4). Allow me to define these terms. Holy means to be separate from all that is unclean and evil and He is positively pure and distinct from all others. Justice means moral equity; being all-righteous. He will always deal with people in the most moral, fair way possible. Also, God is longsuffering (patient) (Exodus 34:6, Psalm 86:15). Finally, I should define sin. Sin is any defection from God’s standard that does not conform to His nature/qualities (for example, God is Truth, so lying is contrary to that) (Romans 3:23).

    Good definitions all, but again, justice, longsuffering, and holiness as you describe it could fall into “all-loving” category (again, I’m not opposed to your terms, I just want you to know what people mean by the “all-loving” term).

    A perfectly loving being would not desire that anyone be destroyed because of their evil deeds (sin) (2 Peter 3:9). God desires that all humans love and worship him- NOT because he needs it, but because he deserves it. Indeed, a loving being would not want anyone destroyed because of evil deeds. But again, why does God seek worship? You do not seek worship from people you love, why do you find it acceptable that God does?

    However, there is a problem. The humans that God wants to have a relationship with have sinned. This does not mean that every person has done ‘horrible, heinous crimes’, but it does mean that one little sin has tainted you.

    In what way have we sinned? How have I deviated from the standard of God? If he is truly all loving, I can only assume that he would want what is best for me. As I’m doing my best to grow and mature as a human being, I can hardly see how I have fallen short. You said before that “God is Truth” and therefore a lie would be a sin and therefore unacceptable. I’d like to challenge that. I too find lying repulsive, but I’m smart enough to realize that people often do so under the worst of circumstances, and also that they grow as people, perhaps becoming more honest, and I would not rebuke them indefinitely for dishonesty alone. Does God not understand those mitigating factors? If not, why do you assume he is just? To damn someone forever to the fires of hell for a small shortcoming is childlike, hardly the type of justice I would expect from an “all-loving” being.

    If you don’t believe that sin is as heinous to God as He describes it (being worthy of eternal punishment- Matthew 25:46), then you do not have a proper understanding of God’s holiness in relation to sin. As explained above, sin in the eyes of God is not trivial. He does not take an ‘oops- try better next time’ attitude. A perfectly holy & just being would not let sin/evil go unpunished (Romans 3:23, 6:23). Thus, if God were to eradicate evil, he would have to eliminate all who are sinful (which is everyone!).

    Again, why should God be so limited that he is not able to take the fullness of the human existence into account when judging sin? The God you have described is hardly loving. In fact he is a horrible tyrant, holding humans to an impossible standard after creating them to be fallible. And remember, using the Bible to describe what might anger God would only really be useful if we both accepted the Bible as a worthwhile source.

    A perfectly loving being would provide a way for sin/evil to be dealt with AND for humans to avoid eternal punishment (and spend eternity with Him- this is the highest good for humans). In this way, justice would be satisfied and perfect love would be displayed. So, one option is to pay the debt created by sin ourselves- eternal punishment. The other option is to accept the payment that someone else (Jesus Christ) has made on our behalf (John 3:16; Colossians 2:14)- and thus receive forgiveness from those sins and eternal life.

    Why would we have to pay eternal punishment for a finite error? Why is the perfect God you believe in either not able to see how fundamentally flawed his system of justice is or not able to change that system to reflect a more just way of dealing with things. Secondly, why should someone else have to pay? How are they even able to? If God can bend the rules such that someone else can pay for my debt, why is he not able to waive the debt altogether?

    Next, a longsuffering (patient) being would allow the maximum time (according to His perfect will) for humans to come to the realization that they have offended him infinitely, deserve eternal punishment and need forgiveness (salvation) (2 Peter 3:9).

    In what way does he allow us “maximum time.” (people die at all ages, often before they could even understand the concepts you say they must embrace)? Why is there a time limit at all?

    Conclusion: Evil exists and must be dealt with justly. God provides a perfect way for sin to be dealt with (justice & holiness) as well as a way for people to be saved from that judgment (perfect love).

    But your system is far from perfect, there are all kinds of things wrong with it and improvements that could be made.

    Finally- if God is truly all-powerful & all-knowing, we cannot expect to wrap our finite minds around the infinite. We can know what He has told us about Himself, but we cannot use logic and reason to derive something about God that He has not chosen to reveal about Himself (otherwise he wouldn’t be omnipotent and omniscient).

    I’d like to challenge you on this. If we are not able to use reason and logic, how will we know what he has told us about himself? How will we differentiate lies from the truth? You say that we cannot understand the plan of God, but you have just described, in detail, what you believe God’s system of justice to be and I understood it. Are you saying you did not describe it correctly? I doubt it, I think that, to you, it is a perfectly acceptable and correct explanation.

    I’ve thrown a lot at you here and I hope you don’t think I was just taking pot shots at you. In your first post you said that your definition of God (which empasised his holiness and justice) resolved some of the conflicts that atheists often talk about. My point here was to show you that the conflicts are still there under your definition, just a little harder to point out. I’m very interested in your response . . . hope you are still reading this thread.

    -Phil

  • Matt R

    Ric,

    We got a little cross-threaded back there, so I will respond to two threads at once to try and get us back on track.

    If the god of the Bible is not omni-etc., then he has no right to ask me to worship him, and if he condemns me to hell for not doing so, then the god of the Bible is a monster. Your god is apparently no better than a bully telling me to kiss his feet and then punching me in the face for not doing so.

    I disagree with you on that basis that I do not necessarily think that the triumvarate of omni’s is necessary for a being to have the “right” to expect worship. I think it is reasonable for the creator to have special rights to the creation even if that creator lacks the omni’s.

    Regarding condemning people to hell for not worshipping God. I am not sure that this is what God actually *does*. Your assumption is valid that most Christians believe that God would send some one to hell simply for not worshipping him, but I think the matter of divine reward/punishment is most likely far more involved, considering how complicated life and humans are.

    You may be surprised that I have a similar gut reaction to the scenario you described, that it is somewhat bully-ish to demand worship “or else”.

    Also to prevent confusion, I recognize that the Bible depicts punishments for those who do not worship God. As I said before, there are parts of the Bible which I think do not make sense.

    Sort of. Here’s how I’d state it, though.

    1) It is agreed that god is just to punish me (condemn me to hell) for not worshiping him.

    2) It is agreed that it would be unjust for any other being in existence to punish me for not worshiping him.

    3) The difference between god and other beings is god’s omni-nesses.

    4) Thus the only being worthy of worship is one that is omni-etc.

    Which, of course, leads us to the problem of evil.

    You probably could make a good argument against many Christians here, but I think a little differently. I am not hung up on the omni’s. I think that the thing which makes God different is that God is the originator of the reality which we experience, otherwise known as our universe. I think it is possible that God could have created our universe without being omnipotent/omniscient/omnibenevolent.

    It is also possible that God is alot more harsh than we think. If one believes that nature reflects the nature of the creator, it is possible that God can be quite harsh at times, assuming the nature we experience is the one he intended for us. Understand that I am not as assertive or confident in the specific attributes of God as your average Christian who sees the Bible as a direct communication from God.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • http://corsair.blogspot.com corsair the rational pirate

    Regarding Mollie’s post above. I am having a real hard time interpreting it.

    I guess this is like me saying toe-mah-toe and you saying spah-tchu-lah. We apparently are not speaking the same language. For example:

    All-loving means God would do the highest good for the object being loved and in God’s case, it would bring him the most glory.

    Why the hell does God need “glory?” And, more specifically, what is “glory” and why should I be handing it out like sweets to someone or something?

    glo·ry Pronunciation Key – [glawr-ee, glohr-ee] –noun
    3. adoring praise or worshipful thanksgiving: Give glory to God.

    OK, now that I know it is “adoring praise” someone please let me know why it is that I have to give such a thing to this God person. “He created the whole universe!” you might say. So?! If he is so high and mighty, that means that he was just doing his job. It apparently wasn’t all that hard for him either since it only took a week. You should see how long it takes me to paint a bedroom.

    This is where the big disconnect happens. I don’t really care that God made everything and everyone. It doesn’t do anything for me. Doesn’t pay the bills, get rid of this headache or fix my broken sump pump. So if God in all his glory and magnificantness appeared to me on my porch and proclaimed that “It is I, God Most High, Creator of the Universe!” I would say, “Come on in. Take a load off. Would you like something to drink?” And then we would have a really cool discussion about Life, the Universe, and why Serenity was cancelled so quickly. But I wouldn’t throw myself down on the floor and cry out in… Fear? Love? Adoration? Or whatever it is that the God botherers amongst us would do. In fact, I wonder if any of them would do anything crazy like that either.

    And here is another little bromide:

    A perfectly loving being would not desire that anyone be destroyed because of their evil deeds (sin) (2 Peter 3:9). God desires that all humans love and worship him- NOT because he needs it, but because he deserves it.

    Again, why does he “deserve” anything? Why does he deisre that I love and worship him? He is so far above us that, try as he might he can’t even see a big Fatty like Rosie O’Donnel without commandeering the Hubble Space Telescope. If he doesn’t need the treacly pronouncements of thanks that float up uncounted to him every Sunday, why do so many people think that they need to go and do such things. Ohhh! Because he deserves them. Whatever. If we don’t make with the hosannas, how will that negatively impact his life? Not a bit.

    And anyway, Mollie makes a lot of noise about what a great guy this God person is. I gues she hasn’t read the Old Testament where he goes around kiling everyone. And this was before Jesus and forgiveness and hell. So where did all those folks go? Kind of makes it hard to put him in the Love category, don’t it?

    Finally- if God is truly all-powerful & all-knowing, we cannot expect to wrap our finite minds around the infinite. We can know what He has told us about Himself, but we cannot use logic and reason to derive something about God that He has not chosen to reveal about Himself (otherwise he wouldn’t be omnipotent and omniscient).

    We can’t know god (because he is so big and mighty) except through his clearly written words in the bible. So why is it that there are so many different churches and sects and cults and basement prayer groups? Everyone who reads that dumb book comes away with a different interpretation. Does God need an editor to make himself better understood to the masses? Or maybe he whould write at the sixth grade level like American newspapers.

    Sorry, Mollie dear, you make a lot fo vague pronouncements, but it is all fairy dust and hand waving. Have your boy pop ’round for some of my barbeque sometime (I swear he’ll like it!) and we can have a nice sit-down conversation with some beer and brats and ribs and then maybe I will believe he is actually there.

  • Ric

    Matt,

    You probably could make a good argument against many Christians here, but I think a little differently. I am not hung up on the omni’s. I think that the thing which makes God different is that God is the originator of the reality which we experience, otherwise known as our universe. I think it is possible that God could have created our universe without being omnipotent/omniscient/omnibenevolent.

    It is also possible that God is alot more harsh than we think. If one believes that nature reflects the nature of the creator, it is possible that God can be quite harsh at times, assuming the nature we experience is the one he intended for us. Understand that I am not as assertive or confident in the specific attributes of God as your average Christian who sees the Bible as a direct communication from God.

    Thanks for admitting the validity of my points concerning the average Christian.

    I see that your concept of god is a bit different than traditional theology’s, which, as various commentators like Dawkins have noted, makes arguing with theists difficult, because the ground is constantly shifting (this is not a criticism of you, BTW).

    I guess what I would say to your concept of god is still the same, then: your god has no right to demand worship of me, then, just because he created me, anymore than my parents have a right to demand I worship them. You see this point yourself, as you’ve noted. It makes god into a monster.

  • Mollie

    Ebonmuse:
    Thanks for your comments/questions. Here is my response.

    You probably don’t realize it, but your comment is packed with Christian assumptions that atheists don’t accept.

    I thought that was the whole premise of this argument. Your argument begins with the assumption that the Christian idea of God is true and then tries to prove how it is inconsistent. I am not trying to prove that God exists, just that the Christian idea of God IS consistent.

    If we can’t understand his ways and don’t know what is best for us, then to be consistent, you’d have to say that you don’t know whether God is good or evil. He could be acting in ways that are not best for us – how would you know?

    I can assert God’s goodness just the same way I can assert his omniscience and omnipotence. The only way I know is that He has revealed his qualities to us in His Word. The Bible says He is good (Psalm 25:8; 69:16). I trust that that is true as I trust that His omniscience and omnipotence are true.

    In fact, if God does not desire sin to exist, why would he create a world with any sin in it in the first place?

    Great question. I don’t believe that there was sin in the world when He first created it.

    Why would he even allow it to come into being?

    Also a great question. From what I understand of the Bible, God decided to create beings that could choose whether or not they wanted to serve Him/worship Him. The first beings created were the angels (spirit beings). Although most decided to serve him, one- Satan (also called Lucifer)- decided He wanted to be like God (committing the first sin of pride- elevating himself to be equal to or higher than God- Ezekiel 28; Isaiah 14). Ever since, Satan has been on a quest to usurp God’s rule and authority. God did not create evil. He did create beings with the capacity to do evil (which is basically directly opposing all He is). So WHY did He allow evil? He wanted His creatures to CHOOSE to worship Him on their own accord. If there was no potential for evil, there would be no choice.

    Likewise, an all-powerful god could have created free-willed beings who would freely choose never to sin.

    He did create them with the ability to never sin. However, they DID choose to sin (swayed by Satan’s temptations). They definitely could have chosen not to.

    It makes no sense to say that a just God would deliberately create imperfect humans, knowing in advance that they would sin, and then condemn them for it.

    God DIDN’T create imperfect humans, He created perfect ones. They still sinned and He knew they would in advance. And yes, He still condemned them for that sin (Again- just because He knew it would happen didn’t change the fact that He still wanted them to CHOOSE to obey).

    That would be like if I were a sculptor who created a statue, and then smashed it to bits in a rage to punish it for not meeting my standard of fine art. Who could I possibly blame for its imperfection other than myself?

    This one is so interesting. It just goes to show that there is nothing new under the sun. Paul addressed this very issue in Romans 9:14-24

      What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

    So He has mercy on some and condemns others. You may think it seems unfair that God condemns only some- the ones He does not show mercy. The fact is, it is the granting of mercy that is unfair. We all deserve the punishment (having sinned), but those who have faith in Jesus Christ (because of His payment for sins) are given mercy. He did this to bring Himself the most glory.

    … it is impossible to commit a crime against God. If such a being exists, he cannot be harmed or diminished in the slightest by anything a human being could possibly do. An act that causes no harm to anyone is not a crime, and is therefore not worthy of any punishment, much less eternal punishment.

    I will completely agree with you that God cannot be harmed or diminished in any way. He is separate from His creation. Two ideas are important here. First, if God is our Creator, then we are accountable to Him (similar to how a child is accountable to his parents). Second, God has given us His perfect Law and anything we do contrary to that is sin (1 John 3:4). Again, sin is any defection from God’s standard that does not conform to His nature/qualities. So, if God is the one in authority, He sets the standards. And since God is just (possessing moral equity), then He decides what is fair punishment for sins.

    By definition, justice means that a misdeed is punished in proportion to its severity.

    I believe that the Bible teaches that we HAVE offended God infinitely and thus deserve an infinite punishment. James 2:10 says,

      For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.

    Thanks for your conversation. I’ll do my best to answer any further questions you have.

  • Mollie

    Ebonmuse:
    Thanks for your comments/questions. Here is my response.

    You probably don’t realize it, but your comment is packed with Christian assumptions that atheists don’t accept.

    I thought that was the whole premise of this argument. Your argument begins with the assumption that the Christian idea of God is true and then tries to prove how it is inconsistent. I am not trying to prove that God exists, just that the Christian idea of God IS consistent.

    If we can’t understand his ways and don’t know what is best for us, then to be consistent, you’d have to say that you don’t know whether God is good or evil. He could be acting in ways that are not best for us – how would you know?

    I can assert God’s goodness just the same way I can assert his omniscience and omnipotence. The only way I know is that He has revealed his qualities to us in His Word. The Bible says He is good (Psalm 25:8; 69:16). I trust that that is true as I trust that His omniscience and omnipotence are true.

    In fact, if God does not desire sin to exist, why would he create a world with any sin in it in the first place?

    Great question. I don’t believe that there was sin in the world when He first created it.

    Why would he even allow it to come into being?

    Also a great question. From what I understand of the Bible, God decided to create beings that could choose whether or not they wanted to serve Him/worship Him. The first beings created were the angels (spirit beings). Although most decided to serve him, one- Satan (also called Lucifer)- decided He wanted to be like God (committing the first sin of pride- elevating himself to be equal to or higher than God- Ezekiel 28; Isaiah 14). Ever since, Satan has been on a quest to usurp God’s rule and authority. God did not create evil. He did create beings with the capacity to do evil (which is basically directly opposing all He is). So WHY did He allow evil? He wanted His creatures to CHOOSE to worship Him on their own accord. If there was no potential for evil, there would be no choice.

    Likewise, an all-powerful god could have created free-willed beings who would freely choose never to sin.

    He did create them with the ability to never sin. However, they DID choose to sin (swayed by Satan’s temptations). They definitely could have chosen not to.

    It makes no sense to say that a just God would deliberately create imperfect humans, knowing in advance that they would sin, and then condemn them for it.

    God DIDN’T create imperfect humans, He created perfect ones. They still sinned and He knew they would in advance. And yes, He still condemned them for that sin (Again- just because He knew it would happen didn’t change the fact that He still wanted them to CHOOSE to obey).

    That would be like if I were a sculptor who created a statue, and then smashed it to bits in a rage to punish it for not meeting my standard of fine art. Who could I possibly blame for its imperfection other than myself?

    This one is so interesting. It just goes to show that there is nothing new under the sun. Paul addressed this very issue in Romans 9:14-24

      What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

    So He has mercy on some and condemns others. You may think it seems unfair that God condemns only some- the ones He does not show mercy. The fact is, it is the granting of mercy that is unfair. We all deserve the punishment (having sinned), but those who have faith in Jesus Christ (because of His payment for sins) are given mercy. He did this to bring Himself the most glory.

    … it is impossible to commit a crime against God. If such a being exists, he cannot be harmed or diminished in the slightest by anything a human being could possibly do. An act that causes no harm to anyone is not a crime, and is therefore not worthy of any punishment, much less eternal punishment.

    I will completely agree with you that God cannot be harmed or diminished in any way. He is separate from His creation. Two ideas are important here. First, if God is our Creator, then we are accountable to Him (similar to how a child is accountable to his parents). Second, God has given us His perfect Law and anything we do contrary to that is sin (1 John 3:4). Again, sin is any defection from God’s standard that does not conform to His nature/qualities. So, if God is the one in authority, He sets the standards. And since God is just (possessing moral equity), then He decides what is fair punishment for sins.

    By definition, justice means that a misdeed is punished in proportion to its severity.

    I believe that the Bible teaches that we HAVE offended God infinitely and thus deserve an infinite punishment. James 2:10 says,

      For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.

    Thanks for your conversation. I’ll do my best to answer any further questions you have.

  • Heather

    **God DIDN’T create imperfect humans, He created perfect ones. ** The problem I would have with this reasoning is that if something is created with the ability to choose to sin, then it’s created imperfectly. If God did in fact create man to be perfect, why were Adam/Even tempted to sin, period? In order to want to sin, there must be a desire there. It was earlier stated that it wasn’t a choice unless the potential for evil is there. But if man carries the potential to be evil, then man is not created perfectly. In order for something to be a choice, both options must be equally attractive and that can only happen if it is something to be desired.

    **I can assert God’s goodness just the same way I can assert his omniscience and omnipotence. The only way I know is that He has revealed his qualities to us in His Word. ** Is this known, or taken on faith? Because we can’t ‘prove’ that God is good or just or perfect. The only validation for the statement that God is any of those characteristics is that it’s stated so in the Bible. But then that leads to using the BIble to prove what the Bible says about God.

    **So He has mercy on some and condemns others. You may think it seems unfair that God condemns only some- the ones He does not show mercy. The fact is, it is the granting of mercy that is unfair. We all deserve the punishment (having sinned), but those who have faith in Jesus Christ (because of His payment for sins) are given mercy. He did this to bring Himself the most glory.** This doesn’t seem like it answered Ebonmuse’s point — if you create something and it doesn’t meet up to your standards, then is the thing you created at fault? Or are you, for creating it flawed? The fault would lie with you, and it would be unjust to expect the creation to follow a perfect standard when the creation has inherent flaws.

  • ex machina

    What a strange response. Mollie, you do realize that, as atheists and secularists, members of this thread do not regard the Bible as any kind of authoritative source for truth. It seems as though you are pretending not to understand what is said to avoid any kind of real argument. . . . anyway.

    I like your analogy of accountability: as a child to his parents. But it is not representative of your definition of God. You say that we deserve eternal punishment for even small sins, but a parent does not punish a child eternally and indefinitely when they make a mistake. Any parent who did would be thought of as a monster. It would not matter how loving, powerful, or knowing (or “holy” or “just, or “patient”), that parent was otherwise, we would still find them unethical. In fact, it would speak to a lack of one of those attributes. Even if he is infinitely powerful/loving/knowing, it would not turn the act of infinite punishment for finite transgression from unethical to ethical.

  • ex machina

    What a strange response. Mollie, you do realize that, as atheists and secularists, members of this thread do not regard the Bible as any kind of authoritative source for truth. It seems as though you are pretending not to understand what is said to avoid any kind of real argument. . . . anyway.

