An Impoverished Infinity

In Christian theology, God is presented as the omnipotent creator, able to bring about literally any world it is possible to imagine. His power has no limits, he never suffers from weakness or fatigue, and he possesses the omniscient knowledge necessary to shape the world according to his overarching plan.

Or so Christian apologists say, anyway. Yet when we atheists challenge them with the problem of evil, asking why a benevolent creator would bring about a world where disease and disaster wreak havoc on the innocent, these same apologists often fall back on a very strange defense. They insist that this is the best world God could possibly have created, that natural evil is a regrettable necessity, and that not even infinite power could have made a world where conscious beings like us could exist without also including these undesirable elements.

In the past few weeks, I’ve had two Christian correspondents make the same argument to me in e-mail. First, one visitor said this:

Take earthquakes, for example. Earthquakes are almost exclusively caused as a result of plate tectonics. Plates move, grind, slip – and the earth shakes as a result. The only alternative is to have a fixed, unmoving crust – plates that cannot move. But scientists have proven that plate tectonics are, in essence, a “necessary evil.” Without the movement of the plates, life on earth as we know it could not exist. Therefore, in order to have life, one must accept plate tectonics – and the earthquakes that come with it.

In another example, I asked a Christian correspondent if he believes God could have avoided the need to create Hell by creating human beings who desired above all else to worship God as he requires. My correspondent’s response: “There are 5 billion or so examples on this planet that show that what you propose is not possible.”

Though neither of my correspondents seemed to notice, their argument effectively demotes God from omnipotence. What they’re effectively saying is that God is not powerful enough, or wise enough, to create the world as other than it is. Not even an infinitely powerful, infinitely intelligent deity could have engineered a universe with different natural laws or conditions than ours, so as to permit self-aware living beings but exclude earthquakes caused by plate tectonics. This amounts to a claim that it is logically necessary that earthquakes accompany life, in the same way it is logically necessary that triangles have 180 degrees.

Similarly, the second argument amounts to a claim that it is logically impossible for human beings to be any different than we are. Not even God could have created us with different dispositions, different characters, different natures. Human beings as we are, with all our faults and contingent pecularities – our xenophobia, our emotional turmoil, our impulses to lust and violence, our often faulty grasp of cause and effect – are the only sentient creatures that exist anywhere in all the limitless space of possibility. Truly, the infinity of possible worlds must be an impoverished infinity indeed in the theist mind.

Even famous Christian apologists are willing to put sweeping limitations on God’s power when theologically convenient. C.S. Lewis did the same thing in The Problem of Pain, claiming that this world is the only one God had the power to create, that he could not have made it any different, and that even God could not think of a way to allow life and free will without also allowing random disaster and catastrophe:

Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself…

…With every advance in our thought the unity of the creative act, and the impossibility of tinkering with the creation as though this or that element of it could have been removed, will become more apparent.

For people who believe in God, these theists don’t give him much credit. They presume that God has no more imagination or knowledge than they, and that since they can’t think of any world better than our own, then he couldn’t either. Like Dr. Pangloss in Voltaire’s famous satire Candide, they blithely assume that this must be the best of all possible worlds, not subject to improvement in any way.

Admittedly this conclusion, absurd though it is, is a rational conclusion from their own strained premises. Since Christians start with the assumption that God is all-powerful and good, they logically infer that he would not have created anything less than the best world possible. But this conclusion runs smack into the manifest imperfection of the actual world.

By contrast, atheists who are not bound by theological preconceptions can readily imagine ways in which an omnipotent being could have crafted better worlds than our own. (I listed just a few possibilities last March in “Improving on God’s Handiwork“). This may relate to the common theme of fundamentalists fearing sci-fi and fantasy writing – it may well be that the exercise of imagining worlds different from ours is a dangerous path for these believers’ tightly circumscribed imaginations to start down.

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://thestoneoftear.blogspot.com Callandor

    I’ve never understood the argument from design creationists put forth for just this reason. We’re “designed” like shit then. The very common examples are all that’s needed to show how ridiculous such notions are:

    - Swallowing and Breathing through the same tube.
    - The process of pregnancy (or “Shoving a watermelon through a hole the size of a lemon”).
    - The natural birth defects pregnancy is subject to.
    - The prostate gland being basically a troublesome, cancer-prone spot for little overall benefit.
    - Sex organs and excretory organs located very close together (“a sewer by an amusement park”).

    Improvements could be made almost anywhere.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Seriously.

    And yet many of these same believers will also:

    (a) credit God with astonishing miracles (raising the dead, healing the sick with a touch, loaves and fishes, etc.)

    (b) use God to explain any currently unexplained phenomenon (“We don’t know how this could have happened physically, but God is magic, therefore God can do anything, therefore it must have been God”).

    I mean, really. Is there some reason natural laws can be violated when it comes to biology (i.e., raising the dead), but not when it comes to geology or psychology? The God who could create the vast infinitude of the universe out of complete non-existence — the God who could do the apparently impossible and create somethingness out of nothingness — couldn’t create an inhabited planet without plate tectonics?

    At least these people are trying to accept physical and scientific reality. At least they accept that the physical world has unshakable laws of cause and effect. They just can’t take that extra logical step — that if this is the only physical world we could possibly have, then God is either non-existent or meaningless.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    “a sewer by an amusement park”

    Your genitals are not an amusement park, Callandor! They are a holy gift from your Creator, meant for only two purposes: to reproduce, and to test your faith. God has given us a miracle: body parts with the capacity to generate intense, unfathomable joy, but which we must never, ever use unless we want to make babies. Yes, these parts were clearly designed to feel good when you touch them — but that’s the point! God gave them to us to test if we were strong enough not to play with them! They are not a toy! Put that down, do you hear me?

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    Actually Callandor, a contrary argument would be that an intelligent designer, in order to economize on space, would have certain parts of the anatomy serve more than one purpose.

    One observation I like to make against the argument that the Christian God exists and uses seemingly natural phenomena to punish us is that this god seems to be limited by the Earth’s geology and climate. New Hampshire recently legalized civil unions for gays. If God was really upset about it, why not have a volcano form in New Hampshire? We would expect New Hamphshire to be struck by an ice storm, but not by a volcano. Likewise, we never see Indonesia get hit with an ice and snow storm. Saudi Arabia never gets hit with a tropical rain storm.

  • E.B.

    Another theodicy I heard recently was the slightly nonsensical “It’s better for God to give us free will, even if that means freedom to do evil, than for God to not give us a choice.” I was not convinced by any part of it, although I found it amusing that the apologist insinuated that his god was an anarchist.

    To add to Callandor’s list: how about the 15-20% of known pregnancies that end in miscarriages? Seems like a bad plan from a god that’s supposed to be anti-abortion, eh?

  • Dutch

    Ebonmuse,

    Here we go again, I wish I could write as well as you, but I’ll try.

    Use your “freethinking” mind. Imagine God as pure love, so pure that you and I would fall on our knees in His presence. A whitenes of inexhaustable brilliance. This all loving entity is all alone(before the universe was). My words are so inadeqaute.
    Anyway, the one thing such a pure love does, the main thing is to share, and I mean share fully. A pure love such as God does not simply give his creation lots of food, perfect weather, conditions that offer the total absence of pain, He gives himself.(I use Him here, but there is no gender in His world). Now God tries to explain to Adam what pain is. Adam says,”huh?” Does He kick Adam in the knee? Adam, cries “ouch,now I know what pain is.” God says, “not really Adam, do you know what it’s like to be hungry, cold, hot, and tired. How about if you lost Eve? What if one of your kids died from a disease?” This could go on and on. Adam is really puzzled. As God said, “he has become one of us knowing good and evil.” (paraphrased) How can you truly understand unless you experience the millions of bad things that can happen. Another thing that you have to know is that time doesn’t exist in heaven. Time is something we know only by living. Time is totally relevant. We, the human race, Adam, are still eating from the Tree of knowledge, but it in timeless heaven, it has already happened. We are in Hell. God is in Hell, He suffers right along with us. Adam’s body, Jesus’s body is us, all of us, just some of us don’t know it yet.

    A challenge to Ebon. Try something here. Ask God, who you don’t believe exists, to verify what I have said. It’s better for people searching for answers, but as the Bible says, “God is no respector of persons.” In other words, what he’ll do for me, he’ll do for you. If you’re fortunate, he’ll send a dream when you are asleep. Oh, I know, everybody dreams. You will know, trust me. Be alert that your dream may be witnessed by 2 or 3 within the dream.

    I don’t know why God chose dreams and visions to reveal Himself. Perhaps it is because we are so busy running around.
    Job 33:14 For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.
    Job 33:15 In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed;

    I would crack-up, if it weren’t so serious, that you wake-up in the middle of the night, and say, “oh my God.”

    by the way, when I first came to your site, your little slogan below the header, “nightime is for dreaming, daytime is for action,” caught my eye.
    I saaid, wow, there is even some knowledge in an atheist site.

    You and others have been most civil, Dutch

  • http://thestoneoftear.blogspot.com Callandor

    “Actually Callandor, a contrary argument would be that an intelligent designer, in order to economize on space, would have certain parts of the anatomy serve more than one purpose.”

    Indeed, as with the tube for breathing and swallowing. But it wouldn’t be intelligent to design such a thing that then has an increased chance of killing the person ;)

  • http://www.dougpaulsen.com Douglas Paulsen

    On day zero, God was just getting the nerve up to create the universe. “Think of all the things I could make; these brilliant balls of light called stars to look at. Making stars will be so much fun I’ll never want to stop. But then I’ll make a planet so I have somewhere firm to sit to watch these stars, and I’ll make one close to give me a bit more light some of the time. On this planet Ill make this substance called ‘water’ that would flow off of cliffs to create beautiful things I’d call ‘waterfalls.’ I could make trees that would be great to sit under while doing nothing in particular; just to sit.”

    But God got to thinking, wouldn’t it be great to share this with something? He loves so much, his love is like a whiteness of inexhaustible brilliance. So He created some animals, some animals for the water and some for the sky, and, of course, some for the land. And God thought for awhile, and thought that it would be great to share the universe with these, but he knew he wouldn’t be satisfied with just these. He needed something that could really appreciate his creation; so he created man. And he knew that he would love this man creature most.

    Now there was some loose ends to clear up. How would these creatures live? Well, since at least these man creatures would be in His image, they could be like him, and roam the earth all day. But God thought, “that would be boring for them,” so he made it so that they would need to breath, drink, and eat. Well, then he thought “How will they know have to breath, eat, and drink?” God made it so that humans always had to breath, and so he used this thing called ‘pain’ so that they knew they should breath when they for some reason stop breathing. And the same for drinking and eating. God also knew that He didn’t want these creatures to live forever on this planet, so He gave them a system that would eventually fail. He added pain here as well so the creatures knew not to do something that was painful, or they would be injured or die before they had to. (As you may infer, God made it possible for the creatures to be injured as well, because they couldn’t be exactly like him.) Did pain exist independent of God, and God used it in his creatures, or did God invent pain to use it? I really don’t know the answer to this question, but I suppose it doesn’t matter either way. God wanted to share this thing called pain, because he wanted to share himself fully. “And besides, without it the creatures wouldn’t know when to breath, eat, and drink, or when they were in danger,” God thought.

    And so he created this world. Then the time came for God to tell the first humans, Adam and Eve, about this world. God told them about the water and the waterfalls, the trees, animals, and the stars. He told them that they must breath, eat, and drink, or else they would feel this thing called pain.

    “What’s pain?” asked Adam. Got thought about it for awhile, and then walked up to Adam and kicked him in the knee. “Ouch!” Adam exclaimed, thinking to himself at the time “Did God give me that word or did I just make it up? Whatever…” He looked at God and said, “Why did you do that?”

    God responded, “To show you what pain was.”

    “No, not that…why did you give us creatures pain? Could not you of put a signal in our minds, something like a tickle, when we are not breathing, thirst, tired, etc? Why pain? That really hurt!” Eve laughed at him and called him a wimp. Adam turned to her and said “I just got kicked in the knee by an all powerful being, you try that and not complain.” Turing back to God, Adam asked again, “Why pain?”

    “Pain is necessary as it is to make sure that the creatures, including you, understand that they have to respond when they have these sensations. For example, when you put your hand in a fire do want a tickle or pain?”

    “Well, as an answer to that question, I want pain, but must I feel the amount of pain I do? Do I need days of pain from a burn, and possibly unalterable damage, just so I know not to put my hand in a fire? More importantly though, why am I made up in such a way that I need to feel pain at all? Could not of you created me differently so I would not of had to feel pain?”

    “Well I don’t want you living forever.”

    “Well, I don’t have to live forever, I would just like to live without having to feel this pain thing.”

    God thought about it for awhile, then remembered that he had to create some more stars. So he mumbled something about sharing himself fully and told Adam and Eve to go eat more fruit.

    6,007 years later, Suzie Jackson was sleeping in her room in the basement of her house. Her eighth birthday had been that day, and her room was full of new presents, including a new ‘High School Musical’ lamp on a table next to the door. But the lamp had faulty wiring, and about 3 AM the lamp sparked and started on fire. Suzie awoke with the smell of smoke and a orange glow. Her room was on fire, and the door was blocked. She tried to climb to her window, but her dad had just added new locks to prevent any break ins and she couldn’t get them unlocked. It was just a small window at the top of her room as well, and she could barely reach it anyway, standing on a chair. The fire was getting bigger, she was getting hotter and was starting to sweat. She started yelling for her parents, but they didn’t respond. The heat was almost to much, and the fire was almost to her. She climbed under her bed, but the fire followed. Her toes were the first to be reached, and quickly her feet and ankles. But she was still alive, and still calling, screaming, for her parents, and then for God. But neither would come. She knew that she was alone, and besides the pain, oh the unbearable pain, this was her last thought. “I’m alone…”

    God, of course, watched it all (well of course he did, he sees all.) He thought back to that conversation with Adam some 6,000 years ago. “Why do creatures need pain?” he thought to himself. Watching Suzie’s room made Him think of this, that there must be surely some better way to keep humans away from fire. But Suzie was with him now, and ‘the view of the stars is much better up here anyway,’ as he always told me. Comforted by this, he went to a new area and made some more stars.

  • http://www.dougpaulsen.com Douglas Paulsen

    That, BTW, was a parable for Dutch.

  • http://www.dougpaulsen.com Doug

    One more thing, I typed some non-gender neutral sentences in the story, like

    He needed something that could really appreciate his creation; so he created man. And he knew that he would love this man creature most.

    I meant to fix these sentences, but missed a couple. I would have liked the above to read

    He needed something that could really appreciate his creation; so he created humans. And he knew that he would love this humanman creature most.

    I leave God as ‘He’ due to convention.

  • Nurse Ingrid

    Dutch, did you just rewrite Genesis? Badly?

    Are you really saying that this God character wanted to make sure we knew about evil, because he knew we would ultimately be stronger and better people as a result? Then why were we forbidden to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil? According to your own story, God created evil just for us to experience, then ordered us not to do what was necessary for us to know about it. That’s some convoluted thinking for such a being of “pure love” as you have described.

    Oh, and “whiteness of inexhaustible brilliance”? Ew. Just…just…ewwwww…..

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    The strongest dream I ever had was antireligious, Dutch. And when I say strong, I mean I’ve never felt anything else halfway like it. I mean it’s a silly story that I can’t speak but in a hushed voice. I mean it quite literally held me hostage so I couldn’t wake properly until I knew its meaning.

    If, in the depths of your heart, you want to dream God, you will. That’s because dreams don’t come from anywhere outside. They come from the subconscious.

  • lpetrich

    What would be wrong with making us psychologically incapable of committing sins? Jesus Christ had taught that you ought to amputate parts of your body that make you commit sins. Applying this to free will means that free will has to go, or at least be made incapable of producing sins.

    Being incapable of committing sins is something that we expect out of all our technologies; Isaac Asimov was inspired by this to come up with his Three Laws of Robotics:

    1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
    2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
    3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

    Be careful to avoid being literal-minded about its references to “robots”; they apply to tool and technology design in general.

    And as to character building, why not program us with all the character we need? That can’t be too hard for an omnipotent being.

    Applying theodicies to Heaven results in some rather curious conclusions.

    Does anyone ever commit sins in Heaven?

    And the “greater good” theodicy implies that Heaven will be an absolutely terrible place, something like the Twilight Zone episode “A Nice Place to Visit”. In it, a small-time street criminal gets killed and wakes up in a place where he can get everything he ever wanted. Everything. After a while he gets bored and asks what it is like in “the other place”. After a while of this, his caretaker informs him that “This is ‘the other place’!!!”

  • Randall

    I have a feeling it will take a while to respond to all these points, so I’ll start from the most recent.

    Omnipotent. Can we agree on a working definition for “omnipotent”? Otherwise the discussion of whether or not God is or isn’t is going to go nowhere.

    It seems like some people here are arguing that a world of automata would have been better. “Psychologically incapable of committing sins?” What sort of life would that be? Do you really consider life as a puppet to be better than a life in which suffering is possible?

    “Jesus Christ had taught that you ought to amputate parts of your body that make you commit sins.”

    That is an example of interpretation, of the sort Christians are so often criticized for; you are interpreting the passage as being meant to be taken literally. It is also an example of cherry-picking. Jesus Christ also taught “love yourself, love your neighbor”; compare which theme gets more attention in Christ’s words.

    “And as to character building, why not program us with all the character we need? That can’t be too hard for an omnipotent being.”

    Oh, yes it can, if that omnipotent being has given us free will. That would require God going against his own nature, which would imply the all-powerful overcoming the all-powerful.

    “Does anyone ever commit sins in Heaven?”

    Humans don’t.

    And the “greater good” theodicy implies that Heaven will be an absolutely terrible place, something like the Twilight Zone episode “A Nice Place to Visit”.

    Only if you assume that the “greater good” means “getting everything you want.” That seems to me to be a rather weak assumption. I think it is also possible to infer that the criminal you reference ended up in Hell, not Heaven..

  • Kevin Morgan

    Very interesting thread. In the world I would create the weather would always be perfect, no one would get sick, we’d have no need to eat (and neither would there be any need for animals to eat each other), and puppies would live forever (I really like puppies).

  • Wedge

    Randall,

    If humans won’t sin in heaven, then will they be robots?

  • Mrnaglfar

    Dutch,

    Omnipotence (literally, “all power”) is power with no limits i.e. unlimited power. Monotheistic religions generally attribute omnipotence only to God.

    In the philosophy of most Western monotheistic religions, omnipotence is listed as one of God’s characteristics among many, including omniscience, omnipresence, and benevolence.

    What sort of life would that be? Do you really consider life as a puppet to be better than a life in which suffering is possible?

    Do people suffer in heaven?

    Jesus Christ also taught “love yourself, love your neighbor”; compare which theme gets more attention in Christ’s words.

    Which is why before Jesus existed, everyone hated themselves and their neighbors because no one had ever thought of that before. Same way everyone murdered anyone they saw before the 10 commandments so they could steal their stuff.

    That would require God going against his own nature, which would imply the all-powerful overcoming the all-powerful.

    You haven’t given a single reliable piece of evidence that says god even exists, and now you again claim to know his nature as well? I’d like to know where you keep getting your information from.

    Humans don’t.

    But angels or god does? Doesn’t speak well for their character, especially since that would imply angels are lying, stealing, murdering each other, worshipping other gods, having sex outside of heterosexual marriage not intended to make children, not keeping the sabbath holy, not honoring their parents, or things along that vein. I seem to remember never getting an answer as to what heaven was even like anyway.

    Only if you assume that the “greater good” means “getting everything you want.” That seems to me to be a rather weak assumption. I think it is also possible to infer that the criminal you reference ended up in Hell, not Heaven..

    Ah hell, the place of suffering forever. Clearly, crimes such as stealing the latest jeans from the GAP warrant eternal suffering. It seems pretty clear that no one could come up with a better system then that. Suppose half of the family goes to hell and the other half goes to heaven (whatever heaven happens to be), do the two halves of the family miss each other?

  • Wedge

    Randall,

    As has been pointed out numerous times, my free will does not include the ability to fly, the ability to turn into a cat, or the ability to instantly trasport myself to Mars.

    Why should it include the ability to hurt others?

    Does God have free will?

    The ‘free will w/hideous pain or we are all ROBOTS!’ is the silliest, most vicious apologetic out there. If it wasn’t so damaging, it’d be funny.

  • Valhar2000

    Dutch, I don’t think you can quite grasp just how weird what you wrote sounds if you do not already beleive it. I mean, really, really, really weird.

  • velkyn

    Great reasoning on why the tiny minds of many theists don’t like science fiction. How dare anyone think that man can do anything!!!

  • velkyn

    oh yes, thanks mrnaglfar for responding to “dutch”. The usual glurge from a Christian and well answered by you (BTW, naglfar, like the Norse ship?)

  • Wedge

    Sorry, obviously this apologetic really pushes my buttons, but…

    Randall,

    Only if you assume that the “greater good” means “getting everything you want.”

    Ah, yes. Claiming that a loving, omnipotent god could create a world without people dying in agony, starving, crushed, raped, etc., is equivalent to throwing a hissy fit because we aren’t getting everything we want.

    Christian love in action.

  • Mrnaglfar

    I actually got this name from a band that seemed to like norse ships ;).

