The Pretense of Superiority

Religion has always been used to sanctify inequality here on Earth, in the present no less than in the past. By teaching their followers that they are God’s chosen rulers, religious authorities can accustom the flock to obedience and ascend to positions of power without the consent of the majority. The fundamentally oligarchic and anti-democratic nature of most established religions, in which the church leaders choose their own successors, testifies to this.

These anti-democratic beliefs are all too readily exploited to justify the most horrendous abuses of power. One of the most obnoxious and sickening tendencies of fundamentalist religion is the way in which its leaders use their supposedly God-given status to claim the pretense of moral superiority over their followers, even when they are the ones in the wrong. Two recent criminal cases bear witness to this phenomenon.

First, take Warren Jeffs, the fugitive Mormon cult leader who was captured last year and whose trial has now begun. Jeffs was the patriarch of a polygamist Mormon enclave in the deserts of Utah, and from all accounts ruled with an iron fist. Women in this community live like prisoners, indoctrinated into absolute obedience from a very early age, and are usually “given” in marriage to far older men who already have many wives before they are old enough to give consent. It is this practice that has led Jeffs to be charged as an accomplice to rape. A witness for the prosecution, a former member of Jeffs’ cult who, at the age of 14, was married to an older male cousin without her consent and then raped, gave horrifying testimony of the ordeal she endured:

“I can’t do this, please don’t,” she said she told her husband. “I was sobbing. My whole entire body was shaking I was so scared. He didn’t stop. He just laid me onto the bed and had sex.”

Afterward, the woman said she felt dirty and took two bottles of painkillers. “I just wanted to die. I didn’t want to deal with (my husband) anymore. I didn’t want to deal with Warren, or the prophet, or my mother… I was so hurt by them,” she said.

When she sought out Jeffs, the only authority she knew, and pleaded for help, he harshly rebuked her and sent her back to her abusive marriage:

“I told him (Jeffs) I was sorry I had failed so severely… He told me that I needed to repent, that I was not living up to my vows, I was not being obedient, I was not being submissive and that was what my problem was,” she recounted.

Jeffs told her to go home “and give myself mind, body, and soul” to her husband.

Thankfully, this woman later escaped Jeffs’ cult, but there are doubtless many young women who still suffer in its clutches. Criminal considerations aside, Jeffs’ awful reaction to this woman’s cry for help – telling her to go back and submit to her rapist husband, and blaming her for not being submissive to his wishes, rather than giving her shelter and seeking legal help as a good person would have done – shows clearly that he totally lacks empathy and human feeling. Religious authorities, who see human beings as pawns to be moved around at whim, too often take such a stance.

On another note, there are further developments in the story of Thomas Weeks, the megachurch leader accused of savagely beating his estranged wife in a parking lot. In his first statement since his arrest, Weeks asked his fellow believers not to pass judgment and then, in an act of supreme arrogance, announced that he forgave his wife. For what? He should be begging her forgiveness, not acting as if she did something wrong and he was graciously choosing to pardon her!

Fortunately, we live in a society that has separation of church and state, and a civil justice system that does not recognize any accused person’s delusions about being the anointed servant of God’s will. Still, even when facing lengthy prison terms, it’s incredible that these religious leaders continue to act as if their alleged victims, not they, are the ones who have done something wrong. As both these stories show, women especially suffer the results of this, since they are most often on the receiving end of theological justifications for inequality.

LATE-BREAKING UPDATE (9/25): Warren Jeffs has been convicted and faces up to life in prison.

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.

  • andrea

    Stories like this are prime examples to give to theists who claim that religion harms no one. It is the assumption that there is some divine authority that these leeches call upon for their acts and that this authority at least gives tacit approval to what they do (gee, God didn’t tell me not to do that)that causes these horrors.

  • Polly

    It should be called the “submission-con.” It deserves its own name. That word is responsible for enabling more evil in the world than possibly any other concept. The word “Islam” means “submission.” It’s central to all three Abrhamic faiths and probably many other religions and cults.

  • http://stupac2.blogspot.com Stuart Coleman

    I don’t think it’s incredibly at all, it’s just arrogant and egotistical, two things any self-proclaimed prophet is going to be.

  • hereigns

    There are no excuses for the evil that can and does play a part in our world today, especially by those who are in a position of authority, whether in a church or outside. Wrong is wrong no matter who’s commiting the wrong! If a person, no matter what race, color, or sex commits a crime I would be wrong for labeling all people who fit the description of the offender as evil. One of the best weapons in satans aresnal is to have us judge each other according to some negative actions by one or more people and then have others make false judgements against all. This article is a prime example of this fact.

    Polly,

    The word “Islam” means “submission.” It’s central to all three Abrhamic faiths and probably many other religions and cults.

    I vehemtely disagree with this comment. Jesus said, “follow-me” which is quite the opposite of “submit to me”. Following is a willful act, submission tends to be forced, aka Warren Jeffs.

  • Stacey

    Some fundamentalist preachers have the audacity to proclaim that women’s rights began in Christianity because of Jesus’ forgiveness of the prostitute, etc. While Jesus may have taken some steps for the social status of women in the face of the misogynist rulers of his time, Paul of Tarsus quickly wiped that out with his teachings that women must submit to their husbands, their place was in the home, and they could not hold positions of authority in the church. And many fundamentalist preachers continue to quote Paul on this so the men can remain in power, at the same time as stating that it was Christianity that gave rights to women.

    These preachers also seem to forget that many pro-slavery arguments centered around Paul’s call for slaves to obey their masters. They will happily point out that the abolitionist movement began with a group of Quakers in Britain, but will conveniently forget to mention that the Bible was used on both sides of the fence. So much for human rights. :S

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ Spanish Inquisitor

    I don’t suppose that it’s coincidental that ALL religious leaders – priests, rabbis, imams, ministers (until recently) – are men, and have always been men since the beginning of history. (There may be a few exceptions). Religion works out very well in a patriarchal society – for men. I would guess that men in ancient times saw the benefit of a system that allowed them to keep their women under their thumbs.

    Without religion, who knows? Our first president might have been a woman.

  • YAAB

    Religion has always been used to sanctify inequality here on Earth, in the present no less than in the past.

    Indeed, this inequality also extends into the future, and according to some belief systems that espouse “levels of heaven,” into infinity as well.

  • OMGF

    hereigns

    Wrong is wrong no matter who’s commiting the wrong!

    Do you hold your god to that standard? You do know your god is responsible for mass genocides and other iniquities, right?

    If a person, no matter what race, color, or sex commits a crime I would be wrong for labeling all people who fit the description of the offender as evil. One of the best weapons in satans aresnal is to have us judge each other according to some negative actions by one or more people and then have others make false judgements against all. This article is a prime example of this fact.

    That’s not what Ebon has done at all. What Ebon is criticizing is the system that leads to this corruption.

    Stacey,

    Some fundamentalist preachers have the audacity to proclaim that women’s rights began in Christianity because of Jesus’ forgiveness of the prostitute, etc.

    If you mean the story where Jesus says, “Let those among you who are without sin cast the first stone,” then you might want to know that it is widely held that that story was fabricated well after the fact.

    Of course, I agree with your post about the patriachal values of Paul and of Xianity in general. I just thought you might like that tidbit of knowledge.

  • Alex Weaver

    On a semi-related note to Stacey and OMGF’s posts, I’m reminded of a political cartoon about the hypocrisy of various less-than-righteous Republicans laying into Clinton over his marital conduct. It shows him facing a crowd, quoting “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” The second panel shows the crowd pelting him with a baseball, a bottle, various forms of fruit, etc (but not stones).

    The general concept kind of fits, doesn’t it?

  • M.

    I think it’s important to distinguish between what religion does and what people do. Some people are nutters who believe that they are superior to others in every way. These people will hurt and oppress others regardless of whether they have faith or not. They use the language of religion because they are religious. They use religion as an excuse because they can. If they weren’t religious, they might use the language of secularism, claiming that they are justified by “nature” (a good example of this being the “scientific” belief in the Victorian era that woman’s place was under man – women were seen as naturally docile and servile and this was believed by atheists as well as theists).