    I like your analogy of accountability: as a child to his parents. But it is not representative of your definition of God. You say that we deserve eternal punishment for even small sins, but a parent does not punish a child eternally and indefinitely when they make a mistake. Any parent who did would be thought of as a monster. It would not matter how loving, powerful, or knowing (or “holy” or “just, or “patient”), that parent was otherwise, we would still find them unethical. In fact, it would speak to a lack of one of those attributes. Even if he is infinitely powerful/loving/knowing, it would not turn the act of infinite punishment for finite transgression from unethical to ethical.

  • Heather

    On a tangent –

    Ebonmuse, I’ve been reading your essays listed on the ‘The Atheism Pages’ and I think one of your best arguments on the existence of hell went along the lines of imagining how much I’d have to hate someone to hold their hand to a hot stove, and then keep it there, even as the person was screaming. That really brings some concepts of God into perspective. Well done.

  • Heather

    On a tangent –

    Ebonmuse, I’ve been reading your essays listed on the ‘The Atheism Pages’ and I think one of your best arguments on the existence of hell went along the lines of imagining how much I’d have to hate someone to hold their hand to a hot stove, and then keep it there, even as the person was screaming. That really brings some concepts of God into perspective. Well done.

  • Mobius 118

    Mollie,

    The blinders you have on are quite strong, and are blocking out the obvious. It’s comparable to having my glasses or contacts out and trying to use a hunting rifle at a distance target. It’s impossible to see, without help. The bible amounts to, in my eyes, the chronicles of what people will do for control. 90% of the book is about killing, murder, mass rape, sex, debauchery, and God killing people at a whim, because some children taunted a priest for being bald.

    Right now, you’ve only known the bible, and your own mind playing tricks on you. See, I used to be the same as you, able to defend the bible way past the point of lunacy.

    Then, I had my vision of the world ‘enhanced’ so to speak. I stepped away, able to see the big picture.

    I said it best when a pair of Jehova’s Witnesses came to my house:
    “Jesus is dead, God isn’t real and Heavens a lie… Now get the **** away from me.”

    If God was all-powerful, he wouldn’t have allowed Satan into the Garden of Eden. It was simple, effective, and it would’ve spared Adam and Eve the ejection. It was well within his power, since he can do anything inside and outside of the boundries of physics. But, since we don’t see the smoting of non-believers and heretics, one can assume that God either doesn’t care, or doesn’t exist. And don’t use the natural disaster defense, since all tornadoes in the US happen right here in the bible-belt, where the faithful reside.

    If God was all-knowing, he knows EVERYTHING about EVERYONE. And since he knows everything, he can see your downfall from Christianity, and your acceptance of atheism. Am I being presumptious? Hell yes. See, you cannot prove faith, because it cannot be faith if you know the truth. That’s why most Christians are hipocrytes, and IF God exists, he’ll send them to hell. Predestination and free will cannot coincide, because they contradict.

    If God was all-good…well, All of us atheists would be swept into oblivion if we even THINK that God, ALL Gods, are fake creations of man to control others. And since I myself live in Minnesota, the top of the bible belt, I think that my life would’ve ended already. It’s not that people haven’t tried, yet I keep surviving.

    And the militant Xianists who call for our heads on pikes violate the very principle of Christianity, which is to forgive, and condemn at the same time, and let God be the ultimate judge.

    I think the analogy of the shepard and the flock of sheep are an unexpected mockery of all Christians…

    Since those who go along with the crowd are sheep, I guess that makes the atheist the solitary Wolf. Or in my case, the Snake.

    Good day.

  • Javaman

    Molly,
    Even though you come from a completely different belief system, it sure was gutsy of you to leave a comment. I know you’re probably going to get jumped all over, however, all people and all views are welcome at Daylight Atheism. Ebonmuse is one of gentlest, kindest, most compassionate people in the world. I would suggest you don’t get turned off and please stick around. Please visit the site frequently; try to read some of the archived essays. Keep an open mind, and even at the end of the day it sure is interesting to have people with different viewpoints post their comments here. As a matter of fact, I would hope that you turn many of your Christian friends on to this site. Understanding the viewpoints of others who hold completely opposite points of view is intellectually stimulating and sure does make for some great debates, not arguments. We’re all in this together.

  • Javaman

    Molly,
    Even though you come from a completely different belief system, it sure was gutsy of you to leave a comment. I know you’re probably going to get jumped all over, however, all people and all views are welcome at Daylight Atheism. Ebonmuse is one of gentlest, kindest, most compassionate people in the world. I would suggest you don’t get turned off and please stick around. Please visit the site frequently; try to read some of the archived essays. Keep an open mind, and even at the end of the day it sure is interesting to have people with different viewpoints post their comments here. As a matter of fact, I would hope that you turn many of your Christian friends on to this site. Understanding the viewpoints of others who hold completely opposite points of view is intellectually stimulating and sure does make for some great debates, not arguments. We’re all in this together.

  • Matt R

    Ric,

    Thanks for admitting the validity of my points concerning the average Christian.

    I see that your concept of god is a bit different than traditional theology’s, which, as various commentators like Dawkins have noted, makes arguing with theists difficult, because the ground is constantly shifting (this is not a criticism of you, BTW).

    I guess what I would say to your concept of god is still the same, then: your god has no right to demand worship of me, then, just because he created me, anymore than my parents have a right to demand I worship them. You see this point yourself, as you’ve noted. It makes god into a monster.

    Well, it is not hard for me to “admit” that there are things which do not make sense to me in traditional Christianity. I ask the same questions too. Because of my tendency to think in terms of logic even if they take me outside of the “boundaries” of Biblical ideas, I have rather different and malleable ideas about God. Whereas most Christians promulgate very highly developed detailed descriptions of God, I tend to back off quite a bit and limit it to what I think I know based on my experience, which is the best thing I have to go off of.

    I am not convinced that God demands worship of us. He certainly does not seem to overtly punish people who choose not to worship him. I worship God, but things still go wrong for me sometimes. I think it is safe to assume that there are those who do not worship God who are also doing just fine.

    If God *did* demand worship, I can see how that would make him seem to be a monster from the perspective of one who does not want to worship him. On the other hand, if God feels like he has been benevolent to humans, he may feel that we are the monsters for rejecting him. From my perspective, I do not face a problem with worshiping God because I feel like he has been benevolent to me.

    There is also the possibility that God does exist and he does demand worship and does not give a rip if that makes him a monster. It is scary but still possible.

    Cheers,

    Matt R.

  • Matt R

    Ric,

    Thanks for admitting the validity of my points concerning the average Christian.

    I see that your concept of god is a bit different than traditional theology’s, which, as various commentators like Dawkins have noted, makes arguing with theists difficult, because the ground is constantly shifting (this is not a criticism of you, BTW).

    I guess what I would say to your concept of god is still the same, then: your god has no right to demand worship of me, then, just because he created me, anymore than my parents have a right to demand I worship them. You see this point yourself, as you’ve noted. It makes god into a monster.

    Well, it is not hard for me to “admit” that there are things which do not make sense to me in traditional Christianity. I ask the same questions too. Because of my tendency to think in terms of logic even if they take me outside of the “boundaries” of Biblical ideas, I have rather different and malleable ideas about God. Whereas most Christians promulgate very highly developed detailed descriptions of God, I tend to back off quite a bit and limit it to what I think I know based on my experience, which is the best thing I have to go off of.

    I am not convinced that God demands worship of us. He certainly does not seem to overtly punish people who choose not to worship him. I worship God, but things still go wrong for me sometimes. I think it is safe to assume that there are those who do not worship God who are also doing just fine.

    If God *did* demand worship, I can see how that would make him seem to be a monster from the perspective of one who does not want to worship him. On the other hand, if God feels like he has been benevolent to humans, he may feel that we are the monsters for rejecting him. From my perspective, I do not face a problem with worshiping God because I feel like he has been benevolent to me.

    There is also the possibility that God does exist and he does demand worship and does not give a rip if that makes him a monster. It is scary but still possible.

    Cheers,

    Matt R.

  • Mollie

    Javaman,
    Thank-you for your kind remarks. I have certainly felt ‘jumped over’ as you stated. I guess that’s to be expected with fresh meat- especially a Christian. To keep from being discouraged, I prefer to converse mostly with Ebonmuse who, thus far, has treated me quite respectfully. It’s nice to know that there are more of you who are respectful. So, again, thanks to you (and Lynet on another thread who apologized for her first comments) for being kind. It goes a long way in wanting to stay a little longer and chat.

  • Mollie

    Ebonmuse:
    This is slightly off topic (sorry again!). But you mentioned that one of the ways that you would convert right on the spot would be

    Miraculous occurrences, especially if brought about through prayer.

    Would this need to happen in your presence? Or would a story of someone be good enough? Just curious.

  • Mollie

    Ebonmuse:
    This is slightly off topic (sorry again!). But you mentioned that one of the ways that you would convert right on the spot would be

    Miraculous occurrences, especially if brought about through prayer.

    Would this need to happen in your presence? Or would a story of someone be good enough? Just curious.

  • dye

    Mollie,

    Consider the following from Ebonmuse,

    People’s conversion stories.
    I’m not interested in the testimonials of people who converted to a religion, not even if they used to be atheists. Everyone has moments of weakness in which emotion overrides logic. Instead of telling me how fast a religion is growing, how much of a difference it’s made in people’s lives, or how devoted its converts are, let those converts explain what logic and evidence persuaded them to join in the first place. If they can’t do this, their stories will not affect me. After all, for obvious reasons, atheists are almost never the sort of people who go along with the crowd.

    Any subjective experience.
    Saying “I know God exists because I can feel him in my heart” or something similar will not affect me. Most arguments of this sort rest on the assumption that a person cannot have a completely convincing subjective experience and be mistaken regarding its cause, but a look at the diversity of world religions easily disproves this. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists – members of all faiths claim to have had convincing subjective experiences of the truth of that faith. Obviously, they cannot all be right. Why should an atheist accept any one of these testimonies as more valid than any other?

  • dye

    Mollie,

    Your idea greatly remind me of Terminator.

    Say the God of Terminator (the engineers) design the bots never to sin. Like I Robot, they are sentiment robot never programmed to sin.

    What if the engineer knows in advance that they would sin and caused the world to be nearly destroy? Are they not responsible for the disaster? The only excuse the engineer in Terminator 2 come up with is that he is curious and he did not know it will end up that way. What excuse do God has?

    I would believe if an engineer made a bridge that he knows in advance it will collapse and kills everyone on top will be responsible for the death result. Ofcourse the people on top abusing it may have part of the blame, but they can at least pardon themselves because of ignorance.

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

    Hello Mollie,

    I can assert God’s goodness just the same way I can assert his omniscience and omnipotence. The only way I know is that He has revealed his qualities to us in His Word.

    So… you believe God is good because he tells you he is? Not to be flippant, but this isn’t the method you use for human beings, is it? The Qur’an says Allah is good; do you believe that?

    Allow me to suggest something you may not have thought of: If you ask someone whether they are a good person, a person who really is good would tell you the truth. But an evil person would lie.

    So WHY did He allow evil? He wanted His creatures to CHOOSE to worship Him on their own accord. If there was no potential for evil, there would be no choice.

    I disagree. I think an omnipotent god, if there was one, could create beings who would freely choose to worship him of their own accord, and who would always make the right choice. If you think this is impossible, then I have to ask you this: Does God himself have free will? If so, does he have the potential for evil? If not, why couldn’t he give us whatever he has that makes this possible?

    God DIDN’T create imperfect humans, He created perfect ones.

    I have to say, this doesn’t make any sense to me. Clearly, according to Christian theology, the first humans were imperfect. If they were perfect, they wouldn’t have chosen to sin – that’s pretty much the definition of “perfect”.

    I believe that the Bible teaches that we HAVE offended God infinitely and thus deserve an infinite punishment.

    Mollie, at the risk of stating the obvious, you have to remember that we’re atheists. We don’t believe that the Bible has any special authority. Saying “I believe because the Bible says so” is not going to make any impression on us, any more than if I said to you, “I believe because the writings of Robert Ingersoll say so.” We will believe what the Bible says if that claim makes sense and is supported by evidence, but that’s the same standard we’d use to judge any claim in any book.

    I explained in my previous comment why infinite punishment is an unjust response to any act a human being could commit, and I gave several reasons backing that position up. You’re just repeating your prior claim, and that’s not going to change any of our minds. Do you have any reasons why you believe this, other than “because the Bible says so”? We’ll fairly consider anything you have to say.

    Also: you asked about miracles. No, a story isn’t good enough; it couldn’t possibly be, since every religion has miracle stories of its own, and obviously they can’t all be correct. What I’d need is some way to tell the true stories apart from the false ones. A miracle that happened to me, that I could witness with my own eyes, would be one way. Failing that, I’d want to see evidence gathered in some objective way that any person can examine for themself – for example, a scientific study finding that Christian prayer has a statistically significant success rate higher than that of other religions.

  • OMGF

    @corsair,

    …and why Serenity was cancelled so quickly.

    Is there any more proof necessary that god doesn’t exist?

    @Mollie,

    He did create them with the ability to never sin. However, they DID choose to sin (swayed by Satan’s temptations). They definitely could have chosen not to.

    Could they have really chosen that? The fruit they ate was the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. They had no knowledge of what good and evil were before they ate the fruit, so how could they tell their choice was an evil choice until after it was made?

    And yes, He still condemned them for that sin (Again- just because He knew it would happen didn’t change the fact that He still wanted them to CHOOSE to obey).

    Except that when god created them he did so with full knowledge that they would choose to disobey (even though they had not the faculties to know the gravity of the situation.) It seems a bit pointless for a perfect being to secretly hope that he will be wrong about whether his creations will disobey him or not when he fully knows they will.

    He did this to bring Himself the most glory.

    This statement makes him sound like a petulant sports star that only cares about himself. I’m reminded of how Latrell Spreewell wanted to re-negotiate his contract because he had a family to feed, and apparently the millions of dollars he was currently making wasn’t enough.

  • Mollie

    Ebonmuse:
    Perhaps I have misunderstood the purpose of this thread. My intent was to take your proof from evil- beginning with the assumption that the Christian idea of God (from the Bible) cannot be true because it is internally inconsistent, and show that the Christian view of God (from the Bible) IS internally consistent.

    I would think this is obvious: this is the idea of God held by the vast majority of theists in the world today. That is the idea I wish to argue against, so I’m starting from the believers’ own idea of God, taking it as true for the sake of argument, and showing how that idea of God with those specific properties leads to an irresolvable conflict.

    Again, I’m not trying to prove that what the Bible says is true or that God exists. I know that you don’t believe that. I’m merely showing that the God of the Bible does not lead to an irresolvable conflict.

    If I have misunderstood this, let me know.

  • Mollie

    Ebonmuse:
    Perhaps I have misunderstood the purpose of this thread. My intent was to take your proof from evil- beginning with the assumption that the Christian idea of God (from the Bible) cannot be true because it is internally inconsistent, and show that the Christian view of God (from the Bible) IS internally consistent.

    I would think this is obvious: this is the idea of God held by the vast majority of theists in the world today. That is the idea I wish to argue against, so I’m starting from the believers’ own idea of God, taking it as true for the sake of argument, and showing how that idea of God with those specific properties leads to an irresolvable conflict.

    Again, I’m not trying to prove that what the Bible says is true or that God exists. I know that you don’t believe that. I’m merely showing that the God of the Bible does not lead to an irresolvable conflict.

    If I have misunderstood this, let me know.

  • ex machina

    Again, I’m not trying to prove that what the Bible says is true or that God exists. I know that you don’t believe that. I’m merely showing that the God of the Bible does not lead to an irresolvable conflict.

    And you used Bible quotes several times in your attempts to do this. This lead Ebon and others to then show that the Bible itself is inconsistent or call it into question so as to undermine your assumption.

    But now you seem to be saying something pretty interesting. You seem to be saying that the God of the Bible never tried to meet the standards of being all-loving, all-knowing, and/or all-powerful. That’s fine. But I and most atheists would then say that a being that does not meet those three criteria, while it might well exist, is not worth worshiping. This is why people spent so much time opposing the idea of infinite punishment for finite transgression. An evil King, for example, might have the power to uphold his corrupt laws, but that does not make the laws worth following. Any being upholding that standard of justice could definitely exist because it is not self contradictory given the nature of evil in the world, but is not really worthy of worship/obedience/whathaveyou.

    While you seem to think the Bible offers a reconciliation of the infinite punishment/finite sin issue. . .

    First, if God is our Creator, then we are accountable to Him (similar to how a child is accountable to his parents). Second, God has given us His perfect Law and anything we do contrary to that is sin (1 John 3:4). Again, sin is any defection from God’s standard that does not conform to His nature/qualities. So, if God is the one in authority, He sets the standards. And since God is just (possessing moral equity), then He decides what is fair punishment for sins.

    . . . I still find the idea morally repugnant.

    I imagine that this all seems pretty systematic and dry to you, and you probably fail to see how it is important. But philosophical discourse on God has a long a and rich history. You should go to your local community college and take a course or two in either philosophy or theology. You’ll learn where a lot of ideas about God come from and the ways in which both sides of the argument present their case (both believers and non-believers).

  • ex machina

    Again, I’m not trying to prove that what the Bible says is true or that God exists. I know that you don’t believe that. I’m merely showing that the God of the Bible does not lead to an irresolvable conflict.

    And you used Bible quotes several times in your attempts to do this. This lead Ebon and others to then show that the Bible itself is inconsistent or call it into question so as to undermine your assumption.

    But now you seem to be saying something pretty interesting. You seem to be saying that the God of the Bible never tried to meet the standards of being all-loving, all-knowing, and/or all-powerful. That’s fine. But I and most atheists would then say that a being that does not meet those three criteria, while it might well exist, is not worth worshiping. This is why people spent so much time opposing the idea of infinite punishment for finite transgression. An evil King, for example, might have the power to uphold his corrupt laws, but that does not make the laws worth following. Any being upholding that standard of justice could definitely exist because it is not self contradictory given the nature of evil in the world, but is not really worthy of worship/obedience/whathaveyou.

    While you seem to think the Bible offers a reconciliation of the infinite punishment/finite sin issue. . .

    First, if God is our Creator, then we are accountable to Him (similar to how a child is accountable to his parents). Second, God has given us His perfect Law and anything we do contrary to that is sin (1 John 3:4). Again, sin is any defection from God’s standard that does not conform to His nature/qualities. So, if God is the one in authority, He sets the standards. And since God is just (possessing moral equity), then He decides what is fair punishment for sins.

    . . . I still find the idea morally repugnant.

    I imagine that this all seems pretty systematic and dry to you, and you probably fail to see how it is important. But philosophical discourse on God has a long a and rich history. You should go to your local community college and take a course or two in either philosophy or theology. You’ll learn where a lot of ideas about God come from and the ways in which both sides of the argument present their case (both believers and non-believers).

  • Polly

    I’ll jump in here with a question, just a question.

    Mollie do you subscribe to presuppositionalism? That is, do you regard all philosophies to be equally built on the same starting principles and therefore, the only onus on a believer is (1)to show that Christian theology is internally consistent in the way facts are interpreted and (2)that all other worldviews are not? (Actually, I don’t think your attempting the 2nd part.)
    I’m not anxiously holding any arguments at the ready in case you say yes/no. I’m just curious.

  • Polly

    I’ll jump in here with a question, just a question.

    Mollie do you subscribe to presuppositionalism? That is, do you regard all philosophies to be equally built on the same starting principles and therefore, the only onus on a believer is (1)to show that Christian theology is internally consistent in the way facts are interpreted and (2)that all other worldviews are not? (Actually, I don’t think your attempting the 2nd part.)
    I’m not anxiously holding any arguments at the ready in case you say yes/no. I’m just curious.

  • Mollie

    Hi Polly,
    I’m not quite sure I understand your question. From what I understand, I don’t think that all philosophies are built on the same principles. One of my basic presuppositions is that God does exist. This isn’t a presupposition of an atheist (from what I read here). Again, I’m not sure if this is answering your question or not.

  • Mollie

    Hi Polly,
    I’m not quite sure I understand your question. From what I understand, I don’t think that all philosophies are built on the same principles. One of my basic presuppositions is that God does exist. This isn’t a presupposition of an atheist (from what I read here). Again, I’m not sure if this is answering your question or not.

  • Mollie

    Polly-
    Can I ask the same question of you- do you believe all philosophies are built on the same principles or have the same presuppositions? (that is- if this is what you actually asked me in the first place :) ). If not, what are yours? Again- I’m just curious like you. :)

  • Polly

    So, I guess your answer is “no.” It’s a school of Christian apologist thought. If you want to know more about it, you can find an entry for it on Wikipedia under “presuppositionalism.” As a Christian you might be interested in it as trivia, but I would say it’s a step backward in terms of dealing with unbelievers.