    I was in my local cd store ordering a release of there’s and the guy who works there started calling me Mr.Naglfar, so I stuck with it.

  • http://smcameronyahoo.com SteveC

    Life can’t exist without plate tectonics, and thus earthquakes, eh?

    So, there are plate tectonics and earthquakes in heaven then?

  • http://yetanotheratheistblog.blogspot.com/ YAAB

    So heaven isn’t subject to the same limitations because there is no concept of time in heaven? This begs the question of why an omnipotent god didn’t create the universe using the same supposedly perfect model. The concept of a perfect heaven directly contradicts the apologist argument that this is the best world that god possibly could have created.

    Perhaps the resolution to these mysteries will come to me in a dream.

  • shifty

    So, Randall, Dutch and others….

    It seems then that the theist’s position has been backed up to where “god” set a series of events in motion and now either hasn’t the ability or desire to alter them. Sort of like letting the genie out of the bottle or opening pandora’s box. So if that is the scenario and I grant you the supposition that this god exists, I ask: If god, then what?

    Since he cannot or will not intercede, the default position would seemingly be to act as if a god does not exist, in the most mutually beneficial way possible. Clearly competing sets of dogmas are not the answer and it is time for ancient ideas to take advantage of evolution just as god has allowed the physical world to do. I think He would want it that way.

  • Randall

    There are about eight posts for every mine, so forgive me for brevity and if I miss anything.

    “If humans won’t sin in heaven, then will they be robots?”

    Heaven, as I understand it, is a place where everyone has chosen to completely surrender his or her self-will. That’s a free choice. So no.

    “Which is why before Jesus existed, everyone hated themselves and their neighbors because no one had ever thought of that before. Same way everyone murdered anyone they saw before the 10 commandments so they could steal their stuff.”

    Someone mentioned Christ’s teachings; I responded with another instance of them. No need for a further response, such as this one.

    “You haven’t given a single reliable piece of evidence that says god even exists, and now you again claim to know his nature as well? I’d like to know where you keep getting your information from.”

    For starters, from his Son. But the statement that God cannot contradict himself is basic logic.

    “But angels or god does? Doesn’t speak well for their character, especially since that would imply angels are lying, stealing, murdering each other, worshipping other gods, having sex outside of heterosexual marriage not intended to make children, not keeping the sabbath holy, not honoring their parents, or things along that vein. I seem to remember never getting an answer as to what heaven was even like anyway.”

    You’re implying far, far more than I said, as well as making generalizations; if one angel, for example, was a sinner, that doesn’t say anything about the character of the angels as a whole. I am not an angel, nor am I God; my answers will naturally be somewhat limited. I gave you my answer to your previous question – not having been to Heaven, I can’t tell you for certain what it’s like. I can tell you what Jesus said about it, what theologians have said about it, and what it must logically be like. I can’t give you an eyewitness account.

    “Ah hell, the place of suffering forever. Clearly, crimes such as stealing the latest jeans from the GAP warrant eternal suffering. It seems pretty clear that no one could come up with a better system then that. Suppose half of the family goes to hell and the other half goes to heaven (whatever heaven happens to be), do the two halves of the family miss each other?”

    Who said that stealing jeans will bring you to Hell? For that matter, who has said that this current world is the best of all possible systems? I would assume that the halves of the family miss each other, but I cannot say for certain. Do you really expect answers to unanswerable questions?

    More later.

  • goyo

    Ebon: Excellent post like always, and excellent comments.
    Dutch and Randall: Answer a simple question: If god can create animals that can regenerate lost limbs: lizards, frogs, etc., then why did he not apply this same principal to his human creations? So we could experience even more suffering, knowing that the lowly animals possess attributes that we could use?
    Also, god was “alone” (lonely?), so he created the universe? How long was he lonely? Since he always was, (eternal), then he must have been lonely for a long time. Oh, that’s right, he is outside of time. Wait, I’m confusing myself.
    And again, please answer this:
    Why didn’t he give us a primer to explain the universe, mathematics, science…?
    Why do we have to figure all this out ourselves?

  • Mrnaglfar

    Randall,

    Heaven, as I understand it, is a place where everyone has chosen to completely surrender his or her self-will. That’s a free choice. So no.

    So the ultimate reward is to give up what god went through all that pain and suffering to give us? That’s charming.

    Someone mentioned Christ’s teachings; I responded with another instance of them. No need for a further response, such as this one.

    People talk about christ’s teaching as if christ was the first person to ever come up with the ideas; I felt the need to point that out.

    For starters, from his Son. But the statement that God cannot contradict himself is basic logic.

    I don’t believe Jesus was the son of god, and don’t even find the evidence for his existance perticularly compelling. I also don’t assume that god can’t contradict himself and I don’t see why that’s basic logic; see contradictions in the bible if you believe that book happened to be written by him (like the parable about the ten commandments and the parable about death for breaking laws. I’m sure no one has ever taken that literally). So explain to me why god can’t contradict himself, if it’s so basic, because I don’t see any reason that god would not be able to contradict himself if he’s all powerful. Hell, I’m not all powerful and I can do it; imagine that.

    You’re implying far, far more than I said, as well as making generalizations; if one angel, for example, was a sinner, that doesn’t say anything about the character of the angels as a whole. I am not an angel, nor am I God; my answers will naturally be somewhat limited. I gave you my answer to your previous question – not having been to Heaven, I can’t tell you for certain what it’s like. I can tell you what Jesus said about it, what theologians have said about it, and what it must logically be like. I can’t give you an eyewitness account.

    You said humans can’t sin in heaven (wherever you got that idea from), but you also didn’t rule out the possibility that angels can. All I did was list some things considered to be ‘sins’, I don’t see where the unwarranted implications come in. What sins do angels do then and which ones don’t they do? You said yourself you have no idea what heaven is like, or what angels are like, or basically no idea about any of it. Maybe angels do have gay sex outside of marriage, maybe they do kill, maybe they do lie and steal. Maybe they don’t, and maybe they don’t even exist. I don’t see any evidence that points one way or the other.

    Even further, explainations of what heaven logically must be like? Do tell.

    Theologian is a nice way of saying “one who studies nonsense”. All any theologian has ever done is speculate, based of course on absolutely no evidence, about things that they have no hope of ever proving. Their most powerful line of reasoning is “it might be true”, much like any other set of unfalisiable ideas.

    Who said that stealing jeans will bring you to Hell?

    Stealing is breaking a commandment, and the bible says those who break commandments go to hell; I don’t recall the bible saying people who only steal so much go to hell. So the answer to that question is the bible says it.

    Do you really expect answers to unanswerable questions?

    For unanswerable questions you seem to have a certain sense of their answers, and it normally involves jesus in some way. I’m questioning the explainations provided.

  • Randall

    “As has been pointed out numerous times, my free will does not include the ability to fly, the ability to turn into a cat, or the ability to instantly trasport myself to Mars.

    Why should it include the ability to hurt others?”

    Because you have the physical capability to do things. You have hands which can draw or paint or type; those hands can also wield a hammer. If you were able to turn into a cat, you would be able to use that to harm other people as well. Free will means doing what you wish with what you have been given; it doesn’t mean you have the power or resources to do whatever it is you want.

    Wedge:

    “Ah, yes. Claiming that a loving, omnipotent god could create a world without people dying in agony, starving, crushed, raped, etc., is equivalent to throwing a hissy fit because we aren’t getting everything we want.

    Christian love in action.”

    I was responding to a claim that the “greater good theodicy” of Heaven says that it will be a place where you get everything you want. Perhaps I should have made that clearer?

    “The ‘free will w/hideous pain or we are all ROBOTS!’ is the silliest, most vicious apologetic out there. If it wasn’t so damaging, it’d be funny.”

    Why so silly? God gave us free will, so he cannot prevent us from making evil choices. What is implicitly vicious or ridiculous in that?

  • ex machina

    I could accept that the ability to harm other humans or to experience pain is a condition of our free will. I could also accept that the physical phenomenon as pain and natural disasters are some kind of contingent necessity involved with the creation of life.

    But if those things are true, why would God demand I believe in him or abstain from otherwise harmless sins that involve the minimization of pain/maximization of pleasure: drugs, sex, etc.

    If the cost of life is that that life will have free will and experience pain, God should be smart enough to realize the effect those contingencies would have on the life he had created.

  • Wedge

    Randall,

    You avoided the question.

    Because you have the physical capability to do things.

    I note that you don’t mention the psychological capability to do things. Just because I have a hand doesn’t mean I automatically must have the psychological ability to beat a child. Having a penis doesn’t make someone a rapist.

    According to most Christians, we have the mental and physical capacity to do things because human beings were designed and created by God. All you did was reiterate my objection–we were given the capacity, mental and physical, to harm others. Why?

    To take one example, not all animals are capable of rape. Why are humans? What valuable free will would be lost if men could not sustain an erection in a violent/non-consensual situation? Or if humans could not connect sexual desire to the desire to cause harm? If humans were incapable of seeing children as sexually appealing? Most don’t anyway.

    In short, you want to state that free will necessitates ALL of the options which make people hurt each other; there is no logical reason for this.

    I was responding to a claim that the “greater good theodicy” of Heaven says that it will be a place where you get everything you want. Perhaps I should have made that clearer?

    My mistake. I apologize for misreading you here. Sorry!

    Why so silly? God gave us free will, so he cannot prevent us from making evil choices. What is implicitly vicious or ridiculous in that?

    Because God also gave us the available choices (if you believe in God in the first place). God selected and created the range of suffering the human body is capable of, God created the environments in which it happens, God laid out the possible evil choices to make. I can come up with different scenarios without reducing humans to robots. I would think your god could do the same.

    Or do you believe that when Adam ate the apple, he created the Ebola virus–and God couldn’t stop that without totally undoing free will? Why link the physical realities of the entire universe (death, entropy, food chains, viruses, sexual drives, etc.) to a single act of disobedience? Or even multiple acts? What part of free will necessitates the ability to change reality?

    Even on an individual level, why should the ‘fallen’ nature of man necessitate the emotion of greed, or hatred? That has nothing to do with giving people options to choose from in order to make free will possible. People could be tempted to worship the sun, or refuse to go to church on Sunday from laziness or a desire to watch football. They would still, as I understand Christian theology, be rejecting God and therefore exercising free will.

    The free will theodicy is silly because it can’t be defended without an outrageously stupid either/or fallacy–that either we must have all of the suffering and hideous possibilities existant in the world, or we must be robots.

    If you can’t see how silly that is, I don’t know how to make it clearer.

    When teaching children, it is important that they have the freedom to question and explore topics. Is it therefore necessary to give them the freedom to set each other on fire? The Christian argument makes just as little sense.

    I call it vicious because I have known more than one person who has, quite literally, put themself through hell trying to deal with the guilt and horror inspired by the idea that ‘we’ are responsible for all the pain in this world. I call it vicious because it is an illogical stance which helps to perpetuate the idea that the Christian god is not a monster.

    If I stop a man from beating his child to death, I am moral. If God stops him, he’s making all humans into robots.

    Sure.

  • Bil

    Maybe an omnipotent God deliberately created an imperfect world. I don’t know. If there is a God can we presume to judge him any more than rats or ants can judge us?
    Or plants, can they judge animals?
    Can the mineral world judge the animal world?
    Just some comments.

  • Wedge

    Maybe an omnipotent God deliberately created an imperfect world. I don’t know. If there is a God can we presume to judge him any more than rats or ants can judge us?
    Or plants, can they judge animals?
    Can the mineral world judge the animal world?
    Just some comments.

    Works for me. I could believe in a god who insists we don’t judge him (if there were any reason to). Without the ability to judge if he’s good or evil, you can’t decide he is good and worship him. In fact, you might as well act as though he doesn’t exist.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Not to gang up on you, Randall, but several other people have asked you this and I’d like to emphasize it:

    It seems like some people here are arguing that a world of automata would have been better. “Psychologically incapable of committing sins?” What sort of life would that be?

    And yet:

    Heaven, as I understand it, is a place where everyone has chosen to completely surrender his or her self-will.

    Let’s be clear about this: you’re saying that people in Heaven have no free will, right? So Heaven will be populated entirely by automata?

  • James B

    I thought this might be relevant. I’ve always thought free will a bit of an odd concept. Free from what exactly?

    From Wikipedia’s article on free will, which says a lot of things, but Galen Strawson’s point seems most sensible.

    According to Strawson, if one is responsible for what one does in a given situation, then one must be responsible for the way one is in certain mental respects. But it is impossible for one to be responsible for the way one is in any respect. This is because in order to be responsible for the way one is in some situation “S”, one must have been responsible for the way one was at “S-1″. In order to be responsible for the way one was at “S-1″, one must have been responsible for the way one was at “S-2″, and so on. At some point in the chain, there must have been an act of origination of a new causal chain. But this is impossible. Man cannot create himself or his mental states ex nihilo. This argument entails that free will itself is absurd, but not that it is incompatible with determinism. Strawson calls his own view “pessimism” but it can be classified as hard incompatibilism.

    On the existence of evil. See episode 1, note we don’t have the power to harm other humans merely with the power of our minds.
    http://www.mrdeity.com/

  • Randall

    Ha. I’m starting to feel faint looking at all the posts to respond to. I don’t even want to think about how many will have built up by the time I get back from the Academy. But let me see…there must be a few I can respond to quickly.

    “The concept of a perfect heaven directly contradicts the apologist argument that this is the best world that god possibly could have created.”

    May I ask how?

    “So the ultimate reward is to give up what god went through all that pain and suffering to give us? That’s charming.”

    A better way to put it is that the ultimate reward is to give up all that causes God pain and suffering, namely our decisions not to love.

    “But if those things are true, why would God demand I believe in him or abstain from otherwise harmless sins that involve the minimization of pain/maximization of pleasure: drugs, sex, etc.”

    If these things are true, he wants you to believe in him to maximize your happiness. Those sins you listed aren’t harmless. Drugs destroy your body and can influence you to harm others. Premarital sex likewise can harm both you, the other person (or people) and the unwanted children who may result. “Harmless sin” is an oxymoron.

    “According to most Christians, we have the mental and physical capacity to do things because human beings were designed and created by God.”

    Made in his image and likeness, yes. Created with free will and reason, yes. Perfectly designed with an eye to all our unique physical characteristics? That’s up for debate.

    “In short, you want to state that free will necessitates ALL of the options which make people hurt each other; there is no logical reason for this.”

    Virtually ANY action or any object can be used for harm. Free will says that you can choose to do evil, but it is nature and the ways in which we have developed that state the specific methods. You seem to be saying that God should have removed all our options to do evil; this also would remove most of our options to do good. At the point at which we are physically and intellectually incapable of evil, we don’t exist – or, if we do, we exist as automata.

    “Because God also gave us the available choices (if you believe in God in the first place). God selected and created the range of suffering the human body is capable of, God created the environments in which it happens, God laid out the possible evil choices to make.”

    So if I put a bread knife on the table and you use it to kill someone, I am responsible? Or if I am the person who made the bread knife? What exactly are you suggesting – that God should not have provided us with any choices at all?

    “Or do you believe that when Adam ate the apple, he created the Ebola virus–and God couldn’t stop that without totally undoing free will? Why link the physical realities of the entire universe (death, entropy, food chains, viruses, sexual drives, etc.) to a single act of disobedience? Or even multiple acts? What part of free will necessitates the ability to change reality?”

    I do believe that when Adam ate the apple (as a metaphor for an act of turning against God) that it created a flaw in our human nature. Whether or not this also corrupted the physical realities of the world is a matter of opinion; we can discuss it, if you like, but then I’ll be speaking based on my own views, as opposed to any sort of doctrine. One possible explanation is that we as humans were meant to take care of the Earth, and that when we fell we could no longer perform this task adequately.

    “Even on an individual level, why should the ‘fallen’ nature of man necessitate the emotion of greed, or hatred? That has nothing to do with giving people options to choose from in order to make free will possible. People could be tempted to worship the sun, or refuse to go to church on Sunday from laziness or a desire to watch football. They would still, as I understand Christian theology, be rejecting God and therefore exercising free will.”

    I don’t see what you’re saying. People have the ability to choose hatred as the opposite of love, or greed as the opposite of charity. These virtues existed before the Fall; the fallen nature of man means that these vices exist as the logical corollary and consequence of certain actions. God could not have removed our option to hate, because we were designed with the capability to love, and therefore also with the capability to *not* love. Whether or not people choose laziness or gluttony is a matter of their individual decision to turn away from God.

    “The free will theodicy is silly because it can’t be defended without an outrageously stupid either/or fallacy–that either we must have all of the suffering and hideous possibilities existant in the world, or we must be robots.”

    Before I answer that question: what other options would you propose as being consistent with a benevolent God?

    “When teaching children, it is important that they have the freedom to question and explore topics. Is it therefore necessary to give them the freedom to set each other on fire? The Christian argument makes just as little sense.”

    But you can restrict a child’s free will only so long as the child is a child. It would not be right to prevent the child from doing so when the child is an adult; nor would it be right for God to suspend our free will indefinitely.

    “I call it vicious because I have known more than one person who has, quite literally, put themself through hell trying to deal with the guilt and horror inspired by the idea that ‘we’ are responsible for all the pain in this world.”

    I am sorry. I don’t think that we are responsible for all the pain in this world; to do so is to pretend that God has no enemies and that there is not evil in the world. But I do not think it responsible to deny the cruelties and evils and pain caused directly by humans. We are not a kind race.

    “If I stop a man from beating his child to death, I am moral. If God stops him, he’s making all humans into robots.”

    Hyperbole. Isn’t he making that man into a robot, capable only of doing “good” and only capable of that because of coercion?

    “Without the ability to judge if he’s good or evil, you can’t decide he is good and worship him.”

    So use the ability and make your decision.

    “Let’s be clear about this: you’re saying that people in Heaven have no free will, right? So Heaven will be populated entirely by automata?”

    No. I am saying that Heaven will be populated entirely by people who have chosen complete unselfishness, people who have surrendered their self-will insofar as it is capable of evil. People in Heaven have all chosen perfection; automata have no choices at all.

  • Wedge

    Randall,

    I doubt I will reply again, because I am beginning to question your honesty in trying to understand the arguments being made.

    Free will says that you can choose to do evil, but it is nature and the ways in which we have developed that state the specific methods.

    So nature is outside of God’s control? God did not determine what nature is and what it would do? Our development had nothing to do with the initial conditions he set up (for the sake of argument), was not guided or restricted by the world he created?

    You seem to be saying that God should have removed all our options to do evil; this also would remove most of our options to do good. At the point at which we are physically and intellectually incapable of evil, we don’t exist – or, if we do, we exist as automata.

    No, I’m not saying that. As I clearly stated, the Christian theology gives many examples of ‘evil’ which do not do harm to others and which are far removed from the horrors that exist in the world. Why would these ‘evils’ not be sufficient for the exercise of free will?

    Why, if evil MUST exist, can it not be restricted to that which only harms the person who acts, and not others? This is the question you are avoiding, apparently on purpose.

    Again, if God can do good, and God has free will, and God never desires or does evil, why could he not have made creates with free will, who never desire or do evil, who can do good? Is God an automaton?

    Lastly, you seem to be saying that without evil and suffering, we don’t exist as humans. Again, does that mean in heaven we would be automata? If not, why does God not create each soul, ask it to abandon its free will and submit to the will of God, and then place it in heaven or eradicate it, according to its answer? Wouldn’t that accomplish the same thing without the evil and suffering?

    You asked me why I consider this a vicious belief, and then go on to state that without the capability for evil, we don’t exist except as autonoma. When I ask why the evil can’t be limited, you reply that without the ability to choose to rape, hit children, and stab people we aren’t human, just automata. I think you answered my question.

    So if I put a bread knife on the table and you use it to kill someone, I am responsible? Or if I am the person who made the bread knife? What exactly are you suggesting – that God should not have provided us with any choices at all?

    No, and I’d appreciate it if you’d stop ignoring my examples and twisting my words. What if our choices were a)using it to cut a reasonable amount of bread for our needs or b)using it to cut way too much bread and waste it? The second is a sin, according to the Catholic church (gluttony). Why is there a need to have the option of killing someone even available? WHY do you continue to insist that it must be all or nothing?

    God didn’t just create the breadknife. He also created murderous intentions in people, and a human body capable of being hurt. Either God is evil, or he doesn’t exist, or he isn’t at all as described by Christians.

    I don’t see what you’re saying. People have the ability to choose hatred as the opposite of love, or greed as the opposite of charity. These virtues existed before the Fall; the fallen nature of man means that these vices exist as the logical corollary and consequence of certain actions.

    Do you really think that not-love and hatred are the same thing? You cannot imagine a world in which people share with each other as a good thing without there being people in that world who hate and mistreat each other? You cannot imagine doing good, and wanting to do good, without doing evil? What about God?

    Before I answer that question: what other options would you propose as being consistent with a benevolent God?

    How about a world of people who find delight in choosing to do healthy and intelligent things, and who, although they could cause pain or suffering, don’t want to? People with all kinds of choices–to make music or art, discover the cosmos, work on ways to better understand the world, love and raise children? No one would be forcing them to believe one thing or another, to follow God or not, to choose one career path or one family or one truth–so I fail to see how they would be autonoma.