    The simply fact being that some people are disgusting. But we must remember that it isn’t religion that makes them so.

  • M.

    Just to add to that, I see a lot of posts saying what amounts to “religion has caused mass genocides.”

    How can this be? If you don’t believe in God, how can you believe that religion has its own agency? PEOPLE have caused mass genocides and they have used religion as an excuse (in the same way that others have used economy, patriotism, and other secular believe structures).

    Religion doesn’t cause anything because there is no God – thus religion is merely a passive human CONSTRUCT. It will bend to the will of humans, to excuse what HUMANS want to excuse.

    Give credit where it is due. Humans are responsible for their own actions. By blaming “religion” for genocides, you are merely furthering the belief that humans aren’t responsible for their own acts because they were compelled by some higher authority.

  • OMGF

    M,
    If someone tells me that god is good, then it is entirely appropriate to ask why god commits genocide.

    If someone tells me religion is good, then it is entirely appropriate to ask why people use it for justification to commit genocide. I also see it as entirely appropriate to question the religious foundation that allows for this type of behavior. Why should we not scrutinize it as a potential factor that facilitates this type of behavior? Your argument seems to be that (some?) people are bad whether they are religious or not. If religion gives these people a ready made excuse for being that way, or facilitates their bad behavior, then shouldn’t we call it out when we see it?

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    hereigns:

    If a person, no matter what race, color, or sex commits a crime I would be wrong for labeling all people who fit the description of the offender as evil. One of the best weapons in satans aresnal is to have us judge each other according to some negative actions by one or more people and then have others make false judgements against all. This article is a prime example of this fact.

    That’s not what I took from the article at all! You’re right that not all religious people behave so badly. However, what is being attacked is not all religious people but rather the idea that being a religious authority implies some sort of moral superiority.

    M:

    If they weren’t religious, they might use the language of secularism, claiming that they are justified by “nature” (a good example of this being the “scientific” belief in the Victorian era that woman’s place was under man – women were seen as naturally docile and servile and this was believed by atheists as well as theists).

    However, we would at the very least be in a better position to challenge that view if it was presented as a factual statement rather than a statement to be taken on faith! (John Stuart Mill — possibly with some help from Henrietta Branford — has the ultimate response to that particular argument. If it’s natural, women don’t need to be forced into it, do they?)

  • Harvard

    Dear “herains” –
    You talk about “the best weapons in satans aresnal.”
    I assume you mean arsenal.
    So, you know about satan’s arsenal, do you?
    Have you talked to satan?
    Have you met him?
    What does he look like?
    Is his voice deep and scary?

  • Was A God

    hereigns

    “I vehemtely disagree with this comment. Jesus said, “follow-me” which is quite the opposite of “submit to me”. Following is a willful act, submission tends to be forced, aka Warren Jeffs. “

    My dear, there is a difference between “follow-me.” and “follow-me or go to hell”.

    Of course there is no difference if you like hell in the first place.

  • M.

    OMGF – You’ve touched on my point. “Why does religion seem to lend itself to harmful interpretations that result in genocide?” is a perfectly legitimate question. “Religion causes genocide,” however, if simply not a factual statement. Religion has no independent agency. So while you may mean to ask the first question, you are actually further excusing harmful behaviour by shifting blame away from those who deserve it and onto something else.

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

    While religion has no causal power apart from the people who believe in it, “religion causes X” seems to me to be a perfectly good shorthand for “religious beliefs which encourage or praise X lead to many people who follow those beliefs acting in that way”.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    “Following is a willful act, submission tends to be forced, aka Warren Jeffs. ” — hereigns

    Now, when I’m told that non-believers will burn in Hell forever, is that not forced submission? After all, my soul is being held hostage, no? Does the robbery victim give his money willingly?

    No. All religions which threaten a punishment for disbelief have engaged in forcing submission.

    On a related note, if Christianity was the universal truth, what use does it have for compulsion, which is surely hell’s role in Christian theology?

  • Entomologista

    I see my atheism as almost indistinguishable from my feminism. There is no secular reason to treat another human being like property or to deprive them of bodily integrity and agency. To me, a “relationship” with (at least the Christian) god is much like the relationship a wife has with an abusive husband. God sets up the whole situation so that we fail and he can punish us, but makes it look like we might be able to win. This is what an abusive husband does. Don’t burn dinner and I won’t beat you. Oh – the steak is under cooked, I have to beat you anyway. God sets up the universe with sin and hell, promising that as long as we don’t burn dinner he’ll be nice to us. In other words, god loves to blame the victim :)

    At pandagon.blogsome.net (a prominent feminist blog) there is a recent post where you can see that the wife-beating pastor was acting like pretty much all abusers act. The post at Pandagon deals with a man who videotaped himself beating his wife so everybody could see how much she deserved it.

  • hereigns

    Thumpalumpacus,

    Now, when I’m told that non-believers will burn in Hell forever, is that not forced submission? After all, my soul is being held hostage, no?

    I see your point, guess it’s all in how a person sees it.

  • OMGF

    hereigns,
    If you see his point, then how do you reconcile the actions of your god?

    M,

    So while you may mean to ask the first question, you are actually further excusing harmful behaviour by shifting blame away from those who deserve it and onto something else.

    I’m doing nothing of the sort.

    If a believer goes on a killing spree because god told him/her to do it, I can condemn the religion that led to his/her delusions without letting him/her off the hook for his/her actions. That’s why the Nuremburg defense is not recognized as a legitimate way to avoid punishment.

  • hereigns

    OMGF,

    To avoid a really, really long discussion and knocking the topic off subject I’ll simply refer you and others to

      The Craig-Bradley Debate: Can a loving God send people to hell?

    , if you haven’t already heard or read about it.

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

    M.

    How can this be? If you don’t believe in God, how can you believe that religion has its own agency? PEOPLE have caused mass genocides and they have used religion as an excuse (in the same way that others have used economy, patriotism, and other secular believe structures).

    Your insight is a breath of fresh air. I was contemplating how one would communicate this idea and you have done so excellently. Wonderfully done.

    Cheers,

    Matt

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

    Harvard,

    Dear “herains” —
    You talk about “the best weapons in satans aresnal.”
    I assume you mean arsenal.
    So, you know about satan’s arsenal, do you?
    Have you talked to satan?
    Have you met him?
    What does he look like?
    Is his voice deep and scary?

    Rather trollish, don’t you think? Such barbs are an impediment to open discourse and fail to provide for thought provoking exchanges.

    Matt

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

    Ebonmuse,

    While religion has no causal power apart from the people who believe in it, “religion causes X” seems to me to be a perfectly good shorthand for “religious beliefs which encourage or praise X lead to many people who follow those beliefs acting in that way”.

    But that falls into the same morass which M. has already pointed out. People can take the “religious ideas” and change them, or create new “religious ideas” to carry out their own ends.

    It would be better to be a little more selective and point out that there are good and bad religious ideas and we must do away with the bad ones, instead of generalizing all religion as a source of evil. *Anything* can be a source of evil. To blame all religion for such things is like blaming racism on the theory of evolution because some people have used evolutionary ideas to support racism.

    I do not dispute that some religious ideas are reprehensible, but to broadly categorize “religion” as evil in general terms is not accurate or charitable.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • OMGF

    hereigns,
    I read the first couple paragraphs from your debate and that’s about all I could stomach. Craig is a first rate hack and not even worth the time I spent.

    However, I still don’t feel as though my question or the original question is answered. I didn’t ask whether it was just (it isn’t) but how it is not considered forced submission to either believe and obey or be cast into hell. I don’t think this question is off topic at all.

  • OMGF

    Matt,

    But that falls into the same morass which M. has already pointed out. People can take the “religious ideas” and change them, or create new “religious ideas” to carry out their own ends.