    There are different ideas about how we can gain knowledge of the world and I think some of those ideas are better than others. Generally, I think science is superior to mysticism and faith as a means of gaining knowledge outside of ourselves/ and often even within ourselves. (Observe and measure and record and then analyze some aspect of your lifestyle and you’ll probably find something or some insight about you that you never knew!)
    As for me, I go wherever evidence takes me. In the absence of evidence to the contrary I believe that the “physical” world, that operates according to the laws of physics, is all there is. And, my bias is occam’s razor. I will look for natural explanations for a phenomenon before looking for a supernatural one. Only when those are exhausted will I turn to a supernatural explanation. Hasn’t happened, yet. :)

    I hope that answered your question.

  • Polly

    So, I guess your answer is “no.” It’s a school of Christian apologist thought. If you want to know more about it, you can find an entry for it on Wikipedia under “presuppositionalism.” As a Christian you might be interested in it as trivia, but I would say it’s a step backward in terms of dealing with unbelievers.

    There are different ideas about how we can gain knowledge of the world and I think some of those ideas are better than others. Generally, I think science is superior to mysticism and faith as a means of gaining knowledge outside of ourselves/ and often even within ourselves. (Observe and measure and record and then analyze some aspect of your lifestyle and you’ll probably find something or some insight about you that you never knew!)
    As for me, I go wherever evidence takes me. In the absence of evidence to the contrary I believe that the “physical” world, that operates according to the laws of physics, is all there is. And, my bias is occam’s razor. I will look for natural explanations for a phenomenon before looking for a supernatural one. Only when those are exhausted will I turn to a supernatural explanation. Hasn’t happened, yet. :)

    I hope that answered your question.

  • Mollie

    Polly- thanks for clarifying that. I guess I would propose that everyone begins with a certain presupposition at the very basic level of thought. You then use that thought to understand the things around you. I’m guessing yours is science/logic.

    I’m not looking for an argument here- just proposing that we all start with presuppositions- Christian and non-Christian alike.

  • Mollie

    Polly- thanks for clarifying that. I guess I would propose that everyone begins with a certain presupposition at the very basic level of thought. You then use that thought to understand the things around you. I’m guessing yours is science/logic.

    I’m not looking for an argument here- just proposing that we all start with presuppositions- Christian and non-Christian alike.

  • Javaman

    Mollie,
    I am an atheist. I totally reject God, the Bible and all other theisms. I am very kind, compassionate and caring, and I do all this in the absence of God. I don’t need religion. I don’t need God to be a good person. Morality does not stem from your Christian god. He kills millions of people, inlcuding children and old people in the Old Testament. Are you a God-fearing person? How can you have a relationship with a deity whom you fear? How can you love and fear someone at the same time? This is what an abusive relationship is all about. I am totally at peace with my atheism, but if I do have it totally wrong and God exists exactly as you envision him to be, I believe I will be one of the first people let into heaven. Many of my atheist brethren are trying to free your mind. I would like to know more about you; in particular, what brand of Christianity you follow. I’m assuming when you go to church nobody is allowed to dissent in public with the Bible and its doctrines. You are experiencing group conformity. I would refer you to a famous psychological study performed by Solomon Asch, which describes how easily humans, because we are herd animals, conform to the need to belong to a group that protects them and will do and believe whatever they are told. Most people at this site are appealing to your intellect, which is something religion has disconnected. I, on the other hand, prefer the emotional landscape. A Freudian concept of religion is a return to childhood and is very infantile. This is not a put-down. When you were very small and you were frightened, perhaps you ran to your father for protection and to make the world safe. We all must face death, old age and disease. This is the existential crisis we all must go through. Many people can’t take the truth, but I believe that when you die you blink out of consciousness; game over. Psychologically, it’s impossible to envision a world in which you are not a part. Ancient humans needed to make sense of death and envisioned an afterworld where all would be reunited. This is normal; it’s how the biology of the brain works. It’s very scary to be a human and to be alive. You’re frightened, and you need something to cling to. If religion gets you through the night, so be it, but the historical record of Christians is barbaric, cruel and inhumane, and in my opinion is detrimental to the human race. My remark about being jumped on is that you are being intellectually challenged to defend the logic of your thoughts. Please stick around. Please continue to post. I know it’s hard to let go of God. I suggest you get the Julia Sweeney CD, “Letting Go of God”. Once again, it’s great hearing a different viewpoint, and I would be sad if you left.

  • Javaman

    Mollie,
    I am an atheist. I totally reject God, the Bible and all other theisms. I am very kind, compassionate and caring, and I do all this in the absence of God. I don’t need religion. I don’t need God to be a good person. Morality does not stem from your Christian god. He kills millions of people, inlcuding children and old people in the Old Testament. Are you a God-fearing person? How can you have a relationship with a deity whom you fear? How can you love and fear someone at the same time? This is what an abusive relationship is all about. I am totally at peace with my atheism, but if I do have it totally wrong and God exists exactly as you envision him to be, I believe I will be one of the first people let into heaven. Many of my atheist brethren are trying to free your mind. I would like to know more about you; in particular, what brand of Christianity you follow. I’m assuming when you go to church nobody is allowed to dissent in public with the Bible and its doctrines. You are experiencing group conformity. I would refer you to a famous psychological study performed by Solomon Asch, which describes how easily humans, because we are herd animals, conform to the need to belong to a group that protects them and will do and believe whatever they are told. Most people at this site are appealing to your intellect, which is something religion has disconnected. I, on the other hand, prefer the emotional landscape. A Freudian concept of religion is a return to childhood and is very infantile. This is not a put-down. When you were very small and you were frightened, perhaps you ran to your father for protection and to make the world safe. We all must face death, old age and disease. This is the existential crisis we all must go through. Many people can’t take the truth, but I believe that when you die you blink out of consciousness; game over. Psychologically, it’s impossible to envision a world in which you are not a part. Ancient humans needed to make sense of death and envisioned an afterworld where all would be reunited. This is normal; it’s how the biology of the brain works. It’s very scary to be a human and to be alive. You’re frightened, and you need something to cling to. If religion gets you through the night, so be it, but the historical record of Christians is barbaric, cruel and inhumane, and in my opinion is detrimental to the human race. My remark about being jumped on is that you are being intellectually challenged to defend the logic of your thoughts. Please stick around. Please continue to post. I know it’s hard to let go of God. I suggest you get the Julia Sweeney CD, “Letting Go of God”. Once again, it’s great hearing a different viewpoint, and I would be sad if you left.

  • Mrnaglfar

    God cannot be all-powerful and all-knowing; the two contradict themselves. If God is all knowing, he must know the future, including what he will do. But if he knows what he is going to do, does that mean he does not have the power to change his mind? If he can change his mind, he does not know all; if he cannot change his mind he is not all powerful.

  • Dave W.

    Mollie,
    Let me try and take a stab at rephrasing what Ebonmuse states in his essay.

    I’m sure you would agree that a perfectly loving God, would/cannot allow unnecessary suffering to occur.

    Now, your argument seems to be that He allows this suffering to take place because it’s necessary to achieve some ‘noble’ end.

    However, an omnipotent being would be able to achieve any goal he desires without having innocent people suffer (unless of course his goal is to have innocent people suffer).

    So either you are saying:

    1. God has this ‘noble’ goal he is trying to achieve which he cannot do without letting innocent people suffer. This of course would directly contradict Assumption (1b)

    2. You hold that Assumption (1b) is true, which means that God can in fact achieve said goal without having innocent people suffer yet chooses to do so. This of course would directly contradict Assumption (1c)

  • Dave W.

    Mollie,
    Let me try and take a stab at rephrasing what Ebonmuse states in his essay.

    I’m sure you would agree that a perfectly loving God, would/cannot allow unnecessary suffering to occur.

    Now, your argument seems to be that He allows this suffering to take place because it’s necessary to achieve some ‘noble’ end.

    However, an omnipotent being would be able to achieve any goal he desires without having innocent people suffer (unless of course his goal is to have innocent people suffer).

    So either you are saying:

    1. God has this ‘noble’ goal he is trying to achieve which he cannot do without letting innocent people suffer. This of course would directly contradict Assumption (1b)

    2. You hold that Assumption (1b) is true, which means that God can in fact achieve said goal without having innocent people suffer yet chooses to do so. This of course would directly contradict Assumption (1c)

  • OMGF

    I’m not looking for an argument here- just proposing that we all start with presuppositions- Christian and non-Christian alike.

    The enterprise of science strives to eliminate presuppositions. One can still attain the scientific knowledge we have by starting with a blank slate and proceeding with the scientific process. This does not constitute a “presupposition.” Religious thought, however, does deal in presuppositions because it necessitates the acceptance of unsupported assumptions of god’s existence.

  • Polly

    I think Descarte attempted to start without presuppositions in trying to prove God. I don’t buy his conclusion, but at least he made the attempt. But, that was philosophical thinking, not religious thinking.

    Science does indeed start with a few assumptions. First and foremost is that there is order in the universe and that we can discover it. Cause and effect is an assumption. Even Occam’s razor has a metaphysical bias toward materialism. The philosophy of science itself has undergone evolution. Falsification (Popperism?) is a good but relatively recent invention (XX C.). Other ideas have been brought up that are downright anarchic but have some merit. The direction science can take can be limited or broadened depending on the paradigm. Do we look for answers in the current model? Do we try something “stupid” and hope to find something new? Where’s the big money? What’s the big money theory?

    Science as an institution is subject to some of the same inertial forces of human society, which is that people tend to maintain the status quo. Research generally investigates WITHIN the current popular paradigm. I wouldn’t characterize science as a blank slate. I see nothing wrong with any of this, of course. We have to start somewhere.
    I think the advantage that science has over religion is in what we do to mitigate the possibility that we’ll be blinded by our blinders. That’s crucial! Science needs to be vigilant about this risk, too, if there’s to be any hope for innovation, i.e. for truly new discoveries as opposed to merely cataloging the confirming instances of an old idea. (Also important, but not as exciting.)

    The problem with religion is that it doesn’t seek to take off the blinders and, instead, actively, AGRESSIVELY discourages thinking outside the box by calling any opposing idea “heresy.” Opposing facts are ignored. The framework is established and is not even allowed to be tested for confirmation (that’s already presupposed) let alone tried for falsifiability (that’s “testing” god).

    To the extent religion makes claims about the physical world, it has been put to the test and is generally wrong – probably because so much religion was invented by ancient peoples. When religion asserts “truths” about the supernatural, well, none of it is really testable. When religion asserts that human beings are X, no contradiction is tolerated even if human experience is not X but…Y.

  • Polly

    I think Descarte attempted to start without presuppositions in trying to prove God. I don’t buy his conclusion, but at least he made the attempt. But, that was philosophical thinking, not religious thinking.

    Science does indeed start with a few assumptions. First and foremost is that there is order in the universe and that we can discover it. Cause and effect is an assumption. Even Occam’s razor has a metaphysical bias toward materialism. The philosophy of science itself has undergone evolution. Falsification (Popperism?) is a good but relatively recent invention (XX C.). Other ideas have been brought up that are downright anarchic but have some merit. The direction science can take can be limited or broadened depending on the paradigm. Do we look for answers in the current model? Do we try something “stupid” and hope to find something new? Where’s the big money? What’s the big money theory?

    Science as an institution is subject to some of the same inertial forces of human society, which is that people tend to maintain the status quo. Research generally investigates WITHIN the current popular paradigm. I wouldn’t characterize science as a blank slate. I see nothing wrong with any of this, of course. We have to start somewhere.
    I think the advantage that science has over religion is in what we do to mitigate the possibility that we’ll be blinded by our blinders. That’s crucial! Science needs to be vigilant about this risk, too, if there’s to be any hope for innovation, i.e. for truly new discoveries as opposed to merely cataloging the confirming instances of an old idea. (Also important, but not as exciting.)

    The problem with religion is that it doesn’t seek to take off the blinders and, instead, actively, AGRESSIVELY discourages thinking outside the box by calling any opposing idea “heresy.” Opposing facts are ignored. The framework is established and is not even allowed to be tested for confirmation (that’s already presupposed) let alone tried for falsifiability (that’s “testing” god).

    To the extent religion makes claims about the physical world, it has been put to the test and is generally wrong – probably because so much religion was invented by ancient peoples. When religion asserts “truths” about the supernatural, well, none of it is really testable. When religion asserts that human beings are X, no contradiction is tolerated even if human experience is not X but…Y.

  • OMGF

    @Polly,

    Science does indeed start with a few assumptions. First and foremost is that there is order in the universe and that we can discover it. Cause and effect is an assumption. Even Occam’s razor has a metaphysical bias toward materialism. The philosophy of science itself has undergone evolution.

    I disagree. I wouldn’t say that we assume that there is order to the universe (natural law) as much as we observe it and verify it. We don’t assume the sun will rise in the East everyday as some sort of presumption, but because we infer it from the fact that it has been tested and reliably does rise in the East every morning.

  • MK

    Hello All,

    I have enjoyed reading many of the issues and questions that Mollie, Ebonmuse, and Polly have brought up thus far. I like the conversation that has been going on but I feel that “the problem of Evil” has been thoroughly dealt with (after 75 posts!). I was wondering if we could start a new thread that deals with the more recent questions concerning presuppositions from both a Christian and Atheist stand point. Myself being a Bible believing Christian would propose that Atheist’s do have to start with the presupposition that the supernatural does not exist and then I would like to propose a logical proof that the supernatural does exist.

  • OMGF

    MK,
    It’s not a presupposition to not believe in your claims of the supernatural. You are making the positive claims, not us. You are making the presupposition, not us. You are saying that you a priori believe in some sort of supernatural entity that you make up. It is not similarly an assumption on our part to say that we will not accept your assumptions unless you can provide evidence.

  • OMGF

    MK,
    It’s not a presupposition to not believe in your claims of the supernatural. You are making the positive claims, not us. You are making the presupposition, not us. You are saying that you a priori believe in some sort of supernatural entity that you make up. It is not similarly an assumption on our part to say that we will not accept your assumptions unless you can provide evidence.

  • Mollie

    Ebonmuse:
    I wasn’t sure if you were waiting for me to finish answering your questions, or if you would just comment on my last post- I’ll go ahead and respond.

    Does God himself have free will? Does he have the potential for evil?

    If by free will you mean that God has a choice to make between good and evil- then no. By definition, God is good and everything He does is good. He does not have the potential for evil.

    According to Christian theology, the first humans were imperfect. If they were perfect, they wouldn’t have chosen to sin – that’s pretty much the definition of “perfect”.

    According to the Genesis account, what God created was good- very good. When I say God created them perfect, it means that they were without sin. This might not be a good analogy, but let’s say I have a perfect driving record (actually, I do!). I have never received any tickets or violations. However, if I were to speed down the interstate and get pulled over and receive my very first ticket, I would cease to have a perfect record. The record up until that time was perfect, but it still had the potential to become imperfect.

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

    MK:

    Myself being a Bible believing Christian would propose that Atheist’s do have to start with the presupposition that the supernatural does not exist and then I would like to propose a logical proof that the supernatural does exist.

    The purpose of open threads is as a courtesy for theists who have serious questions, not as an opportunity for proselytizers. If you only want to preach, then I suggest you find another site to do it.

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

    MK:

    Myself being a Bible believing Christian would propose that Atheist’s do have to start with the presupposition that the supernatural does not exist and then I would like to propose a logical proof that the supernatural does exist.

    The purpose of open threads is as a courtesy for theists who have serious questions, not as an opportunity for proselytizers. If you only want to preach, then I suggest you find another site to do it.

  • Mollie

    Ebonmuse:
    I went back and re-read your “All Possible Worlds” Essay. I think you believe I fall into the “Unknown Purpose Defense”- as you quoted yourself earlier in this thread. I believe there are several important considerations with this defense.

    First- When God created the world perfectly, there was no death, no suffering, no natural disaster. After the Fall (sin entering the world), those things were instantly a part of this world. So, while God certainly allows them to go on, they are the result of our direct disobedience to Him. He could prevent them, but that would be merciful, not just. What is fair is justice, not mercy. (as a side- we do not know how many instances God HAS shown us mercy in not allowing us to suffer- we typically only recognize the times when “God could have done something and didn’t”).

    Second- Your use of the word innocent with regard to suffering. Because all of us are guilty of sin, none of us are innocent. This goes back to my 1st point.

    Third- God perfectly loves Himself more than humans. If you disagree, who SHOULD He love and honor more than Himself? No one else is worthy. He desires to bring Himself the most glory possible- and He will. His desire is not to make our lives the most pleasant they could possibly be (in fact, He told Christians to EXPECT suffering- especially brought on by others), but to do whatever it takes to honor Himself above all else. He can do this because He is God and deserves it as such.

    Additionally, if God has an important purpose for permitting evil, then why do we try so hard to stop it? How do theists know they are not working in opposition to God’s will every time they vaccinate a child or give money to a poor man?

    This assumes that in the case of preventing suffering not yet started, that God would have wanted that particular ‘child’ (in this case) to suffer. Perhaps God allowed another child who was to suffer, not to get a vaccination. In the case of the money for the poor man, you assume that though it was suffering already begun, that the suffering God permitted MUST continue to go on.

    Since God is all powerful, any attempts by us to (as you put it) ‘stop evil’ that He wishes to allow will not ultimately work out (i.e. the child will still get the disease vaccinated against, the poor man will still remain poor after given money).

  • OMGF

    If by free will you mean that God has a choice to make between good and evil- then no. By definition, God is good and everything He does is good. He does not have the potential for evil.

    Then god is not omnipotent.

    So, while God certainly allows them to go on, they are the result of our direct disobedience to Him.

    That god facilitated. He knew what would happen and allowed it to happen anyway. He could have moved the fruit out of their reach, but he didn’t. He could have made them not want the fruit, but he didn’t. He could have given them knowledge of good and evil so that they could make an informed choice, but he didn’t (remember, the fruit they ate is what gave them the knowledge that they had done evil.) If you knew a murder were going to be committed and it was within your power to stop it, would you allow it to happen just so you could punish the murderer? That is what god is doing, plus some. He not only allowed it, he caused it by setting up a universe where he knew it would happen. So, he caused us to be sinful and then punishes us for it. Where is the justice in that?

    Third- God perfectly loves Himself more than humans. If you disagree, who SHOULD He love and honor more than Himself? No one else is worthy. He desires to bring Himself the most glory possible- and He will. His desire is not to make our lives the most pleasant they could possibly be (in fact, He told Christians to EXPECT suffering- especially brought on by others), but to do whatever it takes to honor Himself above all else. He can do this because He is God and deserves it as such.

    I pity you, for you seem to have no grasp of the concept of love. As it has been pointed out, people don’t love others in order to glorify themselves. You are describing a god that is nothing more than a narcisist that is using you and every other creature on this planet for his own selfish, narcisistic edification. This is a god that is not worthy of our respect, let alone our worship.

  • OMGF

    If by free will you mean that God has a choice to make between good and evil- then no. By definition, God is good and everything He does is good. He does not have the potential for evil.

    Then god is not omnipotent.

    So, while God certainly allows them to go on, they are the result of our direct disobedience to Him.

    That god facilitated. He knew what would happen and allowed it to happen anyway. He could have moved the fruit out of their reach, but he didn’t. He could have made them not want the fruit, but he didn’t. He could have given them knowledge of good and evil so that they could make an informed choice, but he didn’t (remember, the fruit they ate is what gave them the knowledge that they had done evil.) If you knew a murder were going to be committed and it was within your power to stop it, would you allow it to happen just so you could punish the murderer? That is what god is doing, plus some. He not only allowed it, he caused it by setting up a universe where he knew it would happen. So, he caused us to be sinful and then punishes us for it. Where is the justice in that?

    Third- God perfectly loves Himself more than humans. If you disagree, who SHOULD He love and honor more than Himself? No one else is worthy. He desires to bring Himself the most glory possible- and He will. His desire is not to make our lives the most pleasant they could possibly be (in fact, He told Christians to EXPECT suffering- especially brought on by others), but to do whatever it takes to honor Himself above all else. He can do this because He is God and deserves it as such.

    I pity you, for you seem to have no grasp of the concept of love. As it has been pointed out, people don’t love others in order to glorify themselves. You are describing a god that is nothing more than a narcisist that is using you and every other creature on this planet for his own selfish, narcisistic edification. This is a god that is not worthy of our respect, let alone our worship.

  • Heather

    Mollie,

    I realize that you’re only responding to Ebonmuse, but I figured I’d throw more of my thoughts in anyway. :)

    You earlier mentioned that “Sin is any defection from God’s standard that does not conform to His nature/qualities (for example, God is Truth, so lying is contrary to that) (Romans 3:23).” You later defined perfect as humans were created without sin, and used an analogy “. The record up until that time was perfect, but it still had the potential to become imperfect.” The problem I would see with this is that it seems to re-define what perfect is. If we say that something is created perfect and is perfect, we would mean that it’s created without flaws. I think you would agree on that one. Except when the definition of sin comes into play, it’s stated as any defection from God’s standard — and that would include sinful inclinations, such as Eve being tempted by the serpent. The fact that Adam and Eve were made to have that inclination would be considered a flaw. After all, when we say that God is perfect, it means that God is without flaws and will never have flaws, and will never be tempted by sin. Why isn’t the same definition applied to perfect in terms of people?

    Also, if God doesn’t have the potential for evil, how could he then create beings that did have the potential for evil? That potential would have to be ‘installed’ by him.