    But you can restrict a child’s free will only so long as the child is a child. It would not be right to prevent the child from doing so when the child is an adult; nor would it be right for God to suspend our free will indefinitely.

    Um, we still prevent people from setting other people on fire when they’re adults. It’s not suspending their free will, it’s limiting it. You seem to have trouble with this concept.

    “If I stop a man from beating his child to death, I am moral. If God stops him, he’s making all humans into robots.”

    Hyperbole. Isn’t he making that man into a robot, capable only of doing “good” and only capable of that because of coercion?

    No, it is not hyperbole. Isn’t it part of Christian teaching that wanting to do an evil deed and doing it are equivalent? (He who lusts in his heart, and all that.) So if God stops someone from actually raping a woman, he has saved one person from suffering and allowed the first person free will.

    Don’t Christians pray daily that God will save them from worldly pains or problems? Do they mean, ‘save me, but don’t, because suddenly all free will will disappear for some reason’?

    In both the old and new testaments, God repeatedly stops people from doing what they want to do and makes them do things they don’t want to do. Why did he do this, if free will is so important he won’t save a burning child? If he (allegedly) did it for Jonah and Saul and the Pharoah of Egypt, for Ananias and Sapphira and those to whom he sent a deceiving spirit, how can you say that his intervention is forbidden by his nature or the logic of free will? It doesn’t make sense even from an internal Christian viewpoint.

    “Without the ability to judge if he’s good or evil, you can’t decide he is good and worship him.”

    So use the ability and make your decision.

    It was a tongue-in-cheek answer to the question posed by Bil. Humor, y’know?

  • Heather

    **Again, if God can do good, and God has free will, and God never desires or does evil, why could he not have made creates with free will, who never desire or do evil, who can do good? Is God an automaton?**

    I think this would also affect the concept of man created in God’s image and likeness. First, can we even say that God has free will? Oftentime, free will seems to be a matter of choosing between two options: in a vague sense, it would be between good and evil. But Christianity often presents God as an entity incapable of choosing evil, or even desiring evil. Therefore, God would never be in a position to “choose” evil, because it’s never something God would want to do.

    Yet man is made in God’s image/likeness, and given free will, which entails the ability to choose evil. Man is made capable of choosing evil, when that’s not a capability God possesses. So it would call into question how much “likness” man has, in terms of God.

    I also find it interesting that the idea of man created to do only good is the same as man created to be a robot. There are thousands of ways in which to be good.

    However, this would also mean that God *deliberatly* did not create man 100% good, or create man to only desire good.

  • Roscomac

    Do you really consider life as a puppet to be better than a life in which suffering is possible?

    I’ll answer that in a word…yes! If I could choose to be a puppet for under a century and then spend eternity in heaven or choose not to be a puppet for a century and then spend eternity in hell, then I’d have to be an idiot not to choose the former!

  • 2-D Man

    “The concept of a perfect heaven directly contradicts the apologist argument that this is the best world that god possibly could have created.”

    May I ask how?

    Randall, stop with the irrational questions. If you really need someone to spell it out for you, here you go:

    God created Heaven and Earth. Heaven has no suffering. Earth has suffering. Earth has pleasantness too. Heaven has more pleasantness. The only logical conclusion is that Earth is not the best possible world unless Heaven does not exist.

    Please stop being stupid; you can figure this out for yourself.

    I am sorry. I don’t think that we are responsible for all the pain in this world; to do so is to pretend that God has no enemies and that there is not evil in the world.

    From this I take it that you find “the devil made me do it” an appropriate defence.

    Drugs destroy your body and can influence you to harm others. Premarital sex likewise can harm both you, the other person (or people) and the unwanted children who may result. “Harmless sin” is an oxymoron.

    Drugs are not always harmful; they do not always destroy your body. I have many friends who smoke marijuana (I do, after all, live in Vancouver), but they have never been incited to hurt me, and from all respects the seem to function just fine. Further, I have friends who have had premarital sex. They didn’t acquire any diseases nor children. Undeniably, these were sins, but not a single person was harmed. “Harmless sin” is not an oxymoron.

    To live one’s life in fear of what might happen is idiocy.

    I am saying that Heaven will be populated entirely by people who have chosen complete unselfishness, people who have surrendered their self-will insofar as it is capable of evil. People in Heaven have all chosen perfection; automata have no choices at all. (emphasis added)

    Virtually ANY action or any object can be used for harm. Free will says that you can choose to do evil, but it is nature and the ways in which we have developed that state the specific methods. You seem to be saying that God should have removed all our options to do evil; this also would remove most of our options to do good. At the point at which we are physically and intellectually incapable of evil, we don’t exist – or, if we do, we exist as automata. (emphasis added)

    Do I need to explain your weird contradictions here?

  • OMGF

    Randall,
    You’ve said quite a few times now that you can tell us what heaven must logically be like, yet when asked twice by me and at least by one other person, you have not done so. Is there a reason that you won’t do so? Could it be statements like this:

    No. I am saying that Heaven will be populated entirely by people who have chosen complete unselfishness, people who have surrendered their self-will insofar as it is capable of evil. People in Heaven have all chosen perfection; automata have no choices at all.

    This statement is an explicit admission that it is possible to have free will and not wish to choose evil. This is actually quite a cogent statement against your argument regarding free will.

    Of course, free will is contradictory with the idea of an omni-max god, but who’s counting?

    I also find it odd that Xianity holds that man is incapable of being good. Apparently we have free will, which gives us the ability to commit evil, but we are utterly unable to commit only good. According to Randall’s logic, this means that we don’t actually have free will, because we can’t always choose to be good.

  • OMGF

    Randall said:

    A better way to put it is that the ultimate reward is to give up all that causes God pain and suffering, namely our decisions not to love.

    And, Dutch said:

    Now God tries to explain to Adam what pain is. Adam says,”huh?” Does He kick Adam in the knee? Adam, cries “ouch,now I know what pain is.” God says, “not really Adam, do you know what it’s like to be hungry, cold, hot, and tired. How about if you lost Eve? What if one of your kids died from a disease?” This could go on and on. Adam is really puzzled. As God said, “he has become one of us knowing good and evil.” (paraphrased) How can you truly understand unless you experience the millions of bad things that can happen.

    My question to both of you is this:

    How does a perfect, omni-max being experience pain? How does this being experience evil? How does this being experience the “millions of bad things that can happen?” This is contradictory with the notion of an all-powerful god that is all-knowing and perfect.

  • Dutch

    Hey!
    Been away from this thread for awhile, and I come back and a bunch of you are really poking fun at me. It’s still better than Christian websites where I am called Satan and other such things. They don’t like their cute Christmas story ruined – you know, the little infant Jesus laying in a manger among animals. I quit going to those sites a long time ago.

    As for all the posts here, it is obvious that my writing skills are sorely lacking and a comprehension of the love of God is beyond words. I reread my post; I realize it gave you an in – a feeble attempt to try and explain. I also believe that perhaps you are not as “freethinking” as you claim. Like everybody in the world, our fundamental opinions are formed by the time we reach adulthood. Change is difficult.

    I will say one thing, I am all for atheists proving that Jesus, Moses, The Apostlles didn’t exist. Keep-up the attacks; it’s the best thing that could happen for Christianity.

    I harbor no ill will and wish you only the best, Dutch

  • Mrnaglfar

    Dutch,

    I also believe that perhaps you are not as “freethinking” as you claim. Like everybody in the world, our fundamental opinions are formed by the time we reach adulthood. Change is difficult.

    Change is difficult; it’s even more difficult when there is absolutely no evidence provided pointing towards the christian set of conclusions.

    I will say one thing, I am all for atheists proving that Jesus, Moses, The Apostlles didn’t exist. Keep-up the attacks; it’s the best thing that could happen for Christianity.

    Not sure how many times this has been pointed out in the past, but let’s do it again; it’s not up to atheists to disprove those people exist, though we can certainly raise our doubts, it’s up to the christian to prove not only that they exist, but that they did what they said they did.

  • OMGF

    Dutch

    Been away from this thread for awhile, and I come back and a bunch of you are really poking fun at me.

    I asked an honest question. I would like to hear a reply since I’ve never gotten one to that question.

    …and a comprehension of the love of God is beyond words.

    If we can not comprehend it, then how do you know what it is?

    Of course, I think you mean that we can comprehend it as love, but we can’t comprehend the extent of it? We can work with that. How does god show his love? If you believe that this world is hell, then how was it a loving act by god to place us here?

    I also believe that perhaps you are not as “freethinking” as you claim.

    And you believe this because? From where I sit, we are the ones asking questions, questions that are not answered, except with non-answers that rely on faith and no evidence.

    I will say one thing, I am all for atheists proving that Jesus, Moses, The Apostlles didn’t exist. Keep-up the attacks; it’s the best thing that could happen for Christianity.

    Because if we were to prove that Xianity is false, then people would flock to it knowing it’s a lie? This is in direct contraposition to the apologetic argument that Xianity must be true because the early adherents would not have died for what they knew was a lie. Interesting.

  • Dutch

    OMGF,

    Sorry, I was getting visitors tonight so I didn’t properly address your question.

    Yes, it is the extent of His love that is hard to understand. The thing is how can anyone truly comprehend this love – with what can you compare it? The only thing I can say is that in the future, after you check out, you will understand. It’s not a cop out, it’s just to hard to understand, I don’t know the extent of His love.

    It would have been great had God simply created Adam and kept Adam from knowing what pain and suffering was like. It would have been easy to put a fence or something around The Tree of Knowledge. It is surmised here and elsewhere that a loving God would not have created this suffering. I really don’t know if there was a choice in the matter. Adam would not know how good he had it. Could he have appreciated what he had been given? I will try to find a better way to explain this. I seem to be at a loss of words.
    Does it help to know that God is suffering the same things all humanity is suffering, has suffered and will suffer? This is the case. Most Christians don’t realize that God is in hell.
    No OMGF, you will never prove Christianity as false, what you will succeed in doing is proving that The events portrayed in the Bible didn’t happen, at least on this plane. You will actually push Christians in the right direction, not because it is a lie, but to search for thhe truth. Christians are weak right now, in fact, I doubt that many really believe in God’s existence. Their divorce rate is just as high as in secular society. Christians pray for miraculous cures for terminally ill people. Why? Going to a church 1 hour per week is hardly enough. Most are weak in The Word.
    No OMGF, they would come to know a powerful religion – the revelation Christians will shown will be absolutely mind blowing furthering the strength. It will be a complete denying of earthly(grave) perceived benefits. The knowledge of where we will be after this life will be so real anything we thought we wanted will be no more. No fancy cars, clothes, anything…everyhting goes to alleviate suffering in this world. I heard a line somewhere said by an Amish pastor – I think maybe in the movie “Witness”; he said, “we are not of this world.”

    Todays mainstream Christianity however is still closer to the truth than atheists and the various religions. The best thing that could happen is that someone really prove the non existence of historical Jesus Christ. Early adherents died believing in Christ, if they didn’t understand what we know today, so what, then again, maybe Christ revealed Himself to them, I don’t know, and it isn’t important. They died believing in Christ. That doesn’t prove Christainity – many people died for a belief.

    Keep up the good work. I hope to see much more refutations of The Bible, our church grows. Already Bible studies in Arizona, California, Virginia, Florida. Some don’t last, studying takes desire the mother of discipline. The paradox is, the more atheists succeed, the more they will come. We’ve had several familes move here from far away just for the sake of getting togethor; studying and discussing The Bible with like minded people. Not only our church, but at least one other pastor from a megachurch has obtained this knowledge. As atheists you will watch this unfold, maybe not in our lifetime, but soon very soon, The Ressurection has started, and atheists seem to be one of the tools to aid it along. Do not despair, for all is forgiven, in God’s lovingkindness we are all the same.

    You will never refute The Bible, Dutch

  • http://www.dougpaulsen.com Doug

    Oh of course, the Bible appears to be refuted here but is irrefutable on ‘another plane,’ whatever that may be.

    But in all seriousness, I have no idea what your talking about here. I’m not even sure why you even call yourself a Christian…in fact, I’m really at a loss of what box I might attempt to fit you into. You say your theology is growing in popularity, so I hope there is some kind of information about what your talking about somewhere online. I would really like to read something, at least so I can understand WTF you are talking about, because right now I’m quite confused…

    That being said, of course you can parry the problem of evil by claiming that God is subject to that evil as well. If evil existed before and/or independent of God, then the problem of evil really isn’t a problem at all. But that’s not what most ‘Christians’ believe. You have some novel belief, and forgive us for attacking a position you do not hold. However, most Christians cannot parry the problem of evil by saying ‘God is in hell.’ If God is in hell, so be it. But don’t expect us to be able to use our ‘freethinking minds’ on something we don’t, and at this point cannot, understand.

  • Me

    To piggyback on Wedge’s point:

    So if God stops someone from actually raping a woman, he has saved one person from suffering and allowed the first person free will.

    There’s always the free will of two people to consider, the free will of the person being raped and the rapist’s free will. I have no idea why Christians always side with the rapist’s free will and never see it from the victim’s perspective.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Dutch,

    I’d like to take your argument seriously, but at this point it’s fallen into one large emotional appeal. I’ll try anyway.

    Adam would not know how good he had it. Could he have appreciated what he had been given?

    Right, adam didn’t know how good he had it, so god took it all away and never gave it back so adam could forever be upset about what he had taken from him. Kind of like the way good parents will take all their children’s toys outside and burn them, and never buy them new ones so the kid can understand how good he had it.
    I don’t think people would understand how good we had it without things likes HIV, Ebola, TB, cancer, gangrene, the flu, herpies, blindess, down syndrome, birth defects, and a near countless list of other diseases and illness.

    Does it help to know that God is suffering the same things all humanity is suffering, has suffered and will suffer? This is the case. Most Christians don’t realize that God is in hell.

    I think most christians don’t realize that because it’s mentioned exactly…. oh right, no where. How do you know god is suffering, or what he happens to be suffering from, an why he doesn’t do something about it; he’s had an eternity.

    what you will succeed in doing is proving that The events portrayed in the Bible didn’t happen, at least on this plane.

    Another plane, for which there is zero evidence, zero describtion, zero falisiability, and some place where science is unable to reach, where I doubt you can show a connection to our plane. Basically, where you can’t be bothered by that whole “being incorrect” thing.

    Going to a church 1 hour per week is hardly enough.

    And how often should you go to church; Didn’t Jesus say to keep your faith private? I recall hearing something about that.

    “we are not of this world.”

    yet, we seem to clearly be of this world. After all… we’re here, born here and die here; how did that get overlooked?

    Todays mainstream Christianity however is still closer to the truth than atheists and the various religions.The best thing that could happen is that someone really prove the non existence of historical Jesus Christ.

    So the best thing that could happen is someone proving conclusively that Jesus didn’t exist, so that more people could realize they’re right because the events never happened? It’s true because it’s absolutely not true? I’m rarely speechless, but you managed it with that impressive reasoning.

    The paradox is, the more atheists succeed, the more they will come.

    Because they’re so sure about being wrong they just know it has to be right?

    You will never refute The Bible,

    But isn’t that what you want? Shouldn’t you be trying to refute the bible (not like one needs much help doing that, but it’s always appreciated) if you think it will bring more people to your religion?

  • terrence
  • OMGF

    Dutch,

    Sorry, I was getting visitors tonight so I didn’t properly address your question.

    That’s OK, but you still didn’t address it. You said:

    Does it help to know that God is suffering the same things all humanity is suffering, has suffered and will suffer? This is the case. Most Christians don’t realize that God is in hell.

    I asked how this is possible. How is it possible for a perfect, omni-max being to suffer? I submit that it is not possible.

    Yes, it is the extent of His love that is hard to understand. The thing is how can anyone truly comprehend this love – with what can you compare it? The only thing I can say is that in the future, after you check out, you will understand. It’s not a cop out, it’s just to hard to understand, I don’t know the extent of His love.

    Actually, I do think this is a cop out. We don’t need to understand the extent of god’s love in order to understand that creating hell was not an act of love. It could not have been, because there is no good that can come of it. Also, I would think that love would come from doing everything in one’s power to make things better for the one you love. This is the love I would expect from god. This is the same god that has committed genocide and ordered others to do it. These are not the acts of love and I don’t think you can merely wave your hands and dismiss those acts as a misunderstanding.

    It is surmised here and elsewhere that a loving God would not have created this suffering. I really don’t know if there was a choice in the matter. Adam would not know how good he had it.

    The whole OP was about how silly this argument is. Why could god not have given Adam that information without inflicting pain and suffering? Why is an omni-max god constrained by not having choices? This is the point. In order to explain away evil and suffering, you are having to reduce god’s power and abilities. So, what else is god incapable of doing?

    You will actually push Christians in the right direction, not because it is a lie, but to search for thhe truth. Christians are weak right now, in fact, I doubt that many really believe in God’s existence.

    If many Xians secretly doubt god’s existence, then why do you think they will give up that disbelief if it is shown to them that god really doesn’t exist? As Mrnaglfar said, this makes no sense.

    No OMGF, they would come to know a powerful religion – the revelation Christians will shown will be absolutely mind blowing furthering the strength.

    Why does god not give us all this revelation now? Is that the act of love that you can’t understand? I submit to you that it is not love, but rather capriciousness.

    Todays mainstream Christianity however is still closer to the truth than atheists and the various religions.

    And your evidence for this would be…?

    Keep up the good work. I hope to see much more refutations of The Bible, our church grows….You will never refute The Bible, Dutch

    Huh?

  • windy

    I don’t think people would understand how good we had it without things likes HIV, Ebola, TB, cancer, gangrene, the flu, herpies, blindess, down syndrome, birth defects, and a near countless list of other diseases and illness.

    Even assuming for the sake of the argument that “suffering is necessary on Earth but not in Heaven” makes sense: presumably the level of suffering of a reasonably well-off person in a Western nation, with access to medical care, not likely to encounter torture or war, is enough to fulfill God’s plan. Many Christians are such people and they must believe that their “sufferings” as a wealthy Westerner adequately prepare them for Heaven, right? (since nobody believes all that stuff Jesus said about wealth, really). So most of the horrible stuff that happens could be prevented without compromising ‘God’s plan’.

    Unless it’s so that a world where every person had medical care, plenty of food etc. would not contain enough suffering to fulfill God’s plan, but a world where some people do and some don’t does?

  • OMGF

    terrence,
    Thank you, that is some funny stuff.

  • terrence

    Enough blather already – daylight is for action, so let’s take some and boycott God the next time a horrible disaster wipes out the innocent, as the columnist Heather McDonald suggested a few years ago. It might not work, but the “I’m rotten, you’re divine syndrome” hasn’t worked out too well either.

  • KShep

    You will never refute The Bible, Dutch

    Christian critical thinking at its finest.

    And Dutch is one of the more open-minded believers I’ve run across. Says a lot.

  • http://verwide.net/blog/ Moody834

    With regard to Dutch & Co., someone needs to call the Cognitive Dissonance Dept. and let them know we’ve a conflagration apparently akin to burning magnesium here.

    Did I just miss someone mentioning that “God” takes credit in the Bible for all good and evil (see: Isaiah 45:7 and Lamentations 3:37-38 [source]? See also, in reference to “free will”, this link. This is why I’ve more respect for Muslims who state that if evil befalls them it is only because “God” wills it; they seem to understand the ramifications of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present “God” better than most Christians do. Dutch & Co. hardly seem to be able to maintain a stable argument, preferring to fall back on homilies, faith, speculation, vagueness and shrugs. Dutch seems happy to go one step further into the patently bizarre.

    Yet there is nothing presented by Dutch & Co. to even slightly raise the most forlorn hope that maybe, somehow, “God” exists, so that the burden of proof, the provision of which is their responsibility, remains to be addressed whatsoever.

    Their nonsensical fluff and stern admonition
    won’t make me a slave to the fear of perdition,
    nor aught of the fantasy they are fond of
    shall make me believe that their “God” is all “Love”.

  • Eric

    Dutch,

    Two things.

    1) You have never answered (in this thread) the questions, DIRECT QUESTIONS, posed by mrnaglfar, Ebon, and OMGF. Why? They are simple and irect, yet you “answer” by using misdirects and ssmoke and mirrors. Wht is it that prevents you from answering directly? What is it you are afraid of?

    2) Please excuse my crassness in my wording when I respond to your diatribes…but the only thing I can come up with is…HUH?

  • Blaine

    There is a problem with the argument that since god gave us free will and therefore he cannot influence our choices between doing good or evil. According to this argument, once god created and imbued free will into humans he limited his own power and can longer be considered omnipotent nor omniscient. These are old arguments and it seems no matter how apologists twist, they continue to butt into the same problem. Pin them down one way and the slip away again only to spout the same tired lines stated another way. Oh well….

  • http://www.dougpaulsen.com Doug

    Blaine:

    According to this argument, once god created and imbued free will into humans he limited his own power and can longer be considered omnipotent nor omniscient.

    Well no, because imbuing humans with free will was a choice, a choice that is in his power to rescind. Giving humans free will does not inhibit his power now. That is, there are things he cannot do IF he wants to maintain free will in humans, but nothing logically prevents him from doing these things. So he remains omnipotent/omniscient in this argument.