    When those religious ideas teach you to degrade yourself and your fellow man, it makes it much easier to hate your fellow man and subsequently kill him. It is entirely appropriate to point out those base religious teachings and say, “Those are bad teachings and people should not believe in them or follow them.”

    I don’t think Ebon is saying that all religious ideas are necessarily bad. But, I think that the basis for religion is certainly bad, in that you are supposed to believe things by faith. This opens people up to all kinds iniquities. And – M might jump in here but oh well – I do think that sometimes people are goaded into doing bad things that they would not normally do because of their religious beliefs. I think they should still be held accountable for it, but we should also be looking at the causes and trying to treat those instead of just saying, “Oh well, religion is good except that some people twist it for their own evil ends.”

  • Was A God

    But that falls into the same morass which M. has already pointed out. People can take the “religious ideas” and change them, or create new “religious ideas” to carry out their own ends.

    There are verses in the bible that sanctify violence and cruel behavior towards non-believer, “enemies of god” and little kiddies that laugh at old man… surely that needs no changing and creation.

    It would be better to be a little more selective and point out that there are good and bad religious ideas and we must do away with the bad ones, instead of generalizing all religion as a source of evil.

    wooo…. cherry picking. I love cherries. So… how many books or para of the bible are we going to chop up this time? Can we tear up most of Genesis, Levictus, deutronomy?? Isn’t the entire bible a god inspired message?? God must be having a bad during those moments…

    To blame all religion for such things is like blaming racism on the theory of evolution because some people have used evolutionary ideas to support racism.

    This is probably the part where

    People can take the “religious ideas” and change them, or create new “religious ideas” to carry out their own ends

    applies.. except minus the religious. You see unlike some religous doctrines, theory of evolution do not sanctify violence, degredation and biasness against fellow humans. Its the people who changes them and create new ideas from it that does..

    Is religion evil? It may not be, but unfortunately much too often it sanctify behavior, ideas that facilitates commiting act of “evil” ( evil is of course a relative concept.)against the “infidels” and deemed “infidels”. This in itself is reprehensible. what more reprehensible is that such reprehensible details have been conveniently glossed over by the people promoting the religion.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    “there are good and bad religious ideas and we must do away with the bad ones” — Matt

    The problem is, Matt, that given that religion is inherently irrational, there is no rational way to “do away with the bad ones” unless we step outside the framework of religion. Otherwise, we end up in a denominational bog (oh, wait, we’re already there).

    I can fairly say that religions demanding human sacrifice to propitiate gods are more evil than, say, Universal Unitarianism; but I can say that only based upon a rational assessment of their worldly effects. However, both religions are equally irrational, and thus equally incapable of rationally judging the other except from their own theological frame of reference.

  • hereigns

    OMGF,

    Paraphrasing, if I may, “How is it not considered forced submission to either believe and obey or be cast into hell?”.

    This is a “heavier” topic and requires quite a bit of foundational information but I will try to keep my response to this question short and to the point, atleast as best I can. True love is not permissive. Permissive “love” isn’t really love at all, love which allows the object of that love to do whatever he or she wants. If you are a parent you recognize that allowing your children run amuck isn’t loving them at all. If you were to allow them to do whatever they please they would grow up to be spoiled selfish brats, incapable of loving other people. A Permissive god(s), who are caught up in their own intrigues, and so allow humans to do whatever they want without repercussions, are found in the pagan religions. On the contrary, the God of the Bible wants us to love Him and our neighbor above everything else we do. God’s moral laws have a purpose. The Creator God of the universe is a God of divine order. Logic also says that Gods moral laws are also precise, they aren’t random and they never change. Therefore, it seems likely that unchanging moral laws are consistent with the God of creation. The Bible says that the moral laws are consistent with the character of God. Therefore, the main purpose of the moral laws are to teach us what God requires for us to enter into His kingdom. The moral laws teach us how to live peaceably with others. In fact, if we all perfectly fulfilled the moral laws of God, we would be in perfect harmony with each other. Our failure to fulfill God’s moral laws leads us to seek Him as the source of our salvation.

    God’s creation of free will beings must allow for the possibility of rejecting God completely. Since God created spiritual beings for the purpose of expressing love, those beings must have complete free will in order to express that love. Of course, free will allows for the possibility of those beings rejecting God and His plans. Unfortunately, most people do not agree that God’s rules are good and do not want to live by them. Because ALL of us fall short of God’s moral requirements God has made a provision to erase all sins that we have committed in this life. That provision for sin is through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He took our rightful punishment and gives us the reward that we do not deserve, eternal life. In accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, all our sins are erased, and He works to change us on the inside and be like Him, if we will allow Him.

    Which begs the question, why doesn’t God make everyone into perfect beings and allow them all into heaven? This is a topic all to itself. God created us and now we have a choice before us, to follow or not to follow. He could’ve created robots but that wouldn’t be worthwhile, for the robots or for God.

    In summary, many people like to live in their favorite sins and answer to no one but themselves. They know that if they accept Jesus as Lord and Savior that God will want them to change their hearts and motives for their actions. They will also have to give up one or more of their favorite sins. Therefore, those who go to hell do so voluntarily, preferring hell to following a holy and just God.

  • Wedge

    True love is not permissive. Permissive “love” isn’t really love at all, love which allows the object of that love to do whatever he or she wants. If you are a parent you recognize that allowing your children run amuck isn’t loving them at all.

    hereigns:

    This is probably the worst analogy that I see Christians use. Do you really think that there are no options, no gradations, between allowing children to do whatever they want, and eternal torture? There is a worse kind of parent than the permissive kind: the kind who lets their kids run wild and then suddenly stop allowing it and turn around and punish them excessively and irrationally. Kind of like letting people do what they want all their lives and then throwing them in hell.

    A parent restricts a kid in order to teach them, and does not use torture to do it. What do people in hell learn?

    God’s creation of free will beings must allow for the possibility of rejecting God completely.

    First of all, I’m assuming you follow the Bible. The Bible says absolutely nothing about free will or God having to allow people the option of rejecting him. Nothing. It is a rationalization enshrined over the course of history to excuse the outrageously terrible concept of hell.

    Secondly, how is creating two options – give me love or be tortured – necessary for free will, or even compatible with free will? If someone puts a gun to my head and says, ‘give me money or I’ll hurt you’ I do not rejoice in the freedom of choice he’s offered me.

    Surely there are other options. Why not just allow the people who don’t love him to cease to exist when they die?

    Oh wait, how dare I question god just because a fourth grader could come up with a more just scenario…

    Because ALL of us fall short of God’s moral requirements God has made a provision to erase all sins that we have committed in this life.

    Then we were very badly created, weren’t we.

    If there are two or three students in a class who fail, it is reasonable to claim that they are responsible for their own failure. If everyone fails, there is something wrong with the teacher.

    He could’ve created robots but that wouldn’t be worthwhile, for the robots or for God.

    Sigh. So, when you get to heaven and there is no more sin, you’ll all be robots forever?

    And again with the theistic hard-on for absolutes and dichotomies: there is no reason why it has to be either HELLFIRE! or robots. Just as I don’t have to choose between letting kids do anything they want or locking them in their room until they’re eighteen. There are, you know, reasonable options which could exist rather than these bizarre, illogical, and unjust extremes.

    In summary, many people like to live in their favorite sins and answer to no one but themselves. They know that if they accept Jesus as Lord and Savior that God will want them to change their hearts and motives for their actions. They will also have to give up one or more of their favorite sins. Therefore, those who go to hell do so voluntarily, preferring hell to following a holy and just God.

    hereigns, do you realize how bigoted and offensive this is? You are saying that I don’t believe in Jesus because I love sinning and would rather go to hell. I respect Ebonmuse too much to put my response to that in words.