    **After the Fall (sin entering the world), those things were instantly a part of this world. So, while God certainly allows them to go on, they are the result of our direct disobedience to Him. *** I’m guessing you follow the idea of original sin? If so, how can someone be held accountable for being born with the inclination to sin? If a mother constantly used drugs while the child was in the womb, would we hold the child accountable for desiring drugs? No. Plus, this line of reasoning can lead to saying that all bad things are ‘deserved.’ Such as that recent event where the young woman was stoned to death in the MIddle East while others filmed it with their cell phones. Did she deserve that?

    **God perfectly loves Himself more than humans. If you disagree, who SHOULD He love and honor more than Himself? No one else is worthy. He desires to bring Himself the most glory possible- and He will. His desire is not to make our lives the most pleasant they could possibly be (in fact, He told Christians to EXPECT suffering- especially brought on by others), but to do whatever it takes to honor Himself above all else. He can do this because He is God and deserves it as such.** If you described a person along these lines, would you find that person appealing? I wouldn’t. What I do find appealing in people are those who put others first, or who don’t desire to bring themselves the most glory possible. Because those people put themselves first, and can’t be trusted.

    This isn’t meant to attack you, but rather show why many find this point of view troubling.

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

    Mollie, I think OMGF and Heather have written you some excellent replies. I don’t want to repeat what others have said, so I’ll yield the floor and step back for now. I’d encourage you to answer them, if you feel inclined to continue this discussion.

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

    Mollie, I think OMGF and Heather have written you some excellent replies. I don’t want to repeat what others have said, so I’ll yield the floor and step back for now. I’d encourage you to answer them, if you feel inclined to continue this discussion.

  • Mollie

    Ebonmuse: No problem :)

    OMGF:

    Then god is not omnipotent.

    What is your definition of omnipotent? That God has the power to do ANYTHING? I disagree. God has the power to do anything- within his nature. His holiness does not allow Him to do evil.

    He could have moved the fruit out of their reach, but he didn’t. He could have made them not want the fruit, but he didn’t. He could have given them knowledge of good and evil so that they could make an informed choice, but he didn’t (remember, the fruit they ate is what gave them the knowledge that they had done evil.)

    Each of these things would have prevented the choice He wanted humans to make themselves- to obey Him or not. About them having an informed choice- He did tell them not to eat it. What more information would they have needed? Additionally, the fact that He told them NOT to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would tell me that He DIDN’T want them to know about evil.

    If you knew a murder were going to be committed and it was within your power to stop it, would you allow it to happen just so you could punish the murderer?

    Do you really believe God is that malicious? That he is just sitting around waiting for us to mess up so he can smack us? What happened to Him being all-loving? Sure- He does make us accountable for our actions, but I’d hardly say He allows it JUST so He could punish us.

    Allow me to give an example of what I think more closely illustrates this point. You are a parent of a teenager. This teenager wants to attend a party where you know there will be alcohol (maybe because some college-aged kids are there- so it’s legal). You allow your child to go to the party with explicit instructions not to drink anything alcoholic. There will be consequences. You know that your teen has a choice to make- he can either obey you or disobey. There is temptation from an older guy to drink, so, he disobeys you. Would you say it was the parent’s fault that he drank? The parent allowed the teen to go to the party with full knowledge of what would be there. The teen had clear instructions on what he was not to do and the consequences. Maybe you would say the parent was unwise to put his child in that situation (which is an opinion), but there was NO doubt about what was to be done. The idea that God should have done something (move the fruit, make them not want it, etc) would be like the parent only allowing the teen to go to ‘dry’ parties where they serve punch and still telling him that he cannot drink alcohol; then telling all their (the parent’s) colleagues how great it is that their teen obeys them. There is no choice for obedience involved.

    If you disagree, who SHOULD He love and honor more than Himself?

    OMGF- you did not answer my question!

    Heather:

    and that would include sinful inclinations, such as Eve being tempted by the serpent.

    How is being tempted an inclination?

    Why isn’t the same definition applied to perfect in terms of people?

    Good question. Usually when we talk about attributes of God they are in the most absolute form of the word. For instance, all-knowing means that God knows everything. All-loving means that God would do the highest good for the object being loved (all the time). Perfect, or holy, means separate from all that is unclean and evil and He is positively pure and distinct from all others. God has given us some of these attributes, but not in the fullest sense in which He has them. If He had done that, we’d all be God. So, we can know things, but not everything. We can love, but not everyone, all the time, every time. In the same way, God created the first humans in a state where they could fellowship with Him (and He does not allow anything less than holiness). However (I looked this up in my theology book), since they were ABLE to sin, theologians prefer the term: unconfirmed (because he had neither passed nor failed the test) creature (because his holiness was not the same as the Creator’s) holiness (because he was more than ‘innocent’). So, if you will allow me, I would change the word describing their state from ‘perfect’ to ‘unconfirmed creature holiness’. It still describes what I said before.

    If a mother constantly used drugs while the child was in the womb, would we hold the child accountable for desiring drugs? No.

    But we’d certainly hold him accountable if he started USING drugs!

    If you described a person along these lines, would you find that person appealing?

    Fortunately, we’re not describing people- we’re describing God. I ask you the same thing I asked OMGF: who SHOULD He love and honor more than Himself?

    —-
    I’ll be gone this weekend, so no posts for a while. Hope everyone has a great Father’s Day!

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

    I’d like to jump in here:

    About them having an informed choice- He did tell them not to eat it. What more information would they have needed?

    It takes a lot more than that for a choice to be informed. First of all, the person making the choice has to understand its consequences. God said Adam and Eve would die if they ate from the tree, but since there was no death in the pre-fall world, that warning would have been completely meaningless to them. Wouldn’t you agree? How could that have been a deterrent when they didn’t even know what death was?

    Second, for a choice to be informed, the person making the choice has to be competent. A child isn’t competent; even if you offer them a contract and they sign it, it isn’t an informed choice. The same goes for an adult of diminished capacity. And before the fall, humans certainly were that. You said it yourself – Adam and Eve didn’t know what evil was! They couldn’t possibly have, since they hadn’t eaten from the tree yet. How were they supposed to understand that that act was wrong when they had no such concept as “wrong”? How can you blame someone for choosing evil if they don’t know the difference between good and evil?

    Do you really believe God is that malicious? That he is just sitting around waiting for us to mess up so he can smack us?

    The Bible does give that impression.

    What happened to Him being all-loving?

    Good question. I think we should be the ones asking it of you, however. According to the Bible, only a minority of humans will end up saved, while the majority will end up eternally damned (Matthew 7:13-14). Is that the plan of action you would expect from an “all-loving” being – to stand by and do nothing while the majority of humanity suffers the endless torments of the lost? Don’t you think, if there really was an infinitely good and powerful being, he could have arranged a better outcome?

    Would you say it was the parent’s fault that he drank? The parent allowed the teen to go to the party with full knowledge of what would be there.

    Okay – let’s take this analogy and run with it. Let’s say you’re the parent, and you find out about your teen’s disobedience of your explicit order. How would you punish him? Would you shoot him in the head? After all, the Bible says that Adam and Eve were punished for their transgression by being sentenced to death. Is that either a loving act or a just act, for one bite of an apple? I don’t think so.

    And what about their descendants? Why were they punished for their parents’ sin? We can’t possibly be held responsible for what Adam and Eve did – we didn’t exist yet! And yet, if you believe Christianity, God extended the curse of original sin not just to the people who actually violated his order, but to all people everywhere throughout time. A more unfairly disproportionate sentence would be difficult to imagine. This is kind of like calling in a squadron of fighter planes to carpet-bomb a city because one person in it committed a crime.

    Even if we accept for the sake of argument that eating from the tree was a bad act that deserved punishment, why wouldn’t a fair god punish just Adam and Eve? Why wouldn’t he let each generation of their descendants start over in the Garden, and give them the same choice between good and evil that their parents had?

    Perfect, or holy, means separate from all that is unclean and evil and He is positively pure and distinct from all others. God has given us some of these attributes, but not in the fullest sense in which He has them. If He had done that, we’d all be God.

    Forgive me, but that’s silly. God does not have the freedom to do evil, and yet, Christians don’t claim that he lacks any freedom worth wanting. Similarly, a good God could have created human beings so that they never desired to sin – so that we would all want to obey him and would all freely choose to do so. That would hardly be too difficult for an omnipotent being, and it certainly would not mean that we would be the equals to God. In fact, according to Christian eschatology, that is exactly the state that will obtain – in Heaven. (You’re not claiming that people in Heaven sin, right?) Whatever people will have once we’re there that keeps us from sinning, why not just start out giving that quality to everyone and not have to create a Hell at all?

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

    I’d like to jump in here:

    About them having an informed choice- He did tell them not to eat it. What more information would they have needed?

    It takes a lot more than that for a choice to be informed. First of all, the person making the choice has to understand its consequences. God said Adam and Eve would die if they ate from the tree, but since there was no death in the pre-fall world, that warning would have been completely meaningless to them. Wouldn’t you agree? How could that have been a deterrent when they didn’t even know what death was?

    Second, for a choice to be informed, the person making the choice has to be competent. A child isn’t competent; even if you offer them a contract and they sign it, it isn’t an informed choice. The same goes for an adult of diminished capacity. And before the fall, humans certainly were that. You said it yourself – Adam and Eve didn’t know what evil was! They couldn’t possibly have, since they hadn’t eaten from the tree yet. How were they supposed to understand that that act was wrong when they had no such concept as “wrong”? How can you blame someone for choosing evil if they don’t know the difference between good and evil?

    Do you really believe God is that malicious? That he is just sitting around waiting for us to mess up so he can smack us?

    The Bible does give that impression.

    What happened to Him being all-loving?

    Good question. I think we should be the ones asking it of you, however. According to the Bible, only a minority of humans will end up saved, while the majority will end up eternally damned (Matthew 7:13-14). Is that the plan of action you would expect from an “all-loving” being – to stand by and do nothing while the majority of humanity suffers the endless torments of the lost? Don’t you think, if there really was an infinitely good and powerful being, he could have arranged a better outcome?

    Would you say it was the parent’s fault that he drank? The parent allowed the teen to go to the party with full knowledge of what would be there.

    Okay – let’s take this analogy and run with it. Let’s say you’re the parent, and you find out about your teen’s disobedience of your explicit order. How would you punish him? Would you shoot him in the head? After all, the Bible says that Adam and Eve were punished for their transgression by being sentenced to death. Is that either a loving act or a just act, for one bite of an apple? I don’t think so.

    And what about their descendants? Why were they punished for their parents’ sin? We can’t possibly be held responsible for what Adam and Eve did – we didn’t exist yet! And yet, if you believe Christianity, God extended the curse of original sin not just to the people who actually violated his order, but to all people everywhere throughout time. A more unfairly disproportionate sentence would be difficult to imagine. This is kind of like calling in a squadron of fighter planes to carpet-bomb a city because one person in it committed a crime.

    Even if we accept for the sake of argument that eating from the tree was a bad act that deserved punishment, why wouldn’t a fair god punish just Adam and Eve? Why wouldn’t he let each generation of their descendants start over in the Garden, and give them the same choice between good and evil that their parents had?

    Perfect, or holy, means separate from all that is unclean and evil and He is positively pure and distinct from all others. God has given us some of these attributes, but not in the fullest sense in which He has them. If He had done that, we’d all be God.

    Forgive me, but that’s silly. God does not have the freedom to do evil, and yet, Christians don’t claim that he lacks any freedom worth wanting. Similarly, a good God could have created human beings so that they never desired to sin – so that we would all want to obey him and would all freely choose to do so. That would hardly be too difficult for an omnipotent being, and it certainly would not mean that we would be the equals to God. In fact, according to Christian eschatology, that is exactly the state that will obtain – in Heaven. (You’re not claiming that people in Heaven sin, right?) Whatever people will have once we’re there that keeps us from sinning, why not just start out giving that quality to everyone and not have to create a Hell at all?

  • Andrew A.

    Although I do not intend to respond in place of OMGF or Heather, I would like to address some of the things you recently mentioned.

    What is your definition of omnipotent? That God has the power to do ANYTHING? I disagree. God has the power to do anything- within his nature. His holiness does not allow Him to do evil.

    By what you say here, it seems to me that you feel that evil was not created by God, and indeed God has no will to remove it entirely, or it is outside of his abilities to do so.

    Do you really believe God is that malicious? That he is just sitting around waiting for us to mess up so he can smack us? What happened to Him being all-loving? Sure- He does make us accountable for our actions, but I’d hardly say He allows it JUST so He could punish us.

    This may certainly be true should God exist, but Hell doesn’t seem as if he is merely holding us accountable for our actions. This point becomes even more confusing with your next point…

    *paragraph concerning hypothetical teenager situation*

    There are a few issues I have with this:

    • As far as the story of Genesis, with Adam and Eve, and as was mentioned before, they had no knowledge of good or bad, no morality. The first sin they committed was the very act of discovering what sin was. Would you hold a toddler accountable for its actions should it try to hit someone with a toy? They have very little comprehension of the world, and would be taught what’s wrong and what’s right, rather than being punished.
    • When a teenager ignores his parent’s instructions, he is punished. Perhaps no driving for a while, or being grounded. God commits sinners to an eternity of damnation, does he not? This scales the two circumstances too far away from each other for the cause-and-effect relationships to make sense.
    • Parents die. God does not. This is a very significant difference between the logic behind the actions of parents and God. Parents that send their children out with instructions as above do so with the hopes that their children will become independent and make good decisions. Do you expect us to become infinitely powerful deities as God grows old and dies? What purpose does God have to force us to make a decision, if those who choose correctly will live eternally under his guidance anyway? It seems to me that the only reasoning for this you have provided is to glorify himself, but I cannot see what glory he gets from this, for what glory can he receive from the little pets he tortures?

    How is being tempted an inclination?

    Can you provide me with a circumstance where no inclination is necessary to be tempted? We humans act out of desires for things. I fail to imagine a single circumstance where someone has acted with no advantage to himself. Even giving things freely to others – something that is considered a selfless act – makes one feel good. For temptation to succeed, there must be some inclination.

    I’m feeling rather tired right now, so I do hope those points came off as clearly as possible. I took a lot of time to think them out to compensate.

  • Mark

    One of the problems I see a lot of in philosophical discussions is that of circular definitions/reasoning and the avoidance of dealing with the nature of language and personality attributes. I see both in this discussion. (Personally, because philosophy, to me, seems to be a discipline that shuns raw experience in favor of the supposed superiority of the mind and abstract concepts, I currently see this problem as irresolvable. However, I will yet endeavor to attempt resolution.)

    Ultimately, all concepts are based on our sensory perceptions, how our brain responds to them, and how our species uses language between individuals. Therefore, before even approaching terms such as “holy”, “good”, “evil”, and “deserving”, I think we should dig deeper and take a look at what those truly mean for human beings and other organisms, without utilizing any presupposition other than that what we directly experience, with nothing read into it, is real. After all, we use language to convey ideas, and if those ideas are not understood or transmitted very accurately, then building up discussion is futile.

    At this point, to explain what I mean, I recommend reading the book “Evolution for Everyone”, by David Sloan Wilson, which is a book about the evolutionary thought process being applied to any area of life, and not just the biological. The concepts of evolution are not even in opposition to theism, even if the biological theory of evolution may be. The concepts of variance and adaptation, for example, may be applied to anything whatsoever. It is within the book that Wilson speaks of group interaction and selection, and I believe this topic to be supremely important to the words we use in philosophical discussions. For example, what is justice? What does it mean for someone to deserve something? Though most of us define these subjectively for ourselves, their meanings may be most apparent when we look at group interactions and how people within these groups use and apply these terms. As an instance of what I mean, consider how we arrive at the conclusion that, for example, infinite punishment for finite sins is right/wrong/good/evil. It is something we may only solve when we know what we mean by the latter four terms, and the meanings of these terms I think are most clear when we consider group interaction.

    For these reasons, I believe that using terms such as I listed above, without making clear exactly where they come from and what they designate in practice, will only result in irresolution.

    Mollie, it is likely I won’t get to addressing your points in much detail. Everyone else has done a great job of doing so, especially EbonMuse. My suggestions above are my contribution to this discussion, and I believe them to weigh heavily upon it logically.

  • Mark

    One of the problems I see a lot of in philosophical discussions is that of circular definitions/reasoning and the avoidance of dealing with the nature of language and personality attributes. I see both in this discussion. (Personally, because philosophy, to me, seems to be a discipline that shuns raw experience in favor of the supposed superiority of the mind and abstract concepts, I currently see this problem as irresolvable. However, I will yet endeavor to attempt resolution.)

    Ultimately, all concepts are based on our sensory perceptions, how our brain responds to them, and how our species uses language between individuals. Therefore, before even approaching terms such as “holy”, “good”, “evil”, and “deserving”, I think we should dig deeper and take a look at what those truly mean for human beings and other organisms, without utilizing any presupposition other than that what we directly experience, with nothing read into it, is real. After all, we use language to convey ideas, and if those ideas are not understood or transmitted very accurately, then building up discussion is futile.

    At this point, to explain what I mean, I recommend reading the book “Evolution for Everyone”, by David Sloan Wilson, which is a book about the evolutionary thought process being applied to any area of life, and not just the biological. The concepts of evolution are not even in opposition to theism, even if the biological theory of evolution may be. The concepts of variance and adaptation, for example, may be applied to anything whatsoever. It is within the book that Wilson speaks of group interaction and selection, and I believe this topic to be supremely important to the words we use in philosophical discussions. For example, what is justice? What does it mean for someone to deserve something? Though most of us define these subjectively for ourselves, their meanings may be most apparent when we look at group interactions and how people within these groups use and apply these terms. As an instance of what I mean, consider how we arrive at the conclusion that, for example, infinite punishment for finite sins is right/wrong/good/evil. It is something we may only solve when we know what we mean by the latter four terms, and the meanings of these terms I think are most clear when we consider group interaction.

    For these reasons, I believe that using terms such as I listed above, without making clear exactly where they come from and what they designate in practice, will only result in irresolution.

    Mollie, it is likely I won’t get to addressing your points in much detail. Everyone else has done a great job of doing so, especially EbonMuse. My suggestions above are my contribution to this discussion, and I believe them to weigh heavily upon it logically.

  • Mark

    Andrew A.,

    I would like to argue against the toddler analogy in your first bullet point. There are two ways to instruct a small child as to what is good behavior and what is bad behavior, neither one of which I consider better or more right (keep in mind, as I said in my last post, that these terms apply to human groups, and consequently have no objectivity for a person in isolation; we must extend the periphery of our imagination in this scenario to the people the actions would be good for or detrimental to, and why). One is to instruct through language. The other is to instruct through consequences. Either one may produce the same result. Punishment teaches social standards while simultaneously instilling in the toddler the disinclination to act as he/she otherwise would. Toddlers don’t understand language well. The punishment method (though meting out a minor kind of punishment) I could actually see being very effective.

  • Mark

    Mollie,

    I think we could use some terminological simplification. I’m not quite up to sifting through the last eighty-something posts to gather definitions, and I think it would serve the discussion well if you listed your definitions of the following, with reference to God:

    good
    evil
    holy

    When you’ve answered this (concisely yet comprehensibly, please), I will comment on your last post.

  • Mark

    Mollie,

    I think we could use some terminological simplification. I’m not quite up to sifting through the last eighty-something posts to gather definitions, and I think it would serve the discussion well if you listed your definitions of the following, with reference to God:

    good
    evil
    holy

    When you’ve answered this (concisely yet comprehensibly, please), I will comment on your last post.

  • Mark

    Ok, so I said more than I thought I would. lol

  • Mark

    Ok, so I said more than I thought I would. lol

  • Heather

    ‘Mollie,

    **How is being tempted an inclination?** In Eve/Adam’s case, this temptation responded to something that was in them — the desire to sin. Even if it is only a desire, Christian theology holds that the desire is a sin. So Eve/Adam were created with the ability to sin. I see no way around this. They were created with the potential to go against God, which is a sin. God created them less than perfect, and then blamed them for doing exactly what he created them to do.

    **I ask you the same thing I asked OMGF: who SHOULD He love and honor more than Himself?** If God is all-powerful and such, God is certainly free to do this. But even if saying that God is not a person, all we have to go on is how we see people behave when they love and honor themselves the most. It’s not a matter of answer the question of who God should love/honor more than himself. It’s a matter of we have no reason to believe that anything that behaves in such a way is to be trusted. People like that are egotistical and only think of themselves. We would not find a person like this worthy of following, or find a person worthy of being loved/worshiped. Saying that God is not a person doesn’t work, because the concept of what God is is that God isn’t understandable, and works in mysterious ways. So if we’re told that God loves/honors himself the most, and that God is all-loving and all-just, we’re going to find the two contradictory. It seems that all you are basing the whole God acting justly and morally while still honoring/loving himself the most as a conceivable thing is faith — but not as something that can be rationally demonstrated or prove that it can happen as we know it?

    **But we’d certainly hold him accountable if he started USING drugs!** But we’d take the circumstances into account, in that he was ‘created’ that way. We don’t necessarily say to the child, “It’s completely your fault for using the drugs.”