    Doug

  • OMGF

    Doug,
    Although I agree with you that god can choose to not exercise his omnipotence, can god choose to not know everything? I submit that that is logically impossible for an omniscient being, therefore god can not give up his omniscience. Therefore, free will is mutually exclusive to omniscience. (Although it should be noted that there are other problems with free will vs. omniscience and this is just one.)

    There are still many other problems with god being omnipotent and omni-benevolent and allowing us to commit such evil or have evil committed upon us by others.

  • Eric

    One thing that makes me shudder with absurdity is how much time we all spend arguing and debating “god.” It is essentially as if we were debating the non-merits of alchemy with the followers of alchemy. It is as if we have been sucked into an argument which is fallacious IN ITSELF.

    I know the necessity for it, but the absurdity of it makes me cringe.

  • Randall

    In reading the above, there was one thing I do need to address immediately; the rest will have to wait, on your courtesy, for responses.

    “Randall,
    You’ve said quite a few times now that you can tell us what heaven must logically be like, yet when asked twice by me and at least by one other person, you have not done so. Is there a reason that you won’t do so?”

    The reason is that I have something like twenty or thirty posts to respond to. I’d ask that all of you please keep that in mind as you tell me to “stop being stupid” and begin questioning my honesty; my posts may or may not be lacking, but if they are, I’d like to say that at least part of that comes from the sheer volume I am trying to keep up with. Be patient with me.

  • Randall

    And, very quickly:

    “I submit that that is logically impossible for an omniscient being, therefore god can not give up his omniscience. Therefore, free will is mutually exclusive to omniscience.”

    Knowing that someone will do something does not mean that you are making that person do it, or that you are influencing him or her in any way.

  • OMGF

    Randall,
    I understand that you have lots of comments. My bad for being pushy.

    Knowing that someone will do something does not mean that you are making that person do it, or that you are influencing him or her in any way.

    Can we try something here? Do you agree that god, being omni-max, could write a book that detailed all the thoughts, acts, etc. that you, Randall, would do for the rest of your life? If we can’t agree on that, then god is not omnipotent/omniscient, so I’m going to assume that we can proceed.

    So, let’s say that god writes this book and hands it to you. If you read the book, do you think you’d be able to do or think anything other than what is in the book? Do you still wish to argue that you have free will and that god is omniscient?

    Here’s another paradox. When god set up the universe, he knew how it would all play out before he even started creating, right? Therefore, he knew that you would do/say/think everything that you do/say/think. Had he created the universe differently, you would do/say/think differently. Still think you have free will?

  • Dutch

    Randall,
    Good post

    Lynette,
    Job 33:15 In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed;
    Job 33:16 Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruc
    Please describe your dream…I would be happy to help you with it – using the Bible of course. The dream is the Gate of Heaven – Gen28:17

    others,
    God created both good and evil. He suffers the same as we do – He must, as He is omniscient and omnipotent. Jesus said “I and the father are one.” Christ’s body is in hell(grave)Since as I have said before, we occupy Hell, then God is in Hell.
    Psa 139:8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

    OMGF,
    You said “Huh?” to my statement that the more you refute the Bible, the more you will drive Christians and seekers to the truth. Let’s put it this way. Say you have found definitive proof of the complete falseness of the Flood story(I certainly don’t believe we had a worldwide flood that destroyed all living things). Then a Christian has to accept that perhaps that much more of The Bible is myth or he has missed something. As for me, studying The Garden of Eden proved pivotal in starting my quest for knowledge of Him. Atheists could use The garden of Eden as yet another attack on The Bible. Most Christian apologetics says the Garden was destroyed in the flood or God moved it – really! Show me in The Bible. I only want Biblical proofs from fellow Christians. If destroyed in the flood then what does this mean?

    Rev 2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
    Rev 22:2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

    This is what I mean. Prove things didn’t happen on our plane, then Christians, or some of them, will need to search out the truth.

    There is no “problem of evil.” The only problem is our lack of understanding.

    respectfully, Dutch

  • OMGF

    Dutch,

    God created both good and evil. He suffers the same as we do – He must, as He is omniscient and omnipotent.

    It is contradictory for a perfect being to suffer. The question was, how is this possible? You have not answered it, only re-asserted that which is under dispute.

    Say you have found definitive proof of the complete falseness of the Flood story(I certainly don’t believe we had a worldwide flood that destroyed all living things). Then a Christian has to accept that perhaps that much more of The Bible is myth or he has missed something.

    And the more that is disproven, the more you think people will flock to that which they know isn’t true?

    There is no “problem of evil.” The only problem is our lack of understanding.

    No, there’s a big problem of evil, part of which has been pointed out in this thread alone. The Xian god certainly does not act in a manner that displays omni-benevolence.

  • http://verwide.net/blog/ Moody834

    I begin to suspect that Dutch is a “confounding troll”: no matter how cogent or well thought out your responses (or perhaps the more they are so), Dutch’s responses will fail to make any real sense. The longer the thread continues, the less sense they will make. This may well be because Dutch simply doesn’t have the wherewithal to answer any questions clearly or cogently. The caveat in Dutch’s earliest comment that he (? is that established?) is unable to write as well as Ebon, and later apologies for lack of clarity in his responses, only makes me suspect all the more that he is completely out of his depth here and is leaving it up to a wing and a prayer. It is also likely that he is really quite deluded and believes all his “vision quest” stuff.

  • MS

    Hey. Lurker who sincerely enjoys this blog…

    I owe Ebonmuse a list of criteria that, if satisifed, would persuade me to abandon theism. No list offered in this area would be complete without a mention of the Problem of Evil, so I would like to suggest it here, let you pile on, and maybe predict the size of fool I may eventually make myself out to be in submitting this list.

    I tend to agree that many theodicies on their own are wholly inadequate as comprehensive solutions to the POE. You have effectively criticized free will, soul making, and the best of all worlds theodicies, demonstrating that while they may offer an explanation for limited evil, they are not capable of covering all instances of observed evil.

    Nonetheless, it seems to me that atheists should not view the POE as a free pass with which to criticize theism. The philosophic problems for atheist philosophy relating to the POE are formidable, and double where compared with theism since they appear to require solutions offered for not only the existence of evil, but the existence of good as well. I will not bother you with particulars as I assume most here are conversant with the arguments already, and I acknowledge that you may not feel compelled to offer solutions anyway on the basis that atheism does not require a defence.

    Simply stated, one of my criteria for the aforementioned list will be for atheism/naturalism/materialism to provide a more satisfactory explanation for the seemingly universal human recognition of good and evil than theism does. I realize this is a bit open at the moment, but I will define more specifically before I submit.

    BTW–can atheism/naturalism/materialism be used synonomously or do you recognize distinctions?

  • Dutch

    “It is contradictory for a perfect being to suffer. The question was, how is this possible? You have not answered it, only re-asserted that which is under dispute.”

    Why so? Did not Jesus suffer? Did He not say, “father take this cup away from me?” How is this possible? It is possible because of His love. In order for God to share everything(everything, do you hear me), He had to share in all the bad stuff He knows.
    Gen 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil”

    “And the more that is disproven, the more you think people will flock to that which they know isn’t true?”
    Absolutely, The Garden of Eden, along with other Biblical stories, was a major stumbling block for me. Once I had knowledge of the meaning, I could go farther, otherwise, had I not come upon this truth, I could have given up. People will start saying, either the Bible is false or there is more to it than we know. I suspect, for the time being, most people will of the former. Some however will seek out the real meaning of the Garden of Eden, and so on.

    “No, there’s a big problem of evil, part of which has been pointed out in this thread alone. The Xian god certainly does not act in a manner that displays omni-benevolence.”

    How do you explain evil, suffering, pain and death to somebody who has never experienced one second of these. All this person has ever known is perfect health, no aging, no hunger, perfect weather, beautiful scenery. This person has everything he wants, and if he wants, he probably would have no clue what to ask for. He is not hungry, and is extremely comfortable, even if he knew what comfortable was. Try to explain to this mythical person what comfortable means. Does it mean the lack of comfort? You can see how difficult answering that question is; it would lead to other questions. I believe this person would be practically clueless. Walking around without any knowledge. I doubt he would even be able to thank anybody for creating him and his surroundings.

    I know my writing isn’t that skillful, but I think that perhaps atheists may have trouble thinking abstractly. Are you as freethinking as you claim. It seems all you can say is this Biblical story or that story doesn’t add up to the facts – the “facts” as you know them anyway. No, your inability to understand the so-called “problem of evil” is not due to my writing, but rather, I think, is due to your lack being able to use your imagination. Is this due to you thinking only in terms of what you can see, and not what could be possible? Are you so married to your atheist beliefs, that it is not possible to think any other way?

    Moody,
    “Dutch’s responses will fail to make any real sense.”

    I no longer think it is my writing alone, but your inability to grasp the unseen spiritual realm. You must be able to test it, see it, and verify it before you believe. There are many doubting Thomases. The sad thing is, you can have all that if you only studied the Word in the way I have started to explain. I know that many Christians don’t really believe in God, or have serious doubts, but I wonder if the same may be true of atheists.

    I hope I have responded more directly to your questions.

    Dutch

  • Eric

    Dutch,

    You said:

    “It is contradictory for a perfect being to suffer. The question was, how is this possible? You have not answered it, only re-asserted that which is under dispute.”
    Why so? Did not Jesus suffer? Did He not say, “father take this cup away from me?” How is this possible? It is possible because of His love. In order for God to share everything(everything, do you hear me), He had to share in all the bad stuff He knows.
    Gen 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil”

    First Dutch, you are using the BIBLE as a source of your “proof” this jesus suffered. The bible as has been shown conclusively is a contradictary and nonsensicla book of myth and hate, and you want to use the bible to prove the CONTENT of the bible? Dutch, have you ever heard of circular reasoning? If not, I suggest you do a quick search on it and rethink your approach.

    Second, you ask, in good old english “Did jesus not suffer?” You are asking us if a fictional character suffered to prove a perfect being has suffered as proof that a perfect being necessarily has to suffer to achieve perfection. Why not ask “Did not Harry Potter suffer?” or “Did Spiderman not suffer?” Yes, in the little story books they, all three have suffered. But showing suffering in fictional works doesn’t prove anything.

    The only “proof” you have for jesus suffering is a 2+ hour film made by a Mad Max anti-semite whihc was essentially a snuff film for apologists.

    AND Dutch, in the second example there is MORE circular reasoning. I bet if you look hard enough you can find it.

    If my tone is snotty it is because I am tired of watching the intellectual dishonesty from apologists such as yourself while trying to call it intellect and intelligent discourse. Dutch, the emporer has no clothes.

  • http://verwide.net/blog/ Moody834

    Dutch said: “No, your inability to understand the so-called ‘problem of evil’ is not due to my writing, but rather, I think, is due to your lack being able to use your imagination.”

    Here’s the thing: I don’t have any difficulty understanding the “problem of evil” because I don’t think it’s some archetypal issue. In other words, I don’t actually think it’s a “problem”. I don’t require some long, drawn out explanation of “evil” that relies on a priori thinking. I already know that life is messy. The animals that live on this planet live difficult lives, one and all, unless they are very lucky indeed. Bad decisions are made; selfish impulses sometimes play out to the detriment of others. Sometimes choices lead to heinous, terrible ends. When it comes to humans, those ends are sometimes off the chart in terms of horror. But there’s no need to go and call down from the firmament some divine explanation for them. If we look at our close genetic relatives, the apes, we can easily see common, shared, behaviors. If we but look at how life gets by on this planet, we can easily see that morality itself is but a codified expression of our desire to maintain order for ourselves. That which is called immoral is at root something we fear as a destabilizing or otherwise threatening thing. Of course, sometimes what is called immoral is not a bad or “evil” thing per se (e.g., homosexuality), and with the passage of time we begin to let go of the idea that it is. In other cases (e.g., rape, murder) it is obvious why we would consider it immoral for all time, even when the result may be positive (hypothetically, for instance, consider the child of a rape growing up to be a benevolent person who helps many people somehow).

    There is no “unseen spiritual realm” required. There is no need for faith in some cosmic order or teleological plan created by some deity whose characteristics are subject to seemingly endless debate. Remove “God” and nothing changes; life goes on just as before. The faith in things unseen is valuable only to those who believe, but they live and die like the rest of us and, so far as I have seen in all my years of life, what they believe in only serves to affect their behavior in some way and to some extent that is determined by their general psychological leaning, place of birth and generation, level of education, etc., etc., etc.

    People are indulging this theological conversation, but it’s all smoke and mirrors (potentially turning at some point into sound and fury) and doesn’t make a lick of difference to the residents of Peru or the memory of Carthage. Frankly, I am curious as to why it is that anyone would think that atheists have a problem explaining “evil” or “good”. There is, as we know, no actual Platonic idea/form for either of them. “Good” and “evil” are words applied like labels to events, things, or ideas. There is humanity, and its desire to exist, and its justifications and fears and hopes, along with its often terrible pragmatism in the service of its desires. As Socrates asks in the Phaedrus: “And what is good, Phaedrus, And what is not good — Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?”. Theodicy, like theology, is plainly not needed in this human world, save insofar as it provides entertainment to otherwise unemployable religionists.

  • MS

    “People are indulging this theological conversation, but it’s all smoke and mirrors (potentially turning at some point into sound and fury) and doesn’t make a lick of difference to the residents of Peru or the memory of Carthage. Frankly, I am curious as to why it is that anyone would think that atheists have a problem explaining “evil” or “good”.”

    We might just as easily argue that your denial of the utility of theological conversation doesn’t make a lick of difference to the residents of Peru or the memory of Carthage. Where does that leave us?

    If it is true that good and evil do not exist or are simply labels as you suggest, then I suppose no explanation is necessary. However, your conclusions, though well stated, are mostly that–a series of conclusions with little rationale supporting them. I am curious as well. I would like to know why atheists believe good and evil are only labels, if indeed they do…

  • http://verwide.net/blog/ Moody834

    MS:

    “…a series of conclusions with little rationale supporting them.”

    Haha! Oh, goodness, but that’s rich. Have you been reading Dutch’s comments here? I don’t mean to be unkind to Dutch or you or your ilk, but the level of a priori rationalizing in some of the theistic comments is astonishing. The apriorism is that the Bible is in any way authoritative here, which has not been demonstrated and is not, additionally, in the eyes of one who believes in it, falsifiable. Mind you, to those concerned with little things like historicity, measurable accuracy, and consistency, the Bible is out for the count.

    Anyway, what I said is that “good” and “evil” do not exist as Platonic forms/ideas. I could have also said that I’ve yet to see “God’s Illustrated Design Manual (with Glossary)”. You may say that that is merely my opinion, but the onus is on you to disprove my assertions and not the other way around. I will give you this: I cannot falsify your claims, if only because there is no way to rationally address a belief based upon an unfalsifiable authority.

    That said, there are certainly reasons to call some things “evil” and others “good”, so long as we understand that there is no reason to assume the existence of a cosmic template for either of those appellations. “Evil” is especially prone to having supernatural causes attached to it, and then, as is my experience, there is some sort of reversal of logic whereby it (i.e., the “evil”) is said to be in-itself evidence that there is this supernatural cause. I have yet to see, via this expedient, any actual rationale for their being a justification of the supernatural. I have yet to see you or any of the other theists here provide any cogent (let alone persuasive) argument that “evil” or theodicean statements about “evil” are proof of anything.

    “I would like to know why atheists believe good and evil are only labels, if indeed they do…”

    I do not speak for others, but if I sound as if I am then I am sure someone will disagree with me here if they so choose.

    “We might just as easily argue that your denial of the utility of theological conversation doesn’t make a lick of difference to the residents of Peru or the memory of Carthage. Where does that leave us?”

    I rest my case.

  • Mrnaglfar

    MS,

    I am curious as well. I would like to know why atheists believe good and evil are only labels, if indeed they do…

    I suppose that depends which atheist you talk to, after all, there is no set of what one must believe in to be an atheist outside of not believing in god. Personally I do indeed believe good and evil are just labels because their definition depends on one’s perspective, relative of course to who benefits and who gets harm done to them, as well as intent and degrees of willingness among those involved. The whole matter is something of a spectrum with many, many shades of grey inbetween, which could mark the difference between a religious good and evil that tends to be simply black or white. Situational and societial factors are also an issue, but it’s understandable without having to drag some religion or god into it. Matter of fact, by removing god from the discussion, all the sudden things become far simpler to understand.

    The theist position, at least in the current popular ones, begin by setting a point as ultimate good (i.e. god) and the further anyone moves from that point, the worse they become. However, this line of reasoning has many problems, the main one being none of them know god even exists, much less if he does, what he’s like. Another big part of the issue comes from people using something like the bible or Quran or some other holy book for morals. We always hear things like “Christian teachings are peaceful” or “islam is a religion of peace”, or their relative violent counterparts, but none of those statements that take a stand as “this is religion is actually good/bad” are actually correct. The reason is that all the holy books have their share of both violence, hatefullness, and evil, as well as alturism, love, and good, and they can be used to justify anything and disguise the underlying motives under the cover of “god’s will”. There was a post on this topic somewhere else on the site, though I can’t remember where, if someone would like to find it for me.

    I may clear that up later if it comes through fuzzy.

  • Dutch

    Eric,

    “First Dutch, you are using the BIBLE as a source of your “proof” this jesus suffered.” The bible as has been shown conclusively is a contradictary and nonsensicla book of myth and hate, and you want to use the bible to prove the CONTENT of the bible? Dutch, have you ever heard of circular reasoning? If not, I suggest you do a quick search on it and rethink your approach.”

    Circular reasoning indeed. I use The Bible because it is under constant attack by atheists who like most Christians think it a historical document. I, in fact every member of our church, use The Bible to interpret itself – I suppose you can call that circular reasoning. Man’s interpretation is worthless.
    You said, “The bible as has been shown conclusively is a contradictary and nonsensicla book of myth and hate…”
    Only in your mind.
    “Mat 13:13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.”
    The only thing you have succeeded in “conclusively” is that The Bible is not a historically accurate document, and for that I thank you. You think that settles the matter – far from it.
    The premise of this article is “The problem of evil.” I have tried to explain why.
    All the comments on this thread have one underlining premise that The Biblical stories pertain to our world. I have said many times that is not so. Why do you ignore that? Why?
    I suppose if you saw a bearded fellow, claiming to be the Christ, walking on water, you would assure yourselves that it must be a trick. Or what if you saw an actual physical healing, not the false ones you see on TV, but right there in front of your eyes? You are so married to your position, I doubt you would even bother to check things out.
    There is so much noise in peoples’ daily lives, both nonreligous and religous; they have no time for Him.
    Psa 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God…”

    Mel Gibsons movie was boring and stupid. He, like most Christians have no wisdom or understanding.

    I harbor no ill will toward anyone on this site and only wish you the best, I mean that, Dutch

  • Mrnaglfar

    Dutch,

    All the comments on this thread have one underlining premise that The Biblical stories pertain to our world. I have said many times that is not so. Why do you ignore that? Why?

    If they don’t pertain to our world why should anyone assume that they have any relevenace to our world? Maybe they happened on a different plane of existance and don’t effect things here. Why should anyone assume that things on this different plane, really whatever that happens to be, have any link whatsoever to this one?

    And people ignore it because it’s making up an answer out of thin air that even most other christians would disagree with you on, but as you said, most christians don’t have wisdom or understanding, though I admit I’m curious why you think your explaination is better than their’s if you’re not using any evidence? Of course, that also implies you have wisdom and understanding of this different plane, which I don’t think you do.

    I, in fact every member of our church, use The Bible to interpret itself – I suppose you can call that circular reasoning. Man’s interpretation is worthless.

    Using a book to interpret itself; yes, I could call that circular reasoning. Your interpretation is only worth as much as you can support. If it’s not falisfiable then yes, it is worthless. Same as russell’s teapot, same as scientology, same as any other religion. Same as the claim that we all just popped into existance this very moment and all our memories are false, same as the bible is actually written by evil satan as a trick to draw people away from being good. It’s a purely “but it could be true if you use your imagination” story.

    I suppose if you saw a bearded fellow, claiming to be the Christ, walking on water, you would assure yourselves that it must be a trick.

    Criss Angel mangaged it, and I don’t assume he has any magical powers.

    Or what if you saw an actual physical healing, not the false ones you see on TV, but right there in front of your eyes?

    I admit, if I saw someone spontaneously regrow a severed arm, or pick up their head from the flood and put it back on their neck I would need to seriously question some of my more basic assumptions. However, that’s happened approximately zero times, so I’m still working on the best available evidence.

  • MS

    “I don’t mean to be unkind to Dutch or you or your ilk, but the level of a priori rationalizing in some of the theistic comments is astonishing.”

    Did not strike me as unkind–even with the barb that theists are not concerned with little things like historicity, etc.–and I share many of your sentiments regarding “my ilk.” Yet I have not set forth a priori rationalizations or appealed to any holy book. We have a common set of observations we categorize, or label if you prefer, as good and evil. Beginning with observation is hardly a priori.

    Moody, you are obviously a smart person who has thought through these issues thoroughly, so I would not presume to try and convince you by arguing on a blog. Thanks for responding, much appreciated. With that in mind, a couple of comments:

    “what I said is that “good” and “evil” do not exist as Platonic forms/ideas” Sort of ironic that you seem to know what is involved in a metaphysical system while at the same time assuring me that metaphysical systems are unprovable or unfalsifiable.