    I am not a Christian because I find the Christian doctrince senseless, vicious, and brutally ignorant. I despise people who, like you, pretend moral superiority to atheists and spout off crap like this about what is ‘really’ going on in our hearts. I understand: if you don’t dehumanize and blame people who reject Christianity, then you have to admit that your god is an immoral tyrant for sending people who have honest, moral reasons for rejecting him to hell.

    But I don’t really care what your justifications are. Your beliefs are silly – there is no hell, there is no god. The above is an attempt to point out how shallow and bizarre they are, because unfortunately, this drivel justifies people who do great harm to people like me.

    This is what frightens me, this is why I take you seriously, this is why I am harsh: you believe in the threats, you believe in your moral superiority, and all too often these beliefs translate into action.

  • heliobates

    This is probably the worst analogy that I see Christians use…

    It’s bad in other ways too. I saw my parents, spoke with them, interacted with them daily. My daughter sees me, speaks to me and I respond. I am demonstrably and physically present in her life. Moreover, other people, particularly my spouse, can attest to these interactions. My daughter, should she ever be challenged on the issue, will be able to present enough evidence to satisfy even a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, that I exist(ed).

    Had any believer ever provided the same evidentary support for the existence of a Divine Parent, daylightatheism.org would not exist.

    This argument from divine hiddenness mitigates against the plausibility of theodicy, though it doesn’t stop believers from retreating behind its walls. Kind of a rhetorical Alamo, if you will.

  • Wedge

    heliobates:

    Yeah, I know. So many levels of bad, so little sense.

    I just noticed I condemned the Christian ‘doctrince’ – oops. I can spell, I just can’t spell and type at the same time. :P

  • heliobates

    Wasn’t a dig at you, Wedge. I’m sure that you and I will bullseye many a womprat back home in our T-16. I should have worded it in such a way that I thanked you for the leg up rather than implying criticism of points that you weren’t interested in addressing at the time.

  • Wedge

    Oh no, I didn’t take it as a dig, no apologies necessary. I’m glad you jumped in and pointed out another angle.

    If you were anywhere near I’d invite you over for barbequed womprat and Corellian wine.

  • OMGF

    hereigns,
    Wedge and Helio have taken your post apart rather ably, so I won’t add too much, except to say that you still have not answered the question. Your long post was really an exposition on why you think god is in the right to send people to hell, but it doesn’t get to the question at hand. As Wedge put it,

    If someone puts a gun to my head and says, ‘give me money or I’ll hurt you’ I do not rejoice in the freedom of choice he’s offered me.

    So, again, how is god not forcing us to obey and “love” him by putting a metaphysical gun to our heads and saying, “It’s hell or heaven.”

    In summary, many people like to live in their favorite sins and answer to no one but themselves. They know that if they accept Jesus as Lord and Savior that God will want them to change their hearts and motives for their actions. They will also have to give up one or more of their favorite sins. Therefore, those who go to hell do so voluntarily, preferring hell to following a holy and just God.

    I suggest you ask actual atheists about this instead of making blanket condemnations.

  • hereigns

    Wedge,

    A parent restricts a kid in order to teach them, and does not use torture to do it. What do people in hell learn?
    God’s creation of free will beings must allow for the possibility of rejecting God completely. First of all, I’m assuming you follow the Bible. The Bible says absolutely nothing about free will or God having to allow people the option of rejecting him. Nothing. It is a rationalization enshrined over the course of history to excuse the outrageously terrible concept of hell.

    I’m not sure we’re reading the same Bible. “…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9 “If” is the operative word in the verse, “if” is a choice.

    Secondly, how is creating two options – give me love or be tortured – necessary for free will, or even compatible with free will? If someone puts a gun to my head and says, ‘give me money or I’ll hurt you’ I do not rejoice in the freedom of choice he’s offered me.

    Surely there are other options. Why not just allow the people who don’t love him to cease to exist when they die?

    Your “gun to the head” example is not a good contrast to what God says in His Word. An example that would more accurately refelct His Word would be if the person who had the gun, shot the other in cold blood. Would the judge simply wave his hands and say, “I’m feeling generous today, you’re free to go without any punishment.”? Ofcourse not, obviously he would not be administering justice, and he should promptly be relieved of his position. In the same way, if God did not provide punishment for the sinful actions that humans commit, then justice could not be the foundation of His throne. But in His mercy, God has offered a pardon, if we so choose, His Son.

    …we were very badly created, weren’t we. If there are two or three students in a class who fail, it is reasonable to claim that they are responsible for their own failure. If everyone fails, there is something wrong with the teacher.”

    I could simply refer you to the fall of Adam but I won’t because the answer is deeper than that and sin begins with satan. How ’bout this question, “If God is all knowing why did He create satan who He knew would fall?”?

    This question begs another, for what reason or reasons should God have not created the devil even if he was going to fall? Just because God knows what will happen doesn’t mean that the person, or in this case angel, isn’t free to make choices. Satan freely chose to rebel against God. God knew this would happen. Nevertheless, here are some possible reasons why God would create satan even though He knew he would fall and rebel.

    1) It was necessary to have the fall so that God could then have a reason to die for our sins thereby demonstrating that God can and does provide the greatest act of love which is to lay ones life down for his friend (John 15:13).

    2) The fall of satan provides yet another method for God to be glorified in that God can use sin to prove that sin is “bad” and that God’s word about righteousness is true.

    3) If God is to have creatures with free will, then the risk of rebellion is part of that freedom. Satan had that freedom and used it to rebel.

    4) If God had not created Satan and instead another angel fell, then we’d be asking why God made that angel knowing he would fall.

    I know my children will act badly at times, but knowing that does not mean mean that I shouldn’t have kids. Part of the risk of freedom is that rebellion will be a reality.

    So, when you get to heaven and there is no more sin, you’ll all be robots forever?

    No, I’ve chosen to worship my Creator!

    Your beliefs are silly – there is no hell, there is no god. The above is an attempt to point out how shallow and bizarre they are, because unfortunately, this drivel justifies people who do great harm to people like me.”

    Therein is our great divide. You say because of people like me, (do you mean those who believe in God?) they do you people like you, great harm. I contend it is because of the fall of Adam that people do others great harm. People commit heinous crimes, those who claim to know God and those who don’t.

  • OMGF

    hereigns,

    “if” is a choice.

    No, actually “if” is a conditional, which is not the same thing.

    Your “gun to the head” example is not a good contrast to what God says in His Word. An example that would more accurately refelct His Word would be if the person who had the gun, shot the other in cold blood.

    You are avoiding the issue. god is threatening us with hell if we do not “love” him. The original analogy is quite good. If the man with the gun to your head says, “Love me or I will pull the trigger,” that is the same situation as god saying, “Love me or I will send you to hell.”

    1) It was necessary to have the fall so that God could then have a reason to die for our sins thereby demonstrating that God can and does provide the greatest act of love which is to lay ones life down for his friend (John 15:13).

    Well, that seems rather convoluted.

    No, I’ve chosen to worship my Creator!

    Once you get to heaven, can you reverse your choice?

    People commit heinous crimes, those who claim to know God and those who don’t.

    If theists are just as bad as atheists, I have to wonder why that is. Shouldn’t theists with a loving, just, etc. god on their side be demonstrably better people?

    Anyway, this is all a side issue. You still have not answered the question about forced submission. Why are you avoiding it?

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

    It was necessary to have the fall so that God could then have a reason to die for our sins thereby demonstrating that God can and does provide the greatest act of love which is to lay ones life down for his friend (John 15:13).

    If you seriously mean this, friend, then you have a badly twisted view of what love is. You’re basically saying that God set humanity up to fall so that he could later swoop in and prove what a nice guy he was by saving us (or rather, some of us). Pardon me if that doesn’t cause me to overflow with gratitude.

    Would you ever accept an equivalent excuse from a human being? Would it be all right with you if a firefighter set an apartment building on fire so that he could prove how brave and heroic he was by then charging into the flames and rescuing some of the people within (again, leaving others to burn to death)? Would you praise the goodness of a doctor who deliberately infected people with a plague so that he could demonstrate his benevolence by treating the victims?