    ** In the same way, God created the first humans in a state where they could fellowship with Him (and He does not allow anything less than holiness). However (I looked this up in my theology book), since they were ABLE to sin, theologians prefer the term: unconfirmed (because he had neither passed nor failed the test) creature (because his holiness was not the same as the Creator’s) holiness (because he was more than ‘innocent’). **So, if you will allow me, I would change the word describing their state from ‘perfect’ to ‘unconfirmed creature holiness’. It still describes what I said before.** You say that God does not allowe anything less than holiness. All right. But is there only one standard of holiness? Because now we have two different ‘holiness’ occuring here. There is God’s and there are people, and it sounds like you are arguing that God would only accept perfect holiness. But in this scenario, people don’t have perfect holiness, if there are made with the ability to sin. Holy was defined as “separate from all that is unclean and evil,” but Adam and Eve weren’t created to be seperate from that. If Adam/Eve were creaetd able to sin, then they were not created perfect (which you seem to be agreeing with?). So then they’re blamed for not living up to a perfect standard when they weren’t created to be perfect? If they were created able to sin, then I don’t see how they could have fellowship with God, because the people were created less than 100% good.’

  • James Bradbury

    Mark,

    I appreciate that you’re trying to help us all unravel this. However, I don’t think getting everyone to define what they mean is helpful. Inevitably they must use other terms in their definitions, which I’m sure will mean different things to different people, hence further definitions will be required. I see this leading to an infinite (and tedious) regress.

    Natural language is ambiguous, even most programming languages contain ambiguities, it’s something we have to live with.

  • James Bradbury

    Mark,

    I appreciate that you’re trying to help us all unravel this. However, I don’t think getting everyone to define what they mean is helpful. Inevitably they must use other terms in their definitions, which I’m sure will mean different things to different people, hence further definitions will be required. I see this leading to an infinite (and tedious) regress.

    Natural language is ambiguous, even most programming languages contain ambiguities, it’s something we have to live with.

  • Mark

    James,

    It is true that it may lead to an infinite regression. I am only asking Mollie to define her terms, however, so that we may get rid of excess baggage. Heather stated that Mollie defined “holy” as “separate from all that is unclean and evil”. However, this would be circular and pointless as a definition if “unlean and evil” is synonymous with “everything but God”. If “unclean” means “not God” and “evil” means “not good”, which is synonymous with “not God”, then we may as well throw out “unclean”, “holy”, “good”, and “evil”, and instead just use “like God / according to God’s will” and “unlike God / not according to God’s will”. That seems to be the underlying issue in this for me, alongside the suspicion that all Mollie is basing her faith off of is authority worship, albeit worship of an authority she would not believe real (due to lack of empirical evidence) if she were not, presumably, indoctrinated as a youth.

    Furthermore, when we use analogies to show Mollie that we don’t believe the depiction of God in the Bible to be good, we are apparently forgetting that she has an entirely different definition of “good”, unalterable by our current line of reasoning, which makes use of said analogies pointless except to show that God is unlike humans, which Mollie already acknowledges and holds sensical (even if the Old Testament God is very much like a human; but even this may not be a problem, since we were created in his image, according to the Bible).

    But because we are dealing with language and can not sense God directly/empirically, I suggested that we search for what “good” actually means within the human sphere and then see if God is good according to that description/definition. If he is not, we should use, and Mollie should adopt, a new term in place of “good”, or at the very least add a modifying term in front of “good” to differentiate the concept from the one applicable to human groups. We may also find, when doing this, that my suspicion of bizarre authority worship mentioned above is indeed the case (I already thoroughly believe it is, but I am speaking in terms of the progression of this group’s adventure in this search for sense), and that instead of crafting a new term for God’s alleged goodness, we may indeed identify his personality and acts as akin or identical to those of an evil person, with this latter term defined in terms of human groups, of course, and not theologically based.

    So while I am conscious of the fact that what I have suggested may run us in circles [if not gone about properly] (because it has happenese numerous times in my discussions with others already–however, they did not quite understand what I meant, I believe), I am not attempting to derail us as such, but to get at what I mentioned in my last paragraph above.

    I really am convinced that the best way, by far, to get at many a philosophical solution is to go back to the senses and the simplest of language (i.e. names of directly perceivable objects and simple verbs), and to incorporate what we know to be the case from disciplines such as sociology. All it would take would be an agreement among all parties that what we sense directly and can describe simply is real.

  • Mark

    Mollie,

    I would still appreciate if you would define those terms in a well-manageable fashion, but I have already made the comments I said were forthcoming.

  • Mark

    Mollie,

    I would still appreciate if you would define those terms in a well-manageable fashion, but I have already made the comments I said were forthcoming.

  • Polly

    I’ve been following this discussion through all the posts and I agree with Mark: similar terminology is clouding some real fundamental differences.

    The xian god is, for xians, a special case not easily lending itself/himself to analogy using human characterstics.

    The atheist basis for justice and goodness is human centric and pragmatic. The xian concepts of justice and goodness are god-centered. What happens to humans is, in the grand scheme of things, almost irrelevant except when judging human actions against other humans. Remember, there was an infinity of time before humans even existed, but god was always there. You can argue until you are blue in the face about why you don’t like it, but the response is…”tough !@#%, take it up with God.” The bedrock principles are different and derive from different sources. Mark, again, makes a good point, it’s authority for the Xian, it’s reason for the atheist.

    “Omnipotence” means something completely different to xians than it does to atheists. Atheists take that term in an absolute sense. Xians don’t. A xian would argue that god is all powerful, but not in the sense that he can (I hate this example) make 1+1=3 or create married bachelors or do other illogical things. Just that he can handle any human problems within the framework he created and even defy the laws of physics. **** Mollie feel free to correct me.

    “Perfect” means something different to a xian – the absence of guilt resulting from already-committed sin. This is contrasted with the potential-to-sin/defective-design concept, from an atheist standpoint.

    Anyway, I hope this helps the discussion rather than merely adding yet, another post!

  • Polly

    I’ll add one side note. The kind of differences mentioned above about the derivation of moral precepts from authority vs. reason, is one of the reasons I hate getting involved in these types of discussions. I much prefer to talk about Biblical fallibility because that takes care of the authority problem.
    As long as someone thinks they have good reason to trust something as a higher authority, superseding even reason, well…by definition, you can’t really reason with them. I absolutely am not saying that as an insult. For a xian, there is a point where human reason must defer to divine revelation.

    I used to think a lot about xian doctrines, and like Mollie, I wrangled a more or less coherent theology out of the scriptures, albeit one that would inevitably dead end in “mystery” or “authority” when it came to discrepancies between human and divine morality.

  • Polly

    I’ll add one side note. The kind of differences mentioned above about the derivation of moral precepts from authority vs. reason, is one of the reasons I hate getting involved in these types of discussions. I much prefer to talk about Biblical fallibility because that takes care of the authority problem.
    As long as someone thinks they have good reason to trust something as a higher authority, superseding even reason, well…by definition, you can’t really reason with them. I absolutely am not saying that as an insult. For a xian, there is a point where human reason must defer to divine revelation.

    I used to think a lot about xian doctrines, and like Mollie, I wrangled a more or less coherent theology out of the scriptures, albeit one that would inevitably dead end in “mystery” or “authority” when it came to discrepancies between human and divine morality.

  • James Bradbury

    Mark,

    I accept in specific areas that clearing up what we mean may be helpful. If God is by definition good, then by what means do we decide that he is good except that he “said” so?

    We may also find, when doing this, that my suspicion of bizarre authority worship mentioned above is indeed the case (I already thoroughly believe it is, but I am speaking in terms of the progression of this group’s adventure in this search for sense), and that instead of crafting a new term for God’s alleged goodness, we may indeed identify his personality and acts as akin or identical to those of an evil person, with this latter term defined in terms of human groups, of course, and not theologically based.

    Maybe it’s just me. I think I know what you mean, but I find your writing very hard to follow. Could you please use shorter sentences?

  • Mark

    James,

    Sure, I’ll try to shorten my statements. That last big post of mine I found to be rather difficult to get through, too. I do like to write longer sentences, though, and I’m rather fond of commas.

    Not sure if your second sentence in your last post was a seriously-posed question by you or rhetorical, but I’ll assume it was the former and answer it. I see in it the very problem I was speaking of–namely, that we are using our definition of “good” and applying it to Mollie’s interpretation of the Christian god and its actions.

    The solution is this:

    “Everything God does” is the definition of “good” in Mollie’s worldview. It is not that God proclaims himself good and we have to see if it’s true. The whole point is that it IS true by definition, and that then, whatever we do that is not in line with what God wants is “not good”, or “evil”, or whatever one wishes to call it.

    This takes goodness out of the human realm entirely, away from the very circumstances we normally associate with it, if I’m not mistaken. And if conscious beings are the only ones that can do evil, then we have a theological problem, regarding God making something with the potential for evil, which has already been discussed (but not resolved).

  • Mark

    James,

    Sure, I’ll try to shorten my statements. That last big post of mine I found to be rather difficult to get through, too. I do like to write longer sentences, though, and I’m rather fond of commas.

    Not sure if your second sentence in your last post was a seriously-posed question by you or rhetorical, but I’ll assume it was the former and answer it. I see in it the very problem I was speaking of–namely, that we are using our definition of “good” and applying it to Mollie’s interpretation of the Christian god and its actions.

    The solution is this:

    “Everything God does” is the definition of “good” in Mollie’s worldview. It is not that God proclaims himself good and we have to see if it’s true. The whole point is that it IS true by definition, and that then, whatever we do that is not in line with what God wants is “not good”, or “evil”, or whatever one wishes to call it.

    This takes goodness out of the human realm entirely, away from the very circumstances we normally associate with it, if I’m not mistaken. And if conscious beings are the only ones that can do evil, then we have a theological problem, regarding God making something with the potential for evil, which has already been discussed (but not resolved).

  • Andrew A.

    Mark,

    I was not exactly arguing what method of teaching a small child is correct, so let me elaborate on some of those points again.

    Punishments may be effective, but God doesn’t punish us and then let us try again, we keep going until the end, then once there is no chance to correct one’s mistakes, God punishes us – for all eternity. I don’t see how God’s punishment applies in the same way our conventional punishments do.

    Additionally, with Adam and Eve, their act caused all of humanity through all of time to be punished. You certainly don’t punish that toddler’s future descendants for its actions, do you? Adam and Eve didn’t even understand what was right and wrong and this out-of-proportion punishment still occurred.

    Regardless of the exact effectiveness of various methodologies used by people to teach young ones, none of it is used by God.

    I hope I clarified the message I was trying to get across. If you still feel my observations are wrong, I would like to hear why you think so.

  • Mark

    To conclude my thoughts from the last post, arguing about what is and isn’t good and evil is pointless, since the definition is so clear-cut and malleable from Mollie’s viewpoint. Correct me if I’m wrong, Mollie.

    Thus, creating beings with the capability for evil is fine with God, and can’t be used in the argument from evil. In fact, I’m not sure now whether or not said argument is even useful with this interpretation of God. The creation of humans was, by the definition of “good” stated below, a good act.

    Because “good” is defined in God’s terms, doing what is good then becomes answering to authority, unless it is in our nature (and because we sin, it isn’t entirely). The question then becomes “Whence the authority of this figure, that you obey him?” I don’t believe there is a satisfactory answer to this, and that there is no convincing reason to believe in the existence of God. I believe people develop the belief due to social forces, and that attempts at forming logical reasons for the belief are manufactured afterwards, to try to make sense of the idea. For most people, this seems to be the case, at least to my mind.

    I would very much like to know, for those reasons, how Mollie arrived at her belief in the existence of God. However, things being as they are, I would not expect an answer devoid of a Christian presupposition. That line of discussion may be a futile one to pursue, as interesting as it is to me.

  • Mark

    James,

    Sorry, my response to your bullet point was off-topic. I do have something to say about it, though.

    You said: “Would you hold a toddler accountable for its actions should it try to hit someone with a toy? They have very little comprehension of the world, and would be taught what’s wrong and what’s right, rather than being punished.”

    My point is that from Mollie’s perspective, I believe, objections like this don’t matter one bit, since we are judged from God’s point of view, and not he from ours. Looking at it this way, what a person would do in your hypothetical is a deviation from God’s way, rather than his way being a deviation from ours.

    I see this authority worship as undermining any attempt at argument that doesn’t contest the authority of God or his existence (discussing his existence may be futile, too, since it could also be claimed–and often is–that God or Satan hides evidence… or that everything is evidence). Discussion of the morality of his actions becomes moot when he is the standard of morality.

  • Heather

    Polly,

    Thanks for the clarifications. It sounds like the viewpoint you describe is one you used to follow?

    **”Perfect” means something different to a xian – the absence of guilt resulting from already-committed sin. This is contrasted with the potential-to-sin/defective-design concept, from an atheist standpoint.** I think this difference is the most fascinating, because it almost seems like a word other than ‘perfect’ should be used to describe God, the . Because one would never find the Christian definition in a dictionary.

  • Polly

    @Heather:

    it almost seems like a word other than ‘perfect’ should be used to describe God,

    Exactly. The terms of the discussion were getting in the way and needed clarification. Mollie herself seemed to recognize it and switched to “unconfirmed” when describing Adam & Eve pre-fall.

    More or less, that’s the way I understood god. Any argument anyone proposed to me (that I presented to myself) about the injustice of infinite punishment for finite crimes, the entrapment in the Garden of Eden, or any other sound objections were waved away with a:
    “God is just. His thoughts and ehtics are above ours. We’re all sinners, so we’re getting less punishment than we deserve” blah…blah….blah….
    That’s why I think this tack is destined for failure. Showing the Bible to be the historically flawed and self-contradictory book that it is, is really the only hope for literalists.

    Looking back, it makes me a little ill. :|

  • Heather

    Polly,

    I think the situation you described applies when to almost all discussion in a literal vs. non-literal way of reading the Bible. Take justice, for instance. There are many events in the OT portion that, if occured today, would be considered unjust. And yet since God is just, those events in the OT must also be just when ordered by God. Except this always leads to having a different standard of justice between people and God, and thus words themselves lose all value.

    What I often find interesting is that the penal substition theory says (if I’m understanding it right) that God’s laws are contained in the Ten Commandments, and those are what humans are measured against. And yet God does violate the ‘thou shalt not kill/murder’ one a lot. Now, I know it’s argued that God’s ways are higher than ours, and God is still just … but if the Ten Commandments are what God uses to determine the sin of humans, don’t they lose validity if the creator of the Ten Commandments doesn’t follow all ten?

  • Polly

    Heather,

    but if the Ten Commandments are what God uses to determine the sin of humans, don’t they lose validity if the creator of the Ten Commandments doesn’t follow all ten?

    Easy to wiggle out of this one. (1)God created people and has the right to do whatever he wants to them, plus (2)it all comes out alright in the next life, when the “real” justice is administered which is tempered with mercy because (3)we all really deserve hell anyway so anything less than that means we’re just getting off easy. :)

    Plus, most of the 10 aren’t an issue for God. He’s obviously not going to violate #1,#2, and #3. He doesn’t live on Earth to recognize a calendar week for #4. He has no parents for #5, no genitalia for #7, and #8 and #10 are moot because everything belongs to him already. That just leaves:
    #6 – don’t kill and
    #9 – don’t bear false witness (technically this does NOT necessarily refer to “everyday” lying).

    Xians argue that it’s only wrong for humans to kill each other because we all belong to god-so only HE gets to kill people and we can’t “play god.” It has nothing to do with sanctity of life; it’s all about god’s property rights over us. God claims that he does not lie(Numbers 23:19).

    (I’m an atheist and am only answering based on OLD beliefs)

  • Mark

    Heather,

    They wouldn’t lose their validity if the reason God made them for humans was because humans are imperfect in his absolute view. Meaning, “thou shalt not kill” is there because humans’ capacity for judgment is impaired, relative to God’s. I’m trying to see this from what I assume is Mollie’s perspective, and I can’t help but think–and I stated this before–that only calling God’s authority or existence into question is going to advance our discussion. Everything else, I think, hypocrisy (such as you mention) included, can easily be brushed away with the claims that God sets all the standards and “good” is defined as everything he does. Not that the hypocrisy would be good, but the actions themselves.

    By the way, just so there’s absolutely no confusion, I am an atheist. Have been for 5-6 years. EbonMuse’s writings on Ebon Musings were influential in helping me cement my position. I’ve posted other comments here, but I forget right now what I used as my name.

  • Polly

    . And yet God does violate the ‘thou shalt not kill/murder’ one a lot. Now, I know it’s argued that God’s ways are higher than ours, and God is still just … but if the Ten Commandments are what God uses to determine the sin of humans, don’t they lose validity if the creator of the Ten Commandments doesn’t follow all ten?

    Most of the 10 don’t actually apply to god:
    God obviously wouldn’t violate #1-#3, he doesn’t live on Earth to recognize a calendar week for #4, he has no parents for #5, no genitalia for #7, and #8 and #10 are moot because he owns everything. That just leaves:
    #6 – Don’t kill
    #9 – Don’t bear false witness

    God claims to obey #9 (Numbers 23:19)

    God doesn’t have to obey #6 because he has the right to take life because he gave life. Anyway, commandment #6 has nothing to do with the sanctity of human life; it’s all about god’s property rights over humans. Like I said earlier, xian morality is definitely NOT human-centered and seems to have very little regard for humans even when it seems to be an advocate for such. That’s why xians and the Bible don’t attribute any value to the good works of infidels – they aren’t giving glory to GOD which is, in essence, the ONLY moral precept.

    (I’m an atheist. I’m responding based on OLD beliefs)

  • Mark

    Polly,

    There’s only one bone of contention I have with your analysis of the applicability of the Ten Commandments to God. Rights–property rights and everything else–are human-created concepts. Rights are social ideas based on empathy, and they assist in making societies functional. They don’t apply to Mollie’s conception of God at all. Again, I’d like to point to what I said above and reiterate: hypocrisy, just like rights, is a human social concept dealing with fairness and what we think of others getting more than we do. It won’t apply to Mollie’s conception of God. In other words, we needn’t think anything of his supposed violation of his own commandments. They are only for humans.

  • Heather

    Polly,

    Thank you again for the explanation. :)

    **Xians argue that it’s only wrong for humans to kill each other because we all belong to god-so only HE gets to kill people and we can’t “play god.” It has nothing to do with sanctity of life; it’s all about god’s property rights over us. ** This I would just find a chilling position, though. About as chilling as I find that God desires to glorify himself above all else, because what is one basing trust of God upon, then? It makes God look like … an entity with a very large toy chest or something.

    I can understand the perspective of the Ten Commandments only applying to humans, since God is ‘other.’ It just seems that the more I watch debates on this topic, and see the answer, the more I’m left with how does anyone know that God is good? Because this leads me to one must have an agreed-upon standard for the word ‘good.’ To me, I can’t go based on a literal reading of the Bible, because many non-good things happen in the OT. I remember reading one of Ebonmuse’s essays, where he (she? Ebonmuse, I apologize, I know your gender was stated somewhere, it’s just been a long week) described the effects of a global flood, and I was picturing the terror those people would have in realizing that there was no more higher ground, there was nowhere to escape. And drowning is a horrible death. It would also involve watching a child drown, or a spouse, or a parent. And then the Ark would be floating through all those carcasses, and it is an *awful* picture.

    Now I think the answer to this is, as Mark said, humans ability to judge is ‘impaired’ compared to God. But then how do we determine that God is good or holy or just or any of that without our ability to determine between good and non-good, or justice and injustice?

    It’s like two different languages almost.

  • Mark

    Heather,

    My answer to your question is that that determination never takes place in the vast majority of believers. They automatically subscribe to the notion that God is good by definition and that God and his will are the standard for all value judgments. Everything else then falls into line. For us nonbelievers, this is unsatisfactory–we don’t base goodness or justice on authority necessarily (although justice could be argued if we attach it to laws).

    It seems to me that the terms are co-opted at an impressionable time in a person’s life, such as childhood, and redefined in a way that doesn’t fit what the rest of humanity means. It is conceivable that they would claim that it is the rest of humanity that has co-opted the terms.

    Hm… not sure if this post contained anything new or not. Anyway, these are my thoughts.

  • Polly

    Weird, I thought my first post was eaten. Now I see that it made it through after all. That’s why there’s a duplicate.
    @Mark: I think I see your point, but I still would bet Mollie would answer pretty much like that.
    @Heather: I think it’s chilling, too.

  • OMGF

    Mollie,

    What is your definition of omnipotent? That God has the power to do ANYTHING? I disagree. God has the power to do anything- within his nature. His holiness does not allow Him to do evil.

    Then where did evil come from? God created the universe and everything in it. That must include evil.

    Each of these things would have prevented the choice He wanted humans to make themselves- to obey Him or not.

    lots of others have already handled the informed choice problem, so I won’t belabor that point. I will point out that they actually didn’t have a choice. When god created the universe he already knew what they would do before they were created. If he had not wanted them to choose that, he would have created the universe slightly differently. The problem is that god has omniscience, so he knows all that happens. This creates a world devoid of the actual ability to choose anything, since to god it has already happened. In our frame of reference, it seems like a choice, but it’s really not.