    “but the onus is on you to disprove my assertions and not the other way around.” I tend to agree with this in many cases, but this is not one of those instances. I think perhaps you are lumping my post in with some of the others on this thread, or reading into my post assumptions that typically support theistic assertions. In fairness, you are probably correct regarding these assumptions in the final analysis, however, on this thread I simply asked the question: which thought system accounts best for our observation of good and evil? If you maintain conclusions about this observation, it would seem that rationale would be warranted.

    “I rest my case.” Well, it is difficult to see how quantum physics, evolution, or even 2+2=4 would make a lick of difference to the memory of Carthage. So on this basis we should discard thought? Unless through quantum physics we discovered a way to go back in time and help Carthage defeat the Romans?

    Mrnaglfar
    “it’s understandable without having to drag some religion or god into it. Matter of fact, by removing god from the discussion, all the sudden things become far simpler to understand.”

    It is understandable without dragging god or religion into it. In fact, even as a theist I would go further and state that it is a grand and rational explanation. I am just not convinced that that understanding is the best explanation given the observations or the most viscerally satisfying once pushed to its logical conclusion.

    Far simpler? Maybe, maybe not. I assume here you mean that the simpler answer should be preferred to the complex given that all other factors are relatively equal.

    Moody & Mrnaglfar: Thanks for the posts. Good responses both & some of what I was hoping to get in response…Would still like a clarification from an atheist whether atheism can be used synonymously with naturalism and/or materialism. Thanks…

  • Goyo

    Dutch: You’re getting a little weird here. If you admit that the bible is not a historically accurate document, then how can you possibly think that it is of any real worth at all? Was it really written when most people claim it was? Or was it written perhaps later?
    You do seem to have a gnostic concept of interpretation, but this is not new by any means. I can just imagine you and your fellow believers holed up in your upper room believing that everyone else in the world is stupid for not understanding the bible like you do. I know, I’ve been there.
    Why don’t you just admit that the bible is a book of superstitious writings written by ancient people that were trying to understand the world, and we’ve simply evolved past those stories.

  • Dutch

    Are we all on holiday today?

    Why I use “circular reasoning.”

    Pro 1:6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.
    2Pe 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

    The fact, for me and others, it works. Jesus, in The Parable of the Sower, gave us a few answers, ie, the seed is The Word of God, the sower is Jesus, now when you search the rest of scripture you may plug in the word “word” when you see the word “seed.” That is how The Bible interprets itself.

    Egypt is hell(grave), Pharaoh is Satan(don’t think of Satan as a guy with a pitchfork) both of these interpretations are in The Bible, hence the following verses come to light

    Eze 29:3 Speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon(satan) that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.

    Mat 2:15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt(grave) have I called my son.

    I know you don’t believe me, but I hope you realize how The Bible does interpret itself. I use the KJV, because we believe it to be the most accurate.

    Enjoy MLK Day, Dutch

  • Dutch

    Goyo,

    “I can just imagine you and your fellow believers holed up in your upper room believing that everyone else in the world is stupid for not understanding the bible like you do.”

    No, I don’t believe people are stupid, and we don’t condemn people, it is not our place. Yes, sometimes we hole up at someones house and study The Word togethor,the real breaking of bread by the way. We all have jobs and most have families to take care of. We have millionaires and we have people from the lower rungs of society, a real mix. Most are just average middleclass people.

    The “worth” dear Goyo is it’s a way for all of us to find our way to God, and to answer that big question, “what is the meaning of life.”

    Good day

  • mackrelmint

    Dutch,
    I strongly suggest reading the book, “Misquoting Jesus, The story behind who changed the Bible and Why” by Bart Ehrman. Ehrman presents a very balanced account of how today’s Bible was created and also shows how and why the KJV is NOT the most accurate compilation of biblical manuscripts.

  • Dutch

    Mackrel,

    In that book. you have found what you were looking for…more “proof” of the fallacy of The Bible. Keep looking, I am sure you will find more and more “scholarly” books to verify what you already believe.

    Here is part of a scholarly review of Mr. ehrman’s book.

    “In other words, the idea that the variants in the NT manuscripts alter the theology of the NT is overstated at best. Unfortunately, as careful a scholar as Ehrman is, his treatment of major theological changes in the text of the NT tends to fall under one of two criticisms: Either his textual decisions are wrong, or his interpretation is wrong.”

    It all comes down to interpretation. Which is why we
    2Pe 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

    Another quote from the review

    “Finally, regarding 1 John 5:7-8, virtually no modern translation of the Bible includes the “Trinitarian formula,” since scholars for centuries have recognized it as added later. Only a few very late manuscripts have the verses. One wonders why this passage is even discussed in Ehrman’s book. The only reason seems to be to fuel doubts. The passage made its way into our Bibles through political pressure, appearing for the first time in 1522, even though scholars then and now knew that it is not authentic. The early church did not know of this text, yet the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451 affirmed explicitly the Trinity! How could they do this without the benefit of a text that didn’t get into the Greek NT for another millennium? Chalcedon’s statement was not written in a vacuum: the early church put into a theological formulation what they saw in the NT.”

    Good day

  • mackrelmint

    Hi Dutch,
    thanks for the reply. Two things: Have you read the book I mentioned or did you just read a negative review?
    I think that ANY believer should be well aquainted with the history of how their scriptures came to be. This book explains quite a bit of that history and should not be dismissed outright based on a single critical review without reading it for yourself.
    I mentioned the book only because you mentioned the KJV and its accuracy and this book presents the historical facts and discusses the manuscripts used in the creation of the KJV.

    Secondly, you’ve made a big assumption about me and my motivation for reading Misquoting Jesus being that I was looking for proof of the fallacy of the Bible prior to reading it. You were wrong. I read it because I wanted to know how the Bible was put together and chose to read about this as written by a scholar who studies the history of the Bible for a living, as Ehrman does. I’ve read about the Bible’s history before but did not have a succinct text that presented much of its history as this book seemd to be able to do when I saw it in the bookstore. It didn’t disappoint and I still think that you should read it and judge it for yourself.

    Regards.

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    I use the KJV, because we believe it to be the most accurate.

    Does your little word substitution game work in the original languages as well?

    If you want to be accurate it makes the most sense to go to the originals.

  • Dutch

    Hi mackrel,

    I read reviews before I buy or rent a book. Reviews are not necessarily accurate, I know that, but reading multiple reviews from different reviewers is all I have. I spend too much time reading, My latest was “Einstein and Religion.”
    Do you deny this wasn’t in this book?

    “Finally, regarding 1 John 5:7-8, virtually no modern translation of the Bible includes the “Trinitarian formula,” since scholars for centuries have recognized it as added later. Only a few very late manuscripts have the verses. One wonders why this passage is even discussed in Ehrman’s book. The only reason seems to be to fuel doubts. The passage made its way into our Bibles through political pressure, appearing for the first time in 1522, even though scholars then and now knew that it is not authentic. The early church did not know of this text, yet the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451 affirmed explicitly the Trinity! How could they do this without the benefit of a text that didn’t get into the Greek NT for another millennium? Chalcedon’s statement was not written in a vacuum: the early church put into a theological formulation what they saw in the NT.”
    This was a very long laborious review, and enough for me not to buy the book, but that is not the only reason – time is precious, and better spent at studying The Bible with occasional light reading.

    Your sincere reply gives me hope that we can all get along, Dutch

  • http://www.dougpaulsen.com Doug

    OMFG:

    Although I agree with you that god can choose to not exercise his omnipotence, can god choose to not know everything? I submit that that is logically impossible for an omniscient being, therefore god can not give up his omniscience. Therefore, free will is mutually exclusive to omniscience.

    This is almost pointless, but I’ll say it anyway. If God is omnipotent, I don’t see any logically necessary reason why God could not choose to remain ignorant of something. Also, I see no reason why God would have to give up his omniscience to remain consistent with giving humans free will. He could have known what evil would happen but made the choice to do it anyway.

    I only write this because it brings up some weird chicken/egg type questions that arise with a omnipotent, omniscient, fully good being. i.e. Can God choose to give up his knowledge of some things because he is omnipotent? If he can, does he remain omniscient? (I think yes, but…) Is he still omnipotent if he cannot choose to give up said knowledge?

    And on into pointlessness…

  • Eric

    Dutch,

    You said:

    “Circular reasoning indeed. I use The Bible because it is under constant attack by atheists who like most Christians think it a historical document. I, in fact every member of our church, use The Bible to interpret itself – I suppose you can call that circular reasoning. Man’s interpretation is worthless.”

    This statement says it all. You are clearly NOT rational and any further discourse with you will serve no purpose. You have little intellectual ability and have admitted to using circular reasoning which is not valid.

    I feel very sorry for people like you Dutch. You seem to have some shred of intelligence yet you are afraid to use it and actually be HONEST with yourself or the obvious evidence in front of you.

    Arguning fuurther with you is like trying to teach a pig to ride a bicycle. You only waste your tme and annoy the pig.

  • OMGF

    MS,

    Simply stated, one of my criteria for the aforementioned list will be for atheism/naturalism/materialism to provide a more satisfactory explanation for the seemingly universal human recognition of good and evil than theism does.

    Evolution. Next.

    I am just not convinced that that understanding is the best explanation given the observations or the most viscerally satisfying once pushed to its logical conclusion.

    Any explanation I give would actually be preferrable to the religious explanation provided I give any scrap of evidence. The religious explanation has no evidence and isn’t really an explanation anyway. “godsaidso” is not an explanation for why one thing is good and another bad.

    Dutch,

    Why so? Did not Jesus suffer? Did He not say, “father take this cup away from me?” How is this possible? It is possible because of His love. In order for God to share everything(everything, do you hear me), He had to share in all the bad stuff He knows.

    Again, this does not answer the question. How is it logically possible for a perfect being to suffer? How does god know anything about suffering or fear or anything like that if he is perfect? In order to know fear, god would have to know what it is to experience fear. In order to experience fear, god would have to feel as though he lacked the power to protect himself. If god is omnipotent and knows it, then he knows that he can not be harmed, so therefore he can not feel fear. This is yet one more example of the contradictory nature of your god.

    How do you explain evil, suffering, pain and death to somebody who has never experienced one second of these.

    Why would an omni-benevolent being want to?

    I no longer think it is my writing alone, but your inability to grasp the unseen spiritual realm.

    If we must believe as you do in order to understand you (relativism anyone?) then perhaps it is not our failing that you think your subjective beliefs somehow shape the objective world around you.

    Doug,

    If God is omnipotent, I don’t see any logically necessary reason why God could not choose to remain ignorant of something.

    Because it is in direct contradiction with god being omniscient.

    Also, I see no reason why God would have to give up his omniscience to remain consistent with giving humans free will. He could have known what evil would happen but made the choice to do it anyway.

    If he knew what would happen when he created the universe, he set us on a deterministic path, therefore there is no free will. Also, it really paints a bad picture for the supposedly omni-benevolent god.

    I only write this because it brings up some weird chicken/egg type questions that arise with a omnipotent, omniscient, fully good being.

    Actually, it’s more contradictory than anything else. That’s the point. The idea of an omni-max being is logically, inherently contradictory. It’s not a ‘which came first’ sort of question so much as a ‘is it actually possible’ sort of question. And, the resounding answer is, “No.”

  • OMGF

    BTW Dutch,
    I second the comment that you should actually read Ehrman’s book. I have read it and I can assure you that all of the bad reviews that I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a lot from theists that look for any excuse not to read about their scriptures’ failings) are based on a couple things that aren’t valid criticisms. First, they are invariably by Xians that are freaking out because they think that people will read the book and become disenchanted, as if that makes the points wrong (it does not). Second, they usually try to say that all of the points made by Ehrman don’t change the basic Xian tenet, which is a hollow criticism because Ehrman never makes the claim that it does. To me, some of the points do present some serious challenges to Xianity, but no one is pretending that it disproves the whole thing. Another tactic is the one that your reviewer hit upon, where Ehrman is attacked because he points out that such and such verse is made up, but Xians had the concept anyway, so therefore Ehrman is somehow wrong. This is a logical fallacy, however, in that it doesn’t matter what Xians believed and when. Ehrman is only concerned with textual analysis of the literature. I’ve yet to see a review that actually makes cogent points against his work as a textual scholar.

  • MS

    OMGF

    “Any explanation I give would actually be preferrable to the religious explanation provided I give any scrap of evidence. The religious explanation has no evidence and isn’t really an explanation anyway. “godsaidso” is not an explanation for why one thing is good and another bad.”

    Why don’t you try one then? Would be glad to read it. BTW, I didn’t give a religious explanation…

    “Evolution. Next.” You’re a cheap date. I wish I were as easily satisfied :)

  • OMGF

    MS,

    Why don’t you try one then? Would be glad to read it. BTW, I didn’t give a religious explanation…

    I already did, “evolution.” And, no, you didn’t give any explanation, but any explanation I’ve ever encountered or have logically thought about that emanates from religious sources is ultimately doomed to not being an explanation at all.

    You’re a cheap date. I wish I were as easily satisfied :)

    Well, it’s a pretty obvious thing. Look at other animals, they have moral development too. Our ideas of good and evil come from our evolutionary development. They’ve also continued to evolve quite independently of religion, thank you very much. In fact, religion is a confounding force in our moral development in that religion teaches us that god thinks it’s OK to have slaves, or to treat women as subhuman (or at least not as good as men) for just a couple instances. Xianity in particular teaches us that we are evil beings, incapable of being good and therefore bound for hell. This doesn’t develop moral thought, it retards it. And, we don’t need the Bible to tell us the golden rule, especially since it was around long before Jesus. Heck, we knew about the golden rule before we even split off from apes.

  • Dutch

    Hey OMGF,
    Upon rereading an earlier post I can see why you where miffed. I can’t make much sense of this either. My apologies. I should proofread what I write :)

    “Keep up the good work. I hope to see much more refutations of The Bible, our church grows….You will never refute The Bible, Dutch”

    You said, “Huh?”

    Can’t say I blame you

  • OMGF

    Dutch,
    I’m not miffed, just persistent and patient. I’d still like to hear your logical defense of how a perfect being can suffer.

  • Mrnaglfar

    MS,

    Evolution is in fact the correct answer to our moral development, but I can’t really explain every single aspect at once. If you’d like to know about a specific development in our moral systems, I can do my best to give you answer.

  • MS

    OMGF,

    So the entire rationale is “look at other animals, they have moral development too?” Not very convincing and certainly not obvious. Then there is the predictable rant against religions and bibles, which, once again, I never mentioned.

  • Dutch

    Eric,

    “I feel very sorry for people like you Dutch. You seem to have some shred of intelligence yet you are afraid to use it and actually be HONEST with yourself or the obvious evidence in front of you.”

    I can’t help it Eric. I know what I know and I have been shown what I have been shown. I agree you can’t really argue with a person that says The Bible is spiritual not carnal. Any event described in The Bible needs to be discerned spiritually – IT DIDN’T HAPPEN HERE!

    It annoys you then? I am not rational?

    You may dismiss me as an irrational lunatic just like any church in our area does, but you will not dismiss the consequences of a loss of Christianity – watch Europe.

    Good day

  • Mrnaglfar

    Dutch,

    but you will not dismiss the consequences of a loss of Christianity – watch Europe.

    What exactly are you expecting to happen?

  • Dutch

    OMGF,

    I don’t know whether I can provide a logical explanation of “how a perfect being can suffer.” How He can suffer seems to be addressing the mechanics of how this is done rather than the question of why He chose to suffer in the first place. The mechanics part is the easier for me to understand, and I suppose very difficult for you. By the way, “perfect being” is not how I think of God, although it is the visible image of Him, but that is semantics. Answering your question as to how, that is simple, Christ(God) in us, has and is suffering, so God suffers. I think that answers your question of how, but again, you don’t believe that. In Genesis
    Gen 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
    How can you know evil unless you have experienced evil and it’s affects firsthand?
    As to why, I have trouble with that one. He did create what we see, of that I am sure. But why would he create all of this suffering(hell) would it not be better that none of it existed in the first place? Then He suffers the same as we do, but worse. Worse, because we only live one lifetime in hell, but He lives forever, and has all of the vile experiences of both man and animal that ever lived. Why did he do that, why not be all by Him/Herself, and not share His knowledge with us(Adam)?

    These are musings that will be answered, but right now, I cannot fully comprehend Him. I do know we tend to be stuck with what we can see, hear, taste, and smell…we are stuck in trying to understand a place where time doesn’t exist.

    I regret I cannot fully answer your question, Dutch

  • MS

    Mrnaglfar

    Not being qualified to discuss evolution, I will just listen. A favorite example or two of the evolutionary moral development you alluded to would be fine. Much appreciated…

  • Eric

    Dutch,
    but you will not dismiss the consequences of a loss of Christianity – watch Europe.
    What exactly are you expecting to happen?
    Comment by: Mrnaglfar

    Hey Mrnagflar!

    I am going to respond to you because I will waste no more time with the irrational folks!

    I would ask the same question you did regarding Europe. What is the expected result of “watching Europe”? Having lived in Europe for a short spell (Paris) and spending time and working throughout other parts of Europe (Italy, Belgium and Iceland) I can say that the ability of many European nations to separate the supernatural from government and the rules applying to citizens daily lives is much more progressive than the USA. And the European nations that I experienced this in are vibrant, and rational on the whole. Even in Iceland where the Lutheran’s dominate the religious sector, there is a clear line drawn in the sand. Here on one side is the supernatural area, go ahead and go to church etc…but they simply do not allow it to overlap into the runnings of the country. There are very VERY few restrictive laws governing a woman’s womb, or how homosexuals may or may not run their lives. There is no forcing of creationsim or ID down the throats of young children (and why the Europeans are leading the world in science and mathematics) nor forced iindoctrination of supernatural teachings. There are no forced pledges to a nation under “god” or other such blather and nonsense.

    If anything, the USA could stand to leanr a LOT from many of the European models.

    Once again, the irrational, supernatural followers have things inverted, or bettewr worded, PERVERTED.

  • http://mindstalk.net Damien R. S.

    MS,
    “atheism/naturalism/materialism to provide a more satisfactory explanation for the seemingly universal human recognition of good and evil than theism does”

    Well, from a biological perspective, we’re social animals. Each of us will naturally have things we find desirable or undesirable: food, comfort, sex, children; pain. As social animals we also draw pleasure from companionship and status, and pain from social attacks, and have to face the question of how to get along in society given our conflicting genetic and other interests. As a social animal that evolved to live in large families or clans, genetically related groups, and that relies on proximity and appearance to gauge relatedness, we have further tension between our own group and others. We need each other to live, but we also have interests diverging from other members of our family/in-group, and even more divergence between us and other families/groups. And finally, we’re linguistic animals, so we can not just judge behavior we like or don’t like, but talk to each other about it, and urge certain behaviors (whether or not we plan to follow them ourselves.)

    So the fundamental core of good and evil is behavior by others that helps or harms us. Talking about things within the group, we’d agree that ‘good’ behavior helps us in some way (which can vary from equal treatment to obeying the clan elders, who’ll make decisions for all their descendants) while evil harms members of the group. This should be apparent as enlightened self-interest.

    Only, we don’t actually consciously work it through each generation; much of this will be in our genes, or in the culture absorbed in childhood. Favoring one’s neighbors somewhat, and defending them if they’re attacked, is selected for by natural selection.

    Hmm, I think I’m rambling. To be briefer, I think it should be obvious why we’d consider things like murder or assault or theft to be evil, at least as applied to ourselves; animals that don’t defend themselves or their food sources won’t survive and reproduce. Since we’re social, we’d extend that to relatives, or group members. Also given that we’re social, it would behoove us to notice when people do favors for us, and to return those favors; this is called reciprocal altruism, and has evolved in a lot of species, or even between species. And if we find someone being altruistic to everyone, we may well be inclined to praise that, since it helps us, even while thinking privately that it’s rather foolish.

    But again, we’re not actually thinking about things all the time; we have emotional responses selected to be adaptive. So if someone does us a favor, we don’t necessarily think “favor, must return it”; instead we feel gratitude and a feeling of liking, and want to do things for them. Niceness inspires niceness. Which may explain why we often feel genuine respect for a general altruist. He’s nice to us, he’s nice to everyone, we should be nice to him! And then human thinking does kick in, with thoughts like “wow, wouldn’t it be so much nicer if we were all just nice to each other, rather than fighting all the time?” And we can recognize that yes, that would be nice at some level, but most of us aren’t going to live that way unless everyone else does, and life continues as normal.

    Why have emotions? They’re might be faster and more reliable than counting on conscious thought to produce the right answer all the time, in time. Perhaps more importantly, they’d be carried over from our animal ancestors.

    Still rambling. But I’d say a sense of good and evil is explainable (via evolution and game theory) and expectable and necessary for a social animal. Hypocrisy and deviations from good behavior are also expectable, even leaving out the psychopaths who have a minimal sense of empathy so don’t partake in all this.

    Well, there’s a lot more that could be said, such as about childhood sense of fair division of food among siblings, or monkeys who have shown in the lab a sense of equal pay for equal work, but this might be a start.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Damien,

    Allow me to add to you answer if you will.