  • OMGF

    Well said Ebon.

  • heliobates

    Would you ever accept an equivalent excuse from a human being?

    Ah, Adam, but you’re setting yourself up for the “you can’t hold God to the same standard–He’s GOD doanchaknow?”

    I call it the “argument-from-the-banana-in-the-tailpipe-routine”.

    Run away!

  • hereigns

    OMGF,

    Whether the choice is conditional or not, it’s still a choice.

    In regards to the “gun” analogy, I clearly see how you view God and the Bible but I don’t share your view which is why I presented an opposing example. Because we see things differently in regards to God it doesn’t mean I’m not answering your question or avoiding the issue, in regards to “forced submission”.

    Can I reverse my choice when I get to heaven? Good question, I’ll find out when I get there. Because this side of eternity is a choice, I would say, yes.

    “If theists are just as bad as atheists, I have to wonder why that is. Shouldn’t theists with a loving, just, etc. god on their side be demonstrably better people?”

    I think I understand your point and where you’re coming from but I wouldn’t use the word “better people” in describing the life of a Christian vs an atheist or anyone else for that matter. Because, “better” indicates a lower standard. In my own life there are things that I used to do that I no longer do or have a desire to do that were not good for either myself or someone else or both. There are also things in my heart that I desire to do that are “good” that I didn’t have before. Is my life “better” than say an atheists, not necessarily. Jesus said, those who follow Him would be known by their fruit. What fruit? Love the Lord and your neighbor. I can’t explain someone else’s actions, good or bad, I can only look at my own life.

    To further elaborate my point, not all but most of our news media covers negative actions of others. You rarely see coverage that would be considered positive. Does that mean there isn’t anything positive happening in our world? Certainly not, there are many people, organizations that are helping our society in some fashion. The same can be said of Christians. If someone is “saved” and does something that is contrary to the Bible does that mean all Christians should be judged by someone else’s actions, I certainly hope not. Obviously I’m not God and don’t know if Thomas Weeks is saved or not but for arguements sake, let’s just say he is. Are you now going to say all Christians are bad because of his or someone elses’s actions? I’d agree that he’s certainly not loving his neighbor by beating his wife and he should be held accountable for his actions. But you’re picking out the parts you don’t like about Christians and not making a “fair” assesement. There are thousands, dare I say, millions, of Christians who don’t beat their spouses or rape 14 year old girls and on the contrary are helping those in need; whether that is financial, phyiscal, emotional, or spiritual. But even if this statement wasn’t true, walking with the Lord is about having a personal relationship with Him and ALL of us fall short of the Glory of God and need His Grace, including Thomas Weeks and Warren Jeffs.

    NOTE: I also know that there are many atheists and other non-christians who are doing things that are helping his/her society I’m only trying to make a point about judging others because of anothers actions.

    Ebon,
    God is omniscient, therefore if He knew man was going to fall I’m thankful that He didn’t just wipe us out but rather offered His Son. I’m not God and I don’t pretend to know why He does everything He does.

  • heliobates

    God is omniscient, therefore if He knew man was going to fall I’m thankful that He didn’t just wipe us out but rather offered His Son. I’m not God and I don’t pretend to know why He does everything He does.

    Tolja, Adam.

    Check six next time.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    [All quotations below are from hereigns]

    “Permissive “love” isn’t really love at all, love which allows the object of that love to do whatever he or she wants. If you are a parent you recognize that allowing your children run amuck isn’t loving them at all. If you were to allow them to do whatever they please they would grow up to be spoiled selfish brats, incapable of loving other people.”

    While Wedge and Helio do not like this analogy, I actually do. The fact of the matter is that, theologically speaking (assuming you accept Christian theology), god has let his two-year-old son run out into the freeway, only to get angry with the child for being run over. In comparison to fallible human parents, god puts in a poor showing indeed.

    “God’s creation of free will beings must allow for the possibility of rejecting God completely. Since God created spiritual beings for the purpose of expressing love, those beings must have complete free will in order to express that love.”

    I see. In the first quote, true love is not permissive — parents do not let their children run amok. But now you assert that the expression of love must be freely given, and an allowance made for rejection. Of course, rejecting god and embracing sin is running amok. Apparently, either god doesn’t know what love is, or god has no love for us. Which is it?

    “Just because God knows what will happen doesn’t mean that the person, or in this case angel, isn’t free to make choices.”

    Without trying to be mean, Rob, this is probably the silliest statement I have read from you. Absolute foreknowledge IS determination. If it isn’t then a mere mortal can show your god to be not omniscient. There was an excellent debate here a few weeks ago on the conflict between omniscience and freedom (http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/2007/08/why-does-god-let-satan-roam-free.html) which you’d do well to read. Myself, being a fan of Frank Herbert’s “Dune”, I’ll quote him: “Absolute knowledge is death.”

    “3) If God is to have creatures with free will, then the risk of rebellion is part of that freedom. Satan had that freedom and used it to rebel.”

    If god knew that satan was going to rebel, then god’s hands are filthy with sin. If god didn’t know that satan would rebel, then god isn’t omniscient. You cannot have it both ways.

    Personally, what I take away from your post is that god created us humans as flawed. (Please do not put our flaws on Adam and Eve — were they not flawed to give in to temptation?) That raises the question of god’s perfection, for as a quality of an active, creative agency, part of the definition of perfection must include the effects of the act of creation. In other words, a perfect pitcher throws strikes every time, a perfect navigator never gets lost, and a perfect carpenter builds perfect cabinets. (Ours is a very crooked cabinet, no?)

    The existence of imperfect products is direct evidence of the imperfection of the producer. You yourself admit the imperfection of man, yet you refuse to see this logical extension of your position, apparently. This is but one of the weighty contradictions which burden your theology, which you cannot answer. Of course, I don’t doubt you’ll try. But please, simply because your religion is burdened with contradictions does not mean your postings should be too.

  • hereigns

    Wedge,

    Your beliefs are silly – there is no hell, there is no god.

    If my beliefs are silly and there is no God when I’m pushing daisys then I hope the love and kindness I will have extended to others positively impacted someone else’s life. On the other hand, if the Bible is true then I’ll be saved by grace through faith in Jesus and will be able to rejoice in Heaven! I sincerely hope to meet you there someday!

  • OMGF

    hereigns,

    Whether the choice is conditional or not, it’s still a choice.

    No, what I’m saying is that the word “if” does not necessarily denote a choice as you asserted. Look at the phrase, “If it rains tomorrow…” what choice does that denote?

    In regards to the “gun” analogy, I clearly see how you view God and the Bible but I don’t share your view which is why I presented an opposing example. Because we see things differently in regards to God it doesn’t mean I’m not answering your question or avoiding the issue, in regards to “forced submission”.

    OK, so you maintain that god is not telling us to love him or else? How is that possible? Is it not the case that I will go to hell if I don’t love/choose/worship god? I will ask again, how is that not forced submission? Arguing about whether it is moral for god to create hell and send people there does nothing to answer the question. You are either avoiding it or you are completely unable to answer, which is an answer itself I suppose. I think you should concede the point.

    Can I reverse my choice when I get to heaven? Good question, I’ll find out when I get there. Because this side of eternity is a choice, I would say, yes.

    So, wouldn’t that be a sin? Wouldn’t that mean that heaven is not free from sin? This is contradictory.

    I think I understand your point and where you’re coming from but I wouldn’t use the word “better people” in describing the life of a Christian vs an atheist or anyone else for that matter….

    “Better” in this context would mean “more moral.” The point is that Xians are no more moral as a whole than non-Xians. This has nothing to do with labeling all Xians as bad because of the actions of Jeffs or Weeks, and no one here has sought to do that. This has to do with the claims of your religion that it is the true religion and that its claims are moral. I would expect that Xians would be more moral that atheists, but that is simply not the case. When you speak of the bad things happening on the news, how often do you think those people are atheist, Xian, or some other religion? I would expect that if Xians are god’s chosen people and god is so just and moral and the teachings of god were just and moral, that Xians would be much less likely to be in the news.