    To demonstrate, let’s do a little thought experiment. God could write a book that has all the things that you will do for the rest of your life written in it, correct. If god gave you that book and allowed you to read it, do you think that you would be able to make any different choices than what was laid out for you? If you actually had free will, then you would. The inescapable conclusion from this is that god set Adam and Eve up for failure. You could argue that it was done for his plan so that he can get more glory in the end, somehow, but you can’t argue that they really had a choice in the matter.

    Do you really believe God is that malicious? That he is just sitting around waiting for us to mess up so he can smack us? What happened to Him being all-loving? Sure- He does make us accountable for our actions, but I’d hardly say He allows it JUST so He could punish us.

    Yes, god is malicious. The Adam and Eve story, the flood story where he destroyed almost every living creature, the genocides that he ordered where he bacame angry when his subjects carried through the command to kill every man, woman, and child, but apparently weren’t ruthless enough to slaughter all the livestock, and numerous other examples.

    You ask about his “all-loving” traits? It is you who is asserting that. The record speaks otherwise.

    Others have handled the teenager analogy, so I’ll leave that one alone too.

    If you disagree, who SHOULD He love and honor more than Himself?

    He should love himself, just as I think all people should love themselves in the sense of having a healthy self-esteem. What you are describing goes way beyond that, however. What you are describing is a situation where he created a bunch of pawns in order to glorify himself. Your theology makes us nothing more than puppet playthings for god’s amusement. He does not love us, he only loves himself.

  • James Bradbury

    OMFG,

    Then where did evil come from? God created the universe and everything in it. That must include evil.

    I think you’re absolutely right about that and I’m not the only one.

  • James Bradbury

    OMFG,

    Then where did evil come from? God created the universe and everything in it. That must include evil.

    I think you’re absolutely right about that and I’m not the only one.

  • Harvard

    Hello Everyone
    I just read Ebonmuse’s essay concerning evil, and it hits the mark accurately.
    It is interesting to me that many things I’ve read on this website agree with conclusions I made years ago through logical reasoning. For example, after the hurricane and floods in New Orleans, a headline in my newspaper said, “Woman thanks god for rescuing her from floating debris.” I laughed, thinking, Who do you think sent the hurricane in the first place? Who destroyed your city? Who killed many innocent people, including children? Who put you on that piece of debris in the first place? But no — this woman’s flawed, deluded (insane?) logic (illogic?) caused her to praise her god for saving her, instead of screaming in anger at him or her for destroying her home and life. Wow, it boggles the mind that people are so brainwashed that they lose their capacity to think. Maybe they never had a chance to develop their reasoning powers because the church got to them when they were young. If so, sad – and criminal.

  • Harvard

    Hello Everyone
    I just read Ebonmuse’s essay concerning evil, and it hits the mark accurately.
    It is interesting to me that many things I’ve read on this website agree with conclusions I made years ago through logical reasoning. For example, after the hurricane and floods in New Orleans, a headline in my newspaper said, “Woman thanks god for rescuing her from floating debris.” I laughed, thinking, Who do you think sent the hurricane in the first place? Who destroyed your city? Who killed many innocent people, including children? Who put you on that piece of debris in the first place? But no — this woman’s flawed, deluded (insane?) logic (illogic?) caused her to praise her god for saving her, instead of screaming in anger at him or her for destroying her home and life. Wow, it boggles the mind that people are so brainwashed that they lose their capacity to think. Maybe they never had a chance to develop their reasoning powers because the church got to them when they were young. If so, sad – and criminal.

  • Polly

    As a counterexample to Harvard’s, I heard about 6 months ago a news story of an amateur sailor (I wish I remembered his name, some rich guy probably) who was sailing around the world on his own yacht or something. His boat sank. He was rescued after spending some time floating in the middle of the ocean.

    He was asked if he believed he was saved by the big G. His response was something to the effect of: “I think god has a lot of other things to tend to, I don’t think he was paying attention to me.”

  • Polly

    As a counterexample to Harvard’s, I heard about 6 months ago a news story of an amateur sailor (I wish I remembered his name, some rich guy probably) who was sailing around the world on his own yacht or something. His boat sank. He was rescued after spending some time floating in the middle of the ocean.

    He was asked if he believed he was saved by the big G. His response was something to the effect of: “I think god has a lot of other things to tend to, I don’t think he was paying attention to me.”

  • OMGF

    But no — this woman’s flawed, deluded (insane?) logic (illogic?) caused her to praise her god for saving her, instead of screaming in anger at him or her for destroying her home and life. Wow, it boggles the mind that people are so brainwashed that they lose their capacity to think. Maybe they never had a chance to develop their reasoning powers because the church got to them when they were young. If so, sad – and criminal.

    It’s like spousal abuse victims who refuse to denounce their tormentors.

  • Mrnaglfar

    “Therefore, you will not convice me of anything and I will not convice you of anything.”

    You certainly seemed right about that point, at least so far.

    Ok then. So god knew people would disobey, but they had a choice? (i.e. we have free will but since God already knows what will happen before you exist, you don’t). This isn’t making any rational sense. So I’m going to try something else; let me know how it goes. I’m going to work off your “I believe that God exists and that the Bible is totally true” point. If you believe the bible is totally true, then you should surely be able to answer for all the contradictions in it

    (for more info, check out the home site; first one that pops up when you google “bible contradictions”) http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html#good_to_all

    Contradictions

    The Bible is riddled with repetitions and contradictions, things that the Bible bangers would be quick to point out in anything that they want to criticize. For instance, Genesis 1 and 2 disagree about the order in which things are created, and how satisfied God is about the results of his labors. The flood story is really two interwoven stories that contradict each other on how many of each kind of animal are to be brought into the Ark–is it one pair each or seven pairs each of the “clean” ones? The Gospel of John disagrees with the other three Gospels on the activities of Jesus Christ (how long had he stayed in Jerusalem–a couple of days or a whole year?) and all four Gospels contradict each other on the details of Jesus Christ’s last moments and resurrection. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke contradict each other on the genealogy of Jesus Christ’ father; though both agree that Joseph was not his real father. Repetitions and contradictions are understandable for a hodgepodge collection of documents, but not for some carefully constructed treatise, reflecting a well-thought-out plan.

    Of the various methods I’ve seen to “explain” these:
    1. “That is to be taken metaphorically” In other words, what is written is not what is meant. I find this entertaining, especially for those who decide what ISN’T to be taken as other than the absolute WORD OF GOD–which just happens to agree with the particular thing they happen to want…

    2. “There was more there than….” This is used when one verse says “there was a” and another says “there was b,” so they decide there was “a” AND “b”–which is said nowhere. This makes them happy, since it doesn’t say there WASN’T “a+b.” But it doesn’t say there was “a+b+litle green martians.” This is often the same crowd that insists theirs is the ONLY possible interpretation (i.e. only “a”) and the only way. I find it entertaining they they don’t mind adding to verses.

    3. “It has to be understood in context” I find this amusing because it comes from the same crowd that likes to push likewise extracted verses that support their particular view. Often it is just one of the verses in the contradictory set is suppose to be taken as THE TRUTH when if you add more to it it suddenly becomes “out of context.” How many of you have goten JUST John 3:16 (taken out of all context) thrown up at you?

    4. “there was just a copying/writing error” This is sometimes called a “transcription error,” as in where one number was meant and an incorrect one was copied down. Or that what was “quoted” wasn’t really what was said, but just what the author thought was said when he thought it was said. And that’s right–I’m not disagreeing with events, I’m disagreeing with what is WRITTEN. Which is apparently agreed that it is incorrect. This is an amusing misdirection to the problem that the bible itself is wrong.

    5. “That is a miracle.” Naturally. That is why it is stated as fact.

    6. “God works in mysterious ways” A useful dodge when the speaker doesn’t understand the conflict between what the bible SAYS and what they WISH it said.

    1. God good to all, or just a few?
    PSA 145:9 The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.

    JER 13:14 And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them.

    2.War or Peace?
    EXO 15:3 The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.

    ROM 15:33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

    3. Who is the father of Joseph?

    MAT 1:16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

    LUK 3:23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.

    4. Who was at the Empty Tomb? Is it:

    MAT 28:1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

    MAR 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.

    JOH 20:1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

    5. Is Jesus equal to or lesser than?

    JOH 10:30 I and my Father are one.

    JOH 14:28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.

    Please feel free to start by explaining those 5. Feel free to explain the other few hundred.

  • Mrnaglfar

    And these are just precious to the discussion

    http://ffrf.org/books/lfif/?t=contra

    Is God good or evil?

    * Psalm 145:9 “The Lord is good to all.”
    * Deuteronomy 32:4 “a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.”

    vs.
    * Isaiah 45:7 “I make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things.” See “Out of Context” for more on Isaiah 45:7.
    * Lamentations 3:38 “Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?”
    * Jeremiah 18:11 “Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you.”
    * Ezekiel 20:25,26 “I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live. And I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the Lord.”

    Does God tempt people?

    * James 1:13 “Let no man say . . . I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.”

    vs.
    * Genesis 22:1 “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham.”

  • Mrnaglfar

    And just to totally beat this point to death, the Penn and Teller episode on the bible.
    Comes in three parts

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=_Hftbu34X08
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=JnDzI-Qncdc
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=M497lpW5N9k

  • Mollie

    Ebonmuse:

    Since there was no death in the pre-fall world, that warning would have been completely meaningless to them. Wouldn’t you agree? How could that have been a deterrent when they didn’t even know what death was?

    I know that the idea of faith isn’t a popular one amongst atheists, but God wanted them to trust that He was telling them the truth and that obeying Him was the right thing to do. Just because you don’t know what the consequence is doesn’t mean you can’t know well enough what to do. If they had a question about what death was, they certainly could have asked (maybe they did) and God would have told them they would no longer have the close fellowship they enjoyed with Him and their physical bodies would begin to age and decay. Why must we always have a negative consequence clear in our minds just so we’ll do something right?

    How can you blame someone for choosing evil if they don’t know the difference between good and evil?

    This goes back to the issue of faith again. All they knew was perfect. God was perfect; their surroundings were perfect. Why wouldn’t they trust God – their Creator and Provider? Because God was all-loving, He didn’t want them to have to know what evil was, so He gave the prohibition.

    According to the Bible, only a minority of humans will end up saved, while the majority will end up eternally damned (Matthew 7:13-14). Is that the plan of action you would expect from an “all-loving” being – to stand by and do nothing while the majority of humanity suffers the endless torments of the lost?

    I have already answered this in previous posts. It is only because of a gracious and merciful act that ANY humans are saved. We all deserve the same punishment. If they are not saved, it is because they have rejected the form of salvation God provided. Jesus came and died so we could have that salvation. I’d hardly call that “standing by and doing nothing”.

    Don’t you think, if there really was an infinitely good and powerful being, he could have arranged a better outcome?

    This seems to be the real issue. You think that there is a better way. First of all, because you (and I) are a finite being, you cannot see the whole picture, but you think that you have a better way. So far, the ideas of ‘better ways’ you and others have presented don’t work.
    Idea #1- God could make people not want to do evil or make it so they couldn’t have had the opportunity to do evil (being automatons) = this doesn’t allow them to CHOOSE to love and serve Him.
    Idea #2- God could get rid of all evil by looking the other way and allowing everyone to avoid punishment = this doesn’t take into account His holiness or justice.
    Idea #3- God could only punish people to the extent that they have sinned against Him (which you think is impossible in the first place); meaning that the punishment should NOT be eternal since that’s not what we do on earth = you think the idea of human justice (justice on earth performed by other humans) is the highest form (but God’s justice is higher).
    Even if you could have a better plan (which I don’t think is possible given our finiteness), it’s not the plan God chose.

    Okay – let’s take this analogy and run with it.

    The analogy of the drinking teen was intended to show the knowledge the parent had about his child’s situation. It was not intended to describe anything about the child’s punishment afterward. All analogies will break down at some point because (in this case) parents aren’t God!

    We can’t possibly be held responsible for what Adam and Eve did – we didn’t exist yet!

    Even if you don’t hold to the Original Sin idea, you can’t deny that each and every person has sinned. That in itself would be grounds for condemnation.

    Why wouldn’t he let each generation of their descendants start over in the Garden, and give them the same choice between good and evil that their parents had?

    Do you really think people are that much different? Maybe your ideas of evolution have caused you to believe that we superior beings in the 21st Century would be so much more inclined to make a better choice. I doubt it. I think everyone would make the same choice.

    Whatever people will have once we’re there (in heaven) that keeps us from sinning, why not just start out giving that quality to everyone and not have to create a Hell at all?

    God could have done that (maybe this is idea #4!). But, again- where is the choice in this? We are all automatons in this situation.

  • Mollie

    Heather:

    They were created with the potential to go against God, which is a sin.

    How is the ‘potential’ a sin? Allow me to make a silly analogy. I have the potential to get hit by a truck. I may or may not get hit by a truck. If I do not get hit by a truck, I am not punished. However, if I do get hit by a truck, I am punished (i.e. get squashed!). The fact that I have that potential is not worthy of punishment. However, if I were warned that if I got in front of a moving truck I would be hit, and I did it anyway because I did not trust that the person who told me this was right, I would be held responsible for my actions- not the person who told me.

    If God is all-powerful and such, God is certainly free to do this. But even if saying that God is not a person, all we have to go on is how we see people behave when they love and honor themselves the most.

    And since the people who we see as examples are sinful, they should not be taken as examples of what God looks like when He does so.

  • Mollie

    OMGF:

    If he had not wanted them to choose that (sin), he would have created the universe slightly differently.

    Again- this goes back to the- you think you have a better way. God could have done this. I am not disagreeing! However, He wanted them to choose (and they definitely chose). You seem to think that in the particular situation God placed them in, that there was no way they could have chosen obedience. I disagree.

    The problem is that God has omniscience, so he knows all that happens. This creates a world devoid of the actual ability to choose anything, since to God it has already happened.

    I don’t think that omniscience means predetermination. According to the next statement, it sounds like you do.

    If God gave you that book and allowed you to read it, do you think that you would be able to make any different choices than what was laid out for you?

    “Laid out for you” sounds like predetermination, not just knowing. These are two different terms.

  • OMGF

    Mollie,

    Again- this goes back to the- you think you have a better way.

    No, it goes to the fact that your god is omniscient. God knew what they would “choose” when he created the world. There was no guesswork in it. He had to want them to choose to disobey, else he would have created the world differently. It’s not about me having a better way (which I think I do) but about the claims that are made about god’s powers.

    “Laid out for you” sounds like predetermination, not just knowing. These are two different terms.

    So, do you deny that god could write such a book? Don’t you think god could write that book before he even created the universe? If he had chosen you to make different choices, he would have created the universe differently. The inescapable conclusion is that god wants some people to burn in hell.

    I know this was addressed to Ebonmuse, but I like to butt in sometimes…

    I know that the idea of faith isn’t a popular one amongst atheists, but God wanted them to trust that He was telling them the truth and that obeying Him was the right thing to do.

    That’s the whole point. Without being able to differentiate between good and evil (since they had no knowledge of good and evil before they ate the fruit) they had no way of determining what was the “right thing to do.”

    It is only because of a gracious and merciful act that ANY humans are saved.

    I truly feel sorry for you to have such a negative outlook on life.

    Idea #1- God could make people not want to do evil or make it so they couldn’t have had the opportunity to do evil (being automatons) = this doesn’t allow them to CHOOSE to love and serve Him.

    He could give us the ability to choose to love and serve him or not without us wanting to commit evil acts.

    Idea #2- God could get rid of all evil by looking the other way and allowing everyone to avoid punishment = this doesn’t take into account His holiness or justice.

    All evil he created? Why should we be punished for that which he created. This is neither loving nor just.

    Idea #3- God could only punish people to the extent that they have sinned against Him…

    Isn’t that what justice means?

    Even if you could have a better plan (which I don’t think is possible given our finiteness), it’s not the plan God chose.

    What a closed-minded thing to say. Even if I presented you with a better plan, god’s would still be considered better…for what reason?

  • OMGF

    Mollie,

    Again- this goes back to the- you think you have a better way.

    No, it goes to the fact that your god is omniscient. God knew what they would “choose” when he created the world. There was no guesswork in it. He had to want them to choose to disobey, else he would have created the world differently. It’s not about me having a better way (which I think I do) but about the claims that are made about god’s powers.

    “Laid out for you” sounds like predetermination, not just knowing. These are two different terms.

    So, do you deny that god could write such a book? Don’t you think god could write that book before he even created the universe? If he had chosen you to make different choices, he would have created the universe differently. The inescapable conclusion is that god wants some people to burn in hell.

    I know this was addressed to Ebonmuse, but I like to butt in sometimes…

    I know that the idea of faith isn’t a popular one amongst atheists, but God wanted them to trust that He was telling them the truth and that obeying Him was the right thing to do.

    That’s the whole point. Without being able to differentiate between good and evil (since they had no knowledge of good and evil before they ate the fruit) they had no way of determining what was the “right thing to do.”

    It is only because of a gracious and merciful act that ANY humans are saved.

    I truly feel sorry for you to have such a negative outlook on life.

    Idea #1- God could make people not want to do evil or make it so they couldn’t have had the opportunity to do evil (being automatons) = this doesn’t allow them to CHOOSE to love and serve Him.

    He could give us the ability to choose to love and serve him or not without us wanting to commit evil acts.

    Idea #2- God could get rid of all evil by looking the other way and allowing everyone to avoid punishment = this doesn’t take into account His holiness or justice.

    All evil he created? Why should we be punished for that which he created. This is neither loving nor just.

    Idea #3- God could only punish people to the extent that they have sinned against Him…

    Isn’t that what justice means?

    Even if you could have a better plan (which I don’t think is possible given our finiteness), it’s not the plan God chose.

    What a closed-minded thing to say. Even if I presented you with a better plan, god’s would still be considered better…for what reason?

  • Heather

    Mollie,

    Your truck analogy doesn’t take into account the creation aspect, which means it doesn’t work when comparing it to Adam/Eve. This is a completely different field that we’re discussing. If the truck analogy dealt with who created man to deliberatly walk in front of a truck, then it would be applicable.

    **How is the ‘potential’ a sin?** Because there is no way around the fact that God created man to be less than good. Had man been created to not sin, then man would not have sinned. But man was created and designed flawed, if created with the capability to sin. The *only* way for man to be tempted was if the Creator put the ability to be tempted in man to begin with. The only way for the sin to grab hold of man is if there was something in the man that responded to the sin. And who made man with the ability to respond that way? Who made man with the ability to be tempted by sin? Under your theology, only God can create. Either God was in complete control of the creation or he wasn’t.

    **And since the people who we see as examples are sinful, they should not be taken as examples of what God looks like when He does so. ** That means, then, that it’s sinful to seek one’s glory above all else. Otherwise, why would sinful people do it? Either it’s defined as a sin or it’s not. If the act itself is sinful dependent on who does the act, then you can’t determine what is or is not sin by the act itself.

    Plus, if you go this way, then you can’t comprehend what God is at all. All you have are examples of sinful people, interpreted from a sinful perspective. You’re left with seeing God seeking his own glory as a good thing based on what? Because the Bible says so. There’s no way you can point to any other such example as a good thing, and so you have no way to support that God seeking his glory above all else is a good thing. And that is why we’re reacting so strongly, because we have concrete evidence of why it’s selfish to seek glory above all else.

    **God could get rid of all evil by looking the other way and allowing everyone to avoid punishment = this doesn’t take into account His holiness or justice.** Why does the elimination of evil correspond with punishment? Just simply eliminate all the evil in a person, and leave the good (and there has to be good in a person, otherwise no one can get to heaven, because then nothing would be left of the person once the evil was gone).

  • Heather

    Mollie,

    Your truck analogy doesn’t take into account the creation aspect, which means it doesn’t work when comparing it to Adam/Eve. This is a completely different field that we’re discussing. If the truck analogy dealt with who created man to deliberatly walk in front of a truck, then it would be applicable.

    **How is the ‘potential’ a sin?** Because there is no way around the fact that God created man to be less than good. Had man been created to not sin, then man would not have sinned. But man was created and designed flawed, if created with the capability to sin. The *only* way for man to be tempted was if the Creator put the ability to be tempted in man to begin with. The only way for the sin to grab hold of man is if there was something in the man that responded to the sin. And who made man with the ability to respond that way? Who made man with the ability to be tempted by sin? Under your theology, only God can create. Either God was in complete control of the creation or he wasn’t.

    **And since the people who we see as examples are sinful, they should not be taken as examples of what God looks like when He does so. ** That means, then, that it’s sinful to seek one’s glory above all else. Otherwise, why would sinful people do it? Either it’s defined as a sin or it’s not. If the act itself is sinful dependent on who does the act, then you can’t determine what is or is not sin by the act itself.

    Plus, if you go this way, then you can’t comprehend what God is at all. All you have are examples of sinful people, interpreted from a sinful perspective. You’re left with seeing God seeking his own glory as a good thing based on what? Because the Bible says so. There’s no way you can point to any other such example as a good thing, and so you have no way to support that God seeking his glory above all else is a good thing. And that is why we’re reacting so strongly, because we have concrete evidence of why it’s selfish to seek glory above all else.