    As a social animal that evolved to live in large families or clans, genetically related groups, and that relies on proximity and appearance to gauge relatedness, we have further tension between our own group and others

    Among these groups, alturistic behavior also evolved because the people you were helping were also likely to be carrying a certain percentage of shared genes:50% between direct siblings and parents. So by helping them you’d be helping yourself as well. By helping the group, you gain a strong reputation, and reputation would have been the “currency” of the early world, if you will, when food or tools were temporary things.
    However, that also raises another point in regards to pair bonds (men and women in a relationship). Lots of interesting things can be inferred from these bonds, such as our relative body and sexual organ size predicting we’d be a mildly polygenous species (which we tend to be), and how the relative sizes of the other apes bodies and sexual organs express their different mating styles (for instance, chimps have the largest of the testicles since the females will mate with any of them, but the chimp males do not help in child raising since they have no genetic assurance it’s their offspring). I bring this up to express the different risks faced by each sex in this early environment; for males they faced the risk of being cuckolded, which is raising a child that isn’t theirs, whereas females faced the risk of being abandoned by her mate, which in that early environment could have been a death sentence for the mother and her child. We would expect that behavior would reflect this pattern and it’s indeed what we find. Studies have found males have an uncanny ability to pick out an infant’s face with 50% of their features morphed into it using a computer program among 4 or 5 other distractors. Likewise, children that less resemble the father are more likely to be abused, neglected, or abandoned, which is a reason children show a paternal bias in their looks.

    A lot to take in at once, and it’s not even scratching the surface.

    And finally, we’re linguistic animals, so we can not just judge behavior we like or don’t like, but talk to each other about it, and urge certain behaviors (whether or not we plan to follow them ourselves.)

    Don’t quote me on this number, but last I knew it was something around 70% or so of what people talk about is other people.
    Not to mention our social animal status means that those undergoing social isolation are at increased risks of medical issues, depression, and die at rates roughly twice as high as those who are in relationships with children. They also recover from wounds as a decreased rate, among many other nasty little effects. In short, evolution has put a strong incentive on our being social relative to our physical and mental health as well.

    Only, we don’t actually consciously work it through each generation; much of this will be in our genes, or in the culture absorbed in childhood.

    A very important point; we hardly notice these things because we’re not working them out in our head consciously, mainly because we don’t need to; having a feeling about something on an emotional level is probably a “good-enough” scenerio in that it doesn’t get hits all the time, but works more efficently than a system that would.
    Some examples of this are grandparents investing more in grandchildren of their daughters, people will greater levels of bi-lateral symmetry being rated as more attractive, intelligent, moral, likely to have sex at earlier ages, likely to be more fertile, likely to cheat in relationships at a higher rate, likely to be choosen as a parenter for an extra pair copulation (cheating), among a long list of other factors. No one works out bi-laterial symmetry consciously, they just see a face that happens to be more symmetrical and that become an attractive feature; the system works efficently enought that way.

    Some of our worse habits as well can be examined under an evolutionary light, like rape for instance. Studies have shown that women are less likely to get raped at a time when they are ovulating, yet more likely by a factor of 2-6 times more likely to become pregnant as a result. In male semen there is sperm and seminal fluid, but in that seminal fluid there is a list of chemicals and minerals naturally found in the male’s body about 2 pages long; however, there are also two chemicals in the male’s seminal fluid that are found in the females bodies, LH and FSH, which are the two responsible for the woman’s body maturing and releasing an egg (men, this is one of the reasons the rhythm method won’t work). Though it has not yet been tested to my knowledge, a hypothesis would be that during a scenerio of rape, these two chemicals are released in great amounts. It’s also no surprise that the most likely candidates to commit rape are low status, low income males who do not have access to consensual sexual oppertunity.
    There’s more to say, but this is already running long and I hardly touched the body of data around what evolutionary psychology I know.

  • mackrelmint

    Hi again Dutch,
    OMGF had some good comments about Ehrman’s book and as I agree with his assessment, I’ll try not to repeat what he’s already said. I’ll try to briefly respond to your question about the reviewer’s comment regarding 1 John 5:7-8. I should add however, that I’m not Ehrman and have not spent 30 years learning textual criticism or the history of the early church and the life of Jesus as he has. I’m a biologist by training and read books such as Ehrman’s in my free time. I won’t pretend to speak for him and I’ll say again that if his topic appeals to you, regardless of reviews you read, I suggest giving it a go and seeing what he has to say for yourself without relying on someone else’s interpretation, including mine. (As you suggest doing with the Bible. I think the same principle applies.)
    The reviewer you quoted said “In other words, the idea that the variants in the NT manuscripts alter the theology of the NT is overstated at best. Unfortunately, as careful a scholar as Ehrman is, his treatment of major theological changes in the text of the NT tends to fall under one of two criticisms: Either his textual decisions are wrong, or his interpretation is wrong.” and having read Ehrman’s book, I suggest that perhaps this reviewer’s interpretation of Ehrman’s book is wrong. I’d like some specific evidence of how Ehrman’s scholarship is in error before I’d agree with this reviewer. Ehrman shows how particular passages in the NT were changed in various manuscripts and provides factual evidence to support his assertions. He’s also very careful to point out when he’s making an interpretation of his own regarding particular changes that are under some dispute as compared to changes that are obvious scribal errors, for instance.

    You asked if this was in Ehrman’s book: “Finally, regarding 1 John 5:7-8, virtually no modern translation of the Bible includes the “Trinitarian formula,” since scholars for centuries have recognized it as added later. Only a few very late manuscripts have the verses. One wonders why this passage is even discussed in Ehrman’s book. The only reason seems to be to fuel doubts. The passage made its way into our Bibles through political pressure, appearing for the first time in 1522, even though scholars then and now knew that it is not authentic. The early church did not know of this text, yet the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451 affirmed explicitly the Trinity! How could they do this without the benefit of a text that didn’t get into the Greek NT for another millennium? Chalcedon’s statement was not written in a vacuum: the early church put into a theological formulation what they saw in the NT.”

    Ehrman discusses this passage specifically because some modern translations of the Bible (such as the King James Version) DO include the passage “There are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one” although not all translations do (My NIV and Gideon versions both omit that version of the verse but do put it in a footnote below on the same page, noting that it was not in early manuscripts. Ehrman doesn’t specifically say which translations don’t include it but later recommends the New Revised Standard Version as the available version most closely resembling original texts.
    I would strongly disagree with your reviewer’s interpretation of Ehrman’s motivation for discussing that particular passage as being in order “to fuel doubts”. Ehrman discusses it more than once in his book and each time, explains why he did so, which was never “to fuel doubt” in his readers. (E.g., In one case, it was simply to tell the historical story of how this passage came to be included in a particular NT edition created by Erasmus, even though the passage was not in any of the Greek texts Erasmus consulted, which is actually in agreement with part of your reviewer’s assessment, as Erasmus DID include it because of political pressure, as Erhman explains.)
    I’m going to wrap up here because there’s no point debating a reviewer I haven’t read or your opinion of a book you haven’t read particularly if you are bound and determined not to read anything that might conflict with your apriori beliefs regarding the veracity or inerrancy of the Bible. You wrongly accused me of picking and choosing only texts that agree with my own previously held beliefs and I gently suggest that you might be doing the same thing here.
    As you say, you invest much of your spare time studying the Bible. I suggest that part your Bible studies should include becoming familiar with how the particular version you use came to be. Ehrman tells part of that story and I believe his book would be of benefit to you, regardless of where you stand regarding Biblical inerrancy.
    I stopped surrounding myself only with ideas to which I already held and was willing to entertain new knowledge, philosophies and ideas in order to assess them for myself rather than to remain in ignorance, figuratively covering my ears and shouting “I don’t want to hear that. Don’t tell me”. Since that time, I’ve found it very freeing to be able to think about any ideas, for how else am I to retain or discard those that seem most correct or incorrect? I welcome you to do the same.
    It’s been a good discussion.

    Cheers,
    Mackrelmint

  • Randall

    Wedge: if you see this and still want me to address your points, I will do so gladly.
    Otherwise I will move on to the multitude of other posts, or at least the most important points.

  • Randall

    2-D Man: those in Heaven have made a choice to give up evil. Those on Earth, if God had taken their free will away, would never have had that choice. The end result is similar, but the paths are different.

    A logical explanation of Heaven depends on your starting definition of God. For example, if God loves us so much, Heaven will be a state in which we are full of love. If our wills are united with God’s, then we will not desire evil. If God is not bound by time, neither will Heaven be. Simple logic, depending on how you define God.

    “This statement is an explicit admission that it is possible to have free will and not wish to choose evil. This is actually quite a cogent statement against your argument regarding free will.”

    Of course it’s possible to not choose evil. I doubt that it’s possible to stop desiring evil.

    “Of course, free will is contradictory with the idea of an omni-max god, but who’s counting?”

    I suppose so, but I don’t call God “omni-max.”

    “I also find it odd that Xianity holds that man is incapable of being good. Apparently we have free will, which gives us the ability to commit evil, but we are utterly unable to commit only good. According to Randall’s logic, this means that we don’t actually have free will, because we can’t always choose to be good.”

    Why can’t we, and what logic are you referring to? Perfection on earth is impossible in the sense that none of us are capable of it, but it is theoretically possible to do good and good alone. It’s just that none of us have ever done it, or ever will.

  • 2-D Man

    those in Heaven have made a choice to give up evil. Those on Earth, if God had taken their free will away, would never have had that choice.

    So we don’t have free will in heaven, then.

    If our wills are united with God’s, then we will not desire evil. (emphasis added)

    Of course it’s possible to not choose evil. I doubt that it’s possible to stop desiring evil. (emphasis added)

    You’ve raised the point that an omnipotent god cannot get people to stop desiring evil without mucking about with their free will. If it’s not possible to stop desiring evil, but we don’t desire evil once we get to heave; we can conclude that it is not us that will be in heaven since we do, at times desire things that are evil.

    Further, if we become so filled with God’s love that we cannot conceive of evil, then we really will be just a bunch of automatons wandering around in eternal bliss. Or to rephrase: to fuse a finite being’s will to that of an infinite being would result in the finite being’s will being destroyed or becoming negligible; its will is no longer its own. Infinity plus one is still infinity, as is minus one.

    The last point that I’d like to make right now is that you mention that, “A logical explanation of Heaven depends on your starting definition of God.” Yet you don’t give one. You jump right into examples. Please define God so you can put forward a logical explaination of Heaven.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    I’ve been hanging on tinterhooks for three or four days for this so-called “logical explanation of heaven.” I’ll have to set to work on the problem myself soon, if’n Randall doesn’t show his cards. Unfortunately it’ll have to await the completion of my research alien abductions and their logical inevitability.

  • MS

    Mrnaglfar & Damien,

    A tip of the hat to both of you. That’s a load of time and effort spent on behalf of a total stranger, especially when you have no particular reason to expect anything in return. This exercise is a big help to me with some works in progress.

    Purchasing books on a topic you are not familiar with is helpful, but it only approximates what you get from allowing folks who operate from within a discipline or worldview to explain their assertions and conclusions in their own words. A truncated portion from JS Mill says it better:

    “That is not the way to do justice to the arguments, or bring them into real contact wth his own mind. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them; who defend them in earnest, and do their utmost for them. He must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form;”

    For the content of the posts, I will stay true to my promise to be a listener and not a commenter when it comes to evolution; however, let me just quickly say that what you have written seems rational and logical to a scientific layman. I read them three times each before writing this and did not get the dreaded blog “urge to argue” reaction.

    Moreover, you surely realize I am a theist lurking around an atheist website; yet I didn’t have to sift through comments regarding my irrationality or my ignorant trolling. So, let me just say thanks again for taking the time out to help, much appreciated.

  • Benjamin Johnson

    Ebonmuse,
    Greetings from the University of Toronto. I’ve just found your blog on a google search for information on apocalypticism. I promise many future visits and comments on your blog.
    Let me apologize for the way my fellow Christians have acted, and apparently, have reasoned with you.
    You’ve got us on this one. The argument, that this is the only way God could have created the world, is definitely a contradiction to our belief in an all-powerful God.
    My only thought on that right now is that I think God did create a perfect world, but we, through selfish ambition, have messed it up.
    Now, why God created us with an ability to be selfish and to mess things up is beyond my rationale at the moment,
    Talk to you soon,
    Ben

  • Dutch

    Mackrel,

    Thanks for your input,
    Dutch

  • goyo

    Dutch, MS, Benjamin: Answer me a question: Why is it after almost ten years since my deconversion,(realizing I am an atheist), which includes not praying for god’s help in any manner, not attending church, and not looking for god’s help in any situation, I’ll bet you that our lives are not really that different.
    I’ve had deaths in the family, financial problems, solutions to those problems, good times, bad times, ups, downs, etc. and still I’m alive and well, and prospering.
    Why does an analytical person still see the need to believe in anything superstitious?
    Don’t you see that prayer doesn’t work? Why am I no different than any other person in your congregation?

  • Randall

    Goyo: it’s impossible to answer without knowing what you were like before your deconversion, how you prayed, what you prayed for…there are too many variables to tell. For my part, prayer, seeking God’s help, and doing my best to hold to my faith have helped me immensely, especially compared to the times when I have not prayed, abandoned my trust in God, and tried to do it my way. An analytical person in my situation would be wrong to call this “substitution.”

  • Randall

    Sorry; “superstition” not “substitution”!!

    “So we don’t have free will in heaven, then.”

    I would say no, because we have already made our choice. I have the free will to choose Door A or Door B; once I have stepped through either one, I cannot use my free will to undo that choice. If we have chosen to follow God’s will totally, we can’t go back and un-commit. The difference is that God cannot force Himself upon us. Getting to Heaven, as I understand it, requires surrender of selfishness, but only a voluntary surrender can be considered a surrender at all. If God prevents an evil man from striking a child, he is preventing that man from making an evil choice; but good choices, like evil ones, cannot really be called “good” or “evil” if they are the result of compulsion. In the same way, there would have been no point to creating creatures incapable of making choices. God designed us for ultimate happiness, which is ultimate union with Him, which is Heaven. If you can only get to Heaven by free choice, then free will is required to get to Heaven.

    OMGF, to refer to an earlier example: yes. In that paradoxical situation, I believe that I would still have “free will” as long as I am still free to make whatever decisions I like. If I choose to make a choice other than that listed in the book, then either the book will reflect that, or the book isn’t truly accurate, in which case God wouldn’t have given it to me. It is quite possible, depending on your understanding of “time” and your definition of “coercion” that such a book could not exist in time. We call God omniscient; without knowing the doctrine, I understand God to exist outside time. All of creation to God would be as one moment; he would not “know” what we are “going” to do, but “see” it from his unbounded viewpoint. To quote C.S. Lewis, “To watch a man doing something is not to make him do it.”

    “You’ve got us on this one. The argument, that this is the only way God could have created the world, is definitely a contradiction to our belief in an all-powerful God.”

    I don’t agree with this, because I think that many people in this thread are using a flawed definition of “all-powerful.” Power is the ability to do things, to accomplish one’s will; it doesn’t mean being able to do paradoxes, which aren’t “things” but impossibilities, and it doesn’t necessarily mean being able to do things outside one’s own will. It also doesn’t mean being able to contradict oneself. If God wants to give us a gift of free will, then he can do so; this means only that he is placing limits on himself, or that he already has limits placed on him, limits which are defined by his will. Simply put, God is limited by his own will and his own nature. I don’t see that this makes him less than omnipotent; what it does is make him internally consistent.

    “My only thought on that right now is that I think God did create a perfect world, but we, through selfish ambition, have messed it up.”

    Christian thought generally agrees with this statement also. God created a world without suffering, knowing that at some point humanity was going to mess it up, but being powerless to stop it without preventing us from making a bad choice. We attribute much (if not all) of the world’s present suffering and brokenness to this original rejection of God, which is metaphorically described by the story of Adam and Eve.

    2-D Man:

    “You’ve raised the point that an omnipotent god cannot get people to stop desiring evil without mucking about with their free will.”

    I should have said “Impossible for us.” All things are possible for God. But you are technically correct; God cannot “get” people to stop desiring evil without taking away their free will. He can respond to our own free choice to turn away from evil as much as possible; but this free choice is the only way we can get God’s grace.

    “If it’s not possible to stop desiring evil, but we don’t desire evil once we get to heave; we can conclude that it is not us that will be in heaven since we do, at times desire things that are evil.”

    Our difference is one of semantics. Although theoretically possible, it is impossible for us, by our own lights, to avoid evil while on earth; this is evidenced by the fact that no one has ever successfully done so (at least as far as we know) But it is possible for God to help us to stop desiring evil; this is “grace”. The doctrine of Purgatory teaches that we will be cleansed after death in order to finish the process of purification; but, like any rehabilitation program for an addictive substance, this requires a desire to stop and a commitment.

    “Further, if we become so filled with God’s love that we cannot conceive of evil, then we really will be just a bunch of automatons wandering around in eternal bliss.”

    I doubt that we will be unable to conceive of evil; that would be precisely why we would want to avoid it.

    “Or to rephrase: to fuse a finite being’s will to that of an infinite being would result in the finite being’s will being destroyed or becoming negligible; its will is no longer its own. Infinity plus one is still infinity, as is minus one.”

    Destruction of self-will doesn’t mean destruction of the being, and self-will is only part of the total will. I can choose good, or I can choose evil; by choosing good, I become more reluctant to choose evil, and vice versa. Take either of these to its limit, and you are left with two choices: eternal communion with God or eternal separation. If you choose eternal communion, you choose to abandon evil, and thus abandon the part of your will that strives toward evil. What’s left after the fusion would naturally be the free will that strives toward good.

    “The last point that I’d like to make right now is that you mention that, “A logical explanation of Heaven depends on your starting definition of God.” Yet you don’t give one. You jump right into examples. Please define God so you can put forward a logical explaination of Heaven.”

    Gladly. But I will have to ask you to wait past tonight.

    “Again, this does not answer the question. How is it logically possible for a perfect being to suffer?”

    By connection with the imperfect, for starters. And why does “perfection” imply a lack of suffering? How else would someone be “made perfect through suffering”?

    “In order to know fear, god would have to know what it is to experience fear. In order to experience fear, god would have to feel as though he lacked the power to protect himself. If god is omnipotent and knows it, then he knows that he can not be harmed, so therefore he can not feel fear. This is yet one more example of the contradictory nature of your god.”

    Depends on what one is afraid of; harm is not the only thing to be feared. Jesus was most certainly afraid of death by crucifixion. One could make an argument, I suppose, that God does not understand fear, or evil of any sort, but as to evil, I would argue that He understands it better than anyone else, and the question of fear diverts from your original question, which is “Can God suffer?” The answer to that is most certainly “Yes” and I admit that I don’t see why there is any question as to the logic of it.

  • OMGF

    MS,

    So the entire rationale is “look at other animals, they have moral development too?” Not very convincing and certainly not obvious. Then there is the predictable rant against religions and bibles, which, once again, I never mentioned.

    I wasn’t around yesterday, but I see that Mrnaglfar and Damien R.S. both gave wonderful answers to your original question. Of course, your original question was:

    …atheism/naturalism/materialism to provide a more satisfactory explanation for the seemingly universal human recognition of good and evil than theism does…

    So, you are claiming that theism at least has some explanation, yet not venturing to put it forth so that we can show how our explanation is better. Besides, I’ve already argued against any explanation you can put forth, and your claims that my reasoning is invalid because you haven’t actually put forth any explanation at all ring rather hollow.

    Dutch,

    Answering your question as to how, that is simple, Christ(God) in us, has and is suffering, so God suffers.

    Then, god is not perfect. Only imperfect beings are capable of suffering, as suffering happens when one lacks something or is harmed in some way. It is not logically possible to harm a perfect being or for a perfect being to lack anything. Therefore god is not perfect. I see that you’ve already said you don’t think god is perfect, so now the question becomes, “How imperfect is god?” And, “Why should we worship this god that is imperfect?”

    But why would he create all of this suffering(hell) would it not be better that none of it existed in the first place? Then He suffers the same as we do, but worse. Worse, because we only live one lifetime in hell, but He lives forever, and has all of the vile experiences of both man and animal that ever lived. Why did he do that, why not be all by Him/Herself, and not share His knowledge with us(Adam)?

    These are musings that will be answered, but right now, I cannot fully comprehend Him.

    Yes, it would all be better if he did not create hell, that much is certain. Is god omni-benevolent? If so, then it most certainly would have been better for him to not create all this evil and suffering, which he had to consciously do (shown by logic). Further, if he suffers worse than we, then he’s not very great, is he? I’ll also note that you admit that you can not comprehend god, yet you seem to argue as if you can. If god really is beyond your comprehension, then how do you seem to know so much about his suffering, etc?

    Randall,

    A logical explanation of Heaven depends on your starting definition of God.

    As others have pointed out, you still have a ways to go.

    I suppose so, but I don’t call God “omni-max.”

    Then you don’t hold that god is omnipotent, omniscient, omni-benevolent, omni-just, omni-present, etc? That’s what omni-max means. IOW, it means perfection. Are you sure you don’t hold to that?

    Perfection on earth is impossible in the sense that none of us are capable of it, but it is theoretically possible to do good and good alone. It’s just that none of us have ever done it, or ever will.