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

    OMGF,

    When those religious ideas teach you to degrade yourself and your fellow man, it makes it much easier to hate your fellow man and subsequently kill him. It is entirely appropriate to point out those base religious teachings and say, “Those are bad teachings and people should not believe in them or follow them.”

    I agree. I think it is important to do away with religious ideas which are bad for humanity. We should criticize those beliefs.

    I think that the basis for religion is certainly bad, in that you are supposed to believe things by faith.

    I think that you may be surprised at the number of religious people who do not believe because of “faith”, but because of reasons. You may disagree with those reasons, but they do not believe just because. Some do, maybe even mosts, but religion is not inextricably linked to blind faith. Religion can be rational, one just has to approach the question of God rationally.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • OMGF

    Matt,

    I think that you may be surprised at the number of religious people who do not believe because of “faith”, but because of reasons…Religion can be rational, one just has to approach the question of God rationally.

    No offense, but god belief is irrational and it is quite impossible to come to god belief rationally. I know that you think you fit into the group of people who have done so, but simply put, you haven’t. All god belief necessarily entails begging the question. To commit a logical fallacy and then base your decisions off that logical fallacy may seem to be rational – in fact, it probably seems rather logical if you don’t recognize the fallacy in the train – but it is not.

    In the end, though, it always does come down to faith, because there is a distinct lack of evidence for god. Without evidence, then god belief must necessarily entail faith.

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

    OMGF,

    No offense taken, but I am still unsure why you think that believing that God is there is necessarily begging the question. Do you mean that to propose with 100% certainty that God exists is begging the question? If so, then I agree with you. I think that the case for God’s existence is not conclusively provable, but I think that it is a possibility and I think there are things which could point to God. They do not make me think that God is the *only* possibility, but to me God seems like the more likely possibility.

    Also, by lack of evidence for God do you mean that there is lack of evidence which could only be explained by God’s existence? I would probably agree with that statement.

    Cheers,

    Matt

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

    Was A God,

    I am replying to address the way you understand the Bible, not to say that there are no harmful ideas in the Bible, because there are some. However I think that this one example is not as good as others. Here is why.

    There are verses in the bible that sanctify violence and cruel behavior towards non-believer, “enemies of god” and little kiddies that laugh at old man… surely that needs no changing and creation.

    This is a perfect example of confusing types of literature in the Bible. I will counter by saying, what of Jesus’ teaching “Love you enemies…”. You see, the incident you are referring to is written as a historical account (let us not argue about whether it really happened, that is irrelevant to the argument) whereas the teaching “Love your enemies…” is a direct clear teaching from Jesus (the one whom Christians are supposed to obey.

    Now, there are no commands about how to behave in the story of the bear that mauls the youths who were mocking the prophet. Any application must be inferred. Simply put, there is no clear teaching in that story which states that people should kill each other. Furthermore, when one reaches the teachings of Jesus and sees “Love your enemies…” and realizes that is a *clear teaching* and *direct command* then it is quite easy for a reasonable person to see that we should love our enemies. Based on that we can know how to act towards people.

    Do you see the difference here? To take the historical books of the bible and transform them into commands about how to live one’s life requires speculation and interpretation, which are necessarily shaped by the person speculating and interpreting. It is the direct commands which one should look at.

    Now….

    I will save you the trouble of bringing up the direct commands in the penteteuch (1st 5 books) which talk about killing people for all sorts of reasons. I disagree with those and think they are wrong. These fall under the category of things which should be removed from religion.

    Cheers,
    Matt

  • http://www.alisonblogs.com Alison

    The problem that arises, Matt, is that (additional) selective editing of any religious text calls the entire text into question. The Bible has several places that state specifically that each and every word is the word of god. Jesus admonishes people to follow all the 116 laws of the Pharisees and then some, indicating that the Old Testament hasn’t just been replaced. The Vatican has thousands of other scriptural texts in storage that various papal regimes decided to keep from publication, often because they contradicted what the church had on its agenda at the time. Go into any church of any christian denomination any Sunday, and you’ll hear selected bits and pieces of the Bible that have been chosen for not only their relevance, but the ease with which they can be interpreted or metaphor-ized to fit the lesson that church wants to teach.

    This opens up the can of worms that is apologetics – which says that the Bible is the absolute, perfect word of God, but that it simultaneously needs to be cut and pasted and reimagined by humans in order to be. . .true. Yes, the denominations that do this re-working usually do it to the advantage of society as a whole, because they choose to condone the love and fellowship and forgiveness while relegating the slavery and hatred and wholesale killing to a reflection of the times in which it was written. However, to someone looking at it critically, the conflict is clear. If it’s the word of God, why is it OK to use only the parts you like? If it’s not the word of god and open to human interpretation, what makes it a viable religious text?

    On the flip side, the very fact that objectionable lessons exist in a text that people believe is the literal word of god gives people the religious justification they need to act in the hateful manner that many are doing, and have done throughout history. The degradation and objectification of women is in scripture. Slavery and torture is in scripture. Killing of infidels, sinners, and holders of property you covet is in the scriptures, even while they condemn murder and covetousness. If religion had not become such a controlling force in the world, then the people who wanted to subjugate, hate, kill, manipulate others for power, and so on, would need to come up with their own reasons for doing so AND a compelling argument to get others to follow AND escape from any consequences for their misdeeds. With religion, all they have to do is cite chapter and verse and remind fearful people of the punishment for disobeying the holy commands.

    Would Jeffs be able to take multiple wives and dole out young girls to his chosen few without having a religious text to point to and say “you have to do this, or you’ll burn in hell forever”? Could Weeks get away with believing he was in the right for beating his wife without the support of biblical rules and regulations about womens’ roles? Would homosexual citizens still be fighting for their rights if there weren’t biblical text for believers to use to justify their prejudice? Would school districts be spending so much unnecessary time and money to keep school a nonreligious institution and protect the teaching of science if people couldn’t find words in their bible to support theocracy and dispute valid science? I think not. I doubt that the people who use religion to support and promote their own agendas would have the intelligence and cleverness to convince others, relying only on the strength of their own arguments to gain agreement. If they could, then people outside of their religious group would not be opposed (or appalled) at what they did.

  • OMGF

    Matt,

    No offense taken, but I am still unsure why you think that believing that God is there is necessarily begging the question.

    I’m glad you don’t take offense, since that was not my intent.

    Believing in god is necessarily begging the question, because you can not find any evidence for god, unless you assume that god exists in the first place.

    I think that the case for God’s existence is not conclusively provable, but I think that it is a possibility and I think there are things which could point to God. They do not make me think that God is the *only* possibility, but to me God seems like the more likely possibility.

    The specific god that you believe in is not any more likely than any other god that has been dreamed up by countless believers throughout time. That you think your god is more likely is simply because you have a personal bias – which is admittedly hard to shake. Also, the gamut of potential explanations for a phenomenon should exhaust the natural before calling on the supernatural. That we are incapable of doing this means that any call to god as an explanation is reaching.

    Also, by lack of evidence for God do you mean that there is lack of evidence which could only be explained by God’s existence?

    I could read your statement in a couple different ways, so I will clarify instead of trying to guess at your meaning. What I mean is that there is no evidence for god’s existence. Without evidence, one must rely on faith. So, all god beliefs are based on faith.

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

    Hi Alison,

    You brought up some interesting points regarding how one understands the Bible. I could not readily tell what central point you were trying to communicate with most of your comments. They seemed valid enough, I just didn’t get what you were driving at in paragraphs 1 and 2.

    I get most of paragraph three. I think that you are taking excessive liberties in understanding the Bible when you make some of those accusations, but it is hard to say for sure without knowing exactly what you are referring to.