    **God could get rid of all evil by looking the other way and allowing everyone to avoid punishment = this doesn’t take into account His holiness or justice.** Why does the elimination of evil correspond with punishment? Just simply eliminate all the evil in a person, and leave the good (and there has to be good in a person, otherwise no one can get to heaven, because then nothing would be left of the person once the evil was gone).

  • Marco

    I´m a Christian.

    I would really hae to say that God´s Holiness and Justice DOES change the outcome. Why, if God weren´t holy, and just, many people wouldn´t have to make the question “where´s God when bad things happend to me?” “WHY?” oh simply because God wouldn´t care people sin, He would just give everything people asked, and not careing if people live according to his precepts, he would simply ignore that people ignore him and seek him only when they are in trouble. God would be injust to punish righteous people, BUT HE WOULD ALSO BE INJUST TO NOT PUNISH SINNERS, especially after he warned them He would. That´s why God´s Love does not make him ignore sin, because his Justice can´t ignore it. But of course His love isn´t invalid before His justice, That´s why he prepared a Way to not ignore sin, and at the same time, forgive it. So both his characteristics act at the same time. Christ paid for our sines, so his justice is satisfied, and he did this because of love.

    Of course, you have to accpet a gift to be able to have it. You have to accept Jesus´ Sacrifice in order to enjoy his forgiveness.

  • Marco

    I´m a Christian.

    I would really hae to say that God´s Holiness and Justice DOES change the outcome. Why, if God weren´t holy, and just, many people wouldn´t have to make the question “where´s God when bad things happend to me?” “WHY?” oh simply because God wouldn´t care people sin, He would just give everything people asked, and not careing if people live according to his precepts, he would simply ignore that people ignore him and seek him only when they are in trouble. God would be injust to punish righteous people, BUT HE WOULD ALSO BE INJUST TO NOT PUNISH SINNERS, especially after he warned them He would. That´s why God´s Love does not make him ignore sin, because his Justice can´t ignore it. But of course His love isn´t invalid before His justice, That´s why he prepared a Way to not ignore sin, and at the same time, forgive it. So both his characteristics act at the same time. Christ paid for our sines, so his justice is satisfied, and he did this because of love.

    Of course, you have to accpet a gift to be able to have it. You have to accept Jesus´ Sacrifice in order to enjoy his forgiveness.

  • Polly

    Hello Marco,
    Why must we accept the gift in order to have it? If original sin is ours just by being born before we do anything good or bad, then why not force the “gift” on us as well? Why do we have to act to get forgiven, but have to do nothing to get blood-guilt?
    God put us in this hopeless situation against our will or at least allowed it to happen, why not “save” us against our will?

  • Polly

    Hello Marco,
    Why must we accept the gift in order to have it? If original sin is ours just by being born before we do anything good or bad, then why not force the “gift” on us as well? Why do we have to act to get forgiven, but have to do nothing to get blood-guilt?
    God put us in this hopeless situation against our will or at least allowed it to happen, why not “save” us against our will?

  • OMGF

    I´m a Christian.

    I think we’ve all figured that out by now, what with you posting it at the beginning of every comment you leave on every single post on this site.

    God would be injust to punish righteous people, BUT HE WOULD ALSO BE INJUST TO NOT PUNISH SINNERS, especially after he warned them He would.

    What does god following through on a threat have to do with justice?

    Either way, what is unjust is punishing sinners for being the way that god made us. God made us sinful, and then punishes us for it. If it is in my nature to sin, then I have no choice in the matter. God made humans this way, he gave us no choice but to sin, and then punishes us for being exactly how he made us. That is not justice.

    That´s why God´s Love does not make him ignore sin, because his Justice can´t ignore it. But of course His love isn´t invalid before His justice, That´s why he prepared a Way to not ignore sin, and at the same time, forgive it. So both his characteristics act at the same time. Christ paid for our sines, so his justice is satisfied, and he did this because of love.

    Was it love that made him decide to hold a gun to our heads and force us to choose belief or eternal torture? That he supposedly gave a way out doesn’t prove love or justice. For example of why not the latter, a serial killer shall go to heaven if he/she believes and repents, but an atheist who leads a moral life shall not. Where is the justice in that? How does Jesus, a living god, dying somehow absolve us of our sins, especially if they are judged to be so heinous that they merit infinite torture?

    A true loving action would be to simply forgive our tresspasses against god as the Bible quote talks about us doing. If I love someone, I could never condemn them to an eternity of hell. Come to think of it, I would never condemn even my worst enemy to an eternity in hell. Your “moral” god does just that, however, and on a daily basis.

  • OMGF

    I´m a Christian.

    I think we’ve all figured that out by now, what with you posting it at the beginning of every comment you leave on every single post on this site.

    God would be injust to punish righteous people, BUT HE WOULD ALSO BE INJUST TO NOT PUNISH SINNERS, especially after he warned them He would.

    What does god following through on a threat have to do with justice?

    Either way, what is unjust is punishing sinners for being the way that god made us. God made us sinful, and then punishes us for it. If it is in my nature to sin, then I have no choice in the matter. God made humans this way, he gave us no choice but to sin, and then punishes us for being exactly how he made us. That is not justice.

    That´s why God´s Love does not make him ignore sin, because his Justice can´t ignore it. But of course His love isn´t invalid before His justice, That´s why he prepared a Way to not ignore sin, and at the same time, forgive it. So both his characteristics act at the same time. Christ paid for our sines, so his justice is satisfied, and he did this because of love.

    Was it love that made him decide to hold a gun to our heads and force us to choose belief or eternal torture? That he supposedly gave a way out doesn’t prove love or justice. For example of why not the latter, a serial killer shall go to heaven if he/she believes and repents, but an atheist who leads a moral life shall not. Where is the justice in that? How does Jesus, a living god, dying somehow absolve us of our sins, especially if they are judged to be so heinous that they merit infinite torture?

    A true loving action would be to simply forgive our tresspasses against god as the Bible quote talks about us doing. If I love someone, I could never condemn them to an eternity of hell. Come to think of it, I would never condemn even my worst enemy to an eternity in hell. Your “moral” god does just that, however, and on a daily basis.

  • Heather

    Marco,

    Are you aware that there are different theories of why Jesus died? An the atonement theory is only one?

    **God would be injust to punish righteous people, BUT HE WOULD ALSO BE INJUST TO NOT PUNISH SINNERS, especially after he warned them He would.** Who originally created man with the ability to sin? If you say that God created man with free will, that still means designing man with the ability to sin.

    **Of course, you have to accpet a gift to be able to have it. You have to accept Jesus´ Sacrifice in order to enjoy his forgiveness. ** Then heaven and forgiveness become earned, not a gift. It becomes a requirement, and meeting God’s law, which then defeats the concept of grace and a gift.

  • Polly

    How does Jesus, a living god, dying somehow absolve us of our sins,

    Yes, and isn’t the brutal slaying of a perfect person the greatest injustice in history? How does doing the worst thing in the world make everything OK?
    Sins are not like actual debts of money. Real justice means that they are non-transferable.

  • Polly

    How does Jesus, a living god, dying somehow absolve us of our sins,

    Yes, and isn’t the brutal slaying of a perfect person the greatest injustice in history? How does doing the worst thing in the world make everything OK?
    Sins are not like actual debts of money. Real justice means that they are non-transferable.

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

    Hello Mollie,

    I know that the idea of faith isn’t a popular one amongst atheists, but God wanted them to trust that He was telling them the truth and that obeying Him was the right thing to do.

    Yes, we’re all well aware that that is the Christian viewpoint. What we’re asking is why. Why would God expect humanity to take his goodness on faith, when he could have given them all the evidence of it they could possibly expect and all the understanding necessary to grasp that evidence? Why is blind faith superior to reasoned knowledge? I see no reason why that should be so. If anything, I think the opposite is true – a willingness to believe without evidence is not a positive character trait, but a negative one. If I’m wrong about that, I’ll listen to arguments to the contrary, but I want a reason, not just an assertion that God’s ways are higher than ours and so I shouldn’t even question them.

    This goes back to the issue of faith again. All they knew was perfect. God was perfect; their surroundings were perfect. Why wouldn’t they trust God – their Creator and Provider?

    Because they had no understanding of good and evil. To trust someone, you have to believe that they are good, that they want the best for you. Those are all concepts that were literally meaningless to Adam and Eve pre-fall, according to the Christian viewpoint. Those words did not exist in their vocabulary. How could you expect them to believe that God, rather than the serpent, had their best interests in mind when they did not even know what their best interests were?

    If you had a toddler child, you might tell him not to talk to strangers in public, since you are his parent and you have his best interests in mind. But if a stranger approached your child when you weren’t around, and he disobeyed you and talked to that person, potentially putting himself in danger, would you be angry at your child? Would you punish him severely, would you expect him to have known better? Of course not! He doesn’t have your degree of understanding; it was not his fault.

    You said that all analogies between humans and God break down at some point. I think a Christian would have to say this. They would have to issue a blanket denial that such comparisons can ever apply, precisely because the way God is said to have acted, according to the Bible, would so clearly be irrational and immoral if a human being ever did the same things. We atheists are simply unwilling to accept that, when it comes to theology, all bets should be off and we should be willing to apply a double standard to God. We use the same conscience and the same understanding we all use to evaluate the actions of the people we see everyday.

    God could make people not want to do evil or make it so they couldn’t have had the opportunity to do evil (being automatons) = this doesn’t allow them to CHOOSE to love and serve Him.

    If your logic is correct, Mollie, then God is an “automaton”. After all, you do not believe he has the desire to do evil. Do you think that robs God of some kind of freedom worth wanting? Despite all the perfections you attribute to him, do you believe that human beings are superior to him in at least that one respect, that we have that choice and he does not? That seems to be the inescapable conclusion of your own logic. Do you mean to tell us that you expect to spend eternity worshipping a vast automaton? Of course, if your beliefs are correct, you yourself will become an automaton by that point, so maybe you won’t mind. I guess that’s the Christian idea of paradise – millions of automatons worshipping a larger automaton throughout all time. Is this your theology, or have I misconstrued it?

    Even if you don’t hold to the Original Sin idea, you can’t deny that each and every person has sinned.

    Actually, I can, and I do. “Sin” is a religious concept which I do not accept. If I harm another person, then I am accountable to that person and have a responsibility to make right what I put wrong to the best of my ability. If I commit a crime against the society I choose to live in, then I am accountable to that society by the laws it has set up.

    But “sin” is a different category of thing altogether. “Sin” tells me that I am somehow accountable to a supernatural being I cannot see or talk to; that I can do something wrong even if I never harm or inconvenience anyone in any way; that I can somehow injure or offend a being that is said to be infinitely above me. These are imaginary crimes, Mollie. If there is a God, he needs nothing from us, and we cannot harm him. If there isn’t, then obviously it can’t matter what I think about him. Either way, my only real accountability is to the human beings I live with in this world, the ones I do interact with and whom I can help or harm. “Sin” is an idea with a long, sad, sordid history, one that has been used to keep humans feeling guilty and subservient for millennia. I reject that word and all its shameful connotations.

    Maybe your ideas of evolution have caused you to believe that we superior beings in the 21st Century would be so much more inclined to make a better choice. I doubt it. I think everyone would make the same choice.

    Now wait just a minute! Whatever happened to free will? I thought you said people had a choice. How can you possibly believe that if you also believe that literally any person put in that situation would do exactly the same thing?

    If you manufacture a line of products and one has a defect, you might say it was just a fluke, a random event for which you bear no responsibility. But an identical defect in every single product clearly points to a mistake on the part of the manufacturer. You say it would take away free will for God to create us so that we always do only good, and yet here you seem to be saying that he has created us to always do only evil.

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

    Hello Mollie,

    I know that the idea of faith isn’t a popular one amongst atheists, but God wanted them to trust that He was telling them the truth and that obeying Him was the right thing to do.

    Yes, we’re all well aware that that is the Christian viewpoint. What we’re asking is why. Why would God expect humanity to take his goodness on faith, when he could have given them all the evidence of it they could possibly expect and all the understanding necessary to grasp that evidence? Why is blind faith superior to reasoned knowledge? I see no reason why that should be so. If anything, I think the opposite is true – a willingness to believe without evidence is not a positive character trait, but a negative one. If I’m wrong about that, I’ll listen to arguments to the contrary, but I want a reason, not just an assertion that God’s ways are higher than ours and so I shouldn’t even question them.

    This goes back to the issue of faith again. All they knew was perfect. God was perfect; their surroundings were perfect. Why wouldn’t they trust God – their Creator and Provider?

    Because they had no understanding of good and evil. To trust someone, you have to believe that they are good, that they want the best for you. Those are all concepts that were literally meaningless to Adam and Eve pre-fall, according to the Christian viewpoint. Those words did not exist in their vocabulary. How could you expect them to believe that God, rather than the serpent, had their best interests in mind when they did not even know what their best interests were?

    If you had a toddler child, you might tell him not to talk to strangers in public, since you are his parent and you have his best interests in mind. But if a stranger approached your child when you weren’t around, and he disobeyed you and talked to that person, potentially putting himself in danger, would you be angry at your child? Would you punish him severely, would you expect him to have known better? Of course not! He doesn’t have your degree of understanding; it was not his fault.

    You said that all analogies between humans and God break down at some point. I think a Christian would have to say this. They would have to issue a blanket denial that such comparisons can ever apply, precisely because the way God is said to have acted, according to the Bible, would so clearly be irrational and immoral if a human being ever did the same things. We atheists are simply unwilling to accept that, when it comes to theology, all bets should be off and we should be willing to apply a double standard to God. We use the same conscience and the same understanding we all use to evaluate the actions of the people we see everyday.

    God could make people not want to do evil or make it so they couldn’t have had the opportunity to do evil (being automatons) = this doesn’t allow them to CHOOSE to love and serve Him.

    If your logic is correct, Mollie, then God is an “automaton”. After all, you do not believe he has the desire to do evil. Do you think that robs God of some kind of freedom worth wanting? Despite all the perfections you attribute to him, do you believe that human beings are superior to him in at least that one respect, that we have that choice and he does not? That seems to be the inescapable conclusion of your own logic. Do you mean to tell us that you expect to spend eternity worshipping a vast automaton? Of course, if your beliefs are correct, you yourself will become an automaton by that point, so maybe you won’t mind. I guess that’s the Christian idea of paradise – millions of automatons worshipping a larger automaton throughout all time. Is this your theology, or have I misconstrued it?

    Even if you don’t hold to the Original Sin idea, you can’t deny that each and every person has sinned.

    Actually, I can, and I do. “Sin” is a religious concept which I do not accept. If I harm another person, then I am accountable to that person and have a responsibility to make right what I put wrong to the best of my ability. If I commit a crime against the society I choose to live in, then I am accountable to that society by the laws it has set up.

    But “sin” is a different category of thing altogether. “Sin” tells me that I am somehow accountable to a supernatural being I cannot see or talk to; that I can do something wrong even if I never harm or inconvenience anyone in any way; that I can somehow injure or offend a being that is said to be infinitely above me. These are imaginary crimes, Mollie. If there is a God, he needs nothing from us, and we cannot harm him. If there isn’t, then obviously it can’t matter what I think about him. Either way, my only real accountability is to the human beings I live with in this world, the ones I do interact with and whom I can help or harm. “Sin” is an idea with a long, sad, sordid history, one that has been used to keep humans feeling guilty and subservient for millennia. I reject that word and all its shameful connotations.

    Maybe your ideas of evolution have caused you to believe that we superior beings in the 21st Century would be so much more inclined to make a better choice. I doubt it. I think everyone would make the same choice.

    Now wait just a minute! Whatever happened to free will? I thought you said people had a choice. How can you possibly believe that if you also believe that literally any person put in that situation would do exactly the same thing?

    If you manufacture a line of products and one has a defect, you might say it was just a fluke, a random event for which you bear no responsibility. But an identical defect in every single product clearly points to a mistake on the part of the manufacturer. You say it would take away free will for God to create us so that we always do only good, and yet here you seem to be saying that he has created us to always do only evil.

  • Mrnaglfar

    I want a reason, not just an assertion that God’s ways are higher than ours and so I shouldn’t even question them.
    I’ll take one of those too please. Not just some “Holier than thou” bullshit, and here’s why. Hypothetically, my belief is that my personal god is a giant pencil sharpener. All who do not worship my god will spend eternity alone, sharpening pencils and getting poked with them. All who do will be given all the ice cream they can eat forever. Don’t ask me questions about why, it’s a giant pencil sharpener and you can’t possibly understand it’s motives. It’s just right and you’re just wrong. You were made to be wrong all the time by it, and unless you spend your life in worship by sharpening pencils to bring it glory and do justice or whatever it is you’re doing, it’s off to pencil sharpening hell . Now, if any of you bible-goers can explain to me why your faith is superior to that one, I’d really impress me. Likewise, if you can’t show how yours is superior, I’ll just take it on faith you admit my point is better than any you have made and recognize me as your new king for being so smart. If you find yourself thinking this example is stupid, take a moment and realize it has no more or less validity then your faith (i.e. None).

    If your god wants us to serve him, why would he just not make us servants? what is the point of free will if he’s going to get all bent out of shape for us using it? OH wait, I forgot; this is god we’re talking about it. Being it’s god, all understanding about who or what it is must breakdown. By now, we’ve established that god works in mysterious, cruel, and REMARKABLY ineffiecent ways. I can’t begin to wrap my mind around anything rationally; I need to spend my life in blind obedience to something I don’t understand and could never even begin to understand. Why didn’t I take your advice sooner; my lifetime of rational thought has all been for naught when I could have been sitting around praying my whole life. What a waste huh?

  • Mrnaglfar

    I want a reason, not just an assertion that God’s ways are higher than ours and so I shouldn’t even question them.
    I’ll take one of those too please. Not just some “Holier than thou” bullshit, and here’s why. Hypothetically, my belief is that my personal god is a giant pencil sharpener. All who do not worship my god will spend eternity alone, sharpening pencils and getting poked with them. All who do will be given all the ice cream they can eat forever. Don’t ask me questions about why, it’s a giant pencil sharpener and you can’t possibly understand it’s motives. It’s just right and you’re just wrong. You were made to be wrong all the time by it, and unless you spend your life in worship by sharpening pencils to bring it glory and do justice or whatever it is you’re doing, it’s off to pencil sharpening hell . Now, if any of you bible-goers can explain to me why your faith is superior to that one, I’d really impress me. Likewise, if you can’t show how yours is superior, I’ll just take it on faith you admit my point is better than any you have made and recognize me as your new king for being so smart. If you find yourself thinking this example is stupid, take a moment and realize it has no more or less validity then your faith (i.e. None).

    If your god wants us to serve him, why would he just not make us servants? what is the point of free will if he’s going to get all bent out of shape for us using it? OH wait, I forgot; this is god we’re talking about it. Being it’s god, all understanding about who or what it is must breakdown. By now, we’ve established that god works in mysterious, cruel, and REMARKABLY ineffiecent ways. I can’t begin to wrap my mind around anything rationally; I need to spend my life in blind obedience to something I don’t understand and could never even begin to understand. Why didn’t I take your advice sooner; my lifetime of rational thought has all been for naught when I could have been sitting around praying my whole life. What a waste huh?

  • http://www.multiline.com.au/~johnm John M of Western Australia

    Three different versions of the last words of Jesus in four gospels!
    Matthew 27:46 and 50: 46 And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ … 50 But Jesus, again crying out in a loud voice, yielded up his spirit. (New Jerusalem Bible).
    Mark 15:34 and 37: At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice “Eloi, eloi, lema sabachthani”, which means, “My God, my God, why did you abandon me.?” … 37 With a loud cry Jesus died. (Good News Bible).
    Luke 23:46: And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. (Authorised Version = King James).
    John 19:30: Jesus, therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said : It is consumated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost. (Douay-Rheims RC Bible).

  • OMGF

    John M of W AU
    You might be interested in Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrmann. That’s one of the issues he brings up in that book. Luke copied from Mark, but wanted to change some things. Mark presents a Jesus that is very human and in despair about his impending death. Luke decided to make Jesus more in control of his emotions, thus making him seem more godly. It’s not just the last words spoken, but also the words of the others crucified, and what Jesus says during the torture session. It’s really a good read and I recommend it to all.

  • Mollie

    As a disclaimer before I begin (I am anticipating several people to rant and rave about how they don’t believe in the Bible), I would like to state (AGAIN) that the whole premise of this argument on the Existence of Evil is that God exists and the ideas we get about Him come from the Bible. I’m not trying to prove God exists OR that the Bible is true. Thanks!

    He could have given them [the first humans] all the evidence of it [God’s goodness] they could possibly expect and all the understanding necessary to grasp that evidence.

    Could you give me some examples of ‘evidence’ he should have given them to make a more ‘informed’ decision? Are you thinking like- a projector and video screen showing the saga of human life- how death and destruction would occur if they should choose to eat the fruit, but goodness (which was what they were currently experiencing) would continue on if they obeyed? Remember- they did not have the knowledge of evil until they ate, so this would not be possible. What kind of evidence are you thinking of?

    I want a reason, not just an assertion that God’s ways are higher than ours and so I shouldn’t even question them.