    You are contradicting yourself here. If no one ever will, then it is not possible for us to choose only good, therefore we really don’t have free will because we can’t freely choose to do only good. Hence, your argument is in shambles right now. Besides, if we could choose to do only good, then we would not need saving, and Xianity holds that all humans need saving. Therefore, we do not have the free will to choose only good, and by your own argument we don’t have free will.

    OMGF, to refer to an earlier example: yes. In that paradoxical situation, I believe that I would still have “free will” as long as I am still free to make whatever decisions I like. If I choose to make a choice other than that listed in the book, then either the book will reflect that, or the book isn’t truly accurate, in which case God wouldn’t have given it to me.

    That’s the whole point, in that you would not have the ability to make any decisions you like. If you decided to do something contrary to what was in the book, then that would be a free choice, but it would show that god was wrong and therefore not omniscient. If god is truly omniscient, then you would have no choice but to do/say/think exactly what was in the book down to the letter. Considering that god could write this book at any time past or present, do you still think you have free will in the scenario of an omniscient god? It is a logical impossibility.

    I don’t agree with this, because I think that many people in this thread are using a flawed definition of “all-powerful.” Power is the ability to do things, to accomplish one’s will; it doesn’t mean being able to do paradoxes, which aren’t “things” but impossibilities, and it doesn’t necessarily mean being able to do things outside one’s own will.

    No, if god is omnipotent, then he must have the power to do what is outside of his will, only he can choose not to. I don’t see anyone making an argument saying god is not omnipotent if he can’t perform logical paradoxes, so I’m wondering where your complaint is coming from.

    God created a world without suffering, knowing that at some point humanity was going to mess it up, but being powerless to stop it without preventing us from making a bad choice. We attribute much (if not all) of the world’s present suffering and brokenness to this original rejection of God, which is metaphorically described by the story of Adam and Eve.

    god must truly be all wise in order to set up a system whereby he knew we would fail and then punishing us all for us doing exactly what he made us to do.

    I should have said “Impossible for us.” All things are possible for God. But you are technically correct; God cannot “get” people to stop desiring evil without taking away their free will.

    That is incorrect. We can still have free will without desiring evil or desiring good. We could be ambivilant about good or evil and still have free will. Yet, you seem to be arguing that we can’t have free will unless we are disposed to do evil? This is non-sensical.

    By connection with the imperfect, for starters. And why does “perfection” imply a lack of suffering? How else would someone be “made perfect through suffering”?

    One can not be made perfect through suffering, that is a contradiction. As I explained to Dutch above, perfection necessitates that one does not lack in any regard, yet suffering is caused by lacking something that is vital.

    Depends on what one is afraid of; harm is not the only thing to be feared.

    Fear can not come to a being that is omnipotent and aware of this fact. Fear is an emotion that only happens when one feels that one is not able to control one’s circumstances and could lead to a detriment to oneself. god can not be put in this position, since god’s power is always enough for god to provide for all his needs.

    Benjamin,

    My only thought on that right now is that I think God did create a perfect world, but we, through selfish ambition, have messed it up.

    If you hold that god is omniscient and omnipotent, then we only “messed it up” because god caused us to mess it up. Therefore, it was god’s plan all along to not have a perfect world and he is more to blame than any of us.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Randall, there’s something I’d like you to clarify. You earlier said this:

    It seems like some people here are arguing that a world of automata would have been better. “Psychologically incapable of committing sins?” What sort of life would that be? Do you really consider life as a puppet to be better than a life in which suffering is possible?

    This passage contains the strong implication that life as an “automaton”, without the free will to choose sin, would be undesirable and not worth living. Yet now you’re saying that this is precisely the state that will obtain in Heaven. Do you consider this a contradiction, and if not, why not? If being an automaton is an empty and impoverished state of existence, then surely this remains true whether that state was chosen or not, wouldn’t you agree?

  • MS

    Goyo,

    “Why am I no different than any other person in your congregation?” Shhhh. Not so loud. I won’t tell anyone:)

    Since you asked…

    Given what I presume to be your assumptions, I agree that no analytical person would be superstitious enough to pray. But assume that God exists for a moment and that He hears prayer. Given that, it is not superstitious.

    Why does prayer not work? Despite the non-christian faith theology being taught by many televangelists, prayer is not really about getting things, it is about aligning the pray-er with a will that already exists for their life. It is a conversation. (I know, I know, a one-sided conversation between a poor deluded soul and his imagination)

    I hope that you have someone in your life that you love and that loves you. By way of analogy, don’t you enjoy talking to that person without thought of bettering your life or what you can get out of them? Don’t you seek to stay in constant contact with them? Prayer is similar.

    Hope that helps and glad to hear that you are prospering. BTW-you really are like many Christians…they don’t pray either :)

  • benj

    OMGF,
    I struggle with the issue myself. Evil exists in a world which was supposedly created by a perfectly good God. Why?
    The answer that keeps coming back to me, in my theist circles, is that God was simply absent when the first sin was committed. But this is a contradiction to the belief in God’s omnipresence.
    However, I think that the answer is on to something. I think there is a difference in what God causes, and what God allows. God does not cause evil, but maybe God will allow evil things to occur for as long as he sees fit, to accomplish his plan. I wish he wouldn’t allow it. But that seems (to me) to be what is happening. I do not want to assume that I could do a better job, and tell God what would be a better plan.
    If the story of the cross is true… then that was a case of a very great evil being allowed to happen. But it was allowed to happen because it led to an even greater display of goodness and love.
    sorry if that comes across too strong,

  • Dutch

    OMGF, you said
    “Then, god is not perfect. Only imperfect beings are capable of suffering, as suffering happens when one lacks something or is harmed in some way. It is not logically possible to harm a perfect being or for a perfect being to lack anything. Therefore god is not perfect. I see that you’ve already said you don’t think god is perfect, so now the question becomes, “How imperfect is god?” And, “Why should we worship this god that is imperfect?”
    Only imperfect beings are capable of suffering? Says who? Perfect beings suffer perfectly? The following passage ought to say something -
    “Mar 14:36 And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.”
    Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

    The first pasage makes it very clear that God suffers. The second passage is just a little hint as to why He did so. Once we are out of this world, maybe you and I will have some idea of just how much love their is in God. That “begotten son” is you and I, yes even if you don’t believe it.
    Psa 139:8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
    Eph 4:6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

    By the way, I don’t recall saying that God wasn’t perfect. If I did, then I recant, because, I know He is perfect.

    Good day, Dutch

  • Dutch

    OMGF, you said
    “Then, god is not perfect. Only imperfect beings are capable of suffering, as suffering happens when one lacks something or is harmed in some way. It is not logically possible to harm a perfect being or for a perfect being to lack anything. Therefore god is not perfect. I see that you’ve already said you don’t think god is perfect, so now the question becomes, “How imperfect is god?” And, “Why should we worship this god that is imperfect?”
    Only imperfect beings are capable of suffering? Says who? Perfect beings suffer perfectly? The following passage ought to say something -
    “Mar 14:36 And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.”
    Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

    The first pasage makes it very clear that God suffers. The second passage is just a little hint as to why He did so. Once we are out of this world, maybe you and I will have some idea of just how much love their is in God. That “begotten son” is you and I, yes even if you don’t believe it.
    Psa 139:8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
    Eph 4:6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

    By the way, I don’t recall saying that God wasn’t perfect. If I did, then I recant, because, I know He is perfect.

    Good day, Dutch

  • WasAgod

    Dutch,

    The bible is true, only if god is true(ie. he exist and bears characteristics as stateed in the bible). I really cannot see the point of bringing the book into the arguement to proof the attributes of god, if the reliability and content of the book, is subjected to the reliability and substance of god itself.

  • Wedge

    Yet, you seem to be arguing that we can’t have free will unless we are disposed to do evil? This is non-sensical.

    Exactly. The whole free will argument seems to boil down to the idea that being predisposed to do bad things means you’re free, but being predisposed to do good things means you have no free will. It’s idiotic.

    Randall has decided not to answer questions from me, which is fine–I think anyone reading this thread can see why he won’t do so.

  • Dutch

    Wasagod,

    I can see your point of view by not quoting the Bible, affter all this is an atheists’ site.

    In Ebon’s article, Ebon states “The Problem of Evil.” I first wanted to make clear that God suffers the the same results of evil we do. Even if, as Christians believe, God created everything we see and don’t see, including The Universe and our Earth, then it must be deduced that God is suffering the same as we are. Remember, God is everywhere present.

    Ok, so now we are back at Ebon’s article asking why. In fact, why would God create so much suffering,not only for us, but for Himself also, could He have not done it better? That is a question only God can answer, but I will offer my explanation as best I know it. This is where I have attempted to explain this before, so I’ll be brief.(hold the applause)

    First of all, one might want to turn around the premise of this article. Instead of saying “the problem of evil,” we might consider the problem of good, and define what “good” really means. Is good the absence of evil, which would imply the absence of pain and suffering, but not only that, but also the constant availability of pleasure. You and I can well imagine an existance where we can eat our favorite foods, without ever feeling hungry, you could eat all day and not be filled. How about, as The Muslims believe, we have pretty, eager virgins lined up for our pleasure. Of course God could have programmed us to love Him eternally. All this time, God, knowing evil exists, keeps His subjects from it. I believe a more deeper understanding of love, as opposed to programmed love, requires knowledge of evil in all its forms. This is why I say “the problem of good.”
    One question I have, is God also learning evil? I have to constantly remind myself of the nonexistance of time. The Bible says He knows good and evil so I know He experienced(s) evil. Has it been done before,ie in other creations? This is one reason I believe in the probable existance of extraterrestrial life, quite possibly a universe teeming with life. Anyway, these are my musings.

    Yours in Christ, Dutch

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    If, Dutch, we’re suffering so we know what “good” is, why do we have to have what we currently consider “evil”? Couldn’t we learn to appreciate love, for example, by being exposed not to hate, but mere indifference? Instead of starving, merely be hungry? Instead of incurable cancers, mild colds?

    It seems to me that if those were the evils we contended with, with no knowledge of the worse ones, they would seem as evil as our current evils (and, of course, it’s possible that there is something much worse than what we call evil).

  • Dutch

    Nes,

    Then we would have mere love.

    Dutch

  • DamienSansBlog

    Dutch, perhaps I’ve misunderstood. Ebon asked not too long ago,

    This passage contains the strong implication that life as an “automaton”, without the free will to choose sin, would be undesirable and not worth living. Yet now you’re saying that this is precisely the state that will obtain in Heaven. Do you consider this a contradiction, and if not, why not?

    I’ve read your posts thus far, and none of them seem to touch on his question. Am I misreading what you’ve said? Did you answer him while I wasn’t looking, so to speak?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    That question was for Randall, actually, although I don’t think he’s made any attempt to answer it so far either, and I’d like to see what he says.

  • OMGF

    benj,

    However, I think that the answer is on to something. I think there is a difference in what God causes, and what God allows. God does not cause evil, but maybe God will allow evil things to occur for as long as he sees fit, to accomplish his plan.

    Why does an omnipotent being need evil in order to bring about his plan? Further, god does cause evil (read your Isaiah), especially if you take into account that god is the creator of the universe, meaning everything in it, including evil.

    I do not want to assume that I could do a better job, and tell God what would be a better plan.
    I don’t see why not. It doesn’t take a super intelligence beyond human ability to come up with a better plan.

    If the story of the cross is true… then that was a case of a very great evil being allowed to happen. But it was allowed to happen because it led to an even greater display of goodness and love.

    And eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, as Ghandi famously quipped. How does evil and more evil lead to good? This also presupposes that the evil was necessary in order to lead to the good, but was it? I assume the good you mean here is that people will go to heaven. But, people go to heaven because of god’s grace, so therefore, the evil done to Jesus is completely superfluous, since god could easily bestow grace without that event.

  • OMGF

    Yikes, I messed up the formatting in the above…sorry about that, but I think you’ll be able to figure out what parts are quotes and which aren’t benj.

    Dutch,

    Only imperfect beings are capable of suffering? Says who?

    Says the dictionary.

    The first pasage makes it very clear that God suffers.

    So, your answer to the question, “How is it logically possible for a perfect being to suffer” is that god suffers because the Bible says so. Permit me to be a bit underwhelmed with that answer for a couple reasons, the main one being that it doesn’t answer the question. How is it logically possible? I’ve already explained that perfection means not lacking anything, which is a necessary condition for suffering. Hence, perfect beings can not suffer.

    By the way, I don’t recall saying that God wasn’t perfect. If I did, then I recant, because, I know He is perfect.

    You did say this:

    By the way, “perfect being” is not how I think of God, although it is the visible image of Him, but that is semantics.

    But, hey, you can maintain that god is perfect, it suits me fine. It’s still logically impossible.

    I can see your point of view by not quoting the Bible, affter all this is an atheists’ site.

    I’m not sure you actually see his point of view. Whether this is an atheist’s site or not has nothing to do with the fact that the Bible simply isn’t a good source of evidence for your point. Using the Bible is a self-referential exercise in circular logic, which is fallacious in any context.

  • Dutch

    Hi Damien,

    I’ve been writing to this blogg more than I ever intended to.

    I believe that was a question for randall, who by the way is a well meaning guy lacking wisdom and understanding.

    We will not be “automaton.” We will be as Gods.

    Gen 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

    Most read this passage as having ocurred on some kind of earthly paradise – how totally untrue.
    By the way, God put a “flaming sword” at the entry to paradise. The “Flaming Sword” is Jesus Christ, the Word. You can discover that for yourself and arrive at that parable through precept. In other words, the only way back to paradise(God’s abode) is through Christ. As Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am The Way…”

    A little anecdote:
    A few years ago, a Christian supplier of mine asked about the church I attended. During this conversation, I told him that we study The Bible everyday, that it is a lot of work, but the rewards are are utterly fantastic. He said, “I can’t do that.”
    Everybody is so involved in his/her life. Seeking all the creature rewards. Early retirement, trips here and there, that new TV, and on and on.

    Back to that question, Ebon refers to a “passage.” what passage was Randall talking about? I don’t see it.

    Later, Dutch

  • Dutch

    OMGF,

    What, is everybody up early on Saturday?

    “By the way, “perfect being” is not how I think of God, although it is the visible image of Him, but that is semantics.”

    By that I meant that I don’t see God as a being like you and I. He is perfect love, but since He is everywhere present, He is more than just a being.

    You are right. I looked at a dictionary which defines “being” as;
    “1 a: the quality or state of having existence b (1): something conceivable as existing (2): something that actually exists (3): the totality of existing things c: conscious existence : life”

    So in that sense, I think of God as a perfect being.
    I stand corrected.

    also, you said;
    “So, your answer to the question, “How is it logically possible for a perfect being to suffer” is that god suffers because the Bible says so. Permit me to be a bit underwhelmed with that answer for a couple reasons, the main one being that it doesn’t answer the question. How is it logically possible? I’ve already explained that perfection means not lacking anything, which is a necessary condition for suffering. Hence, perfect beings can not suffer.”

    These are real heady things to ponder. Let us assume that good and evil always existed. Perfection, not “lacking anything,” would then also have to include not lacking in knowledge of evil as well as good, hence, perfect beings would have to suffer, for what is knowledge, unless you have first hand experiences. We can read about The Holocaust, but reading about it is inferior. It is more real to have the actual experience of being tortured to death.

    parable :)
    Two people in heaven talking to each other.
    One says, “I was tortured to death in a Nazi death camp.”
    Other one says, “Oh, I know, I read about that. How terrible that must have been.”
    One says, “You have no idea.”

    Later, Dutch

  • OMGF

    Dutch,

    Let us assume that good and evil always existed.

    So, they were not created by god? If this is so, then what other things in this universe were not created by god? Is god bound by them? I would think so, if god can not control what is good and what is evil, or create the concepts, then god is not omnipotent and hence not perfect.

    Perfection, not “lacking anything,” would then also have to include not lacking in knowledge of evil as well as good, hence, perfect beings would have to suffer, for what is knowledge, unless you have first hand experiences.

    And yet, in order to suffer, god would have to lack something else. Hence we see why it is logically impossible for a perfect being to suffer. You’re also hitting on the argument that perfection in itself is a logical contradiction.

    We can read about The Holocaust, but reading about it is inferior. It is more real to have the actual experience of being tortured to death.

    Exactly, which is why god can not be perfect. How can god be tortured or injured? He can not, therefore god can not have the knowledge of what it is to be tortured or injured, therefore god can not be perfect. If god is perfect, then he can not suffer or be injured, thus god can not be perfect if he holds this knowledge and he has to have this knowledge in order to be omniscient. The whole concept of your god is contradictory.

  • OMGF

    An open question for Randall or any of the other theists here arguing for free will.

    If free will is inviolate to god, then why does god prevent people from free choices in regards to things like…oh I don’t know, global floods? By god taking the action to deprive people of their lives, does he not end their free will? Did they have the free will to decide to live through the flood? Further, they were killed for exercising their free will, which seems contradictory to the argument that god holds free will to be inviolate.

  • Dutch

    OMGF,

    Too bad we can’t have this discussion at some coffe shop. I rather enjoy this thought provoking dialogue. In fact, I will bring-up the questions of good and evil as to when they existed, how was it overcome, etc. As usual we will let The Bible lead the way.

    The deal is that before the universe, there was/is a great tug-of-war between good and evil as is apparently evidenced from this Bible verse. I have not studied this area, so I do not have enough to counter your very valid arguments.

    Isa 14:12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

    Is this sort of like Star Wars’ The Force, and The Darkside? A continuous battle between good and evil? Is the ending the conquest of evil? The victory of “The Force?”

    Anyway, this is hard to understand. I will lay it aside for now and do a Bible study or studies. For the time being, I submit that you have some valid points.

    Later, Dutch

  • MS

    OMGF,

    The commenters here have done a fairly good job providing reasons why the free will theodicy is only sucessful in a very limited sense regarding the POE. You have also touched on reasons that an autonomous free will is illogical.

    But, to your question, I see no reason why the will is inviolate to God. So I would agree with most of what your question proposes:

    “By god taking the action to deprive people of their lives, does he not end their free will?” Yes.

    “Did they have the free will to decide to live through the flood?” No. I guess they could try, but…

    “Further, they were killed for exercising their free will, which seems contradictory to the argument that god holds free will to be inviolate.” Nicely done..he doesn’t consider the will to be inviolate.

    Of course, none of this means that there is not some form of human will, (got any compatibilists out there?)

    PS- You guys are correct. If God is a perfect being, he cannot suffer.

  • OMGF

    Dutch,
    Thank you for your candor.

    MS,
    If you do not hold that god holds our free will as inviolate, then the argument doesn’t apply. It was intimated above, however, that Randall does hold that view. But, you are correct to point out the limit of the argument.

  • DamienSansBlog

    Hi Damien,

    I’ve been writing to this blogg more than I ever intended to.

    You too, huh? (:

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    Heh, sorry to sidetrack you again Dutch, one other pair of questions. If less suffering would lead to, basically, less love, then why isn’t the world worse than it is? Surely that would lead to more/better love?

  • Dutch

    Nes,

    The world is in a progression so to speak, the culmination is The Ressurection of Christ in us individually, and the entire world collectively. This will become more and more obvious as time progresses, and will last nearly a thousand years. In the interim, a lot of bad stuff can happen to humanity. What do you mean “why isn’t the world worse than it is?” For you and I it may not be so bad, but try living in some parts of Africa, Bangladesh, Iraq, etc. Or how about The Holocaust. Truly there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

    This suffering God stuff, you guys need to get over it. God chose to suffer that is what I know. God chose to share everything He has, that is what I know. This “imperfect being” chose to suffer because of love. You cannot comprehend that.

    I hope I answered your question Nes, Dutch

  • OMGF

    Dutch,

    This suffering God stuff, you guys need to get over it. God chose to suffer that is what I know. God chose to share everything He has, that is what I know. This “imperfect being” chose to suffer because of love. You cannot comprehend that.

    Hmmm, but didn’t god cause all of this suffering? He’s inflicted suffering on all of us and himself out of love? Sorry, but you don’t inflict suffering for love.

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    Sorry, I realized later that I had forgotten to add that I know that I’m speaking as someone who, even being low income (at least by American standards), has it better than probably 80+% of the world’s population.

    As for what I meant by “why isn’t the world worse than it is?”, well, I meant just that. Even taking into account my disclaimer above, I can imagine worlds far worse than the one we find ourselves in…

    I hope I answered your question Nes

    Yes and no, but I’ll let it go. There are some other fundamental issues that have been raised by other commenters that I feel need to be resolved (and, given your last reply to OMGF, some that it sounds like you need to resolve for yourself!) before I even consider any further probes.

  • Dutch

    Hi OMGF,

    You said;
    “Sorry, but you don’t inflict suffering for love.”

    Yes you do – you would have to…

    That has been gone over before. Let me ask you a question. OMGF, I will give you two choices.
    One; I will give you an existance of eternal life, and you will know everything I know. There will be no sufering, no pain, no hunger, you will exist in me. The only thing is, since you don’t know pain, suffering, hunger and such, you will have to experience that for a season. While in the grave, you will also come to know love. I will be in hell(grave) with you going through the same pain. While in the grave, you will not know Me, except through The Word in you. Eventually, I will resurrect you out of the grave through the power of The Word.
    Or, choice two, I will not give you an existence. You never existed. There is nothing to know. You never were.