    I strongly disagree with your wild speculation in paragraph 4. Clever, evil people will think of ways to accomplish their ends. They may use many means of accomplishing it. I think you greatly underestimate the cleverness and persuasiveness of these religious leaders.

    In short it is folly to peg these ills on religion. It is better to peg them on the perpitrators.

    cheers,

    Matt

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

    OMGF,

    I know we have been over this “begging the question” thing several times, but I still really don’t see it. Can you explain in more detail what you mean by “there is no evidence for God’s existence”?

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • OMGF

    Matt,
    What would you consider evidence for god? How would you even know it was evidence for god if you had not already assumed god’s existence beforehand? If you don’t first assume that god exists, can you think of anything that would constitute evidence for god that has and does happen? That’s what I mean.

    As an example, take the big bang. Is this evidence for god? Many people say it is, because the universe had to come from something, right? One problem with this, however, is the assumption that leads to god. One must first assume that a god-like creature exists with the capabilities of creating universes such as ours. Then, one must attribute the creation of our universe to this god-like creature that the person assumed into existence. But, there are literally infinite other potential explanations, and the only way that the theist came to god as an answer is because the theist assumed the answer before asking the question. This is what it means to beg the question.

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

    OMGF,

    How would you even know it was evidence for god if you had not already assumed god’s existence beforehand?

    I would replace “assumed” with “postulated”. That is what I did/do.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • OMGF

    pos·tu·late /v. ˈpɒstʃəˌleɪt; n. ˈpɒstʃəlɪt, -ˌleɪt/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[v. pos-chuh-leyt; n. pos-chuh-lit, -leyt] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation verb, -lat·ed, -lat·ing, noun
    –verb (used with object) 1. to ask, demand, or claim.
    2. to claim or assume the existence or truth of, esp. as a basis for reasoning or arguing.
    3. to assume without proof, or as self-evident; take for granted.
    4. Mathematics, Logic. to assume as a postulate.
    –noun 5. something taken as self-evident or assumed without proof as a basis for reasoning.
    6. Mathematics, Logic. a proposition that requires no proof, being self-evident, or that is for a specific purpose assumed true, and that is used in the proof of other propositions; axiom.
    7. a fundamental principle.
    8. a necessary condition; prerequisite.

    You postulate instead of assume? Works for me. Same outcome.

  • Harvard

    Dear Matt R

    You said, “Religion can be rational, one just has to approach the question of God rationally.”
    No, you are mistaken.
    Religion is not rational.
    To be rational is to think or argue in a logical manner.
    There is no logic, reason,or rationality in the postulate that supernatural specters exist and rule our lives like a puppetmaster. This idea is ludicrous.
    What is rational when a human falls on his knees, shuts his eyes, and prays to an invisible concept in the sky?
    What is rational in the practice whereby humans eat a little wafer, and say they are eating god? Eating god? Rational? Don’t make me laugh, Matt R.
    .

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

    OMGF,

    I use the word in the sense of #2

    2. to claim or assume the existence or truth of, esp. as a basis for reasoning or arguing.

    If one does not assume or postulate, for the sake of reasoning or investigation, the existence of a given thing, then it is not possible to explore it. Take for example the structure of DNA. To unravel it, Watson and Crick had to postulate models based on observed data. This is not begging the question, it is investigation. In the same way, one may, after experiencing a “spiritual” experience may, based on the experience, postulate a hypothetical explanation, then investigate it. One may postulate many different explanations, theistic or non-theistic. None of this is “begging the question”, it is the first step in investigating things.

    …or so I think.

    Cheers,

    Matt

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

    Harvard,

    Don’t make me laugh, Matt R.

    C’mon Harvard, there are few pleasures in life more excellent than a good hearty laugh. If I give you occasion to do so, I recommend you seize the opportunity! :)

    Well, you must realize that I completely disagree with you, I think that theism, even if it is wrong (which I think it is not) can still be based on a lock-tight, rock-solid, logically sound process. If it is wrong, the beginning assumptions or data are incorrect.

    So, I think you could be right in calling theism “incorrect”, but to make a sweeping statement that it is irrational is, I think, an error.

    Cheers,

    Matt

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

    In a late-breaking update, Warren Jeffs has been convicted. He faces up to life in prison.

  • OMGF

    Matt,
    You’re telling me that you assume god, and somehow this is not begging the question?

    See, the key difference is that Watson and Crick and actual observed data that pointed them in a specific direction. They investigated further, based on this data, and made their discovery. You can’t say that same thing. What data can you say exists that leads you to god if you don’t first assume god before you have any data to use? IOW, the complexity of life (for instance) can’t lead you to god unless you first assume god and that complexity of life is something that a god would do. So, you see complexity of life and presto, you claim that it lends credence to your theism. But, if we didn’t have complex lifeforms, you could just as easily say that god would want to make simple things and presto, that would be evidence as well, right? Well, no, it wouldn’t. You have no objective data that leads you to god. You only have data that leads to god after you make the assumption that it leads to god. Then, when it leads to god you say, “Aha.” But it only lead you there because you made the ad hoc assumption that it should.

  • Harvard

    Dear Matt R

    Your comments are silly.
    How dare you “recommend” anything.
    Why should anyone take you seriously?
    You have nothing rational to say, and you take a long time to deliver it.
    Boring.
    Is eating god rational?
    Is praying to nothing rational?
    Well?
    You say religion is incorrect, yet you “think” it is not irrational.
    Incorrect means untrue, false.
    Since religion is false, why do you defend it?
    Are you OK? Have you taken your meds?
    Not only is religion irrational, you are irrational — and annoying.
    Stop saying Cheers. There’s nothing cheerful about a confused nuisance wallowing in religionism.
    .

  • heliobates

    Matt R is a regular and thoughtful commenter here at daylightatheism. I find him to be an imminently reasonable person, despite the fact that his fundamental assumptions about reality are misguided ;o)

    He’s hardly the “confused nuisance” of your ad hominem.

    Cut him some slack Harvard.

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

    Hello Harvard,

    Life is too short, wonderful, and uncertain for us to argue in such a manner. Let us be friends who disagree on a point of belief. If you are unwilling to be friends, then let us be respectfully civil to one another.

    How dare you “recommend” anything.

    I do not presume to tell you what you *must* do, but I recommend a good laugh to you as I would surfing, or a good eating establishment, not with the tone of authority, but with the desire that you may find enjoyment in things I enjoy.

    You say religion is incorrect, yet you “think” it is not irrational.

    Not exactly. I think that it is possible for a theist to logically deduce the existence of God even if God does not exist. In the same way I think it is possible for a non-theist to logically deduce that God does not exist even if God exists. It is all in the assumptions and data.

    Your comments are silly…You have nothing rational to say, and you take a long time to deliver it…Boring…Are you OK? Have you taken your meds?
    Not only is religion irrational, you are irrational — and annoying.
    Stop saying Cheers. There’s nothing cheerful about a confused nuisance wallowing in religionism.

    I respectfully request that you conduct yourself in a manner consistent with the dignity and thoughtfulness exhibited by Ebonmuse and most of the regular posters here at the site. Flagrant insults reduce the quality of discussion and content of this very excellent Blog.

    Sincerely,

    Matt R.

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

    OMGF,

    I have the distinct impression that you and I are trying to make different points. The differentiation is likely to be subtle.

    I think that your point is that there is no observation which you have encountered which could only be described by God.

    My point is that based on my observations, the existence of God is a reasonable possibility. It is not certain and there is the possibility that God does not exist, but it is also reasonable that God does exist.

    When I say “There is evidence for God”, I mean that there are things which I observe which I think are best explained by God’s existence. I do not mean that there are things which I observe which can *only* be explained by God’s existence.

    I think that when you say “There is no evidence for God”, you mean that there are no observations you have made which can only be described by God.