    Well, I thought that He being God was a good enough reason, but maybe I can give you more. I think Job had this very question after he was being put through trials. He was questioning God and God answered in Job 38-42. God asks Job where he was during creation, if he was the one giving the birds the knowledge of how to migrate and build their nests in inaccessible places, if he was the one who told the morning when to begin and the sun when to set (etc. etc. for 5 chapters). Job 40:1-4 says, “Then the LORD said to Job, “Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.” Then Job answered the LORD and said, “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth. “Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; Even twice, and I will add nothing more.”” And later in 41:11 God gives a reason for His authority, “{Whatever} is under the whole heaven is Mine.” Clearly this must be true if He is the Creator. He has the right to this authority. Previously, you used the example of a sculptor and his sculpture. Wouldn’t you say that the sculptor deserves everything the sculpture can give- because he is worthy of it? As Paul says, the sculpture has no right to question the sculptor’s reasons for things (like it or not). Job 42:1-6 shows a proper response to this reason by God. “Then Job answered the LORD and said, “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ “Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.””

    I think the real issue here is that you don’t think God is all-loving (although it’s a premise you begin with in your argument, so it should be able to stand). If you really thought God was all-loving (which you don’t believe, according to many other posts I’ve seen on your interpretation of O.T. events), then Him having his ways higher than ours wouldn’t be a problem. So- that’s another battle to fight. :)

    Would you be angry at your child?

    Where do you get the idea that God is angry? The passage certainly does not say that. I would not equate anger with justice.

    Then God is an “automaton”; Despite all the perfections you attribute to him, do you believe that human beings are superior to him in at least that one respect, that we have that choice and he does not?

    This goes back to the- we can’t use the same reasoning when dealing with God. Would you say that being able to choose evil makes humans superior? My answer to this question continues below.

    They would have to issue a blanket denial that such comparisons can ever apply, precisely because the way God is said to have acted, according to the Bible, would so clearly be irrational and immoral if a human being ever did the same things.

    If a king over a country was capable of being perfectly loving (doing the absolute best) to all of his subjects and was asking them to follow him completely and was exercising perfect justice, it might not hurt to follow him. However, we would say that he has no absolute ‘right’ to do so, because he is a human, just like his subjects. The subjects would have to submit to that king’s authority of their own will- agreeing that the king was no better or more worthy, but for the case of order and sanity, they would follow. In the case of God, we can still choose to submit, but to not submit would be high treason. We would say that God, as Creator, does have this right to assert authority. In this example, it breaks down because God has rights that we don’t. This is why comparisons break down with God.

    God also has ‘constraints’ if you will- constraints within His character. For instance, His power would allow Him to destroy things. However, His justice will not allow Him to destroy something that did not justly deserve to be destroyed. His love would allow Him to have relationships with his creation. However, His holiness will not allow Him to have relationship with anything tainted by sin. In the same way, God has the ability to make choices (perhaps that isn’t a good word… not sure), but His holiness will not allow Him to make evil choices.

    Of course, if your beliefs are correct, you yourself will become an automaton by that point, so maybe you won’t mind.

    I disagree. I have already chosen to follow God here on earth. You make it seem as though once I get to heaven I would want to change my mind (wanting to do evil) and be unable to. Why would I want to change my mind if God is truly all powerful, knowing, loving, holy, just, etc.? The people in heaven are those who have already chosen to serve God on earth.

    “Sin” tells me that I am somehow accountable to a supernatural being I cannot see or talk to; that I can do something wrong even if I never harm or inconvenience anyone in any way.

    I am going to make full use of this sculpture/sculptor analogy. If the sculptor made several sculptures (which he spent lots of time and care on) and they were somehow able to harm each other (one might get pushed over and shatter to pieces- thus destroying it), would this not harm the sculptor? Of course, he was not personally ‘damaged’ as you say, but something has harmed his creation. He has a personal vested interest in the wellbeing of this sculpture. How could he not feel like this was not only a crime against his creation, but also against himself? This speaks only to sins committed by humans against each other. The next section deals with sins directly in opposition to God.

    [regarding sin] If there is a God, he needs nothing from us, and we cannot harm him. I reject that word and all its shameful connotations.

    Clearly I have been vague on this issue. If you will allow, I will quote someone who is able to put it in more ‘rational’ and ‘philosophical’ terms- J. Edwards. This is a bit long, but, I think, necessary to lay groundwork for why it is possible to sin against God.

      Every crime or fault deserves a greater or less punishment, in proportion as the crime itself is greater or less. If any fault deserves punishment, then so much the greater the fault, so much the greater is the punishment deserved. The faulty nature of any thing is the formal ground and reason of its desert of punishment; and therefore the more any thing hath of this nature, the more punishment it deserves. And therefore the terribleness of the degree of punishment, let it be never be so terrible, is no argument against the justice of it, if the proportion does but hold between the heinousness of the crime and the dreadfulness of the punishment; so that if there be any such thing as a fault infinitely heinous, it will follow that it is just to inflict a punishment for it that is infinitely dreadful.
      A crime is more or less heinous, according as we are under greater or less obligations to the contrary. This is self-evident; because it is herein that the criminalness or faultiness of any thing consists, that it is contrary to what we are obliged or bound to, or what ought to be in us. So the faultiness of one being hating another, is in proportion to his obligation to love him. The crime of one being despising and casting contempt on another, is proportionably more or less heinous, as he was under greater or less obligations to honour him. The fault of disobeying another, is greater or less, as any one is under greater or less obligations to obey him. And therefore if there be any being that we are under infinite obligations to love, and honour, and obey, the contrary towards him must be infinitely faulty.
      Our obligation to love, honour, and obey any being, is in proportion to his loveliness, honourableness, and authority; for that is the very meaning of the words. When we say any one is very lovely, it is the same as to say, that he is one very much to be loved. Or if we say such a one is more honourable than another, the meaning of the words is, that he is one that we are more obliged to honour. If we say any one has great authority over us, it is the same as to say, that he has great right to our subjection and obedience.
      But God is a being infinitely lovely, because he hath infinite excellency and beauty. To have infinite excellency and beauty, is the same thing as to have infinite loveliness. He is a being of infinite greatness, majesty, and glory; and therefore he is infinitely honourable. He is infinitely exalted above the greatest potentates of the earth, and highest angels in heaven; and therefore he is infinitely more honourable than they. His authority over us is infinite; and the ground of his right to our obedience is infinitely strong; for he is infinitely worthy to be obeyed himself, and we have an absolute, universal, and infinite dependence upon him.
      So that sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving of infinite punishment.- Nothing is more agreeable to the common sense of mankind, than that sins committed against any one, must be proportionably heinous to the dignity of the being offended and abused; as it is also agreeable to the word of God, I Samuel 2:25. Genesis 39:9; Psalm 51:4. The eternity of the punishment of ungodly men renders it infinite: and it renders it no more than infinite; and therefore renders no more than proportionable to the heinousness of what they are guilty of.
      If there be any evil or faultiness in sin against God, there is certainly infinite evil: for if it be any fault at all, it has an infinite aggravation, viz. that it is against an infinite object. If it be ever so small upon other accounts, yet if it be any thing, it has one infinite dimension; and so is an infinite evil. Which may be illustrated by this: if we suppose a thing to have infinite length, but no breadth and thickness, (a mere mathematical line,) it is nothing: but if it have any breadth and thickness, though never so small, and infinite length, the quantity of it is infinite; it exceeds the quantity of any thing, however broad, thick, and long, wherein these dimensions are all finite.

    If you were able to wade through that (sorry!), his point is that any obligations we have toward God- infinite love, obedience, etc., that are not met deserve infinite punishment.

    How can you possibly believe that if you also believe that literally any person put in that situation would do exactly the same thing?

    This was my personal opinion on what would happen. I’m not saying it would for certain.

    p.s. Maybe you should retract your post about atheists not being angry. :) I will concede that not all who post here are, but there are definitely some! I don’t feel like I’ve offended or personally attacked anyone, but there are some strong words and language being used against Christians. Don’t worry- I take Luke 6:27 literally. :)

  • Heather

    Mollie,

    The post above still doesn’t answer the question of who created man with the ability to sin? You mention here: ***In the same way, God has the ability to make choices (perhaps that isn’t a good word… not sure), but His holiness will not allow Him to make evil choices.** Man in the garden wasn’t given that at all. Man wasn’t created holy, then, because man was allowed to make evil choices. And the only reason why one makes a choice is because that choice has appeal, which means man was created to find something appealing about evil. And then punished for it.

    **This goes back to the- we can’t use the same reasoning when dealing with God. **
    All we have when dealing with anything is our reasoning in order to determine if something is good or just. So if we can’t use the same reasoning on God that we use on anything else, how do we determine anything about God? If the answer is simply that he’s God and that reasoning is good enough, then how can you determine if the God you are following is good? Or loving? Or just? What standard do you apply?

    **And therefore if there be any being that we are under infinite obligations to love, and honour, and obey, the contrary towards him must be infinitely faulty.** Except we are being held to a standard that we will never live up to — how is that fair or just? We are told that we are under an infinite obligation to love something when we are finite beings. We can’t love infinitely or obey infinitely. We don’t have the power to do that. Especially if one throws in the concept of Original Sin. Let’s put it this way: would you take your five year old child, give him a calculus problem and then punish the child for failing to solve it? Even if the answer here is that God has provided the answer through Jesus — you are still left with the fact that the child was expected to solve the calculus problem, which is considered unjust, because it is beyond that child’s ability.

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

    Could you give me some examples of ‘evidence’ he should have given them to make a more ‘informed’ decision?

    Certainly. If you’ve ever read Paradise Lost, there’s a very good example. Near the end, an angel takes Adam up to a hilltop and shows him all the events of theological history – the flood, the Egyptian captivity, the apocalypse, and so on – that will occur as a result of his disobedience. The only problem is, the angel doesn’t do that until after the fall, when it’s too late for that information to affect Adam’s decision. Why not show him that before eating from the tree, so he’d know in advance what the results would be, rather than expecting him to comprehend a concept he’d never heard of and could not possibly visualize?

    Remember- they did not have the knowledge of evil until they ate, so this would not be possible.

    If you choose to take up that argument, are you conceding my point that it would be unfair to expect anyone to make a choice between good and evil, and punish them for choosing wrongly, if they do not have knowledge of the difference between good and evil?

    Where do you get the idea that God is angry? The passage certainly does not say that.

    Okay, you got me: I was extrapolating. I guess I just assumed that if I ever threw two people out of the beautiful, perfect paradise I had created for them, and sentenced them to a life of backbreaking work, agonizing pain, sorrow, old age, debility, and inevitable death, it would be because I was somewhat upset at them.

    Well, I thought that He being God was a good enough reason, but maybe I can give you more. I think Job had this very question after he was being put through trials.

    I hate to say this, Mollie, but you’re proving my point for me. Yes, the Book of Job does pose the same question I’m asking: if God creates, or even allows, evil and disaster, why is he worthy of our worship? But notice that Job does not answer this question. Instead, it does the exact thing you did that I objected to: asserting that because God is far above us, we have no right to question his ways. That’s not an answer to my question, but the exact opposite. It’s the refusal to give an answer!

    I think we’re approaching this from two completely different angles. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you’re saying that because God is all-loving, any evidence that would seem to suggest otherwise must be attributed to our imperfect understanding. But I would point out that this is going about the process of belief-formation completely backwards. Rather than drawing conclusions from the evidence, it starts with a conclusion and then tries to dismiss or deny the evidence that doesn’t support it.

    This returns to my earlier point about double standards. The standard you use with God, you would never, ever use with any action by any human being. If you saw a mugger attack an elderly woman, you wouldn’t automatically assume that he had some reason unknown to you that justified what he did. And you certainly wouldn’t accept the mugger’s assertion that he did have such a reason and therefore it was not your place to question him, particularly if he refused to tell you what that reason actually was.

    I don’t think any atheist is disputing that if there was a god who was supremely loving and benevolent, he would be worthy of our devotion. I don’t dispute that. What we’re disputing is whether there is any such being – and we’re arguing that, based on the evidence available to us, we cannot rationally believe that there is. Even if there is a god, based on the evidence available to us, I think we’d have to conclude that he was at best indifferent, at worst malevolent. The facts to support any other conclusion simply don’t exist. Again, if I’m wrong – if there is a god and he is all-loving – then I’m not opposed in principle to believing that. But I have to have reasons why I should believe it to be true. The idea that I should just believe whatever God allegedly says about himself, take it all at face value, and disregard any fact that would seem to indicate otherwise – the willingness to do that is not a positive or praiseworthy character trait. On the contrary, it is the seed from which all forms of tyranny and evil spring forth. A request for proof is the sign of a wise and ethical servant, not of a disloyal lack of faith.

    In the same way, God has the ability to make choices (perhaps that isn’t a good word… not sure), but His holiness will not allow Him to make evil choices.

    Okay, fine. So, again, why not create humans in the same way? Clearly you don’t believe that God lacks any form of freedom worth wanting. Clearly, you don’t believe that his inability to do evil counts as a flaw or an imperfection in him. Why would the lack of that ability be a defect in humans if it isn’t a defect in God? Do you see the double standard you’re using here?

    Why would I want to change my mind if God is truly all powerful, knowing, loving, holy, just, etc.?

    I find that a very strange statement. Are you saying that Christians, once converted, never change their mind, never fall away? (I have pages of deconversion stories that say otherwise, if you are – and please don’t bring up the tired and frankly insulting claim that anyone who walks away from Christianity was never a real Christian in the first place. I would be very disappointed if you said that.) Are you saying that believing Christians never commit any sin? I’m sure you’re not saying that. But if God’s holiness will not allow any sin to exist in his presence, how could he permit fallible humans to stay there, even if they did make one right choice?

    I realize the standard Christian response to this is that Jesus’ perfect sacrifice allows God to overlook the sin of human beings. Again, fine. I can accept that for the sake of argument. What I don’t then understand is why he wouldn’t extend that forgiveness to all people. By his sacrifice Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, right? Doesn’t that mean God’s justice and holiness have been satisfied, and if so, what would prevent him from extending his mercy to all of us?

    If you were able to wade through that (sorry!), his point is that any obligations we have toward God- infinite love, obedience, etc., that are not met deserve infinite punishment.

    Again, I see how we’re coming at this debate from different directions. I think a crime can only consist of harm, and if you have not harmed someone – if you haven’t done them any injury, nor taken away anything they need – then it is by definition impossible to have committed a crime against them. Clearly, you don’t agree with that. So let me try a different tack.

    Let’s say for the sake of argument that you’re right and there is an infinite god. Wouldn’t that, then, make him infinitely above us – so that it would literally be a matter of infinite insignificance how or whether we responded to him? To put it another way, do you think God actually cares whether we praise him? Do you think he craves our worship or hungers for our flattery? What a curious notion, if so! What a petty, small-minded creature that god would be! (I realize that the God of the Bible proclaims himself to be jealous. Perhaps he wasn’t aware that that is not generally considered a positive character trait.)

    Let’s not forget the atheist position. We’re not saying that we believe in a god but choose to shirk our duties to him. We’re saying we don’t believe that there is such a being, and that (…tying back to the beginning of my post…) there isn’t the evidence to convince us otherwise. Even if I’m wrong about that, that’s what I sincerely think. Do you mean to tell me that if God exists, he will punish me, not for being perverse, but simply for being wrong?

  • Matt R

    Ebonmuse,

    Two thoughts,

    Certainly. If you’ve ever read Paradise Lost, there’s a very good example. Near the end, an angel takes Adam up to a hilltop and shows him all the events of theological history – the flood, the Egyptian captivity, the apocalypse, and so on – that will occur as a result of his disobedience. The only problem is, the angel doesn’t do that until after the fall, when it’s too late for that information to affect Adam’s decision. Why not show him that before eating from the tree, so he’d know in advance what the results would be, rather than expecting him to comprehend a concept he’d never heard of and could not possibly visualize?

    According to Genesis, God did tell Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate the fruit. I think that is a pretty strong warning. It seems as though if Adam and Eve were not moved by a threat on their very life, then it is possible that they would not be moved by anything. What do you think?

    Do you mean to tell me that if God exists, he will punish me, not for being perverse, but simply for being wrong?

    This is not intended to scare you into anything, but just as an idea which may pique your interest. I offer it as a hypothetical idea as I will not be offering any reasoning or evidence to support it. It is just something for you to mull over.

    Perhaps God is not as omnipotent as some think. Perhaps, if there is a life after this, it has “natural” laws as this life does. Perhaps there are certain things which make people unable to take part in the afterlife. Perhaps it is not a punishment that some may face but a natural consequence, much like hitting the ground is a natural consequence of falling off the roof.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • Polly

    Perhaps God is not as omnipotent as some think. Perhaps, if there is a life after this, it has “natural” laws as this life does. Perhaps there are certain things which make people unable to take part in the afterlife. Perhaps it is not a punishment that some may face but a natural consequence, much like hitting the ground is a natural consequence of falling off the roof.

    In the twilight hours when the complexity and beauty of life and the myriad coincidences in my own life and seemingly prevalent throughout the world press themselves upon my mind I think I can imagine that there is some kind of a higher intelligence at the helm charting our course. But, then the reality of the awful plight of man and animal rush back in as the rays of light from the advancing sun encroach upon the seat of my silent reveries. The bloodletting of this planet testifies to the total indifference of whatever is at the heart of creation. Then I put aside any hope of rescue or love from the great beyond. It’s morning and I am now fully awake.

    I tried to see some kind of reason why a loving god would go about it this way, and the only thing I can come up with is that religious beliefs are designed to find meaning in a cruel and heartless world and to propagate themselves. It seems far more likely that religion is the invention of primitive man, not the invention of even an average intelligence (by today’s standards). Much of the “wisdom” present in the Bible is the result of many intelligent people thinking about it and reading wisdom into it, just as one can find deep meaning in really dumb poetry.

    Matt, I’m not as much responding as reacting. Forgive me for this non-sequitor.
    Carry on. I’m just following along.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    “{Whatever} is under the whole heaven is Mine.” Clearly this must be true if He is the Creator. He has the right to this authority. Previously, you used the example of a sculptor and his sculpture. Wouldn’t you say that the sculptor deserves everything the sculpture can give- because he is worthy of it?

    A sculpture in real life would be inanimate. By contrast, in every situation where we cause conscious beings to come into existence, the obligation is not from the created to the creator but rather the other way around. If you bring children into the world, you are responsible for their upbringing unless that resposibility is formally handed to someone else. I would argue that the owners of dogs and cats have a responsibility either to stop their pets from breeding or to try their hardest to find good homes for the puppies and kittens that ensue. So if God created us, then I would argue that He has an obligation toward us. He is responsible for us. As an all-knowing, all-powerful being, it seems to me He ought to be perfectly capable of dealing with that responsibility.

  • Heather

    Matt R,

    **God did tell Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate the fruit. I think that is a pretty strong warning. It seems as though if Adam and Eve were not moved by a threat on their very life, then it is possible that they would not be moved by anything. **

    I realize this is a tangent, but could they comprehend what death was? Paul says that death was a result of sin, and so first there must be sin, and then death. At this point in time, could Adam/Eve comprehend what death was? Could that type of death even sink in, or was it too abstract?

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

    Heather,

    I realize this is a tangent, but could they comprehend what death was? Paul says that death was a result of sin, and so first there must be sin, and then death. At this point in time, could Adam/Eve comprehend what death was? Could that type of death even sink in, or was it too abstract?

    In their interaction with the serpent, they seem to recognize it as a punishment to be avoided. Whether they fully comprehended cannot, I think, be easily understood from the text.

    I have not been following the discussion closely and I do not know how relevant the idea is to the whole. I just jumped in on one thought. I do not think the matter relates closely to the POE as a whole.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • OMGF

    He was questioning God and God answered in Job 38-42. God asks Job where he was during creation, if he was the one giving the birds the knowledge of how to migrate and build their nests in inaccessible places, if he was the one who told the morning when to begin and the sun when to set (etc. etc. for 5 chapters). Job 40:1-4 says, “Then the LORD said to Job, “Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.”

    Does might make right?

    However, His justice will not allow Him to destroy something that did not justly deserve to be destroyed.

    Really? So every animal that was destroyed in the flood deserved it? How about the fact that animals die at all, do they sin and therefore deserve to die? I know, you are a Xian and probably of the mind that animals don’t matter, since they don’t have souls and such. So, how about this. You do probably believe that a soul enters a body at conception, right? So, do you think that there were any pregnant women when god flooded the world? Did the fetus deserve to die?

    I disagree. I have already chosen to follow God here on earth. You make it seem as though once I get to heaven I would want to change my mind (wanting to do evil) and be unable to. Why would I want to change my mind if God is truly all powerful, knowing, loving, holy, just, etc.? The people in heaven are those who have already chosen to serve God on earth.

    Ah, but you did not answer the question, did you? What if you, or someone else, did decide to change their mind?

    And therefore if there be any being that we are under infinite obligations to love, and honour, and obey, the contrary towards him must be infinitely faulty.

    Love and honor certainly should not be obligatory…for anyone or anything.

    This was my personal opinion on what would happen. I’m not saying it would for certain.

    And, you sidestepped the question. Would all people choose to sin or wouldn’t they? If the former, then did they really have a chance? If the latter, then why would you state that it is fair to condemn all without giving them the chance?


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