    Is this an easy choice to make? I don’t think so
    Personally, for me, the first choice is obviously what I would take.

  • OMGF

    Dutch,
    It’s a hard choice because you aren’t presenting all the options open. Option three, god creates us and doesn’t test us, doesn’t torture us, doesn’t make us suffer, but instead allows us to be happy. Or maybe he doesn’t allow us to cause suffering for others. Or maybe he takes us back once we’ve learned our lesson instead of continually making us suffer. Or maybe he creates us with that knowledge in situ. That’s the whole point of the OP. Theists seem to only be able to conceive of 2 options when there are limitless options for an omnipotent being. Again, you don’t show your love by making people suffer. That is sadism.

  • Dutch

    OMGF

    “Option three, god creates us and doesn’t test us, doesn’t torture us, doesn’t make us suffer, but instead allows us to be happy.”
    Not an option…define “happy” to someone who doesn’t know unhappy – someone who has never ever sufffered anything, wouldn’t be able to comprehend “happy.”

    “Or maybe he takes us back once we’ve learned our lesson instead of continually making us suffer.”
    This is what is happening in our world today.

    “Or maybe he creates us with that knowledge in situ”
    What is “knowledge” without experience. Then again, When Adam ate of the Tree, he knew instantly good and evil. Adam knew he was naked(big parable here). For us, billions of years seems like a lot of time, in heaven, maybe a second has passed, if at all. Your stipulation above fits the scenario very well.

    I asked you if God gave you those two choices, you can ask for other options, but for poserity’s sake, let’s say He didn’t give you other options.

    Is this thread running out of space yet?

    Good night, Dutch

  • OMGF

    Dutch,

    Not an option…define “happy” to someone who doesn’t know unhappy – someone who has never ever sufffered anything, wouldn’t be able to comprehend “happy.”

    In a different universe, it could be possible. You use the story of Adam in your response, but it actually speaks against you. How did Adam know of good and evil except by experiencing it? Yet, he didn’t experience it. Besides, I don’t need to know that I’m happy in order to know that I’d rather not be in pain.

    This is what is happening in our world today.

    Tell that to the people in the third world who regularly struggle for food, shelter, etc. god continually makes them suffer.

    I asked you if God gave you those two choices, you can ask for other options, but for poserity’s sake, let’s say He didn’t give you other options.

    And you missed the whole point of the OP and my response to you. god is not limited by those two choices if he is indeed omnipotent. If he can’t come up with a better option than one of the two you provided, then god is pretty stupid; he’s certainly not omniscient and probably not omnipotent.

  • benj

    Omgf,
    I forgive you for messing up that quote.
    And thanks for bantering my points with me. It’s good to get your feedback.
    First, ok I should read more Isaiah, I know. Maybe you can point me to a passage which states “God causes evil…” and I’ll rethink that statement.
    Second, it’s not possible to prove that human intelligence could design a better universe. Evidence is contrary to that. We are currently raping the very planet that sustains us. Clearly we are are not too bright.
    Third, God shows his grace in whatever way he wants. If he chooses to subject his own son to it, that’s his prerogative. It’s still grace. I believe he is a just God, and he demanded a price be paid. Quite gracious to take that punishment on himself.
    To clear any confusion, I do think people who accept this will spend eternity with God.
    Cheers,

  • Dutch

    Benj,

    Then what happens to people who don’t “accept this?” Consider all the people past and present that never heard of Jesus Christ.”

    Dutch

  • OMGF

    benj,

    First, ok I should read more Isaiah, I know. Maybe you can point me to a passage which states “God causes evil…” and I’ll rethink that statement.

    You can start here. But, really, the whole new testament is filled with god not just causing evil but committing it.

    Second, it’s not possible to prove that human intelligence could design a better universe.

    No, because we don’t have the capability to create universes. We can, however, logically deduce what we would/could do with infinite power.

    Evidence is contrary to that. We are currently raping the very planet that sustains us. Clearly we are are not too bright.

    But, we don’t have the power that god supposedly has. That’s a key point here. Given omnipotence and omniscience, there’s no reason to suspect that you or I couldn’t come up with a better plan than what god has put forth. One way it would be better would be to do away with the crazy plan that god had to come down and sacrifice himself to himself in order to allow him to forgive for alleged tresspasses that he himself causes us to commit against him. I’m not sure I could come up with a more convoluted story than that on my own though, so maybe there’s something there. ;)

    Third, God shows his grace in whatever way he wants.

    True, but I would think that an omni-benevolent entity would choose a way that didn’t involve torture and blood sacrifice…or result in torture for those that don’t receive his grace.

    If he chooses to subject his own son to it, that’s his prerogative. It’s still grace. I believe he is a just God, and he demanded a price be paid. Quite gracious to take that punishment on himself.

    And, I disagree. It’s not gracious at all. If a tyrant forces me to support him and then rewards me for it, I would not find that tyrant to be gracious, especially if that tyrant subjects all his enemies to the most gruesome torture. This is sadism and megalomania.

    To clear any confusion, I do think people who accept this will spend eternity with God.

    Why would I want that?

  • spaceman spif

    Don’t forget, this same omniscient, all powerful creator of the universe, can be stopped by iron. Don’t believe me?

    Judges 1:19

    19 The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots.

    In all my years growing up in the church, I never studied or read this passage in church or Sunday school. It certainly presents a problem, in that it clearly states that God was with them, yet even with God on their side, they were no match for…iron chariots?

  • Wedge

    If he chooses to subject his own son to it, that’s his prerogative. It’s still grace. I believe he is a just God, and he demanded a price be paid. Quite gracious to take that punishment on himself.

    OK, just a thought (although I know the Universalists have covered this before).

    According to the comic book, God has paid for our sins, satisfying his justice, and we have received his mercy. Because ‘justice’ is served as long as someone suffers a lot of pain. Right.

    Except…not.

    What kind of person says, ‘Hey, I paid your debt, except you still have to suffer and die in this lifetime, and unless you fill out the right paperwork, the payment is null anyway (applicable to most people who have ever lived).’

    No wonder Jesus didn’t have to suffer much, comparitively speaking. A lot worse can happen, although crucifixion ain’t something anyone would want to go through. But many humans have suffered more…and then he only had to be dead for three days. Like fast-food chains running a scratch ticket giveaway, he was counting on not many people actually cashing in!

    The thing that gets me is how blantantly Christianity redefines words. ‘Eternal torture’ is not ‘just punishment.’ Torturing your son/self to provide a problematic loophole to a drastically brutal and vicious policy is not ‘grace.’ Get a dictionary, folks.

    Marvel does a better job with continuity.

  • Randall

    Quick answer for now.

    “If free will is inviolate to god, then why does god prevent people from free choices in regards to things like…oh I don’t know, global floods? By god taking the action to deprive people of their lives, does he not end their free will?”

    Does God take the action to deprive people of their lives? Or does he allow it to happen? Are those two the same? And what would free will do in the case of the flood? Free will does not imply total power; if someone is throwing a knife in me, my free will allows me to dodge out of the way, not to magically make the knife stop. God allows us to make our choices; he doesn’t give us the power to do whatever we want. I don’t understand why “free will” need imply “the ability to do whatever we want” as opposed to “the ability to do whatever we want with the parameters we are given.”

    “Did they have the free will to decide to live through the flood? Further, they were killed for exercising their free will, which seems contradictory to the argument that god holds free will to be inviolate.”

    Setting aside “they were killed” vs. “they died” for now…You have the free will to commit murder, and the state has the right to imprison you for it. Free will does not imply freedom from consequences.

    “No wonder Jesus didn’t have to suffer much, comparitively speaking. A lot worse can happen, although crucifixion ain’t something anyone would want to go through.”

    Not that it much matters, but the claim that he “didn’t have to suffer much” seems slightly ridiculous.

    “What kind of person says, ‘Hey, I paid your debt, except you still have to suffer and die in this lifetime, and unless you fill out the right paperwork, the payment is null anyway (applicable to most people who have ever lived).’”

    The debt paid was for the second death, not the first. Physical death, according to Christian teaching, is not the worst thing that can happen, and is in fact necessary to progress to something better. Suffering is unavoidable in a world separated from God, and “The right paperwork” involves acceptance of the payment; your debt won’t be paid unless you let it. That’s it.

    “‘Eternal torture’ is not ‘just punishment.’”

    Agreed. So why are you equating them? Christianity doesn’t.

  • DamienSansBlog

    “‘Eternal torture’ is not ‘just punishment.’”

    Agreed. So why are you equating them? Christianity doesn’t.

    Except that in the Christian viewpoint, as I understand it, anyone who does not accept Christ is sentenced to an afterlife of eternal torture. And this torture is, contrary to your statement, assumed to be just punishment for not accepting Christ. Have I missed something?

    I’m also still waiting for a statement on Heaven’s automatons.

  • benj

    Omgf,
    How’s it going?
    You’re right, “we can deduce what we would/could do with infinite power.” Look what happens when people get too much power. Mao, Stalin, Hitler. Domitian and Nero might be my favorites.
    I checked out Isaiah 45:7… in several different translations. The only one I found that said God “creates evil” was the King James Version. All the rest said “creates calamity.” It would be interesting to see what the original Hebrew (aramaic?) says.
    Why do you say that God causes us to sin? I think that might be hyper-calvinism, which I do not endorse. I dont know about others, but I do not sin against my will, and then blame it on God.
    I know that in Romans and elsewhere in the Bible it says that God chose us, but there are also many indications that humans do make choices and are responsible for them. So, God is not a tyrant making me serve him. It was a choice on my part to accept his “grace”. Which, admitted, has several definitions. The one I was using is “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification” (Webster).
    Personally, I want to spend eternity with the loving and gracious God I believe in. If he was a tyrant, I’d be with you on that one… saying “no thanks”.
    About the whole sacrifice rituals. I honestly do not know why they exist. Here’s a stab at it: God is perfect, and demands perfection. He cannot ignore our transgressions, so a perfect sacrifice is required for atonement. Again, I wish I knew why it isn’t easier. I think Muslims have a lamb slaying (end of Ramadan?) ritual like the Israelites did, and it’s just a nasty blood bath.
    stay well,

    ps. thanks for the backup, randall.

  • lpetrich

    An omnipotent, omniscient entity would be responsible for everything that happens, by omission as well as by commission. We can call such an entity omni-responsible.

    If you don’t believe me, try arguing that there should be no such offense as criminal negligence.

  • spaceman spif

    I still cannot fathom how an eternal punishment is justified for a temporary choice.

    It’s almost like a cruel game of Let’s Make a Deal, where God is showing you three doors, and behind one of those doors is heaven. And in the crowd of people in the audience, you have a group who is sharing with you their arguments why door #1 is the door to salvation, another group is sharing with you their “proof” for door #2, and yet another group has arguments for door #3. And each group has some ideas and facts that support their argument, but at the same time you have some doubts and misgivings about each group’s arguments.

    But not one group has any ironclad proof their door is the right one. It’s all based on flimsy evidence, speculation, ancient questionable literature, and logical gymnastics used to counter evidence that strongly points to the contrary. You ask God for some clues, and he only tells you to listen to what the audience is telling you.

    In the end, you choose the door based on what you thought was the best argument….only to find God saying “Sorry! Wrong door! Off you go to hell!”

    Sorry, I just can’t call that type of God “just” or “loving”.

  • OMGF

    Randall,

    Does God take the action to deprive people of their lives? Or does he allow it to happen?

    The only global flood that I know of that you believe in was certainly caused by god. Remember, god caused it to rain for 40 days and 40 nights? He did this because people were exercising their free will to be evil.

    You have the free will to commit murder, and the state has the right to imprison you for it. Free will does not imply freedom from consequences.

    Agreed, but with god it’s a bit different isn’t it? Free will, as you have said, means that we will have our choice and want to do evil. Then, god punishes us for doing evil. Yet, the free will that we were granted pushes us to do evil, does it not?

    benj,

    Look what happens when people get too much power. Mao, Stalin, Hitler. Domitian and Nero might be my favorites.

    And of course, everyone with power would turn into a tyrant? That’s not what we are talking about though. We are talking about the ability to create universes that are logically possible and contain less evil and suffering than our own. If I can even conceive of one, then god would have the power to create it and hence it is demonstrated that he didn’t create the best possible world, and hence he is not omni-benevolent.

    I checked out Isaiah 45:7… in several different translations. The only one I found that said God “creates evil” was the King James Version. All the rest said “creates calamity.” It would be interesting to see what the original Hebrew (aramaic?) says.

    You should have read the post I linked to, because it goes through all of that.

    Why do you say that God causes us to sin?

    lpetrich already covered one aspect of it. Another aspect is that we are sinners because that is the punishment that god levied upon us due to the actions of Adam and Eve – actions they should not be held accountable for due to their ignorance of good and evil. god creates us as sinners, therefore all the sins that we commit are done because god caused us to be that way.

    I know that in Romans and elsewhere in the Bible it says that God chose us, but there are also many indications that humans do make choices and are responsible for them. So, God is not a tyrant making me serve him.

    Do you really believe that? god makes up the rules and expects you to follow them. If you do, you get rewarded, if you don’t, you get punished, eternally. These rules are completely made on the whim of god and he’s obviously not above being petty and vindictive.

    Personally, I want to spend eternity with the loving and gracious God I believe in.

    This same “loving and gracious” god has ordered and committed genocide multiple times. He has endorsed slavery, subjugation of women, and has set up a system where you can not succeed except by his arbitrary “grace”. This is not loving nor gracious.

    About the whole sacrifice rituals. I honestly do not know why they exist. Here’s a stab at it: God is perfect, and demands perfection. He cannot ignore our transgressions, so a perfect sacrifice is required for atonement.

    What does a sacrifice do for absolving me of my “sins”? How does killing an innocent person somehow absolve me if I go and kill someone else? This is non-sensical. god demands perfection? Well, then god needs to wake up and realize that he created imperfect beings? Is god really that stupid as to not know that? If he is omniscient, then he certainly does know it, so it seems rather harsh to hold known imperfect beings to a standard of perfection that he knows they can not attain. Also, god can not ignore our transgressions? Why not? god can do as he pleases, as he obviously does. He set up a system where we all fail, yet he decides to choose some people to promote anyway. Again, this is non sensical and neither loving nor gracious.

  • Brad

    I’m going to do an unorthodox side-switching here as “God’s advocate.” I do this because I don’t see the arguments for atheism here to be at their full force; they can still yet be strengthened.

    I agree that natural evil is not logically necessary for creating a world for free will agents. However, there is a response that I will get to momentarily.

    Since Christians start with the assumption that God is all-powerful and good, they logically infer that he would not have created anything less than the best world possible. But this conclusion runs smack into the manifest imperfection of the actual world.

    Here’s an alternative Christian inference: God would have created the world with the best possible parameters. Following the dictate of allowing free will, God would not need to create the best possible world but prepare the world as best as possible for free-willed agents to work in. Obviously, it might seem, this world is not prepared as best as could be done by an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good god. But there is a theological hypothesis which salvages consistency here: God creates angels and demons with free will and gives them some degree of dominion over the lower world of Earth and this universe. “Fallen angels” and demons would be theoretically responsible for earthquakes, diseases, as well as false religions, etc. Thus God only intervenes in the world to relate to us as much as these angels and demons might, in effect maximizing collective free will. God is no longer an impoverished infinity, but a divine recluse, not saving people from angels and themselves.

    And now, there is an error in your refutation of the Free Will Defense in All Possible Worlds, Ebonmuse. In the essay, you write:

    Even though our possible actions are restricted by a set of parameters, we are still free within those parameters – free will does not require infinite choice.

    On the flip side, you respond to karatemack’s free will theodicy (in Extinguishing the Fear of Hell) thus:

    God isn’t FORCING anyone to choose Hell. He is allowing them to choose it for themselves.

    According to the standard interpretation of Christian theology, that is true only in the same sense that a Mafia extortionist “allows” people to “choose” to have their businesses burned down by refusing to pay him protection money.

    This second piece of rhetoric gives the building block for defending the free will theodicy from your first piece. God must work for maximum collective free will, if he is truly all-good, and to do so he must allow us to choose evil and to suffer. He would be shooting for lower standards of free will if he restricted our parameters even further than is the case.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Thus God only intervenes in the world to relate to us as much as these angels and demons might, in effect maximizing collective free will.

    I don’t think it would be a sign of moral goodness to say that God, who has the power to ensure evil never occurs, abdicates that responsibility and instead leaves the task up to fallible, imperfect human beings. This is like saying that God expects us to pick up his slack and do the job he refuses to do.

    God must work for maximum collective free will, if he is truly all-good, and to do so he must allow us to choose evil and to suffer.

    I could see the rational justification of a world in which God allows people to choose evil for themselves, and to harm themselves by their own bad choices so that they may learn from experience. But as I’ve said, that theodicy loses whatever force it may have once you add the stipulation that people who do not choose evil can still be made to suffer unjustly, and to have their own freedom limited, as a consequence of others’ bad choices.

    He would be shooting for lower standards of free will if he restricted our parameters even further than is the case.

    I don’t agree that freedom can be measured simply by the number of options that are available to choose. (If all your options are bad ones, it doesn’t matter how many you have.) My response to karatemack there was targeted to a different argument: the belief that God leaves options “open” to people, but then threatens them with eternal torture for making any choice except the one he wants them to make. A far more rational course of action, if only one option is acceptable to God, would be to make people so that they are psychologically constituted so as to always make that choice.

  • Wedge

    The thing that has always confused me about the free will arguement is that Christians argue that making us so that we lean always toward doing good makes us slaves, but making us so that we always lean toward doing evil is necessary so that we have free will.

    Huh?

  • Brad

    Whether or not God’s supposed decision to take a backseat role in the world is not a “sign of moral goodness” is something heavily disputed by Christians, of course. A Christian might say, God is being moral according to his own standard of morality, and we should be thankful to him for allowing us personally (at least to the extent that he can) the possibility to do evil. The whole idea here is a subjective one, so it’s hard to pin down definitively. I don’t want to resurrect the subjectivity vs. objectivity of “moral goodness” debate here, but needless to say – Christians are very attached and appraising of the free-will-making god than an alternative one where we are “automotons,” or limited psychologically to only being/desiring good. In fact, I think your suggestion of restricting our psychological constitutions would be seen as unfair or counter-intuitive to many Christians. The logic breaks down here into subjective fuzz, and so no rational conclusion is necessarily established. The only hope to accomplish the mission is to win the Christian’s change of heart in terms of how positively or negatively to view the conception of God, not use pure rational argument.

    Furthermore, a Christian might argue along the line that genuine freedom in choice/action necessitates real effect. In other words, we must be able to hurt each other. And for this to be genuine hurt, it must be the type we observe in this world where it makes innocent people suffer unjustly and debilitates many people’s free wills. Since, with this definition of genuine freedom, it is logically impossible to ensure perfect freedom for everybody, God’s next rational choice is to maximize our free wills. (“Our” still including angels and demons, too.)

    Finally, although your comment was towards karatemack with the doctrine of hellfire, if we dismiss this doctrine (no doubt with dubious Biblical grounds, but not necessarily totally inconsistent) then we can use the comment to expand in the direction of a bigger idea: free will, although not completely measured by the amount of options (as you note), is indisputably dependent upon amount of options. And so here the theist case is salvaged if one can consistently make the assumption that what we see in the world today corresponds to the sum maximum of freedom of wills. Now the problem becomes: has God failed to collectively maximize our genuine free will (and to what degree of certainty can/do we know this)?

    A general comment I would like to make, as I have learned in my efforts to play this part, is that convoluted apologetics like this tend to become stupendously unparsimonious (as seen in the grandiose presupposition of the preceding sentence), and therefore reliant upon wishful-thinking. And yet, it is frustratingly difficult to truly make an airtight disproof of a conception of God, one that no theist can find a leak in. The difficulty comes with the territory, I suppose. As Dilbert once said, “Do you ever feel like you’re trying to wallpaper fog?”

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    A Christian might say, God is being moral according to his own standard of morality, and we should be thankful to him for allowing us personally (at least to the extent that he can) the possibility to do evil.

    Moral relativity never looks good on a Xian.

    Christians are very attached and appraising of the free-will-making god than an alternative one where we are “automotons,” or limited psychologically to only being/desiring good.

    And yet they posit an omni-max god, which makes free will impossible.

    I think you’re missing something that Wedge brought up. They have no problem deciding that free will means that we always incline towards evil, but they do when it is suggested that free will could mean that we always incline towards good?

    Furthermore, a Christian might argue along the line that genuine freedom in choice/action necessitates real effect. In other words, we must be able to hurt each other.

    I find this to be a non sequitor, especially when dealing with a god that stresses that thought crime is just as bad as real crime.

    …free will, although not completely measured by the amount of options (as you note), is indisputably dependent upon amount of options.

    Make up your mind.

  • Uly

    In another example, I asked a Christian correspondent if he believes God could have avoided the need to create Hell by creating human beings who desired above all else to worship God as he requires. My correspondent’s response: “There are 5 billion or so examples on this planet that show that what you propose is not possible.”

    Five billion? Out of a worldwide population of SIX billion?

    Wow. God’s process of making Christians sure has a lot of wastage, doesn’t it!


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