    Regarding Watson and Crick, of course there are differences, but the search for scientific truth starts with observation then in the imagination of the investigator, explanations for the observation must be assumed before they are tested. This is the same way with God. Many people think that God was first postulated to explain things like weather and such. When faced with an observation, these people used their imagination to develop a hypothesis. Now, people are testing and accepting or refuting it.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • Glen

    Hi Matt,

    When faced with an observation, these people used their imagination to develop a hypothesis. Now, people are testing and accepting or refuting it.

    What observations would constitute a failure for the God Hypothesis?

  • Polly

    @Harvard,

    …you are irrational — and annoying.
    Stop saying Cheers. There’s nothing cheerful about a confused nuisance wallowing in religionism.

    I don’t know where you’re getting this stuff; it’s certainly not from reading Matt’s replies.

    How dare you “recommend” anything.

    Geez, dude, up your dosage.

  • Harvard

    Hey People
    Is eating god rational?

    Well??

    ..

  • James Bradbury

    Is eating god rational?

    No, but neither is insulting people if you want them to take you seriously.

  • OMGF

    Matt,

    My point is that based on my observations, the existence of God is a reasonable possibility. It is not certain and there is the possibility that God does not exist, but it is also reasonable that God does exist.

    On what basis do you make that claim? If you say that it is reasonable that god exists because he can not be disproven, then it is also reasonable to think that Allah, Zeus, Baal, Thor, The Flying Sphagetti Monster, Russell’s floating teapot, and anything else I can dream up exist. Simply because you can dream it up does not make it reasonable.

    When I say “There is evidence for God”, I mean that there are things which I observe which I think are best explained by God’s existence. I do not mean that there are things which I observe which can *only* be explained by God’s existence.

    And that is only because you beg the question as to what “evidence” counts towards god. That you exist, is that evidence for god? Why? Only because you have deemed that an attribute of god would be that he created you. You’ve answered the question before ever asking.

    I think that when you say “There is no evidence for God”, you mean that there are no observations you have made which can only be described by God.

    There are no observations one can make that support the god guess without first assuming god, yes. If we are going to make hypotheses, like in science, those are outcomes of observations. But, those observations can not lead to god unless you’ve already hypothesized god. It’s circular in nature, and begging the question.

    But, let’s say that somehow you get past that and you find observations that could be evidence of god or some other natural phenomena. Well, by Occam’s Razor, you should toss out the god hypothesis because it is the most complex answer you could pose to the question.

    Now, people are testing and accepting or refuting it.

    Except you really can’t test for god, can you? You can test to see if the scriptures are true when they make empirical claims, but you can’t really test to see if sky daddy is up there or not. This is yet another reason why the science analogy doesn’t hold. Not only can you not really hypothesize a god without begging the question to begin with and violating Occam’s Razor, but you can’t test it.

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

    Harvard, take it easy, please. You don’t have to agree with someone’s beliefs to treat them in a civil manner.

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

    Harvard,

    Hey People
    Is eating god rational?

    Well??

    If God turns out to be the much-heralded Flying Spaghetti Monster, then it may be a rather enjoyable experience…

    :)

    Let us be at peace,

    Matt

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

    OMGF,

    On what basis do you make that claim?

    I think that it is reasonable to suppose that God exists because I have had experiences which are well explained by contact with what is commonly considered to be the “divine”. It is true that there are other possible explanations, but to accept these explanations out-of-hand as automatically superior is also to beg the question.

    And that is only because you beg the question as to what “evidence” counts towards god.

    But you have already stated that it is impossible that *any* evidence could point toward God without assuming God exists. By this definition it is *impossible*, in your mind, to rationally support God’s existence, regardless of any observation.

    Clearly each observation must be interpreted. You have automatically identified any interpretation which could see “God” in an observation as “begging the question”.

    In the end, the question of whether or not evidence for God exists comes to a “Yes”. You may choose to disagree regarding how compelling that evidence is, and that is fine, but to deny that it is there, through force of will, or clever use of definitions will not change the facts.

    I think a better way to state your case would be something like:

    “The evidence we have access to would be best interpreted as indicating that God does not exist.”

    This is a much more supportable statement, and one that I think you could support much better.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • OMGF

    I think that it is reasonable to suppose that God exists because I have had experiences which are well explained by contact with what is commonly considered to be the “divine”.

    Then, it is just as reasonable to suppose that it is Allah, Zeus, Baal, FSM, or the floating teapot that is responsible for those experiences. How are these things “well explained” and how do you determine the “divine”?

    It is true that there are other possible explanations, but to accept these explanations out-of-hand as automatically superior is also to beg the question.

    No, it is parsimonious. Occam’s Razor is a great tool. Further, it is not begging the question to point out that another’s fallacy of begging the question. And, you have no reason to accept the the god explanation over any other, but you do have reasons to reject it.

    But you have already stated that it is impossible that *any* evidence could point toward God without assuming God exists. By this definition it is *impossible*, in your mind, to rationally support God’s existence, regardless of any observation.

    Well, yes, because of the logic of the situation. You can not support your notions of god without presupposing god in an ad hoc fashion. See, you are wrong that your god exists, because it’s really my god that exists. The evidence is that my god likes to toy with people and make them think that their god exists. Many people think their god exists, ergo, that is evidence for my god. When you understand what it wrong with those statements, then you will understand what I’m saying.

    Now, if the situation were different, then it would be possible. If god were to freely interact with our world and make herself available for repeatable observations, then you might have a bone to pick, for instance.

    You have automatically identified any interpretation which could see “God” in an observation as “begging the question”.

    No, I have simply pointed out the inherent logical fallacy involved with making these types of assumptions about god.

    I think a better way to state your case would be something like:

    “The evidence we have access to would be best interpreted as indicating that God does not exist.”

    This is a much more supportable statement, and one that I think you could support much better.

    No, I think my case is stated just fine the way I put it. God belief necessarily entails a logical fallacy and hence, is irrational.

  • Jim Baerg

    Re: the discussion about ‘assumptions’ & ‘postulates’.

    There is the method of proof in mathematics of ‘reductio ad absurdum’ in which one assumes the opposite of what one wants to prove & derives a contradiction. Eg: the proof (by Euclid IIRC) that there are an infinity of prime numbers by assuming a largest prime & then showing that one can derive from any finite list of primes a number which is either itself prime or must be a product of primes not in the original list.

    A variant on this came out when people tried to prove the parallel postulate of Euclidian geometry by assuming in was not true, & after failing to find a contradiction, originated the fields of non-Euclidian geometry.

    Similarly in the observational & experimental sciences, one assumes a theory to be true & derives things that should or should not be observed if the theory is true. If you observes things the theory predicts should not happen you have proven the theory false.

    So, if you want to prove the existence of God you should start by assuming God doesn’t exist, & vice versa.

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

    OMGF,

    And, you have no reason to accept the the god explanation over any other, but you do have reasons to reject it.

    What reason?

    I think I am starting to understand your point of view. You think that no observations can be made of God because to make those observations, one would have to postulate what observations would correlate with God’s existence. But without knowing God, one would have to make up those postulates. Am I on track?

    Cheers,

    Matt

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

    Hey Jim,

    I think you have a very good idea there.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • OMGF

    Matt,
    There are reasons to reject god, the easiest being Occam’s Razor. The next would be a lack of evidence, especially with the level of knowledge that we have of the world around us. True, we might only know the tip of the iceberg, but that’s still enough to make the god “hypothesis” well out of reach.

    As to your summation of my position, I think you are on track. The road that you are speaking of leads to a lot of Scotsmen being kicked out of Scotland, if you know what I mean.

  • Matt R

    OMGF,

    As to your summation of my position, I think you are on track. The road that you are speaking of leads to a lot of Scotsmen being kicked out of Scotland, if you know what I mean.

    At last! Well I am glad that I understand your position finally.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • Alex Weaver

    You know, it occurs to me that maybe labeling these “polygamist” communities isn’t the best approach. I suggest we refer to them as “rapistocracies” from now on. How’s that for “framing?”